Status Viatoris

Br. Clement Lepak, OP's picture
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Pilgrims on Earth

The beatific vision of God is the goal of life and the perfection of our quest for holiness. The complete and final satisfaction of all our desires and pursuits is to rest in the divine embrace of the Most Holy Trinity. How can we grow closer to this goal and receive a foretaste of heaven while we are pilgrims on this earth? The central way is through the reception of the Blessed Sacrament at Mass. But Our Lord has also provided us a variety of means to sanctify and enrich our lives. Below you will find a short reflection on five ways to grow in holiness and seek God, all granted through His grace.

Making the Sign of the CrossLast Judgment Window, St. Albert's Priory

God, knowing the needs of our human condition as an embodied soul, has provided us physical signs that express and harmonize our interior state. The most prominent and recognizable is the making of the Sign of the Cross with our hand, crossing ourselves with thesignum crucis. The act itself is a prayer. When we combine the intention to worship God with the gesture it becomes a powerful aid to holiness and a defense against evil. It is a public witness to our status as children of God in His new covenant through the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, His Crucifixion and Resurrection from the dead. It is a sign of the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life. It is worthy of our careful attention and devotion, and can sanctify any place or moment. Saint Dominic was known to fortify himself repeatedly with the sign of the cross whenever he travelled. As we travel through this life we too fortify ourselves by making the sign with reverence and devotion.

 

Adoration

Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament is a chance to spend time with the Lord in preparation for the reception of Eucharist at Mass. Discussion and directions on ways of ‘doing’ adoration abound, but they all rely on one simple fact: you must be there and spend time with the Lord. Imagine a man who tells his wife, “Honey, I love you so much that I’m going to go read a book about you in the other room instead of embracing you.” Absurd! How lamentable! Reading and studying about God is also essential but it doesn’t replace the actual act of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. The positive testimony of those who make adoration a consistent part of their Catholic faith is overwhelming. Put simply, it transforms lives and converts hearts. It strengthens the will to do good; it obliterates vices; it calms the troubled mind and prepares our mind to receive deeper insights when we do sit down to study. Only God knows completely what graces and gifts He has prepared for those who devote themselves to the Eucharist in adoration. It is rest, medicine and light for the pilgrims of earth.

 

Bowing and prostrations

When someone is out walking in the open fields it is natural to stop and gaze into the vast sky above. In the same way, when devotion grows in our hearts we naturally bow before the source of all that is good, the Holy One who offers eternal salvation. Saint Dominic would bow deeply whenever he passed by an image of Christ or a crucifix. He also had the private practice of fully prostrating himself on the ground in prayer, or of falling repeatedly to his knees before God. He also prayed by lifting his hands up above his head or spreading his arms wide in imitation of the cross as he stood at great or short lengths in prayer. This robust, manly saint prayed with his whole body and intellect yoked together in seeking God above all things. He was an ascetic who did not shy away from complete devotion, yet he did not become overly severe and intolerant to those weaker than him. On the contrary, he was known to be full of love, compassion and good humor. Olympic athletes, soldiers and even some musicians go through much more severe and exhausting training; shouldn’t we too express our devotion with appropriate ascetic practices?1

 

 

Acts of Faith, Hope and Charity

Here we have a mainly internal act, but you can lightly tap your hand on the wood of the pew, your desk or bed if it will help you concentrate on making an act of Faith, Hope and Love. An intentional act is an act. Whenever we choose, or will, to do something it is an act of some kind. The most obvious are physical acts, like picking up a book, pouring milk or throwing a ball. But speech and thoughts are also acts. We will and choose what to say and we can choose what to think, although random thoughts will always appear that are of little concern. What we are concerned with is what we actively, intentionally think. The acts of Faith, Hope and Love are thoughts that must be repeated, repeated, repeated. Habits of the will are formed through repetition; whatever you do, say or think again and again, will become habitual to you. You become disposed to a certain way of doing, saying and thinking until it stabilizes as a virtue or vice. Our minds are shaped, colored and molded by the objects we concentrate on or encounter frequently. By choosing to repeatedly give our thoughts over to God through acts of Faith, Hope and Love we dispose ourselves to listen to God and receive the gifts He wants to give us. In the end it is God who gives through grace: but he does not despise our efforts to grow in holiness. You will find numerous ways to formulate these acts of Faith, Hope and Love in any good Catholic prayer book. Here are three simple versions:


Act of Faith: Most Holy Trinity, I believe the truth you have revealed. Increase my faith. Amen.

 

Act of Hope: Father in Heaven, I hope in your great mercy. Grant me the gifts of the Holy Spirit as I look forward to eternal life through Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Act of Charity: O God, I love you above all things. Through your Love I love myself and my neighbor. Amen.

 

May the daily repetition of the Acts of Faith, Hope and Charity bring you much joy and consolation as you progress in holiness.


The Most Holy Name of Jesus

Finally, the word that has sustained men and women, monks and nuns, saints and sinners-who-are-becoming-saints, in every place, through all ages: the Name above every other name. The Most Holy Name of Jesus, be praised! Love the Name of Jesus. Let it be in your minds, on your lips and in your heart. The Most Holy Name of Jesus is the sure defense; it is light, joy and truth. At the Name of Jesus every knee should bend. May the Name of Jesus guide us. Whatever names or words we bend our minds and our wills to becomes our focus, to which our soul is continually drawn. All other names lead to false ways, despair and are man-made idols: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened" (Romans 1:21). With God’s help we can scrutinize our life and be free of what is false, what holds us back from more consistent and dedicated worship; we can become more free to express the charity that is building in our lives through God’s free gift.

 

But rejoice you who honor the Most Holy Name! For by freely accepting Christ, it is the Good Shepherd who becomes our Lord and Master. We are drawn ever more into the loving depths of the Most Holy Trinity when we proclaim Jesus Christ is LORD. All the goods of the earth and of our earthly life are allowable when properly ordered to God. For the pilgrim on this earth the Most Holy Name of Jesus is found most fully in the reception of the Eucharist at Mass, a foretaste of the eternal Feast and beatific vision in heaven. Acts, signs and devotions assist us in leading a sacramental life. We have received from the Church established by Our Lord Jesus Christ the sacraments and a host of sacramentals, blessings and practices that flow from and must return to the Eucharist. Sanctification comes through grace, and the Blessed Body and Precious Blood consecrated on the altar by a priest is the central mystery and privilege of the Christian.

 

Finally, as social beings directed to God in community, it is an act of justice for the faithful to witness to the Gospel for the salvation of souls in public as well as at home. This is done whenever we make the sign of the cross or pray before a meal in a restaurant; when we truly say a blessing out loud when speaking to others; or when a religious friar, monk or sister wears the habit of their Order in daily life so that the non-converted may wonder about the holy calling, and the faithful be encouraged by those who seek God in the consecrated life. None of the above is done to draw attention to ourselves but solely to give to society what is due through justice. This justice must come from the heart, not simply legislation. But it is ultimately a matter of giving God what is due through proper worship, through acts of what is rightly called the "virtue of religion," a sure means to holiness. 

 

The Peace of the Risen Lord be with you!

 

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1 Prostrations are good for your back, blood circulation, reduce headaches, clear the mind for studies and relieve insomnia, but that’s just a bonus. Or is it? Maybe God created us so that physical and mental devotion would lead to some degree of physical and mental health. Perhaps what’s good for the soul redounds to the body in this life even as it will in the beatific vision to the glorified body.