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Friday, January 31, 2014

Prayer: John Vianney

We blaspheme when we perform actions, which are directly opposed to the goodness of God – as when we despair of our salvation and yet are not willing to take the necessary steps to obtain it; as when we are angered because others receive more graces than we do. Take care never to allow yourself to fall into these kinds of sins because they are so very horrible.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Prayer: Frances Xavier Cabrini

One whose soul is in disorder, whose mind is wandering with vain, useless thoughts, cannot pray. To pray, we must unite the flesh and its feelings to the soul with its imagination, memory, and will.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 2, 2014
Malachi 3:1-4; Psalm 24; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40

One of my theology teachers would always conclude his lecture saying “Onward and upwards.” I think of it most days, especially when many people are going through challenging periods, and that is just about every day. Sometimes we have to learn to say goodbye to times past and move forward into a new day. Letting go is not easy because we do not adequately deal with our feelings. Frequently, we want to talk at great length about the past so we can explain our feelings, but putting the past aside will help you move to a new present and future.

The mother and father of Jesus encounter two elderly people who serve as symbols of the past when they go to the Temple to consecrate their son to the Lord in accordance with the Mosaic Law. They first meet Simeon who waits for news of hope for the future of Israel and he sees it fulfilled in the person of Jesus. He knows it is time to gracefully exit the stage and to accept that a new time has begun. He is able to let go with ease and he actively brings about the death of his former vigilance because it is no longer needed in this new era.  

They then encounter Anna, an elderly widowed prophet, who stayed in the temple night and day until she met Joseph and Mary and held the boy Jesus in her arms. For the first time in her life, she was able to go home and to give up her devotional practices. They no longer served any constructive purpose. The Law and the Prophets were being fulfilled in her presence. A different kind of life is to be lived when the past is fulfilled.

Jesus is the one who breaks from the past and ushers in a new era. He is able to retain the promises of a former time so the present times can flourish. All that we really have is the “now,” which is donated as a gift. All the negativity and stuff that detracts from actualizing the promise is left behind to perish because they are temporal realities that do not contribute to living joyfully in the kingdom. We must move forward every day.

The church is moving forward under Pope Francis and for some this comes with confusion and pain. Practices and styles that once dominated church teachings are left to perish because they no longer serve the common good of the kingdom. A new way, a new style, is ready to flourish and it is taking hold of the world with remarkable ease. This is a sign that it is blessed with God’s grace.

What is in your past that needs to be left behind? Too often we needlessly cling to something that helped us survive. It may have worked, but if we do not let go of it, we are not going to mature into healthy individuals. We have to take steps that give us courage and energy to our actions as we boldly emerge into a new way of living our Christian life. Each person must actively reject the faith of his or her parents and family and even the church in order to come back to it and make it one’s own. It means painfully breaking with the past so we can shape and own a future that is ours. Do not look back with great emotions or anxiety because it is your task as a maturing Christian adult to claim who you are. View the past warmly as Simeon and Anna did and let it go as graciously as they did.

Each of us must choose the manner in which we live our faith. Assess where you are: are you timid and frightened?; bound by choices you have made in the past?; lukewarm, complacent and nominally a Christian?, or do you possess the spark, the fire that kindles other fires? Do you have boldness and courage? I quote some words from Karl Rahner, S.J. that continues to inspire me.

Let us step forth on the adventurous journey to the heart of God! Let us run! Let us forget what lies behind us. The whole future lies open to us. Every possibility of life is still open, because we can still find God, still find more. Nothingness is over and done with for the person who runs to meet God, the God whose smallest reality is greater than our boldest illusion, the God who is eternal youth and in whose country there dwells no resignation, no despair. Why shouldn’t we believe and go on this journey? Why shouldn’t we look to the light of Christ in the expanses of our hearts? Why not follow the Light?  (– Really, what have we to lose?)

            Today is the day we bring candles to the church to be blessed – as fires, as lights, that will brightly illumine the world. These flames represent us and they represent the Lord’s promise to us. Today is the day we present ourselves to the Lord, just as the parents of Jesus presented him. How much of yourself are you able to present? Let us try to present our best selves, the goodness that we know we are. Let us respect the past for bringing us where we are, and let us let it go. Let us present our hopes and dreams and visions and our imaginings. Let us offer our good thoughts, our struggles for unity, our work in building the kingdom. Let us bring forward our moments of joy and our beautiful souls. Let us stand before our Lord and be gazed upon for the beauty and wonder we possess and let us walk hand in hand with the Lord ‘onwards and upwards’ towards a new day.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: An informant told David that the children of Israel transferred their allegiance to his son Absalom. As David hid on the Mount of Olives, Shimei, son of Gera, taunted him, but David would not touch him because he might have been sent by the Lord to speak the truth. Absolom mounted an attack of David’s servants, but his hair caught fast in a tree and hung from a terebinth. Someone stabbed him in the heart with pikes and killed him. David mourned. David registered the people and counted 800,000 military men in Israel and 500,000 in Judah. He then repented because he was relying upon the strength of men and not God. He asked that a plague be sent upon the people as punishment for his sins. When King David’s death drew near, he gave instructions to Solomon to follow the ways of God and observe the statues and decrees as written in the Law of Moses. After Solomon becomes king, songs were composed to honor David and his mighty feast as their military and civil leader. The Lord asked Solomon to ask for something and the Lord would give it to them. The Lord was pleased with Solomon’s response because he asked for an understanding heart to judge God’s people and to distinguish right from wrong.

Gospel: While near the sea, Jesus went to the territory of the Gerasenes where he met a man ravaged by evil spirits. After exorcising him and sending the spirits into swine, people kicked Jesus out of their territory. Jesus cures the woman who hemorrhaged for 12 years and he raised a 12-year-old girl to life to show that faith in him is enough to perform extraordinary deeds. Jesus departed from there and returned home where he taught in the synagogue. The people could only see that he was the carpenter’s son; he told them that a prophet is without honor in his hometown. Jesus calls Twelve men to himself and gives them authority over unclean spirits. He gives them instructions in their mission to proclaim the kingdom of God is at hand. King Herod heard about Jesus and inquired about meeting him because his fame had spread. John was arrested because he spoke publicly about the King’s illicit marriage to Herodius, his brother’s wife. John was later killed after spending time in prison. The Apostles gathered to report about what Jesus had done and taught. Jesus calls them away to a deserted place where he can relax with them and teach them.

Saints of the Week

February 2: 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.

February 3: 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.

February 3: 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.

February 4: John de Brito, S.J., priest, religious, and martyr (1647-1693), was a Portuguese Jesuit missionary who served in India and was named “The Portuguese Francis Xavier” to the Indians. De Brito was martyred because he counseled a Maravan prince during his conversion to give up all but one of his wives. One of the wives was a niece to the neighboring king, who set up a round of persecutions against priests and catechists.

February 5: Agatha, martyr, (d. 251), died in Sicily during the Diocletian persecution after she refused to give up her faith when sent to a brothel for punishment. She was subsequently tortured. Sicilians believe her intercession stopped Mount Etna from erupting the year after her burial. She has been sought as a protector against fire and in mentioned in the First Eucharistic prayer.

February 6: Paul Miki and Companions, martyrs (d. 1597), were martyred in Nagasaki, Japan for being Christians. Miki was a Jesuit brother and a native Japanese who was killed alongside 25 clergy, religious, and laypeople. They were suspended on crosses and killed by spears thrust into their hearts. Remnants of the Christian community continued through baptism without any priestly leadership. It was discovered when Japan was reopened in 1865.

February 8: Jerome Emiliani (1481-1537), was a Venetian soldier who experienced a call to be a priest during this imprisonment as a captor. He devoted his work to the education of orphans, abandoned children, the poor and hungry. He founded an order to help in his work, but he died during a plague while caring for the sick.

February 8: Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947) was a Sudanese who was sold as a slave to the Italian Consul, who treated her with kindness. She was baptized in Italy and took the name Josephine. Bakhita means fortunate. She was granted freedom according to Italian law and joined the Canossian Daughters of Charity where she lived simply as a cook, seamstress, and doorkeeper. She was known for her gentleness and compassion.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      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.
·      Feb 5, 1833. The first provincial of Maryland, Fr. William McSherry, was appointed.
·      Feb 6, 1612. The death of Christopher Clavius, one of the greatest mathematicians and scientists of the Society.
·      Feb 7, 1878. At Rome, Pius IX died. He was sincerely devoted to the Society; when one of the cardinals expressed surprise that he could be so attached to an order against which even high ecclesiastics brought serious charges, his reply was: "You have to be pope to know the worth of the Society."
·      Feb 8, 1885. In Chicago, Fr. Isidore Bourdreaux, master of novices at Florissant, Missouri, from 1857 to 1870, died. He was the first scholastic novice to enter the Society from any of the colleges in Missouri.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Prayer: John of Capistrano

Those who are called to the table of the Lord must glow with the brightness that comes from a good example of a praiseworthy and blameless life. By the brightness of their holiness they must bright light and serenity to all who gaze upon them. Their own lives should be an example to others, showing how they must live in the house of the Lord.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Prayer: Francis of Assisi

Jesus is happy to come with us, as truth is happy to be spoken, as life to be lived, as light to be lit, as love is to be loved, as joy to be given, as peace is to be spread.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Prayer: Francis de Sales

We must be patient not only under sickness, but further, we must bear the particular complaints which God sends us; take the place where God wills us to be, among those with whom God surrounds us and under the privations God appoints for us, and so on with all other trials.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Prayer: Benedict XVI

Every form of gift is, in a word, a sign of the presence of God, because it leads to the fundamental discovery that, at the origin, everything is given. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Prayer: Hildegard of Bingen

Glance at the sun. See the moon and the stars. Gaze at the beauty of the earth’s greenings. Now, think: what delight God gives to humankind with all these things.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Spirituality: Richard Rohr, "The Naked Now"

The traditional and most universal word to describe a different access to truth was simply to 'to pray about something". But that lovely work "prayer" has been so deadened by pious use and misuse that we now have to describe this different mental attitude with new words. I am going to introduce a different word here, so you can perceive prayer in a fresh way, and perhaps appreciate what we mean by contemplation. The word is "resonance." Prayer is actually setting out a tuning fork. All you can really do in the spiritual life is to get tuned to receive the always present message. Once you are tuned, you will receive, and it as nothing do to with worthiness or the group you belong to but only the inner resonance and a capacity for mutuality. The Sender is absolutely and always present and broadcasting; the only change is with the receiver station.

Prayer is indeed the way to make contact with God/Ultimate reality, but it is not an attempt to change God's mind about us or about events. Such attempts are what the secularists make fun of  -- and rightly so. It is primarily about changing your mind so that things like infinity, mystery and forgiveness can resound with us. The small mind cannot see Great Things because the two are on two different frequencies or channels, as it were. the Big Mind can know big things, but we must change channels. Like will know like.

With prayer, the best you can do is know by comparison, calculation, and from the limited viewpoint of "you.". Prayer, as very traditionally understood, knows reality in a totally different way. Instead of presenting a guarded self to the moment, true prayer stops defending or promoting its ideas and feelings, lets go of an antagonistic attitudes or fears, and waits for, expects, and receives guidance from Another. It offers itself "nakedly" to the now, that your inner and aroused lover can meet the Lover. Now you surely see why you have to allow some major surgery in your own heart, mind and yes to even pray at all.   Prayer is about changing you, not about changing God.

Most simply put, as we've seen, prayer is something that happens to you, much more than anything you privately do.  It is an allowing of the Big Self more than an assertion of the small self. Eventually you will find yourself preferring to say, 'Prayer happened, and I was there" more than "I prayed today". All you know is that you are being led, being guided, being loved, being used, being prayed through -- and you are no longer in the drivers seat.  God stops being an object of attention like any other object in the world, and becomes at some level your own "I am". You start knowing through, with and in Somebody Else. Your little "I Am" becomes "We are". Please trust me on this. It might be the most important thing I am saying in this book.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 26, 2014
Isaiah 8:23-9:3; Psalm 27; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Matthew 4:12-23

When Jesus began his mission to proclaim the kingdom of heaven is at hand, he helped people that could only see doom and gloom become enlightened. They were now able to see every situation in life filled with potential and promise rather than seeing obstacles and stumbling blocks. The proverbial glass that was half empty was now half full; in fact, it was overflowing with capacities that were once hidden. Jesus unleashed optimism for the world because he taught us that God is active and is very concerned with the realities we face in life. Life was reordered because we placed confidence in God and in the words of Jesus and we knew that we had a trustworthy advocate on our side. The great powers of the world no longer weighed us down.

In Matthew’s Gospel, immediately after Jesus begins to preach, he calls two sets of brothers in the fishing trade, Simon and Andrew, and James and John, to join his mission. They leave their professions and follow him in this great enterprise. The Jesus movement begins in earnest. Other disciples were later added as they taught and cured every disease and illness among the people. While in Corinth, Paul stresses unity among the believers, that they be of the same mind and in the same purpose. He points out the rivalries that set in and urges believers to forget their factions and to unify under Christ. In fact, if you listen to the prayerful words in the mass, you will find the Church stresses unity above all other concerns.

We are a church filled with diverse cultures and interests. Our goal is to be unified in common mind and purpose even though we represent different traditions, experiences, races, and backgrounds. You can bet that the disciples of Jesus had natural animosities to one another. Simon, a zealot does not make easy peace with a compromiser; Matthew, a traitorous collaborating tax collector is his natural enemy. Simon is chosen over his brother; James and John and their mother vie for power and anger the other ten. Judas controls the purse strings because he is trusted to act with integrity. The diverse interests and opinions of the Twelve and their many followers conflicted many times, but they had one thing in common: they agreed to follow the promise of Jesus and this settled all other matters.

Our local church community has to let go of the simple-minded ways we approach service to the larger community. We have to put the community before ourselves. In any church across the world we will find these types of people: the untrained musician who will not give up her style of playing guitar despite the protests of the community because her pride will be hurt if others find out she does not have foundational musical skills (The great secret is very public anyways); the unbending person who takes up the weekly offertory in his own peculiar way because it is one aspect of life where he can contribute and exert control; the organizer of socials who demands that others cannot eat or have fun at a party until the game she wants everyone to play is finished; the reader who makes the same mistakes every week  because he will not listen to proper protocol.

These peculiar behaviors are numerous and hold the community back from coming together as one body. However, despite their fierce resistance, the church will move forward because the church is larger-minded. Small-minded people stay in their place and are therefore left behind; large-hearted people move forward and see the possibilities for growth. The most helpful question a person can ask their priest is this: I would like to be generous in offering my service to the church. What is the best way the church can use my gifts? Believe me, every good gift will be used for God’s greater glory and the generous person will find a place where he or she can thrive and be very happy. Being a “person with and for others” brings exponential happiness.

I’ll read a quote from the early deliberations that started the Jesuits way back in 1540. Knowing that their dedication to serve the Church and Christ, the Lord, would undoubtedly separate them from one another, the first companions discerned if they should somehow bind themselves to one another. Here is their response. 

In the end, we established the affirmative side of the question, that is, that in as much as our most kind and affectionate Lord had deigned to gather us together and unite us, men so spiritually weak and from such diverse geographical and cultural backgrounds, we ought not split apart what God has gathered and united; on the contrary, we ought day by day to strengthen and stabilize our union, rendering ourselves one body with special concern for each other, in order to effect the greater spiritual good of our fellow men. For united spiritual strength is more robust and braver in any arduous enterprise than it would be if segmented.

The disciples of Jesus may have disagreed on many topics, just as this community of faith does. The purpose is not to change the other person, but to offer freedom and to respect what God is doing. God brings us together. God gathers and unites. We have to step out of ourselves, sometimes out of our small-minded ways, to strengthen and stabilize our union, and show special care for one another. This is for our spiritual good. Help God in his enterprise. Get out of your own way and build up one another in freedom and genuine care and service. May our prayer be that of Jesus: that we may be one, as you and I are one.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The tribal elders approached David in Hebron and petitioned him to become their King. He accepted at age 30 and ruled for another forty years. His first crusade was to capture Jerusalem from the Jebusites who inhabited the region, but David took Zion and his strength increasingly grew. David went to bring the ark of God from Obed-deom to the City of David. After the ark was set in its place within the tent David pitched for it, he danced and offered sacrifices and fed the entire multitude of Israel in thanksgiving. That night, the Lord said to Nathan, the prophet: Tell David not to worry about making me a house of cedar or stone. My house shall be the House of David and my kingdom shall endure forever. David, in the presence of Nathan and the whole court, asked for God’s blessing on his house. On a war conquest against the Ammonites, David say the beautiful Bathsheba bathing and he had relations with her. Since she was married to Uriah the Hittite, he ordered Uriah to be sent to the dangerous front lines because he refused to have sexual relations with his wife while on duty. Uriah was killed in the fighting and he never knew his wife had a son through King David. Nathan told a parable of a rich man who treated a poor man with jealousy and greed. David reacted and wanted to strike down the rich man, but Nathan said, “You are the man.” The blame is all on you. David realized he sinned against the Lord. When he realized the child to be born to him would die, he remained in vigil praying for the life of the child. He would not take food and he lay on sackcloth all day.

Gospel: Scribes accused Jesus of getting his power from Beelzebul because he drove out demons, but Jesus points out that  a house divided against itself cannot stand. As Jesus was teaching inside a house, his mother and brothers arrived at the house. Disturbed, they wanted him to come out and stop bringing dishonor to the family, but Jesus retorted, “Those who do the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Jesus began to teach by the sea and he told them a parable of the sower and the seed. He explained the parable to them to depict the seed is the word of God and needs to fall on suitably rich soil in order to grow. Jesus asks, “Is a lamp to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed?” He says, “Nothing is hidden except to be made visible.” The measure with which you measure is the one that will be given back to you. He explained the parables to the disciples in private, and he taught the crowds with these meaning-laden stories. As he finished teaching, he crossed to the other side of the sea by boat. As he slept in the boat, a violent storm whipped up and when he disciples awoke him, he stilled the storm, which raised questions in their minds about his source and origin.

Saints of the Week

January 26: 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.

January 27: Angela Merici (1474-1540), was the founder of the Ursuline nuns. Relatives raised her 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.

January 28: 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.

January 31: 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.
This Week in Jesuit History

·      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.
·      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.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Prayer: Vincent Pallotti

Remember that the Christian life is one of action; not of speech and daydreams. Let there be few words and many deeds, and let them be done well.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Poem: The Presence of Snow" by Elieen Spinelli

In the presence of snow,
become flowers,
feather beds.
In the presence of snow,
fall to wings,
become angels.
becomes a familiar song,

in the presence of snow.