Daily Email

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

“God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living” (Wisdom 1:13.) These are strong words to hear today as we begin Mass because we know of the immense stranglehold that the power of death and suffering has on our world. Even in light of God’s goodness, we struggle to understand the nature of evil and the weightiness of suffering and we find no easy answers. We are told that by the devil’s envy, death entered the world to thwart God’s plan for humanity’s undying justice and imperishability.

Mark’s Gospel shows us deep suffering of two individuals – Jairus, a synagogue official, and an unnamed woman who is of no account to society. Jairus is distraught because his twelve-year old daughter is alarmingly near death. He recognizes the healing power of the compassionate Jesus. The woman, who for twelve long years has had no one to intercede for her, wants the same intervention – that merely touching the cloak of Jesus will heal her affliction. Once more, blood will flow freely and correctly for these two females. The number twelve is an important symbol in biblical Israel, and it also shows the longstanding torment and the desperation of those who suffer.

In the end, Jesus displays remarkable power. He makes the blind see, the lame walk, quiets the storms, casts out demons, and today he shows that he can heal the most severe suffering and raise the dead. His power attests to his identity as one sent by God. Faith is the ingredient that makes Jesus’ healings possible. Jairus’ faith leads him to take drastic steps to place his trust in Jesus; the forgotten woman who exhausted all her resources takes one last desperation shot by placing her trust in this healing rabbi. Jesus points out that, in a small way, they are participating in his future Passion where faith if of ultimate necessity. The faith of Jesus saves us. It is important for us to place our trust in Christ who, through his compassion, wants to heal and save us from suffering and death.

Quote for the Week

During the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the following passage from Second Timothy is used during the second reading.

“I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance. The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.”

Themes for this Week’s Masses

The Old Testament passages covenant’s continuation in the descendants of Abraham. We hear Abraham’s plea to God to spare the inhabitants of the doomed, wicked city of Sodom, most notably the innocent ones. He fails to persuade God, but his efforts do spare his nephew Lot, though Lot’s wife is turned into a pillar of salt. We then see Abraham in an awful predicament as he is asked to sacrifice his natural-born son, Isaac. He is ready to carry out the sacrifice when God intervenes by sending a ram to be slaughtered instead. As Isaac grows, he marries Rebekah and is blessed to beget Jacob. The covenant will continue, but we see the tenuousness of our salvation history.

Matthew’s Gospel continues with scenes of Jesus’ compassion through calming the storm waters and rescuing his friends, healing a paralytic, and calling Matthew into a radically new discipleship.

Saints of the Week

Monday is the great feast of Saints Peter and Paul - two major apostles martyred in Rome. Simon was renamed Peter by Jesus to indicate that it would be upon his shoulders that the church would be built, thus becoming known as the leader of the apostles. Paul, an educated Roman citizen and a zealous Jewish Pharisee, became the apostle to the Gentiles. The efforts of both of these men were instrumental is allowing Christianity to take root in the Mediterranean world, settling some challenging issues that confronted the fledgling communities of faith, and for securing unity among the faithful. Like Peter and Paul, many other martyrs testified to the faith. On Tuesday, the First Holy Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church is celebrated to remember the countless numbers of Christians who were killed during the reign of Emperor Nero. Nero falsely assigned blamed and persecuted the Christians after a devastating fire broke out in Rome.

On Wednesday, the Franciscan Blessed Junipero Serra is remembered for this missionary efforts to Mexico and California, most notably in founding the missions of San Diego, Santa Clara, and San Francisco. Three Jesuits are memorialized on Thursday, Bernadino Realino, John Francis Regis, and Francis Jerome for their preaching skills that drew many to the faith. Regis College in Denver, Colorado is named after John Regis. Thomas the Apostle is honored on Friday as the Apostle of India. He is known as the Twin and as the doubting one who exclaimed “My Lord and My God” after meeting the Risen Christ’s wounds with the other ten disciples in the locked room. On Saturday, Elizabeth (Isabella) of Portugal is celebrated for her peacemaking efforts in her noble family. She gave up her wealth and privilege to join the Poor Clares after her husband’s death.

Meeting of the Middle Generation Jesuits

Two hundred Jesuits between the ages of 40 and 60 gathered at Santa Clara University in California this past week at the “Keepers of the Flame” conference that arose from the spirit of the recent 35th General Congregation. We reflected on our identity as disciples of Christ in the footsteps of Ignatius of Loyola and his companions. We examined how we are living the apostolic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience along with our availability for mission. Finally, we shared our hopes for the newly aligned province configurations that will occur during the next decade. Mostly we gave thanks to God for our distinct and common vocations as Companions of the Lord.

Interesting Reading

I just read Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris, author of The Cloister Walk and Dakota. Norris brings back into our consciousness the concept of acedia, which can be likened to a spiritual sloth that brings about the inability to care. This is not a “feel-good” type of book like Marley and Me, but it does raise some serious issues for this almost-forgotten concept. She is able to look back on her life and notice where acedia has been a present reality to her in her marriage, her writing, and her devotion to the ways the monastic tradition has influenced her daily rhythm of life. Norris candidly talks about her husband’s battles with depression and his struggle for life in the midst of a grave illness. Norris discovers that acedia is the framework that defines her life. It brings about a restless boredom and a pervading despair and she acknowledges that is has potency enough to undermine her capacity for joy and her commitment to her career, family, friendship and her faith. By identify acedia as a strong factor in her life, she is able to integrate healthy coping mechanisms into her daily routine.

Happy Fourth of July

May you have safe and festive celebrations at your Fourth of July parties to remember our nation’s founding. Let us continue to pray for our overseas troops that they may be free from harm and may soon return home. We pray also for our legislators who continue to uphold the Constitution that our Founding Father’s established. May our country remain free from harm and conflict in a world that all too often settles its disputes through violence and aggression.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time

June 21, 2009

As the Church returns to the readings of Ordinary Time, we plunge into some of life’s most serious questions, like “Where is God when we suffer?” and “Why does God not relieve our suffering?” Poor Job! In his deepest distress, he gets respectfully angry with God and questions God’s omnipotent power and mercy. To some, God’s answer is not very gracious because God does not show compassion for the suffering Job, but God’s power is revealed in creation, with its awesomeness and beauty, as a primordial generative force. Job’s attention is turned away from his own pain and he is freed from his own fears that hold him back. Only then can his attention turn towards God’s creative power at the center of all things.

Fears are also at the root of today’s Gospel passage. In this present lectionary cycle, we return to Mark’s version of the stilling of the waves whipped up by a violent storm. Mark shows that Jesus is not only powerful in words; he is also powerful in deeds. His words have power over demons, illness, and all powers, including natural and supernatural ones. The disciples wonder about the identity of Jesus prompting them to ask, “Who, then is this whom even the wind and sea obey?”

As we have come to know Jesus through our prayer and liturgical life, we still have our fear and doubts. Suffering of all types continues around us and some wonder if God is all powerful or at the very least concerned with the hardships we face. Regrettably, we have to learn to be like Job who protests to God and seeks for greater understanding. Our suffering leads us to greater insights. We have to wrestle with the questions that Jesus posed to the disciples, “Why are you afraid? Do you not yet have faith?” We have to learn to identify our fears and tell them to Jesus so that his word can have power over that which binds us. We will then be led, like Job and Jesus’ disciples, to cross over from the worries of our life to behold the majestic, creative power of God.

Quote for the Week

Brian McDermott, S.J., Rector of the Jesuit community at Loyola University Baltimore, alters a spiritual maxim in a powerful way in his recording of Now You Know Media Productions of The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

The maxim is, “Work as if everything depends upon you and pray as if everything depends upon God.” He supplements the sentence with another: “Pray as if everything depends upon you and work as if everything depends upon God.”

Themes for this Week’s Masses

The Old Testament passages begin the story of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendents. In his advanced age, we see Abram leave his home for a new land, struggle for peace and unity as Lot chooses the plains of Jordan leaving the land of Canaan for himself, become a father to Ishmael through Sarai’s maidservant, Hagar, and become a biological father to Isaac, with whom the covenant will be maintained. Through it all, Abram trusts in God’s providence.

The Gospel concludes the Sermon on the Mount with a collection of sayings of Jesus that direct a person to choose his way over the easier way of others. He then enacts what he preached when he comes down from the mountain and heals a leper and then heals a Centurion’s servant. Jesus demonstrates that he is powerful in both word and in deed.

Saints of the Week

Monday honors two English martyrs who were killed in 1535 for opposing King Henry VIII’s Act of Succession that would have recognized the King’s divorce in opposition to Papal authority. Bishop John Fisher was ordained to the priesthood by special permission because of his brilliance in theological studies. Thomas More, lawyer and member of Parliament portrayed in the film “Man for All Seasons” likewise refused to accept the decree that would have allowed king’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and was martyred nine days after his friend, John Fisher. Paulinus of Nola, Italy is also remembered on Monday for his care of pilgrims and the poor of 5th century Italy. Paulinus was a prominent lawyer and public official who used his wealth to care for others; eventually he and his wife adopted a semi-cloistered lifestyle. Saturday celebrates Cyril of Alexandria, bishop, doctor, and presider of the Council of Ephesus, who argued against the Nestorians that since Christ was both fully divine and fully human, Mary was not just the mother of Jesus but also the mother of God.

Set around the solar calendar, the Birth of John the Baptist falls on Wednesday to remind us that the Herald’s birth falls six months before Jesus’ nativity. Just as John must decrease so Christ can increase, the sun begins to set earlier until December 25th (or the solstice) when the sun returns and Christ ushers in the victory of light over darkness. Luke’s Gospel tells the story of Elizabeth’s and Zechariah’s anticipation of the birth of the Baptist. John’s father is struck dumb when he asks an angel for a sign, but his speech is restored when he settles a dispute and utters that the boy’s name is to be John as the angel requires. Notice how a period of silence precedes the coming of the Word of God into the world.

Interesting Reading

On Friday, I read He Leadeth Me by Walter Cisek, S.J., a New York Province Jesuit who was arrested by the Soviet Union army for being a Vatican spy after Russia and Germany invaded Poland to begin World War II. His companion piece, With God in Russia details the accounts of his imprisonment – beginning with his volunteering for the Russian mission as a young Jesuit, to his jail time in Moscow and labor camps in Siberia, to his days of partial freedom in the Soviet Union. While this book depicts the factual accounts of his days and years as a prisoner of the State, He Leadeth Me reveals the strength of his prayer in the face of desolation and adversity. His dependence upon God and his reliance upon key meditations of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola teach how to live each moment in pursuit of God’s will.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

New Executive Director for the Jesuit Collaborative

June 19, 2009 –Fr. James R. Conroy, S.J., has been named the executive director of The Jesuit Collaborative beginning August 1, 2009.

Fr. Conroy, a native of Pittsburgh and a member of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, currently works in directing the Spiritual Exercises in Pittsburgh. Fr. Conroy has extensive experience with Ignatian spirituality in varied settings. Throughout his career as a teacher, parish priest, in Jesuit formation, and retreat director he has led over 150 bishops, priests, religious, and lay men and women through the Spiritual Exercises.

He served as Novice Director of the Maryland province of the Society of Jesus, co-founder and executive director of the Ignatian Volunteers Corps and as rector of the Gonzaga Jesuit Community in Washington, D.C. Fr. Conroy attended John Carroll University, Cleveland and Fordham University, New York, and he has studied Ignatian spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California; he holds a master of divinity degree from Loyola University of Chicago.

The Jesuit Collaborative is a professional association of Jesuits, laypersons, clergy, and religious who share in common the spiritual tradition of St. Ignatius. The Collaborative promotes networking, reflection, scholarship, and learning while coordinating the diverse ministries that derive from the Spiritual Exercises. The Collaborative is pledged to serve the Church by providing for the spiritual development and care of persons, forming leaders, and nurturing a faith that does justice.

Excerpts taken from the Jesuit Collaborative news release on July 19, 2009.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Corpus Christi Sunday

The Body and the Blood of Christ

Corpus Christ, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, acknowledges the tremendous gift of Holy Communion and of our daily nourishment by God’s love in giving his Son, Jesus Christ, to and for us. This conceptual feast reveals to us the overarching desire of Jesus to be with us always as a life-giving presence. Europe and parts of Latin and South America have grand processions of the Blessed Sacrament through city streets and rural fields to bless the people and their livelihood – a tradition that hearkens back to the Middle Ages. In our contemporary Masses, we sing an ancient Sequence by Thomas Aquinas that announces the grand mystery that will be told in the Gospel reading.

In the first reading from Exodus, Moses sprinkles half the blood of a sacrificed animal on an altar that is surrounded by twelve pillars erected at the foot of the mountain and he douses the people with the other half of the blood. The blood symbolizes the life force that seals the covenantal commitment between God and the people. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus affirms God’s unbreakable bond by sharing his body symbolized by the bread and his blood by the cup during the Passover meal. His blood will mark the new covenant as it is shared in its totality because it represents the fullness of his lifelong offering of himself to the Father and to us in love.

I have often wondered why more people do not partake of the saving cup that Christ offers us. Many do not see it as essential to their salvation and sadly that perspective misses the point. Jesus’ flesh and blood sustains, protects and frees us so that we can be nourished and tell others of God’s covenant with us. It is the blood that seals this covenant. I often tell the people to “crunch and munch” – to really partake of the food that is important for our well-being. Eat the body by making it part of our own; drink the blood rather than merely pursing our lips to the cup. Let us be as deliberately active as we can in our own salvation. When we do so, we renew our promise to live as full members of Christ’s body. Let us imitate the one you has saved us and brings us life.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

This week, the centrality of the Eucharist shapes the way in which we live each day. Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount continues as Jesus speaks of the counter-cultural behaviors and attitudes we are to adopt. We are not to seek revenge for sins committed against us, but we are to love one another, even our enemies. We are to grow in holiness interiorly while not parading our righteousness, and we are to grow in simple trust of God’s providence for us as Jesus teaches us his prayer to the Father. Paul in the first reading continues his letter to the Corinthians by examining our choices within the paradoxical relationships of strength and weakness, joy and sorrow, and generosity and need. He acknowledges that life as a follower of Christ demands sacrifices that provide for a glorious eternal reward to the one who is faithful.

Saints of the Week

The feast of the Sacred Heart is always celebrated on the Friday following Corpus Christi and the Immaculate Heart of Mary falls on Saturday. Jesuit Father Claude La Colombiere is remembered for his spiritual direction of Margaret Mary Alacoque who received revelations about the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Through his sermons, the Feast of the Sacred Heart was established as a liturgical celebration in the 17th century Originally, the church’s faithful began to worship the wounds of Christ in the 11th century and the pierced heart eventually became a symbol of Christ’s threefold love (human, spiritual, and divine) of humanity. The remembrance of Mary’s Immaculate Heart is tied to the Sacred Heart devotion as her heart signifies her sanctity and her love for humanity as the Mother of God. The Jesuits often pray as an act of consecration of the world to the Sacred Heart as we commend all humans to the care of Jesus and Mary.

Jesuit Ordination and Province Day

Jesuits and their colleagues from the New England Province gather each year for Province Days and ordinations. This year, Toddy Kenny is ordained to the priesthood following theological studies at Boston College School of Ministry and Theology. We inaugurate a new provincial for the next six years. Fr. Myles Sheehan, a medical doctor and gerontologist from Loyola University Chicago takes over the leadership for the 320 Jesuits of the province. His inspirational words at the assembly provide us with hope for the future. We wish Fr. Sheehan much luck and we wish to provide him with the best support that we can. Each year we are blessed to come together to spend time with one another as brothers and to be spiritually replenished before we return to our apostolic missions to proclaim Christ to the world. We wish we had more time together.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday 2009

As a catechist, I explain to teens about the Trinitarian nature of God in a simplistic way. I simply ask them to think of their mother. While never essentially changing anything about herself, she takes on the role of one’s mother, while at the same time being daughter to her parents, and wife to her husband. She is one person with three primary roles, and she keeps loving and giving of herself in each of those roles. The same can be said for God. Trinity Sunday invites us into a deepening relationship with God the Father, through, with, and in the Son, whose power in the Spirit remains with us in the world to the end.

In Deuteronomy, we hear Moses telling the people, “you must know, and fix in your heart, that ht Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.” He explains to them that God’s work in the world is concrete and visible and rooted in the ordinariness of our lives. Paul writes to the Romans to remind them that if they are led by God’s Spirit they have become full heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Paul tells us that a full relationship is open to us all. Full life with God is not only available to the Jews, but it is fully offered to anyone who receives the Spirit. The Gospel reveals to us that even despite our doubt in him, Jesus will be with us always. God’s Trinitarian love has saved us and has removed our obstacles to a full life of grace. If we only look back at our individual and collective history, we will see the ways in which God’s presence continues to create us, save us, and give us new life. God’s love of us perfects us. Let us spend some quality time in prayer this week to give thanks to God for calling us deeper into the divine life.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

As we are united with God’s Trinitarian expression of love for us, we are called to live a life that reflects this relational love. This week’s Gospel passages from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount outline our counter-cultural behavior that arises from our commitment to Christ. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians serves a similar purpose – encouraging them to be compassionate despite the sufferings of the world, to be faithful because God is faithful to us, and to live in the freedom of Christ that his fidelity has won for us.

Saints of the Week

The Mesopotamian deacon Ephrem is honored on Tuesday for his scriptural commentaries and hymns. He was the first to introduce hymns into public worship and he is known for using music and poetry to evangelize. As my liturgy professors often quoted, “people don’t walk out of church humming the homily.” Barnabas is honored on Thursday as he was a huge biblical figure who mentored and worked alongside Paul in building up the early Mediterranean churches. A skilled reconciler, he changed his name to Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.” On Saturday, we remember Anthony of Padua, whose name is invoked when searching for lost objects. The Portuguese Franciscan preached in northern Italy and drew enormous crowds to the faith as new converts.

KAIROS Reunion

A reunion of all the KAIROS participants from 2001-2009 will be held at the Rockcraft Retreat Center on Sebago Lake on Thursday, June 11th from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tickets are $30.00. It is a good time to renew the graces of the retreat and to be with friends who share the same passion for their experience. All are welcome. If you know anyone from KAIROS I-IV, please send this email to them so they know they are welcome.

Retreat for First Year Teachers

Teachers who have completed their first few years of service at Cheverus and Boston College High School gather at the Craigville Retreat House in Centerville, Cape Cod this week to process their first years as an Ignatian educator. Prayer time, bonding, and sharing stories of successes and failures are important aspects of this retreat time on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

School’s Out

Final exams are over and the students move off to their summer plans of rest, relaxation, exercise, and continued recreational study. Blessings upon all our students and parents for your summer break. Stay in touch with us and please refer other potential students to come to Cheverus. We want to share the good stuff that we have with all of you. Cheverus is a lifetime investment.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Pentecost is the great symbol of unity in the early church when the followers of Jesus receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is the second great feast of the agricultural year, which follows the Passover by fifty days. The first fruits of the harvest are presented for the Lord.

The Acts of the Apostles depicts the events of the first Christian Pentecost when the invisible Holy Spirit arrives with audible and visible signs. When posed against the backdrop of agricultural theme, Pentecost represents a moment in the completion of creation for just as God breathed upon the world and the first humans in Genesis, God similarly breathes upon the first believers. The Spirit does not dramatically change the believers, but allows them to continue speaking in their own language. They are to bring the message of God’s peace and justice to the entire world.

In John’s 20 chapter of the Gospel, Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles as they hide themselves in fear from the Jewish authorities after the Crucifixion. The Spirit brings peace and forgiveness to any heart that is bound by fear. When we hold onto our fear we cling to ourselves. When Christ’s Spirit lives in us, our woundedness remains, but we are surrounded with a power that allows us to hold onto each other more strongly. We are freed from the bonds that close us down and we can move towards the unity that the Spirit urges us onward and upwards because we move toward healing and peace.

My prayer for us is that the fruits of the Holy Spirit be abundant to you this Pentecost season. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:24) May we all become one in Christ.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

During the ancient agricultural feast of Pentecost, we meet the kind and generous Tobit, who is stricken with blindness, and Sarah, who is in the midst of many problems and beset by demons. Tobiah, Tobit’s son, through the angel Raphael, helps both Tobit and Sarah. The Gospel readings are taken from the 12th chapter of Mark when Jesus reveals to his disciples that his way of healing people and setting people on the path to life will put him on a path of suffering that will be at odds with the rulers of the world. Both sets of readings show us the way life can be when we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Saints of the Week

Justin is honored on Monday for his use of the knowledge of philosophy to explain Christianity in 165 A.D. He is also known to have written one of the first descriptions of the Mass. On Tuesday, Marcellinus, a well-known priest, and Peter, an exorcist, are remembered for their spread of the faith during the Diocletian persecution (300 A.D.). While serving time in prison, the two converted their jailer and his family to Christianity. Charles Lwanga and his 22 Ugandan companions are celebrated on Wednesday for their perseverance against an immoral and vengeful king who tried to stamp out the faith in his land. On Friday, Boniface’s evangelizing efforts in 715-754 A.D. to the Netherlands and Germany are recalled. Boniface reputedly cut down the Oak of Thor without being harmed by the pagan Norse gods.

KAIROS Reunion

A reunion of all the KAIROS participants from 2001-2009 will be held at the Rockcraft Retreat Center on Sebago Lake on Thursday, June 11th from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tickets are $30.00. It is a good time to renew the graces of the retreat and to be with friends who share the same passion for their experience. All are welcome. If you know anyone from KAIROS I-IV, please send this email to them so they know they are welcome.


Commencement exercises for the 117 graduates of the Class of 2009 will be held at the Merrill Auditorium in Portland on Monday, June 1st. An alumna who just graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts this May will be the Commencement speaker.

Stained-Glass Exhibit

The Art department at Cheverus is keeping the ancient religious craftsmanship of Stained-Glass making alive. Students have decorated the celebrated Cheverus Atrium windows with their resplendent artwork. If you are in the area, please stop by see the sun radiate through the multicolored glass images.

Concert for Catholic Middle Schools

The music department at Cheverus performed for the Catholic Elementary Schools of Portland on Thursday to showcase the vocal talents along with the jazz and string ensembles. Perhaps the opportunity to develop one’s musical and artistic skills will be a motivator for some young person to enroll at Cheverus in a few years.