Tag Archives: prayer life

12 November, Saturday – Unafraid to Ask

12 November – Memorial for St. Josaphat, Bishop, Religious, Martyr

John (1580-1623) had a father who was a municipal counsellor, and a mother who was known for her piety. He was raised in the Orthodox Ruthenian Church which, on 23 Nov 1595, in the Union of Brest, united with the Church of Rome. He was trained as a merchant’s apprentice in Vilna, and was offered partnership in the business and marriage to his partner’s daughter.

Feeling the call to religious life, he declined both and became a monk in the Ukrainian Order of St. Basil in Vilna at the age of 20 in 1604, taking the name Brother Josaphat. He was ordained a Byzantine rite priest in 1609.

His superior, Samuel, never accepted unity with Rome, and looked for a way to fight against Roman Catholicism and the Uniats, the name given to those who brought about and accepted the union of the churches. Learning of Samuel’s work and fearing the physical and spiritual damage it could cause, Josaphat brought it to the attention of his superiors. The archbishop of Kiev removed Samuel from his post, replacing him with Josaphat.

He was a famous preacher, worked to bring unity among the faithful and bring strayed Christians back to the Church. He became Bishop of Vitebsk. Most religious, fearing interference with the natively developed liturgy and customs, did not want union with Rome. Bishop Josaphat believed unity to be in the best interests of the Church and, by teaching, clerical reform, and personal example, Josaphat won the greater part of the Orthodox in Lithuania to the union. Never completely suitable to either side, Roman authorities sometimes raised objection to Josaphat’s Orthodox actions. He became Archbishop of Polotsk, Lithuania in 1617.

While Josaphat attended the Diet of Warsaw in 1620, a dissident group supported by Cossacks set up anti-Uniat bishops for each Uniat one, spread the accusation that Josaphat had “gone Latin” and that his followers would be forced to do the same, and place an usurper on the archbishop’s chair. Despite warnings, Josaphat went to Vitebsk, a hotbed of trouble, to try to correct the misunderstandings and settle disturbances. The army remained loyal to the king who remained loyal to the Union, and so the army tried to protect Josaphat and his clergy.

Late in 1623, an anti-Uniat priest named Elias shouted insults at Josaphat from his own courtyard, and tried to force his way into the residence. When he was removed, a mob assembled and forced his release. Mob mentality took over, and they invaded the residence. Josaphat tried to insure the safety of his servants before fleeing himself, but did not get out in time, and was martyred by the mob. His death was a shock to both sides of the dispute, brought some sanity and a cooling off period to both sides of the conflict.

“You people of Vitebsk want to put me to death. You make ambushes for me everywhere, in the streets, on the bridges, on the highways, and in the marketplace. I am here among you as a shepherd, and you ought to know that I would be happy to give my life for you. I am ready to die for the holy union, for the supremacy of Saint Peter, and of his successor the Supreme Pontiff.” – St. Josaphat

– Patron Saint Index

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3 John 1:5-8

My friend, you have done faithful work in looking after these brothers, even though they were complete strangers to you. They are a proof to the whole Church of your charity and it would be a very good thing if you could help them on their journey in a way that God would approve. It was entirely for the sake of the name that they set out, without depending on the pagans for anything; it is our duty to welcome men of this sort and contribute our share to their work for the truth.

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Luke 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.”’

And the Lord said ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’

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“Pray continually and never lose heart”

My prayer life has experienced extreme highs and lows over the years.  In the past, when I seldom or never prayed, I found myself dropping to my knees only when there was something I needed to ask our Lord for.  Over time, I began to feel that God become somewhat like my ATM — that I would only pray if there was something I needed from Him. I began to feel like a hypocrite and even started to pray even less.

Thanks to various programmes that I attended, and also to a strong Christian community, I began to pray more regularly, having conversations with our Lord. As I spent more time with Him, I began to lose my aversion to prayer, and began to be able to pray and petition Him. More importantly, I began to lose the feeling that I only turned to God only in times of need. God became more like a close confidant.

Jesus exhorts us to pray continually and He tells us about a poor widow who comes before an unjust judge persistently, in order to seek justice against an enemy. Initially rejecting her, the judge finally accedes to her. I have always likened us to be the widow.

However, I heard another interesting view.  What if we were the judge and God was the widow… and that God continually is the one reaching out to us continually?  Will we ever accede to God and allow Him to touch us?

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

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Prayer: Lord, help us to have the desire to always reach out to You. Help us to be unafraid to speak with you and to let you know our deepest thoughts and desires.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for always being there for us, whether we are aware of it or not. Thank you for listening to us and touching us in our hearts.

30 August, Tuesday – Finding our spirituality source

30 August

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1 Corinthians 2:10-16

The Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God. After all, the depths of a man can only be known by his own spirit, not by any other man, and in the same way the depths of God can only be known by the Spirit of God. Now instead of the spirit of the world, we have received the Spirit that comes from God, to teach us to understand the gifts that he has given us. Therefore we teach, not in the way in which philosophy is taught, but in the way that the Spirit teaches us: we teach spiritual things spiritually. An unspiritual person is one who does not accept anything of the Spirit of God: he sees it all as nonsense; it is beyond his understanding because it can only be understood by means of the Spirit. A spiritual man, on the other hand, is able to judge the value of everything, and his own value is not to be judged by other men. As scripture says: Who can know the mind of the Lord, so who can teach him? But we are those who have the mind of Christ.

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Luke 4:31-37

Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because he spoke with authority.

In the synagogue there was a man who was possessed by the spirit of an unclean devil, and it shouted at the top of its voice, ‘Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the devil, throwing the man down in front of everyone, went out of him without hurting him at all. Astonishment seized them and they were all saying to one another, ‘What teaching! He gives orders to unclean spirits with authority and power and they come out.’ And reports of him went all through the surrounding countryside.

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“Who can know the mind of the Lord, so who can teach him”

My wife and I joined a family ministry in the year 2001, a year after my daughter was born. This was a special experience for both of us, as we experienced God in a way we had never before.

We soon found ourselves leaders of a cell group, ‘leading’ a group of couples. The experience was really good, but my wife and I soon found ourselves riddled with doubt. “Were we worthy enough as leaders?”, “How do we guide our group to be closer to God?”, were just 2 out of a myriad of doubts on our minds.

More importantly, we were feeling extremely tired and taxed. We felt the weight of our responsibilities on our shoulders. Soon, we felt we could not keep going and chose to leave the leadership position.

The answer can be found in the readings of today.

Whenever He had the opportunity, Jesus was always praying. He would go off to be alone. Before His biggest test, Jesus spent time, alone and praying, in the Garden of Gethsemane. The first reading today talks about spirituality and about knowing ‘the mind of Christ’.

Similarly, by learning from our Lord, by spending more time with God, we get to know Him more intimately. It is exactly like spending time with people; the more we spend with them, the more connected we are to them. We know them, how they would think and act. We begin to be able to walk in their shoes. The more we spend time with them, the more we love them (in most parts!) and the more time we want to spend with them.

So it is with getting to know God. I remember Archbishop William Goh repeatedly emphasizing the importance of having ones’ quiet time on a daily basis, whether one felt like it or not. This process of plugging in to our Lord, will give us a deeper level of intimacy, leaving us to desire to know Him even more.

Let us begin to get to know Him more, each and every day!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we will get to know you more and more each day. Help us to know Your will and help us to have the courage and strength to walk closer to You.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Jesus, for showing the path to Our Father, by spending time and connecting through quiet time and prayer. Thank You Father for always being there for us, your children.

19 May, Thursday – Cutting Off Hands and Feet

19 May

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James 5:1-6

An answer for the rich. Start crying, weep for the miseries that are coming to you. Your wealth is all rotting, your clothes are all eaten up by moths. All your gold and your silver are corroding away, and the same corrosion will be your own sentence, and eat into your body. It was a burning fire that you stored up as your treasure for the last days. Labourers mowed your fields, and you cheated them – listen to the wages that you kept back, calling out; realise that the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. On earth you have had a life of comfort and luxury; in the time of slaughter you went on eating to your heart’s content. It was you who condemned the innocent and killed them; they offered you no resistance.

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Mark 9:41-50

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.

‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out. For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is a good thing, but if salt has become insipid, how can you season it again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.’

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And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off.

How serious are you about going to heaven? What would you sacrifice to ensure your sanctity? Cutting off one’s hands and feet seem like an extreme case in this day. Of course, we are against mutilating our bodies but when we think about it, there are many things in our lives that we could cut off so we can ensure we can meet our Lord.

There are many versions of the Act of Contrition and one line struck me from one of the versions. The penitent, in expressing contrition, also resolves, with the help of God’s grace, ‘to avoid the near occasions of sin.’ We have to acknowledge that we are vulnerable beings with a tendency to sin and that we are not strong enough to resist temptation without God’s grace. So we need to have a battle plan to increase our chances of success: that is to cut off the parts in our lives that lead us to sin, to avoid these ‘near occasions of sin’. Is it your career? Is it a relationship? Is it an addiction?

I have been contemplating for several years if I should go back to the Philippines for good. But one of my considerations is whether I can enjoy the same spiritual support as I enjoy here in Singapore. It is true that Philippines is a Catholic country but because many are cradle Catholics, many of us take our faith for granted. As embarrassing as it can be, I end up neglecting my prayer life whenever I am on vacation in the Philippines. I know that when that happens, it will be easy to forget God and my relationship with Him. So as much as I want to go home, I need to cut off this dream for now and keep on praying for the strength to hold on to God should the time come when I am called back to the Philippines.

What one needs to cut off from one’s life may not be so ‘great’. Perhaps, it’s even just cutting down on TV time, or maybe, cutting down on the time you watch videos on your way home and instead, using that extra time to pray or to read up on our faith. We always have access to God’s graces in order to avoid temptation but I imagine ourselves to be like a cup — we are limited in the amount that we can hold. So if we need more graces, let’s empty our cups and ‘cut off’ those that prevent us from receiving God’s love.

I invite you, my friends, to pray to God to reveal to you what is it that you need to cut off from your life in order that you can be closer to God. And if you feel that he is asking you to cut off something big, practice by ‘cutting off’ something small. Perhaps, a small fast will help in increasing your generosity and spirit of surrender, until you are ready to totally ‘cut off’ that which is keeping you from God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord, please shower me with the graces I need to overcome temptation. And if there is something you want me to ‘cut off’ from my life, give the the humility and the generosity to do so.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for always making your graces available to me. You have already conquered sin, help us conquer our personal sins. Amen.