Wednesday, July 31, 2013

finding God in the mountains pt 3

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 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

Pope Francis: A sign of contradiction

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

Pope Francis at World Youth Day

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

"I Thirst" and Mother Teresa

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 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

Blessed John Paul II and the link between freedom and truth

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

"Open wide your mouth and I will fill it"-Thoughts on Psalm 81:11

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, "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

Forgiveness, Divine Mercy and Healing from Abortion

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

Saint Joseph Moscati, saint, doctor, and miracle worker

One of the key teachings of the Catholic Church is the "dignity of the human person." The great news today that Pope John Paul II will be canonized is an exclamation point of this teaching. Travelling the world the Pope spoke about unjust work conditions, the poor, the unborn, the sick and the elderly. His epic work was "The Gospel of Life" in which he teaches that " the gospel of Jesus Christ is the Gospel of life." In today's mass readings we heard in the gospel, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do." It is all the more imperative, these days, that Catholic Christians bring their faith into the field of medicine. One of the signs of the times is that people are beginning to be treated as objects, not persons. What do I mean by this? At the big teaching hospitals you are likely to be visited by an intern. If you do happen to receive a visit from a doctor, they are probably under tremendous time constraints to visit a certain number of patients (quota). I saw this recently at a local hospital. As an outsider the situation appeared to be degrading. You had a patient in his 90's, people coming and going, and rarely making eye contact, just doing what they had to do. This is what makes Joseph Moscati so unique. He was born July 15, 1880 and died of a stroke in his armchair at home on April 12, 1927. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1987 during the synod of bishops on the laity. A booklet on Moscatti's life notes: "The life of St. Giuseppe Moscati illustrates how the Catholic faith and practical charity united a layman with God to such an extent that the power of God ultimately worked in and through him." Just as now, medical school was not a God friendly place to be a student. Michael J. Miller's booklet notes: "When Giuseppe Moscati enrolled in medical school in 1897, the University of Naples-with its openly agnostic, amoral, and anti-clerical atmosphere and its secret societies-was a perilous place for a young Catholic. Moscati avoided distractions, studied diligently, continued to practice the faith and took a doctoral degree with honors in 1903. Dr. Moscati then practiced medicine at the Hospital for the incurables in Naples and taught courses in general medicine at the university. Soon he became a hospital administrator. He demonstrated extraordinary skill in diagnosing his patients' ailments; some colleagues attributed this to his ability to synthesize traditional methods with the findings of the new science of biochemistry. In writing to a young doctor he once said: "Remember, that you must treat not only bodies, but also souls, with counsel that appeals to their minds and hearts rather than with cold prescriptions to be sent in to the pharmacist." Dr. Moscati would treat poor patients free of charge and when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in April, 1906, Dr. Moscati voluntarily helped to evacuate a nursing home in the endangered area, personally moving the frail and infirm patients to safety minutes before the roof of the building collapsed under the ash. Where did he get such strength of spirit? His faith. In the Ignatius press movie St.Giuseppe Moscati, Doctor to the poor, there is a powerful scene in which he prays "Lord, reveal yourself to me." He realizes that the Lord is in the souls of each of the patients he is treating. This is like Mother Teresa who would speak about seeing Jesus in "the distressing disguise of the poor." The seed of divine life is planted in us at baptism (grace-the Holy Spirit), but it needs to watered and nurtured to become the full image of Christ. Dr. Moscati's spirituality was uniquely Catholic and uniquely Eucharistic. His spirituality was Catholic because he could see the dignity of the human person beneath the illness. Whether the illness be AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer's, leprosy, Parkinson's, we all need to see Jesus hidden in our brothers and sisters who have these afflictions. The spirituality is Eucharistic because just as Jesus as hidden to the senses in the eucharist, so too, the presence of Jesus in the sick may only be seen through the eyes of faith. Let's pray for a Christian renewal of medicine and pray that God will send us more St. Joseph Moscati's-men and women of science and faith who will realize the God given dignity of every human being. The church of Gesu Nuovo has a website where you can learn more about St. Giuseppe Moscati. Go Online to: