Monday, October 27, 2014

Everyday Prayers – Grace After Meals

Most people pray some kind of grace before meals, but how many people do you know who pray grace after meals? This used to be a common Catholic practice, but it has slipped into disuse over the years. Perhaps it's time to renew the practice with the following little prayer:

We give Thee thanks for all Thy benefits, O Almighty God, Who livest and reignest forever; and may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Let's take a close look at the meaning of this compact yet expressive prayer.

1. We give Thee thanks for all Thy benefits – By saying this, we are recognizing that everything we have comes from God. He pours out His benefits upon us: His love, His mercy, His blessings, all our material possessions, the natural world around us, and even our very existence. Our job is to acknowledge God as our source and to give Him thanks with a grateful, loving heart.

2. O Almighty God – God is all-powerful or omnipotent. People often have difficulty wrapping their minds around that. God can do anything He wills to do, but He always wills what is good, true, and beautiful because He is, in His own nature, Goodness, Truth, and Beauty at their highest.

3. Who livest and reignest forever – God is Being itself. He does not depend on anyone or anything for His existence. He simply is. He lives. God is also the highest of kings. As the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, all-seeing, all-loving God, He reigns supreme over the whole universe and every creature in it, for He made them all and holds them all in existence at every moment. What's more, God lives and reigns forever. He is eternal. He has no beginning, and He will have no end.

4. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace – Catholics must pray for the souls of the faithful departed who are or may be in Purgatory. Our prayers and the good works we offer for them help to bring down God's mercy upon them. For a more in-depth explanation of how this works, please click here. The goal of our prayers is, of course, the souls' eternal rest in the presence of God in Heaven. That indeed is true peace beyond anything we can grasp here on earth.

5. Amen  With this one little word, we give our final, heartfelt “yes” to our prayer.

From here on out, then, let's remember to pray this short but very meaningful prayer after every meal:

We give Thee thanks for all Thy benefits, O Almighty God, Who livest and reignest forever; and may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Everyday Prayers – Grace before Meals

How often do you pray grace before meals? Do you say the “traditional” Catholic prayer of grace as below?

Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Even if you do pray this little prayer several times a day, do you ever stop to think about what it really means? Or do you just rattle it off out of habit? 

In this post, we're going to take a close look at this familiar prayer and discover what it tells us about God, about His gifts, and about ourselves.

1. Bless us, O Lord – We begin the prayer by asking for God's blessing upon us. Think about the verb “bless” for a moment. We use the word and its derivatives all the time, but do we really understand what they mean? Do we really know what we are asking when we ask God to bless us?

When we ask God to bless us, we are requesting that He pour out His divine favor upon us. We are begging Him to shower down His love upon us and to give us all the good things that we need. What's more, we are urging Him to set us aside for His purposes, to make us His own holy people, consecrated to Him and sanctified for His service. That's a lot of meaning and a big request in one little word! But God is all too happy to bless us. We just need to open our hearts to accept the blessings He gives us.

2. and these Thy gifts – Everything we have ultimately comes from God. He is the Creator, Who has provided this world for us to live in, food for us to eat, and materials to make our clothing and shelter. When we pray these four little words, we admit that fact, acknowledging our dependence on God, recognizing His gracious providence, and gratefully accepting His wonderful gifts.

Further, we ask God to bless these gifts that He has given. We request that He pour His favor out upon His gifts so that they can be maximally useful to us and meet our needs perfectly. 

3. which we are about to receive from Thy bounty – Once again, we are acknowledging the great gifts of God and proclaiming that everything we have comes from Him, the divine Giver. What's more, we recognize that God possesses great bounty. All things belong to Him, but He shares them with us. He provides for our needs, often very lavishly when it is to our benefit.

4. though Christ our Lord – The Father uses a specific channel when He pours out His gifts upon His people. Everything comes through Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He is the God-Man and the mediator between God and man. He is the Word of God through Whom and for Whom all things were made and in Whom all things live and move and have their being.

5. Amen – In saying Amen, we give our assent to everything we have just prayed. We say “yes” once again to our prayer and to God.

Next time you say grace before a meal, then, be sure to think closely about what you are praying and mean every single word you say.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Rediscover Catholicism Celebration 2014

Last Saturday, October 4, 2014, I was privileged and blessed to attend the Rediscover Catholicism Celebration at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The celebration featured a fine set of speakers, excellent music, and a most-beautiful Holy Mass celebrated by Archbishop John Nienstedt.

In this post, I'm going to share a few outstanding ideas from each of the speakers I heard at the celebration. These are just “teasers” for reflection and “food for thought,” and I would highly suggest that interested blog readers order their own copies of the talks, which are available through the Rediscover website.

The celebration's theme was “Horizon of Hope.”

Jeff Cavins

Jeff Cavins was the celebration's emcee, but he offered some excellent reflections along the way. Here are just a couple:

“We are a people of faith on a journey to a new horizon of hope.”

“Our Catholic faith is the transcendent road map toward the horizon of hope.”

Archbishop Paul Coakley

The title of Archbishop Paul Coakley's talk was “Prayer as an Expression of Hope.” He began by noting that prayer is the setting for hope and that prayer sustains hope because in prayer we gratefully remember the wonderful things God has done in the past and recall that He will always be just as loving and faithful in the future. 

The Archbishop also reminded his listeners of a passage in St. John's Gospel in which John the Baptist points out Jesus to his disciples. The disciples turn to Jesus and ask Him where He is staying. He replies, “Come and see,” and they follow Him. St. John then notes that it was about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. The Archbishop then invited his listeners to remember their own “4 o'clock moments,” those moments when God has specially touched their hearts and transformed their lives. 

Father Dave Dwyer

Father Dave Dwyer's presentation, entitled “The New Evangelization in Your Everyday Life,” helped his hearers understand the term “New Evangelization” as the “reaching out to baptized Catholics and rekindling of faith in persons and cultures where it has grown lackluster.”

Father Dwyer also told his hearers that the “New Evangelization” must start with each Catholic individual. “We can't give away what we don't have,” he said practically, so “we need to be reconverted and set on fire.” That means renewing prayer life, living the Mass, being nourished by the Eucharist, and ever deepening and strengthening one's relationship with God.

Scott Hahn

Dr. Scott Hahn also emphasized the role of the Mass in the New Evangelization. “The basis for the New Evangelization is the Eucharist,” he taught. In the Mass, he continued, Catholics breathe in the Spirit and ingest the Word of God. Then they go forth to proclaim the Word they received and exhale the Spirit.

Several of the main points of Dr. Hahn's talk came from his books Consuming the Word and Evangelizing Catholics. He pointed out especially that Catholics need to be joyful in their faith in order to draw others back to or into the Church. When Catholics lack joy, he said, God is reminding them that they still need that ongoing grace of conversion in their own lives that opens the door to the joy that only Jesus can give.

If these ideas have inspired and/or intrigued you, please visit the Rediscover website to order your own copies of the above talks and the many other wonderful presentations that were part of this year's Rediscover Catholic Celebration.