Why Pray to the Sacred Heart?
Why do we pray to the Sacred Heart
of Jesus? Although I include this in
my daily prayers, I'm unsure how to explain
this to others.
The solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is celebrated
on the Friday after Corpus Christi (June 22 in 2001).
devotion, promoted especially by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
(d. 1690), was and is a way of softening the image of God
as primarily lawgiver, judge and punisher.
Scriptures use those images of God, but they also give ones
less threatening. Devotion to the Sacred Heart says two
things at the same time: Jesus is indeed fully human (people
regard the heart as the seat of human emotions) and God
forgives those who repent.
devotion does not suggest that God is indifferent to good
and evil. Jesus' description of the Last Judgment (Matthew
25:31-46) and the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke
16:19-31) remind us that God takes our choices very seriously.
Heaven is full of people who cooperated with God's grace,
using their freedom wisely.
to the Sacred Heart started to become popular in the late
1600s in France, perhaps as God's answer to Jansenism, which
had begun there earlier in that century. In A Concise
Dictionary of Theology, Gerald O'Collins, S.J., and
Edward Farrugia, S.J., describe Jansenism as "a theological
and spiritual movement, characterized by moral rigidity
and pessimism about the human condition" (Paulist, rev.
to the Sacred Heart can foster repentance and hope among
people who might otherwise despair of ever pleasing God.
all popular devotions, this one is optional. You could be
saved without ever saying a prayer to the Sacred Heart or
even believing that Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary
devotions approved by the Church, however, can help us recall
fundamental gospel messagesóin this case, God's unquenchable
love and willingness to forgive.
to the Sacred Heart reminds us that repentance, not despair,
is the proper response to sin. No one can commit a sin exceeding
God's ability to forgive.
How Should I Pray?
I am trying to understand how prayers are answered and why some of them are unanswered. Is there a certain way people should pray?
All of us necessarily pray by using some mental image of
God. If, for example, I think that God is rather skeptical
and not easily convinced, then I will pray accordingly.
If I think that God is guaranteed to answer a certain 37-word
prayer, then I will use that 37-word prayer every time that
I pray about something really important.
what if prayer is not about giving God needed information?
What if its purpose is not to convince God to do something
I am afraid God might not do otherwise? What if prayer is
more about expressing (and causing!) my openness to God's
grace than about calling God's attention to things?
you answered "yes" to any of those questions, can any prayer
ever go unanswered? Things may not have turned out as I
judged best. Perhaps I prayed for someone and yet that person
died. I may have prayed for a cure and the disease only
who tell you that they have a surefire way of praying, in
the sense of guaranteeing a particular outcome, are deceived.
For that to work, it would have to be possible to force
God to do what God had originally not intended. That approach
turns God into an order-taker at a drive-through window.
my prayer is always an expression of my openness to God's
grace, if it reaffirms my readiness to cooperate with that
grace, such a prayer can never be wasted.
the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, "Father, if you
are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will
but yours be done" (Luke 22:42).
there were a guaranteed way of ensuring that you get what
you pray for, wouldn't Jesus have known that? If we pray
as Jesus did, we will not be constantly bothered by the
thought of "unanswered" prayers.
Why in a Tree or With a Flame?
Why is Anthony of Padua sometimes shown sitting in a tree?
Why have some artists put a tongue of fire on his forehead?
In the last months of his life, Anthony lived in Camposampiero
where he wrote sermon notes to help other preachers. Friends
built him a hermitage in a walnut tree. Anthony was clearly
a Spirit-filled preacher of the Good News. At the first
Christian Pentecost, fiery tongues rested on the apostles
and the others in the Upper Room (see Acts of the Apostles
The tongue of fire on Anthony's forehead
says that he received that same Spirit. Our St. Anthony
e-greeting, created by Robert Lentz and available at www.CatholicGreetings.org,
shows Anthony in a walnut tree with a tongue of fire on
his forehead. May all of us be as open to the Holy Spirit
as Anthony was!
Are Eastern Catholics Really Catholic?
Are Byzantine-rite Catholics really Catholics? Do they belong to the Orthodox Church? Is it true that Byzantine-rite priests can be married? If so, do they have to marry before they become priests or can they marry after becoming priests?
The term "Byzantine-rite Catholics" is popular but not as
exact as "members of Eastern Catholic Churches." Yes, they
really are Catholics.
St. Anthony Messenger resource on this topic is "The
Christian Family Tree" (January 2000).
Eastern Catholic Churches (those in full communion with
the Bishop of Rome) and the Orthodox Churches (those acknowledging
the patriarch of Constantinople as their spiritual leader)
both allow for the ordination of married men.
These Churches do not allow men to be ordained first and
marry later. Nor do they allow a married priest to remarry
if his wife dies.
the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches, bishops are
chosen only from among monks, from those who have already
made a vow of celibacy.
Catholic Churches can observe this custom of ordaining married
men in the original territory of their Church but not elsewhere.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, for example, can have
married priests in Ukraine but not in the United States
word catholic means universal. The Eastern
Catholic Churches help Christ's Church to be "universal."
What Good Are Relics?
As a staunch Lutheran, I was taught that the Shroud of Turin,
Veronica's veil and other relics are inconsequential.
was taught that the way to God is through faith, and faith
alone, as it was stated in the Bible. After looking at your
Web site, I was surprised to see the emphasis placed on
does the Catholic Church emphasize relics if Jesus says
that the only way to heaven is through him?
Relics do not save people, and the Catholic Church does
not teach that they do. Jesus saves people. Like our publications,
this Web site emphasizes that.
Relics can, however, remind us of flesh-and-blood people
who generously cooperated with God's grace. Those saints,
in turn, can encourage us to cooperate just as generously
with God's grace.
suspect that you and I agree that Jesus Christ has saved
us through his passion, death and resurrection. I further
suspect that we agree that a person could choose not to
accept salvation. How? By that person's choices.
remind us to make good and generous choices. Relics can
remind us of saints (including Mary). All walked this earth
and eventually gave God an accounting for their stewardship
of resources, time and talent.
Son of God became a human being, in the person of Jesus
Christ, within a specific time and in a designated place.
In a sense, relics remind us of Jesus' Incarnation and of
our needóright here, right nowóto make choices which reflect
and reinforce our identity as followers of Jesus.
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