Is a Mass offered for one who is still living more powerful than a Mass celebrated for that person after he or she has died? I often wondered about that, so I wrote to Father Edward McNamara, a noted professor of liturgy, at the Regina Apostolorum University in Rome. This is how he responded to my inquiry:
I was deeply immersed in yoga for almost 20 years. Once I began to discover the many hidden truths, I stopped teaching and never looked back. As Jesus says “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
In a previous article, I made the point that God’s presence in our lives is the main reason we should have no fear. He’s God, loves us unconditionally and can handle any problem that arises. Keeping that in mind will often be enough to calm our nerves even in the midst of turmoil. Sometimes, however, even the most devout Christians still experience fear. Is this normal? Could it point to an underlying spiritual problem?
First, we need to understand that fear is an emotion, also known as a passion or a feeling. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Feelings or passions are emotions or movements of the sensitive appetite that incline us to act or not to act in regard to something felt or imagined to be good or evil. (CCC 1763)
In themselves passions are neither good nor evil. (CCC 1767)
Even though your brain may tell you otherwise, the Church teaches that there is nothing morally wrong with being afraid. That’s good news, isn’t it? In case you’re still not convinced, the Bible contains numerous examples of very holy people who experienced the emotion of fear. In the pages of Sacred Scripture we see that Moses (Exodus 2:14), Elijah (1 Kings 19:3), David (1 Chronicles 13:12), Mary (Luke 1:30), Joseph (Matthew 1:20) and Paul (Acts 27:24) were all afraid at some point in their lives. Take a glance at that list of names again. Moses, St. Joseph, the Blessed Mother? That’s a very impressive list. At one time or another, they were afraid. Therefore, the fact that you are afraid at times doesn’t necessarily mean there is a problem with your faith.
When you are afraid, it means that you are experiencing a normal human emotion. Are there times when we are afraid and we shouldn’t be? Absolutely, but I’ll leave that discussion to the psychologists and therapists. I am not a mental health professional, but I know a thing or two about managing anxiety. I have dealt with the panic attacks, digestive issues and sleepless nights however, since I bought my CBD cartridge these symptoms have been decreasing.
I know what it’s like to be afraid of the future and feel hopeless. Fortunately, I also know that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can allow chronic worriers like me to live in peace. And, while it’s okay to be afraid, it’s not okay to let that fear lead you to worry. God desires something better for you. Rather than give you a list of when and when not to be afraid, I will encourage you to let your fear be the door that leads you closer to Christ. Whenever you feel afraid, think of the following message from Jesus:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)
When you are afraid, Jesus is knocking on your door. If you open it up and let Him in, He will grant you His peace. How do you open the door for Him? Here are some simple steps that will get you started:
1. Pray – It is not possible to have a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ and experience the peace that He wants to give you without praying every day. Make it a point to start your day by saying “Good Morning” to Jesus and ask for the grace that you need to get through the day. Instead of worrying about your problems, ask Jesus to help you with them. I guarantee that He cares (1 Peter 5:7) and will not turn a deaf ear to you. Also, ask Him to help you make it through the day without worrying. How much time should you spend with the Lord? As much as you can, but I recommend that you start with five minutes. If you can’t find the time for prayer, use some of your “worrying” time!
2. Read the Bible – This is something that I avoided for years. Even when I realized that it might be helpful to read the Bible, I was intimidated by its size and confusing language. I now understand that the Lord speaks to me whenever I read Scripture. Reading the Bible daily will put you in direct contact with the Lord and bring you peace. If you are not familiar with the Bible and don’t know where to start, I recommend that you either start with the daily Mass readings (available online or in numerous Catholic magazines) or the Gospel of Mark. He gets right to the point and you’ll read about Jesus performing several healings in the first chapter alone. As a worrier, you need to know that Jesus loves you and can perform miracles in your life. It becomes more difficult to worry when you begin to understand His power and His love.
3. Receive the Sacraments – The Sacraments give grace and allow you to grow closer to Christ. That will result in increased peace. Once I started going to daily Mass and confessing my sins at least monthly, my anxiety level decreased dramatically. What a great gift! Christ instituted the Sacraments to draw us close to Him and help us reach heaven. The closer you are to Jesus, the less you will worry. Don’t make the mistake of trying to conquer worry on your own. Instead, let Jesus help you. It will not only be more effective, but it will make Him happy. He wants to help you so why not let Him?
While it’s probably true that you’re sometimes afraid because you don’t trust God, it’s more important to look at how you respond to that feeling. If your fear leads you to the Lord then look at it as a blessing. Who knows where you would be without it? Jesus loves you and wants to draw you close to Him. For many of us, He does it through our anxiety. Ultimately, the end result is the same. The closer you get to Jesus, the more peace you will feel. Being with Him and experiencing His peace is what counts. How you get there doesn’t really matter.
“We must not fear fear.” —St. Francis de Sales
It is our duty to pray especially for the souls of our family, friends, and benefactors. Pray especially for our priests, and consecrated religious. We tend to “canonize” our clergy and loved ones immediately after their death. Fr. Frederick Faber tells us: “We are apt to leave off too soon praying for our parents, friends, or relatives, imagining with a foolish enlightened esteem for the holiness of their lives, that they are freed from purgatory much sooner than they really are.”
We received the following inquiry from one of our readers:
“I just visited the regional Catholic young adults website for our diocese and was, at first, pleased to see that they were encouraging spiritual direction for young adults, even providing a list of spiritual directors, questions to ask a spiritual director, etc. I then found that they referred repeatedly to an entity called “Spiritual [Directors] International,” (http://www.sdiworld.org) which apparently seeks to somehow bring together, in one place, information and resources about spiritual direction for Buddhists, Christians, Eastern-Philosophy, Muslims, and Jews etc.
Here’s the introductory paragraph on the Spiritual Directors International home page:
“Do you want to be part of an inclusive, global contemplative movement that contributes to peace, justice, and living in right relationship with all creation? Together we are changing the world through the contemplative action of spiritual direction.”
I was taken aback that earnest young adults at this critical time of discernment in their lives were being guided to what seems to me to be an impossibly diverse and nebulous collaboration of spiritualities. What is wrong with this picture? And what, pray tell, could I do to help these naive young people, who are likely to be led astray? God have mercy! I now understand on a whole new level why you are so passionate about your work to help Catholics gain access to authentically Catholic spiritual direction.”
Obviously the person asking the question is more than capable of making a sound assessment of this situation. It seems very clear that Spiritual Directors International is consistent with their stated goals. However, to determine just how “inclusive” they are I decided to inquire as to whether or not a Catholic seeking spiritual direction through them could end up say, in the hands of a practicing Witch.
To do this I sent a simple inquiry into Spiritual Directors International. Here’s what I wrote and their response (emphasis mine):
Question Sent to SDI: “Would I be allowed to be a member [of SDI] as a Wiccan?”
Answer from SDI: “Thanks for asking. Yes, you would certainly be welcome to become a member! SDI is an inclusive, multi-faith global learning community and there are no requirements or conditions for membership or being listed on the Seek and Find Guide.”
There you have it, plain as day. The bottom line is that any Catholic seeking authentic Catholic spirituality and spiritual direction in keeping with the same would do well to steer clear of Spiritual Direction International.
This blog originally appeared on the Spiritual Direction website on March 2, 2020 and is reprinted here with the kind permission of Dan Burke.
We have been studying My Soul Thirsts for God, for the Living God, a document on prayer released by Spain’s bishops in September. Last time, we discussed the theological foundations for prayer. Now we get into the heart of the document, applying these theological foundations to popular spiritual practices, especially those originating in Buddhism.
After discerning God’s will to integrate prayer and spirituality into healthcare, I left my mainstream physical therapy job in 2017. I was amazed at how much better my patients improved with an hour of one-on-one care, more time to listen and encourage them, and especially prayer for healing.
When I was ten years old I began being groomed by my aunt’s husband as I babysat their children. He eventually raped me at the age of 13.
Every Morning of Grace is another opportunity to have our Lord stretch our hearts ever larger. Our Blessed Mother and her Holy Spouse take us and form us more and more into His little handmaids. “For Such a Time as This” we give Him our “fiats.”