Monday, January 31, 2011

Dependence on God

Yesterday during the Marianist Community liturgy we reflected on the abundance of the Beatitudes. While we see the beatitudes leaving people powerless and dependent on God, not everyone feels that they have to depend on God.

During our refection, we remembered our childhood days when we often would gather with our families on Sundays. One Brother recalled the regular family sing-a-longs at the end of the meal. Cousin Joe would often entertain us on the piano and we would all join around the keyboard. One of our favorites was Frank Sinatra's signature tune. Together we would sing, "I planned each chartered course, each careful step along the way, but more, much more than this, I did it my way." This is not the theme that is reflected in the beatitudes in Sunday's liturgy. It just does not seem to resonate poverty of spirit. Rather it shouts of personal autonomy and self sufficiency.

We recall the emergence of the Superman and the other superheroes to put things in perspective. When these superheroes appeared on the planet we saw a new approach. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man all carried with them an alter ego. The proud superhero's alter ego was humble. Superman was mild-mannerd Clark Kent, Batman was Bruce Wayne, Wonder Woman was a prim secretary, Spider-Man was insecure Peter Parker. Interestingly, we actually hold that deep down inside us there is a superhero. But there needs to be a sense of humility and poverty of spirit.

The Beatitudes we explore happen to us when we realize that we are helpless and hopeless without God.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Protect Life

"While at times human law may not fully articulate the moral imperative – full protection for the right to life – our legal system can and must be continually reformed so that it will increasingly fulfill its proper task of protecting the weak and preserving the right to life of every human being, born and unborn."
-Pope Benedict XVI

Saturday, January 29, 2011

God does not distinguish

God's love does not differentiate between the newly conceived infant still in his or her mother's womb and the child or young person, or the adult and the elderly person. God does not distinguish between them because he sees an impression of his own image and likeness (Gn 1:26) in each one.
Pope Benedict XVI

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Sunday Word

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Zep 2:3; 3:12-13
1 Cor 1:26-31
Mt 5:1-12a

Here are texts that deserve our reading, prayer and pondering in preparation for Sunday's celebration. While the Gospel is quite familiar to all of us,we do ourselves a disservice when we dismiss a familiar passage with an "Oh-I-know-this-one" attitude.

The Beatitudes which Jesus proclaims are so much more than just the “be-happy-attitudes.” To be blessed, in this case, is to be made privileged or fortunate by the action of  God. It carries with it a sense of salvation and peace and well-being. You might say that the opposite of blessed is not “unhappy.” But rather, the opposite of blessed is “cursed.” To be blessed is to be given the gift of divine favor, a grace, a gift that we all have a deep human hunger to receive.

Stated this way, it’s clear that the blessing of the Beatitudes is not about us, and it’s not about how we feel. Instead, it’s all about what God has done for us.

With this in mind, we can get a clearer sense of what Jesus is talking about when he describes his disciples as “blessed.” What he is saying is that these fishermen are blessed because they are experiencing the coming of God’s kingdom, and they are in the process of discovering that their lives are being reshaped by this new reality. No longer will the meaning of life be defined by the culture of the town of Capernaum, or the expectations of their extended families, or the size of the fish being pulled out of the Sea of Galilee. From now on, the dominant reality in their existence will be the kingdom of God, and the blessing of God will come to all who make a place for this kingdom in their lives.

So, what does it mean for us to make a place for the kingdom in our lives today? What kind of blessing will we experience if we allow ourselves to be transformed by the radical new reality that Jesus offers us? What kind of renewal will come our way if we take seriously the invitation to open our hearts and minds to the arrival of God’s kingdom?

The challenge for us is to open ourselves to God’s kingdom, and receive this radical new reality that Jesus is inscribing on our hearts and thus making a place for the Beatitudes. Blessed are those who open the door to the kingdom of God, says Jesus — blessed are the placemakers.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I have been searching for coverage of those that marched on Monday. Here and there you will see close-cropped pictures of a few marchers, or some stragglers, and even more closely-cropped photos of the dozens of protesters.

On Sunday night in Washington the marchers attended a huge kick off Mass which packed the beautiful Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which graces the campus of the Catholic University of America.
The University opened its gymnasium and athletic buildings to marchers, who had sleeping bags and cots filling every available space; the Basilica each year, has the same on the basilica floors. The entire crypt is filled to capacity with blankets, pillows, sleeping bags and cots for those preparing for the March.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

For Life...

 Special thanks to everyone who joined us in praying for life at the 15th annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life, hosted by the Archdiocese of Washington on Monday, January 24, 2011. An audience of thousands of young Catholics from around the country enjoyed musical performances by Steve Angrisano, Ike Ndolo and Maddie Curtis at the Verizon Center.

Mass at the Verizon Center was celebrated by His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl with bishops and priests from around the nation. The homily, by Fr. Mark Ivany - Parochial Vicar, Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, reminded us all to (in the words of St. Timothy) set “an example… in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity” in order to change our culture.

We spent our two days in prayer, touring and  fun throughout our stay in the nation's Capitol. For several hours we walked the Basilica together in awe. Chapel after chapel was explained in detail and symbols now understood. But the real purpose for our visit to Washington DC was to exercise our freedoms of speech and petition. Roe v. Wade was a Supreme Court decision decided in 1973 making abortion legal in the United States. The issue of abortion and a woman’s right to choose has remained controversial and politically charged ever since. We were witnesses. Witnessed for life.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2011 March for Life

 The 38th annual March for Life was held today and the Marianist schools were well reprented. 

One of Marianist high schools travelled down to D.C. a day early and toured the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

They also travelled across the street for a Vigil Mass prior to the March in the chapel of the Jeanne Jugan Residence.

A few years ago, a youth Mass was initiated for the day of the march. This youth Mass has been held at the Verizon Center, which is a large convention center in Washington. This year, they signed up participants online, but while so many people tried to sign up we still received our tickets

The Center holds about 20,000. It is an extraordinary venue because they traditionally put all the seminarians down on the main arena and the young people are sitting on the benches around them. Many bishops and priests concelebrate at the Mass. It is an extraordinary event with young people. I call it tantamount to a mini World Youth Day because the young people are exposed to the witness of thousands and thousands of their peers.

More than 27,000 young people secured tickets for the morning concert, pep rally and Mass, according to the Archdiocese of Washington. For the first time, a parallel event was held at the D.C. Armory to handle the overflow crowd.
The Verizon Center event was part pep rally, part rock concert, with entire sections of worshipers standing up to cheer wildly for their local leaders as the names of bishops and archbishops on the platform were announced.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hold Us Together

We travel to Washington, DC today to begin our witness to life. Many will follow us tomorrow to witness with us. May God bless our efforts as we pray together,

 Our Lady of Guadalupe,
we turn to you who are the protectress of unborn children and ask that you intercede for us,
so that we may more firmly resolve to join you in protecting all human life.
Let our prayers be united to your perpetual motherly intercession on behalf of those whose lives are threatened, be they in the womb of their mother, on the bed of infirmity, or in the latter years of their life.

May our prayers also be coupled with peaceful action which witnesses to the goodness and dignity of all human life, so that our firmness of purpose may give courage to those who are fearful and bring light to those who are blinded by sin.

Encourage those who will be involved in the March for Life;
help them to walk closely with God and to give voice to the cry of the oppressed,
in order to remind out nation of its commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people.

O Virgin Mother of God, present our petitions to your Son and ask Him to bless us with abundant life.

The Word

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 8:23-9:3-1
1 Cor 1:10-13, 17
Mt 4:12-23

We're in the snowy days of winter. Football's almost over. Time to daydream about the those sunnny days of summer and quick trips fishing. In Matthew's text we're receiving today, Jesus himself uses the fishing metaphor. So don your hip waders, grab a fly-fishing pole, and waddle to center platform. Practice your casting ahead of time and prepare, pray and ponder the Word.

Matthew paints a beautiful image. Jesus walks by the Sea of Galilee, he sees two brothers — Simon Peter and Andrew. They’re working as fishermen, casting a net into the sea, and Jesus says to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people."

Notice that his initial invitation is not “listen to me,” “believe in me,” “bow down to me,” or “take a course in  theology” — it is “follow me.” Discipleship begins with walking … with faithful following.

Immediately they leave their nets and fall in behind him.

Moving on down the road, Jesus sees two other brothers, James and John, who are in a boat with their father, mending their nets. He calls to them in the same way, and they leave both their boat and their father, and follow Jesus on foot.

The passage ends with Jesus striding all throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in synagogues, curing diseases, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is a prophet — a walking spokesman for the one true God.

His disciples will need to keep moving if they want to keep up with Jesus.

To follow Jesus is to accept his invitation with passion and purpose, and to set a course in his direction. This doesn’t absolutely require the use of your legs, but it does demand the investment of your whole heart, soul, mind and strength. You cannot be lazy as a follower of Jesus — you’ve got to put energy into this endeavor, and make your discipleship dynamic.

So let’s be more like Simon Peter. Let’s respond to the call of Christ with energetic, faithful following.

But guess what? Personal experience is what catches people. It’s essential for us to talk about how and where God’s at work in our lives, whenever we speak about the Christian faith. Scholarship and propositions are not going to get the job done — we also have to be willing to give some personal testimony. Think of Simon Peter, stepping out of the boat and walking toward Jesus on the water. He became frightened by the strong wind and began to sink, and it looked like he was going to go under until Jesus reached out and saved him. What a story, What a testimony. No doubt Simon Peter told that story again and again throughout his life.

When fishing for people, one finds that personal experience is what catches them, hooks them. If they don’t see us walking with Jesus, then they are not going to be inspired to follow Jesus themselves.

The challenge for each of us is to hit the road — falling down, getting up, sinking, being saved, and then being willing to tell our stories to others. That’s what it means to follow Jesus, and that’s what will attract others to be active disciples along with us.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Marianist Symposium begins

On the eve of the Feast day of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade and the start of The Chaminade Year, the Marianists of the Province of Meribah sponsored a Marianist Symposium to join together the Province sponored apostolic works. The gathering began the Celebration of the 250th Anniversary of the Birth of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade.

Together the faculties of the three Province schools celebrated the Liturgy in honor of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade. Marianist Father Thomas Cardone was the principal celebrant and homilist.

Marianist Father James Heft gave the first presentation for the combined faculties of over two hundred. Fr. James' presentation focused on the Marianist educator.

Later Marianist Brother Michael McAward gave the second presentaion on the Marianist family.

To the left Brothers Michael McAward and Richard Hartz pause for a moment before the presentations in the Darby Auditorium.

Next week, Brother Michael McAward will continue the presentations for the Chaminade Year at Kellenberg Memorial on Wednesday, January 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fresh Prince of Bordeuax

Years ago, the Holy Father spoke of Blessed Chaminade's beginnings in Bordeaux in this manner: "In 1790 after the outbreak of the French Revolution, he moved to Bordeaux, where he spent most of his life. In 1791 he refused to take the oath of the so-called Civil Constitution of the Clergy and clandestinely exercised his priestly ministry, putting his life in constant danger."

Since that time, we have seen many try to capture the spirit and charism of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade in every word, look and gesture. Now take a look at this contemporary attempt to capture the mission and vision of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Marianists - Province of Meribah opened the celebration of the 250th Anniversary of the Birth of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade last evening with a presentaion at Chaminade High School, Mineola. Brother Joseph, the Principal of Chaminade High School, opened the program with the Musical Performance by the Chaminade Vocal Chamber Ensemble.

 Fragments of the casket of Blessed Chaminade were on display in the lobby on the evening of the presentation.
 Brother Thomas, Meribah Provincial, gave a very warm introduction to Father Philip who gave the presentation.

Marianist Fr. Philip who is President of Kellenberg Memorial H.S. and President Emeritus of Chaminade High School spoke about the life and mission of blessed William Joseph Chaminade.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Life and Mission of Blessed Chaminade

The Marianists world-wide begin their celebration of the 250th Anniversary of the Birth of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade this week as we approach his feast day, January 22nd. For the Marianists of the Province of Meribah we will kick-off the celebration today. All are welcome to attend.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011
7:30 pm in Darby Auditorium
Musical Performance by the Chaminade Vocal Chamber Ensemble

"To Multiply Christians: The Life and Mission of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade"

by Fr. Philip Eichner, S.M.

President of Kellenberg Memorial H.S.
President Emeritus of Chaminade High School

All are welcome!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Your Call

It's your call. You are chosen material, though you might not know it.

Most of us spend quite a bit of time shopping around before we finally find, or fall into, a profession that seems to suit our personality. The most popular childhood careers of firefighter, football player, doctor and astronaut are not reflected in the numbers of adults actually involved in those pursuits. Instead we "settle" for jobs that need to be done or are the most available. When's the last time you heard a kid dreaming about growing up to be an office manager or a banker or an electrical line repairer. But all those jobs must be done and done well by someone, if we are to keep our businesses, our banks, our communities and our homes running smoothly.

One author put it this way: God often calls us when we are running errands, doing the mundane, thankless chores of life. When we least expect it, we are elected. Moses, hiding out on the back side of the Midian desert, was running an errand when a bush started burning that would not be consumed until he faced Pharaoh. Isaiah was somewhere in the temple, performing his regular priestly duties, when the heavens came down and the Holy commissioned him to go to the valley. Ezekiel, performing his pastoral tasks in the Exile, was transported by divine limousine service to a valley filled with dry bones. Amos was out herding sheep and keeping sycamore trees when the voice came and compelled him to go to the valley. And, Andrew and Peter were fishing out on the Sea of Galilee when the Master called them from fishing to the valley.

God is calling you right now. Are you going to respond?

It's your call whether or not to accept your "call."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Listen to Him

Listening to God requires a deliberate choice to shut out the chaos around you and focus your thoughts. Is God someone you can hear? The Bible says He is, and the Bible is one of the main tools through which He speaks.

We live in a world of noise. Almost everywhere we go, we find sounds competing with our minds, keeping us from letting our thoughts get below the surface level. Hearing God's voice means not listening to the noise of the world around us. It's not easy, but it can be done. Do you desire God's will for your life above every other desire? If you do, you can trust that He will direct your path. Listen to His message, and be quick to obey.

When you listen to God and obey Him, you will discover a life that is full and rich with purpose, confident you are following the Lord's plan.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Venerable Faustino Perez - Postulant of the Marianists

News From the General Administration - Society of Mary

During a private audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Pope authorised the congregation to promulgate the following regarding Faustino Perez-Manglano Magro: Declaration of Heroic Virtues Servant of God Faustino Perez-Manglano Magro, Spanish student and postulant of the Marianists (1946-1963).

Faustino has now been granted the title “Venerable.” The Society of Mary is grateful to God for this happy development. Faustino will serve as a fitting role-model, particularly for young people. Fr. Antonio Gascón, SM, Postulator General of the Society of Mary, issued the following statement: “This is a wonderful day for all Marianists! The Holy Father has seen fit to confirm the virtues of this young Servant of God. We are grateful to him, to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, In a special way, we are indebted to Fr. José María Salaverri, SM, and Fr. Enrique Torres, SM, who did so much to promote this Cause.”

The Sunday Word

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 49:3, 5-6
1 Cor 1:1-3
Jn 1:29-34

"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world."

With these words John the Baptist fulfills what God has called him to do. He bears witness to the Word made flesh.
How does he know Jesus is the one?  Well, God has told him. "On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit."

So, what's happening in today's Gospel? On the surface two very important things happen: First, John fulfills his mission to bear witness to Jesus and to reveal him to Israel. Second, Jesus calls his first disciples, who are men of Israel.

But there is much more. It is the question of identity. Its is not the identity of John. It's the identity of Jesus. He is the Lamb of God. He is the one who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit. He is the Son of God. He is God’s chosen. He is the Word that was with God in the beginning. He is the Word through whom all things have their being. He is God. He is the light that shines in the darkness.

So, yes. This Gospel has already identified Jesus.

The question to which the Gospel now turns is the identity of Jesus in relation to Israel’s messianic hope.

In part, that question is whether Jesus is the Messiah? His new disciples will quickly say, “Yes. We have found the Messiah.”

But there is more to the question. It is not enough to say that Jesus is the Messiah. Those who consider the identity of Jesus must also ask, “What does it mean to be the Messiah?”

Do they know what it means to be the Messiah? I doubt it.
Do they know what they are seeking? Do they know their heart’s desire? I doubt it.
What do they know? Not much, I suspect.
Their story is our story.

They, with us in the communion of the saints, are still learning what it means that Jesus is the Lamb of God.
They, with us, are still learning what they are seeking.
What they have realized by now is that they did not find the Messiah. He found them. They have realize too that what mattered was not what they were seeking but who was seeking them. “Come and see.”

"What are you looking for?" Jesus asked.
"Rabbi," they replied, "where are you staying?" "Teacher," they were saying, "let us join with you and be your students." When Jesus responds to this address and request, his answer is an invitation, "Come and see."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Blessed John Paul II

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The pope on Friday signed off on the miracle needed for the beatification of Pope John Paul II, and set May 1 as the date to honor one of the most beloved popes of all times as a model of saintliness for the church. - Source (May 1 is Divine Mercy Sunday.)

Friday, January 14, 2011

An outburst of soul

"Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life." ~Ludwig van Beethoven

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Say "Yes"

Do you often find yourself saying, "I'm so busy" or "I just have so much to do"? It's easy to get overwhelmed with appointments, gatherings, to-do lists. But what are we really doing with our time? Many of us are running from place to place and it seems like life is just passing us by. We're doing so many things, a little bit of everything, and yet it doesn't feel like much of a life. But most of us find it hard to say no. We feel obligated. There are so many good things to do. So many good causes to join. But while we're busy doing all these good things, are we missing out on something great? Maybe saying no would be easier if we knew what it meant to say yes.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Love the Lord

Author Kathleen Norris tells the story of a friend named Willie who had fallen in with a drug dealer in Wyoming and dreamed up a scheme to make some really big bucks. Willie thought that things were working out just fine -- making good contacts, setting up a network -- but one day he and his colleague were cruising down the road when the drug-dealer saw a man traveling the opposite direction. "I need to kill him," said the dealer quite matter-of-factly, reaching for a gun that was stashed under the front seat.

"It was right then I decided to get out," said Willie, badly shaken. "This was over my head." And that, concludes Kathleen Norris, is where salvation begins — in the sudden awareness that a particular path is leading to death, in the naming of something as "wrong," and in taking steps to turn away from it. And it is continued in the unexpected and astounding action of God to free people from whatever is holding them in bondage.

The way back to the right path -- the kingdom path -- always begins at the very same place: At the point where God in Christ reaches across miles and missteps and a multitude of messy mortal mistakes, at the point where Jesus wraps his arms around the shoulders of wayward, wandering souls and gently guides them back. Christ doesn't discard people because they're moving down an imperfect path. And he does not disqualify people who have made a mess of their lives before finding the right road

God is on a saint search, and it is not only perfect people who are going to be found. Sure, there may be some who are born with the natural ability to love the Lord with the totality of heart, soul, mind and strength, 24/7/365 -- but for most of us, this passion and power comes only after we discover that God has always loved us, and that his love precedes our own.

Fact is, most of us find the Lord only after we have been found by the Lord.

And all he asks is that we respond with that same level of passion ... loving him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength ... and showing a willingness to love our neighbors as ourselves.

If we do, we'll be God's holy ones, set apart for his service.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Letting Go

I just finished talking to one of our students in the hallway. He mentioned how proud he was of his father. For years his father was focused outside the family. The focus led him to areas that was not helpful to the growth of the family or even his father's personal growth. But since that time, his father has had a complete conversion. He has reorganized his life. He takes his family members seriously. He has begun a relationship with his God.

Now before Jesus called his very first disciples, he was already calling people to faith. Faithfulness is actually the Christians' "thumbs-up" sign. We have no way of knowing if the course ahead of us carries smooth air or turbulence and storms. We have no special foreknowledge if the skies will be friendly or filled with hostility and danger.

What we all do have is faith--faith in the love of Christ, faith in the eternal closeness of God's presence and God's kingdom. Jesus proclaims that the correct response to the gospel news is faith. He gives us the "thumbs-up" signal first. It is then essential that we return a "thumbs-up" sign of trust in God's grace and faithfulness to us.

Can we let go and let God take us into the wild blue yonder? Can we let go and trust God enough to lift us into stratospheres of spirituality and service we never knew even existed? Can we get out of the way and let God be God in our lives?

Monday, January 10, 2011

24 Hours with the Lord

Throughout the year the Marianists of the Province of Meribah offer countless retreats to faculty, students, and parents. A few times a year we offer opportunities for spritual nourishment for young graduates who are interested in exploring the spiritual. On January 4-5 we offered a College Age Retreat - 24 Hours with the Lord at the Meribah Retreat House in Muttontown, NY.

This spiritual retreat gave the opportunity to join our Community in the chapel for the celebration of the liturgy and Eucharistic Adoration; in addition to some conferences there is time for personal prayer and reflection and opportunity to talk with the Marianists and each other.
Above, Brother Peter gives one of the presentations in the Meribah lounge.

The retreatants greeted the day with Morning Prayer in the Chapel.

Above, Father Thomas offers ideas for reflection about prayer.

The College Age Retreat gathered together graduates from both Marianist high schools.

Both tables were the focal point of the retreat: the table of the spiritual food(altar) and the tabel of physical food(dining table.)

As a final thought, listen to this beautiful promise from the Lord from Psalm 32 - “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” God promises to not only remain with us and watch over us throughout our lifetimes, but God promises to direct us as well along this journey we call life with all of its challenges and surprises, its opportunities and disappointments, its sad times and blessings. But through it all – God remains with us and for us and in our last days will lead us home.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Our Baptism

Our baptism is a call. This is most appropriate as we begin National Vocations Awareness Week.I

Our Baptism is not just a feel good call of affirmation. It is a call to servanthood with God to bring the message that all of life is called blessed. As servants, as we deeply hear this affirmation for our lives, we then begin to see other people through the same lens and are called to remind them of their value in God’s eyes.

Be anchored in the affirmation that you are the beloved child of God. It is the inheritance of your baptism. Once we start from that place and continue to believe that nothing and no one can take that identity away from us, then we are free to explore what God has in mind for our lives.

Parker Palmer, who I read years ago, has written a wonderful small book, called “Let your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation”. He writes, “Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.” He suggests we ask the question, “Is the life I’m living, the life that wants to live in me?”

The powerful call of our baptism is to live with the integrity of the life that God has given us, to and then, to shape each day of that life. As we value our life as beloved and affirmed, we begin to manifest God’s Spirit working through us and then we can then hear the call to value all life as beloved of God. Living into that reality will bless the world with a deep righteousness, pursuit of justice, and offer profound respect for all of God’s creation.

You are the beloved children of God. Watermarked and spirit-born. Go out and live in joy children of God.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Vocation of Christ

Above: Behind the great baptismal font at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles is a set of five tapestries, created by John Nava, with a central depiction of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. Now keep in mind that each of the five tapestry panels is forty seven and a half feet high and seven feet wide.

Below: In this detail from the central tapestry, note how the soles of Jesus' feet evidence his walking barefoot or sandal shod.
This Sunday we will remember the Baptism of Jesus. It also begins the celebration of Vocation Awareness Week. Christ's Baptism is the moment when He was affirmed and confirmed in His own mission. From His Baptism, He began His ministry. At His baptism, He understood how beloved He was by God.

In the first reading this Sunday, the prophet Isaiah speaks about the servant whom God upheld. The servant will bring forth justice to the nations and will have God’s spirit. Saint Peter, in the second reading, teaches the people that Jesus came to preach peace. Jesus was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, and did wonderful things for God.

What does this all say about vocation? If we want peace and God’s love to reign here and now, then we are invited to do what Jesus did: to love, to find opportunities to love, to be compassionate. We are challenged to show mercy as God shows mercy.

So what is God doing in you? What difference is the message of the parables, teachings, words of Jesus doing in your life right now? What are the experiences in your life that you and God can look at together and see a deeper meaning that can in turn have an impact for your future?

God has not given up on us….. on you… or on me. At this point in our lives, in the life of our church and of our community here, God is asking us all to be open; to be open to the gifts that have been given to us in Baptism; to be open to the deeper message of our life experiences; to be open to the quiet and gentle stirrings in our hearts that move us closer to understanding what God is calling us to in our life.

In the end, we are called to be open – open to the whisper of God’s gentle Spirit stirring us into action, and open to the voice of God calling us through the people we are called to serve.

Friday, January 7, 2011

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas ...

Thanks to for this brief explanation.

"You're all familiar with the Christmas song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" I think. To most it's a delightful nonsense rhyme set to music. But it had a quite serious purpose when it was written.

It is a good deal more than just a repetitious melody with pretty phrases and a list of strange gifts.

Catholics in England during the period 1558 to 1829, when Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England, were prohibited from ANY practice of their faith by law - private OR public. It was a crime to BE a Catholic.

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written in England as one of the "catechism songs" to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith - a memory aid, when to be caught with anything in writing indicating adherence to the Catholic faith could not only get you imprisoned, it could get you hanged, or shortened by a head - or hanged, drawn and quartered, a rather peculiar and ghastly punishment I'm not aware was ever practiced anywhere else. Hanging, drawing and quartering involved hanging a person by the neck until they had almost, but not quite, suffocated to death; then the party was taken down from the gallows, and disembowelled while still alive; and while the entrails were still lying on the street, where the executioners stomped all over them, the victim was tied to four large farm horses, and literally torn into five parts - one to each limb and the remaining torso.

The songs gifts are hidden meanings to the teachings of the faith. The "true love" mentioned in the song doesn't refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge which feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, much in memory of the expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered thee under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but thou wouldst not have it so..."

The other symbols mean the following:

2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed "

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Word

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Is 42:1-4, 6-7
Acts 10:34-38
Mt 3:13-17 

Begin to prepare for this Sunday's feast of Christ's Baptism by pondering the scriptures. Spend some time in prayer before you come to celebrate.

When Jesus came to the water, John recognized that he was “the one” who “is more powerful than I ... I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the straps of his sandals.” If there were anyone that could skip this baptism it was Jesus. In Matthew’s version, John is incredulous that the Messiah would even need any kind of baptism — “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you come to me?” Yet Jesus willingly steps down into the brown water to take on the same mark as his people.
When we are baptized we take on that same mark. Jesus’ baptism is the prototype for those of us who would follow him. So, what does our baptism say about us?

We understand baptism as a mark of God’s favor. Jesus comes to the Jordan River to be baptized by John and for him it is a form of anointing — not just with water but with the Spirit. Here we see the Trinity in action: the Son receiving the blessing, the Father expressing his love for the Son, and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. Baptism marks Jesus as “the Beloved” in whom God’s own nature is revealed and with whom God is “well pleased.” It’s a powerful expression of the intimacy of God’s own relational nature.

For us, baptism is a sign of God’s favor as well, but it is favor that is unmerited. We recognize that we can’t fake out God and be something that we’re not, so we “come clean” through repentance and confession and simply receive the love of God who created us and sees us as being “very good.”

But wait, there’s more. The baptism of Jesus was a form of anointing by which the Messiah, the promised One, would save Israel and the whole world. Israelite kings were marked as a symbol of their office and their responsibility. For Jesus, and for us, baptism is preparation.

Baptism is a sign that we pledge allegiance to a different kingdom — the kingdom of God. And that allegiance is worked out in our service to others. Baptism marks us, sets us apart as different from the world’s idea of power.

In other words, we’re called to “go” into the world and get dirty serving others. There’s no room for pretending or keeping to our own side of town. Our baptism is a commission and a call to go into the wilds of a hurting world.

What we do now matters!

Our baptism, then, invites us to live in that new reality — a heavenly, God-ordained reality, seeing eternity not “out there” somewhere but seeing God at work in the here and now.

Living as baptized followers of Christ is something we can’t fake. No amount of spray or religiosity can hide who we really are. As Jesus waded into those river waters, he set the example for us.

The bottom line: If the Son of God is willing to get dirty changing the world, we who follow need to do the same.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Higher vocation

Recently one of my students showed me a book that he had been reading to discern his vocation. When he pulled it out of his backpack I was amazed that I was reading the exact same book. If you have not read Fr. Brett Brannen's book entitled To Save a Thousand Souls it is a good read.

Our discussion that followed reviewed the fundamentals of the book. The concrete and personal experiences were certainly valuable throughout the text. Fr. Brannen makes one of the clearest explanations of religious life that I have heard from a diocesan priest. He writes the religious life:

"is a higher vocation than the priesthood or marriage. It is not a "better" vocation, because what is best for each person is precisely the God pre-determined vocation for that individual. But religious life is a more perfect life in the sense  that it is directed towards the Evangelical Counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, which more perfectly reflect the eternal destiny of every person in Heaven. This life was lived, described, and recommended by Jesus Christ himself, so the Church calls this the perfect life."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Be a beam of light

Where are you looking for God? Isn't this the compelling question that stands at the beginning of every new year. Our world is busy seeking God as much as we are. But our world is seeking God in all the wrong places.

Our Sunday scriptures speak to us, "Arise, shine, for your light has come."

This makes it all the more imperative that the Epiphany News is that God is found in incarnation, in the humility of birth in a stable. The Epiphany which we celebrate remind us that light has come upon the "little ones" to share with the "learned," a light more brilliant than the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night, more brilliant than the "thousand points of light" shining in the darkness. And likewise, we are called to offer the light and message of illumination. We are to beam light, sprinkle salt, knead leaven into an otherwise hopeless world.

Pray for those who on our College Age Retreat at the Meribah Retreat House on January 4-5.

Christ be beside me;
Christ be before me;
Christ be behind me;
King of my heart.
Christ be within me;
Christ be below me;
Christ be above me;
Never to part.
Christ on my right hand
Christ on my left hand;
Christ all around me,
Shield in the strife.
Christ in my sleeping;
Christ in my sitting;
Christ in my rising,
Light of my life.