The Word and Our Hearts

Word of God“Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12

“For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down And do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, Giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” – Isaiah 55:10-11


The Word. It is always effective, ready to penetrate the hardened heart as easily as a well-tuned chain saw slices into heart of a tree, to reveal its age and history. So God’s word has the power to divide our being between what the world tries to define us as, and that which we truly are in our call to holiness in the image of our Maker. Just as God knows the core of the tree before it is revealed, so He understands fully our hearts. Nothing is concealed from His gaze.

It is for our sake that sometimes in taking up the Word of God, our hearts are pierced. The Good Physician opens the wound to free us from the poison of our lives, and heal us, making us ready containers for His Spirit to dwell. Sometimes, when we read or listen to the Word of God, it doesn’t seem to penetrate anything; it seems to be just words. But just as the passage from Isaiah claims, the Word ‘shall not return to God void, but shall do his will, achieving the end for which it is sent.’ Over time, and perseverance, we begin to see the workings of the Word in our lives.

Saint Teresa of Avila is very encouraging on this point. She would tell her Sisters, when they find themselves confronted by an obstacle – whether it be a person, an attitude, a sin – to simply ask God to remove it. And keep asking until He does.

Perhaps there is an obstacle that we are not aware of? Then let us ask God to reveal it. Naming our obstacles takes away any power they may have over us, in the same way that confronting our vices makes it possible for us to avoid their occasions and build resistance to them.

The Word, by picking it up daily,  is consenting to have God work in our lives. And, little by little, it will cleanse and purify our hearts to desire God more and more, giving us strength to endure. In this way, the Word of God will ‘achieve the end for which it was sent’.


The Two Foundations

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7:24-27, Jesus gives a teaching about the importance of laying a good foundation with his parable of the two men building houses.

One man chooses to build his house on rock, and he sets to work laboring many weeks to cut the foundation into the stone to support his house.

The other man, seeing how much the other man struggled thought to himself, “I could make this easier on myself if I find a level ground and build there. Work would be less arduous, and I would finish much faster!”

And so it was. Both men built their houses, and for a time, all went well, until the rains came…

And where is the ‘good foundation’ for your spiritual life? Jesus says, “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock…”

Take God’s word into your heart and live by them. You will find, like the wise man, when the storms come, you will have nothing to fear.

Are You Speaking God’s Word to a Brick Wall?

Have you ever experienced wanting to speak to someone, to tell them the hope you have in the Lord Jesus, only to hear in your head, “Oh, I’ve tried so many times to speak God’s word to her, and it always falls off of her like water against a rock.”

In these moments it seems we are speaking to a brick wall, for no signs are evident that she’s ‘getting it’. It seems like a waste of time. Is it, really? When we speak the Word of God to others, is it ever really wasted?

In these moments of doubt, when the Word seems to fly over the head of another, the words of Isaiah leave me with hope:

Thus says the Lord:
Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it”  (Isaiah55:10-11).

These words of God are an encouragement to all who are called to share His Word with others. It may seem at times we are not making any headway, and that’s okay. It isn’t us that are accomplishing the important part; we are only the messenger. So, in delivering God’s message, what is our part?

Prayer. First and foremost, before we share the Good News with anyone, we must ask the Lord to guide our minds and hearts to speak His word, and His word alone. Praying first, accomplishes a lot.

Perhaps you have experienced it? Being in an unplanned situation where you find yourself before someone who needs a word of encouragement. You don’t feel prepared, and you find yourself sending up a silent prayer, “Dear God, send your Spirit that I might have your word to speak.” These small moments of prayer are signs of our docility. It shows our disposition to be God’s instrument as a messenger. We place ourselves at the disposal of God, recognizing we have nothing to offer the person in their moment of crisis, except God.

What transpires, more often than not when we are docile, is a moment of grace for both the one in crisis as well as for us, the messengers. We find ourselves saying things that we would not have thought of on our own. We recognize after the fact, that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). The meeting becomes a holy one, guided by the True Minister, Christ himself.

Be prepared. As Christians, we have a duty to witness to others of our faith. As Saint Paul teaches us, “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your faith” (1 Peter 3:15).  Our testimony to the truth works on two levels. The first – by grace – is bestowed by God. The other part of the formula – our preparation – comes through the deepening of our own relationship with God at the Font of Sacred Scripture, Prayer and the Sacraments. When we are faithful, consistently, in taking the Word of God in our lives and meditating on it, the more apt and ready we are to share that word from our experience with it. God, more fully can use us because of our preparation (Note: it is not because of our preparation that makes us the best witnesses, but it does make us more open to be understanding of the brokenness in others, and thus more credible witnesses of God’s love).

Thirst for Souls. When we reflect on the earthly ministry of Jesus, we can recognize his zeal for souls through the hours of time he spent, sometimes days at a time, preaching, teaching and healing those who came to Him. He saw them as sheep without a shepherd, and worked endlessly to bring the love of God the Father to those who needed Him most. Jesus hungered after the soul of the Samaritan woman at the well, and through her others came to believe in Him (“I have a food to eat of which you do not know” John 4:32). His final act of redemption on the Cross reveals His thirst; so thirsty for souls as to hand over His own life on the Cross (John 19:28). The deep desire of Jesus, aligned with the Father’s divine will, was rooted in charity of its purest form: unwavering love for God demonstrated through his ‘obedience unto death’; and love for the souls of all of the Father’s children. We too, as we are called to carry forth Jesus’ mission and message of salvation, must desire to bring all to the Father through Jesus Christ.

Despite what society might want us to believe, love for our neighbor and for God and His divine will is not a feeling, but rather, it is born out of a choice. Love of its purest form is not based on emotion, but on one’s decision to do what God would desire, regardless of our ‘feelings’. Our thirst for souls will grow, as we ask God to give us the grace to love. May He fill us with love for the person before us, that we may act in her best interest. This may require us to desire holy courage, especially if the person has not been so friendly towards us in the past. Ministry of the Word is not about us. It is a self-emptying to want the best for the other. Naturally, we don’t want to look like a fool in the eyes of the other, and yet God’s word often may appear to be foolish to the wise. If God wants, let us be fools for Him in our speech.

Today, as God sends down His word, let us make the decision to help it to be fruitful. Just as the Lord allows the rain to fall on both the good and the bad, is it possible that He also desires the Word to fall indiscriminately upon all of us? Does the Lord know something that we do not when we feel that ‘quickening of our spirit’ to share the Word with someone? How His word has the power – not on our telling it but solely on what it is – to penetrate the most callous of souls and soften the hardest of hearts? So, the next time we feel we are standing at a brick wall, let us recall the Lord’s promise: “My word shall not return to me void, but”!

Popular Piety and Mary

“I urge you to retain an appreciation for popular piety, which is different in every culture yet always remains very similar, for the human heart is ultimately one and the same. Certainly, popular piety tends towards the irrational, and can at times be somewhat superficial. Yet it would be quite wrong to dismiss it. Through that piety, the faith has entered human hearts and become part of the common patrimony of sentiments and customs, shaping the life and emotions of the community. Popular piety is thus one of the Church’s great treasures. The faith has taken on flesh and blood. Certainly popular piety always needs to be purified and refocused, yet it is worthy of our love and it truly makes us into the “People of God”.”

P. Benedict XVI to Seminarians. 18 October 2010 – Feast of St Luke the Evangelist


As we celebrate this month of May, walking in a particular way with Mary, the Mother of God, a reminder of some of the pious Marian practices of the faithful recommended by the Magisterium (It is worth going to the link to read the whole text which explains more in detail these beautiful devotions:

1.  Prayerfully Hearing the Word of God – The Council’s call for the “sacred celebration of the word of God” at significant moments throughout the Liturgical Year, can easily find useful application in devotional exercises made in honour of the Mother of the Word Incarnate.

2.  Angelus Domini – the traditional form used by the faithful to commemorate the holy annunciation of the angel Gabriel to Mary. It is used three times daily: at dawn, mid-day and at dusk. It is a recollection of the salvific event in which the Word became flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, through the power of the Holy Spirit in accordance with the salvific plan of the Father.

3.  Regina Coeli – By disposition of Benedict XIV (2 April 1742), the Angelus is replaced with the antiphon Regina Coeli during paschaltide. This antiphon, probably dating from the tenth or eleventh century(233), happily conjoins the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word (quem meruisti portare) with the Paschal event (resurrexit sicut dixit). The ecclesial community addresses this antiphon to Mary for the Resurrection of her Son. It adverts to, and depends on, the invitation to joy addressed by Gabriel to the Lord’s humble servant who was called to become the Mother of the saving Messiah (Ave, gratia plena).

As with the Angelus, the recitation of the Regina Coeli could sometimes take a solemn form by singing the antiphon and proclaiming the Gospel of the resurrection.

4.  The Rosary The Rosary, or Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is one of the most excellent prayers to the Mother of God. Thus, “the Roman Pontiffs have repeatedly exhorted the faithful to the frequent recitation of this biblically inspired prayer which is centred on contemplation of the salvific events of Christ’s life, and their close association with the his Virgin Mother. The value and efficacy of this prayer have often been attested by saintly Bishops and those advanced in holiness of life”(235).

The Rosary is essentially a contemplative prayer, which requires “tranquillity of rhythm or even a mental lingering which encourages the faithful to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life”(236). Its use is expressly recommended in the formation and spiritual life of clerics and religious(237).

5. The Blessing for Rosary Beads – indicates the Church’s esteem for the Rosary. This rite emphasises the community nature of the Rosary. In the rite, the blessing of rosary beads is followed by the blessing of those who meditate on the mysteries of the life, death and resurrection of Our Lord so as to “establish a perfect harmony between prayer and life”. As indicated in the Benedictionale, Rosary beads can be blessed publicly, on occasions such as a pilgrimage to a Marian shrine, a feast of Our Lady, especially that of the Holy Rosary, and at the end of the month of October.

“In recommending the value and beauty of the Rosary to the faithful, care should be taken to avoid discrediting other forms of prayer, or of overlooking the existence of a diversity of other Marian chaplets which have also been approved by the Church“.

6.  Litanies of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Litanies are to be found among the prayers to the Blessed Virgin recommended by the Magisterium. These consist in a long series of invocations of Our Lady, which follow in a uniform rhythm, thereby creating a stream of prayer characterized by insistent praise and supplication. The invocations, generally very short, have two parts: the first of praise (Virgo clemens), the other of supplication (Ora pro nobis)…Following the prescription of Leo XIII that the recitation of the Rosary should be concluded by the Litany of Loreto during the month of October, the false impression has arisen among some of the faithful that the Litany is in some way an appendix to the Rosary. The Litanies are independent acts of worship. They are important acts of homage to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or as processional elements, or form part of a celebration of the Word of God or of other acts of worship.

7.  Consecration and Entrustment to Mary – The history of Marian devotion contains many examples of personal or collective acts of  “consecration or entrustment to the Blessed Virgin Mary” oblatio, servitus, commendatio, dedicatio). They are reflected in the prayer manuals and statutes of many associations where the formulas and prayers of consecration, or its remembrance, are used.

Seen in the light of Christ’s words (cf. John 19, 25-27), the act of consecration is a conscious recognition of the singular role of Mary in the Mystery of Christ and of the Church, of the universal and exemplary importance of her witness to the Gospel, of trust in her intercession, and of the efficacy of her patronage, of the many maternal functions she has, since she is a true mother in the order of grace to each and every one of her children.

8. The Brown Scapular and other Scapulars – The history of Marian piety also includes “devotion” to various scapulars, the most common of which is devotion to the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Its use is truly universal and, undoubtedly, its is one of those pious practices which the Council described as “recommended by the Magisterium throughout the centuries”.

The Scapular of Mount Carmel is a reduced form of the religious habit of the Order of the Friars of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel. Its use is very diffuse and often independent of the life and spirituality of the Carmelite family.

The Scapular is an external sign of the filial relationship established between the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Queen of Mount Carmel, and the faithful who entrust themselves totally to her protection, who have recourse to her maternal intercession, who are mindful of the primacy of the spiritual life and the need for prayer.

9.  Medals – The faithful like to wear medals bearing effigies of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These are a witness of faith and a sign of veneration of the Holy Mother of God, as well as of trust in her maternal protection.

The Church blesses such objects of Marian devotion in the belief that “they help to remind the faithful of the love of God, and to increase trust in the Blessed Virgin Mary”. The Church also points out that devotion to the Mother of Christ also requires “a coherent witness of life”.

Like all medals and objects of cult, the Miraculous Medal is never to be regarded as a talisman or lead to any form of blind credulity(260). The promise of Our Lady that “those who were the medal will receive great graces”, requires a humble and tenacious commitment to the Christian message, faithful and persevering prayer, and a good Christian life.

10.  The “Akathistos” Hymn – In the Byzantine tradition, one of the oldest and most revered expressions of Marian devotion is the hymn “Akathistos“—meaning the hymn sung while standing. It is a literary and theological masterpiece, encapsulating in the form of a prayer, the universally held Marian belief of the primitive Church. The hymn is inspired by the Scriptures, the doctrine defined by the Councils of Nicea (325), Ephesus (431), and Chalcedon (451), and reflects the Greek fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries. It is solemnly celebrated in the Eastern Liturgy on the Fifth Saturday of Lent. The hymn is also sung on many other liturgical occasions and is recommended for the use of the clergy and faithful.

All the above taken from Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy published by Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. It is a wonderful document that expresses other elements of pious devotion within the Church.


This post was linked at New Advent under the heading, ’10 popular Marian devotions for the month of May…’

Also linked:

St John Church – Middletown, CT (Lot’s of Catholic info there!)

St John, Open the Door

The Times of India


Related post: Three Reasons for Mary

A Catholic Mom in Hawaii: Month of May – Divine Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary