"I can do all things in him who strengthens me."

St. Paul was filled with a sense that God was with him even in his weakness, this was the fruit of his prayer life, is it the result of ours?

When we think about prayer, what comes to mind? Perhaps the continuous mantra of praying Hail Mary's on the rosary, or perhaps the few moments that we kneel in church before Mass clearing our mind. These are good examples of prayer.

Prayer was described by a professor that I once had in a class on prayer in graduate school as a "dialogic relationship." Prayer is a continuous dialogue between God and us. There is nothing that I do in the day that does not concern God and there is no activity that I see as something that does not affect my relationship with God. Every moment is a gift from God and a gift to God.

I have found that most people have this relationship to one extent or another, yet some of the same people would claim to have a lousy prayer life. Why?

Some would say because they do not "pray" enough. What do they mean by that? They do not say enough formula prayers? Probably, but prayer is a continuous dialogue and formula prayers may help us get started or may provide words when they do not come easily but they are not prayer in and of itself. We say the formula, "hello," to start a conversation, but even that word is not always necessary in well-established relationships.

Rabbi Heschel said that prayer is praising God, thanking God for every moment and event in our lives as they unfold, and sometimes even being angry with God. Prayer is the mental and vocal dialogue that we have with a God who loves us and we love in return. #2

St. Augustine
"But you knew, God, why I left Carthage and went to Rome, and of that you gave no hint either to me or to my mother, who was fearfully upset at my going and followed me down to the sea, (St. Augustine on his departure to Rome where he would be converted.)"

Augustine had one thing in mind as he set out for Rome, and certainly Monica his mother had her own fears about the trip, but Augustine realized in retrospect that God had something that neither his mother or himself knew anything about.

Monica's fear of Augustine's trip had its effect on him. He was scared to make the trip, spending the evening before hoping that it would not happen and when it finally did he was sick for a period of time upon arriving in Rome. Yet Monica had been praying feverishly for her son's conversion and it would take this trip for that prayer to be answered.

Augustine's journey is not unlike our daily ventures. Only God knows where all of these journeys will end. It seems apparent then, to be more trusting as the day's events unfold.

Have our lives always gone in exactly the way that we planned? How do we deal with the apparent interruptions or detours in those plans? Might God be leading us too?

Later in reflecting over his life Augustine would say, "Amo Deum et fac quod vis!" "Love God and do what you will." His life taught him to do so.

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"Place your mind before the mirror of eternity!" This was the advice of St. Clare of Assisi. It was her way of saying open yourself up completely before God.

What is it that we find on our mind today? What dominates our thoughts? How do these domination's fare when put up against eternity? What really is important? Will these things matter 10, 20 or 30 years from now?

What do all of our thoughts, desires when mirrored back from God tell us?

Too often people ignore what is inside of them and venture off doing what they think they "should" do rather than what God is calling them to do.

The saints like Clare of Assisi and her beloved companion Francis did not always please those around them. Both had parents who were not pleased at the life they chose, but both Clare and Francis are remembered exactly because they did the will of God in a way that fit each of their personalities.

So to with us, we cannot be somebody else; indeed God is not calling us to be anyone other than who we are. Finding out who we are is the essence of the spiritual quest. It starts by following the advice of St. Clare.



"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus," thus St. Paul wrote to the baptized Christians of Galatia.

Now as the end of the second millennium approaches have we reached this goal of the new creation, or do we still live like the fallen creation around us. Are those of us who are baptized aware that we are called to be different?

In Genesis when Adam could find no helpmate in the other animals that God had created, God cast a deep sleep over him. From the sleeping Adam a new creature came forth who Adam recognized as "another me" the most literal translation of the word we term woman.

It was only after the fall that Adam and Eve realized that they were different and needed to cover themselves in each other's presence (to artificially hide the difference). But Jesus came to save us from that fall and St. Paul points out that in Christ there are no differences, there are only "other Christs."

This is an exercise that we can do every waking moment of the day, it does not require that we go off to a special place and pray, it only requires that we open our eyes, evaluating how we process all that we see. The exercise is this; as I go about my daily actions do I recognize all that I come into contact with as people just like me, or do I just notice differences?

Discouragement will not help overcome our differences, nor will artificial fig leaves. Only the love of Christ and an open heart to that love will allow us to overcome the fall.

May the love of Jesus flood your heart today!


Past Hurts

I recently saw a program on television where people invited people who had made a difference in their lives to appear on this show with no idea of whose lives they had affected either positively or negatively. Many of the guests were positive, and many did not even remember ever meeting the person they had affected in that way. But to me the most interesting guest was one young woman who said that she had invited a woman who she had not seen since the eighth grade.

The attractive woman described that in eighth grade she had been terrorized by this other girl who had made fun of her clothing, her hairstyle and everything about her. The woman went on to say that this girl had ruined her life. She had quit school because she could no longer take the abuse she received there. She ran away from home and ended up with an ex-convict who abused her. But finally she did go back to earn her GED and she did meet a nicer man.

The host of the show asked her what are you going to say to this woman who hurt you twenty years ago? She answered quickly; "I'm going to tell her that she ruined my life."

The attractive woman was ushered backstage, while the unsuspecting woman came out to find out who mysteriously had brought her 2000 miles from this encounter. When the host asked her if she had any idea who had wanted to see her, she did not. When she was shown a picture of he woman as schoolgirl, she immediately recognized her and named her and her twin sister. Did she remember treating her badly? No.

When the victim of her previous abuse came out, her first words. "You're beautiful!" The woman, who had felt her life was ruined, said, "I forgive you!" Then they hugged and acted like long lost friends.

What from my past do I cling on to? What would help me to let go of it?


The Will of God

There is a book that I have reread several times at key moments in my life. It is a book that claims to answer a very basic question; how can I know what God's will for me is? The answer of Jean-Pierre De Caussade, and I am paraphrasing here, is to pay attention to what's going on right now at this moment in your life.

It is a simple answer, but one that I have found very helpful in living my life. Too often the spiritual life can become an excuse for a person to escape the present moment, to avoid confronting the problems that it bears and to simply wish that it all would go away.

In retrospect I can see that over the period of my life it is exactly those periods where I have been least spiritual where I have fallen into this trap of ignoring the present moment and looking forward to some future when it would all be over with.

A modern version of De Caussade's book is entitled, "The Sacrament of the Present Moment." It is an apt title for it conveys De Caussade's notion that God is revealed in facing the situations that confront us right now, and God is revealing himself to us if the situation is not sinful.

Today, as you go about your daily actions, look for God in each moment. You may be surprised as I have many times how present he will be to you. To buy De Caussade's book click here