Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Waking up: Bruno Mars vs. St. Josemaria Escriva

In the spirit of concluding our November theme of Prayer and the Liturgy...

So I'm sure most of you have heard "the Lazy Song" by Bruno Mars (if you haven't, don't waste your time or your soul). Essentially the song is all about how he wakes up one day and doesn't want to do anything with his life, he just wants to "lay in his bed" all day long and do other unproductive and generally life-less things (for those of you that may like this song, I am not saying you are a bad person, just trying to show you what you are filling your mind and heart with). Judging by this song, when Bruno wakes up in the morning, he has no purpose, nothing to live for, nothing to fight for. Sadly, I'm sure this is how many people in our society feel.

So, this got me thinking/praying. What is my first thought when I wake up? Mostly its annoyance and a general bitterness for the Hawaiian culture because of the ukelele song that plays on my phone to wake me up. Once I get past that, I reach all the way across my bed to hit the evil snooze button. The other day I came across this passage from St. Josemaria Escriva about what he calls "The Heroic Minute." Take a look:

The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation: a supernatural reflection and… up! The heroic minute: here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body.It's so discouraging to find oneself beaten at the first skirmish (Josemaria Escriva, The Way).

So, this got me thinking. First off, although I am not a doctor, I am pretty certain that the extra 5 minute intervals of "sleep" that we get from snoozing doesn't actually do anything for our body because it is not real sleep or real rest, thus it is purely a psychological battle. This battle seems unwinnable at times.

But wait, there is hope, says our beloved Spanish Powerhouse. If we can just claim that first moment of the day for Christ and give Him control over our life, we will see drastic changes. Instead of allowing Satan to creep in and taint our day with self-love from the very beginning, we can reject him and start our day off with a victory over the evil one! I think it all goes back to the question: What makes you get out of bed in the morning? Obviously, for Bruno Mars, there isn't much to live for, so why get out of bed? Well, my brothers and sisters in Christ- we have a lot to live for, because of what Christ did on the Cross. So let's wake up with purpose and immediately allow the love of God to overwhelm us and fill us to overflowing!

So, give this a try just for one week (only 7 days) and see if it doesn't change the way you go about your day. Try setting your alarm for the ACTUAL time you need to wake up (not 10 minutes earlier just so you can hit snooze twice), and when that alarm clock rings, place two feet on the floor, stand up and just speak the name of Jesus. Don't underestimate the power in prayer, and the power in His name. Besides, what better way to start your day than slapping Satan in the face?

So, I leave you with one question: What do you live for, and is it worth getting out of bed in the morning?

"Unless in the first waking moments of the day you learn to fling the door wide back and let God in, you will work on the wrong level all day; but swing the door wide open and pray to your Father in secret, and every public thing will be stamped with the presence of God."
- Oswald Chambers

By Guest Blogger Austin Ashcraft, FOCUS Missionary

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Are You Free?

In Interior Freedom, Jacques Philippe offers an important challenge. In his own words:

“Every Christian needs to discover that even in this most unfavorable outward circumstances we possess within ourselves a space of freedom that nobody can take away, because God is its source and guarantee. Without this discovery we will always be restricted in some way, and will never taste true happiness.”

Philippe vividly shows that obtaining this “space of freedom” or as it is called elsewhere, interior peace, is not just a nice complement to our life in Jesus Christ, but remains as the central measure of our faith, hope and love in God himself. To illustrate this he examines specific situations where our interior peace might be tested: with ourselves, with others and with suffering. He examines how interior peace relates to our views on the past, the future and the present moment. Rather than making interior peace an airy and abstract concept, he uses real life examples to demonstrate how others have obtained this peace.

Interior Freedom is not for the lighthearted. Readers in the past have noted that it has “rocked their world.” It is a book that reveals your interior to yourself whether you are ready for it or not. While difficult, Philippe’s encouragement gives you the freedom to find interior peace in God’s will and timing.

To order Interior Freedom from the FOCUS book store, click here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Is the New Translation of the Mass More or Less Scriptural?

Below is an interview published on Zenit with our beloved Dr. Sri about the Biblical Roots of the Mass and how the New Translation coming out in a couple weeks will richly enhance our scriptural experience of the Mass. Enjoy!

NOTE: A particularly interesting part of this interview is the second to lass question about ecumenism. Since the New Translation is so much more intimately tied to Scripture, this could be a HUGE tool in helping our Protestant brothers and sisters better understand the beauty of the Catholic Mass!

Interview With Author on Finding Scripture in theNew Translation

By Kathleen Naab

LITTLETON, Colorado, MAY 5, 2011 ( Many Catholics might not realize just how much an hour at church on Sunday mornings puts them in contact with the Bible.

In addition to the readings and psalm, "practically everything in the liturgy has some roots in Scripture,” according to a scholar who has written a book to point out these connections.

Dr. Edward Sri goes into the biblical roots of liturgy in his book, "A Biblical Walk Through the Mass." And he says the forthcoming new translation of the Mass makes these roots even more visible.

ZENIT: Will the new translation help us become more in tune with Scripture and see the links between liturgy and the Bible?

Sri: From the opening Sign of the Cross to the closing “Thanks be to God,” the prayers and rituals of the Mass are permeated by the Bible. Indeed, practically everything in the liturgy has some roots in Scripture. Knowing more about that biblical background will help deepen our understanding of what we are really saying and doing in the Mass.

The new translation of the Mass will help make the biblical background shine more brilliantly. It will convey more fully the rich biblical metaphors, images and allusions found in the Latin text of the Mass.

ZENIT: Can you give some examples?

Sri: In the prayer shortly before Holy Communion is distributed, the priest has been saying, “Happy are those who are called to this supper.” But in the new translation, the priest will say, “Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the lamb.” These new words more clearly recall a climactic moment of the Book of Revelation when Jesus, the Lamb of God, is depicted as a bridegroom joining himself to his bride, the Church. An angel announces this intimate union, saying, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the lamb” (Revelation 19:19). The new translation more clearly echoes the angel’s invitation to the heavenly wedding supper of the lamb and reminds us that Holy Communion is an intimate loving communion with Jesus -- one that is likened to the union shared between husband and wife.

Similarly, the people have been saying, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you …” But in the new translation, we will say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.” The new words reflect the humility and trust of the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant at home (cf. Matthew 8:5-13). As a Roman officer who was in charge of a hundred soldiers oppressing the Jewish people, the centurion humbly acknowledges, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.” Like the centurion, we, at this moment in the Mass, recognize our own unworthiness to have Jesus come sacramentally under the “roof” of our souls in Holy Communion.

ZENIT: How did the history of this intertwining between liturgy and Scripture unfold? Masses were celebrated for decades before Scripture (the New Testament) was even written, so when did liturgical texts and Scriptural texts become so closely linked?

Sri: One could say that the Bible and the liturgy always have gone hand-in-hand. The intertwining of the Bible and liturgical worship is older than the Mass itself, for ancient Jewish worship was filled with allusions to the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus’ words at the Last Supper also contained numerous allusions to Old Testament passages and images. It is not surprising, therefore, that when the Eucharist was celebrated in the early Church, the various expressions of Christian liturgical worship continued to be shaped by biblical themes. Over time, as the rituals and prayers of the Mass developed, the Scriptures remained a key source of inspiration for these liturgical rites and played an important role in helping shape the liturgy that has come down to us today.

ZENIT: From blogs to books, happily there is a lot of information available on the new translation -- for anyone interested to find it. What about those Catholics who are not, perhaps, as interested as they should be. Are there practical ways the Church can take advantage of this catechesis opportunity?

Sri: I think we have a unique opportunity to help the faithful reflect more on the meaning of the Mass and how it relates to their lives. People will need to learn new responses and new musical settings. As they are taken out of their routine in the liturgy and will need to learn the newly translated Mass parts, there is a wonderful opportunity to teach about the meaning of what we say and do in the liturgy and to catechize on the Eucharist and the Mass itself. Thus, I hope the preparation goes beyond mere mechanics -- simply training people to say new responses -- and leads to catechetical and spiritual renewal.

ZENIT: You mention the importance of preparing ourselves, our families and children, for the transition to the new translation. What methods or resources would you suggest?

Sri: First and foremost, we need to take time to educate ourselves about the upcoming changes so that we are able to understand them and enter into the newly translated prayers ourselves. I recommend that people take time to seek out articles and books on this topic. Attending a workshop offered by one’s diocese or parish or by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also could be very helpful.

Moreover, by learning about the Mass changes, we can help others through the transition. Many people have questions about the various changes and about why we even need a new translation. Once we come to grasp the meaning of the changes, we will be better equipped to help explain the meaning behind the changes to others.

We also want to prepare our children for the upcoming transition. In my home, we have just begun talking about the new translation -- albeit in very basic terms that a 10- or 8-year-old might understand. Yet, we should not be surprised at how much children can perceive.

We recently discussed how the new words, “And with your spirit,” point to the unique action of the Holy Spirit working through the ordained priest to change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Our children quickly saw, on their own, how the previous words, “And also with you,” did not convey that important point as clearly. But the key to having conversations like this -- whether it be with our children or friends or family -- is to educate ourselves on the meaning of the changes. The person who does not take time to learn about the new translation will not be able to help others. As the saying goes, “You can’t give what you don’t have.”

ZENIT: Would you say that "A Biblical Walk Through the Mass" is an ecumenical tool?

Sri: I have had a number of Protestant Christians express gratitude for this project. Some have noted how it has helped them appreciate the Mass more and how they never realized how biblical the Mass was. While the primary audience I had in mind was Catholic, I am hopeful that the book might be of service to our Protestant brothers and sisters, helping explain the Mass in Biblical terms that they may find more appealing.

ZENIT: You say your book could be viewed as a "Bible study" on the Mass. Do you see it as a good tool for group sessions?

Sri: The book is meant to be a biblical tour through the Mass parts, helping people understand the significance of all that we say and do in the liturgy. The book can be read on its own for one’s own personal study or devotion. But Ascension Press also has developed excellent supplemental resources that can accompany the book and be used in small group settings for catechesis. There are study workbooks for participants, easy-to-use leaders’ guides and DVD video presentations on the new translation and the Mass as a whole that go along with the "Biblical Walk Through the Mass" book. Parishes, schools and small groups around the country are using these additional components for adult education and to prepare people for the new translation.

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On the Net:

"A Biblical Walk Through the Mass":