Over Thanksgiving, my sister, Carol, and I were able to connect with my nephew in Denver and to see, via video, our newly born grandnephew, Mark Joseph. Chris and his wife, Brooke, were blessed with a very healthy baby, who is still adjusting to life outside the comfort of the womb, but who has brought so much hope to our family. Mark Joseph has three brothers to help him and challenge him!
Chris and Brooke chose the name “Mark,” after my brother, Chris’s father, who passed away in 2014. They chose the name “Joseph” because it is one of Brooke’s favorite names and also to honor the foster father of Jesus during this year dedicated to St. Joseph! We have also been able to connect recently with relatives in Colorado, Kansas and California. There is nothing like family, is there? Be grateful for each one of your family members!
Friends, even in these challenging times, God is answering our prayers in so many ways. Personally, I hope that what they are calling a “new normal” never returns to complacency in our approach to life and relationships with God and one another. Truly, I believe we were far too busy in the pre-pandemic days. The pandemic has given us the gift of time to be introspective, to take stock, to realize that every day is a pure gift, a gift that none of us has coming. Each day is a day that never returns. Every day is always something fresh and new.
During this time, we have an invitation to look around us, to see those who are suffering and to take some action: to feed the hungry, to shelter the homeless, to clothe the naked and to see Jesus shining through the faces of the marginalized and broken sons and daughters of God here and around the world. It is a chance to recognize the face of Jesus shining through others and to take an action of charity according to the mandate of Matthew 25. The older I get, the more I realize that I want to be truly grateful and more joyful in my approach to every day and to see the face of Jesus in those who are really hurting, to deeply listen to others, to count our own blessings and to pass on our gratitude to others by “paying it forward.”
In the last few weeks, I was given an insight that I should change up the way I have been praying during the pandemic. The season of begging, petitioning and interceding in prayer is now complete. It is time for a bolder faith, a time for a more declarative faith.
One way I can do this is to “thank God ahead of time” for answered prayers, as Blessed Solanus Casey preached and practiced throughout his life. Blessed Solanus was a Capuchin Franciscan friar of the order’s Detroit province. He was born, reared and worked here in Wisconsin before he entered the order and studied for the priesthood. He celebrated his first Mass as a priest on July 31, 1904, right here in our diocese at St. Joseph Parish in Appleton.
This wisdom from Fr. Solanus, “thank God ahead of time,” helps me to pray with a greater boldness and a greater declarative faith. When I thank God ahead of time, I am able to release my faith because I take my eyes off of all the dire circumstances around me. Instead, I focus my attention and lay claim to the truth that the answer to my prayer is already happening. God is already at work, and he is so faithful!
I invite you to take up this spiritual practice as well. Instead of just begging God to help you, thank him ahead of time, confident that he is helping you and answering your prayer. You might put it this way: “Lord I thank you that you are healing ___________ completely and restoring him/her to full operational health.”
This is a bold and declarative prayer and not just a wish. Our God is a God of daily miracles if we have the faith to ask and believe. Jesus, the healer, walks among us today through the power of the Holy Spirit. It says in the Scriptures, “By his stripes, you have already been healed.” Now, do you and I believe that or not? If we do believe it, then “thank God ahead of time.” Even if you do not believe it yet, still “thank God ahead of time.”
As you are thanking God ahead of time, I would also invite you to seek the intercession of Blessed Solanus Casey. Pray to Blessed Solanus, that he will help you to receive a miracle. Solanus was the victim of a pandemic in his own life and survived. Look what God had in store for him.
Blessed Solanus is not yet a saint; he is on the way to canonization . Before being declared Blessed, one miracle was confirmed through the intercession of Solanus. But in order to achieve official sainthood, the church requires documentation of two miracles through a person’s intercession. I really believe that second miracle may well come from Wisconsin, maybe even the Diocese of Green Bay. You can find more information about Blessed Solanus Casey, including a prayer for his canonization, at the Fr. Solanus Guild, solanuscasey.org/franciscan-charism/pray-for-others/canonization-prayer.
So as we continue to battle this pandemic, go to God in boldness, thanking God ahead of time for the miracles he is working in our lives! Blessed Solanus Casey, pray for us.
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.