Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Prayer for Prosperity

 One of the interests I've developed late in life is to watch business news. Since we are living through one of the worst economic downturns in the history of our country, this makes for some interesting commentary. It is also intriguing (and very sad) to watch how greed (one of the deadly sins, which certainly has been deadly for our economy) infects and distorts the thinking and actions of many. All of the greed, lying and distortions has put many Americans in a precarious situation. At times, even the business journalists seem confused, uncertain and in disbelief at what they are reporting and they admit it. It seems the Judeo-Christian values upon which this country was built are being ignored and we're paying a high price for that. It's mind-boggling for anyone trying to make sense of this mess. 
Scripture tells us, "Don't worry about anything, but pray about everything," (see Phil.4:6-9) so I have an idea. There's only one catch, you have to be a believer to try this. It doesn't matter what religion you are, but you have to believe in God and the power of prayer. I'm sure you've heard of this prayer from the Hebrew Scriptures that I'm going to suggest we pray, it's called the Prayer of Jabez. It's supposedly a very powerful prayer for prosperity and there are many people who try to explain why, but like all mysterious elements of faith and belief, it just has to be accepted for what it is. Years ago, there was an article in the New York Times about the Prayer of Jabez and I became interested in it, wrote an article about it and gave it out to many people. So I'm suggesting you pray this prayer for yourself and for all of us. Say it once for yourself and once for the country. It can't hurt, it can only help. Here it is...."Lord, that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory and that your hand might be with me and that you would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain! (1 Chronicles 4:9-10)
From the New Testament, words from the great St.Paul, to keep us on track, "Rejoice in hope, be patient under trial, persevere in prayer" (Romans 12:12).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

On Friendship

Of all the gifts that a wise providence grants us to make life full and happy, friendship is the most beautiful      Epicurus

A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature   Ralph Waldo Emerson

Years ago I read a book about St. Augustine titled, "Christians in the World," by T.J. Van Bavel, O.S.A., and I learned from that book how much St. Augustine prized friendship.  In "Confessions," he wrote that he could not possibly be happy without friends. He also wrote, "In this world, two things are essential: life and friendship. Both should be highly prized and we must not undervalue them. Life and friendship are nature's gifts. God created us so that we might exist and live: this is life. But if we are not to remain solitary, there must be friendship." And this beautiful quote which seems so timely for today, "What can bring greater consolation to us in the human community, full of error and anxiety, than the unreserved trust and mutual affection of good and faithful friends."
Lastly, researchers who conducted a 10-year study in Australia found that people tend to live longer if they have a group of close friends. Strong social networks are important in life for happiness and well being. A circle of close friends is good for us, as St. Augustine realized in his time.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Brooklyn, New York-One of a Kind

I was born in Brooklyn, NY. I grew up in Brooklyn and that was a tremendous learning experience. Children who grow up in a city get two educations, one in school and one on the street. Street knowledge is very valuable, especially if you are going to live in New York.
My father met my mother on Bond Street in Red Hook (now Carroll Gardens), where she lived. My father lived on Clinton Street. My aunts (my father's two sisters) still live in the brownstone on Clinton Street that my grandfather bought when he arrived in this country from Italy, in the 1920's. I explored the Ellis Island website and found my grandfather's signature on the ship roster, a picture of the ship he arrived on and the name of his sponsor in America. I was baptized in Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen Parish, in Brooklyn, not far from where my parents met. We then moved to Lunar Park, Coney Island for the first two years of my life and then my aunt and uncle (with their two daughters) bought a two-family house in Old Mill Basin, Bklyn and they lived on one floor and my family lived on the other. That house on 52nd Street was always filled with family, friends, neighbors, good Italian food and stories, lots of interesting stories. My brother Arthur, my only sibling, was a little genius. Three years younger than me, my little brother, he was my playmate and friend. We were always very close. Arthur was very smart, always reading, he would become a forensic psychiatrist one day, with a private practice. When Arthur died, at the young age of 42, on the exact day as Princess Diana, I would take his death very hard. I lost my brother, my friend and my confidant, all on the same day. That is one of the reasons I have such a strong, deep faith. My faith is strong because I've gone through some very difficult times in my life, I've had to suffer loss and though it was difficult, my prayers (or sometimes people had to pray for me and carry me through), made a difference. The prayers helped me. Prayer makes a difference, that's not something I've read in a book (well, actually I have read that in many books) but more importantly it's something I've experienced for myself. I know how much prayer has helped me and others and it's something you have to experience to know it's real. I have a sign on my desk, which states, "Prayer Changes Things" and it does. That's the truth.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Trusting in God

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge God and God will direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6)
We look forward to the year ahead with hope. We acknowledge that we are living through difficult times. Each age has its own difficulties and problems and the time we are living through is no different. As people of faith, we rely on prayer and seek God's guidance and help. We have a great advantage over other people who choose not to open themselves up to the movement of the Spirit in their lives. We are fortunate in that our faith gives us hope. We believe Jesus' words from John's gospel, "I am the vine, you are the branches, united to me, you can do great things" (See John 15:5). We gain inner strength from those important words. United to Jesus, we can live the gospel message with courage and hope. We can look ahead, not knowing exactly where the Lord is bringing us but knowing that through prayer and being united to Christ all things work together for good. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love God, who have been called according to God's purpose" (Romans 8:28).
To learn to trust without reservation is a great gift. Will we trust even though we can't see the outcome or where God is leading us? Can we go through the darkness, knowing Christ's light is shining to get us through and Christ is near to us. It's all about trust. I've learned that from the saints. They persevered even in the most difficult times, through pain, suffering and through the dark night of the soul. They kept trusting, persevering and believing that even though the present moment and time might not look promising, things will be OK. Patience is key. "Wait for the Lord with courage....."
There are all levels of trust. Sometimes we think in our humanness, that we have all the answers or that God certainly can't think of a better plan, since we haven't thought of it. Well, that isn't the case. If we continue to pray, to trust and persevere in all things, then God will guide us and help us each step of the way through life. Through prayer, we can learn to trust like the saints. And like the saints we can be confident that God is with us, leading us to a future full of promise and hope.