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Monday, August 31, 2009

Prayer: Falling in Love - Attributed to Pedro Arrupe. S.J.

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is,
than falling in love.

In a quite absolute, final way,
what you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.

It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekend,
what you read, who you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

August 30, 2009

I like good hygiene and I like to wash my hands before I eat a meal, especially in these days of dangerous viruses and bacteria like the H1N1 (swine flu) virus. It just seems to make good sense to keep oneself and one’s community healthy. Before I visited the Holy Lands, I wondered why Jesus would intentionally avoid washing his hands, but when I observed the scarcity of water and the peasant farmer existence of most of the people, I could see that Jesus was once again making a statement that not all laws can be universally applied, but must be situated within a proper cultural context. His kingdom-centered theology conflicts with the Temple-centered theology of the ruling elite.

Moses in Deuteronomy tells us that the law is given to us for our benefit and our respect for the law will help us grow in wisdom and righteousness, which will in turn be a reflector of our response to God’s grace for all the nations to see. James tells us that the ways we care for our vulnerable neighbors will prove our trust in the saving word that we hear from God. As St. Ignatius writes in his pre-notes to the “Contemplation to Attain Love”: (1) love is expressed in deeds rather than in words, and (2) love consists of mutually sharing what one receives with the other.

Jesus illustrates to the Pharisees and scribes that our observance of the law can become rote or an empty manifestation of a religious practice that once had symbolic meaning; at times the law or a teaching can become our object of worship. He shows them that religious practices are to help us move towards a deeper affectivity toward God and our vulnerable neighbors. It is good for us to examine our motivations and the ways in which our hearts can move away from a loving intention and to get ourselves back on track if we have strayed. The law can never determine the depth of one’s religiosity; this can only be done through concrete acts that are inspired by God’s love for us.

The question posed by Jesus is still a good one for us to ask ourselves: what is my motivation for observing a particular law or teaching? Do I follow the law because I am guided by God’s love? Does my cherishing of the law help my neighbor’s suffering to be eased a little bit? How do I feel when I fulfill the spirit, not just the letter, of the law? These are healthy questions upon which to reflect this week. And oh, yes. By all means, before you eat a meal, wash your hands!

Quote for the Week

Brothers and sisters: Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him.

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the Body, the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be pre-eminent.

For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the Blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

The Colossians Hymn

Themes for this Week’s Masses

Paul comforts the Thessalonians to reassure them that even though they may die, they will enjoy the rewards of God’s merciful judgment. Christians live in a new light that allows them to see the world through a different lens – more closely in the manner by which God sees us. Paul emphasizes this in Colossians as he encourages them to persevere in the life to which they have been called. The famous hymn in Colossians, outlining Christ’s role as creator and redeemer, reassures people to trust in God.

We leave Matthew’s Gospel this week and turn to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Luke where Jesus enters the Synagogue, preaches, and declares that the word of the Lord is fulfilled in the people’s hearing of Scripture. Both great wonder and fierce anger beset his entry into his world of ministry. He immediately begins to heal and show his power over the supernatural world; he calls disciples to be with him; he creates a new type of community and begins to explain what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.

Saints of the Week

We have few saints to celebrate this week so might as well sing on Thursday in honor of Gregory the Great for whom the famous type of chant is named. Gregory was a wealthy Roman who served as the Chief Magistrate, but resigned to become a monk. He is also a doctor of the church because of his many writings on the pastoral care of the faithful ones by the bishops and priests; he wrote many scriptural commentaries and emphasized great reverence in the liturgy.

This Week in Jesuit History

· Aug. 30, 1556. On the banks of the St. Lawrence River, Fr. Leonard Garreau, a young missionary, was mortally wounded by the Iroquois.
· Aug. 31, 1581. In St. John's Chapel within the Tower of London, a religious discussion took place between St. Edmund Campion, suffering from recent torture, and some Protestant ministers.
· Sep 1, 1907. The Buffalo Mission was dissolved and its members were sent to the New York and Missouri Provinces and the California Mission.
· Sep 2, 1792. In Paris, ten ex-Jesuits were massacred for refusing to take the Constitutional oath. Also in Paris seven other fathers were put to death by the Republicans, among them Frs. Peter and Robert Guerin du Rocher.
· Sep 3, 1566. Queen Elizabeth visited Oxford and heard the 26-year-old Edmund Campion speak. He was to meet her again as a prisoner, brought to hear her offer of honors or death.
· Sep 4, 1760. At Para, Brazil, 150 men of the Society were shipped as prisoners, reaching Lisbon on December 2. They were at once exiled to Italy and landed at Civita Vecchia on January 17, 1761.
· Sep 5, 1758. The French Parliament issued a decree condemning Fr. Busembaum's Medulla Theologiae Moralis.

Book Recommendations

Blood Brothers in its sixth printing by Elias Chacour, a Palestinian Christian priest/Archimandrate of the Melkite church, writes of the gripping events of the establishment of the Israeli nation on Palestinian land. The story tells of the genesis of his vocation as a priest who is called to reconcile the differences between Christians, Jews, Druzes, and Muslims right in the heart of the Holy Land. The tone of his writing style reflects his utmost trust in the words of Jesus in the Beatitudes for he refuses to behold the hatred that resides in the human heart. He will go beyond and look for the core of humanity to desires peace and goodwill with one’s neighbors. The serenity and calm writing style reflects the peaceful actions of the man who places his trust in God. I encourage you to read this book and to notice the manner in which Chacour chooses to live out his faith in the midst of conflict.

As a companion piece, I strongly recommend The Israel Lobby, now in paperback by Stephen Walt (Harvard University) and John Mearsheimer (University of Chicago.) In the first part of the book, the two political scientists outline the possible justifications for the exceedingly generous U.S. policies towards Israel today and they systematically debunk any moral or strategic explanation for our continued policies. The second half deals with the unsurpassed power of the lobby to unduly influence domestic and foreign affairs, including their unsurpassed power over the U.S. Congress. When one recognizes the efforts of the lobby, one can begin to understand the U.S. inability to: pressure Israel to pull out of Palestinian lands or to reduce exorbitant financial subsidies; to deal with Syria and Iran in respectful manners, to speak against Israel’s bombing of Lebanon in 2006, or to more reasonably enter into the conflict of the unjustifiable Iraq war. The strong academic credentials of the authors and their careful reasoning make their claims convincing and raises many questions that have long been unanswered satisfactorily. This book does not bash the Jewish people or their faith or negate their need for safety in their nation; it does question U.S. decision making in face of all the complexities of our contemporary world.

In Heroic Living by Chris Lowney, the author of Heroic Leadership sets out to integrate religious tradition with strategic management on order to help a person discover his or her deeper purpose in life. By using personal stories and tales from a religious perspective shaped by the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, Lowney outlines the ways in which one can turn around one’s life and orient it towards a successful business strategy in order to attain the integrity, satisfaction and wholeness.


May Almighty God bless Senator Edward Kennedy and receive him into eternal life. We pray for the Kennedy family, the people of Massachusetts, and all who mourn the loss of a friend and patriot.

Prayer Line

If you have a special intention that you would like others to join you in prayer, please add these prayers as a comment on the blog.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Prayer: Pedro Arrupe, Father General, at the end of his life


More than ever I find myself in the hands of God.
This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth.
But now there is a difference; the initiative is entirely with God.
It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know
and feel myself so totally in God's hands.

Merciful God, you gave Father Arrupe your deep love
which he shared with everyone his life touched.
If it is your will, glorify him on earth so that many
will become Persons for Others sharing your love.
That others will lovingly accept your divine plan,
I ask you to hear this prayer ..................................
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Prayer: Prayer for Generosity by St. Ignatius

Dear Lord,

Teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to labor, and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I am doing your will. Amen.

Poem: Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes -
The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Prayer: Source Unknown

I pray for you...

That does not mean that from time to time
I pronounce certain words while thinking of you.

It means that I feel responsible of you in my flesh and
in my soul, that I carry you with me as a mother
carries her child;

That I wish to share,
I wish to draw entirely upon myself all the harm and
all the suffering that menaces you.

And I offer to God all my darkness
so that He may return it to you in the light.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Poem: When Death Comes by Mary Oliver

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Poem: What's in a Name

I came across this poem in a book called "Discerning your personal vocation" by Herbert Alphonsus, S.J. as he talks about how one's vocation is permanent and contains the essence of Christ that is present in a person. He also discusses the uniqueness of this call - a uniqueness so personal that it is like receiving a special name from God. He likens T.S. Eliot's poem, the one that inspired the musical "Cats," to the giving of our unique name and call by God in our personal vocation.

The Naming of Cats

The naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holidy games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.

First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo, or James,
such as Vicor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey -
All of them sensible everyday names.

There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
some for the gentelmen, some for the dames:
such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter -
but all of them sensbile everyday names.

But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
a name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?

Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
such as Munkustrap, Quaxo or Coricopat,
such as Bombalurina or else Jellylorum -
names that never belong to more than one cat.

But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
and that is the name you never will guess;
the name that no human research can discover -
but THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.

When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
the reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:

His ineffable, effable, effanineffable
deep and inscrutable singular Name.

T.S. Eliot

Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time

August 23, 2009

It is good for me every now and then to examine my patterns of relationships and decide to whom or to what I will recommit myself. The three Sunday readings do exactly that. Joshua gathers the tribes of Israel together for a communal discernment. He is the new leader of the nation and he respectfully memorializes the saving work the Lord has done for his people and though he asks the people to choose whom they will serve, he plainly declares that he and his tribe will serve the Lord. Though he is free to choose, Joshua can only serve the God who has been steadfast to him.

Jesus poses a similar question to his disciples in John’s Gospel. Recall that the people just witnessed the miraculous feeding by the Good Shepherd and then heard his invitation to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Jesus knows that many cannot accept his teaching and you may be able to sense his sadness that many will turn away from him. With heartache, he turns to his closest friends and asks them, “Do you also want to leave?” to which Peter replies for all the Twelve, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.” And I want to echo Peter’s words, “Of course, I will stay with you. You have been and will always be my Lord and my God. My life does not make sense without you.”

While this is a deeply personal response by Peter to Jesus in John’s Gospel, John is bolstering the faith of the Christians who are being shunned by the Jews in every sphere of life that is meaningful to them, including social and liturgical ostracism. Many Christians have left the faith because of the immense pressures on them, but John is reminding them that the words of Jesus are spirit and life and that belief in Jesus, who gave his life for the good of the world, is the way to eternal life and vindication. Peter, not only speaks for the Twelve, he speaks for all followers who are persecuted and are withstanding immense pressure to renounce the faith. “Master, to whom shall we go?” My life does not make sense without you.

Another hard saying this week for many to accept appears in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians in which many women (and men) find Paul’s words offensive to women’s rightful place in society. I tend to think that Paul is not so much making an evaluation on the Mediterranean household codes or the status of women as much as he is outlining the pattern of relationship we are to model for one another. It goes like this: just as Christ loves the church, we are to imitate his love by treating our closest and dearest relationships in the same manner. We are to love our wives as ourselves; we are to respect our husbands in the same way we cherish our own persons; we are to care for our loved ones wholeheartedly and not take anyone for granted. We are to adopt, in imitation Christi, the same self-sacrificing love towards our loved ones and neighbors.

So, whom or what will you choose this week? Will you recommit? As for me and my house, I will choose the Lord. My life does not make sense without him.

Quote for the Week

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

The Confessions of Saint Augustine

Themes for this Week’s Masses

Traditionally, the first readings for Mass are based on the Old Testament, but this week we hear Paul’s words to the Thessalonians in the New Testament canon. Amidst many struggles and suffering in Philippi, the faithful in Thessaly receive Paul and his companions well. Paul and his cohorts are gentle with the people so they are able to receive the Gospel of God with greater trust. The kind treatment of the people is testimony to the work God is doing through Paul, and the people can be assured that they are truly receiving the word of God, not the words of people. Paul affectionately tells them that he cannot wait to see them again to correct the deficiencies of their faith. He reminds them of the code of holiness and morality for Christians and leaves them with fraternal charity of one another, but exhorts them to pay attention to God’s instructions for them so they may progress further in holiness.

As we approach the end of Jesus’ statements about the nature of the Kingdom of God in Matthew’s Gospels, the tensions heat up as Jesus criticizes the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy. They preach a difficult teaching, but neglect the meaningful aspects of their traditions. They govern with their laws rather than the heartfelt care for neighbors. Jesus encourages his disciples to be vigilant, just like the ten virgins who wait for the return of the bridegroom, for God’s day will come when you will probably have let your guard down.

Saints of the Week

Just who is the Apostle Bartholomew that we celebrate on Monday? They Synoptic Gospels refer to Bartholomew as Philip while John does not use the name at all, but associates it with Nathaniel who was sitting under the fig tree when Andrew, Peter’s brother, called him to meet Jesus. Nathaniel was said to be “a true Israelite in whom there is no guile.”

On Tuesday, the church remembers Louis of France, who was an exemplary Christian King of France for forty-four years as he practiced mercy, sought out justice, and built a peace that the people to prosper in their work and commerce. He was known for his piety and for this strong Christian character.

Thursday is the day to honor Monica, mother of Augustine who is celebrated Friday. Our knowledge of her comes from The Confessions by her son as he details her efforts in returning him to the Christian faith from Manichaeism. A Christian herself, she married Patricius, a non-Christian, and when he died a year after his conversion, Monica set herself to prayer and fasting in order to bring Augustine back to the faith.

Friday is the day to honor Augustine, Bishop and Doctor. A North African, Augustine converted back to the faith after hearing Ambrose preach in Milan. Baptized on Easter Sunday in 387, he was ordained four years later and became a bishop of Hippo two years following priestly ordination. He preached against the dangers of heresies, including Manichaeism, the faith he renounced to become a Christian, and Donatism and Pelagianism. He wrote his Confessions, which tell about his life, and the City of God, On the Trinity, and On Christian Doctrine. He wrote at a crucial period of time – a time in which the Roman Empire was beginning its disintegration. His writings helped shape the basic tenets of Christianity for the next thousand years.

On Saturday, we memorialize the Martyrdom of John the Baptist. The vivid portrait of Herod’s decadent meal stands in stark contrast to the meal Jesus offers in Mark 6. During Herod’s party, he foolishly promises his daughter, Salome, that he would grant her anything she wanted if she danced well for his guests. She asks for the head of John the Baptist who insulted her mother by condemning her incestuous and adulterous marriage. The conflicted Herod who could not revoke his oath complied with her request.

Book Recommendations

You may like to read Discerning Your Personal Vocation: The search for meaning though the Spiritual Exercises by Herbert Alphonso, S.J. It is a short book that helps a person discover the nature of his or her vocation through the movements of the Spiritual Exercises. It does not look at vocation as necessarily to religious life or to the married state, but rather as a unique character that is stamped inside a person by God. One’s vocation is unchanging and permanent and helps a person discern all other choices in life. It helps one deepen one’s meaning in life.

Blog Updates

Check out my blog http://predmore.blogspot.com// as it changes periodically throughout the week.

Upcoming Lecture

On Thursday, September 10th, Immaculee Ilibagiza, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, will speak at Catherine McAuley High School at 7:30 p.m. Her tale is gripping and her past speeches have moved the hearts of many as she works to build a world in which the roots causes of murder and death are eliminated from human hearts.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sp.Exx.: The Principle and Foundation

The goal of our life is to live with God forever.
God, who loves us, gave us life.
Our own response of low allows God’s life to flow into us without limit.

All the things in this world are gifts of God,
presented to us so that we can know God more easily
and make a return of love more readily.

As a result, we appreciate and used all these gifts of God
insofar as they help us develop as loving persons.
but if any of these gifts become the center of our lives,
they displace God and so hinder growth toward our goal.

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance
before all these created gifts insofar as we have a choice
and are not bound by some obligation.
We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,
wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.
For everything has the potential of calling forth is us
a deeper response to our life in God.

Our only desire and our one choice should be this:
I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening life in me.

St. Ignatius as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, S.J.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Poem: The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?”

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

August 16, 2009

Did you notice the constant, intensifying focus on the Eucharist in these last four Sunday readings? We have seen a deepening of the meaning of God’s nourishment through the person of Jesus in light of the Old Testament traditions. This week, we see the Eucharist set against the memory of Lady Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs who helps to give a more complete understanding of the person of Jesus to the Jews.

Lady Wisdom lavishly spreads her table and invites those who are pure of heart to come to her house to partake of the great feast and to relish in the understanding that wisdom brings because it results in life for the people. She says to choose the path that will advance your understanding and you will experience the goodness of life. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians underscores the saving significance of wisdom as it aids a person in discovering the will of the Lord and in living a full life replete with gratitude. A wise person can separate the wine of debauchery from the good wine that Jesus introduces as blood that gives life to his flesh and body.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus has strong parallels with Lady Wisdom, which is especially noticeable in John’s Prologue (1:1-18.) After setting his own feast of loaves and fishes as the Good Shepherd, Jesus now declares that his table is the one that brings the faithful ones to eternal life, but one must be able to access God’s wisdom in order to comprehend the mystery that Jesus is unfolding before them, and yet, if one does not have wisdom, it can be found through eating the body and drinking the blood of Jesus. For many, this is a very difficult reality – a condemnatory cannibalistic act - to accept.

He restates that he is (a further “I am” statement that infers God’s name) the living bread that came down from heaven and like Lady Wisdom, he is the source of life and has power over eternal life. This is true communion with God, “for my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him,” and “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day.”

I sometimes invite people to “crunch and munch” when they receive the Body and Blood of Christ because I ask them to knowingly and actively participate in this saving action. I ask them to chew on the Body of the Lord and to drink, not merely sip, the Blood that saves us. Let us approach our Eucharist as one who seeks wisdom that comes from God. It is in this spirit that we can “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” Munch away. It is for your own salvation.

Quote for the Week

Here are three quotes from Bernard of Clairvaux:

On Love - “Love seeks no cause beyond itself and no fruit; it is its own fruit, its own enjoyment. I love because I love; I love in order that I may love.”

On Faith - “I believe though I do not comprehend, and I hold by faith what I cannot grasp with the mind.”

On Humility - “It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment.”

Themes for this Week’s Masses

Once the people settle into the Promised Land and become comfortable, they turn from the Lord and worship invoking the anger of the Lord, but the Lord takes pity on the people whenever they select a righteous judge who mercifully leads them. While Gideon was at work to preserve food and wine against the Midianites who threatened to conquer them, he is visited by an angel of the Lord that asks him to help save the people from the Midianite army. As wars rage, the remaining cities fall to the Israelites. As the reign of the judges continued, a foreigner, Ruth, gratefully marries Boaz for his great kindness to her. Boaz is moved upon hearing about Ruth’s compassion to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Boaz and Ruth have a son named Obed who is the father of Jesse who is the father of King David.

As we continue in Matthew, Jesus continues speaking about the Kingdom of Heaven and people realize that it will be difficult to enter, but the Kingdom is also governed by God’s generosity and merciful justice – a different standard than the one we use. We have to choose well. Our actions in this life are very important to God. We must be properly prepared and well-disposed to meet him. We are to deepen our relationship with the Lord so that he can be our compass. Once we find our true north, we can easily orient all of our actions in conformity to his will.

Saints of the Week

On Wednesday, John Eudes, an Oratorian, is remembered for founding the Congregation of Jesus and Mary that is dedicated to the intellectual education of the clergy. He was instrumental in forming the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity and the Religious of the Good Shepherds in Canada.

Thursday is the memorial of Bernard, Doctor of the Church and Abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Citeaux and Clairvaux of strict observance. He became known across Europe for his mystical and theological writings. He preached well and wrote many letters and scriptural commentaries.

Pope Pius X is honored on Friday for his service to the church in encouraging frequent communion for adults in the early part of the 20th century. He also advocated for strong sacramental preparation for children and solid instruction in catechism for both adults and children. In the period prior to Vatican II, reading the bible and daily communion was not yet encouraged for the faithful laity.

On Saturday, we conclude the weeklong octave to Mary in the feast that celebrates the The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast was instituted by Pius XII in 1954 to venerate the maternal rule of Mary over the church in heaven and on earth.

Book Recommendations

I would like to suggest a series of booklets that might make you roll your eyes at first blush. They are the Elf-help series by Abbey Press and each booklet is approximately 40 pages with short one-line suggestions about dealing with some of life’s challenges. While it may seem childlike, the insights are both basic and profound and they deserve some contemplation so that we can each do our inner work. The works are only $4.00 or $5.00 each and they contain items like: dealing with grief, coping with pain, dealing with difficulty people, expressing your anger well, reducing stress, living one day at a time, healing from abuse, self-esteem therapy, acceptance therapy, forgiveness therapy, believe in yourself therapy and many other helpful practices. These are not self-help books, but books on prayer that help to foster awareness. Take a look at one and read it slowly. They are good aids for both adults and youngsters.

Light-hearted Movie Recommendation

Julie and Julia is a splendid movie about the joys of eating. Julia Child is a woman of the Fourth Week of the Spiritual Exercises – she enjoys life and always finds the blessings in whatever challenge she faces. The story is based on an account of a blogger, Julie, who decides to cook over 500 recipes from Julia Child’s cookbook in a year, but the real story is that Julie comes to know Julia through reading the recipe instructions and watching her television show. Julia unknowingly helps Julie get through the difficult times of her life. One caution: Don’t go experience this movie on an empty stomach.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

August 9, 2009

The Eucharistic feedings continue for a third week in a row. Elijah is at his wit’s end. After having killed the false prophets of Baal, King Ahab and Jezebel are determined to kill him so he flees into a desert and finds rest under a broom tree on his way. Exhausted, he prays that the Lord take his life rather than to endure the misery his ministry has brought him, but an angel wakes him, feeds him twice, and prepares him for the forty-day journey to Mount Horeb. It is on this mountain that Elijah will hear the voice of the Lord, not in storms or winds or earthquakes, but in a quiet voice that emerges in the silence.

In John’s Gospel, we get a deepening of the significance of the Eucharist through the words of Jesus. We are immediately returned to the context of the Israelites in the desert who grumbled even when they received quail and bread from heaven. Elijah’s story also echoes the importance of God’s desire to feed us. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that he is the bread from heaven, which understandably raises the objections of the Jewish leaders. The leaders believe that Jesus has incredible teachings and deeds, but they find problems with his claim of the source of his spiritual nourishment.

Jesus instructs them about his relationship to the Father as the Sent One. He is the Eternal Word. Therefore, everyone is to learn and listen to God and they will be drawn to Jesus. Jesus is the one who will nourish, but not in the way their ancestors were nourished. He is the living bread that leads a person to cherish all of life and he will give that person eternal life.

If we are to learn and listen to God, we are to pay attention to Jesus’ style of teaching. God will draw a person to Jesus and the person will let him or herself to be taught. Listening to God through Jesus is essential, and we are not very good listeners. We might want to ask ourselves, “How can I embrace all that is happening to me and Jesus during our Eucharist at Mass?” If we begin to take in the whole reality of Jesus, we will see that he is our living bread who came down to heaven to offer us eternal life. Believing that Jesus really want to nourish us daily is the way to eternal life. Do we really believe?

Let’s end with Paul’s words in Ephesians 4: “Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to god for a fragrant aroma.” Let us watch and listen to Jesus’ life this week. Let us give ourselves some space so that we can listen and hear what the Lord of the Universe would like to give us as nourishing words.

Quote for the Week

Be prepared at all times for the gifts of God and be ready always for new ones - for God is a thousand times more ready to give than we are to receive. – Meister Eckhart

Themes for this Week’s Masses

Poor Moses again! After leading the Israelites out of Egypt and into their desert wanderings, the Lord does not allow him to enter the Promised Land. Instead, he prepares Joshua for the task of reminding the people that it is the Lord who is leading them into the battles with the nations that occupy the Promised Land. The Lord leads Moses up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo where he shows him the bounty of the land. It is here that Moses dies and the people hold a great vigil for the man who had known God face to face. Joshua takes over as Moses’ appointed one and leads the people safely through the Jordan River, which remains dry as long as the Ark of the Covenant is held by priests. They cross into Jericho on dry land and ready themselves to overtake the Canaanites and the other nations that set up camp. In front of all the people, Joshua reminds them that the Lord God is responsible for their success and favor.

Right after Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration, Jesus continues to teach about the Kingdom of Heaven with a collection of sayings. He includes in the kingdom those who are insignificant and of no account, like a small child. He speaks of the saving significance of making peace with one’s brother and provides a structure of reconciling one’s grievances following it up with a parable about repaying debts and forgiving the other person. Jesus leaves Galilee for Judea and is met by Pharisees who test him about the lawfulness of divorce. He proves his worth in knowledge by placing the question in the context of how humans make laws to satisfy their situations, but that a person, if he or she is able, also ought to make decisions for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.

Saints of the Week

You may remember that last week Pope Sixtus was martyred with seven deacons and companions. Deacon Lawrence, celebrated on Monday, is one of those deacons who were killed four days later by burning. Legend has it that when he was burned on one side, he instructed his persecutors to flip him over to finish the job. He, like Pope Sixtus, is mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer.

Clare of Assisi is honored on Tuesday for becoming the founder of the women’s religious order of Franciscans. Inspired by the preaching of Francis, she left home on Palm Sunday in 1212 to begin a life of radical poverty even to the extent of not wearing shoes (becoming discalced). Other women followed, including her mother and sisters.

On Wednesday, Jane Frances de Chantal is remembered as the founder of the Visitation Sisters who lived in austerity in convents dedicated to working with the poor and the sick. She founded the order after seeking pastoral counseling for her great grief from Francis de Sales when her husband of nobility died.

Thursday commemorates the lives of Pontian, pope, and Hippolytus, priest. Hippolytus is credited for composing a prayer upon which the Second Eucharistic Prayer is based and Pontian became pope in 230 and was persecuted under Maximinus in 235. Hippolytus, a schismatic who claimed to be pope, reconciled with the church and was subsequently martyred.

Friday is the day the church remembers Franciscan Maximilian Mary Kolbe of Poland. He devoted his life to preaching the gospel and encouraging devotions to Mary. As World War Two broke out, Kolbe helped many refugees, including Jews, but was later arrested and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. After a prisoner escaped, the guards seeking retaliation randomly chose ten men to die. Maximilian offered to take the place of a young father. He is remembered for his selfless sacrifice.

On Saturday, we memorialize The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast honors two aspects of Mary’s existence: it celebrates the happy departure of Mary from this temporal life; and it honors the assumption of her body into heaven. It is the principal feast of the Blessed Virgin and it is a holy day of obligation. Mary’s Assumption was formally proclaimed by Pius XII in 1950 after the Council of Ephesus in 431 proclaimed her as Mother of God. Her Dormition was celebrated in the Eastern churches by the 6th century while the Latin Church began its devotions around 650.

Jesuit Vows

First (perpetual) vows will take place on Saturday, August 15th for the New York, Maryland and New England provinces. In the New England province, vovendus (the one who is approved to profess vows) Dan Corrou, n.S.J. will vow perpetual poverty, chastity and obedience with a promise to enter the Society forever before the Consecrated Host during a Mass on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. This feast is the principal feast honoring Mary and ushers in an octave (eight-day) period of prayer that concludes with a liturgy honoring the Queenship of Mary. Jesuits take vows on this date because Ignatius and his early companions made vows as laymen in front of the Blessed Sacrament that had just been consecrated by Blessed Fr. Peter Faber, the first priest of the Jesuits. Vows were taken at Montmartre at the Chapel of St. Denis outside of Paris in 1534 where the companions were studying.

Book Recommendations

I heartily recommend What Happened at Vatican II by John W. O’Malley, S.J., a Distinguished Professor of History at Georgetown University as good summer reading. O’Malley takes us through the meanderings and maneuverings of the four periods of the Second Vatican Council that was surprisingly called by the aged but affable Pope John XXIII. With remarkable style and grace, O’Malley relates a complex story of conflicts and surprises among bishops, cardinals, popes and periti (experts) set on the world stage like no preceding church council. Who would expect a book on Vatican II to be a page-turner, but it is. While the book describes great meaning to the dialogues of the proceedings, it leaves us wondering “What if?” Please do read this. It will greatly expand your knowledge of our contemporary church and the forces that continue to shape it.

If you can excuse the sometimes-vulgar language of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, I recommend this as light summer reading as well. The story centers on an obese boy from the Dominican Republic who lives in New York City and strives to become a man like other Dominicans. Vignettes are developed about various family and friends who were important to Oscar’s life in a way that you will find yourself becoming sympathetic to their motivations and actions. I found myself rooting for Oscar to straighten out his life so that he might find some self-acceptance. This Pulitzer Prize winner is an enjoyable read.

I already read What Jesus Meant by Gary Wills this week. It is a fresh reading of the Gospels in which Jesus is portrayed as one who taught a radical way of life and no political platform in his preaching about the kingdom of heaven that is off into the future, but also one that is brought into this life. Wills writes about Jesus’ thoughts on power, the wealthy and on religion itself. With his clear style of writing, Wills vivifies the gospels that challenges the long-held assumptions and conclusions that Christians have been taught over the centuries. His presentation on the empty tomb and resurrection would cause many to reflect more deeply on what really occurred. Yes, I recommend this book – at only 142 pages – even though Wills paints a view of Jesus conflated from the four Gospels into one portrait.

The Gospel According to Paul by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, S.J. is also a worthy book to read in light of the Year of St. Paul that just concluded. Cardinal Martini often gave lectures to the youth of Milan and compiled his essays into theological and devotional books. This work on St. Paul places his life next to the events of Christ’s and then asks the reader how he or she is to live similarly. Martini examines our Christian lives in the contexts of our ongoing conversion and our call to be an apostle as our vocation.

Here’s My Heart, Here’s My Hand by William Barry, S.J. is also a very fine summer book. It centers on prayer as a conscious relationship with God and the effects of engaging more fully into the relationship. Broken into four sections, the first part deals with coming to understand more about God in prayer; the second examines the ways we come to know whether the response to our prayer is God’s voice or from the evil spirits; the third unpacks various ways that we can learn to live more prayerfully in our contemporary world with the great sin and evil that beset us; the fourth section ponders God’s creation and what God is calling forth in us; and the final section centers on the ways in which we are changed by our relationship with God.

Anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus

August 7th is the anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus following its suppression in 1773. During this period, Jesuits were not allowed to function as a religious order priest except in Russia under the aegis of Catherine the Great. As you will recall the American Revolution and the French Revolution occurred creating massive changes in the social structures in Europe and the New World. The Age of Enlightenment was ushered in. In the newly restored Society, the Jesuit Order adopted a more conservative approach in its governance to ensure that it would no longer fall out of favor with Rome and the governments of Europe.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

August 2, 2009

Last week we saw Jesus as the Good Shepherd feeding the 5,000 hungry people as an example of the ways that God takes care of us. This week we get more feeding narratives in Exodus and John that remind us of the source of our daily nourishment.

The response of the people in each narrative is significant. The whole Israelite community that has just safely fled Egypt is now grumbling because they do not have the comforts of home and they are now hungry because their resources have been depleted. Moses intercedes for them and God sends bread from heaven each morning to provide for their daily nourishment. While they eat the food they have been provided, they do not quite know how to respond to the Lord’s generosity. Hints of dissatisfaction abound. In John’s Gospel, they realize they witnessed an extraordinary event and go to great lengths to seek out Jesus who is the agent of this miraculous feeding. They seek to know more about this man and the source of his power.

Jesus tells the spiritually hungry people that they are to believe in Jesus as the one sent by God to bring about the fullness of the Lord’s kingdom. He declares, “I am the bread of Life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” His “I am” statement is provocative because only God is “I am who am” and Jesus puts himself on equal footing with God. However, many people believe in him and desire the bread from heaven that gives life to the world.

During these days of summer when our schedules slow down a little we can take some time to examine those areas deep in our souls that need nourishment. We need the quiet where we can spend time with the Risen Lord who can give us the food that endures for eternal life. We need to spend time with his Cross even though it will bring us much pain. The Cross of love is what allows us to be close to God who wants to take care of our needs and pains. When we accept the Cross, we can accept Christ’s ongoing, consoling nourishment of our hungry areas. We come to greater belief and we continue to beg Jesus to “give us this bread always.”

Quote for the Week

As I watched; thrones were set up and the Ancient One took his throne. His clothing was bright as snow, and the hair on his head as white as wool; His throne was flames of fire, with wheels of burning fire. A surging stream of fire flowed out form where he sat; thousands upon thousands were ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attended him. The court was convened and the books were opened.

As the visions during the night continued, I saw: One like a Son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, the one like a Son of Man received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away; his kingship shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14)

Themes for this Week’s Masses

Poor Moses. He has such a difficult time with the Hebrew people. After the people receive their fill, they complain that they only get manna each morning in contrast to the lush foods they ate in Egypt. Moses feels the weight of the people’s grumblings, but God asks him to persevere. Even Miriam and Aaron test Moses, but the Lord upholds Moses’ actions and calls him his own special servant. When Miriam is afflicted with leprosy, both she and Aaron ask for forgiveness for their grumblings. Shortly thereafter, Moses sends a delegation into the Promised Land for forty days. They report that the people who reside in the lands are formidable and that the Hebrews do not have enough resources to overtake them. As the people grumble once again, God punishes them by having them wander in the desert for forty years before they can enter the land they are to inherit. Moses ends with a plea to the people to remember the Lord’s kindness and to honor their part of the covenant. Choose life, he exhorts them. The laws of God give life.

This is an eventful week within Matthew’s Gospel as Jesus learns that his good friend John the Baptizer has been killed, and out of compassion, he feeds the crowds who seek him out and gather around him for healing. He then strengthens the faith of the disciples when he calms the storm and asks Peter to step out onto the water to come to him. Next, he heals the insistent Canaanite woman’s daughter even though she is not a Jew and cures the boy who is possessed by a demon when his disciples are not able to effectively cure him. Greater prayer is needed. His transfiguration assures us that even though he will have to die, he will ultimately triumph.

Saints of the Week

John Mary Vianney, the Cure of Ars, is honored on Tuesday for his long-standing practice of hearing confessions for twelve to sixteen hours a day. Visitors and pilgrims sought his pastoral counsel as a parish priest from 1818-1859.

The Dedication of the Basilica of Mary Major in Rome is celebrated on Wednesday. This is the church in which Ignatius of Loyola celebrated his Mass of Thanksgiving as a priest. It is also the church were the first crèche was set up in honor of Christ’s birth. The basilica is a fourth century church that is older and larger than the other Roman churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Once Mary was proclaimed the Mother of God in 431, the church was repaired and renovated in her honor.

Thursday is the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord when Jesus is revealed to his closest friends as the dearly beloved Son of God in a flash of dazzling white. He appears with Moses, the Law-giver, and Elijah, the prophet, high atop a mountain. When he comes down the mountain with Peter, James and John, he joins the other disciples to foretell his Passion and death.

On Friday, we remember Sixtus II, Pope, and companions for their witness to the faith during the Valerian persecution in 257. Sixtus was presiding at Mass in the catacombs with seven deacons when the Roman authorities beheaded him and killed six deacons immediately and Deacon Lawrence three days later. Sixtus is mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer in the Latin Rite.

Saturday is the memorial of Dominic de Guzman, founder of the Dominicans. He was sent to southern France to combat the heretical Albigensians who contended that all matter was evil and good could only be achieved by practicing austere ascetical habits. Dominic was austere himself and he recruited other preachers to help spread orthodoxy across Europe. He founded a new order with highly educated priests and Dominic itinerantly traveled to many cities to assist people practice Christian charity.

Vandalism to the Chapel Windows at Cheverus

The chapel windows at Cheverus High School were broken by rocks thrown by vandals. These windows contained depictions of the early life of the founding Jesuits. We are saddened by this tragic event as these windows are treasures of the Catholic community in Maine and a great source of pride for the school.