Friday, February 5, 2016

Introduction to Pray40Days



Can you believe that Lent begins next week? Have you decided what you are going to "give up" yet? 

Think for a moment what you "gave up" last year. Did it seem more like a fulfilling sacrifice or self -punishment? After Lent, did you feel like you gained something spiritually out of it? Many people give up chocolate for Lent, which is why come Easter Sunday, we binge on the Easter candy. How long did those 40 Days of going without chocolate sustain you? 

Here's an idea - this Lent instead of giving up chocolate, make your sacrifice something that will sustain you for the rest of your life. How does that sound?  What if I told you that's not only POSSIBLE, but can be done in as little as 15 MINUTES A DAY?

Here's How.....


Audio Version Available - Click To Listen


Rolling up to Ash Wednesday, we will be kicking off a program called "Pray 40 Days." Think of it as a 40-day "fitness program" for your soul, with the goal of "strengthening" your prayer life, by dong a new spiritual "exercise"each day.

One of the exercises that is offered is called "Lectio Divina." Today I would like to give you a little introduction to it.  

Lectio Divina is a sacred reading of the Word.  The wonderful thing is everyone can do this. Families can do it. Children can do it. Adults can do it. It is for everyone and can be done in your Bible study group as well.  

To begin, take a moment and rest. Just rest your body. Try to let go of all the stress that has been going on in your work, in your week, in your family, in your life. Just rest for a moment, taking a deep breath in through your nose, breathing  in the Holy Spirit. Ask the Holy Spirit to come into you. 

Breathe in as deep as you can and hold it for a moment. And release. 

Let go of your worries, your anxieties, and your frustrations. 

Now close your eyes and do this one more time before continuing.

As you breathe in the Holy Spirit, invite God to come into you as deep as you can and hold it there for a moment, before releasing through your mouth and letting the air out along with your worries, your anxieties, and your preoccupations. 

Close your eyes again and do this one more time. 

What I want you to do as you read this passage below is try to hold onto one word or one phrase. God speaks to us in the Word of God. As you read, I want you to hold in your heart or mind one word or phrase. Once you hear that word or phrase, stop reading.  Repeat that word or phrase in your head a few times before continuing. 

The verse is from  1 Corinthians 13

Love is patient, Love is kind. 
It is not jealous, It is not pompous, 
It is not inflated, It is not rude, 
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick tempered, it does not brood over injury, 
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing 
but rejoices with the truth. 
It bears all things, believes all things, 
hopes all things, and endures all things. 

Love never fails. 

Now close your eyes again and briefly recall whatever that word or phrase was so that you can visualize it. Then repeat it over and over in your hearts and in your mind, before you are ready to continue.

What is so amazing about this exercise (especially when done in groups) is that everyone will have a different word or phrase. This is because God speaks to all of us differently, and each word has a different meaning or message just for us.

The Word of God is alive. It speaks to us. As we read and pray with the Word of God, we are transformed by it. He speaks to us right as we are. Whatever we need to hear, He speaks to us.

That is the first part of Lectio Divina -to pray with Scripture just like that, coming up with a word or phrase.

The second part is meditation. I have been praying with this all week, so I am a little bit ahead of you in the game here. I am going to lead you through what my meditation was. The first thing is God is Love. If we know that and if we believe that God is literally Love, then we can actually replace the word "Love" with "God" or "the Father".

So instead of "Love," I am going to visualize "the Father." Say it aloud as you read, as a prayer to God:

The Father is patient, the Father is kind. 
The Father is not jealous, the Father is not pompous, 
The Father is not inflated, the Father is not rude, 
the Father does not seek His own interests, 
the Father is not quick tempered, the Father does not brood over injury,
the Father does not rejoice over wrongdoing, 
but rejoices with the truth. 
The Father bears all things, the Father believes all things, 
the Father hopes all things, and the Father endures all things. 

The Father never fails. 

This is God the Father. If you have an image of anything about this, just allow this exercise to help you realize that God IS Love. And if God is Love, than He is all these things.

The last and final part is to contemplate that if you are of God, than you are Love.

Think about it like this, during Mass, we transform the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, when you receive the Body of Christ, you become Love. If you become Love, than all these things can be said about you.

When Jesus was trying to explain who He was, when people said, "Are You really God the Father," "Are You really God," Jesus’ response was "I am who I am."

Let's go back to our prayer, replacing "Love" with "I am."

I want you to pray again and aloud as you read saying "I am."

I am patient, I am kind.
I am not jealous, I am not pompous,  
I am not inflated, I am not rude, 
I am not one who seeks my own interests,
I am not quick tempered, I am not one who broods over injury,
I am not one to rejoice over wrongdoing,
I am one who rejoices with the truth. 
I am one who bears all things,  I am one who believes all things, 
I am one who hopes all things, I am one who endures all things. 

I am one who never fails. 

The powerful thing about this passage is it reveals to us, not only who God is, who the Father is, but also who we are. 

You are love. You are all of these things. I know in life sometimes we are told otherwise. Sometimes people say things about us. They will say, "You are impatient" or "You do brood over injury" or "You are never going to make it. You are going to fail." We are told all of these things, but the reality is this is our identity. We are Love, we are Christ.

My hope and prayer for you is that as I introduce you to the program of Pray40Days, you will really discover this personal relationship with God and come to know who the Father is and how loving He is; but also, that you will come to discover who you are before God.



It's easy to participate in the program, if you haven't already you can SIGN UP HERE for free in order to receive more information.

The program will be presented in 4 formats.
-A Web App (Coming Soon!)
-A Book
-Parish Mission (Limited venues for 2016, check the list here)
-Weekly Spiritual Direction (Click Here for More Instructions)

You can do one or all four. Whatever is best for you. The Parish Mission and Weekly Spiritual Direction are supplemental to the App and/or Book (whichever you use, or you may wish to use them both).

The App: For the tech savvy people, a free web App will be available in the coming days that you can use to do the program from any device with an internet connection. Please check back to www.TheProdigalFather.org for more information as to when that is available.

The Book: A book version is also available. Some parishes will be having a Parish Mission based on the program, so you are encouraged to check the list first to see if your parish is on it. If it is you may want to reach out to the parish office about getting the book. Otherwise you can Order The Pray40Days Book Here. If you start the program late, don't worry just go at your own pace doing one day at a time, and skip ahead to the Sundays. Everyone who orders a book online will receive a free e-book after checkout.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Pray40Days this Lent & Change Your Life Forever!





Let's Blab Together!

Catch Us On Blab Wednesdays @ 8:30PM To Learn More About How You Can Participate in the Pray40Days Program and For Weekly Spiritual Coaching!


Need Help Using Blab? Click Here!



How To Pray40Days This Lent


HOW TO PARTICIPATE IN 


THE PRAY40DAYS PROGRAM


Do one or do all four for the maximum experience to enhance your prayer life!



















                         

GET THE BOOK

Pray40Days will set your prayer life on fire! You will actually meet Jesus and have a conversation with Him. You will experience God the Father as a tender, caring, and deeply personal presence in your life. You will discover the Holy Spirit as not just some ambiguous, fleeting, and abstract idea, but a real personal force of inspiration, presence, and overwhelming joy in your life.

Are you ready for a spiritual workout and adventure of a lifetime? Then get ready forPray40Days!

Parishioners of St. Joseph Amherst & Nativity BVM South Amherst CLICK HERE
Everyone Else, Click Here to Order The Book & Get The Ebook Free!


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pray40Days


The book is now available here: http://www.theprodigalfatherproductions.org/prayer-aids/


What if I told you right now that in these next 40 days your prayer life could be set on fire? What if I told you that within our own Catholic Faith Tradition we have all the tools that can allow us to receive the Holy Spirit and experience God the Father as a tender, caring, deeply personal presence in our lives? What if Jesus were actually real to us and we realized that in Baptism we are actually baptized into Christ? What if the Holy Spirit was not just some ambiguous, abstract idea, but a real personal force of inspiration, presence, and overwhelming joy in our lives? Sounds pretty amazing doesn’t it?

Introducing... Pray40Days



What is Pray40Days?
Pray40Days is a 40-day fitness program for your soul. And regardless of where you are at spiritually, your soul (just like your body) requires some maintenance and TLC in order to stay healthy. So whatever your physical condition, why not commit to strengthening your pray life this Lent - that's a fitness plan that we can ALL benefit from (and have fun doing)!



Everyone will benefit from Pray40Days regardless of your prayer level!


How Does It Work?

There are two main ways to do the program, one is through an App and website, the other is a book companion. If you're not tech savvy, the book companion is all you'll need, and if you're not big on reading -well we have an App for that! Or if you'd like the full experience you can use both in addition to other online resources that will be made available, including a weekly spiritual coaching session with Fr. Michael Denk through Blab. Pray40Days can be done individually, as a family, or in a small group with friends or fellow parishioners. There is also a parish wide mission format available (although limited for Lent 2016).

How much time is this going to take? Well with any fitness regimen, you get what you put in -but this program is designed to be done in just 15 minutes a day!


How Can I Sign-Up? 
So are you ready to grow closer to God this Lent? If so, please SIGN-UP to our mailing list in order to receive email updates as to how you can participate in the Pray40Days Program, beginning the first week of Lent. There is NO COST to sign-up and we won't use your information for any other purpose than to keep you informed about the Pray40Days Program, as more information will be forthcoming! 




If you have questions or would like more information, please email: FrMichael@TheProdigalFather.org

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Something way better than giving up chocolate for Lent!

Challenge yourself to something greater than just giving up chocolate this Lent, grow in your prayer life by learning to Pray Like A Pirate, Meditate, Relax with Scripture, Pray with your Senses, and MUCH MORE! Everyone will benefit from Pray40Days, regardless of your prayer level!





This Lent I will be launching a brand new program called Pray40Days!


If you are familiar with the workout programs Insanity or P90x think of this as your killer prayer program for Lent!  This Lent don't give up something like chocolate!  Challenge yourself to something greater!

Every Lent we are called to make a resolution of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Have you ever made a resolution to increase your prayer?  This Lent you can with Pray40Days!

To get a sneak peak, and be highly entertained join us Tomorrow (Wednesday) live at 8:30pm on Blab!

I'll tell you all about it along with my high energy Co-Host Olivia Sliman (From YouTube's Olivia's Got Talent Tuesday!)

Subscribe Here for the live event!


I will also be doing live spiritual direction over the course of Pray40Days on Blab!



Look forward to seeing you there!

Fr. Michael

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Life's A Mess, But Never Too Messy For God To Clean



On my days off, I often get to spend time with my brother priests. We spend the day together and many times, we tell our “war stories” of events that happen to us over the past week. It is usually an enjoyable time of good reflection. Once in a while, something happens that is really, really, funny. That is the story I want to share with you today. It is a little bit gross, but I hope you will be okay with it. 

Audio Version Available - Click To Listen

Last week, Father Steve had a Baptism for a beautiful baby girl dressed in a white dress. He performed the Baptism, pouring the water over the baby, saying, "I Baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." It is a beautiful moment. The mother takes the baby in her arms. A moment later, Father Steve notices a horrible smell. A smell that you cannot believe a tiny little infant can produce. He says it was so bad that he started gagging. I said, "Well, were you able to hide your expression from the family?" He said, "I didn't have to. They were all doing the same thing!"

Now, the mother, of course, was horrified. She has this brand new Baptized baby who has just messed herself. All the mother wants to do is get this baby clean. Father Steve finishes the Baptism and the mother cleans the baby. Everything is okay in the end. The family was just laughing about that experience. How moments after being Baptized and the baby is made clean, she messes herself. I think it is a wonderful image of sin and a wonderful image of how we struggle with messiness in life. And how God looks at us.

First of all, I want you to focus on the mother looking at her child. When that child messed herself right after being Baptized, the mother's love did not change for her child. She still loves her child with unconditional love. She did want to get her baby clean, but she did love her with unconditional love.

Last Sunday we celebrated, The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus came to John the Baptist to be Baptized, not because He needed to be freed from sin, but because He wanted to enter into our experience of this Baptism. He wanted to take on our sin and experience not only taking on sin, but being cleansed of it.

From the beginning of creation with Adam and Eve, who God made in this perfect Garden of Eden, and giving one rule, which they messed-up. Over the years, in generations, it just kept getting worse and worse. So God washed all of creation with the flood. He brought about new life with Noah. And wouldn't you know it, mankind messed it up again. God is so patient with us. He continues to love us. He finally said, "The only way that I am going to get through to them is if I send my only begotten Son, to take on the sin of mankind through Baptism." So God sent Jesus into our World.

Here is the amazing thing. The day that you were Baptized – which I'm sure you won’t remember - (I sure don't remember mine.) you became Christ. It is through the words that we speak in the Sacrament of the Baptism, that we become Christ; you are Baptized into Christ Jesus. At that very moment, as God looked at you, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit came down, and God said to you, "You are my beloved son" or "You are my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased." From that very moment on, God looks at you as Christ. God looks at you with nothing but unconditional love. But just like that baby, we tend to mess ourselves, right?

I use the analogy of confession, too. Think of the last time you went to confession, or even the last time you went to Sunday Mass. You walk out of Mass and you are going to have a good week, right? And then you get into the parking lot and everything changes. All of a sudden you mess yourself.

The reality is, we do this and we keep doing it, but it never changes how God looks at us. He always looks at us as His beloved son and His beloved daughter in whom He is well pleased. He looks at you and He sees Christ. In Baptism, you became Christ. He does like to clean us. He doesn't want to allow us to just sit in our mess. Our sin is like that baby. The mess doesn't just affect us. Everybody else can smell it, believe it or not. Everybody else is impacted by our sin. God wants to restore us and reconcile us and wash us, and heal our relationships, and bring us back into communion with the Church and with Him. There is only one Baptism for us, but there are two more ways for us to experience this cleansing and this forgiveness of sin.

The first is the Sacrament of Confession. This year we are celebrating the Year of Mercy. One of the things the Holy Father really wants is to welcome everyone to the Sacrament of Confession. I encourage you, whether it has been months, years, or even if it has been since you were in grade school, to experience the wonderful Sacrament of Confession. There is no unforgivable sin. There is no mess in your life that God cannot clean up. It is the wonderful experience of His unconditional love for you.

The second way that we experience cleansing is at the Eucharist. Every time we come to Mass and receive the Eucharist, we are cleansed of our sins. Every Mass begins with the Penitential Rite, where we take a moment to call to mind our sins and ask God to grant us pardon and peace. Every Sunday, when you come to Mass and actually offer your sins during the Penitential Rite and receive Communion, you are made clean once more. Chances are, you are going to mess yourself before you get home, but remember that God still loves you. He looks at you just like that mother looks at her child. It doesn't change anything. She still looks at her child with unconditional love, but she wants to clean her up.

God the Father looks at you as His beloved sons and daughters. As we celebrated this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, and Jesus heard that voice echo from the heavens, "You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," that voice echoes every time we celebrate Mass, every time you receive Communion, every time you go to Confession, the voice of God says, "You are My beloved Son. You are my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased."

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year 2016!

The Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

In Baptism each and every one of us were baptized into Christ. From that moment on that’s your identity. In you, God see’s Christ. So on the Feast Day of Mary the Mother of God, we also celebrate Mary as our mother. Do you think she looks at us in the same way, as Jesus? I wonder Mary did you know that 2,000 years later Christ would still be working in all the good her sons and daughters in Christ would be doing to this very day...


Fr. Michael Performs "Mary Did You Know" - Click To Listen

So just remember as we begin 2016 with the Feast of Mary the Mother of God, and just as she delighted in holding that child in her hand 2,000 years ago, she delights in holding each and every one of us as brothers and sisters of Christ in Baptism.


Click To Listen To The Entire Homily