The following is an edit of an email sent to those serving as intercessors for the Sacred Heart Mission...
This week is the 5th week of the Sacred Heart parish mission.
I want to encourage you to re-double your prayers. And here's a story:
Last August on the Walking Pilgrimage (from NJ to PA), there were moments when we were tired, hot, had been walking for miles, and then we came to an intersection which the entire group had to cross quickly. So our leaders instructed us to run. We all thought we would die; it was counter-intuitive, but it actually alleviated our weariness.
Another experience from that Walking Pilgrimage: When we came to the end, I had almost forgotten that God had called me to seek Him in this way, and that He rewards those who seek Him. I needed a little faith-prep to get ready to receive that, and frankly it surprised me that God really did have something for me, and for those I prayed for, after all the weariness that grabbed my attention so thoroughly.
We are a little early for the novena of Pentecost, but I would encourage you to invoke the Holy Spirit daily for the parish, for all those who have been coming, and for everyone from Encounter. Pray that all of us could look with expectant faith to the Lord who somehow has called us together so that we would be surprised with His "why." Pray also that we could shake off a natural sense of weariness. (Maybe I'm speaking only for myself, but this month has been a doozy for me!)
We know that "now is the time" for God to meet our tremendous need for His mercy. Teach us, Jesus, how to watch for you expectantly. Amen.
If any of you have any growing sense of anything as you pray and/or experience this parish mission, please feel free to comment below.
Encounter. has been invited to serve Sacred Heart of Mary and the people of Weirton through a Parish Mission. This opportunity is from God, ya'll. He has desires for everyone this thing will touch and involve. So let's respond to Him with faith and with generosity of heart and say a big YES to everything He will ask of us along the way.
And right now I'm asking you to make a sacrificial offering of prayer and intercession for this Mission. Prayer lines us up with God's grace and calls down the supernatural supply for the ministers and for the people to be ministered to. We are going to ask God for graces of conversion, and so this is spiritual warfare against the power of sin that holds people back from conversion. Conversion is a work of God, and we must earnestly petition God for His work to be done among us.
For starters, I'd like to begin the novena to the Divine Mercy, the same one we pray beginning on Good Friday. We will begin Monday, March 16. The prayers can be found HERE.
Additional commitments to prayer of any form are welcome: daily rosary, daily Mass, weekly holy hours, fasting a certain number of days, etc. I would like you to listen carefully for anything the Lord prompts you, both in terms of how to pray and then for particular needs you sense while you pray.
It is better to make a specific commitment (Divine Mercy novena every day and fasting every Tuesday, for example) rather than a vague promise to sorta mean to remember the intention. Please let me know you are joining in prayer by an email to email@example.com. I will then keep in communication as specific needs for targeted prayer become known. Feel free to share this call to prayer with any prayerful souls you know.
All my strength lies in prayer and sacrifice. They are my invincible weapons, and I know, by experience, that they can soften the heart much better than words. -- St. Therese of Lisieux
Christine, Isabella and Clare prepared a presentation abut the music we listen to and its effect on us, encouraging us to make thoughtful, i.e. premeditated choices based on Christian values which are built around truth, beauty and goodness. Below is their presentation.
Listen to the music that is uplifting, not gloomy.
Listen to the music that opens mysteries of life, but doesn't harm.
Listen to the music that creates place of freedom, and does not bond you to anything temporary.
Listen to the music that fascinates but doesn't deprive.
Join others during Lent and listen only to the music that is bringing you closer to the Creator of all inspirations.
The video that stubbornly did not want to launch is below:
And here are compilations of playlists done by the girls. If you send your own songs or make your playlists, they will be added to those below.
I must add that the girlz rule and the guys have to work hard now to beat that challenge.
Today I was at a prayer group meeting, a really beautiful, honest, candid time of sharing needs and interceding.
And while we were doing that, I was struck by something. Fortunately it was not a truck. Just an insight.
Souls long for heaven. All of them. Or I should say, all of our longings and desires are about our longing for heaven. We all have that God-shaped void within us and whether we are aware of it or not, we seek the fulfillment of that void.
That's not to say that everything we desire is capable of fulfilling us. I'd venture to say that most of what we desire is clearly incapable of the task. Some of what we seek does a great deal of harm to ourselves and to others whom our lives touch. Some of what we seek is a desperate attempt to deaden a sense of longing. All this longing-for-stuff business requires enormous energy from us, and deadening this is a less obvious way we do a great deal of harm to ourselves and others.
But then there is a sort of longing that we get caught up in, I think, because it feels so holy. This can be when we long for someone's conversion. We long for people to be healed, to have their lives turned around, to even get turned on to the realization that there is more to life than they realize. We long for change in other people.
That feels really holy. But I know from experience it is possible that this really masks other things, such as: Lord, I really just want my life to be easier. I'm afraid of pain, and I want it to stop. If she were different, I would feel vindicated. If he loved God, I would feel more loved, too. If they were converted, I wouldn't have to trust You so much about this other thing. If everyone around me were holy, I would be free from the cross.
These longings can really be about our comfort and ease.
And these are not bad things. But neither are they God.
When we pray, Jesus taught us to seek God first. To set our hearts straight onto Him. What is heaven after all, but living in union with God and being in His presence? This is the ultimate desire of the human heart.
We have to pray from where we live, and while we live apart from heaven we have to pray like it. God wants us to make all of our requests known to Him, not because He is unaware, but because sharing between friends from the heart is how communion is established. So I would never advise anyone to stop praying simply because their prayer aims too low. We need to wrestle with what is in our hearts, verbalize it, be honest with ourselves and God. And after we do all that, we need to stay aware of the One with whom we are speaking by being silent, building a silent part into our lives, and giving Him time and space to respond to us.
And when He starts telling us about His longings for us, our desires will start to change.
If you want to make your personal prayer life more disciplined, create a prayer corner, a place where you will talk to Jesus and He will talk to you, daily. Some families have prayer altars or even prayer rooms at homes, where the whole family gathers and prays together but if you want to go deeper in the knowledge of God, you should establish your own prayer rhythm in a space which will be special for you. It doesn't need to be big or fancy. A cross or an icon and a candle is enough. If you have more space than a corner of your night stand or your desk, you can also keep your Bible, rosary and that book for spiritual edification that you are trying to read there. A small notebook or journal is helpful for recording the fruits of your meditations.
When I was 16, and decided to seriously encounter God and put my heart out to Him on a daily basis, I dragged a wooden tree stump from a park, put one small candle on it, a cheesy holy card (soon replaced by a wooden cross and a small icon) and placed it in the corner of my room, where I tried to pray daily at least once. This was the place where my school of prayer has started. A willing heart is all it took.
P.S. If you have a prayer corner for your personal prayer time, send a picture to: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will post it below.
Encounter. Prayer Corners:
Fridays have been associated with penance and fasting in the Church from the earliest days.
Fasting is about repentance -- about emptying the soul of obstacles to grace. Fasting is about openness to God -- about anticipating and waiting with expectant faith, with heart out-stretched, for His presence, His action, His Word.
We invite those who regularly join us for First Friday adoration to fast in preparation. Let us make of ourselves, individually, and as Encounter., a pleasing offering to God: open, empty, and ready to receive all that Jesus wishes to give to us and through us to others,
Over the last couple of years, I've noticed a common attitude of, “Ugh, God made this happen to me!” among people who are only recently making an effort to practice their faith without a genuine understanding of who God is. For example, there are some people with whom I went on a Catholic leadership retreat back in 2013, and I have been informally contacting these few via email for quite some time. Usually, these emails are like a follow up detailing those things that have been going on in our spiritual and secular lives. While the emails don't always contain content which seems to blame God for their problems, I've occasionally seen messages along the lines of, “I was frustrated with God because of (insert stupid teenager problem).” Don't get me wrong, I am not criticizing or judging these people; plus, I've been guilty of such things in my personal experience since I returned to Catholicism in 2012, so I can testify to blaming God for things. I think not understanding how God actually works makes one's vulnerability to this temptation worse.
Don't worry, though: all Christians, whether they're teenagers who just converted back to God after a mountain-top encounter with Christ on a retreat or if they're the elderly church ladies with much wisdom, are prone to frailties like unto this. It's part of the human nature as a result of original sin.
A good example that I can use to show how God isn't someone to blame for our problems comes from an episode of the PBS television series Father Brown, a new series based on the same character created by G.K. Chesterton. In this one particular episode, based on The Hammer of God, a man was bludgeoned upside the head with a blacksmith's hammer, and this man happened to be the brother of the local Anglican clergyman. First, the blacksmith's wife turned herself in so that he, who had a fight with the murder victim shortly before his death, wouldn't have to face hanging. It was later revealed in the episode that it was actually the clergyman who killed his own brother. His motive for murder stemmed from his learning about his brother's homosexual behavior; he believed that God wouldn't forgive homosexual sins. As the clergyman was being convicted by Father Brown, he kept saying that it was part of what God had planned, and that God would be the judge of all in the end; then Father Brown angrily shouted at him, “God is not a scapegoat!” Those words led the clergyman to turn himself in.
Using this story as the backbone of my point, I would like now to express the point: you don't blame God for the things that go wrong in life, whether it's your own personal life, or the problems of the whole world.
God may allow certain things in our lives so He can use them to draw us closer to Him, or prepare us for something greater in the future; He is not a greedy, laughing ogre sitting in the sky, making bad things happen to us at His pleasure. Plainly and simply, the idea that God is a hateful dictator completely contradicts what the Church teaches about Him.
The psalmist writes of the Lord's steadfast love. God loves you, and He would never do anything to you that cause you pain and sorrow. He is always with you, walking next to you. If all seems dark, it is God closing His hand around you: a call to trust in Him.
Many people in our world today seem to have no hope. They feel lost and abandoned, drowning in despair, and alone. They are searching for something that will make them happy. We all are searching for something, and that something is God. But sadly many people never come to the realization that they are and have been searching for God, and they continue to seek out happiness in the wrong places. They try to fill the longing for something more. Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati was a man who reached out to the people who felt lost and abandoned and alone. He visited the sick in his free time without his family ever even knowing. He believed that those who had good health had a responsibility given to them by God to help comfort the sick and to help the poor. He was a man of faith, who was not afraid to live out the Gospel.
One of my favorite quotes from Bl. Pier Giorgio is when he urges us to not only exist, but to live. “To live without faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for truth, that is not living, but existing.” Whenever I read this quote, I am always challenged to live my life with a stronger faith in God, fully trusting Him. I yearn to strive for the truth, to become closer to God, and to stand up for what is right and good. But every time I read this quote I stop and think of what it means to not only exist, but to live.
What does it mean to not only exist, but to live? The word exist can be defined as: to be, to be present, or found in a particular place or situation. Anything can exist. Stars and sunsets and oceans and galaxies can exist, but they do not live. Animals and plants and humans live. To live is to be alive, to have life. But the difference between humans and other living things is that we have been found to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31), and that we have souls that will live even after we no longer are alive. But what Bl. Pier Giorgio was talking about was our souls being alive. When we have faith and constantly fight for the truth, and love those who we find hardest to love, we are not merely existing, but living. We are living the way God created us to live. The saints are great examples of what it looks like to not only exist, but to live. We are also called to be saints. We each have our own unique way of living in a way that no one else can. Let us choose to live for God. Let us live to accomplish God’s will, just as Bl. Pier Giorgio did.
So the question that we must ask ourselves each day is: Will I only exist today? Will I seek out the truth today? Will I love today? Will I climb to the top and live for God today?
Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, pray for us!
We all want to be loved. That’s just the way we’re made. This, coupled with the fact that love is commonly accompanied by emotions and feelings, shines some light on why so much of today’s world is centered on feeling. We are hammered with emotion to such an extent that even our prayer lives tend to be strongly affected by that emotion. We want to be touched in some amazing, life-changing way. We want to feel God’s Love, feel His Presence, feel His Peace.
Often times we do get to enjoy these spiritual blessings, and in those times it is hard to doubt God’s Love. But what about those times when we feel spiritually desolate and forgotten? What about those times when we can’t understand how God could let this or that happen? What about those times when we have absolutely no desire to pray, or those times when we are distracted and discouraged in our prayers? At times like these, it is very easy to think that God is further from us than in those times when we felt spiritually rich. In these emotionally dry moments it is very easy to suppose that He doesn’t even exist, much less care for us or hear us. But it is in these hard times that we must remember what love really is: an act of the will. It is not an emotion or a feeling. Sure, those things do frequently accompany love, but love isn’t dependent on them. So if love is not based on emotional feels, and the reason we pray is to be in communion with Love Itself, then our prayers should not be dependent on feeling.
So, if your prayers are met with spiritual blessings, rejoice and thank God for them. But, if your prayers seem to be just another useless waste of time and energy, remember to have faith and don’t be discouraged. God wants us to pray to Him, whether it’s easy or hard. Remember, prayer is the best way to grow in the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of God is the beginning of true love. So, keep journeying to know Him better. Don’t just pray to feel God. Pray to know Him.
St. Josemaria Escriva:
Last fall Encounter. got a big doze of Frassati's life. We have read his letters, studied his tumultuous times and culture, weekly Fridays concentrated on Beatitudes and the connections to Frassati's spirituality, and we even went on a hike to Coopers Rock. St. JP2 called him a man of the Beatitudes for no reason. This young, intelligent, charismatic leader, who came from the wealthy family but had made choices based on serving spiritually and economically impoverished and exploited people, had lived his 24 years on earth with one vision: to love and serve others. He is the patron of youth, and June 25th marks the first day of Novena to Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati. If you chose to participate:
1. Find a quite place. You will need 15 min or so. Print the pages below.
2. Don't just say it. Pray it. Novenas are days of concentrated, focused prayer. They do not work like magic. It's a loving dialogue and requires attention and heart's openness.
3. Start with meditating on the Scripture verse. It's one Beatitude daily. Don't roll your eyes, if you have done it last year or recently... Beatitudes are Jesus' Words of life. Our hearts need them as often as our bodies need food.
3. Read Frassati's reflection and think about what he says. Stop. And think for 1 min. How does it relate to you?
4. Pray the prayer and the Litany.
5. Think of 4th of July, Frassati's feast day, as of day of opportunity to love and serve others. Verso l'Alto!
We are aiming higher, where God leads those who trust Him. We will not be satisfied with superficial, stagnant social events that mock real encounter of persons. We will conquer fear and enter into the beatified poverty of a heart longing for God, yet not satisfied with nothing else until it seeks that one thing which will captivate our vision forever. We will enter into the insecurity of not knowing in the midst of all of those who float in the googled versions of kitschy instant paraphrases. We will open up the gates of our past, present and future and disqualify every vain thought that stands firm against gentle touch of Ruah.
As soon as I heard that Encounter. was going to have another day-long retreat, I was excited.
We have finished our epic two years long Bible studies. Six people went through the whole course, and overall 26 teens participated. One of the topics during first year (Old Testament) was:
Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?
When Encounter. first announced that they were going to visit Sienna Nursing Home I was very excited to participate. For me, I have never been awkward around or scared of old people, due to the fact that I have grown up with my grandpa always being around.
I've often said that there is something in my Christian testimony that will offend the theology of just about everyone. Blessed, then, are those with no particular theology!
Today I wanted to share about the very first time I realized that the Christian God is a personal God who desires a personal response from each one of us.