Monday, February 16, 2015

The Bloodier Crusade

"The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."   -Tertullian

How have I not heard about this, save from the internet? Why? Because the West had decided that Christianity is to be lumped in with those who create terror in the hearts of men to bring about their "conversion." True conversion can only be a matter that takes place in the heart, not by the sword, and because we have been taught and have perpetuated an unfounded garbage history in the Western world out of a hatred for the Catholic Church, ALL Christians are now in the sights of those who would and do make martyrs of us.

To those in the "enlightened" West: if these "crusaders" are killed by reason of the BAD and completely FALSE history you perpetuate, then their blood is on your hands. Go learn the REAL history about the Crusades, the Inquisition, those things which are being used against peaceful Christians (yes, today's Middle Eastern Christians are almost entirely peaceful, only qualified for lack of 100% certainty). We can no longer live by this revisionist history of the Church and the Western world, or we will die by it as well.

The great "crusade" is the unintelligible blathering of self-proclaimed Western "enlightened intellectuals" against the Catholic and larger Christian Church. These are the cause, who have not studied the history of the Church other than their basic college courses or reconstructionist theories, which spout the same disdain against any religion or any authority, but who have the audacity to claim they KNOW that the Church murdered and plundered and tortured, when this was never true. In fact, there is no evidence that Islamic leaders of the time had any hurt feelings...because they were the aggressors, AND THEY WON...and said as much.

Western anti-theists (not to be confused with atheists) had better learn their history and put their faith in something real quick because you can be certain that radical Islamic terrorists will not give a rip about how much you think you know, how many degrees you have, or how much influence you exercise. You, like any of us Christians, are nothing more to them than dogs. I can assure you that the peacefulness of the lives of the "Nation of the Cross" will be redeemed, and more will come to Christ by their witness because "they will know us by our love."

How will your legacy end other than
"This is the way the world ends; not with a bang but a whimper."    -T.S. Eliot

Even as our own brothers and sisters from the same history are slaughtered, our President and the entire West whimpers, wondering how this people could hate us, when we've made every effort to argue that it's Christianity's fault, just to please them. The truth: you've been crusading against yourselves all of this time.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Love Your Enemies...This is a difficult saying; who can accept it?

First, for all of the Bible geeks out there, I know these two Scriptures aren't actually together, but I'm being super-geeky and using a rabbinic method known as "hekesh," or "banging" two verses together to produce a stronger meaning. In this case, I'm less comparing and more emphasizing, but still awesome, right?

Anyhow, we like and understand a lot of what Jesus teaches in the Gospels, but the command in Matthew 5:33-34 is one we'd rather just pretend we never heard. What about Jesus' words here make them so much harder to hear than the consoling tones of the Beatitudes? The short answer is, they require something from us, something we don't know how to do. Our Lord points out that it's easy to love those who are dear to us, even those who are kind to us, but to love those who hurt us, say awful things to and about us, or who even abandon us- well, that's just crazy, right? Not so crazy when you consider what it means to love.

When we ask children what "love" is, they usually giggle, likely thinking of people kissing, and talk about how they feel about their mom and dad. Some older children will talk about being nice to people, taking care of them, a number of responses. They're not entirely wrong, but for we Catholics, there is something more that's required of us. Love isn't some emotion, affection is. Love, on the other hand, is a choice. Great, you say, our society loves choice, so people should be all about loving everyone, even the neighbor who turns you into the HOA for one too many yard decorations, or who gossips about you at the classroom Halloween party. Of course, we know that we are generally not interested in tolerating, let alone loving those people. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, it's absolutely necessary to define our terms, or this train is going nowhere.

What is love? It does depend some on who you ask. Aristotle reserved two definitions for love, one, philia, which reflects the common understanding of friendship (at his time, but still mostly true today), including the desire for that person's well-being, which is mutual between the two individuals. Second is the term eunous, or what Aristotle termed as being "well-disposed" or "bearing goodwill." This is the desire for another's well-being, but without the the implied reciprocation of the same intention. This latter term is love for love's sake, not for any person gain or for a common sharing of affection.

St. Thomas Aquinas, who was heavily influenced by Aristotle, maintains the definition of philia as "friendship," but his discussion of what Aristotle termed eunous is far more extensive, referring to it as "charity." At this point, I'm going to proudly assume that your eyes just lit up because you're starting to see a connection. If I'm wrong, it's okay because I can't see you, so there's really no disappointment here. Using the Philosopher's (Aquinas' term for Aristotle) definitions, Aquinas makes clear that friendship is related to charity because friendship loves, by affection, the other and all that belongs to him (ST, II-II, q. 23, a. 1). Because each person, made in the image and likeness of God, belongs to and is loved by God, and charity's ultimate subject is God, then, for us to be in friendship with God, in complete charity, we must also love all that is His. That is why our friendship of charity must be extended to every man, regardless of their will of good or evil toward us, "You have heard that it as said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in Heaven, for He makes His sun rise on the evil, and on the good, and sends rain on just and on the unjust" (Matt 5:43-45). The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) makes this painfully clear in Paragraph 1825, when it quotes Romans 5:10 in order to point out that Jesus offered us a share in His life, an opportunity for relationship, even "while we were enemies" (emphasis mine). If we truly love God, then we will also choose to love His people...all of them.

True "love" then, requires that we first know what is the good for another person, regardless of our affections for them, and upon knowing, in deference to our love toward God, requires our willing of that good. That sounds simple enough, to will that other people, even our enemies would receive the good intended for them by God. If only that were the end of the story, it might be so easy, but simply willing what is good is not enough. Our will must be animated to act because we are only conformed to the image of Christ if we choose to do, and not to do just anything, but to give our lives so that the other may have life "to the full" (Jhn 10:10).

Yikes, I know. How much trouble am I in? I definitely feel like my reaction to the driver who just cut me off in some smart Austrian status symbol is not as much loving as it is noting that "truth in engineering" appears to also mean "truth in advertising," considering how the people in those commercials drive. Epic moral fail.

Don't despair- there's hope. As I said, love is a choice, not an emotion, so frustration and even righteous anger about those who hurt and demean or even kill is not a deal-breaker. We aren't expected to like everyone on the planet, but we are expected to desire their ultimate good, and I'm sure God would appreciate if that desire for other's good would make it back around, so that we would experience that selfless love, leading some day to a sense of solidarity as members of the human family. Now, I don't profess to speak for God, but knowing what I do of His will, I think He'd probably be okay with that. In fact, here's what the Catechism says, quoting St. Basil, "If we turn away from evil out of fear of punishment, we are in the position of slaves. If we pursue the enticement of wages,... we resemble mercenaries. Finally, if we obey for the sake of the good itself and out of love for him who commands... we are in the position of children" (CCC 1828).

Ultimately, loving your enemies isn't easy- but what in the Christian life is? If we expect any better treatment or an easier road than our Lord, we are seriously deluding ourselves, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you"(Jhn 15:18). If you're still in doubt, I assure you, Jesus is really pushing this whole "love" agenda because He just keeps talking about it, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you" (Jhn 15:12). When we love our enemies as the Father has loved us, sinners though we are, we have become a little more like Him, moved just a little closer to Him, and If you know anything about the image of the Father, you know it is Jesus, and becoming better conformed to His Son means becoming sons and daughters of the Father as well.

This article can also be found on Catholic Exchange at

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Art of Catholic Charity

The Gospel in the Secular Culture
St. Peter Preaching at Pentecost by Benjamin West
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like art, and really, what’s not to like? Art, in all of its forms, inspires us and expresses who we are as a society, as a culture. Recently, a priest friend of ours shared some of his artwork with us. They were extraordinarily beautiful depictions of saints who are known for their great love and care for all mankind. In the Vatican II document, Apostolicam Actuositatem, the Council called the laity to be active participants in the modern world, that they would speak the truth of the Gospel in the language of the secular culture. Even now, we are called to be in the world, even as we are not of it for the purpose of transforming it by our love (Jn 14). This should be the goal of Christian art as a cultural phenomenon; it is seen, heard, and experienced, in order that it may be an expression of Christian love that inspires greater love in society.

Typically, culture has been the stabilizing element in each time period throughout history. We tend to think that visual and musical arts are the primary elements of culture, along with literature, invention, and scientific advancement, and that is certainly true. However, culture is more than the art, politics, and even demographics of a particular people or period. It is the larger social and ethical contract by which we choose to live, and its expression is reflected in those daily tangible elements of the overall society. Yet, how many of us have considered that what we do each day is art? More specifically, do we believe that, as Christians, art includes our acts of charity, living lives of hope, and confessing the faith through the frequent and communal celebration of the Sacraments? This is not even a plausible idea in an increasingly secular world, but we are encouraged to move and cooperate within the world to bring the Gospel to the nations, in order that all people would turn from worshipping the creation and rather, give glory to the Creator.

I am reminded of how rarely we see religious art displayed outside of a church anymore. In fact, there are often more examples of an anti-religious and even blatantly immoral nature openly displayed, often with implicit approval of secular authorities and much of society. It was once just as common that the nobility of a time would commission and display beautiful works of artistic grandeur, religious works. In fact, for many centuries, the artistic genius of Western society was influenced, encouraged, and protected by the Church. Many of the greatest pieces of art, Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel or Luini’s Christ crowned with Thorns, for example, were begun under the patronage of the Church or its members. Many of us grew up believing that, when the Dark Ages descended upon Western Europe, it was due to the Catholic Church destroying any sense of intellectual, scientific, or artistic growth, though the very opposite was true. When the Holy Roman Empire was attacked by neighboring groups, such as the Goths, Saracens, and Magyars, it was the courageous efforts of members of the Church who protected the cultural treasures that remain with us today. At a time when many nations had come to destroy the culture, the Church, typically by the efforts of a number of religious orders, preserved not just works of art, but the larger cultural memory from which our own society is formed.

Art in the Service of God
The culture of the modern Church is one that seeks to bring the message of the Gospel to a struggling world. By living the commission of the Gospel to, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,” we create a culture amenable to a world that longs for an answer to the effects of sin. We draw in those who would not otherwise accept faith as a reasonable premise by the pure beauty and awesome nature of a Christian culture, present in artistic media, stirring literature and theater, and acts of love and charity. All of these, in service of the Lord, are works of art. St. Paul, throughout his First Letter to the Corinthians, speaks of each individual’s contribution to the Body of Christ, encouraging each to use the talents entrusted to them to work in union with others’ talents to animate the Church. This unity is a visible sign of the many gifts and grace which draw the nations to seek the source of beauty, rather than being satisfied only by what is found to be beautiful, for as we know from Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers, the flower fades; but the Word of our God will stand forever.” Art in the service of God is inherently apostolic because it proclaims the truth to all nations to bring them into a loving relationship with the only and eternal God.

Back to that friend of mine, it is worth noting that, in addition to his drawing, he is also a talented man of theater and is also fortunate enough to also have a wonderful singing voice. Truly, it can be said that he has an artistic gift. There is, however, a common misunderstanding that gifts expressed in Christian art must take certain forms, but the reality is, not everything must be Handel’s Messiah or Michelangelo’s David. In fact, these are works that speak to the world years after their time, due in part to their inspiring workmanship and lasting beauty, but also due to their place as icons that speak to the culture throughout the ages. There is just as much potential for a modern song or painting to raise the eyes of the soul, whether it be a song like Lord, Raise Me Upby Jewish reggae rapper, Matisyahu, which calls on the Psalms in a unique way, or Catholic author, Piers Paul Read, who has written many books, both fiction and non-fiction, drawing upon many religious themes. While not considered traditionally classic works, these are religious and artistic works that are not set apart from culture, but rather, are quite approachable and immersed within it.
The art of charity is also still alive in the modern world, even as it was in centuries past. It is not necessary for one to be an ascetic like St. Anthony, or to receive visions like St. Juan Diego to be an artistic lover of God’s people. There are a number of modern figures who have also had a great impact on the modern world, for example, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta or even Pope St. John Paul II. Both figures showed a great love for the least of God’s people, and in the case of John Paul II, the architect of the New Evangelization, his remarkable forgiveness of the man who attempted to assassinate him showed the power of Christian love, causing the man to be converted by the pope’s witness to the truth of the Gospel. These simple acts of love, inspired by the love of Christ, inspire many to seek God to understand what can cause people to live such holy lives. Once again, great acts of martyrdom aren’t necessary to convert hearts, but rather, as Blessed Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Charity is not just one of a number of art forms. It could be said, rather, that charity is the greatest and most authentic form of performance art.

More than an Option—a Necessity
Christian artistic expression is not simply an option, but rather a necessity if we are to speak to the surrounding culture, which frequently encourages competing ideas of what truly are love, beauty, and justice. Today’s secular art is in need of a dramatic infusion of Christian ideals, but the greater culture is in even greater need of a renewed witness of authentic love. In its ability to speak the language of all mankind, neither judging, nor proselytizing, artistic expression has the power to convert hearts by its beauty. Thus, the understanding of what constitutes Christian art can no longer be limited to physical and musical expressions, but must be expanded to include whatever receives its inspiration from the truth of the Gospel and inspires a desire for Christ and His Church. Every small act of love is moving and beautiful, and each can be our own contribution to the art of Christian charity, the voice of Christ in the modern world.

Published Jan 7, 2015 at Integrated Catholic Life

Crusades, Counter-terrorism, and Historical Honesty

A great deal has been made about President Obama's address at the Annual Prayer Breakfast regarding the heinous acts of ISIS/ISIL (seriously, let's just pick one and move on), but also the historical damage of violent acts in the name of religion throughout history, specifically Christianity, and specifically the Crusades and Inquisitions (yes, this was not a singular event). Many in the Christian community are appalled at the President's remarks because they seem to be a moral qualifier meant to limit our judgment of terrorists' full spectrum attack on all of humanity.

The blunder of the President's (and most of Western culture's) lack of knowledge about the reality of the Church's role in the Crusades and Inquisitions has been more than adequately dealt with in the Catholic Christian blogosphere, so as a starting premise and recap of those posts, U.S. drone attacks (not including other Western nations) number more per attack than were actually lost in a year in the Inquisitions, and the Crusades were actually mounted in defense of Christian lands against the attack of Muslim armies. Yes, we were defending Christian lands against against what was then, mainstream Islam. Today is a much different story, including the much smaller percentage of Muslims involved, and to equate historical events like these with today's bloody genocides is as intellectually dishonest as it is just plain ridiculous, and here's why:

In a span of 250 years in the Spanish Inquisition, the number of people killed by secular authorities was about 3,000; that amounts to about 12 per year. Compare that with just the targeted drone strikes by the U.S. today under President Obama himself. Here are some numbers:

24- the number of terrorist men targeted in Pakistan by this administration
874- the number of people killed in those attacks
142- the number of children killed in those attacks
6- the number of targeted men who actually died in those "targeted" attacks

 Now, math isn't exactly my strong suit, and that's one of many reasons I write, but I'm pretty sure that beats the Spanish Inquisition (again, secular rulers doing this), both in percentage of people vs. those "targeted" and in the sheer volume for the length of time, not to mention the inclusion of innocent children among the collateral damage of the "targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us" (John Brennan, CIA director). That "moral high ground" the President is standing on is beginning to look more like a small iceberg than a "high horse." As a side note to address the President's, "People committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ," allegation, the original intent of the Inquisition was not massacre, but was an investigation to respond to a heresy that was causing great confusion within the Church, and people were given a great number of opportunities to recant, convert, defend themselves, etc. before being given fairly light penances, excommunication (this doesn't mean death), with death only being imposed by secular rulers (as a last resort).

So, what's my point? The point is, like I tell my children, just because someone does something mean to you, it doesn't justify returning the favor...certainly not several centuries later, when the basis for that claim is bogus anyhow. We can't use excuses, and fairly unhistorical ones to justify the violence of today, so rather than putting down a faith that created and operates hospitals, universities, orphanages, and other centers of humane and merciful care for people of all beliefs, perhaps the President should reconsider his own "targeted killing" policies. The killings perpetrated by these radicals are also "targeted"; does that still make it okay, or is it simply that, rather than commanding someone to press a button in secret, they instead viciously kill someone in front of a camera? Violence is never the answer, but our leaders must be honest about their own actions, keeping in mind that, the more we offer excuses for the behavior, the more it will continue, emboldened by the lies we believe are in our own history.

For a deeper historical exploration of the myths and truths of the Crusades, consider reading this article and its supporting documents.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Faith, Reason, and the Dastardly Medieval Church

I love a good story about the Church being against reason and science, especially during the Middle Ages. It's a really good thing that the scientific world was able to figure out genetics, the Big Bang, and the scientific method on its own because it's simply ridiculous that a superstitious Church could ever come up with anything so intellectual...
...said most everyone everywhere without objectively investigating the concrete evidence.

God’s Generosity and Growth in Prayer

Prayer seems like such a simple thing; we all know we should do it, we know it should be transformative, and we even attempt it sometimes. For most people, that’s about the extent of our knowledge and experience. Of course, there are those people who pray very regularly, experiencing a very rich and intimate interior life, but for the majority of people, fostering a mature prayer life is a bit like searching for a golden coin in the dark, in a room frequently littered with painful stumbling blocks, or as I call them “spiritual Legos”. Prayer is something we assume we ought to know how to do because it’s just a conversation with God, but we often believe we’re failures when we find that it doesn’t always come naturally. I could try to give an in-depth explanation of each of the great Doctors of the Church and their experiences and insights into prayer. Frankly, there isn’t enough bandwidth to even attempt anything close to that, so let’s keep things simple. After all, God Himself isn’t complicated. Explaining an Eternal God in all of His mystery with our own language and limited understanding is the reason we find Him complicated; you can’t fully explain a mystery. Instead, I hope to provide a more basic view of prayer- what it is, how we ought to approach it, and what we can expect (hint: nothing). I know that last bit threw you off, but stay with me, and I’ll explain.

What is prayer? This is a question that always seems to start out with an easy answer; prayer is talking with God. No, wait, it’s a way of responding to God, or maybe thanking God. What I actually meant was…oh, nevermind. We initially look at prayer very simply as a friendly conversation with God, but then we remember that we need to thank Him, and we’re also supposed to ask for stuff (blessings, healing, peace for ourselves and other), and let’s not forget praising Him for the sake of His own Nature. Eventually, we have once again overcomplicated things and now find ourselves so exasperated at the idea of prayer that, well, it’s time for a nap, and then…guilt because we forgot to pray. You’re not alone; I’ve been there too…just the other day, in fact, but there’s no need to run straight to the confessional over it. I could go on about how God forgives us and let’s us start over, but I don’t want to step on the proverbial toes of someone’s homily somewhere. Here’s the thing: prayer is all of these things, and if you think about talking with a friend, a good conversation with them is also all of these things, but it’s so natural, we don’t think about making sure each element is completed in that conversation. The first thing we need to know about prayer is that it is natural. That doesn’t mean you are simply born into a spectacular spiritual life, only that prayer is a gift from God, so we are actually created for prayer, and it shouldn’t be something that causes us gut-wrenching anxiety or guilt, but rather, great consolation and joy.

Our attitude toward prayer really sets the foundation for a transformative and unitive experience. We don’t need to be self-deprecating or falsely humble to impress God. God is, by nature, God, and He is not impressed or surprised by anything we do. True humility is only true if it’s honest. That means realizing our faults, but also celebrating our strengths. The things that you have accomplished are by His gifts, so they should absolutely be celebrated with Him. Don’t ever be afraid to tell God that you’ve done something good, but be honest and give Him the glory for the gift of your talent. If you come into prayer with a deep sense of failure on your heart, don’t let it consume your reflection and meditation to the point of complete self-focus. The object of our prayer is God, not ourselves. They key is realizing that we are not perfect at anything, and certainly not prayer. No professional athlete walks onto a field or court and begins as a phenom. It takes a great deal of practice…and coaching.

This is where a quality spiritual director can be so helpful. We are simply unable to know much about a close relationship with the Eternal God without experiencing Him through relationship. This is how we learn to become Christians, grow in our understanding of faith, and yes, learn to pray. This is what theologians call the “Divine Pedagogy,” which is God teaching through discipleship in Jesus, so that we learn to disciple others toward knowledge of the Father. This is so important, that it shows up in Scripture itself (all of the good stuff does). In Acts 8, Philip is told by the spirit to approach a caravan, where an Ethiopian eunuch is reading Isaiah, and when Philip asks if the man understands what he is reading, he answers, “How can I unless someone guides me?” To get a little technical here, the Greek word for “guide” is hodegayo, which is literally to guide or teach by leading. Why does that word matter?  He didn’t respond that he needed someone to tell him what the Scripture mean, but to lead him. If you just don’t know how to begin in prayer, or if you’re feeling unsure whether you’re doing it “the right way,” find someone who has a good prayer life, and let them lead you.

Finally, now that we know that prayer is a natural sharing of oneself with our Close Friend, and we understand that approaching prayer is a matter of humility and learning by example, having no expectation and no deceitfulness, what on earth can we expect from God? Here’s the beautiful thing; we should expect nothing. I actually stopped typing for a moment because I know you stopped reading, but let’s stick together. Why wouldn’t we expect something from God if we pray to Him with humility and love? The answer is that we’ve asked the wrong question. What we ought to ask is, on what grounds should we expect anything from God? If we think about the broken image we are before God, and how each person who has, through our sins, broken our covenant with God, then what we should expect is condemnation. That’s real. We really have no other right to expect anything from God but eternal punishment. Of course, that sounds really fire and brimstone-ish, but if we consider the reality, it’s just the “wages of sin,” as Paul tells us, death (Rom 6:23).

Now, don’t panic because the beautiful thing is that, what we earn by our sin does not have to be final. Out of justice (receiving one’s due), the wages of sin might be death, but like that friend who always catches the server and pays the check before you ever see your half, the price for our life has already been paid, “You are not your own; you have been bought for with price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:19b-20). While I don’t want anyone to become a slave to a friend over a free lunch, the key here is that we were lost to sin, but in His great mercy, Jesus paid the price of the broken covenant by His Blood, and so now, we are free…but that’s also not the end. If you notice, after Paul tells us we’ve been bought with a price, he tells us to do something about it, that is, glorify God by what we do. So here’s the progression: we are dead in and slaves to sin, Jesus purchases our lives by His Death, and we are now alive through Him in order to glorify Him. The requirement to do something out of prayer is not God’s; it’s ours! We are indebted to Him in a way that we can never repay, so rather than expecting our prayer to be a way to “get things” out of God, like some cosmic gumball machine, it should compel us to give, not just out of ourselves, but to give our complete selves in order that He may be glorified because that is what’s just for the good that He has done. We think we’re asking for a huge miracle when we ask that our loved ones be cured of cancer, or that we would finally see world peace, but let’s be honest, is it harder for God to do those things, or for us to give ourselves completely to Him to do His will?

Still think I’m crazy for saying we should expect nothing of God? Maybe. Does that mean we shouldn’t bother asking for anything because we’re not worthy? Absolutely not, and here’s why: we know that we don’t deserve any of the gifts we have, and that if God’s mercy were not as great as His justice, we’d be toast, quite literally. Yet, He gave every person in every time the power in Christ to overcome Death and slavery to sin, and as if that weren’t enough, He continues to bless us, whether it’s our family, health, home, or even just enough food for today. God gives more than we deserve, always. Often times, we don’t even see the blessings because they don’t come in the wrapping we ordered, an idea that, when applied to normal human gifting, sounds downright crazy. The key is to ask for what we (and others) need, and even what we want (like a close parking spot when you’re running late to Mass on a bad day), but without any limitations on God’s generosity. That means no bargaining, no empty promises, no “I want, but only if” demands, just a humble laying down of our needs and desires, with a complete openness to the generous gifts of God. I realize this sounds very simplistic, but that’s because it really is that simple, just not easy (for us, that is). The simple fact is, when we start to put restrictions on God’s generosity toward us, we will inevitably find that He doesn’t live up to our expectations, and we’ll blame Him for our disappointment. It’s no wonder then, when we don’t have a fulfilling prayer life.

So then, how do we approach prayer in a way that does not overcomplicate or disappoint? This is where we usually find things become difficult because we live in a culture that customizes everything to our desires, causing us to believe that somehow, God should do the same. While we could look at all of the different types of prayer, compare the value of varying postures, and jump into the recited vs. spontaneous prayer debate, I think the reason you came here was to find something more immediately practical. First, Jesus tells us to find an interior place (Matt 6:6). That sounds nice, but if you live in a world like mine, the more you try to remove yourself, the more people, especially small needy people will come after you like moths to a flame. If you can find time to go to an adoration chapel, that may be ideal, but don’t necessarily take this advice literally. Prayer is available in any moment, so look interiorly and speak to Him in that moment. It can be as short as “Hi there, I’m listening,” or you could pour your heart out to him quietly as you mop up spilled milk for the fourth time today; either way, know that you are heard. Second, don’t expect the burning bush. It only happened once in history and is unlikely to happen again. Instead, expect the small voice that Elijah heard amid the noise, and it likely won’t be an actual voice, but more a sense of peace when you’ve been lead to the truth of that moment. The mystics have a lot to say about this, so realize it’s different for everyone and it changes over time, which leads to a reminder not to come with expectations. The idea is coming to God with the good and the bad, sharing all of your life with Him, and then allowing Him to sort it out, and then openly accepting the good gifts of the greatest Father (Matt 7:11). Just remember to keep it simple, keep it honest, and realize that God’s plan is always to give you a “hope and a future” (Jer 29:11-14), so all you have to do is accept the gift and rejoice, for, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). You will find growth in prayer with humility and a willingness to receive His gifts because God will never be outdone in generosity; that’s not just my promise, but His.

Find this article at The Integrated Catholic Life: