Monday, July 6, 2015

Marianist Monday

July, 2015

My dear friends in college . . . and beyond,

            The Fourth of July has always captured my imagination.  Temperatures soar.  The aroma of barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs wafts through the air.  Fireworks explode in the nighttime sky.  Our thoughts turn towards Independence Hall in Philadelphia and the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal,” Jefferson wrote in that landmark document, “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

            These days, truth does not appear to be nearly as self-evident.  It seems to me that the self-evident nature of truth (if there is any longer such a thing as “truth”) comes under direct attack or subtle erosion almost every day.  I attended a high-school graduation recently at which the salutatorian confidently proclaimed to the audience of relatives and friends that there is no truth except the truth that we create for ourselves.  (Don’t worry: it was my niece’s high-school graduation, not a Marianist high-school graduation!)  To use a popular buzzword, we now “self-identify.”   And relativism like this is enshrined not only in our pop culture, but in our laws.  “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life,” Justices Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, and Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in the 1992 Supreme Court decision in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

            We have “evolved,” it seems, from truths that are self-evident to all to truths that are self-determined by each individual.

            Is this indeed the meaning of the independence and of the liberty that we celebrate on Independence Day?  Is this what American independence really means – a wholesale independence from an underlying moral law and the human community that a common moral code safeguards?

            I certainly hope not!

            It has been my custom to steer clear of the so-called “culture wars” that pit “liberals” against “conservatives,” “progressives” against “traditionalists,” Democrats against Republicans, and, sometimes – tragically – one race against another.  And I will continue to do so.  The Church is not a debating society, and her representatives are not culture warriors.  No, the Church is, as our Holy Father Pope Francis has so beautifully put it, a “field hospital.”

            But, as one of the medics in that “field hospital,” I would beg each side – or, more accurately, all of the many sides – in our current culture wars to lay down their arms of individualism and take up the healing balm of the common good.  I have watched in dismay as the civility of political discourse in our country has slowly deteriorated, and I have wondered more and more if anyone is stepping outside his or her own special interest and taking up the cause of the common good.  It is indeed true that our Founding Fathers fought for the sanctity of our individual rights, but we must never forget that they did so together, united, working for a common cause.

            As much as they valued individual liberty and individual rights, America’s Founding Fathers also valued the common good.  The Preamble to our Constitution makes this quite clear:  “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and to our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.”

We the people of the United States of America in this Year of Our Lord 2015 face many challenges.  We must decide wisely in many potentially divisive cases of jurisprudential and common law.  I do not pretend to have all the answers.  But this I know: if we are to have any hope of moving forward, we must rely on the pillars of our “more perfect Union” established by our Founding Fathers over 225 years ago.         

And what are those pillars?  I’d like to suggest that there are three: an abiding reverence for self-evident Truth, a tenacious commitment to the common good, and an unwavering respect for individual liberty.  Honoring all three will require a balancing act, but it is a balancing act worth the effort.   Without all three, our citizens will become ever more deeply embroiled in culture wars that threaten to tear the fabric of our nation apart.

How readily, how vociferously, we can insist on our own rights, our own self-determination, and our own way!  Jesus teaches us another way:  “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16: 25)

And again: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14: 6)

If we acknowledge Jesus as “the way, the truth, and the life,” we will necessarily have to surrender our own way – and our own “right” of autonomous self-determination – on more than a few occasions.  But we should not fear this prospect of surrendering ourselves to “the way, the truth, and the life.”  We may fear that, in surrendering ourselves, we will diminish ourselves.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  For in surrendering ourselves to Jesus, we will find our true selves . . . and our true happiness.  And then, “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap, for the measure you give is the measure you will receive.” (Luke 6:38).

Those of you who have read my letters in the past already know one of my most fundamental beliefs: We are not alone.  Nor are we autonomous.  As the great seventeenth-century English poet and essayist John Donne famously proclaimed, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”  (Meditation XVII)

My dear graduates of Chaminade and Kellenberg Memorial, this Fourth of July, and in the years that follow, let us raise the standard of our interdependence.   Let us never shrink from searching for Truth, maintaining the common good, and preserving individual liberty.  Let us go forth and reclaim, with both clarity and charity, our “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

May God bless America, and may God bless every one of you!

On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Depend on Mary

The French School of Spirituality of which Blessed Chaminade was so much an integral part realized that the Incarnation of Christ had for its end the Redemption, our supernatural birth. 

Christ's Incarnation has a direct correlation in Mary. Hence, the Incarnation leads to the Redemption; the Divine Maternity, to the Spiritual Maternity. The intimate ties relating these two functions of Mary are clear if considered in the light of our incorporation with Christ. We form with Christ but one body, the Mystical Body of Christ. He is Head: we are members.

For Blessed Chaminade, a disDciple of Father Olier, our incorporation in Christ constitutes a central doctrine. When our Founder mentions Mary's Spiritual Maternity he seldom fails to repeat that she is our Mother because she is the Mother of Christ, and that we are one with Him -- but one Son of Mary, one Son of God. In his Memoranda of Instructions on the Blessed Virgin our Founder writes:

The . . . concurrence of Mary in the mystery of the Incarnation is the ever compelling motive of our recourse to Mary for all kinds of graces. Through her charity, voluntary and direct consent of her fiat, Mary cooperated in giving the world a Liberator. This is the underlying principle. The consequence is that God having once determined to give us Jesus Christ by the Blessed Virgin, made an unalterable decree , for ''the gifts of God are without repentance" (Rom 11:29).

Her charity having so largely contributed to our salvation in the mystery of the Incarnation, the sole principle of grace, she will eternally contribute in all its operations which are merely consequences of the mystery.

We depend on Mary for the maintenance and increase of our spiritual life as Christ depended on her for the maintenance and increase of his corporal life.

Saturday, July 4, 2015



So the holiday weekend has reached its peak. Our neighbors at Eisenhower Park produced fireworks that were more than expected. And the local entertainment is still happening. A peaceful, relaxing, sweet and Happy 4th to one and all, and safe travels to those checking in from the road.

All that said, for your holiday enjoyment, the classic that's become especially linked to these days....

In addition, the Prayer for the Nation and its church written and first delivered in August 1791 by the "Father" of the Stateside faithful, John Carroll of Baltimore, a cousin of the lone Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence:

We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope N., the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his[/her] excellency, the governor of this state , for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance.

To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshmment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Man of the Beatitudes

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

This week we celebrate the feast day of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati on July 4th. He was born in Turin in 1901 and died from polio in 1925. He was a young man of deep faith who at university gathered round him a group of friends who shared the same Catholic convictions. 

He was an enthusiastic member of the St Vincent de Paul Society and became a Lay Dominican in 1922. He combined a devout spiritual life with energetic involvement in Catholic Action. He worked in a club for young mountaineers and 'preached' not by talking about his faith but simply by the way he responded to what life brought his way. He wrote that charity alone was not enough, social action also was needed if the poor were to be properly cared for.

Pier Giorgio's plans were to work as a lay missionary once he was a qualified engineer and then to get married. It was not God's will for him, however, as he fell gravely ill with polio and died. His family were astonished at the thousands of people who lined the streets for his funeral, not realising how many people in the city had experienced his kindness. Devotion to him continued to grow as his friends gathered for a day of recollection each year on the anniversary of his death.

Saint John Paul II beatified him in 1990 and his tomb is in the Cathedral of Turin, the Church that houses the Shroud.

At the beatification, St. John Paul II said of Pier, “By his example he proclaims that a life lived in Christ’s Spirit, the Spirit of the Beatitudes, is “blessed”, and that only the person who becomes a “man or woman of the Beatitudes” can succeed in communicating love and peace to others. He repeats that it is really worth giving up everything to serve the Lord. He testifies that holiness is possible for everyone, and that only the revolution of charity can enkindle the hope of a better future in the hearts of peop

Friday, July 3, 2015

Doubting Thomas

Do you know your greatest strength? That is where you are most vulnerable. Has your greatest "strength" become your most insidious weakness? 

"Doubting" Thomas shows us the way to escape the quicksand of being duped by our own strengths. After hiding behind his own "strength" -- his commitment to Jesus' earthly ministry of signs and wonders -- Thomas had the humility to accept Jesus' offer of forgiveness and love when Jesus appeared before him. When confronted by the risen Christ, Thomas confessed "My Lord and my God" without touching that resurrected, glorified body.

Thomas responded in faith to Jesus' offer of love and forgiveness, to Jesus' demand that he "not doubt but believe" in the resurrected Christ. Thomas allowed himself to be "weak" enough to accept the fact that his "strength" had become his potential for self-destruction.

Christ's gift to Thomas -- to all who believe -- empowers us with the genuine strength of redeeming love brought through absolute grace. Instead of "show-me" signs, God offers us the unmerited gift that we can never earn nor never learn in rational, logical terms: the love of Christ.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Of Great Price

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.

To follow Jesus is costly – or so we tell ourselves. But how costly? Is it really costly to follow in the way of Jesus? To be sure, it will place demands on our hearts, our minds, and our souls but the big question is not how much it will cost us, it’s rather the worth what we will get. What Jesus offers us is worth any price. All the really valuable things in life need to be judged not in terms of how much they cost but what they are worth.

Some things are worth whatever they cost. Some things are worth every sacrifice and price we have to pay for them. For example the respect we receive from others. The freedom of knowing that God's sees you and respects you; what would it like to be in the presence of God without any shame? Imagine living so that you never have to apologize to anyone for anything you thought, or said, or did? What value would you put on living with yourself like that?

Let's not fool ourselves. Greatness of character comes at a price. A great life is expensive and costly. Oh, not in terms of money, with rather in terms of paying the price of giving up being lazy, of giving up our comfortable ease, of giving up self-centeredness and self-c­oncern. Being a great human being demands a lot from us. It requires discipline and self-sacrifice; it requires self-denial, hard work, and care in our relationships with others. Conversely, selfish living in smallness of heart can be terribly expensive... it can cost us some of the things that we hold most dear in life.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Summer time prayer

Let’s pause and pray…

Come summer with me, Lord,
come summer deep down in my soul…

Restore my faith in summer’s time, in rest, in joy, in play, in you. Summer in my heart, Lord, and dwell there as if the summertime would never end, as if all time were a child’s time, eternal time, when school is always out and joy is ever in.

Come summer with me, Lord,
come summer deep down in my soul… 
In these long-awaited days, Lord, slow me down and give me time for nothing to do but to be with you and to know again that you're with me. Help me put the brakes on my merry-go-round-go-nowhere pace... Slow me down… Let the summer doldrums lull, calm and call me to a place of peace, of prayer, of meeting you again -- as if bumping into an old friend, on the streets of my vacation.

Come summer with me, Lord,
come summer deep down in my soul… 
Help me relax, Lord, and find a peaceful pace and place where I can meet you face to face. Remind me of the times you took your own rest, Lord: leaving the city and crowds behind, going out into the desert, up the mountain, across the lake and off by yourself or away with just a few friends, to pray.

Come summer with me, Lord,
come summer deep down in my soul… 
Slow me down, Lord, and let the busyness that runs me and the work that runs me down settle to a pace and peace that lets me be, just be with you, in a quiet shade where my heart speaks to yours and yours to mine and I can hear your word.

Come summer with me, Lord,
come summer deep down in my soul…


                                                                                                  H/T A Concord Pastor Comments