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Monday, September 30, 2013

Prayer: Francis de Sales

As often as you can, throughout the day, recall your mind into the presence of God. Consider what God is doing and what you are doing. You will always find God's eyes fixed upon you with unchangeable love.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Prayer: Julian of Norwich

God is closer to us than our own soul, for God is the foundation on which the soul stands. Our soul sits in God and in true rest, and our soul stands in God in sure strength, and our soul is naturally rooted in God's endless love.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Prayer: Cyril of Jerusalem

Our actions have a tongue of their own; they have an eloquence of their own, even when the tongue is silent. For deeds prove the lover more than the words.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Spirituality: Founding Anniversary

Ignatius would be proud of us if he lived today. If he surveyed the work of the Jesuits, he would be astonished by our adaptability in different mission circumstances. In the U.S. and the West, we are aging and reducing our size to a more compact number and yet we do not worry about going out of existence. We can be compassionate to ourselves and still search for the new areas of life where the Spirit is present.

We remain in education because it is essential to our founding mission. The education of youth is primary and it creates compassionate, critically thinking citizens of the world and we find new ways to reach into the lives of the poor to give them something fundamental that helps them work towards their salvation - education.

We remain a missionary order going to all parts of the world to bring the good news the Christ offers salvation to them as well, and we remain missionaries in well-established professions - making sure we open new doors to the frontiers. All people, rich and poor, influential and powerless, of every race, gender, and nationality, deserve to hear the Christ desires them.

In this great year, we have been given a Pope with Jesuit formation and we delight in the certain knowledge that he loves us and cares for us. May we be sent pastors who continue to imitate his care for us because we trust that he is imitation Jesus Christ. We are blessed and this is our year of delight.

Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.
Francis Xavier, pray for us.
Peter Faber, pray for us.
Alfonso Salmeron, pray for us.
Diego Lainez, pray for us.
Nicholas Bobadilla, pray for us.
Simon Rodriques, pray for us

Prayer: Columbanus

Be submissive to good, unbending to evil, gentle in generosity, untiring in love, just in all things.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Prayer: Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Only by the means of grace can nature be liberated from its dross, restored to its purity, and made free to receive divine life. And this divine life itself is the inner driving power from which acts of love come forth.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 29, 2013
Amos 6:1, 4-7; Psalm 146; 1 Timothy 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31

Jesus is often rough on those who have money and influence saying that it will be difficult for them to reach the kingdom of heaven. Scripture supports this view, especially in Amos where the complacency of the rich and their lavish self-enjoyment are condemned. One can come away from these readings believing that Jesus views the mere accumulation of money as an evil. He is not saying that. We know many good wealthy people who have worked hard for their money and are great benefactors to the church and the poor. Jesus is always talking about the underlying attitude that we can develop, in whatever state of life we find ourselves, if we turn away from assisting the needy and no longer see them as people who matter. Attitude is everything.

In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, surprisingly we never learn the wealthy man’s name. Names tell us a lot about a person and if we do not know our neighbor’s name, we will not keep them in our consciousness. This may seem cold-hearted, but we alienate a person if we do not bother to learn his or her name. We may not answer our phone if we do not have caller-ID, and if we recognize who is calling, we are more apt to answer. We will not  go out of our way to greet our neighbor at Mass by name if we have never exchanged names earlier. Therefore, we keep them unknown and unfamiliar to ourselves. We do the same at home when we do not learn the janitor or the security guard’s name. Have we sat down with our domestic help and asked them to tell us about their joys or something about their families? Unfortunately, we keep far too many people who are near to us invisible. Jesus is telling us that he knows the plight of the invisible ones much better, and he calls them by name.

This passage always reminds me of Teresa, a middle aged African-American woman I met at a Washington, D.C. hospital when I was learning to be a chaplain. She was dying of AIDS before the life-saving medications were developed. Covered in hardened sores, her immanent death was certain. Doctors, nurses, friends, and family would not go near her because she had unsightly scabs all over her body. In my ignorance, I wanted to avoid contact as well. By chance, the reading for the day was this passage and as I read it, she screamed at the top of her lungs. Nurses and doctors ran to see what happened and when they opened the door, they found her with her arms thrown around me hanging onto me for dear life. She held me and wept. The Gospel message hit home when I read, “and only the dog licked her wounds.” This was all she had for a healing touch. Only her dog saw her as a cherished person and her pet would soothe her and comfort her because no human would go near to her. She was Lazarus – a person so invisible standing right before our eyes. It is easier for us to look away.

We want careful self-protection from socially transmitted illnesses. This is prudent and it makes sense especially at the change of seasons, but we do many things to keep people invisible and separated from us and this is the attitude Jesus is attacking. Listen. We do not change our attitudes over night. It happens when our heart is moved from our experiences. Let us try to discreetly get to know another person better by honoring their stories.

Experiment this week by focusing on the details of another person you casually meet. Look them in the eye and say, “Hello. I have a terrible memory. Can you tell me your name again?” Notice a woman friend’s earrings and let her know they match her ensemble well (if you think they do.) Comment on an acquaintance’s hairstyle if it is changed or if a man received a haircut, let him know you like his appearance. If someone speaks well at a meeting, provide positive feedback on what you liked about her mannerisms. It does not matter how they receive it and it does not even matter what you say. What is important is how you make that person feel from his or her encounter with you. You may not realize who you are for a person, but you might be the only visible source of their great hope exactly when they need it. Even on days when I feel tired and grumpy and want to be left alone, I realize a smile communicates something beyond what I can imagine. In order words, it is not all about me – or you. It is about letting another person know that God loves them through you or me.

After you acknowledge them, listen to the details of the way they respond. As Jesus tells us in the Gospel, we have more than enough resources in heaven and earth to come to know God’s will. We just have to listen. Abraham’s brothers had the law and the prophets. We have someone who is risen from the dead. Learn to listen in new ways to what a person is saying to you. Accept them and let them know you care for them, even if in a passing moment. Those people will no longer feel invisible and will feel that God has sent someone into their world to visit them. Look. Listen. Behold. Notice those important details. Honor. Savor. Appreciate. Give life to the invisible person who is searching for the face of God in human flesh. The life you save may be your own.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The Lord tells the prophet Zechariah that he has great dreams for Jerusalem, which will once again be called the faithful city and the mountain of the Lord of hosts. The Lord also says that he wants many people to come to Jerusalem and seek his favor. All people are to be saved. God holds no people or nation back from his salvation. In Nehemiah, King Artaxerxes is haunted by his dream, which has him sent to his ancestor’s city of Judah to rebuild God’s house. The whole town gathered at the Temple as they called upon Ezra to bring forth the book of the Law of Moses. When we read it, the whole assembly shouted, “Amen. Amen.” The word of God was preached to them. During the Babylonian captivity, the exiles pray, “Justice is with our God.” They lament that they did not follow God’s commands and thereby suffered for their disobedience. The prophet Baruch tells the people that even though the Lord brought disaster upon them, God will bring them enduring joy.

Gospel: An argument arises among the disciples about which of them is he greatest, but Jesus rejects their view of greatness in favor of the most vulnerable ones in society – the little children. As Jesus is determined to go to Jerusalem, he sends disciples ahead of them into the Samaritan territory. They are rejected, and Jesus decides simply to move to another town. Someone can up to Jesus as he was traveling and said, “I will go wherever you go,” and Jesus retorted, “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Jesus then appoints seventy-two disciples and gives them authority to teach, heal, and exorcise demons. He gives them instructions for their conduct. Jesus then laments the cities where he worked so many miracles because their people failed to respond to his message of repentance. The seventy-two return full of joy and Jesus gives thanks to the Father for teaching them simple blessings.

Saints of the Week

September 29: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels are long a part of Christian and Jewish scripture. Michael is the angel who fights against evil as the head of all the angels; Gabriel announces the messiah's arrival and the births of Jesus and John the Baptist; and Raphael is a guardian angel who protects Tobias on his journey. Together, they are venerated to represent all the angels during a three-day period.

September 30: Jerome, priest and doctor (342-420), studied Greek and Latin as a young man after his baptism by Pope Liberius. He learned Hebrew when he became a monk and after ordination he studied scripture with Gregory Nazianzen in Constantinople. He became secretary to the Pope when he was asked to translate the Bible into Latin.

October 1: 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.

October 2: The Guardian Angels are messengers and intermediaries between God and humans. They help us in our struggle against evil and they serve as guardians, the feast we celebrate today. Raphael is one of the guardians written about in the Book of Tobit. A memorial was added to the Roman calendar In 1670 in thanksgiving for their assistance.

October 3: Francis Borgia, S.J. became a duke at age 33. When his wife died and his eight children were grown, he joined the Jesuits. His preaching brought many people to the church and when he served as Superior General, the Society increased dramatically in Spain and Portugal. He established many missions in the new territories.

October 4: Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) was from the wealthy Bernardone family who sold silk cloths. After serving as soldier as a prisoner of war, Francis chose to serve God and the poor. He felt called to repair God's house, which he thought was a church. His father was angry that he used family money so he disinherited him. He began to preach repentance and recruited others to his way of life. His order is known for poverty, simplicity, humble service, and delighting in creation.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Sep 29, 1558. In the Gesu, Rome, and elsewhere, the Jesuits began to keep Choir, in obedience to an order from Paul IV. This practice lasted less than a year, until the pope's death in August, 1559.
·      Sep 30, 1911. President William Howard Taft visited Saint Louis University and declared the football season open.
·      Oct 1, 1546. Isabel Roser was released from her Jesuit vows by St Ignatius after eight months.
·      Oct 2, 1964. Fr. General Janssens suffered a stroke and died three days later. During his generalate, the Society grew from 53 to 85 provinces, and from 28,839 to 35,968 members.
·      Oct 3, 1901. In France, religious persecution broke out afresh with the passing of Waldeck Rousseau's "Loi d'Association."
·      Oct 4, 1820. In Rome, great troubles arose before and during the Twentieth General Congregation, caused by Fr. Petrucci's intrigues. He sought to wreck the Society and was deposed from his office as Vicar General, though supported by Cardinal della Genga (afterwards Leo XII).

·      Oct 5, 1981. In a letter to Father General Arrupe, Pope John Paul II appointed Paolo Dezza as his personal delegate to govern the Society of Jesus, with Fr. Pittau as coadjutor.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Prayer: John Paul II

How can it be that even today there are people still dying of hunger? Condemned to illiteracy? Lacking the most basic medical care? Without a roof over their heads? Christians must learn to make their act of faith in Christ by discerning his voice in their cry for help that rises from this world of poverty.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Spirituality: Constitutions III - Prayer and Union with God

All should make diligent efforts to keep their intentions right, not only in regard to their state of life but also in all particular details. In these they should always aim at serving and pleasing the Divine Goodness for its own sake and because of the incomparable love and benefits with which God has anticipated us, rather than for our fear of punishments or hope of rewards, although they ought to draw help also from them. Further, they should often be exhorted to seek God our Lord in all things, stripping off from themselves the love of creatures to the extent that this is possible, in order to turn their love upon the Creator of them, by loving him in all his creatures and all of them in him, in conformity with his holy and divine will.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Prayer: Pope John Paul II

The Eucharist is a mystery of presence, the perfect fulfillment of Jesus' promise to remain with us until the end of the world.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Prayer: John of the Cross

Live in faith and hope, though it be in darkness, for in this darkness God protects the soul. Cast your care upon God for you are God's and God will not forget you.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Prayer: Paulinus of Nola

It is a loving act to show sadness when our dear ones are torn from us, but it is a holy act to be joyful through hope and trust in God's promises.

Spirituality: A Jesuit reflects on the Pope's Interview

A Jesuit reflects on the Jesuit pope’s interview by Jesuits
Senior analyst, National Catholic Reporter, NCRonline.org, @ThomasReeseSJ

As a Jesuit, I was overwhelmed by the interview of Pope Francis by my Jesuit brother, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit journal based in Rome. Congratulations to Antonio, my former colleagues at America, and the 14 other Jesuit publications for this extraordinary exclusive. That all of these Jesuits could keep such a coup secret until publication almost makes me believe in Jesuit conspiracy theories.

In the interview, Pope Francis speaks from his heart as one Jesuit to another. While reading the interview, I felt like I was in a Jesuit living room having a conversation with a brother. The interview demands careful reading and reflection, but let me share with you my first reactions.

In the interview, Pope Francis explains why he was labeled a conservative by many Jesuits in Latin America. He confesses it was his own fault.

In my experience as superior in the Society, to be honest…, I did not always do the necessary consultation. And this was not a good thing. My style of government as a Jesuit at the beginning had many faults. That was a difficult time for the Society: an entire generation of Jesuits had disappeared. Because of this I found myself provincial when I was still very young. I was only 36 years old. That was crazy. I had to deal with difficult situations, and I made my decisions abruptly and by myself….

My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative. I lived a time of great interior crisis when I was in Cordova. To be sure, I have never been like Blessed Imelda [a goody-goody], but I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.

But unlike many, Bergoglio learned from his failures and followed a completely different style of governing as archbishop in Buenos Aires. That some Jesuits never recognized this conversion and failed to embrace him as our brother is our sin.

This method of learning from one’s mistakes is very Ignatian and reflects how imbued Francis is by the spirituality of St. Ignatius Loyola as experienced in his Spiritual Exercises. Pope Francis may sometimes look like a Franciscan but he always thinks like a Jesuit.

The themes of the Spiritual Exercises come up repeatedly in this interview: knowing oneself as a sinner embraced by God’s merciful love, discernment in decision making, finding God in all things, life as a pilgrimage with the people of God, etc.

Discernment is going to be important to him as pope. Decisions will not be deducted from ideological positions, rather “great principles must be embodied in the circumstances of place, time and people.” He then quoted John XXIII with regard to the government of the church, “See everything; turn a blind eye to much; correct a little.”

He acknowledged that discernment takes time. In words that could have been addressed to me in my impatience, he said:

[M]any think that changes and reforms can take place in a short time. I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change. And this is the time of discernment. Sometimes discernment instead urges us to do precisely what you had at first thought you would do later. And that is what has happened to me in recent months. Discernment is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen, the feeling of the people, especially the poor….

But I am always wary of decisions made hastily. I am always wary of the first decision, that is, the first thing that comes to my mind if I have to make a decision. This is usually the wrong thing. I have to wait and assess, looking deep into myself, taking the necessary time. The wisdom of discernment redeems the necessary ambiguity of life and helps us find the most appropriate means, which do not always coincide with what looks great and strong.

And yet, seeking and finding God in all things is still an area of uncertainty. One stands with humility before God.

If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. For me, this is an important key. If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself.

When asked about his vocation, Francis said there were three things that attracted him to the Jesuits: “the missionary spirit, community and discipline.” I can relate to that. Like him, “I did not see myself as a priest on my own. I need a community.” I feel sorry for him because it is going to be hard for him to have that community as pope.

His vision of the Society of Jesus is centered in Christ and his church.

The Society of Jesus can be described only in narrative form. Only in narrative form do you discern, not in a philosophical or theological explanation, which allows you rather to discuss. The style of the Society is not shaped by discussion, but by discernment, which of course presupposes discussion as part of the process. The mystical dimension of discernment never defines its edges and does not complete the thought. The Jesuit must be a person whose thought is incomplete, in the sense of open-ended thinking. There have been periods in the Society in which Jesuits have lived in an environment of closed and rigid thought, more instructive-ascetic than mystical….

No, the Jesuit always thinks, again and again, looking at the horizon toward which he must go, with Christ at the center. This is his real strength. And that pushes the Society to be searching, creative and generous. So now, more than ever, the Society of Jesus must be contemplative in action, must live a profound closeness to the whole church as both the ‘people of God’ and ‘holy mother the hierarchical church.’

He acknowledges that this can get Jesuits in trouble. He recalls the Chinese rites controversy, the Malabar rites, the Reductions in Paraguay, and more recently the conflict with Pope Paul VI over making all Jesuits fully professed of four vows.

Francis then goes on to explain how he sees St. Ignatius’s exhortation to “think with the church.” “The image of the church I like is that of the holy, faithful people of God,” he said.

[T]he church is the people of God on the journey through history, with joys and sorrows. Thinking with the church, therefore, is my way of being a part of this people. And all the faithful, considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief, and the people display this infallibilitas in credendo, this infallibility in believing, through a supernatural sense of the faith of all the people walking together…. When the dialogue among the people and the bishops and the pope goes down this road and is genuine, then it is assisted by the Holy Spirit…. We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church.

But he is quick to note that he should not be understood to be talking about a form of “populism.” “No; it is the experience of ‘holy mother the hierarchical church,’ as St. Ignatius called it, the church as the people of God, pastors and people together. The church is the totality of God’s people.”

But he has no patience with restorationists.

If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists —they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies.

For Francis, three words sum up the mission of Jesuits today: “Dialogue, discernment, frontier.” On the last point, he quoted Paul VI’s speech about the Jesuits: “Wherever in the church—even in the most difficult and extreme fields, in the crossroads of ideologies, in the social trenches—there has been and is now conversation between the deepest desires of human beings and the perennial message of the Gospel, Jesuits have been and are there.”

Reading this interview gave me greater insight into my Jesuit vocation and into our Jesuit pope. What is clear is that he does not think like a classicist who sees the world in unchanging categories. He is a story teller like Jesus, not a philosopher. He thinks in narrative not philosophical principles. He thinks like a pastor understanding the history of the church but wanting to move with God’s people confidently into the future. He trusts that the Spirit is alive and well in the people of God.

I have never been prouder to be a Jesuit or prouder of my church or more surprised by the Spirit.