Category Archives: Prayer

Sunday Afterwords: Lenten Prayer of Saint Ephrem the Syrian

Saint Ephrem the Syrian.

Saint Ephrem the Syrian.

During the Lenten season we are called to intensify our life of prayer. I would like to share with you the prayer of Saint Ephrem the Syrian which has been part of my Lenten devotion for 36 years. St Ephrem was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict the 15th and his feast day is June 9. This prayer of Saint Ephrem is a vital part of the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox liturgies.

Lenten Prayer of Saint Ephrem

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.


Listen to this evocative and plaintive chant from the soul of a monk who wants to return to his homeland from which he has been exiled due to war and violence.

United in Prayer: Sept. 29 in Richmond

Save the Date: Tuesday, September 29 at the Cathedral in Richmond, an ecumenical prayer service for all those suffering for their faith. All are invited. The Diocese writes:

Recently, many people have been persecuted for their faith in various parts of the world. The Catholic Diocese of Richmond’s Office of Social Ministries in partnership with Richmond’s Coptic Orthodox church decided to come together and organize an ecumenical prayer service to stand in solidarity for all those who are suffering for their faith. We would like to invite you to join us  on Tuesday September 29th, 2015 at the Cathedral of Sacred Heart in Richmond Virginia at 7 p.m with a light reception to follow. With this event being the first of its kind, many Christian communities have responded and will be joining us.

Where God Weeps is a good place to read more about the reality of the suffering and persecuted Church.

A Reflection on Day 9: Crossing Paths

On day 9 I was praying that my path would cross with the Muslim pilgrim if only for a brief moment. Although my interiority felt as arid as the terrain, I persisted in prayer, hoping I would see this pilgrim again.  Last evening Tom and I went to the church for Mass. We arrived early so we could pray the Rosary. The church was empty. I walked around and as I was walking up the aisle the Muslim pilgrim was there praying. He acknowledged my presence with a smile and the aridity of the day dissipated with a profound joy inundating my soul. The Lord answered the desire of my heart and prayer in a place I would least expect. Whether our paths cross again is not important; however I pray that the spiritual longing in his heart for truth will come to fulfillment in Christ. There are so many who make the Camino and for a variety of motivations that are not explicitly spiritual; however I believe the Lord is at work in their soul in a special way on the Camino. Perhaps that is the real miracle of Santiago.

Camino Day 8, Santo Domingo de la Calzado

Today is day 8 of the Camino to Santiago. I would like to commend to you this prayer to Saint James:

O glorious Apostle, St. James, who by reason of thy fervent and generous heart wast chosen by Jesus to be a witness of His glory on Mount Tabor, and of His agony in Gethsemane; thou, whose very name is a symbol of warfare and victory: obtain for us strength and consolation in the unending warfare of this life, that, having constantly and generously followed Jesus, we may be victors in the strife and deserve to receive the victor’s crown in heaven. Amen.

Also as I begin this second week of Camino I invite you to join me in the novena prayer to Saint James.

Day 8. September 2, 2014. Another early start and another sunrise over the Rioja region. Today was only a 13 mile walk so I felt today would be a good day to start walking again, without backpack, and in Father Tom’s running shoes, some three sizes too big, to accommodate my bandaged feet. It shows the change happening to us when we write ONLY a 13 mile walk. I wonder how long that will last when we return home. I pulled through surprisingly well and we arrived before the greatest heat of the day.

I walked in solitude for part of the day thinking God would provide an Emmaus moment. Towards the end of the day walk I struck up a conversation with a German pilgrim from Munich. We immediately felt a kindred spirit in that we talked about travels in the Middle East. It was a delightful conversation and so after a day of solitude in prayer I was anticipating that Emmaus moment when I would encounter Christ in a stranger. We began sharing our love for God and his mercy Then the pilgrim said he had visited Mecca and of course I assumed he was a Christian so I said how did you manage that to which he responded: I am a Muslim. I was stunned. The Lord provided me with a spiritual companion after a day of prayerful solitude but not what I had anticipated. The last companion I would have chosen but the Lord choose for me a Muslim with whom to share. Yet this was the blessing given me by Saint James. I am confident our paths will cross on this Camino. Towns are beginning to blend together. The Camino is basically walking in the countryside from village to village. The sun is intense so keeping a bottle of water is essential. We saw a crucero by the side of the road to which wrongdoers in the Middle Ages were tied until they reformed.

There are no shortage of images of Saint James who always seems a day in front of us and we count down the miles to Santiago. We are a third of the way there

We attended Mass at the Cistercian convent chapel and the sisters were chanting vespers. What a wonderful and unexpected blessing at the end of a day dedicated to prayer in solitude. Another wonderful and unexpected blessing from Saint James.

Tomorrow we will leave the Rioja region.

We Are All Nazarenes


This is the Arabic letter “nūn,” like the Roman letter N, and stands for “Nasara,” or “Nazarene,” i.e., Christian. In northern Iraq the terrorist group ISIL spray-painted this letter on the homes of Christians, in the process of driving them out.


The American bishops in response to Pope Francis’ plea on behalf of the victims in Iraq have requested that we dedicate Sunday to be a day of prayer and to demonstrate our solidarity with those who are suffering in Iraq. In an article entitled “A Plea on Behalf of the Victims of Iraq” Robert P. George, of Princeton University, states

“The so-called Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS/ISIL) is conducting a campaign of genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and others in Iraq. In its fanatical effort to establish a caliphate, ISIS/ISIL has engaged in crimes against humanity by deliberately causing mass starvation and dehydration, and by committing unconscionable acts of barbarism against noncombatants, including defenseless women, children, and elderly persons. It is imperative that the United States and the international community act immediately and decisively to stop the ISIS/ISIL genocide and prevent the further victimization of religious minorities.”

In fact he has created a website,, with a petition, and he says

“I would be grateful if friends would read the plea and, if you agree, go to the website and add your name as a signer. This is a serious matter, and I recognize that not everyone will, in conscience, see the issues just as I do. Of course, I want everyone to follow his or her conscience in deciding whether to join the signers.”

The bishops are asking us to pray, and to give. “We have been asked to pray for peace in Iraq and also to send aid to those who are forced from their homes and in need of assistance,” Bishop DiLorenzo said. At Saint Benedict Parish we will take up a second collection on the 23rd of August to benefit the Christians in Iraq. Please be generous.

Mark Movsesian, who teaches law at St. John’s University, asks, “Can Christians ever be the victimes of genocide?

“There are reasons why America tends to treat Mideast Christians as an afterthought. Mideast Christians lack a natural constituency in American public life. They are, as one commentator observed, too foreign for the Right and too Christian for the Left. Most of our foreign policy elites have a blind spot about them. And I don’t mean to single out the Obama administration. Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute has recounted her attempts to get the Bush administration to focus on the plight of Iraq’s Christians, only to be told by Condoleezza Rice that assistance for Christians would make the United States appear sectarian.”

Please click on the photo to see the slideshow at La Repubblica.

The Italian paper La Reppublica presents us with a folio of 21 Christian refugees housed in a church in Irbil. These pictures do not allow us to forget the plight of our brothers and sisters who are suffering.

Not only are the Christians hidden from our eyes, but most American Christians are unaware of the two millennia of Christianity in Iraq. As Professor Sebastian P. Brock points out in an article from Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations [article not online]

“…the contribution of the Syriac Christian population of Iraq played a role of fundamental importance in the course of the ‘translation movement’, enabling Islamic philosophy and medicine to develop in the brilliant ways it did. Without their contribution at the inception of this translation movement, the entire course of subsequent intellectual history in both the Middle East and Europe (thanks to the medieval Western reception of Arabic philosophy, through Spain) would hvve been completely different.

…We can in fact observe something of a pattern that has emerged over the centuries:  in the early stages of several important new developments, whether literary or scientific, Christians, who have always been a significant presence in professional fields such as medicine, science, engineering, and education, have played a vital enabling role, facilitating important developments that might not, or indeed sometimes could not, otherwise have developed without their presence and participation.”

Fr. Nageeb Michael, O.P., a Dominican friar and native of Iraq, who is a Chaldean Christian in Mosul, is a scholar and founder of the Center for the Digitization of Oriental Manuscripts, speaks in this video about the current persecution of the Christian community in his homeland.

In this video, Father Nageeb prays for us the prayer that is dear to all of us, in the language our Lord Jesus would have spoken as he instructed for the apostles when they asked him how they should pray:

UPDATE on Father Nageeb, from the website Aleteia:

In a letter written this week, a copy of which was obtained by Aleteia, Iraqi Dominican Father Najeeb Michaeel wrote, “We are in Ankawa [pictured, near Irbil], where several thousand Christians are without shelter and sleep in church pews, parks and sidewalks, in miserable and inhumane conditions. It’s a shame to see crowds of humiliated families, children and elderly…. We are asking first for humanitarian aid and then the assurance of protection and later a means to leave for a new land…”

We must not forget that Christianity in Iraq stretches back 2000 years and is not only a church of apostolic origin but right up to the present time has played an important role in advancing the cause of the gospel.

I commend to your reading:

Very strong statement from the Vatican:

Iraqi Christians Martyred – How ‘Bout that Grand Canyon

We Are N Movement Gains Momentum:

Britain’s Refusal to Defend Christians in the Middle East Called Shameful:

Gabriel Said Reynolds:

Father Nageeb at First Things:

Nina Shea:

Aleppo’s Forgotten Christians:

In Italian:–6

Prayer, A Surge of the Heart

“Birds fly, fish swim and human beings pray.”

Saint Ephrem the Syrian of the fourth century speaks a word about prayer that invites us into a deeper relationship with the living God. The source and summit of Christian prayer is the celebration of the Mass and we are all encouraged to not only be faithful to the Sunday Mass, but make every effort to try to assist at daily Mass whenever possible. At the parish (, in Richmond, Virginia, USA) we offer many opportunities for formal prayer. From Monday to Friday at 7 am, a group of parishioners gather for Morning Prayer under the direction of Ed Owens. On Thursday’s after 5:30 Mass, we have Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and the public recitation of the Most Holy Rosary and Benediction. This religious exercise takes about 25 minutes, but that extra time is well worth it in light of the spiritual benefit. Our Thursday evening attendance is growing. Consider attending and inviting friends to spend some time with Our Lord in adoration.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus

baptisterydovThe church, as she awaits the Solemnity of Pentecost, prays with that beautiful Sequence, Veni Sancte Spiritus, probably composed by Stephen Langton (d 1228), Archbishop of Canterbury. In this liturgical treasure, according to scholars, the verse form and phrasing are flawless. The sentiment is so strong, the sentiment is so pure – matchless doctrinal insights that are sure and uplifting.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum,
veni, lumen cordium.Consolator optime,
dulcis hospes animae,
dulce refrigerium.

In labore requies,
in aestu temperies,
in fletu solatium.

O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.

Sine tuo numine,
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.

Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium.

Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.

Da tuis fidelibus,
in te confidentibus,
sacrum septenarium.

Da virtutis meritum,
da salutis exitum,
da perenne gaudium.


Come, Holy Spirit,
send forth the heavenly
radiance of your light.Come, father of the poor,
come, giver of gifts,
come, light of the heart.Greatest comforter,
sweet guest of the soul,
sweet consolation.

In labor, rest,
in heat, temperance,
in tears, solace.

O most blessed light,
fill the inmost heart
of your faithful.

Without your grace,
there is nothing in us,
nothing that is not harmful.

Cleanse that which is unclean,
water that which is dry,
heal that which is wounded.

Bend that which is inflexible,
fire that which is chilled,
correct what goes astray.

Give to your faithful,
those who trust in you,
the sevenfold gifts.

Grant the reward of virtue,
grant the deliverance of salvation,
grant eternal joy.

During these days we may imagine ourselves gathered in the cenacle gathered around the Virgin Mary, the Queen of the Apostles, eagerly awaiting the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to embolden us with the courage to witness to the truth of the Gospel. Let us wait with simplicity, while we also enjoy the nobility and beauty of the tradition of the Latin Church. This prayer is also beautifully constructed that renders fitting praise to the Most Beautiful of all, the Triune God.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.
V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray. O God, Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium: et tui amoris in eis ignem accende.
V. Emitte Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur.
R. Et renovabis faciem terrae.
Oremus. Deus, qui corda fidelium Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti: da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere; et de eius semper consolatione gaudere. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.


So we turn to the Holy Spirit on this Solemnity, the 50th day of Easter tide with an earnest and humble prayer. Come Spirit of love, pour that love into our hearts. Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

The Pentecost Mosaic, in the center of which is the dove of the Holy Spirit with the twelve apostles below. This is one of the oldest mosaics in St. Mark's Basilica, in Venice, dating from 1125 AD.

The Pentecost Mosaic, in the center of which is the dove of the Holy Spirit with the twelve apostles below. This is one of the oldest mosaics in St. Mark’s Basilica, in Venice, dating from 1125 AD. More sizes of this image here, including one very large and detailed.

Ascending the Mountain of Easter through a Lenten Pilgrimage of Prayer

On Ash Wednesday we heard in solemn assembly the words proclaimed from the prophet Joel, “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people.”

There are many ways we gather for prayer during our Lenten pilgrimage. On Thursday, after 5:30 Mass, we have the public recitation of the Most Holy Rosary and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. A parishioner who attended this said, “You really know you’re praying!” Another parishioner and recent convert said, “Where has this been all my life? This is wonderful!”

When we gather for adoration of the Sacrament, Our Lord invites us into the inner room of his heart where his heart speaks to our heart. As the Psalmist chants, “Deep calls to deep.” (Ps. 42). This is the inner room of which the gospel of Matthew speaks: the inner room of his Sacred Heart.

What kind of assembly is the Lord speaking of in Joel, to which he calls us? Surely it is the kind of assembly that he speaks of as pleasing to him, in the Sermon on the Mount: an assembly of people gathered together to pray, to enter the inner room of his Sacred Heart. That is where our Lord invites us to hear his heart speak within the silence of our heart.

We also gather for Stations of the Cross on Friday night after Mass to follow in the footsteps of Jesus on his way to Golgotha. We walk with Him on a pilgrimage to the Cross where salvation has come into the world, and there we behold the face of the crucified Jesus in whom “God has proved his love for us in that while we were sinners Christ dies for us.” And walking the stations, we accompany Our Lord to Calvary, where he has opened his heart to reveal God’s love for us.

This ancient Roman tradition helps us understand that Lent is a pilgrimage inviting us to renew our spirit through continuous effort to purify our souls, leaving behind what clutters and clouds the mind. Lent is a gift we receive from God Himself who leads and invites us on a pilgrimage into a deeper communion with him through Jesus Christ.

What a wonderful thing it is to recognize that through our Lenten pilgrimage we lift our voices in prayer with those of 2000 years of faithful Christians. When we enter into the church and kneel down at the foot of the Cross, we gaze upon the face of the crucified Jesus and pray,

“Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus, while before Your face I humbly kneel, and with burning soul pray and beseech You to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope, and charity, true contrition for my sins, and a firm purpose of amendment; while I contemplate with great love and tender pity Your five wounds, pondering over them within me, and calling to mind the words which, long ago, David the prophet spoke in Your own person concerning You, my Jesus: “They have pierced My hands and My feet; they have numbered all My bones.”

Lumen Christi! Deo Gratias!

candlesandcrucifixOur Bishop has invited each of us to deepen our personal relationship with Jesus during the Lenten Season; that is, to pay attention to Jesus calling us, as he has done from the instant each of us came to be, to be drawn into his love. The church offers us many ways to deepen our living relationship with the Lord through the sacramentals, and making an offering and light a votive candle is one way we can express our love for the Lord. During the Lenten season it is most fitting to enter church, kneel, and light a candle at the foot of the cross and offer a prayer, perhaps one like:

O Lord and Master of my life
Take from me the spirit of sloth,
Faintheartedness, lust of power and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity,
humility, patience and love to Thy servant
Yea, O Lord and King!
Grant me to see my own errors
And not to judge my brother;
For Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

This beautiful prayer is attributed to Saint Ephrem the Syrian of the fourth century and it has been incorporated in the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Lenten Liturgy, read twice at the end of each Lenten service Monday through Friday.  This ancient prayer is a spiritual masterpiece in that it is a check list for our Lenten effort to grow in holiness.

Alexander Schmemann in his book Great Lent points that “at the first reading of the prayer, a prostration follows each petition. Then we all bow twelve times saying: O God, cleanse me a sinner.” The body participates in the prayer, he continues just as the soul prays through and in the body. To kneel at the foot of the crucifix can be a profound sign of humility. To kneel at the foot of the crucified Jesus who was obedient even to death on the cross can be a sign that we pledge our obedience to him whom we adore as Risen Lord. During these Lenten days kneel at the foot of the cross, light a candle and pray this ancient prayer of the early Christian Church. Such a gesture prepares us for the veneration of the cross on Good Friday when we hear these words: Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the Savior of the world. Come let us adore!

Recommended Reading, Lenten Meditations

Ash Wednesday will be here very soon, on March 5, and we will be in Lent. It is a good time to take stock of where we are spiritually, but a better time to go deeper spiritually. The Catholic Church provides many ways for us to do that: fasting, abstinence from meat, Mass on Ash Wednesday, and so on. You are very much encouraged to come to daily Mass. Schedules do not always allow for that, though, so perhaps a book of short meditations that you could pick up at the end of a busy day would be helpful. Here are some recommended books. The Aquinas can be read online free of charge. The others are available various formats including Kindle.

Meditations for Lent, by Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

Aquinas’ Lenten Meditations

Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches, by George Weigel

At the Foot of the Cross – Gerald Vann, an English Dominican
7 lessons of Mary for the Sorrowing Heart

The Seven Last Words of Jesus by Romanus Cessario, OP