15 January 2011

Saint Paul the First Hermit

15 JANUARY 2011. Although not found on the General Roman Calendar, today is the feast day of Saint Paul of Thebes, also known as Saint Paul the First Hermit.

According to Saint Jerome's description of Saint Paul (written in the Syrian Desert in A.D. 374 or 375) Saint Paul was born in the area of Thebes, Egypt in about A.D. 227. He was the son of wealthy family, but his parents died while he was still a teenager. Saint Jerome describes Saint Paul as a young man "gifted with a gentle disposition and a deep love for God."

During the persecution of Decius and Valerianus (about A.D. 250) Saint Paul fled to the Theban Desert where he took refuge in a cave near a clear spring and a palm tree. For the rest of his life, Saint Paul would remain in that cave, taking his only food from the nearby spring and palm tree until, at about the age of 43, a raven began daily bringing Saint Paul about a half a loaf of bread. Saint Paul lived in the cave for nearly 100 years. He died in A.D. 341 at an age of about 114.

Saint Paul of Thebes is regarded as the first Christian hermit. He certainly existed, as history has kept these few scant details of his life, but much of what is know of Saint Paul now is legend. Apparently Saint Anthony the Great met Saint Paul very late in his life. The story is that they two spoke at length for one day and one night. When Saint Anthony the Great later returned to visit Saint Paul he found that he had died in the position of prayer. Clothing Saint Paul's body in a tunic that was a gift of Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, Saint Anthony buried the body with the assistance of two lions, who helped dig the grave.

The fame of Saint Paul spread quickly in the ancient Christian world and the hermetic life became popular, especially in the Balkan countries of Hungary and Croatia. The Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit (the Pauline Fathers) was founded in Hungary in honor of Saint Paul in the thirteenth century.


Gracious God,
you led Saint Paul of Thebes into the desert
that he might put aside all worldly cares
and focus on a life of holiness.
Through the example of his life
of solitude, prayer and penance,
grant that we, who are striving to develop in ourselves
the spirit of prayer and service,
may come ever closer to you in love.
We make our prayer through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 

one God, for ever and ever.


Little Rosary of the Divine Will

The Little Rosary of the Divine Will was composed by Saint Hannibal di Francia, a confessor of Servant of God Louisa Piccarretta, a lay Dominican. Louisa's cause for beatification is currently being examined by the Vatican.

This prayer was written by Saint Hannibal late in his life and he prayed it several times a day during his final illness.

Begin with the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be (on the first large bead above the crucifix). Continue praying the rosary as follows:

On each of the smaller Hail Mary beads pray: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

On each of the larger Our Father beads pray the Glory Be.

Conclude the Little Rosary of the Divine Will with this prayer:

"Lord Jesus, we praise you, we love you, we bless you, and we thank you who are God with the Father and the Holy Spirit in your Holy and Eternal Divine Will. Amen."

09 January 2011

Renewal of Baptismal Promises

Lord Jesus Christ,
I acknowledge you as King of the universe.
All creation was made for you.
Exercise all your sovereign rights over me.
I renew my baptismal promises,
renouncing Satan and all his works and empty promises,
and I promise to lead a good Christian life.
I will try to bring about the recognition of the truth of God
and your Church.

Divine Heart of Jesus,
I offer all my actions
that every human heart may accept your kingship.
May the kingdom of your peace be established
across the world.



9 JANUARY 2011. Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, ending the Christmas season in the encounter with Saint John the Baptist at the River Jordan. Today's readings can be found here.

Liturgically, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord stands between Christmastide and ordinary time and, indeed, functions as the first Sunday of ordinary time. At the same time, however, the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan is one of the three manifestations that are central to the feast of the Epiphany: (1) the showing forth of the presence of God to the three magi; (2) the beginning of the Lord's miraculous ministry at the wedding feast in Cana; and (3) the revelation and descent of the Holy Spirit at the Lord's baptism in the River Jordan.

Today we are each called to recognize the personal benefit that each of us has gained from our own baptism: that is, the becoming the adopted children, brothers and sisters of Christ, of God the Father, through the gift of His only begotten Son.

The baptism of the Lord reveals Christ in two manners. First, Christ is revealed as the eternal Son of the Father, upon whom the favor of God continually rests. " And a voice came from the heavens, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'" The Church teaches that this is the first revelation of the interior life of God, worshiped from of old by all of Israel, as the Holy Trinity--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Second, the Christ, who is called "Son" by God the Father, is of truly human estate and is also the son of Adam. Christ, being fully human, has possession of a soul and body. And Christ, at the same, is also fully God, incarnate in the world. The vision of the Holy Spirit descending on our Lord as a dove, then, represents a union of the Spirit with humanity in a way that is different from all of the Old Testament's prophets. The Spirit is Christ's own possession, to be given freely by His Will to humanity. As we hear in today's reading from Acts, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy Spirit and power." (Acts 10:38)

The Old Testament reading today from Isaiah is the first song of the mysterious suffering servant of the Lord. This servant has a kingly quality, being the "chosen one with whom [God is] pleased" (Is 42:1), but he also teaches the law of God by establishing justice on the earth. This servant-teacher does not impose God's will by force, but moves humanity through an inner conversion. "A bruised reed he shall not break . . . ." (Is 42:3) This reference to Christ's mercy for humanity is clear. We are all bruised reeds. But, the suffering servant is not sent to break us, but to redeem our broken humanity. That is why verses six and seven emphasize that the Messiah will lead His people gently into a spiritual vision, out of the darkness that has imprisoned them:
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.
We hear that Isaiah's servant will himself be a covenant for the people of God. In that covenant it is the Precious Blood of Jesus that efficaciously seals God's promise with His beloved people: to be called for "the victory of justice" (Is 42:6) As Christ says in today's reading from the Gospel of Saint Matthew, responding to Saint John's objection that he should be baptized by Christ:
“Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

07 January 2011

The Grace of Prayer

Prayer or contemplation is not something that can be achieved by mere human effort, however well-intentioned or however strenuous. Prayer is a grace. It is a gift that lifts us beyond anything we ourselves could ever attain by ascetic practice or meditative technique. Accordingly, communion with God, actual friendship with God in prayer, although impossible even for the strong, is something God Himself can achieve for us.

Recovering the Contemplative Dimension
Fr. Paul Murray, O.P.

01 January 2011

Prayer for the New Year

1 JANUARY 2011.

O God of mercy and light, so much in need in our world,
grant us your blessing in this new year
as we strive to live in greater unity with your Holy Will,
not by our own works,
but by the grace of your assistance.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity,
infuse our thoughts, our works, our actions, and our hearts,
so that every thought, work, act, and our very being be not
a thought, work, act, or self of human estate,
but come, Dear Father, to live and reign in us through grace.
In a special way at the beginning of this year,
when our hearts and spirits focus on its possibilities,
O Lord, lift us to You, by your gracious love,
so that we may be assisted in giving all that we have to You.

We entrust our prayers
to the intercessory assistance of all the angels and saints,
and most especially to our Mother, the Queen of the Divine Will,
that the Lord's will be done in each of our lives
and that our petitions will be heard.