New!! The COVID-19 pandemic has been, for countless people around the world, a great and unexpected trial.

But for Catholics, this trial is not only economic, social, or medical – it is spiritual. Plunged into a time of darkness and separated from the sacraments and their parish communities, the faithful are feeling isolated, disheartened, and uncertain about what the future holds.

Word on Fire is offering a free eBook, which offers an insightful and encouraging analysis of the coronavirus, shedding light not only on the Church’s present moment or similar crises of the past but also on the immediate future. Click here to download your FREE eBook.


LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS TO THE FAITHFUL FOR THE MONTH OF MAY

In his letter for the month of May, Pope Francis encourages us to rediscover the beauty and peace of praying the Rosary. In this time of uncertainty, we ask the Blessed Mother for her protection by reciting the two beautiful prayers Pope Francis has offered at the end of the Rosary.

Click here to read his letter and print the prayers.


Reflection on The Blessed Mother

“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”  Matthew 12:48-50

This passage offers a wonderful opportunity to speak about the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Some who read this passage fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus was in some way distancing Himself from His mother.  It’s as if they conclude that His statement ignores her special role in His life.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The truth is that His statement affirms her motherhood more than anything.  Why?  Because He is speaking about how one becomes a true member of His family.  And that happens when one “does the will of my heavenly Father.” 

Think about that line.  Who better fulfilled the will of the Heavenly Father?  Who was more obedient in all things than the Blessed Virgin?  No one was.  She acted in perfect obedience throughout her life and, therefore, she perfectly fulfills the requirement of being Jesus’ family.

One thing we should take from this passage is that our Blessed Mother’s relationship with Jesus was lived on two levels.  First, there was the physical motherhood she was blessed with.  This was an incredible grace and one for which she deserves great honor.  But her physical motherhood was not the primary reason for her blessedness.  The primary reason was a result of her spiritual motherhood.  And this spiritual motherhood is seen in this passage above.  It is the result of her perfect “Yes” to God in all things.  This is the primary reason she is to be honored and called “blessed” for all ages.

Reflect, today, upon the role that our Blessed Mother holds in your life.  God wants you to honor her, to imitate her and to make her part of your family.  He wants you to receive her as your spiritual mother insofar as you are a member of Jesus’ family.  If you strive for obedience to the will of the Father in your life, you will also share in the blessings of His life.  One of those great blessings is to share His mother.

Lord, I do desire to be obedient to You and Your will in all things.  I desire to embrace the Father’s perfect plan for my life.  In that will, help me to share in Your divine life and become a full member of Your family.  In that family, help me to take Your mother as my own.  Dear Mother, pray for me.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Post-Resurrection Appearances

Three of the four Gospels give us accounts of more than half a dozen appearances of Jesus after his resurrection. Mark’s Gospel ends with the women fleeing the empty tomb and telling no one because they were afraid. Two separate endings were added to Mark’s Gospel later, however, that do contain appearances of Jesus. All the

Gospels but Luke tell about Jesus appearing to the women on Easter morning. Luke, on the other hand, tells about Jesus’ appearance with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. John describes two appearances, one to the disciples when Thomas was absent, and another when Thomas was present. Mark tells about Jesus appearing to the Eleven as they sat at table, and John describes the appearance of Jesus to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. Jesus’ final appearance includes the commissioning of the disciples in Matthew and the ascension in Mark and Luke. The cumulative effect of these accounts is the presentation of a truly resurrected and glorified Jesus and a community of disciples struggling to come to grips with the new reality of a Jesus who “has been raised” but “is not here.”

Explore John 20:19-31: Thomas believes because he sees Jesus. 

Explore Luke 24:13-35: Jesus appears to two disciples who are walking to Emmaus. 

Explore Luke 24:35-48: Jesus appears again to his disciples and shares a meal with them. 

Explore Matthew 28:16-20: Jesus charges his disciples to make disciples of all nations and promises to be with them forever


Divine Mercy Reflection

Each night, as you go to sleep, you are invited to sleep in the grace and Mercy of our Lord.  You are invited to rest in His arms so as to be rejuvenated and refreshed.  Sleep is an image of prayer and, in fact, can become a form of prayer.  To rest is to rest in God.  Every beat of your heart must become a prayer to God and every beat of His Heart must become the rhythm of your rest (See Diary #486).

Do you sleep in the presence of God?  Think about it.  When you retire to bed, do you pray?  Do you ask our Lord to surround you with His grace and to embrace you with His gentle arms?  God has spoken to the saints of old through their dreams.  He has put holy men and women into a deep rest so as to restore them and strengthen them.  Try to invite our Lord into your mind and heart as you lay your head down to sleep, this night.  And as you wake, let Him be the first one whom you greet.  Allow each night’s rest to be a resting in His Divine Mercy.

Lord, I thank You for the rhythm of each day.  I thank You for the ways You walk with me throughout my day and I thank You for being with me while I rest.  I offer to You, this night, my rest and my dreams.  I invite You to hold me close to You, that Your Heart of Mercy may be the gentle sound which soothes my weary soul.  Jesus, I trust in You.


Reflections on the Seven Penitential Psalms: Psalm 32

By Graziano Marcheschi, M.A. D.Min

Psalm 32 —Remission of Sin

Sin is inevitable. Because we fall short of the glory of God, because sin abounds in the world—though grace abounds the more!—it is inevitable that we humans fall into sin. But faith tells us sin is not the final word, and the author of this psalm knows that truth well.

The Psalms have endured for millennia because they are so personal and real; sometimes, so real they’re raw. They name our experience because they come out of lived experience. The author grasps the deep truth of the old maxim, “Confession is good for the soul.” He understands the value of confession because he first tried to resist it. He hid his faults, sealed his heart and lips and would not speak his sins, but the result was agony and groaning all the day. Because he “kept silent,” his “bones wasted away.” Would that we, too, could feel the weight of our sins upon us. Would that they would drive us to our knees so we, too, could experience the grace and the unburdening, the freedom and the joy the psalmist finds at last.


Finally, he says, finally “I declared my sin to you;/ my guilt I did not hide.” And rather than shame or wagging fingers, the psalmist finds relief. Read again the opening line: “Blessed is the one whose fault is removed,/ whose sin is forgiven.” Notice that blessing is given not to the blameless or the sinless (they don’t exist!), but to the sinner who, through confession, has had his sin removed. What’s more, in the Bible, the removal of sin removes theeffectsof sin on us. That’s why the psalmist’s frustration, fading enthusiasm, and loss of joy vanish the moment he experiences God’s mercy.

Therefore every loyal person should pray to God, he says, because God longs to shelter us and surrounds us with shouts of joy. But sin remains inevitable. And because we are so often dumb as oxen and stubborn as mules, God admonishes us to be docile and humble, putting our trust in him so he can shower his mercy on us.

Questions for Reflection:

Fewer Catholics today avail themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Why do you think that is? If the psalmist’s experience is typical, the floodgates of grace open once we admit and repent our sins. What would help you be more open to the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

Do you think talk of sin is helpful or is it better to speak instead of God’s love and mercy? Does one make sense without the other?

Do you approach God with confidence or temerity?


Psalm 6 —Prayer in Distress

The Psalms stand against the human impulse to merit God’s love and mercy through goodness or obedience. A part of us clings to the naïve notion that God’s love for us is tied to our behavior: good behavior earns God’s love and acceptance; bad behavior means divine rejection. That’s a diabolical lie and the psalmist knows it. Instead, eyes wide open and looking in the mirror, the psalmist readily admits his sin and begs God’s mercy anyway. Sin darkens human vision and alienates the soul from God, self, and others. Sin’s greatest danger is its ability to make us doubt God’s love and willingness to forgive. The psalmist’s saving grace is his refusal to let sin drive that wedge between him and the Lord; in fact, it’s his painful awareness of his sin that draws the psalmist nearer. We often think we can approach God only when we’re “good” and have our lives in order. But it’s sin God rejects, not the sinner. The psalmist knows if we waited for a “worthy” time, we’d never pray.  So we don’t defer prayer; we don’t wait till God “is in a better mood.” At work, we might rely on a spike in sales to incline the boss to mercy, but our God has never been that kind of God. Scripture tells us to pray whenever there is the need. And need is greatest when we are mired in sin.

In his mercy, God does not spare us the consequences of sin. To spur our prayer, to draw us closer when we might otherwise sulk or hide, God lets sin impact our lives.  Sin’s consequence is not God’s punishment, but the natural result of our decisions that, in his love, God uses for our good (if we let him). The psalmist is well aware that his own sin has brought both physical distress and the attack of enemies into his life. Yet he prays unashamedly. As a child who has disregarded a parent’s injunction to not venture far from home comes running back when the playground bully threatens, the psalmist knows where home is. He knows where to find the strong arms and loving embrace of a God who eventually would send his own Son to save us—not when we were finally worthy, but while we were still steeped in sin. 

Questions for Reflection:

St. Paul says that God “proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). So why do we keep thinking that God will love us only when we stop sinning?

On the other hand, does knowledge of God’s unconditional love mean we needn’t worry about sinning? Is the destructiveness of sin related to the effects it has on God or to the effects it has on us?

Besides petitionary prayer, there are prayers of praise, thanksgiving, adoration, etc. Does a prayer of petition, asking for mercy and the forgiveness of sin, seem to you like a lower, less enlightened form of prayer?  How can you combine petition and praise?

©2020 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Reflection

One of the dangers many encounter in our modern technological world is that of constant noise.  We are easily bombarded with chatter all day long.  It could be through the radio, TV, Internet, or the ceaseless conversation of another.  Rarely do we find times of great silence.  As a result, when silence is offered us, we often look to fill that silence immediately.  But is this wise?  Is it good to occupy our minds day and night with noise?  Though every person will be different, especially depending upon their vocation, every person does need times of regular silence and solitude.  Without this it is hard to be recollected and to hear the Voice of God.  God speaks in the silence and He desires to communicate to you through this sacred language.  Do not run from silence for, if you do, you will be running from the Voice of God (See Diary #1476).

Try to take some time today alone in silence.  If you find that it is difficult to do even for five minutes, then this is a sign that there is too much noise in your life.  Entering silence can bring on a form of “withdrawal” from noise.  We tend to be comfortable with it as we are entertained all day long.  But try to take time in silence today.  Resolve to do so as long as you can.  Turn off the radio in the car, go for a walk, or sit and pray without thinking or speaking, just being quiet in the presence of God.  The gift of silent communication with God is a gift that you need and you will learn more from silence than from hours of the noise of the world.

Lord, I desire to seek You in the silence.  I choose to listen to Your quiet promptings of love spoken in this way.  Give me the wisdom and strength I need to dedicate myself to moments of quiet every day.  May these moments bring clarity to my soul and understanding to my life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Spiritual Tips & Ideas

1. Family rosary at home for Coronavirus victims

2. Praying the divine mercy chaplet for an end to the pandemic

3. Read the daily readings Magnificat

4. Live-stream the Mass (many places are offering this)

5. Pray the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours)

6. Use social media to share your how your family or community is praying

7. Host a video live-stream for members of your friends to pray the rosary

8. Take time on Fridays to pray the stations of the cross on your own, connecting your struggles with isolation with Jesus’ solitude in carrying his cross to Calvary Download the Stations Of The Cross booklet

9. Watch a movie about the life of Christ and spend time reflecting on this image of Jesus and what it can teach you about your faith and your life

Mary, Undoer Of Knots Novena

DOWNLOAD THE NOVENA (printable .pdf)

The COVID-19 pandemic is truly global, and while you may not have symptoms…you’re feeling its effects. Are you missing the sacraments? Do you yearn for community? Are you uncertain about your job or a family member’s?

Social distancing, widespread quarantines, and the scramble to get food and essentials have severely impacted our lives. And now, many churches and dioceses have canceled public Masses. The problems we’re facing—physically and spiritually—seem insurmountable.

It is in times like these that Our Lady wants you to hand over the “knots” of your life so that she can untangle them with her own capable hands. Unemployment, anxiety, spiritual hunger…there’s no knot she can’t unravel.

Gretchen Filz, O.P. ©2017–2020 The Catholic Company

Magnificat

Will be making this month’s issue available for free to help people pray from home. To view online, click here.

Give Us This Day

Liturgical Press is making its resources free online, which includes Liturgy of the Hours, Mass readings/prayers, etc. To access, click here.

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