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Sunday, August 31, 2014

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 in true rest, and our soul stands in God in sure strength, and our soul is naturally rooted in God in endless love.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Pope Francis: Dialogue and Attraction

Dialogue is so important, but to dialogue two things are necessary: one's identity as a starting point and empathy toward others. If I am not sure of my identity and I go to dialogue, I end up swapping my faith. You cannot dialogue without starting from your own identity, and empathy, that is not condemning a priori. Every man, every woman has something of their own to give us; every man, every woman has their own story, their own situation and we have to listen to it. Then the prudence of the Holy Spirit will tell us how to respond. Starting from one’s own identity for dialogue, but dialogue is not to do apologetics, although sometimes you have to do it, when we are asked questions that require explanation. Dialogue is a human thing. It is hearts and souls that dialogue, and this is so important! Do not be afraid to dialogue with anyone. It was said of a saint, joking somewhat – I do not remember, I think it was St. Philip Neri, but I'm not sure – that he was also able to dialogue even with the devil. Why? Because he had the freedom to listen all people, but starting from his own identity. He was so sure, but to be sure of one’s identity does not mean proselytizing. Proselytism is a trap, which even Jesus condemns a bit, en passant, when he speaks to the Pharisees and the Sadducees: “You who go around the world to find a proselyte and then you remember that ...” But, it's a trap. And Pope Benedict has a beautiful expression. He said it in Aparecida but I believe he repeated elsewhere: “The Church grows not by proselytism, but by attraction.” And what's the attraction? It is this human empathy, which is then guided by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, what will be the profile of the priest of this century, which is so secularized? A man of creativity, who follows the commandment of God – “create things”; a man of transcendence, both with God in prayer and with the others always; a man who is approachable and who is close to people. To distance people is not priestly and people are fed up of this attitude, and yet it happens all the same. But he who welcomes people and is close to them and dialogues with them does so because he feels certain of his identity, which leads him to have an heart open to empathy. This is what comes to me to say to you in response to your question.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Prayer: Marguerite d'Youville

All the wealth in the world cannot be compared with the happiness of living together happily united.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Prayer: Hilary of Poitiers

In every way, Christ teaches us to be like him in humility and goodness. In weakening and breaking the impulses of our rampart passions, he strengthens us by the example of his leniency, by granting us in faith, pardon for all our sins.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 31, 2014
Jeremiah 20:7-9; Psalm 63; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27

Do you think you can avert suffering? You cannot. Jesus, as he matures in his understanding of his mission, plainly realizes this truth. After his best friends declare in unveiled words that he is the strong deliverer, the Christ of God, Jesus tells them he will suffer greatly, be killed, and on the third day raised from the dead. He understands that ministry as a servant of God will lead to risky challenges and unjust assaults from those who are on your side. It is understandable the enemies do this, but our greatest enemies were once our closest friends. This stings. Jeremiah is coming to realize this. Perhaps Jeremiah is a wide-eyed optimist at the start of his ministry, but he finally comprehends that ministry places him in a vulnerable situation.

We can easily forgive Peter for sticking up for Jesus when he tells him he is going to die. Most of us would naturally mimic Peter’s words as a show of support for a good friend for whom we wish no harm. We would have questioned his friendship if Peter didn’t stand up for his friend publicly. The words of Jesus back to him are harsh and he could have expressed his thoughts more kindly, but his stark manner sharpens the focus on his impending suffering. Peter and Jesus express charged words, but they fail to emotionally communicate. The disconnection further exacerbates the suffering of each. Suffering breaks relationships apart.

Many of us think that Jesus was fine with suffering because it was preordained by God as part of his mission, but believing this means that we fail to see the humanity of Jesus. How did he suffer? A major point is that those who were in the highest seats of religious judgment reject him. Ouch! That hurts. Those who were speaking for God reject him. These are the people who are the best suited to understand his message, and they not only cast him aside as a bandit, but they tell him his life has no value. As the Gospel illustrates, even the best friends of Jesus misunderstand him often. This is painful because often a person will focus upon the fracture in the friendship and lose sight of the more important meaning. We all know of a person who makes an emotional mountain out of a molehill because someone looked at him or her in a way they did not fully understand. This person wants everyone to attend to the drama, and the meaningful message gets lost.

Suffering puts us in a coffin that suffocates us. It can make us narcissistic because all we think of is our pain and we cannot step outside ourselves to consider the needs of others. We want our pain acknowledged because it commands such great attention. Being unable to effectively communicate with others increases the pain because when we do not connect with another, we fail to be seen, and heard, and known. Everyone who suffers wants to be understood. The soul begs to be honored.

Fear increases the drama of suffering. Though Jesus knows that he will be killed, he cannot know the horrifying bumps and bruises he faces along the way. Fear is a projection into the unknown and it is terrifying in its own right. Our worst fears are potent and they cause our minds to race and swirl around in chaos. Yes, Jesus fears the excruciating pain of the cross, but the psychic and relational fears are equally potent. The one in this state needs kindness and compassion that reconnects them to others. In our faith, we want Jesus to be the strong One who does not have valid emotional experiences. We need him to be strong because we are not, but what he needs is for us to understand what he experiences.

We better get a grip on our emotional life before we confront our Cross because the world gets turned upside down when we suffer. It is extremely important to give kindness and compassion to others now because we might seriously need it in the future. Paul suggests that we offer ourselves as spiritual sacrifices (sacrifices temporarily hurt) and be transformed by the renewal of our minds to discern the will of God. We have to balance our needs while keeping our eyes focused upon the suffering of others.

Everyone you pass on the street suffers in some way and wants to be acknowledged. Be kind to them. Be kind while you are walking down the street, driving in the car, and doing your daily business. Yes, some people are selfish and self-centered and want everyone to treat them right while they treat others terribly. Be kind to them because they need it. Let their behavior go. You cannot change them, but your kindness might give them something to think about. It feels good to receive and it is even better to give. Your kindness will ease someone’s suffering enough so they think about others instead of themselves. Your kindness reconnects them back to humanity – and to the God who knows suffering all too well.

 Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:
Monday: (1 Corinthians) I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling and my message was not persuasive words of wisdom, but a demonstration of spirit and power.
Tuesday: The Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God. The Spirit we received helps us understand the things freely given us by God.
Wednesday: You are still a people who are taking baby steps in the spirit and must be treated delicately. In the end, we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
Thursday: Let no one deceive him(her)self. Do not boast about human beings. The one who is wise in this age becomes a fool in the spirit so as to become wise.
Friday: We are servants of Christ and stewards of the mystery, who are to be found trustworthy. Do not make judgments before the appointed time for the Lord will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts.
Saturday: Learn from me and Apollos not to go beyond what is written so that none of you will be inflated with pride in favor of one person over another. God made Apostles as the last of all – fools on Christ’s account, like the world’s rubbish. I am saying this to admonish you and instruct you in the ways of Christ.

Monday: (Luke 4) The grown up Jesus goes into the synagogue on a Sabbath, reads from the scroll of Isaiah where it is written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” When he finishes reading, all eyes were upon him, he declares the reading fulfilled in their hearing, and many people reject him.
Tuesday: Then Jesus goes down to Capernaum and on the Sabbath he taught with authority. A man with spirit of an unclean demon protests, “Jesus of Nazareth, what have you to do with us? Have you come to destroy us?” The demon was thrown out of the man at the command of Jesus.
Wednesday: After leaving the synagogue, he goes into Simon’s hour and healed Simon’s mother who lay sick with a fever. At sunset, villagers brought friends and relatives who were afflicted with various diseases to be cured. At morn, Jesus says, “I must go to the other towns to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom.”
Thursday: While the crowd presses on Jesus as he stands by Lake Gennesaret, he gets into the boat owned by Peter and begins to teach. He tells Peter to go out a bit, drop the line to catch many fish, and Peter is surprised with the large catch. He tells Jesus, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.”
Friday: The scribes and Pharisees question Jesus over his disciples’ practices of not fasting. Jesus tells them the one does not fast when the bridegroom is with them.
Saturday:  As Jesus is walking through a field of grain, they ate the heads of grain, which is unlawful on the Sabbath. Jesus recounts the example of David and says, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

Saints of the Week

September 3: Gregory the Great (540-604) was the chief magistrate in Rome and resigned to become a monk. He was the papal ambassador to Constantinople, abbot, and pope. His charity and fair justice won the hearts of many. He protected Jews and synthesized Christian wisdom. He described the duties of bishops and promoted beautiful liturgies that often incorporated chants the bear his name.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Aug. 31, 1581: In St. John's Chapel within the Tower of London, a religious discussion took place between St. Edmund Campion, suffering from recent torture, and some Protestant ministers.
·      Sep 1, 1907. The Buffalo Mission was dissolved and its members were sent to the New York and Missouri Provinces and the California Mission.
·      Sep 2, 1792. In Paris, ten ex-Jesuits were massacred for refusing to take the Constitutional oath. Also in Paris seven other fathers were put to death by the Republicans, among them Frs. Peter and Robert Guerin du Rocher.
·      Sep 3, 1566. Queen Elizabeth visited Oxford and heard the 26-year-old Edmund Campion speak. He was to meet her again as a prisoner, brought to hear her offer of honors or death.
·      Sep 4, 1760. At Para, Brazil, 150 men of the Society were shipped as prisoners, reaching Lisbon on December 2. They were at once exiled to Italy and landed at Civita Vecchia on January 17, 1761.
·      Sep 5, 1758. The French Parliament issued a decree condemning Fr. Busembaum's Medulla Theologiae Moralis.

·      Sep 6, 1666. The Great Fire of London broke out on this date. There is not much the Jesuits have not been blamed for, and this was no exception. It was said to be the work of Papists and Jesuits. King Charles II banished all the fathers from England.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Prayer: Jane de Chantal

We think not enough of this truth: that God is present with us; that God sees our thoughts, even long before we have them; that God knows what we think and shall think better than we ourselves; that God sees the folds and recesses of our hearts.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Prayer: Basil

The Lord does not want sinners to die but wishes them to repent and find life. If you have fallen, then pick yourself up; if you have sinned, then you must repent. Do not remain on the path of sin, but get off it. Once you have corrected and have groaned in pain, then you will be saved, for it is only after sweat and toil that you can be restored to health and find salvation.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Spirituality: Pope Francis on Forgiveness

Two years ago, a priest went to Argentina as a missionary. He was from the Diocese of Buenos Aires and he went to a diocese in the south, to an area where for years they had no priest, and evangelicals had arrived. He told me that he went to a woman who had been the teacher of the people and then the principle of the village school. This lady sat him down and began to insult him, not with bad words, but to insult him forcefully: “You abandoned us, we left us alone, and I, who  need of God's Word, had to go to Protestant worship and I became Protestant”. This young priest, who is meek, who is one who prays, when the woman finished her discourse, said: "Madam, just one word: forgiveness. Forgive us, forgive us. We abandoned the flock." And the tone of the woman changed. However, she remained Protestant and the priest did not go into the argument of which was the true religion. In that moment, you could not do this. In the end, the lady began to smile and said: “Father, would you like some coffee?” – “Yes, let’s have a coffee.” And when the priest was about to leave, she said: “Stop here, Father. Come.” And she led him into the bedroom, opened the closet and there was the image of Our Lady: “You should know that I never abandoned her. I hid her because of the pastor, but she’s in the home.” It is a story which teaches how proximity, meekness brought about this woman’s reconciliation with the Church, because she felt abandoned by the Church. And I asked a question that you should never ask: “And then, how things turn out? How did things finish?”. But the priest corrected me: “Oh, no, I did not ask anything: she continues to go to Protestant worship, but you can see that she is a woman who prays. She faces the Lord Jesus.” And it did not go beyond that. He did not invite her to return to the Catholic Church. …

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Prayer: Oscar Romero

Those who want to bear the mark of the Spirit and the fire with which Christ baptizes must take the risk of renouncing everything and seeking only God's reign and justice.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Poem: "Annunciation: The Words of the Angel" by Rainer Maria Rilke

You are no closer to God than any of us;
we all live far and wide.
But it’s wonderful how your hands
have been sanctified.
They don’t find a match in other women’s,
so brilliant from beneath their sleeves:
I am the day, I am the dew,
but you are tree.
I am rather tired now, my journey was long,
forgive that I forgot
that he, who sat in gilded garb
like in a ray of light,
sends news to you, you quiet one
(this room here startled me).
Look: I am the beginning one,
but you are tree.
I spread my wings apart
and become oddly broad;
now your little house is flooded
with my coat.
And still, you are so all alone
as never before, me you hardly see;
because I am just breath in woods,
but you are tree.
All the angels are worried now,
letting go of each other’s hands:
never before was there such a longing,
so uncertain and immense.
Perhaps it will come about soon
and you will grasp it as if in a dream.
Blessings to you, my soul perceives
you are ready and ripe to receive.
You are a great and lofty gate
and about to open up.
You are my song’s most beloved ear.
I feel there disappears and seeps
into you my word.
That’s how I came and completed
your dream among a thousand and one.
And with blinding eyes God looked at me …

But you are tree.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Spirituality: Walter Burghardt, S..

How is it that billions of stars can fly the heaven more speedily than light? Because an all-powerful Christ gives them being. Not once for all, but continuously, day after day. How is it that four thousand varieties of roses can grow and perfume our earth? Because an imaginative Christ gives them life. How is it that your long-haired Labrador can look hungrily at you, hear your faintest whistle, lay paws on your shoulders? Because a sensitive Christ gives it senses. How is it that you can shape an idea, construct the Capitol, transplant a human heart? Because a still human Christ gives you intelligence. How can you believe that the Son of God died a bloody death for you, how you can confidently expect to live forever, how can you give yourself unreservedly to God and to your sisters and brothers? Because a living Christ infuses faith in you, fills your flesh with hope, inflames your very bones with a unique love not of this world. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 24, 2014
Isaiah 22:19-23; Psalm 138; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20

As I read the daily news of mass destruction in Gaza, Ukraine, Iraq, and Syria, I wonder what it will be like when they begin to rebuild. New houses, commercial buildings, roads and infrastructure will be constructed for residents, but the question that emerges is, “Who gets the contracts?” The new jobs will be discreetly given to particular companies and workers. When you put up buildings, the last exterior portions are doors and windows that will allow some people in and keep out most others. A key is given to those new doors to select people. Access is the advantage.

In Isaiah, the Lord says to Shebna, the soon-to-be-overthrown master of the new palace, “I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut; when he shuts, no one shall open.” Jesus tells Peter that he will build his house, his church, upon Peter’s faith and that Peter will be the guardian of the key with the terrific powers of access that it provides. We have to remember that for many, denying people access to the church is to deny them access to God. We therefore need to remember that we ought not to place undue burdens upon a person as they seek to integrated God sacramentally and communally into their lives.

Our actions have long-lasting effects on the church and society when we adhere too rigidly to rules without regard for the person standing in front of us. Do our actions lubricate or agitate society? It is far easier to lubricate, to work with what we have and to find ways to make something work than it is to agitate, to step on the brakes and place obstacles along the path. When driving in traffic, it is simply easier to let the annoying driver who is using her blinker access to get right in front of you when it would be more advantageous for her to be behind you. Let her in. Go with the flow and stop fighting it. You’ll get to your destination. You may be right in denying her that privilege, but at what cost to you both. Let her into traffic rather than creating anger and road rage. The same goes with the church. Find ways to help people come to mass, to get marriages regularized, to have children baptized, and to educate the people on the positive role the church can have in their lives. Talking about forms and the rules will keep people far away because they would rather not bother with necessary protocols. A smoother system with less fighting makes everyone happier.

We need to know when to agitate. Peter was not entrusted with the keys just to let people in; they are also meant to lock. Doors that are closed might need to be opened through agitation. During the past decade, the laity has learned to speak with various voices when their normal voices are not heard. They withhold money, speak with media professionals, remain vigilant in shuttered buildings, and assert pressure at pastoral and finance council meetings. Some speak with their feet and go elsewhere or nowhere at all and some speak with the power of the purse. No one ever disputes that rules are needed, but the style our church leaders present to the laity determines whether they want doors opened or closed. Just a few years ago, bishops were gleefully saying they want a smaller, purer, more obedient church that follows their commands without question. With the emphasis on style coming from Pope Francis these days, that rhetoric has ceased.

With Christ, we continue to build the church founded upon Peter’s faith. Have we sufficiently reflected upon what we want to build? …what Christ wants us to build? As members of the church, we hold the keys to permit or deny access. Our styles will determine whether we are open or not. Peter was open when he answered the question Jesus asked him because he did not rely upon traditional answers, like, “You are John the Baptist, Jeremiah, or Elijah.” No, Peter had to think for himself and let his experience of his friend dictate his answer. He said, “Dear Jesus, you are my Christ! You are more than all the others. You are the Son of the Living God.” Because Peter was free enough to think differently, he could see the possibilities that were open before him. Like Peter, we must always look for the possibilities. They may lead us to uncomfortable opposition, but because we are people of classy style, we can lead others along the path the matters most – to the heart of God through Jesus Christ. For from him and through him and for him are all things. Any path we are on can lead us to Christ; we have to be playfully adventurous enough to find our unique way, but let it lead you back to the church where you can be an instrument that transforms it. No one will ever damn you for leading them to Christ’s beating heart.

 Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Second Thessalonians, Paul greets the Greek Gentiles affectionately and reminds them that he prays for them often, and when he does, he receives joy. Paul implores the people to stand firm in the faith and not to be shaken by the slightest affront from others who fail to understand the reasons for our conduct. People are to act in accord with the tradition handed onto them. If someone walks in a disorderly way, then that person ought to be shunned. Paul gave himself as a model to imitate. ~ In First Corinthians, Paul greets the leaders and the people will great joy reminding them that he is always praying for them and commending them for their rich testimony to Christ. ~ On the martyrdom of John the Baptist, Paul tells the people that Christ sent him to preach the gospel so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning. The wise one prays to a crucified God who suffered on the cross because God’s wisdom is strong than human strength. He reminds them that none of them is remarkable, but that God’s grace has made something more of them. God’s wisdom is at work when we see something that seems foolish. God has made Jesus the wisdom of God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

Gospel: Jesus rips apart the conduct of the Pharisees and scribes who act hypocritically in taking in converts to themselves instead of the faith and who swear by gold at the altars of worship. He then rips them apart for making sure everyone pays tithes, but they neglect the weightier aspects of the law: judgment, mercy, and fidelity. Jesus rants about paying attention to unclean utensils when the inside of a person is filthy. He also destroys them for memorializing the prophets, but in maintaining the same behavior as those who killed the prophets. Jesus asks his disciples to remain vigilant because they cannot know when the end of days is coming. The blessed disciple is the one whom upon his master’s arrival finds him tending to the duties entrusted to him. ~ On the martyrdom of John the Baptist, the story of Herod’s promise to Salome is told. She danced so beautifully that he promised her anything she wanted, up to half of his kingdom, but she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Jesus told his friends a story about a man who is leaving for a journey who entrusts his money to servants. All but one of the servants invested the talents and brought back nice returns, but one servant was fearful and hid his talent so that it produced nothing. The owner took the talent from him in anger and cast the man out of his job.

Saints of the Week

August 24: Bartholomew (First Century), according to the Acts of the Apostles, is listed as one of the Twelve Disciples though no one for sure knows who he is. Some associate him with Philip, though other Gospel accounts contradict this point. John's Gospel refers to him as Nathaniel - a Israelite without guile.

August 25: Louis of France (1214-1270) became king at age 12, but did not take over leadership until ten years later. He had eleven children with his wife, Marguerite, and his kingship reigned for 44 years. His rule ushered in a longstanding peace and prosperity for the nation.  He is held up as a paragon of medieval Christian kings.

August 25: Joseph Calasanz, priest (1556-1648), was a Spaniard who studied canon law and theology. He resigned his post as diocesan vicar-general to go to Rome to live as a pilgrim and serve the sick and the dying. He used his inheritance to set up free schools for poor families with children. He founded an order to administer the schools, but dissension and power struggles led to its dissolution.

August 27: Monica (332-387) was born a Christian in North Africa and was married to a non-Christian, Patricius, with whom she had three children, the most famous being Augustine. Her husband became a Christian at her urging and she prayed for Augustine's conversion as well from his newly adopted Manichaeism. Monica met Augustine in Milan where he was baptized by Bishop Ambrose. She died on the return trip as her work was complete.

August 28: Augustine, bishop and doctor (354-430),  was the author of his Confessions, his spiritual autobiography, and The City of God, which described the life of faith in relation to the life of the temporal world. Many other writings, sermons, and treatises earned him the title Doctor of the church. In his formative years, he followed Mani, a Persian prophet who tried to explain the problem of evil in the world. His mother’s prayers and Ambrose’s preaching helped him convert to Christianity. Baptized in 387, Monica died a year later. He was ordained and five years later named bishop of Hippo and defended the church against three major heresies: Manichaeism, Donatism, and Pelagianism.

August 29: The Martyrdom of John the Baptist recalls the sad events of John's beheading by Herod the tetrarch when John called him out for his incestuous and adulterous marriage to Herodias, who was his niece and brother's wife. At a birthday party, Herodias' daughter Salome danced well earning the favor of Herod who told her he would give her almost anything she wanted.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Aug. 24, 1544: Peter Faber arrived in Lisbon.
·      Aug. 25, 1666: At Beijing, the death of Fr. John Adam Schall. By his profound knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, he attained such fame that the Emperor entrusted to him the reform of the Chinese calendar.
·      Aug. 26, 1562: The return of Fr. Diego Laynez from France to Trent, the Fathers of the Council desiring to hear him speak on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
·      Aug. 27, 1679: The martyrdom at Usk, England, of St. David Lewis, apostle to the poor in his native Wales for three decades before he was caught and hanged.
·      Aug. 28, 1628: The martyrdom in Lancashire, England, of St. Edmund Arrowsmith.
·      Aug. 29, 1541: At Rome the death of Fr. John Codure, a Savoyard, one of the first 10 companions of St. Ignatius.
·      Aug. 30, 1556: On the banks of the St. Lawrence River, Fr. Leonard Garreau, a young missionary, was mortally wounded by the Iroquois.