When we’re depressed or feeling blue, this prayer from Padre Pio is a way to reach out

Aletia: Margaret Rose Realy, Obl.OSB | Jan 10, 2018

If you find yourself in a state of darkness, the key is “to reach.”

The small framed unsigned print reads “Reach up as high as you can today, and God will reach down the rest of the way.” It’s my go-to quote for those times when I feel an emotional darkness—depression—coming on. For many of us this darkness is a familiar not-so-good old friend, the Black Dog mentioned by Sir Winston Churchill—or seasonal affective disorder.The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has clinical definitions for depression, and there is as well the spiritual darkness that St. John of the Cross writes about in Dark Night of the Soul. However you’ve come to a depressive state, and for whatever history brought you there, the key in both of those dark times is to reach.

The state of darkness and depression is not a void. It is a space filled with insights that we are momentarily blinded to. When we try to go it alone, we are often too wearied to keep from going under, instead succumbing to the waves of hopelessness.

To reach is not an intuitive movement when psychologically and/or spiritually sinking into depression. Even though we’ve been taught that to despair is to turn our backs to God—which is a sin—there is another element to despairing that is sometimes overlooked. It comes from the Rule of St. Benedict, “In all things may God be glorified.”

The Prayer from Padre Pio

In a recent confession, when I was in a season of depression, the priest gave me a very specific penance. I was to read about Jesus walking on stormy seas, and Peter’s fear in Matthew 14:30-31. Then reflect, specifically, on that moment when Peter is desperately reaching out to Our Lord—that second just before Jesus takes his hand.

It was a dark and doubt-filled moment for Peter, whose faith had faltered. It was also an intuitive response to a person physically drowning — reaching out, trying to grasp at anything to save his life.

Assured that the Lord had taken my hand so I will not drown, I often read this prayer, sometimes three times through!

Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have you present so that I do not forget you. You know how easily I abandon you.
Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak, and I need your strength, so that I may not fall so often.
Stay with me, Lord, for you are my life, and without you, I am without fervor.
Stay with me, Lord, for you are my light, and without you, I am in darkness.
Stay with me, Lord, to show me your will.
Stay with me, Lord, so that I hear your voice and follow you.
Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love you very much, and always be in your company.
Stay with me, Lord, if you wish me to be faithful to you.
Stay with me, Lord, for as poor as my soul is, I want it to be a place of consolation for you, a nest of love. Amen.
~St. Pio of Pietrelcina, Prayer After Communion

Depression is a battle, and for some of us a lifelong cross to bear. In bearing it as best we can while reaching up and out for help, we are led in to a deeper maturity of faith—which like most virtues, is not easily won.

From the Catechism: The Virtue of Hope

Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:5

One of the three theological virtues along with faith and charity, hope enables us to “desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (CCC1817).

Hope responds to our innate desire for happiness. God has placed this desire in the heart of every person. Hope “inspires men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness…” (CCC 1818).

Hope lifts our gaze toward heaven. “The beatitudes raise our hope toward heaven as the new Promised Land; they trace the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus. But through the merits of Jesus Christ and of his Passion, God keeps us in the ‘hope that does not disappoint.'” Hope is the anchor of the soul and “a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation…It affords us joy even under trial… Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the Our Father, the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire” (CCC 1820).

Hope leads to perseverance. “In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace fo God, to persevere ‘to the end’ and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ” (CCC 1821).

 

 

 

From the August 2, 2020 Bulletin of St. Anthony Church, Hillsdale, Michigan

Did you ever have a particularly bad day when nothing seems to work out and every thought you have is negative? I had one of those days last week. It started when I first woke up after a restless night. So much was weighing on my brain. I began getting ready for work feeling down in the dumps.

Driving to work, I was hoping that a song on the Christian radio station might help.  Perhaps it would stop the depressing thoughts there were racing through my brain. But, for some reason, not one song seemed relatable. That only made me feel more upset. At work, I felt like everyone was in a good mood except for me. I tried to focus on all the needs of the many “friends” who pulled into our parking lot for food. It was somewhat of a distraction. Unsettling feelings still came through.

Going Home

I had to stop at Walmart on the way home for a couple of items. It felt good to be going home. Perhaps that’s all I needed. It was raining and I knew I would get soaked walking into the store. Reaching down between the two seats to grab my umbrella, I quickly knew it wasn’t there. The kids had taken it out to play and never returned it. I thought, “Great, that just goes along with the rest of the day.”

Just then I saw a young lady walking back to her car. She was wearing a pair of the shortest shorts I have ever seen and a bikini bathing suit top that barely covered her body. Please, try to undertsand how out of sorts I was when I yelled, “Hey, you forgot your shirt, you’re just wearing your bra!” Thank goodness the windows were rolled up in the car.

Quickly gathering the items I needed from the store, I was complaining underneath my mask about the man walking around the store without a mask. He had just picked up a peach from the produce aisle and was eating it in the store. I left the store and was driving through the parking lot, when a tattooed man in a large jeep was trying to go the wrong way in the parking lot aisle and was blocking me and several others from leaving. I once again (with the windows rolled up) yelled out, “What’s wrong with ou? You’re going the wrong way!”

The Goodness of God

Continuing the rest of the 10 minute drive home, the rain finally ended. The clouds parted and the sun was breaking through the clouds in that way that looks like rays of sun pouring down from heaven. It was so beautiful. Just then, on the radio blared my new favorite song entitled “The Goodness of God”. The chorus says, “All my life you have been faithful, all my life you have been so, so good. With every breath that I am able, I will sing of the goodness of God.”

All of a sudden, a peace came upon me and as I cried, I felt that goodness. So, if you have a day like that one, just remember how much God does love you. He will show you eventually. Or, maybe He’s been showing you, but you are not listening, And, of course, if you want to yell at someone, make sure your windows are rolled up.

Here are some suggestions for a more meaningful virtual participation of the liturgy created by a Paulist priest:

As we consider what it might mean to celebrate the Eucharist virtually, it is important also to reflect deeply on what being present to one another in virtual spaces actually means. Just as it’s possible to be in close physical proximity with others while simultaneously being absent mentally or spiritually, it’s also possible to be virtually present to one another in profound, meaningful, and real ways even when we’re physically distant. The following suggestions are ways to help us celebrate in this new paradigm in our “home” sanctuaries:

  • Read the scripture for the upcoming celebrations beforehand. You can easily access all readings from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website. www.usccb.org/bible. You can also access the readings on apps such as Laudate and MyParish App. Readings are also listed in the bulletin each week.
  • Create a setting for the celebration. For example, use your dining table as the place from which you participate. Light a candle. Have a cross, crucifix, or religious icon on hand. If you are fortunate to be with others, have a loaf of bread that can be broken at the time of communion.
  • Observe familiar postures. Standing and sitting at appropriate times throughout the celebration can enhance our prayer. (See Catholic Apologist Gus Lloyd’s explanation of “Catholic Calesthenics” HERE.)
  • Remove distractions. Turn off cell phones (unless of course that is your source of participating) and refrain from snacking.
  • Dress up. Sleepwear *probably* isn’t the most appropriate attire for church!

Soon we will come back together to celebrate the Eucharist at the Lord’s table at Assumption!

So, do I *have* to watch Mass since I can’t go?

A post by Aleteia, Thursday, March 13, 2020

There’s no requirement to watch Mass when the obligation has been dispensed, but yes, the 3rd Commandment still applies!

In light of the suspension of public worship in many places, some Catholics have found themselves asking, “Am I required to watch Mass”? In other words, since it is impossible to get to Mass, is it a sin to not try to attend virtually?

No, it is not required to watch Holy Mass online or on television (or to listen on the radio for that matter). To those who have already expressed their frustration at slow or over-crowded streaming services or inadequately announced worship schedules, you’re in the clear.

Even though many bishops have dispensed us from our Sunday obligation (dispensation is the legal term for the relaxing of our normal practice), we should still, to the best of our ability, keep Sunday holy.

To that end, I recommend the following practices:

DO NOT WORK ON SUNDAY
The temptation, while working from home, will be very great to allow Sunday to be like other days. Fight this with your whole heart. Sunday belongs to the Lord. Do not allow yourself on Sunday to slip into the rhythm of other days.

DO WATCH OR LISTEN TO MASS
No, you do not have to, but it is praiseworthy. If you cannot watch it at the “live” time, watch it later in the day. Many places have made archived video available. If that’s the case, you could watch the Mass after it happens; no need to worry that it’s not a “live” celebration.

READ THE SUNDAY READINGS
It may be the case that in your house, watching Mass is too much like other activities (movies, video games, etc.). I could understand children participating better in a family prayer service. To that end, read the Sunday readings aloud. Perhaps listen to a recorded homily or have a family member give a reflection. Share prayer intentions.

PRAY THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS
The Liturgy of the Hours, also called the Divine Office, is the Church’s rhythm of biblical and monastic prayer. Grounded in the traditions of the first Christians who gathered to recite Psalms and the Our Father, this method of prayer continues unabated. See this article for more on the Liturgy of the Hours.

CHANGE YOUR ROUTINE
Maybe on Sunday you could make a “no TV” rule or have a game night. Go for a walk as a family. Take up another Lenten devotion together, such as praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary or the Stations of the Cross.

Keeping Sunday holy means claiming time for God. This is done principally in the formal, official worship of the Church, the Mass. The priest stands in for Christ and offers back to the Father every prayer and heavenly blessing. We can still unite our hearts to the sacrifice of the Mass. We are still called to keep Sunday holy.

This is a time of difficulty, deprivation, and sorrow. It is part of our Lent: heading to the desert to sacrifice and pray as Christ did. Let us ask God to make these days fruitful. His grace will be at work in many quiet and surprising ways! Let us beg the Lord that we don’t miss it!

Basically every situation we face in life has a heavenly intercessor specifically linked to it.

Public Domain | Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P./Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 | Public Domain

Public Domain | Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P./Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 | Public Domain

We Catholics have a lot of patron saints, such that basically every facet of life experience is covered by some saint who has a connection to it.Even if a situation looks plain impossible, we can always turn to St. Jude, the patron of Impossible.

The reasons that saints are connected to their patronages can be obvious and direct, or sometimes quite humorous. But it’s consoling to know that a heavenly intercessor is always at the ready to present our needs to the Lord.

 It’s not surprising, then, that we have a handful of saints to call on in pandemics. Since coronavirus is on everyone’s mind, here are a few saints with whom we can strike up a conversation about our present needs.

Let us start with the Four Holy Marshals. Of the four, we are only including two: St. Quirinus of Neuss, a patron saint for fighting smallpox, and St. Anthony the Great, a patron saint for combating the plague.

St. Quirinus of Neuss – Patron for those affected by bubonic plague and smallpox

Quirinus was born in the first century and died in the year 116 A.D.  Legend has it that he was a Roman tribune and was ordered to execute Alexander, Eventius, and Theodolus. These men had been arrested on orders of the emperor. Their crime: being Christian.

But Quirinus witnessed miracles performed by the three men and was baptized into the faith along with his daughter, Balbina. He and Balbina were decapitated for becoming Christian and buried in the catacomb on the Via Appia.

Move ahead 1,500 years. Documents from Cologne, dated 1485, say Quirinus’ body was donated in 1050 by Pope Leo IX to his sister, the abbess of Neuss. Soon after, Charles the Bold of Burgundy laid siege to Neuss with his army spreading from western Germany, the Netherlands, and as far south as Italy. The citizens of Neuss invoked Quirinus for help, and the siege ended. Wellsprings popped up and were dedicated to him. He was then called on to fight against bubonic plague and smallpox.

This saying by farmers is associated with Quirinus’ feast day of March 30, a similar tradition to Groundhog Day. It reads, “As St. Quirinus Day goes, so will the summer.”  

St. Anthony the Great – Patron of those affected by infectious diseases

One of the greatest saints of the early Church, Anthony was one of the first monks and is considered the founder and father of organized Christian monasticism.

He organized disciples into a community and these communities eventually spread throughout Egypt. Anthony is known as Anthony the Great, Anthony of Egypt, Anthony of the Desert, and Anthony of Thebes.  He is also known as the Father of All Monks. His feast day is celebrated on January 17.

St. Anthony the Great is also invoked as a patron against infectious diseases.

Edwin the Martyr (St. Edmund) — Patron for victims of pandemics

Edmund is an acknowledged patron against pandemics. Much is written about this saint from the 9th century who died in 869. Interestingly though, hardly anything is known for certain about him. Yet there are churches all over England dedicated to him. The Danes murdered him when they conquered his army in 869.

Edmund the Martyr, in addition to being the patron saint invoked against pandemics, is also the patron of torture victims and protection from the plague.

We might mention a few more saints who are patrons for those who struggle with familiar illnesses and afflictions:

    • St. Damien of Molokai: Patron saint of those with leprosy (Hansen’s disease)
    • St. Dymphna: The 15-year-old Irish girl who is patroness of emotional disorders
    • The Fourteen Holy Helpers: Epidemics, especially the bubonic plague (the Black Death)
    • StMatthias: Patron saint of alcoholics and those with smallpox
    • St. Tryphon:  Patron to aid us in fighting off bed bugs, rodents, and locusts

The list is endless. What’s certain is that the saints are waiting for your call.

Our Holy Father’s Prayer Intention for the remainder of the month of August. Offered in Solidarity with Pope Francis:

Universal:  The treasure of Families

That any far-reaching decisions of economists and politicians may protect the family as one of the treasures of humanity.

By Saint Louis de Montfort

How to Avoid Distraction When Praying the Rosary

To be guilty of willful distractions during prayer shows a great lack of respect and reverence. It makes our Rosaries unfruitful and makes us guilty of sin. Let’s learn how to avoid distraction when praying the Rosary!

How can we expect God to listen to us if we ourselves do not pay attention to what we are saying? How can we expect him to be pleased if, while in the presence of his tremendous majesty, we give in to distractions, like a child running after a butterfly? People who do that forfeit God’s blessing, which is changed into a curse for having treated the things of God disrespectfully: “Cursed be the one who does God’s work negligently.” Jer. 48:10.

Of course, you cannot say your Rosary without having a few involuntary distractions. It is even difficult to say a Hail Mary without your imagination troubling you a little, for it is never still. But you can say it without voluntary distractions. And you must take all sorts of precautions to lessen involuntary distractions and to control your imagination.

To do this:

1) Put yourself in the presence of God and imagine that God and his Blessed Mother are watching you.

2) Imagine that your guardian angel is at your right hand, taking your Hail Marys. If we say them well, our guardian angel will use them like roses to make crowns for Jesus and Mary.

3) Remember that at your left hand is the devil. He’s ready to pounce on every Hail Mary that comes his way. He will write it down in his book of death if they are not said with attention, devotion, and reverence.

4) Do not fail to offer up each decade in honor of one of the mysteries. Try to form a picture in your mind of Jesus and Mary in connection with that mystery.

STORY

We read in the life of Blessed Hermann of the Order of the Premonstratensians. At one time, he used to say the Rosary attentively and devoutly while meditating on the mysteries. Our Lady used to appear to him resplendent in breathtaking majesty and beauty.

But, as time went on, his fervor cooled and he fell into the way of saying his Rosary hurriedly and without giving it his full attention. Then one day our Lady appeared to him again. But this time she was far from beautiful. There were furrows on her face and her face shown great sadness.

Blessed Hermann was appalled at the change in her. Our Lady explained, “This is how I look to you, Hermann, because this is how you are treating me. As a woman to be despised and of no importance. Why do you no longer greet me with respect and attention while meditating on my mysteries and praising my privileges?”

The Rosary is the hardest prayer to say well

When the Rosary is well said, it gives Jesus and Mary more glory and is more meritorious for the soul than any other prayer. But it is also the hardest prayer to say well and to persevere in, owing especially to the distractions which almost inevitably attend the constant repetition of the same words.

When we say the Little Office of Our Lady, or the Seven Penitential Psalms, or any prayers other than the Rosary, the variety of words and expressions keeps us alert. It prevents our imagination from wandering.  And makes it easier for us to say them well. On the contrary, because of the constant repetition of the Our Father and Hail Mary in the same unvarying form, it is difficult, while saying the Rosary, not to become wearied and inclined to sleep, or to turn to other prayers that are more refreshing and less tedious.

This shows that one needs much greater devotion to persevere in saying the Rosary than in saying any other prayer, even the Psalter of David.

Keeping the Imagination Focused

Our imagination, which is hardly still a minute, makes our task harder. And then of course there is the devil who never tires of trying to distract us and keep us from praying. To what ends does not the evil one go against us while we are saying our Rosary against him.

Being human, we easily tire and our prayers can then be slipshod. But the devil makes these difficulties worse when we are saying the Rosary. Before we even begin, he makes us feel bored, distracted, or exhausted. And when we have started praying, he oppresses us from all sides. And when after much difficulty and many distractions, we have finished, he whispers to us:

“What you have just said is worthless. It is useless for you to say the Rosary. You had better get on with other things. It is only a waste of time to pray without paying attention to what you are saying. Half-an-hour’s meditation or some spiritual reading would be much better. Tomorrow, when you are not feeling so sluggish, you’ll pray better. Leave the rest of your Rosary till then.”

By tricks of this kind the devil gets us to give up the Rosary altogether. Or to say it less often. And we keep putting it off or change to some other devotion.

How to Defeat the Devil

Dear friend, do not listen to the devil. But be of good heart, even if your imagination has been bothering you throughout your Rosary, filling your mind with all kinds of distracting thoughts. So long as you tried your best to get rid of them as soon as you noticed them.

Always remember that the best Rosary is the one with the most merit. There is more merit in praying when it is hard than when it is easy. Prayer is all the harder when it is, naturally speaking, distasteful to the soul and is filled with those annoying little ants and flies running about in your imagination, against your will, and scarcely allowing you the time to enjoy a little peace and appreciate the beauty of what you are saying.

Even if you have to fight distractions all through your whole Rosary, be sure to fight well, arms in hand. That is to say, do not stop saying your Rosary even if it is difficult to say and you have no sensible devotion. It is a terrible battle, but one that is profitable to the faithful soul.

Don’t give in to the evil one

If you put down your arms, that is, if you give up the Rosary, you will be admitting defeat and then the devil, having got what he wanted, will leave you in peace. On the day of judgment he will taunt you because of your faithlessness and lack of courage. “He who is faithful in little things will also be faithful in those that are greater.” Luke 16:10.

He who is faithful in rejecting the smallest distractions when he says even the smallest prayer, will also be faithful in great things. Nothing is more certain, since the Holy Spirit has told us so.

So all of you, servants and handmaids of Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin, who have made up your minds to say the Rosary every day, be of good heart. Do not let the multitude of flies (as I call the distractions that make war on you during prayer) make you abandon the company of Jesus and Mary, in whose holy presence you are when saying the Rosary. In what follows I shall give you suggestions for diminishing distractions in prayer.

More Helpful Ways to Avoid Distractions

After you have invoked the Holy Spirit, in order to say your Rosary well, place yourself for a moment in the presence of God and make the offering of the decades in the way I will show you later.

Before beginning a decade, pause for a moment or two, depending on how much time you have, and contemplate the mystery that you are about to honor in that decade.

Always be sure to ask, by this mystery and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, for one of the virtues that shines forth most in this mystery or one of which you are in particular need.

Take great care to avoid the two pitfalls that most people fall into during the Rosary. The first is the danger of not asking for any graces at all, so that if some good people were asked their Rosary intention they would not know what to say. So, whenever you say your Rosary, be sure to ask for some special grace or virtue, or strength to overcome some sin.

The second fault commonly committed in saying the Rosary is to have no intention other than that of getting it over with as quickly as possible. This is because so many look upon the Rosary as a burden, which weighs heavily upon them when it has not been said, especially when we have promised to say it regularly or have been told to say it as a penance more or less against our will.

Ask, and you shall receive! The Dynamic Catholic Institute is extremely excited to share with you The Turning Point, their very first Bible study experience! But this isn’t your typical Bible study. It’s a unique look at the Gospel of John that will help you encounter Jesus in a new and personal way—and it’s easy to bring to your parish or start in your small group. Check it out, and let Dynamic Catholic know what you think: https://goo.gl/WaJUnX

 

Why Be Catholic and Not Just Christian?

Let Fr. Mike Schmitz from Ascension Presents share the answers to the question, “Why Be Catholic and Not Just Christian?” in this video!