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Monday, October 31, 2011

Prayer: Thomas Merton

We become saints not by violently overcoming our own weakness, but by letting the Lord give us the strength and purity of God's spirit in exchange for our weakness and misery.

Blessing for All Saints Day

God is the glory and joy of all his saints,
whose memory we celebrate today.
May his blessing be with you always. Amen.

May the prayers of the saints deliver you from present evil;
may their example of holy living
turn your thoughts to the service of God and neighbor. Amen.

God's holy church rejoices that God's chidren
are one with the saints in lasting peace.
May you come to share with them
in all the joys of our Father's house. Amen.

May almighty God blesss you,
the Father, + and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Prayer: Pope Pius XII

We should imitate the virtues of the saints just as they imitated Christ, for in their virtues there shines forth under different aspects the splendor of Christ.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Prayer: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray.
In me there is darkness, but with you there is light;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
but you know the way for me.
Restore me to liberty. Amen.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Prayer: Augustine of Hippo

If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.

Prayer: Karl Rahner, S.J.

Christ's return to judge all and to complete his redeeming work is an event of the future, and yet he is constantly on the point of coming. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 30, 2011
Malachi 1:14-2:2, 8-10; Psalm 13; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9, 13; Matthew 23:1-12

          Paul's warm letter to the Thessalonians is nestled softly between two harsh critiques of the day's religious authorities. While drawn to Paul's letter, its message becomes all the more inviting when I feel the veracity of the other two. In Malachi, the Lord of hosts is chastising his priests because they no longer keep his ways and they show partiality in their decisions. They use a human system of judgment that causes many to falter because of their instruction. The Lord finds these priests contemptible because they show disdain for the covenant and they break faith with one another. The Lord reminds them that we have one father and because of the covenant, we are all his children.

          In Matthew, Jesus tells his friends that the scribes and Pharisees have the legitimate authority because they occupy the chair of Moses and has gone through the prescribed education, therefore their words are to be respected because they come from Scripture. Their example does not match what they teach and they lay onerous burdens upon people of goodwill who are sincerely striving to fulfill the law's expectations. The religious authorities are concerned with human honor and glory and moved away from an intimate relationship with the Lord. They like to be called "Rabbi" and "Master" and to receive job perks, but no one is to be called "Father" because in God's Kingdom, God is the sole Father who provides for his family's children.

          In contrast, Paul, as a leading church figure, talks about the gentle ways the people and church leadership care for one another. They do it with genuine affection, with a desire to share the Gospel and their very own selves as well because the people of God had become so dearly beloved to them. The people experience firsthand the exhausting demands church leadership places upon themselves so no burden is placed on any brother or sister. They work hard to serve one another with great charity and they give thanks because their friends are now able to hear the word of God.

          It is good for us to examine this contrast in style. It is good for us to ascertain the style of church leadership today. What do you notice? To which type of community are you drawn? I know the type of community I want to help create.

          The question becomes, "how do I create the community I want to live in?," even when external forces challenge or damage the community's well-being. To quote George-Louis Leclerc de Buffon, "The style is the man himself." We live as if Christ's resurrection happened and means something - because it did and does. We live in joy that is free from the grasp of sin and death. God changed the world for us; we respond by showing our gratitude and care for each other.

          Hospitality, affection, overflowing charity are important characteristics of 'who we are' as a people. Let's make sure it marks us and defines us. Let's be remembered this way. Let us show the world that we love and honor God's covenantal relationship with us and that we have no real cares because God is looking out for our well-being. We can live this more boldly that we presently do. Let's try to love one another more fully. That means we have to start liking one another. Let us build a community of faith where we listen more adeptly, see one another and know that we are also seen by others, that we feel what someone else feels with our senses, and we respond with care and compassion as we learn what one needs.

          Forces beyond our control can be formidable. We do not have to give them power over our attitudes. Let no one erode your joy. God's judgment first and foremost matters and we garner our strength for the many ways God continues to labor for us. Let us celebrate and praise God who is doing wonderful things for us; let us praise alongside each other with great acts of kindness and caring.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Paul continues in Romans to say the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. God delivers all to disobedience that he might have mercy upon all. None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself, but while we live, we live for the Lord. We are the Lord's - no matter what. This is why Christ died and was raised, that he might be Lord of both the living and the dead. You are full of goodness, filled with knowledge, and are able to admonish one another. Paul speaks humbly about completing his work of bringing the Gentiles to obedience by words and deed through the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God. Therefore, he proclaims the Gospel in new areas, to a new people who have not heard the word of God. Paul then greets his many friends in Rome and asks the people to receive him so he can raise funds to go to Iberia (Spain) to continue to preach.

Gospel: At a leading Pharisees' house, Jesus insults the host again by telling his guests their relationships are based on who will repay you even greater for what you have given them. Their motives are selfish. The Pharisees then complain that he is eating with tax collectors and known sinners. Jesus teaches them that he is working to bring them back to God through repentance just as a shepherd searches for the lost sheep and brings him back into the fold. God rejoices when a sinner repents. He then praises an unworthy steward who defrauds his master but does whatever is possible to wiggle his way out of major debt. Jesus says we are to be as crafty in our ways to reform our lives. He urges them to make friends with dishonest wealth for the one who is trustworthy in small matters is trustworthy of greater ones. He knows the hearts of the Pharisees who love money and he tells them their motives are despicable.

Saints of the Week

Monday: All Hallows Even (evening) owes its origins to a Celtic festival that marked summer's end. The term was first used in 16th century Scotland. Trick or treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling when poor people would go door to door on Hallomas (November 1) receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2.)

Tuesday: All Saints Day honors the countless faithful believers - living and dead - who have helped us along in our faith. Our liturgical calendar is filled with canonized saints, but we have many blesseds and minor saints who no longer appear on it. We have local saints across the world. We have many people who live Gospel values who we appreciate and imitate. We remember all of these people on this day.

Wednesday: All Souls Day is the commemoration of the faithful departed. November is known as All Souls Month. We remember those who died as we hasten towards the end of the liturgical year and the great feast of Christ the King. As a tradition, we have always remembered our dead as a way of keeping them alive to us and giving thanks to God for their lives.

Wednesday: Rupert Mayer, S.J., priest (1876-1945), resisted the Nazi government and died while saying Mass of a stroke. In 1937, he was placed in protective custody and was eventually released when he agreed that he would no longer preach.

Thursday: Martin de Porres, religious (1579-1639) was a Peruvian born of a Spanish knight and a Panamanian Indian woman. Because he was not pure blood, he lost many privileges in the ruling classes. He became a Dominican and served the community in many menial jobs. He was known for tending to the sick and poor and for maintaining a rigorous prayer life.

Friday: Charles Borromeo, bishop (1538-1584), was made Bishop of Milan at age 22. He was the nephew of Pope Pius IV. He was a leading Archbishop in the Catholic Reformation that followed the Council of Trent. During a plague epidemic, Borromeo visited the hardest hit areas so he could provide pastoral care to the sick.

Saturday: All Saints and Blessed of the Society of Jesus are remembered by Jesuits on their particularized liturgical calendar. We remember not only the major saints on the calendar, but also those who are in the canonization process and hold the title of Blessed, like Peter Faber. We pray for all souls of deceased Jesuits in our province during the month by using our necrology (listing of the dead.)

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Oct 30, 1638. On this day, John Milton, the great English poet, dined with the Fathers and students of the English College in Rome.
·         Oct 31, 1602. At Cork, the martyrdom of Dominic Collins, an Irish brother, who was hanged, drawn, and quartered for his adherence to the faith.
·         Nov 1, 1956. The Society of Jesus was allowed in Norway.
·         Nov 2, 1661. The death of Daniel Seghers, a famous painter of insects and flowers.
·         Nov 3, 1614. Dutch pirates failed to capture the vessel in which the right arm of Francis Xavier was being brought to Rome.
·         Nov 4, 1768. On the feast of St Charles, patron of Charles III, King of Spain, the people of Madrid asked for the recall of the Jesuits who had been banished from Spain nineteen months earlier. Irritated by this demand, the king drove the Archbishop of Toledo and his Vicar General into exile as instigators of the movement.
·         Nov 5, 1660. The death of Alexandre de Rhodes, one of the most effective Jesuit missionaries of all time. A native of France, he arrived in what is now Vietnam in 1625.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Prayer: Staying Close to God

Suppose you give your three-year old daughter a coloring book and a box of crayons for her birthday. The following day, with the proud smile only a little one can muster, she presents her first pictures for inspection. She has colored the sun black, the grass purple, and the sky green. In the lower right-hand corner, she has added woozy wonders of floating slabs and hovering rings; on the left, a panoply of colorful, carefree squiggles. You marvel at her bold strokes and intuit that her psyche is railing against its own cosmic puniness in the face of a big, ugly world. Later at the office, you share with your staff your daughter's first artistic effort and you make veiled references to the early work of van Gogh. A little child cannot do a bad coloring; nor can a child of God do bad prayer.

A father is delighted when his little one, leaving off her toys and friends, runs to him and climbs into his arms. As he holds his little one close to him, he cares little whether the child is looking around, her attention flitting from one thing to another, or just settling down to sleep. Essentially the child is choosing to be with her father, confident of the love, the care, the security that is hers in those arms. Our prayer is much like that. We settle down in our Father's arms, in his loving hands. Our minds, our thoughts, our imagination may flit about here and there; we might even fall asleep; but essentially we are choosing for this time to remain intimately with our Father, giving ourselves to him, receiving his love and care, letting him enjoy us as he will. It is very simple prayer. It is very childlike prayer. It is prayer that opens us to all the delights of the kingdom.

From "The Ragamuffin Gospel" by Brennan Manning

Monday, October 24, 2011

Prayer: Thomas a Kempis

Whoever finds Jesus finds a rare treasure, indeed, a good above every good. Whereas one who loses him loses more than the whole world. The one who lives without Jesus is the poorest of the poor, whereas no one is so rich as the one who lives in his grace.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Spirituality: Martin Buber (again)

Every Thou in the world is by its nature fated to become a thing, or continually to re-enter into the condition of things. In objective speech it would be said that everything in the world, either before or after becoming a thing, is able to appear to an I as its Thou. But objective speech snatches only at a fringe of real life.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

Prayer: From Robert Hotchkins at the University of Chicago

Christians ought to be celebrating constantly. We ought to be preoccupied with parties, banquets, feasts, and merriment. We ought to give ourselves over to veritable revelries of joy because we have been liberated from the fear of life and the fear of death. We ought to attract people to the church quite literally by the fun there is in being a Christian.

From "The Ragamuffin Gospel" by Brennan Manning

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Song: What about your brother?

What about the man who sits down to wonder
why life has cheated him?
Thinks about his situation
hangs his head and cries
Will we pretend his problems don't exist?
He's reaching out for help - will we selfishly resist?
What about your brother? He's crying
What about your brother? He's dying
What about your brother?

From "Have a little Faith" by Mitch Albom

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Photo: Ignatius of Loyola

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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 23, 2011
Exodus 22:2-26; Psalm 18; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-40

          It is too bad we do not get to know the Old Testament better. These are the Hebrew Scriptures Jesus enjoyed reading. The social justice efforts of the church rise right out of the first few books of the bible. In Exodus, we hear a strong command by God to respect the alien and to treat the widow and orphan judiciously. In economic matters, we are not to exact harsh judgments on those poorer than we are. We are to be considerate of others' boundaries just as we want them to honor ours.

          My best guess is that we think themes of the Old Testament as too remote for us and intended for a more primitive people. For instance, when we hear that God has preferential love for the poor, I suspect we believe this reality. Our hearts goes out to the poor as well. I wonder though if we have properly imagined who the poor are. In our intercessory prayers, we remember the starving, the homeless, those with addictions, and all those we consider at the bottom of society. We know we have a responsibility to look out for them.

          Do we have to re-imagine who God is talking about when we think of the poor? Perhaps our categories will expand to include your neighbor who is just hanging on paycheck to paycheck or the person who goes to McDonald's to get her favorite meal. Those in the middle too often become neglected or are made invisible. To us, poverty means destitute, homeless, moneyless, and without adequate clothing. While we think of only the poorest of the poor, God remembers the various layers of those in poverty.

          Our social systems today obscure the plight of widows and orphans. We hardly use those terms now. Perhaps in today's world, these are the single parents and their children whether through personal tragedy or divorce. Their livelihood may be at great peril as they have to depend upon the goodwill of their divorced bitter partner or the state's efficient and effective bureaucracy. These people are hurting and deserve to be 'seen' and 'heard' by their neighbors. Too often we assume that most people are like us.

          The author of Exodus tells us 'we shall not molest or oppress an alien' because we were once aliens and we know how it feels to be on the outside.' However, we use 'alien' to refer to a being from another planet. Once upon a time, a family bought a house and lived in it forever. Today, many people move from house to house, city to city, and country to country, and some have few problems adjusting. Too often we assume that most people are like us. We overlook the fact that many people live in fear, do not feel welcomed or valued, are not made to feel as if they fit in, or do not receive the subtle invitations that tell them they are included. A smile or gesture of kindness communicates far more than we imagine. It is right for us to see that most of us, including ourselves, are foreigners and are different in some qualitative capacity from others at most times in our day.

          Once again, we are to expand our imagination and worldview. Today's alien might be the illegal immigrant many in our nation hate, especially if skin color, language, or class doesn't match what we want as normative. She could be a person who holds a different position from a Roman Catholic church bishop. Muslims and Mormons are suspected as deviants because of our own lack of understanding. A schoolboy who is bullied because others suspect he is gay or because his parents are in a same-sex marriage has become an alien to many. ~ We have a responsibility to encounter the 'alien' and treat him or her with great nobility - because we know what it feels like to be different. We were once in their situation. Do not let yourselves become too remote from the world around you. Do not "alien-ate" yourself from them. God doesn't want that.

          With this in mind, we read the Gospel passage about the law's summation as a personal matter. If we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind, we turn to our neighbors and love them as we love ourselves. The foundational element is that God loves each of us first and we return our gratitude to God by caring for our neighbor - even those we do not want to consider our neighbor. Real love begets more genuine love. Far too many who are on the margins, far too many who are in the middle, hope and depend upon this love from us.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Paul continues in Romans to say if you live according to the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body and you will live. Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God and we can call out, "Abba, Father." The present sufferings are nothing compared with the glory that will be revealed to us for creation awaits with eager expectation the full revelation of God's children. The Spirit of God is groaning within us, and within all creation, for the redemption of our bodies. We hope for that which is not seen. The Spirit comes to our aid and intercedes in our prayers. We need to relax so we can know that all things work for good for those who love God. We can realize that God is on our side; therefore we have no enemies that can separate us from Christ's love. We are inextricably bound. God has not rejected his people; even the Gentiles are included in God's plan of salvation. God's mystery is always coming more completely into its fullness.

Gospel: Jesus encounters a cripple woman who suffered for eighteen years. He heals her immediately to glorify God, but the leader of the synagogue protests that he did it on the Sabbath. Jesus begins to talk about the kingdom of God. He compares it to a mustard seed that is tiny but blossoms into a large tree. He passes through towns while instructing the people. When asked about who will be saved he replies that the way is difficult. Intimately knowing God through Jesus will aid a person's path to salvation. Friendly Pharisees tell Jesus to flee because Herod wants to kill him. Jesus remains undeterred. He will do the will of the Father - against all odds. He then has dinner at a leading Pharisees' house and he insults the invited guests by revealing to them that they seek places of honor and human glory rather than the glory of God.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Anthony Claret, bishop (1807-1870) adopted his father's weaving career as a young man, but continued to study Latin and printing. After entering seminary, he began preaching retreats and giving missions. He published and distributed religious literature and founded the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He was appointed archbishop of Cuba but was called back to Spain to be Queen Isabella II's confessor. He resumed publishing until the revolution of 1868 sent him into exile.

Friday: Simon and Jude, apostles (first century) were two of the Twelve Disciples called by Jesus, but little is known about them. We think they are Simon the Zealot and Judas, the son of James. Simon was most likely a Zealot sympathizer who would have desired revolution against Rome; Jude is also called Thaddeus, and is patron saint of hopeless causes. Both apostles suffered martyrdom.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         October 23, 1767: The Jesuits who had been kept prisoners in their college in Santiago, Chile, for almost two months were led forth to exile. In all 360 Jesuits of the Chile Province were shipped to Europe as exiles.
·         October 24, 1759: 133 members of the Society, banished from Portugal and put ashore at Civita Vecchia, were most kindly received by Clement XIII and by the religious communities, especially the Dominicans.
·         Oct 25, 1567. St Stanislaus Kostka arrived in Rome and was admitted into the Society by St Francis Borgia.
·         Oct 26, 1546. The Province of Portugal was established as the first province in the Society, with Simao Rodriguez as its first provincial superior.
·         Oct 27, 1610. The initial entrance of the Jesuits into Canada. The mission had been recommended to the Society by Henry IV.
·         Oct 28, 1958. The death of Wilfrid Parsons, founder of Thought magazine and editor of America from 1925 to 1936.
·         Oct 29, 1645. In the General Chapter of the Benedictines in Portugal, a statement published by one of their order, that said St Ignatius had borrowed the matter in his Spiritual Exercises from a Benedictine author, was indignantly repudiated. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Prayer: Peter Chrysologus

The martyrs get a birth at the time of their death. They get a new beginning through their end and a new life through their execution. They who were thought to be extinguished on earth shine brilliantly in heaven.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Prayer: Julie Billiart

The greatest secret of the spiritual life is to be continually open to the guidance of the Spirit of the good God.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Prayer: Rejuvenation

The first step towards rejuvenation begins with accepting where you are and exposing your poverty, frailty, and emptiness to the love that is everything. Don't try to feel anything, think anything, or do anything. With all the goodwill in the world you cannot make anything happen. Don't force prayer. Simply relax in the presence of God you have believe in and ask for a touch of folly.

The Indian poet Tagore puts it this way:

No, it is not yours to open buds into blossoms.
Shake the bud, strike it; it is beyond your power to make it blossom.
Your touch soils it, you tears its petals to pieces and strew them in the dust.
But no colors appear, and no perfume.
Ah! It is not for you to open the bud into blossoms.

He who can open the bud does it so simply.
He gives it a glance, and the life-sap stirs through its veins.
At his breath the flower spreads its wings and flutters in the wind.
Colors flush out like heart-longings, the perfume betrays a sweet secret.
He who can open the bud does it so simply.

From "The Ragamuffin Gospel" by Brennan Manning

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Prayer: Thomas Aquinas

The story goes that Thomas Aquinas, perhaps the world's greatest theologian, toward the end of his life suddenly stopped writing. When his secretary complained that his work was unfinished, Thomas replied, "Brother Reginald, when I was at prayer a few months ago, I experienced something of the reality of Jesus Christ. That day, I lost all appetite for writing. In fact, all I have ever written about Christ seems now to me to be like straw.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Prayer: I am

I was regretting the past and fearing the future and suddenly my Lord said:

"My name is I am." He paused. I waited.

He continued: "When you live in the past with its mistakes and regrets, it is hard to find me for I am not there.

My name is not "I was."

When you live in the future, with its problems and fears, it is hard to find me for I am not there.

My name is not "I will be."

When you live in this moment, it is not hard. I am here.


Prayer: Thank you

Thank you, dear God.
For all you have given me,
For all you have taken away from me,
For all you have left me.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Prayer: Therese of Lisieux

You know that our Lord does not look at the greatness or the difficulty of an action but at the love with which you do it. What then have you to fear?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 16, 2011
Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; Psalm 96; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5; Matthew 22:15-21

          Jesus gives us a great example of refraining from getting dragged down into negative debates. By doing so, he shows us a way to remain faithful to the most important matters in life. We are in danger of getting tripped up by others when they act on their self-centered motives or when they entangle us to get their way. Jesus cleverly maneuvers through the discussion by respecting the questions of the Pharisees and by guiding them to a more healthy way of observing the world.
          In today's Gospel, Jesus is beset by tricks of the Pharisees who want to see if there are flaws in his arguments. They want to know if his logic has cogency and whether they should trust that it comes directly from God. With the Herodians, they ask his opinion on whether a Jewish religious man has an obligation to pay a census tax to the hated Caesar. Jesus is cautious of their impure motives. While they attempt compliment him and to build him up with false honor, his answer honorably respects their question and politely exposes their deceitful intent.  He retains their dignity and does not crush them. His classic statement, "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God" further emphasizes that we are to balance our "both-and" status in the world with utmost care and respect. We can act in righteousness in this temporal world by attending to the way God wants us to act. We win when we uphold the dignity and honor of others.
          Jesus does not get pulled off course by his opponents. He keeps the conversation elevated by placing ordinary choices in the context of God's plan. The question becomes for him: Do I live for God or for human glory? He chooses God and shows the religious leaders that they can make choices with similar criteria. We can learn from that too.
          Many of us know narcissists who try to surreptitiously get their way no matter what. Their behaviors are subtle and all-too-familiar that we do not even recognize that we are getting pulled away from our intended direction. We get pulled away from our goals and into their world of control and manipulation because we want to be good and kind people. Sometimes we do not see the nearly-invisible ways we are seduced into their mode of thinking or we are duped to do things we do not want to do.
          Just this morning I received an email from someone who offered a different perspective to mine. She challenged me to adopt her worldview. Instead of answering her email challenge, I held back and said to myself, "Wait a minute! What do I want to accomplish here? How can I respond best?" I did not want to dismiss her or her thoughts. I did not want to bluntly combat her words with mine because my God does not act through force. I simply revealed my thoughts to her, paid respect to hers, and revealed my differing point-of-view. I was able to affirm her dignity, honor the content of her words, and let her know I choose a different path because I have a fundamentally different worldview. I accomplished what I set out to do and was able to show her care and compassion. It made me think that this is what Jesus did with the Pharisees in the census tax challenge.
          The methodology of Jesus is worth examining. It helps us keep our lives oriented to God's way of caring for us and others. If we want compassion and mercy from others, we will get it in return for showing it to those who challenge or control us. We are to act in freedom at all times, especially when friends and family pull us in other ways. Like Jesus, we can live for God and live in the world. It takes patience and skill, but we become wiser and kinder and more loving when we uphold one another's dignity and persevere in our efforts to live freely and happily in a manner God intends for us.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Paul tells us about Abraham's faith as he was convinced that what God had promised he was also able to do. Therefore, righteousness as credited to him, and by extension to us. Sin must not reign over our mortal bodies. We are to present ourselves to God was one raised from the dead to life. Sin is to have no power over you, since you are not under the law but under grace. Since you have been freed from sin to become slaves to God, the benefit you have leads to sanctification - eternal life is given to you as a gift. Both good and evil exist within us and we often do the evil we don't want to do. When I do good, evil is at hand. The concern of the flesh is hostility toward God and it does not submit to the law of God, but you are not in the flesh. You are in the Spirit of Christ who dwells within you. If Christ is in you, the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

Gospel: Pharisees plot ways that they can trip up Jesus in his speech. They question whether it is lawful for a religious person to pay the census tax to the hated Caesar and he replies, "repay Caesar what belongs to him; give to God what belongs to God." Someone in the crowd asks Jesus to settle a dispute between a man and his brother. Jesus refuses. He cautions them about the demands of greed. He tells a parable about a man who prudently stored everything in his barn for safekeeping, but his life was called home to God before he could enjoy the benefits of his hoarding. Jesus reminds people that time is fleeting and we can't predict future events with certainty. If it were so, a master would leave his house protected if he knew when a thief was planning to rob him. No one knows the time or the hour when our lives will end. Jesus tells his friends that he wishes the earth was already ablaze with the all-consuming love of God. Until then, people will have to choose whether they are with God or are for themselves. He instructs them to discerns the signs of the times and make the necessary adjustments. Everyone must repent or they will perish.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr (d. 107) was born around 33 A.D. and became a leading figure in the new church at Antioch. He served as bishop for 38 years before he was persecuted and killed under Emperor Trajan for being a Christian leader. He wrote seven letters about church life in the early second century and is the first-mentioned martyr of Roman heroes in the first Eucharistic Prayer.

Tuesday: Luke, evangelist (first century) was the author of his version of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. He is described as a doctor and a friend of Paul. He was a well-educated Gentile who was familiar with the Jewish scriptures and he wrote to other Gentiles who were coming into a faith.

Wednesday: North American Jesuit martyrs: Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, priests, and companions (17th century) were killed between 1642 and 1649 in Canada and the United States. Though they knew of harsh conditions among the warring Huron and Mohawk tribes in the New World, these priests and laymen persisted in evangelizing until they were captured, brutally tortured, and barbarically killed.

Thursday: Paul of the Cross, priest (1694-1775), founded the Passionists in 1747. He had a boyhood call that propelled him into a life of austerity and prayer. After receiving several visions, he began to preach missions throughout Italy that mostly focused upon the Passion of the Lord. After his death, a congregation for nuns was begun.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         October 16, 1873: About two weeks after Victor Emmanuel's visit to Berlin, where he had long conferences with Bismark, rumors reached the Society in Rome that all of their houses in Rome were threatened.
·         October 17, 1578: St Robert Bellarmine entered the Jesuit novitiate of San Andrea in Rome at the age of 16.
·         October 18, 1553: A theological course was opened in our college in Lisbon; 400 students were at once enrolled.
·         October 19, 1588: At Munster, in Westphalia, the Society opens a college, in spite of an outcry raised locally by some of the Protestants.
·         October 20, 1763: In a pastoral letter read in all his churches, the Archbishop of Paris expressed his bitter regret at the suppression of the Society in France. He described it as a veritable calamity for his country.
·         October 21, 1568: Fr. Robert Parsons was elected Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. He resigned his Fellowship in 1574.
·         October 22, 1870: In France, Garibaldi and his men drove the Jesuits from the Colleges of Dole and Mont Roland. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Spirituality: Concerning Heaven

A rabbi once gave a sermon in which heaven and hell were shown to a man. In hell, people sat around a banquet table, full of exquisite meats and delicacies. But their arms were locked in front of them, unable to partake for eternity.

"This is terrible," the man said. "Show me heaven."

He was taken to another room, which looked remarkably the same. Another banquet table, more meats and delicacies. The souls there also had their arms out in front of the.

The difference was, they were feeding one another.

From "Have a little Faith" by Mitch Albom

Monday, October 10, 2011

Poem: Robert Browning Hamilton

I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne'er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

October morning

Breathe in. Slowly and deeply – with a long sustained breath. Hold it. Breathe out slowly and completely. I have often uttered these words in a retreat context to help center a person as he or she begins prayer. O.K. Now repeat it. Breathe in slowly and deeply. Don’t rush it. Take a long deep sustained breath. And now release it at the same measured rate. Just breathe. One more time. Breathe in slowly and deeply. Hold it! Breathe out slowly and completely.

This morning the Spirit of Christ seems to be asking me to engage in this pre-prayer exercise. It is as if Christ is saying, “Everything you taught retreatants, it is now your time to practice for yourself. Let me take care of you today.”

I sit in an Adirondack chair outside the retreat house, mere feet from the oceans. The sun is strong with a few high wispy clouds that would dare not block the sun. The temperature is already 82 degrees Fahrenheit with an almost-still sea breeze that brings with it faint trace of salt. I wonder where the retreatants are. As I look around, I notice a retreat director in another far off chair napping, but retreatants cannot be found. I feel presumptuous to take one of these choice seats, but all the chairs remain empty. I let myself indulge in this rare pleasure. I always forego these simple pleasures so that retreatants can have the best views of the ocean. Their absence reminds me that the invitation today is for me to sit and enjoy. I won’t even worry about the sun on my neck’s nape because I probably won’t burn.

Near to me are tall sea grasses that are like dried reeds. They sing a rhythm worth hearing. They clank against one another to make their chime-like noises. I’ll listen because they want to play for me. A white butterfly sits on the goldenrod, but doesn’t seem satisfied for too long. She jumps from one to another and I wonder if she is feasting and cannot get enough of the fruits. Ah, a second one just came along and they flew off in a spiral together. Their pleasure is being with one another for the moment. Behind the goldenrod are tall beach grasses that have lost their green lushness and have become strikingly white. They sway as they provide a contrast to the bright yellows in the foreground. Nearby are delicate yellow flowers with small petals. Three yellow butterflies are flittering away their morning by sucking up the juices of the pollen.
I feel good. I feel as if times is standing still for me to exist in a temporal eternity. I feel good.

A number of ships are in the harbor. A small yacht has docked in Brace’s Cove and the sailors are napping sans shirts. They don’t want to go anywhere. Why would they, after all? These days are made for soaking in the day’s magnificence. Three swans approach the boat. The swans were once timid around people but now see them as a source for their food. The sailors get up and grab their cameras because the birds are so close to them. I cover my neck now for the sun is warm.

Single-mast sailboats dot the far horizon. They move slowly and with great grace. If I didn’t feel invited to stay where I am, I’m sure I would be walking out to Brace Rock that is accessible in low tide. It is monolithic and it looks pristine because of the recent rains. One day soon, but not today, I say. I will come, but today, I just will look at you. The small tide-pools are still. They look warm in the late-autumn sun, but I’m not to do anything today except to behold the beauty around me. A yellow butterfly lands on the armchair and I notice the delicate detailed wing-lines. Hardly a sound is made around me, except that of nature’s movements. I am reminded to breathe.

A neighbor’s dog makes a solitary bark and tiny swallows chirp as if they are just awakened in springtime. A bumble-bee’s buzz provides a bass chant. I find my eyelids growing heavy as if I’m going to nap. I breathe deeper.

Soon it is time to rest. Today seems like a respite from the year-long preparation for winter. We are given a delight to enjoy on this Sunday so we can carry on in the days ahead. The flower beds are begging to be turned in so they can get their rest. As they slumber, other autumn plants poke their heads out to say, “Hey, I’ve been here all along, but you never noticed me. It’s my time now. Look at me. I’m brilliant.” They are right.

Even as the seasons change, life merely is expressed in alternate ways. Just as I say that, a religious sister walks by to pick up a stick. She has to try three times to get it because she is unstable on her feet. I don’t get up to help her – because she hasn’t asked for my help, but she perseveres and uses that discarded piece of wood as her walking stick. She smiles and is on her way. Life will do what it needs to survive. Life always wins out.

This is the type of day I would typically want to be working in the gardens or clearing the bush, but that must wait. After a nine-month effort, the gardens and lawns are beginning to speak for themselves. The land is saying “Thank you. You have freed me and I can breathe again. I want my splendor to shine forth. Today, I gaze upon to delight in them. As I walk through the property, yes, more can be done, but in its due time. It is time for me to look at my work alongside of Christ so I can see what he sees and hear what he is saying about the results. I think he wants to delight in their glory.

I heard a homily today that talked about the afterlife. The priest said, “Don’t pay much attention to this life for it is not good. The next life will be better.” This life is all we have. We don’t know anything about the next life except that Christ promises us eternal life with God. We had better live this life as fully as we can. We are given all of this to enjoy – even though we have lots of suffering.

I read a quick story about the difference between heaven and hell and I am changing the content of the tale a bit. Hell is like a rich banquet with lots of tasty meats, fresh vegetables, and sticky desserts. It is meant for us to eat like an Italian abbondanza. However, our hunger is too great and our arms are outstretched in front of us and though we can grasp all the food we want, our arms are locked and we can’t bring it to our mouths. Heaven is different. Actually, it looks the same. We are all seated at a large table in a massive banquet hall. The same food exists. God wants us to indulge as lavishly as we can in God’s generosity. The difference is that when we reach for the food, we instinctively give it to one another to eat. We are all satisfied. 

I try to remember this because when I go through periods of self-scrutiny, I am reminded that the way out of my doldrums is to care for others. This keeps me open to their needs and somehow someone pays attention to my needs. I have to always go against my natural inclinations, which is to withdraw into myself, in order to achieve happiness and contentment. I make myself open to others’ care when I first care for others. How paradoxical.

I am letting God behold me. I have to imagine God is sitting forward and looking intently at me and saying, “Wow! I created you. I shaped you. I laughed with you and cried with you. I find nothing more valuable than spending time with you today. From your first rising in the morning, I look upon your face and notice how beautiful it is. I want to remember your face all day long. Breathe in my spirit because it is life. Spend time with me today because it is my delight.”

When God greets me like this, it is easy for me to tell God how I feel. I offer up all my emotions and thoughts and God simply accepts them. I present both my positive and negative feelings because that is who I am. God listens with great solidarity. I feel like my voice is heard – and everyone wants to be heard. I feel like I am seen – and everyone wants to be seen. I feel like I am touched – and everyone wants to have the intimacy of God’s touch – or that of another human being who loves you. All my senses I offer to God and my senses feed my feelings. My feelings feed my thoughts. My thoughts and my heart compels me to act. Who am I striving to become? Today, I merely want to exist as a beloved one of God.

But, once I am heard, I ask God, “What are you feeling today? What is going on with you? I want the mutuality of our friendship. Give me the grace to know what is happening with you today. Let me listen. Let me gaze. Let me behold you. I want nothing more.”

We rest together. The butterflies still flutter about; the sparrows still chirp, the waves roll up and down against the shore; and the flowers begin to embark upon their long rest. All is good. All is very well. For now, I’m going to sign off and spend time with God mutually beholding one another. I need it. I want it. I want to say to God, “You are awesome, but I know it will only come after God says to me, “You are awesome, and I just want to marvel at you. You take my breath away.”

And so I breathe.

Columbus Day: A National Holiday

October 12th is the traditional day for celebrating Columbus Day, though the holiday always falls on the second Monday of October. Columbus is criticized for having the prototypical attitude of the European sailing captains and merchants who explored and exploited the Atlantic in the 15th century. He was a man of unusual ambition. He also takes the brunt of the criticism lodged against the European colonizers for the harsh treatment of the native populations of the Americas.

Four hundred years after Columbus' first voyage, President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed a national holiday to honor the landing in San Salvador. Harrison wanted to set aside a day that recognized both Native Americans and the many immigrants, including Italians, who were flocking to the U.S. in record numbers. This holiday would be the first one that was not a religious holiday or one that honored the Founding Fathers. It was to be a day that celebrated the ordinary people who were part of American history. It was planned to be a tribute to democracy as well: universal public schooling was recently instituted - a hallmark decision for democracy because it was designed to include everyone, not just the wealthy governing elite.

The first parade was held in New York City and its marchers were primarily 12,000 school children from each constituency. Public high school students led the way, followed by Catholics, then other private and national schools. The Native Americans were included in the procession. The parade was an attempt to universally unite every group who called themselves Americans.

Nothing ever happens in a vacuum. Two years before the national holiday was declared, U.S. troops massacred 200 Lakota Sioux people at Wounded Knee because of an unfortunate misunderstanding. The U.S. government acknowledge the tragedy of the soldiers actions. In a separate incident ten weeks later, eleven Italian citizens were lynched in prison. The Italians were put to death because of a public fears. Italians were almost as unpopular as the Native Americans. President Harrison was saddened by the events. It is conceivable that Harrison wanted to instill a spirit within the American people who could move beyond their own prejudice and to recognize the great contributions of its many diverse peoples.

The idea behind the holiday is much deeper than most Americans realize. We impose today's attitudes upon events that happened much earlier and that is intellectually dishonest. The goals of Harrison are certainly admirable. Columbus' landing was a momentous step in a world that would see monumental changes within a short period of time. Such a discovery rarely has happened in human history and for that alone, it is a holiday worth remembering.

Literature: The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyesvsky

“They will be amazed at us,” says the Grand Inquisitor to Jesus, “and will think of us as gods, because we, who set ourselves at their head, are ready to endure freedom, this freedom from which they shrink in horror; and because we are ready to rule over them – so terrible will it seem to them, in the end, to be free. But we shall say that we are obeying you and ruling only in your name. Again we shall be betraying them, for we shall not let you have anything to do with us anymore.” Indeed, “Why have you come to disturb us?” The Grand Inquisitor means to take this Jesus who has come again, bringing freedom once again, and burn him at the stake in the name of the church.”

Prayer: I pray you

I pray you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.

I pray you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

I pray you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.

I pray you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

I pray you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I pray you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

I pray you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Question: Occupy Wall Street

What do you think of the Occupy Wall Street movement in the U.S.? Is it a reaction to the Tea Party? Is it the same type of movement that created the people's protests in the Mediterranean and Arab worlds? A penny for your thoughts?

Song: From the Womb

This song was composed by Deacon Dan Burns of the Archdiocese of Boston for the diaconate ordination that preceded his own ordination by a year. 

From the womb I called you. With my lips I whispered your name.
You heard and you followed, you followed, you came.

Ah Lord God I know not how to speak, I am too young, too young.
"Say not I'm too young, to whomever I send you will go.
Whatever I command you shall speak, have no fear, for I am with you."

Ah Lord God I tried to hide from you, but you found me, you found me.
I say to myself, I will not speak your name to a soul,
but then it comes like fire in my heart, I grow weary trying to hold it inside.

Ah Lord God I give you my life, I am yours now, yours now.
"Go out now and teach all the good news that I have taught you
and know that I am with you each day from now until the end of all time."

Friday, October 7, 2011

Prayer: Ignatius of Antioch

Nothing is hidden from the Lord Jesus, but even our secrets are close to him. Let us then do everything in the knowledge that he is dwelling within us, so that we may be his temples and he may be God within us.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Prayer: Maximilian Kolbe

The most deadly poison of our times is indifference... And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits... Let us strive, therefore, to praise God to the greatest extent of our powers. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 9, 2011
Isaiah 25:6-10; Psalm 23; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22:1-14

          Some of my happiest moments of my life occurred when I accepted an intriguing invitation. I paid attention to the tone and quality of the invitation that both comforted me and created excitement. Each time I said 'yes,' doors and windows of opportunity opened for me in unexpected ways. I was delighted for the affirmation it brought me. I know that I must always give due consideration to the many invitations that come my way. I want to be open to life's moments for growth and happiness.
          Jesus gives us another challenging parable this week. This time it deals with accepting God's invitations. In this story, a king gave a wedding feast for his son, but the invited guests refused to come. A second time the king sent other servants to the invited to come and enjoy what the king is offering, but they refuse once more - some by indifference, others by their busyness, and still others seized the servants and killed them for upsetting them. The enraged king destroyed the murderers and their city and went out to call other replacements to the feast. Many guests finally came - the good and the bad - but one came to the banquet improperly attired and was cast into the darkness for his impertinence.

          Jesus meant to explain to the chief priests and elders that the Jews were the ones who did not accept God's invitations and that the kingdom will be handed over to those who are sinners or considered unclean and undeserving. The elders and the people turned their heads away from God's initiatives, and God will not be satisfied. The people even killed the prophets (the second group of servants.) Finally, those who were cast out of Jewish society were the ones who would finally be admitted, but they had to beware as well. They cannot take God's generosity for granted. They must prepare themselves appropriately for enjoyment of the kingdom. The one who doesn't recognize the beneficence he is receiving will be cast out once again - this time to a worse fate.
          We may judge this parable too easily because we can see that the invited guests did not know the significance of the banquet. We think that we would have been able to say 'yes' if we were there with them at that time, but the fact is that we do not accept most of the invitations that come our way. We don't get to see where those invitations will lead us - to new friendships or a romance, to a new career opportunity or a change in direction, or to a longed-for opportunity for freedom. For our own reasons, we are unwilling to commit to one more request. Our plates are full. We sometimes wonder if they are filled with the right things.

          In Isaiah, we see the fullness of a rich and plentiful meal; the psalmist opines of an overflowing cup; and Paul writes of a God who satisfies every need. The king in the parable wants to spread his generosity far and wide and is angry that no one will accept his bountiful goodness. Jesus tells us we cannot accept this satisfying richness if we are not properly prepared for it. We have to discern our invitations and ready our whole selves to accept what is offered.
          I invite you to take note of the many invitations that come your way this week. Note to yourselves the ones you accept; notice the various times you decline. Sometimes we even decline with nice words or with a promise that we will do something in the far-off future. It still is a declination. Take a risk. Say 'yes,' and see what may open up for you. I guarantee you that you will receive much more than you give up. If we learn how to accept the graciousness of others, like the psalmist, our cups will overflow with the abundance of good, satisfying things. I bet you will find mini-miracles in some of the invitations that come your way. Look for them. They are always offered to you.

Themes for this Week’s Masses
First Reading: In Romans, Paul declares that he has been set apart by God by grace to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul is proud of the Gospel because God’s power has opened salvation for everyone – regardless of characteristics. God’s righteousness is passed on by faith to all who will receive it. It was God’s plan since the creation of the world. The judgment of God differs from human judgment. God will repay everyone according to his works and will give eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works. The righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law and the prophets. God finds no distinction because all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. We need only look to our history as Abraham was justified by faith, not by the works he did. Abraham believed, hoping against hope, that he would become the father of many nations.

Gospel: As people crowd around Jesus, he tells them that this generation ought not to be looking for a sign because none will be given to them. If their hearts and minds could realize what is going on around them, they would see that Jesus is greater than Jonah and Solomon. When Jesus finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dinner at his house. He was surprised that Jesus did not observe the ritual cleansing before eating. Jesus remarked that what comes from our inner lives is unclean; our attitudes and judgments come from within and need to be purified. Jesus retorted that the Pharisees have to be careful about what they preach because they don’t practice the rules they impose upon others. He urges them to be considerate of the demands they make upon the people who struggle to keep the laws. He further urges them to respect the prophets because they falsely build memorials to the ones their fathers killed. Jesus reminds people to take heed of his words and to hold them securely. What he has told them in secret will be made known in the daylight. Anyone who acknowledges Jesus in the daylight will be rewarded by God in heaven.
Saints of the Week

Friday: Callistus I, pope and martyr (d. 222) was a slave of a Christian who put him in charge of a bank that failed. He was jailed and upon his release became a deacon and counselor to Pope Zephyrinus. He became the first overseer of the official Christian cemetery that was eventually named after him. When he was elected Pope he introduced humanitarian reforms. He died during an uprising against Christians.  

Saturday: Teresa of Jesus, doctor (1515-1582), entered the Carmelites in Avila and became disenchanted with the laxity of the order. She progressed in prayer and had mystical visions. She introduced stricter reforms through her guidance of John of the Cross and Peter Alcantara. They founded the Discalced Carmelites for men and women.
This Week in Jesuit History

·         Oct 9, 1627. Jansenius left Louvain for Salamanca to foment antipathy against the Jesuits and thus prevent Philip IV from giving the Society a large college in Madrid. The theological faculty at Salamanca were hostile to the Society.
·         October 10, 1806: The first novitiate of the Maryland Mission opened as ten novices began their Long Retreat under the direction of Fr. Francis Neale (himself a novice who had entered the Jesuits that day.)
·         October 11, 1688: King Louis XIV forbade all correspondence and interchange between the French Jesuits and Fr. Thyrsus Gonzalez, the Spanish General Superior of the Society.
·         October 12, 1976: The murder in rural Brazil of Joao Bosco Burnier, SJ, who was shot and killed by soldiers for protesting the torture of two poor women.
·         October 13, 1537: At Venice the Papal Nuncio published his written verdict declaring that Ignatius Loyola was innocent of all charges which had been leveled against him by his detractors.
·         October 14, 1774: A French Jesuit in China wrote an epitaph to the Jesuit mission in China after the suppression of the Society. It concludes: "Go, traveler, continue on your way. Felicitate the dead; weep for the living; pray for all. Wonder, and be silent."
·         October 15, 1582: St Teresa of Avila died on this day -- the first day of the new Gregorian calendar. She always wished to have a Jesuit as a confessor.