Sprucing up your prayer life can help bring you closer to God

TORONTO - With the busy schedule of a university student, Vanessa Nicholas-Schmidt was finding it difficult to fit prayer into her regular routine during her school years.

To remedy this, her spiritual director suggested she get creative, recommending a variety of different prayer styles.

“She said Jesus is not expecting the friendship to look any one way,” said Nicholas-Schmidt, program director at Faith Connections, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto’s youth ministry. “How can we talk to Jesus in a way that fits in with our lives no matter where we are on the journey?”

    Consecrated life means living for God, others, pope says at audience

    VATICAN CITY - Consecrated life entails giving oneself completely to God and living for others, Pope Benedict XVI said.

    Speaking at his weekly general audience Jan. 25, the Pope continued his catechesis on Christian prayer, looking at the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood.

    The Pope said Jesus prayed for God's intercession for his disciples, who, like himself, "do not belong to the world."

      Miss America knows gifts are from God

      MILWAUKEE — All smiles, Susan Kaeppeler, fourth-grade teacher at Kenosha’s St. Joseph Academy’s lower campus, was greeted with the red-carpet treatment when she arrived to class Jan. 16 after a whirlwind weekend where she saw her oldest daughter, Laura, crowned Miss America.

      The 23-year-old brunette won the Miss America title in Las Vegas Jan. 14. “Some of the parents decorated her classroom, and made some posters and put them up in the gym as the school day began,” said Pauline McTernan, St. Joseph development director.

        Face adversity with courage, humility, grace

        Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Feb. 5 (Job 7:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 147; 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39)

        Most people have shared Job’s feelings and thoughts at least once in their lives. There are times when life seems futile, burdensome and joyless. And as we grow older the years seem to fly by with ever-growing speed. Often things do not turn out as we had hoped or planned. Dreams fade, relationships sour and fail and there are many heartbreaks and disappointments along the way.

          Chastity as purity of heart and intention

          To live a chaste life is not easy, not just for celibates, but for everyone. Even when our actions are all in line, it is still hard to live with a chaste heart, a chaste attitude and chaste fantasies. Purity of heart and intention is very difficult.

          Why? Chastity is difficult because we are so incurably sexual in every pore of our being. And that is not a bad thing. It’s God’s gift. Far from being something dirty and antithetical to our spiritual lives, sexuality is God’s great gift, God’s holy fire, inside us. And so the longing for consummation is a conscious or inchoate colouring underlying most every action in our lives.

          And so it is hard to pray for chastity because to pray for it, seemingly, is to pray that sexual yearning and sexual energy should lessen within us or disappear altogether. And who wants to live an asexual and neutered life? No healthy person wants this. Thus, if you are healthy, it is hard to put your heart into praying for chastity because, deep down, nobody wants to be asexual.

            Silence is key ingredient to meaningful communication, pope says

            VATICAN CITY - Amid the deluge of information and nonstop chatter in today's media, the church needs to help people find safe havens of silence, Pope Benedict XVI said.

            Far from being the enemy of calm and quiet, social media and the Internet can lead people to virtual sanctuaries that offer silent reflection, thoughtful dialogue and true meaning in life, he said.

            "Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God," he said in his message for the 2012 celebration of World Communications Day.

              Pope says neocatechumenal celebrations must lead members to parish Mass

              VATICAN CITY - As the Vatican approved the Neocatechumenal Way's unique rite, Pope Benedict XVI underlined that its celebrations were not "strictly liturgical" and that their aim must be to encourage members to partake fully in the liturgical life of the parish.

              The pope encouraged the movement's members to continue "to offer your original contribution to the cause of the Gospel," and he urged them to always make sure their "precious work" was in "profound communion with the Apostolic See and the pastors of the local church in which they're inserted."

                Pope says virginity and martyrdom of St. Agnes example of faith

                VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI held up the life of a young virgin and martyr as an example to seminarians of the total commitment to Christ required by young men seeking to enter the priesthood.

                The Pope also said that a solid cultural background and intellectual understanding of faith was essential in the formation of priests as spreaders of the word of God.

                  As Tet nears, migrants return to Vietnam, get chance to renew faith

                  HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam - Catholic migrant workers based in Laos are returning home to be with their families in time for the Tet New Year holidays and, for many, the trip will offer a chance to renew their faith.

                  Others, however, even within Vietnam, will not make the traditional journey to be with their family for the lunar new year, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News.

                  Paul Le Quoc Hai, a Catholic who works as a carpenter in Laos' Khammouan province, said he will take advantage of this Tet holiday to get his two children baptized.

                    Pope urges agreement between Christians on ethical questions

                    VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI said Christians of all denominations should come to agreement on ethical matters, especially regarding human life, family and sexuality.

                    The Pope, in a meeting Jan. 19 with an ecumenical group of Catholic and Lutheran leaders from Finland, said that differences among Christians regarding the "proper understanding of human nature and its dignity" had grown in recent years.

                      Christian divisions, including on morality, weaken witness, pope says

                      VATICAN CITY - Divisions among Christians, including on moral issues, weakens their credibility and their ability to respond to the spiritual yearning of many men and women today, Pope Benedict XVI said.

                      While "there is more that unites us than divides us" on the basic tenets of faith -- belief in Christ, the son of God and savior of humanity -- "divisions remain and regard many practical and ethical questions, giving rise to confusion and mistrust, weakening our ability to transmit the saving word of Christ," Pope Benedict said Jan. 18 at his weekly general audience.