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Monday, May 31, 2010

Prayer: Richard Rohr, OFM

What we know about God is important, but what we do with what we know about God is even more important.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Spirituality: Ignatian Prayer


• Find a quiet place where distractions are minimized.
• Aim to be still (seated, standing, kneeling or prostrate.) Avoid moving around.
• If you have been busy or agitated, allow a little time to quiet and center your heart and mind. Try muscle relaxation – slow deep, and conscious breathing.
• Allow sufficient time either side of your conscious prayer so that you do not feel hurried.

Approach to Prayer

1. After going to bed, think for one or two minutes about the time to get up and the prayer that I am going to make.
2. Upon waking, let your thoughts attend to the subject of the prayer.
3. Maintain this recollection as you wash, dress, etc.
4. To establish a context for prayer, stand for a minute or so to acknowledge and welcome God’s presence with you and offer God this prayer as an act of love.
5. Ask for the grace you seek. What are your deepest desires.
6. Various postures can be helpful for prayer.
7. If you sense that you are obtaining what you desire, do not change your posture. If, however, you begin to grow uneasy, restless, or distracted, perhaps a change of posture may help.
8. Stay quietly at any point where you find what you desire, with no eagerness to move on until you are satisfied.
9. Conclude the prayer time with the Lord’s Prayer or another vocal prayer.
10. After each prayer time, take a break.
11. Spend 15 minutes or so on the review.
12. Give thanks, where appropriate, ask pardon where necessary.
13. Make a few notes – See Reviewing your Prayer.
14. Maintain the mood of the particular phrase or “week” of the Spiritual Exercises as much as possible.

Scripture Prayer

• Slowly and reflectively read the passage,
• Pause
• Read it again,
• As you absorb the reading, attend to your feelings. They may be no more than zephyr strong, positive or negative.

Imagination – Contemplative Prayer

• Imagination engages the heart more than the intellect, the right side of the brain more than the left.
• The scriptures, especially the Gospels which are well suited to this type of prayer, are more than historical biographies in the modern sense. Rather they offer a vision of faith colored by the essentials “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” The Jesus we meet is the risen Lord active in the community today. By using our imagination we are appropriating the eternal trust of the scriptures to ourselves here and now, just as we are. We are rightly asking, “What would have happened if I had been present with Jesus?”
• Use all your senses to imagine the scene described in the scripture selected. What do you see, hear, smell, feel, taste.
• Then let the story take shape: the different characters. What are they doing? Saying? Where are you? Perhaps you are identified with one of the characters, one of the disciples, one of the crowd, an onlooker, etc. Perhaps you will speak with someone, or touch someone, or simply connect with someone through a gaze.
• Do not hurry. Trust the experience and let it unfold itself. Do not try to intellectualize or judge what occurs.
• Notice your feelings, desires, etc. (positive or negative) and stay with them; let Jesus (or God or a character you are relating to in the story) know how you are feeling or ask them to reveal something more of themselves to you.
• When you sense the prayer has come to an end, do not rush to the next stage; sit with what has happened for a period, savor it especially if you have received a grace. This may motivate further dialogue with Jesus (of God, a character) or a desire simply to gaze upon Jesus and enjoy the sweetness of the moment longer in your heart (i.e., contemplation.)

These suggestions to facilitate your prayer are not a mechanical technique. They are often helpful but do not guarantee an experience of God. God cannot be manipulated. All prayer is God’s gift.

Sometimes prayer can be dry. Nothing much seems to happen. Providing we have given ourselves generously to prayer and sought to follow the guidelines, many saints have proven over time, we can leave the ‘result’ to God who will always offer us the best and often we grow more in dryness and shadows than in abundance, material or spiritual.

Distractions: These are quite common. Simply acknowledge them and return to your prayer focus. Each turning from distraction to prayer is in effect an act of love and faithfulness.

Pray as you can, not as you can’t. The goal is a relationship with God which brings conversion that bears fruit and honors God so that we make a difference in our families, communities, workplaces, nations and world. The goal is NOT to feel good or have some ecstatic experience of God.

From Joseph Sobb, S.J. of the Australian province

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Holy Trinity Sunday 2010

May 30, 2010

Our faith is a strange one. We believe in one God with three distinct expressions of divine activities (creator, redeemer, and sustainer) and few of us can adequately explain the Trinitarian nature to another person. In fact, when I hear a person speaking about his or her images of the Triune God in prayer, the person seldom has a clear notion of these individual expressions of God. We don’t spend too much time reflection upon the names of God and their meanings either. No wonder why prayer is so hard at times. To complicate matters, the reading from Proverbs today speaks about Lady Wisdom existing with God at the beginning of time as a co-creator. This all gets complicated, but the key point for us to focus upon is the way they relate to each other and to us.

The personified Lady Wisdom is a partner with God who was beside him during creation and was “his delight day by day.” This is an image of a deeply happy God who is pleased with the result of his work and has fun sharing it with Wisdom. This is a God who likes to play and recreate: as Wisdom was “playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of the earth; and I found delight in the human race.” We get the sense that God really enjoys creation. After all, he declares it ‘good’ and in this passage Wisdom also delights in us. You can almost detect the two of them laughing because they are pleased in our goodness. This is quite an image on which to chew in prayer.

The question that arises is: “Do we delight in God and allow ourselves to have fun with God?” For many, it is an unusual question, but still a relevant one. How often do we turn to God in prayer and just say, “I am happy. I am happy with the life we have lived together?” In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that the Spirit of Truth will come and will glorify Jesus and will provide us comfort. The words of Jesus about the Father are remarkable because they are words of sharing freely what one has with the other with the lack of possessiveness. Everything exists for the other’s delight and glory, and this Triune God invites us into this relationship in which each finds the best in the other. Oh, it is so good to experience God glorifying each of us personally – just finding delight in us. We have so many burdens and concerns that we often forget to just approach God and spend some time in fun and recreation. What a world we could have if we could relax a little more in prayer and enjoy the affectionate way God longs to relate to us.

Quote for the Week

In honor of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, I offer the ‘Hail Mary’ in French and German.

Je vous salue Marie, pleine de grâce, le Seigneur est avec vous;
vous êtes bénie entre toutes les femmes;
et Jésus, le fruit de vos entrailles, est béni.
Sainte Marie, Mère de Dieu,
priez pour nous, pécheurs,
maintenant et à l'heure de notre mort. Amen.

Gegrüßet seist du, Maria, voll der Gnade; der Herr ist mit dir;
du bist gebenedeit unter den Frauen,
und gebenedeit ist die Frucht deines Leibes, Jesus.
Heilige Maria, Mutter Gottes, bitte für uns Sünder
jetzt und in der Stunde unseres Todes. Amen.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Peter urges his readers to wait for and hasten the coming of the day of God and to refrain from behaviors not born of righteousness. Paul writes to Timothy to tell of his gratitude to God in the face of terrible suffering he faces. He urges people to stop disputing about words and to accept the salvation that is offered to them. He exhorts them to turn to Scripture to help them stay faithful because it will give them the wisdom for salvation. Paul is ready to turn over the church to Timothy and other leaders and he encourages them to persevere in preaching the word an doing anything that will help people receive the Gospel.

Gospel: From the outset of his ministry, Jesus meets opposition. The Herodians and Pharisees try to trip him up and discredit him with a brainteaser. When asked whether to pay Caesar’s tax or not, he tells them to respect the authorities of the world in their matters and to respect God’s authority in God’s matters. The Sadducees accost him with a teaching on the resurrection and the seven marriages and he declares that God is the living God. A scribe, often an opponent, asks Jesus about the greatest commandment. Moved by the answer of Jesus, his mind and heart are moved to greater understanding. Jesus cautions about the profession of the scribes who accept worldly honors, but do not live up to their teachings; just then a poor woman comes by and drops two coins into the temple treasury causing Jesus much happiness because she lives righteously – according to the Law.

Saints of the Week

Monday: The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a day that celebrates the rejoicing of Mary and the formerly barren Elizabeth who both find themselves pregnant. Today is a day of wonder because of the awesome plan of God to bring about the incarnation: Elizabeth calls Mary blessed, which ushers in Mary’s great song of praise.

Tuesday: Justin, martyr, was a philosopher from Samaria and he would teach others about the faith through philosophical means. His trial about debating habits is recorded and he is known to have professed with Christian discipleship and refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods. For this, he was condemned to death.

Wednesday: Marcellinus and Peter, martyrs, are familiar to us because their names are mentioned in Eucharistic Prayer I. They were killed in the Diocletian persecution in the fourth century. Peter is said to have been an exorcist and he worked under the direction of Marcellinus.

Thursday: Charles Llwanga and companion, martyrs, were killed in Uganda on this date in 1886. Charles and his friends became converts by the White Fathers. He and his companions were ordered to stop preaching and baptizing by King Mwanga who ushered in a period of persecution in which ten thousand people were martyred.

Saturday: Boniface, bishop and martyr, began his missionary career in north Netherlands and was sent to make converts in 719. As bishop of Germany, he cut down the Oak of Thor and was not beset by calamities as people superstitiously expected. On this date in 754, as he was planning to confirm more converts, non Christians rose up to kill him and his companions.

This Week in Jesuit History

• March 30, 1545: At Meliapore, Francis Xavier came on pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Thomas the Apostle.
• March 31, 1548: Fr. Anthony Corduba, rector of the College of Salamanca, begged Ignatius to admit him into the Society so as to escape the cardinalate which Charles V intended to procure for him.
• Apr 1, 1941. The death of Hippolyte Delehaye in Brussels. He was an eminent hagiographer and in charge of the Bollandists from 1912 to 1941.
• Apr 2, 1767. Charles III ordered the arrest of all the Jesuits in Spain and the confiscation of all their property.
• Apr 3, 1583. The death of Jeronimo Nadal, one of the original companions of Ignatius who later entrusted him with publishing and distributing the Jesuit Constitutions to the various regions of the early Society.
• Apr 4, 1534. Peter Faber (Pierre Favre) ordained a deacon in Paris.
• Apr 5, 1635. The death of Louis Lellemant, writer and spiritual teacher.

Happy Memorial Day

I offer bountiful prayers and blessings for all of the deceased service men and women of the U.S. who gave their lives as their greatest gift to their country’s values and freedom. Blessings also on all our veterans and current military personnel who protect our national interests and make our lives able to live in peace and security.

ATrinitarian Blessing

Blessed be you, our God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for the love you have shown us. You reveal yourself in the depths of our being; you draw us to share in your life and life. Be near to us for you have created us in your image and likeness, redeemed us and made us your children, and sustain us with your grace and the memory of the ways you have united your life to ours. We bless you through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Prayer: Katherine Drexel (1858-1955)

If we wish to serve God and love our neighbor well,
we must manifest our joy in the service we render to him
and them. Let us open wide our hearts. It is joy which
invites us. Press forward and fear nothing.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Prayer: John Chrysostom

So you want peace of heart? Seek wisdom in God’s sight, stick to the virtues, and nothing will be able to make you sad.

Prayer: Joseph deGuibert, S.J.

St. Ignatius’ conversion was essentially his discovery of the greatest and most attractive of all leaders, our Lord Jesus Christ. Ignatius expressed with great ardor this desire “to be placed with Jesus.”… Both the desire and the thirst also formed, I think, a twofold component which was the most profound, general, constant, and predominant characteristic in the spirituality of his followers. That trait can be expressed thus: to be with Christ – in order to serve Him…. From this point of view, it is beyond all doubt that for the Jesuits, as for Ignatius, the center of their spiritual life is truly in that devotion to Christ.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Spirituality: “Mid-Life Reconciliation” from Christian Life Patterns

The reconciliation demanded in mid-life is not a return to a former balance and maturity, from which I have fallen during this time of crisis or distress. It is a reconciliation within myself and of myself with God. Reckoning with the dream and reordering the polarities in my life are part of the task. I become reconciled with my past, acknowledging personal limitations and sinfulness in a way not possible before. This interior reconciliation (with myself and with God) must often be accompanied by reconciliation with loved one – spouse, parents, children, friends. In the liturgical celebration of mid-life passage, in the midst of the Eucharist or as a part of a communal experience of the sacramental rite of reconciliation, for example, this reconciliation is acknowledged and celebrated in the community of faith. The person, after some difficulty and struggle, has reached a new and grace-filled stage in life. The healing and reconciliation which have been experienced will release new energies in the person, which, in the shape of a broader care and a more altruistic concern for others, will benefit many in the believing community and beyond.

Evelyn Eaton Whitehead and James D. Whitehead

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Prayer: Jerome

Indeed full of grace, for to others it is given in portions, but on Mary its fullness in showered.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Prayer: John Padberg, S.J.

Simple, friendly and informal conversations were the earliest and chief means that Ignatius employed in helping people. Right from his conversion in 1521 he wanted, to use his own words, “to help souls.” The way he started was to talk to people, men and women, young and old, about the things that really mattered to them and to him, Such simple talk, such conversation, was the beginning of the life and works of the Society of Jesus.

The term “conversation” in its most obvious sense means to talk with someone and, by so doing, to exchange sentiments, observations, opinions and ideas. Ignatius had that meaning in mind, but he also intended the older and more inclusive meaning of turning towards someone: to live with, keep company with and even to help oneself and the other person toward new experiences and new interpretations of them.

The Society in its members has carried on a great variety of such conversations. Among them, to cite but a few general areas, have been conversations with the secular world in all its variety, with other religious groups, both Christian and non-Christian, with the tradition and practices and personalities of its own Church, with itself among each generation of its own members and, finally, with the Lord.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Prayer: Peter Hans-Kolvenbach, S.J., former Superior General

The whole of Ignatius’ stance and vision is centered on the person of Christ…. The saving action of God must be continued after the example of Jesus Christ, the Man for Others. We are called to model our lives on Jesus, who shares our lot and becomes for us, way, truth and life – Jesus who shares his ministry with even clumsy fishermen – who has compassion on the multitude and feeds the hungry, gives sight to the blind – who is the good shepherd who lays down his life for this sheep – who forgives even his executioners and returns with the fullness of life and the gift of Easter peace – “What think you of Christ Jesus?” – “Who do you say that I am?”

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Prayer: The Golden Sequence of Pentecost

This is a version of the Golden Sequence that is prayed before the proclamation of the Gospel on Pentecost Sunday.

Come, Holy Spirit,
send forth the heavenly
radiance of your light.

Come, father of the poor,
come giver of gifts,
come, light of the heart.

Greatest comforter,
sweet guest of the soul,
sweet consolation.

In labor, rest,
in heat, temperance,
in tears, solace.

O most blessed light,
fill the inmost heart
of your faithful.

Without your divine will,
there is nothing in man,
nothing is harmless.

Wash that which is unclean,
water that which is dry,
heal that which is wounded.

Bend that which is inflexible,
warm that which is chilled,
make right that which is wrong.

Give to your faithful,
who rely on you,
the sevenfold gifts.

Give reward to virtue,
give salvation at our passing on,
give eternal joy.

Amen. Alleluia.

Song: If Ye Love Me by Thomas Tallis

"If ye Love Me" by Thomas Tallis is inspired by the readings used in the John 14 -  a Gospel selection for Pentecost. It is a soulful reflection of the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit into our lives. Click on the link below to listen to the song.

Thoms Tallis's "If ye Love Me".

Pentecost 2010

May 23, 2010

Last week I went scuba-diving for the first time. As I began my descent, I mildly panicked and held my breath as I struggled to rise to the surface of the ocean. As I gasped for air, I realized I had all the air I needed in the tube connected to the compressed oxygen tanks. I hesitatingly submerged again and marveled at the comfort I felt when I just breathed in deeply and out slowly. Being underwater was like praying because I just needed to focus on breathing rhythmically. I could then observe the vast beauty the engulfed me. Since it is part of our autonomic nervous system, we often overlook the life-sustaining reality of breathing. On this Pentecost Sunday, we are reminded of the life-giving breath of the Holy Spirit that we receive to renew us.

In our readings today we get images of Pentecost that greatly vary from one another. The Acts of the Apostles sets up our imagination to experience a sudden cosmic divine event replete with a strong driving wind and tongues as of fire that rest upon one another’s heads. John 20 brings us back to Easter night when Jesus appears to the frightful huddled disciples to wish them peace and to breathe the Holy Spirit upon them. In John 13, Jesus promises to send the Advocate who will provide comfort and counsel. We see different functions of the spirit. In Acts, the Spirit unifies all believers irrespective of their particular circumstances; in John 20, the Spirit brings peace through reconciliation with a mission to be sent further into the world; in John 14, the Spirit comforts, consoles and teaches. Paul’s description of the Spirit tells us that each person will have a manifestation of the Spirit for a particular benefit.

It is reassuring to think that Christ Jesus has breathed his life into our mortal bodies. It is the richly vivifying breath from a man who lived, died, rose to new life and can never die again. Because of the life he brings us, we are compelled to live in a way that is set apart so that we can live like Jesus and carry on the tasks he gave us. Pentecost for us is a renewal of our mission to be sent as he was sent. We can do great things for Christ if we invite him more deeply into the ordinariness of our day and realize that it is his Spirit working through us and urging us on to do the good he desires for us. My choice is to let Christ’s Spirit be the breath in my oxygen tank.

Quote for the Week

From The Sequence that precedes the proclamation of the Gospel on Pentecost:

Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine….
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away.
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Peter writes about the enduring benefit of believing in Christ, even for those who did not know him. He then reassures them that the prophets and so many other people worked for the Good News brought by Jesus and the Spirit. We are to hope completely in God’s grace and live in holiness. Peter teaches them to live in a now and not yet world with a pure heart and fraternal love. This new holiness is set apart from the world’s desires. The faithful ones are to live up to a new standard that is built upon the rejected cornerstone of Christ. Everyone is to share his or her unique gifts for the glory of God with an intense love and a wide hospitality. All that is essential is getting to know Christ Jesus; we are to build up one another in their journey of faith.

Gospel: Jesus illustrates the difficulties in following his example. A dutiful young man wishes to follow Jesus and can do all things well except for giving his heart wholeheartedly to the person of Jesus. This causes the disciples to wonder if they can make it into heaven. Jesus reassures them that they have responded well to his invitation, but they still get do not understand the radical nature of discipleship as the others find themselves in opposition to James and John who want to be the favored disciples of Jesus in the kingdom. The petitions of the blind Bartimaeus reveal the qualities of real faith: it is coming to see that Jesus is the Messiah. On his way to the Temple, Jesus curses the fig tree, the symbol of Israel, and overturns the tables of the tradesmen who denigrated the temple. All the people and the leaders intensely desired to know by what power Jesus taught, acted, healed, and preached.

Saints of the Week

Tuesday: Bede, the Venerable, priest and Doctor, is the only English Doctor of the church. As a Benedictine monk, he wrote many biblical commentaries and historical treatises. He provided the best and only source of data for early Anglo-Saxon history. He died in 735 CE. Gregory VII, pope, as a young Tuscan man, studied under the great canonist, Gratian. When Gratian became Gregory VI, he served as his secretary, chaplain, chancellor and counselor. Gregory VII reformed the church by asserting Papal authority over civil authorities, which caused much dissension.

Wednesday: Philip Neri, priest, studied theology in Rome in the early 16th century so he could re-evangelize Rome as the Protestant Reformation was coming about. He founded an organization to help pilgrims and a hospital. As he was renowned as a confessor and spiritual director, he set up the Oratorians in 1575 as was attracted many disciples of his wisdom.

Thursday: Augustine of Canterbury, bishop, was sent with 40 priests to evangelize Britain in 596. Augustine was well received and set up the church hierarchy in England and turned many of the pagan feasts into religious ones. Wales was the only holdout to conversion. Augustine set up the first Benedictine monastery at Canterbury.

This Week in Jesuit History

• May 23, 1873. The death of Peter de Smet, a famous missionary among Native Americans of the great plains and mountains of the United States. He served as a mediator and negotiator of several treaties.
• May 24, 1834. Don Pedro IV expelled the Society from Brazil.
• May 25, 1569. At Rome the Society was installed by Pope St Pius V in the College of Penitentiaries. Priests of various nationalities who were resident there were required to act as confessors in St Peter's.
• May 26, 1673. Ching Wei San (Emmanuel de Sigueira) died, the first Chinese Jesuit priest.
• May 27, 1555. The Viceroy of India sent an embassy to Claudius, Emperor of Ethiopia, hoping to win him and his subjects over to Catholic unity. Nothing came of this venture, but Fr. Goncalvo de Silveira, who would become the Society's first martyr on the Africa soil, remained in the country.
• May 28, 1962. The death of Bernard Hubbard famous Alaskan missionary. He was the author of the book Mush, You Malemutes! and wrote a number of articles on the Alaska mission.
• May 29, 1991. Pope John Paul II announces that Paulo Dezza, SJ is to become a Cardinal, as well as Jan Korec, in Slovakia.

Plans for the week

I am back in Pymble (Sydney) where I will begin a week of study of Jesuit social justice efforts that arise from a faith that does justice. Though I have enjoyed my time away, I’m glad to be back home with my brother tertians.

That was a moment of Enlightenment for the disciple, who suddenly became free.
Isn't there such a thing as social liberation?"
"Of course there is," said the Master.
"How would you describe it?"
"Liberation from the need to belong to the herd."

(One Minute Nonsense (1992), p.172)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Poem: Rumi

Out beyond ideas of right and wrong there’s a field. I’ll meet you there.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Poem: Message by Kathleen Raine

Look, beloved child, into my eyes, see there
Your self, mirrored in that living water
From whose deep pools all images or earth are born.
See, in the gaze that holds you dear
All that you were, are and shall be forever.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Prayer: From the Orthodox Great Compline

You, O Lord, are the God of those who repent,
and in me you will manifest your goodness;
for, unworthy as I am, you will save me according
to your great mercy, and I will praise you continually
all the days of my life.

For all the host of heaven sings your praise, and
yours is the glory forever. Amen.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Prayer: Francis Xavier, S.J.

We have visited the villages of the new converts who accepted the Christian religion a few years ago…. I have not stopped since the day I arrived. I conscientiously made the rounds of the villages. I bathed in the sacred waters all the children who had not yet been baptized…. The older children would not let me say my Office or eat or sleep until I taught them one prayer or another. Then I began to understand: “The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

I could not refuse so devout a request without failing in devotion myself. I taught them, first the confession of faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; then the Apostles’ Creed, the Our Father and the Hail Mary. I noticed among them persons of great intelligence. If only someone could educate them in the Christian way of life, I have no doubt that they would make excellent Christians.

Many people hereabouts are not becoming Christian for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians. Again and again I have thought of going round the universities of Europe, especially Paris, and everywhere crying out like a madman, riveting the attention of those with more learning than charity: “What a tragedy: how many souls are being shut out of heaven and falling into hell, thanks to you!”

I wish they would work as hard at this as they do at their books, and so settle their account with God for their learning and the talents entrusted to them. This thought would certainly stir most of them to meditate on spiritual realities, to listen actively to what God is saying to them. They would forget their own desires, their human affairs, and give themselves over entirely to God’s will and his choice. They would cry out with all their hear: Lord, I am here! What do you want me to do? Send me anywhere you like – even to India!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Spirituality: “Fear of Death” from Christian Life Patterns

Fear of death is less of an annihilation than it is of absurdity. Death comes too soon – it will seal the emptiness of my life before I can make sense of it, before I can complete some last desperate attempt to give it meaning. The resources of spirit that are released in the integrity stage of mature life can give me the strength to affirm a meaning in my life that transcends my own death. This need not mean that I welcome death. It need not mean that my final years will not know doubts or regret or fear. But it means that these are not all. With the resources of personal integrity, the completed strength of mature development, I can affirm that, ultimately, death shall not prevail. It is in such “final consolidation” that death loses its sting. For the sting of death is not the loss of life, but the loss of meaning.

Evelyn Eaton Whitehead and James D. Whitehead

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Poem: The Holy Man, Brendan Kennelly, 1968

A trapped bird
A wrecked ship
An empty cup
A withered tree
Is he
Who scorns the will of the King above.

Pure gold
Bright sun
Filled wine-cup
Happy beautiful holy
Is he
Who does the will of the King of Love.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Song: You Raise Me Up

The song "You Raise Me Up" is a fitting song for the Easter/Ascension seasons. I have two selections listed below for your enjoyment

Westlife performs with a complementary video.
The Celtic Women perform live at Slane Castle in Ireland.

(Ascension) Seventh Sunday of Easter

May 16, 2010

I love Luke’s question, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” It is reminiscent of his question during that Easter dawn when two men in white ask, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” These questions are placed there to help us transform our thinking. So what if we lived as if we were a transformed people? In the intermittent time between these two questions, we see the apostles acting with confidence and absolute trust that they are assured entrance into salvation. The disciples get a second chance to say their goodbyes to Jesus, but this time, instead of cowering in fear, they return to their lives with great joy continually praising God.

Where is our joy? It makes me wonder whether our worship patterns help us to glorify God for all he has done for us. Our church is the very instrument that is designed to mediate this joy from God to us. The very same Jesus who rose from the dead and appeared to the apostles is the same Lord who is active in our lives. The Spirit that he promised and we received in our confirmation is the Spirit who brings us wisdom and revelation. The Spirit continues the ministry of Jesus by teaching us about God through the rich meaning of Scripture and consoling us in our times of need. The Ascension makes it possible for Jesus to be invisibly present to us so we can be brought closer into the heart of God. This is a tremendous reason to praise God and live in glory. The promise of salvation is ours; it is the measure by which all other events are measured.

Perhaps this Ascension and Pentecost, we can fully receive the Spirit that is promised to us. Jesus has greater power than any other power in the universe and he gives us a share of this power through the Spirit. Consider the ways our church and world could be transformed if we really truly accepted the authority Christ gave to us. It is not only given to our religious leaders but to each and every believer. Vatican II says that we are to exercise our authority as priest, prophet, and king in imitation of Christ. Our church is confusion because of the conflict it faces with culture and we need our faithful ones to actively learn about our tradition, study theology, reflect upon moral issues so we can form our conscience and seek what we need. Let’s boldly consider the ways we can possibly use our God-given authority. It is good to remember that Jesus is not up in the sky, but imminently present around us and within our culture. Let’s find a way of praying and of becoming more keenly aware so we can discern the power we have inherited. Imagine how Christ can transform our lives if we pray that we can receive the power he offers us. That can bring us great joy.

Quote for the Week

From The Acts of the Apostles for the Ascension of the Lord:

When they gathered together they asked Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Judaizers, the opponents of Paul’s theology, present great trouble for him and the new church, but it caused the community to come together to report what God has done with them and to show how God opened the door to the Gentiles. The church members head to Jerusalem to speak with the disciples and elders about the necessity of circumcision as a requirement for entrance to the faith, but the disciples decide no further burdens are to be placed on them. They are to be welcomed into the community as they respectfully observe the essential aspects of the worship life.

Gospel: John’s Supper Discourse continues as the Twelve wonder where Jesus is going after his death. Jesus wishes them the type of lasting peace that is rare in this world so that they can continue to be with him in faith. He describes the way that they will remain together as he is the true vine and they are the branches. Discipleship, for John’s Jesus, is to believe in him and by doing so to keep his commandments - the greatest one being love of each other in the way the Father loves Jesus. Beware, though, that many people will persecute them because of the name of Jesus. Hold steadfast as God is steadfast.

Saints of the Week

Tuesday: John I, pope and martyr, was caught in a political feud between Emperor Justin I in Constantinople who was persecuting the Arians and Theodoric the Goth, an Arian, who ruled Italy. John was sent by Theodoric to Justine to end the persecution. John negotiated the end of the persecution and Justin accepted all of Theodoric’s demands, but Theodoric was dissatisfied. He imprisoned John and starved him to death in prison.

Thursday: Bernardine of Siena, priest, became an orphan at age 7 but was taken in by his noble relatives. During an outbreak of the plague in 1400, he inspired many men to risk their lives in service to others. He entered the Franciscans two years later and was ordained a priest. His preaching attracted the attention of many in northern and central Italy. Having refused to become a bishop, he became vicar general of the Franciscans where he brought about several reforms.

Friday: Christopher Magallanes, priest and companion, martyrs, worked with the indigenous people of Mexico as a priest to found schools and centers for catechism. He also began farming cooperatives and tried to form seminaries during an administration that was anti-Catholic. In 1927 because of his seditious activities of promoting rebellion, he was executed with 21 diocesan priests and 3 laymen.

Saturday: Rita of Cascia, religious was married to an angry man who treated her cruelly. Her twin sons wanted revenge on the person who murdered their father, but they died before they could carry out their plan. This gave Rita, who was from Umbria, the opportunity to enter a convent. Denied three times because she was no longer a virgin and had married in life, the Augustinians accepted her where she prayed for the church and the poor.

This Week in Jesuit History

• May 16, 1988. In Paraguay, Pope John Paul II canonizes Roque Gonzalez, Alfonso Rodriguez, and Juan del Castillo.
• May 17, 1572. Pope Gregory XIII exempted the Society from choir and approved simple vows after two years of novitiate and ordination before solemn profession. In these matters he reversed a decree of St Pius V.
• May 18, 1769. The election of Cardinal Lorenzo Ganganelli as Pope Clement XIV. He was the pope who suppressed the Society.
• May 19, 1652. Birth of Paul Hoste mathematician and expert on construction of ships and history of naval warfare.
• May 20, 1521. Ignatius was seriously wounded at Pamplona, Spain, while defending its fortress against the French.
• May 21, 1925. Pius XI canonizes Peter Canisius, with Teresa of the Child Jesus, Mary Madeleine Postal, Madeleine Sophie Barat, John Vianney, and John Eudes. Canisius is declared a Doctor of the Church.
• May 22, 1965. Pedro Arrupe was elected the 28th general of the Society of Jesus.

Plans for the Week

Thanks for your prayers for the retreatants at Xavier Catholic School in Hervey Bay. I am now visiting the Jesuit community in Brisbane before I return to Sydney to resume our month-long period of study of the Constitutions and our history.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Poem: The World is Charged with the Grandeur of God

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Prayer: Robert Harvanek, S.J.

It is frequently remarked that there is no particular form of prayer peculiar to the Society. I have never been able to understand this. It has always seemed to me that all Jesuit prayer, in all its modes, is prayer of the governance of God. What we do is respond to God’s grace and open ourselves to His action as He uses us to further His plan for His Kingdom. The consolation of the prayer is not in the prayer itself but in the way in which we are supported in the mission or the work that is given us.

What I am trying to communicate here is expressed in the formula found in Hevenesi’s Sparks from Ignatius. It is popularly known in its somewhat heretical form, “Pray as though everything depends on God, act as though everything depends on you.” Hevenesi’s formula avoids the heresy and expresses the Ignatian insight: “Trust in God, but with the awareness that, if the work is to be done, you will have to do it; give yourself to the work, but in the knowledge that, if it will be accomplished, it is God who will do it.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Prayer: Karl Rahner, S.J.

Many will ask how a modern man can still remain or become a Jesuit. The reply to such a question can only be the very person one of each Jesuit. I would like to give my own reply to that question in all simplicity even though it may sound somewhat pious.

I still see around me living in many of my companions a readiness for disinterested service carried out in silence, a readiness for prayer, an abandonment to the incomprehensibility of God, for the calm acceptance of death in whatever form it may come, for total dedication to the following of Christ crucified.

And so for me, in the final analysis it is no great matter what credit in the history of culture or of the Church goes to a line of men with a spirit like that, nor does it matter to me if a similar spirit is found in other groups, named or nameless.

The fact is that the spirit exists here. I think of brothers that I myself have known – of my friend, Alfred Delp, who with hands chained signed his declaration of final membership in the Society; of one who in a village in India that is unknown to Indian intellectuals helps poor people to dig their wells; of another who for long hours in the confessional listens to the pain and torment of ordinary people who are far more complex than they appear on the surface. I think of one who in Barcelona is beaten by police along with his students without the satisfaction of actually being a revolutionary and savoring its glory; of one who assists daily in the hospital at the bedside of death until that unique event becomes for him a dull routine; of the one who in prison must proclaim over and over again the message of the Gospel with never a token of gratitude, who is more appreciated for the handout of cigarettes than for the words of the Good News he brings; of the one who with difficulty and without any clear evidence of success plods away at the task of awakening in just a few men and women a small spark of faith, of hope and of charity.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Prayer: Rule of Benedict

Never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Prayer: Gloria (Glory Be) in Spanish

Gloria al Padre, al Hijo y al Espíritu Santo.
Como era en el principio, ahora y siempre,
por los siglos de los siglos.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Prayer: For Mother’s Day

Loving God,

as a mother gives life and nourishment to her children, so you watch over us. Bless our mother. Let the example of her faith and love shine forth. Grant that we, her family, many honor her always with a spirit of profound respect. Grant this through Christ our Lord.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 9, 2010

The church faced perhaps its greatest crisis in its teaching authority when it was confronted with the question of deciding whether Gentile Christians were to act like Jews, to be circumcised, and to follow Jewish dietary and religious laws. The church leaders, through the Holy Spirit, relaxed its membership regulations, which left Jewish questions wondering why they too would be bound by the law. Heated debates and dissension were resolved through the pastoral ways of skillful leadership. The content of debates of the past may differ from our present challenges, but the relational and interpersonal ways of dealing with conflict remain the same. As we face the many disheartening crises today in our church, we can learn from the style and manner of our early leaders in resolving disputes and discerning the will of God.

Notice the dynamics of the early church’s debates: differing cultural contexts and hermeneutics, uncertainty, deep dissension, harsh debates, digging into entrenched positions, those who wrongly usurp teaching authority and threaten exclusion from membership, appeal to a higher authority for resolution and clarity. Even in a community based on love, deep divisions can occur. Love is essential, but it is difficult to govern a community based solely on love, but a loving concern by the authorities can make all the difference in the world. Notice now how the leaders respond: they have compassion and sympathy for each group, they listen openly to the arguments, their love is outwardly manifested rather than defensively entrenched, they recognize the striving for the good and the deep faith of those struggling to live well, they spend abundant time in prayer and wrestle with their own cultural contexts, and they pay attention not to their own concerns about law, status or their own authority, but to the movement of the Spirit in the lives of others. Though their views are challenged, they make it possible for others to serve the Lord in freedom and joy. Surely the Spirit is able to be operative when leadership wrestles and strives in this manner. Good things surely come to those who believe in Christ Jesus.

In the Gospel we know that Jesus is nearing the end of his ministry and he has compassion of those he is leaving behind. Besides giving his very self to them through the washing of the feet and the last meal, he grants them a new type of peace that is both consoling and challenging. To live in peace and with love is not easy and we have to maneuver the complexities of human desires and intelligence. This type of peace begs that we serve each other in a loving way (whatever that looks like) and with a type of hospitality that tilts towards inclusion while maintaining the integrity of our beliefs. This is not easy to do, but this peace is a gift we learn to appreciate because when can act more and more like the one who gives it to us. What would happen if we and our religious leaders used this type of peace when striving to deal with our cultural contexts that threaten the unity of our community? I think we would rejoice.

Quote for the Week

From The Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians, one of the second readings during the Liturgy of the Ascension of the Lord:

“May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belong to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.”

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Paul sets out on his journey and encounters Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, in Philippi who prevails upon him to stay at her home. Paul and Silas were imprisoned beat and imprisoned, but they were freed by an angel of the Lord. Seeing this, the jailer bathed their wounds and was baptized into the faith. Paul preached in Athens with modest success, but Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, and Damaris and others joined him. Paul left for Corinth and met Aquila and Priscilla, fellow tent-makers. After preaching, Titus Justus, Crispus, a synagogue official, and other Corinthians came to believe. Aquila and Priscilla heard Apollos preaching and gave him clearer details about the life and significance of Jesus.

Gospel: As we near the end of Easter, John’s Gospel tells us why Jesus had to physically leave us so that he could be invisibly present to us. He tells us that he has to go so that the consoling Advocate can come among us. This Advocate will be the Spirit who will guide us to all truth. With sensitivity, Jesus realizes that we will experience real grief and he reassures us that our grief will be transformed into joy when the Spirit comes. As Matthias is chosen to complete the Twelve Apostles, we are reminded that our faith is a gift because it is Jesus who chooses us, we did not choose him, and we are rewarded because the Father loves us because we have loved his son, Jesus, and believed in him as the Messiah.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Damien Joseph de Veuster, priest, is a recently canonized saint who contracted leprosy after years of service to a leper colony. He was a Picpus Father from Belgium who was sent to the Hawaiian Islands in the 1860’s to be a pastor and soon volunteers as a chaplain to the lepers on Moloka’i. He died in 1889 twenty-six years into his service in which he brought respect and dignity to the plight of the lepers.

Wednesday: Nereus and Achilleus, martyrs, were 1st century soldiers in the Roman army who became Christians and refused to sacrifice to idols in the early 2nd century. They left the army after their conversion and were martyred during the reign of Emperor Trajan. The Syrian, Pancras, martyr, converted to the faith with his uncle and was beheaded at age 14 during the Diocletian persecution. His remains were sent to the King of Northumbria in England where six churches were dedicated to his memory.

Thursday: Ascension of the Lord is celebrated in some U.S. dioceses today. The Ascension celebrates Jesus’ visible absence while recognizing his invisible presence to the world. It is the event in the life of Christ when his physical appearances came to an end so he could resume his place at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Otherwise, Our Lady of Fatima is remembered on this Thursday for Mary’s appearance to the three shepherd children in Portugal from May 13-October 13, 1917. Through the daily praying of the rosary, Mary preached the repentance and conversion of one’s heart to her son.

***Please note that the Ascension is celebrated in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Newark, Hartford, and Omaha on Thursday. Most of the world celebrates Ascension on Sunday.

Friday: Matthias, Apostle, is memorialized on each May 14th as he was chosen to replace Judas as the 12th Apostle. He was with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry, at his baptism, and was a witness to the Resurrection. In fulfillment of Scripture, two names were put forward so the Holy Spirit could choose the one who would complete the Twelve, and that lot fell to Matthias.

Saturday: Isidore is the patron of farmers and of the people of Madrid. As farmers, he and his wife became widely known for their piety and generosity in the early 12th century and served as inspiration for many miracles. King Philip III in 1615 is said to have recovered from an illness through the intercession of Isidore.

This Week in Jesuit History

• May 9, 1758. The 19th General Congregation opened, the last of the Old Society. It elected Lorenzo Ricci as general.
• May 10, 1773. Empress Maria Teresa of Austria changed her friendship for the Society into hatred, because she had been led to believe that a written confession of hers (found and printed by Protestants) had been divulged by the Jesuits.
• May 11, 1824. St Regis Seminary opens in Florissant, Missouri, by Fr. Van Quickenborne. It was the first Roman Catholic school in USA for the higher education of Native American Indians
• May 12, 1981. A letter of this date, from Secretary of State, Cardinal Casaroli, speaks positively of Teilhard de Chardin in celebration of the centenary of his birth (May 1, 1881).
• May 13, 1572. Election of Gregory XIII to succeed St Pius V. To him the Society owes the foundation of the Roman and German Colleges.
• May 14, 1978. Letter of Pedro Arrupe to the whole Society on Inculturation.
• May 15, 1815. Readmission of the Society into Spain by Ferdinand VII. The members of the Society were again exiled on July 31, 1820.

Plans for the Week

I am in my final week of directing the Retreat in Daily Life to the faculty and staff of Xavier Catholic College in Hervey Bay. The time has passed quickly and I am moved by the good prayer and reflection of the retreatants. I am impressed with their generosity and attentiveness to God’s movements in their lives. Deo Gratias.

My growing cultural sensitivity

I realize that when I write these updates I am operating out of a North American bias. It is difficult to write for a world-wide context. Help me out by telling me how I can better respond to your needs.

Happy Mother’s Day

May the Lord abundantly bless our Mothers and Others who do their best to care for us so well in life. We pray for our biological mothers, our foster mothers, for those who have wanted to become mothers, for our aunts and grandmothers, spouses, partners and friends who have nurtured our lives and have brought us to be who we are. We pray for all those who have been a mother to us in some way. May God bless your lives and give you a deeper friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Spirituality: Text of the Deliberations of the First Fathers (five of five)

The following day we discussed the opposite, bringing before the group all the advantages and benefits of this obedience which each one had drawn from his prayer and meditation. Each one in turn proposed the results of his prayerful reflection, sometimes by deducing impossible conclusions, sometimes simply by direct affirmation.

For example, one reduced the case to the absurd and impossible: “If our Company attempted to take care of practical matters without the sweet yoke of obedience, no one would have a specific responsibility, since one would leave the burden of such responsibilities to another, as we have often experienced.”
Similarly: “If this Company exists without obedience, it cannot long remain in being and continue. Yet, this is in conflict with our primary intention of perpetually preserving our Company in being. Consequently, since nothing preserves a company more than obedience, it seems necessary – especially for us who have vowed perpetual poverty and who live our lives in arduous and continual labors both spiritual and temporal, in which a company is less likely to continue in being.”

Another spoke affirmatively thus: “Obedience brings about constant actions of heroic virtue. For a man who lives under obedience is most prompt to carry out whatever is demanded of him, even if this be extremely hard or even if it leads to his being embarrassed and laughed at and to being a spectacle to the world – for example, if it were commanded me that I should go through the public streets naked or dressed in eccentric clothes (granted that this might never be commanded.) When a man is perfectly ready to do this, denying his own will and judgment, he is constantly practicing heroic virtue and increasing his merit.”

Similarly: “Nothing so lays low all pride and arrogance as does obedience. For pride puffs up and follows one’s own judgment and will, giving way to no one, striving for grandiose and spectacular projects beyond one’s powers. Now, obedience directly counters this, for it always follows the judgments and will of another, gives way to everyone, and is identified as much as possible with humility, which is the enemy of pride.”

And: “Although we have given ourselves over to all obedience both universal and particular to the supreme pontiff and pastor, nevertheless, he would not be able to take care of our particular and occasional needs, which are innumerable – now would it be fitting for him to do so if he could.”

And so after many day of thinking though the many pros and cons of our problem and examining the more serious and weighty arguments, while carrying out our usual exercises of prayer, meditation, and reflection, at last, with the help of the Lord, we arrived at our conclusion, not just by a majority but without even one dissenting: that it would be more expedient and even necessary to vow obedience to one of our companions in order that we might better and more exactly fulfill our principal desires or accomplishing the divine will in all things, and in order that the Company might be more surely preserved in being, and finally, that all individual matters that might occur, both spiritual and temporal, might be provided for properly.

Retaining the same method of discussion and procedure in all remaining questions, always proposing both sides, we continued in these and other deliberations for nearly three months from the middle of Lent through the feast of John the Baptist. On this day everything was terminated and concluded joyfully and in complete concord of spirit – not without having previously engaged in many vigils and prayers and labors of mind and body before we had deliberated and made our decision.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Poem: William Shakespeare, the Merchant of Venice, act 4, scene 1

The quality of mercy is not strained,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath:
it is twice blessed; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes….
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself,
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice….

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Spirituality: Reviewing your Prayer

After the formal prayer period is over I review what happened during that time and jot down my reflections, not simply what ideas I had, but more the movements and feelings I experienced. Questions like the following may help.

1. What went on during the period of prayer?
2. What actually happened? Be concrete. What images arose?
3. What struck me?
4. How did I feel about what went on?
5. Was there consolation or desolation? Fear or peace? Joy or anxiety? Boredom? And so on.
6. What about my distractions, especially if they were deep or disturbing?
7. What was my mood, changes in mood?
8. What did the Lord show me?
9. Where might I go in my next period of prayer?
10. Is there some point I should return to in my next period of prayer?
11. With whom and how did I relate or converse (God the Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Mary, one of the disciples, other persons)?
12. How did I feel as a result of what happened (positively or negatively)?
13. How did I respond? What desire did I notice? What decision did I make? (positive or negative)
14. Did I receive the grace I sought?

Jotting down my reflections during the review will also help me to discuss my prayer experience with the spiritual director. During this review I thank God for his favors and ask pardon for my own negligences.

This review is an instrument to help me reflect upon the experience of the prayer period. It helps me notice my interior experiences. Thus it enables me to be spontaneous during the actual prayer time and to with the flow of the experience. If I were to monitor myself during the period of prayer, I would be interfering with the Lord’s communication. I let happen what is happening during the prayer time; afterwards I take a look to see what the Lord is saying in all this.

It is also helpful at the end of a prayer period to signal the difference of this review from the prayer period by some change of place or posture: the activity of review is different from the actual prayer period.

The above suggestions to facilitate your prayer are not a mechanical technique. They are often helpful but do not guarantee an experience of God. God cannot be manipulated like some sort of celestial Coke machine whereas I put in money, push a button, and cans drop out of the machine. All prayer is God’s gift.

From Joseph Sobb, S.J. of the Australian province

Monday, May 3, 2010

Article: My Occupational Hazard

A few summers ago when I was watching a baseball game at Boston’s Fenway Park, my friends, Paul and Karen, thought it necessary to buy me a new baseball cap. After my usual initial protests claiming reasons of my Jesuit vow of poverty, I yielded to their demand. We hustled over to a concession stand where I excitedly selected a classic cap – dark navy blue with a bold emblazoned red “B.” Karen boldly instructed the concessionaire to “put that back and give him the red one.” At this I protested even more loudly, “I can’t wear red. I have red hair,” but Karen would not budge. “Father John,” she said, “I’m going to give you a lesson in colors.”

After Karen bought me my vibrant new cap, she took my palm into her hands and examined it. “Father John,” she said, “you must wear warm colors. Go, buy a Boston subway map, which is designed with primary colors, and take it shopping with you to Filene’s Basements. You will know what to buy. It will jump out at you. And, Father John….never wear white and avoid black if you can.”

I was in a dilemma. How do I avoid wearing black as I am a priest? I appreciate its slimming qualities and I know that black clerics are an important symbol of the priesthood. Its solemn tone communicates a deeply ingrained respect for a life of wholehearted discipleship and radical service in the midst of countercultural movements of society, but is the color of these medieval black garments the only color that communicates something special about the priesthood or religious life?

My first challenge was when I ordered a new alb at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. The tailor-monk would not sell me a white alb; only a cream alb with a hood would do. He was right. I vanished when I tried on the white alb. This might be taking humility to an extreme. Fair-skinned people are at a disadvantage when purchasing garments as we are a small market share of the fashion industry. Earth-tones, winter burgundies, classic tans and pastels just do not energize a fair-skinned person.

While distrusting my own shopping choices, I looked at my drab wardrobe and decided to take Karen’s advice With subway map in hand I entered Filene’s Basement and immediately while my eyes landed upon a shirt that screamed out to me – a fresh lime green shirt with brilliant dark sky blue and thin calypso orange burst stripes. I felt paralyzed as I reasoned I ought to buy a classic blue shirt. I deliberated for a while because I never selected anything so bold before, but I offered it up and bought my first colorful shirt. I have not purchased a dull shirt since. St. Ignatius tells us that one must always seek confirmation for decisions in the spiritual life. I heeded his advice and wore my shirt on a train ride from Boston to New York the following week. A young woman plunked herself right next to me and said, “I just have to sit near a man who is confident enough to wear such a bold shirt,” to which I replied, “not bad for a Catholic priest, huh?” lest she think I was available.

Though I proudly clothe myself in black clerics each day, I find that I can accessorize by wearing a flashy Polo Ralph Lauren sunburst yellow baseball cap or bright carrot stick orange socks. It adds just enough pizzazz to keep my spirits high, especially in the land of the long winter to which I am missioned. Maine by rights ought to be following the Atlantic Time Zone. The winter darkness, for a man who comes alive in the sight of tropical color-bursts, is never-ending and can be a downer for a person’s mood. In order to remain buoyant in spirit, I have to make eye-catching adjustments. If bright color in clothing makes me feel alive, would it also work by painting my living space? The sunburst yellow walls with trim work of blood red and tangerine orange in my office brightens up the short winter days, while the triple shade of summer blues metaphysically transport me to the sun and fun of a Caribbean beach.

As I continue to discover new color patterns, I am pleasantly surprised that choosing the right color makes me feel so cheerful or sets a vibrant mood that helps me throughout the day. One might have thought I would have learned my lessons years ago when I worked full-time to pay for college. In those days, I dyed for a living – a useful skill when you are in the resurrection business. I have even learned how to see colors when I pray. Previously I would contemplate a scripture passage and everyone was dressed in drab grayscale shades. As you would expect, conversations with the characters were not all that thrilling, but when I inserted color into my composition of place, the intensity of conversation increased and I felt that I was fully present in the contemplation. Now, when I get stuck in prayer, I often tell Christ the color that I am feeling and I point to the hue of color at which I would like to arrive. On a recent retreat, one directee told me that her music instructor asks her to sing a certain color in order to reach the proper pitch. This works for me too!

I am reminded of Karen’s happy insight to me whenever I watch the Home and Garden network or slowly scan the many make-over shows that dot the television landscape. I marvel at the world Karen opened up for me. I see it as my “Wizard of Oz” experience when all my senses become awakened to a dazzling new reality. My soul conforms to that new world by making simple adjustments in my life. On that sunny day at Fenway Park, I officially became a man of color.

Prayer: Pope John Paul II

To everyone I affirm that peace is possible. It needs to be implored from God as gift, but it also needs to be built day by day with God's help, through works of justice and love.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spirituality: Text of the Deliberations of the First Fathers (four of five)

Concerning the problem we have been discussing, in order to find the way to solve it the three following preparations of soul were proposed to one and all. The first was that each one should so prepare himself, should so devote himself to prayers, sacrifices, and meditations, that he make every effort to find joy and peace in the Holy Spirit concerning obedience, working with all his powers to have a will more disposed to obeying than to commanding when the effect would be the equal glory to God and praise of his Majesty.

The second preparation of soul was that none of the companions should talk to another companion about this matter or should inquire about his arguments, so that no one would persuade another or incline him more in favor of obeying or of not obeying or the contrary, but that each one would desire as more expedient only that which he derived from prayer and meditation.

The third: that each man should think of himself as not being one of our Company, into which he never expected to be received, so that from this consideration he would not be pushed toward his opinion and judgment by any emotions, but as an outsider he might freely propose his idea to us concerning the resolution of obeying or not obeying, and finally he would confirm and approve his judgment that alternative which he believes to be for the greater future service of God and the more secure permanent preservation of the Company.

With these antecedent spiritual dispositions, we ordained that the following day all would come together prepared. Each one would state all the possible disadvantages of obedience, all the arguments which arose and which each one of us had thought of individually in reflecting, praying, and meditating; and he should propose in his turn what he had drawn from this.

For example, one said: “It seems that this name of a religious institute or obedience does not have the good reputation it should among Christian people, on account of our failings and sins.”

Another said: “If we wish to live under obedience, perhaps we will be obliged by the supreme pontiff to live under some already established and constituted rule. If this happens, since it might not give us the opportunity and scope to work for the salvation of souls, which is our unique purpose after concern for our own souls, all of our desires, which in our judgment we have received from the Lord our God, would be frustrated.”

Still another said: “If we vow obedience to someone, not so many men will enter our company to work loyally in the vineyard of the Lord where the harvest is so great but so few true laborers are found. The weakness and inconstancy of men in such that many seek selfish ends and their own will, rather than the desires of Jesus Christ and their own total self-abnegation.”

In the same way another man gave other reasons and an fourth man and a fifth, and so on, stating the apparent arguments against obedience.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Fifth Sunday of Easter

May 2, 2010

Love is a choice. Love is patient. Love is always outwardly expanding. We see the effects of love in the readings today and we can realize that love makes others do what is good in life. In Acts, we hear of Paul’s and Barnabas’ soaring spirits as they preach Jesus Christ to many cities and towns and win new converts. After their travels, they return to the place where they received their mission to bring reports back to the community who rejoice heartily in the favor the Lord has bestowed upon the church. They celebrate the good they have accomplished and marvel that the Lord has opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. Their persevering hard work and lengthy prayers have paid off.

In John’s Gospel, we are left with a paradox to ponder – the betrayal by Judas will lead to God’s glorification of Jesus. It doesn’t seem to connect, but what we see plainly is the love to Jesus to extend his hand of goodness to others – even to those who want to harm him. I am sure that Jesus felt the sting of betrayal and the hurtful rejection by Peter and the Twelve, but he made a choice to extend his hand in friendship to them regardless of their actions. He knows that his invitation will not be accepted in the immediate timeframe, but he is patient enough to know that friendship is a process. Love does not give up on another, but can endure the many bumps and bruises that are a part of relationships. Our minds and hearts need time to process the many demands of life and the loving person realizes this and holds out hope that the gentle, loving invitations are accepted or at least considered. When we experience this as a model, we are able to extend this type of invitation to others.

It is good for us to learn what it means to love one another in the way that Jesus commands us. We are not Jesus and we may not be able to do what he has done, but we can learn how to love in our own unique, particular way. I’ve often seen a person try to perform a loving action because Jesus would have done so, but it comes off as awkward because this person is doing an action he or she does not really want to do even though it is a noble aspiration. Love has to flowingly emanate from our outwardly-directed attitudes that are based in freedom. It has to just natural erupt from our sense of rightness and goodness and care for the other – even if we know the recipient cannot receive our actions. We have a lifetime to learn how to learn to act freely. Let’s be patient with ourselves. Let us learn to choose the right actions that pull us out of ourselves and into the lives of others. You’ll innately sense the rightness of your choices and your actions will be generated by love.

Quote for the Week

From The Confessions of Saint Augustine:

Two loves build two cities; the city of the devil is built by love of self growing into contempt of God, and the city of God by love of God growing into contempt of self.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Judaizers, the opponents of Paul’s theology, present great trouble for him and the new church, but it caused the community to come together to report what God has done with them and to show how God opened the door to the Gentiles. The church members head to Jerusalem to speak with the disciples and elders about the necessity of circumcision as a requirement for entrance to the faith, but the disciples decide no further burdens are to be placed on them. They are to be welcomed into the community as they respectfully observe the essential aspects of the worship life.

Gospel: John’s Supper Discourse continues as the Twelve wonder where Jesus is going after his death. Jesus wishes them the type of lasting peace that is rare in this world so that they can continue to be with him in faith. He describes the way that they will remain together as he is the true vine and they are the branches. Discipleship, for John’s Jesus, is to believe in him and by doing so to keep his commandments - the greatest one being love of each other in the way the Father loves Jesus. Beware, though, that many people will persecute them because of the name of Jesus. Hold steadfast as God is steadfast.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Philip and James, Apostles, are little known disciples of Jesus. Philip is known to have had several conversations with Jesus in John’s Gospel though none of the conversations are very descriptive of his identity. James is called the Lesser in order to distinguish him from James, brother of John of Zebedee. James the Lesser is mentioned in Mark’s Gospel and may be younger than the other James.

Tuesday: Joseph Mary Rubio, S.J., priest, was a Jesuit priest who worked in Madrid, Spain as a pastor, confessor, and spiritual director in the early 20th century. He showed great sensitivity to the poor and the elderly and was dubbed “the Apostle of Madrid” by the bishop. He was known as a man who cared about the development of a person’s spiritual life of prayer.

This Week in Jesuit History

• May 2, 1706. The death of Jesuit brother G J Kamel. The camellia flower is named after him.
• May 3, 1945. American troops take over Innsbruck, Austria. Theology studies at the Canisianum resume a few months later.
• May 4, 1902. The death of Charles Sommervogel, historian of the Society and editor of the bibliography of all publications of the Jesuits from the beginnings of the Society onward.
• May 5, 1782. At Coimbra, Sebastian Carvahlo, Marquis de Pombal, a cruel persecutor of the Society in Portugal, died in disgrace and exile. His body remained unburied fifty years, till Father Philip Delvaux performed the last rites in 1832.
• May 6, 1816. Letter of John Adams to Thomas Jefferson mentioning the Jesuits. "If any congregation of men could merit eternal perdition on earth and in hell, it is the company of Loyola."
• May 7, 1547. Letter of St. Ignatius to the scholastics at Coimbra on Religious Perfection.
• May 8, 1853. The death of Jan Roothan, the 21st general of the Society, who promoted the central role of the Spiritual Exercises in the work of the Society after the restoration.

Plans for the Week

I am in my second week of directing the Retreat in Daily Life to the faculty and staff of Xavier Catholic College in Hervey Bay. The retreatants are doing well and are very open to the movements of God’s Spirit. Please continue your prayers for them and pray for me, their director.