Friday, October 25, 2013

Football Lessons for your Prayer Life

You can learn about your prayer life from football. Actually, a lot. But here is one lesson.

This past Saturday I caught the last 20 minutes of our SDSU Jackrabbit football team's loss to Missouri State. It wasn't pretty. As I watched the Jacks- students I love as sons- struggle back from a 27-7 deficit, I could hear the criticisms mounting. I sometimes sit in the season ticket section, thanks to generous people, and I know there are chat sites where people criticize and Jackrabbit football. "Sumner is going to get ripped in the chat rooms for this!"

Now, when teams lose, do they need criticism? Yes! Do they need internal criticism and self-scouting? Yes! Do they need an outsider's opinion too? Yes! But a team and players need to learn which criticisms to accept.

On a team, you need to learn how to filter those ON YOUR OWN TEAM who give criticism. On a team you need to learn how to filter those OUTSIDE YOUR OWN TEAM who give criticism.

You find those voices that are true AND encouraging- those are trustworthy voices.

It is the same in the spiritual life. St. Ignatius of Loyola describes this very well in his Spiritual Exercises, especially his Rules for Discernment of spirits.

Second Rule: In the persons who are going on intensely cleansing their sins and rising from good to better in the service of God our Lord, it is the method contrary to that in the first Rule, for then it is the way of the evil spirit to bite, sadden and put obstacles, disquieting with false reasons, that one may not go on; and it is proper to the good to give courage and strength, consolations, tears, inspirations and quiet, easing, and putting away all obstacles, that one may go on in well doing.

Notice how St. Ignatius doesn't debate whether inspirations are true or not. The evil spirit may speak something that is real but does so in a way as to prevent your growth. The Lord, when He inspires, always does so in a way to encourage you in rising to better life.

So, how do we apply this?

  • If we are living the moral life (rising from good to better in service of God our Lord) then we can discern between the good and evil spirits from how they move us. 
  • When a particular spirit prevents or discourages us from the Christian life, it isn't from our Lord.
  • When a particular spirit encourages us then it is from the Lord.
The great news about the Christian faith is that REAL guidance exists for the Christian life. It isn't just trusting your feelings (like Star Wars) but real guidance for real life. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What the Church Needs

Click here for the podcst of my Sunday homily.

The Sunday scriptures can be found here.

This past week the priests of the Diocese gathered with Bishop Swain for annual meetings. One area of discussion these past years has been future planning for the Diocese. One thing we find, that doesn't get much attention is our Sunday Mass attendance. Our numbers show only 35% of Catholics attend Sunday Mass. That means, on any given Sunday, probably 65% of our Catholics are committing a mortal sin!

Why is it that people don't live their faith? Is it something unique to our time? No. The Gospel tells the story of ingratitude. These 10 lepers were outcast from their communities but now restored to friendship and support. Only one comes to give thanks.

It wasn't unique 800 years ago in the days of St. Thomas Aquinas either. He said there are five reasons why hearts do not respond to the power of God, the gifts of the Holy Spirit given in the Sacraments.
  1. Lack of Faith
  2. Lack of Understanding
  3. Lack of Desire to Live a New Life
  4. Lack of Repentance
  5. The priest omitted the pre-baptism exorcisms
What to do? First, build up your own life of prayer. Stir up the gifts God has given you. Just as chocolate syrup needs to be stirred up from the bottom of your glass of milk so to do you need to stir up the gifts. So, if one of the 5 causes of St. Thomas Aquinas caught your attention, deal with it! Go to Mass more often. Pray and beg our Lord to awaken your heart to the gift given to you. Finally, perform works of charity- they always awaken the gift of God.

Second, learn how to reach out to those who's faith is asleep or dead. Bishop Swain wants to assist you with that with a conference on October 26th: Encountering Jesus Christ. This one day faith conference will strengthen your faith and empower you to find others and aid others who's faith is asleep.

Finally, remember the generosity of our Lord. He does not portion the Holy Spirit but pours it in abundance to those who ask. Notice that Jesus does not withdraw the gift of physical healing from the 9 lepers who did not return to thank Him. He gives the gift and the gift endures, in hope of their return.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Lord, increase our faith.

I've posted a recording of my Sunday homily at

This Sunday we hear a lot about faith. We'll look at faith in two ways: what it is in itself and what it does in us.

Faith, in itself, is something solid. It gives us sure footing for our life. It provides clear, reasonable and rational answers to those who challenge it. We know where to go for the faith: the Scriptures, the Catechism, and the Church's teaching. We should not be bullied by those who want to abuse the teachings of the Church but learn how to clarify and defend.

The Apostles ask for faith from Jesus, what do they mean? We have 10 Commandments, give us 5 more! No. They are asking for faithfulness. The habit of faith in our souls that allows us to not only hear God's word but do it. Faithfulness, this habit or virtue of faith, allows us to readily do the things we know to be true.

Think of examples of faithfulness. Parishioners, parents, friends, and especially your confirmation patron- do you remember their life of faithfulness? On October 4, we had the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. He was a man of faithfulness- he heard the word of God and did it. Today, October 6th, I'm grateful for my parents on their 40th wedding anniversary. They heard the word and did it.

As we kneel together in this Mass, pray for two things: 1st in gratitude for those examples of faithfulness that enliven your imagination with faith. 2nd beg our Lord for an increase of your own faithfulness.

The Sunday readings can be found here.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Wisdom of Assisi

One of my favorite books about St. Francis of Assisi, "The Wisdom of the Poor One of Assisi," by Eloi Leclerc, has a beautiful description of the spirit of poverty.

"It is not in struggling that you succeed but in adoring. The person who adores God knows that there is only one All-Powerful One. Such a person acknowledges it and accepts it deeply, heartily, and rejoices that God is God. God is. That is enough and makes a person free. Do you understand? If you knew how to adore, then nothing could truly disturb your peace. We would travel through the world with the tranquility of the great rivers."

St. Francis of Assisi- pray for us to strip ourselves of worldliness and cling to only to Christ and Him crucified.

Also posted at Pius XII Newman.