“It is in this darkness, when there is nothing left in us that can please or comfort our own minds, when we seem to be useless and worthy of all contempt, when we seem to have failed, when we seem to be destroyed and devoured, it is then that the deep and secret selfishness that is too close to us for us to identify is stripped away fro our souls. It is in this darkness that we find liberty. It is in this abandonment that we are made strong. This is the night which empties us and makes us pure.”

Thomas Merton

Quote of the Week: Freedom in Darkness

“Let the mouth also fast from disgraceful speeches and railings. For what does it profit if we abstain from fish and fowl and yet bite and devour our brothers and sisters? The evil speaker eats the flesh of his brother and bites the body of his neighbor.”

St. John Chrysostom

Quote of the Week: Fasting from Gossip

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 3-19-17


“… the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Rm. 5:5

“There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there too. But more often stones and grit block the well, and God is buried beneath. Then God must be dug out again.”
Etty Hillesum

We thirst.

In the first reading (Ex. 17:3-7) we hear of the people’s thirst. God freed them from Egypt and as they wander in the desert they become thirsty. This thirst leads to quarreling and resentment. They become so angry that Moses is afraid for his life.

God responds to their thirst. He commands Moses to provide them with water. God cares about His people’s thirst and responds.

The theme of thirst goes deeper in the Gospel story of the woman at the well. Jesus sits at a well. He is thirsty. God is thirsty. Jesus thirst comes first.

Then along comes the woman. Like each of us, she comes to the well because she is thirsty. Perhaps her life has become routine and empty. She has sought fulfillment (five husbands). But still, she thirsts. She comes to the well, seeking something to quench her thirst.

And she finds Jesus at the well

Something happens.

This mysterious encounter with Jesus quenches the woman’s thirst. She leaves her water jar beside the well. With renewed energy, she returns to her village trying to share this powerful encounter with others. It has changed her. Jesus has changed her. He has satisfied her deepest longing.

Each day, Jesus comes to us. He thirsts for us. He pours his Spirit into our hearts so that our deepest thirst can be quenched. Like God coming to His people and like Jesus at the well, the deepest longings of our heart can be fulfilled in a mysterious encounter with Jesus.

This encounter is prayer.

In prayer, something happens. This encounter digs out the well within our hearts where Jesus thirsts for us. Each day, when we come to prayer, we come to the well. At the well of prayer, we encounter Jesus who can fulfill our deepest desires. He transforms us.

This encounter is what lent is all about.


Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood

“You tell me that in your heart you have fire and water, cold and heat, empty passions and God: one candle lit to St. Micahel and another to the devil.
Calm yourself. As long as you are willing to fight there are not two candles burning in your heart. There is only one: the archangel’s.”

St. Josemaria Escriva

Quote of the Week: Calm in the Storm

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 2-26-17

Goose, Goose Breast, Fry, Food, Christmas Food, Feast“There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink and find enjoyment, for these are from the hand of God.”
Ecclesiastes 2:24

“One will have to give account in the judgment day of every good thing which one might have enjoyed and did not.”
The Talmud

Lent is nearly upon us, but before we began our time of fasting, we have the time of feasting known as Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday). Mardi Gras is not a time of overindulgence or immorality as it is sometimes portrayed. Instead, at its heart, Mardi Gras is about enjoying the gifts God has given us to the fullest. It is a time of gratitude and thanks.

I priest in the diocese recently shared his favorite Mardi Gras prayer, which gets at the sensuousness and delight of Mardi Gras.

O Lord, refresh our sensibilities.  Give us this day our daily taste. Restore to us soups that spoons will not sink in, and sauces which are never the same twice.  Raise up among us stews with more gravy than we have bread to blot it with, and casseroles that put starch and substance in our limp modernity. Take away our fear of fat, and make us glad of the oil which ran upon Aaron’s beard.  Give us pasta with a hundred fillings, and rice in a thousand variations.  Above all, give us grace to live as true folk – to fast till we come to a refreshed sense of what we have and then to dine gratefully on all that comes to hand.  Drive far from us, O Most Bountiful, all creatures of air and darkness; cast out the demons that possess us; deliver us from the fear of calories and the bondage of nutrition; and set us free once more in our own land, where we shall serve thee as thou hast blessed us – with the dew of heaven, the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. (Robert Farrar Capon)

May the next few days be days of great joy and gratitude in your life as we prepare for the coming lenten fast.

“Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist, and make use of the creation to the full as in youth. Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes, and let no flower of spring pass us by. Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither. Et none of us fail to share in our revelry; because this is our portion, and this is our lot” (Wisdom 2:6-9).


Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood


A prayer to help get ready for lent…

Prayer to Mary, Undoer of Knots

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never

refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother

whose hands never cease to serve your beloved

children because they are moved by the divine love

and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your

compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl

of knots that exist in my life.

You know very well how desperate I am, my pain

and how I am bound by these knots.

Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing

of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust

into your hands the ribbon of my life.

No one, not even the Evil One himself, can take it

away from your precious care. In your hands, there

is no knot that cannot be undone.

Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power

with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your

hands today this knot…I beg you to undo it for

the glory of God, once for all, You are my hope

O, my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me,

the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment

of my destitution and with Christ the

freedom from my chains.

Hear my plea

Keep me, guide me, protect me, o safe refuge!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me

Quote of the Week: Prayer to Mary, Undoer of Knots

Prayer in the Catholic Tradition

 Chapter 1 Prayerfulness by Robert Wicks

The first chapter, written by the editor Robert Wicks, is a helpful introduction to the idea of prayerfulness. While the chapter doesn’t explicitly state it, the term “prayerfulness” is a play on the term “mindfulness” derived from Buddhism and used in meditation circles.
Simply put, prayerfulness is

prayerfulness — that is, being in the present with our eyes wide open to the presence and reflection of God in all things, including ourselves. (p. 6)


prayerfulness is being in the now with our eyes open to the presence of God. (p. 11)

Wicks begins by describing Jesus call to a new way of life:

  1. in place of power, the call is to friendship and service
  2. in place of success, the call is to faithfulness
  3. in place of certainty, the call is to face their doubts and
  4. in place of retribution, the call is to forgive and love (p. 5)

Following this is a brief discussion (and a table) exploring the fruits of prayerfulness.  Examples from the chart include:

Prayerfulness can

  • lift us out of stagnant, obsessive thought patterns
  • help us to forgo the comfort of denial and avoidance for the peace that allows us to fear nothing but instead welcome all of our emotions, cognitions (ways of thinking, perceiving, and understanding), and impulses with compassion and clarity
  • open up true space for others by opening it up in ourselves
  • encourage us to wonder more about what thoughts, emotions, and events help us create peace rather than suffering
  • make us more in tune with the voice of God that is continually being drowned out by society and our own habitual voices

Wicks goes on to discuss ways to strengthen our prayerfulness, outlining key elements of a rule of life

  • Liturgy
  • Faith sharing
  • Formal prayer
  • Reflection during the day
  • Spiritual reading
  • Sacred Scripture
  • Journaling and theological reflection
  • Prayer in silence and possibly solitude
  • Hospitality

The chapter concludes with common questions about prayerfulness structured in terms of our presence to God (prayer), others (compassion), and self (fullness).

Wicks draws heavily on the thought of Merton and Nouwen in this chapter. His structure is more pastoral and psychological than theological. The influence of the mindfulness movement on the chapter is apparent.

All that being said, the chapter is a helpful reference and framework for those beginning along the spiritual path. It lays out the path of discipleship and the fruits of the spiritual life. In particular, the rule of life is helpful to share with anyone actively engaged in the spiritual life. As an opening chapter to a book on prayer in the Catholic Tradition the chapter does its job well.

Seeking Comments: Prayer in the Catholic Tradition 2

Chapter 2 Traditional Catholic Prayer

by Dennis J. Billy, CSsR

How important is traditional Catholic prayer in an individual’s prayer life? What role should traditional Catholic prayer have in a parish? How can traditional Catholic prayer be fostered and developed? These were questions on my mind as I read the second chapter of Prayer in the Catholic Tradition on “Traditional Catholic Prayer.” The first two questions are clearly answered, but I’m looking for comments on the third (see the bottom of the post).

The chapter begins by identifying what we mean when we talk about “Traditional Catholic Prayer.”

The word traditional suggests that these prayer forms are embedded in popular piety and devotion, structured according to set guidelines, and rooted in the living tradition of the Church. The word Catholic implies that they are closely associated with one of the many theological and liturgical rites within the Catholic Church… The world prayer indicates that they address a personal God, are fundamentally dialogical in nature, and focus on one or more key aspects of human existence: the physical, the mental, the spiritual, and the social (26).

… the phrase “traditional Catholic prayer” speaks of any approach to prayer that has become clearly identified with Catholic faith and recognized by the faithful as a legitimate devotion to be practiced on a regular basis as a means to growth in virtue and holiness (27).

[It] embraces a wide spectrum of set vocal, meditative, and contemplative practices. In its more specific sense, however, it refers to certain popular devotional practices that, at various points in the Church’s history, have seized the Catholic imagination and accompanied the faithful in their spiritual journey (27).

Traditional Catholic prayer is not limited to a particular culture; it includes both Eastern and Western forms of prayer.

If the Western forms emphasize the role of the passion and death of the crucified Lord in humanity’s redemption and the Easter forms highlight the process of theosis in humanity’s divinization, the two complement each other in profound ways and can be used by Catholics from both traditions to deepen their relationship with God and foster a spirituality that is truly one, holy, catholic, and apostolic (28).

Traditional Catholic prayer has common features.  First and foremost it is connected to the liturgical life of the church. Devotion does not compete with the liturgy, but “both are rooted in and flow from the same redemptive, re-creative, and sanctifying mysteries of the Christ event” (29). There is a harmony and reinforcement between traditional Catholic prayer and the liturgy.

Traditional Catholic prayer generally has a rhythm to it. This pattern and/or repetition parallels the rhythm of the liturgy and encourages depth of prayer. This repetition has the danger of becoming mere exterior formalism, but at its best the prayer’s rhythm builds on the insight that “a regular regimen of prayer impacts a person’s attitude, thoughts, and actions for the better” (29) enabling deeper integration and experience.

Prayer shapes the imagination and forms Catholic identity. It can help to “accentuate key aspects of Catholicism that set it apart from other Christian churches and ecclesial communities.” Properly used, traditional Catholic prayer can orient the faithful to the liturgy and practice of the faith. This Catholic identity also helps “to preserve unity in the midst of cultural diversity” (30).

Traditional Catholic prayer assumes private and communal forms. The rosary, chaplets, etc… can be prayed by individuals or in groups having a different purpose and style depending on the purpose of the prayer. These devotions are not required. They evolve over time. The flexibility of traditional Catholic prayer allows them to “weave themselves into the daily rhythm and life of the faithful” (31).

Because they are rooted in a sound anthropology, traditional Catholic prayer “affirms the physical, mental, spiritual, and social dimensions of human existence” (31). This balance is important in allowing a person to pray with their whole self.

There are both Christological and ecclesial dimensions to traditional Catholic prayer. The raising their minds and hearts to God, the faithful “… pray through, with, and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, who vivifies and sanctifies the Church through her life and sacraments” (31).

Traditional Catholic prayer is an important means of passing the faith from one generation to the next. Because it can exist independently of the hierarchical priesthood, it can provide spiritual sustenance when the sacraments are not readily available.

When seen in this light, such prayers are a major means by which the Church faith, in the absence of the ordinary means of salvation, can be passed on from one generation ot the next. In this respect, they complement the sacramental life of the Church and provide a cushion of spiritual practice upon which it can rely in times of persecution and hardship. … In the past, these traditional prayers have sustained the faithful in the most dire circumstances and helped them to survive (and even thrive) when access to the Eucharist was rare and, at times, even nonexistent (32).

Finally, traditional Catholic prayer is not secondary.  While it is not perfect and can suffer from abuses, it is vital to the life of the faithful and an essential part of any Catholic’s spiritual life.

It is not an inferior form of prayer to look down upon or hope one day to outgrow, but a staple food of the spiritual life that nourishes every dimension of a person’s makeup. It does not conflict with the Church’s liturgy but is intrinsically oriented toward and thoroughly fed by it. It encompasses many shapes, adapts to a variety of contexts, and orients the faithful toward the transcendent through a set of religious practices. It supports a focused “spirituality of practice” that has captured the heart of the faithful, shores up their Catholic identity, enables believers to take ownership of their spiritual lives, and gives their faith a marked personal imprint (33).

This dense chapter does a great job of answering my first two questions:

  1. How important is traditional Catholic prayer in an individual’s prayer life?

Obviously traditional Catholic prayer is critical to anyone’s spirituality. These prayers and prayer forms deeply shape the way each of us relates to God. They have been tested and shaped over time. If traditional Catholic prayer is not a part of your spirituality, it is time to start exploring it.

2. What role should traditional Catholic prayer have in a parish?

Traditional Catholic prayer needs to be integrated into the life of the parish. The parishes I serve as a deacon do not have a strong, recent tradition with these prayers and prayer forms. When they are introduced, there is not a lot of participation. We are beginning new initiatives to foster traditional Catholic prayer in the parish and at home,but it is an uphill battle. That brings us to the third and final question…

3. How can traditional Catholic prayer be fostered and developed?

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section. How can we foster traditional Catholic prayer in our homes and in our parishes?