The Conversion on the Way to Damascus, Caravaggio, 1600
“Dear brothers and sisters, as in early times, today too Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves. He needs witnesses and martyrs like St Paul. Paul, a former violent persecutor of Christians, when he fell to the ground dazzled by the divine light on the road to Damascus, did not hesitate to change sides to the Crucified One and followed him without second thoughts. He lived and worked for Christ, for him he suffered and died. How timely his example is today.
And for this very reason I am pleased to announce officially that we shall be dedicating a special Jubilee Year to the Apostle Paul from 28 June 2008 to 29 June 2009, on the occasion of the bi-millennium of his birth, which historians have placed between the years 7 and 10 A.D.”
~ Pope Benedict XVI, June 28, 2007
First Vespers of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul
My Dear Friends in Christ,
How many of us lament over the many family and friends who have fallen away from the faith? How many of us seem helpless in the face of so many worldly forces pulling these loved ones away from the faith? What, on earth, can we do?
Maybe the problem lies in the fact that we are trying to win our loved ones over to the faith under our own earthly power. St. Augustine’s conversion came once his mother, St. Monica, per her Bishop’s advice, spoke less to Augustine about God and more to God about Augustine.
Pope John Paul the Great once said, “Prayer joined to sacrifice constitutes the most powerful force in human history.”
The mid-point of this holy year of St. Paul is marked by the Church’s celebration of the Conversion of St. Paul on January 25, 2009. I propose to you that we enter into a 40-day period of prayer and sacrifice on behalf of our loved ones who have fallen away from the faith. We will be drawing upon the graces poured out in this holy year of St. Paul, as we honor his conversion in this special way.
The 40-days leading up to January 25 will begin on December 16. Please take these next few days prior to the 16th to pray and discern which ways God is leading you to “offer up” prayer and sacrifice on behalf of those you know who seemed to have lost their faith.
Take these next few days to write down the names of those people who you wish to pray for during this time. Maybe you want to focus on one person … that is good too.
You may want to discern whether you plan to offer these 40-days in an overt or covert way. In other words, if you feel it may be beneficial for your loved ones to know, this might be a special gift this Christmas. You might want to explain what you are doing in a Christmas card. However, many circumstances require doing this in a more covert way – without their knowledge.
I would like to recommend a wonderful entrance into these 40-days by offering the first 9-days as a Christmas Novena. Here is a beautiful novena offered at the EWTN website. What a beautiful way to ask our Lord to be born anew in the hearts of your loved ones.
Please read the previous post – “Something Must Die” – to fully appreciate how our sacrifices free us to be open to the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Please do all you can to be a pure and empty vessel for God to work through you with His grace for the salvation of your loved ones.
Imagine giving a Christmas card to your loved one(s) this year that reads: “My gift to you this year is my 40-days of prayer and sacrifice offered that you will receive a super-abundance of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and temperance thoughout your life” (I’m already 9-days into it).
Please be in a state of grace as you enter your 40-days of prayer and sacrifice — go to Confession.
Ad Jesum per Mariam,