We should constantly be striving to improve upon our prayer life. What air is to our lungs, so is prayer to our soul. It is essential; it is a matter of life and death! The forms of prayer are multiple. A simple way to understand the key forms of prayer is by means of a four-letter acronym: A. C. T. S.
A—stands for Adoration, the highest form of prayer that we can offer to Almighty God. This is the prayer of the highest choir of angels in heaven.
C—stands for Contrition—meaning? We are all sinners and we are called to repent firmly for our own personal sins, trusting always in God’s mercy!
T—stands for Thanksgiving. All that we have—aside from our own personal sins—are gifts from the infinite bounty and generosity of Almighty God’s love!
S—stands for Supplication. Not a word well-known or used in common parlance. It simply means the prayer of petition. Saint Augustine says with great clarity: “We are all beggars before God.” We all need God desperately for everything!
In this short essay we would like to focus most specifically upon the prayer form of Contrition—which means sorrow for our sins. However, an integral part of Contrition should also be our desire to make many forms of reparation for our sins, as well as for the sins of the world at large. We pray in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy that Jesus gave to the world through Saint Faustina Kowalska: “Have mercy on us and on the whole world.” That is to say, our prayer should take on a universal dimension; actually the word Catholic means “Universal”—all embracing, open to all people who live upon planet earth and also, all those who have passed from this world to the next! Without further ado, let us launch into a prayer in which we want to beg pardon and make reparation—meaning to make up for and to satisfy God’s justice—for all people, ourselves and the whole world!
You might be wondering, then who should we pray for, in what order of importance, where should we pray, when should we pray, how should we pray and with what disposition of heart? We would like to offer a list of those for whom we should pray; remember, with true Contrition and for the purpose of Reparation!
1. ME, MYSELF AND I! You might be thinking that this is somewhat egotistic, self-centered or even narcissistic! Not true! God created each and every one of us with a specific purpose in mind: to praise Him and to save our own individual soul. It is not egoistic to pray for our conversion, sanctification, growth in holiness and final perseverance. Rather, it is a matter of life and death. We all must individually, in the words of the Apostle Saint Paul, “work out our salvation in fear and in trembling.”
2. OUR FAMILY MEMBERS. Our prayers should extend to our family members, first and foremost! Spouses should pray for each other, then their children, then their parents, and finally blood-relatives. God brought you together in a family; you should pray fervently prayers of reparation for the many sins of all your family members. May your prayers serve to make up for the damage they have done through their many sins.
3. CATHOLIC CHURCH AT LARGE IN ITS ENTIRETY! The Catholic Church is the church that has the most members in the entire world—more than one billion members presently! To be dead honest, not all are ready to be canonized right now! All are sinners, and to make things worse, most Catholics do not even practice their faith—that is to say, they do not even attend Sunday Mass. Just this one comment merits a huge dose of reparation from many fervent souls!
4. YOUR SPECIFIC LOCAL CHURCH. Now the specific local Catholic church that you attend consists of many sinners. Many of these Catholics do not attend Mass. Most likely, many question certain Church practices. Many have gaping wounds that they are not striving to heal. Many have never begged pardon for their own sins, much less the sins of members of their families. For these in our local church, our local parish to which we belong, let us offer fervent prayers of reparation: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
5. SOCIAL SINS THAT HAVE BECOME EMBEDDED IN THE FIBER OF THE SOCIETY. Pope Saint John Paul II coined this long theological term. What it means is simply this: there are some serious sins that are not only individual and personal, but they have actually embedded themselves into the very fiber, marrow, if you like heart of society. These structural sins would be the following: abortion, legalization of same-sex unions, the legalization in some States of euthanasia—killing the elderly and infirm. For these social sins embedded in and encrusted on the very fabric and heart of society, we beg pardon and willingly intend reparation. About every 20 seconds an innocent baby is being murdered through the abominable crime and heinous sin of abortion. “O Lord, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
6. SINNERS WHO DENY THEY “ARE” SINNERS. There is a class of individuals, indeed very prevalent and widespread in society today, and they are those individuals who claim stridently that they actually have no sins whatsoever. Pope Pius XII of blessed memory stated: “The sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin.” Many Catholics have not approached the Sacrament of Confession for years; we might even say DECADES!!! They blurt out, with an air of pride and arrogance: “Well, I have no sins!” We all know they have many sins, but unfortunately they have suppressed, put to sleep, or even killed their conscience! For this large mass of individuals who claim to be great saints, we must beg pardon and offer prayers of reparation for their sins and for their eternal salvation!
7. DEATHBED SINNERS. A very important class of people that we must pray for most urgently (Jesus constantly reminds Saint Faustina to pray for these) are those individuals who are about to die, and most unfortunately they are in the state of mortal sin, and their eternal salvation is in grave jeopardy. For this reason, the great woman Doctor of the Church, Saint Catherine of Siena asserted: “The two most important moments of our life are the following: now and at the hour of our death.” Why? We only have this precise moment, “the now.” However, of prime and eternal importance is the precise moment we die. If we die in the state of grace our soul will be saved for all eternity; but if we die in the state of mortal sin our soul will be lost for all eternity. Let us beg mercy, pardon, conversion and reparation for those who are dying right now in this precise moment. “Lord, have mercy on deathbed sinners and on the whole world.”
8. PRIESTS, RELIGIOUS, AND BISHOPS. Of prime importance, all should offer up fervent and constant prayers for those who have consecrated their lives to God and the Church—namely, priests, Bishops, and men and women Religious. These individuals, who are called to a very lofty mission within the Church, are also sinners. The letter to the Hebrews explains this with utmost clarity: “Every high priest is taken from among men, and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset with weakness, and so for this reason must make sin offerings for himself as for his people.” (Heb. 5:1-3). The devil will often tempt priests, Bishops, and Religious all the more, because if they fall they cause a greater scandal to the people and enormous damage to the Church at large. For their sins, we beg the Lord Jesus, the Supreme High Priest, to have mercy, and we beg for reparation for the damage they have caused in the Church and the world at large!
9. LOCAL AND SPECIFIC INTENTIONS. We all have within our hearts and our personal lives many intentions that we would like to present to the Lord. In this we should beg the Holy Spirit for light to see the areas in our personal life where we must beg pardon, mercy, and reparation. Every time we go to Confession, we are called to confess our sins with humility, sincerity, and a firm purpose of amendment—meaning we really want to transform our lives! However, there is another important element that is part and parcel of making a good Sacramental Confession and that is the aspect of “Penance”. We must carry out the penance the priest has imposed upon us. This too is Reparation. We willingly accept the penance the priest gives us, and possibly accept to do more to repair for our past sins. A priest, who helped to form us as future priests, suggested that we should always do double the penance that the priest imposed on us in confession. Great advice so as to live out reparation!
10. SOULS IN PURGATORY. Our essay would be incomplete if we failed to mention a special group of souls that we should intercede for frequently and with great fervor: the poor and abandoned souls in Purgatory. This is a group of individuals who have passed from this life to the next and are saved, but are in need of purification for the sins that they committed in life. They are totally dependent on the mercy of Almighty God. However, a channel through which the mercy of God is actualized is through us, the living, who pray and offer sacrifices for these abandoned souls in Purgatory. Apply the Golden Rule in this circumstance, which is: “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” If you were an abandoned soul in Purgatory, beyond the shadow of a doubt, you would desire many of the living to offer fervent prayers for your eventual entrance into heaven. In other words, with respect to Reparation, the souls of those who have passed from this life to the next must be purified and their sins repaired for, and we the living are called to this very lofty and noble mission!
In conclusion, let us enrich our personal prayer life by learning a prayer intention that possibly we have never done or have never done really well and completely, that is the prayer of Reparation. Jesus and Mary have Hearts that are wounded, with thorns embedded in them. These are the sins of humanity. It is our spiritual duty, by means of reparation, to take out the thorns and gently place roses in the Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Indeed, they will rejoice in our acts of reparation and have a special place for us in their Hearts in time and for all eternity! Amen.