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