Weekly News Flash from the Universal Living Rosary Association of Saint Philomena, Wednesday, October 16, 2012

The Christian Way of Life

All men seek happiness, but few find it because they limit their quest to material levels, to such earth-bound preoccupations as the possession of wealth or power, or indulgence in the pleasures of the senses.

True happiness is to be found only in union with God, to whom we belong – ­union with Him through the Christian way of life. He alone can free us from bond­age to passion and from the tragedy of sin. He alone can satisfy the hunger of the soul for the infinite. Estrangement from Him, on the other hand, turns the soul into a miniature hell or isolation of misery and despair.

Is it not a matter of everyday experi­ence that the Christian way of life is com­paratively carefree and fear-proof and full of the spiritual gladness arising from a good conscience, whereas godlessness is a state of continual turmoil and torment? If frustration is the dominant note in world affairs today, is it not because men have dethroned God and scrapped His plan for the universe? Is it not because they have turned their backs on the perfectly balanced philosophy of life which the Christian religion offers – a philosophy in which God is the Crea­tor, Ruler and Center of the universe, and in which the life of the humblest citizen has purpose, meaning and value, because he has a specific contribution to make to­wards the fulfillment of the Divine plan?

Of course, it is not enough to shelter ourselves behind the Christian name. We must make our Faith the supreme con­trolling factor of every aspect of life and, thus, close the gap between profession and practice.

It is true that we are weak and that our powers are limited but, by means of prayer which unites us to a God of in­finite power and love, we can obtain grace, which makes easy what otherwise would be too difficult or impossible.

Many people are scared away from the Christian way of life because it involves self-denial but, if people are prepared to submit to great sacrifice for reasons of temporal security, why not for eternal spiritual values?

It is not for its own sake that we are called upon to practice self-denial, but in order that we may build up will-power for effective co-operation with Divine Grace so that, instead of being dragged down by the urge of passion and by the pull of tempta­tion, we may become masters of ourselves and be able to say: I can do without these seductions; they mean nothing to me!

Without this interior conquest of the bewitchery of sin, happiness is impossible. The tree of renunciation bears good fruit and the feast grows out of the fast. The timid need to be reminded that the Christian message is one of good news. That is what the word GOSPEL means. It is a message telling us of reconciliation between God and man, and telling us also in the clearest possible terms that there is a life beyond the grave – a life inconceiv­ably richer than life here on earth.

It was the exuberant joy of the Apostles, after they had received the Holy Ghost at Pentecost that startled the world into attention to their Gospel of the Risen Savior.

Cultivating a Christ-like spirit, the good Christian is lighthearted and even merry in the best sense of the word. There is a foretaste of Heaven in his heart. He discharges his duties cheerfully and observes the courtesies of life amiably. His very presence is an inspiration to others because, with strict moral principles, he combines kindliness and sympathy. His is the magic touch which gilds the dull cares of life with the gold of content­ment and, when disturbing incidents arise, it is he who brings a sense of humor instead of a sense of grievance, to bear upon them. He praises God even when humiliations or mis­fortune comes his way.

The Christian way of life weans the soul from attachment to sin, and drives away all phobias, superstitions, obsessions and all other joy-killing and misery-pro­ducing poisons. It is the most powerful force in the world against the sordid, the morbid and the neurotic, and it bids us in the words of Saint Paul to “rejoice in the Lord always!” (Phil. 4:4)
… By Rev. Joseph Degen
Imprimatur: + Carolus Hubertus Le Blond, Episcopus Sancti Josephi

The Sign Of The Cross
Sign of Grace!
Sign of Glory!

Catholics often make the Sign of the Cross casually, just as a nice gesture for beginning and ending their prayers. But, when we learn to take this act seriously, signing ourselves frequently with faith and reverence, remarkable results can take place. We find ourselves doing measurably better in our Christian life: Praying with more passion, resisting our bad inclinations more effectively, and relating to others more kindly.

The Sign of the Cross, after all, is not merely a pious gesture. It is a powerful prayer, a sacramental of the Church.

The Holy Scripture, Church Fathers and Saints, and Catholic teaching offer SIX perspectives on the Sign of the Cross that reveal why making it opens us to life-transforming graces. Once we grasp them, we can make the gesture with more faith and experience its great blessings.

Six Reasons To Make The Sign:

The Sign of the Cross is a profession of Faith in God as He has revealed Himself. It serves as an abbreviated form of the Apostles’ Creed. Touching our forehead, breast and shoulders (and in some cultures, our lips as well), we declare our belief in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. We are announcing our Faith in what God has done: The creation of all things, the redemption of humanity from sin and death, and the establishment of the Church which offers new life to all. When we Sign ourselves, we are making ourselves aware of God’s presence and opening ourselves to His action in our lives. That much alone would be enough to transform us spiritually, wouldn’t it? But, there is much, much more!

First Century Christians began making the Sign of the Cross as a reminder and renewal of what happened to them when they were baptized. It still works the same way for us. When we Sign ourselves, we are declaring that, in Baptism, we died sacramentally with Christ on the Cross and rose to a new life with Him (see Rom. 6:3-4 and Gal 2:20). We are asking the Lord to renew in us those baptismal graces. We are also acknowledging that Baptism joined us to the Body of Christ and equipped us for our role of collaborating with the Lord in His work of rescuing all people from sin and death.

At Baptism, the Lord claimed us as His own by marking us with the Sign of the Cross. Now, when we Sign ourselves, we are affirming our loyalty to Him. By tracing the Cross on our bodies, we are denying that we belong to ourselves and declaring that we belong to Him alone (see Lk. 9:23). The Church Fathers used the same word for the Sign of the Cross that the ancient world employed to indicate ownership. The same word named a shepherd’s brand on his sheep, a general’s tattoo on his soldiers, a householder’s mark on his servants, and the Lord’s mark on His disciples. Signing ourselves is recognition that we are Christ’s sheep and can count on His tender care. We are His soldiers, commissioned to work with Him in advancing His Kingdom on earth, and His servants dedicated to doing whatever He tells us.

Jesus promised us that suffering would be a normal part of a disciple’s life (see Lk. 9:23-24). So, when we mark our bodies with the Sign, we are embracing whatever pain comes as a consequence of our faith in Christ. Making the Sign is our taking up the cross and following Him (Lk.9:23). At the same time, however, it comforts us with the realization that Jesus, Who endured the Crucifixion for us, now joins us in our suffering and supports us. Signing ourselves also announces another significant truth: With St. Paul, we are celebrating that our afflictions as members of the Body of Christ contribute to the Lord’s saving work of perfecting the Church in holiness (see Col.1:24).

When the devil watched Jesus die on the Cross, he mistakenly believed he had won a great victory. But, the Lord surprised him with an ignominious defeat (see 1 Cor. 2:8). From the first Easter morning through the present, the Sign of the Cross makes the devil cower and flee. On one level, then, making the Sign is a defensive move, declaring our inviolability to the devil’s influence. But, more importantly, the Sign is also an offensive weapon, helping us reclaim with Christ all that Satan lost at the Cross. It announces our co-operation with Jesus in the indomitable advance of the Kingdom of God against the kingdom of darkness.

In the New Testament, the word ‘flesh’ sums up all the evil inclinations of our old nature that persist in us even after we die with Christ in Baptism (see Gal. 5:16-22). Making the Sign of the Cross expresses our decision to crucify these desires of the flesh and to live by the Spirit. Like tossing off a dirty shirt or blouse, making the Sign indicates our stripping ourselves of our evil inclinations and clothing ourselves with the behaviors of Christ (see Col. 3:5-15). The Church Fathers taught that the Sign of the Cross diffused the force of powerful temptations such as anger and lust. So, no matter how strongly we are tempted, we can use the Sign of the Cross to activate our freedom in Christ and conquer even our besetting sins.

Apply These Truths NOW:

Right now, you can imprint in your heart, these SIX truths about the Sign of the Cross by making it SIX times, each time applying one of the perspectives:

First, sign yourself professing your faith in God.

Second, mark yourself remembering that you died with Christ in Baptism.

Third, make the Sign to declare that you belong to Christ as His disciple and will obey Him.

Fourth, sign yourself to fully embrace whatever suffering comes and to celebrate your suffering with Christ for the Church.

Fifth, make the Sign of the Cross as a defense against the devil and as an offensive advance of God’s Kingdom against him.

Finally, make the Sign of the Cross to crucify your flesh, put on Christ and live by the Holy Spirit.

Go through these SIX Signings often in your Morning Prayer and watch the Grace flow through this ancient sacramental, all in the days to come.

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