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by Matthew Kelly
Into the Deep
by Father Bob Sherry
Meggie and I are delighted to announce that we are expecting another little boy in January. Isabel’s prayers for a little sister have not been answered . . . and it is very hard to explain to a five-year-old why God doesn’t answer some of our most fervent prayers.
Fatherhood has convinced me beyond doubt of the incredible love of God. When I think about, see, or hold any one of my children, often I am overcome with the fact that I love them so much it hurts. I am weak, broken, and flawed, but I love them that much. So imagine how much God loves us in all his perfection.
For some reason I always believed that God loved me. I don’t know why. I could speculate, but I’m not sure that would get us anywhere. But being a parent I realize more than ever that God loves me (and you) in ways we cannot even begin to understand. And yet, we should be reaching every day to understand God’s love a little more.
My invitation to you this month is to take a few minutes each day to immerse yourself in the love of God. Find a quiet place, reflect on how much you love various people in your life, acknowledge that you get the ability to love from God and that he loves you infinitely more than you love anybody—then allow the love of God to wash over you.
Are you growing spiritually? Are you living a life more attuned to God than you were a year ago? These are questions we should take time to consider now and then.
If your heart is restless like mine, there is a path to peace and joy available to you. This path can only be found in and through prayer.
— From “Into The Deep” by Dan Burke
Some time ago my youngest brother, who is a bit baffled by my faith, asked me an important question: “Dan, do you pray every day?”
I replied, “Yes.”
He asked, “Every, every day?”
Again I said, “Yes.”
He then asked again but with an emphasis in his tone that reflected some measure of disbelief and a demand for an absolutely honest answer. “Every, every, every day?”
A light went on in my head, and I realized what he was really asking me. “Dennis, you don’t understand—I don’t pray because I am holy; I pray because I am not.” I continued, “I am not capable of living a life without God. This is why I pray every, every, every day.”
The idea of my own incapacity to live even a single day without prayer is not new or unique to me. One of the most oft-quoted sayings in the history of Christianity is St. Augustine’s line in his Confessions, “. . . our heart is restless until it rests in you.” The reason this is cited so often, even more than a thousand years after it was written, is that it rings true across all cultures and throughout all time. Any heart open to God says “yes” when it hears this beautiful expression. We know in the depths of our being that this is true. The reason it is true is revealed in the full quote, which reads, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”
St. Augustine recognizes that our hearts are restless to the degree that we fail to orient all that we are to God. Our restlessness comes from a disorientation of our hearts. To the degree that we give ourselves to God in prayer, the restlessness will begin to subside. To the degree that we give ourselves to God, we fulfill the purpose of our existence; we know union with God and thus know the peace and joy that enable us to face and overcome whatever comes our way.
Beyond the central cry of our hearts to God, prayer is far more essential to our eternal salvation than many suppose. Human beings need air, water, and food to live. Without any one of these three basic elements, we will eventually die. Similarly, the sacraments of the Church, especially the Eucharist and penance, are as spiritually essential to us as the air we breathe. Without the sacraments—without air—nothing else matters.
In this analogy, prayer and the life of virtue are comparable to food and water. With air, or the sacraments, essential for life, prayer and virtue keep us nourished and healthy. In terms of food, if we don’t have all the proper nutrients, we can suffer disease and death. So it is with prayer and virtue. The daily nourishment of prayer that flows out of our sacramental participation is the lifeblood of the abundant life promised to us by Jesus.
So, air is not enough—without prayer, we will not be sufficiently nourished to find the “life abundant” that Christ promises us. Without prayer we will inevitably drift from the sacraments and become mired in sin and narcissism; we will be distracted from the most important things in life and our ability to hear and respond to God will become dulled. With the absence of these essential elements, we will find ourselves leaving the narrow path to heaven and stepping onto the wide road to destruction that Jesus described in the seventh chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel.
Here’s what St. Bonaventure said regarding what a heart committed to prayer can expect from his or her exercise of faith:
[B]y prayer the soul is cleansed from sin, replenished with charity, confirmed in faith, strengthened, and refreshed in spirit. Prayer establishes the inward man, brings peace to the heart, knows the truth, conquers temptations, expels sorrow, renews the senses, stirs up languishing virtue, puts to flight tepidity, and scours the rust of vices. In prayer, the quick sparkles of celestial desires are incessantly sent forth, from the burning coals of divine love. The privileges of prayer are rare, the prerogatives admirable. Prayer unlocks the gates of heaven, manifests divine secrets, and always finds free access to the ears of God.
The saints over all time have echoed an endless list of the benefits of prayer. A holy Franciscan friar named Johannes de Caulibus compiled this list:
If you would:
The bottom line? If you want something to go right in life, pray! God didn’t make us for the purpose of abandoning us to meaningless toil and suffering. The reality is that he wants to work with us in life so that we can know a kind of abundance that cannot be known outside of a relationship with him.
Last month we witnessed the canonization of a saint of our times, Mother Teresa. Now, we are approaching the Feast of All Saints. This is a good time to reflect on the many models we can look up to who became the-best-version-of-themselves while they were on this earth.
The Litany of Saints is a beautiful way to ask these holy men and women to pray for us. It is also an integral part of an ordination ceremony.(An ordination is a ceremony in which a man becomes a deacon, priest, or bishop.) During an ordination ceremony, the candidates lie face down on the sanctuary floor. In former times, a large blanket covered them—as if they were in a tomb—as the Litany of Saints was sung to invoke the protection and inspiration of the cloud of hovering witnesses.
As the Litany of Saints was sung at my ordination and at other times, such as the shortened version at the Easter Vigil, I have found it very inspiring to reflect very briefly on each of the saints mentioned.
Various saints have been my heroes at different stages of my life. Here are just a few:
While in the college seminary (an all-male school of course), I had the honor of playing Joan of Arc in Bernard Shaw’s play Saint Joan. At a very young age, Joan of Arc heard saints’ voices inspiring her to accomplish heroic acts.
Closer to my priestly ordination, St. John Vianney, Curé of Ars, became my model. His humility, prayerfulness, and dedication moved me to deeper longings for intimacy with God.
How about you? As All Saints Day approaches, can you prepare to celebrate All Hallows Eve (a.k.a. Halloween) with a focus on saints this year? Instead of zombies and vampires, bring on the saints.
Be Bold. Be Catholic.©
When life gets tough I run. So there I was pacing down the Loveland Bike Trail in Loveland, Ohio, in deep contemplation.
I was three years into my TV news career as a reporter. I had it all mapped out because I like to live by the rule: If you fail to plan, plan to fail. And I wasn’t failing. My sights were set on becoming the next Oprah. Yes, like the Oprah Winfrey.
Growing up I remember watching her after school, mesmerized. She had an incredible ability to pull out people’s darkest wounds while still making them feel safe to share their story during her interviews. She exposed issues that had yet to be talked about publicly on TV and instilled a love for continuous learning as she shared how reading changed her life.
I knew it wouldn’t be easy to reach my dream. I knew I would face many challenges. I made my way across the country, leaving family and friends behind. I witnessed horrifying scenes while covering various news events. I experienced the not-so-glamorous side of the TV industry. These were the things I was willing to endure in order to do as Oprah did and change lives.
Then a friend came to visit. True friends help uncover your blind spots, and she revealed mine to me. She saw the intense stress I was undergoing and the chaos I was living in.
“Lindsey,” she told me, “You can’t live like this.”
My footsteps were heavy as I still paced down the Loveland Bike Trail. I knew God put me on this earth to touch people’s lives; to uplift, enlighten, and encourage. However, the sacrifices I was making didn’t seem to be healthy anymore.
What happened next I can only describe as God’s voice.
“What you do will remain the same; how you will do it will change. Be open to that. Jump. The road will look foggy. You won’t know what’s ahead, but trust.”
Like a wave splashing on the sand, an immense feeling of peace rushed over me.
Contrary to the words that had previously guided my life, if you fail to plan, plan to fail, I quit my job. I didn’t know what I would do or where I would go. I flirted with the idea of moving to New York City. Before my trip to the Big Apple I met a guy in my church group who had just moved from New York to Cincinnati.
“New York was all right,” he told me, “My job in Cincinnati is better. I work for a bestselling Catholic author and speaker. I never thought I would find a job that fits my values and makes me grow as a person.”
In another moment of listening to God, I decided to stay in Cincinnati. I still didn’t know what I would do. I got a waitressing job and started doing freelance journalism work.
Each morning coming into the café, I would greet a woman who managed the inventory for the cafe’s bakery. On occasion I’d rant about my faith and talk about my journey growing closer to God.
“You need to work at Dynamic Catholic!” she exclaimed.
She was an Ambassador for Dynamic Catholic. She gleefully told me about the organization and the impact it was making.
I poked around on the website. I’d never imagined working at a nonprofit. I was a career woman.
A few weeks later I sat drinking smoothies with a former professor at a Jesuit university. I pitched to him a book idea I had been working on.
“That sounds like a book Matthew Kelly would write,” he said.
After the meeting I rushed to the library to pick up any Mathew Kelly book I could find. I think the people in the library could hear my heart sing as I flipped through The Dream Manager. I knew what I was supposed to do. I applied for a job at Dynamic Catholic that evening. And I was hired.
Now I meet with Dynamic Catholic’s Dream Manager on a monthly basis. It’s just one of the many things I love about my job. The community of people I work with push me to become the-best-version-of-myself. We love each other and we care for one another. It’s much different than the cutthroat industry I once worked in.
As the public relations and media coordinator at Dynamic Catholic, I have the privilege of sharing stories about the incredible work our team is doing. Stories about how our Book Program provides great Catholic books for only $1 per copy to parishes. How our free e-mail programs, like Best Advent Ever, are giving people the food-for-thought they need to be intentional throughout their day. And how our other world-class resources are changing lives. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and overjoyed with the plan God crafted for me. It turns out his plan was much better than mine.
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”.
– Prov. 19:21
Lindsey spoke about this topic in her video reflection for last year’s Best Lent Ever.
Want to share your story? Write us at email@example.com
Making time for each other isn’t that difficult if you think about how to anchor the time around already established routines at home.
Life is short, and the holidays fly by. Don’t waste this time texting your friends about how crazy your family is making you (even if it’s true). Do your best to be present to them, seek to understand and to love.
Waking up early is a war. It is a battle against the self. You are your enemy. And there is only one way to win the war: Discipline.
When you choose to be the-best-version-of-yourself, when you exercise virtue and strength of character, you impact the world more than you will ever know.