My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We have begun our journey of Lent together, and the Holy Spirit asks me to write to you concerning prayer.
How many of you pack prayer into your day, having this or that devotion, saying the Rosary, going to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and yet feel empty despite your efforts? Also, how many of you find little time, if any, for personal prayer, finding, rather, that there are just too many things going on in your everyday life which preclude being in communication with God? Either way, do you find yourself empty and wanting?
Perhaps there is an explanation to that feeling of emptiness. Did you know that you should be praying for yourself? O, yes! I know that it is on our minds and hearts to pray for others, to pray for the souls in Purgatory, for family members and friends who are suffering. You hear this in the Prayers of Petition before the Offertory of the Mass. Yet, do you pray for yourself? Have you every really thought about this? I mean do you really, truly, deeply pray for yourself?
If you do, then you experience the immediate rush of grace that God offers if your prayer is in accord with His Will. Perhaps it is in what we pray for, in how we ask for a grace, that is the waterloo for so many who come away with the much-too-frequent saying: "I prayed, God didn't answer, why bother."
If you are in need, do you ask God to give you this or that thing? Or do you make known to Him your need, and say "Lord, Your will, never my own be done?"
When you pray for yourself, always invite your guardian angel to pray with you and for you. After all, God did not give to each of us a guardian angel to watch over us and lead us to Heaven, only for us to be unmindful of the angel's presence. Do you know your guardian angel's name? Have you asked God to reveal this name to you? If you do not know your guardian angel's name, then please give the angel a name, a name you wish to emulate, the name of a saint.
Now then, as you begin to pray for yourself, there are several mental images you might wish to use. These, of course, are only suggestions which I humbly put forth: First, place yourself at the foot of the Cross. Look at Jesus on the Cross, and acknowledge before Him that you are a sinner in need of His Mercy. With what LOVE will He look at you, though He be crucified.
This is why the Crucifix is so vital for all Catholics. We need to never separate Christ from the Cross. We also need to equate ourselves with Him always on the Cross. St. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 1: 17 and Galatians 5: 14 To truly know Him, to truly love Him means to be crucified with Him. That is the sign of true love. Jesus said this many times, He who does not love Him more than even father and mother, he who does not take up their cross and follow Him is not worthy of Him (cf. Matthew 10: 37-38; 16: 24; Mark 8: 34-38; Luke 9: 23-26; and 14: 26-27).
You might also prostate yourself before the Most Blessed Trinity, again acknowledging your sinfulness, and your nothingness without Him. Then, ask God to help you to be perfected. Ask that His Will be accomplished in your soul, that with His help, your soul might be filled with His Divine Presence, that He may work out in your soul that degree of holiness to which He is calling you. Ask Him also to work out in your soul that you might never be displeasing to Him. This, my dear brothers and sisters is the beginning of humility, and it is the way to a personal, wonderful relationship with the Trinity.
Invite God to be part of your life at every single moment. If you do this, my dear brothers and sisters, you are on the way to becoming a living prayer, for all that you think, do, and say is a conscious awareness of God's Presence within you. It acknowledges sanctifying and actual grace, it permits, invites and encourages the Holy Spirit to sanctify you, molding you into the image and likeness of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This, my brothers and sisters, is what we are called to do, and we are all called to holiness as members of the Mystical Body of Christ. We are not idle bystanders, watching from a distance the unfolding of God's wondrous grace within us. We must participate, we must be actively involved in our own personal growth in holiness.
You must have this personal relationship with God. You cannot successfully go forth to minister to your family, your parish family, and then the world at large, without having first and always prayed for yourself.
Do not pray for selfish things, for that is displeasing to God, and the prayer will not be answered. Pray in humility, but also with great CONFIDENCE. Lent is the perfect time to start such a relationship if you do not already have this. Lent should be a time when we put off the "old" self, and take on the "new" self that is made in the image and likeness of God; when we put on the "armor of God" (cf. Ephesians 6: 11-17)
The passage of Paul's 18th verse of Ephesians 6 says "With all prayer and supplication pray at all times in the Spirit, and therin be vigilant in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints - and for me, that when I open my mouth, utterance may be granted to me fearlessly to make known the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; so that therein I may dare to speak as I ought." Only through prayer can we be assured we are acting and speaking as we ought. We need to pray for ourselves that we will have the strength to respond affirmatively to God's Holy Will.
When we pray for ourselves, we must also act in accordance with God's graces. Where we have sinned, we seek forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, with the sincere purpose of not sinning again. We also acknowledge all of our faults and failings, our absolute frailty, and ask Our Lord to be our strength, our wisdom, our prudence, etc. This is most pleasing to God, and He always answers sincere prayers that come on the wings of humility into his Presence. Your guardian angel swiftly lifts up such prayers to God, for remember your guardian angel is always in the Presence of God…the angel sees God whom you cannot see except through the eyes of faith.
Instead of giving up something this Lenten season, may I humbly suggest that all of us, myself included, take this season to grow in our personal relationship with God. If we do this through prayer and sacrifice, then we will see through the eyes of Our Lord just what He would have us do. We will begin to know which fault, failing, character flaw, etc., we must work on. This knowledge comes from the Holy Spirit. Each one of us must ask for the grace to see our soul as God sees it, and to examine every nook and cranny for any trace of pride. O, yes, my brothers and sisters, we must look within to see just how much pride we have.
In May of 2000 I, along with my husband and sons, were privileged to make a pilgrimage to Lourdes. I have written about this in previous articles. But I want to mention here that at the healing service held in the enormous underground Basilica of St. Pius X, the grace was given to me to see my soul as God sees it. Certainly it was a moment of great grace, but also one of great shock. Had I not been supported in this mystical moment by God, I would have died of shame, for never did I realize how much pride was hidden in my soul under many clever disguises. This, my brothers and sisters should be our goal this Lenten season. Pride hides under many names, some of which are self-righteousness, judgementalness, uncharitableness, gossiping, etc.
Let us, together, seek the grace of God to search our souls for all sins, all failings. Let us see what is hiding in the corners, so that God's grace may sweep us clean, purify us, and bring us closer to Him through humble obedience. That way He can begin to redress us in His armor. This is not an impossible task, but rather a task that God expects us to take, having first asked for the grace to embark upon this journey. We cannot make progress in our spiritual life if we do not first ask God for the grace to know ourselves as He knows us. We cannot make progress if we give up something (such as chocolate, deserts, TV, etc.), when in our souls lie sins of which our conscious mind has covered up in various ways, with various names.
Search your soul. See through God's eyes what lies there, and what displeases Him. Sweep your soul clean and allow God to come and dwell there in joy and peace. This, my dear brothers and sisters, is what Lent is about. It is a journey to the Cross. It is our personal Calvary to see ourselves in the light of TRUTH, which is God. Do not be discouraged by this task, for in humility, God will most certainly hear your prayer and give you the grace that you need.
I am praying for each of you in my humble prayers, and I ask your prayers for myself and for my family, that together we may live in the fullness of the Mystical Body of Christ. Our journey to Calvary should not be a burden, but rather a mystical journey of HOPE and LOVE. Our Crucified Savior awaits us. The Cross is but the door to ETERNAL LIFE WITH HIM. Let us not hesitate to run to the Cross, for there INFINTE LOVE awaits us with outstretched arms.
As Lent progresses, may we all rush into His loving embrace, willing to take up our personal crosses, that He may say to us, as He said to the Good Thief, "Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23: 43). O, what HOPE we must have, what CONFIDENCE in HIM Who is PERFECT LOVE. Without Hope, why then do we fight the good fight, run the race, if we believe the victory is far beyond grasping?
Nothing is impossible with God. He did not create you to be without HOPE, but to be HOPE in a world that has no HOPE. This is what Lent should remind us of. May this be a most fruitful Lent for all of us.
Your very little sister in Christ,