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Ghouls, the Slaying of Innocents and Prayer

If your first impulse upon hearing that 17 kids have been murdered is to seek to make political capital of it, you are a ghoul.  Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts gives us the details:

When Christians mock prayer

 

A Case Study.

Note to Mark Shea: Thoughts and prayers are not garbage because one disagrees with your politics.  God is bigger than that.  And your politics and the Gospel of Jesus Christ are not one and the same.  Jesus Christ is bigger than that.  And the policies of the Democratic Party are not the way, the truth, and the life and the only potential path to salvation through Jesus. The working of the Holy Spirit is bigger than one party.

In short, one can be a good Christian, can love Jesus, can be obedient to God, can sincerely pray and conclude that perhaps the policies of the Democrats would not help in stopping this or similar tragedies.  It’s what liberal Christians used to say to the Religious Right.  It’s now what New Prolife Christians need to hear.

From Mark’s post on the shooting: his appraisal of prayer’s efficacy if not linked to Mark’s political opinions

It’s bad enough that our political leaders and others in our nation have decided to blaspheme God by subverting prayer for the sake of politics.  But that Christian leaders or apologists do the same in fealty to a political agenda makes me sick. I will not address this blasphemy again.  I only did it to warn those who seek to petition God through prayers and charity not to be misled into such heresy. What should be done with a professional representative of the Faith who advocates such things I’ll leave to others to work out.

Now it’s back to what Christians and all people of goodwill should be doing, and that’s weeping with the dead and those who are suffering, and lifting up our hearts and minds to God, through Jesus Christ if believers we are.  There will be time to look for solutions, and possibly even look at the heart and soul of a nation that has come this far.  But not now.

Go here to comment.  To have 17 young lives snuffed out because a misfit decided to commit mass murder is an evil that is difficult to fathom.  I have long thought that such acts of evil are inspired by Satan as a form of spiritual terrorism to make us despair.  Fortunately Our Savior warned us about the grim fates that could await us in this Vale of Tears and taught us to pray in response.  A Memorare for the repose of the souls of the young people slain in the dawn of life and for their poor parents, other relatives and friends:
REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

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Lenten Prayers: Stay on Hold for God

Every Lent the Church invites [us] to the three traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.–Fr. Michael Denk, Our Sunday Visitor,
4 January, 2013

Lent is like a long ‘retreat’ during which we can turn back into ourselves and listen to the voice of God, in order to defeat the temptations of the Evil One. It is a period of spiritual ‘combat’ which we must experience alongside Jesus, not with pride and presumption, but using the arms of faith: prayer, listening to the word of God and penance. — Pope Benedict XVI

Lenten Prayer

During Lent we are to engage in three activities: prayer, alms-giving and fasting. Some 23 years ago during my first Lent (as a catechumen), I thought, “well, this is easy: I know how to pray, the fasting isn’t as strict as Jewish fasting, and I’ll just give more than usual to our Church and our other charities.”

The fasting and alms-giving were ok, but I had it all wrong about prayer. My prayer then was bartering with God: I gave up things and practices–candy, biting my fingernails, watching some favorite TV shows (Frasier, Seinfeld)–in other words sacrificing, not a goat, but stuff I enjoyed,  hoping that this would please God.    In turn, I asked God to intervene in my life and that of my family, to straighten out errant children and to smooth my way in life, to make me better and more receptive to the faith, or as Psalm 143 would have it:

“Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.
Quicken me, O Lord, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.”
—Psalm 143 (KJV)

As the years passed and I learned more about our Catholic faith, I realized that prayer was more than asking God for stuff; it had to be a two-way conversation. We must listen for God’s voice, “the still, small voice” that Elijah heard in the cave at Horeb.

How to Listen

What does listening for God’s voice require of us? Here are my thoughts, distilled from my own prayer experience and from what I have been taught and have read in the nine stages of prayer of St. Theresa of Avila.

First, we do not give God a shopping list of what we want Him to do. God gives us what we need, but not always what we want.

Second, when we enter into a conversation with God, we keep in mind that this is to be a two-way enterprise; we are to speak AND to listen; moreover, we are to be patient when put on hold for His response, even though there is no bumper music or hold message while we wait for His voice.

What St. Teresa of Avila Has to Say

I should add that “listening” is only one part of what we need to do to engage with our Lord in prayer, albeit a very important part. Let’s now see what St. Teresa of Avila has to say; her advice is still relevant even after almost 500 years.

St. Teresa is an authority on prayer; she is known as the “Doctor of Prayer”, the title given to her by Pope Paul VI. In her books, “The Life”, “The Way of Perfection” and “The Interior Castle”, she sets forth grades of prayer ranging from vocal prayer (what we start off with as initiates in the discipline) to the ultimate, mystical union with God. I’ll focus on two of these stages: both relate to being receptive to the presence of our Lord when we pray. For a more extended discussion, see this article by Jordan Auman, OP

The Prayer of Active Recollection

The “lower” of these two prayer stages is that of “active recollection,” which is the highest stage of active prayer. St. Theresa discusses this way of prayer in Chapters 28 and 29 of “The Way of Perfection.” Rather than giving an extended exposition (see the first link, above), I’ll give quotes that best explain this prayer.

“It is called the Prayer of Recollection because in it the soul collects, or gathers together , all her powers, and enters into her own interior with God.”—St. Teresa of Avila, “The Way of Perfection”, Ch. 28

In the Prayer of Active Recollection we are supposed to look within ourselves to encounter Christ, the Lord, our God. The Trinity is within us, and if we focus we can encounter our Trinitarian God in ourselves:

“…but, at the same time, I was admonished that though I had the Divinity within my soul, yet I myself was much more contained in Him than He in me. Thus, whilst I beheld, as it were, hidden within me the Three Divine Person, I saw that They, at the same time, communicated themselves to all created things, without ceasing for an instant to abide in me.” loc. cit.

St. Teresa gives detailed instructions in Section III, Chapter 28 (linked above) on how to enter into the Prayer of Active Recollection, which I’ll not repeat here. However, I will remark that they call to mind Fr. Bernard Groeschel’s directive on achieving meditative prayer: to imagine within ourselves a temple, with a Trinitarian triangle at the entrance: intellect, memory and will, representing our mind and soul as the Trinitarian God.

The Prayer of Recollection can be achieved by our own will, for, as St. Teresa says,

“for you must understand this this is not altogether a supernatural thing, but is quite within our own power, and we can do it whenever we choose; I mean, of course, with God’s help…” loc. cit.

The Prayer of Quiet

“Now, daughters, I still want to describe this Prayer of Quiet to you…It is in this kind of prayer, as I have said, that the Lord seems to me to begin to show us that He is hearing our petition: He begins to give us His Kingdom on earth so that we may truly praise Him and hallow His name and strive to make others do so likewise. ..This is a supernatural state, and, however hard we try, we cannot reach it for ourselves; [emphasis added] for it is a state in which the soul enters into peace, or rather in which the Lord gives it peace through His presence,” St. Teresa of Avila, “The Way of Perfection”, Chapter 31.

The Prayer of Quiet is the first of the contemplative stages of prayer described by St. Teresa. The soul is at peace and filled with joy and even though the intellect and memory might wander, they realize that there is only one thing on which to focus: loving God.

I should add that I have experienced this only once in my prayer life. After reading “The Way of Perfection,” I realized it might come again only by God’s grace, by letting myself go, to look at Him in my inner self. So this will be my goal during Lent: to pray silently; to look within myself for His presence; to be patient while God is on hold and I am waiting to hear His still, small voice.

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Patton on Prayer

 

 

“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.”

 

The famous “weather prayer” of General Patton was written by a Catholic Chaplain, Colonel James H. O’Neill, Chief Chaplain of the Third Army.   Here is his article on the incident written in 1950.

The incident of the now famous Patton Prayer commenced with a telephone call to the Third Army Chaplain on the morning of December 8, 1944, when the Third Army Headquarters were located in the Caserne Molifor in Nancy, France: “This is General Patton; do you have a good prayer for weather? We must do something about those rains if we are to win the war.” My reply was that I know where to look for such a prayer, that I would locate, and report within the hour. As I hung up the telephone receiver, about eleven in the morning, I looked out on the steadily falling rain, “immoderate” I would call it — the same rain that had plagued Patton’s Army throughout the Moselle and Saar Campaigns from September until now, December 8. The few prayer books at hand contained no formal prayer on weather that might prove acceptable to the Army Commander. Keeping his immediate objective in mind, I typed an original and an improved copy on a 5″ x 3″ filing card:

Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.

I pondered the question, What use would General Patton make of the prayer? Surely not for private devotion. If he intended it for circulation to chaplains or others, with Christmas not far removed, it might he proper to type the Army Commander’s Christmas Greetings on the reverse side. This would please the recipient, and anything that pleased the men I knew would please him:

To each officer and soldier in the Third United States Army, I Wish a Merry Christmas. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We march in our might to complete victory. May God’s blessings rest upon each of you on this Christmas Day. G.S. Patton, Jr, Lieutenant General, Commanding, Third United States Army.

This done, I donned my heavy trench coat, crossed the quadrangle of the old French military barracks, and reported to General Patton. He read the prayer copy, returned it to me with a very casual directive, “Have 250,000 copies printed and see to it that every man in the Third Army gets one.” The size of the order amazed me; this was certainly doing something about the weather in a big way. But I said nothing but the usual, “Very well, Sir!” Recovering, I invited his attention to the reverse side containing the Christmas Greeting, with his name and rank typed. “Very good,” he said, with a smile of approval. “If the General would sign the card, it would add a personal touch that I am sure the men would like.” He took his place at his desk, signed the card, returned it to me and then Said: “Chaplain, sit down for a moment; I want to talk to you about this business of prayer.” He rubbed his face in his hands, was silent for a moment, then rose and walked over to the high window, and stood there with his back toward me as he looked out on the falling rain. As usual, he was dressed stunningly, and his six-foot-two powerfully built physique made an unforgettable silhouette against the great window. The General Patton I saw there was the Army Commander to whom the welfare of the men under him was a matter of Personal responsibility . Even in the heat of combat he could take time out to direct new methods to prevent trench feet, to see to it that dry socks went forward daily with the rations to troops on the line, to kneel in the mud administering morphine and caring for a wounded soldier until the ambulance Came. What was coming now?

“Chaplain, how much praying is being done in the Third Army?” was his question. I parried: “Does the General mean by chaplains, or by the men?” “By everybody,” he replied. To this I countered: “I am afraid to admit it, but I do not believe that much praying is going on. When there Is fighting, everyone prays, but now with this constant rain — when things are quiet, dangerously quiet, men just sit and wait for things to happen. Prayer out here is difficult. Both chaplains and men are removed from a special building with a steeple. Prayer to most of them is a formal, ritualized affair, involving special posture and a liturgical setting. I do not believe that much praying is being done.” Continue Reading

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Washington At Prayer

There is an old tradition that Washington prayed in the snow at Valley Forge on Christmas Day 1777.  Certainly the wretched condition of the Continental Army in December of 1777, with a hungry winter beginning, would have driven commanders less pious than Washington to their knees.  However, Washington was pious and prayed every day.

The tradition rests on this account of the Reverend Nathaniel Randolph Snowden, a Presbyterian Minister in Philadelphia who lived from 1770-1851 and who wrote the following: Continue Reading

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Prayer in Time of Grief

 

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

Hattip to A Catholic Mom in Hawaii.  Since the death of my son Larry I have found this prayer by Father Robert Fox to be of comfort:

God of life and death, You have taken a beloved one from me.  My heart is very heavy.  I recall that Your Son, Jesus Christ, became man in all things except sin and that He groaned in sorrow at the death of His friend, Lazarus.  I unite my grief with Yours dear Jesus, as You stood at the tomb of Lazarus.

O Virgin Mother, you know what it was like losing your husband Joseph, and then your child.  dying suspended between earth and heaven, with a sword piercing your sweet soul.  To you do I come in sorrow, begging strength from your intercession, from you who fully understand what it is like to lose one so dear and close.

Share with me, dear Mother of God, the courage, the strong faith that you had in the future resurrection.  Even after Jesus came back to life and ascended into heaven, you knew you were to be left alone for many years before your own assumption into heaven. You comforted the Apostles as their Queen and Mother during those years. Grant comfort to me now as I sorrow in pain at the loss by the separation that has come as a result of the sin of our first parents and my own sins. Wipe away my tears with the merciful love of your Immaculate Heart as you unite me with my loved one through the grace of the Sacred Heart of your Son Jesus Christ.  Amen. Continue Reading

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Using Prayer as a Rhetorical Weapon

We all need prayers. Every soul praying for our soul is a net positive. As Catholics, it’s one of the main reasons we ask the Saints for their prayers. Yet there are times when the phrase “I will be praying for you” sounds more like spite than a genuine offering up to God.

I’ve noticed this more and more in Catholic blog comment boxes, and it has happened here on more than one occasion. A person of a more leftist orientation disagrees with a post written by one of our regulars, and after a semi-heated exchange, goes off in a huff, but not before saying that they will be praying for the person they’ve been debating. Instead of coming off as a “I’ll be praying for you so that God may provide his abundant mercy,” it sounds more like the person is saying, “I will be praying for your poor soul to recognize the merits of a higher tax rate for the wealthy.” The underlying tone is, I am a better person than you, so God better hear from me to save you from the hellfire.

I suppose we all do this from time to time. It was common while Christopher Hitchens was alive to hear Catholics declaring that they were praying for his conversion, or simply for his soul. Now there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, and all people truly need our prayers. Yet there is a very fine line, and we can all run into the danger of using prayer almost as a rhetorical bludgeon. It might be a good idea to stop and ask yourself, am I offering to pray for this person because I am truly moved by the Holy Spirit to do so, or am I doing this to subtly indicate my own self-righteousness? Then again – and this is for the theological philosophers to muddle over – is prayer offered up even with bad motivation better than no prayer at all?

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Never Give Up

 

If anyone doubts the power of prayer, please read this story by a mother who prayed unceasingly for her wayward son:

My prayers were unceasing now.  Not a half an hour went by that I did not talk to God about my son and ask His Blessed Mother to keep praying for Donnie. He returned home at nineteen. If nothing else, at least he was home with us, I thought.  Shortly thereafter, my husband was transferred  to Virginia.  Donnie came with us.   

 
     Matthew settled into fourth grade at a Catholic school, Don was sent out to sea on a six-month tour, I kept up my never-ending conversations with God and the Blessed Mother, and Donnie returned to his destructive lifestyle.  Then, suddenly everything changed overnight.  “Mom,” Donnie said as I passed by his bedroom early one morning. “I want to talk to a priest.” Continue Reading
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Prayers, Answered and Not

I saw this on Facebook, posted by an atheist group, and in a simple and pungent way it hammers at one of our basic issues as Christians. We believe in an all powerful God. We believe that we can bring our supplications to Him in prayer, and that sometimes those prayers are answered in the affirmative.

But why, if we at times attribute the finding of some household item or a victory at a sporting event to prayer, do so many bad things, so many things that people doubtless pray about, happen? Even assuming similarity of scale, if one person is miraculously healed of cancer, why do a hundred others follow the natural course and die?

The answer, simple yet maddening to the mind which wants to know all, is that by worshiping an all powerful God we necessarily admit (as creatures neither all knowing nor all powerful) that we don’t understand all that God does. In a world of suffering, we at least have Christ’s example of prayer before us.

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.”

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Find God In 60 Days!

 

I agree with you Klavan on the Culture, prayer over time tends to build belief.  I have had several people tell me that the force of habit of prayer has gotten them through rough spots in their religious life.  One fellow I know promised his mom that every night he would say a Hail Mary before he went to sleep.  He spent several years as a stone cold atheist, but every night he would heed his promise to his mom and say the Hail Mary, even though he thought it ridiculous.  Faith returned ultimately,  and he thinks he might have been lost forever without that nightly prayer for the intercession of the Blessed Mother. 

CS Lewis understood this well, judging from this passage of The Screwtape Letters: Continue Reading

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When God Says "No"

Msgr. Charles Pope is a Priest in the Archdiocese of Washington.  In addition to his duties as pastor at a parish in southeastern DC, he regularly celebrates High Mass in the Extraordinary Form at St. Mary’s in Chinatown once a month.  He is perhaps the finest homilist I have ever had the privilege of hearing on a regular basis, and he demonstrates why in this blog post from the Archdiocese’s website.  He tackles what may be one of the most difficult subjects that Catholics and indeed people of all faith struggle with: why does God seemingly say no to some of our prayer requests?  He provides a fantastic answer, and in the process gives some guidance on he proper disposition we should have when praying.

1. Sometimes, “No”  is the Best Answer – We often think we know what is best for us. We want to have this job, or we want that person to fall in love and marry us. We want to be delivered from a certain illness or receive a financial blessing. We see these as good outcomes and are sure that God must also see them this way. But God may not, in fact agree with our assessment as to what is best for us. And thus his “No” is really the best answer to our prayers.

For example we may always prefer that God answer our prayer that none of our children be born with any disabilities. But God may see that the experience of disability may be just the thing that we or the child may need in order to be  saved ultimately. St. Paul prayed for deliverance from some sort of physical affliction: Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me,My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor 12:7-10).

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Cardinal Newman on Fasting

“And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungered.” Matt. iv. 2.

{1} THE season of humiliation, which precedes Easter, lasts for forty days, in memory of our Lord’s long fast in the wilderness. Accordingly on this day, the first Sunday in Lent, we read the Gospel which gives an account of it; and in the Collect we pray Him, who for our sakes fasted forty days and forty nights, to bless our abstinence to the good of our souls and bodies.

We fast by way of penitence, and in order to subdue the flesh. Our Saviour had no need of fasting for either purpose. His fasting was unlike ours, as in its intensity, so in its object. And yet when we begin to fast, His pattern is set before us; and we continue the time of fasting till, in number of days, we have equalled His.

There is a reason for this;—in truth, we must do nothing except with Him in our eye. As He it is, through whom alone we have the power to do any good {2} thing, so unless we do it for Him it is not good. From Him our obedience comes, towards Him it must look. He says, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” [John xv. 5.] No work is good without grace and without love.

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Forgiveness, Mercy, and Charity for New York City Saint James Parish

[Updates at the bottom of this posting; latest update on 1-26-2010 at 12:24pm CST]

The Catholic blogosphere is currently in an uproar over an event that occurred at Saint James Church on Friday, January 15, 2010 A.D. when a Christian youth group requested and organized an event to draw more young adults into the Catholic Church.  This seemed as an innocuous request since the parish in the past held a classical piano concert in honor of the church’s founder Father Felix Valera.

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Are You Listening Madame Speaker?

Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco addressed on January 13, 2010 a free will defense of abortion by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House:

In a recent interview with Eleanor Clift in Newsweek magazine (Dec. 21, 2009), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about her disagreements with the United States Catholic bishops concerning Church teaching. Speaker Pelosi replied, in part: “I practically mourn this difference of opinion because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have the opportunity to exercise their free will.”

Embodied in that statement are some fundamental misconceptions about Catholic teaching on human freedom. These misconceptions are widespread both within the Catholic community and beyond. For this reason I believe it is important for me as Archbishop of San Francisco to make clear what the Catholic Church teaches about free will, conscience, and moral choice.

Catholic teaching on free will recognizes that God has given men and women the capacity to choose good or evil in their lives. The bishops at the Second Vatican Council declared that the human person, endowed with freedom, is “an outstanding manifestation of the divine image.” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 17) As the parable of the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov, makes so beautifully clear, God did not want humanity to be mere automatons, but to have the dignity of freedom, even recognizing that with that freedom comes the cost of many evil choices.

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Luke Live, Day Two

I continue now with my shameless promotion of Father DiLuzio’s Luke Live performance.  Again, we were treated to a wonderful exchange of ideas, marked by a charismatic leader who helped enliven St. Luke’s Gospel and knit the narrative together.  Father DiLuzio offered us to begin with the choice of hearing entire chapters at once, or breaking it down into slightly smaller pieces.  Having seen yesterday the amazing continunity of a text that, for many of us, originally seemed a disjointed collection of brief non-sequitors, we voted roughly 55-45 to continue being inundated by large chunks of text.  And so he began his recitation starting from chapter 18, and the parable of the persistent widow.

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Patton’s Weather Prayer

[metacafe]http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3594882/59_pattons_prayer/[/metacafe] 

 

 

“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.”

Continue Reading

Veterans Day 2008

veterans_day

Lord Jesus, Mighty Warrior and Prince of Peace, through the intercession of St. Michael and Our Lady of Victory, we pray for the protection of our loved ones called to serve in time of war. By Your grace, o Lord, may they be strong and of good courage. And by your grace also, may we at home renounce all fear and anxiety, place our trust fully in your most Merciful Heart, and await in hope. For though we may walk through the shadow of the Valley of death, we shall fear no evil- You are with us.Grant a decisive and just end to this war, lasting peace for all nations, and the safe return home of all our loved ones. AMEN. (CatholicMil.org)

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A Prayer

O Father in Heaven,

Today we stand at a crossroads, and we ask humbly for Your guidance.  We pray for the graces to discern with open eyes and a clear understanding of Your intent for us this day.  Help us to be humble, to not let overweening pride or human ideology come between us and Your holy plan.  Let not our will, but Yours be done in this election, and provide us with the strength and courage to face the future regardless of the outcome.  Let the charity in our hearts never die; may our faith in You never wane; may our hope never extinguish.

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Prayers Over Politics

 

Senator Obama is leaving the campaign trail on Thursday until Saturday to visit in Hawaii his gravely ill maternal grandmother Madelyn Dunham.  I trust that all Catholics, especially Catholics who, as I do, support Senator McCain, will pray for Madelyn Dunham and Senator Obama.  Catholics understand the neverending need for God, especially at moments of grave illness, and that all of us are totally dependent on God’s mercy, grace and love.  This is a useful reminder that people we oppose politically are still, like us, poor sinners who need our prayers, as we need theirs.