Monday, July 16, 2012

After the Bishops' Fortnight, Let Reparation Accompany Petition

Drawing of the Crucifixion by St. John of the Cross (c. 1550)

"...the more perfectly that our oblation and sacrifice corresponds to the sacrifice of Our Lord, that is to say, the more perfectly we have immolated our love and our desires and have crucified our flesh by that mystic crucifixion of which the Apostle speaks,  the more abundant fruits of that propitiation and expiation shall we receive for ourselves and for others..." 
Pope Pius XI, Miserentissimus Redemptor, 1928.


The Fortnight for Freedom is over, but our work continues!

When we ask God for something in prayer it is a called a prayer of petition. Ponder: Should we simply petition God, or should we offer something to him first?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses the need to first ask for pardon with our petitions:

2631. The first movement of the prayer of petition is asking forgiveness, like the tax collector in the parable: "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" It is a prerequisite for righteous and pure prayer. A trusting humility brings us back into the light of communion between the Father and his Son Jesus Christ and with one another, so that "we receive from him whatever we ask." Asking forgiveness is the prerequisite for both the Eucharistic liturgy and personal prayer.

Like the unblemished sacrificial victims of the Old Testament (Leviticus 22:20), and like Jesus - the unblemished Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:19), we must offer our sacrifice of prayer with the docility of a lamb and purity of soul. That is, we ought to be cleansed of grave sin. (CCC 1846-1876). Only Sacramental Confession can make us clean so our offering is pure. Even when we are in the state of grace, and without mortal sin, we have venial sins and imperfections we should acknowledge, if only in our hearts, with our prayer of petition.

That which follows examines the subject of reparation for our own offenses, and the offenses of others, as we offer our prayers of petition.

Prayers of Petition for the Upcoming Election and Beyond

In the wake of the Fortnight for Freedom, we ought to continue with our petitions to God to help this nation - leading up to the presidential election and beyond.  But, we should first ask pardon for our offenses and for those committed by others.  This is often referred to as reparation and it should be a part of our daily prayer.  When we do this, graces come to us, and to those for whom we ask pardon.

We have many legitimate reasons to petition God here in the United States: The presidential election is forthcoming and the outcome can affect many things. Religious liberty comes from God, but man-made laws can hinder our ability to put the Gospel fully into practice.  There is an assault on this aspect of religious liberty in America.  It is coupled with secular humanism and relativism which continues to creep into every corner of society, even within the Catholic population. Families are shattered and broken and the institution of marriage is under persistent threat.  Immorality is elevated in media with society's approval;  vice is the new "virtue," narcissism is rampant and nihilism is on the rise among those more feral than civilized.  Drug use and suicide rates are up; babies are discarded through abortion like yesterday's trash, while the elderly and disabled are abandoned or "helped" along in death in the name of "compassion." There seems to be no end to the wars taking life and limb.  Materialism and consumerism rule our days as the needy starve; and, we are hanging from an economic cliff with many still looking for decent work, with some losing their homes. More people skip their Sunday obligation than fulfill it; open dissent permeates Catholic circles and a pseudo-magisterium with broad reach on the web is competing for authority with our bishops.  The life and death of souls hangs in the balance.

Every age has had a litany of problems.  We ought not become surprised or despondent, nor should we dismiss these things as if they are someone else's job to deal with.  We need to turn to proven, God-pleasing remedies. It begins with each of us keeping the Commandments which is a sign of our love for God (1 John 2:3-4).  But, it ought not end there.

Jesus showed us the way when He went to the cross to expiate the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).   From the cross, Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Lk 23:34).  The love Christ shows through His Sacrifice for us is the love that we ought to reflect by following the example of Our Lord, and begging pardon of the Father for the offenses of others. In this way, our charity leads us to unite ourselves to Christ in His sufferings with the hope that sinners will turn back to God and all the angels and heavens will rejoice (Col 1:24, Lk 15:7,10).  Peace in the world comes with unity in Christ! (Eph 4:1-3)

Pope Pius XI on Reparation

Pius XI wrote extensively about reparation in his 1928 encyclical, Miserentissimus Redemptor (on Reparation to the Sacred Heart), it is hard not to imagine that it was written for today. In fact, it is truly timeless and something worth revisiting considering the problems we now face.  While the Month of the Sacred Heart (June) is now behind us, devotion to the Sacred Heart is performed around the year, particularly on the First Friday of each month. This particular encyclical treats the subject of reparation very deeply, and it is a relatively short read.

Near the beginning, in paragraph 4, Pope Pius XI says something that caught my attention, given our current situation here in the United States. Remember, this was written in 1928.

"...But since in the last century, and in this present century, things have come to such a pass, that by the machinations of wicked men the sovereignty of Christ Our Lord has been denied and war is publicly waged against the Church, by passing laws and promoting plebiscites repugnant to Divine and natural law,..."

Paragraphs 16 and 17 are worth quoting in full because they too seem remarkably written for today:

16. But it is yet more to be lamented, Venerable Brethren, that among the faithful themselves, washed in Baptism with the blood of the immaculate Lamb, and enriched with grace, there are found so many men of every class, who laboring under an incredible ignorance of Divine things and infected with false doctrines, far from their Father's home, lead a life involved in vices, a life which is not brightened by the light of true faith, nor gladdened by the hope of future beatitude, nor refreshed and cherished by the fire of charity; so that they truly seem to sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. Moreover, among the faithful there is a greatly increasing carelessness of ecclesiastical discipline, and of those ancient institutions on which all Christian life rests, by which domestic society is governed, and the sanctity of marriage is safeguarded; the education of children is altogether neglected, or else it is depraved by too indulgent blandishments, and the Church is even robbed of the power of giving the young a Christian education; there is a sad forgetfulness of Christian modesty especially in the life and the dress of women; there is an unbridled cupidity of transitory things, a want of moderation in civic affairs, an unbounded ambition of popular favor, a depreciation of legitimate authority, and lastly a contempt for the word of God, whereby faith itself is injured, or is brought into proximate peril. 
17. But all these evils as it were culminate in the cowardice and the sloth of those who, after the manner of the sleeping and fleeing disciples, wavering in their faith, miserably forsake Christ when He is oppressed by anguish or surrounded by the satellites of Satan, and in the perfidy of those others who following the example of the traitor Judas, either partake of the holy table rashly and sacrilegiously, or go over to the camp of the enemy. And thus, even against our will, the thought rises in the mind that now those days draw near of which Our Lord prophesied: "And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold" (Matth. xxiv, 12).

Of course, abortion was not legal in the U.S. in 1928 and in many other countries. While there were always some abortions happening illegally, since Roe v. Wade more than 54 million persons were deprived of the opportunity to know, love, and serve God giving us more then 54 million acts of reparation to make collectively.  This says nothing of the children they were destined to have, and their offspring.  From among these discarded people were priests and religious who could have served our parishes and schools (keeping them open), scientists who could have discovered cures for cancer, engineers who could have solved the problems of famine, diplomats who could have prevented wars, musicians and artists, and many ordinary people. Abortions don't end when they become illegal; they end when hearts are won over to Christ!  Moreover, no one is beyond God's mercy for those who seek it, including women who have had abortions, and for those who encouraged them.

In paragraph 18, Pius XI writes, "Now, whosoever of the faithful have piously pondered on all these things must need be inflamed with the charity of Christ in His agony and make a more vehement endeavor to expiate their own faults and those of others, to repair the honor of Christ, and to promote the eternal salvation of souls."  In the next paragraph, we are reminded of how the Angel consoled Jesus in the garden.  When we make acts of reparation - big and small -  they are consoling to Our Lord because He is not confined by time.

There is a Prayer of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the end of the encyclical, Miserentissimus Redemptor.  And, there are a number of other prayers associated with this devotion.

A Teenage Saint Who Frequently Made Acts of Reparation

Dominic's guiding motto was, that no occasion for doing good to souls, or of offering some little act of reparation to God, should be missed; and this accounts for his constant zeal, and his visits to the Blessed Sacrament, in which he generally managed to be accompanied by a friend or some one he wished to bring to a better life. [St John Bosco (2009-05-19). The Life of St Dominic Savio by St John Bosco (Kindle Locations 430-432). St Athanasius Press. Kindle Edition.]

St. Dominic Savio demonstrates that one way to make an act of reparation is to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament, even if only a few minutes. If you read the book on his life by St. John Bosco, you will find many other acts of reparation the young saint performed, often with little ejaculatory prayers. 

While it is good to arrange for Adoration on the eve of a presidential election in your parish, or all-night as we have at Assumption Grotto, it is even better when we make some effort to frequently visit the Blessed Sacrament. If you cannot spend an hour before the Lord each day, or each week, perhaps you can spend 30 minutes, or 15 minutes as time allows.  Adoration is second only to assisting at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  If you are homebound, or if you have work or family obligations which prevent you from making it to Church or an Adoration chapel, then take some time out for a holy hour or prayer time at home.

Reparation and Fatima

In 1916, in Fatima, the visionaries first saw an Angel who taught them a simple prayer of reparation.  This should be memorized and can be said any time of the day.  It is often repeated three times in succession:
My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You.

Much more was explained to the children about reparation by the Angel in that encounter, which can be read in pages 76-80 in this online version of Sr. Lucia's Memoirs.  This book also shows the many creative ways the visionaries of Fatima found to offer sacrifices for reparation and conversion of others. Something as simple as passing on a coveted piece of fruit, or cutting a meal in half, or spending part of the day working in silence, fasting, doing something for a neighbor, and offering up pain and sickness.  These are just some of the ways we can make acts reparation, and they also help with mortification.

Pope Benedict XVI, on May 13, 2010, in Fatima reminded us about reparation using the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary: 
"...An example and encouragement is to be found in the shepherd children, who offered their whole lives to God and shared them fully with others for love of God. Our Lady helped them to open their hearts to universal love. Blessed Jacinta, in particular, proved tireless in sharing with the needy and in making sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. Only with this fraternal and generous love will we succeed in building the civilization of love and peace. 
We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete. Here there takes on new life the plan of God which asks humanity from the beginning: “Where is your brother Abel […] Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!” (Gen 4:9). Mankind has succeeded in unleashing a cycle of death and terror, but failed in bringing it to an end… In sacred Scripture we often find that God seeks righteous men and women in order to save the city of man and he does the same here, in Fatima, when Our Lady asks: “Do you want to offer yourselves to God, to endure all the sufferings which he will send you, in an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?” (Memoirs of Sister Lúcia, I, 162)..."

Pope Pius XI had this to say about the Blessed Virgin Mary in paragraph 21 of the aforementioned encyclical:

"...And now lastly may the most benign Virgin Mother of God smile on this purpose and on these desires of ours; for since she brought forth for us Jesus our Redeemer, and nourished Him, and offered Him as a victim by the Cross, by her mystic union with Christ and His very special grace she likewise became and is piously called a reparatress. Trusting in her intercession with Christ, who whereas He is the "one mediator of God and men" (1 Timothy ii, 5), chose to make His Mother the advocate of sinners, and the minister and mediatress of grace..."

The Holy Rosary is a fitting prayer for an act of reparation.  If you are not aware of the First Saturday Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it is a good idea to consider it.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary are often referred to as "The Two Hearts."  Devotions to both involve acts of reparation.

Reparation and Divine Mercy

St. Faustina, in paragraphs 474-476 in her diary, tells us about a vision she had one night. She says, "I saw an Angel, the executor of divine wrath...which was about to strike the earth, and in particular a certain place, which for good reasons I cannot name." So Faustina implored the Angel to wait, saying the world would do penance. When she saw the Angel unmoved, another vision came, this time of the Most Holy Trinity.  After recognizing the grace of Jesus, She writes:

"...I found myself pleading with God for the world with words heard interiorly. 
As I was praying in this manner, I saw the Angel's helplessness: he could not carry out the just punishment which was rightly due for sins. Never before had I prayed with such inner power as I did then.

The words with which I entreated God are these: Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ for our sins and those of the whole world; for the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us.."

You might recognize that as part of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which is a 5-10 minute prayer that can easily be prayed daily for reparation.  It is popular, when possible, to pray it at 3:00 PM, known as the Hour of Mercy, but any time of the day is fine.

I found another interesting note in St. Faustina's diary.  She suffered from the severe pains on several different occasions. They would begin at 8:00 PM and end three hours later.  Nothing would stop the pains and she was inspired to offer up this suffering in reparation for the murder of babies in the womb (Diary, No. 1276).

Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ on Masses of Reparation 

What Servant of God, Fr. Hardon, says in his discussion on abortion and reparation, applies for other offenses, as well:

Among all the conditions determined by our Lord, none is more effective for obtaining divine mercy than the Sacrifice of the Mass. 
This is only to be expected. In the Mass, it is the same identical Jesus who died on Calvary, who is now offering Himself for us in an un-bloody manner. Every Mass is a re-enactment of Calvary. Jesus is really and truly on the altar, made really present by the words of consecration of the priest.

To my priestly readers, look for opportunities to teach the faithful about reparation through Masses. In recent years, bishops have been offering them, but why not offer this at your parish whether for a specific circumstance, or on a regular basis, such as the evening of First Fridays (so more of the working class may attend), or the mornng of First Saturdays, with appropriate devotions to the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart of Mary.


There is so much more that could be written on the subject of reparation. Hopefully, this sampling of stories and quotes will encourage you to find ways each day to offer something along with our petitions for God's blessings on the United States of America.

As you make your act of reparations, be mindful of what Our Lord says about not looking gloomy like the hypocrites who seek attention for what they do (Mt 6:1-18).

We will continue to discuss reparation and all that is related, especially in the coming months. 

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