Prayer for the Week (Anima Christi of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton)

apr14Soul of Jesus, sanctify me.
Blood of Jesus, wash me,
Passion of Jesus, comfort me.
Wounds of Jesus, hide me.
Heart of Jesus, receive me.
Spirit of Jesus, enliven me.
Goodness of Jesus, pardon me.
Beauty of Jesus, draw me.
Humility of Jesus, humble me.
Peace of Jesus, pacify me.
Love of Jesus, inflame me.
Kingdom of Jesus, come to me.
Grace of Jesus, replenish me.
Mercy of Jesus, pity me.
Sanctity of Jesus, sanctify me.
Purity of Jesus, purify me.
Cross of Jesus, support me.
Nails of Jesus, hold me.
Mouth of Jesus, bless me in life, in death, in time and eternity.
Mouth of Jesus, defend me in the hour of death.
Mouth of Jesus, call me to come to Thee.
Mouth of Jesus, receive me with Thy saints in glory evermore.

Unite me to Thyself, O adorable Victim.
Life-giving heavenly Bread, feed me, sanctify me, reign in me,
transform me to Thyself, live in me; let me live in Thee;
let me adore Thee in Thy life-giving Sacrament as my God, listen to Thee as to my Master, obey Thee as my King, imitate Thee as my Model, follow Thee as my Shepherd, love Thee as my Father, seek Thee as my Physician
who wilt heal all the maladies of my soul.
Be indeed my Way, Truth and Life; sustain me, O heavenly Manna, through the desert of this world, till I shall behold Thee unveiled in Thy glory.

Amen.

Should Christians Pray for the Dead? (Cyril of Jerusalem and John Chrysostom)

I was invited to say a few words at a funeral recently. I was not very close to the family – which made it both an honor to be invited and also meant that I wast not involved in any of the planning of the ceremony. During the course of the service, many prayers were offered and many of them were directed towards the recently deceased. The helpless theologian I am, I couldn’t help but begin the mental conversation over this classic question:

Should Christians pray for the dead?

It’s vital to realize that this is a very personal and pastoral question, as well as a theological issue. While I was thinking this question over, I ran across the following thoughts about prayers for the dead from two classic Church Fathers:

Cyril of Jerusalem: “We pray for the holy fathers and bishops who have fallen asleep, and in general for all those who have fallen asleep before us, in the belief that it is a great benefit to the souls for whom the prayers are offered… In the same way, b offering to God our prayers for those who have fallen asleep and who have sinned, we offer Christ sacrificed for the sins of all, and by doing so, obtain the loving God’s favor for them and for ourselves.” [4th Century text on Eucharistic Liturgy]

John Chrysostom: “Let us help and commemorate them (the dead). After all, if the children of Job were purified by the sacrifice of their father (Job 1:5), why should we doubt that our offering for the dead bring them any comfort? … Let us not hesitate to help those who have died, and to offer our prayers on their behalf.” [Homily at the very end of the 4th Century]

What do you think about Cyril and John’s beliefs about the effects of prayers for the dead and the reasoning they offer for the practice?

What do you think: Should Christians pray for the dead?
Why or why not?

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All is Gift (Theology for Thanksgiving)

“Where did you come from?”

This basic, almost childish, question of ontology is perhaps the basis of all right thinking about our lives. For Augustine, in his classical work Confessions, it grounds his ability to understand his life as completely and fully dependent on God.* We did not create our own lives. Our existence, and all of the different parts of that existence, are complete gifts from God.

This is a truth made clearer when one is in relationship with someone will special needs such as autism or down syndrome. I made no choice, and exerted no effort, in order to be given the physiological or biological abilities to walk, talk, think, speak, create, work, or relate to others. Accordingly, I didn’t choose my gender or my ethnicity. I didn’t choose my family or my location of origin. Upon reflection, I could have just as easily been born to a teenager in Syria who is now a refugee as to a well-to-do American family in a suburb who discusses the plight of refugees. I could have just as easily been born without the ability to think critically or communicate effectively.

Everything in my life, at the end of the day, is a gift.

It is only when I come to grips with this fact that I am able to live as a creature and express the most basic, yet most satisfying, instinct of a creature: thanksgiving. 

I offer to you, then, two poets’ reflections on the creatureliness of life and the inherent gift of gratitude that flows from it:

What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put ignorance into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in his toil – this is God’s gift to man.” – Solomon, King of Israel [Ecclesiastes 3:9-13]

The colors of a sunrise,
a morning suprise,
the love you find in another’s eyes.
The hand that helps you up, when you’ve fallen down;
All is gift, my friend, all is gift from a loving God.

The changing of the seasons, life is born anew.
Laughter and smiles and birds that sing;
that hope that we cling to when the darkness comes;
All is gift, my friend, all is gift from a loving God.

Memories of a yesterday, tears that flow,
broken dreams, broken hearts we learn to grow.
A God who will let us know we’re not alone,
we’re not alone.
All is gift, my friend, all is gift from a loving God.

Hearts that unite, a friendship born,
in sacred earth seeds are sown and we are fed.
Hands unafraid to reach and souls that touch;
All is gift, my friend, all is gift from a loving God.
Kathy Sherman


  • Stanley Hauerwas, commenting on Augustine’s thought: “That we are dependent beings is self-evident if we acknowledge as we should that we cannot remember our birth. Augustine, like Wittgenstein, emphasizes the significance of birth as a definitive human experience that makes impossible our temptation to ignore the fact we are bodily creatures. Our bodily character makes us mysteries to ourselves inviting us to ask the childish question, “Where did I come from?” It is Augustine’s willingness to risk appearing childish by probing the ontological implications of that question that Rees argues makes the account of his life in the Confessions so compelling.”

 

Christianity is (always) in danger of extinction!

“With every generation, the church is in danger of extinction. There may be no church after the deaths of living Christians: those things that demonstrate what it means to be a Christian are always one generation from loss unless they are renewed by those who come next. Christian living, worship, the regard for Scripture, the demonstration of reading it – these are all practiced in partial view of the fact that those who will learn them today will teach them to others tomorrow. If there are no more learners, tomorrow will be absent the church of God.”

– Craig Hovey, To Share in the Body, pp. 29-30.