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- Imprimi Potest
- Words of Jesus for Members of Shepherds of Christ Associates
- Chapter 1: Introduction How It All Began
- Chapter 2: Guidelines
- Chapter 3: A Way of Spiritual Life for Shepherds of Christ Associates
- An Overview of the Spiritual Life
- Consecration to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary
- Our Personal Relationship With Jesus
- Mary Our Mother
- The Mass and the Sacraments
- Life in the Holy Spirit
- Life Within the Church
- The Spiritual Life and the Christian Virtues
- The Cross Leads to Life
- Relationship with Others and the World-at-large
- Devotion to St. Joseph, Other Saints and the Angels
Rev. Bradley M. Schaeffer, S.J.
Chicago Province, The Society of Jesus
We recognize and accept that the final authority regarding these messages rests
with the Holy See of Rome, to whose judgment we willingly submit.
© Copyright 1995 Shepherds of Christ Publications
Rights for non-commercial reproduction granted:
May be copied in its entirety, but neither re-typed nor edited.
The Shepherds of Christ Spirituality Handbook is available from
Shepherds of Christ Ministries
P.O. Box 193
Morrow, Ohio 45152-0193
Telephone: (toll free) 1-888-211-3041 or (513) 932-4451
FAX: (513) 932-6791
First Printing, September 1994
Second Printing, November 1994
Third Printing, November 1995
Fourth Printing, March 1996
"My beloved priest-companion, I intend to use the priestly newsletter, Shepherds of Christ, and the movement, Shepherds of Christ Associates, in a powerful way for the renewal of My Church and the world.
"I will use the newsletter and the chapters of Shepherds of Christ Associates as a powerful instrument for spreading devotion to My Heart and My Mother's Heart.
"I am calling many to become members of Shepherds of Christ Associates. To all of them I will give great blessings. I will use them as instruments to help bring about the triumph of the Immaculate Heart and the reign of My Sacred Heart. I will give great graces to the members of Shepherds of Christ Associates. I will call them to be deeply united to My Heart and to Mary's Heart as I lead them ever closer to My Father in the Holy Spirit."
- Message from Jesus to Father Edward J. Carter, S.J., Founder, as given on July 31, 1994, feast of Saint Ignatius Loyola, Founder of the Society of Jesus (The Jesuits)
During the summer of 1993, Father Edward J. Carter, S.J., Professor of Theology at Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio, began to receive mystical locutions (messages) from Jesus and Mary on a regular basis.
In a message given on May 31, 1994, Jesus asked Father Carter to begin the publication of a spirituality newsletter for priests. To be sent to more than 60,000 priests in the U.S.A., and also to priests in other countries, the newsletter is published by Shepherds of Christ Publications, an arm of Shepherds of Christ Ministries, and will be distributed bi-monthly. The title of the newsletter is Shepherds of Christ.
Jesus has asked that chapters be formed to pray for the needs of priests around the world. The chapters are to pray in a special way for the spiritual success of the priestly newsletter, as well as to aid in the financial support of this publication. The chapters and members are to be called Shepherds of Christ Associates.
Our Lord has stressed that Shepherds of Christ Associates become an international movement.
- A primary purpose of the chapters of Shepherds of Christ Associates is to pray for all priests throughout the world in all their needs. A coequal purpose is to provide a spiritual way of life for members of the chapters. The chapters are to pray in a special way for the spiritual success of the priestly newsletter, Shepherds of Christ. Prayer for the acquisition of monetary funds to publish the letter is also in order. The chapters are to meet on a regular basis, with the members of each chapter to determine the exact frequency of meetings. All chapters are encouraged to meet on a weekly basis. If for various other reasons certain chapters cannot meet weekly, they should meet at least once a month.
- All persons--lay persons, diocesan clergy, and priests, brothers, and sisters in religious life--are invited to become members of Shepherds of Christ Associates. Those who are already committed to a certain way of spiritual life may adapt the spirituality of Shepherds of Christ Associates to their own particular spirituality.
- In addition to the purpose of the chapters as put forth above, the members of each chapter are encouraged to help raise money to defray some of the newsletter publication costs and some of the financial needs of the Shepherds of Christ Associates movement. One way for chapters to financially aid the newsletter is to pledge to pay for a certain number of newsletters each year. Our Lord has asked that the newsletter be sent to the priests free of charge, although donations may be requested in the newsletter itself.
- A further purpose of the chapters is to undertake those activities which Jesus, through the Spiritual Director, further reveals to be His will.
- The formation of as many chapters as is reasonably possible is to be encouraged. Multiple chapters may exist in the same city or area. Each chapter is to have its own local coordinator, and each country its own national coordinator.
- A periodic newsletter for associates will be published to help establish the desired bond or union between all chapters and all members.
- Members of Shepherds of Christ Associates pledge their loyal support to the Holy Father, the Pope, and to the teaching authority of the Church.
- Shepherds of Christ Associates exists under Church law as provided in canons 298 and 299.
- The existence and activity of all chapters is to be placed under the special protection and guidance of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Chapters exist so that they may, according to the mission of Shepherds of Christ Associates, help to establish the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. All chapter members are strongly encouraged to consecrate themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The way of spiritual life proposed to the members of Shepherds of Christ Associates is centered in consecration to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. All aspects of the spiritual life discussed below should be viewed as means to help members develop their lives in consecration to Christ, the Sacred Heart, and to Mary, the Immaculate Heart.
The Christian life is rooted in the great event of the Incarnation. We must consequently always focus our gaze upon Christ, realizing that everything the Father wishes to tell us has been summed up in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It only remains for us, then, to strive to understand with greater insight the inexhaustible truth of the Word Incarnate: "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son, Whom He appointed the heir of all things, through Whom also He created the world." (Heb. 1: 1-2) (1)
What was the condition of the human race at the time of Christ's coming? In some ways, people were much the same as we are today. There were those just being born into this world of human drama. There were those who, in death, were leaving it, some of whom had grasped but little of life's meaning. There were those who were healthy and vigorous. There were those who were sick and lame. Some especially felt the burdens, the grief, the suffering of the human condition. Others were ebullient and desired all the pleasures life could provide. There was some good being accomplished. Immorality, however, was rampant. What St. Paul tells us concerning the time that immediately followed Christ's existence certainly could also be applied to the time of His entrance into the world. It is, in short, an ugly picture that St. Paul depicts for us (Rom. 1: 22-32).
Into such a depraved condition Jesus entered, with a full and generous Heart, to lead the human race from the depths of sinfulness to the vibrant richness of a new life in Himself. Through His enfleshment, this Christ became the focal point of all history. The authentic hopes and dreams of the human family, now so overshadowed by the ugliness of sin, came converging upon this Christ. He would gather them up in Himself, give them a new luster and brilliance and dynamism, and would lead the human family back to the Father in the Holy Spirit.
Christ was radically to release us from the dominion of sin and elevate us to a new level of existence. This life Christ has given us is not a type of superstructure which is erected atop human existence. Although nature and grace are distinct, they do not lie side by side as separate entities. Rather, grace permeates nature. The Christian is one graced person. The Christian is one who has been raised up, caught up, into a deeper form of life in Christ Jesus. Nothing that is authentically human in the life of the Christian has been excluded from this new existence. Whatever is really human in the life of the Christian is meant to be an expression of the Christ-life. The simple but deep joys of family life, the wonderment at nature's beauty, the warm embrace of a mother for her child, the agony of crucial decision making, the success or frustration that is experienced in one's work, the joy of being well received by others, and the heartache of being misunderstood--all these experiences are intended to be caught up in Christ and made more deeply human because of Him.
Jesus has come, then, not to destroy anything that is authentically human, but to perfect it by leading it to a graced fulfillment. This is the meaning of the Word's becoming flesh, the meaning of the Incarnation. The more God-like we become through Christ, the more human we become.
We, through our incorporation into Christ which occurs at Baptism, are meant to relive the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In doing so, we are not only accomplishing our own salvation, but we are assisting in the salvation of others also. The Incarnation continues all the time. Christ, of course, is the one Who fundamentally continues the Incarnation. But He enlists our help. The world no longer sees Jesus, no longer is able to reach out and touch Him. We are the ones who now, in some way, make Christ visible and tangible. In union with the invisible, glorified Christ, and depending on Him as our source of life, we continue the Incarnation in its visible and temporal dimensions. This is our great privilege. This is our great responsibility.
The Christian is initiated into the mystery of Christ, into his or her role in prolonging the Incarnation, through Baptism. In the words of St. Paul: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by Baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." (Rom. 6: 3-4).
It is not sufficient, however, that we be incorporated into Christ through Baptism. All forms of life require nourishment. So, too, our life in Christ must be continually nourished. How can we continually keep in contact with Christ? There are various ways. We contact Christ in a most special way through the liturgy, above all in the Eucharistic liturgy. Here the entire course of salvation history, as centered in Jesus, is sacramentally renewed and continued. Through our most special and most personal meeting with Jesus in the Mass, we are more deeply incorporated into Christ. Also, we should remember that all the sacraments make up part of the Church's liturgy.
The reading of Scripture provides another special opportunity for meeting Jesus. This is true for both Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament prefigures the New Testament and leads to it. It is obvious, however, that we meet Christ especially in the pages of the New Testament. How true it is to say that not to be familiar with Scripture is not to know Jesus properly. We should resolve to read from Scripture daily.
We also meet Jesus in our interaction with others. Everyone we meet, everyone we serve, is in the image of Jesus. We have to take the means to grow in this awareness. If I truly believe that everyone has been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, how should I treat everyone?
These, then, are some of the ways we keep in contact with Jesus. Common to the various ways of meeting Jesus is a certain degree of prayerful reflection. Our contact with Jesus in the liturgy, in Scripture, and in our interaction with others, and so forth, will not be all that it should be unless we are persons of prayer. The light and strength of prayer enables us to keep in contact with Jesus as we should.
We live out our Christ-life in an atmosphere of love. Indeed, the life Jesus has given us is centered in love. It has its origins in the mysterious love of God: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3: 16).
Our new life in Jesus has arisen out of God's fathomless love. Christ, in His descent into human flesh, has established a milieu of love. The life He came to give can flourish only in the framework of love. Indeed, we can summarize the meaning of the Christian life by stating that it is our loving response to God's love. The pierced Heart of Jesus, this Heart which shed its last drop of blood in the greatest love for each one of us, is the symbol of God's tremendous love for us. Christ's Heart also calls us to respond by giving ourselves in love to God and neighbor. Yes, Jesus invites us to respond to God's love by giving ourselves in love to Him in an ever closer union. The more closely we are united to Him, the greater is our capacity to love God and neighbor. The more closely we are united with Jesus, the more closely He unites us to the Father in the Holy Spirit, with Mary our Mother at our side.
We have already spoken of how we are incorporated into Christ at Baptism. Now we shall speak of the life which comes to us in Baptism in terms of consecration:
"To consecrate means to make sacred, to make holy. Only God can make a being holy. So to speak of our consecration is to speak of God's activity in making us holy, His activity of giving us a share in His own holiness. At Baptism we receive a share in God's life, a share in His holiness. Christ is the Mediator of this grace life. We are baptized into Christ, into His death and resurrection. In Baptism we become holy by sharing in the holiness of Christ. We become consecrated, sealed with the divine holiness. We belong to the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit.
"On our part, we must respond to God's consecration of us. We must live out the consecration of Baptism. We must realize what God has done for us in Christ and live according to this awareness. We need to live the life of holiness and grow in it. In other words, we must develop the life of grace, the Christ-life.
"What God has done for us in Christ involves Mary. God has given us a Christ-life, our life of grace, and Mary is the Mother of this Christ-life. Consequently, living out our life of consecration to God--living out the Christ-life--includes allowing Mary to increasingly be the Mother of our Christ-life.
"Consecration to Mary, therefore, is an aspect of our consecration to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is entrusting ourselves entirely to her maternal love so that she can bring us ever closer to Jesus, so that we can increasingly live out our consecration to God in Christ.
"At Fatima, Our Lady asked that we consecrate ourselves to her Immaculate Heart. Mary shows us her heart as a symbol of her love for God and us. She asks us to make a return of love to her, to consecrate ourselves to her, to give ourselves to her completely. She wants us to entrust ourselves to her completely so that she may help us love God and neighbor.
"As stated above, consecration to Mary is an aspect of our consecration to God in Christ and she has asked for consecration to her Heart so that she may assist us. Christ, in turn, invites us to live out this consecration to Him through consecration to His Sacred Heart. We see the divine symmetry: consecration to the Immaculate Heart helps us to live out consecration to Christ Who reveals His Heart as symbol of His life of love in all its aspects, including His tremendous love for each of us individually. His Heart also asks for our love in return, a return which ideally is summed up in consecration to Jesus' Heart. Through this consecration we give ourselves completely to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart. In this consecration to Jesus, we promise to strive to live according to His Father's will in all things." (2)
He hung upon a cross on a hill called Calvary. Death was near. How much Jesus had already suffered! He had been brutally scourged. Much of His sacred body was a bloody, open wound. He had been derisively crowned with thorns. In a terribly weakened condition, He carried the heavy cross to the hill of Golgotha. There He was stripped of His garments and mercilessly nailed to the cross. Try to imagine the excruciating pain Jesus suffered as the nails penetrated His sacred hands and feet! After all this brutal and agonizing suffering--of body and spirit--Jesus finally died.
And He did it all for you! Yes, you can truly say that Jesus did it all for you. I can say that Jesus did it all for me. He suffered and died for the whole human race, but He did it in a way which makes it true to say He also did it for each individual. When He was undergoing all the brutal and horrible suffering, He knew you and He knew me by name. He was loving each of us with the most tender, and tremendous, and unique love! He gave the last drop of His precious blood for you individually and for me individually!
What should be our return to this magnificent Heart of Jesus which gave until there was no more to give? No less than our entire selves. No less than a total consecration to this tremendous Lover, to this magnificent and tender Heart! No less than a day-by-day resolve to strive to live our consecration with the deepest faith, hope, and love. No less than the deepest desire to develop the most intimate, personal relationship with Jesus. The total and the most tender love of Jesus' magnificent Heart for you and for me deserves nothing less!
As Jesus hung upon the cross in His excruciating suffering, He gave Mary to us as our spiritual Mother:
"…standing by the cross of Jesus were His Mother, and His Mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His Mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His Mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!' Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold, your Mother!'" (Jn 19: 25-26).
Yes, John, the disciple, represented all of us. Jesus, in giving Mary to John as His Mother, was giving her to all of us as our spiritual Mother. We can never thank Jesus sufficiently for this great gift. Mary is your Mother and she is my Mother. Pope John Paul II tells us how Mary is Mother to each of us according to each one's uniqueness:
"Of the essence of motherhood is the fact that it concerns the person. Motherhood always establishes a unique and unrepeatable relationship between two people: between mother and child and between child and mother. Even when the same woman is the mother of many children, her personal relationship with each one of them is of the very essence of motherhood…
"It can be said that motherhood 'in the order of grace' preserves the analogy with what 'in the order of nature' characterizes the union between mother and child." (3)
Let us always thank Mary that she is the Mother of each of us according to each one's uniqueness. I can truly say that Mary is my Mother in an unrepeatable way, and you can truly say that she is your Mother in an unrepeatable way. Realizing what a great and unique love Mary has for each of us, what reason could we ever have for not always going to her? What reason could we ever have for not asking her to take us as her beloved children and to hold us close to her maternal and Immaculate Heart where we always experience the love, the warmth, the tenderness of this magnificent Mother?
The best way to return love to Jesus is through participation in the Mass. Indeed, the Mass is the chief source for growth in our life of consecration. Everything in the life of the Church, including the sacraments--centers around the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
All the faithful are privileged to be able to enter into the offering of the Mass:
"The sacrifice of the Mass, as we well know, makes truly present the sacrifice of Calvary. At His sacrifice on Calvary, Christ was Priest and Victim. We obviously did not offer together with Him. At the Mass, however, Christ, although He is the chief Priest and Victim, does not act alone. Through God's gracious design, at Mass all the members of the Church are priests and victims together with Christ. To be sure, there is a very significant difference between the priesthood of bishops and priests and the priesthood of the faithful. The point we wish to stress, however, is that the universal priesthood, given in Baptism to all the faithful, is a real participation in Christ's priesthood.
"Vatican II has stressed this concept of the priesthood of all the Church's members. Speaking of the Mass, the Council says: 'The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators. On the contrary, through a proper appreciation of the rites and prayers, they should participate knowingly, devoutly, and actively. They should be instructed by God's word and be refreshed at the table of the Lord's body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn to offer themselves too. Through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn, day-by-day, into ever closer union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all.'
"During all our Christ-like activities, we are living the Mass. Working, recreating, laughing, weeping, enjoying success but also experiencing failure, enjoying the beauties of nature--through all such activities, we are living the Mass. We are continually offering ourselves in loving conformity to the Father's will. From time to time during the day, we should make a conscious act of uniting ourselves and our activities with the sacrifice of Calvary as it is made present throughout the world through the Mass.
"A very precious time during the Mass is, of course, our reception of Jesus in Holy Communion. We should make the most of these special moments. Let's properly thank Jesus for coming to us with His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Let's thank Jesus for the tremendous suffering He experienced in order to be able to give us the Eucharist. As Jesus dwells within us in this precious way at Communion time, the very Heart of Christ--this Heart which is symbol of His great love--dwells within. This Heart cries out for our love in return.
"One of the great means God has given us to help prepare ourselves for better participation in the Mass is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Our Lady of Medjugorje asks us to go to Confession at least once a month.
"Indeed, we should use all available means to prepare ourselves for a more fruitful participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. It is a great privilege to be able to be present at, and to participate in, the Mass. We should show Jesus our appreciation for such a great gift by preparing ourselves as best we can, and in this way we will gain the greatest possible benefit from the Mass, both for ourselves and for others.
"Included in our devotion to the Eucharist should be our desire to make Eucharistic reparation. One way to do this is to say often the following Fatima prayer: 'Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore You profoundly. I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifferences by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and (the intercession of) the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of sinners.'" (4)
Besides saying the above prayer, there are other acts of Eucharistic reparation we can make. One of these is to be sure we make adequate thanksgiving after Mass. One of the intentions we should have at this time is to help make reparation for the lack of proper thanksgiving on the part of many. Pope Pius XII speaks about the duty of spending the proper time in thanksgiving:
"When at Mass, which is subject to special rules of the liturgy, is over, the person who has received Holy Communion is not thereby freed from his duty of thanksgiving; rather, it is most becoming that, when the Mass is finished, the person who has received the Eucharist should recollect himself and, in intimate union with the Divine Master, hold loving and fruitful converse with Him. Hence they have departed from the straight way of truth who, adhering to the letter rather than the sense, assert and teach that, when Mass has ended, no such thanksgiving should be added, not only because the Mass is itself a thanksgiving, but also because this pertains to a private and personal act of piety and not to the good of the community." (5)
The Holy Spirit is given to us to transform us in the likeness of Christ. This is an ongoing process. Here is a message of Jesus which speaks to the issue:
"My beloved friend, tell My people to pray daily to the Holy Spirit. They are to pray for an increase in His gifts. My people must realize that the Holy Spirit comes to transform them. The Spirit desires to transform you more and more according to My image. Those who are docile to His touch become increasingly shaped in my likeness. He performs this marvel within My Mother's Heart. The more one dwells in My Mother's Heart, the more active are the workings of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit leads Mary to place you within My Heart. In both of Our Hearts, then, your transformation continues. The more you are formed after My own Heart, the more I lead you to the bosom of My Father. Tell My people all this. Tell them to pray daily for a greater appreciation of these wondrous gifts. I am Lord and Master! All who come to My Heart will be on fire to receive the gifts of the Spirit in ever greater measure! I love and bless My people!" (Message of Jesus given to Father Carter).(6)
God calls us to live Christian existence, the spiritual life, within the Church--the Church which Christ has established. This Church is a many splendored reality. It has many different names, images and dimensions that variously attest to and manifest this multifaceted richness. All of them, however, speak of the one, same reality. Here is a message of Jesus which speaks of His Church:
"My beloved priest-companion, remind My people that the Church was born from My Heart, pierced with the soldier's lance on Calvary. From My pierced Heart the Church and her sacraments were born. Two of these sacraments, the Eucharist and Baptism, were symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from My pierced side.
"As the Church was born from My pierced Heart, so does the Church's life grow from the graces I continually give to her from My pierced Heart, this Heart which is now glorified.
"I call all the members of My Church to help build up My Body, the Church, by coming to My pierced Heart. United to My Heart and dwelling within It, I will give to each the light and strength to carry out My Father's will in the building up of My Church.
"Mary is Mother and Model of the Church. As Mother of the Church, she intercedes for all the graces the members need to contribute to the building up of My Church. As Model of the Church, as perfect imitator of Me, she shows the children of the Church how all, individually and collectively, are to be increasingly formed in My image. As all come to My Heart for the building up of My Church, let them do so united in the Heart of Mary.
"My Church is experiencing critical and difficult times. There are many divisions within My Church. There are many false teachings, including some put forth by certain theologians. These false teachings occur because those responsible for such are not in proper union with My vicar, the Pope, and the Church's Magisterium. I want all My children to pray daily for the cure of the many and serious ills of the Church. With the increase of prayers and sacrifices for the health of the Church, that day will soon come when the Church will be purified and revitalized. When that day comes, the renewed Church will be characterized by the triumph of the Immaculate Heart and the reign of My Sacred Heart. Thus the message of Fatima will have reached its completion.
"I am Lord and Master. I request that all My people listen to My words and respond to them. I love My people with a tremendous love and, in this great love, I give them this message!"(Message from Jesus given to Father Carter). (7)
The life of sanctifying grace expresses itself through the various Christian virtues. Let us take a brief look at this life:
"The Persons of the Blessed Trinity have communicated Themselves to us in lavish love. When a person is in the state of grace, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dwell within that person in an extraordinary fashion.
"Such is the intimacy of this Trinitarian communication that the Persons of the Trinity imprint Their image upon us. This image is our life of grace, our created participation in the life of the Trinity. We receive this life at Baptism, and our privilege and responsibility are to develop it as fully as possible during our earthly journey before experiencing its culmination in eternal life.
"Because Christ in His humanity is Mediator of our life of grace, it possesses not only a Trinitarian dimension, but a Christic aspect as well. We can readily understand, then, why our grace-life is very appropriately also called the Christ-life.
"Our Christ-life is centered in faith and love. Christian faith gives us an extraordinary capacity to know realities about God and the things of God. The virtue of Christian love allows us to accompany this faith-knowledge with an appropriate love-response. Christian hope is the chief support of faith and love. Finally, all the other Christian virtues are variously connected with these three main Christian capacities." (8)
We hear much about faith and love, the two main Christian virtues. However, hope is also extremely important. One of the aspects of the virtue of hope is trust. Let's listen to a message of Jesus regarding trust:
"My beloved priest-companion, tell my people to trust Me unreservedly. I am Lord and Master. I am God. So many fail to trust Me as they should. I love all My people much more than they love themselves! The great love I have for each person should encourage all to trust Me! The more you realize how much a friend loves you, the more you place your trust in that person. I am your perfect Friend. I love you much, much more than your best earthly friend! Tell My people to trust Me completely. Tell them to say often, 'Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in You.'" (Message of Jesus as given to Father Carter). (9)
Here is a message from Mary on prayer. She tells us of the great importance of prayer regarding the spiritual life:
"My beloved priest-son, many times I have taught you the great importance of prayer. I have obtained for you the grace so that you love to pray, not only during your set periods of prayer, but also during the day in a way which permits you to perform your daily duties. I have taught you to always be aware that all prayer should be made in union with the Mass. Indeed, the Eucharistic sacrifice is itself the greatest prayer. All other prayer should be consciously united with the Mass which is constantly being offered throughout the world. I have taught you the great importance of praying before the tabernacle. My Son is present there in the Eucharist--Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Special graces are given to those who pray before the tabernacle.
"There is much to pray for in these most critical times. The Church and the world exist in most difficult times. I desire that all my children pray daily for all the needs of the Church and the world. I ask for special prayer for the conversion of sinners.
"I ask that my children pray the rosary each day. Very special graces are given to those who do so. During these days of great purification, I promise special protection to those who regularly pray the rosary. I also promise protection to their loved ones.
"Whatever form of prayer my children use, it should always be made in union with my Immaculate Heart. The more my children are united to me, the more I lead them to make their prayer in the Heart of my Son, Jesus. He, in turn, places all prayers in the bosom of the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
"My dear son, keep reminding all my little ones of the great importance of prayer for their own needs and the needs of all others. Keep telling them of the great necessity of prayer for growth in love of God and neighbor. I love all my children with the most tender love. I desire that all listen to my words and live them in their daily lives!" (Message of Mary as given to Father Carter). (10)
Our incorporation into Christ at Baptism, and the gradual nurturing in that life, is centered in the pattern of death-resurrection. Indeed, the theme of death-resurrection is at the heart of salvation history. Let us briefly consider its place in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and in our own lives, always remembering that any form of death--that is, any form of suffering--is meant to lead to greater life, greater peace, greater happiness.
The theme of death-resurrection is at the heart of Old Testament history. The Jewish people, under the leadership of Moses, experienced death-resurrection as they were formed into the people of the covenant, God's people. In the great Exodus event, they escaped Egyptian slavery, went on to Mt. Sinai where the covenant was ratified, and then progressed to the Promised Land. As members of the Mosaic covenant, as God's people, the Jews experienced religious transition. They passed over to a higher level of religious existence, to a more intimate union with God.
This religious transition contained death-resurrection. For the Jews to become people of the covenant, to remain so, and to grow in the life of the covenant, it was necessary that they undergo a mystical or spiritual death. In short, the Jewish people had to be willing to bear that which was difficult in covenant life. They had to be willing to die to that which was not according to God's will. This mystical death, however, had a very positive purpose. It was directed at life in the covenant and at growth in that life. This spiritual death, in other words, was aimed at resurrection.
Christ perfectly fulfilled the Old Testament theme of death-resurrection. In doing so, He, too, was experiencing a religious transition. He was passing over--gradually at first, then definitively in His death--to a new kind of existence, to the life of His resurrection, which He achieved not only for Himself, but for the entire human race. To achieve this newness of life, Jesus was willing to pay the price. Jesus was willing to suffer, even unto death. That it had to be that way, that the only way Christ could have achieved resurrection was through suffering and death, was pointed out by Jesus Himself to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His Glory?" (Lk 24: 25-26).
Christ has structured the Christian life by the way He lived, died, and rose from the dead. It is obvious, then, that the pattern of death-resurrection must be at the heart of the Church's life. Individually and collectively, we continually die with Christ so that we may continually rise with Him. Thus we pass over, in a process of continued religious transition, to a greater participation in Jesus' resurrection. It is true that our participation in Jesus' resurrection will reach its completion only in eternal life. Nevertheless, we begin the life of resurrection here on earth, in the here and now of human life, in the midst of joy and pain, in the experience of success and failure, in the sweat of our brow, in the enjoyment of all of God's gifts. As Christians, we should have a sense of growth concerning our here-and-now life of resurrection. Some seem to have a rather static view of the Christian life. They do not seem to have a vital and efficacious realization that the spiritual life, centered in death-resurrection, should become more conscious, more experiential, more dynamically relative to daily existence.
We cannot maintain the life of resurrection--our newness of life in Christ--without a willingness to suffer, a willingness to follow Jesus in the carrying of the cross. This does not mean that we need to feel overwhelmed and heavily burdened by the suffering in our lives. The greater portion of suffering for most Christians seems to be an accumulation of ordinary hardships, difficulties, and pains. At times, however, deep suffering, even suffering of agonizing proportions, can enter one's life. Whether our sufferings are of either the ordinary variety or the extreme and rare type, we must convince ourselves that to properly relate to the cross is to grow in resurrection. And to grow in resurrection ourselves means that we have an increased capacity to help give resurrection to others.
The pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary are the great symbols reminding us that to love God and neighbor requires a willingness to suffer. How much Jesus and Mary suffered for love of you and me! Our consecration to Their Hearts includes a willingness to carry the cross, not as an end in itself, but as a means to greater life. As we bear the cross in loving conformity to the Father's will, we grow in the Christ-life. With Mary at our side we come closer to Christ. Jesus, in turn, leads us closer to the Father in the Holy Spirit. And as we ourselves grow in the Christ-life, we become more apt instruments in helping to channel this life to others. Yes, the cross of Christ always points to life!
The true Christian is imbued with a proper consciousness of others. That is to say, the true Christian is keenly aware that a great part of God's plan for us tells us that we must, according to His will, relate in various ways to our fellow human beings. Indeed, the Christian imperative tells us that we are to walk life's path, not in isolation, but hand in hand with our brothers and sisters of the human family.
To relate to others according to God's will, we must be properly aware of who they really are. We must, in short, be able to go beneath surface appearances, which may or may not be appealing to us, and contact others in their core existence. When we are truly in touch with others at the core of their beings, we are aware of their awesome dignity. We are conscious that these persons are created and redeemed by God's love. We are conscious that our merciful and loving Jesus shed His last drop of blood for each of them, that His Heart was pierced on the cross because He loved each of them without measure! We are conscious that this magnificent, pierced Heart, now in Its glorified state, still beats with the most special love for each individual upon this earth. Realizing all this, and doing so consistently, gives us the basis and the motivation to try to relate to all--both those we directly contact and those billions we never physically meet--with the greatest love.
In order to be in touch with the inner self of others, we must be aware of, or in touch with, our own true self. This awareness is a realization that our self is likewise made in the image of God, that we have been redeemed by Christ, and that we can only find true happiness through the constant effort to grow in love of God and neighbor. Here, then, we can see the profound interaction among the three awarenesses and loves--awareness and love of God, neighbor, and self. As Christians, consequently, we should have a maturing sense of how our existence is, in varied ways, profoundly linked with the existence of others. Again, this feeling of union with others is not limited to those we directly meet, but, in various ways, is directed to all members of the human family.
The world in which we live is an amazing mixture of that which is good and beautiful and brilliant and that which is sinful and ugly and dreadful. We have the privilege and responsibility of shaping this contemporary world according to its Christological imprint. Jesus put this image of Himself upon the world order by the way He lived and died and rose. We have to help in directing our fellow humans and their values along the path which has been made by the footprints of Jesus of Nazareth--a task that is not always easy. There are so many forces in today's world that work against Christ, His message, and the order He came to establish! But are we going to allow the forces of evil to discourage us from doing all we possibly can to make this a better world according to the designs of Christ? Jesus paid a terrible price to redeem the world. His Heart, which was pierced on the cross for our redemption, cries out to us in His great love for us. He asks us to do our part in helping make the world better reflect His image. In response to the great love which the Heart of Jesus has for each of us, let us, in union with Mary our Mother, often ask ourselves, "What have I done for Christ, what am I now doing for Christ, what am I going to do for Christ?"
St. Joseph is Patron of the Universal Church. His power of intercession is indeed great. Joseph, while on earth, enjoyed extraordinary closeness to Jesus and Mary. And His union with them in heaven is even greater. Let us each day pray to St. Joseph to obtain for us the grace to come ever closer to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
We should also pray to the other saints in heaven, especially our favorite saints. The saints are members of the Church triumphant. We should also pray for the souls in purgatory and to them (they can help us). The souls in purgatory are members of the Church suffering. We, who are members of the Church militant here on earth, make up one Church with the saints in heaven and the souls in purgatory. We should be aware of the common bond which unites us in Christ.
We should also pray to the angels for help, especially to the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, and to our own guardian angels.
We have given a proposed way of spiritual life for members of Shepherds of Christ Associates. All aspects of this way of life center in the living out of the act of consecration to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Making and living out this consecration is our return of love to Jesus and Mary and, through them, our return of love to the Father and the Holy Spirit. Indeed, our consecration to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary is also consecration to the Father and the Holy Spirit. We should always remember that our consecration to the Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart is the way according to which Jesus and Mary invite us to live out our baptismal consecration, the consecration which originally made us belong to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Let us always remember that we go to the Father through Christ, in the Holy Spirit, with Mary our Mother at our side.
We strongly encourage members of Shepherds of Christ Associates to reread regularly all of the above in a prayerful manner. This will provide an ongoing aid to help members grow in their consecration to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
1. Scripture quotations are taken from The Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, St. Ignatius Press, San Francisco.
2. Edward Carter, S.J., Mother at Our Side, Faith Publishing, Milford, Ohio, 1993, pp. 15-17.
3. Pope John Paul II, The Mother of the Redeemer (Redemptoris Mater), United States Catholic Conference, Washington, D.C., 1987, No. 38.
4. Edward Carter, S.J., The Spirituality of Fatima and Medjugorje, Faith Publishing, Milford, Ohio, 1994, pp. 89-92. Vatican II quotations are from The Documents of Vatican II, America Press edition.
5. Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, No. 123.
6. From Tell My People, Shepherds of Christ Publications, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1994, p. 9.
8. Edward Carter, S.J., Prayer Perspectives, Alba House, Staten Island, New York, 1987, p. 12.
9. Tell My People, op. cit.