Ascribed to Grace, by Augustine

Lord, I will love you, and give thanks to you, and confess to your name, since you have forgiven me so many evils and so many impious works. To your grace and to your mercy I ascribe it that you have dissolved my sins as if they were ice.

To your grace I ascribe also whatsoever evils I have not done. For what evil is there that I, who even loved the crime for its own sake, might not have done? I confess that you have forgiven me all my sins, both those which I have done by my own choice and those which, under your guidance, I have not committed.

– St. Augustine, Confessions

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Who Doesn’t Pray?

Who of us, however faithful or faithless, doesn’t pray in a moment when the lump on the breast turns out to be malignant? Or in another moment when an officer calls to report an accident in which a loved one has been critically injured?

Who of us doesn’t pray at the birth of a child? Or at the death of a parent? At the Bar Mitzvah of a son or at the wedding of a daughter? Who of us doesn’t pray when a radio bulletin tells a nation its president has been shot or when a television broadcast tells a community that one of its children has been kidnapped? Who of us doesn’t pray when the young men and women of our country are sent into battle? Or when a baby has a temperature of 106?

Who of us doesn’t pray then?

Some prayers are wept in the foxholes of life; others, whispered in the serenity of a spring day. Some are spoken in innocence; others in repentance. Some, in faith; other in doubt.

Prayers are as diverse as the people who pray them, but together they reflect a universal longing for God. – Ken Gire, Between Heaven and Earth

A Deposition on Vices, St. Augustine

Pride imitates loftiness of mind, while you are the one God, highest above all things. What does ambition seek, except honor and glory, while you alone are to be honored above all else and are glorious forever? The cruelty of the mighty desires to be feared: but who is to be feared except the one God, and from his power what can be seized and stolen away, and when, or where, or how, or by whom?

The caresses of the wanton call for love; but there is naught more caressing than your charity, nor is anything to be loved more wholesomely than your truth, which is beautiful and bright above all things.

Curiosity pretends to be a desire for knowledge, while you know all things in the highest degree. Ignorance itself and folly are cloaked over with the names of simplicity and innocence, because nothing more simple than you can be found. What is more innocent than you, whereas to evil men their own works are hostile?

Sloth seeks rest as it were, but what sure rest is there apart from the Lord? Luxury of life desires to be called plenty and abundance; you are the fullness and the unfailing plenty of incorruptible pleasure.

Prodigality casts but the shadow of liberality, while you are the most affluent giver of all good things. Avarice desires to possess many things, and you possess all things. Envy contends for excellence: what is more excellent than you? Anger seeks vengeance: who takes vengeance with more justice than you?

Fear shrinks back at sudden and unusual things threatening what it loves, and is on watch for its own safety. But for you what is unusual or what is sudden? Or who can separate you from what you love? Where, except with you, is there firm security? Sadness wastes away over things now lost in which desire once took delight. It did not want this to happen, whereas from you nothing can be taken away. – Augustine, Confessions

Why Men Sin, by Augustine

When there is discussion concerning a crime and why it was committed, it is usually held that there appeared possibility that the appetites would obtain some of these goods, which we have termed lower, or there was fear of losing them.

These things are beautiful and fitting, but in comparison with the higher goods, which bring happiness, they are mean and base. A man commits murder: why did he do so? He coveted his victim’s wife or his property; or he wanted to rob him to get money to live on; or he feared to be deprived of some such thing by the other; or he had been injured, and burned for revenge. Would anyone commit murder without reason and out of delight in murder itself? Who can believe such a thing? …

What was it that I, a wretch, loved in you, my act of theft, my deed of crime done by night, done in the sixteenth year of my age? You were not beautiful, for you were but an act of thievery. In truth, are you anything at all, that I may speak to you?

The fruit we stole was beautiful, for it was your creation, O most beautiful of all beings, creator of all things, God the good, God the supreme good and my true good.

Beautiful was the fruit, but it was not what my unhappy soul desired. I had an abundance of better pears, but those pears I gathered solely that I might steal. The fruit I gathered I threw away, devouring in it only iniquity, and that I rejoiced to enjoy. For if I put any of that fruit into my mouth, my sin was its seasoning.

But now, O Lord my God, I seek out what was in that theft to give me delight, and lo, there is no loveliness in it. I do not say such loveliness as there is in justice and prudence, or in man’s mind, and memory, and senses, and vigorous life, nor that with which the stars are beautiful and glorious in their courses, or the land and the sea filled with their living kinds, which by new births replace those that die, nor even that flawed and shadowy beauty found in the vices that deceive us.

–  Augustine, “Augustine’s Sixteenth Year” in Confessions

Why Do People Pray?

on prayerSince the dawn of time people have prayed for all kinds of reasons and to all kinds of deities. They have prayed to Amon Ra, the Egyptian sun God, and to the pantheon of petty and capricious gods of the Greeks and Romans. Some have prayed to the earth; others to the sky. Some have prayed to Ball, the Canaanite deity; others to Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament. Some have prayed to Allah; others to Jesus. Some have prayed to a “higher power”; others to patron saints. Some, to angels; others to Mary, mother of God.

And though the object of their prayers differs, sometimes dramatically, the subject of their prayers doesn’t. Not substantially, anyway. Regardless of their faith, or lack of it, all people seem to realize the tenuousness of their humanity and their dependence of someone or something greater than themselves. – Ken Gire, Between Heaven and Earth

Who Prays?

the tidal pull of prayerWho prays?

In a word, everybody.

Or almost everybody. People who pray come from all ages and all walks of life. From the very young to the very old. From teenagers to parents of teenagers. From monks to married couples. From Jews to Christians. From Catholics to Protestants. Popes to prostitutes. American Indians to agnostics.

Yes, agnostics. Even atheists. Surveys indicate that nearly one in five of them prays daily. Hedging their bets, maybe. Or perhaps they are drawn to prayer by a tidal pull on the ragged shores of their soul, a pull so irresistible it overcomes even the seawalls of their own unbelief.

The more appropriate question, maybe, is not who prays … but who doesn’t? – Ken Gire, “Between Heaven and Earth”

The Hand of God in All

Helen Steiner Rice poemIn everything both great and small

We see the hand of God in all,

And in the miracles of spring

When everywhere in everything

His handiwork is all around

And every lovely sight and sound

Proclaims the God of earth and sky

I ask myself “Just who am I”

That God should send His only Son

That my salvation would be won

For Jesus suffered, bled, and died

That sinners might be sanctified,

And to grant God’s children such as I

Eternal life in Heaven on High.

– Helen Steiner Rice

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