Intensify your personal encounter with Jesus

October 23, 2013

Here are 25 ways in which true disciples can nurture and deepen their intimate personal relationship (communion) with Jesus:

  1. Foster an abiding desire for Jesus in your life, especially through a commitment to daily prayer
  2. Prepare for Sunday Mass by spending time in lectio divina with the upcoming Sunday Gospel reading, focusing on the person and the teaching of Jesus
  3. See the priest at Mass as truly in persona Christi (in the person of Christ), and the congregation as the Body of Christ
  4. Make a truly heartfelt thanksgiving to our Lord after receiving Jesus in Holy Communion (like this, but in your own words)
  5. If you don’t get to daily Mass, make a prayerful spiritual communion each day
  6. Spend time in prayerful Eucharistic Adoration whenever possible
  7. Read from the Gospels frequently
  8. Contemplate the Face of Christ in the Gospels
  9. Read a spiritually inspiring commentary on the Gospels (I highly recommend The Better Part by Fr John Bartunek LC)
  10. Use a good Christ-centered prayer book during your prayer time, such as Praying with Our Lord Jesus Christ by Fr Benedict Groeschel CFR
  11. Pray and meditate on the Litanies of Jesus (Sacred Heart, Precious Blood, Holy NameFace of Christ)
  12. Pray and meditate on the Titles of Jesus
  13. Cultivate a true friendship with Jesus (cf. Jn 15:12-17)
  14. Engage in frequent colloquies with Jesus (colloquies are short periods of talking with Jesus as one friend would talk to another)
  15. Practice the presence of Jesus in your heart throughout the day
  16. Occasionally allow yourself to burst forth in brief spontaneous exclamations of praise to Jesus
  17. Read the five best books on Jesus:
    1. To Know Christ Jesus – Frank Sheed
    2. My Beloved Son – Fr Lovasik
    3. Life of Christ – Bp Sheen
    4. The Lord – Msgr Guardini
    5. Jesus of Nazareth (3 volumes) – Benedict XVI
  18. Read other books that have an especially good section exploring the person of Jesus:
    1. Divine Intimacy – Fr Gabriel
    2. Christ in the Psalms – Patrick Henry Reardon
  19. Meditate on the Mysteries of Jesus as you pray the rosary (this book will help)
  20. Delve more deeply into the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
  21. Read/study Church teaching on Jesus and on the Holy Eucharist, noting especially the teaching on the Real Presence of Jesus
  22. Be sure to focus on Jesus as you pray the Divine Mercy chaplet (prayers like this and this will help)
  23. Remember to consciously and intentionally unite your sufferings to those of Jesus, and then offer them to the Father
  24. In your nightly examen, look especially for those times when Jesus was present to you or at work in you
  25. Strive to allow Jesus to know you (cf. Mt 7:23 & Lk 13:27)

Feel free to add more in the Comment Box.


Prayer in the life of JP2

June 11, 2013
Cardinal Re

Cardinal Re

About a year ago, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re gave a talk entitled “Prayer and Action in Blessed John Paul II.”  In this somewhat intimate description of the integration of prayer in JP2’s life and work, Cardinal Re revealed several aspects of JP2’s prayer life about which I had not previously heard.  For example:

During the day, the passage from one occupation to another was always marked by a brief prayer. When he wrote out, with his minute script, the Polish text of his speeches, his homilies, or magisterial documents, he customarily placed a small invocation at the head of the page, an ejaculation, continually lifting up his thought to God in this way.

This acknowledgement by JP2 of his trustful dependence on our Lord in everything was a testament to his deep, well-ordered humility.

The ways in which different forms of prayer pervaded the life of JP2 can only occur in one who has a deeply personal relationship with Jesus.  The more intimate one’s friendship with Christ, the more natural it will be for prayer to arise from within us and to be an integral part of our daily lives.

School of prayer – Class #5

June 7, 2011

Pope Benedict’s fifth session of his school of prayer examines the prayer of the greatest Old Testament prefigurer of Christ:  Moses.  As with Abraham, our Holy Father chooses to focus on Moses as an example of intercessory prayer.  The Pope tells us why intercessory prayer is important:

Intercessory prayer makes divine mercy so active within the corrupted reality of the sinful man, that it finds a voice in the supplication of one who prays and through him becomes present where salvation is needed.

The Scriptural basis for this class is Exodus 32, specifically Moses’ prayer of intercession found in Ex 32:11-13.  Pope Benedict points out the approach that Moses takes in his prayer:

Moses’ prayer is wholly centered on the Lord’s fidelity and grace….The work of salvation begun must be brought to completion; if God were to allow his people to perish, this could be interpreted as a sign of a divine inability to bring to completion the project of salvation. God cannot permit this: He is the good Lord who saves, the guarantor of life, he is the God of mercy and forgiveness, of liberation from sin which kills. And so Moses appeals to God, to the interior life of God, against the exterior pronouncement….Moses had a concrete experience of the God of salvation; he was sent as a mediator of divine liberation, and now, with his prayer, he voices a twofold concern — concern for the fate of his people, but alongside this, concern for the honor that is owed to the Lord, for the truth of his name. The intercessor, in fact, wants the people of Israelto be saved, because they are the flock that has been entrusted to him, but also because, in that salvation, the true reality of God is manifested. Love of the brothers and love of God interpenetrate in intercessory prayer; they are inseparable. Moses, the intercessor, is a man stretched between two loves, which in prayer overlap into but one desire for good.

Then, our Holy Father sets forth Moses as the example of what authentic intercession is all about:

A mediator of life, the intercessor shows solidarity with the people; desiring only the salvation that God himself desires, he renounces the prospect of becoming a new people pleasing to the Lord. The phrase that God had addressed to him, “but of you I will make a great nation,” is not even taken into consideration by the “friend” of God, who instead is ready to take upon himself not only the guilt of his people, but also all of its consequences.

When, after the destruction of the golden calf, he will return to the mountain once again to ask for Israel’s salvation, he will say to the Lord: “But now, if thou wilt forgive their sin — and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written” (verse. 32). Through prayer, desiring God’s desire, the intercessor enters ever more profoundly into the knowledge of the Lord and of his mercy, and becomes capable of a love that reaches even to the total gift of self.  (emphasis mine)

Then he proceeds to reveal why Jesus is the perfect intercessor:

In Moses, who stands upon the mountain height face to face with God, who becomes the intercessor for his people, and who offers himself — “blot me out” — the Fathers of the Church saw a prefiguration of Christ, who on the heights of the cross truly stands before God, not only as a friend but as Son. And not only does he offer himself — “blot me out” — but with his pierced heart he is blotted out, he becomes, as St. Paul himself says, sin; he takes our sins upon himself in order to spare us; his intercession is not only solidarity, but identification with us; he carries us all in his body. And in this way his whole existence as man and as Son is a cry to the heart of God, it is forgiveness, but a forgiveness that transforms and renews.

I think we should meditate upon this reality. Christ stands before the face of God and prays for me. His prayer on the cross is contemporaneous with all men, contemporaneous with me: He prays for me, he suffered and suffers for me, he identified himself with me by taking on our human body and soul. And he invites us to enter into his identity, making ourselves one body, one spirit with him, because from the heights of the cross he brought not new laws, tablets of stone, but rather he brought himself, his body and his blood, as the new covenant. He thereby makes us one blood with him, one body with him, identified with him. He invites us to enter into this identification, to be united with him in our desire to be one body, one spirit with him. Let us pray to the Lord that this identification may transform us, may renew us, since forgiveness is renewal — it is transformation.

School of prayer – Class #4

May 27, 2011

Those who attend the annual Scranton Charismatic Conference have likely seen the University of Scranton’s statue of Jacob wrestling the “angel” in one of the commons areas.  Pope Benedict used that incident from Genesis 32:23-32 as the lesson in the fourth class of his school of prayer.  I’m glad he did, because that’s one of the bible stories that I never quite understood.

After reviewing the context of the Scripture passage, and recapping the wrestling match for us, our Holy Father sheds light on an Old Testament concept:

To know someone’s name, in fact, implies a kind of power over the person, since the name, in biblical thinking, contains the most profound reality of the individual; it unveils his secret and his destiny. Knowing someone’s name therefore means knowing the truth of the other, and this allows one to be able to dominate him. When, therefore, at the stranger’s request, Jacob reveals his own name, he is handing himself over to his opponent; it is a form of surrender, of the total giving over of himself to the other.

With that explained, the Pope provides an interpretation of this passage that can serve as a model of sorts for our prayer:

….Jacob’s night at the ford of the Jabbok becomes for the believer a point of reference for understanding his relationship with God, which in prayer finds its ultimate expression. Prayer requires trust, closeness, in a symbolic “hand to hand” not with a God who is an adversary and enemy, but with a blessing Lord who remains always mysterious, who appears unattainable. For this reason the sacred author uses the symbol of battle, which implies strength of soul, perseverance, tenacity in reaching what we desire. And if the object of one’s desire is a relationship with God, his blessing and his love, then the battle cannot but culminate in the gift of oneself to God, in the recognition of one’s own weakness, which triumphs precisely when we reach the point of surrendering ourselves into the merciful hands of God.

Pope Benedict’s own words are so thorough, so penetrating, that I’m at a loss for any kind of substantive commentary to offer.  In light of his explanation, this passage, and even his own words, are truly worthy of some serious lectio divina.

His conclusion inspires in me a desire for greater perseverance in a heartfelt yielding to Him personal prayer:

Dear brothers and sisters, our whole life is like this long night of battle and prayer that is meant to end in the desire and request for God’s blessing, which cannot be grasped or won by counting on our own strength, but must be received from him with humility, as a gratuitous gift that allows us, in the end, to recognize the face of the Lord.


He who allows himself to be blessed by God, who abandons himself to him, who allows himself to be transformed by him, renders the world blessed. May the Lord help us to fight the good fight of faith and to ask his blessing in our prayer, so that he may renew in us the anticipation of seeing his face.

School of prayer – Class #3

May 22, 2011

With this third class, Pope Benedict begins a subset of his teachings on prayer that will focus on a “biblical review on this subject,” and

…will lead us to deepen in the covenant dialogue between God and man that animates the history of salvation, up to its culmination in the definitive Word that is Jesus Christ.

To me, this means he’s going to teach us how the great “friends of God” prayed in the Old Testament.

In this class, our Holy Father teaches about Abraham and his prayer of intercession in Genesis 18:17-33.  The true motivation for Abraham’s prayer was that

God decided to reveal to him what was about to happen and brings him to know the gravity of the evil and its terrible consequences…

This understanding leads Abraham to conclude that

…it would be unjust to punish in an indiscriminate way all the inhabitants. If there are innocents in the city, they cannot be treated as the guilty. God, who is a just judge, cannot act like that…

The Pope then highlights the heroic virtue in Abraham’s prayer, in his thought process, in his heart:

…we realize that Abraham’s request is even more serious and more profound, because he does not limit himself to ask for the salvation of the innocent. Abraham asks for forgiveness for the whole city…

Our teacher explains:

By so doing, he puts into play a new idea of justice: not the one that limits itself to punish the guilty, as men do, but a different, divine justice, which seeks the good and creates it through forgiveness that transforms the sinner, that converts and saves him. Hence, with his prayer Abraham does not invoke a merely retributive justice, but an intervention of salvation that, taking into account the innocent, also liberates the wicked from their guilt, forgiving them. Abraham’s thought, which seems almost paradoxical, can be synthesized thus: obviously the innocent cannot be treated as the guilty, this would be unjust; instead, it is necessary to treat the guilty as the innocent, putting into act a “superior” justice, offering them a possibility of salvation, because if the evildoers accept God’s forgiveness and confess their fault letting themselves be saved, they will no longer continue to do evil, they will also become righteous, without any further need to be punished.

Our own prayer time, our relationship with God, if it is authentic and ever-deepening, should lead us to understand the “terrible consequences” of sin, selfishness, and a life that excludes God.  It should spawn in us a faith-based intercession, especially for the needy members of our family, an intercession that

…is based on the certainty that the Lord is merciful. Abraham does not ask of God something that is contrary to his essence; he knocks on the door of God’s heart, knowing his real will.
Because manifested and expressed through intercession, prayer to God for the salvation of others is the desire of salvation that God always harbors for sinful man….the Lord does not desire the death of the wicked, but that he be converted and live; his desire is always to forgive, to save, to give life, to transform evil into good. Well, it is precisely this divine desire that, in prayer, becomes man’s desire and is expressed through the words of intercession. With his supplication, Abraham is lending his own voice, but also his own heart, to the divine will: God’s desire is mercy, love and will of salvation….With the voice of his prayer, Abraham is giving voice to God’s desire, which is not to destroy, but to save…

Alas, after Abraham and his family departed the city, not even one righteous person was left, which would have held off God’s wrath.  This leads Pope Benedict to reveal to us the importance of Jesus:

It will be necessary for God himself to become that righteous one. And this is the mystery of the Incarnation: to guarantee a righteous one, he himself becomes man. There will always be a righteous one because he is: it is necessary, however, that God himself become that righteous one. The infinite and amazing divine love will be fully manifested when the Son of God becomes man, the definitive Righteous One, the perfect Innocent One, who will bring salvation to the whole world by dying on the cross, forgiving and interceding for those who “know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Then the prayer of every man will find its answer, then every intercession of ours will be fully heard.

Our Holy Father concludes:

…the supplication of Abraham, our father in the faith, teaches us to open our hearts ever more to the superabundant mercy of God, so that in our daily prayer we will be able to desire the salvation of humanity and to ask for it with perseverance and trust in the Lord who is great in love.

School of prayer – Class #2

May 13, 2011

In Pope Benedict’s second class in his school of prayer, he speaks about why prayer is necessary for us to become the persons that we were meant to be.  He points out that

St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest theologians of history, defines prayer as the “expression of man’s desire for God.”

This leads me to think that the intensity of our desire for God will be revealed in the diligence and the quantity of our prayer.

The CCC teaches us in n. 2558 that prayer is the means by which we live out our relationship with God:

“Great is the mystery of the faith!” The Church professes this mystery in the Apostles’ Creed (Part One) and celebrates it in the sacramental liturgy (Part Two), so that the life of the faithful may be conformed to Christ in the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father (Part Three). This mystery, then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer. [emphasis added]

Our Holy Father echoes this teaching:

Prayer, which is the opening and raising of the heart to God, becomes a personal relationship with Him. And even if man forgets his Creator, the living and true God does not fail to call man to the mysterious encounter of prayer.

Given the Pope’s teaching, it might be good to evaluate our own attitude toward our personal prayer time:

Are we eager to have prayer time?
Do we look forward to it?
Are we enthusiastic about having a personal encounter with Jesus?
Or….is our prayer time simply one more task on our daily “To Do” list?
Are we reluctant to spend time praying?

The answers to these questions might serve as a barometer of our personal relationship with the Lord.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

UPDATE 5/14/11:
While watching this video of Fr Francis Martin (in preparation for tomorrow’s Mass readings), I heard Fr Martin speak about having desire for the Lord (from about 3:20 to 4:00 in the video).  In the last five minutes or so, he talks about the importance of prayer in our growth in holiness.

B16’s school of prayer is now in session

May 8, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI this week began a new series of teachings.  He wants them to be a “school of prayer.” 

The subject will be

the prayer that Jesus taught us and that the Church continues to teach us. It is in Jesus, in fact, that man is made capable of approaching God with the depth and intimacy of the relationship of fatherhood and sonship.

The goal is

that our relationship with [God] in prayer [be] ever more intense, affectionate and constant.

This is gonna be good!