Friday, August 31, 2012

The Sunday Word

The second reading from St. James this weekend reminds us that Christians are doers of the Word. Here is the Sunday reading:

Dearest brothers and sisters:
All good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.
He willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:
to care for orphans and widows in their affliction
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Now Christians must be doing, not "just looking." The whole crux of our faith is that we don't know every detail, every contingency, every possible development that awaits us. But we do know who is in charge. A life of faith demands we work hard but know that ultimately God is in control.

As Christians, those who have heard the word and are called to act upon it, we are not to plan but to prophesy our way forward in life.

The hot and sweaty slogan of the Nike company, "Just Do It" isn't quite right. In the church we don't "just do it," we also "just pray it." It is in the power of a Spirit-filled closeness with God's desires that the church begins to see the shape of its future. That kind of closeness is possible only through prayer -- the Christian's conduit to God.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Labor Day is comin

This coming weekend unofficially marks the end of summer with Labor Day. But why is it called Labor Day? Labor Day is a day set aside to pay tribute to working men and women. It has been celebrated as a national holiday in the United States since 1894.

Labor unions themselves celebrated the first labor days in the United States, although there's some speculation as to exactly who came up with the idea. Most historians credit Peter McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, with the original idea of a day for workers to show their solidarity. Others credit Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J.

The first Labor Day parade occurred Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City. The workers' unions chose the first Monday in September because it was halfway between Independence Day and Thanksgiving. The idea spread across the country, and some states designated Labor Day as a holiday before the federal holiday was created.

President Grover Cleveland signed a law designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day nationwide. This is interesting because Cleveland was not a labor union supporter. In fact, he was trying to repair some political damage that he suffered earlier that year when he sent federal troops to put down a strike by the American Railway Union at the Pullman Co. in Chicago, IL. That action resulted in the deaths of 34 workers.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

We Are Catholic.

As we begin our preparations for a new school year in all of our Marianist schools, we watched this video today with the faculty.

When the video was shown to our students they responded afterwards, "Now I know why I am so proud to be a Catholic."

What does it mean to be Catholic in today's world? With so many lies and distortions placed upon the Church by the world and evil spirits that prowl it, seeking the ruin of souls, we occasionally lose.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Marianist Monday

The Province of Meribah gathered together on Sunday, August 26th in the Chapel of the Our Lady's Assumption to witness Fr. Todd Saccoccia take his promises of the Novitiate.

After a year-long period of Aspirancy Fr. Todd now begins his canonical year of novitiate. During this intense year of prayer and discernment, he is instructed in elements of Marianist religious life and learns further how to live as a Marianist among Brothers.

The novitiate year concludes with the profession of temporary vows, usually made for a period of three years.

Provincial Brother Thomas and Assistant Provincial Father Garrett are pictured with Fr. Todd and his parents.

Fr. Todd promises to follow Christ more closely as he begin his Novitiate in the Society of Mary.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pop Culture

On the night of July 27th, 2012, a huge prank was pulled in New York City and this is the video of what took place. Brett Cohen came up with a crazy idea to fool thousands of pedestrians walking the streets of Times Square into thinking he was a huge celebrity, and it worked! Not only did it work, it caused quite a stir. This social experiment, of sorts, makes a profound statement about how modern culture is so attracted to pop culture, without any real credibility needed.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Follow Me

Since this Sunday comes at the end of August, near the beginning of a new school year, it's a great opportunity to talk about choices, not only with the young people but with many others who are faced every day with a constant clarion call from the culture that they can, and should, have it all.

Following Jesus isn't easy, but it's the only path that leads to life. Where are people making deals with the devil in our culture, or in our community? What offers do we need to say "no" to in order to gain a soul that is modeled after and follows after Jesus?

Jesus didn't panic when offered a devilish deal. Neither should we.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Sunday Word 2

Ephesians 5 has taken a lot of heat because of this verse 22: “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord.” If we read Sunday’s passage carefully, Paul is loading a heavier burden onto the husband’s shoulders than onto the wife’s. In his challenging and inspiring exhortations for husbands to sacrificially love their wives, he is advocating a form of wife-carrying to otherwise self-focused men in Ephesus.

There are plenty of ways we can encourage fathers to live their calling and to love their families well: the example of the fatherhood of God, biblical models of fatherhood — both good and bad — that we can learn from, and passages on parenting like the one that comes later in Ephesians.

But given the abysmal state of American marriages and family systems today, we want to encourage men that one of the best ways to be a loving father is to be a loving husband first.

That bears repeating: One of the best ways to be a loving father is to be a loving husband first.

This passage brings up challenging ideas of what love means, and offers us a guide for spiritual reflection on how well we are doing at wife-carrying. But while most men can read a repair manual or explain a zone defense, they can’t read and explain their wives as well as they should be able to.

All people have one or two natural ways that they give or communicate love as well as ways that they receive love. Often the way we give and receive is the same, but it isn’t always the case that the way a husband and wife give and receive love is the same. Hence love is like a language which is received only if it is understood.

There are five common love languages about spending quality time together, sharing words of encouragement, giving gifts, physical touch and acts of service.

To love well, husbands must be committed students of their wives, learning how they naturally receive love then learning how to better love them in that way.

Benjamin Franklin noted with sarcastic observation, “One good Husband is worth two good Wives; for the scarcer things are the more they’re valued.”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Sunday Word

In Sunday’s first reading, the aging leader of the Israelites challenges his people to decide what sort of a community they would be now that they had a homeland, and homesteads, a college acceptance letter, a car, an iPod, two dogs and a cat.

He asks them to decide to whom their allegiance would be given. Joshua couched that challenge in a question about commitment: "decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

The people responded that they would do the same: “The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey."

Of course, the challenge Joshua issued to the Israelites also confronts us. We still must choose whom we will serve and what kind of people we will be. That choice affects all of our lives, including how we function on whatever rung of the corporate ladder we find ourselves.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Queenship of Mary

On August 22, one week after the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we celebrate the memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Blessed Virgin in heavenly glory, body and soul, participates in her special role in the universal Kingdom of God. Our Queen Mother is not the source of grace, but is a channel where graces flow; therefore she is seen as the Mediatrix.

In the early days of our theology studies, we spent serious time on Mary's role in salvation history. Mary's role was one who dispenses graces (Mediatrix) and flows from her role as Co-redemptrix. She is able to dispense grace because she actively participates in receiving the graces of Redemption with and under Jesus. Because of her Immaculate Conception, she acquires the grace of Redemption by Jesus Christ and is able to dispense that grace to all of humanity through her role as Spiritual Mother. She feeds the faithful the spiritual gifts through Christ’s body in the order of grace. Her function as Spiritual Mother is fundamental in her ability to distribute the graces of Redemption.

A mother who is true to her vocation as mother not only gives birth to her children, but she cares for them, assists in their growth and is the first teacher when it comes to correct formation. There are a few scriptural references that refer to Mary acting as Mediatrix, however, the one I want to focus on is John 2:1-10 – the Wedding Feast at Cana. Mary is Mediatrix here because she directs and gives a specific mediation to the situation at hand (“they have no wine”). She is willing the grace of Jesus Christ at Cana (“Do whatever he tells you”). Our Lady intercedes for the grace and Jesus’ first public miracle.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Evening Prayer

James Martin, SJ just posted this great Evening Prayer on his FaceBook page:

Evening prayer
Dear God, sometimes I make the spiritual life so complicated.
I try to figure out if I'm praying the right way, if I'm reading the right books, or if I'm going to the right parish. Worse, sometimes I worry more about others than about my own actions: I worry about something that I can't control instead of what I can control. Sometimes I look at people with such judgment, even though I know that's the last thing you want me to do. You warned people against judging, but I still do it.

God, help me to remember that the Christian life isn't all that complicated. It's really about one simple thing: Love. It may not be easy to do, but it's easy to remember. Help me to be more loving in all that I say and do. Help me to love like Jesus did, freely and deeply. Help me to forgive, which is at the heart of true love.
God, when things seem complicated, help me to remember one word: Love.
- James Martin, SJ

Tuesday Tunes

Today's tunes takes a little different twist than the usual music video, but it is certainly worth some consideration. We all have a big role on this planet.

Sometimes in the midst of our own self -hate we conclude God can't use me or at least shouldn't use me. We've probably all thought it at some point. However, studying the Bible shows us that many flawed people were used by God in powerful ways. They were just as unqualified as you. So now what's your excuse?


Monday, August 20, 2012

Marianist Monday

One of the great spiritual writers of our time is Fr. Ronald Rolhesier. Fr. Rolheiser is a Roman Catholic priest and member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He is a lecturer and writer with a weekly column that is carried in more than 50 newspapers worldwide. He is the author of numerous books as well. He has been a priest for over 28 years.

He says that spirituality is “what we do with our desires.”  Spirituality is about what we do with the fire inside of us, how we channel our eros. And how we do channel it, the disciplines and habits we choose to live by, will either lead to a greater integration or disintegration in the way we are related to God, others and the cosmic world.

The summer retreats for the Marianist Brothers this year used a series of talks on faith, doubt and feelings by Fr. Rolheiser. As part of his talks, Rolheiser frequently made reference to Mother Teresa's "dark night of the soul." Below I have posted his weekly column on the published letters of Mother Teresa. It is worth the read to the end of the post. Enjoy.

A recent book on Mother Teresa, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, makes public a huge volume of her intimate correspondence and in it we see what looks like a very intense, fifty-year, struggle with faith and belief.

Again and again, she describes her religious experience as "dry", "empty", "lonely", "torturous", "dark", "devoid of all feeling". During the last half-century of her life, it seems, she was unable to feel or imagine God's existence.

Many people have been confused and upset by this. How can this be? How can this woman, a paradigm of faith, have experienced such doubts?

And so some are making that judgment that her faith wasn't real. Their view is that she lived the life of a saint, but died the death of an atheist. For doctrinaire atheists, her confession of doubt is manna from the abyss. Christopher Hitchens, for example, writes: "She was no more exempt from the realization that religion is a human fabrication than any other person, and that her attempted cure was more and more professions of faith could only have deepened the pit that she dug for herself."

What's to be said about all of this? Was Mother Teresa an atheist?

Hardly! In a deeper understanding of faith, her doubts and feelings of abandonment are not only explicable, they're predictable:

What Mother Teresa underwent is called "a dark night of the soul." This is what Jesus suffered on the cross when he cried out:"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" When he uttered those words, he meant them. At that moment, he felt exactly what Mother Teresa felt so acutely for more than fifty years, namely, the sense that God is absent, that God is dead, that there isn't any God. But this isn't the absence of faith or the absence of God, it is rather a deeper presence of God, a presence which, precisely because it goes beyond feeling and imagination, can only be felt as an emptiness, nothingness, absence, non-existence.

But how can this make sense? How can faith feel like doubt? How can God's deeper presence feel like God's non-existence? And, perhaps more importantly, why? Why would faith work like this?

The literature around the "dark night of the soul" makes this point: Sometimes when we are unable to induce any kind of feeling that God exists, when we are unable to imagine God's existence, the reason is because God is now coming into our lives in such a way that we cannot manipulate the experience through ego, narcissism, self-advantage, self-glorification, and self-mirroring. This purifies our experience of God because only when all of our own lights are off can we grasp divine light in its purity. Only when we are completely empty of ourselves inside an experience, when our heads and hearts are pumping dry, can God touch us in a way that makes it impossible for us to inject ourselves into the experience, so that we are worshiping God, not ourselves.

And this is painful. It is experienced precisely as darkness, emptiness, doubt, abandonment. But this is, in fact, "the test" that we pray God to spare us from whenever we pray Matthew's version of the Lord's Prayer - "Do not put us to the test."

Moreover this experience is usually given to those who have the maturity to handle it, spiritual athletes, those who pray for and truly want a searing "purity of heart", people like Mother Teresa. They ask Jesus to experience and feel everything as he did. He just answers their prayers!

Henri Nouwen, in a book entitled, In Memorium, shares a similar thing about his Mother: She was, he states, the most faith-filled and generous woman he had ever met. So when he stood at her bedside as she was dying he had every right to expect that her death would be a serene witness to a life of deep faith. But what happened, on the surface at least, seemed the exact reverse. She struggled, was seized by doubts, cried out, and died inside a certain darkness. Only later, after prayer and reflection, did this make sense. His mother had prayed her whole life to die like Jesus - and so she did! A common soldier dies without fear, Jesus died afraid.

In a remarkable book, The Crucified God, Jurgens Moltmann writes: "Our faith begins at the point where atheists suppose that it must end. Our faith begins with the bleakness and power which is the night of the cross, abandonment, temptation, and doubt about everything that exists! Our faith must be born where it is abandoned by all tangible reality; it must be born of nothingness, it must taste this nothingness and be given it to taste in a way no philosophy of nihilism can imagine."

Mother Teresa understood all of this. That is why her seeming doubt did not lead her away from God and her vocation but instead riveted her to it with a depth and purity that, more than anything else, tell us precisely what faith really is.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Marianist Summer Renewals

For the past three weeks, the Meribah Province has conducted a series of retreats at our home in Accord, NY named Founder's Hollow. These annual retreats are called our summer renewal programs. All the members of the Province attend the week-long renewal program at Founder's Hollow for their annual retreat. This time, in which we meditate on the Word of God and pray more intensely, is a period of refreshment and revitalization of our Marianist religious vocations.

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity put together in words what we have tried to do on our summer renewals. She reminds us that we are all called to a greater relationship with Christ and His Mother. In order to attain this, however, one must become detached from the things of this world, and even oneself, and order them all to the love of God, as Elizabeth writes:
"To walk in Jesus Christ seems to me to want to leave self, lose sight of self, give up self in order to enter into Him with every passing moment, so deeply that one is rooted there, and to every event, to every circumstance we can fling this beautiful challenge: "Who will separate me from the love of Jesus Christ?'"
Our summer renewal is always an opportunity to reorder our lives toward the ultimate goal of the human race: eternal happiness in the presence of God.

The Province of Meribah also celebrated its 36th anniversary yesterday. With joy we have been graced with many blessings from Almighty God. May God continue to bless us with his grace.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bread of Life

Sunday's Scriptures has Jesus speaking about "living bread." Now, there was a sense of what he was talking about because they remembered the bread from God -- the manna -- that their ancestors had eaten in the wilderness. But his flesh? That certainly didn't make any sense.

"Very truly, I tell you," says Jesus, "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." His images have shifted from warm bread to something apparently more sinister. There is no longer any doubt that Jesus is going to have to give his flesh and shed his blood, and that his followers will need to eat and drink his sacrifice. Jesus is giving his whole self to us, and inviting us to eat him up. Just reading or saying that can make one's skin crawl.

Obviously, and we should stress obviously, Jesus does not mean this in any literal sense of the language. There is no cannibalistic tradition his listeners would have understood. Thus their confusion. And they were not positioned spiritually to understand Jesus' word on any metaphorical level either. So many people, even some of those who were nominal disciples, left Jesus at this point thinking, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it? This guy is nuts!" They just left the kitchen.

Clearly, cooking with Jesus is not easy. This is understandable since kitchens have not always been pleasant places to be. Kitchens used to be hell on earth. That's why Jesus entered the kitchen and baked the bread of life.

Out of such a hell comes the promise of eternal life. Taking Jesus into ourselves is a full-time challenge, one that transforms us from the inside out. After all, "you are what you eat." "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life," promises Jesus, "and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me."

If we take Jesus into ourselves, we are given eternal life.

The challenge for us is to stay close to Jesus, receive his nourishment and do his work in the world.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Sunday Word

Hopefully you will not miss the comparison of Wisdom preparing a feast in this Sunday's first reading. It is a meal for those who would partake of it. It is not just a meal, but a feast. A huge banquet! It is so important that it mentions the house, the building that was going to be used.

Now Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out of it seven pillars. It's not just a shack by the side of the road, but it's going to be a mansion. Even today when we see a house with one or two pillars, we realize that it's a pretty big house. Here, Wisdom describes the house as a house of seven pillars. It is almost beyond imagination. In that house is going to be enough room for everyone who wants to come.

In that house there is going to be a banquet. Our text says: She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She's gotten everything ready. The original says they've slaughtered the beasts. And they've mixed the wine with spices so that it's as tasty as it could be. The table is set. Everything is now ready.What's left?

Of course, it's the invitation.

She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city. They're going to announce that the banquet is ready to begin, they are going to go to the highest point where everyone will see them and everyone will hear them. No one is to be excluded for here is the invitation: "Let all who are simple come in here!" The invitation is to everyone. Everyone who wants to come can feast at the banquet that Wisdom has prepared. She says it's an invitation to those who have a need of their heart. A need that is in their heart, something that is missing in their life.

Whether they realize it or not, what is missing is wisdom, the wisdom of God which is able to make them wise for salvation. The invitation says: Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding. Wisdom is going to feed them with a banquet that would cause them to live, not live day by day, but live beyond the days of this life into eternity. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Assumption traditions live on!

When we were kids, we took to the waters with the whole extended family on Aug. 15th — the Feast of the Assumption. I recently heard it was popularly called “Salt Water Day.”

According to pious legend, as the Blessed Virgin rose to heaven on this day, she wept and her tears fell into the ocean. The belief is that every year on this day, Mary’s tears reactivate, bringing good health to those who bathe in the sea.

So, for generations who had survived diptheria, influenza, polio and a host of other, now curable diseases, this custom had a powerful attraction. My dad, never failed to dip his feet in the ocean. And some started the family custom of bringing back water to those who could not make the trip themselves.

Things are scaled back now. But the tradition still lives on. Many have made the trek to the water's edge and gathered up two gallon milk jugs of water to give to friends in need of some help with their health.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Assumption of Our Lady

Today, Catholics and many other Christians celebrate the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This significant feast day recalls the spiritual and physical departure of the mother of Jesus Christ from the earth, when both her soul and her resurrected body were taken into the presence of God.

Venerable Pope Pius XII confirmed this belief about the Virgin Mary as a teaching of the Church when he defined it formally as a dogma of Catholic faith in 1950, invoking papal infallibility to proclaim, “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

Although the bodily assumption of Mary is not explicitly recorded in Scripture, Catholic tradition identifies her with the “woman clothed with the sun” who is described in the Book of Revelation.

The passage calls that woman's appearance “a great sign” which “appeared in heaven,” indicating that she is the mother of the Jewish Messiah and has “the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” Accordingly, Catholic iconography of the Western tradition often depicts the Virgin Mary's assumption into heaven in this manner.

“It was fitting,” St. John of Damascus wrote in a sermon on the Assumption, “that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death,” and “that she, who had carried the creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles.”

In Eastern Christian tradition, the same feast is celebrated on the same calendar date, although typically known as the Dormition (falling asleep) of Mary.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

St. Maximillian Kolbe - Obedience alone shows us God's will

“I rejoice greatly, dear brother, at the outstanding zeal that drives you to promote the glory of God. It is sad to see how in our times the disease called “indifferentism” is spreading in all its forms, not just among those in the world but also among the members of religious orders. But indeed, since God is worthy of infinite glory, it is our first and most pressing duty to give him such glory as we, in our weakness, can manage – even that we would never, poor exiled creatures that we are, be able to render him such glory as he truly deserves.

Because God’s glory shines through most brightly in the salvation of the souls that Christ redeemed with his own blood, let it be the chief concern of the apostolic life to bring salvation and an increase in holiness to as many souls as possible. Let me briefly outline the best way to achieve this end – both for the glory of God and for the sanctification of the greatest number. God, who is infinite knowledge and infinite wisdom, knows perfectly what is to be done to give him glory, and in the clearest way possible makes his will known to us through his vice-gerents on Earth.

It is obedience and obedience alone that shows us God’s will with certainty. Of course our superiors may err, but it cannot happen that we, holding fast to our obedience, should be led into error by this. There is only one exception: if the superior commands something that would obviously involve breaking God’s law, however slightly. In that case the superior could not be acting as a faithful interpreter of God’s will.

God himself is the one infinite, wise, holy, and merciful Lord, our Creator and our Father, the beginning and the end, wisdom, power, and love – God is all these. Anything that is apart from God has value only in so far as it is brought back to him, the Founder of all things, the Redeemer of mankind, the final end of all creation. Thus he himself makes his holy will known to us through his vice-gerents on Earth and draws us to himself, and through us – for so he has willed – draws other souls too, and unites them to himself with an ever more perfect love.

See then, brother, the tremendous honour of the position that God in his kindness has placed us in. Through obedience we transcend our own limitations and align ourselves with God’s will, which, with infinite wisdom and prudence, guides us to do what is best. Moreover, as we become filled with the divine will, which no created thing can resist, so we become stronger than all others.”

Tuesday Tunes

Stunning Performance of How Great Thou Art by Wynonna Judd from theremix on GodTube.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Marianist Monday

Last week a group of our Marianist high school students travelled to the Marianist University of Dayton for a college visit. The visit was a very positive and grace-filled event for all those who made the journey to the Midwest.

During our stay at the University of Dayton we stopped and prayed at the new statue of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade.

Donated by President Daniel J. Curran and Claire Renzetti as “a gift of thanksgiving for the Marianists,” the statue by UD alumnus and Marianist Brother Joseph Aspell (’68) was commissioned in honor of the 250th anniversary of Blessed Chaminade’s birth.

The UD sculpture is one of four: two smaller versions are in the provincial offices of the Society of Mary in St. Louis and at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, and the fourth will be installed at Chaminade University in Honolulu.

Blessed Chaminade, a French priest, escaped to Spain during the Revolution after refusing to take the Oath of Fidelity all clergy were ordered to swear. When he returned to Bordeaux, he brought together an eclectic group of merchants, priests, teachers, chimney sweeps, former soldiers and others from all walks of life who drew their inspiration from Mary and believed strongly in service to youth and the poor. They became the Society of Mary, or Marianists.

“The statue depicts Father Chaminade as a younger man returning to France from his exile in Spain,” says Joan McGuinness Wagner, director of Marianist strategies. “He is moving, working to begin his mission. And he looks down on us to invite us to join him in this work. The book in his arm is a symbol of the Marianist quest for knowledge through faith and reason.”

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Be imitators of God

Today's selection from Paul urges the Ephesians to practice seeing their work as an opportunity for service to those in need. When we're practicing disciples, all of our work hours -- no matter what we do -- can be seen as a means toward the goal of advancing God's kingdom.

We need to practice our speech as well. Loose and evil talk seems to be the norm in our culture, and it's easy for us to get caught up in it. But what would happen if, instead, we practiced saying nothing but "words that give grace to those who hear?"  As disciples we must engage in the daily practice of disciplining our speech to reflect the building up of others rather than tearing down.

Next, Paul warns against grieving the Holy Spirit, which seems to be another way of saying we violate our baptism and our role in building up the community in holiness. If baptism is the mark of the Holy Spirit on us, then we need to be reminded daily that our conduct and thought life should reflect the Spirit's presence in our lives.

Our lives mirror the character of God

Paul sums up the argument by saying that if we're really practicing Christians, then things like bitterness, wrath, anger, arguments, slander and malice will eventually be "put away" and replaced with kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness. That will only happen through the discipline of practice.

The true gauge of success, according to Paul, is that character mirrors God in the way that a child mirrors a parent. The ultimate example of that kind of success is Jesus. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Sunday Word

In Sunday's Gospel selection, Saint Peter says, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

In the context of what was happening that day, Peter's statement is remarkable. In effect, he was saying, "Despite the conclusion of all those who have turned away, despite the centuries of synagogue teaching, despite the improbability of any human being embodying the words of life, we believe that you, Jesus, have "the words of eternal life," and that you are "the Holy One of God."

With his answer to Jesus, Saint Peter actually shows us quite a bit about the nature of faith, for clearly he is aware that Jesus' offer of eternal life has been discounted by the crowd. And he surely knows there is no proof to the contrary. But he's saying that based on what he and the other 11 have seen of Jesus, they are choosing to believe. He's showing the truth that believing in Jesus is always a matter of choice. Peter is kin to a great many Christians down through the centuries who have acknowledged to themselves, if not to others, that there are enough reasons not to believe in Jesus if that is what they conclude, but there are also reasons to believe. And they have made the believing choice.

Friday, August 10, 2012

St. Lawrence teach us to laugh

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Lawrence, a martyr and deacon of the 3rd century. St. Lawrence is known primarily for two features, which are reflected in our readings today: his care for the poor and his martyrdom. Throughout his life he maintained a sense of humor that made him the patron saint of comedians.

One day, the Roman government demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church.  Now, Lawrence knew that there was no purpose to hiding the Church’s treasures. So he asked for three days to gather everything together. During those days he sold every chalice and artwork and other item that is valuable as the world sees things. He gave the proceeds to the poor. On the third day he returned and presented the true riches of the Church: the blind, the lame, the leprous, and many other people. He is reported to have said, “As you can see, we are richer than the emperor.” So they killed him. They grilled him to death. I suppose they had a giant barbeque, lit a fire, and threw him on it. As he was dying, he supposedly said to his guards, “You can flip me over now; I am done on this side.”

And what can we learn from the comedy routines of St. Lawrence? In the face of the world, we ought to laugh, recognizing how ridiculous the world is. People live and die for money and power. We live and die for Jesus Christ. The contrast is so enormous.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Take a look at the recent CARA study in America  Magazine:

Some commentators have made assertions about the demographics of religious life in the United States that are not based in fact. Regrettably, such misinformed statements create dichotomies that not only mask the complexity of religious reality, but are patently false. In an article entitled “The Sisters: Two Views,” published in June on the Ethics and Public Policy Center Web site, for example, George Weigel wrote: “In any case, there can be no denying that the ‘renewal’ of women’s religious life led by the L.C.W.R. and its affiliated orders has utterly failed to attract new vocations. The L.C.W.R. orders are dying, while several religious orders that disaffiliated from the L.C.W.R. are growing.”

…The information on religious life we report here comes from U.S. data published in the Official Catholic Directory, statistics for the church worldwide published in the Statistical Yearbook of the Church and a 2009 study of religious institutes in the U.S. conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University and commissioned by the National Religious Vocation Conference.

As of 2009, there were 729,371 sisters, 54,229 brothers and 135,051 religious priests in the world. These overall figures, however, mask a wide variation: some countries have experienced a decline in recent years, while in other countries the number of religious has increased.

CARA statistics for the United States show 55,944 sisters, 4,606 brothers and 12,629 religious priests in 2010. As commentators note, there has been a decline in the total number of religious in the United States since the peak in 1965. But the difficulty with that commonly cited starting point is that it denotes an exceptional period in U.S. Catholic history (the 1950s and 1960s). Never, before or since, have numbers serving in vowed and ordained ministry been as high. A longer view, say across the entire 20th century, shows just how unusual that 20-year period was. In 1900, the United States had almost 50,000 sisters. According to the Official Catholic Directory, the number of sisters peaked at 181,421 in 1965. This was an astounding increase of 265 percent in just 65 years…

The N.R.V.C./CARA study surveyed all religious institutes that are based in the United States and received completed responses from about two-thirds of them; these responses, however, account for well over 80 percent of all women and men religious in the United States. Among responding institutes of women religious, L.C.W.R. members are two-thirds of all respondents, institutes belonging to the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (C.M.S.W.R.) are 14 percent and 1 percent belong to both groups. The remaining fifth are contemplative monasteries or newly formed religious institutes ineligible for membership in either leadership conference.

…One of the most striking findings regarding new entrants is that almost equal numbers of women have been attracted to institutes in both conferences of women religious in the U.S. in recent years. As of 2009, L.C.W.R. institutes reported 73 candidates/postulants, 117 novices and 317 sisters in temporary vows/commitment. C.M.S.W.R. institutes reported 73 candidates/postulants, 158 novices and 304 sisters in temporary vows/commitment. (There are 150 nuns in formation in U.S. monasteries.)…

…Another key finding is that the youngest generation of religious women looks increasingly similar to the youngest generation of adults in the church. The sisters and nuns in initial formation today are 61 percent white; 16 percent Latina; 16 percent Asian/Pacific Islander; 6 percent African American and 1 percent other.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gospel values & sports

Sports is not just something for the few and fit. All of us who are overweight, sedentary, middle-aged, etc., can become "a hero just by making a first laborious, agonizing circuit of the track. Six months or a year later, many pounds lighter, eyes glowing, that person may provide a model of the potential that exists in every one of us. To go a step further: If that same person, recognizably transformed in body, mind, and spirit, takes this experience as the impetus for further explorations and boundary crossings and the heightening of awareness, then he or she must be said to have embodied the ultimate athletic ideal."

"The Ultimate Athlete" is the truest embodiment of The Olympic Creed, as expressed by Baron de Coubertin: "The important thing in the Olympic games is not winning but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well."

Monday, August 6, 2012

Marianist Monday

Apex of Marianist Spirituality

One of our Marianist Brothers from the USA Province of the Society of Mary died in the service of the Blessed Virgin Mary on July 26, 2012 in San Antonio, Texas. Brother Louis Pinckert was at the age of 86 with 68 years of religious profession and was the aprx of Marianist spirituality.

Those who knew him well commented that no matter where he ministered in his life, Bro. Louis exemplified the Marianist virtue of hospitality and a welcoming spirit.

In his request to take first vows in 1943, Bro. Louis wrote: “For a long time I have had the desire to
consecrate myself, my whole life, to the service of the Blessed Virgin. Where else but in the Society of
Mary can I do it in the best possible manner?” He professed first vows in the Society of Mary on August 15, 1943, in Galesville, Wisconsin.

Bro. Louis began teaching at Central Catholic and continued in other Marianist schools such as McBride, St. Mary and St. Joseph High Schools in Texas.

He ran the Marianist print shop at the Maryhurst, was head groundskeeper at St. Mary’s University, then returned to Chaminade College Prep as a teacher, athletic director and assistant in the physical plant.

He serviced his Brothers as a community business manager for 25 years, helped in food service, food buyer, cook and maintenance man, and was community director.

Bro. Louis was an avid photographer, used his computer skills in desktop publishing, "was enthusiastic about technology and learned an amazing amount about it,” said Fr. Ralph. “He also was a good cook and produced some great meals for the brothers.”

In 2009 Brother Louis moved to the Marianist Residence in San Antonio due to ill health. In his final years, Bro. Louie never complained. “Louie suffered a great deal but bore his suffering very gracefully,” said Bro. Mike O’Grady, director of the Residence. “He had a wonderful outlook.”

“Bro. Louie was the apex of hospitality,” said Fr. William.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Psalm 78
The Lord gave them bread from heaven.

What we have heard and know,
and what our fathers have declared to us,
We will declare to the generation to come
the glorious deeds of the LORD and his strength
and the wonders that he wrought.

He commanded the skies above
and opened the doors of heaven;
he rained manna upon them for food
and gave them heavenly bread.

Man ate the bread of angels,
food he sent them in abundance.
And he brought them to his holy land,
to the mountains his right hand had won.

• “The Lord gave them bread from heaven."
 How can we distribute this bread to the many people in our lives and our world hungry for food, love, companionship, justice, freedom, meaning and hope?
• As God heard the murmur and complaints of his suffering and struggling people, do we hear the murmur and complaints of those who call for help...and are we responding?

• Are we working (seeking) only for “the food that perishes” or do we hunger especially for God, seeking first and foremost God’s kingdom and righteousness?

• Jesus gave his life for the life of the world. How can we be more Eucharistic in our attitudes and actions toward others, especially those most in need?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

St. John Mary Vianney

Our fundamental vocation in life is to be saints.
There is no other purpose in life than this.
So, what is a saint?

A saint is one who knows he is a sinner.
A saint is a true scientist, a philosopher, he knows the Truth.
He sees what is right in front of him.
A saint knows what is real.

A saint is an idealist.
A saint embraces joy.
He embraces suffering and love.
A saint knows what is real joy.

A saint is a slave to Christ.
A saint conquers himself.
He is a doormat for Christ.
A saint knows he conquers the world.

A saint marries God "for better or for worse."
A saint marries God "for richer or poorer."
He is totally attached and faithful and dependent on God.

+ + +

Pray for the Canonization of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade

"In general, we must maintain a great freedom of mind and heart in the practice of the Christian and religious virtues. The laws of Jesus Christ are not laws of servitude; however strict they may be, they are the laws of grace and of love. “We have been called,” says St. Paul, “to the liberty of the children of God”                                                                                        Blessed William Joseph Chaminade

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Sunday Word

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
John 6:24-35

Prepare to hear the Word this coming Sunday! Ponder, pray and be persistent in your preparation.

“I am the bread of life,” Jesus said.

This past week we have been treated by so many culinary delights. Salads, chicken cutlets, string beans, blackberries, raspberries, and carrot cake. makes my mouth water. We have been blessed with home-made bread in various forms. Bread itself is not primarily a holiday food. While it has a place on a festive table, it’s also a basic staple of meals all year long. In fact, in the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, we’re told to ask, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Typically we talk about bread in connection with Holy Communion. Jesus is the bread broken for us.

But is bread enough?

Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” So you’d think that he understands bread as the most basic, foundational, and perhaps only sustenance a person needs.

Or, perhaps he knew that bread is not the only food a person requires but is the necessary foundation for a nutritious menu.

Sports dietician, Nancy Clarke, says that “bread provides only the foundation for a healthy diet.” She implies that much more is needed in one’s diet than bread.

And Jesus, no sports dietician, once retorted to a famous tempter, “Man shall not live on bread alone.”

So there you have it. Yet, Jesus calls himself the bread of life. Do we need more in our lives besides Jesus?

Could Jesus be suggesting that while faith in him is the vital foundation for the spiritual life, a healthy spirituality needs some other ingredients as well?

Uh, well, yes.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Sunday Word

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ex 16:2-4, 12-15

God tells Moses that he is going to “rain bread from heaven” on the people and cause quails to even land among them. “At twilight you shall eat meat,” says God, “and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.” That statement sums up the deeper meaning behind the provisions the Lord was supplying. The food was not only to meet their dietary needs, but also to feed them spiritually. In short, the lesson was “one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."

The Israelites missed the point, however. They craved and preferred the slave food of Egypt to the soul food of the wilderness: “We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at." Far from finding spiritual sustenance, what they found was gastronomic boredom.

We who like variety in our daily ration of food can perhaps sympathize with them. From a purely dietary standpoint their menu probably was just a bit monotonous. But their comment suggests that they wanted some come and go in their relationship with God. They weren’t all that interested in the steady, ongoing relationship that committed them to unwavering faithfulness to God. When it came to their religious lives, there was a good bit of “let’s see what else is on the menu” in their attitudes.

The same could be said of us. God has provisioned us with so many sources of divine nourishment — prayer, spiritual reading, Eucharist, fasting, mediation, etc. Yet sometimes we consider those things with a take-it-or-leave-it mindset.

As we are sent into the world, let us remember that God does not promise us an easy road.
But God is with us. God does not provide us with all that we desire. But God provides manna.God does not promise us a trouble-free life. But God provides eternal life through Jesus Christ, who goes with us, as we serve the world in Christ’s name.

May the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit be glorified in all place through the Immaculate Virgin Mary. Amen.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

St. Alphonsus - Top of the List

There are lists and then, there are lists. If you get a chance to watch late night television you may stumble onto David Letterman. He often gives a "Top Ten List."

Similarly I offer a "Top Ten List" for our celebration today. And we celebrate the Feast of Saint Alphonsus Liguori today. Saint Alphonsus is a doctor of the Church and known for his contribution to moral theology and his great kindness we have another list

Here is my "Top Ten List" for St. Alphonsus. It is a list of ten powerful quotes from this great moral theologian:

1. "Our Savior says, if you have not received the graces that you desire, do not complain to me, but blame yourself, because you have neglected to seek them from me."

2. "Realize that you may gain more in a quarter of an hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament than in all other practices of the day."

3. "It is well known, and is daily experienced by the clients of Mary, that her powerful name gives the particular strength necessary to overcome temptations against purity".

4. "I Love Jesus Christ and that is why I am on fire with the desire to give Him souls, first of all my own, and then an incalculable number of others."

5. "He who trusts himself is lost. He who trusts God can do all things."

6. "If we would completely rejoice the heart of God, let us strive in all things to conform ourselves to His divine will. Let us not only strive to conform ourselves, but also to unite ourselves to whatever dispositions God makes of us. Conformity signifies that we join our wills to the will of God. Uniformity means more. Uniformity means that we make one will of God's will and our will. In this way we will only what God wills. God's will alone is our will. "

7. "The sovereigns of the earth do not always grant audience readily; on the contrary, the King of Heaven, hidden under the eucharistic veils, is ready to receive anyone…"

8. "If you pray, you are positive of saving your soul. If you do not pray, you are just as positive of losing your soul. "

9. “Acquire the habit of speaking to God as if you were alone with Him, familiarly and with confidence and love, as to the dearest and most loving of friends. Speak to Him often of your business, your plans, your troubles, your fears— of everything that concerns you. Converse with Him confidently and frankly; for God is not wont to speak to a soul that does not speak to Him.”

10. The more a person loves God, the more reason he has to hope in Him. This hope produces in the Saints an unutterable peace, which they preserve even in adversity, because as they love God, and know how beautiful He is to those who love Him, they place all their confidence and find all their repose in Him alone.