Tuesday, October 1, 2013
The mess is the message. After a difficult gospel, a little light hearted humor will help. It seems Mr. Jones' dog died. He approached the parish priest to ask if he could have a funeral mass for his dog. "Now you know I cannot do that" Fr McGillicudy replied. "Well", Mr. Jones said, " I thought I would give it a try.....Say there is another denomination in town. Do you think $500.00 would be appropriate for such a service?" "Mr. Jones" Fr McGillicudy interrupted, "you didn't tell me your dog was Catholic!"....There are two major messages to take away from today's Gospel. Moral blindness, and the ability to see God in the mess. Lazarus is in a mess. We do not know how he got there. Perhaps he was born poor. Maybe he squandered his living. Regardless, he is in a bad place. I want to share three stories of how people are/were in a mess but found God in the mess. This past Thursday a friend invited me to go Fluke fishing out in Long Island sound. Before leaving, I blessed the boat. We got down to the Niantic river boat launch, put the boat in and.....nothing....after about 25 attempts to get the motor started we ate our sandwiches and then packed up to go back home. Undaunted we figured we would give it a shot on Gardiner's Lake. Sure enough, on the second attempt...Vrrooom...we were in business. We toured the lake a couple of times when suddenly an alarm went off. My friend shut down the motor and we anchored. Fortunately it started again and we were able to make it to shore. "You know" he said, I was going to make a sarcastic comment about the blessing of yours but I think it really did work. Who knows what kind of trouble we could have gotten into out on the sound?" I thought that was a nice way of looking at it. He could see the blessing in the mess. There is another story about a young woman who lost her father after a heart transplant. Overcome with grief in an airport she sat down and sobbed. She felt arms around her and a familiar voice. "Can I help you maa'm?" It was the actor Kevin Costner. She told him her story and he consoled her and even missed his flight. As he was leaving to board his flight home he told her that he would be coming back to that city to make a film. Driving down the road several months later the woman got caught in a traffic jam. "I wonder" she thought.."if this is because of Kevin Costner's movie." She disregarded the thought and went home. The next day the same thing occurred. She decided to stop. A security officer brought her over to Mr. Costner. He invited her to stay to see them film a scene and offered her a seat. Shortly thereafter one of the Executive Producers came over and shared with her the meaning of some of the shots. The two were enjoying their conversation greatly, in fact that night the young lady called her mother and said "Mom...I just met the man of my dreams tonight." Shortly thereafter they began dating and a year later they were engaged to be married. The mess is the message. The following story is particularly inspirational. In 1992 two brothers, Magnus and Fergus Mac-Farlane Barrow from Scotland, watched the tv news from the Bosnian conflict with increasing horror. They were so moved that they decided to organize an appeal for food and blankets. Their family had visited an international pilgrimage sight, Medjugorje, in 1983, and the parents had openend their home into a guest and prayer house. Magnus and Fergus quickly gathered a jeep load, joined one of the convoys leaving the UK, and delivered the aid to Medjugorje. They thought it would be a one and done visit but God had other plans. Public donations continued to flood in. Magnus decided to give up his job as a Salmon fisherman for a year as long as the public kept donating. Soon it became necessary to set up a registered charity-Scottish International Relief. The charity soon expanded and began to work in Romania, building homes for abandoned children, and in Liberia, helping returning refugees by setting up mobile clinics, while continuing to deliver material aid to Croatia and Bosnia. In 2002 S.I.R. was operating a simple famine relief project in Malawi when Magnus met a family that led to a whole new area of work. The mother was dying of AIDS and lying on the floor of her hut surrounded by her six young children. She said that all that was left for her was to pray for her children, that someone might look after them after she had died....when Magnus asked her oldest son what he hoped for in life, his stark reply "to have enough food to eat and to go to school one day." This is what led to the Mary's Meals campaign. SIR became Mary's Meals in 2012 and aims to provide chronically hungry children with one meal every school day. In this way the children are encouraged to gain the education that can lift them out of poverty later in life. This simple but effective idea has gained momentum and today provides meals to impoverished children in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and South America. Presently Mary's Meals is now feeding 792,621 children every day. Lazarus is still with us. The sin of the Rich man (nameless) is that he was blind to the existence of Lazarus. This can be a danger for us in a materialistic culture. He uses the image of a door to block him from the personal encounter with Lazarus, hence, Lazarus loses his humanity (as stressed by the dogs licking his sores). World Hunger is still a major problem. We can disagree on the means of providing the proper treatment and distribution, but here are some interesting stats. The number of children who die each year from hunger-1.5 million; The % of the world considered to be starving-33%. The time between deaths of people who die from hunger-3.6 seconds. 18,085 people died of hunger today. 8,288, 925 people died of hunger this year. The number of tons of food wasted today in America: 77, 723; The number of tons of Global food aid provided today:16, 201. 870 million people in the world do not have enough to eat. Magnus is now the Father of seven and a devout Catholic. He saw the mess in Bosnia and responded. My hope is that someone here will be inspired and respond with Christ's love to any number of different situations. Lazarus is still here. The young lady found that by staying in hope her mess became a wonderful message. Two friends on a fishing trip learned to find a message in their mess. What about you?
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
There is a prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola called the generosity prayer. In the light of Jim's 'pay it forward' attitude it seems appropriate to share it now-" O God, teach me to be generous; to serve as you deserve to be served; to give without counting the cost; to fight without fear of being wounded; to work without seeking rest; and to spend myself without expecting any reward, but the knowledge that I am doing your holy will." In the shock, grief and sadness of losing someone as special as Jim we are at a loss for words. As I said at the wake last night if there were a special prayer I could say to bring him back I would. "Stay with us" the disciples say in today's Gospel when they discover their best friend is walking with them. Of course we say "Stay with us!" Who wouldn't? Jim was so full of life and was taken with so much more to live. Questions abound...where was God...How could a good God...a loving God allow such a thing to happen? There are no easy answers to these questions but we shouldn't be afraid to ask them. It is also ok to be angry with God. He has broad shoulders. In the Gospel of John it says " I no longer call you slaves because a slave does not know what his Master is doing. I have called you friends because I have told you everything I have heard from the Father." "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." Jim laid down his life for his family, his friends, his co-workers, and in so doing imitated the generous love of our Heavenly Father. Jesus uses the analogy of childbirth to explain the transition from death to life. He says "you will grieve, but your grief will become joy. When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when he has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. So also you are now in anguish. But I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you." As Christians we place our hope in the risen Jesus Christ. Just as the disciples rejoiced on seeing Jesus on the road to Emmaus, so too, you will rejoice when you see Jim again. This is what we place our hope in. We have to. St. Paul says in his letter to Timothy that "there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom for many. Hence we can say that it is the will of the Father that all of us be reunited in Our Father's house. The thing that will keep you going in days/weeks/years ahead is the virtue of Hope. St. Paul tells us-"eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has waiting for those who love him." Kyle and Matthew, your dad introduced you to some of the marvels in God's classroom-nature. I pray that you continue to find in nature some spark of the divine. If there is an artist, there must be a super-artist. Consider this....Green Sea Turtles return each year to the place where they were hatched and in the process swim 2,800 miles! California Grey whales each year migrate 26,000 miles to their breeding grounds and then back to their feeding grounds. Arctic terns fly up to 20,000 miles each year. Monarch butterflies depart from a plateau in Central Mexico to summer as far north as Canada where they mate and lay eggs. The Peregrine Falcon can spot a pigeon from more than five miles. Why do I say all this? These marvels all point to a Creator, God, who holds everything in a delicate balance. This is why St. Paul has that marvelous hymn of confidence in Romans 8: "If God is for us, who can be against us? What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through Him who first loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus Our Lord." Each of you has experienced a tremendous loss but we can take comfort in the promises of Jesus. How to honor Jim? Be awake and alive to beauty, keep your eyes open for what I call the "winks of God", and dedicate your life to one of generosity. Pay it forward. Light a candle and be the one to make a difference in someone else's life. Jim...your family and friends miss you dearly and they await the promise of the Book of Revelation where "God will wipe every tear from their eyes and there shall be no more death or mourning or wailing or pain for the old order has passed away."
Friday, September 20, 2013
There is a story of a family that was driving home from dinner at a restaurant one night when all of a sudden flashing lights and a police car pulled up behind them. The father of the family pulled over and the police officer approached. The father meant to say, "Is there a problem?" What he said, instead, was "Do you have a problem?" Not the question you want to ask an officer when you have been caught speeding. Fortunately, for this family, the driver was given a warning and told to be more careful next time. What the driver experienced was mercy. St. Paul says in today's second reading: "I have been mercifully treated." The image of the Father of the parable of the prodigal son has been reproduced in some famous paintings. Rembrandt's painting is one of the most famous-it was the subject of a book by Henry Nouwen. Jewish scholar Montefiore holds that this parable (the parable of the Prodigal Son), the parable of the lost coin, and the parable of the lost sheep all highlight the fact that Jesus' message is something new. "Behold I make all things new" it says in the Book of Revelation. In Montefiore's words: "The idea of a God who will invite the sinner back is not new; but the idea of a God who will go and seek for the sinner, and who wants men to do the same, is something completely new." Two themes are common to all three parables. First, in each one, Jesus emphasizes that he not only welcomes the penitent sinner back-He actively goes out and seeks the sinner until he finds him. God is the hound of heaven, so to speak. This comes out most clearly in the parable of the lost sheep: "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the 99 in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home he calls together his friends and his neighbors saying to them 'Rejoice with me for I have found my sheep which was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the 99 righteous persons who have no need of repentance." Blessed John Paul II was a strong advocate of the God of mercy. He died on the vigil of the Feast of Divine Mercy and there is speculation that he may be canonized on the Feast of Divine Mercy. On May 13, 1981 while travelling around St. Peter's Square the pope was shot point blank by Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turkish Assassin. The pope's first words when he left the hospital were, "I forgive him." In a remarkable meeting the was captured on video Pope John Paul II met with Ali Agca in person and embraced him. Agca went to confession and in the Pope's words "he seemed very interested in Our Lady of Fatima-he did not understand how the bullet did not kill him." We believe that the hands of Our Lady guided the bullet past a major artery and the Pope's heart. Our Lord told St. Faustina these words which she recorded in her Diary: "My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world. Who can measure the extent of my goodness? For you I descended from Heaven to earth; for you I allowed myself to be nailed to the cross; for you I let my sacred heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come then with trust to draw graces from this fountain." A second theme common to all three parables is the great joy Our Lord manifests whenever he is able to rescue lost sinners and bring them home to his heart. Here is the parable of the lost coin: " or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, 'Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost. In just the same way, I tell you there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents. In our own family we got to experience this. Our dog Mozart was brought to Colchester Veterinary hospital with an issue regarding his back leg. The technician came out to assist and Mozart, with the bad leg, mind you, leaps out of his hands and runs for the hills. We had the state police, the radio, everyone was on alert for Mozart. We would get reports that he was on someone's front lawn, only to have him take off again. I had everyone in the seminary praying for him (I did not tell them what they were praying for). At the end of the second day we were beginning to give up hope. My dad was in a wooded area near a golf course when suddenly he heard a rustling sound. It was Mozart! Mozart wiggled and came over and my dad was overjoyed. You can imagine how much God, who is infinite, rejoices when someone who is lost returns! Our Lord tells St. Faustina: "With my mercy I pursue sinners along all their paths, and My heart rejoices when they return to me. I forget all the bitterness with which they fed my heart and rejoice in their return....what joy fills my heart when you return to me. Because you are weak, I take you in my arms and carry you to the home of my Father." And how does the Father rejoice? It says in the prophet Zephaniah: "The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior, who will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love." In his encyclical on mercy John Paul II states: " Mercy, as Christ has presented it in the parable of the prodigal son- has the interior form of the love that in the New Testament is called agape. This love is able to reach down to every prodigal son, to every human misery, to sin. When this happens, the person who is the object of mercy does not feel humiliated, but rather found again and that he has returned to life." I think this is part of the appeal of the book and musical Les Miserables. Valjean, imprisoned for years for stealing a loaf of bread is finally released. He returns to his town but he is shunned. A bishop takes him in , feeds him, and gives him a room for the night.Tempted, Valjean steals silverware from the Bishop. The Bishop, touched by mercy, when Valjean is captured and brought back to his residence, replies: "You forgot to take these candlesticks as well." Valjean goes to a church and vows to change his life. One act of mercy and his life is changed. This is the prodigal love of the God we have. A Father who takes the initiative in calling His children back. A son who dies on a cross and allows his heart to be pierced by a sword. A God who searches for the lost sheep and carries it back on his shoulders. A God who throws a feast for the prodigal son who returns. A God who rejoices over a lost coin being found. As the prophet Hosea says: " When Israel was a child I loved him. Out of Egypt I called my Son....Yet it was I who took them in my arms; but they did not know that I cared for them. I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like those who raise an infant to their cheeks; I bent down to feed them." A God of mercy who initiates. A God of mercy who rejoices. What an awesome God!
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
At World youth day this past summer Pope Francis spoke about the "wisdom" of grandparents-the elderly. He noted that in an era where the family unit is breaking down it was all the more important to consult our elders. In a day and age where everything has to be "new" and "faster" and "better" the readings this weekend focus on some age-old truths. In the first reading from the Book of Wisdom we hear "who ever knew your counsel. except you had given wisdom and sent your Holy Spirit from on high? And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight." Wisdom, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit-it helps us to choose the right path. If you have ever been skiing you know the importance of choosing the right trail. If you are a beginner you don't want to go down a double-black diamond full of moguls. I remember once skiing at Killington and my friends goggles were all fogged up. We took what seemed to be a fairly safe trail only to find it full of moguls. I heard "bleep" I can't believe you "bleep...bleep...bleep" all the way down. GPS is now a tool that many of us use for navigation. It helps us to choose the right roads. So, too, in life, we need a trail map, a GPS. Jeremiah 6:16 says "Thus says the Lord: stand by the earliest roads, ask the pathways of old,'which is the way to good', and walk it; thus you will find rest for yourselves." In ancient Israel it was important for a shepherd to stay on the right path-the choice could be one of life or death. One such trail, a famous one, The Appalachian Trail, is here on the East Coast. From Georgia to Maine the trail passes through six national parks and eight national forests. It is a 2,176 mile trip through 14 states. Every year people undertake the journey. Why? Most people are looking for peace, for answers, for understanding. The earliest roads, the pathways of old provide the answer. Paul Stutzman is one person who managed to hike the trail. In his book Hiking Through he describes some of the perils of undertaking the hike. In one poignant paragraph he describes the emptiness of possessions, something that Jesus warns about in today's Gospel. Stutzman had lost his wife to Breast Cancer and the hike was a chance to find healing and peace. Here are his words in a chapter titled "My new life." "Lion King, not the man's real name, had set his sights on Maine and I wondered why he was on the trail. His answer was one I would hear numerous times during the hike. 'My wife passed away recently and I'm trying to find peace and healing.' Although this man owned several homes in Hawaii and was quite wealthy, his possessions and money mattered little now. In search of contentment, he had travelled across America, living out of his car. finally the call of the trail brought him here, where he sought the healing that was so elusive. He carried a palpable sadness and loneliness, and I felt a kinship to his sorrow. His story was a reminder that the message I carried held universal truth. We spend a lifetime working hard to accumulate homes and possessions that we believe are vital for comfort and security, only to discover those material accumulations are quite meaningless in our darkest hour of sadness and need." Paul even met up with a Catholic priest along the way. He called him Padre. When he asked the priest about heaven & hell, Padre replied 'many years ago St. Catherine of Siena said, all the way to heaven is heaven because Christ is the way. In my faith we now say Heaven all the way to heaven; hell all the way to hell." Paul says 'I was a seeker. I wanted to know who God was. For most of my life, I knew I wanted to follow the right path, but it always seemed so difficult-almost impossible. I'd been taught the rights and wrongs of living, but I knew little about the heart of God." Paul found his peace in reading scripture. A turning point was the funeral of an uncle of his. His uncle had read the bible many times and showed great peace up until his death. As he says "Little by little the heart of God came into focus. His patience and mercy amazed me as I read of His love toward so many flawed individuals in the bible." On Aug 30, 2008, Paul finished his hike. He approached Thoreau spring-named after Henry David Thoreau who explored Mt Katahdin in 1846 and wrote a book called The Maine Woods. Thoreau spring was 1 mile from the summit. As he approached the end he overheard someone say: Guys that hiker over there has walked close to 2,200 miles from Georgia to finish here. Let's let him have the sign to himself for a few minutes. The other hikers stepped aside, applauding as I approached, I dropped my backpack and laid my poles across it, then grabbed the sign and sobbed. I fell to my knees still holding the base of the sign, tears falling, and thanked God for safety and healing." What did Paul learn on his journey? He learned that God had honored his promise to be with him. "The narrow pathway had been my way to freedom" Paul said. He also heard God speak. "I am coming soon" the Lord said. In a moment much like Job shaking his fist at God in anger, Paul heard the words he needed to hear. Four words that changed his life. He now knew that God wanted to use him as an Apostle. Isn't that the call of all of us-to Go be a disciple to all nations. "I will use you to reach the scoundrels" the Lord said. Looking for freedom, looking for peace? You do not need to hike the Appalachian Trail. Perhaps you have lost a job or lost a loved one, maybe there is a crisis in your life.. Follow the ancient path, the old road, consult your elders, the wisdom of Grandparents, and follow Jesus Christ-the way, the truth, and the life.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
The readings today are about humility. The first reading from Sirach says "My child, conduct your affairs with humility." The gospel shows us that it is the last who will be first. The humble are those who, in today's second reading who are part of "the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven." How blessed we are to have a Pope who is truly humble. In the days to come as our nation debates war, know that you can trust the voice of our Pope. His voice is truly the voice of Christ. He lived as a young pastor in the slums of Argentina so he knows the "cry of the poor." He is also very humble. He has chosen not to live in the Vatican Palace but rather the guest house and just days ago broke all Papal protocol by bowing to the Queen of Jordan, acknowledging her presence. If you saw pictures recently from the Vatican there was a stunning picture of a dove landing on his finger. Francis, as his namesake suggests, is a man of peace. So how are we to interpret the readings today in the light of events of the past week? In a world full of violence and war is it possible to be a person of peace? As you know, I love the saints. They are role models for us all. There is a saint whose life I have been reading about recently who captivates me. His name if Don Carlo Gnocchi (Fr Carlo Gnocchi). Don Carlo was a gifted teacher and charismatic preacher in Italy in the early 1900's. His gifts were noted by his superiors who assigned him to teach at the Gonzaga Institute in Milan, Italy. Fr Carlo's dream was to be a military chaplain. He conveyed this dream to his students. He felt that serving one's country was a great way to develop virtue, defend the weak, and learn how to sacrifice oneself for others. His dream was soon realized and he was sent to the Alps as part of a prestigious military unit as their chaplain. In the story of his life, Father of Mercy, there is an amazing scene where he is elevating the chalice and the chalice deflects the bullet of a sniper. He tells his soldiers "you haven't seen anything yet." He later admits there was a lot of pride in those words. As his service continued he did, indeed, see heroic behavior by the soldiers, but he soon became dismayed at the unjust behavior of their superiors. When he returned to Milan he realized he had been successful in recruiting his students for the war effort, too successful. 608 boys signed up for military service. They were sent to the front line in Russia. Of the 68,000 troops who were deployed only 7,000 returned. Some were lost to the fighting but most were lost to the extreme cold. Don Carlo also succumbed to the cold. His almost frozen body was picked up by the grandson of the Prada family and was placed on a train back to Italy. When Don Carlo returned, he realized the real war was beginning. He personally visited the families of those men who gave their lives and delivered trinkets or personal items of the men to the family. It was then that he realized the horror of war. There was a generation of children that would never have a father-worse, Mussolini had placed land mines throughout the Italian countryside and there were thousands upon thousands of children with amputated legs and arms due to the landmines. They were known as the "mutilati." With no money and only trust in God, Don Carol knew he must do something. Initially he welcomed the children into his rectory. Soon the undertaking grew and benefactors stepped up. Centers opened to care for the children with amputated limbs. He also opened a center for those afflicted by polio. What was unique about Don Carol is that he taught these innocent victims to unite their sufferings to the passion of cross. He taught them the meaning of Redemptive suffering-taught them that their suffering, although seemingly useless, did have meaning when united to Jesus. He died at the age of 53 in 1956. In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed him Blessed. Through his suffering the once proud soldier "You haven't seen anything yet" became the servant of those most affected by the horrors of war. Another well known person who came to wisdom through humility is the famous Russian author Solzhenitzen. Imprisoned because he called Stalin "whisker face", Solzhenitzen went on to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Here are his own words regarding his imprisonment: " It was granted me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: How a human being becomes evil and How a human being becomes good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. It was only while I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties-but right through every human heart and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person. And that is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes to the astonishment of those about me, bless you prison!" Solzhenitzen became a Christian in prison through the influence of a Jewish man. It was humility....the acknowledgement of his own capacity to commit evil, that led him to the forgiveness of Jesus. In this knowledge of the forgiveness of Jesus he learned an important lesson about redemptive suffering-he, like Fr. Gnocchi taught the children, learned to find meaning in his suffering. He learned that it was only through humility that he could forgive those who inflicted so much pain. We now come to a book in the bible called Maccabees. It is not well known by Catholics but is an important book. There was a Jewish Priest called Mattathias whose third son was believed by many to be the Messiah. His name was Judah Maccabeus. Judah led a successful gorilla warfare against the Greeks. His rule soon turned out to be a disappointment because he made a pact with the Romans and their rule turned out to be as oppressive as the Greeks. What is interesting from our perspective, however, is that the name Maccabeus means hammer. Listen to the following passage from the book Radical Forgiveness by Brian Zahnd: " Jesus' revolutionary manifesto was not the stirring war speech of Mattathias but the deeply counterintuitive Sermon on the Mount.. But many, quite frankly, were disappointed in this 'weak' version of Messiah. Even among Jesus' own disciples the disappointment was evident. Perhaps this is why Peter denied knowing Jesus after his arrest in the Garden of Gethsamane. He was ready to fight to the death, and he drew his sword and cut the ear of the soldier arresting Jesus. He must have been bitterly disappointed and disillusioned when Jesus told him to put away the sword and allowed himself to be taken without a fight. It was only after the Resurrection that the disciples changed their opinion and recognized that God had vindicated this weak Messiah and made him King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Judah Maccabeus was the Hammer of God. Jesus of Nazareth was the Lamb of God. They are competing visions of the Messiah. One is an avenging messiah bring the hammer down on Israel's enemies. The other is a suffering servant laying his life down as a lamb to be slaughtered. One perpetuates the cycle of revenge with his hammer. The other ends the cycle of revenge with his cross. We must choose which version of the Messiah we will embrace. Heaven issues its verdict when it declares, 'Worthy is the Lamb.' If Jesus had satisfied the lust for vengeance present in Israel's nationalistic agenda by becoming a militant Messiah like Judah Maccabeus, nothing really would have changed. No doubt Jesus could have led Israel to a military victory over its Roman oppressors, but that would have only perpetuated the bloody cycle of vengeance. Instead of Babylon, Persia, Greece or Rome being the monstrous oppressor, Israel would have had its turn at ruling the rule with the sword. But what would have changed? Nothing really-just the name of the latest ruling party.....Jesus didn't come to conquer the world with a sword; he came to save the world with a cross. Jesus didn't come to perpetuate the cycle of revenge; he came to end the bloody and vicious cycle of paybacks by absorbing the blows and forgiving his enemies. He came to reconcile Jews and Gentiles into one new humanity, a new humanity formed at the cross." Do you want peace in the world? First, begin with yourself and your own heart. As Solzhenitzen said, it is not states, classes, or political parties that are good and evil; it is the human heart. Are Jesus' words just friendly suggestions or are they meant to be lived- Blessed are the Peacemakers-is that just a nice saying to put on a pillow or did he meant it? The call to follow Jesus is radical. It begins with humility. The life of Blessed Carlo Gnocchi shows us the folly of youth and the wisdom of old age. He realized the horrors of war, he realized that it is always the innocent who suffer. Humility is strength. It shows much greater character to "turn the other cheek" than to resort to violence. So what shall it be....Is Jesus the Hammer of God, or is he the Lamb of God? Go and be peacemakers in your sphere of influence and trust that your prayers can stop wars, hurricanes, and move mountains!
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
I am a catholic priest and I am proud to say I have the chalice of Rev Paul Mulla ney, a relative, who was pastor of the city of St Jude in Mobile, AL and hosted and sheltered Martin Luther King on the night before the march on Selma. Today was truly a historic day. Martin Luther King gave his famous " I have a dream" speech fifty years ago. As my dad said "We were getting ready for our wedding." I was not yet born but can appreciate the emotion and gravity of the event. Today the president said the dream is not yet finished. There was a supreme court decision which reversed the Dred-Scott law and said that slaves were people not property. This is the constitutional basis for overturning Roe v Wade. Unborn children are people not property. From the moment of conception an unborn child is a living person. This extends to our understanding of people in a "permanent vegetative state." Whether it is Dr Bernard Nathanson who renounced his pro choice views after seeing a live abortion videotaped (The silent scream), or more recent stories of people being declared "dead" we need to realize the dignity of human life. So my dream is this...Catholic politicians will become pro-life from the moment of conception until natural death. I pray that President Obama ( who supported the Born Alive Protection Act) will recognize his leadership potential in the African American community and address what many have called the "Black genocide". I have a dream that our president will defend and renounce all ties with Planned Parenthood whose founder Margaret Sanger was a eugenicist.To this very day 4 out of every 10 pregnancies ends in abortion( in New York City)-in the African American community the number skyrockets to 6 out of 10. I have a dream that African American unborn children will be accepted and loved by our country and by our first African American president
Friday, August 23, 2013
One of the most beautiful psalms is psalm 91. It speaks about security under God's protection: "You who dwell in the shelter of the most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, say to the Lord,'My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.' God will rescue you from the fowler's snare, from the destroying plague, will shelter you with his pinions, spread wings that you may take refuge; God's faithfulness is a protecting shield. You shall not fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day, Nor the pestilence that roams in darkness, nor the plague that ravages at noon. Though a thousand fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, near you it shall not come." It continues, but you can pick up the theme. St. Therese, the Little Flower, was recently named a doctor of the church. This is extraordinary because she was only 24 years old when she died in 1897. She died a very painful death of tuberculosis but noted at the end of her life that her only nourishment was scripture. Although I have not researched it in her correspondences I would assume that much of the inspiration she received for her "new way" of approaching God was Psalm 91. She used to say "confidence, nothing but confidence." This is quite a bold statement when one considers she went through a painful dark night of the soul and had to write the profession of faith in blood and keep it on her heart to remind herself. What was her "new way?" It was the way of abandonment. I will let Fr. Jean La France, a writer on spirituality describe it in his book My Vocation is Love<: When one has received such a revelation of God's love, one is capable of everything and the first step is to abandon oneself to his action. It is as if God were saying to us: 'I love you much more than you suspect, let me take the helm, hand over all the control buttons to me. This is what happens when a ship passes through the Suez canal: the captain has to leave the helm in the hands of the pilot. This is one of the best images of faith and confidence that I know. Therese uses the comparison of the lift. 'We live in an age of inventions, now we no longer have to take the trouble to climb up a staircase; in the homes of the of the wealthy a lift replaces it advantageously.' We will see in the next chapter (La France continues) that two or three years before, Therese had said to Sr. Marie of the Trinity who was discouraged precisely when confronted with the stairway of perfection she had to climb: 'Soon conquered by your futile efforts (Therese writes) God will come down himself and, taking you in his arms, will carry you forever in his kingdom.' What does it mean to abandon oneself to God? It is something other than going up towards him, it is much more profound. It meant the total dissolution of Therese's will in the will of God. It is what Fr. de Caussade, with all the spiritual writers, calls abandonment to divine Providence. To help us understand the difference between the total gift and abandonment, Therese tells the story of Blessed Suso. He was a lover of wisdom and used to mortify himself in a terrible way in order to obtain this wisdom. One day an angel appeared to him and said: 'Until now you have been a simple soldier, now I am going to use you to make you a Knight. Give up all these mortifications and no longer decide anything for yourself. I will order everything.' On reading this story, Therese said 'I was a knight straightaway.' She was so humble and therefore purified enough not to have known these struggles where we want to rival God in generosity. She had never decided anything for herself and each time God touched her, she offered no resistance. This is why she obtained all that she asked for. God resists our requests because we dispute with him. Henry Suso received a light-perhaps because of the preceding struggle-to understanding something subtle and very demanding, but of another order. Therese had been brought face to face with this light early in the piece, while Blessed Suso had only been given it later. In conclusion: if we wish to enter upon the way of abandonment-some even make a vow to do so-we must desire this light and earnestly ask for it. God cannot refuse us, if we express it this way: 'If it pleases you, Lord, show me the face of your Mercy. And now, I thank you for having granted it!' Then we will be able, like St. Paul, to fight the real fight, not the struggle of which we so often dream. May we, like Therese, be Knights straightaway, even if today we are still in the second class." To be carried in the arms of Our Heavenly Father we must abandon our fruitless attempts at the rough stairway of perfection. Let Him come down and be captain of your ship-and you will fly, as on Eagle's Wings, living the promise of Psalm 91
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
On this day in 1879, Our Lady appeared on a rainy night in County Mayo.Margaret Berne was locking up the church for the night when she saw what looked to be statues of Our Lady, St Joseph, and a bishop, standing alongside a new altar, on top of which was a statue of a Lamb with a cross. By the end of the evening Fourteen witnesses recounted seeing the same thing. The entire back wall of the church was bathed in a brilliant light. There was an altar on top of which stood a lamb with a cross. The altar and the lamb were surrounded by angels.St Joseph, Our Lady, and St John were to the left of the altar.What is interesting is that Our Lady said nothing. Zippo. Nada. Why? Well the Irirish are known for the gift of gab....maybe she was teaching them the importance of silence. Why Mayo? Mayo is one of the poorest counties in Ireland. I think the apparition was encouraging from heaven. The potato famine was in 1845 and the people were still suffering. The fact that it was an altar with the lamb of God surrounded by angels is significant. Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present on all the altars of the world when a priest celebrates the Eucharist. To me the message is simple....cultivate silence in your life and draw your daily nourishment from the Eucharist. Our Lady of Knock....pray for us!
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Everyday we are bombarded with images of bloodshed and sectarian violence in Egypt and other places in the Middle East. Yesterday there was a story of Franciscan nuns who were paraded through the streets. Christian and Catholic churches have been burned to the ground. Mosques have become morgues. In such a violent world is forgiveness possible? For the Christian, not only is it possible, it is necessary. Immaculee Illibagiza, of Rwanda shares her own dramatic story of being hidden in a bathroom with six other women for several months. Her own family killed, she could hear people bearing machetes calling her name. She prayed the Our Father...the only trouble is she couldn't reconcile praying "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Immaculee realized that she had to pray from her heart for those who were trying to kill her outside. Eventually she did pray that prayer and miraculously survived and now travels the world telling her story. Brian Zahnd has a similar story. He shares it in his book Radical Forgiveness. Zahnd tells the remarkable story of Simon Wiesenthal. It comes from Wiesenthal's book The Sunflower. Here is his story: "Simon Wiesenthal was an Austrian Jew imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII. In the Sunflower Wiesenthal tells his story and then asks the reader a hard question. As the book opens, Wiesenthal is part of a work detail being taken from the concentration camp to do cleanup work in a makeshift field hospital near the Eastern front. As they are marched from the prison camp to the hospital, they come across a cemetery for German soldiers. On each grave is a sunflower. Wiesenthal writes: 'I envied the dead soldiers. Each had a sunflower to connect him with the living world, and butterflies to visit his grave. For me there would be no sunflower. I would be buried in a mass grave, where corpses would be piled on top of me. No sunflower would ever bring light into my darkness, and no butterflies would dance above my dreadful tomb.' While working at the field hospital, a German nurse orders Wiesenthal to follow her. He is taken into a room where a lone SS soldier lay dying. The SS Soldier is a twenty-one year old German from Stuttgart named Karl Seidl. Karl has asked the nurse to 'bring him a jew.' Karl has been mortally wounded in battle and now wants to make his dying confession-and he wants to make it to a jew. The SS man is wrapped in bandages covering his entire face, with only holes for his mouth, nose, and ears. For the next several hours, Simon sits alone in silence with Karl as the dying SS soldier tells his story. Karl was an only child from a Christian home. His parents had raised him in the Church and had not been supporters of the Nazi party and Hitler's rise to power. But at fifteen, against his parents' wishes, Karl joined the Hitler Youth. At eighteen Karl joined the infamous SS troops. Now as Karl is dying he wants to confess the atrocities he has witnessed and in which he, as a Nazi soldier, has participated. Most horrifying is his account of being part of a group of SS soldiers sent to round up Jews in the city of Dnepropetrovsk. Three hundred Jews-man, women, children and infants-were gathered and driven with whips into a small three story house. The house was set on fire, and Karl recounted what happened to his confessor in these words:'We heard screams and saw the flames eat their way from floor to floor...We had our rifles ready to shoot down anyone who tried to escape from that blazing hell....The screams from that house were horrible...Behind the windows of the second floor, I saw a man with a small child in his arms. His clothes were alight. By his side stood a woman, doubtless the mother of the child. With his free hand the man covered the child's eye...then he jumped into the street. Seconds later the mother followed. Then from the other windows fell burning bodies...We shot...Oh God!" Karl is most haunted by the boy he shot, a boy with 'dark eyes' who Karl guesses was about six years old. Karl's description of this boy reminds Simon Wiesenthal of a boy he knew in the Lemberg Ghetto. Suring the several hours that Simon the Jew sat with Karl the Nazi, Simon never spoke. At Karl's request, Simon held the dying man's hand. Simon brushed away the flies and gave Karl a drink of water, but he never spoke. During the long ordeal, Simon never doubted Karl's sincerity or that he was truly sorry for his crimes. Simon said that the way Karl spoke was proof enough of his repentance. At last Karl said 'I am left here with my guilt. In the last hours of my life you are here with me. I do not know who you are, I only know that you are a Jew and that is enough....I know that what I have told you is terrible. In the long nights while I have been waiting for death, time and time again I have longed to talk about it to a Jew and beg forgiveness from him. Only I didn't know if there were any Jews left....I know that what I am asking is almost too much for you, but without your answer I cannot die in peace.' With that Simon Wiesenthal made up his mind and left the room in silence. During all the hours that Simon Wiesenthal had sat with Karl, Simon never uttered a word. That night Karl Seidl died. Karl left his possessions to simon but Simon refused them. Against all odds, Simon Wiesenthal survived the holocaust. Eighty-nine members of his family did not. Wiesenthal concludes his riveting and haunting story with an equally riveting and haunting question addressed to the reader: 'Ought I to have forgiven him?...was my silence at the bedside of the dying Nazi right or wrong? This is a profound moral question that challenges the conscience of the reader of this episode, just as much as it once challenged my heart and mind....The crux of the matter is, of course, the question of forgiveness. Forgetting is something that tie alone takes care of, but forgiveness is an act of volition, and only the sufferer is qualified to make the decision. You, who have just read this sad and tragic episode in my life, can mentally change places with me and ask yourself the crucial question, 'what would I have done?' Wow. That story leaves me mentally exhausted. I think radical forgiveness, and that would have been radical forgiveness, is going to be necessary in the days and months to come as violence continues to escalate. The only was to peace in our hearts, in our homes, in our churches, and in our country, is through forgiveness.
Monday, August 19, 2013
"There is a joy in the journey" Michael Card sings. How are you and I to experience joy on our journey to the heart of the Father? Today we are going to speak about a scripture verse that is not in the readings but one that touches upon them. The verse is James 1:2-4: "Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for your know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." How can you and I find joy in the midst of trials? Today's gospel certainly indicates that followers of Jesus can expect trials. How do we maintain our peace and joy in the midst of these trials? Well today's second reading gives us the answer-the author of Hebrews exhorts followers to "persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus." That is the key-we have to keep our eyes on the prize. St. Francis in speaking with Brother Leo once gave this answer to the question of perfect joy. He said, "if, when we shall arrive at St. Mary of the Angels, all drenched with rain and trembling with cold, all covered with mud and exhausted from hunger; if when we knock at the convent gate, the porter should come angrily and ask us who we are; if, after we have told him 'we are two of the brethren', he should answer angrily 'what you say is not the truth; you are but two imposters going about to deceive the world, and take away the alms of the poor; begone I say'; if then he refuses to open to us, and leave us outside, exposed to the snow and rain, suffering from cold and hunger till nightfall-then if we accept such injustice, such cruelty and contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring, believing with humility and charity that the porter really knows us, and that it is God who makes him to speak thus against us, write down, O Brother Leo, that this is perfect joy." Huh?....Francis continues but you can see where he is going. Notice, also, how different his description of perfect joy is from the response of Oprah who shouted to the whole world "Don't you know who I am?" after being rebuffed at a store in Switzerland. That is pride. I don't have perfect joy. I still tend to be overly sensitive to what people say about me. I am sure that you can say the same as well. The problem is we have too much pride and not enough humility. Pride says "How dare that person say such and such about me." Humility says," well, I guess that person sees me as I am." Do you know that St. Paul's letter to the Philippians mentions the word joy or rejoice sixteen times? Do you realize that St. Paul wrote that letter while chained to a post in prison? It is clear then, that the Christian understanding of joy is something quite different then what the world proposes. Joy is a sign of a healthy person and is important on our journey to God. In my own life I know that if joy is missing, something is wrong and I need to "recalculate" as the GPS tells me. St. Teresa of Avila considered it so important she said " God save us from sad-faced saints." C.S. Lewis wrote a spiritual autobiography titled "Surprised by Joy." Mother Teresa spoke about the joy of loving. When Lucille Ball sang "we need a little Christmas" in the movie Mame, she was saying, we need "joy". Her family had just lost everything, but they still had joy. When Paul speaks about joy in his letter to those in Philippi he says "complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also everyone for those of others." Our joy will be complete when we are humble of heart, or as St. Paul says, "regard others as more important than yourselves." St. Phillip Neri says it so well: "a heart filled with joy is more easily made perfect than one that is sad", and " a glad spirit attains perfection more quickly than any other." Pope John XXIII was known for his sense of humor. Shortly after his elections as Pope, John was walking in the streets of Rome when a woman passed him and said to her friend, "My God, he's so fat!" Overhearing her remark, he turned around and replied "Madame, I trust you understand that the papal conclave is not exactly a beauty contest." Once he was visiting a hospital in Rome called the hospital of the Holy Spirit. Shortly after entering, he was introduced to the sister who ran the hospital, "Holy Father", she exclaimed, flustered by his surprise visit, " I am the superior of the Holy Spirit." " Well, I must say, you're lucky" said the Pope, delighted, "I'm only the Vicar of Christ." Humor, joy, it brings us out of the cistern, it lightens our load, and certainly makes life more enjoyable for everyone around. Pray that God will give you the gift of the fire of Joy. It comes from humility, it comes from surrendering one's life to Christ and helps us to "persevere in running the race." One person who lived that verse we began with from James is Blessed Chiara luce Badano. A vibrant, lively, beautiful teenager from Italy (she was only 18 when she died), Chiara was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. Greatly loved by all her friends, the pictures of her on her deathbed are stunning. She had a radiant smile and said "don't be sad, I am going to heaven." Her local bishop raved at the luminescent quality of her face. Let Christ transform your sorrows into joy, and like Chiara Badano, you too will spread the joy of Christ's love to all that you meet.
Monday, August 12, 2013
Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels. (Heb 13:2)Today's second reading is particularly meaningful. It gives a definition of faith. It says that faith "is the realization of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen." It tells the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I want to share with you another amazing story-a story of a woman who responded to a crisis situation-with faith-again, "realization of things of hoped for and evidence of things not seen." Katie Lentz was hit head on by a drunk driver on Sunday August 4th on an isolated stretch of Missouri highway. Emergency crews battled over an hour to rescue her but they couldn't free her from the car wreck. Lentz requested a moment of prayer (out loud) and a priest appeared. He anointed her with oil, said that she would be freed and encouraged the workers to stay calm. When the workers stopped to thank him, he was gone. Fire chief Raymond Reed said "a sense of calmness came over her and us as well." The highway had been blocked off for a quarter of a mile in each direction. To quote Reed "As a first responder you don't know what you are going to run into. We have a lot of tools and intensive training. In this particular case, it is my feeling that it was nothing more than sheer faith and nothing short of a miracle." Katie has a broken wrist and several broken ribs but friends say her spirits have been boosted by her divine intervention. What a wonderful story. It is a great example of putting into practice the definition of faith-she prayed (realization of things hoped for) and sure enough God sent an angel to rescue her and give comfort to the first responders (the appearance of the priest was evidence of things not seen). This encourages me in my faith journey as well. The story is very biblical. Frequently we have seen this. There is a crisis and God sends an angelic intervention. In the book of Daniel Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace. The Scripture account says "the flames rose 49 cubits above the furnace and spread out." Then the bible says "the angel of the Lord went down into the furnace with Azariah and his companions." And what happened? The angel "drove the fiery flames out of the furnace, and made the inside of the furnace as though a dew-laden breeze were blowing through it." It says "the fire in no way touched them or caused them harm. Then the three with one voice sang, praising God: "Blessed are you O Lord, the God of our ancestors, praiseworthy and exalted forever; and Blessed is your holy and glorious name, praiseworthy and exalted for all ages." The King was startled and asked his counselors "did we not cast three men bound into the fire? Certainly, they answered, but I see four men unbound and unhurt, walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a Son of God." In Acts 12 we read of the miraculous escape of Peter from jail. The bible says: "On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in his cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him saying, Get up quickly. The chains fell from his wrists, The angel said to him put on your belt and your sandals. He did so. Then he said to him Put on your cloak and follow me. So he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real." These are all stories to encourage us. Perhaps you are in a trial situation-follow the example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago. In my own family my mother swears that it was a guardian angel that saved my brother life. He had epiglottitis she rushed him to the hospital passing through red lights. they rushed him into the emergency room, and the hospital went into Code. A priest happened to come by and anoint him. They performed a tracheotomy and the doctors said if he had waited an hour he would have died. He came out of the surgery perfectly fine. Katie Lentz' story is amazing and it is simple. I hope it inspires you to believe that there are angels in our midst. That is why Jesus says: "Do not be afraid any longer little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom." In the Father's kingdom there are angels-just when we need them.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
There is a song we sing frequently at mass titled " all are welcome". It is a nice way to begin the mass. If I were to do a survey of people in surrounding towns I might find that a majority disagree with me. "I am not welcome" they would say and stamp their feet. Doesn't the church teach ...this, this, and this..."Yes, I would respond." The church asks you to be a "practicing" Catholic. For the record we are all "practicing" Catholics until the day we die...including the Pope. " All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" St Paul said to the Romans.That every human being is a sinner and is welcome to the table of God's grace. There is no super-category of beings who can look down on us. Christ came for everyone. Whoa! Stop there Fr Nagle what about gays, what about divorced and re- married Catholics. What about the unbaptized. Yes. All are welcome. Regarding gays a lot of misinformation has been promoted. The church recognizes the Dignity of every human being. There is a very active group called Courage which offers group support, counselling and spiritual direction to those who may be carrying the cross of same sex attraction. I have met the founder, Fr John Harvey, OSFS, a very holy man who has since gone to the Lord. Divorced and remarried are also welcome. If an annulment is necessary they can still participate in the mass, receive a priestly blessing and a spiritual communion-which, Catholic tradition tea ches us is just as efficacious as reception of Holy Communion. One very important point I wish to make and I wish the song said..."All are welcome...to repent." Some people love their sin more than they love God. It was true of the Israelites who fashioned a calf of molten gold. The same is true of us today.Lest anyone say " this does not apply to me"....I share with you Gal 5:16:"But I say walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the works of the flesh.For the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, so that you do not do what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. Now the works of flesh are manifest, which are immorality, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, witchcraft, enmities, contentions,jealousies, anger, quarrels, factions parties, envies, murders, drunkenness, carousing and such like. And concerning these I warn you, that they who do such things will inherit the kingdom of God." Ouch...the very people who feel they are rightous are not pleasing in God's eyes. This is not to put anyone under condemnation, but make us all realize we have a way to go before we can sing " All are welcome, all are welcome in this place (The Catholic church). You are welcome....we are a house of sinners and we welcome many more to the healing love of Jesus.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
This past week news reports emerged that upwards of 1 million Russians had venerated an icon of the crucifix of St Andrew. In the Orthodox churches Andrew is held in higher esteem than Peter because he is the one the Lord called first. The relic originated in Greece and was shown with the approval of the Greek and Russian patriarchs. Why is this such good news? It shows that the faith of the people, the devotional life is still there.Bishop Cote, Bishop of Norwich, CT visited Russia while a seminarian in Rome. The bishop had to request special permission to celebrate mass in what was once a Catholic church. Permission was granted and the group departed in the strict timeframe of the Govt. They arrived. There was one woman praying in the church. She asked them...are you going to celebrate mass? They said yes...proceeded to the sacristy and when they came out the church was full! Such a hunger for God! Such faith! Do we in the US have that same hunger for God? I do not think so. For so many years people have prayed for the conversion of Russia, I believe we are beginning to see some fruit. Fr Walter Ciszek, SJ, spent many years as a prisoner in Soviet Russia. His two books are "He leadership me" and "With God in Russia". In "He leadership me" he speaks about a period of intense interrogation. The Soviets thought he was aspy. All of a sudden, and the guards noticed this....He became different....courageous, confident even. They could not understand this. The difference.... In a moment of grace, he realized he was doing God's will. God had his back...from that moment on he was a changed man.For those of you in Russia or any of the former Russian republics....be assured.....if you are praying to Jesus Christ...He has your back. All of us can learn from the example of Fr Walter Ciszek. He is a future canonized saint who shows us that sanctity is possible in all the little moments of each day. Not my will be done but yours, Lord. Amen
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
St Seraphim of Sarov is well known in the Eastern Churches but not so well in the west. One of St Seraphim'famous quotes concerns the goal of the christian life. It can be found on the internet if you do a search for: Conversation between St Seraphim of Sarov and Nicholas Motvilo . In this conversation St Seraphim says " that the goal of the Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit". I mention this in a blog entry titled Finding God in the mountains. It is on the mountaintop that one sees what is necessary-Oxygen, water, your health, dangers from weather and the elements. Much of our lives we are in the valley. It does not seem to be God's will that life be a continuous mountain top experience. Jesus had to come from Tabor. So must we. However, in the valley we need to remember what we learned on the top; what was most essential, most necessary. In the valley we need to remember that the goal of Christianity is not forgiveness, it is not a social plan of action or civic group like the Rotarians. It is not even ascetics or morality. What is it? As St Seraphim said it is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the 3rd person of the Holy Trinity- one God....three distinct persons. I like to think of it this way: The Holy Spirit is the fruit of the love of the Father and the son, Jesus Christ. In a same way though infinitely less and only by analogy the fruit of love of a married couple is a child, a new life. How do you know if you have the Holy Spirit? Easy. St Paul said no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Spirit. Can you say that? If you can you are living on the mountaintop. You know that Jesus has complete freedom to do as he wills in every aspect of your life. You are free (If the son of God has set you free, you are free indeed). What if you can't say this, then you need to repent and renounce whatever it is that is impeding God's love for you...it may be an over attachment to material possessions. It may be a bad habit or an unhealthy relationship. Whatever it is, ask God for the grace of his mercy and He will fly to you like the Father in the parable of the prodigal son. A prayer I say and one that can quickly lead to deep prayer is: Father, in the name of Jesus give me your spirit. Feel that burning in your heart? That is the Holy Spirit. Father I pray you will give your people mountaintop experiences...a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Help us to see things from the right perspective....from the light of your truth. Amen
Friday, July 26, 2013
From the first moment he stepped on the Loggia at St. Peter's Square this Pope has been turning things upside down. He truly is a sign of contradiction (the title of a retreat Cardinal Wojtyla gave to Pope Paul VI before becoming Pope). Today, after a visit to the slum of Vaghina in Rio, Pope Francis addressed a large crowd and spoke about the need to respect the elderly. Today is the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus. In his remarks the Pope urged young people to be a "bridge" between themselves and the older generation. The elderly, he said, are a vital part of the human family and must be treated with the utmost respect and care. This is all the more important here in the United States where a large baby boomer population will soon be retiring and need extra care. This love has to begin at home. "Honor your Mother and your Father" is one of the key commandments. However, a culture that has so readily accepted abortion at the beginning of life may soon lose that respect for life's dignity at the end. All the more necessary for Catholics and people of all faith to treasure the image of God in the person with terminal cancer, dementia, Alzheimer's or in a Hospice situation. Certain organizations (Death with Dignity) are very actively promoting as Assisted Suicide campaign. The elderly are a monetary drain on society (so the theory goes) and if one can no longer contribute to society what is their worth? This is why Catholics need to shout from the rooftops: One's dignity comes from who one is ( a child of God ), not from what they do. Pope Francis has been teaching this with his actions. He washed the feet of men and women at a prison on Holy Thursday, he is staying in accomodations that are quite modest while in Rio. He is travelling in a Fiat, not a fancy Mercedes Benz Pope-mobile. He has met with drug and alcohol addicts encouraging them not to give up and to trust in the mercy of Christ. On every level he is teaching us that his pontificate will be one from the bottom up, not the top down. He even is the first Pope to name a lay board who will oversee every aspect of Church finances. By all means, this is a man of contradiction. When given prepared remarks he speaks extemporaneously. He is not afraid to walk into the crowds. He is a Shepard who knows his sheep. Today he spoke boldly about the injustice in the economic system in Brazil. It should be a wake up call for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. When he spoke about the ideals of power, pleasure, and greed, he was not speaking to the World Youth Day participants but all of us as well. In another address he expressed concern that parishes and churches have become charitable and social organizations without any real engagement with the culture. This is why he urged the young people to "take to the street." St. Josemaria Escriva touched upon this in a homily he gave titled "Passionately Loving the World." In this homily he notes: "This profound and consoling truth, which theologians call the eschatological significance of the Eucharist could, however, be misunderstood. And indeed it has been, whenever men have tried to present the Christian life as something exclusively spiritual, proper to pure, extraordinary people, who remain aloof from the contemptible things of this world or at most, tolerate them as something necessarily attached to the spirit, while we live on this earth. When things are seen in this way, churches become the setting par excellence of the Christian life. And being a Christian means going to church, taking part in sacred ceremonies, being taken up with ecclesiastical matters, in a kind of segregated world, which is considered to be the ante-chamber of heaven, while the ordinary world follows its own separate path. The doctrine of Christianity and the life of grace would, in this case, brush past the turbulent march of human history, without ever really meeting it. On this October morning, as we prepare to enter upon the memorial of the Lord's pasch, we flatly reject this deformed vision of Christianity." Pope Francis is showing us that he, too, rejects this deformed vision of Christianity. There is the mystical experience of St. Francis in front of the cross of St. Damiano. In this experience Francis heard the Lord say, "Francis, rebuild my church which you see, is in need of repair." Francis took the Lord literraly and began to rebuild the "little portion" of the church of San Damiano. Little did Francis know that he was to rebuild the church worldwide which was falling into disrepair. This Francis, Pope Francis is doing likewise. He is not building with stones. He is building with people, as Jesus did. He truly is A sign of Contradiction. Praise God!
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Today Pope Francis challenged Christians to reject the idols of money, power, and greed. How fitting for a priest who exemplifies such a simple lifestyle. St. Francis of Assisi used to say "Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words." Why are these idols so dangerous? They close our hearts to those we should be serving. In his book Hurt Healer: Reaching out to a broken world" Tony Nolan knows how those idols can negatively influence Christians. Citing research from the Barna group and Gabe Lyons' book Unchristian, Nolan knows the negative impressions Christianity has among young people today. Here are his words: "What's not a laughing matter is what's happening to a countless number of people in neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and families across our country. It has to do with the pursuit of happiness. I have never met a person who does not want to be happy. And in their quests, I have seen them drive down the highway of happiness on the motorcycle of life only to be broadsided by the Mack truck of the devil. Jesus said in John 10:10 that the devil is a thief who comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy. Satan loves to ambush humanity, and as a result there are millions of hurting people lying in the middle of the intersection of life, writhing in pain, drowning in a pool of their own emotional, mental, and spiritual blood-all bent out of shape. Victims of the ultimate relentless thug, they lie hemorrhaging with hurting hearts." Nolan goes on to cite the parable of the Good Samaritan. If we are in a hurry pursuing money, power, and greed we will not see the man lying on the side of the road to Jericho. They will pass right by. In chapter 7 he identifies the samaritan as a "hurt healer." "If we are to be hurt healers, let's look at the DNA of the guy who was formerly known as the Good Samaritan and is currently called the Hurt Healer (well, in my world anyway). There are three things this guy did that I want us to focus on: he paused for compassion, he proved he cared, and he paid the cost. I don't usually do alliterated outlines, but those three thoughts jumped out at me in my study of this guy....One of the reasons hurt healers make such a difference in someone's life is because they pause for compassion. I like to define compassion as simply "love in action." when hurt healers see a need, they put everything else on hold to engage the need. They exchange their to-do list for a must-do moment. The Samaritan was on a journey. He had something to do, people to see, places to go. But when he saw a man on the road who had been ambushed by thieves and was half dead, everything else had to wait. Nothing was more important to him than making sure the half dead guy was resuscitated. He put all other tasks on pause to show some love to a man who needed it. I like this guy. I like him a lot. The world would be a better place if there were more people like him. Maybe thats Jesus' point as well." In my own life I saw this lived in action at a mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. It was the final profession mass for Mother Teresa's sisters the Missionaries of Charity. The mass was presided by a Cardinal and there were many priests and, of course, Mother Teresa. During communion one of the residents of her homes, a blind man came up for communion. Before you could say Mother Teresa he fell on the marble and hit his head on the steps. He was bleeding. Everyone was sitting in stunned silence. Not Mother Teresa. Without blinking she rushed up, picked him up and aided him to the sacristy to get First Aid. She later came back to the mass. This is what the good samaritan did. This is what Tony Nolan spoke about. If we are chasing the idols of money, power, and greed, we probably will not have the time to stop and show compassion. In a mock interview based upon his imagination, Nolan speculates about what might have been going on in the mind of the Good Samaritan. Here are his words: "ME: Why was this guy someone you had a hard time helping? You didn't even know him did you? Hurt Healer: He was hard to recognize at first. But once I started cleaning him off I recognized him as the bully who used to beat me up almost every day and who rallied others to hate me as well. But I remembered what it felt like for me when I was lying there bleeding, crushed and hurting. I can't do to others as they have done to me. If I picked and chose those I will love, I'd feel filthy. I must love everyone-even those who have hurt me. ME: Wow! I am blown away. I'm such a loser; I would never do that. I would have run him over with my donkey. I would have finished him off and excused it as an act of mercy. I am so unlike you. But there is something in me that wants to be like you in every way. Thanks for being an example." Although this is the product of Nolan's imagination it is inspiring. We all want to meet Hurt Healers. There is a great story of Mother Teresa that illustrates this type of love. She went to a merchant begging for bread for her sisters. The man was a Muslim. He cursed her and spit in her face. She wiped off the spit and said "that was for my sins." Can my sisters still have some bread? The man was stunned. He said yes. Mother Teresa was able to turn the other cheek. She was able to love beyond hurt. In the book Come Be My Light Mother Teresa says: "Our particular mission is to labour at the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor, not only in the slums,but also all over the world wherever they may be." The author, Fr. Kolodiejchuk, the postulator for her cause, notes:"The poor and those who suffer most were the particular object of her love. She knew that only love, a love that has God as its origin and end, would give meaning and happiness to their lives. Like the Good Samaritan, through her immediate and effective service, she was intent on making God's love concrete to the poor in the desperate situations they encountered in their daily lives. Through her simple works of love, she wanted to help them live their lives with dignity and give them the opportunity to know God. the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor or the salvation of souls thus meant for her an untiring effort to help everyone encounter God's infinite love, and having come to know Him, to love and serve Him in return thereby reaching the blessedness of heaven." This is the spirituality of "I Thirst." If we live as hurt healers, renounce the idols of money, power, and greed, we will bring love into the greatest dark corners of the world. Pope Francis is showing the way. Let's follow his example!
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Walk into any Missionary of Charity Chapel across the world and you will see a crucifix with the words "I Thirst" placed just under the crossbeam. What does this mean? The passage is a scripture passage from John 19:28. Jean LaFrance in his book Give Me a Living Word notes regarding the reference to water: "He (Jesus) speaks of water that, however, seems to be the opposite of fire: refreshing water that will heal your fevers, (a refreshing fire and a burning water). 'If someone thirsts, let him come to me an drink, and I will give him living water. For whoever drinks the water given by the Samaritan woman (that of human happiness) will still thirst, but the one who drinks the water that I will give him will never be thirsty, and this water will become in him a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.' Thus Jesus burns and quenches your thirst at the same time. When you can say with Saint Ignatius of Antioch: 'I feel a living water in me which murmurs: 'Come to the Father!' You will know that you have reached the gift of contemplative prayer." For Mother Teresa it was a burning thrist for souls. It goes back to her original encounter with Jesus. In the book Come Be My Light by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C. he quotes Mother Teresa in a letter to her sisters: "I Thirst, Jesus said on the cross when he was deprived of every consolation, dying in absolute poverty, left alone, despised and broken in body and soul. He spoke of His thirst-not for water-but for love, for sacrifice. Jesus is God: therefore, His love, His thirst is infinite. Our aim is to quench this infinite thirst of a God made man. Just like the adoring angels in Heaven ceaselessly sing the praises of God, so the Sisters, using the four vows of Absolute Poverty, Chastity, Obedience, and Charity toward the poor ceaselessly quench the thirsting God by their love and of the love of the souls they bring to Him." In a letter to her sisters she delves even more into the possible meaning of these two words: "Jesus wants me to tell you again....how much is the love He has for each one of you-beyond all that you can imagine....Not only He loves you, even more-He longs for you. He misses you when you don't come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don't feel worthy....For me it is so clear-everything in MC exists only to satiate Jesus. His words on the wall of every MC chapel, they are not from the past only, but alive here and now, spoken to you. Do you believe it?...Why does Jesus say I Thirst? What does it mean? Something so hard to put in words-I Thirst is something much deeper than Jesus saying I love you. Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you-you can't begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him." Wow profound words from a saint. Here are the actual words of Jesus as written in a letter to Archbishop Perier on Jan 13, 1947: "One day at Holy Communion I heard the same voice very distinctly-'I want Indian nuns, Victims of my love, who would be my Martha and Mary. Who would be so very united to me as to radiate my love on souls. I want free nuns covered with my poverty of the cross-I want obedient nuns covered with the obedience of the cross. I want full of love nuns covered with the Charity of the Cross. Wilt thou refuse to do this for me?' On another day 'You have become my Spouse for love-you have come to India for Me. The thirst you had for souls brought you so far-Are you afraid to take one more step for your Spouse-for Me-for Souls?" Later, Mother Teresa heard the following words: "My little one-come-come-carry me into the holes of the poor-Come be my light-I cannot go alone-they don't know Me-so they don't want Me. You come-go amongst them, carry Me with you into them-How I long to enter their holes-their dark, unhappy homes. Come be their victim. In your immolation-in your love for Me-they will see Me, know Me, want Me. Offer more sacrifices-smile more tenderly, pray more fervently and all the difficulties will disappear. You are afraid. How your fear hurts me-Fear not. It is I who am asking you to do this for me Fear not-Even if the who world is against you, laughs at you, your companions and your superior look down on you, fear not-it is I in you, with you, for you." She then had three separate visions: 1"I saw a very big crowd-all kinds of people-very poor and children were there also. They all had their hands lifted towards me-standing in their midst. They called out 'Come, come, save us-bring us to Jesus.'" In the second vision she relates: Again that great crowd-I could see great sorrow and suffering in their faces-I was kneeling near Our Lady, who was facing them.-I did not see her face but I heard her say 'Take care of them-they are mine-bring them to Jesus-Carry Jesus to them-fear not. Teach them to say the rosary-the family rosary and all will be well.-Fear not-Jesus and I will be with you and your children." In the third vision Mother Teresa notes that she is at the foot of the cross. "The same great crowd-they were covered in darkness. Yet I could see them. Our Lord on the cross. Our Lady at a little distance from the cross-and myself as a little child in front of her. Her left hand was on my left shoulder-and her right hand was holding my right arm. We were both facing the Cross. Our Lord said-I have asked you. They have asked you and she, My Mother has asked you. Will you refuse to do this for me-to take care of them, to bring them to me?" Today as Pope Francis travels through Rio among the crowds and visits a slum I think of those words. He is bringing the light of Christ into the darkness. The darkness that Mother Teresa saw in her vision. Think of the great darkness in countries that were formerly under Communist rule. What a hunger, what a thirst they must have to hear the Good News of the Gospel! To hear that Christ loves them. When Pope Benedict XVI spoke at his inaugural mass he spoke about the deserts of the world and how they seem to be increasing each day! Look at the United States of America, New York City has the highest abortion rate in the country. Detroit just went bankrupt, the streets are full of violence and gangs. How desperate is the need for "laborers in the vineyard" to share the good news of Jesus Christ. To share his "thirst" for them. In the words of Jean La France: "Whoever thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Christ showed himself to Paul, Paul believed in him, he came and drank at the Spring of the heart of Christ. Having quenched his thirst at the fiery spring, he, in turn, became a spring himself, an irrigating agent..., that is what we mean by the expression 'to radiate'. We tell Christians to have a radiant faith, but they cannot do that at will! One radiates this influence without deliberately meaning to as soon as one is satisfied, like Moses who had to put a veil over his face when he came down from Mount Sinai. That experience inevitably spills over, it is a contagious influence which has never been interrupted for thousands of years. When you come out of contemplative prayer, the glory of the risen one which manifested itself to Paul on the road to Damascus, should shine through the skin on your face. If you are madly in love with Christ, you will beget others madly in love with Christ. If you thirst, you will become a wellspring, if you are hungry, you will become nourishment for your brothers. You will not say you are the wellspring: on the contrary, you will say: 'I am not the wellspring, it is greater than I am. It is permeating me, flooding over me, spilling over my heart, it is drowning me and I am proposing it to you. I am drowning, do you want to sink with me? If so do as I do: eat the flesh of Christ, drink his blood and, especially, pray in contemplation." Amen. A thirsting world needs to hear these words. We need to be the irrigating agents that bring the thirst of Christ into the darkest corners of the world. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
The news that beloved former Pope Blessed John Paul II will soon be canonized has brought joy to many believers in Christendom. In this post I wish to highlight something that was very important to this Pope: truth. Pope John Paul II was a great intellectual and philosopher. He wrote and spoke passionately about the truth. In his landmark encyclical Veritatis Splendor John Paul II has a powerful section titled "freedom and law". In this section JP II notes: "God's law does not reduce, much less do away with human freedom; rather, it protects and promotes that freedom. In contrast, however, some present day cultural tendencies have given rise to several currents of thought in ethics which center upon an alleged conflict between freedom and law. These doctrines would grant to individuals or social groups the right to determine what is good or evil. Human freedom would thus be able to create 'values' and would enjoy a primacy over truth, to the point that truth itself would be considered a creation of freedom. Freedom would thus lay claim to a moral autonomy which would actually amount to an absolute sovereignty." How prophetic these words are when we consider the recent DOMA decisions by the U. S. Supreme Court. Going against Natural Law and thousands of years of tradition five people on a court have now made themselves "sovereign" to determine truth. Who doesn't love freedom. How about the cry of Mel Gibson (William Wallace) in Braveheart...."Freedom". Here I would like to interject a wonderful quote from JP II in a homily he gave at Camden yards in Baltimore MD. I was in attendance as a seminarian on Oct. 9, 1999. The pope said "Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought." Wow! Here are some more great quotes: "America has always wanted to be a land of the free. Today, the challenge facing America is to find freedom's fulfillment in the truth: the truth that is intrinsic to human life created in God's image and likeness, the truth that is written on the human heart, the truth that can be known by reason and can therefore form the basis of a profound and universal dialogue about the direction they must give to their lives and activities. One hundred thirty years go, President Abraham Lincoln asked whether a 'nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal could long endure'. President Lincoln's question is no less a question for the present generation of Americans. Democracy cannot be sustained without a shared commitment to certain moral truths about the human person and human community. The basic question before a democratic society is 'how ought we to live together?' In seeking an answer to this question can society exclude moral truth and moral reasoning? Can the Biblical wisdom which played such a formative part in the very founding of your country be excluded from that debate? Would not doing so mean that tens of millions of Americans would no longer offer the contributions of their deepest convictions to the formation of public policy? Surely it is important for America that the moral truths which make freedom possible should be passed on to each new generation.....Catholics of America! Always be guided by the truth-by the truth about God who created and redeemed us, and by the truth about the human person, made in the image and likeness of God and destined for a glorious fulfillment in the Kingdom to come." That is a mouthful! It is also a stunning indictment of a society that has bought into what Pope Benedict XVI called the "dictatorship of relativism." If "my truth" cannot be distinguishable from "your truth" then who decides? The Supreme Court. Is something true just because it is legal? That goes against human reason. In the Gospel of Life JPII zeros in on America's number one problem today: "When freedom is detached from objective truth it becomes impossible to establish personal rights on a firm rational basis; and the ground is laid for society to be at the mercy of the unrestrained will of individuals or the oppressive totalitarianism of public authority." Later in the same chapter he states that everyone must have the courage to "adopt a new lifestyle....on the basis of a correct scale of values: the primacy of being over having, of the person over things. This renewed lifestyle involves a passing from indifference to concern for others, from rejection to acceptance of them. Other people are not rivals from whom we must defend ourselves, but brothers and sisters to be supported." This is at the core of the problem. If freedom is exalted to such an extent we risk viewing one another as rivals. If we are rivals then sharing of goods is not impossible because you are taking up space and food goods that belong to me. Freedom and God's are inseparable. I will close with a quote from the end of Veritatis Splendor: " This is the risk of an alliance between democracy and ethical relativism, which would remove any sure moral reference point from political and social life, and on a deeper level make the acknowledgement of truth impossible. Indeed, 'if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism." Let's pray for a renewal of truth and dialogue in our public square. God Bless America.
Monday, July 8, 2013
This past week at my parent's house there came the sound of loud chirping. I looked up to see a nest of house finches with three little birds, there mouths open wide to the sky. Those birds reminded me of the verse in scripture that says "open wide your mouth and I will fill it." How marvelous their trust, their expectation, that their parents would soon return with food. What a marvelous image of what we are to become if we are to be men and women of prayer. Fr Jean LaFrance was a French diocesan priest who wrote a lot about prayer. In his bookGive Me a Living WordLa France makes the bold assumption that "man's true nature is prayer." Hmmm. I suppose so. I never thought of it that way. By virtue of our baptism we are called to be "priests, prophets, and kings." Many people do not understand this. LaFrance has the following passage in his book that should help us understand. "What kind of man is the one who has reached the state of continuous prayer? He is the man alerted to the life of the Spirit in him. The deified man is not only in the act of praying, but he is in the state of prayer.....This is very important because man is prayer. His true nature is prayer. His true nature like the true nature of all things-ultimately, a tree, a mountain-is to be prayer. The mountain is a kind of prayer of the cosmos; that is why men build shrines on top of mountains. The entire earth is nourished by prayer. And in order that this prayer may spring forth, there must be men who put it into words and speak the meaning of the world. In other words, they are the priests who set free the prayer of the world. 'The liturgy is celebrated in churches, and the Holy Spirit dwells there. But may your soul also be the Church of God: to the one who prays incessantly, the whole world becomes a church.' (Silouane, p.30) You then become the priest of the world, the great celebrant of existence, able to render thanks even in the common labor of men, in art, science and technology. This is how you must pray the Canticle of the three children in the furnace and make the hymn of the universe rise up to the Father: the sun and the moon, the rain and the dew, the heat and the cold, the nights and the days, the heavens and the earth. And the psalm concludes with an invitation addressed to the priests, to the righteous, to the saints, and the humble of heart, that is to those who consecrate and consume their lives in prayer, as they offer he world to the Father through Jesus Christ. They liberate the prayer hidden in the heart of the world." I love that final phrase. The call to liberate the prayer hidden in the heart of the world is not for super spiritual people. It is for you and me. There was an old man who would sit in the church where St. John Vianney was pastor. The saint asked him one day-how do you pray? Easy, the old man replied, I look at him and he looks at me. Another image I enjoy is the image of St. Bernadette of Lourdes digging with her hands in the soil in obedience to the request of Our Lady. What she experienced was the ridicule of the crowds, but she kept digging and lo and behold, she found the spring, the hidden spring that contained the miraculous healing waters of Lourdes. Did not Jesus say "If someone thirsts let him come to me and let him drink, and I will give him living water. For whoever drinks the water given by the Samaritan woman (that of human happiness) will still thirst, but the one who drinks the water that I will give him will never be thirsty, and this water will become in him a spring of living water gushing up to eternal life." Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have spoken about how the parish is to be a "school of prayer." Pope Benedict XVI even dedicated his Wednesday catecheses to this topic. Ignatius press has put these talks together in a book titled "School of Prayer." However, you do not learn how to pray from reading a book. You learn how to pray through prayer. You need a key, just as you need a key to start the engine of a car or to open the car. For purposes of prayer of the heart you can start simply be repeating the name of Jesus. Breathe in....Jesus....breathe out.....Jesus. Do it long enough and you may find your heart praying. You can do it by repeating a scripture verse...eg, "Your love is stronger than wine." You can pray the sinners prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner." Or, you can use the formula of Blessed Peter Favre, SJ who may soon be canonized, "Father, in the name of Jesus, give me your Spirit." Do not be discouraged. Our true nature is prayer. Are our mouths open like those three little birds....confident....trusting that we will get our daily bread. Pray, and you will become the priest of creation, you will liberate prayer that is hidden in the heart of the world, and not only will you be happy, you will be fulfilling your purpose, your mission, your God given destiny in this world. The Good News? This is free and it can be done anywhere by anyone. Why don't you begin now? "open wide your mouth and God will fill it."
Friday, July 5, 2013
Tomorrow is the feast day of St. Maria Goretti. It is a remarkable story. Trying to fend off the lustful approaches of a man named Allesandro, all she kept saying was "No! No! it's a sin!" Where did this young teenager get such courage? On the way to the hospital she kept saying "I forgive him, I forgive him." Eventually the hardened heart of Allesandro did repent and receive forgiveness. He went to jail, served his time and one night had a dream that changed his life. It was the young Maria Goretti handing him flowers and saying the words "I forgive you." Not only was Maria's mother present at the canonization of Maria Goretti, but so too was Allesandro. Remarkable! That is the healing power of Christ's love. The culture in the United States needs to be healed. Forty years of abortion (upwards of 1.2 million a year) has left many souls (men and women) scarred and wounded. The good news is God's healing love can be experienced if we practice the same forgiveness of St. Maria Goretti. Consider the following excerpt from the pamphlet Rachel Weep No More byby Bryan Thatcher, MD and Fr Frank Pavone. The chapter heading reads "A pro-abortion leader converts." Here it is in its entirety: "Divine Mercy is also triumphant in the life of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who was a key architect of the abortion rights movement, a co-founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) ran the largest abortion facility in the Western world and even aborted his own child. He too now drinks from the fountain of God's mercy in the sacraments of the church. Ironically, it was precisely the Church and its hierarchy that Nathanson and his colleagues targeted in their strategy to uncage the abortion monster. They knew that the church was the only significant obstacle in their way, and in their press releases they attempted to divide the shepherds from their flock, claiming that most Catholics approved of abortion. Morever, Nathanson says they took a calculated risk that the clergy would remain relatively silent. 'We would never have gotten away with what we did,' he has said to priests,'if you had been united, purposeful, and strong.' He claims that he and his colleagues 'stole the abortion issue from the church' while the church was sleeping. Dr. Nathanson was the director of the Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health in New York City. In his two years in that position he oversaw some 60,000 abortions. He also supervised residents in training who performed another 10,000 abortions. In addition, he performed some 5,000 abortions with his own hands in private practice. Dr. Nathanson even aborted his own child. He writes in The Hand of God: 'I believe it was Father Zossima in the Brothers Karamazov, who defined hell as the suffering of one unable to love, and if this is true I have served my sentence and then some. What is it like to terminate the life of your own child? It was asceptic and clinical. Yes, you may ask me but how did you feel? Did you not feel sad-not only because you had extinguished the life of an unborn child, but more, because you had destroyed your own child? I swear to you that I had no feelings aside from the sense of accomplishment, the pride of expertise. On inspecting the contents of the bag I felt only the satisfaction of knowing that I had done a thorough job. You pursue me: You ask if perhaps for a fleeting moment or so I experienced a flicker of regret, a microgram of remorse? No and no. And that, dear reader, is the mentality of the abortionist: another job well done, another demonstration of the moral neutrality of advanced technology in the hands of the amoral.'Yet, during his practice of abortion, Dr. Nathanson became increasingly unable to reconcile the contradiction between the sometimes-heroic medical efforts to save prematurely delivered babies and the legal slaughter of babies at the very same stage of development in the very same building. This, coupled with the increasing knowledge science was gaining about the human embryo and fetus, caused him to doubt from a purely scientific stance, whether abortion was advisable. In fact, he began wondering whether he had, in fact, presided over the deaths of nearly 75,000 human beings." Nathanson later admits it was the courageous and loving witness of pro-life advocates protesting outside a Planned Parenthood clinic that made him stop and think. "I began seriously to question what indescribable Force generated them to this activity." This Force is the mercy of Christ. It broke through another time in Nathanson's life when he saw the famous movie "the silent scream." In this movie you see a child literally writhe and jump in pain during an abortion. "Eventually, with the kind help and guidance of Fr. John McCloskey, an Opus Dei priest based in Princeton, NJ, Dr. Nathanson felt drawn to the waters of Baptism in the Catholic Church. Cardinal John O'Connor, Archbishop of New York, and a leading voice in the pro-life movement baptized him into the church. 'I am free from my sin', Dr. Nathanson says,'For the first time in my life, I will feel the shelter and warmth of faith.' In her Diary of Divine Mercy Saint Faustina recalls a conversation she saw between Jesus and a sinful soul.'Jesus: Be not afraid of your savior, o sinful soul. I make the first move to come to you, for I know that by yourself you are unable to lift yourself to me. Child, do not run away from your Father; be willing to talk openly with your God of Mercy who wants to speak words of pardon and lavish his graces on you. How dear your soul is to Me! I have inscribed your name upon My hand; you are engraved as a deep wound in My Heart....My child do you fear the God of mercy? My holiness does not prevent me from being merciful. Behold, for you I have established a throne of mercy on earth-the tabernacle-and from this throne I desire to enter your heart. I am not surrounded by a retinue or guards. You can come to me at any moment, at any time; I want to speak to you and desire to grant you grace.....My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world. Who can measure the extent of my goodness? For you I descended from heaven to earth; for you I allowed myself to be nailed to the cross; for you I let my Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come, then, with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart. Your misery has disappeared in the depths of my mercy. Do not argue with me about your wretchedness. You will give me pleasure if you hand over to me all your troubles and griefs. I shall heap upon you the treasures of My grace.' Wow! What great news! Whatever the sin, God has already healed it at the cross. Come and drink from the fountain of his love and mercy in confession. I did. It changed my life. It can change yours as well. Peace