Saturday, March 25, 2017

Photo: Enveloped by the Holy Spirit

Spirituality: “To Give Human Nature to God” by Caryll Houselander

Humanly speaking, the time of Advent must have been the happiest time in Our Lady’s life. The world about her must have been informed with more than its habitual loveliness, for she was gathering it all to the making of her son …

He was completely her own, utterly dependent upon her: she was his food and warmth and rest, His shelter from the world, His shade in the sun. She was the shrine of the sacrament, the four walls and the roof of His home …

It must have been a season of joy, and she must have longed for His birth, but at the same time she knew that every step she took, took her little son nearer to the grave. Each work of her hands prepared His hands a little more for the nails; each breath that she drew counted one more to His last. In giving Him life she was giving Him death.

All other children born must inevitably die; death belongs to fallen nature; the mother’s gift to the child is life. But Christ is life; death did not belong to Him. In fact, unless Mary would give Him death, He could not die. Unless she gave Him the capacity for suffering, He could not suffer.

He could only feel cold and hunger and thirst if she gave Him her vulnerability to cold and hunger and thirst. He could not know the indifference of friends or treachery or the bitterness of being betrayed unless she gave Him a human mind and a human heart.

That is what it meant to Mary to give human nature to God.

Source: From The Reed of God, as found in Give Us This Day, December, 2015, pp. 178-179.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Holy Land Pilgrimage with Fr. John Predmore, S.J. (November 6-17, 2017)

The Holy Land Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) is sponsoring a pilgrimage to Jerusalem/Bethlehem/Galilee from November 6-17, 2017. The pilgrimage is led by Fr. John Predmore, S.J.

Throughout our spiritual pilgrimage, we will experience the holy places in which Jesus was born, ministered, crucified, and rose again. Through this spiritual journey, we will remain open to God’s message and will return home with a new and deeper understanding of the living history of this incredible place and of those who inhabit and keep it—the “Living Stones” of the Holy Land.

Day 1 – Monday, November 6th: Departure

We depart to the Holy Land on an international flight. Meals and in-flight entertainment provided.

Day 2 – Tuesday, November 7th: Travel & Arrival in Tel Aviv

Arrival Ben Gurion International Airport. An HCEF Representative will guide us to Bethlehem for dinner and rest.

Day 3 – Wednesday, November 8th: Bethlehem

An HCEF representative welcomes us on our spiritual journey. A visit to Shepherd’s Field in Beit Sahour, where angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. Afterward, we visit the Church of the Nativity, the birthplace of Jesus. Our tour continues to the Grotto of St. Jerome to celebrate Mass, and then to nearby Milk Grotto, where the Holy Family took refuge during the Slaughter of the Innocents.

After lunch at Al Karmeh restaurant, we will tour the Bethlehem Museum to learn about the history and culture of Palestine since Pre-Roman times. Afterward, we visit Bethlehem University to dialogue with students about their experiences.

An afternoon visit to the Bethlehem Carmelite Convent, founded by the Palestinian Carmelite saint, Miriam Baouardy of Jesus Crucified. Then a light walk through the path taken by the Holy Family through the old city of Bethlehem until we reach Nativity Square. Dinner and overnight in Bethlehem.

Day 4 – Thursday, November 9th: Jerusalem

Depart for Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives to visit the Churches of Pater Noster and Dominus Flevit. We celebrate mass at the Church of All Nations, in the solemn Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed before his Passion.

After lunch, we visit Mount Zion and the Upper Room, the scene of the Last Supper, and the Church of the Assumption (Tomb of Mary). Dinner and overnight in Bethlehem.

Day 5 – Friday, November 10: Dead Sea/ Jericho/Qumran

After breakfast, we visit the Tomb of Lazarus, located in the West Bank town of Al-Eizariya, traditionally known as Bethany. The tomb is the site of a miracle in which Jesus resurrects Lazarus. Prayer and Mass.

We continue into the Jordan Valley to Jericho, where Zacchaeus climbed the sycamore tree and healed Bartimaeus’ blindness. We ponder the temptations of Jesus at the summit of the Mount of Temptation. After lunch, we will visit Qumran, where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered, and will then enjoy the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth. Dinner and overnight in Bethlehem.

Day 6 – Saturday, November 11th: Birzeit and Ramallah

We depart for Birzeit, located in the outlying hills of Ramallah. Birzeit is also known as ancient Berzetho from the Greek –Roman period, to meet the local parish who will teach us about the history of local Christians, and the church’s archeological significance, which houses artifacts from the stone and bronze age. We celebrate Mass in the church.

We then visit HCEF’s the elders at the Birzeit Senior Citizen Center, hearing their stories and breaking bread with them. We then visit Jifna, a small scenic village that was an important Roman-Byzantine city. Previously known as Gophna of Josephus, Jifna was the region’s capital during the first century AD. Afterward, we travel to Ramallah to visit the Church of Hope, opened in 1954 to support those seeking refuge from conflict. Dinner and overnight in Bethlehem.

Day 7 – Sunday, November 12th: Jerusalem

We depart very early for Jerusalem to walk the Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering) through the narrow alleys and bazaars of the Old City, ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Tomb of Christ where we will celebrate Mass. Afterward, we visit the Church of the Redeemer, and meet with a representative of the Christian Religious Leaders of Jerusalem.

After lunch, we will enjoy free time in Jerusalem. We visit the Dome of the Rock, the Golden Gate, the Western Wall, and the Temple Mount. We continue to the Jesuit Pontifical Biblical Institute before we return for a farewell dinner with the HCEF staff during our final night in Bethlehem. Dinner and overnight in Bethlehem.

Day 8—Monday, November 13th: Nablus/ Jenin

We depart for Nablus (Neapolis), founded in 72 AD by the Flavian Emperors on the northern slope of Mount Gerizim. There, we visit Jacob's Well, where Jesus met the Samaritan woman who offered him water, and celebrate Mass in the church. Afterward, we tour Nablus’ Old City and Mount Gerizim, a revered mountain by the Samaritans. After lunch, we travel to Sebastia, associated with John the Baptist, and we view the Roman tombs, a Hellenistic Tower, and the Herodion Gate Towers. We head to Jenin to visit the Church of Burqin, considered the third oldest church in the world, situated where Jesus cured the ten lepers. Dinner and overnight in Jenin.

Day 9—Tuesday, November 14th: Nazareth/Mount Tabor

We depart for Mount Tabor, the site of the transfiguration to enjoy the Valley of Jezreal. We visit the Church in Cana, the site of the first miracle, changing water into wine. Married couples may renew their wedding vows. We travel to Nazareth to visit the Basilica of the Annunciation where the Angel Gabriel first told Mary that she would give birth to Jesus. Mass at the Basilica of the Nativity.

While in Nazareth, we will also see Mary’s well and Joseph's workshop. Dinner and overnight in Nazareth.

Day 10—Wednesday, November 15th: Ibillin/Mt Carmel/ Haifa

We depart for Ibillin to tour Mar Elias schools, known for educating children of all ethnic and religious backgrounds based upon peace, reconciliation, respect, and justice. We meet with representatives from the 3,000 students and faculty of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Druze heritage who work as one community. After lunch, we go to Haifa to visit Mt Carmel, where the prophet Elijah performed miracles, and the first Carmelite monastery was developed in the thirteenth century. The city of Haifa sweeps up the slopes of Mt. Carmel and is home to many cultural and educational institutions. No visit to Haifa is complete without touring the restored Templar Colony, the Bahá’í Shrine and Gardens, Elijah’s cave, and Stella Maris Church and Monastery. Dinner and overnight in Nazareth.

Day 11—Thursday, November 16th: Sea of Galilee

We depart for the Sea Galilee, to the Mount of Beatitudes and read the Sermon on the Mount. Prayer and Mass. We continue to Tabgha (Heptapegon) to the Church of the Multiplication of Fish and Loaves to admire a well-conserved 5th Century Byzantine mosaic.

Afterward, we visit the chapel of the Primacy of Peter and continue to Magdala Synagogue. We travel to Capernaum, the town of Jesus to see the ruins, the remains of Peter’s House, the “Insula Sacra,” and the White Synagogue. During a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, we will reflect on Jesus’ calming of the wind and the waves.

Dinner and overnight in Nazareth

Day 12: Friday, November 17th: Return home

After an early morning transfer to the airport, we fly home, however our faith journey will continue in a new, invigorated way. We will have met the descendants of the first disciples of Jesus and witnessed how the people of the Holy Land strive to build bridges of justice, peace, and reconciliation. They will enable us to interpret contemporary news from the region in a different way. A Living Stones pilgrimage will enrich and permanently change your life.


Itinerary is subject to change without notice.
Itinerary includes interactions with the Living Stones
Meeting with church leaders may be changed depending upon their schedules.

Photo: Bring them all to me

Spirituality: “Pregnant with God” by Margaret Silf

Mary did what any of us might have done in her circumstances. She sought our solitude to think over all that was happening to her. She looked for a safe place where she would be welcomed and received, where she would be listened to as she told her amazing story. She went to find a friend who would be alongside her, as she processed the events that had placed her in this seemingly blessed and supremely vulnerable position. Mary set out to a nearby hill town, to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was six months’ pregnant, even though everyone had thought she was far too old to bear children. The very young Mary sought out the older, wiser Elizabeth. Their time together has a message for us, as we seek to come to terms with what it means to be “pregnant with God.”

Reflect: Do you have an “Elizabeth” in your life – a friend, a soul-friend, whom you trust completely to understand who you really are and to listen to your story and see the deeper meanings in it? If so, you might like to spend a little time with that person. Tell him/her what you are doing, and how you are feeling about it. Share with him/her that moment when you first felt the touch of God’s love in your life, and the unique way in which God came upon you, overshadowed you, and asked you to let your life become a home in which his Son might come to birth. When Elizabeth sees her cousin Mary, pregnant with Jesus, her own unborn child, who will become John the Baptist, moves in her womb, as if to greet the unborn child in Mary. This is, perhaps, a reflection of what happens when two “soul-friends” meet. When we greet each other as fellow “Kingdom travelers,” the still unborn Christ growing in each of us gives a little leap of joy in recognition of the still unborn Christ growing in the other. You might like to notice and share this moment of recognition with your “Elizabeth,” and celebrate it in some special way that is meaningful to you both.

Source: Margaret Silf, Wayfaring: A Gospel Journey in Everyday Life, pp. 89-90, slightly adapted.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


Join me in my prayer of gratitude. It has been one year since I have changed my eating routine and I have lost 72 pounds. I have maintained my desired weight. Last year, I asked Christ before the Mass of the His Last Supper if he wanted me to lose the weight and if he would help me. The answer was 'Yes.' We have learned a lot this past year about nutrition, marketing, and good health.

Prayer: Anonymous

Grant to us, Lord, this day to walk with you as Father, to trust in you as Savior, to be enlightened by you as Spirit, to worship you as Lord; that all our works may praise you and our lives may give you glory.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Fourth Sunday of Lent

 Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

The Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 26, 2017
1 Samuel 16
1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

            The story of the man born blind raises important questions about faith and knowledge because the ones who have sight and knowledge turn out to be the ones who are blind and faithless. The poor man born blind must have felt like he went through a Senate confirmation inquiry because he is peppered with questions from every angle and he responds brilliantly to each question showing that his faith reveals true knowledge. He speaks from his experience and does not try to answer questions that are beyond his knowledge. He does not guess, hypothesize, draw conclusions, or speculate. He speaks only of his experience, and by doing so, his wisdom stands out.

            The question that begins the search of the truth is: Who sinned – the man born blind or his parents? Jesus says, “You got it all wrong. Sin is not the cause of disability or misfortune. Sin is something that emerges from within a person.” It reveals the faulty, simplistic view that we hold about sin. In the Gospels, Jesus is often teaching people a new definition of sin because sin comes from attitudes and values within a person. However, even though we know how Jesus defined sin, we still get it wrong today. We have to examine those areas of our lives where we do not even try to care for others. Sin is not caring enough about someone to help them.

            So, if sin is something that arises from within and if our eyes are the vehicles by which we form judgments, we have to be careful to form our perceptions correctly. How do we inform our attitudes about the information we take in? Are we too quick in arriving at conclusions? A good question to always ask ourselves is: Am I experiencing a movement of warmth towards my neighbor? If not, we may be moving in the direction of sin. If I am moving towards greater understanding and warmth, then I am less inclined to sin because I care enough about my neighbor to let love win out.

            Therefore, we have to learn how to see the world’s events differently than we have. We need to glimpse them through the lens of faith, which gives us better knowledge. We have to ask: Am I able to see what is right with the world rather than finding what is wrong? Can I see the positives instead of being critical? Can I suspend my need to make judgments until I get further information that may shed light on someone’s actions or words? I simply may not have enough knowledge to make a proper judgment. Therefore, I replace my initial judgments with positive regard, meaning that I will actively search for the best in everyone’s motivations until I know with certitude something to the contrary. I seek to see the world as if I were looking through Christ’s eyes.

            Faith brings us knowledge that we cannot explain easily to others and we are only asked to give our witness statements like the blind man.  This knowledge may conflict with people of influence and authority with institutional backing like the religious authorities in the Temple who were judging this blind man, but we have the courage to hold true to God’s vision for the world. Our sight leads to faith, which gives us knowledge of what is right with the God. This is a world worth celebrating.

            How are your eyes seeing the world? What are the impressions that you are forming? Are they inspiring you to create more “good” or are you making less loving judgments? Ask God to give you further sight and insight. Ask God to heal your sight and your knowledge so you can be the agents of grace. Ask God to give us new faith that allows us to open our eyes again so that we can see the face of Jesus as if for the first time. I bet it has a smile on it.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading:
Monday: (Isaiah 65) The Lord is about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered; there will always be rejoicing and happiness.
Tuesday: (Ezekiel 47) The angel brought the prophet to the entrance of the temple where life-giving water flowed forth and bringing life to all.
Wednesday: (Isaiah 49) The Lord finds favor with Israel and promises help on the day of salvation. The Lord will help Israel keep the commandments because He cannot forget her beauty.
Thursday: (2 Samuel 7) The Lord said to David: Your house shall endure forever; your throne shall stand firm forever. 
Friday: (Wisdom 2) The wicked said, “Let us beset the just one because he is obnoxious to us. Let us revile him and condemn him to a shameful death.”
Saturday: (Jeremiah 11) Jeremiah knew their plot, but like a trusting lamb led to slaughter, had not realized they were hatching plots against him.  

Monday: (John 4) Jesus returned to Galilee where he performed his first miracle. Some believed in him. A royal official approached him as his child lay dying, but at the hour Jesus spoke to him, his son recovered.
Tuesday: (John 5) Jesus encountered an ill man lying next to a healing pool, but when the water is stirred up, no one is around to put him in. Jesus heals him and he walks away. The Jews protest that Jesus cured on the Sabbath. The Jews began to persecute Jesus.
Wednesday: (John 5) Jesus explains that he is the unique revealer of God and cannot do anything on his own. He judges as he hears and his judgment is just because he does not seek his own will.
Thursday: (Matthew 1) The birth of Jesus came about through Mary, betrothed to Joseph. In his dream, the angel tells Joseph to take the pregnant Mary as his wife.
Friday: (John 7) Jesus did not wish to travel around Judea because the Jews were trying to kill him, but he went up during the feast of Tabernacles where he was spotted. He cried up in the streets, “You know me and you know where I am from.”
Saturday: (John 7) Some in the crowd said, “This is the prophet.” Some said, “This is the Christ.” A division occurred because of him because they could not settled how he fit into Scripture. Nicodemus interjected, “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” The crowd dispersed to their homes.

Saints of the Week

No saints are included in the calendar this week as it is often Holy Week or Easter Week.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      March 26, 1553: Ignatius of Loyola's letter on obedience was sent to the Jesuits of Portugal.
·      March 27, 1587: At Messina died Fr. Thomas Evans, an Englishman at 29. He had suffered imprisonment for his defense of the Catholic faith in England.
·      March 28, 1606: At the Guildhall, London, the trial of Fr. Henry Garnet, falsely accused of complicity in the Gunpowder Plot.
·      March 29, 1523: Ignatius' first visit to Rome on his way from Manresa to Palestine.
·      March 30, 1545: At Meliapore, Francis Xavier came on pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Thomas the Apostle.
·      March 31, 1548: Fr. Anthony Corduba, rector of the College of Salamanca, begged Ignatius to admit him into the Society so as to escape the cardinalate which Charles V intended to procure for him.

·      Apr 1, 1941. The death of Hippolyte Delehaye in Brussels. He was an eminent hagiographer and in charge of the Bollandists from 1912 to 1941.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Photo: Shake it off

Prayer: Gaelic Prayer

As the hand is meant for holding and the eye for seeing, you have created me for Joy, O God. Share with me in finding that joy everywhere: in the violet’s beauty, in the lark’s melody, in the child’s face, in a mother’s love, in the purity of Jesus.