Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy All Hallows Eve

Saint Anthony Messenger answers questions about the origins of the next two days on the Christian calendar. The following are excerpts from the Saint Anthony Messenger report.

When you think of Halloween, what comes to mind? For a lot of people, Halloween has become synonymous with candy, costumes, scary stuff, witches, ghosts and pumpkins. But do you know the Christian connection to the holiday?

The true origins of Halloween lie with the ancient Celtic tribes who lived in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. For the Celts, November 1 marked the beginning of a new year and the coming of winter. The night before the new year, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, lord of the dead. During this festival, Celts believed the souls of the dead, including ghosts, goblins and witches, returned to mingle with the living. In order to scare away the evil spirits, people would wear masks and light bonfires.
The purpose of these feasts is to remember those who have died, whether they are officially recognized by the Church as saints or not. It is a celebration of the "communion of saints," which reminds us that the Church is not bound by space or time. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that through the communion of saints "a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things" (CCC #1475).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Christian Family

Been gone for a couple of days due to some technical difficulties. All seems back to "normal" again.

The readings this Sunday invite us to reflect on some basic features of the Christian family. 1. First: the family prays. The Gospel passage speaks about two ways of praying, one is false - that of the Pharisee - and the other is authentic - that of the tax collector. The Pharisee embodies an attitude which does not express thanksgiving to God for his blessings and his mercy, but rather self-satisfaction. The Pharisee feels himself justified, he feels his life is in order, and he judges others from his pedestal. The tax collector, on the other hand, does not multiply words. His prayer is humble, sober, pervaded by a consciousness of his own unworthiness, of his own needs. Here is a man who realizes that he needs God's forgiveness. The prayer of the tax collector is the prayer of the poor man, a prayer pleasing to God. It is a prayer which, as the first reading says, "will reach to the clouds" (Sir 35:20), unlike the prayer of the Pharisee, which is weighed down by vanity. In the light of God's word, I would like to ask you, dear families: Do you pray together from time to time as a family? Some of you do, I know. But so many people say to me: How can we? Prayer is something personal, and besides there is never a good time, a moment of peace. Yes, all that is true enough, but it is also a matter of humility, of realizing that we need God, like the tax collector! And we need simplicity! Praying the Our Father together, around the table, is something all of you can do. And praying the Rosary together, as a family, is very beautiful and a source of great strength! And praying for one another!

                                                                                                                                     -Pope Francis

Monday, October 28, 2013

Marianist Monday

We are called the Society of Mary and it is in her name that we embrace the vowed religious life through poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability. The last vow, stability, is both a dedication to our spiritual mother and a call to assist her in her mission of bringing Jesus every day into the world. The Incarnation began all of this central role of Jesus in our salvation history and the plan of God. 

Marianist students at the tomb of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade
We have several expressions from the New Testament that help us focus on the role of Mary in our lives. At Cana we hear her saying to us, “Do whatever he (Jesus) tells you.” We also have the motto “Be strong in faith” (Fortes in Fide) and the cor una et anima una from the Acts of the Apostles. We see Mary gathered with the first assembly of believers including the apostles in the upper room in Jerusalem or Mount Zion. Mary is seen as a Daughter of Zion. She is Jewish all the way through her life and is honored in the Qur’an over forty times and also mentioned in every Gospel of the New Testament and in Galatians, Acts, and Revelation 12.

Chapter one of our Rule of Life gives us a beautiful section on Mary from her beginnings to her glorious Assumption and crowning in heaven. 

 Statue of Blessed William
 Joseph Chaminade
We see Mary as the first disciple of the Lord and as our Leader, hence, another motto “Maria Duce” that is, Mary as Leader. We are dedicated to making her better known, loved, and served. We never adore her or give her a rank among the persons of the Trinity. She is totally human and it from her flesh and blood that the Son of God became man for our salvation. We do not rely simply on Scripture for knowledge of her, but on Tradition, History, and the teachings of the Church (Magisterium).

Our founder, Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, tells us “You are all missionaries of Mary” and we are willing to go wherever we are sent. We know she is more than a disciple of Jesus; she is his mother, his teacher; she is called woman, virgin, and disciple for she has all the characteristics of a disciple. She is his first and most faithful disciple “from the cradle to the grave.” She fulfills all of the beatitudes and that is why she is called “Blessed Virgin Mary.” She is the happy and blessed woman who shows us the beatitudes in action.

In our Rule of Life we consider this most blessed woman:

By the gift of faith, the Virgin Mary opened herself to the mission the Father gave her in his plan of salvation. Jesus was formed in her by the Holy Spirit. He willed her to be the promised Woman, sharing in all his mysteries. When his hour had come, he proclaimed her our Mother.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The will of God

People who plan out a vocation but don't discern organize their lives in light of goals that promise personal satisfaction. This may even be the satisfaction that comes from generous, altruistic deeds. But even where that's so, the difference between discerning and planning stands. The central issue for people who plan is: "What will make me happy? How can I get the most satisfaction for myself?" For those who discern, the fundamental question is: "What does God want from me?"

Paradoxically, of course, the disinterested approach turns out to be more satisfying — and more exciting. Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J., the Polish-American priest who spent many years in prisons and prison camps in the Soviet Union during and after World War II, caught the essence of it in these words:

"God has a special purpose, a special love, a special providence for all those he has created. God cares for each of us individually, watches over us, provides for us. The circumstances of each day of our lives, of every moment of every day, are provided for us by him . . . [This] means . . . that every moment of our life has a purpose, that every action of ours, no matter how dull or routine or trivial it may seem in itself, has a dignity and worth beyond human understanding. No man's life is insignificant in God's sight."

We find our personal vocations, and we accept or reject them, live them out or fail, in "the circumstances of each day of our lives, of every moment of every day." Not so coincidentally, finding God's will for oneself, accepting it, and living it out are what it means to be a saint.

The Sunday Word

Jesus says that two men go up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and one a tax collector. The natural assumption made by anyone hearing this story is that the Pharisee is the devout person — the good one! The tax collector, on the other hand, is the sinner, the bad one.

Sure enough, the Pharisee steps away from the crowd in order to maintain his purity before God, and launches into a list of all his religious accomplishments: "God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income." He does everything right, according to the standards of the day, obeying all the religious rules of the road. In terms of keeping God’s commandments, he is way above average.

Then the tax collector bows his head, beats his breast, and says, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" He’s feeling so ashamed that he cannot even raise his hands and look up to heaven, which is the standard position for first-century prayer. The tax collector doesn’t make any boasts or excuses — he simply asks for God’s mercy.

There’s no reason to assume that this tax collector is a particularly spectacular sinner. If he were a thief, a thug or an adulterer, Jesus would say so. It’s much more likely that he is confessing a set of secret, hidden faults — a collection of oversights, errors and miscalculations that only he would know.

So the above-average Pharisee boasts, while the sin-sick tax collector says, “My bad.”

They both make a connection with God, right?


In a surprising twist, Jesus concludes the parable by saying, "I tell you, this [tax collector] went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."

The tax collector restores his relationship with God by asking for forgiveness, while the Pharisee moves farther away from God by boasting of his righteousness.

This isn’t what the hearers of the parable expect. They’ve been taught that good behavior draws you closer to God, while bad behavior drives you away. But Jesus is insisting that unless we are aware of our secret faults, and humble enough to know that we need forgiveness, we’re going to discover that our minor mistakes can get out of control and destroy us.

It’s always better to say "My bad” than to boast “My good."

When you trust God, you get God. But when you trust only yourself, you get … only yourself.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fall praise

every day you paint millions of landscapes
all around the world:
each one brushed by your careful hand,
each a masterpiece, each unique...

All outdoors is your museum, Lord,
and the entrance fee's no more
than what free time it takes for me to browse
the peaks and valleys of your artistry...

All outdoors, Lord:
from mountain tops to plains and deserts;
from canyons grand to shore lines long;
from the far away to the sidewalk passing
right by my front door...

I needn't travel far to find your work:
your presence and your beauty
breathe and bloom on every side,
in everything around me...

Shades of green that softly fade to autumn hues
reveal in how they change and fall and pass
there's not a day or season in my world
that's left untouched by you and your divinity...

And within me, Lord, the changing,
passing, falling seasons of my life
are canvas for your palatte:
the shades and tints and hues,
the spectrum of your grace,
bring light and color to my soul...

As I come and go today, Lord,
let my eyes not miss your masterpieces
all along my path:
from the sidewalk passing by my door
to wherever on this day
your Spirit leads me...


H/T to A Concord Pastor Comments

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Nobel or Noble Peace Prize

"We are not really social workers," said another Nobel Peace Prize winner, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. "We may be doing social work in the eyes of people. But we are really .... touching the body of Christ." Whenever we share love and peace and joy with others, we are touching the body of Christ in the world today.

This is the heart of what it means to keep the faith as we strive to do good in our relationships with family members, coworkers and neighbors in need. "It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do," stressed Mother Teresa. "If we could only remember that God loves us, and we have an opportunity to love others as he loves us, not in big things, but in small things with great love." 

The crown of righteousness is given to those who fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith. The heavenly prize is awarded to all who put love into action - not necessarily in big things, but in small things with great love. 

So let's dust off our dancing shoes. Get ready for the heavenly banquet.
The Noble Prize is coming, and someday, our name's going to be called.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Pope Speaks

(Vatican Radio) Contemplation, proximity and abundance are the three words upon which Pope Francis centered his homily on Tuesday at Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.

Speaking to those present for the morning celebration, the Pope reiterated that one cannot understand God solely with the mind and pointed out that God challenges us by "meddling" in our lives to heal our wounds, just as Jesus did.

Intelligence – the Pope said – is not sufficient to enter into the mystery of God. You need contemplation, proximity and abundance.

Drawing his inspiration from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, Pope Francis said there is only one way we can understand they the mystery of our salvation, and that is: on our knees, in contemplation.
Intelligence is not enough – he added: “ You need contemplation, intelligence, heart, knees praying… all together: this is how we enter into the mystery”.

And the Pope went on to speak about closeness – or proximity. “One man created sin, Francis explained, and one man saved us”. God is close, he is close to our history. From the very first moment when he chose our father, Abraham, he walked with His people. And Jesus himself – he said - had a craftsman’s job:a worker who uses his hands. The image that comes to mind – the Pope continued – is that of a nurse in a hospital who heals our wounds, one at a time. Just like God – he explained – who gets involved, who meddles in our miseries, He gets close to our wounds and heals them with his hands. And to actually have hands – he continued – He became man. So God saves us not only by decree: “He saves us with tenderness and with caresses. He saves us with His life for us.”

And then Pope Francis spoke of “abundance”. Where sins abound – he said – grace abounds. Each of us knows his miseries and knows how they abound. But God’s challenge is to defeat them and heal the wounds as Jesus did with His superabundance of grace and love. And Francis pointed out that although some do not like to admit it: those who are closest to the heart of Jesus are sinners, because He goes to look for them, calls them and heals them, while those who are in good health do not need a doctor: “ I have come to heal, to save."

The Pope concluded his homily reflecting on how some saints say that one of the ugliest sins is distrust: distrust in God. “But how can we be wary of a God who is so close, so good, who prefers the sinful heart ?" . This mystery – he said - is not easy to understand with intelligence, but with the help of these three words: "contemplation, proximity and abundance” because God "always wins with the superabundance of his grace, with His tenderness ", with His wealth of mercy."

Monday, October 21, 2013

Marianist Monday

Twelve profess vows as Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation

July 25, 2013 (Nashville, TN) –Twelve young women professed the simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia Congregation in Nashville, Tennessee on July 25, 2013. Among those who made their First Profession was Sister Ann Thomas (Caroline) Bamburek, O.P., a former parishioner of Saint Hyacinth Catholic Church in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York.

Sister Ann Thomas is the daughter of the late Edward Bamburek and Mrs. Marlgorzata Bamburek, also a parishioner of Saint Hyacinth Catholic Church. Sister Ann Thomas is a graduate of Kellenberg Memorial High School, Uniondale, New York and attended Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio before entering. She is currently studying at Aquinas College, Nashville, Tennessee in preparation for the teaching apostolate.

The Mass for the Rite of First Religious Profession was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville. The Most Reverend David Choby, Bishop of the Diocese of Nashville, Tennessee, was the main celebrant. The Most Reverend R. Daniel Conlon, Bishop of Joliet, Illinois and the Most Reverend William Medley, Bishop of Owensboro, Kentucky concelebrated the Mass. The homilist was Reverend Albert Trudel, O.P. of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph.

In addition to the sisters making first profession of vows, eleven young women professed their perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience with the Nashville Dominicans on July 22, 2013.
The Congregation of Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia was established in Nashville in 1860. The Sisters of St. Cecilia are dedicated to the apostolate of Catholic education. The community of 280 sisters serves in 33 schools throughout the United States, with mission houses also in Sydney, Australia: Vancouver, British Columbia: and Aberdeen, Scotland. The community has recently opened a house of studies in Washington, DC, for its members who serve or study in the capital city. St. Cecilia Motherhouse is located in Nashville, Tennessee. 

(Pictured left) Sister Ann Thomas Bamburek, O.P. made her first profession of vows as a Dominican Sister of Saint Cecilia Congregation in Nashville, Tennessee on July 25, 2013.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Rosary: an Effective Means of Evangelization

Where we begin in the whole sacred process of evangelization is very important!

Pope Francis has radiantly reminded us of this, hasn’t he? It’s not helpful to start with what the Church is against; it’s not productive to begin with what’s right or wrong. We’ll get to that eventually. No, we start with the Person, the invitation, the message of Jesus! Then, everything else flows from this saving proclamation!

My friend, Father Bob Barron, one of the nation’s premier evangelists today, puts it like this: if a foreign visitor asks you to explain the complicated game of baseball, you would hardly start with the “infield-fly rule”! No! You would first introduce him to the beauty, rhythm, and flow of the game! Father Barron suggests he would take him instead to Wrigley Field, gradually introduce him to the majesty of our national pastime, and then patiently explain the details of the game.

The same is true of the mystery of the faith. We begin with Jesus, with the story of salvation, with prayer, liturgy, community, and the beauty of the Church. Gradually we then get to faith, doctrine, morals, practice.

All of this leads me to the rosary. October, in our Catholic calendar, is dedicated to this simple prayer. Not only is the rosary a wonderful prayer, but an effective means of evangelization.

Think about it: if we know and pray the rosary, we are familiar with the story of the life of Jesus and Mary, the enchanting mysteries that are part of “the greatest story ever told.”

And, we then know the most basic prayers of our tradition: the sign of the cross, the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Glory be.

No wonder Pope Paul VI called the rosary “the school of the gospels”!

My two grandmothers loved the rosary. Lucille, my mom’s mom, was a convert to the faith. She had a tough life, working hard to raise my mom and Aunt Lois after her husband left her for the drink. Her simple faith sustained her. Yet, she always felt—wrongly—she was unlettered in her adopted Catholic faith. She would describe herself inaccurately as a “dumb Catholic.”

“Tim,” she’d tell me, “I sure don’t know much about the Church. I don’t even know how to pray. But,” she’d remark, grabbing the rosary from her bed stand (one of those “shine-in-the-dark” ones, the very one I still have and cherish), “I at least have the rosary. And, when I pray it before I go to sleep, I feel close to Our Lord, I think of all He did for me, and I almost feel I’m holding on to Mary’s hand and she’s praying with me.”

Not bad at all. That’s what I mean about the basics of our faith. Nonnie, as I lovingly called her, probably couldn’t talk that much about the Trinity or the more complex moral issues of her faith, but she sure loved Jesus, knew His life, death, and resurrection, and held fast to His Mother and His bride, the Church, as she struggled through each day.

What if all of our children knew and trusted the rosary? They’d at least comprehend the “mysteries” of the life and teaching of Jesus, and would recite by heart the great prayer of our tradition. I’d settle for that!

Last week, I had the honor of a private meeting with Pope Francis. There, on his desk, was his rosary, not as a paperweight, but, near at hand for prayer. As I left, he gave me one of his. When I asked his prayers specifically for Fred, my brother-in-law fighting cancer, and Father Fabian Lopez, one of our splendid young priests on a tough round three of cancer treatment, he gave me one for each of them.

This Holy Father realizes—no surprise!—that we’ve got a real winner in the
rosary: a great prayer, an effective evangelizer.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan

Saturday, October 19, 2013

North American Martyrs - October 19

Here in the US, we celebrate today the feast of the North American Martyrs, Sts. Jean de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues and their companions!

These brave Jesuit missionaries labored ceaselessly for the Native Americans of the northeastern US and southeastern Canada. Father Jogues, Apostle of the Mohawks, was known to that people as Ondessonk, “the indomitable one.” These holy saints were brutally tortured and martyred in the mid-17th century.

If you ever have the chance to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, New York, you can walk in the footsteps of Father Jogues, Rene Goupil and Jean de Lalande, on the ground made sacred by their blood. It is a journey well worth taking.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Saint Luke - October 18

St. Luke is quite special. Not only was he the only Gentile to write books of the Bible, but he was a close companion of St. Paul. If St. Paul succeeded in evangelizing the western Roman empire, Luke may have had more to do with it than we know. It is likely that God used his medical skills to keep St. Paul alive some of those times when he was beaten, stoned, or half-drowned.

St. Luke is special, too, because he is the first Christian physician on record. Untold thousands have followed in his steps. Physicians can look to St. Luke as an example, but so can historians, because his writings are very much in the Greek tradition. Painters claim him for their brotherhood, too, because tradition holds he painted a picture of the Blessed Virgin which hung in the Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.

As a physician, Luke must have been curious about the medical conditions behind Christ's miracles. As a matter of fact, Luke uses more medical terms than any other New Testament writer. For example, he doesn't just say Publius' father was sick: he tells us he suffered from fever and dysentery. The apostle Paul told us that Luke was a doctor. In fact, he called him "dear doctor Luke." Given his use of medical detail in the two books he wrote for the Bible, The Gospel According to Luke and The Acts of the Apostles, we might have guessed it ourselves.

Luke pulled back the curtain on the young Jesus more than any other gospel writer. Without him we would not know anything about the boy Jesus's thinking. It is a pretty safe bet that Luke interviewed the Blessed Virgin Mary and got most of the details from her. Perhaps he even heard the Magnificat, recorded in his gospel alone, from her very own lips. October 18 is the great doctor's feast day in churches that observe such traditions.

St. Luke is patron saint of artists, bachelors, bookbinders, brewers, butchers, doctors, glass makers, glassworkers, gold workers, goldsmiths, lacemakers, lace workers, notaries, painters, physicians, sculptors, stained glass workers, surgeons, and unmarried men.

Tradition tells us that St. Luke was the son of pagan parents, possibly born a slave, and was one of the earliest converts. Legend has that he was also a painter who may have done portraits of Jesus and His Mother, but none have ever been correctly attributed to him. This story, and the inspiration of his Gospel, has always led artists to his patronage of them. St. Luke traveled with St. Paul and evangelized Greece and Rome with him, being there for the shipwreck and other perils of the voyage to Rome. St. Luke wrote the Gospel According to Luke, much of which was based on the teachings and writings of St. Paul and his own experiences. He also wrote a history of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles. He was a martyr.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

St. Ignatius


Today Oct. 17, the Roman Catholic Church remembers the early Church Father, bishop, and martyr Saint Ignatius of Antioch, whose writings attest to the sacramental and hierarchical nature of the Church from its earliest days.

In a 2007 general audience on St. Ignatius of Antioch, Pope Benedict XVI observed that “no Church Father has expressed the longing for union with Christ and for life in him with the intensity of Ignatius.” In his letters, the Pope said, “one feels the freshness of the faith of the generation which had still known the Apostles. In these letters, the ardent love of a saint can also be felt.”

Born in Syria in the middle of the first century A.D., Ignatius is said to have been personally instructed – along with another future martyr, Saint Polycarp – by the Apostle Saint John. When Ignatius became the Bishop of Antioch around the year 70, he assumed leadership of a local church that was, according to tradition, first led by Saint Peter before his move to Rome.

Although St. Peter transmitted his Papal primacy to the bishops of Rome rather than Antioch, the city played an important role in the life of the early Church. Located in present-day Turkey, it was a chief city of the Roman Empire, and was also the location where the believers in Jesus' teachings and his resurrection were first called “Christians.”

Ignatius led the Christians of Antioch during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, the first of the emperors to proclaim his divinity by adopting the title “Lord and God.” Subjects who would not give worship to the emperor under this title could be punished with death. As the leader of a major Catholic diocese during this period, Ignatius showed courage and worked to inspire it in others.

After Domitian's murder in the year 96, his successor Nerva reigned only briefly, and was soon followed by the Emperor Trajan. Under his rule, Christians were once again liable to death for denying the pagan state religion and refusing to participate in its rites. It was during his reign that Ignatius was convicted for his Christian testimony and sent from Syria to Rome to be put to death.

Escorted by a team of military guards, Ignatius nonetheless managed to compose seven letters: six to various local churches throughout the empire (including the Church of Rome), and one to his fellow bishop Polycarp who would give his own life for Christ several decades later.

Ignatius' letters passionately stressed the importance of Church unity, the dangers of heresy, and the surpassing importance of the Eucharist as the “medicine of immortality.” These writings contain the first surviving written description of the Church as “Catholic,” from the Greek word indicating both universality and fullness.

One of the most striking features of Ignatius' letters, is his enthusiastic embrace of martyrdom as a means to union with God and eternal life. “All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing,” he wrote to the Church of Rome. “It is better for me to die in behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth.”

“Now I begin to be a disciple,” the bishop declared. “Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let tearings, breakings, and dislocations of bones; let cutting off of members; let shatterings of the whole body; and let all the dreadful torments of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ.”

St. Ignatius of Antioch bore witness to Christ publicly for the last time in Rome's Flavian Amphitheater, where he was mauled to death by lions. “I am the wheat of the Lord,” he had declared, before facing them. “I must be ground by the teeth of these beasts to be made the pure bread of Christ.” His memory was honored, and his bones venerated, soon after his death around the year 107.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Man of Courage

On Monday Brooklyn’s own Frank Caggiano, now Bishop of Bridgeport spoke at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Mass before the Columbus Day parade. No notes. No text. Pure heart. Click the video below. Homily begins at 22:40.
Video streaming by Ustream

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tuesday Tunes

All this pain
I wonder if I'll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

Monday, October 14, 2013

Marianist Monday

In his catechesis to the gathered throng, Francis wove his reflection around the devotion that, later in life and amid a trying time, would become one of his particular favorites: Maria Knötenloserin – Mary, Untier (or Undoer) of Knots – the 17th century cult the now-Pope encountered during his brief exile in Germany in the late 1980s, introducing it to great effect at home on his return to Buenos Aires.

Over recent months, the Pope's affinity for the German Madonna provided the title for Paul Vallely's exquisite biography of Francis – the most authoritative tome on the pontiff to be published in English. Then again, given the author's depth of research and contacts among Bergoglio's own, perhaps the confluence is no accident.

“Mary said her ‘yes’ to God: a ‘yes’ which threw her simple life in Nazareth into turmoil, and not only once. Any number of times she had to utter a heartfelt “yes” at moments of joy and sorrow, culminating in the ‘yes’ she spoke at the foot of the Cross. Here today there are many mothers present; think of the full extent of Mary’s faithfulness to God: seeing her only Son hanging on the Cross. The faithful woman, still standing, utterly heartbroken, yet faithful and strong.

And I ask myself: am I a Christian by fits and starts, or am I a Christian full-time? Our culture of the ephemeral, the relative, also takes its toll on the way we live our faith. God asks us to be faithful to him, daily, in our everyday life. He goes on to say that, even if we are sometimes unfaithful to him, he remains faithful. In his mercy, he never tires of stretching out his hand to lift us up, to encourage us to continue our journey, to come back and tell him of our weakness, so that he can grant us his strength. This is the real journey: to walk with the Lord always, even at moments of weakness, even in our sins. Never to prefer a makeshift path of our own. That kills us. Faith is ultimate fidelity, like that of Mary.”—Pope Francis-October 12

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Merton Pilgrimage

I am in the midst of reading the autobiography of Thomas Merton, Seven Storey Mountain. While it is a great book that chronicles the conversion of Thomas Merton, it also inspires us all to greater conversion.

In the video clip Fr. James Martin, S.J. speaks of Thomas Merton and the influence he had.

In the short video below, Fr. James Martin takes us to two landmarks: the church were Merton was baptized and the rowhouse in Greenwich Village where he lived.

At the end, Fr. Martin quips that he credits his vocation to four people: the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and Thomas Merton.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Our Lady of the Pillar

Tomb of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade
Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar

About 200 years ago, France was in the middle of a revolutionary war. The focus of the conflict was a struggle of power between politics, government and religion. By virtue of being a Roman Catholic priest, Blessed Chaminade was forced out of France and exiled to Spain. He arrived on the evening of October 11, 1897 in time to witness the vigil celebration of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragosa.

Over the next few years, while waiting to return home to France, Blessed Chaminade spent a lot of time in prayer at the basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar; it was there that he received a vision from God through Mary.

Although the exact nature of that vision never was revealed in detail, it resulted in the founding of the Marianist Family—the Lay Marianists, Sisters and Brothers / Priests.

While 200 years and a different country may seem far away from us here today, our world is quite similar to that of revoluationary France in the late 1800s. We don’t need to read too far into the current news headlines to find that our world is in need of healing.

So, what can we do, in our own little ways, to help our world in need of healing? Blessed Chaminade’s mission was clear and it involved two parts: 1) the salvation of souls and 2) to build communities centered in faith.

The idea behind the first part—the salvation of souls—echoes that of today’s first reading where the ark of the covenant, a container of God, is to be revered and considered as sacred. Just as we are created in God’s image, we, too, are reminded that we are loved by God and containers of Christ.

This sacred respect for the soul present in the human body is reflected in the Hawaiian concept of Aloha. Aloha is more than just a greeting or farewell; aloha is also translated as love, affection, mercy, grace. It also is combined from two other words—‘alo’ (face) and ‘hā’ (breath, which contains one’s sacred spirit and soul). So when greeting one another in Hawai‘i, an embrace and exchange of ‘hā’ is the true meaning of aloha—a way of recognizing and respecting the life force, God’s spirit, within whomever we encounter.

The idea behind the second part—community—echoes that of the Gospel. “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” As valuable as our faith is to us, it is not meant to be kept to ourselves; it is meant to be shared; this means to give the gift of our talents, our selves and our charism to one another as our response to God’s love for us.

In our zeal to share this charism, I think the biggest temptation we need to be aware of is that of doubt, disappointment and discouragement. When we doubt our abilities, when we think we aren’t good enough or talented enough, when we are discouraged because we don’t perceive results from our efforts—that’s the greatest sin because it goes against our mission of “glorifying God in all places through the Immaculate Virgin Mary.”

It has been said that the Marianist charism seems to be the Church’s “best kept secret.” In some ways, I can understand the thought behind that statement, although I find myself thinking that our way of life is too good to be kept a secret. Just in this chapel alone, I believe we have more than enough talent, creativity and energy to share this with others and not keep it the “Church’s best kept secret.” And that’s why, as different as we are, we come together in community to share in our common mission as Marianists.

So, as we prepare to receive the eucharist, let us pray in gratitude for our Marianist vocation, the vision that Blessed Chaminade passed on to us, and for the strength to be faithful to our mission of “glorifying God in all places through the Immaculate Virgin Mary. Amen.”

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Sunday Word

This Sunday, the 28th in Ordinary Time, brings us a familiar story from Saint Luke's Gospel, the cure of the ten lepers - only one of whom comes back to thank Jesus for his healing. The first reading of the day, from the Second Book of Kings, gives us the story of the prophet Elisha healing Naaman of his leprosy - and Naaman's request for "two mule-loads of earth." Writing from prison to Timothy, Paul speaks his faith with and eloquence enhanced by his incarceration.

I never tire of reminding that the best way to prepare to celebrate Mass is to read, ponder and pray over the Scriptures we'll hear proclaimed at that liturgy.

Keep in mind: very often it is the Bible stories we're most familiar with that require the longer preparation. We can take too much for granted when we think, "Yeh -- heard that one before!" Let's not presume on God's Word this week nor on our understanding of it. Take the time to read, ponder and pray over these texts...

Rumi says it best:

brings you to the place
where the Beloved lives."

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Church is Catholic

On Wednesday, October 9, in his homily at Mass, Pope Francis made these remarks on what it means for the Church to call itself Catholic. What the pope has to say about the diversity of the gifts of the Spirit in the life of the Catholic Church is especially interesting and worth our reflection and prayer. Of course, the last paragraph here needs to be understood in tandem with what precedes it.

The pursuit of uniformity erodes the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Vatican City, 9 October 2013 (VIS) – The Holy Father dedicated the catechesis of today's general audience to catholicism and the concept of being Catholic. He explained three fundamental meanings of the idea, based on the Greek “kath'olon”, “totality”, and how these can be applied to the Church.

Firstly, “the Church is Catholic”, he said, “because she is the space, the house in which the faith in its entirety is announced, in which the salvation brought by Christ is offered to all”. … In the Church, every one of us finds what is necessary to believe, to live as Christians, to became holy, to walk this path in every place and in every age”.

“The Church is Catholic”, he continued, explaining the second meaning, “because she is universal, she spreads through every part of the world and proclaims the Gospel to every man and every woman. The Church is not an elite group, she does not concern only the few. … The Church is not closed, she is sent to all of humanity. She is the only Church present even in the seemingly least significant parts of humanity”.

With regard to the third meaning of Catholicism, the Pope reiterated how “the Church is Catholic because she is the 'House of harmony' where unity and diversity know how to come together to create richness”. The Holy Father compared this to the image of the symphony, which means harmony and accord, in which different instruments play together. Each one retains its own inimitable timbre and the characteristics of its sound, guided by a director who ensures that the instruments all play together in harmony, but that the timbre of each instrument is not cancelled; on the contrary, the special quality of each one finds its highest expression. The Church, he said, “is like a great orchestra. We are not all the same, and we should not all be the same”, he emphasised. “Each person offers what God has given him”.

The Pope concluded by asking the 60,000 pilgrims present in St. Peter's Square to live this harmony and to accept diversity, without seeking uniformity. “The life of the Church is variety”, he said, “and when we seek to make it uniform, we erode the gifts of the Holy Spirit. … Let us pray that the Holy Spirit may render us ever more 'Catholic'!”

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


past tense: hallowed; past participle: hallowed
1.  honor as holy.

"the Ganges is hallowed as a sacred, cleansing river"
Some years ago there was a book called Slowing Down the Our Father by Franciscan Leonard Foley. He contended that too often, as in most memorized prayers, we simply routinely rattle through the words. Instead the author's advice was to pay attention to each word.

If we pay attention to each word the words speak to us.

There is an added bonus when we slow down the Our Father: we can begin to understand what Jesus was expressing "between the lines." We realize that praying for God's will to be done also implies that we do the hard work of just learning what God's will is for us and what it asks of us.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Prayer and Remembrance

All of our Marianist schools are in full swing since the hot and hazy days of the school's beginnings. Kellenberg Memorial began its Sodality year with its Opening Prayer Service in the crowded Auditorium on Monday, October 7th.

The tradition for each of the high schools is to begin the Sodality year with a Prayer Service and a procession with the Blessed Sacrament. Adoration follows in the school Chapel until 5:30 p.m.

At both schools there is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament each Monday in their school Chapels. All are invited to pray during that time.

In addition, Chaminade remembered 56 honorable graduates who lost their lives while serving to protect our country at their annual Gold Star Mass. The 69th editiion of this annual Mass took place on October 3 in the Academic-Activity Center.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Marianist Monday

Last October Pope Benedict XVI announced a special "Year of Faith" to help Catholics appreciate the gift of faith, deepen their relationship with God and strengthen their commitment to sharing faith with others.

"It will be a moment of grace and commitment to an ever fuller conversion to God, to reinforce our faith in him and to proclaim him with joy to the people of our time," the pope said in his homily.

And it was with this in mind that the Diocese of Rockville Centre sponsored a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Our two high schools accompanied the diocesan wide pilgrimage on Saturday, October 28th,

"Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy," the pope wrote.

In his apostolic letter, the pope said the year's focus will be on Jesus Christ because "in him, all the anguish and all the longing of the human heart finds fulfillment."

Pope Benedict said that in addition to studying the catechism and gaining a greater understanding of the creed, the Year of Faith also must be accompanied with more acts of charity.

Faith helps people recognize the face of Christ in those who are suffering, and "it is his love that impels us to assist him whenever he becomes our neighbor along the journey of life," the pope wrote.
A small group of our pilgrims stopped in the Basilica while touring.
One of our pilgrims proclaimed the Word at the filled Basilica.
Our pilgrims paused for a picture at the Basilica steps.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The truth will set me free

Probe me, God, know my heart;
try me, know my thoughts.
See if there is a wicked path in me;
lead me along an ancient path.

- Psalm 139

Interrupt me, O God,
and get my attention.
Nudge me, and tell me the truth.
Make certain I don't miss the point
And encourage me to take it to heart.

Interview me, O God,
and ask hard questions
Corner me and don't let me off.
Challenge me if I seem vague or evasive
And bring every hidden thing to light.

Investigate me, O God,
and expose my guilt
Bust me and I'll quickly confess.
Insist I be completely honest
And the truth will set me free.

- by Steve Hickey, Pastor
Church at the Gate

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Sunday Word

Tomorrow is the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, bringing us ever closer to the 34th and last Sunday of this liturgical season and Solemnity of Christ the King on November 21 - and then, Advent! It also ends the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI.

But... back to the day at hand.

There's just no better way to prepare for Sunday Mass than to read, ponder and pray over the Scriptures we will hear proclaimed there.

This Sunday's first reading is a lament from the book of the prophet Habakkuk. Writing at a desperate time of faithlessness and political peril, the prophet does not hold back on giving God his two cents on how he thinks the Lord is running things! The passage also includes a response from the Lord, promising that the vision of hope still has its time.

From Luke we have the parable of the mustard seed - and the mulberry bush which grows into a tree. In addition, Jesus speaks to his disciples about the kind of service he demands and expects of those who follow him.

Friday, October 4, 2013

St. Francis and Pope Francis

Just seven months ago, Pope Francis brought a new name to the papacy, and tomorrow we celebrate that great saint, St. Francis of Assisi. In this video from Catholic News Service — recorded only three days after the pope’s election — Pope Francis recounts the story of why he chose the name Francis.

Pope Francis plans to visit Assisi and commemorate his namesake tomorrow. The pope will venerate the Shrine of San Damiano, visit the sick, address young people and visit many other churches and sites.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

He. Is. Peter.

Gerard Nadal captures something I’ve been thinking for a while, but puts it better than I could.

Are we only to submit to papal authority when the mood, or mode suits us? Do we place stylistic predilection over our duty to respect and obedience to legitimate episcopal and papal authority? Is our faith on the orthodox side of the aisle so fragile that we get a case of the vapors at the least departure from our preferred norm? To be certain, this pope is dangerous.

His style is that of…Jesus.

He reaches out to sinners and dines with them.
He gives interviews to atheists.
He eschews the pomp and splendor that is his due for something very, very different.
He accords women unusual influence for his day.

He has reached beyond the broad parameters carved out by John Paul II, and has been warning us that great change is on the way.

In all of this, we must never, ever, EVER lose sight of this most central reality:

He. Is. Peter.

Unless the day comes where he breaks with defined teaching, he will have my respect and obedience, and I will keep any transient dyspeptic moments to myself.

Yes, there is great potential for misunderstanding when he speaks off the cuff, but ultimately, little room for harm. Those whose faith is well-informed and rock-solid cannot be rattled.

Those who ridiculed John Paul and Benedict may hear him when the truth is spoken in a different way. At worst, they will simply look for any justification to persist in their unbelief.

Those who are weak will need us to be Francis’ defenders, to explicate his teaching and show its continuity with all that has gone before. It is the Parable of the Sower.

Change is coming with this pope, much needed change. He comes from those people below the equator who have been largely invisible to us in the faithless north. He speaks for them, and from their experience of the Church.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Foundation Day of the Society of Mary

Above is the gravesite of
Blessed William Joseph Chaminade

For members of the Society of Mary, October 2, 1817 is a day of celebration. It was on this day that Jean Baptiste Lalanne and several other men met with Blessed William Joseph Chaminade to discuss the possibility of forming a group of vowed men who through prayer and living in community would be actively involved in the ministry of the Church. After the initial meeting, several additional men—clerics, manual workers, and merchants—joined with Lalanne and Chaminade to found the Society of Mary (Marianists).

On December 8, 1817, several men made private vows and on September 5, 1818, seven men made public vows as members of the Society of Mary.

So October 2 is Foundation Day for the Society of Mary. It is both the birthday of the Society of Mary and the feast of the Guardian Angels. Remembering the Guardian Angels has always been important to members of the Society of Mary. Guardian Angels were seen as guardians of the students in Marianist schools. To help students behave appropriately, members of the Society of Mary were encouraged to “invoke the Guardian Angels of their pupils at the beginning of class and surveillance periods." Hopefully, the angels would guarantee that students behaved in a proper manner so as to be receptive to the classroom instruction of the Brothers and priests.

"Education is a participation in the work of Mary. She is the great teacher of mankind. Her mission has been, and still is, to give birth to Jesus Christ and to rear Him….In calling us to the work of education, Mary has constituted us Her collaborators in this mission. Our pupils are Her children more than ours…and it is Her name that we ought to try to form Jesus in them. "

Emil Neubert, S.M., (1954)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

St. Therese

Today we celebrate St Therese and are thus reminded that it takes all types of saints to make up the Body of Christ. She is a virgin and mystic.

Therese in her cell in Carmel rejected the world for the love of Christ. She loved and studied nothing but Scripture in the end. She endured great hardships of the ascetical life and she endured both great darkness and great radiance in the love of Christ.

This is the lesson to all who would follow Christ, that as we walk that golden path our individual lives begin to transcend the times and cultures in which we live. We begin to grow into something deeper, wider and more magnificent than the spirit of the age or our own circumstances, family background and personality. We are caught up. We participate in a greater glory and a greater truth. Our little lives are magnified and we mature into something and someone greater than we ever imagined.

As we grow into saints–grow into the person God created us to be–grow into the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ. As this process takes place we also grow out of ourselves and yet into our true selves. The little person we were dies and the greater person God created us to be begins to take shape. As this happens we find a fulfillment and completion in all the saints.

The innocence and child like character of Therese blossoms in our lives. All we need to do is stay on the path and keep our eyes on Jesus–who is the author and finisher of our faith.