Category Archives: Homily

Conformity to the Will of God

Conformity to the Will of God-Fr. Dominic Radecki

The closest and most far-reaching union that can exist is that between two wills; we strive to make our wills one with the person whom we love. A self-seeking person seeks only to further his own interests. However, when a person truly loves another, he directs his thoughts, words, feelings, and actions towards pleasing the object of his love. This is exemplified in the unselfish love between husband and wife, and the self-sacrificing love of parents towards their children. In the spiritual life, this union is expressed by uniting our will to that of Christ.

The practice of conformity to the will of God is really in our own best interests, for whatever God wills or allows to happen to us, He wills or permits for our welfare. The circumstances of life are intended to be beneficial and advantageous, although they often do not appear so to us. Sadly, we lose many opportunities for growth in virtue and merit because of our rebellion and complaint, especially when we refuse to conform ourselves to God’s designs.

Holy Scripture frequently refers to God’s loving providence. In the Psalms David writes, “Thou wilt surround the just man, O Lord: Thou wilt surround him with Thy loving-kindness as with a shield” (Ps. 5:13). David goes on to express God’s personal concern for us in our suffering, “I am afflicted and poor; but the Lord is solicitous for me” (Ps. 39:18). Elsewhere he confidently prays, “Guard me as the apple of Thine eye” (Ps. 16:8).

Our Lord shelters us with the protective wings of His providence: “As the eagle enticing her young to fly, and hovering over them, He spread His wings: and hath taken him and carried him on His shoulders” (Deut. 32:11).

In the words of the prophet Isaias, God compares His love for us to the love of a mother who cannot forget her child. Yet even if she should forget him, God will never forsake us, but will always assist us as the object dearest to His Heart. It is written in Scripture, “Can a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb? And if she should forget, yet will not I forget thee” (Is. 49:15).

God loves us tenderly and wards off real evils. He permits only those apparent evils that are to our advantage, since they are meant to be profitable to us. Many things that cause us sorrow, frustration or disappointment are actually blessings in disguise. Viewed in the light of faith, these apparent evils often bring us substantial benefits.

“In the first place, the trials which afflict us in this life are oftentimes designed by God to be the means whereby we attain to great temporal prosperity; they cannot, therefore, properly speaking, be considered as evils, since, even in the natural order, they are productive of great good. Joseph was sold as a wretched slave by his brethren to the Ismaelites: loaded with chains, and… [enclosed as a prisoner] in a dark dungeon, he bewailed his hard fate. Who could have imagined that the ignominy of chains and the disgrace of slavery were destined to be the means of conducting Joseph to the throne, and for procuring for him the viceroyalty of Egypt? Yet so it was; for, whilst no one thought of it, God in His Providence, was secretly preparing to turn the shame of a prison into the glory of the highest honors…

“On the contrary, it never could have occurred to any mind that the honors which Aman had received from King Assuerus, and his advancement to the position of favorite courtier of his sovereign, were ordained to conduct him to a shameful death on the gibbet. It is nevertheless certain that Aman was brought to this pass by his rise to power. God knew it, and decreed that the opprobrium of the scaffold should be the end of Aman’s ambitious and prosperous career. Therefore, I infer that what we take to be evil is often the means of temporal advantage, and that, consequently, all sensible men will allow themselves to be led by God, Who, in His loving Providence, seeks nothing but our good” (John Scaramelli, S.J., The Directorium Asceticum, pp. 171-172).

Second, God permits temporal suffering in our lives to purify our souls on earth so that we are spared the everlasting pains of Hell or the tortures of Purgatory. Thus, we purchase immunity from suffering after death by bravely and patiently bearing our crosses in this life. Viewed in the light of faith, this is a great blessing for our sufferings are greatly mitigated; we endure the momentary sorrows of life, thereby avoiding the rigors of divine justice in the afterlife.

Third, when suffering is patiently borne, it removes obstacles to grace and leads to amendment of life. The heroic woman of the Old Testament, Judith, was convinced of this truth. When her nation was surrounded by the army of the tyrant Holofernes and in danger of defeat she said, “…[We] must remember how our father Abraham was tempted, and being proved by many tribulations, was made the friend of God. So Isaac, so Jacob, so Moses, and all that have pleased God, passed through many tribulations, remaining faithful. But they that did not receive the trials with the fear of the Lord, but uttered their impatience and the reproach of their murmuring against the Lord, were destroyed by the destroyer, and perished by serpents.

“But esteeming these very punishments to be less than our sins deserve, let us beseech that these scourges of the Lord, with which like servants we are chastised, have happened for our amendment, and not for our destruction” (Judith 8:22-27).

The Old Testament records two other examples of how God permits suffering in order to heal the wounds of the soul. King Manasses suffered a series of misfortunes: he was dethroned, robbed of his treasures, enslaved and imprisoned in Babylon:

“And after that he was in distress, he prayed to the Lord his God; and did penance exceedingly before the God of his fathers. And he entreated Him, and besought Him earnestly: and He heard his prayer, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom” (II Paralip. 33:12).

Thus, as a result of his severe hardships, King Manasses detested his sins and amended his life.

Naaman, general of the Syrian army, was afflicted with the loathsome disease of leprosy. Yet this apparent evil led to many blessings. After being healed in the Jordan River by the prophet Eliseus, he embraced the true faith and no longer adored false gods.

The New Testament records the story of the miserable paralytic who suffered for 30 years and received no relief. This misfortune eventually led him to Christ, who cured his physical ailments and, more importantly, freed his soul from the disease of sin.

Countless other examples might be added here, for there is no doubt that whatever God allows to take place in our lives is for our greater good, even if it sometimes has the appearance of evil.

When we are burdened with physical or mental suffering let us not complain to God and say to ourselves that He is unfair in how He distributes His favors, comparing in our minds how sinners seem to prosper, while the good are deprived or destitute. We do not know God’s loving plan for us. When faced with struggles and misfortune, let us gaze upon the body of our crucified Lord upon the cross. What more proof of His great love for us do we need? No matter what the circumstances, we should never doubt that He loves us and is tenderly doing what is in our best interests.

Devotions to the Saints

Devotions to the Saints -Fr. Dominic Radecki

At Baptism, each catholic child is given the name of a saint. Since the ceremony of baptism is often called “Christening,” that is “making like to Christ,” it is quite appropriate that a newly baptized catholic should take the name of one of the heroes of the faith; one who was already proven himself like unto Christ. Taking a saint’s name also gives honor to that saint, just as a person is honored by having a child named after him and will follow with interest and affection the life of his namesake, so too, the saint in heaven will, even more so, be interested in and help his namesake who is on earth.

When receiving the sacrament of confirmation, catholics choose the name of yet another saint who is to help them fulfill their new role as a soldier of Christ. It is not only individuals who have patron saints, but groups, organizations and occupations have them as well. Christian devotion has determined that certain professions be placed under the protection of particular saints who had a connection, in some way, with similar states in life. Thus, we have St. Luke being the patron of doctors, St. Joseph of carpenters, St. Andrew of fishermen, St. Christopher of travelers, and so forth. No walk or circumstance of life lacks its patron. Farmers have St. Isidore; wine growers, St. Vincent the martyr. The list goes on and on. There is even a patron saint of comedians, St. Vitus.

Popular tradition, based on the knowledge of the lives of the saints, chose certain saints who could appropriately be called upon for special needs. A prime example is that of St. Blaise. Each year the Church reminds us of the powerful patronage of this bishop and martyr. We are told that while St. Blaise was in prison awaiting martyrdom, a boy who was dying because of strangulation from a fishbone caught in his throat, was brought to him. At the saint’s prayer, the affliction vanished.

Tradition has observed that on February third of each year, a special blessing is given to the faithful in which St. Blaise is asked to protect them against diseases of the throat. Another example of the powerful intercession of a saint is that of St. Anthony of Padua, who is invoked for the particular purpose of seeking assistance in finding something which is lost. This devotion springs from a story which relates that a novice in his monastery once ran away, taking with him a very valuable book. At the prayer of St. Anthony, the boy was overtaken in a violent storm. Frightened, he not only resolved to return the book, but to also amend his life.

God, in His mercy, has allowed us the power to pray to the saints and be heard. How is this possible? In Heaven, all the reasonable desires of the saints are satisfied by the power of God. It is sensible that they desire to know the prayers addressed to them. Since these are spiritual matters, time and distance are of no hinderance. The saints are enabled to understand and hear our most secret prayers and not only reflect the love of God for us, they also stand ready and willing to help us no matter how desperate our plea.

Thus, the saints are friends of God and have served Him in a heroic manner they are most close to Him by their holiness and thus have great influence with God who is so ready to fulfill their desires. The saints are given the power to help us in our every need. The patronage of the saints is a powerful help and a great consolation in our temporal and spiritual needs, for they are our true friends to whom we can turn whenever we desire.

We honor the saints, not only because they are such good allies, but due to their very closeness to God. They are the ones that have succeeded in life’s struggles.  Since the saints once lived on earth and had to undergo trails and tribulations similar to ours, we need to reflect upon their lives so that we can find strength and courage from those who underwent similar problems, temptations, and disappointments. No matter what circumstances we find in ourselves in, there are saints who have been there. Every walk of life, every class of people, every social and economic level and degree of virtue has produced its saints. There is no path that has been untrod by some saint at one time or another. As we pray to them, they will unite their prayers with ours so that ours will become more acceptable to God.

In reading the lives of the saints, we will come to a realize that sanctity is a combination of work, prayers, suffering and cooperation with God’s grace. To know the lives of the saints is the beginning of holiness for somewhere in the lives of the saints there lies one which is similar to ours. We should try to imitate them and learn from their wisdom, so that we too can become more Christlike and eventually rejoice with them in Heaven.

Sanctifying Our Souls Through Prayer

Sanctifying Our Souls Through Prayer -Fr. Casimir Puskorius

It is not what we do physically speaking or what we accomplish in the temporal realm that is important in life, but what we accomplish in our souls — how we sanctify ourselves. This is the most important thing in life, and our first, last, and most important tool will always be that of prayer.

My dear friends in Christ, prayer is heaven. Perhaps this is a simple way of looking at it, but, as we teach the little children in school, heaven is where God is. Although it is not the same as seeing the Beatific Vision, is it not heaven to be with God? How do we come close to God in this life, if not through prayer, and especially Holy Communion?

Perhaps we have envied Adam and Eve walking in the garden of Paradise, talking to God familiarly in the evening hours of the day, and yet that same opportunity is available for all of us, no matter what the hour of day or night. True, we cannot see God as they did but the contact is no less real. At times, of course, it is difficult to pray because it is an exercise of faith. We are talking to Someone whom we don’t see. This also tells us that prayer must be from the heart. Lip service will not do when we talk about prayer.

This may be a bit of a digression, but Father Tanquery, in his excellent summary of the spiritual life, lists the four interior means of perfection.

First of all, in order to become perfect we must have the desire. Without the desire, we will not accomplish anything. The stronger our desire, the more we will be able to accomplish.

The second interior means of perfection is knowledge of God and of self. This is absolutely necessary. Why must we know God? Because He is the terminus, the end for which we are seeking. Unless we have a clear  idea of God, and try to grow in our knowledge of Him, we will not be inclined to advance towards Him in the pursuit of perfection. We must grow in our knowledge of God. To do this, we must meditate upon His perfections, His infinite goodness, in order to be inspired to a greater desire to come close to Him.

Along with knowledge of God comes knowledge of self. As our idea of God becomes more and more elevated, we become more and more aware of our sinfulness and unworthiness. Is not this the wellspring of contrition? As we grow in our knowledge of Almighty God through prayer and spiritual exercises, and understand better His infinite goodness, we begin to ask ourselves how we could have ever fallen into those faults and sins we once committed so lightly. To supplement the knowledge of self we acquire in meditation, it is necessary that we examine our consciences. Meditation is good, but examination of conscience roots out those faults that we see in ourselves.

The third interior means of perfection is conformity to the Divine Will. This is done through obedience, and conformity to the crosses and sufferings that God sends us. How much room for reflection is there upon this! It is so hard to obey at times, so hard to resign ourselves to crosses, and yet those things are the Will of God for us, and we must try to accept them.

Finally the fourth means of perfection is prayer. The amazing thing about prayer is that it includes the other three means of perfection. I quote from Father Tanquery: “Prayer embodies and completes all of these three preceding acts. It is itself a desire for perfection since no one would sincerely pray who did not wish to become better. It presupposes some knowledge of God and of self, since it establishes relations between the two.”

What do we do when we pray? We adore, we thank, we offer contrition and reparation for our sins. “Prayer also conforms our will to that of God, since any good prayer contains an act of submission to Almighty God. Prayer, moreover, perfects all these acts by bringing us in all  humility before the Majesty of God.” So you see, then, the power of  prayer. You can see how St. Alphonsus could say that if a person prays, he will save his soul; if he does not, he will lose his soul. We, of course, should not be concerned with only saving our souls, but with sanctifying our souls.

Some other considerations on prayer are quite elementary. We know that when we pray together we unite the force of our prayer with that of others, so that we get the merit of all the prayers combined. Our Lord, of course, said that where there are two or three gathered together in His Name, He is there with them.

But something I would like to emphasize even more is mental prayer —the prayer of the heart. Of course, vocal prayer, too, is from the heart, but in mental prayer it is just the heart, just the mind  operating. When we pray vocally, often we are telling God what we want. That is very good. Without this we would not save our souls. But when we make mental prayer, we should also be listening God to find out what He  wants us to do. Do you see the difference? As important as it is to ask God for what we want, it is even more necessary for us to listen to Him. How good are we at listening to God as we make our meditation? Perhaps we are having difficulty in the spiritual life precisely because we are not listening enough to God.

The sentiments we have when we make our mental prayer should not be just feelings, although those are nice to have —but sentiments of adoration, love, praise, thanksgiving, contrition and resolution. Be careful not to fall into the delusion that because you have no feeling, your mental prayer is a waste —not at all! As long as you make the act of the will, you have made mental prayer.

At times you may be so dry that you don’t know what to think or say. If you then just do your best, God will understand. At other times it may seem we cannot even put into words what we need, or what we would  like to say. Let me suggest that you then make your sentiments those of  the “Our Father,” the perfect prayer. It begins by hallowing the Name of God, by adoring and worshipping. Then we offer to God our wish that His Kingdom come —that His Will be done, in ourselves and in others. Next we ask for our daily bread —both the spiritual food of our soul, and food for our body, our temporal necessities. If we really meditated upon the Our Father, I am sure we would find more than abundant matter to make good mental prayer, especially at those times we find ourselves bereft of the sentiments we would like to have.

Prayer is a penance, and it must be so. It is difficult to cast out distractions. Sometimes we have to fight the whole period through to remove thoughts that should not be there. At other times we are tired, or we don’t feel like praying. Let me remind you that penance adds a great value to our prayer. When the three Kings came before Our Divine Lord, they did not bring only frankincense, which signified prayer. They also brought gold, which signifies charity, and myrrh, symbolic of sacrifice. A life of interior prayer is a life of sacrifice. One of the prayers we used to pray in honor of the Holy Kings begged that we might never appear before God empty-handed when we came to pray, but that we would always have some type of sacrifice to bring with us.

When we pray, we must be careful not to be lax with our physical posture. God expects us not to honor Him only with our soul, but with our bodies as well. This takes self-discipline. Surely this is what Our Lord referred to when He said that some devils are cast out only by prayer and fasting. Sometimes we mumble our prayers. If we talked to others as we sometimes speak to God, wouldn’t they take insult? Prayer requires attention, an upright posture —these things add to the value of our prayer. Sometimes the prayer itself is the penance —the mortification it takes to pray well.

Allow me to suggest that you keep a little metaphorical box where  you can put all your cares, your worries, your plans, your projects,  before you go to prayer. Lock it up, throw the key away, so that when you pray, all of those things can stay there. If we allow those thoughts to come with us, is there any purpose of even being in chapel? We take so much away from God; we find Him undeserving of our full attention. St. Aloysius took his prayer so seriously that he made a resolve that if he got a single distraction during his hour of mental prayer, he would start all over. Of course, this is not necessarily something to imitate, but at least we find in him a patron we can pray to for devotedness to our prayer life.

Prayer must be our life. We are told by St. Paul whether we eat or drink we should do all for the glory of God. St. Augustine and St. Thomas tells us how this can be done. The former tells us to converge our life, our actions, our occupations, our meals, even our repose, into a hymn of praise to God’s glory. “Let the harmony of your life ever rise as a song so that you may never cease to praise. If you will  give praise, sing them, not only with your lips, but sweep the chords upon the psalter of good works.” “Thou dost give praise when thou workest, when thou eatest and drinkest, when thou lyest to rest, when Thou sleepest, thou givest praise, even if thou holdest thy peace.”

By the grace of baptism, we have all been adopted as children of God, and all of our actions should be referred to Almighty God. Let me give you an analogy. Let us suppose that a human being could adopt something of the plant or animal kingdom and somehow raise it to the  human level, pouring out upon this adopted “new” human, shall we say,  all the privileges of man — dominion over the plant and animal kingdoms, free will, intellect, etc. Wouldn’t you expect this adopted creature always to live up to its new dignity? What would you think if it were to say, “I’m tired of this; I want to go back to being what I was”?

This gives us just a little bit of an idea of the infinite distance that we have traversed through our supernatural adoption. God expects us because of the grace of baptism, to always live a life that conforms to our supernatural state. When we sin, or act from purely natural motives, it is as if we are telling God, “I’m tired of this. I want to go back down to where I was before.” By a life of prayer, we live a life of supernatural adoption.

Our prayer time is limited; we can’t spend all day on our knees  praying, so we must make our work a prayer. It was said of Pere Lamy that, because of very unique circumstances, he had time only to pray his Office and offer Holy Mass. In this case, apparently, it was the Will of  God–it was all he could do. Despite this, he continued to grow in holiness. How can this happen? Because he made his work a prayer. He did it for the love of God.

Prayer, what a beautiful thing it is! It encompasses all, it leads to all virtue. We often pray the most when we are feeling the weight of the cross, and indeed, I think that is why God sometimes sends us the cross. We often get so comfortable where we are that, without some difficulty to overcome, we would not pray.

There is another mistake we often make, when we feel we need a particular grace and pray fervently to God for it. We have the whole answer painted  out in our minds; we have the solution already planned out. What a mistake! Our solution is not the same as God’s solution, so we think that He is not listening. Yet God knows we need something else far more and gives us that instead.

In closing, I exhort you to make a firm resolution, one that you will  write down, to ensure your stability, growth and perseverance in this all- important means of sanctification. There is a saying that there are more things wrought by the power of prayer than the world can dream of. Let us take that to heart. Prayer gives us the assurance that no matter what  the difficulty, we can always reach out to God. We cannot lose with prayer —it is impossible, absolutely impossible. My prayer is that each one of us will grow more and more convinced of this. Let us pray for one another.