Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Meaning of the Holy Name

I’m back at my spot in McDonalds.  The baby is being a darling and happily sucking on his pacifier and playing with his hands, dozing off only to wake from the occasional order at the counter.  The TVs overhead are set to CNN and I see for the first time grainy images of the suspected bombers of the Boston blast.  I feel strangely light due to my diet race with my husband coupled with a larger-than-necessary mocha.  I see that they’re selling two steak and egg burritos for three dollars and scattered memories of my less-than-perfect day flash at me: the messy bedrooms, kitchen, downstairs; the rainy week crankiness; the laundry; the hugs I didn’t administer.  I feel the beginnings of a downward spiral of thought, but I don’t despair—I try something new.  I pray silently, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…”  And I let Him pull me toward the Father instead of falling into myself.

Fr. Paul O’Sullivan, O.P. in The Wonders of the Holy Name calls the Name “Jesus” the “all-powerful” prayer because it invokes the graces inherent in the Incarnation and Passion.  When we say His Name devoutly, meaning to thank Him for taking flesh and dying for us, we offer to our Heavenly Father infinite joy, love, and glory because we are offering Him His Son.

Fr. O’Sullivan can therefore assure his readers that when they pray His Holy Name, they can:

-Offer to God all the Masses said throughout the world that day 

-Free many souls from the pains of Purgatory so that they become dear friends and passionate intercessors

-Protect themselves from countless evils and from the attacks of the evil one 

-Become filled with a peace and joy previously unknown to them and strengthened so that they can easily bear their burdens

I am often plagued by bad thoughts, envious thoughts, suspicious thoughts, despairing thoughts, pretty much everything St. Paul advocates for not thinking about.  And I’ve made zero progress in trying to figure out why I’m having those thoughts or what I can do to fix them or how they aren’t really that bad or how they are the very worst thoughts anyone’s ever had and how I am doomed.  Because I’ve looked to myself to correct the problem.  But when I remember to say “Jesus” when I first notice them—even better, if I’ve been praying His Name all morning—and when I remember all the graces attached, joy and peace do come. 

If I’m troubled about a child, I try to remember to picture his face while saying Jesus’s name.  And with each “Jesus”, I’ve shared in all the Masses around the world for that child.  With each movement of the intellect our little prayer of “Jesus” can purify the blackest of thoughts to the extent that we have prayed it with love.
I am so grateful to Fr. O’Sullivan for promoting this beautiful devotion.  I am so thankful for his encouragement to frequently thank God for Jesus’s Incarnation and Passion throughout the day because it, sadly, wouldn’t have occurred to me otherwise.  And I now have a powerfully beautiful way to respond when confronted with the grainy images from Boston or the gruesome details from the Gosnell trial or seemingly insurmountable challenges from daily life.  I can close my eyes, pray “Jesus” with each heartbeat, and be reminded again that He is with me, with each breath, every second of the day.  I can better understand how I need Him every instant and how He will take me to the Father. 


“All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Col. 3:17).


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Wonders of the Holy Name by Fr. Paul O’Sullivan, O.P.

I hold the little book in my hand.  It’s smaller than my hand, actually.  Forty-five pages long, I read it in about half an hour last Thursday sitting in my car in the parking lot of Walmart as my baby slept in his carseat.  After I had finished, a hope and joy and peace bubbled up in my soul that I hadn’t felt in a long time.  The clouds parted and God let down His Light on my little dented Sunfire.

The cause of my joy?  The wonders of saying with love the Name “Jesus.”

In this little book, Fr. Paul O’Sullivan outlines the treasure of graces to be found in this beautiful devotion.  He writes, “This Divine Name is in truth a mine of riches; it is the fount of the highest holiness and the secret of the greatest happiness that a man can hope to enjoy on this earth.”  Indeed, if one only repeats His Name with love, Fr. O’Sullivan continues, “It is so powerful, so certain, that it never fails to produce in our souls the most wonderful results.  It consoles the saddest heart and makes the weakest sinner strong.  It obtains for us all kinds of favors and graces, spiritual and temporal” (p.1).

Saddest heart?  That’s often me, a melancholic, usually, of course, without reason.  Weakest sinner?  Me again.  And my ability to seek spiritual armor in prayer is often limited due to the nature of my vocation--craziness.  I find novenas about eight days too long.  I have managed to remember to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet as it ought to be prayed exactly once during my six years of marriage.  I have a great love for the rosary, but sometimes I can only manage a decade.  I’m trying to pray the Angelus but sometimes the intensity of lunch/pre-nap time is enough to make me forget to say it until the afternoon.  Sometimes it leads me to despair, a temptation, to be sure.  But it brings up the issue: how on earth is someone supposed to grow in holiness and “pray without ceasing” when nose-deep in a vocation that often means feeling maxed out at home with the constant demands of, in my case, four darling little people?

And so God sent me Fr. Paul O’Sullivan and this three dollar book (I owe the people at TAN Books so very much for their precious treasures that they distribute so cheaply).  Fr. O’Sullivan promises that if we understand the meaning and value of the Name of Jesus, and if we “get into the habit of saying it, devoutly, frequently, hundreds and hundreds of times every day,” that it will be “an immense joy and consolation” (2).
If you have three dollars and half an hour to spare—and, trust me, I know sometimes we don’t!—I so recommend this book.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, tired, worn out, despairing or just plain bored, invoke His Holy Name and let the infinite merits and grace of Jesus permeate your day.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Nailing Ourselves to the Cross This Easter

There she was.  Walking down the sidewalk to pick up her sons at the end of the school day.  Some years  older than me, her eyes sparked and her blonde hair blew in the breeze.  She was smiling, like she always is, and her face glowed with joy.  Where did that joy come from?  I frowned as I watched her.

Soon our paths crossed and I overheard her conversation with another mom.  She had been on a silent retreat earlier in Lent.  “The priest basically said,” she began, “‘If you want to rise with Christ—live with him—you need to nail yourself to the Cross.”  She threw her head back and laughed.  “Isn’t that terrible?  But it’s true!  He talked about how we all try to avoid suffering.”  She smiled and her eyes glittered.

The sidewalk glinted in the spring sun, a delicate breeze blew past my nose, and I knew that message by the way it landed in my heart and how it seemed so very true to me, was God’s nota bene to me.  As long as I tried to duck and flinch from trial and pain and suffering, I’d always be less than happy, bound up inside, misshapen, as St. Josemaria said.[i]   If I didn’t nail myself to the Cross with the sweet nails of Love, the world would do it for me, and I’d have very sad eyes, to the detriment to my family and community, and not the glittery ones of my friend.

What, then, do we do with the nails of a baby waking up in the middle of the night, disobedience in our children, disorder in the house, our jealousy and envy of other moms who seem to have it more together than we do, fear for our children in today’s world, lack of appreciation and understanding from our husbands, isolation from being at home, alienation from the neighborhood because of our faith, threats from the government to our beliefs?  Do we lash out at our family, glare, yell, complain to our husbands, or retreat, turn cold, turn to Facebook or t.v. or blogs or food or drink or drugs?  Do we dwell on thoughts of us versus them, me versus her, me not her, as if God’s love becomes diluted with each person needing His care?  What do we do when we feel the inevitable and sometimes constant pains inherent in our days, the nails that come from living in a fallen world?    

Caryll Houselander gives us insight into how Christ loved in the midst of this imperfection:

We know now in what way Christ would live in our humanity.  Not as One who, having proved his love, has gone back to his Father leaving us a sealed tomb, but as One who, having tasted to the full the joys and sorrows of human nature, having embraced the grief of mankind, having drained death to the last bitter dregs, sets his wounded feet in the dust again, takes bread into his wounded hands again, and seizing a doubting friend’s hand, thrusts it into his wounded heart; as though saying by his every act to all who would ever tremble and doubt: “I did not wipe the tears from the face of sorrow to lay sorrow by.  I did not touch pain with a fierce redeeming beauty to have done with it; I cannot give myself into the arms of death to cast death aside!  I made all these things my own that the glory I gave to them should be yours, that while they remain with you, I shall remain with them.” He has taken all those things to himself, and has changed them…having taken the weakness of our nature, he has made it our strength.  Now, if we set out to bear one another’s burdens, we know that however heavy they are, however hard to us, Christ has already borne them, and bears them now in us.

We have in the example of Jesus’s life a template for what it means to love in this world, and it is to pray and hope and love and suffer with one another as if their pain was our own.  Instead of succumbing to the nails of temptation and drawing lines in the sand, wishing the Lord’s justice fall upon them or at best remaining indifferent to our neighbor of different political leanings or that fellow parishioner who is hostile to the Church’s teaching or to the defiant relative, we must instead nail our pride to the Cross and pray for them, wanting his salvation and holiness as much as our own, indeed pull with him and his station in life, seeing in him a cherished member of Christ’s body, a member of our own body.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12-26:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.  Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many…God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

If there is to be peace and unity in our world, Church, country, and neighborhood, within ourselves, we must be willing to nail ourselves to the Cross for it, and that will be our Easter joy, to join Jesus in His redemptive love. 

[i] “God himself is the stone­cutter who works on us, chipping off the rough edges, shaping us as he desires, with blows of the hammer and chisel.  Don't let us try to draw aside, don't let us want to escape his will, for in any case we won't be able to avoid the blows. We will suffer all the more, and uselessly— and instead of polished stone, ready for the work of building, we will be a shapeless heap of gravel that people will trample contemptuously under foot.” St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way, 756.