Wednesday, September 30, 2009

France Ars Retreat update 9/30/09

A lay woman this afternoon posed the following question to the priests: 'Fathers, when one enters thru the seminary doors, does he become a saint automatically? Does his weaknesses vanish and virtues increase as if by a miracle?' She gave this image to illustrate the challenge for priests to spousal love for Jesus. Chastity for priest is not only renunciation of one's gift to be earthly husband and father, but embracing our only love, Jesus. Priests, just as earthly husbands, face challenges to this exclusive, faithful, fruitful love. Chastity is both God given from above and a virtue to develop. Inappropriate relationships, custody of the eyes, inappropriate use of Internet--like earthly husbands, priests need to sacrifice themselves to keep for their love for Jesus pure and undivided. St. John of the Cross spoke of us as a log being consumed in a fire. The fire is God's love, and when we empty ourselves of selfish desires, we, the log, become one fire consumed in His love. Our will needs to be sacrificed, as a bull is cut up and placed before Elijah's altar to be consumed by the fire of God.

Another lay woman, Patty Mansfield from New Orleans, spoke to us of how this fire is the Holy Spirit. We are to ask for this fire, and the Lord is more than generous to send Him down. She quoted St. Jean Vianney on his illustratration of the Holy Spirit. He said to those he were catechizing, 'If we were to ask those who were damned how they got to hell, they will reply that by resisting the Holy Spirit. Conversely if we asked saints in heaven how they got there, they'll say by being obedient to the Holy Spirit.'

Both speakers embellished what Cardinal Schonborn spoke this morning. He began, 'Battle of prayer is battle for life.' He first told us about how as a young 18 year old Dominican novice in the period immediately after Vatican II, prayer was thrown out in favor of replacing it with social justice actions. Soon within a year without prayer in his life, he was deciding to leave the religious life. Why did he stay? He later learned that an old wise Dominican priest in that same house prayed for him. Sacrifice of prayer by one aided another who was without any prayer. Battle of prayer is battle for life.

What is unique about Christian prayer? Certainly the prayer by Buddhist are admirable. Zen meditation also seems attractive. Yet what is Christian prayer? At the heart of the prayer is Jesus whom we gaze, adore, and love. The cardinal tells a story of staying at a monastery for few days. He attempted one night try to pray thru the night, like some sisters in that monastery do. After 1am, he was tired, sleepy, and cold. He returned to his room and slept, saying to Jesus, Lord I'm sorry, I tried. The next morning he was opened the bible to preach a mass for the sisters, and his eyes fell on the passage, 'and Jesus went away to pray thru the night.' He was surprised and told the Lord, 'Lord' I'm glad that you were able to do that and not I.'

A few feet from where the cardinal was speaking, a reliquary containing the incorrupt heart of St Jean Vianney was present. Between the talks many priests were going up to the relic to touch and to pray. Many placed their rosary against it, perhaps hoping that the same zeal for prayer that St Jean Vianney had would help them do the same. It's well known that Jean Vianney had 20 hours per day work days. But he was faithful in spending his time in prayer in the heart and love of Jesus. He was able to do what he did only because he was immersed in Jesus' love thru prayer.
Battle of prayer is battle for life.

Fr Paul