Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Third Week Retreat Homily: Jairus' Daughter and the Hemorrhaging Woman


          As we come to the end of a month where we've heard about David's successes and failures as a man and a king, I have to say I have come to admire him and hold a warm place in my heart for him. It touches me deeply that even though his son, Absalom, has risen against him in rebellion, he grieves uncontrollably at his unfortunate death by hanging in a tree. Death is final. As we stare into death's face, the brutality of it shakes us to our core.
          Death comes to us again in the Gospel. Jesus returns to Jewish lands after getting kicked out of the Decapolis where he met the once out of control demoniac. The crowd waits for him. Among those who wanted his attention was Jairus, a synagogue official, who believed Jesus was powerful enough to restore his ailing daughter to good health. She was only 12 years old. I'm sure to the disappointment of Jairus, Jesus gets sidetracked. His attention is pulled away from the concerns of Jairus because he felt power leave him because someone forgotten by society reached out to touch his hem.
          The woman with the 12-year hemorrhage is a lot like the Gerasene demoniac. She is shunned, neglected, pushed aside, largely ignored, and she has used up all her capital. She has now become a bother to her family, friends, and the religious society. She is a festering wound. While some may sympathize with her, many become frustrated because she never makes improvements. She becomes a bother to them because she remains just who she is. They tolerate her, sometimes treat her with kindness, but they have given up on her. She has lost hope and the society around her has lost hope that she will ever stop complaining about her condition.
          We may know someone like this whose pain is chronic. Perhaps, we identify with this nameless woman because we have something inside us that is so disordered we cannot change. All the drugs, therapy, retreats in the world cannot ever make us whole as we once were and desire to be again. We carry an internal system of dysfunction, disorder, and chaos that puts us on the outside of a society whose care we need. We may want to give up because this is our fate. We will never be right again. In our prayers, all we can do is reach invisibly, desperately to touch the cloak's hem of Jesus.
          We each carry our own crosses and one thing is clear: we have to gaze upon the cross to find meaning in it. It is not something we can escape or avoid. We will deal with it at some point in life. The question that arises is: What is our disposition and attitude by which we approach the cross?
          I am learning to be real in prayer. It is important for me to express my raw, unfiltered desires and feelings to God and to see that anger is good. Expressing it well is healthy and it is something that we learn to do through triumphs and failures. I have shouted at God with tremendous anger. I have been so angry with God I would not even talk to him for stretches of time and I derided God for his lack of power and his lack of concern. I have poured out my heart far from the kindest of ways because I wanted to let God know of my supreme frustration and my utter doubt in God's care of me and my loved ones. How could God treat me this way if God is all loving and all powerful and all just. When I let him have it good, I feel better.
          This passage reminds me of my oldest sister's life. I watched her die an excruciating death after years of pain and, like the woman in the Gospel, hemorrhages. She was born with mental retardation and had a difficult life. My family cared for her as best we knew how. Early in my life I got so angry with God for allowing this dreadful condition to inhabit a sweet little girl. As a young boy, I recall screaming at God for making her a person with retardation. At age six, I recall steaming in frustration that God chose this and allowed this to happen. I pleaded with God to give me her condition so my innocent sister can be set free. I wanted her to live well. Her illness was undeserved.
          I felt such tenderness for my parents. This was their firstborn child and they were struggling to start their new life together. I was frustrated because I wished my parents had more information so they could protest more directly to the doctors as my sister was still in the womb. I wished they spoke for their own needs and desires more vehemently. My hemorrhaging mother during her last month of pregnancy was told to go home because she was in false labor. My parents obediently followed the doctor's professional advice though they knew better. All the while, the umbilical cord wrapped around my sister's neck depriving her of needed oxygen. 
          At the end of her 43 years of life she stayed at home amidst seven long years of pain and suffering - the worst I've ever seen. I came close to cursing Jesus for he had only been on the cross for three hours; my sister's suffering was much more awful. Wheelchair bound and constricted in a physical prison, a tube inserted to feed her and a tube to catch her waste, she was stung with pain. We would hold her in our arms each day and look into her catatonic eyes wondering if she knew we were there. How we wished she could speak and tell us how she felt. She cried cry herself to sleep and immediately awoke from her chronic, ceaseless pain. Sleep could not soften her fatigue. Hospitals sent her back to us because her pain was unbearable for nurses and other patients to hear. It caused everyone discomfort. Even loving care-givers did not want to hear her moans.     We fear suffering. Fear and psychic pain arose and we tried to reach her to let her know we were there for her, though we were unable to help her. We were inexhaustibly powerless. We could provide no relief. We were stripped of any choice - utterly without any control or power.
          After further groaning and moaning to God while caressing my sister's tormented face, my gaze penetrated deeply into my sister's blank, catatonic eyes. She could not fully see me back but I had to continue to look. I wanted to find her, to have her recognize me, to stand by her, and I could not give up. I gazed into a dark infinity through her eyes. Exhausted, despairing, and hopeless, I was drawn in to see the sad, sorrowful eyes of Jesus looking back at me. He was there on the cross, weeping, weeping deeply for my sister. I finally came to a place of stillness and silence. I gazed upon him on the cross as he beheld my sister on hers. He was with her in her suffering and with me in mine. He writhed in anguish because we were in anguish as life slipped out of his body. He was so sad for us and he could not get off the cross because he needed to be there for us.
          My sister's pain continued a few more months before she died. I don't know how my mother made it through a single day, but she was lovingly faithful to her daughter. All we have is love and fidelity. I solidly knew that Jesus was with my sister and she seemed consoled by that. It was only by looking deeply into that dark pit of suffering that Jesus was able to gently reach me and show me his heart. He said, "I want to share my heart with you." At this gruesome place, the desires of my heart met his - and he was gracious.
          I encountered a gentle God - a God who cannot act violently. Jesus gives us the greatest gift he can - by being in vulnerable solidarity with his people as he hangs on the cross, with those who hang on the cross. Ironically, if we look deeply into our suffering, we will undoubtedly find the broken, disabled, disfigured Christ, imprisoned on his Cross, and he will gently be present to us. No greater gift exists. The world changes.
          At some point in our lives, we have to confront death. David did it with his beloved Absalom, Jairus with his daughter, the nameless woman of chronic hemorrhages looks at her own impending mortality, my mother with her firstborn. It is at our weakest - when we are with someone in his or her suffering - that we find intimacy with Jesus in our suffering. It is the point where he consoles me and tells me I am not alone. He does not want suffering. This is the reason he brings the daughter of Jairus back to life and turns to the poor woman to give her a name and a chance to live again. He wants to give you life as well. Christ took on powerlessness because of our powerlessness. He wants to die on the Cross for you - so you can have life with him.

Prayer: John McKensie


We recognize that the person whom we have encountered speaks to our innermost being, supplies our needs, satisfies our desires. We recognize that this person gives life meaning. I do not say a new meaning simply, for we realize that before we encountered this person life had no real meaning. We recognize that this person has revealed to us not only himself, but our own true self as well. We recognize that we cannot be our own true self except by union with this person. In him, the obscure is illuminated, the uncertain yields to the certain, insecurity is replaced by a deep sense of security. In him, we find we have achieved and understanding of many things which baffled us. We recognize in his person strength and power which we can sense passing from him to us. Most certainly, if most obscurely, we recognize that in this person we have encountered God, and that we shall not encounter god in any other way.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Prayer: Jean Vanier

It is not reserved for those who are well-known mystics or for those who do wonderful things for the poor... [It is for those] poor enough to welcome Jesus. It is for people living ordinary lives and who feel lonely. It is for all those who are old, hospitalized or out of work, who open their hearts in trust to Jesus and cry out for his healing love.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Prayer: "Go and Make Disciples" by the U.S. Bishops


When the story of Jesus is truly our story, when we have caught his fire, when his good news shapes our lives individually and as a church, his influence will be felt far beyond our church.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Prayer: Thomas Aquinas

God is the most lovable of all things, and meditations on God's nature is the strongest incentive there is to love and devotion; but because our minds are not strong in themselves, we need to be led by knowledge, and so to love God by way of the world we sense, and above all by thinking of Christ the man, so that by seeing God with our eyes we can be lifted up to love what we cannot see.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Prayer: Ignatius of Loyola


We should not want to see or do anything that could not be done in the presence of God... and we shall then imagine that we are always in God's presence.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time


January 29, 2012
Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 95; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28

          In comforting the Israelites, Moses proclaims that a prophet like him will be raised up and the people will be wise to listen to him. Moses often has the problem of speaking God’s words to the people while the people choose not to listen. He tells them that this new prophet who will come along will speak with God’s authority and the consequence for not listening to him is death.

          Jesus begins with public ministry with much fanfare. He enters a synagogue and teaches in more astounding ways than any scribe has done. The scribes are undisputed scripture scholars who are appointed to faithfully interpret scripture and hold onto doctrinal orthodoxy. Jesus upends them and provides unsurpassed knowledge of scripture and not only a new interpretation. He challenges the entire religious educational structure. Naturally, the scribes are the first to question his authority and inquire about the source of his knowledge.

          The words of Jesus reveal his identity for even if humans do not comprehend what is going on, the unclean spirits and demons do. Jesus, through mere words, demonstrates power over the demons that leave everyone aghast. Through the power of words, news of Jesus spreads throughout all of Galilee.

          Choosing words with precision is necessary in today’s climate. In political circles, civic leaders know the importance of framing language to shape public opinion. Sound-byte slogans carry great weight because they represent an inherent worldview and political philosophy. Whoever wins the war of words will garner more votes and will shape the landscape in their favor. The victors of wars write the history of the vanquished and keep themselves positioned to remain in power. Words have a power unto themselves.

          As I am in the middle of directing a Thirty-Day silent retreat, I sit back and watch the ways retreatants learn to respect words and silence. During days of repose, it is natural for a person to resist breaking the silence because they don’t want the process of relating to God be interrupted by human words. At the end of the retreat, they resist a return to their families and communities because they know they will talk so much about the weather, sports teams, Brittany Spears’ new haircut, and other cultural events that do not carry as much weight as the meaningful conversations they have held each day with their retreat directors. The retreatants want to maintain respect of the power of words and silence.

          Try an experiment this week that may be uncomfortable. Speak less. We all want to be seen and heard, but can we help others be seen and heard? See if you can go through a day or a week of deliberately listening and hearing what others are saying. Instead of reacting, just respond to them. Ask clarifying questions that elicit for them the meaning of what they are trying to communicate. You’ll come to a point when you know that you have really connected and the person will really connect with you for truly respecting them. Ironically, we converse better when we first intently listen. The rewards of a more meaningful conversation are immediately evident. It is extremely satisfying.

          I used to be a person who wanted to tell others what I was thinking. I still want to share myself with my friends, but I’m happier to listen to them and find out what is going on in their lives. Mutuality is assured. I find myself holding onto what they say with greater dignity and respect because I can listen better. I find that when I hold onto what another person says, I have less need to share. I am satisfied honoring them. Sometimes a person merely has to speak about what he or she feels. That may be all they need – and the power of carefully chosen words and silence can heal, console, and give life.

          The words of Jesus have the power to create and give life. His words retain great power. Our world will be strengthened when we harness of power of the words we speak to quiet the demons and silence adversaries of truth and life. Then, we can see life beginning anew as the kingdom of God spreads throughout the earth.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:  An informant came to tell David that his son, Absalom, was plotting to rise against him. Shimea, from Saul's clan, began to curse David, who allowed him to freely express himself. Absalom came up against David's servants and had a freak accident. He hung from a tree where he was thrust in the heart with pikes. A servant came to tell David that his son was dead. Instead of celebrating the victory over a rebellion, David and his army mourned for Absalom. David counts the numbers of troops in Israel (800,000) and Judah (500,000) and realized he sinned against the Lord for not trusting him. David chooses one of three pestilences as penitence for his crimes and he selects a plague that kills over 700,000 of his people. David relents and asks for punishment of himself rather than harm on his people. After the death of David, the Book of Sirach offers a song of praise about David's many accomplishments and his growing trust in the Lord. David's son Solomon rises to the throne. At his anointing, the Lord asks him what he wants and he valiantly asks for an understanding heart to judge the Lord's people and to distinguish right from wrong. The Lord is well pleased.

Gospel: Jesus crossed to the other side of the sea as he left Israel and came into the foreign lands of the Decapolis. He encountered a strong demoniac who could not be bound by chains. He was exiled to a cemetery to live among the demons. Jesus cured him and sent his legion of demons into a swineherd. He then crossed back into Israeli territory and met Jairus, a synagogue official whose 12 year old daughter was near death. She died. Jesus then heals a woman who suffered for 12 years of a hemorrhage. While he was speaking, Jesus told Jairus his daughter will live. Many doubted, but she rose once Jesus prayed over her. Jesus returned home and taught in the synagogues. People were amazed at his teaching. After all, he was merely the son of Joseph and Mary, and the brother to four other brothers and some sisters. He declared that a prophet is without honor in his hometown. King Herod was curious about Jesus and asked about his identity. Some said he was one of the prophets or John the Baptist raised from the dead. Herod killed John after he swore an oath to his daughter at his own birthday party. The Apostles reported everything to Jesus about what they taught and did. Jesus wanted to rest with them at a deserted place so they went off, but the crowds kept gathering. Jesus was moved with pity because the people were like sheep without a shepherd.

Saints of the Week

Tuesday: John Bosco, priest (1815-1888), formed his Society to aid children who were imprisoned. He used Francis de Sales as his inspiration. He taught poor and working class boys in the evenings wherever it was possible to meet them - in fields, factories, or homes. A sister community was set up to assist young girls who were sent to work.

Thursday: The Presentation of the Lord is the rite by which the firstborn male is presented in the Temple as an offering to God. It occurs 40 days after the birth while the new mother is considered ritually unclean. Two church elders, Simeon and Anna, who represent the old covenant, praise Jesus and warn his mother that her heart will be pierced as her son will bring the salvation of many.

Friday: Blase, bishop and martyr (d. 316), was an Armenian martyr of the persecution of Licinius. Legends hold that a boy was miraculously cured by choking to death on a fish bone. Blase's intercession has been invoked for cures for throat afflictions. The candles presented at Candlemas the day earlier are used in the rite of the blessings of throats.

Angsar, bishop (815-865), became a monk to preach to pagans. He lived at the French Benedictine monastery of New Corbie and was sent to preach in Denmark and Sweden. He was made abbot and then became archbishop of Hamburg. He is known as the Apostle of the North because he restored Denmark to the faith and helped bolster the faith of other Scandinavians.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Jan 29, 1923. Woodstock scholastics kept a fire vigil for several months to prevent the Ku Klux Klan from setting the college on fire.
·         Jan 30, 1633. At Avignon, Fr. John Pujol, a famous master of novices, died. He ordered one of them to water a dry stick, which miraculously sprouted.
·         Jan 31, 1774. Fr. General Laurence Ricci, a prisoner in Castel S Angelo, claimed his liberty, since his innocence had been fully vindicated. He received from the Papal Congregation the reply that they would think about it. Pope Clement XIV was said at this time to be mentally afflicted.
·         Feb 1, 1549. The first Jesuit missionaries to go to Brazil set sail from Lisbon, Portugal, under Fr. Emmanuel de Nobrega.
·         Feb 2, 1528. Ignatius arrived in Paris to begin his program of studies at the University of Paris.
·         Feb 3, 1571. In Florida, the martyrdom of Fr. Louis Quiros and two novices, shot with arrows by an apostate Indian.
·         Feb 4, 1617. An imperial edict banished all missionaries from China. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Prayer: John Vianney


Open your heart so the word of God may enter it, take root in it, and bear fruit there for eternal life.

Prayer: Gregory the Great


The Holy Bible is like a mirror before our mind's eye. In it we see our inner face.... We can learn our spiritual deformities and beauties. And there too we discover the progress we are making and how far we are from perfection.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Prayer: Hildegard of Bingen


There is the music of heaven in all things and we have forgotten how to hear it until we sing.

Prayer: Emily de Rodat


I was bored only once in all my life, and that was when I turned away from God.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Prayer: Thomas a Kempis

If the works of God were such as might be easily comprehended by human reason, they could not be called wonderful.

Retreat Homily for 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time


With listening eyes, we fix our gaze upon Jesus, the man from Galilee, who begins his public ministry by performing two important tasks: he preaches "the Kingdom of God is at hand" with the emphasis on the "now" and then he calls those who will become his closest friends. He introduces a kingdom-centered theology in opposition to the Temple-centered Jerusalem theology. As we immerse ourselves in this passage, we focus upon Jesus as the one who calls more so than being concerned with the responses of Simon and his brother Andrew or the Zebedee boys.
          Ignatius wants us to come to know this man from Nazareth. To do this, we are to suspend and challenge what we know about Jesus. We may have to let some of our ideas be bracketed and put aside until we can get a more accurate portrait of the man. We are given a portrait that is woven from four distinct Gospel narratives into one conflated and disjointed image. Many Christians today still think of Jesus when he lived on this earth as more God than man. That heresy has been stamped out over 16 centuries ago. It is a curious paradox to hold - fully human and fully divine. Our faith is based on seeing Jesus as fully human when he walked this earth. This is why his story is so credible. It is why his story makes sense to us and has great meaning.
          An important question to ask then is, "How do we come to know Jesus?" We have to let the Christ of faith reveal to us something about his pre-Resurrection life as Jesus. It is helpful for us to look at the way we come to know a new friend. With a friend, we have an initial encounter and we note something in the person we think we like. We test it out by saying, "hey, let's get together sometime." Our initial curiosity turns way to infatuation. We take this time to figure out how the other person thinks, learns what motivates and inspires, what the person values, how this new friend interacts with others. We check to see if the other likes what I like. We waste time with this person and just hang out. We pay attention to style. To quote the old saying, "The style is the man." The "how" is always more important than the "who."
          As we build the friendship, we come to a point where we take a risk. If this person is to be my friend, I will have to reveal something about myself that the other does not like. A critical point occurs. The friendship can end - or it can be strengthened. We never know what will happen until we share what we feel and think with the other person - particularly those areas of our private life that we keep hidden from others, especially the chaos. It is quite a risk because we want this person as a friend. If the person is who we think, we hear the response, "I want your friendship - all of you. You are important to me. I like you and I choose friendship with you." We come to know a person by being with him. We have the same pattern of coming to know Jesus.
          We cannot plan or anticipate the ways our friendship will grow because we bring a particular expression to it. We learn the ways we respond to one another and come to respect each other's boundaries. It is like a dance - awkward at first, but it grows in grace as we become familiar with the steps. Jesus invites us successively into a greater commitment to him as we allow him to commit his fidelity to us. We grow together. We have our ups and downs. We learn how to navigate through the language of our relationship.
          Examine, if you will, what you have come to know about the person Jesus on retreat. Perhaps you have come to understand about him better through a small detail. This is why we contemplate him and the scripture scenes. We see a small detail in the portrait that brings greater depth of meaning to us. Something speaks to us that is uniquely personal and maybe private. We find a point of contact to which we can return - a point in which we know Christ's familiar voice and style. It becomes unforgettable and it remains intimately personal. A retreatant once likened it to the Beatles' song, Something:  Something in the way he moves, Attracts me like no other. Something in the way he woos me. Something in the way he smiles, Tells me I need no other. Something in his style that shows me. Something in the way he knows, And all I have to do is think of him. Something about Jesus is so attractive to us, just as he was to Andrew and Simon, James and John, and all we have to do is think of him.
          Funny thing: When we really contemplate Jesus, when we set our gaze upon what he is doing, experiencing, and feeling, all the stuff of our "here and now" comes up inside of us. Christ is relating his story to our own story. Jesus becomes present to our personal stories. Christ brings it up to us so we can look at them - through his eyes of compassion. These are not distractions but the main source of our prayer. He wants us to pay attention to those details of him. These are the details that we can trust. When we daydream about a friend, her virtues shine forth. When we contemplate the humanity of Jesus, his divinity is revealed. Knowledge of the identity of Jesus comes about through our continued experience of him. Contemplation helps us become the person we truly always have wanted to be.
            A problem with the Gospel call narratives is that we see them as otherworldly predetermined choices by God through Jesus. We see them as single incidences that are once and for all settled. This precludes us from looking at them as a model for the way Christ personally calls us or that we see the evolving nature of one's call. Christ is always calling us into deeper bond. It is never one and done.
          The heart is the unmistakable place of encounter. The heart is where the call is experienced. We fundamentally have to honor and respect our feelings because those are the places where God typically meets us. We have to get out of our heads and down into our hearts because God's heart is beating to communicate with our hearts. Christ will honor your feelings  and then will ask you, "What do you want?" and "What do you need?" When we talk at his foundational level, we feel a tug to be closer to Jesus. In other words, he is still calling you - calling you closer to him. His call is personal and ever-present. His call is always about the immediacy of the kingdom of God now. Not the future, not the past - just now.
          As we become more familiar with him just like the early disciples, we hold onto questions that we are reluctant to ask. We withhold crucial information and painful stories from him that determine our trust levels. We have become keenly aware of our inadequacies and failings. We know something inside of us is messed up beyond belief and we cannot fix it. We forget to look at those worthy parts of us that we and others like. It brings us to important questions that we have to ask, "Am I growing in freedom, humility, honesty, and freedom in my life with Christ?" "Am I person who holds meaningful information close to my vest and keeps myself closed off to intimacy?" "Am I a person who is becoming more open to him despite the costs?"
          Jonah reminds us that our response to the call of Jesus may be fraught with challenging tasks that we would not choose on our own. As friends of Jesus, we know his Cross looms on the horizon. The Cross is inseparable from him, and we cannot avoid it. He asks, my friend, do you still want to come with me? He awaits your answer. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Prayer: "She who is," by Elizabeth Johnson

Humanly speaking a genuine gift is given freely, out of love and not out of necessity; its reception is occasion for gratitude and joy. In the divine freedom to be present to all creatures, empowering them to birth and rebirth in the midst of the antagonistic structures of reality, the spirit is intelligible as the first gift, freely given and giving. Her loving in the world is gracious and inviting, never forcing or using violence but respectfully calling to human freedom, as is befitting a gift.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Prayer: The Dorothy Day Book

Certainly when I lie in jail thinking of these things, thinking of war and peace, and the problems of human freedom...and the apathy of great masses of people who believe that nothing can be done, I am all the more confirmed in my faith in the little way of St. Therese. We do the minute things that come to hand, we pray our prayers, and beg also for an increase of faith - and God will do the rest.

Robert Morneau

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Prayer: The Confessions of St. Augustine, pp. 234-35

I asked the earth, the sea and the deeps, heaven, the sun, the moon and the stars.... My questioning of them was my contemplation, and their answer was their beauty.... They do not change their voice, that is their beauty, if one person is there to see and another to see and to question.... Beauty appears to all in the same way, but is silent to one and speaks to the other.... They understand it who compare the voice received on the outside with the truth the lies within.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Spiritual Exercises

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola

offered at Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, Massachusetts, a work of the New England Province of the Society of Jesus

June 25 through July 29, 2012

and

September 2012 (new)

For further information, contact Fr. John Predmore, S.J. at predmoresj@yahoo.com for an application or type in www.easternpoint.org in your browser's search field.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 22, 2012
Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 25; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

In Mark's Gospel, Jesus begins his public ministry by doing two important tasks: he preaches the Kingdom of God is at hand now and then he calls his first disciples. Jesus first encounters Simon Peter and his brother Andrew actively casting their fishing nets into the sea; together they come upon the Zebedee sons, James and John who were mending their nets. To show the immediacy of the present moment, Jesus asks the men to leave their profession behind to help him proclaim God's good news.

Paul's first letter to the Corinthians reveals the haste of taking care of the present time. Time is of great importance and we are to use our time well, which means that we have to decide our greatest priorities. The first reading from Jonah reminds us that our response to the call of Jesus may be fraught with challenging tasks that we would not choose to do one our own. Jonah is given the thorny work of asking the Ninevites to repent from their sinful ways so God will spare them. To Jonah's surprise, they take his prophetic advice by repenting and turning towards God. Jonah relents too.

A problem that arises with these Gospel call narratives is that we see them as complete divinely predetermined choices by God through Jesus. We see them as a single incident that is once and for all settled. This precludes us from looking at them as a model for the way Christ personally calls us or to see the evolving nature of one's call. Christ is always calling us into deeper relationship. It is never one and done.

A call to discipleship is first a call to be in relationship with Jesus. Just as we grow in our human friendships, our friendship with Jesus progresses. Since each of us is unique, we cannot anticipate the ways it will grow because we bring a particular expression to it. We learn the ways we respond to one another and come to respect each other's boundaries. Jesus invites us successively into a greater commitment to him as we allow him to commit his fidelity to us. We grow together. We have our ups and downs. We learn how to navigate through the language of our relationship.

Many people identify with Peter because he seems so like us. It is because he was fully human. We note the ways he excelled and failed with Jesus. At his first encounter with Jesus, he learned that he was an honorable man with great wisdom. Through his experience of connecting with Jesus, he was able to see the divinity in him because he was a wonder-worker, a scribe with unparalleled authority, and a man whose prayer kept him close to God, whom he called Abba. Knowledge of the identity of Jesus came about through his continued experience of him.

I find it helpful to ask people to consider how their relationship with Christ matured over the years. Just like the early disciples, we hold questions about Jesus that we are reluctant to ask. We withhold information and stories from him that determine our trust levels. We have to ask, "Am I growing in freedom, humility, honesty, and freedom in my life with Christ?" and "Am I becoming a person who holds meaningful information close to my vest or am I a person who is becoming more open to him?"

We always wonder about Christ's will for us. We wonder how we can figure it out so we can be faithful to it. Relax. God's will is always expressed in the "now" and God will act through our own desires. Therefore, our job is to express what we want and need. God who is generous will give us what we want. God will affirm us when we do the good God wants and our conscience will feel pangs when we stray from the path. We fundamentally have to honor and respect our feelings because those are the places where God typically meet us. We have to get out of our heads and down into our hearts because God's heart is beating to communicate with our hearts. The heart is the unmistakable place of encounter. The heart is where the call is experienced.

Pay attention to your feelings this week - even though many of them will conflict and overlap. As you respect what you feel, ask Christ to honor your feelings too. Then let him ask you, "What do you want?" and "What do you need?" When we talk at his foundational level, we feel a tug to be closer to Christ. In other words, he is still calling you - calling you closer to him. His call is personal and ever-present. His call is always about the immediacy of the kingdom of God now in this world.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: David, at age 30, was made King at Hebron. He reigned for 40 years. The Jebusites told David he could not enter Jerusalem, the stronghold of Zion, but he did. It became the City of David. David brought the ark of God to Jerusalem, danced before it, slaughtered an ox, and distributed fine foods for all his people. After a victory, David sat on his balcony and gazed upon the beautiful Bathsheba. He desired her, but she was the wife of Uriah the Hittite. David planned to send Uriah to the front line to be killed so Bathsheba could be his. Nathan, the prophet, told David a story of a rich man and a poor one. After David judged the sin of rich man, Nathan told David, "You are the man." David felt sick for his sin. Nathan told him the Lord would make the son of Bathsheba ill and die. David begged forgiveness and made himself sick with grief asking that the boy would live.

Gospel: Scribes questioned the origins of Jesus' authority. They claimed it must be from Beelzebul; Jesus retorted that a house divided against itself cannot stand. The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived to take him home because they concluded that he lost his mind while he was preaching. Jesus taught the crowds about the Kingdom of God, likening it to a seed scattered onto the ground. It grows, but its life is a mystery. Paradoxically, a tiny mustard seed becomes a large tree that puts forth large branches. As Jesus embarked onto a boat to cross to the other side of the lake, a violent squall came up. Jesus fell asleep on a cushion. The disciples were frantic and they woke up Jesus who calmed the storm. He demonstrated that he had authority over the natural world.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Marianne Cope (1838-1918), was a German-born woman who settled with her family in New York. She entered the Franciscans and worked in the school systems as a teacher and principal and she helped to establish the first two Catholic hospitals. She went to Honolulu, then Molokai, to aid those with leprosy.

Tuesday: Francis de Sales, bishop and doctor (1567-1622), practiced both civil and canon law before entering religious life. He became bishop of Geneva in 1602 and was prominent in the Catholic Reformation. He reorganized his diocese, set up a seminary, overhauled religious education, and found several schools. With Jane Frances de Chantal, he founded the Order of the Visitation of Mary.

Wednesday: The Conversion of Paul, the Apostle, was a pivotal point in the life of the early church. Scripture contains three accounts of his call and the change of behavior and attitudes that followed. Paul's story is worth knowing as it took him 14 years of prayer and study to find meaning in what happened to him on the road to Damascus.

Thursday: Timothy and Titus, bishops (1st century), were disciples of Paul who later became what we know of as bishops. Timothy watched over the people of Ephesus and Titus looked after Crete. Both men worked with Paul and became a community leader. Timothy was martyred while Titus died of old age.

Friday: Angela Merici (1474-1540), was the founder of the Ursuline nuns. She was raised by relatives when her parents died when she was 10. As an adult, she tended to the needs of the poor and with some friends, she taught young girls at their home. These friends joined an association that later became a religious order. Ursula was the patron of medieval universities.

Saturday: Thomas Aquinas, priest and Doctor (1225-1274), studied in a Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino as a boy. He joined the newly formed Dominicans where he studied in France and Italy. He is a giant scholar. He wrote much on Scripture and theology, including his summation of theology (Summa Theologiae). He wrote several songs for liturgy, such as the Tantum Ergo, Pange Lingua, and Adoro Te Devote.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Jan 22, 1561. Pius IV abrogated the decree of Paul II and kept the life term of Father General.
• Jan 23, 1789. John Carroll gained the deed of land for the site that was to become Georgetown University.
• Jan 24, 1645. Fr. Henry Morse was led as a prisoner from Durham to Newgate, London. On hearing his execution was fixed for February 1, he exclaimed: "Welcome ropes, hurdles, gibbets, knives, butchery of an infamous death! Welcome for the love of Jesus, my Savior."
• Jan 25, 1707. Cardinal Tournon, Apostolic Visitor of the missions in China, forbade the use of the words 'Tien' or 'Xant' for God and ordered the discontinuance by the Christians of the Chinese Rites.
• Jan 26, 1611. The first Jesuit missionaries sailed from Europe for New France (Canada).
• Jan 27, 1870. The Austrian government endeavored to suppress the annual grant of 8,000 florins to the theological faculty of Innsbruck and to drive the Jesuit professors from the university, because of their support of the Papal Syllabus.
• Jan 28, 1853. Fr. General John Roothaan, wishing to resign his office, summoned a General Congregation, but died on May 8, before it assembled.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Prayer: Italian Sacramentary

Lord God, you offer to us this 'acceptable time' to recover a sense of what life means and to be reconciled to you and to our neighbor. Grant that we may walk together, day by day, in the footsteps of Christ toward the paschal feast of joy.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Prayer: Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree"

Once there was a tree ... and she loved a little boy." And so begins the story of a tree being happy because she is able to make the boy happy. At first the body desires nothing but to climb on her branches, eat her apples, and lie in her shade.

But as the boy grows, so do his desires. But because of the tree's love, she gives her apples for him to sell for money to have real fun; her branches that he might build a house for a wife and family; and her trunk so he could build a boat and sail away from the boredom of life.

And then one day, the prodigal returns to the tree that loves him. By now, she has given him everything; all that remains of her is an old stump. The boy, now an old man, needs only a quiet place to sit and rest. And the Giving Tree gives once more.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Prayer: Gerald May

The entire process (of self-development) can be very exciting and entertaining. But the problem is there's no end to it. The fantasy is that if one heads in the right direction and just works hard enough to learn new things and grows enough to get actualized, one will be there. None of us is quite certain exactly where there is, but it obviously has something do to with resting.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Prayer: "God First Loved Us" by Anthony Campbell

Originally, I believed the acceptance of a loving God involved a sufficient but relative minor shift of attitude. After all, it was on so many people's lips. The more I worked with it, the more I realize that the acceptance in faith of God's unconditional love was not only hugely significant, it required a major change of attitude.... the major shift may be the images we have of God and ourselves. How radically is our image of God reshaped if we take seriously the belief in God as deeply, passionately, and unconditionally loving us? How radically must we rework our own self-image if we accept ourselves as loveable - as deeply, passionately, and unconditionally loved by God?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Homily for Mark 2:1-12 (The lowering of the paralytic)


This homily was given on January 13th using the scriptures: 1 Samuel 84-22 (The Israelites demanding a king) and Mark 2:1-12 (the lowering of a man with paralysis through the roof where Jesus was staying.)
           God grants our desires - whether spoken or not - even if it costs God something and brings hurt and rejection to God. God wants to give us what we want. In the first reading, Samuel is displeased with the community elders and God tells him to relax. It is not Samuel they are rejecting; they are rejecting God as king. They are fed up with not having an earthly king to show for themselves among the community of nations. They want to stand up and be counted. Like us, they want to be seen and heard and known. Sometimes their invisible God-king disappoints. They merely want to be like all the other nations who can proudly boast of their king.  ~ Against better judgment, God tells Samuel to relent. Somewhere in their request is a deep desire for the good, though precise words cannot pinpoint it yet. God will give them their king - even though what they ask is not really what they seek.
            In the Gospel, Jesus returns home after a terrific preaching tour. He has done miracles, healed many, and demonstrated great power through his words. Presumably, he wants to rest and visit his family and friends. We do not know for sure, but while he is in his own home, many gather around his so they could hear him speak and to be healed, and as that is happening, several people begin to dismantle his roof so they could lower a man with paralysis before him. I know I would be angry if someone ripped the roof off my house, but what I find instructive is this is the place where compassion meets compassion. Jesus does not get upset. Instead, his heart goes out to this man who cannot even represent himself. His extraordinary friends do what they can to help this man encounter the one who can change his life around. These gracious friends give the silent man with paralysis what he most deeply desires. He wants to walk straight and tall. Jesus wants to heal him in the deepest way possible - through the forgiveness of sins.
            Most of us, if not all, have something within us where we feel shame - whether it is a disability, a sin committed against us, an addiction, or not being gifted as abundantly as another person. We dislike being identified in our entirety with that condition. We don't want to be a paralytic, but rather a person suffering from paralysis. I can imagine that if I were the man being lowered through the roof, like a spectacle, that I would feel humiliated - truly paralyzed. All those eyes upon me would make me implode. I do not want the attention on me or on my condition that defines me. I do not want it publicized so others may have pity on me or show me ridicule. It creates a power imbalance I would want to avoid. I would rather not be lowered than to have my shame exposed. I would probably be cursing my good-intentioned friends for placing me in such an exposed situation. If I am to be fully revealed, I want it at my own pace and at a time when my free will tells me I am ready.
            However, this is where the compassion of Jesus changes everything for me. When he looks upon me, all my fears and worries melt away. His warm eyes and relaxed smile tell me that he sincerely cares for me and the prior activities of the room are of second importance. He wants me radically free interiorly so I can experience the fullness of life and care for others as he does. He wants my happiness and he wants me to receive the forgiveness that he generously offers - a forgiveness that accepts my disability and sees way beyond it.
            What do I do? I fight. I resist. I hold onto the shame around my condition fiercely. It is what I know and what has defined me. I cannot let go too easily. I have long been a scrapper and it is not in my nature to open my palms to him to receive his offer. Instead, I clench my fists and yell, "Why don't you help me?"
            In front of him, I feel my brokenness. There is an affective things inside of me that is out of control and I am mired in the horror and disorder of my life. I examine how I move from my behavior to a disordered affection that causes my behavior. It becomes habitual and I cannot stop it for it controls me. In fact, I am out of control. When I do something whacked out, I see that it is not only a singular instance that I do something, but that I do it all the time. I come to an overwhelming powerful sense that I sin all the time. I am trapped. I am unable to love my life. I realize I need a savior - and my attention is brought back to those gentle compassionate eyes that beg me to look deeper into his. Deep down, I want what he offers. I may have thought I wanted physical healing of my paralysis, but I really want the forgiveness of sins that keep me bound in my dysfunctional habits and patterns. I want to be free and my freedom has to come from outside myself. I cannot do it by myself. Jesus alone offers it to me.
            It causes me to reflect on what exactly this man offers me. In his disability, when he is a man with paralysis because his arms and legs are immobile because they are nailed to the cross, I gaze upon him and speak to him as a friend, and I ask him, "What have you done for me?," "What are you doing for me?," and "What ought you to do for me?" I see him on the Cross still looking upon me with those compassionate eyes and he still honors me. He still hears my story and yet he wants to tell me of the ways he has, is, and wants to free me. He asks me to receive his compassion because it melts away all the chains that we hold dear.
            I am convinced that Christ's compassion can change our world, like it did for the man who was once paralyzed. It has mine. If we can hold our story and one another's more reverently, it will create an environment in which less hurt and harm is created. It will create a world that is more sympathetic, understanding, and tolerant. It will help a person feel connected and become more whole. We live in hope that people can see themselves as more beautiful gifts to themselves and to others.
            The compassion of Jesus for others cost him dearly. The Pharisees and Herodians plotted against him. He had to take that risk and he will always choose it - for you - because his heart is wounded for you. Stop your fighting. Accept his offer. Get out of your head and let him open your heart so you can receive his forgiveness and healing. Hear him tell you, "Get up, my child and walk. Rise. Take up your mat. I have called you for freedom. Live in my love where compassion reigns. You are worth so much to me and I want the very best for you. Give me the pain you hold so close. I will bring it to the cross. I want you to be free. Will you come?"

Prayer: Teresa Benedicta


Whoever lives in the strong faith that nothing happens without the knowledge and will of God is not easily disconcerted by astonishing occurrences or upset by the hardest of blows.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Prayer: Cyril of Jerusalem

If you have anything against anyone, forgive it. You come here to receive the forgiveness of sins, and you, too, must forgive one who has sinned against you. Or how will you say to the Lord, ‘forgive me my many sins,’ if you have not yourself forgiven your fellow servant’s little sins.

Book: "Praying the Truth" by William Barry, S.J.

William Barry, S.J. is pleased to share the good news about his newest book, Praying the Truth.

This book helps us deepen our friendship with God by examining how to approach God, at any time and with any problem, in complete honesty. Praying the Truth helps us realize that if we do not approach God in complete honesty, we may be holding back a part of ourselves that needs to be healed. By learning how to communicate honestly with God, our friendship with God and our faith in God's promise to love us unconditionally will be strengthened.

Praying the Truth is available on both Amazon.com and LoyolaPress.com. The book is also available at many bookstores across the country.

Visit www.loyolapress.com/honesty.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time


January 15, 2012
1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 6:13-15, 17-20; John 1:35-42

          As we begin Ordinary Time, we read about two favorite call narratives. The First Book of Samuel tells of the innocent account of the boy Samuel who was dedicated to the Lord by his long-barren mother, Hannah. Samuel will become a great prophet in Israel. As a youth, he is learning about prayer and priestly-type service to Israel by studying with the great prophet, Eli.

          The ever-available Samuel responds to Eli's call three times in the middle of the night before Eli recognizes that the Lord is speaking directly to Samuel. The readiness of the boy is endearing. He coaxes the boy to respond with a heart of openness to the Lord by encouraging the Lord to speak plainly. The vocation of a prophet is to listen to the word of God and bring these words to the people and their king. The prophet is the anointed one who is free from political entanglements.

           John's Gospel has an unusual call sequence. We find John the Baptist in his waning days of ministry pointing out Jesus as the Lamb of God to his own disciples. It is highly unusual that a teacher like John would send his disciples away to another rabbi, but this reinforces the author's theme that the Baptist was sent to testify to the light, but was not the light himself. John easily gives way to Jesus.

          His disciples have an unusual conversation with Jesus. They are clearly attracted to Jesus, who promptly asks them, "What are you looking for?" to which they respond, "Where are you staying?" Jesus simply replies, "Come, and you will see." Both the disciples and Jesus are looking for a relationship that lasts into the future. It is a warm invitation that holds great promise.

          Andrew was one of the disciples who heard John tell him about Jesus. After staying with Jesus for the afternoon, he goes to Simon to tell him of his experience. In the short time, Andrew has come to believe Jesus is the Messiah. When Jesus greets Simon, he gazes upon him and renames him Peter.

          Last week, we heard about the naming of Jesus at the circumcision and the weighty significance that the giving of a name signifies. Jesus gives Peter a nickname that means "Rocky." Last week my mother told me that I was given the name John with the expressed condition that I am never to be called John, but Jack instead. I now am paying attention to the reasoning that went into that decision and I also will bring into prayer which names reveals my truer identity to God. What does your nickname say about you?

          These readings also call to mind that ways we come to know God. For young Samuel, God spoke to him clearly in the middle of the night. The two disciples of John were moved to follow Jesus and spend time with him. The sage word of a friend helped them seek him out. Peter came to know Jesus after his brother, having spent some time with Jesus, revealed that he is the one whom all of Israel seeks. Often we are ready to encounter the Lord after someone has already told us of the powerful way he already acted in our lives.

          We mistrust the ways we think we hear the Lord because it is not a clear as Samuel's. We always expect clarity or loud gongs or getting knocked off our horses, but the Lord acts in ways that are unique to us. We will find his voice in small whispers that we doubt, but hold out hope that it is truly from him. We seek confirmation that his invitation is real and not a fluke. We may seek an event as a curious happenstance when in fact, it is not a coincidence, but a way in which our attention is held. It is then that we have to turn our curiosity, like the Baptist's disciples, into further questions. We have to spend time with the Lord to find out is he is our Messiah.

          Holding a question is more important than having a clear answer. We are a people who seek the truth that is difficult to grasp. We have to wrestle with our doubts and misgivings. These are good displays of faith. We are seekers and searchers; not possessors of moral truths that are beyond our grasp. We can come to belief while still holding onto doubts. Never underestimate the value of a question - even if it doesn't feel like an intelligent one. You are searching for greater meaning when you grapple with your ideas.

          Simply spending time with Jesus, who offers invitations of friendship, can answer some of those questions. Samuel learned the ways God initiated conversations with him; John's two disciples spent the afternoon with Jesus; Peter came to belief because he trusted in his brother's word until he came to personally know the man who was to become Messiah. Believe me. He will find a particularly unique way of reaching you and inviting himself deeper into your life. He wants that.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:  Samuel tells Saul that his disobedience to God has caused him to be banned as Israel's ruler. Saul's sacrifices to God after his victory over Amalek was not enough to earn favor with the Lord. Samuel hears from God that Jesse of Bethlehem will have a son who will become king. Samuel invited Jesse to a sacrifice with Saul. His seven sons were presented, but none of them were accepted. They sent for the youngest, David, who was tending sheep in the field. The Holy Spirit rushed upon him and Samuel anointed him with the horn of oil in the midst of his brothers. Months later, David was sent by Saul to fight the giant Philistine against whom he had no chance of surviving, but with his sling and a stone, he felled the giant warrior by hitting him in the head. David's return from battle was glorious, but Saul fell jealous because of the attention lavished upon his underling. Saul intended to kill David, but Jonathan, his son, protested. Through his intervention, Saul spared David's life. A while afterwards, Saul sent three thousand men against David, but David showed his allegiance to Saul, intending to do him no harm. Saul reconsiders his actions after David shows fealty to him and rewards him for his honor. Saul declares David will one day rule over Israel. After David returned from a battle against Amalekites, he learns of Saul's and Jonathan's death and he grieves their untimely death.

Gospel: The Pharisees uphold John's followers as ones who uphold dietary laws and they accusatorially ask why the disciples of Jesus do not fast. Jesus further upsets them when passing through a field of wheat on a sabbath when they pick grains and begin to eat them. The Pharisees are upset that the laws they held so dear since before David's time are being recklessly disregarded. They closely watch Jesus as a man with a withered man enters the place where Jesus was teaching on a sabbath. In a flagrant display of disregard for Jewish customs, Jesus compassionately heals the man's hand. The Herodians begin to plot his death. Jesus withdrew towards the sea and hordes of people came to hear him preach and heal. He asked his disciples to get a boat ready for him. Demons approached Jesus and fell down in fear before him. Jesus went us a mountain and summoned those he wanted to be with him. He named twelve who would become his closest companions. Jesus returned to his house and the crowds pushing around him made it difficult for the disciples even to eat. His relatives heard of this and set out to seize him for they were sure that he was out of his mind.

Saints of the Week

Tuesday: Anthony, Abbot (251-356), was a wealthy Egyptian who gave away his inheritance to become a hermit. Many people sought him out for his holiness and asceticism. After many years in solitude, he formed the first Christian monastic community. Since he was revered, he went to Alexandria to encourage the persecuted Christians. He met Athanasius and helped him fight Arianism.

Friday: Fabian, pope and martyr (d. 250), was a layman and stranger in Rome during the time of his election as pope. A dove settled on his head, which reminded people of the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove during the baptism. He served for 14 years until his martyrdom.

Sebastian, martyr (d. 300), was buried in the catacombs in Rome. He hailed from Milan and is often pictured with many arrows piercing his body. Much of what we know about him is legend.

Saturday: Agnes, martyr (d. 305), is one of the early Roman martyrs. Little is known about her but she died around age 12 during a persecution. Because of her names connection with a lamb, her iconography depicts her holding a lamb to remind us of her sacrifice and innocence.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Jan 15, 1955. The death of Daniel Lord SJ, popular writer, national director of the Sodality, founder of the Summer School of Catholic Action, and editor of The Queen's Work.
·         Jan 16, 1656. At Meliapore, the death of Fr. Robert de Nobili, nephew of Cardinal Bellarmine. Sent to the Madura mission, he learned to speak three languages and for 45 years labored among the high caste Brahmins.
·         Jan 17, 1890. Benedict Sestini died. He was an astronomer, editor, architect, mathematician, and teacher at Woodstock College.
·         Jan 18, 1615. The French Jesuits began a mission in Danang, Vietnam.
·         Jan 19, 1561. In South Africa, the baptism of the powerful King of Monomotapa, the king's mother, and 300 chiefs by Fr. Goncalvo de Silveira.
·         Jan 20, 1703. At Paris, the death of Fr. Francis de la Chaise, confessor to Louis XIV and a protector of the French Church against the Jansenists.
·         Jan 21, 1764. Christophe de Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris, wrote a pastoral defending the Jesuits against the attacks of Parliament. It was ordered to be burned by the public executioner. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Prayer: Paul to the people of Ephesus


That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Prayer: Cyprian of Carthage


God feeds the fowls, and gives daily sustenance to the sparrows and to creatures who have no sense of things Christian. Do you think that to a servant of God, to one devoted to good works, to one dear to the Lord, anything will be lacking?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Poem: "The Journey of the Magi" by T.S. Eliot


"A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The was deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter."
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.


Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires gong out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices.:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.



Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.



All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Prayer: Song of Songs: 2:10-13


Come then, my beloved,
my lovely one, come.

For see, winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.

Flowers are appearing on the earth.
The season of glad songs has come.

The cooing of the turtledove
is heard in our land.

The fig tree is forming its first figs
and the blossoming vines give out
their fragrance.

Come then, my beloved,
my lovely one, come.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Winners and Losers in the College of Cardinals


With the latest papal appointments to the College of Cardinals, Pope Benedict XVI has now appointed more than half the men who will elect his successor. The impact of these appointments can be seen by comparing the makeup of the current college with its makeup at the time of his election in 2005. Who has gained, who has lost?

The bigger gainer is Italy. At the time of Benedict’s election, the Italians made up 16.5 percent of the college. After February 12, the Italian cardinals will be 24 percent of the college. This reverses the trend begun by Pope Paul VI and continued by John Paul II that reduced the percentage of Italian cardinals in the college.

The other big winner under Pope Benedict has been the Roman Curia, which now makes up about one third of the College of Cardinals, up from a little less than a quarter of the college in 2005.

Who has lost? Africa, Asia, Latin America and Western Europe (not counting Italy) are all slightly down from 2005. The pope had to take a little bit from each of them in order to increase Italy’s numbers.

The proportion of the college that is American and Canadian has remained the same, although the U.S. will lose two cardinals this year when Edward Egan and James Francis Stafford turn 80. Nine other cardinals will turn 80 this year, only one from Italy. Latin America will lose three; Western Europe two; Eastern Europe one. Thus, aging alone will further increase the proportion of the Italian bloc by the end of this year.

Thomas J. Reese, S.J.
Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center