During the debate about legal recognition for same sex marriages in Argentina, Pope Francis was head of the Bishops of Argentina. Many commentators argue that in the political arena he was seen as moderate compared to his brother bishops. However, at the same time, he wrote a private letter to the Carmelite monasteries in his diocese exhorting the nuns to pray. He said:
“Let us not be naive: it is not a simple political struggle….It is not a mere legislative project …but rather a “move” of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God.” He later exhorts the dear sisters “That is why I turn to you and ask from you prayer and sacrifice, the two invincible weapons which Saint Thérèse confessed to have.”
Sometime we think that the Church is in the midst of a political or cultural struggle, against a society that is step by step rejecting Christian values. And often we can be tempted as a result to take up the weapons of this world in response – the Church must use cunning strategy to protect her rights, if everyone is shouting on the internet we must shout louder, if the youth are influenced by social media then the Church must get into social media. Now, the Church exists in the world – she must engage politics, in culture, she must be present on the internet. However let us not be deceived to think that this is the most important front of the battle.
Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, knew clear the nature of our battle. It is spiritual. Our mission is to lead souls to God. Our enemy is spiritual – satan and his angels. Therefore our weapons – or if you prefer to say tools – must also be spiritual.
What are these spiritual tools? Matthew Kelly in his book “ Rediscovering Catholicism” speaks of what he calls seven pillars of Catholic spirituality – confession, Mass, Daily Prayer, scripture, fasting, spiritual reading, the rosary.
Matthew Kelly certainly did not invent any of these practices – they are a long part of our tradition. However, I believe it is fair to say that many Catholics have lost touch with these practices. My goal as pastor during this next year – and today I am inviting your participation – is to try and encourage these practices of piety, these beautiful traditions of Christian prayer.
Imagine each member of our parish experienced the Sunday Mass as a true encounter with the Risen Lord – just like the women on Easter Sunday – and went forth to share with others “I have seen the Lord”?
That this encounter was repeated every day in personal prayer, in the Rosary together as a family, in reading the Gospels?
Might there be more peace in our families and work places if we all had the humility to admit our faults, kneel down and ask for God’s mercy regularly? How much less impulsive and selfish we would be if we adopted fasting as a regular practice?
What would it be like if each Catholic was “well read,” able to defend our faith when criticized or mocked? Able to quote the scriptures quicker than the door to door missionary?
Some of you may be thinking – Father this parish already is very prayerful – we have cenacles of Rosary, we have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, we have lots of confessions. It is true – thanks be to God. But there are still many who don’t have the habit of daily prayer. I hope to encourage more of our parishioners to participate in these activities and that those who already do so, practice them in a more profound way.
Others might think: Pope Francis is calling us to go out! To serve the poor and those in need. And you want us to pray like nuns!? We need to go out. But we cannot bring the love of Christ to others if we have not experienced that love ourselves. Prayer is the foundation of the Christian life – without this foundation any apostolate we try to carry out is doomed to failure. We cannot be Christians without being souls of deep prayer.
Today we honor our patron Saint Michael. In the book of revelation we hear of his great battle with satan and the fallen Angels. He reminds us we are participating in a spiritual warfare – something greater than what we see and hear. Let us take up the weapons of prayer and fasting, let us participate in this great struggle, knowing that we are not alone, but accompanied by a great army of saints and angels. In the image over the tabernacle, which is also our Parish logo, St. Michael is shown with the banner of victory. May this feast give us hope that if we are faithful in the struggle we will also be victorious.