Thursday, April 17, 2014

Divine Mercy Novena and Chaplet Begins On Good Friday

Pope John Paul II at Rome’s Rebibbia Prison on December 27th,1983 visiting Mehmet Ali Agca,
the man who tried to assassinate him on May 13th, 1981 
in St. Peter's Square. 

If you have not been following my blog or if you have not visited it in quite some time, today's post continues with a series of posts on Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast that is celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. Jesus requested this feast be established to a Polish nun, Sister Faustina Kowalska who published a diary several hundred pages long documenting all that Jesus communicated to her. The core message of Divine Mercy Sunday is nothing new as it has been taught by the Church through scripture and tradition: that God is merciful and we too must be merciful. Divine Mercy Sunday emphasizes this in a greater way, calling people to a deeper understanding that God's love is unlimited and available to everyone, even the greatest sinners. 

Prior to the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday, Jesus asked that it be preceded by a Novena to The Divine Mercy, to begin on Good Friday. Jesus gave a specific intention to Sister Faustina for each day of the novena, with the last day the most difficult intention of all, the lukewarm and indifferent souls. Sister Faustina's diary noted this as follows, "These souls cause Me more suffering than any others; it was from such souls that My soul felt the most revulsion in the Garden of Olives. It was on their account that I said: 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass Me by.' The last hope of salvation for them is to flee to My Mercy." 

Each day of the novena, we bring to Jesus' heart a different group of souls to be immersed in his ocean of mercy as is noted in Sister Faustina's diary, "On each day of the novena you will bring to My heart a different group of souls and you will immerse them in this ocean of My mercy ... On each day you will beg My Father, on the strength of My passion, for the graces for these souls." Below are the different groups of souls prayed for each day of the novena:
  1. DAY 1 (Good Friday) - All mankind, especially sinners
  2. DAY 2 (Holy Saturday) - The souls of priests and religious
  3. DAY 3 (Easter Sunday) - All devout and faithful souls
  4. DAY 4 (Easter Monday) - Those who do not believe in and do not yet know Jesus 
  5. DAY 5 (Easter Tuesday) - The souls of separated brethren
  6. DAY 6 (Easter Wednesday) - The meek and humble souls and the souls of children
  7. DAY 7 (Easter Thursday) - The souls who especially venerate and glorify Jesus' mercy
  8. DAY 8 (Easter Friday) - The souls who are detained in purgatory; 
  9. DAY 9 (Easter Saturday) - The souls who have become lukewarm.
During the Solemn Novena leading to Divine Mercy Sunday, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, should be offered each day for the above noted daily intentions. That is, on Day One in addition to the novena prayer, recite the chaplet for that day's same intention. This would mean that For Day One, both sets of prayers (novena and chaplet) would be offered up for "All mankind, especially sinners. On Day Two the prayers would be offered up for "The souls of priests and religious" and so forth. This pattern would continue until all the intentions for the novena were completed. It is important to note that a proper spirit of prayer must accompany the recitation of the novena and chaplet. It would not suffice to mechanically recite the prayers, content on completing them without true devotion. 

Here is what Jesus told Sister Faustina about the importance and significance of the Divine Mercy Chaplet:
"Say unceasingly this chaplet that I have taught you. Whoever will recite it will receive great Mercy at the hour of death. Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this Chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My Infinite Mercy. I desire that the whole world know My Infinite Mercy. I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those who trust in My Mercy...." (Diary 687)

"....When they say this Chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person not as the just judge but as the Merciful Savior".
An end note regarding the selected photo associated with today's post. As the caption mentions, it is Pope John Paul II visiting the Turkish assassin who tried to kill him. What the photo further spot lights about the Divine Mercy Devotion, that Pope John Paul clearly demonstrated, as followers of Christ we must be merciful. This is a requirement of the Divine Mercy Devotion. Jesus stated to Sister Faustina, "...there must also be deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to our neighbours always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to absolve yourself from it. (Diary 742)

Jesus, have mercy on us. Our Lady Queen of Peace, pray for us.








Monday, April 14, 2014

Divine Mercy Sunday - An Opportunity To Obtain A Plenary Indulgence

Sister Faustina, Pope John Paul II and
the image of Divine Mercy
Today's post builds upon and is a continuation of my previous post, Divine Mercy Sunday - The Message of Mercy From Jesus. The message of mercy from Jesus is a beautiful expression of Our Saviour and Redeemer's love for us. It is a love so great that we can not fully comprehend it, but He has made in known in part through Divine Mercy Sunday which comes with it an opportunity to receive a plenary indulgence. 

Jesus communicated this wonderful gift of a plenary indulgence to Sister Faustina Kowalska, the young Polish nun who wrote a diary of several hundred pages, documenting all that Jesus communicated to her about His message of mercy. Part of that message was concerning the plenary indulgence, which was noted as follows: 
On one occasion, I heard these words: My daughter, tell the whole world about My Inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy.The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy...(Diary 699)
An important point to note regarding the Divine Mercy Devotion is the requirement that we strive not only to properly prepare to receive mercy from Jesus, but we must extend His mercy to others through our deeds. Jesus was very specific about this as noted in Sister Faustina's diary:
Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to our neighbours always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to absolve yourself from it. (Diary742)
A plenary indulgence is the full remission of temporal punishment due to sacramentally forgiven sins. This is granted by the merits of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints. There are two kinds of punishment attached to sin, eternal and temporal. Sacramental confession absolves us and forgives the eternal guilt of sin, but it does not necessarily remove the temporal punishment. It depends on our degree of sorrow, which may result in the expiation of all the temporal guilt of our sins. For what ever is lacking in our sorrow and with it any remaining temporal punishment, we must expiate through prayer, penance and other means. What temporal punishment remains after death must be made up for in Purgatory.

The Divine Mercy Sunday indulgence is an opportunity for the complete remission of all temporal punishments resulting from our sins. Dependent upon this in part, is our openness to God's grace. It is important that we perform the conditions of the Divine Mercy Sunday indulgence in a proper manner, that is with true devotion and sincerity in our desire to receive the indulgence.

It is also important that we be detached from our sins, that is, truly detest our sins. In so doing, we orient our will away from creatures and direct it toward God. This is a necessary condition that must be satisfied to receive the plenary indulgence. In this way, we open our will to God's mercy flowing into our souls, which alone is able to effect the complete remission of all temporal punishment. 

To receive a plenary indulgence, the following are the usual conditions:
  • Sacramental Confession, within abut 20 days before or after
  • Eucharistic Communion, preferably on the day, or the days before or after
  • Prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff (Pope Francis)
The specific conditions for the Divine Mercy Sunday indulgence that must be satisfied in addition to the usual conditions are:
  • in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy
  • or, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!")

I
f any of the above conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence is not considered a plenary indulgence, but a partial indulgence. As a friendly reminder, Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated on the Sunday after Easter.







Monday, April 7, 2014

Divine Mercy Sunday - The Message of Mercy From Jesus

Pope John Paul II, the Divine Mercy image and Sister Faustina Kowalska

Mark your calendars Divine Mercy Sunday is April 27th. I decided to publish today's post well in advance of the feast day to afford those who have never heard of or practiced this devotion, the time to become familiar with it. If you are such an individual, I hope today's post will help you to understand and embrace this beautiful devotion.

The Divine Mercy message was nothing new, but it was a powerful reminder of what the Church has always taught through scripture and tradition: that God is merciful and forgiving and that we too must show mercy and forgiveness with others, always and everywhere. With the Divine Mercy Devotion, this message takes on a greater focus, calling the faithful to a deeper understanding that God’s love is unlimited and available to everyone, especially the greatest sinners.

The Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday which had initially been granted to Poland and celebrated within Vatican City, was extended to the Universal Catholic Church on April 30th, 2000 by Pope John Paul II. The origin of the Divine Mercy Devotion comes from the writings of Sister Faustina Kowalska, a young uneducated Polish nun who in obedience to her spiritual director, wrote a diary of approximately six hundred pages recording the revelations she received from Jesus about God’s mercy. On February 22, 1931 Jesus appeared to Sister Faustina as was noted in her diary:
In the evening, when I was in my cell, I became aware of the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From the opening of the garment at the breast there came forth two large rays, one red and the other pale. In silence I gazed intently at the Lord; my soul was overwhelmed with fear, but also with great joy. After a while Jesus said to me, 'paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the inscription: Jesus, I trust in You.'
The dialogue continued later as Jesus explained the significance of the coloured rays emanating from His heart:
The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous; the red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My most tender Mercy at that time when My agonizing Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross....Fortunate is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him.
The message of mercy is that Jesus loves all of us, no matter how great our sins may be. Jesus wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins. With this recognition, we are to call upon Him with trust, that we will receive His mercy and let it flow to others. The result will be that everyone will come to share His joy. The following are three fundamental aspects of the Divine Mercy Devotion: 
  • Ask Jesus For His Mercy. Jesus wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, with a spirit of true repentance, imploring His mercy upon us and the entire world. 
  • Be Merciful - Not only does Jesus want us to receive His mercy, but He wants us to let it flow to others, extending His love and forgiveness that we received.
  • Completely Trust in Jesus - Jesus wants us to understand that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust in Him. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive.
Living the message of mercy is essential to the Divine Mercy Devotion. The devotional practices associated with the Divine Mercy Devotion are but vessels of mercy through which God's love can be poured out upon the world. It does not suffice for us to recite the Divine Mercy Chaplet, nor to hang a picture of the Divine Mercy image in our homes or pray at 3:00pm each day, the Divine Mercy hour. We must strive to put mercy into action. This is not an option of the Divine Mercy Devotion, it is a requirement. Jesus made this abundantly clear in his direct communication to Sister Faustina, "I demand from you deeds of mercy which are to arise out of love for me. You are to show mercy to your neighbours always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse yourself from it (Diary, 742). 

If you are new to this devotion, showing mercy always and everywhere may seem somewhat difficult if not impossible under certain circumstances, but Jesus assures us that it is possible, "When a soul approaches Me with trust," He explains, "I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls" (Diary, 1074). This is something we should not only strive for, but pray for daily that we may fulfill the Gospel command, "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36).

The question remains, how do we radiate God's mercy to others? We do this in three ways: by our actions, by our words and by our prayers. In these three degrees, Jesus told Sister Faustina, "is contained the fullness of mercy" (Diary 742). This threefold practice of mercy is what Jesus is calling us to, but we are not all called in the same way. Jesus who understands our personalities and individual circumstances in our lives, knows perfectly how to help us recognize the ways with which we can show mercy in our daily lives, therefore, we must pray for this imploring Jesus to show us the way. 

In our sincere desire to live the message of mercy, we must completely trust in Jesus and His mercy. In so doing, we can be assured that He will grant us all the graces we need to fulfill the devotional requirements of being merciful with others. It is with such sincerity that we can be confident that Jesus will not categorize us as one of those people who "...draw near with their mouths and honour me with their lips, while their hearts are from from me..." (Is 29:13)

Today's post is but an introduction to the Divine Mercy Devotion. There are other aspects of this devotion that I have reserved for subsequent posts. If after today's reading, you have welcomed Jesus' mercy in your life, then this post has accomplished its goal. For if we truly receive God's mercy and extend it to others, we will be deserving of Christ's wonderful promise, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matthew 5:7).


Peace.




Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Eighth Commandment - "You Shall Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neighbour"

Bishop Philip Egan, Diocese of Portsmouth, England

As we enter into the Third Week of Lent, I thought it appropriate to share a pastoral letter for Lent that in particular addresses bloggers, those who use Facebook, Twitter and engage in other social networking. The pastoral letter, Sin, Lent, Redemption was written by Bishop Philip Egan from the Diocese of Portsmouth, England. For those who are from Portsmouth, have been to the Diocese of Portsmouth, visited the web site and know of Bishop Egan, I am sure you will enjoy reading today's post. 

In the pastoral letter, Bishop Egan sets the tone immediately by stating, "I need to raise with you a very serious matter, one that it is appropriate for us to consider during this season of Lent." This initial sentence is sure to intrigue the reader and as one who has read this document, I can assure you that it will not disappoint those who will do likewise. In the first paragraph, it is made clear that Lent is a time of "Christian warfare," when we journey with Christ in the desert during the great combat. In addition to explaining mortal and venial sin, the necessity to be reconciled with God and neighbour, to listen to the word of God, convert and remember our Baptism, Bishop Egan asks the reader to consider the 8th Commandment, "You Shall Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neighbour," not least within the context of today's digital age. Bishop Egan provides a concise explanation as to how the Eighth Commandment should guide our thinking and actions when blogging and social networking: 
The Ten Commandments make explicit the natural law written into every human heart. They tell us to love God (Commandments One to Three) and to love our neighbour (Commandments Four to Ten). The Eighth Commandment says this:“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.” In other words, we must exercise discretion, respect others and their privacy, and not engage in slander, gossip and rash judgment. We must avoid calumny, that is, slurring and damaging people, and not spread abroad their sins and failings. How do I use Facebook or Twitter? Am I charitable when blogging? Do I revel in other people’s failings? All this is grave matter.
In my view, Bishop Egan has spot lighted a very important aspect of today's culture in the internet age we live in. How subtle can the temptation be to slander some one, to gossip, to spread rumours, to criticize and in essence, to condemn? Some times such sins occur in a very nonchalant manner amongst family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and with those who we briefly communicate and come into contact with. We must be on guard against such subtleties and demonstrate the moral courage and certitude to completely remove them from our interactions with others, including our on line activity. This also ensures we are not guilty of any one of the Nine Ways of Being An Accessory To Another's Sins.

By putting forth such a diligent effort to be ever on guard against the subtlety of sin, we strive to live the truth. We must not make any compromises against the truth and this may require us to be very candid and direct with those who initiate gossip, rumours and criticism with us. Such sinful activity should be rebuked and rightly considered as Offenses Against Truth. Here is one part of the Catechism of The Catholic Church that I would like to spot light, that specifically details some of the offenses against the truth, Article 8, No. 2477 states:
Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:
  • of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbour; 
  • of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them;
  • of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.
I encourage everyone to read Article 8 in its entirety for a complete and thorough understanding of, as Bishop Egan rightly states, a very grave matter in today's digital world. By so doing, it will better your understanding of the truth and further encourage you to never make any compromises against it. Understanding the truth is important if we desire to live it. Bishop Egan states, "The truth is always graced. When we speak the Truth, our words are always laden with the Holy Spirit, piercing the heart of the listener and inviting them to accept our words and put them into action."

As one continues to read on, Bishop Egan focusses on something that we all need to remember during Lent, the need to think about "our choices, our sins and our redemption." We must journey through Lent with a focus of purifying our desires through prayer:
In Lent, we think about serious things, our choices, our sins, our redemption. In this season, the Church invites us to purify our desires, especially our deepest desire for happiness, for love, for goodness and truth. In making a moral decision, we cannot choose simply on the basis of what gives us pleasure and what causes us pain. We must also take account of our values, of what is right and what is wrong, recognizing that often, to do the right thing involves self-sacrifice. This is why to purify our desires, to be happy in life, to be psychologically healthy, we must pray. We must be people of prayer. We must develop a personal relationship with God. St. Theresa of Lisieux once said: “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart, a simple look towards heaven, a cry of recognition and love.” We must find time and space every day to pray our morning and night prayers, from the heart to the Heart of Jesus. We cannot be saved unless we pray. We must read the Gospels, use a prayer book, visit the Blessed Sacrament, listen in silence, say the Rosary and the Angelus, maybe recite part of the Divine Office, and take part in the greatest prayer of all, the Sacrifice of the Mass.
In addition to prayer, Bishop Egan urges the faithful to revisit the Sacrament of Reconciliation as there is, "no better way to effect Lenten renewal than to meet Jesus One to one, Face to face, in the Sacrament of Penance, burying our sins in Him and rising with Him to new life."

This pastoral letter is a much needed reminder for everyone. One does not need to blog, use Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter and other social networks to break the Eighth Commandment, but due to the nature of the social networking and the ease with which a negative and uncharitable comment can be posted, it can at times represent a greater occasion of sin. From my experience, the temptation to be uncharitable can increase when visiting certain news sites that publish negative and condemning reports, especially when accompanied by on line forums for visitors to post comments. Even amongst some fellow Catholics, I find some journalists and writers to be somewhat pharisaical in their reporting on Church matters, issues and controversies. In other words, there can be a lack of mercy and charity in their writing. It also begs the question, should they be publishing this information, truthful as it may be? By doing so, does it cause harm to anyone's reputation, cause scandal for the Universal Catholic Church and incite hatred and anger? Are they breaking the Eighth Commandment? 

Lastly, I wanted to point to out that Bishop Egan's pastoral letter includes eighteen endnotes citing many references for further reading including: scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, wisdom from different saints and Canon Law.  

May Bishop Egan's pastoral letter and this blog post better your understanding of the truth and strengthen your resolve to live it. 





Thursday, March 13, 2014

Medjugorje Message - Pray Three Hours Each Day

Praying at the statue of Mary at Gospin Trg Square, Medjugorje

Our Lady is asking us, her children, to dedicate a total of three hours of prayer each day. Prayer is one of the main core messages Our Lady has given us in Medjugorje. Our Lady's "little stone" of Praying the Rosary Everyday With The Heart is the main aspect of her prayer request. Prayer could also include devotional prayers such as the Peace Chaplet (Creed, 7 Our Fathers, Hail Mary's, and Glory Be's), prayers to individual saints, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Litany of the Saints and novenas. 

Part of today's post draws from a talk given by one of the Medjugorje visionaries, Ivan Dragicevic, Our Lady Wants to Lead Us From This Darkness Into the Light. In that talk, Ivan spoke specifically about prayer. There were many key points made about prayer including a general guideline:
Also Our Lady’s wish is that we pray everyday for three hours, not three hours at once, or not just three hours of the rosary; we are talking about, Holy Mass, reading of the Holy Scriptures, also, praying the rosary, family prayer, adoration, to do good deeds, to help each other, this is what Our Lady is asking from us.
Our Lady has put her prayer request into perspective when she stated that it does not even constitute one sixth of our day. Yet for some, such a request becomes an immediate struggle in trying to determine how to add three hours of prayer into an already very busy schedule. If you are one such individual, today's post will help you deal with that concern. 

Prayer is an aspect of our daily lives that we must accept with great responsibility, if we truly desire to live Our Lady's messages. As Ivan states in the aforementioned talk,  "...We have to accept with great responsibility these things in which Mother is inviting us, we have to be responsible to be able to accept the word of Jesus and the word of Our Lady." If you are somewhat new to prayer, this will take time and effort. It can not be approached in an irresponsible manner, as a quick "add on" to a busy schedule, hoping to swiftly recite the prayers and be finished with it. To do so fails to properly enter the spirit of prayer and does not comply with Our Lady's request. To make way for three hours of prayer each day, you will need to seriously review and prioritize your schedule accordingly. Ivan quotes Our Lady to emphasize the importance and seriousness of daily prayer:
“Dear children, if you want to attend this school of prayer, then you must be aware that this school of prayer has no vacations, no holidays, and no weekends. You have to know in this school of prayer is every single day, and my dear children if you want to pray better, then you always have to pray more, because if you pray more it is always a personal decision, and to pray better that is grace.”
Step by step, slowly but surely, you can make the transition to include more prayer in your day until you finally reach the goal of three hours of prayer. I can speak from personal experience that once the transition has been made to three hours of prayer, you will come to realize just how unimportant and unnecessary some of your previous daily includes actually were.

Depending on what type of prayer life you currently have, to comply with Our Lady's request may require a serious rethink about your daily calendar. The Rosary comes to mind immediately as an example of the necessary adjustment some may have to make. The daily recitation of the entire Rosary, that is, all four sets of mysteries, takes approximately two hours to complete and can not become a daily include if you have never done it before. It will require a bit of training. Begin by setting reasonable and attainable goals, such as a decade or two each day and be consistent in reciting them. By doing so, like an athlete who trains for a marathon by running only a few kilometres, and builds upon that, you too will build up your prayer capacity and eventually recite the entire Rosary each day, completing the Marathon of Grace

Even after reading up to this part of the post, some may still be holding on to the notion that your schedule is non-negotiable, that you are just too busy and you can not free up three hours each day for prayer. In the aforementioned talk, the visionary Ivan stated there are many excuses why people do not pray:

There are so many situations in our daily lives that we are trying to find excuses why not to pray, we say, we don’t have time, it is impossible to get the family together, children are going to school, the father works and returns really late from work. I don’t have time for the family and my children, and when we come back home from work, we have to cook, we have to watch television, we have to go shopping. Actually time is always a problem, but Our Lady says, “Dear children, time is not a problem at all, the problem is love, because, dear children, if the person loves something he always finds time for it.” Of course if man doesn’t love something then he is not going to find time for it.
Love is an important aspect of prayer and absolutely necessary to comply with Our Lady's request. Not only will love compel us to dedicate our day to prayer, but it will allow us to properly pray with the heart. There is no other better way to prove our love for Our Lady than by our actions by living her messages. The importance of love in our prayer life can not be overstated. I would like to conclude this post and leave you with a thought from Ivan:
Love conquers, love is always victorious, whoever has love will find the time, and this is why Our Lady in these 28 years has been trying to wake us up from this spiritual coma that mankind has been in. She wants to straighten us up in faith and in prayer, and I do hope that we are going to respond to Our Lady’s call, that we are going to accept Her messages, and that we are going to be co-creators in the creation of a better world, a world which will be dignified of the children of God.

Our Lady Queen of Peace, pray for us.






Monday, March 3, 2014

Medjugorje Message - Wear Something Blessed

Vicka Ivankovic-Mijatovic speaking to pilgrims in Medjugorje

If you have been following my blog, then you certainly have become familiar with Medjugorje and the main core messages given to us by Our Lady with her "little stones." In addition to these, Our Lady gives us many other messages as well and today's post focusses on one of these messages, "that we wear something blessed on us." This is Our Lady's recommendation that Vicka has revealed to us, one that personally resonates with me in a big way. I hope that at the conclusion of today's post, it will be likewise for you.

This Medjugorje message comes to us through the visionary Vicka, the oldest of the visionaries who continues to receive daily apparitions. The prayer mission Our Lady gave to Vicka is to pray for the sick. Vicka currently lives in Bosnia-Herzegovina in a small village, Gradac which is only a few kilometers north of Medjugorje. Vicka typically provides talks to pilgrims from her home, which the above photo captures. You can view one of her talks at my sidebar's Vimeo video, which includes the message of today's post. If addition, you can read Vicka's talk to pilgrims from Medjugorje.com, Vicka About Our Lady "The Young People Live in a Very, Very Difficult Situation."

Our Lady's message of "wearing something blessed" is of great significance for us on our earthly pilgrimage because it specifically deals with how we can better protect ourselves against Satan. Our Lady has communicated to Vicka that Satan works very hard to disturb our prayers and take away our peace. To remedy this, Our Lady has told Vicka that the strongest weapon in our hands against Satan is the Rosary. In addition, Our Lady recommends that we wear something blessed. This could be a crucifix, a medal or anything that is blessed, so that we may defend ourselves in an easier manner against Satan. 

You might be asking yourself, what blessed medal or object would properly comply with Our Lady's recommendation. To help you make an appropriate selection, there are many approved and well known medals and objects, long established within the Church. I would like to recommend three in particular: the Miraculous Medal, the Brown Scapular and the St. Benedict medal. Anyone one of these objects suffices to meet the requirements from Our Lady and if you so chose to, you could wear all three.

Miraculous Medal
Miraculous Medal
The Miraculous Medal is one that was designed by the Blessed Virgin Mary herself. Our Lady commissioned the design in 1830, as a mission to St. Catherine LabourĂ©, a novice in the community of the Daughters of Charity in Paris. Saint Catherine was specifically told by Our Lady, “Have a medal struck upon this model. Those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck.”

The specific meaning of each side of the medal has been referenced from the Association of The Miraculous Medal, a Vincentian Community in Missouri, a generous group that offers a free Miraculous Medal to visitors at their site:
  • Front - Our Lady is standing on a globe, as Queen of Heaven and Earth, crushing the head of a serpent beneath her feet. The crushing of the serpent is to proclaim Satan and all his followers are helpless before her (Gn 3:15). The year 1830 marks the year of the medal's commission to St. Catherine. The reference to Mary conceived without sin supports the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. 
  • Back - There are twelve stars, one for each Apostle, who represent the entire Church as it surrounds Mary. The cross symbolizes Christ Our Redeemer, and our redemption, with the bar under the cross, a sign of the earth. The “M” stands for Mary, which illustrates Mary’s close involvement with Jesus and our world. The two hearts represent the love of Jesus and that of Mary.

For further reading on the Miraculous Medal, I would also recommend Father Robert J. Billett, C.M.F. article, St. Catherine LabourĂ© and the Miraculous Medal - The Virgin Mary inaugurates the Marian EraIf you do decide to obtain a Miraculous Medal, you will need to make an appointment with a priest for its investiture, a special blessing. 

Brown Scapular
Brown Scapular
The Brown Scapular is the physical object worn by many Catholics as part of the Brown Scapular Devotion, a universally established devotion in the Church since the seventeenth century and is considered together with the Rosary, a customary form of Marian devotional practice. The scapular that you see from the image associated with this post derives from a religious garment that religious would wear over their shoulders, that would extend to the front and back. From this devotion, there are two main aspects that one should come to know and understand: the Scapular Promise and the Sabbatine Privilege:
  • Scapular Promise - Wearing the Brown Scapular is a physical confirmation in one's confidence in the intercession of Our Lady to obtain for those who wear it, the grace of final perseverance or a "happy death." The two general conditions necessary to obtain this benefit are: first, one must honour Mary by wearing the Scapular faithfully until death and two, endeavour to sincerely lead a Catholic life. The revelation of this promise was made by Our Lady to St. Simon Stock, Prior General of the Carmelites (1247-1265), whom she communicated to and stated that all who wear the Scapular will not suffer the eternal flames of hell. This assurance by Our Lady has become known as the Scapular Promise
  • Sabbatine Privilege - Our Lady's aid may be confidently expected in purgatory for those who have worn the Scapular and fulfilled two other conditions: the first, the practice of chastity according to one's state of life and two, the daily recitation of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin. The second condition, praying the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin can be commuted, that is substituted with other prayers, typically five decades of the Rosary or some other pious practice such as fasting. This commute must be given by a Catholic priest. A similar commute can be given to substitute the abstinence of meat on Wednesday and Fridays, an original form of penance associated with this devotion and forms part of living a Catholic life together with prayer. The specific aid that one can be assured of from Mary is that after death, upon the first Saturday, one will be released from purgatory. This release from purgatory on the first Saturday is the Sabbatine Privilege.
An essential aspect of the Brown Scapular Devotion is to obtain the Blessing and Enrolment. This can be obtained within a group setting or an individual one. For individual purposes, there is the option of a short form of investiture, whereby a priest or deacon recites a Marian prayer, such as the Hail Mary, Memorare or Salve Regina, while placing the scapular over the head of the individual to wear it. Once completed, the individual is invested. It does not matter whether you choose to invest within a group setting or on an individual basis, just so long as you are invested. In so doing, you properly receive the Brown Scapular and begin your devotion following Jesus in a closer manner, in the example of Mary, Our Mother.

St. Benedict Medal
St. Benedict Medal (Jubilee Medal of 1880)
Saint Benedict (480-547), one of the greatest saints in the Catholic Church, with his deep faith in the Cross had performed many miracles. His faith and special devotion to the Cross was passed on to succeeding generations of Benedictines, who received this special gift and made it available to the universal Catholic Church through the creation of the St. Benedict Medal.

The medal that we have today was designed and created in 1880 under the supervision of the monks of Montecassino, Italy to mark the 1400th anniversary of the birth of St. Benedict. Prior to this time, other medals were created but not as complete and thoroughly designed as the most current one, referred to as the "jubilee medal." The medal of St. Benedict is one of the Sacramentals of the Church, whose value and power must always be attributed to the merits of Christ, to the efficacious prayers of St. Benedict, to the blessing of the Church, and the faith and disposition of the person using the medal. The spiritual benefits for those that wear this metal are many and not limited to the following:

  • It wards off from both the soul and the body all dangers arising from the devil
  • The Medal is powerful in obtaining for sinners the grace of conversion
  • It obtains protection and aid for persons tormented by the evil spirit, and in temptations against holy purity
  • It procures assistance in the hour of death
  • It has often proved an efficacious remedy for bodily sufferings, and a means of protection against contagious diseases
  • Expectant mothers have obtained special assistance for a safe delivery
  • In time of storms, tempests and other dangers on land and sea it has been found to be a protection

Being the sacramental that it is, the St. Benedict medal has been long been regarded as an efficacious instrument to protect all who wear it from demonic attacks and obtaining many special graces. This medal can be worn around your neck, attached to a scapular or Rosary or carried about somewhere on you. Before you actually use this medal, you first must obtain an Approved Blessing from a priest or deacon. Below are the design details of the St. Benedict medal:


Front Side of St. Benedict Medal
  • An image of St. Benedict, with a cross in his right hand and the Rule For Monasteries in his left
  • To the right of St. Benedict on a pedestal is a poisoned cup, shattered when he made a sign of the cross over it. To the left, a raven on a pedestal carrying a loaf of poisoned bread sent by a jealous enemy to St. Benedict
  • Above the cup are the Latin words, Crus s. patris Benedicti (The Cross of Our Holy Father Benedict)
  • On the margin encircling the figure of St. Benedict are the Latin words, Eius in obitu nostro praesentia muniamur (May we be strengthened by his presence in the hour of our death)
  • Below St. Benedict's feet we read, SM Casino MDCCCLXXX (From Holy Montecassino, 1880)

Back Side of St. Benedict Medal
  • The Latin word, Pax at the top which means Peace
  • The cross image is dominant with the Latin inscriptions on the arms, Crux sacra sit mihi lux! Nunquam draco sit mihi dux! (May the holy cross always be my light! May the dragon never be my guide!)
  • In the angles of the cross, the letters CSPB which stands for Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti (The cross of our holy father Benedict)
  • Around the margin are the letters, VRSNSMV-SMQLIVB, which is a Latin prayer of exorcism against Satan, Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas! (Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!)


May Our Lady Queen of Peace, inspire and guide you in your selection.




Thursday, February 27, 2014

PBS Frontline Documentary - Secrets of The Vatican

Mass celebrated at St. Peter's Basilica

Recently PBS Frontline aired a documentary, Secrets of the Vatican, which I was inspired to watch. At first, I was somewhat suspect of the documentary from its title alone, and although I did try watch it with an open mind, in the end it only confirmed my suspicion, that it was a skewed presentation. The documentary spawned an on line discussion that included many views and opinions that were very secular in their tone, somewhat hostile and lacking what I considered to be an appropriate attitude. 

I decided to join the discussion to counter the overwhelming negative exchange of views. Hoping to change the tone and provide a more positive approach, I posted my comment. In addition to the PBS discussion, I decided to turn my comment into a blog post and in so doing, reach an even wider audience in the process.

You do not necessarily need to watch the documentary to fully understand the content of my comment, but it would certainly help if you did, just so you can see for yourself what type of presentation PBS aired on the Vatican. Below is my comment:


Beginning of Comment
After viewing this documentary and scrolling through all of the comments below, I would like to offer my thoughts that I hope will encourage everyone to direct their concerns into a much more positive direction.

Although there are many details that one could concern oneself with, the main thrust of any problems that may exist are a matter of a spiritual battle from an unseen enemy, who remains quiet and seems to have drawn very little attention from this documentary and this discussion. I am referring to the Evil One who works extremely hard to attack the Catholic Church and in particular the clergy. Make no mistake, their struggles against sin and temptation are greater because of the prize is greater for the Tempter, the Father of Lies, the Devil. Does this mean they are not responsible for their actions? Of course not. This is especially true for actual cases of sexual abuse. If clergy are leading double lives, involved in financial wrong doing or some other unethical activity, this should not be denied in any way. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's actions are indicative of this as he has defrocked over 400 priests, a fact that this documentary failed to mention by the way. I believe Pope Francis has a few battle fronts within, on matters that are of great importance for those within and outside the Vatican, and he is dealing with these battles, taking steps and making changes that will restore credibility and put things into proper order. No easy task to say the least. Please pray for him!

I firmly believe that Pope Francis' example, one of mercy, love and compassion should be at the fore front of any view and approach regarding any issue. The temptation to be righteous is and can be one that lacks mercy. As Catholics and Christians alike, we are called to be merciful and that has to mean something. Being merciful with your friend or family, is probably not that difficult, most of the time, but how much more significant and a proper response to be merciful is it, when it is extremely difficult, painful perhaps and even bitter. Will you only be merciful when it is easy or convenient or when you agree to be? No matter what the details may or may not be, this documentary is not a "carte blanche" for the public to begin a condemnation campaign, gossip and incite hatred. Remember what Jesus said to the mob about to stone the woman for adultery, "cast the first stone he who has not sinned."

More important that focussing on what this documentary chose to talk about, is praying for the clergy. For some, like myself who are Roman Catholic, this is especially important as it is line with what Our Lady in Medjugorje is telling us about how to think and care about our clergy. The answer is not in nasty and ugly discussion, but to direct your concerns into prayer. Our Lady states that our world is full of gossip and our priests do not need anyone's judgement. God will judge them accordingly to how they fulfilled their priestly duties and ministries, and God will judge us how we treated our priests. If you really care for the priesthood of the Catholic Church and the Church itself, pray for our priests because this is the best way you can help them. To criticize them harms them and does them no good. What ever you may know, pray for our priests and especially through the Rosary, the second most powerful prayer next to the Mass. You can find this important approach from the visionary Mirjana Soldo (formerly Dragicevic) at my blog, domenicmarando.blogspot.ca, in which I dedicate an entire post to this approach, entitled, "Medjugorje Message - Pray For Our Priests." You can find this post under the label, "Medjugorje."

Our Lady Queen of Peace, pray for us.


--------
End of Comment


If you would like, I encourage you to send me your thoughts, especially for those that have watched the documentary prior to reading this post.




Saturday, February 22, 2014

Yoga, Tai-Chi and Reiki - A Guide For Christians

Brother Max Sculley, author of Yoga, Tai-Chi and Reiki- A Guide For Christians

Today's post, Yoga, Tai-Chi and Reiki - A Guide For Christians, is based on a book of the same title written by Brother Max Sculley, a De La Salle brother based in Brisbane, Australia. It is the third selected resource from my research on the New Age that was listed on my initial post, The New Age - A Basic Introduction. The publication of Brother Max's book serves as a timely warning against these popular mainstream practices that claim to provide wellness, health and relaxation, but in fact are closely linked to Eastern philosophies that are incompatible with Christianity. Brother Max exposes the deceptive techniques in which devotees are invited to engage their minds to enter into an "altered state of consciousness," claimed to be necessary to provide any real benefit. This is where the danger lies. Bishop Julian Porteous, Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney in the Foreward, elaborates on the danger when he states that the practitioner is introduced into a world inimical to the Christian faith. The entire process is synonymous to a "Trojan horse" for dangerous spiritual infiltration that can eventually lead to exposure to demonic forces and ultimately spiralling downward that any person who follows these religious philosophies to their full extent can find themselves worshipping a false God.

Bishop Porteous's Foreward is a concise and clear warning to Catholics and Christians alike, to completely avoid these practices. Porteou's observations of the subtlety upon which these practices have entered into the mainstream Australian culture is sure to resonate with many of us around the world. Much of what he describes for example, mirrors the Canadian experience. With such practices having become a global phenomenon, it is incumbent upon all concerned Christians to be better informed. Porteou's Foreward will certainly encourage the reader to do just that. Bishop Porteous extended his support for this publication with his presence and promotional effort at the Sydney book launching. The YouTube video of the book's Sydney launching is also available for viewing at my blog's sidebar. I definitely recommend you watch this brief five minute video as Brother Max concisely explains and alerts the viewer to the main dangers of these New Age practices.

Here in my own local community of Woodbridge, Ontario one that is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, there are several New Age shops operating within. Yoga appears to be the most popular. Not only are there dedicated Yoga shops, but most gyms and health clubs provide Yoga classes as well. This sad reality is an indication of a sharp decline in faith, one that has left many of my fellow Catholics and Christians alike, unaware of the spiritual dangers of these practices. I hope that this and subsequent posts on this subject matter will help to remedy this and raise the awareness level in my community, as well as to others in Canada and throughout the world.

A common thread amongst Yoga, Tai-Chi and Reiki is an "altered state of consciousness," which Brother Max describes as "abnormal states" that are brought on by a variety of techniques. Brother Max elaborates in the aforementioned video how these "altered states of consciousness" open our minds to demonic influences, changing our faith system and beliefs in the process. This can result in psychic gifts common to Yoga, Tai-Chi and Reiki and once we open ourselves up to these psychic powers, all sorts of difficulties can result.

One of the most interesting aspects of Brother Max's research is how practitioners of these New Age practices give no credence to the spiritual beliefs underlying them. I too have experienced similar findings in my awareness efforts. Typically, a practitioner will attempt to distance the techniques from the New Age spirituality. A common reply to my alerting others to the dangers of these practices has been, "it is only exercising or relaxation, we don't get involved in the spiritual aspect of it." This is a failure on the part of the practitioner to realize that by engaging in these practices, they allow for their minds to be altered, creating a void, which is completely contrary to Christian meditation and prayer and should be considered as Brother Max states in his video, "positively dangerous."

These "altered states of consciousness" are at the heart of New Age spirituality and are generally characterized by a "significant reduction of logical thought and passivity of will." (p. 8) Brother Max distinguishes such states from what the reader may characterize as daydreaming, genuine visions and ecstasies or prophetic revelations, all of which are not the result of induced techniques, but always a gift of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Holy Spirit and its relevance to proper Christian meditation, has been clearly explained by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the document, Some Aspects of Christian Meditation:
From the dogmatic point of view, it is impossible to arrive at a perfect love of God if one ignores his giving of himself to us through his Incarnate Son, who was crucified and rose from the dead. In Him, under the action of the Holy Spirit, we participate, through pure grace, in the interior life of God...As St. Ignatius says in the Spiritual Exercises, we should try to capture "the infinite perfume and the infinite sweetness of the divinity" (n. 124), going forward from that finite revealed truth from which we have begun. While he raises us up, God is free to "empty" us of all that holds us back in this world, to draw us completely into the Trinitarian life of his eternal love. However, this gift can only be granted "in Christ through the Holy Spirit," and not through our own efforts, withdrawing ourselves from his revelation. (20)
The aforementioned document is an essential read for anyone seeking to be properly informed and gain a correct understanding of Christian meditation. I have written about this document in my previous post, Some Aspects of Christian Meditation.

In essence, the New Age approach of "altered states of consciousness" directs the practitioner to create a void within. This is in sharp contrast to the Christian approach, as further noted in Some Aspects of Christian Meditation, where the emptiness that God requires is that of the renunciation of personal selfishness and not necessarily the renunciation of those created things which God has given and placed amongst us. (19) So why the concern for these "altered states of consciousness?" As Brother Max points out, the negative ramifications of "ASC's " can result in mental illness, occult bondage, demonic influence and spirit possession. (p.9)

One such example of the negative ramifications of "ASC" is the case of Carl, an American parapsychologist and professor at a Mid-Western university, whose misguided curiousity led him to embrace deceptive New Age practices that eventually resulted in his demonic possession. It is a case of demonic possession that has been documented in a well known book on the subject matter by Malachi Martin's Hostage To The Devil. The book is about the possession and exorcism of five contemporary Americans, Carl being one of them. Each case was given a specific name by Malachi Martin and in Carl's case, the name assigned to it was, The Rooster and The Tortoise. The case itself is a fascinating read as are the other four cases, each one revealing the complexity and sophistication upon which demons deceived their victims, striving to reach their ultimate goal, demonic possession. In Carl's case, he was deceived by the notion that Christianity had become corrupt over the centuries coupled with a curiousity to discover the "real Church" by travelling back in time to it's origins by means of "astral travel."

After Carl's exorcism, he lived the truth by following Christ. Part of that truth was an admission to his students of what he had done. Below is a partial quote of Carl's admission from The Rooster and The Tortoise:
...Solemnly and of my own free will, I wish to acknowledge that knowingly and freely I entered into possession by an evil spirit. And, although that spirit came to me under the guise of saving me, perfecting me, helping me to help others, I knew all along it was evil...I never enjoyed astral body travel, only the illusion of it...My central error, which was both intellectual and moral in character, concerned the nature of ordinary human consciousness...(p. 403-4)
Carl's case is a prime example of the worst case scenario of the dangers of practicing ASC's in a disciplined way over an extended period of time. The inclusion of Carl's case is an indication of just how thorough Brother Max's research has been. It is a thoroughness that is equally matched by his brotherly love to share his research with Catholics and Christians alike and to all people of good will. Brother Max's brotherly love and sincerity can only be captured in his own words: 
Many Christians who practise yoga and tai chi seek to distance themselves from the pagan system of beliefs underlying each. What they fail to realise is that the mind-altering techniques which are an integral part of these practices, by themselves alone, present serious spiritual risks. My sincere hope and prayer is that this book my alert Christians, and indeed all people of good will, to the dangers hidden beneath the surface of these apparently innocent and healing arts. May those who have been already seduced by the sensations of bliss and the occult powers gained through them, come, through the Blood and Water which flow from the All-merciful Heart of Jesus, to that experience of the love of the one true God which surpasses all comprehension. (p.10)
For anyone serious about discovering the truth about Yoga, Tai-Chi and Reiki, Brother Max's book is a must read. In my view, it is one of "the" resources available that one should have to obtain a thorough and complete understanding of these New Age practices. This book is available for purchase from Connor Court Publishing

May your discovery of the truth be a reflection the Psalmist's plea, "Make me know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long." (Psalm 25)





Saturday, February 15, 2014

Some Aspects of Christian Meditation

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) when he served as Head of the
Congregation For The Doctrine of The Faith

When most people think of meditation, probably what comes to mind is something from Hinduism, Buddhism or some other Eastern religion. Catholics do not fair much better. Christian meditation is not something that many Catholics and Christians know much about. If you happen to fall into this group, today's posting is definitely for you.

A considerable number of Catholics have abandoned Christianity and wandered to Eastern religions to discover what they have to offer them, failing to recognize that the Catholic faith provides for complete spiritual growth in the form of meditative prayer. I hope to help remedy this sad reality by focussing on the genuine tradition of the Catholic Church, one that ensures that meditation never loses the correct personal and communitarian nature. Today's post contributes to a series of posts I have been publishing on the New Age and forms part of an awareness effort that began on my blog with the initial post, The New Age - An Introduction. I have based today's post on the second source originally listed at the above noted initial post, the Vatican document Letter to The Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation. It was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) on October 15, 1989 on the Feast of Saint Teresa of Jesus. This document is key to understanding what constitutes authentic Christian meditation. I have included it in my research not only because it will help identify how Catholics should prepare and engage in meditative prayer, but it will also serve to "filter" out the many deceptive New Age practices, whose techniques and somewhat ambiguous language, entice many away from proper Christian meditation.

At issue are the erroneous "eastern methods" of meditation inspired by such religions as Hinduism and Buddhism, that include practices such as Yoga, Zen and Transcendental Meditation. Not only have such erroneous methods of prayer infiltrated Catholic parish communities, but they have been met with very little opposition. To make matters worse, these and other "eastern methods" have been embraced and promoted by those who clearly have failed to seek the truth about the New Age spirituality underlying their techniques and practices.

So, let us briefly review what is authentic Christian prayer. To begin with this understanding will enable us to clearly identify the errors presented by eastern methods. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger provides a concise and clear premise of what Christian prayer is: 
Christian prayer is always determined by the structure of the Christian faith, in which the very truth of God and creature shines forth. For this reason, it is defined, properly speaking, as a personal, intimate and profound dialogue between man and God. It expresses therefore the communion of redeemed creatures with the intimate life of the Persons of the Trinity. This communion, based on Baptism and the Eucharist, source and summit of the life of the Church, implies an attitude of conversion, a flight from "self" to the "You" of God. Thus Christian prayer is at the same time always authentically personal and communitarian. It flees from impersonal techniques or from concentrating on oneself, which can create a kind of rut, imprisoning the person praying in a spiritual privatism which is incapable of a free openness to the transcendental God. Within the Church, in the legitimate search for new methods of meditation it must always be borne in mind that the essential element of authentic Christian prayer is the meeting of two freedoms, the infinite freedom of God with the finite freedom of man. (3)
By clearly understanding what constitutes authentic Christian meditative prayer, we avoid the potential danger of falling into syncretism. Syncretism is the combining of different religions, cultures and ways of thinking. (12) Syncretism can occur when the truth is not known or understood. Under such conditions, many eastern religions and their New Age practices and ideas can infiltrate Christian communities and be seen as positive inclusions to help people in a variety of ways. Yoga comes to mind immediately as it is typically categorized as an "exercise only activity with no spirituality attached." Nothing could be farther from the truth. The techniques in yoga have a specific purpose, part of which is to bring the practitioner into an "altered state of consciousness" which in itself is the gateway to exposing one to the demonic. If such dangers have become a reality in some parishes, then what is authentically Christian in Catholic meditation has become diluted, diminished and perhaps even completely vanquished from the understanding of those individuals who practice and promote eastern methods of meditation.

A key aspect of authentic Christian meditation involves an ascetic struggle and a purification from one's own sins and errors. (18) Let us not forget the words of our Saviour, "Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8) The Gospel lesson from this approach is a moral purification from the lack of truth and love, and on a deeper level, from our selfish instincts which are an impediment to recognizing and accepting God's will in its purity. (18) Once we free ourselves from our selfishness and passions, we then can proceed to be free in God, a true positive freedom. Employing such an approach is in essence a matter of self denial, served by the practice of mortification. It is through self denial that we are free to carry out the will of God and share in the freedom of the Holy Spirit. (18)

For Catholics and Christians alike, the approach of emptying oneself in no way implies a disconnect with the true God of Israel. The emptying of oneself that God requires is to put it concisely, a renunciation of personal selfishness and not the renunciation of those created things that God has given us and has placed among us for our earthly pilgrimage. Pope Emeritus Benedict XI, then Cardinal Ratzinger clearly makes point understood:
On this topic St. Augustine is an excellent teacher: if you want to find God, he says, abandon the exterior world and re-enter into yourself. However, he continues, do not remain in yourself, but go beyond yourself because you are not God: He is deeper and greater than you. "I look for his substance in my soul and I do not find it; I have however meditated on the search for God and, reaching out to him, through created things, I have sought to know 'the invisible perfections of God' (Rom 1:20)." "To remain in oneself": this is the real danger. The great Doctor of the Church recommends concentrating on oneself, but also transcending the self which is not God, but only a creature. God is "deeper than my inmost being and higher than my greatest height." In fact God is in us and with us, but he transcends us in his mystery. (19)
As Catholics and Christians alike, we must always remember that arriving at union with God, seeking HIm in meditation is His gift to us. We can not achieve this by some "technique" whether that involves the utterance of sounds or the abnormal movements and positioning of our bodies. Our desire and the opportunity to be emptied from all that inhibits us from being free in God, is God's gift to us for those who sincerely seek it. It is a gift that can only be granted in Christ through the Holy Spirit and never through our own efforts. (20)

As we journey on this earthly pilgrimage seeking a greater union with God, let us never forget that authentic Christian meditation always flows to the Father in Heaven. Our seeking God will be a matter of the Holy Spirit guiding us, through Christ, to the Father. (29) As I conclude this post, I would like to leave you with the following quote from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI that captures the authenticity of Christian meditation: 
The love of God, the sole object of Christian contemplation, is a reality which cannot be "mastered" by any method or technique. On the contrary, we must always have our sights fixed on Jesus Christ, in whom God's love went to the cross for us and there assumed even the condition of estrangement from the Father (cf. Mk 13:34). We therefore should allow God to decide the way he wishes to have us participate in his love. But we can never, in any way, seek to place ourselves on the same level as the object of our contemplation, the free love of God; not even when, through the mercy of God the Father and the Holy Spirit sent into our hearts, we receive in Christ the gracious gift of a sensible reflection of that divine love and we feel drawn by the truth and beauty and goodness of the Lord. The more a creature is permitted to draw near to God, the greater his reverence before the thrice-holy God. One then understands those words of St. Augustine: "You can call me friend; I recognize myself a servant." (31)
If we truly seek God in meditation, let us not be deceived by the many New Age alternatives to Christian meditation. Rather, let us as Catholics and Christians alike, focus our efforts on true, authentic Christian meditation, which always has at its core, Jesus Christ our Saviour and Redeemer. May we never forget Christ's words to us, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)