Preparing Our Hearts

In 1978, Dr. Amar Bose was flying from the US to Switzerland, when he was given a pair of headphones by the airline staff to listen to music. The problem was, the plane was so loud that he could barely hear the music.

So what did he do? He did what any great sound engineer would do. He began sketching plans for the first pair of noise cancelling headphones.

In 2018, every electronics company in the world offers some form of noise cancelling headphones. And with good reason. There is a lot of noise out there.

Here we are today, at the beginning of the holiday season. Advent is here, and we’re thinking of ways that we can prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ.

The problem is, there is a lot of noise out there: holiday parties, shopping, Christmas cards, work events, more shopping…our minds are filled with December noise.

So what can we do? How can we cancel out the noise? It’s actually very simple. We each have our own noise cancelling device: it’s called prayer.

Matthew Kelly says it best: “In the classroom of silence, we discover who we are and the Father’s love for us.”

This Advent, make an appointment each day for five minutes. Find a corner of your house…or the front seat of your car…or anywhere that you can get away. Put on your noise cancelling headphones (either literally or figuratively), and talk to God. Ask Him to quiet your brain, to relax your breathing, and calm the world around you.

And then begin the preparations to have Jesus reborn in your heart once again.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.

 

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Every Minute of Every Day

I could tell that something was wrong with my friend Shawn.

His handshake didn’t have the usual firmness. He was having a hard time maintaining eye contact. His voice was a bit softer and a lot sadder.

“I relapsed,” he finally said, looking down at his feet. “A few months ago.”

There was a pause as Shawn thought about what his next words would be. In that pause, I thought about how hard Shawn had worked to stop drinking. He moved to Wisconsin to go to rehab. He started a new job. He developed routines and habits that could help him grow as a person.

“It wasn’t that I got weak,” Shawn said. “I actually felt strong. Like I could handle one drink for a celebration. But I couldn’t.”

I didn’t know what to say, so I simply put my hand on his shoulder. Shawn smiled. “It’s not just a daily struggle, it’s an hourly struggle. It’s something I battle every single minute of every single day.”

We stand in silence for a few moments, each thinking of the right words to say next. I know that Shawn is a man of faith. I know that he trusts that God guides him. But sometimes he needs reassuring that he is on the right path.

“I’m praying for you, Shawn. Not as often as I should, but I am praying for you.”

“I know,” he responds. “People don’t realize how powerful their prayers are. They mean the world to me. I can feel them surround me and guide me. They also don’t realize that a word of encouragement can make the difference between staying sober and blacking out for two days.”

Think about the Shawns in your life. They may not be alcoholics, but they may be suffering. Have you let them know you’re praying for them? Have you let them know you support them? Have you let them know you care?

You never know when one simple sentence could be the difference in someone’s life.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK

 

I Will Pray the Five Finger Prayer

What is your call to action? How will you live a life of faith?

During the summer months, we’re featuring a post called “I Will.” What’s one thing you can do to make the world a better place?

I Will…Pray the Five Finger Prayer.

Prayer is a simple, yet powerful action. Each time we sit in a quiet space and talk to God, we are making an impact on the world around us.

Pope Francis offers this advice when it comes to prayer.

Using the fingers on your hand, start with the thumb and pray these intentions in this order:

1.) The thumb is the closest finger to you. So start praying for those who are closest to you. They are the persons easiest to remember. To pray for our dear ones is a “Sweet Obligation.”

2.) The next finger is the index. Pray for those who teach you, instruct you and heal you. They need the support and wisdom to show direction to others. Always keep them in your prayers.

3.) The following finger is the tallest. It reminds us of our leaders, the governors and those who have authority. They need God’s guidance.

4.) The fourth finger is the ring finger. Even though it may surprise you, it is our weakest finger. It should remind us to pray for the weakest, the sick or those plagued by problems. They need your prayers.

5.) And finally we have our smallest finger, the smallest of all. Your pinkie should remind you to pray for yourself. When you are done praying for the other four groups, you will be able to see your own needs but in the proper perspective, and also you will be able to pray for your own needs in a better way.

Our Father

 

 

In honor of Father’s Day, here is an excerpt from Our Father: Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer, by Pope Francis.

 

Father. Without saying this word, without taking it to heart, we cannot pray.

To whom do I pray? Almighty God? Too far away. I cannot feel that he is near. Even Jesus did not refer to God as “the Almighty God.”

To whom do I pray? The cosmic God? That is fashionable these days, praying to the cosmic God. But that is nothing but a polytheistic idea of who God is, typified by a lite culture.

To whom do we pray? No, not a cosmic God, but a… Father. We have to pray to the Father! It is a powerful word, “father.”

We have to pray to the one who has begotten us, the one who has given us life. He has given life to everyone, of course, but “everyone” is too anonymous. He has given life to you. He has given life to me.

He is also the one who accompanies us on our journey. He knows our whole lives, the good and the not-so-good.

If we do not begin our prayer with this word, spoken not with our lips but with our hearts, we cannot pray as Christians.

Instant Prayer

I recently noticed a habit that I have. I had just finished my grocery shopping and I made my way up to the checkout lane. There were two carts in front of me, and I knew I would have a few minutes of waiting.

I immediately put my hand in my pocket and pulled out my phone. I didn’t even think about, I just mindlessly reached for it.

I didn’t have a pressing email waiting for me. I wasn’t expecting an urgent text message. I simply wanted to flip through various apps and information to see what was going on.

And then I realized something frightening. Whenever I am in “waiting mode,” I reach for my phone.

  • When I’m waiting at a long, red traffic light, I reach for my phone.
  • When I’m waiting for a friend at a restaurant, I reach for my phone.
  • When I’m waiting in a doctor’s office, I reach for my phone.

It’s automatic. My hand simply goes to my phone.

Once I discovered this habit, I quickly made a decision. Instead of fighting my phone addiction, I decided to use it to my advantage.

Every time my fingers touch my phone, it’s a trigger for me to stop. I take a breath, I calm myself and I say an Instant Prayer.

  • At the grocery store: “God, I thank you for the food that you give me to eat. Help me to remember those that are hungry and in great need.”
  • At the red light: “God, you have blessed me with the ability to move about and see your world. Help me to remember those that have daily struggles.”
  • At the doctor’s office: “God, thank you for giving me the gift of life. Help me to live each day to its fullest.”

You get the idea.

An Instant Prayer is a quick acknowledgement of what God has given me in my life. It’s a way to appreciate his love every moment of every day. Even in the grocery checkout lane.

An Instant Prayer is always tied to the environment or the situation at hand. It is quick and direct. It’s heartfelt and powerful.

And sometimes, an Instant Prayer turns into a full blown prayer and I never actually pull my phone from my pocket.

And that’s okay with me.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.

 

Jesus Prayed

“It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.” -Luke 6:12

If you travel to the Sea of Galilee today, you notice that the towns where Jesus frequented are very close together. While Jesus would often welcome the crowds as he spoke, He often found himself needing some time alone. He frequently retreated to nearby desolate places, seeking out some quiet time.

In fact, there’s a cave not far from Capernaum where many think He spent a great deal of time praying. They call it the Eremos Cave. (Eremos means solitary—it’s where we get the word Hermit.)

This got me thinking…Jesus? Prayer? Wasn’t He the Son of God? Why did He need to pray?

While Jesus indeed was the Son of God, He was also a human being on Earth. The prayers that we know He spoke often reflect our own humanity:

  • Fear (“Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”)
  • Desperation (“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”)
  • Gratitude (“And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples.”)

Jesus faced similar challenges and emotions that each one of us faces on a daily basis. But what Jesus understood was that in order to overcome the earthly challenges and to handle the strong daily emotions, He needed his Father in his life. He connected to God through prayer.

Jesus was indeed a human, but He was also the Son of God. And He believed in the power of prayer.

Is there any doubt what I should be focusing on this Lent?

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK for St. Dominic Catholic Parish.

 

The Power of the Word

There is nothing more powerful than the Word of God. The Bible is filled with inspirational passages, thoughtful reflections, even life-changing words.

This month, theROCK will focus on The Power of the Word and discover how these ancient writings can have a direct impact on how we live our life today.

 We begin with the most impactful quote of them all.

Jesus was asked which of the commandments is the greatest. He didn’t hesitate. He simply said this:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

Everything we say and everything we do should be based on this commandment.

  • Find time throughout your day to pray. “Jesus, I long for You to be my ultimate treasure. Help me and give me power to do so!” 
  • Open the Bible every day. Look for passages that describe the glory of who Jesus is and what He has done. Not sure where to start? Begin with the Gospels.
  • Form a daily plan. What will you do every day to grow closer to God? Write down your plans. Schedule it. Then act on it.
  • Be with God. He wants to be with you and reveal Himself to you. He enjoys you! Set time aside to be with Him.

Imagine the kind of world we would have if everyone lived liked this.

Tell us what you think. How do you live this quote every single day?

Wherever I am, God Is.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of photographing a wedding with two very special people. After spending part of the morning photographing the bride with the hair stylist and makeup artist, it was time to turn to the groom.

I met him downstairs, and he walked toward me with a big smile on his face. I asked him how he was doing.

“I woke up really nervous, but then my dad stopped by. We talked and prayed together, and I I felt so much better.”

This made me smile. Not only was this 24-year-old making God and prayer an important part of this special day, he was proud enough to talk about it with his photographer!

His faithful integrity helped define who he wanted to be on this special day.

It inspired me to ask some questions:

  • When I’m having an anxious moment, do I spend time worrying, or do I immediately turn to God?
  • When I do have special moments in my life, am I preoccupied with all the activities and forget to “bring” God along with me?
  • Am I proud enough to discuss my faith with others in my life, even a complete stranger?

Living a life of Integrity means putting God in clear view for every aspect of my day.

There is a simple prayer I learned years ago. It’s something I say in both moments of anxiety and happiness:

The light of God surrounds me.

The love of God enfolds me.

The power of God protects me.

The presence of God watches over me.

Wherever I am, God is.

 

Dan Herda is a member of St. Dominic Marketing Committee, and an editor for theROCK.

Prayer in a Busy Life

December is a very busy month for everyone and it’s very easy to get caught up in your list of things to do.

But it’s also an important month for prayer and reflection. Writer Christina Antus posted this short article on Catholic Digest.

How do I fit prayer into my already insane schedule of things? Well, there are a lot of ways to fit prayer time in.

  • Running or walking. Whatever your exercise regime may be, it’s a good time to check out of this life and tune into your spiritual life. It could be silence, meditation, or prayer.
  • Podcasts on your errands. Listen to favorite podcasts and audio books when dropping kids off at school and running errands like a crazy person. It puts a sense of calm and positive perspective into what otherwise can quickly become a frantic day.
  • Using sock-folding as makeshift decades. I know it sounds ridiculous, but we have enough socks to make a full rosary. We have enough laundry to say the rosary for 40 years. The nice thing about the rosary is you don’t have to say it all once. It makes for a pretty awesome “on-the-go” prayer.
  • Daily devotionals. I have a book that has very short devotionals for women. It takes me five minutes to read it, and each ends with a prayer and reflection. It’s an excellent way to start or end your day. You can use the prayers to set your day on the right path or use it to reflect on the past day and focus on the next.

These are just a few examples of how to bring prayer and reflection into your everyday life. Maybe you have one that works better for you…we’d love to hear about it. Share your thoughts below.

During these last busy days before Christmas, it’s important that we find time to prepare our hearts and mind for the birth of Christ.