Sunday, January 15, 2017

Article: Prayer: The Unsung Hero

A web article from BibleHelp.org (source link here)...

Prayer has not received the recognition that it deserves. Many people feel that since God already knows about our need, there isn't any need to tell God about them. This is a very costly mistake.

On my desk there is a little card that reads, "No Christian is greater than his prayer life." I have come to a gripping realization that prayer is probably one of the greatest contributions we can make to advance the Kingdom of Christ. Yet, we as Christians, seldom capitalize on this resource. Surveys show the average Christian prays 15 to 30 minutes a week. If the statement, "No Christian is greater than his prayer life," is true, then it would explain, in part, why so much of the world is still not evangelized.

Why do we spend so little time in prayer? Why is prayer one of the first things we neglect as we drift away from God? Many pastors have preached sermons condemning us for spending up to 3 hours a day in front of a television set while we pray less than 30 minutes a week. Although there is a need for such sermons, I have no intention of pointing out something for which you are probably already painfully aware. It is my desire to encourage you, to share with you what I have learned from my struggles in this area.

We, as Christians, often condemn ourselves because we do not pray as much as we think we should. Often, the simple task of praying only 15 minutes a day seems almost impossible! Of course, we can understand why it is easier to sit in front of the TV than devote time to prayer. TV is relaxing and prayer is work. I do believe energy is drained from us when we pray.

I am convinced, though, the main reason we do not pray as much as we should is not because it is too much work. There are many sincere and dedicated lay-Christians who spend as many as 15 hours a week working on Christian projects, yet find it difficult to spend a significant amount of time in prayer. With all this time spent on Christian projects, their lack of prayer cannot be considered laziness.

Satan understands the power of prayer, and I believe he is fighting fiercely to reduce its impact. An obvious military strategy is to concentrate attacks on the targets, which are the greatest threats. For example, in war, primary targets are radar installations, ammunition depots and weapons factories. Limited military resources are not used on non-strategic targets such as the officers’ dining hall (although many soldiers would probably welcome the relief from military food). It is my conviction that Satan knows the biggest spiritual battles are won or lost because of our prayers. Therefore, why would Satan not try to blind our eyes to the need and urgency of prayer?

The story of the disciples at the time of the resurrection is a good example of how capable Satan is of blinding our eyes to important truths. Jesus told his disciples on several occasions that He was going to be killed and would rise again on the third day. Yet, on the third day, where were His disciples? Why were they not waiting at His tomb? They were not even looking for His resurrection.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, remembered Jesus talking about His resurrection. This is why they requested a guard be placed at the tomb (Matthew 27:62-64). It appears Satan, the author of deception and distraction, had blinded, or at least distracted the disciples to this very important truth. If the disciples, the very men who walked with Jesus, could miss something as important as the resurrection, isn’t it reasonable to believe Satan could blind us to the power of prayer?

The attitude with which we as non-Christians first approached God is what released the dynamic power of salvation through Jesus Christ. It was essential when we came to God, we recognized Jesus Christ as our total redemption. Our human abilities played no part in the salvation process. We had to trust God fully.

Likewise, when we as Christians approach God, He still wants us to trust Him fully and understand that the solutions to our problems lie beyond our abilities. It is this recognition that releases the power of God. Prayer is an expression of the commitment and trust we have in God.

When we come before God in prayer and give Him full control of a situation, we are acknowledging His sovereignty in that area. As a result, God begins to work on the problem with His mighty power. God desires to be involved in every area of our life. He wants us to specifically commit each of our concerns to Him. I have found the more specific we are in our prayers, the more direct and effective will be the answers. For example, the prayer, "God, please bless the missionaries," will not be nearly as effective as naming specific missionaries and their particular needs.

Although we are in a Space Age of high-tech transportation and communication, we still go further on our knees. We will never have a true appreciation of how powerful and effective our prayers are until we enter God’s presence and He unfolds the completed story. At that time we will see how people were saved and lives changed as a direct result of our prayers.

God is continually working in ways that we are unaware. An example of God’s hidden involvement in our lives is seen in 2 Kings 6:13-17. In this passage Elisha and his servant ran across a huge Syrian army and the servant becomes afraid. Elisha prays and asks God to open the servant’s eyes, and the servant sees that the mountain is full of God’s angelic army.

Looking at the great needs of this under-evangelized world, it is easy to be overwhelmed with feelings of futility or the thought, "What is the point? I can’t make much of a difference." This discouragement can often keep us from even trying.

There are two things we must keep in mind. First, God does not expect us to change the whole world. He only wants us to do our part, to grow where he has planted us. Second, we must realize that, although we cannot change the whole world, there is much we can realistically accomplish.

Being consistent in our prayer life can help us accomplish more than we may have ever thought possible. A consistent savings plan at a bank can help save money without the feeling of having a "big bite" taken out of your paycheck. Likewise, a consistent prayer system can help us pray for a large group of people without feeling burdened.

Many short prayers throughout the day are easier than praying an hour at a time. An example of this is the old tale of the Tortoise and the Hare. The rabbit, which is obviously the faster of the two, was overconfident, and did not pay attention to the race. Although the turtle was slow, he was consistent, and as a result, his seemingly "insignificant" effort paid off in a big way.

There are two types of prayers I use: Systematic prayers and Onetime prayers. My systematic prayer list is a list of people, Christians and non-Christians, whom I have met throughout the years. I systematically work through this list from top to bottom over a period of time. Praying for 5 to 30 names at a sitting is non-burdensome and yet gives me the opportunity to intercede for a large group of people.

Onetime prayers are requests that are usually prayed for only once. These prayers are often for people I have run into throughout the course of my day, or someone who has caught my attention. The aspect that makes onetime prayers so practical is they consume very little of my time. They are ideal for situations where I am already doing something but not using much mental energy, such as driving in a car or standing in a line.

When I pray for these people, I pray not only for their salvation, but I ask God to make them strong, dynamic Christians who will become prayer warriors in their own right. I also ask God to raise up thousands of people to pray for this person. So, although I may pray only once for this person, I am confident God will raise up others to continue where I have left off.

Obviously, praying many times for one person is much more effective than just a single prayer, but never underestimate the power of these onetime prayers. It is important to realize for some people, you may be the only Christian who has ever prayed for them. This is the reason I ask God to raise up hundreds of people to pray for each person. As you expand your prayer time, be careful not to become overburdened. You should approach it as an adventure, not an obligation.

Years ago, I started what I call the quick prayer list. This short list contained 10 of the most important issues going on in my life at the time. (You have to keep this list short or you get overwhelmed and stop using the list altogether.) Every hour, such as on the hour, I pull out the list and pray for my concerns. I found this to be an excellent way to ensure I prayed on a consistent basis.

Since I was a Correction Officer with lousy days off, two of the items on my prayer list were: I would get a job working with computers and would have good days off. After two years of praying for this, I was called into the Warden’s office. He told me the Deputy Director for the State’s Department of Correction wanted me to work for him personally to do computer programming. For 4 ½ years, I worked for the Deputy Director’s office overseeing a large number of computer projects. Every time someone asked me how my "rags to riches" story came about, I always tell them about the prayer list and give God the credit.

In the 19th Century, rescuing a drowning person from a pier presented certain logistical problems for lifeguards. They did not have the luxury of our modern rescue techniques and equipment. Instead, they used a "lifeline" system. When a lifeguard dove into the water after someone, he would tie a rope around himself and hand the other end to someone to hold. One stormy day, a lifeguard spotted a swimmer being swept under by the mighty ocean waves. In his haste, he forgot to tell someone, "hold the rope." Thus, as he went into the water, so did his lifeline. This lifeguard needlessly lost his life in the stormy ocean rage because of carelessness.

This story illustrates the importance of being consistent and faithful in upholding Christian workers through prayer. However, there is another lesson to be learned too. We should never rush off to do God’s work before we have adequate prayer support. As we serve the Lord, let us not forget to ask people to "hold our ropes."

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Article: The Power of Prayer


A web article taken from Barbara Sanders' website, Barbara's Entourage (source link here)...

Prayer is our communion with God, whether it be a petition made to God, worship, repentance, praise, or thanksgiving. It doesn't have to be a laid-out patent prayer, but words from the heart. God wants all of us, he knows our minds and hearts, so why not talk to him as if he already knows the situation.

James 5:16 Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
The effectual fervent prayer is one with power behind it, one that produces results. We have to believe what we pray, not just 'mouth' words. Sometimes we go blindly into our prayers, not knowing in which direction to go.

Mark 11:24 Therefore I say unto you , What things soever ye desire, when ye pray , believe that ye receive [them], and ye shall have [them].
Desires of the heart should be those that will glorify God, not necessarily the human desires we have to make our life better.

Matthew 6:7 But when ye pray , use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
God knows each thought we have, so why not go to HIM and talk with him as you would if you were to meet him on the street. Prayers do not have to be long, drawn out affairs, but we need to be precise in what we are asking, and ask according to the bible rather than asking blindly for what we want. If it glorifies the Lord, then it will be something good for us. If it does not, then we shouldn't be asking for it in our prayers.

Sunday, December 25, 2016


On this special day and throughout the year, open your heart and mind to the infant Jesus, whose birth we celebrate today. May God bless you.
The image above may be subject to copyright. It was selected from the results of a Google search, which used the keywords "merry christmas." The source, according to Google, is: www.macmonkies.com/Etc/MerryChristmas_1024.jpg. The views expressed and/or images shown in this source do not represent the views of this blog.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sermon: Practically Praying: Why Pray?

A sermon by Rev D. Graham Leitch of Barclay Church, Edinburgh, Scotland given January 26, 2003 (source link here).

“Why Pray?” - that’s the question that claims our attention and we’re invited to ponder this morning. Although this is meant to be very much a “how to” series - aimed at guiding and assisting those who want to begin praying or to be better pray-ers to progress - I make no apology for the fact that today’s sermon will be less of a “how to” sermon than the others!!

The motives behind the question “Why pray?” can vary.

MOTIVES BEHIND THE QUESTION ‘WHY PRAY?’
For the person of a more philosophical bent, the question may proceed from an inquiring mind:
In respect of prayer and intercession, “If God already knows all about our needs before we tell him, why bother?” In respect of praise and worship, “If God wants to be praised and thanked and fussed over continually does that not make him proud and self-centred.”

On the other hand, for the young widow standing beside her young husband’s grave - the husband for whose healing and recovery she has prayed and pleaded, begged, for the whole year since the traumatic day when the diagnosis and prognosis of his cancer was explained to him, the words “Why pray?” are no longer academic but mean “Why bother?!!”

I make no apology for this being less of a “how to” sermon than the others, because all the practical tips, guidance and advice in the world will be worthless to you unless you know the reason why PRAYER shouldn’t be the peculiar interest of a few enthusiasts but the perpetual practice of the entire church!

WHY PRAY? is our subject this morning.

Notice, by the way, that the answers to the question “Why SHOULD we pray?” may be different from the answers to the question “Why DO we pray?

WHY SHOULD WE PRAY AND WHY DO WE PRAY?
* Some people pray because they were taught to as children. There is something deeply moving about a child’s prayer.

A A MILNE - VESPERS
Little boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on the little hands little gold head,
Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.

God bless mummy. I know that’s right.
Wasn’t it fun in the bath tonight?
The cold’s so cold and the hot’s so hot,
Oh! God bless Daddy - I quite forgot

If I open my fingers a little bit more,
I can see Nanny’s dressing gown on the door.
It’s a beautiful blue but it hasn’t a hood.
Oh! God bless Nanny and make her good!

Oh! Thank you God for a lovely day.
And what was the other I had to say
” I said ‘God bless Daddy’ so who can it be?
Oh! Now I remember - GOD BLESS ME!

* Some people pray because they were taught to as children.

* Some people pray because (though they’re not even sure of God, it makes them feel better, or because something in them tells them they should!

* And many an atheist has prayed to the God he denies when the going’s been tough or the situation’s been desperate or hopeless!

I’m not asking you to to think about why people DO pray but about why everyone SHOULD PRAY

I want to give you four answers - and I’ll tell you WHAT they are now so that you can follow more clearly and at the same time not become over anxious about how long the sermons going to be!!

WHY SHOULD WE PRAY?

We should pray, first,because of WHO we are. We should pray, second, because of WHAT we are.
Third, we should pray because of who GOD is. And finally, we should pray because of what PRAYER itself is.

1. WE SHOULD PRAY BECAUSE OF WHO WE ARE
WHY PRAY? We should pray because of who we are. Some of you will know the story of the Minister who visited one of his older member who was in residential care - she has become rather confused and forgetful and so to test whether she really knew him or not he gently sat beside her, took her hand and asked her “Now - who am I?’ to which nodding in a kindly and understanding way she replied:
“Don’t worry son, lots of folk forget who they are in her - but if you ask that lady over there, she one of the care staff and she’ll tell you who you are - and perhaps” she added smiling, “you’ll be able to remember!”

We should pray because of who we are!! One of the reasons why we don’t pray is that we’ve forgotten who we are!!

We remember that “no man is an island” - we know that we were not made to live in isolation - but in our preoccupation with human relations and culture’s encouragement to live this life to the full we have forgotten that we were not only made by God but are made FOR relationship with Him - to know Him and enjoy Him.

OUTSIDE OF GOD WE ARE INCOMPLETE
In God we find our fulfilment and satisfaction, but outside of God we are incomplete. We should pray because of who we are ! We are part of the animal creation, but we are unique within it, being made, the Bible tells us, “in the image of God” Alone, within the animal creation, we have the capacity of knowing God and relating to Him.... and this is not an “extra” - the “icing on the cake”, so to speak. It the supreme purpose of our lives.... but it is also, or it is intended to be, the essence of our lives - its what we’re made for!!

Now Springtime’s coming and before long the spring flower will be braking through the ground to greet the returning warmth of the New Year’s sun. But what happens if a bulb’s planted upside down....if it produces a flower at all it produce one that is stunted and weak - it may still be a snowdrop or daffodil. But it is isn’t half the snowdrop of daffodil it would have been if it had been the right way up!!

We cannot be complete without prayer because we cannot be completely human - complete persons - without God. A life that neglects its spiritual nature is like a bulb planted upside down!!

WHY PRAY? We should pray because of who we are. Individuals made for relationship with God.

2. WE SHOULD PRAY BECAUSE OF WHAT WE ARE
We should PRAY also because of WHAT we are. All of us are different - every single one of us - but none of us, not a single one of us is all we should be!!

Our weakness are many are varied - in this we are all different. What is not a temptation to one person may be a great temptation to another. To steal, to thieve, to commit adultery, to lie, to abuse the body or the body of another, to be callous cruel or violent.

The spiritual DNA of every person is different, but in this we are identical and equal- that we are at fault, guilty, we’re not perfect. We’re “damaged goods”, if you like........we have ignored God,, despised His will and disobeyed His commands.

i) We should pray because of WHO we are - each one and every one of us is made for relationship with God.

ii) We should PRAY also because of WHAT we are - SINNERS! Sin is simply falling short of God’s perfect standard. A miss, here is as good as a mile!! Who today dare stand before God and claim to be as good a father, mother, son, daughter, colleague or friend to others as we could have been.

Who amongst us can claim no regret. Aren’t there things you wish you’d done differently - things you wish had never happened. Things you know you’ve done wrong!! Are you the only one who’s never said “If only.....”?

JOHN 8:1-12
Remember that heart stopping drama pictured by John in Chapter 8 of His Gospel when the self-righteous Pharisees bundles a women caught being unfaithful to her husband before Him. And they sneered and pointed their fingers and poked her:

“The Bible says that women of her kind should be stoned!!” they urged.

But Jesus, looked at one and then another - and it was a s though his gaze read their inmost hearts and unravelled their darkest secrets :Let the person without sin throw the first stone!” And one by one they left!

Since the days of Adam there has only been one Person without sin - and that Person was Jesus Christ Himself. He alone was “without sin”

Prayer is therefore not an irrelevance for us; it is a necessity for us, for prayer is the hand of faith reaching out to accept God;’ offered forgiveness. All true prayers begins with this:

“God be merciful to me, a sinner!”

WHY SHOULD WE PRAY?
We should pray, first,because of WHO we are - persons made in the image of God to know Him - this is the language of intimacy, even of intercourse. We were made for God!!

We should pray, second, because of WHAT we are - people who have let others down and let God down People who need, though we can never deserve His forgiveness.

3. WE SHOULD PRAY BECAUSE OF WHO GOD IS!
We should pray, third, because of who GOD is!! He is the all powerful, all wise, all knowing, all holy, all merciful, all loving One - perfect in His nature, His being and all His actions. He is the supreme, preeminent One. We should pray because of WHO God is - we should praise Him because He expects and commands our praise.

Of course, this may seem strange - unchristian almost!! If God wants us to praise Him all the time is He not proud and self-centred. Someone who wants to be praised and thanked all day long is unattractive to us...

But it is not for any selfishness in HIM that God wants us to praise Him, but to deliver us from the self-centredness that’s in US!!

We should praise God for who He is, because praise and worship is the natural thing, once we know how much we owe Him and how great His love for us, for us to do!

A passage in C S Lewis’s book “Reflections on the Psalms” offers a profound insight into the nature of prayers of praise and worship offered to God:
C S. LEWIS
“I had never noticed” he writes “that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others i deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise - lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game - praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges countries, historical figures, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, sometimes even politicians or scholars.

I has not noticed how the humblest and most capacious minds praised most... I had not noticed, either, that just as persons spontaneously praise what they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ‘Isn’t she lovely?! Wasn’t it glorious?!! Don’t you think that’s magnificent?!!

The Psalmists, in telling everyone to praise God, are doing what we all do when we speak of what we care about!”

Why should we pray? Do lovers never talk together?

Why should we PRAY - we should pray because of who GOD is - as children we were taught to say thank you - “What do you say to the lady? And at first, perhaps we recoiled with embarrassment and shyly hid behind mummy’s legs!! But we learned to say thank you - not just to be courteous and polite but to be be appreciative and grateful.

As children we we’re taught to say thank. As parents, in turn, we have taught our children to say “Thank You “ and they are teaching their children to say thank you!

Peter’s thank-you letter.
Many of you know we have three grandchildren - Peter, Anna and Matthew. On Friday - just a couple of days ago - I received a Christmas “thank you” letter from Peter, who’s four:
Dear Grandma and Grandpa (it read)
This is grandpa watching a scarey programme. Thank for my spaceship but some of it is broken....but I like spaceships.
Love from Peter.

How much more then, do we owe thanks to God for life, for all that makes us happy and for His Son?

WHY SHOULD WE PRAY?

3. WE SHOULD PRAY BECAUSE OF WHO GOD IS!
Finally, and briefly, we should pray because of what PRAYER IS

In relation to WHO WE ARE - it is the means by which we may enter into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ - and then it is the enjoyment and deepening of that relationship. It is the relationship of the loved to the Great Lover. - intimate and sublime - a love affair with God!!

In relation to WHAT WE ARE - it is the means by which through Jesus Christ we access God’s heart and daily find His pardon.

And in relation to WHO HE IS - it is the key to the door that leads weakness to the help of Divine Omnipotence, worry to the feet of the All wise God, and loneliness to the heart of an Everlasting Friend.

To refuse prayer - is to walk away from the most immensely satisfying and enriching relationship possible to any individual.

To refuse prayer is to withhold thanks from the Author of Life and giver of every good gift.

And to refuse prayer is to reject the only Hand that, in the worst of times, can still lift us up.
AMEN

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Meditation: St. Jude, Advocate of Difficult Cases


Excerpted from Fr. Richard O'Keefe, O.P.

St. Jude was not only a follower of Jesus but his friend as well. His close relationship to Jesus not only changed his life but also made him a powerful advocate on our behalf. From Jesus he learned about God's boundless compassion and infinite power. He learned not to doubt God's wisdom but confidently to trust divine mercy. Sometimes our suffering can make us forget, even despair of, God's love and provision for us. We ask, "Why has this happened to me? Where is the Lord when I need him?" We might even wonder whether He hears our prayer. We go to St. Jude because we believe that he is a man of faith and understands that nothing is impossible for God. From Jesus he would have learned this. He believed what Jesus had told him at the Last Supper: "If you ask for anything in my name, I will do it." (John 14:14) He heard Jesus say, "...with God everything is possible." (Mark 10:27). And, harkening to those words, we ourselves regain our balance; we find the strength to go on trusting in God's wisdom and mercy.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Flicker of hope is sold in Aisle 18

Written by E. J. Montini, a columnist at The Arizona Republic (Arizona, U.S.A.), on March 23, 2009 (source article link).

In the Albertson's grocery store near my home, the shelves on Aisle 18-B are neatly stocked with jars of salsa, bags of corn chips, spices, cans of beans, bags of flour, rows of spices, snack cakes, soda and hope.

The last item sells for $1.79.

In better times, a hearty meal would offer more sustenance than hope. But these days, with so many men and women losing their jobs, their health insurance and their homes, shoppers who are starved for mental and spiritual comfort find nourishment in several rows of 8-inch votive candles available in Aisle 18-B.

In just about every Catholic Church in Phoenix, there is an alcove or side altar where there is a bank of candles in glass containers. Often they are displayed in a series of small steps before a statue or icon.

In the church my family attended when I was a kid, these "vigil lights," as my mother called them, were in front of a statue of Mary the mother of Jesus. It was the one place in our church where I felt comfortable.

The enormous crucifix above the altar, with its bleeding, suffering Jesus, frightened me. As did the stained-glass images of saints that lined the upper reaches of the church. Their glass eyes seemed to focus on a young sinner no matter which pew he settled into.

One of the small comforts of my youthful churchgoing experience was the opportunity to light a candle. But it was not done casually. My mother would say that lighting a candle was a way of asking God for a little extra attention. It might be for ourselves or for someone we knew, someone sick, someone in need, someone in trouble. The candle represented a promise to put more prayerful devotion into this particular request. As long as the candle burned, the invocation was being repeated.

For all of the time I've shopped at the Albertsons, the most popular votive candle featured a likeness of the Virgin of Guadalupe. In this part of the country, the primary market for such items is our large Latino population.

But lately other saints also have become popular. St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, for instance. And St. Simon, who may have been St. Jude's partner but whose prayer, printed on his candle, makes him seem more like an enforcer than a saint.

It reads, in Spanish and in English:

"Oh powerful St. Simon, I humbly come to you. Let your spirit help me in all actions and in any dangerous circumstances. If it is love, you will hold the person I like. If it is a business, you will not allow it to fail because evil can not have more power than your spirit. If it is an enemy, you will defeat him. Oh, powerful St. Simon, I offer you your cigar, your tortilla, your drink and your candles if you help me with any dangerous circumstance I may encounter. For any debts that I cannot currently pay, let the judge be defeated and on my side upon invoking your name. I ask of you, in the name of the One you sold for thirty coins that were given to the needy to let everything be forgotten; and in this manner I want you to perform the miracles I request."

I asked John Tillotson, of the St. Jude Candle Co. in Houston which made the St. Simon candle, how his business is doing.

He told me, "With the economy the way it is, we're feeling the pinch as well as everyone else. But we can see in sales that people gravitate to those saints who speak to their situation. A lot of people are hurting and are seeking help."

Do the candles work? I asked.

He paused, then said, "I can tell you that they're a comfort to a lot of folks."

More than that. When lit, the candles prove that longing is tangible. That aspiration is real. That there is such a thing as a flicker of hope.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Saint Jude: A Friend in Hard Times


As a young boy, my mother taught me the prayer and novena to St. Jude and encouraged me to pray to him in both good and bad times. I hope you'll find this to be a very good read about St. Jude, most especially for children. Twelve-year old Michael Aquilina III wrote Saint Jude: A Friend in Hard Times in 2004 (published by Pauline Books & Media).

From the forward of the book by Dr. Scott Hahn, Founder, President and Chairman of the Board of The St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology: "The first time Michael Aquilina III visited my home, he must have been nine years old. He came to play with my sons, Jeremiah and Joseph, but he detoured through my book-lined office. He looked up at the rows of towering shelves and turned to me without hesitation, saying: "You should write a book about Saint Jude." It wasn't a request; it was a statement. And he repeated it on several other visits.

As a father of six, I've learned to be open to the Holy Spirit speaking through the mouths of children. I knew, however, that a book on Saint Jude was not in my near future, as I was already under contract to write several other books. So I told Michael:"I think God has placed that wish in your heart so that you might write the book."

That was the last I heard of the Saint Jude book - until, years later, when I received Michael's finished manuscript in my mailbox, along with a gracious invitation to write some words of introduction. I'm pleased to comply.

Since I became a Catholic in 1986, I've had a great fondness for Saint Jude. Early in my studies, I discovered that I was born on Jude's feast day, October 28, in 1957. For that reason - and because I've always been a sort of "lost cause" - I believe this Apostle has watched over me with great care.

Like Michael Aquilina, I hope that many, many people will come to know Saint Jude's watchful care and his mighty prayer before the throne of God. The last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, shows us twice that Saint Jude holds a prominent place in heaven. God has blessed Jude as an Apostle, and so his name is on one of the twelve foundation stones of the heavenly Jerusalem (see Rev 21:18). As a martyr, too, Jude raises a powerful prayer, fully aware of what is happening in our lives on earth (see Rev 6:9-10). Even now, Saint Jude is very much with us, in that "great cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1), the communion of saints.

Michael Aquilina has written a book I could not have written, even though I am a teacher of theology. For every book of devotion is a special grace from God. My own books are God's gifts to me and my readers; this book is God's gift to Michael and his readers, among whom I am proud to be the first.

Read on, then, and walk the roads of life with Saint Jude. May the Apostle lead you without delay to share in the friendship and close family bond that he himself shared with Jesus."

From the blog of Maureen Wittmann, who wrote the following article on how a 12-year-old, home-schooled boy came to write and publish this book: "St. Jude: A Friend in Hard Times, recently released by Pauline Books and Media, is a gem. Illustrator Keith Neely’s artwork is beautiful enough to turn this children’s book into a coffee table book. However, you wouldn’t want to leave it on your table for too long, as it is a terrific read. The historical information is interesting and the storytelling engaging. I don’t think that there is an historical account so easily accessible for children anywhere. Additionally, author Michael Aquilina III was able to bring St. Jude to life for my family. I want the saints to be real for my children, not just pictures on prayer cards, and this book accomplishes that end very well.

The amazing thing about all this is that Michael wrote St. Jude: A Friend in Need when he was just twelve-years old. It all started when Michael, at the ripe old age of seven, became fascinated with computers and read their manuals just for fun. One day, Michael had a computer problem that he could not fix himself. Nor could he find a solution in his beloved computer manuals. So he prayed for St. Jude’s help. In no time, the computer problem was resolved and Michael found a new friend in St. Jude, patron of desperate causes.

Michael then decided that family friend, and Catholic author, Scott Hahn needed to write a book about St. Jude and he kept his desire no secret. Whenever Michael would visit the Hahn home, he made a point to tell Dr. Hahn “You should write a book about St. Jude.” Dr. Hahn, open to the Holy Spirit working through a child, considered the idea but was already committed to several other book projects. Finally, he told Michael, “I think that God has placed that wish on your heart so that you might write the book.”

It wasn’t long after that Michael’s grandmother suffered a stroke. Michael and his father stayed with her for a week to help out. With a simple reminder from his father of Dr. Hahn’s words, Michael began writing his book during this out-of-town visit. In just one week he wrote the bulk of St. Jude, with the occasional writing tip from his father, Catholic author Mike Aquilina.

Now, not every child has a prominent author for a father or has the opportunity to hang out in the homes of other prominent authors. However, it was not these things that led to Michael’s writing of St. Jude. I submit that Michael has been able to achieve the extraordinary because he has parents who support and nourish his interests, from his fascination with computers to his love for St. Jude. Most importantly, he has parents who live the Church’s teaching of parents as primary educators.

“The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.” (CCC 2221)

As home educators, the Aquilinas have taken on the academic instruction of their six children firsthand. Most parents do not choose homeschooling, but that does not mean that they don’t have a significant influence on their children’s academic success. A parent’s attitude toward education can spell either academic success or failure, and creating an atmosphere of learning in the home can make all the difference in the world. The Aquilinas do this in ways that can be imitated by any parent. They let their children see them reading all of the time. They make time to read to their children. If you don’t like to read aloud, turn the tables and ask your child to read to you. In this way, you not only encourage learning, but also spend quality time with one another building bonds that will not easily break.

Also let your child see you write. Of course Michael sees his father writing all of the time as that is Mike’s fulltime job, but he also sees his mother Terri writing letters to friends, letters to the editor, and journal entries. In this way, the Aquilina children think that this is what people do and therefore they do it themselves. Writing skills can blossom when practiced outside of the classroom and applied to everyday activities. In order to achieve academic success, children need good writing skills. It is not enough to read, children need to be able to communicate the knowledge that they have accumulated onto the written page, especially if college is desired in their future. So write and write often.

One area that most of us do not think about is the worth of doing research. Let your children see you research a lot. Before you write that letter to the editor get on the Internet or go to the library to make sure that you have your facts straight. If the Aquilinas have a child ask a question that they cannot respond to honestly, they search for the answer. Pulling down your Bible, Catechism, or encyclopedia from your bookshelf will speak volumes to your child.

In preparing his book for publication, Michael had to do a lot of research. On more than one occasion, Michael’s editor at Pauline, Sr. Patricia Edward, had to ask Michael to give some background in Catholic doctrine, for example, on the intercession of the saints. Pauline also had scholars review the book who suggested that Michael be clearer in other areas. He had to point out where historians disagree on certain details of St. Jude’s life story. Had Michael’s parents not set a good example for him in doing their own research, Michael may not have been able to complete his book satisfactorily.

Just as children need to learn to communicate through writing, they need to learn to articulate their book knowledge through the spoken word. The Aquilinas suggest making many friends to cultivate the art of conversation. Invite your pastor, coworkers, and other interesting people to your dinner table. Go deep in conversation with your guests and include the children. Pray to your guardian angel and the guardian angels of your friends, and ask them to help guide your conversations and your correspondence. Let your conversations meander and don’t be afraid of silent moments.

Michael Aquilina III is very comfortable in the company of adults. I once saw him at a Catholic education conference where his father was a speaker. As his father answered questions, Michael was engaging in a conversation with several academics from a Catholic university and he did not look out of place at all. This has a lot to do with the fact that Michael and his siblings are always welcomed to listen in on their parent’s conversations.

If the children interject more than their parents desire, you would never know it. To sit in the Aquilina living room is to be surrounded by lively conversation with everyone participating. Children are never talked down to or asked to shush.

The art of conversation and the development of the intellect are also encouraged by the fact that the Aquilinas limit television viewing almost to the point of extinction. Yes, there are good programs on television, but even good television can be abused. It is much easier to encourage reading, writing, researching, and conversation, if your home is void of television noise. Besides, too much television makes for passive children with high needs for sensory stimulation and that is the death of the intellect.

Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. (CCC 2226)

While it is important to “teach” our children religion, most of what they learn is through modeling. We can sing the praises of Mother Church all day long, but if we ourselves do not truly love God and His Church then we cannot expect our children to love them.

When Terri Aquilina prays her rosary, her children naturally join her. When she attends Mass, goes to confession, prays before meals, her children want to participate with her. If parents show an interest in something then children, particularly young children, will also show an interest. Conversely, children will not find value in things that parents don’t care to do themselves.

Now as children grow older and they begin to question their religion, parents need to be prepared with answers. Prayerfully, your children are receiving a good education in religion through their parish school, CCD, or homeschool program, but that is not enough. Children, teens in particular, are sure to eventually ask: Why do we have to attend CCD? Or go to Mass? Or pray the family rosary? They need to hear from their parents why these things are important to them as Catholics.

Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the “first heralds” for their children. (CCC 2225)

Don’t be afraid to be a herald of the Faith to your children. Speak of God not only on Sunday, but everyday. In a society where we have separation of church and state, we sometimes forget that it is okay to speak of God in normal conversation. Sometimes we even forget that it is okay to have a religious opinion in the public square. You can be a herald of the Faith simply by voicing your opinion as a Catholic when neighbor or family member makes a statement that is contrary to your beliefs. Doing this, in a charitable manner of course, will teach your children the importance of faith matters.

For example, the Aquilina children know intrinsically the Church’s stance on human life. This is because they have a mother who will not hesitate to picket the local Planned Parenthood office or write a letter to the editor. They have a father who will not hesitate to speak up when the topic comes up in conversation with a friend. It is in this way that the children absorb Church teaching in a very natural way.

When I asked Michael, now fourteen-years old, if he found himself adopting his parent’s values, he answered quite simple, “Usually.” Yes, children have free will and they are sure to develop their own opinions and values, but the foundation upon which those values are built largely depends on the involvement, or lack of involvement, of parents.

Children in turn contribute to the growth in holiness of their parents. (CCC 2227)

Michael has always enjoyed hanging around his father’s home office. Once, when Michael was about eight-years old, his father Mike was working as a newspaper reporter and he was interviewing a rather famous sociologist of religion who was an agnostic. The man told Mike, in the course of the interview, that he would very much like to have faith, but he couldn’t quite bring himself there. Michael was sitting in the room, reading. After Mike got off the phone, he asked Michael to pray for the man’s conversion. Michael asked if the man prayed for faith. His father told him that he didn’t know and as a journalist he didn’t think it was his place to ask that question. Michael told him it was his Christian obligation to do so. So Mike contacted the man again. If we parents do our best to take on the role of primary educator, we will find ourselves in turn learning from our children, and sometimes in ways that we never imagined.

Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them. (CCC 2223)

As parents we all fail, sometimes daily. The Aquilinas are no exception; Mike and Terri are the first to admit that. It is an incredible responsibility to raise godly children, but we have a saint in our midst to help us when things seem hopeless. In his epistle, the second to last book in the Bible, St. Jude reminds us that we should persevere in harsh and difficult situations. Do not hesitate to seek St. Jude’s intercession. He sat with our Lord at the Last Supper, he performed miracles in the name of Jesus, he spread the Faith throughout the world as one of the first Christian missionaries, and he wants to help us persevere in our God-given roles as parents.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 2221 to 2231) expresses in beautiful terms the teaching of parents as primary educators of their children. It tells us that we are responsible for the formation of our children’s souls in addition to their intellect. It is through the application of this teaching that the biographer of St. Jude was nurtured."

You can order the book from Amazon.com. This blog receives no commission from a purchase of the book through the previous link.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Jude: A Pilgrimage to the Saint of Last Resort


Another good read about St. Jude, Emmy Award-winning journalist Liz Trotta wrote Jude: A Pilgrimage to the Saint of Last Resort in 2005.

From HarperCollins Publishers: "The patron of desperate causes, Saint Jude is best known for his miraculous powers of healing and rescue, and has become a symbol of hope for children with cancer, people with AIDS, and sailors lost at sea. Yet the history of this apostle remains enigmatic and obscure. In this riveting investigation of faith and legend, award-winning journalist Liz Trotta follows in the footsteps of the New Testament's Jude through Italy, Turkey, the lands of old Armenia, and the United States. Part detective story, part pilgrimage, Jude unravels the mysteries of history's most elusive saint and investigates his lasting attraction for those who still believe in the healing powers of faith."

A substantial amount of Ms. Trotta's book currently is available to read on Google Book Search.

You can order the book from Amazon.com, among other places. This blog receives no commission from a purchase of the book through the previous link.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Thank You, St. Jude; Women's Devotion to the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes

A good, substantial read about St. Jude, author Robert A. Orsi wrote Thank You, St. Jude; Women's Devotion to the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes in 1996.

From Yale University Press: "St. Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes, is the most popular saint of the American Catholic laity, particularly among women. This fascinating book describes how the cult of St. Jude originated in 1929, traces the rise in Jude's popularity over the next decades, and investigates the circumstances that led so many Catholic women to feel hopeless and to turn to St. Jude for help. Robert A. Orsi tells us that the women who were drawn to St. Jude—daughters and granddaughters of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and Ireland—were the first generations of Catholic women to make lives for themselves outside of their ethnic enclaves. Orsi explores the ambitions and dilemmas of these women as they dealt with the pressures of the Depression and the Second World War, made modern marriages for themselves, entered the workplace, took care of relatives in their old neighborhoods, and raised children in circumstances very different from those of their mothers and grandmothers. Drawing on testimonies written in the periodicals devoted to St. Jude and on interviews with women who felt their lives were changed by St. Jude's intervention, Orsi shows how devotion to St. Jude enabled these women to negotiate their way amid the conflicting expectations of their two cultures—American and Catholic."

A substantial amount of Mr. Orsi's book currently is available to read on Google Book Search.