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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bio for Andrew the Apostle

We do know that Andrew as the son of the fisherman Jonah of Bethsaida in Galilee and the brother of Simon Peter. John's Gospel tells us that Andrew was a disciple of the Baptist whose testimony first led him to Jesus, who he immediately recognized as the Messiah. He quickly introduced Jesus to his brother Simon and together they left all things behind to follow Jesus.

Andrew is always numbered among the first four of the Twelve in the Gospel and Acts, though he is not listed in the Big Three of Peter, James, and John. He appears to have had greater authority than some of the Twelve when he was included in the great eschatological discourse in Mark 13, in John's account of the miraculous feeding of the 5,000, and in John again when Philip referred the matter to Andrew of the Greeks asking to see Jesus.

It appears that Andrew preached in Greece after the resurrection of Jesus and his martyrdom by being bound, not nailed to the cross, to prolong his suffering, took place during Nero's reign on November 30, 60 A.D. Lastly, his name means Valor or Manhood, and he is the patron of Russia and Scotland. The flag of Great Britain bears St. Andrew's cross on it to represent Scotland.

Feast of Andrew the Apostle (Retreat Homily)

November 30, 2010

Contemplating characters like Andrew about whom we know little helps us to identify something in our story with theirs. It causes me to wonder about the ways the Twelve related to one another and to the larger community. Some see our vocational call as personal and sometimes private, and few times do we recognize the communal dimension of our call. In the Gospel today, we see blood brothers called to discipleship. Andrew and Peter are the first, then there is James and John, and what about Thomas? He is a twin. Of whom? We don't know. The Syriac tradition represents Thomas as Didymas, the twin brother of the Lord - though many fantastical are embellishments made in Acta Thomae. Vocational calls are not made in isolation.

One could probably imagine some sort of sibling rivalry or a power imbalance among those of the closest companions of Jesus. What feelings could arise from fraternal or existing relationships? For instance, Andrew is the one who first encounters Jesus, introduces his brother to him, is there when James and John are brought on board, and is relegated to at least a rank of fourth most important. He may not feel he received the favor of Jesus like his brother did. And then of course we remember John and James famous power play to be the favored ones who sit closest to Jesus when the kingdom fully comes about. I'm sure other undocumented tensions occurred often among the Twelve. I'm sure it wasn't all peace and love.

I paused to ask myself, "Would I be happy if one of my brothers (or today, one of my sisters) was called to ministry with me?" Of course I would. Would I be just as happy if Christ called him to a greater role than he assigned me? Today, I would say 'yes,' but it has taken me many years to come to that point. A time not too far in the past, my internal responses from my family history would have kicked in and I would have been spending one of my retreats looking at my unworthiness and fragile self-esteem. I would have wondered what I had done wrong and asked myself what about me was not good enough or will I ever measure up. The chaos of my family system would have emerged mightily to the surface. All that is unresolved with my siblings would rush up in anxiety and I would be consumed with too many competing and complicated emotions simultaneously. I would be too flummoxed to pray, except to ask for a savior who would liberate me from myself. I would spend much time gazing at my insufficiencies and weaknesses rather than focusing upon the one who called me into ministry.

We each have particular family dynamics that shape the way we see ourselves and the ways others see us. Families teach us many healthy behaviors and also debilitating and paralyzing ones, like enabling, co-dependencies, incorrectly expressing anger or unhealthily dealing with conflict. One's birth order in a family may dictate a particular role in the family system. An only child or one who is adopted brings it own dynamics. Our families teach us how to socialize and what to expect of ourselves. We relate to our siblings primarily through our parents, with whom we have many unresolved issues. Our call to discipleship is dual as well. We relate primarily to Christ, and through him we relate to our brothers and sisters who carry their own sets of chaos and promise. It can make for a messy situation.

It seems that whenever possible, we are to reconcile our family situations first if we are to be effective reconcilers for the people of God. From our families, we develop patterns of speech and action that indicate whether we are open or closed to reconciliation. For instance, if I passive-aggressively turn a cold shoulder to someone who offends me, I may inadvertently give Christ the cold shoulder in prayer when he wants to reveal something to me that I am unable to hear. If I'm angry with a friend's behavior, I can get angry with Christ. Does my language shut down prayer by using such words as 'no,' 'not,' 'but,' 'can't' or 'won't,' or does it build up by using connecting words like 'yes' and 'and?' The language that we use to communicate with others is the language that we use to speak with God. And it defines our openness to growth in grace.

During our first evening, I mentioned that I witnessed God's miracles during my tertianship experience in Australia. On the long retreat. I recalled with Christ many memories, some happy ones, others painful, of my life. He opened them up for me again. We've done it many times before, but this time he was able to reveal to me where he was present for my sake and he gave me insights into what he saw in those significant events. He wanted me to be patient with him and with the pain so I could come to accept his insight. Of course I dragged my feet though I knew I had to enter into that pain once more - this time more deeply. He was able to transform my feelings about myself, and about the re-membered events, and about the way I experienced the characters in those memories. It was really a miracle for me to let Christ so deep into that painful area so that these areas are no longer the weights in my unconsciousness. It was a miracle for those areas to become liberated from my imprisoning interpretations of them. I look at those memories with immense wonder now and I sit back and gasp. My unconsciousness now has a freedom that I savor.

A profound healing for me was to forgive my parents. Though they have done their best, I have held many things against them because I wanted them to choose better for themselves and for us children. I have finally forgiven them. Because of that, I can learn to love them in new ways. And I now have hope and promise for reconciling hurtful memories with my siblings. Christ will bring me there, I'm sure. I'm already seeing that I can care for them more delicately. And I like that. I do want the best for them and for us.

Because of this movement within myself, I can learn to love the church better. I can be more patient with those who hold different viewpoints than I do. I can uphold them as brothers and sisters called by Christ in the same way Christ called me. We will have our disagreements and I can now honor their life experiences. And I want to do what Andrew did - he brought others to Christ. He left his minor concerns aside and pointed others to Christ. He realized they are saying, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus." Only Jesus can take care of the chaos in our lives. We can't solve the core of it. He can heal us, bring us insights, and liberate us - if we allow ourselves to become open for his deep immersion into our souls. He aches for our redemption.

I'll close with a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer because it sums up Christ's deep yearning. It reads, "A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes... and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent."

Turn this retreat over to Christ. Let him enter your feelings and experiences, so, in his mercy, he can unlock your souls to a glorious new freedom.

Prayer: Edmund Campion

I have made a free oblation of myself
to your Divine Majest, both of life and death,
and I hope that you will give me
grace and force to perform.
This all I desire. Amen.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Prayer: Robert Southwell

Who lives in love, loves least to live,
and long delays doth rue,
if him he love by whom he lives,
to whom all praise is due,
who for our love did choose to live,
and was content to die,
who loved our love more than his life,
and love with life did buy.
Let us in life, yea with our life
requite his living love,
for best we live when least we live,
if love our life remove.
Mourn therefore no true lover's death,
life only him annoys,
and when he taketh leave of life
then love begins his joys.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Prayer: Desmond Wilson

It is the act of forgiveness that opens up the only possible way to think creatively about the future at all.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Weekly Email Distribution

My apologies. My email provider deleted all the categories for my contacts two weeks ago. Therefore, I reconstructed the list and I know many discrepancies exist. If you are not receiving a weekly email directly to your email account and would like to receive one, please let me know by emailing me at: predmoresj@yahoo.com. If you would like to be added to the list, please send me your address. I will send the messages as an undisclosed list. No one else will see your email address.

Prayer: Maude Dominica Petre

The church has lighted by way. Instead of struggling through a wilderness I have a road – a road to virtue and truth. Only a road – the road to an end, not the end itself – the road to truth, not the fullness of truth itself… In one word, the church has taught me how to seek God.

First Sunday in Advent

November 28, 2010

The frightening way Jesus in Matthew's Gospel describes the ushering in of the coming of the Son of Man at first blush seems brutal in comparison with Isaiah's description of God's everlasting reign. It gets our attention. For the first day of the new Advent season, this is an effective tactic. It helps us to be on guard and to sense the urgency that something hidden yet profound is happening. We have to wait as the mystery slowly unfolds and our comprehension builds. If we can look for the breaking in of God's plan into the daily order of life, we will confidently trust in God's steadfastness.

Jesus tells us to be wiser than the people of Noah's days who disregarded the signs of the times. All perished except those few who boarded the ark. We are to be attentive to the signs around us even when our families and closest friends suggest we ignore these minute but significant details. Some of those whom we love and expect to be saved alongside of us regrettably will choose differently. We are encouraged that we will choose rightly because we remained vigilant.

Paul reminds us of the same points. Remain alert and conform your behavior to attain the salvation that awaits you. Paul does not want us to be passive. We are to actively throw off the works of darkness and to just as actively put on the armor of light. We wear Jesus Christ when we live in integrity with his teaching.

Discipleship carries great cost. Isaiah's vision will reign only after the world, which does not follow God's ways, battles those who remain God's faithful ones. The impending conflict will bring much chaos and confusion and we will become disillusioned in the great struggle. We will wrestle with uncertainty and we will experience the great pain of losing loved ones. Isaiah assures us the effort will be worth it as the world's standards are brought into a new order.

This new world order will draw many diverse people to it because it is so attractive. They will faithfully obey God's ways because they are beneficial for them. God will usher in a kingdom of peace in which no thought of violence, harm, threat, force, or war will rise from the people because they honor and respect each other's dignity as one of God's offspring. They will find only the good in one another and will delight in each other's company.

In contrast, we see the brokenness of our lives today and we yearn for something better. We can have it. In Advent, we look more closely for the ways God is with us. God is bringing us closer to this vision and he wants us to notice him in the daily grind. The readings provoke us to be open enough to say "yes" to God's initiatives. To do that, we need to put on Christ so we can see the potential for the world through his eyes. Christ never lets Isaiah's vision slip from his glance. We've see a glimpse of that world too in some memorable instance. We innately grasp for that memory and its power for the future. Let's slow down and pray that God can open our eyes to notice the minutest detail where he is at work.

Quote for the Week

From Paul's Letter to the Romans:

Brothers and sisters: You know the time; it is now the hour for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand.

Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Isaiah rushes into our readings with a proclamation of the day of the Lord that is to come. It will bring honor and splendor and shelter and protection to the faithful ones. The Lord will provide a rich feast for his people on his holy mountain. He will destroy death forever and wipe away tears from all faces. On that day of salvation, the people will sing a song of praise to the Lord because they trust in his steadfastness. The blind will see, the poor will rejoice, the mighty will be brought low, and the Lord's children will keep his name holy. Great is the Lord! The Lord will provide for all the cares of the people.

Gospel: Jesus is amazed at the faith of the Gentile Centurion who is obedient to his words as one who has many under his authority can understand. The nations from the east and west will more easily hear the words of God's prophet than Israel will. Jesus is seen as the shepherd who will gather up the many, especially the downtrodden and outcast, and he will care for them just as God cares for them. Only those who hear his words and understands that they come from God will enter into heaven. His words provide a sure foundation. Jesus gives sight to two blind men who come to believe he is the anointed one of God. Jesus called many to himself to teach them about the kingdom of heaven. He also called twelve who would become his closest friends. They would receive authority over unclean spirits and power to cure every disease and illness.

Saints of the Week

Tuesday: Andrew, apostle, is the brother of Simon Peter and an original disciple of John the Baptist. Like his brother, he was a fisherman who was selected to be one of the twelve disciples. After the resurrection of Jesus, it is assumed Andrew preached in Greece, though many legends have him traveling far north to Scotland. The cross of Andrew appears on the United Kingdom's Union Jack to represent Scotland.

Wednesday: Edmund Campion and Robert Southwell, martyrs, were English natives and Jesuit priests at a time when Catholics were persecuted in the country. Both men acknowledged Queen Elizabeth as monarch, but they refused to renounce their Catholic faith. They are among the 40 martyrs of England and Wales. Campion was killed in 1581 and Southwell's death was in 1595.

Friday: Francis Xavier, priest, was a roommate of Ignatius of Loyola and Peter Faber at the University of Paris. One of the first companions of Ignatius, he was one of the seven founding members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits.) After the Order was established in 1540, he was sent on mission to the East Indies where he converted thousands of people to the Christian faith. He is one of the church's greatest missionaries.

Saturday: John of Damascus, priest and doctor, was the last Greek preachers to be named the Fathers of the Church. His preaching and concise description of Christian theology influenced other formative thinkers of Western Christianity. Prior to becoming a monk, scholar, and preacher, he was a government worker.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Nov 28, 1759: Twenty Fathers and 192 Scholastics set sail from the Tagus for exile. Two were to die on the voyage to Genoa and Civita Vecchia.
• Nov 29, 1773: The Jesuits of White Russia requested the Empress Catherine to allow the Letter of Suppression to be published, as it had been all over Europe. "She bade them lay aside their scruples, promising to obtain the Papal sanction for their remaining in status quo.
• Nov 30, 1642: The birth of Br Andrea Pozzo at Trent, who was called to Rome in 1681 to paint the flat ceiling of the church of San Ignazio so that it would look as though there were a dome above. There had been a plan for a dome but there was not money to build it. His work is still on view.
• Dec. 1, 1581: At Tyburn in London, Edmund Campion and Alexander Briant were martyred.
• Dec. 2, 1552: On the island of Sancian off the coast of China, Francis Xavier died.
• Dec. 3, 1563: At the Council of Trent, the Institute of the Society was approved.
• Dec. 4, 1870: The Roman College, appropriated by the Piedmontese government, was reopened as a Lyceum. The monogram of the Society over the main entrance was effaced.

Prayer for Advent

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

Prayers for the Miner's Families in New Zealand

My prayers go out to the miners in western New Zealand who lost their lives in a deadly explosion a week ago. We hoped the experts could produce another miraculous rescue like the one in Chile, but deadly gases and the explosion killed the miners quickly. Please pray for their souls. Please pray for their families and their countrymen who grieve their losses.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Prayer: Thomas of Villanova

If you want God to hear your prayers, hear the voice of the poor: If you wish God to anticipate your wants, provide those of the needy without waiting for them to ask you. Especially anticipate the needs of those who are ashamed to beg. To make them ask for alms is to make them buy it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Prayer: John Berchmans

Holy Mary, Virgin Mother of God,
I choose you this day
to be my queen, my patroness,
and my advocate;
and I firmly resolve never to leave you,
and never to say or do anything against you,
nor ever permit others to do anything
against your honor.

Receive me, then, I beg of you,
as your servant forever.
Help me in every action,
and abandon me not at the hour of my death.

Memorial: November 26

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving Reflection

It is the eve of Thanksgiving and the darkness settles early upon the land. I have taken out my Advent decorations to ready myself for the new Christian year that begins this Sunday. I know the candles will provide some relief from the darkness as we wait in hope for the arrival of Christ into our lives at Christmas.

As November is the month of All Souls, I think back fondly on those whose journey in this temporal life has come to an end. I am reminded of my own mortality and the brevity of life. Many of us have lost someone dear to us. Their stories will remain in our hearts until we join them in heaven. Until we do, I want to appreciate the struggles of my brothers and sisters and help them to realize that God gives much to them. I want to learn to be patient with others; I want to be patient in those areas where I want to see change right away.

I consider myself blessed. I began my year traveling to Australia to begin tertianship with eleven Jesuit brothers from across the globe. I marvel at the exciting times we had together and the bonds of friendship we forged. I am thankful for Adrian, the tertian director, and Joe, his assistant and the superior of our community, for their care for our spiritual development. I am grateful for what I have learned from the various communities of faith I encountered in Australia (Pymble, Sydney, Melbourne, Alice Springs, Seven Hill, Cairns, and Hervey Bay), in New Zealand (Opunake, Hawera, New Plymouth, Wellington, and Auckland), and in Honolulu, Hawaii. I especially pray for the loss of the 29 New Zealand miners in their recent national tragedy.

I am grateful to my Provincial for assigning me to Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester where I can direct the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I'll go anywhere he needs me to go. I'm very pleased with my small community at the retreat house and pleased with the dedicated guest directors who grace our hallways week after week. I can tell that many people come to know our Lord in the silence and stillness afforded by this magical place. I am honored to hear countless stories of grace alive and at work in the lives of many. I am grateful also for the people of Maine with whom our journeys have intersected. I am deeply enriched by their daily courage.

Tomorrow, I will travel to my family home south of Worcester, Massachusetts and we will share a happy traditional meal of roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, vegetables, cranberry sauce, cheeses, and scrumptious desserts. It is my favorite meal of the year as November is a special month for me. I'm grateful for the good fortune of my family as we all endure our personal crises. We will focus on the good that is happening with us now and we will let our other concerns be diminished for the day. We soon set our sights on the wonder and splendor of Christmas.

Thankfully, Thanksgiving does not get such a commercial splash as the other major holidays even though there is an increase of pumpkins, pilgrims, cornucopia, and other harvest items on the markets' shelves. It does not become complicated like Christmas because we do not exchange gifts on this day. This means we get to appreciate the meaning of our national holiday with our hearts rather than with our senses. This has become our national holiday when we honor the time with our families and when we do that, we honor God.

The lights and sights of Christmas will hit us in the face on Black Friday when all the stores open to major sales and return to profit (hence, they are in the black, not in the red.) Radio stations will play Christmas and holiday music non-stop until Christmas day. Sparkling lights will soon adorn the lawns and windows.

Many purists lament the build-up of Christmas though they cheat by eating Christmas goodies way before December 24th. I, however, like the commercial Christmas season. For me, it does not wholly interfere with the liturgical Advent season. If these holiday traditions help people feel lighter and happier and help them dream of a brighter world, then I'm all for decorations and music. If these lights help people point to the mystery of the Incarnation, then I'm very happy. I want people to see the wonder in the season and the senses have a way of capturing information that feeds our imagination. All these symbols point us to the mystery of God's love.

I enjoy the gentleness of Advent. The soft lights that grow in longing anticipation of Christ's arrival makes me want to spend greater time watching the stillness of a flickering candle. The ancient Advent songs help me dream of Isaiah's prophecy of the peaceable kingdom in which no harm or ruin can come to anyone on God's holy mountain. The presence of Mary's motherhood helps us to realize the new life that is to be born within us. Yes, the Advent season is worth capturing. We are a people who live in the "now" and the "not yet" so we spend our time waiting, learning how to be patient.

The other days I read a quote from the protestant theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in which he says, "A prison cell in which one waits, hopes... and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent."

Christ will soon come to open that door. With his coaxing invitation, it is up to us to decide whether we will step out of that prison door into a new life of freedom.

For God's great salvific event, I am thankful.

Thanksgiving Day Prayer

From the Book of Sirach

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

Thanksgiving Day (U.S.A.)

In 1620, religious separatists from England set sail for the New World in the ship, the Mayflower, filled with one hundred and two people. They wanted to settle in a new land so they could enjoy religious freedom. Their faith held doctrinal beliefs different from the Church of England and they wanted to separate from it.

The first settlers landed at Plymouth Rock near Boston, Massachusetts in mid-November 1620 after a nine-week arduous journey. Many passengers fell ill and died. Their first winter was difficult. They had arrived too late to grow crops, and without fresh food, half the colony died from disease. The following spring, an Abenaki native visited the colonists and soon brought Squanto, from the Pawtuxet tribe, who was able to speak English because he was captured years earlier by another Englishman. The natives taught the malnourished colonists how to grow corn, a new food indigenous to America, and to hunt and fish.

With the help of the Wampanoag natives, bountiful crops of corn, barley, beans and pumpkins were harvested in the fall of 1621. Governor William Bradford planned a harvest feast to give thanks to God for their survival. They invited 90 of the local tribe members, along with Chief Massasoit and Squanto. The natives brought roasted deer, turkey, and other wild game. The colonists ate new fruits and vegetables like cranberries, squash, and different kinds of corn.

It became a custom to celebrate a harvest feast to praise God for his providence. Largely, Thanksgiving has become a day set aside for families to reunite and enjoy a traditional meal of turkey, cranberries, potatoes, squash, stuffing, and other specialties.

As an independent nation, the U.S. Congress recommended one yearly national day of celebration to give thanks. George Washington chose November 26th as a day of remembrance. After the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln chose the last Thursday in November, and in 1939, Franklin Roosevelt moved it up one week to the 4th Thursday in November. He chose this to boost business by lengthening the Christmas shopping season.

Prayer: Miguel Pro

Let me spend my life near thee, O Mother,
to keep thee company
in thy solitude and deepest grief.

Let me feel in my soul
the sadness of thine eyes
and the abandonment of thy heart.

On life's highway I do not seek
the gladness of Bethlehem;
I do not wish to adore the infant God
in thy virginal hands,
nor to enjoy the winsome presence of Jesus
in thy humble home of Nazareth,
nor the mingle with the angelic choirs
in thy glorious Assumption.

My wish in life is for the jeers
and derision of Calvary,
for the slow agony of thy Son,
for the contempt, the disgrace
and infamy of the cross.

My wish, O most sorrowful Virgin,
is to stand near thee,
to strengthen my soul through thy tears
to completer my offering
through thy martyrdom,
to temper my hear through thy solitude
and to love my God and thy God
through my self-sacrifice.

Memorial: November 23

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Prayer: John Chrysostom

For what use is it when you give as much of your wealth as someone might give a spoonful of water from the ocean, and you don't imitate the widow's generosity of spirit?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Poem: from A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day by John Dryden, 1687

From harmony, from heav’nly harmony
This universal frame began:
When Nature underneath a heap
Of jarring atoms lay,
And could not heave her head,
The tuneful voice was heard from high:
‘Arise, ye more than dead.’
Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry,

In order to their station leap,
And Music’s pow’r obey.
From harmony, from heav’ly harmony
This universal frame began:
From harmony to harmony
Thro’ all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in Man.

When passion cannot Music raise and quell!
When Jubal struck the corded shell,
His list’ning brethren stood around,
And, wond’ring, on their faces fell
To worship that celestial sound.
Less than a god they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell
That spoke so sweetly and so well,
What a passion cannot Music raise and quell!

The Trumpet’s loud clangour
Excites us to arms,
With shrill notes of anger,
And mortal alarms.
The double double double beat
Of the thund’ring Drum
Cries: ‘Hark! The foes come;
Charge, charge, ‘t is too late to retreat.’
The soft complaining Flute
In dying notes discovers
The woes of hopeless lovers,
Whose dirge is whisper’d by the warbling Lute.

Sharp Violins proclaim
Their jealous pangs, and desperation,
Fury, frantic indignation,
Depth of pains, and height of passion,
For the fair, disdainful dame.

But O! what art can teach,
What human voice can reach,
The sacred Organ’s praise?
Notes inspiring holy love,
Notes that wing their heav’nly ways
To mend the choirs above.

Orpheus could lead the savage race;
And trees uprooted left their place,
Sequacious of the lyre;
But bright Cecilia rais’d the wonder high’r:
When to her Organ vocal breath was giv’n,
And angel heard, and straight appear’d,
Mistaking earth for heav’n.

As from the pow’r of sacred lays
The spheres began to move,
And sung the great Creator’s praise
To all the blest above;
So, when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour,
The Trumpet shall be heard on high,
The dead shall live, the living die,
And Music shall untune the sky.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Prayer for the Last Week of the Year

Almighty and merciful God, you break the power of evil and make all things new in your Son Jesus Christ, the King of the universe. May all in heaven and earth acclaim your glory and never cease to praise you. Open our hearts, free all the world to rejoice in his peace, to glory in his justice, to live in his love. Bring humanity together in Jesus Christ your Son, whose kingdom is with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Poem: The Harrowing of Hell by Denise Levertov (1923-1997)

Down through the tomb's inward arch
He has shouldered out into Limbo
to gather them, dazed, from dreamless slumber:
the merciful dead, the prophets,
the innocents just His own age and those
unnumbered others waiting here
unaware, in an endless void He is ending
now, stooping to tug at their hands,
to pull them from their sarcophagi,
dazzled, almost unwilling. Dismas,
neighbor in death, Golgotha dust
still streaked on the dried sweat of his body
no one had washed and anointed, is here,
for sequence is not known in Limbo;
the promise, given from cross to cross
at noon, arches beyond sunset and dawn.
All these He will swiftly lead
to the Paradise road: they are safe.
That done, there must take place that struggle
no human presumes to picture:
living, dying, descending to rescue the just
from shadow, were lesser travails
than this: to break
through earth and stone of the faithless world
back to the cold sepulchre, tearstained
stifling shroud; to break from them
back into breath and heartbeat, and walk
the world again, closed into days and weeks again,
wounds of His anguish open, and Spirit
streaming through every cell of flesh
so that if mortal sight could bear
to perceive it, it would be seen
His mortal flesh was lit from within, now,
and aching for home. He must return,
first, in Divine patience, and know
hunger again, and give
to humble friends the joy
of giving Him food-fish and a honeycomb.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Feast of Christ the King

Last Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 21, 2010

Power is attractive. We like to see our local sports teams come out on top. We love a smashing play when our opponent is squashed. We get energy from seeing strength win out - if we are on the side of the victors. Republicans are gloating from their mid-term election wins; Democrats are firm in their resolve to hold onto their power. He who speaks the loudest and most forcefully wins the votes. This is a world where force and strength are lauded. Might makes right.

Power is on display in the feast of Christ the King on this last Sunday of the year. It celebrates his all-embracing authority over heaven and earth. Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925 in direct opposition to the rise of secular humanism and communism, which was spreading quickly throughout the world, including Christian nations. Many believers were wondering if Christ's kingdom had a place in the modern structure of world governments. Many doubted Christ's existence and his reign. For Pius XI, this feast allowed a believer to participate comfortably in his or her nation's system of government because a Christian at the same time participated in the reign of Christ. Christ's rule was supreme and his commands were ultimately the ones to be obeyed. No earthly ruler or type of government could match the strength and authority of the King of the Universe.

Our readings and psalm anticipate the heroic leader we will get in Jesus Christ. In 2 Samuel, we hear about Israel's mightiest king, David, who is to be the great shepherd and commander of the nation's great armies. In Colossians, Paul recites the great hymn to Christ as the image of the invisible God who has dominion over heaven and earth. We are ready for an ultimate triumph, but our readings dupe us.

The Gospel portrays a portrait of Jesus at his weakest moment - his death on the cross - where he can display not even the tiniest spark of power. He is condemned to die as a common criminal - hung between two thieves - and he cannot save himself. He has no power except that he believes in the kingdom his Father has established. This kingdom is not one to be found in Temple (or church buildings) because the reign of God is among the people. It is in the heart of every believer. God cannot be contained. The kingdom has no physical limits.

This broken, crucified man who is bound and stripped of any dignity unleashes the greatest power universally available to us - his forgiveness. He forgives the good thief and permits him to enter Paradise with him. If we recognize the real strength we have when we forgive others, we see that the most tenacious strength of the world's most powerful people pales in comparison to this gift from God to us. Forgiveness is not a weakness; it makes us strong. We can transform the world when we learn how to use this gift better. When we do, it reveals the gentleness of Christ, and nothing is ever so powerful as gentleness.

Quote for the Week

From Paul's Letter to the people of Colossae

He 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 of the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. 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.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Revelation, John sees the Lamb on Mount Zion with 144,000 faithful ones who had the name of Jesus written on their foreheads. The son of man and his angels cried out, "use your sickle and reap the harvest, for the time to reap has come." Seven angels with the seven last plagues sang the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. They all cry out, "Fallen is Babylon the great." John tells of the last events of this temporal world in which Satan is locked up in the abyss. Faithful witnesses come to life to reign with Christ while the scroll was opened and the dead are judged according to their deeds. Then a new heaven and a new earth comes into being - with a new Jerusalem coming down from heaven from God. The river of life feeds and heals the nations and nothing accursed will be found anymore. Night will be no more. Christ assures his people, "Behold, I am coming soon."

Gospel: As we conclude Luke's Gospel, Jesus looks joyfully upon a poor widow who donates two small coins to the temple treasury. As people were gazing wondrously at the majestic temple, Jesus says that there will come a day soon when all the stones will tumble upon another stone. The time has come for the beginning of the end times to occur. During these tumultuous times, friends and governments will persecute you and imprison you because of your faith in Jesus. Christ will give you a wisdom to speak to all your adversaries. You will be physically harmed and killed, but your place in heaven is assured. Even Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Pay attention to the signs of the times. Heaven and earth will pass away, but the words of God will not pass away. Be vigilant. Await the arrival of the Son of Man.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Cecilia, martyr, is known as the patron of musicians because of the lovely song she sang to God at her wedding. She is remembered in the First Eucharistic prayer in the list of saints. She and her husband and brother-in-law were Roman citizens who were martyred when they refused to make sacrifice to the Roman gods.

Tuesday: Clement I, pope and martyr, is the third pope in succession to Peter. Like Cecilia, he is listed in the First Eucharistic prayer and was martyred while in exile. He is said to have been a slave in the imperial court. He had a formative influence in the early church and his letter to Corinth helped restore proper order of the faithful.

Columban, abbot, was an Irish monk who left for France in the late 6th century with twelve friends to establish additional monasteries. He took issue with the King's polygamous relationships and was banished from France though his communities were allowed to continue. Columban moved to Switzerland and Italy to set up new communities.

Miguel Pro, priest and martyr, was a Jesuit from Mexico who was martyred in 1927 because he presided at Mass at a time when public worship was forbidden. He would go undercover to provide sacramental services to the poor. Before he died by the firing squad, he forgave his assassins and shouted "Viva Cristo Rey" - Long live Christ the King.

Wednesday: Andrew Dung Lac, priest, and companions, martyrs, were killed in Vietnam for their faith. French missionaries brought Christianity to Vietnam in the 16th century. Over 130,000 Christians were killed between the 17th and 19th centuries and most of these were native Vietnamese. Dung Lac was one of the native-born priests killed by his own government.

Thursday: Catherine of Alexandria was born to a noble family in Alexandria, Egypt and was educated in the finest schools. She became a convert at age 18 because of an insightful vision. She was killed because she refused to marry a man arranged by the emperor, who she criticized for his persecution of Christians. She was tortured before her death in 310.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Nov 21, 1759. At Livorno, the harbor officials refused to let the ship, S Bonaventura, with 120 exiled Portuguese Jesuits on board, cast anchor. Carvalho sent orders to the Governor of Rio de Janeiro to make a diligent search for the supposed wealth of the Jesuits.
• Nov 22, 1633. The first band of missionaries consisting of five priests and one brother, embarked from England for Maryland. They were sent at the request of Lord Baltimore. The best known among them was Fr. Andrew White.
• Nov 22, 1791: Georgetown Academy opened with one student, aged 12, who was the first student taught by the Jesuits in the United States.
• Nov 23, 1545: Jeronimo de Nadal, whom Ignatius had known as a student at Paris, entered the Society. Later Nadal was instrumental in getting Ignatius to narrate his autobiography.
• In 1927: the execution of Fr. Michael Augustine Pro, SJ, by leaders of the persecution of the Church in Mexico.
• Nov 24, 1963: The death of John LaFarge, pioneer advocate of racial justice in the United States.
• Nov 25, 1584: The Church of the Gesu, built in Rome for the Society by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, was solemnly consecrated.
• Nov 26, 1678: In London the arrest and imprisonment of St Claude la Colombiere. He was released after five weeks and banished.
• Nov 27, 1680: In Rome the death of Fr. Athanasius Kircher, considered a universal genius, but especially knowledgeable in science and archeology.

Thanksgiving Day (U.S.A.)

In 1620, religious separatists from England set sail for the New World in the ship, the Mayflower, filled with one hundred and two people. They wanted to settle in a new land so they could enjoy religious freedom. Their faith held doctrinal beliefs different from the Church of England and they wanted to separate from it.

The first settlers landed at Plymouth Rock near Boston, Massachusetts in mid-November 1620 after a nine-week arduous journey. Many passengers fell ill and died. Their first winter was difficult. They had arrived too late to grow crops, and without fresh food, half the colony died from disease. The following spring, an Abenaki native visited the colonists and soon brought Squanto, from the Pawtuxet tribe, who was able to speak English because he was captured years earlier by another Englishman. The natives taught the malnourished colonists how to grow corn, a new food indigenous to America, and to hunt and fish.

With the help of the Wampanoag natives, bountiful crops of corn, barley, beans and pumpkins were harvested in the fall of 1621. Governor William Bradford planned a harvest feast to give thanks to God for their survival. They invited 90 of the local tribe members, along with Chief Massasoit and Squanto. The natives brought roasted deer, turkey, and other wild game. The colonists ate new fruits and vegetables like cranberries, squash, and different kinds of corn.

It became a custom to celebrate a harvest feast to praise God for his providence. Largely, Thanksgiving has become a day set aside for families to reunite and enjoy a traditional meal of turkey, cranberries, potatoes, squash, stuffing, and other specialties.

As an independent nation, the U.S. Congress recommended one yearly national day of celebration to give thanks. George Washington chose November 26th as a day of remembrance. After the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln chose the last Thursday in November, and in 1939, Franklin Roosevelt moved it up one week to the 4th Thursday in November. He chose this to boost business by lengthening the Christmas shopping season.

Thanksgiving Day Prayer

From the Book of Sirach

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

Prayer for the Last Week of the Year

Almighty and merciful God, you break the power of evil and make all things new in your Son Jesus Christ, the King of the universe. May all in heaven and earth acclaim your glory and never cease to praise you. Open our hearts, free all the world to rejoice in his peace, to glory in his justice, to live in his love. Bring humanity together in Jesus Christ your Son, whose kingdom is with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Prayer: Anthony de Mello, S.J. - His Prayer after Communion

Don't change: Desire to change is the enemy of love.
Don't change yourselves: Love yourselves as you are.
Don't change others: Love all others as they are.
Don't change the world: It is in God's hands and he knows.
And if you do that change will occur
Marvellously in its own way and in its own time
Yield to the current of life unencumbered by baggage.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Spirituality: Trying Faith On

Stories based on make-believe continue to fascinate us because they replicate the way children make discoveries. Act as if something is ture and it may turn out to be so. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant by 'becoming like little children.' In any case, the wisdom about faith has it that you cannot know it till you try it. Try living as if you exclamations about life's comedies and tragedies carry a forwarding address, or as if you live before a Presence who is firmly on your side but more demanding than any friend or mentor. You may be disconcerted to find the evidence for your surmise accumulating, and your dialogue with the Divine developing. Adrian Lyons from Imagine Believing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Prayer: Felix Adler

Heroes are those who kindle a great light in the world, who set up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for people to see by. Saints are those who walk through the dark paths of the world, themselves a light.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Catholic Bishops Tilt Right" by Thomas Reese, S.J.

At their meeting this week in Baltimore, the U.S. bishops signaled that they are going to continue their conservative tilt in both the church and American politics.

This rightward tilt became evident six years ago when Cardinal Francis George of Chicago was elected vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The election of vice president is important because the bishops traditionally elect the vice president as president at the next election in three years.

Prior to his election as vice president, George had executed the coup d’état at ICEL (International Commission on English in the Liturgy) that got rid of those who opposed a literal word-for-word translation of the Latin Mass. He, more than any other bishop, will be responsible for the new English translation that goes into effect in Advent of 2011. This year, as president of the bishops’ conference, he led the attack on President Obama’s healthcare bill, which he claims will fund abortions even though the Catholic Health Association disagrees.

Moderates were fooled into thinking that the bishops had returned to the center three years ago when they elected Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson as vice president at the same time that Cardinal George was elevated to president. They expected Kicanas to be elected president this year, even though he had only defeated Archbishop Timothy Dolan, then of Milwaukee, by one vote.

Dolan’s victory over Kicanas at this week’s meeting is unprecedented. The bishops have always elected the vice president when he was on the ballot for president.

On paper, there is little difference between the two bishops. Both would claim to support orthodox doctrine and the full range of Catholic social teaching. As one bishop told me, “Kicanas is a liberal moderate, and Dolan is a conservative moderate.” The substantive differences are not that great.

The difference is in style and emphasis.

Kicanas is a quiet conciliator who prefers to resolve conflict through dialogue & conversation. He once taught a course in conflict resolution. Dolan is more extroverted and willing to be aggressive and confrontational when he thinks it is necessary. He has an ongoing fight with the New York Times. The bishops obviously want a strong, vigorous voice in the public square.

At the press conference after the election, Archbishop Dolan praised Cardinal George’s stance on the healthcare bill. He also said that the late Cardinal John O’Connor was his model on how to be a bishop. Kicanas would undoubtedly point to his mentor Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. That says it all.

Bernardin and O’Connor were frequently at odds while they were alive, with Bernardin wanting to emphasize the whole range of Catholic social teaching and O’Connor wanting to stress abortion as the preeminent issue. If Cardinal Bernardin were alive today, he could not be elected president of this conference, nor could previous presidents like John Quinn, James Malone or John Roach. The bishops’ conference has been radically changed by the bishops appointed by Pope John Paul II. This is not going to change in the foreseeable future.

The conservative tilt of the bishops’ conference was shown even more clearly by the election for vice president. After two votes, the final runoff was between the two most conservative candidates of the eight bishops on the ballot: Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, who wants to ban pro-choice politicians from Communion, and Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, chair of the bishops' committee on the defense of marriage—the committee assigned to fight gay marriage.

That the leading voices on these two issues were in the runoff is telling. This is a clear signal that the bishops want to be active participants in the culture wars.

All of the bishops would claim to be committed to the full range of Catholic social teaching, so you have to focus on what they say, what they emphasize and what they do.

What is most remarkable about this meeting is that it took place in the middle of the most devastating economic downturn since the Great Depression, and the bishops said nothing about it. It was as if they did not know that almost 10 percent of their parishioners are unemployed, that the new Congress is going to take aim at programs helping the poor and that now is the time to speak out for social justice. Their silence was deafening.

Thomas J. Reese, S.J., a Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University, writes a column, This Catholic’s View, for newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith.

Prayer: Oscar Romero (Murdered March 24, 1980)

A gospel that does not unsettle, a word of God that does not get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that does not touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed, what gospel is that?

Monday, November 15, 2010

New Leader for American Catholics

By Thomas J. Reese, S.J.

While most Catholic eyes are directed toward Rome where new cardinals will be created on November 20, an important leadership transition is taking place in the United States where a new president will be chosen for the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. While people in red hats tend to get noticed, the president of the bishops' conference is the closest thing the American church has to a real national leader.

At the end of their meeting in Baltimore on November 18, the USCCB presidency will transfer from Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, one of the largest archdioceses in the U.S., to Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, one of the smaller dioceses.

Bishop Kicanas, currently vice president, will need to be elected as president during the meeting, but the bishops traditionally promote their vice president to president at the end of his three-year term. The only time their failed to do this was when the vice president (Cardinal John Carberry of St. Louis) was too old and would have had to retire while president. Not to elect Kicanas would be an ecclesial earthquake of monumental proportions. As a result, all eyes will be on the election of the new vice president, who everyone knows will become the president in three years. Will he be a moderate or a culture warrior?

Electing as president a man who is not even an archbishop and is from such a small diocese shows that the Catholic bishops are not as deferential to hierarchy or even to Rome as one would think. After all, Rome appoints its favorites to large and important archdioceses. For the bishops to reach this deep into the bench shows that they do not judge each other with the same criteria as Rome does.

What kind of president will Kicanas be?

Kicanas will not try to impose his agenda on the bishops; rather he will support the priorities of the bishops themselves. He will spend lots of time listening and trying to build consensus. His style will be similar to that of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who was his mentor. This is why the bishops elected him.

On substance, Kicanas will not stray from the middle of the bishops' conference. He is opposed to abortion, but he does not support banning pro-choice politicians from Communion. During the controversy over President Obama's visit to Notre Dame University, he called for the bishops and university presidents "to sit down and talk this through to come to some better understanding."

And while he supported an Arizona ballot initiative banning gay marriage, he instituted a conversation in his diocese on how to minister to gays when he was criticized by gay rights supporters. Although he would not step back from church teaching on homosexuality, he did affirm that "we must challenge any attitudes, language or actions in the church and in society that demean people of same-sex orientation."

Like Bernardin, Kicanas is committed to the full range of Catholic social teaching on justice and peace. On economic issues, like the pope, he would be to the left of the Obama administration. Unlike the Tea Party, he has no problem with a robust role for the government in supporting the common good. He supports comprehensive immigration reform and strongly condemned the Arizona law instructing police to go after undocumented immigrants. He has visited the Holy Land seven times and spoken in support of Christians there as well as for an end to violence.

Bishop Kicanas will not just listen to the bishops; he also takes seriously input from the laity. He has been involved with the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, an organization of business executives founded in response to the sex abuse crisis to help the church with their expertise. He also believes that the church has a lot to learn from the social sciences and has supported research on the life of the church by CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate).

Kicanas should also prove to be a good communicator. He is less abstract and rambling in his speeches than Cardinal George. He understands the church has a communication challenge to "keep the interest of people who have so many places to turn." He is a blogger and suggested that the pope try it. He does not appear to be afraid of the press like most bishops. He said that one of the lessons he learned from leading his diocese through bankruptcy in 2004-2005 was the need for transparency and openness. Although not everyone was happy with the process, he was pleased that most, including victims, felt they were treated fairly and respectfully.

Kicanas will face many challenges as president of the bishops' conference: a political atmosphere that appears willing to sacrifice the poor to deficit reduction; a controversial translation of the Mass that may go down poorly with the people in the pews; an exodus of young people out of the church and declining church attendance; a graying and smaller presbyterate. And then there will be the surprises that will test his mettle.

Prayer: Ignatius of Loyola, S.J.

Men crucified to the world, and to whom the world itself is crucified, such would the rule of our live have us to be. New men, I say, who have put off their affections to put on Christ; dead to themselves to live to justice; who with St. Paul in labors, in sleepless nights, in fastings, in innocence, in knowledge, in long sufferings, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in unaffected love, in the word of truth, show themselves ministers of God; and by the armor of justice on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report, by good success finally, and by ill success, press forward with great strides to their heavenly country, and by all means possible and with all zeal urge on others also, ever looking to God’s greater glory. This is the sum and aim of our institute.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Language we use in Prayer

In preparation for this day of recollection, my host gave me such a broad topic to consider that I finally can see it as a gift. As I consider the methodology of our conversation, it illustrates the way we often approach our prayer. We can go into prayer not knowing what to ask for and we get frustrated. If we aren't clear going in, we are going to walk away from it unclear as well. There is that old saying in computer programming, garbage in, garbage out. Or it is like a shopping expedition. When we aimlessly window shop, we typically walk away either not buying anything or we ended up with something we really don't want. Or it is like going grocery shopping. If you go into a market hungry and you don't have a list, you will buy much more than you need, and maybe forget one or two of the items that you went into the store to buy in the first place. If you have a list, you are more efficient, you buy what you have laid out, and you don't forget anything. So as we approach prayer, we may want to learn how to prepare ourselves better. A little discipline can help a lot.

Sometimes we don't know what to pray for because we don't know what we want. Many times people feel as if their choices are made by other people. When do I really choose what I want for myself anyways? How can we as a parish pray for some common guidance when we may not be praying for the same thing? Many of us are undisciplined in our prayer and that makes it challenging to get to a union of minds and hearts.

Each of us has areas of uncertainty in our lives. We don't know which direction our lives shall take. We have to learn how to pray individually first and then communally if we are to achieve any satisfaction in prayer.

What I intend to do in my talk is to provide a number of reflections on prayer. It may seem loose, but it is based on my experience of listening to the prayer lives of others. They are a collection of sayings, tidbits, about the ways we converse and relate to others, and therefore to God.

1. First and foremost, the way we relate to others is the way we relate to God. We don't change who we are when we talk with God. How well do I communicate with others? Are we aware of the patterns we bring into our communication efforts? I think of a Jesuit scholastic who when asked for clarification on what he is saying will raise his voice and repeat verbatim what he just said. In his mind, his forceful reiteration clarifies the issue. He thinks that the person asking the question is not really paying attention to what he is saying so the person will listen better if he speaks more loudly and authoritatively. The poor person dealing with him does not receive any additional insight. This Jesuit scholastic gets frustrated he has to repeat his words and he looks down upon the person who asks for clarification. What was communicated here? Disdain. Was it what either intended? No. The result is the content remains unclear. The overriding message is his disdain for the other person. Not a good result.

We've all had experiences of another person speaking over us, cutting us off, being brusque or dismissive, or having an angry or impatient tone of voice. Often these are learned patterns in a person. Too often we do not let another person know of his or her behavior and its effect upon us. The result is the person never grows in comprehension. We are left with this conclusion: if this is the way a person speaks with others, he speaks to God in like ways. The person is the same and his character doesn't change radically in each setting. In the case of the scholastic, does he impose his will upon God and shut God down the way he does with other people? It is not a stretch to think he does. He wonders why God does not listen to him.

2. Analyze those areas where you are frustrated with the results. It is good for us is to examine our language in problematic relationships to identify the ways we stop receiving or transmitting helpful information. We have to be careful not to play with the situations or joke around too much because it simply does not get to the heart of the communication. For instance, when I was preparing for this retreat, I kept asking my host what she thought the Parish Council wanted for retreat. When she gave me the broad topics of prayer and grace, I jokingly thanked her for giving me such narrow, specified direction.

While the joking was light-hearted, and I still languished that I was not given any direction. I desperately needed data so I could turn my inexact and imprecise guesswork into information. I simply could have helped myself and my host by telling her that she is not giving me I need and ask her to kindly do so immediately. Instead, we played email tag for too long and I spent much energy and psychic time trying to imagine what you might want. If I am to enter into my prayer without any type of direction, do you think I will leave prayer with any clarity? I doubt it. I have to ask God for what I need and to do so in specific language. I know God generously gives what we ask. If we are not getting what we want, perhaps we are not clear about what we are asking. Maybe it is not God's fault after all.

3. Assume we don't know what someone else is thinking. Think also about the ways in which we presume a lot about what another person is saying. Most times, we do not answer the question that is asked us and we offer an answer to an unrelated question. I find this bewildering and presumptive.

For instance, a few months ago I asked a woman in the church narthex if there was a trashcan nearby. She told me all about the recycling schedule for the church. I said "thank you for in the information, but can you tell me if there is a trash bin nearby?" She told me which items go into the proper recycling bin. She beamed with joy for helping me out. I said, "I want to throw away my trash. Is there a place I can put it?" And I handed my trash to her. She looked at the stuff in her hands bewildered and told me the recyclers come on Tuesday.

We sometimes answer questions that people begin to ask without letting them fully describe what they are asking. We assume we know what the person is asking and we begin to respond prematurely. This creates all sorts of confusion. We transfer this type of behavior to our prayer. We think we know what God is going to say so we don't let God say it. We shut God out. I have had many experience when I person has told me that she knows what God is going to say so she doesn't bother to ask. Give God the freedom to respond.

4. Notice the ways I shut down conversation. How do I say "no" without realizing it? We have many ways of doing it. Avoid the words "no," "not," "but," and words like "won't". We are not conscious of the ways these negatives are buried into our patterns of speech. These words stop any form communication dead in its track. It can raise dreaded authority issues too. We can simply omit most of those words and find our language improves. For instance, instead of using these connecting words, use full stops instead, or use the word "and." The word "and" builds upon the previous phrase and forms a building block.

Think of how many times you have been shut down when someone says, "I hear what you are saying, but..." This is one of the most insensitive phrases to use. It conveys the person disregard for you and that he is unable to hear what you are saying. Rather, simply say. Thank you. I disagree with your conclusion. "Agreeing to disagree" has the same negative effect. The person who says that is controlling the conversation and no longer wants to talk about it. Simply say, "I disagree with your thoughts." Conflict and tension in conversation is good. This is where we get somewhere. People who want to build coalitions will find common ground to move forward.

We tell God "no" all the time in our prayer when we are unprepared to truly comprehend what God asks of us. We hold onto our attachments and feelings longer than God wants and we negate God's true intentions for us. Many of us have the experience of keeping God at bay because we are not ready to accept what God has to say. We serve ourselves best when we wonder, "How do I prohibit my openness? Do I give the other permission to speak openly?" "Am I acting in freedom?"

5. Ask for a grace. Ignatius of Loyola always has a person ask for a grace when she begins prayer. This outlines the direction of our prayer. We ask the Lord to give us this grace in the prayer experience. We feel satisfaction when we receive what we ask for, so let's refine what we ask. For instance, if I ask to feel God's presence and I receive it, I am to be thankful that God gave me what I wanted. If I am upset because God did not tell me the direction to which I am to move, well it is because you did not ask for it. You asked to feel God's presence, not clarification on the direction you are to take. Get straight what you want.

6. To whom am I speaking? Whom do I address in prayer? Speak to that person. We sometimes begin our prayer addressing God the Creator and speak to God as if we are speaking to Jesus Christ. Keep it distinct in your mind. We know God is mysterious and that we speak to all when we speak to one, but it helps us focus on the person of God to whom we are relating. The image we are addressing is important as we are drawn better to certain images over others.

Knowing which image of God you relate to best is crucial. Typically, if a person has a poor image of God, the person has a poor self image.

7. Focus on that person When we are in prayer, it is helpful if we focus upon God as Creator, Son, or Spirit. If I am speaking with Christ, then my focus is to be on him. Notice what he is saying. What tone of voice is he using? What does his facial expression reveal? Maybe he has a certain body language? Which words does he choose? What do you think he is feeling? Ask him about his emotions or ask him what God, the Creator, is feeling. Ask Christ what he wants or needs? And then let him tell you.

True contemplation results when we look at the person and feel what the other person is feeling. The stuff of today will rush forward because Christ wants to look at this with us. Our attention is focused on Christ and his perspective. Look into his eyes. Our eyes are always upon him, instead of ourselves, but our content is brought forward. Christ's insight will help us heal and progress. When our focus is on him and not on our tribulations, we are able to stand fearless.

Here's the rub. We don't know how to do that well. When we are in conversation with others, we are mostly concerned with what we have to say to the other person. We want to speak. We want to know that we are heard. We want that deep intimate connection of another person caring enough about us to respect our situation. If we focus only upon ourselves in human conversation, we are also going to do it in our prayer. Learn to contemplate the Lord in a way in which we are curious about what he is thinking and feeling. What are his attitudes? What is in his heart? We will never know until we ask.

8. Elements of Conversation. What is the purpose of conversation? What are my purpose and goals? What point am I trying to get across to someone else? What subjects do I omit from prayer or conversation? Why is that? Ignatius of Loyola says conversation is the heart of prayer. To converse means that we are turning affectively towards the other person. My heart becomes moved to the other person. This is the mission of a Jesuit for Ignatius. We learn the mind, soul, emotions, and heart of another when we do the hard work of learning how to turn towards the other.

Let's look at the structure of a healthy conversation where honor and dignity are upheld.

A. We let the other person speak. Let the person say everything that he needs to say. He will give a cue when he is finished. He will pause or come to a place of silence. During this time, we actively listen, perhaps asking a clarifying question or two.

B. When he has finished, we paraphrase what we think we have heard. We ask if we got it right.

C. This will give the person a chance to acknowledge that (a.) he has been heard, and (b.) we interpreted correctly. If not, he will have a chance to explain himself more fully and we repeat our listening and paraphrasing skills until he is satisfied. This allows the person to feel that you comprehend in feelings what he is saying. This is solidarity. Speak when the other gives you permission to speak. We want to focus upon the feelings more than we want to concentrate on content. Being heard is a huge breakthrough for many. It is quite a gift.

D. Ask for the same ground rules from him. It is now your chance to be listened to and heard. This pattern that respects the integrity of each person will yield beneficial results.

We will get somewhere when we use this form of communicating when we have tension and conflict, but it is good practice in normal daily conversations. It is a good practice for our prayer because we get to test and confirm what we think we are hearing from God. Prayer is never a one shot deal. We let God respond and we get to say what we think God is saying. God will let us know if God wants us to nuance it differently. Prayer is continued conversation, checking in, verifying, and responding in healthy ways.

9. Establish the ground rules. People will push boundaries in conversation whenever they can. Notice how politicians act in debates even when there is a moderator. Safeguard your boundaries by telling the other person how their behavior makes you feel. You can ask a person to change his behavior that disturbs you while retaining his dignity as a human being. It is a win-win situation. You communicate your honest feelings. A healthy person will not turn away from real human emotions. You communicate your essential feelings. We are what we feel. Let no one make you feel anything other than who you are.

Set timeframes. Say how long you intend to be in prayer and stick with it. That is courteous. If you tell God you will be in prayer for ten minutes and you leave after seven minutes, might you have cut God off? Be polite and courteous. You do not like it when a person walks away from you when you are speaking. You are not engaging in a conversation when you do all the talking and then unilaterally decide it is over and walk away. If you don't like it done to you, refrain from doing it to others, especially to God.

Not every conversation has to be deep and meaningful. Tell God something humorous that happened in your day. Laugh with God. Spend idle chatter with God. Treat God as you would treat a good friend.

10. My nonverbals. What tone of voice do I use? Are you rushing? Slow down. Are you taking a breath every once in a while or are you rambling in a stream of consciousness way? Do you allow the other to respond? Are you giving God a chance to speak? What does your body language say about your emotions? Is your body receptive to listening?


The point to all of this is that we have to see our prayer life as one of relationship with God and in relationships we have to learn to communicate in a mutually compatible way that keeps evolving as we evolve. Parents talk to their kids differently at age 5 than they do at age 15, 35, or 55. We have to keep learning new boundaries in a maturing relationship. Our prayer has to keep evolving as we learn more about God and ourselves - and what we desire.

Prayer: Joseph Pignatelli

My God, I do not know
what must come to me today.
But I am certain
that nothing can happen to me
that you have not foreseen, decreed,
and ordained from all eternity.
That is sufficient for me.

I adore your impenetrable
and eternal designs,
to which I submit with all my heart.
I desire, I accept thhem all;
and I unite my sacrifice to that of
Jesus Christ, my Divine Savior.

I ask in his name
and through his infinite merits,
patience in my trials,
and perfect and entire submission to all
that comes to me by your good pleasure.

Memorial: November 14

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Parish Council Talk: Persistent Widow and the Unjust Judge

You have some difficult decisions to make as a parish community shortly. How are you going to do it? Your pastor and bishop ultimately make the decision with your recommendations. What do you plan to do? How will you do it? In your gut you probably know the answer. What is it going to take for you to bring it out into the open and set your strategy? You probably will not get any further information that is going to be critical to your decision. You will probably not experience a tipping-point event that it going to cause it all to make sense. It seems that what is required is that you become comfortable with your authority enough to act upon it. What do you need to do to interiorly make yourself comfortable? The anxiety is the confusion we face in times leading up to a decision; clarity occurs when we finally choose. You can never live in freedom until you choose. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Yes, when we choose, we say yes to some options, and it closes down other options. We'll never have a perfect environment by which to make a decision. You've been given all the information you need. The decisions are in your gut. How do you bring your gut to prayer?

In our readings today, we have an example of a woman who brings her gut to prayer. This widow persistently brings her petitions to an unjust judge who tries to pay no attention to her. Without wearying herself, she wears down the unjust judge who finally relents and grants her justice. He fears that she will be so fed up with him that she will take it out on her personally. He acquiesces and grants her justice. End of story. She lives in peace now that her livelihood is secured. He will probably go on being unjust, but she was only petitioning the he show her justice. She received what she needed.

Let's look at the probable event leading up to her encounters with the judge. She is a widow, which puts her on the margins of society. Her deceased husband's family is to take her in, but it appears that she is on her own. She has an adversary who treated her unfairly and she wants an equitable resolution. As our social structures are inherently sinful, she asks for a judge to intervene. Perhaps he was friendly with her adversary. Who knows? He does not grant her any justice and she is left even further vulnerable. She is fighting for her life. Her cause is not global justice. Her cause is to go on living with minimized hardships because no one is looking after her. The poor woman. She, and her desires, her voices, gets dismissed by the very powers that could help her. She knows in her gut what she is supposed to do. She acts upon it at great risk, but she is doing something that will ease her burden.

What is Jesus saying about God? He is saying God is not like the unjust judge. God is much more generous and wants to come to our aid when we are ready. Jesus tells us that God wants us to bring our needs forward. We must speak about what we want. We must hear ourselves say it to God. We don't have to worry about solving the larger problems of the world. In fact, we can't. We can only take care of the choices within our areas of responsibility. These are good boundaries to have in prayer. Jesus tells us God will not be slow in answering us. God will secure our rights as Jesus tells us. Why wouldn't we want to petition God as often as we can. God is waiting for us to speak up.

This widow disposed of pleasantries. What were the natures of her cries? She wants to live. She wants a justice that will arc her way - not for selfish gain, just to live. What do we learn from her?

1. We are to always present our gut feelings to God. This is our boundary, our conscience, that we cannot betray. This is our baseline. When we are making decisions, what baseline are we not able to cross?

2. She was able to speak for what she needed. I'm sure she refined it many times until she came across a message that was right for her. She found her way of expressing what was needed in a way she could be heard. Many voices want to stop us from going forward. It comes in anger, disgust, frustration, passive-aggressively ignoring us, and many other techniques. God will not reply to us in those ways. God wants us to continue speaking until we get down to what we really want. God wants to provide for you.

3. She can live in moderate comfort. She knows a judgment has finally be rendered in her favor. She doesn't have to worry about sustenance any longer. She is not wealthy, but she has enough means to provide for her daily meals and shelter. For all intents and purposes, she no longer worries about her big concern in life. Sure she will have smaller ones, but right now she is free because she acted prudently. God's will was for her to live in freedom. We know we can turn to God for our needs and God will satisfy us.

What does this mean for me as part of the Parish Council? We are to ask God for what we individually want in a communal decision. This means that we each have to get to our baseline. What are the non-negotiable parts of our discernment? Once we figure that out, we have to tell each other in the group our baselines. We have to do it even though they might be in direct contrast to someone else's baseline. We also have to tell God what they are. Perhaps, God will say something about that surprises us. What if God tells you to let go of your baseline for the sake of a larger issue? Are you going to be free enough to do that?

We have to look at our authority issues around the priest-pastor who is ultimately accountable for the salvation of the souls entrusted to his care. We are responsible; he is accountable. He is counting on you for advice on ways to proceed for you are a microcosm of the parish. He is looking for your courage because he knows that hard decisions come with unpopular consequences. He wants to know he has a team that stands behind him - a team that makes decisions in charity that arises from one's prayerful discernment. He wants to know that we have all prayed well over some heartbreaking choices.

What does God want for the parishioners? What is God most interested in giving them? In what ways do they come together to pray for the future of their community? Is there a way we can announce difficult decisions while still caring for their needs? I think there are many ways to do that. Needs and wants are not the same. Our task is to help bring people closer to the Lord in a way that they know God is responding to their deepest needs and even their desires. Our job is to bring them to the Lord so they may live in imitation of him and in the freedom that he has won for them. Discipleship is not relegated to church buildings. It is nurtured through a community of faith that sees no limits for themselves - sees no boundaries. In what ways are we going to fashion this community of faith? Let's be free enough to dream of the possibilities that Christ has for us. This is where our desires come in. This is where we listen to Christ's desires for us. We need to spend lots more time with him asking about what he wants for us. He is going to take care of everything. With that in mind, we have not worries. Let's step out more boldly into his dream, his vision for us. I think we will find this is ultimately what we want.

Prayer: Pedro Arrupe's Final Address

Pedro Arrupe

September 3, 1983

How I wish I were in a better condition for this meeting with you! As you see, I cannot even address you directly. But my General Assistants have grasped what I want to say to everyone.

More than eve, I now find myself in the hands of God. This is what I have wanted all my life, from my youth. And this is still the one thing I want. 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 his hands.

At the end of eighteen years as General of the Society, I want first of all, and above all, to give thanks to the Lord. His generosity towards me has been boundless. For my part, I have tried to respond, well knowing that all his gifts were for the Society, to be shared with each and every Jesuit. This has been my persistent effort.

In these eighteen years my one ideal was to serve the Lord and his Church - with all my heart - from beginning to end. I thank the Lord for the great progress which I have witnessed in the Society. Obviously, there would be defects too - my own, to begin with - but it remains a fact that there was great progress, in personal conversion, in the apostolate, in concern for the poor, for refugees. And special mention must be made of the attitude of loyalty and filial obedience shown towards the Church and the Holy Father, particularly in these last years. For all of this, thanks be to God.

I am especially grateful to my closest collaborators, the General Assistants and Counsellors - to Father O'Keefe in the first place - to the Regional Assistants, the whole Curia and the Provincials. And I heartily thank Father Dezza and Father Pittau for their loving response to the Church and to the Society, on being entrusted with so exceptional a task by the Holy Father.

But above all it is to the Society at large, and to each of my brother Jesuits, that I want to express my gratitude. Had they not been obedient in faith to this poor Superior General, nothing would have been accomplished.

My call to you today is that you be available to the Lord. Let us put God at the centre, ever attentive to his voice, ever asking what we can do for his more effective service, and doing it to the best of our ability, with love and perfect detachment. Let us cultivate a very personal awareness of the reality of God.

To each one of you in particular I would love to say - "tantas cosas": so much, really.

From our young people I ask that they live in the presence of God and grow in holiness, as the best preparation for the future. Let them surrender to the will of God, at once so awesome and so familiar.

With those who are at the peak of their apostolic activity, I plead that they do not burn themselves out. Let them find a proper balance by centering their lives on God, not on their work - with an eye to the needs of the world, and a thought for the millions that do not know God or behave as if they did not. All are called to know and serve God. What a wonderful mission has been entrusted to us: to bring all to the knowledge and love of Christ!

On those of my age I urge openness: let us learn what must be done now, and do it with a will.

To our dear Brothers too, I would like to say "tantas cosas" - so much, and with such affection. I want to remind the whole Society of the importance of the Brothers; they help us to centre our vocation on God.

I am full of hope, seeing the Society at the service of the one Lord and of the Church, under the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth. May she keep going along this path, and may God bless us with many and good vocations of priests and brothers: for this I offer to the Lord what is left of my life, my prayers and the sufferings imposed by my ailments. For myself, all I want is to repeat from the depths of my heart:

Take O Lord, and receive: all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All I have and all I possess - it is all yours, Lord: you gave it to me; I make it over to you: dispose of it entirely according to your will. Give me your love and your grace, and I want no more.

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 14, 2010

The end-time readings put us in an awkward space. Luke is telling the story of Jesus on his way to Jerusalem, specifically to the Temple. He highlights the consequences for Jerusalem for not heeding the teaching of Jesus as God's prophet, and he insinuates the fall of the Temple is a result of rejecting God's ways. The destruction of the Temple forty years after the death of Jesus is a terrible blow to the consciousness of both Jews and to the new Gentile Christian converts. The religious leaders and people have to imagine worship without their most sacred symbols. It is a time of confusion and fear.

The disciples of Jesus look beyond the calamities and see the vindication of the rejected Jesus. Their faith is bolstered by remaining faithful to him. In the face of adversity the disciples realize they will be rejected because of their allegiance to him. These calamities will be cosmic disasters, persecution, the destruction of Jerusalem and ultimately the end of the world and they will point to the reality that Jesus is the Son of Man, God's prophet, and our Lord.

The disciples are not to equate the destruction of the Temple with the return of Jesus. It is a sign though that we are moving closer to the end time. Jesus is not concerned about answering the question "when will this happen?" as much as he is helping his disciples respond to all the crises that will face them. These crises will become very personal when family members and loved ones join in as one's adversaries. This will tear one's heart apart, but the rejected Jesus has been vindicated and will strengthen each of his beleaguered disciples.

Jesus reminds his friends to follow only him because there will be other false leaders who will try to win their affections. His friends are to keep their attention focused on him rather than to be concerned with the sufferings they are facing. His life brought about great conflict; a faithful disciple's life will generate the same effect. He will, however, be present in spirit to help the person stand tall in the face of this adversity. A believer is to persevere in a manner of life that imitates the life of Jesus. The rejected one will not forget his faithful allies.

We will be strengthened if we remember Christ remains faithful to us in our personal crises. It is easy to take our eyes off of him and think of the psychic, emotional, and physical pain we face. We have to let him be Lord and let his presence reveal itself through our calamities. We believe Jesus will come again to gather the world to himself to present it to God and we also have our individual end time - our own death. With the help of Christ, we can live without fear of anything. Everyone wants to live bolder lives that are more meaningful and rich. As some forces in the world work to hold us back, let's pray to Christ that he will remain steadfast in our times of trial and liberate us from unnecessary anxiety. He will strengthen us to live in the glory that he holds out for us. We can be sure that Christ is always working to support his faithful ones. With his protection, we can withstand anything the universe throws at us.

Quote for the Week

From Luke 19

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If this day you only knew what makes for peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes."

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Revelation, John begins to tell of his vision to the seven churches in Asia in order to encourage them in the face of persecution and threats. John tells the people to conserve the tradition that has been handed onto them and to honor the one who reads the Word of God. If anyone hears God's voice and opens the door, the Lord will have supper with him. The vision continues with the Lord God appearing in glory. He is the almighty one who was, and who is, and who is to come. The Lamb of God appears. For you, he was slain and your blood was purchased from every tribe and nation. You have been made into a kingdom of priests. John then took the scroll and swallowed it. He devoured the words so he could prophesy again to many people, nations, and kings. Two witnesses will rise to see two prophets who torment the faithful ones while the beast that comes from the abyss will wreak havoc on the land. Corpses will be on display for 3.5 days until a breath of life from God enters them.

Gospel: On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus passes through Jericho where a blind man comes to sight, a symbol of true belief, after being healed. Jesus then runs into Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, who longs to see Jesus. Jesus invites himself to dinner at his house and Zacchaeus repents. He becomes a generous and just man. In describing the Kingdom of God, Jesus tells a parable of a nobleman who entrusts his gold coins to his servants. Two servants act wisely and invest the money; the third is foolish and hides the coins. Jesus says God has given us talents to use well. We ought not stow them away. As he approaches Jerusalem, he weeps over it because peace is hidden from their eyes. He boldly enters the Temple and drives out those who have desecrated it with their commercial enterprises. Finally, he enters into conflict with the Sadducees who deny the resurrection or the existence of angels.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Albert, bishop and doctor, a German, joined the new Dominican Order in 1229. Thomas Aquinas was his student in theology at the University of Paris. He taught in Cologne and then was named bishop of Ratisbon in 1260. He was known for his intellect and he was a leader in adapting Aristotle's philosophy to theology.

Tuesday: Margaret of Scotland married, Malcolm, the King of Scotland in 1070, four years after the Norman Conquest of England. She fled to Scotland in 1066 for refuge. Her family previously sought refuge in Hungary after the Danes invaded England. As queen, she had a pastoral presence among the people and corrected many church abuses.

Gertrude was raised by the Benedictine nuns in Saxony where she lived with two mystics: Mechthild of Hackenborn and Mechthild of Magdeburg. She also experienced mystical visions and wrote these down into five books. She lived in the 13th century.

Roch Gonzales, John del Castillo, Alphonsus Rodriguez were Jesuit martyrs of the Paraguayan reductions. Gonzalez was a Paraguayan citizen who descended from early Spanish colonists. As Jesuits set up new indigenous villages with Christian values called reductions, jealous opposition increased from the local witch doctors for the influence the Jesuits had over the people. To stop this, the witch doctors set up situations to murder the Jesuits and reclaim their authority.

Wednesday: Elizabeth of Hungary was a generous woman to many charities in Thuringia. When her husband, Ludwig, died on crusade in 1227, his brother expelled her and her children from the royal court. She entered the Third Order of the Franciscans to continue her philanthropy and to spend greater time in prayer.

Thursday: The Dedication of the Basilicas of Peter and Paul in Rome commemorates the monumental work of the first apostles of Christ. St. Peter's basilica was begun in 323 over the grave of Peter and lasted until 1506 when a new church was built. Michelangelo helped with the ideas for the basilica. St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls (of Rome) was built in the 4th century, destroyed by a fire in the 19th century, and was rebuilt shortly thereafter.

Rose Philippine Duchesne was a French missionary of the Society of the Sacred Heart. She traveled to Missouri and set up the first free school west of the Mississippi River. She established six more missions and worked for the Native Americans. She was known for her personal devotion to her prayer.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Nov 14, 1854. In Spain, the community left Loyola for the Balearic Isles, in conformity with a government order.
• Nov 15, 1628. The deaths of St Roch Gonzalez and Fr. Alphonsus Rodriguez. They were some of the architects of the Jesuit missions in Uruguay and Paraguay.
• Nov 16, 1989. In El Salvador, the murder of six Jesuits connected with the University of Central America together with two of their lay colleagues.
• Nov 17, 1579. Rudolph Acquaviva and two other Jesuits set out from Goa for Surat and Fattiphur, the Court of Akbar, the Great Mogul.
• Nov 18, 1538. Pope Paul III caused the governor of Rome to publish the verdict proclaiming the complete innocence of Ignatius and his companions of all heresy.
• Nov 19, 1526. Ignatius was examined by the Inquisition in Alcala, Spain. They were concerned with the novelty of his way of life and his teaching.
• Nov 20, 1864. In St Peter's, Rome, the beatification of Peter Canisius by Pope Pius IX.

Jesuit Martyrs of the UCA

On Friday, November 19th, we remember the six Jesuits of the University of Central America and their housekeeper and her daughter who were slaughtered by the Salvadoran government at their residence. Their crime was teaching students at the university in the midst of a civil war.

Each year, Jesuits and their colleagues will gather to protest the U.S. government's role in training the Salvadoran soldiers (and many nations in Central and South America) in guerilla tactics and torture techniques. Formerly called the School of the Americas, WHINSEC in Columbus, Georgia has modified their practices and many nations have dropped their participation in the school.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Prayer: Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

One last point I would like to discuss with you is the unrest many of you feel with regard to the future. There are times when all of us ask ourselves what will happen tomorrow. Do not let this unrest discourage you, no more than the seeming uselessness of your efforts that can at times make the day look dark. You must realize that the present difficulties are signs of the times, events through which God speaks to us. His ways of pursuing His work can at times be quite disconcerting. Let this unrest and this obscurity help you to make an effort at reflection and imagination – but do it calmly. Let it stimulate you, for it is the light and strength of the Holy Spirit which we need most of all. Above all else, let it be for you an occasion to deepen profoundly your faith and your hope.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Song: Taps (played at military funerals)

Day is done,
gone the sun,
from the lakes,
from the hills,
from the sky,
all is well,
safely rest,
God is nigh.

Fading light,
dims the sight,
and a star gems the sky,
gleaming bright,
from afar,
drawing nigh,
falls the night.

Thanks and praises,
for our days,
'neath the stars,
'neath the sky,
as we go,
this we know,
God is neigh.

Prayer: Dag Hammarskjold

One who has surrendered to it knows the way ends on the Cross – even when it is leading through the jubilation of Gennesaret or the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Prayer: For Veterans of Foreign Wars

Here is a prayer I composed to remember the veterans of our foreign wars on Thursday, November 11th.

Loving God,
we remember those who have served our nation
and died to protect
and defend our freedom.
Help us never to forget them
and their efforts to keep us safe.

We honor those who were in combat,
and returned home safely.
May they know our thankfulness.

We honor those in the service who supported
our military behind the front lines.
May they know our gratitude.

We pray for those whose bodies and spirits
are ravaged by war,
whose memories cannot forget the
brutality war inflicts upon others,
whose pain is too deep for others to touch.

Help us find ways to reach out
to our brothers and sisters who have returned from war
and are in psychic pain
so they may know they are important to us.
May we come to know their pain
and be in solidarity with them so
they will not take their own lives.

We pray for those who are in combat today.
Shield them from danger
and bring them home safely and soon.

May we all work to end all wars
and establish a lasting peace
that is built on justice, charity, and mutual understanding.
Help us to live in hope
that your kingdom of heaven
can reign here on earth.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.