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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Poem: "The Opening of Eyes" by David Whyte

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fourth Sunday in Lent

April 3, 2011
1 Samuel 16; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

The healing of the man born blind story in John gives an example of the challenges of witnessing to Jesus during hostile times. The onlookers to the miracle learned that Jesus must be 'of God,' not the sinner that the Jewish teachers claim he is. After the healed man is expelled from the synagogue, Jesus reveals that he is the "Son of Man" and the blind man comes to worship him. The man comes to true faith in Jesus, who is represented as the Light.

The man born blind shares in the experiences of the Johannine community. As Jewish-Christians, they are kicked out of the synagogue by the Jewish brethren and they have no place to worship. They are despondent as they cannot worship their God in their customary way. They grieve because "the Jews," their closest allies, are hostile to them. "The Jews" forbid the Christians from being part of their customs. Jesus, as he does with all the great Jewish liturgical feasts in John, declares the liturgical feasts and all worship is done through him. Therefore, no synagogue, Temple, or other place of worship can compare to the person of Jesus as the place of worship.

When John writes about "the Jews," he is writing about a particular group of Jews in Greece that share much in common with the Johannine Christians. The followers of Jesus considered themselves to be Jews themselves so in no way is this remark an anti-Semitic slight. This particular group was choosing to follow the rabbinic tradition that was developing and they were separating themselves from the Jewish-Christians. They, too, experienced deep loss in the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. and they were refining their own liturgical practices and customs. Thus, they were hostile to the group of Christians who saw John as their interpreter of the life of Jesus.

God's work is made visible through the man born blind and some will come to faith in Jesus because of him; others will harden their hearts, but they can't deny that something extraordinary has happened. The once-blind man is the one who comes to true belief because he is able to see more fully with his heart. He gains greater understanding of who Jesus is and he incrementally sees his as a prophet, a man of God, the Son of Man, and finally as Lord. Faith is a process that deepens with our understanding and trust and our greater attentiveness to Jesus.

The once-blind man is set in contrast to his hostile adversaries. They come to see Jesus as a sinner because he healed on the Sabbath - a violation of their Mosaic Law. They look at the evidence and refuse to see. They are the ones who have become blind. They cannot construct any coherent explanation using their human logic and they revert to their rigid assertion about a technicality. They close their minds down and stay in the darkness while the once-blind man opens his mind and walks in the light.

This story is an example of the ways we are to remain open to the possibilities that God has for us. When we close our minds, rigidly hold onto positions we cannot explain, and conserve what we know, we become like the religious leaders whose logical arguments cannot explain reality. We close our minds to light and knowledge. When we strive to know, search for answers, and open our hearts and minds to the infinite possibilities, we become like the once-blind man who lives in the freedom of the light. He silences his objections and learns to see with his heart so that his world is transformed. He comes to sight. He choose the light. He comes to true belief.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Isaiah, the Lord is excited to tell about the new creation that will take place when he people are happy and rejoicing once again. In Ezekiel, an angel brought the prophet to the temple where life-giving water flowed from every direction. In Isaiah, the Lord has not forsaken his people. He will provide favor on the day of salvation. In Exodus, Moses is commanded to go down to the people to demolish the molten calf and bring the people back to the Lord. In Wisdom, the veracity of the just one is tested by heaping upon him all kinds of diversity. In Jeremiah, the prophet realizes plots are being hatched against him because of his righteousness.

Gospel: After his first miracle, Jesus travels to Galilee and heals the near-death son of a royal official. In Jerusalem, Jesus heals the 38-year stricken paralyzed man near the pool at the Sheep Gate. As Jesus is questioned for healing on the Sabbath and calling God his own father, he testifies that God is at work in him now. He does not accept human praise, but only that of the Father, and the one who will accuse them is Moses, the one in whom they place their hope. Jesus spent time in Galilee because he knew the Jews were trying to kill him. As the Tabernacle Feast neared, he goes back to Jerusalem to hear the dialogue about him. He reveals himself again, but escapes from their attempts to arrest him. Many are coming to believe in Jesus. Even the guards feared arresting him because no one else has even spoken like him. Nicodemus steps in and disperses the crowds with his evocative questioning.

Saints of the Week

Monday - Isidore, bishop and Doctor (560-636), was a Spanish nobleman who served as Archbishop of Seville for almost 40 years. As an educated man, he was known for a teaching style that served the country's progressive interests. Among his accomplishments was a compilation of an extensive encyclopedia, a dictionary, theological treatises, and a historical work on the Goths and Visigoths.

Tuesday - Vincent Ferrer, priest (1350-1419), was a Spanish Dominican who became a professor of philosophy at age 21. He later taught theology and Hebrew. Despite this conservative interpretations of the Christian message, his preaching was successful in bringing converts to baptism. He helped settle the Western Schism.

Thursday - John Baptist de la Salle, priest (1651-1719), was a French nobleman who helped establish charity schools after his ordination. He trained the teachers for these schools hands-on. Because the schools were popular, he formed the Brothers of Christian Schools for the poor and the privileged. He set up teacher training colleges to educate potential teachers.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Apr 3, 1583. The death of Jeronimo Nadal, one of the original companions of Ignatius who later entrusted him with publishing and distributing the Jesuit Constitutions to the various regions of the early Society.
·         Apr 4, 1534. Peter Faber was ordained a deacon in Paris.
·         Apr 5, 1635. The death of Louis Lallemant, writer and spiritual teacher.
·         Apr 6, 1850. The first edition of La Civilta Cattolica was issued. It was the first journal of the restored Society.
·         Apr 7, 1541. Ignatius was unanimously elected general, but he declined to accept the results.
·         Apr 8, 1762. The French Parliament issued a decree of expulsion of the Jesuits from all their colleges and houses.
·         Apr 9, 1615. The death of William Weston, minister to persecuted Catholics in England and later an author who wrote about his interior life during that period.

Lenten Scrutinies

Candidates (baptized) and catechumen (unbaptized) who have been preparing this past year for their sacraments during the Easter season will be scrutinized by their church and their community of faith. This second of the three scrutinies is conducted this week.

In Cycle A, the second scrutiny is from John 9: The man born blind; the third is from John 11: Raising Lazarus from the dead.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Homily for Matthew 18:21-35 (On Reconciliation)

We treat forgiveness much too simplistically and this passage from Matthew doesn't provide helpful insight because at the end Jesus tells us that the heavenly Father will treat us like the master who will hand us over to the torturers unless each of us forgives our brother or sister from our heart. Somehow, it doesn't seem like the Father is forgiving seventy-seven times. O.K. We know not to take the words of this parable literally because Jesus is trying to uphold the crucial virtue forgiveness in the life of a disciple. He knows that if we forgive others, we live a reconciled life with them and with God.

Our Christian traditions give us un-clarified information about how and when we are to forgive. Notice what we are instructed to do in the Catholic confessional or, in contemporary terms, the  reconciliation room. We are to confess our sins and our sins of omission. The focus is upon how we have failed to do the right thing. Peter, however, asks a very different question and it is enlightening for the shift it brings. He asks, "If my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?" We are to look at the unjust action that was done to us rather than our wrongness or badness. We first have to deal with the wrong done to us first. Before we can ever get to forgiveness, it is best if we look at healing. What about reconciliation? This is an altogether different concept and that comes further down the road.

Christ has to reconcile us to ourselves before we can forgive another. When someone has wronged us, the last thing we want to do is say, “I forgive you.” The first thing we want to say is, “Stop it. Don’t do that. I’m angry with you. You have no right to treat me like that. I don’t deserve to have you transgress my boundaries.” How many of us actually say this? If we did this more often and immediately, we would stop many people from treating us as we don’t deserve. We would help the person to see the healthy proper ways to respect boundaries.

Instead, we want to be kind. We are told to be a good boy or good girl and not to get mad. We want to keep the peace and avoid conflict. Damn it! Conflict is good if it is done respectfully. It is because of conflict that we grow and we begin to hold another’s desires with greater respect. We have to work to achieve a mutually beneficial result. It is only when people in conflict are able to express their desires and needs in a way that we can be heard that we get enough information to make an informed decision or a loving choice.

We arrive at a problem though. We don’t respect our emotions and desires. When not dealt with in good health, we stew with emotions afterwards. It tears us up and it sets us off into an emotional whirlwind. Why? Our emotions need an appropriate outlet. If we don’t deal with our emotions forthrightly and immediately, we deal with them afterwards – often alone, silently, sometimes in a tormenting way – and they come out of us sideways. They come out in ways that we do not intend, and these ways are not healthy for us or for the other person. How many times has a person been labeled by his or her emotions? “He’s an angry man; She’s a witch; He’s a sarcastic, cynical man; Don’t trust her. She is a gossip.” We are identified with our feelings. Wouldn’t you rather hear about yourself? “He’s a kind man. I’d like to know him” or “She is always so happy. I wish I knew her secret?” or "You have a beautiful smile."

Jesus Christ wants you to let him into your feelings and desires. He wants to be able to say to you, “I want to help you. Will you tell me what is going on with you? Please? I don’t want you to do this alone? Please?” How do we respond? We say, “He knows what I’m going through. I’ve told him hundreds of times before.” Well. Have you really allowed a conversation with him to develop? We recycle things in our mind and we feel the veracity of our emotions, but sitting down and telling him about the swirling turbulence in our lives so that he can hear it and respond to it is a different matter. We think things like, "I feel alone. No one can know what I am going through; I don’t believe he really has something personal to say to me; I've been over this with him before; Jesus is God and all, a really nice man, but he really doesn’t care about what is happening to me. If he did, he would have done something long ago; Yes, Jesus is God, but he doesn't have time to bother with my small insignificant problems." We simply don’t believe that what he thinks really matters. If we did, we might give him a chance to speak, or better yet, a chance to show us compassion and care and concern.

We experience a moment of healing when we physically feel his hand placed on our heart, or he takes our hand into his, or he births something new is us, or we lean back and fall asleep to realize we were in his arms, or he simply smiles and looks at us tenderly, or he strokes our cheek with the brush of his hand. At this we realize he was always there, and we know that he heard us, and that seems to be enough. He might not have to speak; his actions speak what words can't communicate. This is the point we know he is healing us and reconciling us to ourselves. Being loved first means that we can love another. Being healed first means we can reach out to our brother and sister who sinned against us and forgive them for their actions. Only the deeper love, the deeper affection of Christ, can redeem us.

Peter asks, “How often must I forgive?” Seventy-seven times is the answer. It means that we have to learn to love ourselves seventy-seven times a day. If forgiveness is a daily choice, and the first step of forgiveness is loving ourselves, then we have to first love ourselves seventy-seven times a day. Respect your boundaries. Fight for them. Own your feelings and desires. Speak about them as often as you can. Let your heart have ascendancy over your head. Tell them to Christ several times a day and discover where and when he is present to you.

Let others do their own work and speak of their desires. You are only responsible for your own feelings. You will find Christ affirming you and giving you strength – through courage and energy. You will begin to live again in the way God intended from the very beginning. Your desires are good. They are very good. As your honor and respect them, Christ will honor and respect you. Your brother and sister will honor and respect you as well. When you demand they respect your boundaries, fewer and fewer people – maybe only unhealthy ones – will transgress them. You will find liberation in claiming who you are and you will act out of love that begets deeper love.

Forgiveness is a lengthy patient process in which God's glory will be revealed as you live with integrity and validation. This is to what Christ calls you. Isn’t it what we want? Step forth on the marvelous journey of healing, love, and forgiveness. In fact, let us run to the heart God who loves us more than we can ever imagine - to a place where nothingness, resignation, and despair are over and done with. Let us enter the brand new world made brighter by Christ's liberation of your unredeemed messiness. Let us share in Christ’s victory over chaos.

Literature: "The Fall" by Albert Camus

I was at ease in everything to be sure, but at the same time satisfied with nothing. Each joy made me desire another. I went from festivity to festivity. On occasion I danced for nights on end, ever madder about people and life. At times, late on those nights when dancing, the slight intoxication, my wild enthusiasm, everyone's violent unrestraint would fill me with a tired and overwhelmed rapture, it would seem to me - that at last I understood the secret of creatures of the world. But my fatigue would disappear the next day, and with it the secret ... Because I longed for eternal life, I went to bed with harlots and drank for nights on end.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Prayer: "Beloved" by Toni Morrison

There's a loneliness that can be rocked. Arms crossed, knees drawn up; holding, holding on, this motion, unlike a ship's, smooths and contains the rocker. It's an inside kind - wrapped tight like skin. Then there is a loneliness that roams. No rocking can hold it down. It is alive, on its own. A dry and spreading thing that makes the sound of one's own feet seem to come from a far-off place.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Const.: GC 34, Decree 4: “Our Mission and Culture”, par. 9

Our ministry of evangelizing culture will be a ministry of consolation when it is guided by ways that bring to light the character of God’s activity in those cultures, and which strengthen our sense of the divine mystery. But our efforts will be misguided, and even destructive, when our activity runs contrary to the grain of his presence in the cultures which the church addresses, or when we claim to exercise sole proprietorial rights over the affairs of God.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The First Scrutiny

Lord, you call these chosen ones to the glory of a new birth in Christ, the second Adam. Help them grow in wisdom and love as they prepare to profess their faith in you. Grant this through Christ our Lord.
Spring is coming!

Prayer: Elizabeth Johnson – Consider Jesus p. 123

There is excessive suffering of the innocent, the undeserved suffering of millions of people at the hands of other people who gain advantage from this. The suffering is like a surd in history. It does not make sense; it wrecks every theory constructed to explain it. This is the deep mystery of evil at work in the world.

Notes from a Recent Retreat

These are notes I used recently in a retreat talk.


• What is reconciliation? It is to accept ourselves as we were made, to acknowledge our choices, and to allow God's glory within us to be held by Christ. Reconciliation is integrating who we are with what we have done and allowing Christ to befriend us and make us the creation that God intended. We establish right relations.
• Fruit: peace, comfort, feeling settled, confident that you've done your best.
• Christ wants to help you love yourself.

1. Re-imagine Jesus Christ

• Learn to behold Christ. Contemplate him. Is he flat and one-dimensional? Is he the only one in prayer? I guarantee you that you will be satisfied. Ask that you come to a deeper, more intimate knowledge of the man.
• Our starting point is to behold the man. It is a good practice for us to separate Jesus of Nazareth from our Christ of faith. We model our lives after Jesus, the man, the one who was like us in our humanity. It is because he was a man that makes him so extraordinary.
• We really do have to get to know him and the best way for that to happen is to challenge our assumptions. Challenge what you know about Christ. We have to learn how to meet Jesus again as if for the first time.
• Personally intimate; If the heart of Jesus isn't there, then think of another image.
• Read the Gospels and pay attention to the feelings of Jesus or of the disciples. When you come to an emotion, just linger. Wonder about it. Align your feelings to theirs. Ask Jesus to share his feelings - even if they are dark or negative.

2. Rehabilitate our image of God.

• God has to be accessible. Ponder over the characteristics of God and God's abiding presence throughout salvation history. Focus on what God desires.
• To whom do we pray? We often don’t know and blur the distinctions. We know that when we pray to one we pray to all, but it is helpful to develop our friendship with each unit of the Trinity.

3. Cherish your Friendship with God.

• And so we behold the man. Just as we gaze upon a painting in a museum, we gaze upon Jesus and appreciate who he is. We notice the tiny details of his life that reveal and hide something special. It is in these distinctions that we find God’s glory.
• Beholding is like falling in love. You see new details and you become fascinated. You find something distinctively personal. Your heart has to fall in love with Jesus.
• When we pray, we look into his eyes so one day we can see through his eyes. Facial expressions, tone of voice, body language and posture. Is he relaxed? Glancing away? Does he look at your with love and compassion?
• Know what he is feeling. Ask him. Remember that we relate to God as we relate to other. If we have patterns of communicating that are problematic with others, we will replicate the same tendencies with God.
• You will become what you behold. When we contemplate his humanity, we see his divinity. It is being transfixed. Our senses and understanding are transported to a new realm where we cannot go one our own.

4. Be Gentle

• For God's sake, be gentle with yourself. You are not perfect. You can't achieve much in prayer, so take the pressure off yourself. Many people think they are responsible for their own progress.
• Love yourself enough to let Christ love you. In prayer, after you have beheld Christ, let him behold you. Let him tell you how beautiful you are to him, that he misses you and wants to spend more time with you. Let him caress your face with his hands or massage an aching or hurt part of your body. Give him the opportunity to actually speak tender, caring words to you.
• God does not act through force. God acts in the gentlest of ways (1 Kings 19). God will not appear with trumpets sounding, but in that small sweet voice or the appearance of a tiny bird or butterfly. You will notice God's message, but it is not going to bang you over the head.

5. Heart over Head; Feelings and Desires

• Prayer is effective when your heart wins out over head. You need both, but we suppressed our heart so much that it distrusts that we want it to do its job. We have to find ways to open it up once again. It yearns to be free, and our head bullies it and dominates.
• Name your desires; know your feelings; this is very difficult to do. We have so many feelings at one time, we get too confused and we cannot begin to isolate our strongest feelings and needs. Refrain from judging them.
• Culture, movies, books.

6. Let Christ Act and Speak First

• What do we want?
   o To be cared for. To matter. To have meaning.
   o We want our voices heard.
   o To belong, to feel honored, and to be respected
   o To have an intimate touch by someone who loves us
   o We crave intimacy

7. Distractions in Prayer

• When we gaze upon Ignatius of Loyola tells us that true contemplation is when you gaze upon Christ and all the stuff of March 2011 rushes to the foreground. And we all need the consoling, reconciling presence of our Christ of faith. These are not distractions, but the core of our prayer. These are areas Christ wants you to let him into.
• Experience of forgiving parents; I cannot achieve it on my own; Christ has to give it to me; and it only comes through a deeper love, a deeper affection. Reason won’t do it.

8. Memories

• How does Christ see me? How does Christ feel about me? Where was he present in my life's events?
• Some memories are too painful to touch. Our will is too strong.
• Environmental project: pruning the vines.

9. Our Bodies; Our Selves

• Bring sexual self into prayer. Intimacy is found here. Free yourself from the constraints you put on yourselves. See yourselves as lovable sexual beings – glorified by God.
• You won't be free until you accept your humanity. Jesus had it too. Desires are good and life-giving.

10. Beg

• Beg for what you want; at each prayer, ask for a grace. At the end of the prayer, we check to see if we received the grace. Get over your timidity. Christ wants to tell you that you are worth it. Let Christ spoil you with his generosity.

11. Healing and Reconciliation of Sins

• Know what Jesus Christ thinks of our sins. They often are not what we expect them to be. What do we normally think of sin? Anger, masturbation, impure thoughts, speaking a bad word. All sin has to deal with relationships, with transgressing boundaries.
• We also have to look at the ways our boundaries are transgressed. This is where we need healing and to receive forgiveness from others. We need to know that what happened to us should not rightly have happened. The problem is that we develop.
• Often what happened to us is not our fault. We confess our sins when in fact we were sinned against.
• Give him a chance. We are not God. Christ is God. This is not an easy lesson, but we put ourselves in the place of God when we control and judge our actions and those of others. Let go of your need to be in control.
• Don’t try to change another person. Respect a person's free will.

12. Be Open (The Last, and a very important one)

• Be opened to the possibilities.
• Daydream. Often. Notice them.
• Look at all the ways we say no to invitations. Be opened. I have come across this as the most significant part of our spiritual formation. We are unaware of how many times we stop ourselves from receiving grace.

Know that we are in this for the long haul. We may not change overnight. We can have the joy of coming to know Christ again for the first time if we only behold him and let him behold us. We spend our time in fascination.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Song: The Deer's Cry

The Deer's Cry incorporates the words of Saint Patrick into the song. It can be played by clicking the link below

The Deer's Cry on Youtube.

Prayer: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A blessing is the visible, perceptible, effective proximity of God. A blessing demands to be passed on - it communicates itself to other people. To be blessed is to be oneself a blessing.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Poem: The Annunciation by Edmund Muir, 1956

The angel and the girl are met.
Earth was the only meeting place.
For the embodied never yet
Travelled beyond the shore of space.
The eternal spirits in freedom go.

See, they have come together, see,
While the destroying minutes flow,
Each reflects the other’s face
Till heaven in hers and earth in his
Shine steady there. He’s come to her
From far beyond the farthest star,
Feathered through time. Immediacy
Of strangest strangeness is the bliss
That from their limbs all movement takes.
Yet the increasing rapture brings
So great a wonder that it makes
Each feather tremble on its wings.

Outside the window footsteps fall
Into the ordinary day
And with the sun along the wall
Pursue their unreturning way.
Sound’s perpetual roundabout
Rolls its numbered octaves out
And hoarsely grinds its battered tune.

But through the endless afternoon
These neither speak nor movement make,
But stare into their deepening trance
As if their gaze would never break.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Third Sunday of Lent

March 27, 2011
Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42

We see the transformation life-giving water can bring when we pit the first reading from Exodus against John's fourth chapter. In the desert the ancient Hebrews search for water after their exodus from Egypt. Dissatisfied with their fate, they test Yahweh to see if he is present or not. Meribah means 'to quarrel' and Massah means 'to test.' As Moses follows Yahweh's command to strike the stone, water flows forth. Yahweh does not rebuke. Yahweh gives bread from heaven and water from the rock and thereby proves his mastery over hostile environments.
In John's Gospel, Jesus has retreated from a hostile place into Samaria and will provide an insight to the Samaritans that he is the "Savior of the world." It is an unusual encounter for Jesus and the woman at noontime at Jacob's well. The strained relationships between the Jews and Samaritans are evident. The woman is speaking at a literal level which shows how she progresses from ignorance and lack of belief to full faith. Jesus tells her that he is a "gift from God" and the source of "living water" to show he is superior to Jacob.

The imperative of Jesus to "call your husband" sets us a honest response from the nameless woman. When she confesses her past, Jesus is not preoccupied with her sinfulness (living with a man after having five husbands.) She calls him a prophet, but the Samaritan tradition expects a prophet to uncover the lost Temple vessels and to vindicate the tradition of worship on Mt. Gerizim in place of Jerusalem. Jesus counters by telling her that all believers will worship God in spirit and truth. For John, Jesus is the truth since he is the revelation of God. When the woman suggests he might be the messianic prophet, Jesus answers, "I am," which indicates the divine being. Jesus is greater than Abraham, their common father in the faith. Jesus is equal to God.

The theme of mission arises as Jesus' disciples arrive as the woman goes into town to bring others to him, the Messiah. They want Jesus to eat nutritious food. For Jesus, doing the will of the one who sent him is his "food." He needs nothing else. The disciples will have to take up his ministry, which is to complete his work of bringing others to God. This completion happens at the time of his death on the cross.

The Samaritans come to belief first on the basis of the woman's word and then through their own experience of Jesus' words. The Samaritans have transcended their own messianic expectations. Through their discourse they come to see Jesus as Savior of the world.

The power of conversation is immense. Entering into dialogue with generosity of heart and with a desire for enrichment will help others in their pursuit of the truth. The way Jesus discussed and unfolded the truth about himself is an attractive model for us. Conversation is progressive. When both our head and heart are engaged in dialogue, many opportunities for finding God's truth comes about more easily. We can benefit from the model of discourse shown to us by Jesus in this passage. Many in the world will set up their camps in the war of words. We need to tear down those walls and build new ones built upon seeking the truth through understanding and compassion.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In 2 Kings, Naaman, the leper, seeks out Elisha, the prophet, who tells him to wash in the Jordan River seven times to cure his malady. Naaman was expecting something miraculous and doubted the ordinariness of the healing routine. However, his servant-daughter convinced him to follow Elisha’s commands that healed him. In Daniel, Azariah feels forsaken and abandoned by God, but continues to offer sacrifices with a contrite heart in hopes of God’s deliverance. In Deuteronomy, Moses gives the law that promises life when the people move into the Promised Land of milk and honey. In Jeremiah, the prophet commands the people to listen to his words that come from God, but they did not obey or heed his words. Faithfulness has disappeared. The Lord in Hosea beckons the people to return with all their heart because the Lord is the only one who can love them freely. The Lord continues to beckon until Ephraim and Judah return home.

Gospel: Jesus explains that a prophet is not accepted in his native place. Take, for instance, Elijah’s efforts to sustain the widow of Zarephath or Elisha’s cure of Naaman, the Syrian leper. Jesus tells a parable about forgiveness by describing the unjust actions of a man who received incredible mercy from the man who owned his debt. The wicked servant, whose debt was forgiven, could not forgive his fellow servant. Jesus says God will judge us on the mercy and forgiveness we meter out to others. Jesus warns people that the laws of Moses are strictly in place. He doesn’t abolish the law, but becomes the perfection of it. As Jesus cures a deaf mute, the religious leaders wonder about the source of his power. They wonder if it comes from Beelzebul. Jesus explains that a house divided against itself cannot stand. When asked about the greatest of all commandments, a scribe answers in a way that shows Jesus he is not far from the kingdom of heaven. Jesus tells a parable of the Pharisee and tax collector who go to the Temple to pray. The one who humbly prays for God's mercy is justified.

Saints of the Week

No major saints are celebrated on the calendar this week. This week on the calendar is usually a time taken up by Holy Week.

This Week in Jesuit History

· March 27, 1587: At Messina died Fr. Thomas Evans, an Englishman at 29. He had suffered imprisonment for his defense of the Catholic faith in England.
· March 28, 1606: At the Guildhall, London, the trial of Fr. Henry Garnet, falsely accused of complicity in the Gunpowder Plot.
· March 29, 1523: Ignatius' first visit to Rome on his way from Manresa to Palestine.
· March 30, 1545: At Meliapore, Francis Xavier came on pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Thomas the Apostle.
· March 31, 1548: Fr. Anthony Corduba, rector of the College of Salamanca, begged Ignatius to admit him into the Society so as to escape the Cardinalate which Charles V intended to procure for him.
· Apr 1, 1941. The death of Hippolyte Delehaye in Brussels. He was an eminent hagiographer and in charge of the Bollandists from 1912 to 1941.
· Apr 2, 1767. Charles III ordered the arrest of all the Jesuits in Spain and the confiscation of all their property.

Lenten Scrutinies

Candidates and catechumen who have been preparing this past year for their sacraments during the Easter season will be scrutinized by their church and their community of faith. This first of the three scrutinies begins this week.

The year (Cycle A), the first scrutiny is taken from John 4: The woman at the well; the second is from John 9: The man born blind; the third is from John 11: Raising Lazarus from the dead.

We continue to pray for the 'Elect' of our church.


Perhaps you can find time this week to offer silent prayer for the devastated people of Japan.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Les Miserables

PBS is running a 25th anniversary special about the Broadway musical Les Miserables. As I watched it, I relived many memories that tugged at my heart. It made me feel once again. I felt for:

- poor Eponine who captures everyone's unrequited love heartache,
- the freshness of Marius and Cossette's love for each other and the new hope love brings the world,
- Fatine's desperate struggle to provide wholeheartedly for her daughter, Cossette, even giving up her own life.
- the repeated treacherous choices made by the Thenardiers,
- the inherent conflict Javert feels for wanting to make the world right again by adhering strictly to the law's judgments,
- the eternal hope brought about my peasants and schoolboys who strive for a world filled with justice and care for its neighbor,
- Valjean's noble quest to be a good man.

It is the classic tale of redemption by Victor Hugo that begins with one act of kindness and continues with the struggle to always make the loving and right choices. It is a story of the power of good to become victorious over the virulent forces of evil, even in the most miserable of conditions. It is a story of a wasted soul being bought for God, whose mercy transforms a broken man into a righteous one. Every person who has read the book or seen the musical comes away from the experience radically moved to reflect on the good that is possible with God's grace.

Here is a briefest of summaries for the beginning of the story:

In 1815 Napoleonic France, Jean Valjean is caught stealing a loaf of bread for his sister's starving children and is imprisoned for 19 years. He is stripped of all dignity, including his name, and given a number, 24601, instead. When released from prison, he is shunned by society and resorts to a life of crime because his heart is hardened. The mercy of a kindly bishop, Myriel, treats him with dignity and gives him back his life. Valjean, stupefied that the bishop sees good in him, promises to reform his life. The bishop sees a higher plan. He has bought Valjean's sould for God and now Valjean must choose. Will he stay on his path of darkness or become an honest man though the cards in the deck of life is stacked against him?

This is only the beginning of a long, noble story. The power within one act of kindness can fundamentally change a person's life forever. We can never know the effects of our mercy upon others. It is good for us to reflect upon the times in our life when we asked for forgiveness and it was granted to us. We might not remember our offenses, but we might have a memory of someone who released us from the sins we committed. The good we do is remembered more than any other of our activities.

Think for instance about our favorite high school teacher. We don't remember the subtrahends or dangling participles he or she taught us. We remember the kindness done for our benefit. Or take, for instance, the way your children or nieces and nephews respond to you when you give them a present. They simply want to be with you, and yet, they feel special when you do something nice for them - even if they don't deserve it. Who among us deserves the goodness we get from others? Who among us deserves the goodness we get from Christ? His work is to reconcile us, first of all, to ourselves, and then to others.

It is staggering to behold the glory worked through the life of Jean ValJean by God. A man, who thought he was wretched, was esteemed and beloved by the many. In the end, he comes to a point of recognition that he has loved well and can finally receive love. At the very end as he lay dying, his deceased friends, Fatine and Epopine return to him, declaring, "to love another person is to see the face of God." Christ is always with us, abiding by us, and wanting to be in a love relationship with us.

Spirituality: Faithful to ‘the faith’

Holding fast is, in the first place, an important survival strategy – a way calling for principled resistance against attack. It is also a way of giving testimony to the value that a faith community places on its own convictions, its way of life and on heritage items treasured for their symbolic value. In situations of major threat, it is wise for leaders among believers to hold expansionary impulses in check, place speculative thought on hold and give primacy to maintaining the essentials. There is ample evidence in Mark’s Gospel, in the pastoral letters and in Paul’s letters, of embattled Christian communities being urged to shore up their defenses and formalize their beliefs. The most that could be hoped for in those moments of crises was to maintain the true faith and refuse to be fooled by novelty.

 Adrian Lyons, S.J. from Imagine Believing

Monday, March 21, 2011

Prayer: Rose of Viterbo

Prayer reveals to souls the vanity of earthly goods and pleasures.
It fills them with light, strength, and consolation,
and gives them a foretaste of the calm bliss of our heavenly home.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Prayer: Emmanuel D’Alzon

By your grace, O God, you can expand the capacity of my heart to let it contain the ocean of your love.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Poem: Both Sides Now (A seasonal verse)

Snowflakes falling all around
So pretty ‘til they touch the ground
That’s when they start to pile up high
I’ve kissed my car good-bye.
I used to love it, now I sigh
when snowflakes start to float on by
‘Cause all it means is shoveling out
And that’s a pain, no doubt.
I’ve looked at snow from both sides now
The pretty flakes, the slush we plow
And I just want it to be spring
I"ve had it with this shoveling thing.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Song: Saint Patrick's Lorica

Saint Patrick's Lorica can be played by clicking the link below

St. Patrick's Lorica on Youtube.

Spirituality: Axioms for Life

1. Life is what is happening to you when you are planning your life.

2. I always resented interruptions to my work until I realized those interruptions were my real work.

3. Who is my neighbor? My neighbor is the person who is actually in my life while I am plotting how to be in someone else's life.

4. Love is what you are experiencing while you are futilely searching for it beyond your own circles - and taking the circles around you for granted.

5. Joy is what catches you by surprise, from a source that is quite other than where you are pursuing it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Prayer: Benedict

We believe that the divine presence is everywhere and that the eyes of the Lord are looking on the good and evil in every place. But we should believe this especially without any doubt when we are assisting at the work of God.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Second Sunday in Lent

March 20, 2011 Genesis 12:1-4; Psalm 33; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Matthew 17:1-9

The Transfiguration of Jesus is common to the Gospels. Matthew, speaking to his Jewish audience, sets Jesus up to be the new Moses. He makes references to two significant Jewish events. In Exodus 24, God reveals himself to Moses after six days. This brings to mind the creation narrative where God rested on the seventh day to behold his glorious creation. It also brings forth Deuteronomy 16, which is the last day of the Festival of Booths. Hence, Peter’s desire to make three booths or tents to honor Jesus. In each Transfiguration narrative, Jesus brings his friends up a mountain, which is a symbol of God’s revelation. The clouds also stand for the divine presence as a place where God is met and heard. To Matthew, Jesus is plainly the new Moses – but with even greater significance and authority.

The transfiguration account depicts Jesus as one who becomes a being of light. His nature is luminous. He is transparent to disciples’ gaze. They can see clearly who he is and he is greater than any historical figure in their sacred scripture. This is Matthew’s central point.

Jesus is seen with Moses and Elijah who are the preeminent seers of God in the Old Testament. Jesus is above and beyond the Law, the prophets, and Wisdom figures. Jesus is the one who remains as the others fade. A voice from God declares, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” From this point on, the disciples are certain of the identity of Jesus. All that he taught, and all of scripture for that matter, authenticates him. Jesus is the unique revealer of God and the kingdom. The fuller revelation no longer is present in the law and the prophets. It is found perfectly in the person of Jesus.

The proximate actions of Jesus are often overlooked. The first thing he does is qualms the disciples’ fears. God tells them to listen to Jesus, but their fear prohibits them from speaking about this event to others. They weren’t merely afraid. They were very much afraid. We don't grasp the ways this event shook the disciples. It is overwhelming for them to be in the presence of Moses, Elijah, and now the Son of God. Jesus comes to them and touches them asking them to rise up. They realize that it is God who is touching them. God is gentle with them. God comes to them concerned for their well-being. This compassionate touch allows them to overcome their fears

Have you examined your reaction to a time when God touched your life? Fear and disbelief grips us and we try to intellectualize the encounter. We don’t want to trust our feelings and we hide ourselves. Even a little bit of God is too much for some. Many of us will divert our eyes and will stop praying because of the consequences of this encounter. We deprive ourselves of the chance of having God reach out to us again to calm us and reassure us. God wants us to rise up and go forth on our new way. Abram and Sarai are examples of this in the first reading when they are called to set forth towards a new land where blessings will abound. God sets forth reminders of his presence along the way to guide them. This very same God continues to place reminders in our paths to guide us to a place of many blessings. The way of Jesus is our way. We are to walk confident in God's desires to bless us and call us specially beloved as well.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Daniel comes clean and recognizes God as Lord over all. On behalf of the people, he confesses their sins and asks for help to live by the law given to them by God. Isaiah implores the people to listen to God’s instructions, to cease doing evil, and to make justice their aim. Jeremiah writes about the wicked plot of the people of Judah to destroy him. He called upon the Lord to remember that he stood by the Lord and spoke on his behalf. Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings; blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord. The Lord alone probes the mind and heart of each. Micah appeals to God to shepherd the people in a kindly way. No one else is as benevolent and as steadfast as God.

Gospel: Jesus tells us that God is merciful and we ought to likewise be merciful. We are to model our life after God. We can’t even trust the Pharisees who have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. We are to do as they say, but not to follow their example. Jesus tells the Twelve of his impending Passion. James and John respond by asking if they can sit at his right and left while drinking the cup he drinks. Jesus then tells the story of Lazarus who gains eternal reward in contrast to the wealthy man who would not listen to the cries of poor. The wealthy man was excluded from heaven and would not heed divine wisdom even if someone was raised from the dead. While Jesus was eating with tax collectors and sinners he told them about the character of God as father who welcomes not only the dutiful son but also the wayward son back into the family. God’s generosity is immense.

Saints of the Week

Wednesday: Toribio of Mogrovejo, bishop (1538-1606) was a Spanish law professor in Salamanca who became the president of the Inquisition in Granada. He was made the Archbishop of Lima, Peru and became quickly disturbed at the treatment of the native populations by the European conquerors. He condemned abuses and founded schools to educate the natives. He opened the first seminary in Latin America.

Friday: The Annunciation of the Lord celebrates the announcement that God chose to unite divinity with humanity. God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary to inform her of God’s intentions to have her conceive the future Messiah. The boy’s name was to be Jesus – meaning “God saves.” This date falls nine months before Christmas Day.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Mar 20, 1602. The first "Disputatio de Auxiliis" was held before Clement VIII. The disputants were Fr. Gregory de Valentia SJ and Fr. Diego Alvarez OP.
• Mar 21, 1768. In Spain, at a special meeting of the Council of State in the presence of King Charles III, the Suppression of the Society was urged on the pretense that it was independent of the bishops, that it plotted against the State, and that it was lax in its teaching.
• March 22, 1585: In Rome, the three Japanese ambassadors were received by Fr. General with great solemnity in the Society's Church of the Gesu.
• March 23, 1772: At Rome, Cardinal Marefoschi held a visitation of the Irish College and accused the Jesuits of mismanagement. They were removed by him from the direction of that establishment.
• March 24, 1578: At Lisbon Rudolf Acquaviva and 13 companions embarked for India. Among the companions were Matthew Ricci and Michael Ruggieri.
• March 25, 1563: The first Sodality of Our Lady, Prima Primaria, was begun in the Roman College by a young Belgian Jesuit named John Leonius.
• March 26, 1553: Ignatius of Loyola's letter on obedience was sent to the Jesuits of Portugal.

Lenten Environment

To create a solemn atmosphere, the church environment is stripped bare of its decorative luxuries. Flowers are seldom brought into churches, except during funerals. Music is simplified. The tone for the solemn season is simplicity and sparseness. In a sense, the liturgical environment fasts in preparation for its great season of feasts.

New Book “Changed Heart, Changed World” by William Barry, S.J.

Developing a friendship with God may be the starting point for the spiritual journey, but how can that important internal relationship move us to make an impact on—and even transform—the world around us?

In Changed Heart, Changed World, renowned spiritual director William A. Barry, SJ, delves into such topics as how friendship with God impacts our role in society, how to see forgiveness as a way of life, and how compassion can make its mark on the world. Throughout the book, Fr. Barry provides many practical ways to integrate the inner life, where we experience a relationship with God, with the outer life, where we live in relationship with our world.

Above all else, Changed Heart, Changed World reminds us that God has a dream for his creation here and now—a dream that can only be realized by our becoming “other Christs in this world.”

Order at Loyola Press: http://www.loyolapress.com/changed-heart-changed-world.htm

Japan’s Earthquake and Tsunami

You have seen many images and newsreels of the tragedy that struck Japan this past week. The photos and videos are haunting. I have tried this week to spend time in prayer to feel the pain and suffering of the people, and as much as I try, I can insufficiently do it. May many blessings be upon you as you reach into your pocketbooks to provide needed financial funds for their relief. The needs are enormous.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Prayer: An Irish Blessing

May you have many friends
and may they be as mature
in taste and health and color
and as sought after
as the contents of this glass.

May you have warm words on a cold evening,
a full moon on a dark night,
and the road downhill all the way to your door.

May every hair on your head turn into a candle
to light your way to heaven.
And may God and his Holy Mother
take the harm of the years away from you.

And...may you have no frost on your spuds,
no worms on your cabbage,
May your goat give you plenty of milk,
and if you should buy a donkey,
Please, God, she be pregnant.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Prayer: "The Clowns of God" by Morris West

Once you accept the existence of God - however you define him, however you explain your relationship to him - then you are caught forever with his presence at the center of all things. You are caught with the fact that human beings are creatures who walk in two worlds and trace upon the walls of their caves the wonders and the nightmare experiences of their spiritual pilgrimage.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

New Book “Changed Heart, Changed World” by William Barry

Developing a friendship with God may be the starting point for the spiritual journey, but how can that important internal relationship move us to make an impact on—and even transform—the world around us?

In Changed Heart, Changed World, renowned spiritual director William A. Barry, SJ, delves into such topics as how friendship with God impacts our role in society, how to see forgiveness as a way of life, and how compassion can make its mark on the world. Throughout the book, Fr. Barry provides many practical ways to integrate the inner life, where we experience a relationship with God, with the outer life, where we live in relationship with our world.

Above all else, Changed Heart, Changed World reminds us that God has a dream for his creation here and now—a dream that can only be realized by our becoming “other Christs in this world.”

Prayer: by Marcel Proust

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Prayer: Hildegard of Bingen

Glance at the sun. See the moon and the stars. Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greenings. Now, think. What delight God gives to humankind with all these things. All nature is at the disposal of humankind. We are to work with it. For without it, we cannot survive.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Poem: Knut Nystedt

O Cross, more radiant that the stars.
Celebrated throughout the earth,
Beloved of the people.
Holier than all things,
Which alone was found worthy
To bear the light of the world;
Blessed Tree. Blessed Nails.
Blest the weight you bore:
Save the flock which today
is gathered to praise you.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Poem: "Spring and Fall: to a young child" by Hopkins

Margeret, are you grieving
over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man,
you with your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
it will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Novena of Grace in Honor of Francis Xavier

Novena of Grace in Honor of Francis Xavier

Jesuits and their colleagues worldwide pray a Novena of Grace in honor of Francis Xavier, one of the founding Jesuits who was missioned to the Far East and the Indies. This nine-day period of prayer was instituted in gratitude for the canonization of Xavier and Ignatius of Loyola in 1622. The prayer runs from March 4th to March 12th. The Novena is imbedded below.

Lord God, our Father, we honor the memory of the Apostle of the East, St. Francis Xavier. The remembrance of the favors with which You blessed him during life and of his glory after death, fills us with joy; and we unite with him in offering to You our sincere tribute of thanksgiving and of grace.

We ask You to grant us, through his powerful intercession, the inestimable blessings of living and dying in the state of grace. We also ask You to grant us the favors we seek in this novena.

(Pause for personal petitions)

But if what we ask is not for the glory of God and the good of our souls, grant us, we pray, what is more conducive to both. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Closing Prayer

Almighty God, by the preaching of St. Francis Xavier You won many peoples to Yourself. Give his zeal for the faith to all who believe in You, that Your Church may rejoice to see the virtue and number of the faithful increase throughout the world. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer: "Marked by Ashes" by Walter Brueggeman

Ruler of the night, Guarantor of the day...
This day - a gift from you.
This day - like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home,
halfway back to communities and memos,
halfway back to calls and appointments,
halfway on to next Sunday,
halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
half turned toward you, half rather not.

This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes -
we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
of failed hope and broken promises,
of forgotten children and frightened women,
we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.

We are able to ponder our ashness with some confidence,
only because our every Wednesday of ashes anticipates your Easter victory
over that dry, flaky taste of death.

On this Wednesday, we submit our ashes way to you -
your Easter parade of newness.
Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
Come here and Easter our Wednesday with mercy
and justice and peace and generosity.

We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.

First Sunday in Lent

March 13, 2011
Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Psalm 51; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11

It does not take long for simple matters to get complicated. For example, Mark, in the first Gospel written, addresses the temptations of Jesus in two brief lines. For Mark, temptation is essentially a personal inner experience. In Matthew’s account that we hear today, the author is interpreting the events for his audience in a way that is pastorally meaningful. Therefore, deep rich cultural experiences are projected onto the life of Jesus.

Matthew connects the temptations of Jesus in the desert with the 40-day fast of Moses and also with Elijah’s time in the desert. Furthermore, it hearkens to the experience of the Israelites after the exodus from Egypt. God’s patience was tested by the people when they doubted God’s care. They rebelled against God’s nourishment of them by becoming dissatisfied with the daily manna and they turned away by offering sacrifices to a golden calf. Jesus is representing the ordinary experiences of the people of God.

Matthew’s account is to be read with the background of Deuteronomy 6-8, which details the temptations offered to the people. Jesus is responding to these temptations. He is offering a way of fulfilling the great commandment to love God “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” Heart refers to the affective side of us that drives us to do good or evil; soul means ‘life’ – even to the extent of martyrdom; and might means wealth, property, and external possessions. These temptations are formidable, but Jesus has an answer for each of them and his fundamental answer relies upon trusting in the providential love of God.

Jesus is acting as the representative of Israel. He is teaching them about God’s providence. Turning desert stones into bread is tantamount to rebelling against God’s will. The word of God becomes the chief nourishment. The second temptation, throwing oneself down from the holy city of Jerusalem, is testing God’s care of each person by unnecessarily and recklessly risking one’s life. The tempter is mocking the Christian custom of martyrdom. To invite Jesus to inherit all the magnificent, earthly kingdoms, the tempter appeals to the human preference for wealth and power to the love of God. This violates the covenant with God.

Jesus is able to answer each temptation with scripture; the tempter has his own scriptural foundations. His approach appeals to the good desires within us. The temptations are logical, clearly reasoned, and sensible. They are cogent and coherent and are found in our own beloved Scripture. We can easily be led astray.

Jesus shows us that only God is worthy of our worship. For the people of his day, Jesus represents the beginning of a new people of God. In a sense, he is the founder of a new humanity. Humanity’s basic temptation is not to love God with a unified heart, at the risk of life, at the cost of wealth. Jesus is the perfect lover of God. We learn from him because our love is imperfect and we are not as strong as he. This is a reason for our increased fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Yes, we do become more like him when we imitate him. We also need his grace so we can have insights into our own temptations and strengths. Through his abiding presence, we have a spiritual ally who has withstood the greatest tests. He won!

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The first week of Lent highlights stories that tell of a person’s repentance and conversion to God. The good shall live. Those who follow the will of God’s inherit eternal life. The Ten Commandments are given to the Israelites by God through Moses in the Book of Leviticus. Isaiah reminds the people that the word of God is like a seed that needs to be nourished on fertile ground. Jonah sets out for the great city of Nineveh to announce God’s word. The King, upon hearing the news of Jonah, relents and repents, bringing himself favor by God. Queen Esther falls prostrate and begs help from the Lord for she finds herself alone except for the steadfast presence of God. Ezekiel tells of the wicked man who turns from sin and finds eternal life; he also tells of the virtuous man who breaks from righteousness and commits sin will surely die.

Gospel: Matthew 25’s famous eschatological begins the Lenten season as the last judgment will separate the righteous from wayward sinners. The criterion is one’s mercy and compassion to the least among us. Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray. He teaches them the “Our Father.” He then tells the people that they are to look closer. They pay homage to Jonah and Solomon, but he is greater than both these heroic men. To pray effectively, Jesus tells his friends to ask for whatever they want in his name and the generous Father will grant their requests. He tells them to deal with their anger and make reconciliation part and parcel of their habits. A reconciled life will bear great fruit in this life and the next.

Saints of the Week

Thursday: Patrick, bishop (389-461) is the revered Apostle of Ireland and patron saint of many U.S. dioceses. At age 16, he was kidnapped from Britain and brought to Ireland where he herded sheep and cattle. When he escaped, he decided to return to Ireland as a priest. Pope Celestine ordered him to bring the faith to Ireland. He is credited for converting many pagans, establishing Christianity, and setting up a local clergy in the land.

Friday: Cyril of Jerusalem, bishop and doctor (315-387) was a well-educated man who had connections to Caesar. He became a scholar of the early church before he was elected as Bishop of Jerusalem. He defended the work of the Nicene Council against the Arians and he wrote 24 treatises on catechesis.

Saturday: Joseph, husband of Mary, is honored today for his support of Mary in their marriage. He is portrayed as a righteous man who obeys the will of God. Therefore, his ancestry is upheld as a virtuous stock through which God’s promises come true. We seldom contemplate his marital relationship to Mary and his responsibility to love and raise Jesus as his son.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Mar 13, 1568. John Segura and five companions set sail from Spain for Florida, a fertile field of martyrs. (Nine Jesuits were killed there between 1566 and 1571.)
• Mar 14, 1535. Ignatius received his degree from the University of Paris.
• Mar 15, 1632. The death of Diego Ruiz, a great theologian, who studied on his knees.
• Mar 16, 1649. The martyrdom in Canada of St John de Brebeuf, apostle to the Huron Indians. Captured by the Iroquois along with some Christian Hurons, he endured horrible tortures.
• Mar 17, 1964. The death of Joseph O'Callahan. He was awarded the US Medal of Honor for heroism as chaplain on the USS Franklin, off Japan on March 19, 1945.
• Mar 18, 1541. Two letters arrived from Lisbon from Francis Xavier. One was addressed to Ignatius, the other to Frs. LeJay and Laynez. They were written just before his departure to India.
• Mar 19, 1836. By imperial decree, the Society was allowed to re-enter the Austrian dominions.

Libya, Ivory Coast, and other lands of unrest

We continue to pray for the people of Libya, the Ivory Coast, and other lands of instability. Certain strategic countries command greater media attention. We are to pray for those who are forgotten or are out of the media spotlight. May innocent people be free from harm. May freedom ring loud and clear in the hearts of all. We must not judge what is happening through our worldview because we do not know what is happening within the experiences of the people.

Rite of Election

Candidates (baptized) and catechumen (unbaptized) has been preparing to receive the Easter sacraments for months. They have been sent from their congregations throughout the year to break open the word of God with their catechists. This Sunday their names are inscribed in the Book of Elect at the local cathedral. They are scrutinized each week in front of the congregation who will attest if they are ready to enter the local community of faith. Pray for our newly elect!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Question: What are your favorite Lenten traditions?

Many people give us cheese, meat, and/or desserts during Lent. It is also the time for hot cross buns, fish on Fridays, and Polish ponchkies. Many have traditions are working at soup kitchens and food pantries and increasing the times of one's prayers. What do you do?

What do you give up for Lent? What do you add to your devotions?

What are your favorite traditions?

Blessing and Giving of Ashes

During Mass during the Ash Wednesday services, the priest prayers over the burned palm fronds from last year's Palm Sunday liturgies with the following words:

Lord, bless these ashes by which we show that we are dust. Pardon our sins and keep us faithful to the discipline of Lent, for you do not want sinners to die but to live with the risen Christ, who reigns and lives with you forever and ever.

The priest or minister places the ashes on the foreheads of the faithful saying:

“Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel” or
“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Monday, March 7, 2011

Take up the Wood: A Green Lent

As a spring thaw moved into New England over the weekend, I arose today with determination to get outside into the vast nature preserves around the retreat house. Scents from the soil told me that the earth was awakening from its enforced frozen slumber. Tree buds were becoming swollen giving hints of their soon-to-be fullness. I stood and mused about the direction I would take on my early morning walk. I decided to forego vigorous walking in favor of doing a little spring cleaning.

As Lent is upon us, I decided to take a traditional route of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. I tried to be creative over the past few years in my Lenten observance and while my practices have been meaningful and personal, a traditional approach can never hurt. Therefore, I will fast on Ash Wednesday and Fridays and I will abstain from meats on Fridays. Actually, I do that every year. This year I am making grand plans to abstain from meat for the entire season and to limit my portions more strictly. The biggest sacrifice will be to abstain from snacking on certain types of foods in between meals. I plan to do it, not because Christ asked me to do it, but because I need a more sensible dietary practice. O.K. So much for holy sacrifices. I could put a holier spin on it, but that is dishonest.

I decided that my greater Lenten devotion this year is to clear the brush away from the Stations of the Cross at the Retreat House. The woods are overgrown and the Stations are inaccessible. Insidious bittersweet vines are choking the life out of hardy trees. I want to liberate those trees from the attachments that suck the life out of them. I want to make the Stations available for retreatants who come to walk the way of Christ.

Each of us has to pick up his or her cross and heave it onto less than sturdy shoulders. What better way to go through Lent than picking up dead wood and hauling it away? It is difficult work. I am already cut and bruised by the branches that refuse to give, but I am determined to clear out what no longer belongs.

The Stations of the Cross are located in a swampy tract of land at the entrance to the retreat house. The thick woods look foreboding and many a retreatant has asked, "where are the Stations?" From the retreat house, you cannot tell there is anything but a menacing, uninviting overgrown forest. Pruning has not been done in many seasons. No one can walk the Stations because the metal posts have rotted and the markers have fallen to the ground.

My first pass through was to clear a passageway that could provide a devotional worshipper with a clearer path of entry. I began to trim some of the overgrown bushes. Cutting them back makes them look manageable in scale. Then I trimmed the edges of the pathway that are sprouting new growth that covers any signs of tracks.

My plans were soon enlarged when I became entangled in the insidious vines that are choking creation. On some bushes, I can't even figure out where to begin because the formidable vines cut into me. I think about walking away because that would be easier. No one has paid attention to the mess in years. Why should I do so now? What sort of masochist am I? I don't want to be defeated.

As I tear into the vines, I discover that I am most effective if I take the tinier parts of the vine first. If I clear out a passageway, I can soon discover where the roots are located. Eventually, I can strike the root and check the vines' progress. Patience with my methodology will tell me if I'm on the right track. I realize that it will take much time, more than I want to give it, because it is designed to ensnare. It builds duplicate feeding systems so that if I sever one artery, another one will nourish the plant. This is going to be a project where I commit many hours of my resources knowing that the deck of cards is stacked against me.

I see that these vines are representing the sin of the world and that sin is so endemic to our human institutions that no one person can be victorious. Each of us is defeated because of sin. No one can save himself or herself from the deconstructing spiral of sin. Even a large dedicated group of people seem to have no commanding effect upon sin. The vine will also find a way to come back in new and clever ways.

Addictions are extremely devastating. Many people will say that becoming sober was the most difficult act they ever did. Others say smoking was horrendous to beat. Gambling is a silent killer. Sex and love addicts struggle to retain control over their behaviors. The newest forms of addiction seem to be pervasive and the most virulent: technology addictions, including online pornography. Each of these addictions go to the root of our human strengths and weaknesses. We seldom give much respect to the power of our sexual natures.

In the church, many people are unwilling to talk about our sexual nature unless it is only discussed within the extreme ideals of church documents. Being at ease with sexuality helps us dealing with our predicaments. Many penitents confess the sin of masturbation over and over again without a deepening examination of their belief systems. Many penitents focus on the clinical act he or she committed without a more expansive regard of the relationship system that was violated. Sexual sins are sins because they affect human relationships.

Disordered attachments are also like vines. Life's experiences form us. Each of us has some part of our formation that is incomplete or undeveloped. We get hooked by our psychological and emotional needs and we act out of them. We sometimes don't even know why we act in certain ways. We are blind to areas and if we do have sight and insight, we may be powerless to do anything about it. We are wounded in some way. If we don't allow our wounds to be transformed, then we transmit them.

When we add my personal sin to your personal sin, we have social sin and these larger sins are more difficult to transform. Social systems, institutions, governments, and all human infrastructures are besieged by our social sins and they are as unrestrained as the vines that choke the healthy plants beneath them.

Why do we try? Because a beautiful tree lies underneath it. The solitary tree is worth saving. It has beauty (especially if it is damaged) and dignity and potential. It deserves to live as fully as it can, even if it cannot reach the height of a California redwood. Life is better lived when it is unimpeded and cleared of unwanted obstacles. This is why I try.

I realize I am not doing this work alone. I am standing together with Christ - face to face, arm in arm. He has a dream for each of us where there is no more violence, killing, or starvation - of plants or people. Nothing is to waste away. Sure, it is just an idea, but an idea needs flesh, and the time is now.

Christ can hear his brothers and sisters cry out, "I want to live. I want to grow. I want to see. I want to know. I want to share what I can give because I have something good to contribute. I want to be beheld and respected. I want to do more than dream. I want to take steps to make my dream come true."

This is why I try.

This is why my boots get muddy and my feet get cold from the soaking ice puddles. This is why I get scratched and wince in pain. This is why I tug at the thick tree-like branches that wrap parasitically around a defenseless tree. My blisters will heal. My cuts will fade. My feeling of being "a fool" will cease when Christ and I look back on our efforts and we see a tree standing taller, standing straighter. My folly will seem like wisdom when people can see Christ in his Stations and realize they too have to one day pick up their own cross of wood. My delight will be when others can see a clearer pathway to him.

At the end of this day, I'm tired. New muscles ache, but it is a good pain. It is a pain from knowing that the possible results will be worth the effort. Striving is always the better route. As I look at the approaching Ash Wednesday, I realize my Lent will be green. If I can pick up one more stick each day, the forest will be clearer for me and for others. It seems daunting right now. I dream of what it will look like on Easter morning.

Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, and Lent

The carnival season is coming to an end. It has been a lengthy season that began nine weeks ago at the conclusion on the Christmas season. Carnival stands for "carne" (meat) and "vale" (goodbye) when the faithful ones say goodbye to meat. They put it away for the season as they ready for the fasting, prayer, and almsgiving of Lent.

Mardi Gras has developed into a great day of frivolity and revelry and is largely seen by the general public as independent of Ash Wednesday and Lent. For us Christians, the partying carries a measured, respectful tone because of the deeper meaning of the penitential season that begins the following day. It becomes, not a last gasp day of partying, but a day to bid farewell to those ordinary blessings in our lives that we take for granted.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Poem: Crux Fideles

O faithful Cross, incomparable Tree, the nobles of all;
no forest hath ere put forth the likes of thing own leaves,
they flowers they fruits; gentle word with a gentle nail,
to support so gentle a burden.

The Creator looked on sadly as the first man, our forefather,
was deceived,
and as he fell into the snare of death, taking a bit of lethal fruit;
it was then that God chose this blessed piece of wood
to destroy the other tree's curse.

Equal and eternal glory to the Father and to the Son and to the
Illustrious Paraclete, the Blessed Trinity whose divine grace
redeems and conserves us always. Amen.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Poem: To an Athlete Dying Young

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the marketplace;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows,
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honors out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And rounded that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the senseless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls

By A.E. Housman (1896)