Thursday, September 29, 2016

Papl Thoughts

Spiritual desolation is something everyone will experience at some point, says Pope Francis, and when we see a loved one going through this darkness, we need to offer comfort and support with our closeness, not our counsels.
Santa Marta
The Pope said this today during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.

Drawing from the reading from Job, the Holy Father noted, “Spiritual desolation is something that happens to all of us: it can be stronger or weaker … but that feeling of spiritual darkness, of hopelessness, mistrust, lacking the desire to live, without seeing the end of the tunnel, with so much agitation in one’s heart and in one’s ideas… Spiritual desolation makes us feel as though our souls are crushed, we can’t succeed, we can’t succeed and we also don’t want to live: ‘Death is better!’ This was Job’s outburst. It was better to die than live like this. We need to understand that when our soul is in this state of generalized sadness we can barely breathe: This happens to all of us … whether strong or not … to all of us. (We need to) understand what goes on in our hearts.”

The solution to spiritual desolation is prayer, the Pontiff said.

“What should we do when we experience these dark moments, be it for a family tragedy, an illness, something that weighs us down?”

Noting that some people would think of taking a pill to sleep and remove them from their problems or drinking “one, two, three or four glasses” he warned that these methods “do not help.” Instead, today’s liturgy shows us how to cope with this spiritual desolation, “when we are lukewarm, depressed and without hope.”

The Pope said the way out from this situation is to pray, to pray loudly, just as Job did, day and night until God listens. “It is a prayer to knock at the door but with strength! ‘Lord, my soul is surfeited with troubles. My life draws near to Hell. I am numbered among those who go down into the pit; I am a man without strength.’ How many times have we felt like this, without strength? And here is the prayer. Our Lord himself taught us how to pray in these dreadful moments. ‘Lord, you have plunged me into the bottom of the pit. Upon me, your wrath lies heavy. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.’ This is the prayer and this is how we should pray in our darkest, most dreadful, bleakest and most crushed moments that are really crushing us. This is genuine prayer. And it’s also giving vent just like Job did with his sons. Like a son.”
Comfort the afflicted

For those close to the people who are suffering, the way to proceed is with closeness, silence and prayer, since words and speeches in these situations can do harm, the Pontiff suggested.

“First of all, we must recognize in ourselves these moments of spiritual desolation, when we are in the dark, without hope and asking ourselves why. Secondly, we must pray to the Lord like today’s reading from Psalm 87 teaches us to pray during our dark moments. ‘Let my prayer come before you, Lord.’ Thirdly, when I draw close to a person who is suffering, whether from illness, or whatever other type of suffering and who is experiencing a sense of desolation, we must be silent: but a silence with much love, closeness and caresses. And we must not make speeches that don’t help in the end and even can do harm.”

The Pope concluded his homily by asking the Lord to grant us these three graces: the grace to recognize spiritual desolation, the grace to pray when we are afflicted by this feeling of spiritual desolation and also the grace to know how to be close to people who are suffering terrible moments of sadness and spiritual desolation.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Jubilee of Mercy Prayer

Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee of Mercy 

Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him.
Show us your face and we will be saved.
Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew
from being enslaved by money;
the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things;
 made Peter weep after his betrayal,
and assured Paradise to the repentant thief.

Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us,
the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman:
 “If you knew the gift of God!”
You are the visible face of the invisible Father,
of the God who manifests his power above all
by forgiveness and mercy:
let the Church be your visible face in the world,
its Lord risen and glorified.
You willed that your ministers
would also be clothed in weakness
in order that they may feel compassion
for those in ignorance and error:
let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.

Bridget Gunn
Gerard DeAngelis
Katelyn Toscano
Jacqueline Ortiz

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Pope Francis' Jubilee of Mercy Message to Youth - Merciful Like the Father

Yours is a time of life which is full of amazing changes. Everything seems possible and impossible all at once. I repeat what I said to some of your friends: “Remain steadfast in the journey of faith, with firm hope in the Lord. This is the secret of our journey! He gives us the courage to swim against the tide. Pay attention, my young friends: to go against the current; this is good for the heart, but we need courage to swim against the tide. Jesus gives us this courage! … With him we can do great things; he will give us the joy of being his disciples, his witnesses. Commit yourselves to great ideals, to the most important things. We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for little things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals” (Homily at the Conferral of the Sacrament of Confirmation, 2013).

Here I cannot forget those of you who are living in situations of war, extreme poverty, daily troubles and loneliness. Don’t ever lose hope! The Lord has a great dream which, with your help, he wants to come true! Your friends, young people your age living in less trying conditions than your own, have not forgotten you; they are working for peace and justice for everyone everywhere. Don’t be taken in by the messages of hatred or terror all around us. Instead, make new friends. Give of your time and always show concern for those who ask your help. Be brave and go against the tide; be friends of Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace (cf. Is 9:6). “Everything in him speaks of mercy. Nothing in him is devoid of compassion” (Misericordiae Vultus, 8).

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bask in His mercy

When we talk about the year of mercy, when Pope Francis asks us to “gaze even more attentively on mercy,” we are not meant to look first to God’s mercy for others, because God’s mercy is meant first and foremost for us. Until I am willing to let my brokenness, my garbage, my hurt and my pain come front and center before the Lord, where I am able to sit and simply bask in His mercy, I have not truly grasped this year of mercy, and I have missed what the Lord’s mercy is truly all about.

When Jesus comes to save, He comes as the Good Shepherd who, in His immense mercy, puts me on His shoulders and carries me home. The time of mercy is now, and that doesn't mean mercy for everyone else, it means mercy for me and mercy for you, mercy which looks at each of us right here and right now.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Pilgrimage of Mercy - Diocese of Rockville Centre

In this Jubilee Year, the experience of pilgrimage becomes a tangible sign of the choice of an individual to journey toward Christ, through sacrifice, penance, and prayer. In the course of this Jubilee Year of Mercy, our Marianist high schools made prayerful pilgrimage to the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.

 Over 100 Marianist high school students attended. And our Brother Joseph Fox Latin School were also well represented. 4,000 pilgrims descended on the Basilica for a day of prayer, song and Sacraments.

Opportunities for Adoration, Sacrament of Reconciliation, Rosary, private prayer and the Eucharist filled the day. Pope Francis has said he wants the church to live this holy year “in the light” of Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Luke: “Be merciful, just as your father is merciful. (Lk 6:36)”

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Sunday Word

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On this 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are summoned to close the gap between Us and Them, between our own comfortable lives, and those who need us – the ones we don’t always see in pain on our own doorstep.

The prophet Amos warns us not to be too satisfied with ourselves about our place in the world – especially if we forget to notice other people around us. 

And Luke tells of a nameless Rich Man who lived a life of excess. He didn’t just eat well, he “dined sumptuously each day.” Yet literally at his doorstep was Lazarus, a starving man who longed for the scraps that fell from the Rich Man’s table. But as the Rich Man walked past him every day coming and going to his house, it never occurred to him to help the fellow human sprawled in front of him.

The readings invite all to look at the chasms we create in my own life, the false boundaries between Us and Them. Where do I fail to reach out to those who need me because of my own protectiveness of my time, my money or simply my own fears? Are there people in my own life or maybe beyond my daily life that I am being asked to tend to, to feed or to forgive?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Mary's life as 21st-century religious

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Living the pattern of Mary's life as 21st-century religious
by Laura M. Leming

Aug. 23, 2016

As a vowed religious with nearly 40 years of profession, I cannot speak for the newest generation of religious in apostolic congregations. But I feel impelled as one called (and privileged) to accompany novices to share some reflections on the next coming age of religious life.

My context is Marianist, one of the plethora of religious institutes born out of the challenging times of the French Revolution. Our mission is to continue Mary's mission of bringing Christ into our own day and time and to challenge religious indifference by creating, living in and fostering communities where faith is lived with the daring of the apostles. So it is natural for me to look at the pattern of Mary's life as a model for the new forms of religious life needed in our world today. Looking back 50 years on, I suspect we will see this as a Joshua moment, similar to when the Moses passed the mantle of leadership to the next generation. My hope is that we recognize this as a time when young religious carried the flame into a new time and new places.

Walking with our youngest Marianists is an extended reflection on the specific ways that the challenges Mary faced can enspirit and enliven us to face our own. But I start in the middle of Mary's faith story — with her standing at the cross. If there is one thing I've been sensitized to by my Marianist sisters and brothers embarking on this and their peers in the intercommunity programs we've been part of — it's their distaste for the focus on diminishment. I call this a "narrative of decline" which often is mentioned in discussions of religious life and the future of our educational institutions. And yet, this is a particular cross at which young religious stand. They attend more funerals than professions and they are just as likely, if not more so, to close or leave institutional ministries as to open new ones. They truly, with Mary at their side, are standing witness to a kind of death of religious life as it was lived and institutionalized in the 20th century.

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But they are here, and they are standing up! At the summer meeting of LCWR, it was reported that there were 1,200 women in initial formation programs in U.S. congregations in 2015-2016. These candidates are not deterred by what they see but stand hopeful about what religious life can be in today's world. They are ready in faith to trust that God's promise will indeed be fulfilled in their lives as it was in Mary's. Though hard to see and feel while standing at a cross, the call and promise that God is still making things right in the world is real to them and must be to us all. They hold to a Magnificat spirituality that sees God's saving action, even in situation that cry for justice. Which brings me back to the beginning of Mary's story.

Mary was invited by God to be open so the Spirit that God could take root in her flesh and the Christ could be born into our world. Her "yes" was God's permission to be present in a new way to the world God created. The newest generation of vowed religious faces the same challenge. They are called, like her, to give flesh to God's Spirit in a world both blessed and broken by globalization. Blessed to be able to communicate and partner with people from all parts of the globe. Broken by economics and politics that exclude and oppress many by virtue of race, class, ethnicity, geography and religion, and a whole host of other identities.

Christ still needs doorways into the world God loves — to have flesh and blood still given for the life of the world. To say "yes" to giving Christ flesh in our own day and time and to set in motion a lifetime of pondering the meaning of life's events is a daily challenge. Intergenerational groups of religious men and women ponder together what the future of religious life can and must be.

Surely, it will not look like it has in the most recent past with individual congregations living and working largely as silos in large institutions. Perhaps it will resemble some earlier forms with novices mentored and apprenticed rather than programmatically socialized, and with ministries adapted more spontaneously based on immediate needs of the culture, place and time. Collaborations among groups with different charisms will be the norm rather than the exception with brothers and sisters sharing the strengths of their charisms in co-sponsored ministries.

Discernment as a skill and deeply engrained practice is something we must all learn, cultivate and teach to others. We need to know when to speak up as Mary did at Cana, in order to set things in motion for Jesus to act in our world again. And we need to know when silent presence standing in the face of suffering is being witness to God's great action when everything points to the contrary.

What we know about Mary's life is that she was present at the great moments of the Spirit breaking in. She carried Christ in her person to the silent Zechariah's house where Elizabeth and John recognized and acclaimed it. She facilitated the disciples' first belief at Cana and was united with them in prayer at Pentecost.

Young religious at the beginning of this century must be free to use their energy, insight and knowledge of their world to meet and respond to their Canas and their crosses. As elders, like the apostles in the early church community, we need not place unnecessary burdens on the shoulders of those whom God has also called (Acts 15).

Many of the structures of earlier forms of religious life which are culturally bound need not be seen as intrinsic to religious life. As Religious of the Sacred Heart Sister Juliet Mousseau noted in her address to the International Union of Superiors General in 2016, younger religious are graced with the capacity to let go of some structures in order to be more responsive, as the Spirit will prompt.

This is my second go-round as novice director. I was a young religious myself the first time and then my focus was how to offer rootedness in Marianist life. This time, almost 30 years later, I am keenly aware that the task has evolved. We are "forming" young religious for a life whose future shape remains unknown.

Taking the Gospel out to the edges, as Pope Francis has charged us, will re-shape our institutions and communities and our very selves. So a life that is rooted, yes, but a life on the road with Jesus and the apostles also. Meeting up with Samaritans and lepers and tax collectors of our day, giving people food from our own stores, blessed and broken open, has to be our daily engagement. Jesus learned to offer his own flesh for the life of the world from his Jewish mother, Miriam, who first offered hers. Discerning how best to do that, in this time and place, is the task of vowed religious of any age.

Being faithful to this task and walking with our young religious on new roads with unfailing trust, if we follow the pattern of Mary's life, will bring us to our own Pentecost moments. On a windy day, she recognized that in all those years of holding on to an angel's promise, God was drawing near, and now was bursting forth. We can see the Spirit moving in the amazing men and women who are being drawn to religious life today. I pray that we make sure we do our best to fan the flames.

[Dr. Laura M. Leming, F.M.I. (Marianist / Daughters of Mary Immaculate) is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Dayton and serves on the Board of Trustees of St. Mary's University.]