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Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Year's Eve Reflection

It is the eve of a new year. Television and radio shows chronicle this past year and decade that creates a sentimentality about the passing of time. We take stock of our successes as a society and we mark the time by remembering meaningful moments. In the face of these images, we are completely powerless to the forces of time. As Christians, we live in the duality of the “now” and the “not yet.” All we really have is the choices we make in the present.

I am marking the final moments of the year in a simple way. I just arranged a bouquet of bright, colorful flowers that I bought when I returned from Mass and I am sifting through the Christmas cards I have received to pray for and to honor friends and loved ones. I am grateful for their kinds words and graciousness. I am humbled by the goodness of so many friends and fellow pilgrims in my life. I am also packing the final items of my belongings as I prepare to move to tertianship in Australia. It is quite odd to be emptying my life of many possessions to pack a suitcase for life in a place that is halfway around the world.

I find myself praying for an increase of peace in the world, but I get stuck on knowing what peace really means to others. We have so much conflict in our personal lives that it is no surprise that we have so much conflict in our world. My prayer is that we can learn how to enter into our conflict in a healthy enough way that we are marked by integrity that brings about a peaceful contentment. When we deal with our personal issues, we are much more likely to be outwardly aware of the needs and concerns of others. I want to have more of the peace that Christ can bring.

I also find that I am praying for openness to growth. When our attitudes, whether in our church life or personal life, turn to contemplate the possibilities and opportunities available to us, we risk undergoing real personal growth that frees us for the world and for others. Notice many of the comments that arise from attitudes that shut down or block out terrific opportunities. They come in various forms, and a person might not even be aware that he or she is saying “no.” What stops us from engaging with these possibilities? – fear? loss of control or authority? ego? We grow into the person God wants us to be when we take that leap of faith that makes us say “yes, I’ll give this a shot. I’ll see what I can learn from another.” May I become more open to the promptings that the Lord is invited me to accept.

If I am more of a peace-bringer and peace-maker and I keep myself open to the possibilities of true growth, I believe that the Lord will help me to become a priest who is a more loving person. I realize the great lengths at which I still have to go, but it is at least a direction to which I am turned. The happiness we exude when we are loving people is a very attractive quality. The church will become stronger when we show to the world our exploding gladness because of what God has done for us through Christ.

What is my prayer for the people of God? – that we come to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. I want people to learn how to pray in a maturing style that fits their unique situation. This is new for many. I would love people to read scripture and its commentaries that shed important light on our tradition. It is a very rich and exciting tradition. Be open to the possibility of making the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola – in whatever form best fits you. When we place our lives in the context of God’s desire for us we see a vast array of more promises that we could imagine. I think it is a journey worth taking.

It is a new year. Come along and explore the possibilities Christ wants to show you.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Prayer: Preface for Christmas 2

Today you fill our hearts with joy
as we recognize in Christ the revelation
of your love. No eye can see his glory
as our God, yet now he is seen as one
like us. Christ is your Son before all
ages, yet now he is born in time. He
has come to lift up all things to
himself, to restore unity to creation,
and to lead humankind from exile into
your heavenly kingdom.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Prayer: Ignatius Prayer for Light

Jesus, fill us, we pray,
with your light and life
that we may show forth
your wonderful glory.

Grant that your love may so fill our lives
that we may count nothing
too small to do for you,
nothing too much to give, and
nothing too hard to bear.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Song: Of the Father's Love Begotten

Of the Father's love begotten,
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending he,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!

O that Birth for ever blessèd,
When the Virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bare the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world's Redeemer,
First revealed his sacred face,
Evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore him;
Angel hosts, his praises sing;
Powers, Dominions, bow before him,
And extol our God and King;
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert ring,
Evermore and evermore!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Song: Adam Lay Ybounden

Adam lay ybounden,
Bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter
Thought he not too long.

And all was for an apple,
An apple that he took,
As clerkès finden
Written in their book.

Né had the apple taken been
The apple taken been,
Né had never our lady
Abeen heavené queen.

Blessèd be the time
That apple taken was.
Therefore we moun singen

Deo Gracias!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Song: Tomorrow Shall be My Dancing Day

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance;

Sing O my love, O my love
This have I done for my true love

I born of a virgin pure
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man's nature
To call my true love to my dance.

Sing O my love, O my love
This have I done for my true love

Sunday in the Octave of Christmas

Holy Family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus
December 27, 2009

Ignatius of Loyola inserted two important meditations into the Second Week of his Spiritual Exercises. The first one causes us to reflect on obedience, while the second one focuses our gaze upon the person of Jesus. Today’s readings point to the historical life of Jesus (and his ancestor, Samuel) to highlight the ways in which his obedience to his parents were instrumental in setting the groundwork for his fidelity to God. We marvel at his degree of obedience because it is the faith of Jesus (not our faith in Jesus) that brings us redemption and eternal life. Our meditation of today’s readings will also show us the ways in which Jesus’ fidelity to God created conflict in his homestead. It begs us to reflect upon to whom or to what we are obedient to when our consciences, the primary arbiter of our moral decision-making, conflicts with the teachings of our faith or the church. We need to ponder the ways we resolve our conflict with authority and the conflict within ourselves when we find that we hold a position in which we dissent from a position held by the church. The key might be in what is not said in these readings.

Ignatius’ second meditation is on what happens at the conclusion of the Gospel reading. It begins with nothing. We are left to imagine the life of Jesus from age 12 to 30. While this may seem like a fruitless starting point in prayer, I am continually surprised at the abundance of images and the teeming amounts of conversations that a person in prayer can have with Jesus. It is a point in which the person begins to interact most personally - most relationally – to him and it provides a foundational experience to which the person can always return. In this meditation, we simply do not relate to Jesus as transcendent God, but as a personal friend. We meet him with curiosity, ask questions, tell our stories, and learn to trust him. He becomes a brother to us with a strong bond. He responds to us in ways that we value and cherish because of the intimate meaning that he brings to this time together.

When we come to know the Lord in such a profound way, we can return to that safe place within the confines of our prayer to once again tell our stories and to seek his advice. He always has a listening ear and most times an answer. At these times, he is near to us, accessible, concerned and he always demonstrates to us that he knows us better than we know ourselves. He calls the best out of us because he is always re-creating us in the way he intends us to be. This is the time and place to approach him with our most vexing problems or moral dilemmas. It becomes a place that we most trust and get our assurances. It is a place like Samuel and Jesus where we “advance in wisdom and age and favor before God and humans.”

Quote for the Week

Here is a quote from Thomas Beckett who was martyred in 1170.

Remember the sufferings of Christ, the storms that were weathered... the crown that came from those sufferings which gave new radiance to the faith... All saints give testimony to the truth that without real effort, no one ever wins the crown.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Since we are in the Octave (Eight Days) of Christmas, we begin with 1 John who invites us to live in Christ, who is the light of the world, the light that has overcome the darkness. He tells us that love of neighbor is our new commandment and that fidelity to this teaching keeps us in the light of grace. John tells us that we live in a new reality while also living in this temporal world, and we have to conform our hearts to what we have heard from Christ, the Word of God, because the end of the world is on the horizon. The goodness that we have heard from Christ will endure.

Gospel: The Christmas story continues as the magic of the birth of the Lord is disturbed by Herod’s slaughter of the innocent boys of Bethlehem sending the new parents into Egypt for shelter. When the days of purification were complete, Joseph and Mary took the boy to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. Simeon and Anna bless the boy who has fulfilled the prophecy. At the time of the circumcision, the name Jesus was given to the boy, the name the angel gave him while in Mary’s womb. John’s prologue is recalled as we are reminded that many will turn against Jesus and will question his source of power and authority.

Saints of the Week

Monday: The Holy Innocents. Matthew’s scripture tells us about the horrific accounts of the slain male children because of Herod’s fear that a newborn will rise to become king. From the start, Jesus’ life will face great opposition. Matthew describes him as the new Moses who will lead the people into a new type of exodus liberation.

Tuesday: Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr, was the English Archbishop of Canterbury in the court of King Henry II. Becket clashed with the King about the autonomy of the Church, which sent Becket into exile in France. Upon his return, another clash ensued and the King set about to rid himself of this “lowborn priest.”

Thursday: Sylvester I, pope, developed positive Church-State relations after the Emperor Constantine allowed public Christian worship in the empire. Large churches could be constructed for the first time. The Council of Nicaea was held during his pontificate.

Friday: Mary, Mother of God is celebrated at the cusp of the New Year as she carefully ponders in her heart the good news that her son brings to the world. She silently treasures the great events of God in her life as she realizes that she is blessed among all women.

Jesuits celebrate The Titular Feast of the Society of Jesus on January 1st. Just as Jesus was given the holy name at the end of the octave of his birth, Jesuits receive the holy name of Jesus as our name as a religious order.

Saturday: Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, doctors, were born in Cappadocia and are two of the great doctors of the Eastern Church. Both set arguments in place against the Arians to declare the Jesus Christ was both fully human and fully divine. As bishops, both men set about a way of Christian life for the common person as well as sowing the seeds of Christian monasticism.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Dec 27, 1618. Henry Morse entered the English College at Rome.
• Dec 28, 1802. Pope Pius VII allowed Father General Gruber to affiliate the English Jesuits to the Society of Jesus in Russia.
• Dec 29, 1886. Publication of the beatification decree of the English martyrs.
• Dec 30, 1564. Letter from Pope Pius IV to Daniel, Archbishop of Mayence, deploring the malicious and scurrilous pamphlets published against the Society throughout Germany and desiring him to use his influence against the evil.
• Dec 31, 1640. John Francis Regis died. He was a missionary to the towns and villages of the remote mountains of southern France.
• Jan. 1, 1598: Fr. Alphonsus Barréna, surnamed the Apostle of Peru, died. He was the first to carry the faith to the Guaranis and Chiquitos in Paraguay.
• Jan. 2, 1619: At Rome, John Berchmans and Bartholomew Penneman, his companion scholastic from Belgium, entered the Roman College.

Christmas meditation

Let us notice the glory of God in our lives this week. Let us pay attention to the many ways in which Christ is present in ordinary ways. We continue to look for those big moments to detect God’s presence, but the story of Jesus’ birth reminds us that God will come to us in that silent still voice.

And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son,
full of grace and truth.

Happy New Year to you! May you know the blessings of the Lord in all you do.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Proclamation of the Birth of Christ

Today, the twenty-fifth day of December,
unknown ages from the time when God created the heavens and the earth
and then formed man and woman in his own image.

Several thousand years after the flood,
when God made the rainbow shine forth as a sign of the covenant.

Twenty-one centuries from the time of Abraham and Sarah;
thirteen centuries after Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt.

Eleven hundred years from the time of Ruth and the Judges;
one thousand years from the anointing of David as king;
in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel.

In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome.

The forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace,
Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and nine months having passed since his conception,
was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary.

Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Day 2009

December 25, 2009

All the preparations are over and Christmas arrives in just a few hours. Family and loved ones will gather for a meal and gift exchange. For many, Christmas can be a clash of two worlds. Images of a serenely intimate gathering of friends and loved ones fill the airways with tunes of bubbly carols while the television and print media conjure up idealized gatherings where comfort and joy fill the soul of every cheerful person. Yet, many will find these gatherings an ordeal to endure. The pain of family is real and few want to deal with the sting of bitter memories of Christmas past or fear of the potential explosion of emotions in Christmas present. While our faith and commercial messages make family visits on Christmas day a social obligation, we still have a tug in our reluctant hearts to avoid the potential for pain that these gatherings may bring. The best gatherings are those in which family members decide to enact clearly enforced boundaries for behavior, length of visit, and clear roles for participating in family customs. These expectations can salvage a gathering where others recklessly step over boundaries at will and cause undesirable conflict. Maneuvering well the power imbalance and family dynamics can help a person find the peace and joy that Christ brings to this world.

As we venture forth into our families, we can see the very reason why Christ was born for us. The turbulence of our family chaos is reason enough. We cannot save ourselves from ourselves. Only Christ can make sense of our family dysfunction. Our families reveal our neediness. We are a broken people who are made in the image of God’s glory. We do the things we do not want to do; we find loneliness and rejection in the places where we want and expect the most comfort and understanding; we let our true selves be revealed most clearly among the safety of our family and sometimes we do not like what we see. Yes, this is why Christ came for us – to be among us , especially in our brokenness.

John’s beautiful Gospel prologue is proclaimed today. While it is the most transcendent of the Gospel narratives, its words are plainly honest: God would come to be among us as a human and we will reject him. God desires so much to be with us that he will suffer and love just the way that we suffer and love. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race. It is in the face of Jesus that we will see God’s face. When we contemplate what God has done for us through Jesus, we begin to feel the grace upon grace that is available to every single one of us. Every time we gather with friends and family, we are reminded of how much we need the grace of God. We cannot save ourselves. Only God’s grace upon grace can make sense of the peculiarities of our world. The wonder of the season does not just belong to children; it belongs to us who deal with the beauty amidst the heartache of these gatherings. The wonder is in knowing that Christ has chosen to be born into our families and wants to come to our gatherings. It is here that he reveals to us God’s glory.

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Prayer: O Antiphon - ERO CRAS

If you take the last seven days of the O Antiphons and arrange them by taking the first letter of the messianic title in Latin, the letters will spell ERO CRAS, which translates to Tomorrow, I will come.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Prayer: St. Francis De Sales

Make yourself familiar with the angels, and behold them frequently in spirit; for without being seen, they are present with you.

Prayer: O Antiphon - O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, God-with-us, our king and lawgiver, the one whom the nations await and their savior: come to save us, O Lord our God

Prayer: Celtic Advent Blessing

Deep peace of the running wave to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you, forever.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Prayer: O Antiphon - O King of the Nations

O King of the Nations and their desire, the cornerstone that makes both one: come, and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Prayer: O Antiphon - O Radiant Dawn

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of light eternal and sun of justice: come, and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Prayer: O Antiphon - O Key of David

O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel, you open so that no one else can close again, you close so that no person can open: come, and lead the captive from prison, free those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 20, 2009

It breaks my heart when I encounter someone who has low self-esteem and hardly thinks that he or she matters much to others. Far too many people think that they are of no account in the grand schema of the world. Their self-worth is contained in the way that he or she carries oneself throughout the day or in one’s manner of speaking or the way that a person counts him or herself unworthy of doing something that is meaningful or enlivening. I am often moved to tell that person that he or she is a very significant person and has incredible worth to God and to someone else, but I know the person still has to discover it for oneself. I want this good soul who stands in front of me to feel God’s embrace. I’ll always err on speaking words of affirmation that he or she seldom hears.

I think of the two major characters in the reading today – Israel and Mary – and wonder how they must have felt. Israel, in the Book of Micah, is a small, insignificant area surrounded by most important and strong clans and nations. Micah announces that within her territory, the great King of Israel will be born – one who will unite all the people into the great kingdom of Israel. Likewise, Mary, a poor unwed, peasant girl, is asked to be the mother of this long-awaited Messiah. “How can this be since I have no relations with a man?” she asks. She hints around at her unworthiness.

We Jesuits do believe that God has a preferential love of the poor – in whatever form that poverty takes. We see how God blesses the lowly Mary and exalts her. We hear how she is blessed by Elizabeth as she visits her kinswoman. We understand that from the smallest, least significant of us, the revelation of God’s greatness can shine forth. Christmas is for us.

We receive into our lives the One who can re-create us and redeem us so that his grace will grow within us. He comes, primarily not for the wonder of little children, but for the grown up, mature understanding that we need him so that he can make meaning of the desperate chaos of our lives. Believe that he comes because he wants to be with you- every single one of you – even those who feel as if they are the least significant among us - and to delight in the joy of this union. Believe that he comes personally for you. Come and behold him. You will find him beholding you in an unforgettably warm, tender love.

Quote for the Week

Handel’s Messiah has encapsulated the joy of Christmas in “For unto us a child is born,” which is taken from Isaiah 9:1-6 that we hear at the midnight Mass.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.

For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for flames.

For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.

They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.

His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful,
from David’s throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
by judgment and justice,
both now and forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: As we make our final preparations for Christmas, we first hear the joyful song of desire in the Wisdom book, the Song of Songs. On the 22nd, we hear the comparison of Samuel’s birth to that of John the Baptist. The next day, we hear Malachi’s prophecy that a messenger has been sent to prepare the way and then we find ourselves situated in David’s tent as he laments that he has a comfortable dwelling while the Lord of Hosts needs a house in which to dwell. All the Old Testament readings point the way for the Lord to dwell among us.

Gospel: In Luke’s poetic infancy narrative we encounter Mary setting out to meet her kinswoman, Elizabeth, who is about to bear John, the forerunner of the Lord. Mary’s song of praise spontaneously leaps from her mouth when Elizabeth asks if she is with child. Elizabeth births John and the muted Zechariah is able to speak once again in order to name his son. Zechariah then sings his canticle about John that speaks of the dawn of a new age for Jerusalem and the faithful ones. The birth of the Lord will be met with great joy that will be contained within the hearts of many.

Saints of the Week

Sunday: O Clavis David, O Key of David…Break down the prison walls of death and lead your captive people into freedom.

Monday: O Oriens, O Radiant Dawn…Shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Peter Canisius, Doctor, worked as a Jesuit spiritual director in the Germanic nations during the Counter-Reformation. He developed catechisms in light of the Council of Trent.

Tuesday: O Rex Gentium, O King of all the nations…Come, and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

Wednesday: O Emmanuel, O God-with-us…Come, and save us, Lord our God.

John of Kanty was a polish priest who taught theology at Krakow University in the 15th century and was known for his simple lifestyle and devotion to those who were poor.

Thursday: ERO CRAS, The first letter of each O Antiphon read backwards forms the sentence, Tomorrow, I will come, signifying that Christ our Lord is born to us on Christmas Day. This eve is filled with a patient stillness as we await the birth of our Savior.

Friday: The Nativity of our Lord. The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ represents the victory of light over the darkness. In the Northern Hemisphere, sunlight begins to increase each day while the darkness decreases. This day marks the incarnation, the gift of God to us of his only Son who was to become the Messiah.

Saturday: Stephen, First Martyr, is one of the seven deacons named in the early church by the Twelve Apostles to minister to the Greek-speaking Jewish-Christians in Jerusalem. He was stoned by an angry mob and condemned to death by Saul of Tarsus, who later became known as Paul. Stephen is the first recorded martyr to the faith.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Dec 20, 1815. A ukase (proclamation of law by a Russian tsar) of Alexander I was published banishing the Society of Jesus from St Petersburg and Moscow on the pretext that they were troubling the Russian Church.
• Dec 21, 1577. In Rome, Fr. Juan de Polanco, secretary to the Society and very dear to Ignatius, died.
• Dec 22, 1649. At Cork, Fr. David Glawey, a missionary in the Inner and Lower Hebrides, Islay, Oronsay, Colonsay, and Arran, died.
• Dec 23, 1549. Francis Xavier was appointed provincial of the newly-erected Indian Province.
• Dec 24, 1587. Fr. Claude Matthe died at Ancona. He was a Frenchman of humble birth, highly esteemed by King Henry III and the Duke of Guise. He foretold that Fr. Acquaviva would be General and hold that office for a long period.
• Dec 25, 1545. Isabel Roser pronounced her vows as a Jesuit together with Lucrezia di Brandine and Francisca Cruyllas in the presence of Ignatius at the church of Sta. Maria della Strada in Rome.
• Dec 26, 1978. The assassination of Gerhard Pieper, a librarian, who was shot to death in Zimbabwe.

Christmas meditation

The church in the Office of Readings for Christmas Eve asks us to ponder the little, tiny child who was born for us to live among us. These lyrics were composed in 1865 by William Chatterton Dix.

What child is this, who lays to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.

The following Scripture passage is from 1 John 1-3 that we pray in Evening Prayer II on Christmas Day.

This is what we proclaim to you:
what was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have looked upon
and our hands have touched – we speak of the word of life.

This life became visible;
We have seen and bear witness to it,
and we proclaim to you the eternal life
that was present to the Father
and became visible to us.

What we have seen and heard
we proclaim in turn to you
so that you may share life with us.
The fellowship of ours is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

Happy Christmas to you! And Blessings to all!

Prayer: O Antiphon - O Root of Jesse

O Root of Jesse, you stand as a signal for the people; before you kings shall fall silent and to you the nations shall make their prayer: come to deliver us, and do not delay.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Prayer: O Antiphon - O Lord

O Lord and leader of the house of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: come, and redeem us with out-stretched arm.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Song: O Nata Lux

O nata lux de lumine,
Jesu redemptor saeculi,
dignare clemens supplicum
laudes preces que sumere.

Qui carne quondam contegi
dignatus es pro perditis.
Nos membra confer effici
tui beati corporis.


O light born of light,
Jesus, Redeemer of the ages,
deign in mercy to accept
the offering of praise and prayers.

Who once to be clad in flesh
deigned for the lost
grant that we may be made
members of thy blessed body

Song: Cancion: Corramos a Belen

Corramos a Belen
Que Las Doce y a son
En un pobre portal
Nacio el Ninos Dios

Corramos a Belen,
A ver al nino Dios
Llevando regalitos
a Maria y a Jose

Ding, Dong, Dang
Ding, Dong, Dang
Las campanas dan
son las doce del la noche
en la torre parroquial

Ding, Dong, Dang
Ding, Dong, Dang
Las campanas dan
Ha nacido un chiquitico
en los valles de Juda

Prayer: O Antiphon - O Wisdom

O Wisdom, you came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come, and teach us the way of prudence.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Spirituality: What is Spiritual Direction?

A spiritual director is an experienced guide with whom you can talk about your experience of God, both in prayer and in the rest of your daily life. It is never easy to talk about what is most personal to us -- who and how we love, where we have struggled or been hurt in our lives, our deepest hopes, fears and dreams, our relationship with God -- but the results of such conversations are tremendous. With the help of your spiritual director, you will become more conscious of how truly active God is in your life and how you might better cooperate with God's gift of grace.

Anyone sincerely committed to praying regularly and willing to share that experience in confidence with another can profit from spiritual direction. Spiritual direction can be especially helpful for those embarking on a life of serious prayer for the first time and for those considering fundamental life decisions.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Song: The Twelve Days of Christmas

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" is a British carol that was sung by Catholics in England from 1558 until 1829 when they could not publicly practice their faith. This became a catechism song that contained hidden meanings.

The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus on the wood of the cross. The mother partridge feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings; one who is willing to sacrifice self for the life of others. Jesus is the person who is willing to die for all and by doing that becomes our savior.

Two Turtle Doves - the Old and New Testaments
Three French Hens - faith, hope, and love
Four Calling Birds - the evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
Five Golden Rings - the first five books of the Old Testament
Six Geese-a-laying - the six days of creation
Seven swans-a-swimming - the gifts of the Holy Spirit
Eight maids-a-milking - the beatitudes
Nine ladies dancing - the fruits of the Holy Spirit
Ten lords-a-leaping - the ten commandments
Eleven pipers piping - the faithful disciples (minus Judas)
Twelve drummers drumming - the basic points of the Apostles' Creed

Monday, December 14, 2009

Song: O Holy Night

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt His worth

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder beams a new and glorious morn

Fall on your knees
Oh, hear the angel voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine
O night, O night divine

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here came the wise men from the Orient land

The King of Kings lay in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger

Behold your King
Before the lowly bend
Behold your King
Before Him bend

Truly he taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus rise we
Let all within us praise His holy name
Christ is the Lord then ever, ever praise we
His pow'r and glory ever more proclaim
His pow'r and glory ever more proclaim

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Poem: There was a Time (Unknown)

There was a time when there was no time, when darkness reigned as kind, when a formless void was all that there was in the nothingness of eternity, when it was night.

But over the void and over the night Love watched. There was a time when time began. It began when Love spoke. Time began for light and life, for splendor and grandeur. Time began for seas and mountains, for flowers and birds. Time began for the valleys to ring with the songs of life, and for the wilderness to eacho with the wailing of the wind and the howling of animals. And over the earth, Love watched.

There was a time when time began to be recorded, a time when Love breathed and a new creature came to life. A new creature so special that it was in the image and likeness of Love of Love who is God. And so man was born and the dawn of a new day shone on the world. And over humans, Love watched.

But there came a time when the new day faded, a time when humans who were like God tried to be God, a time when the creature challenged the creator, a time when humans preferred death to life and darkness to light. And so the new day settled into twilight, and over darkness, Love watched.

There was a time of waiting in the darkness, a time when humans waited in the shadows and all creation groaned in sadness. There was waiting for Love to speak again - for Love to breathe again, and kings and nations and empires rose and faded in the shadows. And Love waited and watched.

Finally, there came a time when Love spoke again. A Word from eternity - a Word spoken to a girl who belonged to a people not known by the world Spoken to a girl who belonged to a family not known by her people, to a girl named Mary. And all creation waited in hushed silence for the girl's answer. And Mary spoke her Yes, and Love watched over Mary. And so there came a time when Love breathed again, when Love breathed new life into Mary's eyes, and a new day dawned for the world, a day when ight returned to darkness, when life returned to dispel death. And so a day came when Love became human - a mother bore a child. And Love watched over Love - a Father watched his Son.

And, lastly, there came a time when you and I become part of time. Now is the time that yu and I wait. Now we wait to celebrate what the world waited for. And as we wait to celebrate what was at one time, we become a part of that time, a time when a new dawn and a new dream and a new creation began for the human race. And as a part of time, Love waits and Love watches over us.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Gaudete (Third) Sunday of Advent

December 13, 2009

It seems that we can only rejoice once we have gone through much distress and hardship. The Israelites truly do rejoice when they believe Zephaniah’s words that God has forgiven their waywardness and that God has chosen to be in their midst. We often cannot comprehend the relief they feel until we immerse ourselves emotionally into the text. It is similar to having a life-sentence in prison pardoned for a crime for which you were unjustly accused, or removing a long-standing prejudicial law from the books that oppresses a people who are a minority. This pervading sense of gloom and doom will be defeated because you have been set free; not only that, God is singing and rejoicing because the right relationship has been restored.

In Luke’s Gospel, the crowds expectantly gather around John the Baptist to find out if he is the Messiah. His teaching prepares them for a further repentance, a more advanced turning towards God by offering simple acts of care for one’s neighbors, such as sharing food or clothing with a less fortunate neighbor. These acts will demonstrate the authenticity of one’s baptismal call because they are outward manifestations of the Spirit. John’s work is a preparation for a more genuine conversion that will further purify the believer. This baptism with fire will sift away every impediment in our lives that keep us separated from God’s delight. This refinement will bring about our joy.

During Advent and Christmas we wish peace and joy to many loved ones, but for the remainder of the year the word “joy” is seldom heard. Is it because it is seldom experienced? Is it a tip-toe happiness that exudes from the depths of our souls? Does it arise only after great suffering? We speak of the joy of the resurrection, but it is a sober joy because we first watched Jesus first go through his excruciating Passion. Note that in today’s readings the people also experienced much suffering before they could feel their joy. Joy seems to be a perduring emotion that is evoked from our good fortune of the prospect of possessing what we really want – God’s redeeming, consoling, abiding love for us. This is what we celebrate today for we know that our God is coming soon to be among us because of God’s great delight for us.

Quote for the Week

Paul’s Letter to the Philippians captures the spirit of Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday in which we can rejoice at the surprising ways that God comes to redeem us.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: Rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

Old Testament: Balaam, an oracle, is amazed when he sees the tribes of Israel surrounded by the presence of God and he prophesies that “a star shall advance from Jacob and a staff shall rise from Israel.” Zephaniah tells us that God has the power to change and purify the lips of people and in God’s justice, a righteous remnant shall remain – a people who live in right relations to the Lord. Isaiah declares the omnipotence of the Creator God who is the only God and all creation owes him homage. In Genesis, Jacob blesses his posterity and assures them that all his descendents shall receive the homage due them because of God’s favor. Jeremiah echoes the words of the many prophets before him who tells that a wise king shall govern justly and his name shall be called “The Lord our justice.” In Judges, the foretelling of a virgin birth is revealed by God to Zorah.

New Testament: Hardness of heart overtakes those who question Jesus about his authority. Jesus tells a parable about those who eventually say “yes” to his father’s will that surprisingly allows terrible sinners into the kingdom ahead of the righteous. Signs and wonders abound about the arrival of the Messiah who will fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy. Matthew presents the genealogy of Jesus to locate him squarely in the midst of salvation history – as the one who was foretold for centuries upon centuries. The Lukan nativity story reveals to us how God came to be with us – in the smallest, most vulnerable way possible, as a newborn human infant.

Saints of the Week

Monday: John of the Cross, Doctor, became a Carmelite and later, with Teresa of Avila, founded a new division of the Order called the Discalced (Without Shoes) Carmelites. His reforms were initially opposed by his community and he was imprisoned. It was there that he wrote The Dark Night of the Soul. He wrote other reflections including The Spiritual Canticles, The Living Flame of Love and The Ascent of Mount Carmel.

Thursday: O Sapientia, O Wisdom, O Holy Word of God…Come and teach us the way to salvation.

Friday: O Adonai, O Lord and Leader of the house of Israel…Stretch out your hand to set us free.

Saturday: O Radix Jesse, O Flower of Jesse’s stem…Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Dec 13, 1545. The opening of the Council of Trent to which Frs Laynez and Salmeron were sent as papal theologians and Fr Claude LeJay as theologian of Cardinal Otho Truchses.
• Dec 14, 1979. Riccardo Lombardi, founder of the Better World Movement, died.
• Dec 15, 1631. At Naples, during an earthquake and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the Jesuits worked to help all classes of people.
• Dec 16, 1544. Francis Xavier entered Cochin.
• Dec 17, 1588. At Paris, Fr Henry Walpole was ordained.
• Dec 18, 1594. At Florence, the apparition of St Ignatius to St Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi.
• Dec 19, 1593. At Rome, Fr Robert Bellarmine was appointed rector of the Roman College.

The Advent Candles

Four candles (three dark blue or deep purple and one rose candle) are lit during the Advent season to count the number of Sundays from the start of the liturgical year until the day of Christ’s birth. The rose signifies that we are hastening towards the Nativity and that there is a sense of joyful anticipation surrounding our waiting. We return to the dark blue/purple next week as we spend time in solemn silence to await the unfolding of this happy event.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Come: Advent Litany in honor of Mary

From Mary's sweet silence
Come, Word mutely spoken!

Pledge of our real life
Come, Bread yet unbroken!

Seed of Golden Wheat
In us be sown.

Fullness of true Light
Through us be known.

Secret held tenderly, Guarded with Love,
Cradled in purity, Child of the Dove.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Poem: The Stream and the Sapphire by Denise Levertov

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child - but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
She did not quail,
only asked

a simple, "How can it be?
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel's reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hiddden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power -
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.

Then to bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love -

but who was God.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Prayer: Intercessions for Healing

Prayers of Petition

For my own personal health and for strength in time of crisis
... Be near me, O Sacred Heart.

For continuing or renewed health for all those I love,
... Strengthen them in your mercy, Lord.

For all struggling with life-threatening illness,
... Be their source of comfort, O Good Shepherd.

For all weakened by age or infirmity,
... Strengthen both their limbs and their spirit, O God.

For all suffering from mental or nervous afflictions,
... Be their calming presence, Lord Jesus.

For all with disabling handicaps,
... Give them courage and patience, O Lord.

For all struggling with spiritual anxiety, depression or addiction,
... Shower them with your love and mercy, O God.

For all who feel alone, for the lonely, the marginalized, the homebound, the shunned, and those who feel on the edge of society,
... Let them feel your comforting presence.

For all close to death,
... Ease their pain and grant them your peace, O Sacred Heart

For doctors, nurses, hospice workers, and caregivers,
... Guide their healing actions and inspire their words and spirit, most Loving Lord.

For those among the living who need our prayers in a special way. Please announce their names now.
... Show them your consoling care.

For those who have died to this world and are born to eternal life: What names shall we remember?
... Bring them eternal peace in your heavenly kingdom.

And let us pray together our Prayer for Healing:

Sacred Heart of Jesus,
you invite all who are heavy burdened
to come to you and find rest.

Teach me to reach out to you in my need;
Teach me to lead others to your Sacred Heart;
Teach me with your compassion for others;
Teach me with your courage and love for all;
Teach me with your wisdom and grace;
Touch gently my life with your healing hand.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Poem: Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Song: At the Lighting of the Lamps

Gracious Lord, Creator of the golden light,
You establish the patterns of revolving time,
And as the sun now sets, the gloom of night advances in.
For all your faithful, Christ, restore the light.

You have arrayed your heavenly court
With all the countless stars, setting the moon there as a lamp,
Yet still have shown us how to seek
Those lights whose seeds spring out whenever stony flint is struck.

This was to teach mankind its hope,
That light bestowed on us when Christ came with his own flesh.
For as he said, he is that steadfast rock,
From which a fire sprang forth to all our race.

This tiny flame we nurse in lamps
Brimming with rich and fragrant oil,
Or on the dry timber or the torch, or on the rushlights we have made,
Steeped in wax pressed from the comb.

The flickering light grows strong, as the hollow earthware lamp
Yields up its richness to the thirsty wick,
As the pine branch drips its nourishing sap,
And the fire drinks the warmth of waxen tapers down.

Drop by drop in perfumed tears
The glowing liquid nectar falls.
It is by your own gifts, Father,
Our halls gleam now with dancing lights that strive to emulate departed day,
While conquered night withdraws in flight,
Rending her dark cloak as she goes.

Gracious Lord, Creator of the golden light,
You establish the patterns of revolving time,
And as the sun now sets, the gloom of night advances in.
For all your faithful, Christ, restore the light.

Adapted from Prudentius, 5th Century

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Prayer: Anglican Rite

Our eyes behold your grandeur, O God; our feet stand within the gates of your house. Prophets have sung of your mountain, where nations shall come to learn or your ways. From out of Zion your law hs gone forth; out of Jerusalem has proceeded your word. Confessing you to be our judge and redeeemer, we gather to give you honor and praise.

Lift us to the heights of your abode, that we may learn how to make peace here on earth. We hear of swords beaten into plowshares, yet all around lands and peoples are battered by destructive weapons. We know that our spears are not being turned into pruning hooks, but are poised to lash out at others. Turn our national obsession for security into deep concern for the safety and well-being of neighbors around the world. and grant that we may not only claim you as redeeemer but serve you as agents of peace.

As Advent dawns, lead us from this courtyard of praise into paths filled with promise. Brighten our way, and help us to step out boldly in your love. When we venture into places that are hostile or strange, steady our nerves by your Spirit of truth and power. Go with us as we share with others the Advent hope.

Fill us with eagerness that waits for the dawn, curiosity that is willing to explore all truth, and impatience with injustice that refuses to leave till tomorrow the tasks of liberation. Come, Prince of Peace, in whose name we pray.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Second Sunday of Advent

December 6, 2009

It is easy to linger in the mood of this week’s readings as the enveloping darkness overshadows our daily activities. We are in the darkest moments of the year. Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere withdraw into quiet confines of our homes and scurry off to bed earlier than usual as we mirror the hibernating world around us. We prepare for the ferocity of winter’s snow and cold as we settle into long slumbering days.

We hear Baruch, a disciple of Jeremiah, address the Israelites who are in the midst of despair and desolation because they are a people who have been humiliated through a forced exile. He calls upon them to throw off the pervading depression that attacks their national consciousness; in a distant but sure-approaching time, they will return triumphantly to Jerusalem accompanied by God’s mercy and justice. God will set aright the fractured relationship with the chosen people; Israel will be restored; a new beginning can commence. Baruch exhorts the people to look for the kernel of hope that is difficult to discern in the midst of such national and spiritual suffering.

In the Gospel, the ears of the Israelites are assaulted with a list of despicable imperialists who have brought them great suffering. During this oppressive reign, their attention is focused on another seed of hope: John, the son of Zechariah, the great Advent figure, is introduced as one who is proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. We are to prepare the way for God’s restoring action who will make straight the paths and lead the exiles back to their land with the due dignity and respect owed to them. They will walk with their heads held high because the Lord has taken mercy on them and has shown them compassion.

In both readings, the people suffer and their feelings of despair are not taken away, but they are asked to notice the signs that lead them back to real hope. Even then, the memory of their suffering remains, but it will not sting as badly because of the Lord’s graciousness to them. It is difficult, but good for us to remember that when we are in our darkest hour or in the throes of terrible suffering we have a God who will restore us. With that, we can endure the darkest day.

Quote for the Week

To honor Our Lady of Guadalupe and our Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters, I post the Hail Mary and a prayer to Our Lady in Spanish.

Ave María

Dios te salve, María. Llena eres de gracia: El Señor es contigo.
Bendita tú eres entre todas las mujeres. Y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre: Jesús.
Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores,
ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte. Amén.


Oh Purisima Virgen de Guadalupe. Alcanzame de tu divino Hijo el perdon de mis pecados, bendicion para mi trabajo, remedio a mis enfermedades y necesidades y todo lo que Tu creas conveniente pedir para mi y mi familia. Oh Santa Madre de Dios! No desprecies las suplicas que te dirigimos en nuestras necesidades, antes bien, libranos de todos los peligros. Oh Virgen llena de gloria y de bendicion! Por Cristo Nuestro Senor Asi sea.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

Isaiah speaks of his people’s longing to return from exile and to be vindicated by their God. Zion will be restored and only the righteous ones of God will travel the holy road. God questions Isaiah asking, who else is like me? God declares, “For I am the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth.” God hears the cries of the afflicted and needy and will answer their calls. Therefore, God will teach you what is for your own good and will lead you where you need to go.

In the Gospels, Jesus reveals God’s kingdom by showing how God cares for the neediest, in this case, the man in a stretcher who was lowered from the roof into the crowded room where Jesus was teaching so that he could be healed. We also hear Jesus’ invitation to all who are burdened by cares and hard work to come and rest with him, giving over all our needs to him. Many, however, reject Jesus’ teachings and actions; Jesus describes them as a flip-flopping, fickle generation.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Ambrose, Doctor, was acclaimed as bishop of Milan by the people even before he was baptized a Christian. He baptized Augustine and is one of the four original doctors of the church. He wrote many doctrinal treatises and combated the Arian heresy. A particular liturgical rite in the church in celebrated in the Milan diocese and is name the Ambrosian rite.

Tuesday: The Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary commemorates the purity of Mary. Scripture depicts Mary as the new Eve, stainless and devoid of sin. The mother of the Son of God would have been kept free from sin to free her for the great task of becoming the mother of Jesus.

Wednesday: Juan Diego, hermit, was canonized in 2002. The Blessed Virgin Mary asked Juan Diego, a native commoner, in 1533 to build a church at Guadalupe near Mexico City where she appeared to him.

Friday: Damasus, pope, was a Spanish pope who advocated that Rome was to be the center of the church instead of Constantinople. Jerome, who translated scripture into Latin and Greek, was Damasus’ secretary; Damasus declared Latin to be the official language of the church in the late 4th century.

Saturday: Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared four times to Juan Diego, who we celebrated on Wednesday, shortly after Spanish colonists conquered the Aztec peoples. Mary brought much consolation to the people as she appeared as a Mexican princess to him. She has long been associated with the poor and the powerless.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Dec. 6, 1618: In Naples, the Jesuits were blamed for proposing to the Viceroy that a solemn feast should be held in honor of the Immaculate Conception and that priests should make a public pledge to defend the doctrine. This was regarded as a novelty not to be encouraged.
• Dec. 7, 1649: Charles Garnier was martyred in Etarita, Canada, as a missionary to the Petun Indians, among whom he died during an Iroquois attack.
• Dec. 8, 1984: Walter Ciszek, prisoner in Russia from 1939 to 1963, died.
• Dec. 9, 1741: At Paris, Fr. Charles Poree died. He was a famous master of rhetoric. Nineteen of his pupils were admitted into the French Academy, including Voltaire, who, in spite of his impiety, always felt an affectionate regard for his old master.
• Dec 10, 1548. The general of the Dominicans wrote in defense of the Society of Jesus upon seeing it attacked in Spain by Melchior Cano and others.
• Dec 11, 1686. At Rome, Fr Charles de Noyelle, a Belgian, died as the 12th general of the Society.
• Dec 12, 1661. In the College of Clermont, Paris, Fr James Caret publicly defended the doctrine of papal infallibility, causing great excitement among the Gallicans and Jansenists.

St. Paul’s Prayer

In the second reading, Paul writes to the Philippians to encourage them along on their way to holiness in Christ Jesus:

Brothers and sisters: I pray always with joy in my very prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now….And this is my prayer for you: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory of praise of God.

May we pray for each other with the same joy this Advent, that together our love may increase and we may encourage each other to grow in a deeper prayer relationship with Jesus Christ.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Prayer: Jean Danilou

We live always in Advent. We are always waiting
for the messiah to come. The messiah has come,
but is not yet fully manifest. The messiah is not
fully manifest in each of our souls, not fully manifest
in humankind as a whole: that is to say, that just as
Christ was born according to the flesh in Bethlehem
of Judah, so must he be born according to the spirit
in each of our souls.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Life of St. Francis Xavier

Francis arrived in Goa in May 1542 after sailing from Lisbon in a tedious and dangerous journeyed. He must have been a pitiful sight, for the clothes he brought with him were much too warm for the hot climate in India and were in tatters and tar-stained from the trip.

One of the great evils of the city, as far as Francis was concerned, was religious ignorance. After mornings with the sick and afternoons with inmates, he would spend the cooler early evenings by going through the streets of the city ringing a bell and crying out, “Faithful Christians, friends of Jesus Christ, send your sons and daughters and your slaves, both men and women, to learn about the faith for the love of God” This unusual approach was successful and as many as 300 often gathered.

His goal was to get the people’s attention and confidence first by living among them, and truly living in their way. At the same time he was also living as nearly as possible in the way of Him whose story they were hearing for the first time. This was the Francis’ basic principle: he insisted on it, he wrote it, preached it, begged it and commanded it to all his fellow Jesuits all over the Indian seas and islands for all the 10 years of his stormy, exhausting and incomparably successful apostolate. One can only recall the words of the other great missionary, St Paul, “I have made myself all things to all [people] in order to save at least some of them.”

Memorial of St. Francis Xavier, Missionary

In our Loyola Hall chapel at Cheverus, one of the stained-glass windows shows Ignatius of Loyola pointing east to his companion, Francis Xavier. Ignatius just handed Xavier a crucifix with instructions to “Go, set everything ablaze” – Ite inflammate omnia. It was the last time that the two friends saw each other on this earth.

Francis was perhaps the greatest missionary since the time of Paul and the Apostles. Born in northern Spain (relatively close to Ignatius’ birthplace) in April 1506, Francis moved to France to study at the University of Paris where he met Ignatius in 1529 and joined his group of companions.

He sailed on this mission to India in 1541 and first preached to the pearlfishers before continuing his missionary ventures and baptizing the natives. Once Francis began a mission that became stabilized, he would continue to new lands to establish further missions. After setting up in India , he traveled to Malaya, then to the Moluccas, and next to Japan , where he was the first missionary to enter that country. He later heard about China and desperately wanted to go there, but he was detained off the coast of China as he was trying to arrange official passage to the mainland. It was at that time that he fell ill and died on December 3rd, 1552.

He was canonized in 1622 with Ignatius and in 1927 we has made patron of the missions. Francis was the first missionary to meet with success in establishing permanent Christian communities in the East.

Let us use this prayer today as we honor one of our great Jesuit founders:

God our Father, by the preaching of Francis Xavier you brought many nations to yourself. Give his zeal for the faith to all who believe in you, that your Church may rejoice in continued growth throughout the world Grant this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Prayer: Advent prayer from the Malabarese Rite

You are the brightness of the Father's glory,
the image of the one that begot you;
you appeared in our human flesh and
enlightened our soul by the light of your
life-giving gospel. We praise and worship and
glorify you at all times. With your sacred
wisdom make me wise, O Lord, and grant
that I may serve you by keeping your
vivifying and divine commandments,
entirely and always. Amen.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Poem: First Snow by Mary Oliver

The snow
began here
this morning and all day
continued, its white
rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
the meaning; such
an oracular fever! flowing
past windows, an energy it seemed
would never ebb, never settle
less than lovely! and only now,
deep into night,
it has finally ended.
The silence
is immense,
and the heavens still hold
a million candles; nowhere
the familiar things:
stars, the moon,
the darkness we expect
and nightly turn from. Trees
glitter like castles
of ribbons, the broad fileds
smolder with light, a passing
creekbed lies
heaped with shining hills;
and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain - not a single
answer has been found -
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one

Monday, November 30, 2009

Prayer: Roman Rite

Father in heaven,
the day draws near when the glory of your Son
will make radiant the night of the waiting world.
May the lure of greed not impede us from the joy
which moves the hearts of those who seek him.
May the darkness not blind us to the visions of wisdom
which fills the minds of those who find him.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Two Church Worldviews: The Classicist and the Historical-Minded

Our church today is mired in some complex issues and we notice that there are various ways of approaching these complicated moral issues. We each have an initial point of view or a starting point for our conscious understanding of the world. This forms the basis for our morality. Let us look at two predominant worldviews that often find themselves in opposition to each other.

The Classicist worldview

The Classicist worldview is one that was predominant in the pre-Vatican II theology and often comes to be associated with a theology of the Catholic hierarchy.

1. It sees the world as a finished product where the “good” is associated with “knowing.”
2. The intellect and reason is highly valued where the truth is eternal, universal and unchangeable. They are like Platonic ideals that are static and perfect are within the grasp of those few leaders who can understand such principles.
3. Therefore, their job is to teach others about what is right and wrong. Those who are able to access this truth sees the world comprised of natural, unchanging principles that remain valid forever.
4. Their language is replete with the words certitude and clarity, and for them, deductive logic is the key by which they approach the world’s problems.
5. God is transcendent, remote, inaccessible and largely unconcerned with the sufferings of the world. In this high theology and high Christology, God will sweep down into the world to save us and correct our behaviors.

However, when trying to apply this viewpoint within moral theology, we encounter some significant challenges. What happens when the truth is applied for one point in history, but does not fit another circumstance? Can truth be immutable?

6. We exist at a certain historical moment with distinct cultural challenges.
7. Also, it becomes difficult to apply the truth geographically and cultural for all times and places.
8. The Classicist view is concerned more for “what is known” rather than being concerned for the knower. The knower is irrelevant and impartiality is a virtue.
9. This worldview is not interested in compromising community standards for an individual’s understanding of a moral dilemma.

The Historical Mindedness worldview

The Historical Mindedness worldview represents a relatively recent shift in theology. It is characteristics of the reforms of Vatican II. It is represented by many of the believers who try to integrate their faith into the weighty matters of the day.

1. For them, the knower, the person, the subject is extremely important.
2. Moral theology is to be interpreted from within a specific context and audience.
3. The individual person is to be involved in the process of creating principles and guidelines to better understand the situation and the needs around him or her.
4. The knower is an essential part of the decision-making process, but criteria and competency are key values. Partiality becomes a critical value.

For a person with this historical-minded viewpoint, the world is constantly changing and we must investigate the particularity of a situation to gain better understanding. Truth can only be grasped at, but never attained, and it can be better understood through our judgments.

5. We learn more and change based upon the world around us. We are continuously emerging and becoming.
6. Therefore this group seeks to listen and ask questions.
7. We therefore become suspicious of clarity. Inductive logic is the preferred methodology for analyzing problems.
8. This is a church that is always seeking, always striving, to know more, but realizes that we cannot know perfectly or absolutely.
9. God is imminent, near, accessible and intimately concerned with the sufferings of the world. In this low theology and low Christology, God has always been present in the world and stands with us in solidarity – urging us forward to become all that God has created us to be.

The Church as a combination of both

Over the years, the Church has become more historically-minded about many issues, but it lags behind when dealing with moral social teaching. No one can be strictly one way or the other and we need both viewpoints to obtain a fuller picture. It becomes a matter of degree, not of kind. You can see that these viewpoints often will run in parallel and will seldom meet on a certain issue. Therefore, neither side is filled with good or bad people, but merely that our starting points of moral theology are different. Both are valid, good and necessary, but somehow we have to move closer together to help each other understand the ways in which we approach our moral dilemmas.

Examine the social issues of our day with this context and you may be able to see how one side or the other arrives at their judgments.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

First Sunday of Advent

November 29, 2009

Happy New Year! We might expect joyful, celebratory readings on this first day of the new liturgical year; instead we get a sliver of hope in the midst of great tension. Jeremiah is speaking to a distraught people in Israel and Judah who will face such severe calamities that even their beloved Jerusalem, their sure stronghold, is threatened to be laid to waste. Luke’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that all the signs around them will be confusing and difficult to understand. Such high levels of disorder will abound that some will die of anxiety and all of us, even the most assured ones among us, will be assaulted of the Day of the Lord.

Are today’s times confusing enough for you? Our world offers overwhelming challenges to us as competing philosophies of life tempt us in al sort of directions. Even the surety of our Catholic faith is gone and we sometimes feel that part of our church is at times adrift without a rudder. Politicians are publicly opening a dialogue with bishops over positions in health care reform; educated, reflective Catholics hold dissenting opinions with their bishops over same-sex marriages; the fight between pro-life and pro-choice believers takes such hard-line stances that dialogue is no longer possible; the closing or merging of parishes leave people feeling rootless. Some in the church would rather have those who disagree with them outright leave. Reading the signs of the times with certitude is nearly impossible today.

Within these complicated social positions, many in the church are no longer able to be hospitable to one another, or to show a caring mercy, or a patient solidarity that tries to be enriched by the other through true listening that leads to understanding. We would be at ease if we only examined our tradition and returned to fundamental Christian values. Gone are the days when Christians were once known as a curious people for their remarkable hospitality because they would show mercy to anyone who called upon the name of the Lord. A Roman official once remarked to a church father, “See how much they love one another.”

Under all this mess is Jeremiah’s prophecy that God will raise up a shoot that new life from the house of David and that this Messiah will rule the world with God’s merciful justice. Jesus assures us that in the midst of the swirling chaos, you will be able to detect his still voice; therefore you must pray constantly to know his voice so that you recognize him when you stand before him on that final day. If we read between the lines, God is steadfast and faithful to us and is always present for us. God has come, is coming, and will always come for us. Let us watch our hope in God grow this year.

Quote for the Week

The beginning of Advent is not complete without our singing “O Come , O Come, Emmanuel,” so I am listing out the first stanza of the lyrics below.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

In this new year, we quickly turn to the Advent prophet Isaiah as he speaks his prophecy about the peaceable kingdom and the advent of the Messiah. On the Lord’s mountain, God will wipe away our tears and God will somehow manage to save us. A song will break out in the land of Judah and all will serve the Lord forever because of his goodness to us. The dawning of this new Kingdom of heaven will set all believers in awe and wonder. The people will realize just how much God suffers with them and desires to lead them to freedom.

In the Gospels, Luke reminds us that God will give grace and understanding to the simple ones who trust in him. Then Matthew shows how Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy by showing that the lame walk and the blind see. Signs and wonders point to Jesus’ life and ministry ushering in God’s peaceable kingdom. The one who listens to Jesus’ words and accepts them can gain entrance into this new family. The blind men illustrate their coming to sight as entrance into this new realm. Jesus then sends out his disciples to the lost sheep of Israel to tell them about this new reality.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Andrew, apostle, was a fisherman like his brother Simon Peter. Andrew was one of the first two apostles called by Jesus in John’s Gospel. He may have preached in Greece, but he is better known for the cross of St. Andrew that represents Scotland on the flag of the United Kingdom.

Thursday: Francis Xavier, priest, was one of the seven founding Jesuits who was sent to the Indies and Japan as a missionary by Ignatius of Loyola. He converted and baptized hundreds of thousands to the faith and established foreign missions. He is venerated across the world and is one of the best known Jesuits.

Friday: John of Damascus, doctor, is a doctor of the church for his writings that summarized the early doctrinal positions of Christian theology. He is the last of the Greek Fathers of the Church.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Nov 29, 1773: The Jesuits of White Russia requested the Empress Catherine to allow the Letter of Suppression to be published, as it had been all over Europe. She bade them lay aside their scruples, promising to obtain the Papal sanction for their remaining in status quo.
• Nov 30, 1642: The birth of Br Andrea Pozzo at Trent, who was called to Rome in 1681 to paint the flat ceiling of the church of San Ignazio so that it would look as though there were a dome above. There had been a plan for a dome but there was not money to build it. His work is still on view.
• Dec. 1, 1581: At Tyburn in London, Edmund Campion and Alexander Briant were martyred.
• Dec. 2, 1552: On the island of Sancian off the coast of China, Francis Xavier died.
• Dec. 3, 1563: At the Council of Trent, the Institute of the Society was approved.
• Dec. 4, 1870: The Roman College, appropriated by the Piedmontese government, was reopened as a Lyceum. The monogram of the Society over the main entrance was effaced.
• Dec. 5, 1584: By his bull Omnipotentis Dei, Pope Gregory XIII gave the title of Primaria to Our Lady's Sodality established in the Roman College in 1564, and empowered it to aggregate other similar sodalities.

An Advent Prayer

All-powerful God, our hearts desire the warmth of your love and our minds are searching for the light of your Word. Increase our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light that he brings to the dark areas of our world. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Spirituality: Discerning an Ignatian Way of Life

Ignatian spirituality centers on the imitation of Jesus – focusing on those priorities which constitute Christ's mind, heart, values, priorities and loves. What are those values, priorities and loves? Ignatius would encourage us to consider what Jesus said and did. At the foundation of Jesus' life was prayer, a continuous search for how best to live as an authentic human being before a loving God. Jesus preached forgiveness of sins, healed the sick and possessed, and gave hope to the poor, to those socially and economically outcast. Jesus spoke of joy, peace, justice and love; he summoned men and women from all classes of society to continue to follow his way to God and his commitment to helping people become whole and holy.

Jesuits and their companions attempt to incorporate these same gospel values into all its works. Jesuits stress the need to take time to reflect and to pray, in order to find out how God wants us to serve in all our ministries. This active commitment to seeking God's leadership is called discernment . The overriding characteristic Jesuits see in Jesus is loving obedience, an open-hearted desire to find and to pursue how God wants other men and women to be forgiven, to be free, to utilize all their talents and opportunities in ways which build up this world as a place where faith, justice, peace and love can flourish. This kind of spirituality is incarnational. It views the world as a place where Christ walked, talked and embraced people. It views the world, therefore, as a place of grace, a place of being able to give life to others.

At the same time, Ignatian spirituality is realistic. The world Christ faced was also a world of cruelty, injustice and the abuse of power and authority. Consequently, Ignatian spirituality affirms our human potential but also is dedicated to the ongoing, day-in-day-out struggle between good and evil. No one apostolic work exhausts how good can be done; therefore, Jesuits do all kinds of work. The Jesuit norm is to find where God will best be served and where people will best be helped.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Prayer: St. Francis of Assisi

Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received... but only what you have given: a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Spirituality: Ignatius and his Spiritual Exercises

Ignatius of Loyola began his spiritual journey as a wounded soldier convalescing after the battle of Pamplona in 1621. He received mystical illuminations during his months of prayer in the cave at Manresa just north of Barcelona. During these months, Ignatius noticed how God led him to pay attention to the diverse "voices" inside of him -- to the movements of consolation and desolation in his heart and spirit. Furthermore, he gradually learned to discern the sources of these desires, thoughts and movements of the heart and spirit: which of them came from God and which of them drew him away from God -- and, perhaps most importantly, which of them he should act upon. Throughout this time, Ignatius learned how important it is to look for God in the stuff of his everyday experience; he learned that God was shaping and forming him to be a companion of Jesus.

The fruit of these months of prayer and reflection is contained in his Spiritual Exercises. If there is any genius to the Society of Jesus, it lies in this little treatise on prayer written over 450 years ago. The method of prayer outlined in this book helps each Jesuit to follow Jesus and seek God's will in any circumstances, from the most mundane day of teaching, administrating or writing, to a particularly trying experience of walking with people experiencing grave suffering or social injustice.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Prayer: The Life-Light

The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
in readiness for God from day one.

Everything was created through him;
nothing - not one thing! -
came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn't put it out.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Prayer: Psalm 23 - adapted by Nan Merrill

O my Beloved, you are my shepherd,
I shall not want;
You bring me to green pastures for rest
and lead me beside still waters
renewing my spirit,
You restore my soul.
You lead me in the path of goodness
to follow Love's way.

Even though I walk through the valley
of the shadow and of death,
I am not afraid;
for you are with me forever;
your rod and your staff they guide me,
they give me strength and comfort.

You prepare a table before me
in teh presence of all my fears;
you bless me with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the heart of the Beloved

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Feast of Christ the King - Last Sunday (34th) of Liturgical Year

November 22, 2009

The opening prayer for the Solemnity of Christ the King contains the following beautiful words: “Open our hearts, free the entire world to rejoice in his peace, to glory in his justice, to live in his love. Bring all together in Jesus Christ.” These words convey to us that today’s feast is not about a harsh judgment condemning our world and our tendency to sin, but that it is about a call from the Eternal King who has an overarching desire to bring all to himself in the merciful love of God. It is a day of great and tender rejoicing because the one who creates us, loves us, redeems us and sustains us promises to call us home to himself. We belong to God who cares for us like the perfect parent cares for one’s child. Our God, who loves us with such a longing, will provide us with the most intimate embrace that we could ever imagine. In this last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Compassionate One will gather us all together to remain with him for eternity.

The reading from the apocalyptic Book of Daniel points to a mysterious person, a son of Man, who receives absolute, yet divine authority from the Ancient One. His authority is to govern the entire world with a vision that transcends time and place. The Evangelist, John, portrays Jesus as a King whose authority is not from this world, but has jurisdiction over this world, but not in the manner of earthly kings. Sadly, in John’s Gospel, the king of the universe is not to be immediately recognized by the world’s standards and is fated to suffer death at the hands of those who cannot grasp this transcendent reality.

Ironically, this feast was instituted in 1925 to convey to the secular world that Christ is the ultimate king. At that time, the church as it was facing pressures in the modern culture took a stand over and against the forces of the world rather than inserting itself into the dialogues of the day. However, our prayers and readings for the day remind us that God created the world and has placed Christ as the merciful king over it and the universe. The world is good and is redeemed by the Christ event. Christ does not stand over and against the world, but can be found in every aspect of the world. May he rejoice in the extensive amount of goodness that he finds.

Quote for the Week

The first reading for the Thanksgiving Day Mass is taken from the Book of Sirach and is a thoughtful prayer of gratitude to God for the many blessings bestowed upon us.

“And now, bless the God of all, who has done wondrous things on earth; who fosters people’s growth from their mother’s womb, and fashions them according to his will! May God grant you joy of heart and may peace abide among you; May God’s goodness toward us endure in Israel to deliver us in our days.” Sirach 50:22-24

Themes for this Week’s Masses

The church turns to the apocalyptic literature of Daniel during this last week of the year and it highlights the testing of Daniel and his three Judean colleagues who withstood the favor and testing of the Chaldean king. These four men resisted defilement by eating the foods of Gentiles, but the king still found them to be among the worthiest in his court. With his visions, Daniel interpreted the king’s dream – his kingdom would fall and the kingdom of heaven will be firm and will last forever. Daniel tells his vision to Nebuchadnezzar’s son, King Belshazzar, further stating that the Chaldean kingdom will collapse and be divided among their enemies. A further vision tells of the Ancient One, a son of man, who will come to rule the world as all the terrifying beasts and powers of this world will pay homage to the Ancient One.

As Jesus’ journey in Luke concludes, we hear again about the poor widow who drops in two small coins into the Temple treasury as a sign of her charity and fidelity to her faith. Jesus then instructs his disciples to figure out how to read the signs of the times and to be attentive to his voice and also to be aware that one’s fidelity to the word of God will bring about persecution and death. He tells us the kingdom of God is near, but while much passes away in this transitory life, his words will endure. Be vigilant and cherish his words.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Pope Clement I, martyr, was the fourth pope of the church. He navigated through some disorder in the church at Corinth when some elder priests revolted and were deposed. Columban, abbot, was an Irish monk who became a missionary to France to establish monasteries. He opposed the King’s polygamy in 610 and was expelled. He continued his work in Switzerland and Italy. Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, S.J. priest and martyr, is also remembered for his witness in Mexico as an undercover priest because public worship was forbidden (1926.) He administered the sacraments, presided at Mass, and served the poor. As he was being executed without benefit of a trial, he shouted out, Viva Cristo Rey! (Long Live Christ the King!)

Tuesday: Andrew Dung-Lac, priest, was martyred with his companions in Vietnam in 1839. Over 130,000 Christians, mostly native-born, were killed in Vietnam from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Wednesday: Catherine of Alexandria, martyr, is remembered for her conversion to Christianity because of a vision. She refused to marry a man that the Emperor arranged for her and she condemned the Emperor’s persecution of Christians. For that she lost her life.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Nov 22, 1633. The first band of missionaries consisting of five priests and one brother embarked from England for Maryland. They were sent at the request of Lord Baltimore. The best known among them was Fr Andrew White.
• Nov 22, 1791: Georgetown Academy opened with one student, aged 12, who was the first student taught by the Jesuits in the United States.
• Nov 23, 1545: Jeronimo de Nadal, whom Ignatius had known as a student at Paris, entered the Society. Later Nadal was instrumental in getting Ignatius to narrate his autobiography.
• Nov 23, 1927: Fr Michael Augustine Pro, SJ was executed by leaders of the persecution of the Church in Mexico.
• Nov 24, 1963: John LaFarge, a pioneer advocate of racial justice in the United States, died.
• Nov 25, 1584: The Church of the Gesu, built in Rome for the Society by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, was solemnly consecrated.
• Nov 26, 1678: In London, Claude la Colombiere was arrested and imprisoned. He was released after five weeks and banished.
• Nov 27, 1680: In Rome the death of Fr Athanasius Kircher, considered a universal genius, but especially knowledgeable in science and archeology.
• Nov 28, 1759: Twenty Fathers and 192 Scholastics set sail from the Tagus for exile. Two were to die on the voyage to Genoa and Civita Vecchia.

A Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Creator Lord, all-powerful giver of life, your gifts of love are countless and your goodness infinite. On Thanksgiving Day we come before you with gratitude for your kindness: open our hearts to concern for our fellow brothers and sisters in need, - the marginalized, neglected, forgotten, and the very least in our society, especially those who hunger and thirst for real food and drink - so that we may share your gifts in loving service. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Notable Book

Three Cups of Tea is a very good story about a young man named Greg Mortensen who, after a failed mountain expedition in Central Asia, recognizes the need for education, especially of girls in Afghanistan and Asia. He devotes his life’s work toward the building up of these schools and as a result begins to build a road to peace. Ignorance is the great enemy of peace. I recommend this book because it is a good story, yet I find, because of the writing style, it is a sluggish read.

A Serious Movie

Billed as a comedy, A Serious Man, does not send you out of the movie theatres laughing – or even in a good mood. It does drive you to your Bible to re-read the Book of Job because it is a contemporary adaptation of the ancient book that is set in the 1960s. It is a story of a middle-age man whose life is going rather well until the ancient curse heaped upon his forebears comes back to take away all that is meaningful to him. It is a worthwhile film to view, but it evokes more pondering than it does laughter.

End-of-Year Catechesis

Check out earlier posts on this blog that tell of our Christian belief about the communion of saints, the end times, the resurrection of the body, and of last things.

Also, stay tuned this week for a definition of two competing theological viewpoint in the church: the Classicist and the Historical-Mindedness approaches. Fortunately, the church is large enough to encompass these points of reference with ease. It helps to understand the various methodologies of our faith that we find in the contemporary church.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Spirituality: What is Spiritulality?

Spirituality is hard to define. It has to do with the "style" or the "spirit" of our life -- with the way in which we live out our faith in God: our way of being religious. Richard McBrien has written:

To be "spiritual" means to know, and to live according to the knowledge, that there is more to life than meets the eye. To be "spiritual" means, beyond that, to know, and to live according to the knowledge, that God is present to us in grace as the principle of personal, interpersonal, social and even cosmic transformation. To be "open to the Spirit" is to accept explicitly who we are and who we are called always to become, and to direct our lives accordingly.

[ Catholicism , Winston Press: Minneapolis, Minn. 1980. 1057.]

Each of the great religious families in the Church, like the Benedictines, Franciscans and Dominicans, has a distinctive way of following the Risen Christ and responding to the Holy Spirit. The best way to come to know Jesuit spirituality is to incorporate some of its principles and prayer into your daily life and to talk with Jesuits and other people who live by the spirituality of St. Ignatius. Developing some habits of regular prayer and reflection will give you a feel for the Ignatian way of following Jesus.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Heaven, Hell and Our Bodies (4 of 4)

In my last post, I talked about the individual judgment and the universal judgment that will occur in the end times. This Sunday, November 23rd, we face the end times of our Christian year with the celebration of Christ the King.

The Resurrection of the Body

As we believe that Christ will come again, we also profess that the dead will be resurrected on that day when Christ draws all to himself. Associated with that resurrection is the resurrection of the body in which each person will be completely human, both body and soul, for all eternity. How will this happen? Who really knows, but St. Paul in his 1st letter to the Corinthians writes about our spiritual bodies being raised. Material creation will also be transformed and God will provide for us an environment in which our resurrected, glorified bodies would thrive for all eternity.

What is heaven?

We always think about heaven as a place high above the earth with pure white and fluffy clouds, but heaven is more of a state than a place. It is the state of eternal life in union with God and with those who share in his life. Heaven in the perfect fulfillment of our life – we will finally be completely what God intends us to be - and we shall come to know God directly. Our response undoubtedly will only be one of happiness.

In heaven, we will retain our individuality, but the transforming love of Christ will mold us into totally unselfish images of the Father. Those virtues and characteristics that we strive for on earth – peace, love, truth, wisdom, goodness, beauty, justice, companionship and understanding – will be fulfilled.

So, then what is purgatory?

Purgatory essential means a state purification or cleansing. We are to be free from all of our sins before we enter into heaven. That is why the church administers the viaticum – formerly the last rites – so that we can confess our sins before we meet our maker.

While we have scant references to purgatory in scripture, we read about our need to pray for the dead so that they may be released from their sin. The prayers of the living, especially at the Eucharist where we offer Masses for the repose of a person’s soul, help those who are in purgatory.

A person may enter purgatory due to the nature of the sins committed, or for one’s hesitation in totally opening one’s heart to God, or for our unwillingness to love God perfectly. During the Beatific vision when we encounter God face to face, our sinful infidelities may burn within us as we recognize the ways we failed to love God, but God’s gaze eventually penetrates and melts away our imperfections so that our hearts can totally accept the eternal union that God offers us.

And what about hell?

Hell is eternal separation from God. A person who has died and has turned away from God’s love is turned inward to one’s own self – eternally – cutting oneself off from other relationships. A person experiences a sense of loss and a suffering of the senses. All people exercise free choice to accept or turn away from God. It has to be this way for God to respect our free will.

Who is in hell? Who knows? God’s merciful judgment is essentially for us, but we know that it is possible for a person to definitively reject God, but I wonder if any person could actually do that.

Be assured. A person who fundamentally loves God will act out of one’s love so we don’t need to unnecessarily fear hell. Our actions shape our selves and our future destiny by each of our actions. We always have to remember that God loved us so much that he sent Jesus into the world to save us from ourselves so that we may have eternal life. That is indeed the best good news that I have ever heard.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Prayer: Total Surrender by Mother Teresa

However beautiful the work is,
be detached from it,
even ready to give it up.
You may be doing great good in one place,
but obedience calls you elsewhere.
Be ready to leave. The work is not yours.
You are working for Jesus.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prayer: Ignatius' Letter to Students in Coimbra

May 7, 1547 from Rome

To recapitulate in a few words, my message is this. Consider well how great your obligation is to take up position in order to further the honor of Jesus Christ, and to help in the salvation of the people around you. See how imperative it is to make yourselves ready, with all possible effort and exertion, so that you become instruments of divine grace suitable for this purpose, especially since these days there are so few workers of whom it can truly be said, "They seek not your own interests, but those of Jesus Christ." Since God fashions for you in this calling and with these resolves so special a grace, you must make all the more effort..."

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Last Things - God's Judgment (3 of 4)

In my last post, I wrote about the Last Things (eschatology) of creation because we are in the last days of our Christian year that ends with the Feast of Christ the King on November 23rd. We believe that this temporal world is transitory, but that there is the promise of eternal life with our Creator God. Therefore, as Christians, we live in a “now and not yet” reality. We are citizens of two worlds and must pay respects to both planes of existence. But if there is a next world, what makes us think that we will get there? We do not want to arrogantly presume we will be admitted into the eternal kingdom. First we have to pass the Judgment that is offered to us on our last day of personal existence.

In the Old Testament, judgment by God has always been metered out in a positive sense, such as Yahweh (God) judged (delivered) King David from his enemies. In the New Testament, God has already judged the world (he redeemed it and found it good) and yet God’s kingdom is not fully established so we await the judgment at the end time. One’s personal ‘day of judgment’ refers to a person’s fundamental, permanent decision to accept Jesus Christ or to reject him. Therefore, if we want to accept him at our moment of death, we ought to use our time now to get to know him and let him know us. Finally, there will be a final judgment when there is the ultimate victory over evil. We profess in our creed that Jesus shall come again to judge the living and the dead.

Our Individual Judgment

Scripture tells us that one part of the judgment happens now. If we fundamentally choose Jesus, we are to live immediately in response to God’s laws and will and help to take care of our neighbor’s needs. Each choice we make is a decision for or against God.

We will appear immediately before God after death. Our earthly trial will be over. One of three things can happen:

a. We die in God’s friendship, have no need of further purification, and enter into heaven.
b. We die in God’s friendship, still need purification, and enter heaven when our purgatory is complete.
c. We die in the state of mortal sin – completely cut off from God’s grace. We enter hell.

We will see ourselves as we truly are. We will see our life as God sees it. Do I make a loving response to the God I have come to know during my earthly life or do I self-centeredly turn away from God’s love?

As Jesus has revealed to us, God is not vindictive and God is fundamentally rendering his positive judgment for us, not against us.

The Judgment at the End of Time

A general judgment will be made when Christ, the Son of Man, comes in his glory to gather all the nations to himself and to separate the sheep from the goats. The heavenly community will be established at this time and everyone will be able to plainly see God’s entire saving plan.

Jesus, as we know, will serve as judge. And what do we know of Jesus? He was good, practiced restorative justice, was merciful and compassionate, and granted us his peace. The question that will be asked us comes from Matthew 25: “Did we love God with our whole heart and our neighbor as ourselves?

So what is the Second Coming of Christ?

When Christ ascended into the heaven, he entrusted the task of spreading the kingdom that he established on earth to us – the people of God. With his Spirit to help us, we are to continue his work of social justice, forgiving sins, bringing about peace, and establishing the dignity of every person so that we can stand together as one human community.

Though the kingdom is already present, we still have to work against the forces that oppose God’s kingdom. We have to be “with others” before we can be “for others.” The work of establishing the kingdom is ongoing and we look forward to the day when the work of Christ will be complete and he will return, gather all of creation together, and consecrate it in offering to the Creator Father.

When will this happen?

Who knows? Only God knows. Christians look forward to this day when we will joyously encounter the Lord again. This is one reason why it is prudent for us to spend time in our lives to come to know the Lord and develop a friendship with him. Everyone who has ever lived with recognize Jesus as Lord of all.

Next up: A brief word on the resurrection of the body, heaven, purgatory and hell.