Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Minister to the fringes

CNS wrote about the extraordinary number of people who attended the canonizations this weekend:

About 150 cardinals and 700 bishops concelebrated the Mass. About 6,000 priests attended, as well as deacons, to help distribute Communion to as many people as possible.

U.S. Deacon William Ditewig of the Diocese of Monterey, Calif., specifically asked Vatican organizers to place him as far away from the main square as possible.

Deacon Ditewig told CNS he was inspired by Pope Francis’ call to minister to the “peripheries,” and “I wanted to minister literally to the fringes.

“These people went to all this trouble to be here, I wanted to distribute Communion as far away as possible” and help everyone feel a part of the ceremony.
He said he hoped to inspire those who might be disappointed with being so far away from the main event “with my demeanor of joy. This is a pilgrimage, not a tour, so I hope through demeanor and action,” he could uphold the ideals of celebration, sacrifice and humility.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Santo subito!

From John Thavis, a thoughtful write:

The record-setting speed of John Paul II’s canonization does, indeed, raise some questions. The “Santo subito!” (Sainthood now!) banners in St. Peter’s Square at the funeral of the Polish pope reflected the sentiments of many faithful who thought his deep spirituality, evangelizing energy and strong defense of human rights made him a saint for our times.

Yet what pushed his cause through so quickly was support at the highest levels of the hierarchy. At that same funeral, the man who would be elected as John Paul’s successor, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, told the faithful: “We can be sure that our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the Father’s house, that he sees us and blesses us.” In effect, that’s like declaring someone a saint – all that was left was to make it official. And to speed things up, Pope Benedict waived the normal five-year waiting period to begin the sainthood process…

…The debate over John Paul’s record on sex abuse revolves on issues of governance and management, and here is where the Vatican and critics seem to be on different pages. Most people view canonization of a pope as a canonization of his pontificate. But in recent years, the Vatican has repeatedly suggested that sainthood for a pope is more about personal holiness than papal job performance. In that sense, declaring Pope John Paul a saint is not the same as endorsing every decision he ever made, or his management style. He is being held up to the faithful as someone who lived the Christian virtues in an extraordinary way, not necessarily as “Pope John Paul the Great.” As Pope Benedict once put it, “Holiness does not consist in never having erred or sinned.”

The decision to canonize John XXIII at the same time reflects several factors. First, Pope Francis is clearly inspired by John XXIII’s pastoral style of governance, his direct style of communication and his emphasis on mercy over doctrine. As Massimo Faggioli points out in his excellent new book, John XXIII: The Medicine of Mercy, both John and Francis came from poor families and brought with them to the Vatican an emphasis on the church’s attention to the poor and suffering.

A primary factor in Pope Francis’ decision is the Second Vatican Council, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. By adding John XXIII, who convened the council, Pope Francis moved the focus of this canonization away from John Paul II and toward Vatican II.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Magnificent Event

Matthew Bunson writes below about the preparations in Rome for the double ceremony to canonize Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul the Great. What a magnificent event, two popes present for the canonization of two popes!

Even getting to Rome brought a sense of palpable excitement. The four-hour layover at Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris that completed my journey to Rome was marked by several remarkable sights and sounds.

As we all sat waiting passing the time, a group of pilgrims began chanting Morning Prayer and quietly singing hymns. The passengers at the surrounding gates first quizzically looked around and then grew silent listening. They did not scowl or roll their eyes; they listened attentively, and a few asked what was going on. In several languages, I heard the words “John Paul II,” “Giovanni Paolo,” “Juan Pablo” and “Jean Paul.”

There were also large contingents of Africans, Americans, French and Dutch Catholics on board the flight. By my informal count, my flight alone had three bishops. They will be joining the 150 Cardinals and 1,000 bishops, along with the more than 90 official delegations from various countries and 24 heads of state or royalty and perhaps several million pilgrims.

Friday, April 25, 2014


A great event is taking place this weekend.

Something Blessed Pope John Paul II said:

“Right from the beginning of my ministry in St. Peter’s See in Rome, I considered this message (of Divine Mercy) my special task. Providence has assigned it to me in the present situation of man, the Church and the world. It could be said that precisely this situation assigned that message to me as my task before God.” - JP II 1981, at the Shrine of Merciful Love in Italy

Something Blessed John XXIII said:

"In these days, which mark the beginning of this Second Vatican Council, it is more obvious than ever before that the Lord's truth is indeed eternal. Human ideologies change. Successive generations give rise to varying errors, and these often vanish as quickly as they came, like mist before the sun.

The Church has always opposed these errors, and often condemned them with the utmost severity. Today, however, Christ's Bride prefers the balm of mercy to the arm of severity. She believes that, present needs are best served by explaining more fully the purport of her doctrines, rather than by publishing condemnations." - John XXIII Opening Address for the Council

Something Pope Francis said:

In his homily for the Canonization, which took place in 2000, John Paul II emphasized that the message of Jesus Christ to Sr Faustina is located, in time, between the two World Wars and is intimately tied to the history of the 20th century. And looking to the future he said: “What will the years ahead bring us? What will man’s future on earth be like? We are not given to know. However, it is certain that in addition to new progress there will unfortunately be no lack of painful experiences. But the light of divine mercy, which the Lord in a way wished to return to the world through Sr Faustina’s charism, will illumine the way for the men and women of the third millennium” - Homily, Sunday, 30 April 2000

It is clear. Here it is explicit, in 2000, but it was something that had been maturing in his heart for some time. Through his prayer, he had this intuition. Today we forget everything far too quickly, even the Magisterium of the Church! Part of this is unavoidable, but we cannot forget the great content, the great intuitions and gifts that have been left to the People of God. And Divine Mercy is one of these.
- Address to the Parish Priests of Rome

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Emmaus - love of a stranger

The road to Emmaus is a story packed with deeply human emotions. One writer explains that Jesus appears to His disciples first as a stranger, then as a guest and finally as a host, offering critical guidance to any of us who want to do a better job of welcoming and including people in the life of the Church.

When two disciples are traveling to the village of Emmaus on Easter afternoon, the risen Jesus comes near and walks with them. But their eyes are kept from recognizing him. Jesus asks about the events they are discussing, and one says, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?"

Jesus is initially depicted as a stranger, giving his disciples the challenge of showing hospitality. They practice a love of the stranger or a hospitality for a stranger.  This approach stands in stark contrast to the attitude so prevalent in our society today -- "fear of the stranger."

What would it mean for us to practice love for a stranger in our daily life?

When we practice it, we discover that strangers really aren't so strange.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easter Joy

The Zaldivar family got a tip last week that famous Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli may be at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on Easter Sunday for a repeat performance of last year’s surprise visit.

So instead of having brunch as they typically do on Easter, the Zaldivar family went to the Miami Beach church for Mass, hoping to hear Bocelli’s angelic voice.

Skipping their mid-morning breakfast paid off. About 45 minutes into the service, Bocelli appeared. Bocelli, sitting in the front row, was led to the pulpit and began singing Panis Angelicus, a Latin hymn that translates to Bread of Angels, to a packed church. “His voice is so amazing,” said Raquel Puig Zaldivar. “He exudes peace and tranquility.”

Bocelli, who first surprised the church last Easter and then again for Christmas Mass, sang one song before Communion and later left near the altar, Puig Zaldivar said. Mary Ross Agosta, the communications director for the Archdiocese of Miami, said on Sunday that “it seems that when he is in the area for the holiday he does worship at St. Patrick’s.”

Monday, April 21, 2014

Marianist Monday

During the Easter Triduum each of our Communities of the Province of Meribah participate in their annual Holy Week retreat. Together we celebrate the mysteries of Holy Week, spend time in prayer, listen to conferences and rebuild our fraternal bonds.

Below are glimpses of our Triduum celebration at Founders Hollow this year.
Fr. Philip at the washing of the feet.
The Commemoration of the Lord's Super
The blessings at our annual Seder Meal in the Community Dining Room
The beginning of our Good Friday Liturgy
The veneration of the Crucifix 
The Brothers gather around the new fire

The incensation of the Paschal Candle
The Easter Vigil celebration

Sunday, April 20, 2014

EASTER - He is Risen! Alleluia!

He is Risen! Alleluia!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

The Good News of Easter.

The Good News of Easter is that Jesus is alive, and he is leading us to a better future. It was true when the women visited the empty tomb, and it is true today. Whether we are facing a time of grief, a period of personal pain or an experience of hopelessness or desperation, we can look to a Lord who is alive and well and inviting us to follow Him.

The Christ who was crucified knows our deepest personal anguish.

The Christ who was lifeless knows the complete desolation of death.

The Christ who was raised knows the life-giving power of God.

The Christ who goes ahead of us knows that the future is full of promise and possibility.

This news, the Good News of Easter morning, trumps all the reports of death and destruction that tend to dominate our normal morning updates.

Christ is risen! Christ is ahead of us! Christ will lead us forward!

This report is real, compelling and positive — the happiest news of all. Amen.

He is Risen! Alleluia!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is celebrated among the Christian fraternity to commemorate the day when Jesus Christ lay in the tomb, after his death. It is a day after Good Friday when Christ was crucified.

Known by different names, such as Easter Eve, Easter Even, Black Saturday or Saturday before Easter, the day is often considered a time of both sadness and joy among the Christians around the world.

Traditionally considered to be a time of reflection and waiting, Holy Saturday is the last day of the Holy Week and the end of the season of Lent.

In celebration of the Holy Saturday 2014, let's take a look at the seven interesting and unique facts about the day.

1. Vigil of Easter:

Since Holy Saturday often entails a time of deep reflection and waiting, the last day of the Holy Week is also known as the Vigil of Easter. The vigil stems back to the time when Jesus' followers marked this day, waiting after his crucifixion on Good Friday. Holy Saturday is recollected as the day when Roman governor Pontius Pilate ordered guards to be posted near the tomb, in order to prevent Jesus' followers from removing the body to claim that he had risen from dead.

2. Great or Grand Saturday, 'Angelic Night'

The day is also known by various strong names such as Great or Grand Saturday, as well as the Angelic Night. It is said that this was the only Saturday, during which fasting was initially permitted in the early days of the Christian Church. It is reported that fasting occurred for the entire day or at least 40 hours before the Easter sunrise.

3. Confusion with 'Easter Saturday'

There is often some confusion with reference to calling the day as Easter Saturday. As a matter of fact, the day is officially called Holy Saturday or Last day of Lent or simply Easter Eve. The Saturday after Easter Sunday is, in fact, known as 'Easter Saturday', or Bright Saturday. However, it is important to note that Holy Saturday is often referred to as 'Easter Saturday' by some government officials in countries such as Australia.

4. Paschal Candle with Alpha and Omega

One of the most important symbols used for the Holy Saturday celebrations, is the Paschal candle, which is made out of white wax and is marked with a cross, an alpha and an omega (the first letters of the Greek alphabet).

White wax is said to symbolize leading people from darkness into the Easter's celebration, while the Greek letters symbolizes humility in Jesus. The first and last letter of the Greek alphabet is also thought to represent a symbolic display of the fact that Christ is "the beginning" and he is "the end".

5. 'Judas Day' in Mexico

In Mexico, Holy Saturday is known as Judas Day, and people often burn effigies of Judas Iscoriot, who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Street vendors are often seen selling effigies making Judas look as ugly as possible. Such effigies are also seen on the streets and hung on lamps. Firecrackers are sometimes attached to the effigies and ignited. Candies are also fixed inside some of the effigies and children scramble for those, after they explode.

6. 'White Saturday'

In Czech, the day is also known as White Saturday; a term that is derived from the White robes worn by the Church's congregation, who are newly baptized and were anointed with the consecrated waters.

7. Blessings of the Animals

One very interesting tradition observed on Holy Saturday in the United States is the 'Blessing of the Animals,' which is a colorful ceremony observed, especially by people of Mexican descent in California. It is an interesting time when animals of different kind receive blessings. In 2011, for example, the Los Angeles Times reported that animals that came out for the annual blessings in the cobblestone plaza included llamas, goats, geese, sheep, parakeets, iguanas, goldfish, geckos, turtles, horses, doves and, of course, various kinds of dogs!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday - Vatican City

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - APRIL 18: Pope Francis prays on the floor during a Papal Mass with the Celebration of the Lord's Passion inside St Peter's Basilica on April 18, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. Later today the Holy Father will attend the Way Of The Cross for his second time as a Pontiff. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
 his Good Friday homily this year, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the papal household, preached today on idols, money, mercy, Judas in St. Peter's—and the simple church teaching that we cannot say for certain that there is any particular person is in hell:

One can betray Jesus for other kinds of compensation than 30 pieces of silver. A man who betrays his wife, or a wife her husband, betrays Christ. The minister of God who is unfaithful to his state in life, or instead of feeding the sheep entrusted to him feeds himself, betrays Jesus. Whoever betrays their conscience betrays Jesus. Even I can betray him at this very moment — and it makes me tremble — if while preaching about Judas I am more concerned about the audience’s approval than about participating in the immense sorrow of the Savior. There was a mitigating circumstance in Judas’ case that that I do not have. He did not know who Jesus was and considered him to be only “a righteous man”; he did not know, as we do, that he was the Son of God.

As Easter approaches every year, I have wanted to listen to Bach’s “Passion According to St. Matthew” again. It includes a detail that makes me flinch every time. At the announcement of Judas’ betrayal, all the apostles ask Jesus, “Is it I, Lord?” Before having us hear Christ’s answer, the composer — erasing the distance between the event and its commemoration — inserts a chorale that begins this way: “It is I; I am the traitor! I need to make amends for my sins.” Like all the chorales in this musical piece, it expresses the sentiments of the people who are listening. It is also an invitation for us to make a confession of our sin.

The Gospel describes Judas’ horrendous end: “When Judas, his betrayer, saw that he was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, ‘I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.’ They said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ And throwing down the pieces of silver, he departed; and he went and hanged himself” (Mt 27:3-5). But let us not pass a hasty judgment here. Jesus never abandoned Judas, and no one knows, after he hung himself from a tree with a rope around his neck, where he ended up: in Satan’s hands or in God’s hands. Who can say what transpired in his soul during those final moments? “Friend” was the last word that Jesus addressed to him, and he could not have forgotten it, just as he could not have forgotten Jesus’ gaze.

It is true that in speaking to the Father about his disciples Jesus had said about Judas, “None of them is lost but the son of perdition” (Jn 17:12). But here, as in so many other instances, he is speaking from the perspective of time and not of eternity. The enormity of this betrayal is enough by itself alone, without needing to consider a failure that is eternal, to explain the other terrifying statement said about Judas: “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Mk 14:21). The eternal destiny of a human being is an inviolable secret kept by God. The Church assures us that a man or a woman who is proclaimed a saint is experiencing eternal blessedness, but she does not herself know for certain that any particular person is in hell.

Good Friday

The chapel containing the spot where Christ was crucified.
 Below, a shot of pilgrims lining up to touch the site.

Good Friday

While Meditating Upon the Passion

I long to be the teardrop
Rolling ever so slowly down your cheek
Searching the curves and creases of your most holy face
Lightly kissing moisture upon your dry lips.

I long to be the air that becomes your breath
Bought with your agony as you push up to draw me in,
Absorbed into your body offered to the Father,
Flowing mercy from your wounds,
Exhaling love upon the world.

I long to be the cry
Welling up from the depths of your soul
Blinded by the night that envelops it.
Rushing to meet you as the all-consuming pain
draws you deeper into the darkness,
Finally bursting forth a helpless scream,
The cry of God - to God -
For mercy.

I long to be the last beat of your heart,
Suspended there in time
Until the Father grants you life anew
And then -
Captured there in eternity,
A prisoner of Divine Love.

- Brenda Stinson

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Thursday

Cardinal Se├ín O’Malley’s Chrism Mass homily earlier offers some great stuff:

We gather for the annual oil change and tune up. The oils are the tools we use in the ministry we share, but just as important is our own tune up as we gather as presbyterate to recommit ourselves to follow Christ and to shepherd His people.

These oils will be used for 20,000 Baptisms, 15,000 Confirmations, more than 150,000 Anointings, nine Ordinations and it is our priests and bishops and in some cases our deacons who will administer these sacraments. Your service, your generosity, your holiness is what brings the sacraments to our people and what makes the sacraments available.

Your preaching and your witness of a priestly life is what makes the sacraments credible and meaningful to our people. The role of the priest is crucial even for the priesthood itself.

Everyone here was helped in discovering his priestly vocation because of the witness, the friendship, the advice that each of us experienced in a priest whom we knew and whose ministry touched our lives. Now it is our turn to cultivate vocations for the future. If we truly love our people, we will want them to have the blessings of the Catholic priesthood.

In the first reading the Prophet Isaiah says: “You yourselves shall be named priests of the Lord. Your descendants shall be renowned among the nations.”

Your ministry will produce other ministers, other priests who will serve the next generation of Catholics. And their vocations will inspire the next generation.

The way that we express our thanks for our faith and our priestly vocation is to pass these gifts on. Pope Benedict said that the faith is spread not by proselytizing but by attraction…

…The Holy Father urges us to say “no to pessimism.” One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists and “sourpusses”. The Holy Father reminds us: Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. In the midst of the pastoral problems we face, our faith is challenged to discern how wine can come from water and how wheat can grow in the midst of weeds.

I am convinced that if we embrace this missionary option, our parishes will see more people responding to a priestly vocation or a life of Christian marriage.

Holy Thursday

In this painting by Sieger Koder,  our Lord washes Peter's feet, the bread and the cup of the Last Supper are on the table nearby. As the Scriptures relate, Peter is objecting and protesting Christ's humble gesture. Jesus' face is hidden in service but reflected in the water in the basin. Take note of the Lord's own dirty feet: he serves others, taking care of their needs, before seeing to his own...

The Paschal Triduum begins with the entrance song for the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper: We should glory in the Cross of Christ! Lent has ended and we are about the work of the church: offering praise and thanks to God for the mercy, love and forgiveness that is ours in the dying and rising of Christ. We do this in memory of Jesus Christ, our passover and our lasting peace...

Although we easily associate the Lord's Supper and this particular liturgy with the Eucharist, the Gospel for this day is John's account of the supper on the eve of Jesus' death and in this account the Eucharist not mentioned. Rather, John presents us with Jesus the servant, washing the feet of his disciples and instructing them that just as he has done for them, so must they do for each other... And just has Christ did for them, so must we do for each other...

Our Marianist communities will celebrate the rite called the Mandatum (from the Latin referring to the new command, the mandate Jesus gives his disciples that they should love one another.) In some communities the priest will wash the feet of 12 persons while in other communities the priest will wash the feet of a few who in turn wash the feet of others who in turn wash the feet of others... until all who so desire have had an opportunity to have their feet washed and in turn to wash another'sfeet...

In some earlier rites, the newly baptized were given a towel as a reminder of their mission to be of service to others...

Following the Mandatum is the liturgy of the Eucharist. Enough bread will be consecrated to provide communion for tomorrow's liturgy because the Eucharist is not celebrated on Good Friday.

Following communion, the ministers and the people process with theEucharist to a chapel or altar where the Eucharist is kept overnight. In most places, the church remains open until midnight for people to return and pray.

After Christ's supper with his disciples on the night before he died, they went to the garden of Gethsemane where the Lord asked his friends to be with him in prayer. You'll remember from Palm Sunday's gospel that they kept falling asleep, unable to keep their eyes open. As he told them, "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." This night the Lord invites us to spend some time with him in prayer. The place is less important than the time... Some may not be able to stay at church or to return later: just take some time at home to be with the Lord..

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spy Wednesday

Reflect on today's Scripture:
"One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over. 
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, "My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.'” The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover. 
When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” He answered, “You have said so.”
- Matthew 26

Spend some quiet time with the scripture above...

Today, Wednesday, is sometimes called Spy Wednesday because the Gospel for Mass relates how Judas conspired to betray Christ and hand him over to the authorities for just thirty pieces of silver.

Betrayal is a tragic reality.

Have you experienced betrayal? Is there someone in your life you've betrayed? Have you been accused of betrayal? The accusation of betrayal can be both a heavy burden and a deep wound.

Benedictine priest Aidan Kavanagh used to speak of "the night in which Jesus was betrayed by the worst in us all..." That offers us all a good perspective on Judas' betrayal of Jesus. It's easy to accuse Judas of betraying Christ and not so easy to accuse ourselves.

On the night Christ was betrayed, Judas stood in for all of us who have betrayed God's love and our neighbor's love.

Innocent and without sin, Jesus then carried on his shoulders and suffered in his wounds the burden of our betrayal...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday

Although it's at the very heart of our faith,
the story of the suffering and death of Jesus
is recounted in its entirety only twice a year,
and then in the same week,
on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.

Though we hear this story infrequently,
its images, scenes and characters are vivid in our imagination.
Particular words and phrases
have embedded themselves in our memory and in our hearts,
evoking repentance and prayer...

Don't these words echo in a place deep in your soul?

Jesus took his place at table...

"This is my body, given for you..."

"A new covenant in my blood, shed for you..."

"The one who is to betray me is with me at this table..."

"I tell you Peter,
before the cock crows this day
you will deny three times that you know me..."

"Father, if you are willing,
take this cup away from me;
still, not my will but yours be done..."

"Judas, will you betray me with a kiss?"

"I do not know the man..."
Peter went out and wept bitterly...

They held him in custody,
they ridiculed and beat him,
they blindfolded, struck him and reviled him...

"Away with this man - give us Barabbas!"

"Crucify him!"

"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do..."

"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom..."

"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit..."

He breathed his last...Any of these words, these phrases, these images
would be good food for prayer in the days ahead...

We enter the Week we call Holy
when Christians around the world pause
to remember and celebrate the death and resurrection
of Jesus Christ.

May the story of his suffering and death
refresh our faith in his love poured out for us...

As we gather throughout this week
let us recall and pray over the events
that brought us salvation...

May the words of Jesus' passion, embedded in our hearts,
bring us to the peace and joy of Easter.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Sunday Word

Tomorrow we celebrate Palm Sunday where the Celebrity Christ is given the celebrity treatment as he enters the city of Jerusalem. All the expected elements are in place:  We have a royal entrance, in a procession associated with powerful kings and conquering generals. He is escorted by the citizens of Jerusalem and “the whole multitude of the disciples.”  Th
ey all wave palm branches, praise him for his deeds of power, and sing hymns of acclamation, crying out, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven.”  He rides on a colt, on the foal of a donkey, just as King Solomon did before his coronation — although Jesus’ choice of a donkey could also mean that he is a bringer of peace. If Jesus wanted a fight, he would have charged in on a solid stallion, a war horse.

So Jesus is a superstar, complete with glitter, glamour and gossip. He’s got the glitter of a royal entrance, the glamour of waving palm branches and even the gossip associated with his disciples and the borrowed colt. There is a lot of buzz about this super celebrity as he enters the Holy City Jerusalem to pick up his prize.

But there’s a twist: His prize is a cross — and he knew it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Lenten Reflection

“... 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 a worth beyond human understanding... For it means that no moment can be wasted, no opportunity missed, since each has a purpose in man’s life, each has a purpose in God’s plan.

Think of your day, today or yesterday. Think of the work you did, the people you met, moment by moment. What did it mean to you- and might it have meant for God? Is the question too simple to answer, or are we just afraid to ask it for fear of the answer we must give?”
                                                                                                ― Walter J. Ciszek

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Cross is the mystery of God's love

In his homily yesterday, the Pope said Christianity does not exist without the Cross and stressed that we are unable to free ourselves from our sins on our own. The Cross, he said, is not an ornament to place on the altar but is the mystery of God’s love who takes our sins upon himself. He then reflected on the meaning of Jesus’s warning to the Pharisees “You will die in your sin.”

“It is impossible for us to free ourselves from sin on our own. It’s impossible. These doctors of the law, these people who taught the law, didn’t have a clear idea on this. They believed, yes, in the forgiveness of God but considered themselves strong, self-sufficient and that they knew everything. And in the end they transformed religion, their adoration of God, into a culture with values, reflections, certain commandments of conduct to be polite and they believed, yes, that the Lord can pardon them, they knew this but they were far removed from all this.”

Pope Francis said the serpent is the symbol of sin as seen in the bible. In the desert sin was lifted up but it is a sin that seeks salvation so that it heals. It is Jesus, the Son of Man, the true savior, who is lifted up.

“Christianity is not a philosophical doctrine, it’s not a programme for life survival or education, or for peacemaking. These are consequences. Christianity is a person, a person raised on the Cross, a person who annihilated himself to save us, who became sin. Just as sin was raised up in the desert, here God who was made man and made sin for us was raised up. All our sins were there. You cannot understand Christianity without understanding this profound humiliation of the Son of God who humbled himself and became a servant unto death, even death on a cross, in order to serve us.”

This is why, the Pope went on, the apostle Paul said we do not have other things to boast about, apart from our sins, and this is our misery. But through the mercy of God, we rejoice in the crucified Christ. It’s for this reason that ‘there is no Christianity without the Cross and there’s no Cross without Jesus Christ.

“The Cross is not an ornament that we must always put in the churches, there on the altar. It is not a symbol that distinguishes us from others. The Cross is mystery, the mystery of God who humbles himself, he becomes ‘nothing.’ He becomes sin. Where is your sin? ‘I don’t know, I have so many here.’ No, your sin is there, in the Cross. Go and find it there, in the wounds of the Lord and your sins will be healed, your wounds will be healed, your sins will be forgiven. The forgiveness that God gives us is not the same as cancelling a debt that we have with Him, the forgiveness that God gives us are the wounds of his Son on the Cross, raised up on the Cross. May he draw us towards Him and may we allow ourselves to be healed by him.”

Monday, April 7, 2014

Marianist Monday

Altar that contain the remains of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade,
founder of the Marianist Family
Marianist spirituality celebrates the relationship between Jesus and his mother, Mary. Mary’s acceptance of God’s call to become the Mother of God is the foundational moment of Christianity. Through Mary’s “yes,” the Word became human and dwells among us. Mary’s “yes” made this possible!

Mary stands with Jesus through his life and ministry. She is mother (Luke 2:17); woman of courageous faith (John 2:1-11; 19:25-28); disciple of the Lord (Luke 11:27-28); prophetess of radical freedom (Luke 1:46-56).

This woman of radical obedience and freedom calls Marianists to be a people of hospitality who gratefully share their faith and their community. It is through our participation in her mission that we educate youth, serve the poor, and promote peace, social justice, and the integrity of creation in our communities and institutions. All members of the Marianist Family listen with their hearts to Mary’s words at Cana: Do whatever He tells you.

Our founder, Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, believed Christian communities needed to bring the story of Jesus and the Good News to life through their daily activities and ministries. Mary, the Mother of God, was the model for his renewed faith formation. In Mary, he saw Christian discipleship, simplicity and hospitality. Father Chaminade thought an “alliance with Mary” would transform the Church.

Marianists strive to be like Mary—and those Marianists who are professed religious take the vow of stability, which grounds their special devotion to Mary and their desire to make her mission, to bring Christ to the world, ever more known.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Sunday Word

The Gospel of St. John gives us a Jesus, who steps with death, declaring an all-out war on death. "Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live," he promises, "dissing" the power of death. "Take away the stone," he orders the people, knowing full well that the dead body will be rotting, producing an awful stench. "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

The challenge has been issued, and there is no backing down now. Only one power can emerge victorious: Jesus or death.

Either Lazarus comes to life and Jesus is the champion, or the dead man continues to rot, death wins the day and Jesus looks like a fool.

It is a battle to the finish.

No technical knockouts.

Winner takes all.

When Jesus steps with death, someone or something has to die.

Jesus looks upward, speaks to his heavenly Father, and then cries with a loud voice: "What's up, any suggestions?" (No, that's not right.) Jesus says, "Lazarus, come out!"

The dead man comes out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth.

Death has been defeated.

It is the death of death.

Jesus says to the people around him, "Unbind him, and let him go."

This victory over death gives us a hint of Christ's destiny, and steers us to the time a stone will be rolled away from a tomb on Easter morning.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Marianists Coming to Fordham

April 3, 2014

Hi everyone,

As many of you know, a number of Marianists traveled up to Fordham last year to meet up with our graduates from both Chaminade and Kellenberg Memorial and to conduct an evening of spiritual refreshment. I was extremely pleased with last year’s turnout, with the candor of our discussions, and with the fervor of our prayer.

We’re well underway organizing a similar event this year.

So, here’s the deal: I’ll be coming up to Fordham’s Rose Hill campus in the Bronx with Bro. Timothy Driscoll, Fr. Tom Cardone, and a few other Marianists this coming Wednesday, April 9. Our theme will be:

The Journey Towards Easter

We will be taking advantage of an event already sponsored by the University’s Campus Ministry and holding a few of our own as well. We will begin with Mass on Wednesday evening, followed by dinner and some time for sharing our experiences of the spiritual life – and, of course, just catching up and recalling our memories of your high-school years. We will conclude the evening with the university’s Praise and Worship Service.

Here are the details:

When? Wednesday, April 9, 2014


 5:30 p.m. Our Lady’s Chapel 
(lower level of the University Church)

6:30 p.m. Salice-Conley Classroom 
(first floor of the Salice-Conley Hall)

Spiritual Sharing 
7:00 p.m. Salice-Conley Classroom 
(first floor of the Salice-Conley Hall)

Praise and Worship 
8:00 p.m. Our Lady’s Chapel
(lower level of the University Church)

All graduates of Chaminade and Kellenberg Memorial are welcome, 
as well as anyone else interested in some spiritual refreshment. 
 Bring a friend! Better yet, bring several friends!!!!

If you can let me know in advance if you are planning to attend – and if you are bringing some

others along – that would be great. Email me at Or contact me on Facebook.

But if you just show up, that’s great too. And feel free to come for any part of the program that

matches your schedule. We are looking forward to seeing you there.

God bless,

Bro. Steve (Balletta)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Stations of the Cross

Especially if you're not able to get to Church today, you might want to pray the Stations of the Cross at home. You might find the video presentations below especially helpful.
Stations of the Cross is an ancient devotion in the Catholic Church. The customary Stations of the Cross includes 14 stations (those found on the walls of most churches and chapels). The newer version which came to us from Blessed John Paul II was used for the first time in Rome on Good Friday 1991.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Noah a la Fr. Robert Barron

One of today's most thoughtful evangelists offers his take on one of the year’s most controversial films:

“Noah” is best interpreted, I think, as a modern cinematic midrash on the Biblical tale. The midrashim—extremely popular in ancient Israel—were imaginative elaborations of the often spare Scriptural narratives. They typically explored the psychological motivations of the major players in the stories and added creative plot lines, new characters, etc. In the midrashic manner, Aronofsky’s film presents any number of extra-Biblical elements, including a conversation between Noah and his grandfather Methuselah, an army of angry men eager to force their way onto the ark, a kind of incense that lulls the animals to sleep on the ship, and most famously (or infamously), a race of fallen angels who have become incarnate as stone monsters. These latter characters are not really as fantastic or arbitrary as they might seem at first blush. Genesis tells us that the Noah story unfolds during the time of the Nephilim, a term that literally means “the fallen” and that is usually rendered as “giants.” Moreover, in the extra-Biblical book of Enoch, the Nephilimare called “the watchers,” a usage reflected in the great hymn “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones.” In Aronofsky’s “Noah,” the stone giants are referred to by the same name.

What is most important is that this contemporary midrash successfully articulates the characteristically Biblical logic of the story of Noah. First, it speaks unambiguously of God: every major character refers to “the Creator.” Secondly, this Creator God is not presented as a distant force, nor is he blandly identified with Nature. Rather, he is personal, active, provident, and intimately involved in the affairs of the world that he has made. Thirdly, human beings are portrayed as fallen with their sin producing much of the suffering in the world. Some of the religious critics of “Noah” have sniffed out a secularist and environmentalist ideology behind this supposed demonization of humanity, but Genesis itself remains pretty down on the way human beings operate—read the stories of Cain and Abel and the Tower of Babel for the details. And “Noah’s” portrayal of the rape of nature caused by industrialization is nowhere near as vivid as Tolkien’s portrayal of the same theme in “The Lord of the Rings.” Fourthly, the hero of the film consistently eschews his own comfort and personal inclination and seeks to know and follow the will of God. At the emotional climax of the movie (spoiler alert), Noah moves to kill his own granddaughters, convinced that it is God’s will that the human race be obliterated, but he relents when it becomes clear to him that God in fact wills for humanity to be renewed. What is significant is that Noah remains utterly focused throughout, not on his own freedom, but on the desire and purpose of God. God, creation, providence, sin, obedience, salvation: not bad for a major Hollywood movie!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

It is still lent

I probably don’t need to remind you of this, every fast food chain flashing signs of fish sandwiches is reminder enough.

But just in case…

It is still Lent.

I would imagine this reality will either elicit two kinds of responses in you. Either you are coasting through Lent without much struggle to keep your Lenten promises, or you are wondering how in the world you are going to keep to your fasts the remainder of Lent.

If the first one is true for you, the rest of the world congratulates you, keep it up!

If the second is more true for you, you’re not alone. Let’s talk.

It has been my experience that during this time of Lent, we start losing steam and forget what the season of Lent is for. I think we lose steam because we lose sight of the purpose. Lent is not about us. If I was trying to keep my Lenten commitments simply for myself, I wouldn’t get very far. But Lent isn’t about me. It’s about Christ.

Lent is not a season we need to “get through.”

All too often I hear phrases such as “just 23 days until I can have chocolate, coffee, or get on social media.” Or insert your poison. I am guilty of this myself.

But if Lent isn’t about us, it also isn’t just about “getting” what we gave up at Easter.

Yes, in a few short weeks we will taste the proverbial sweetness of whatever we gave up. But here is this thing: our sacrifices actually bring us to something. We don’t give up things such as chocolate so it will taste really good on Easter. Lent actually brings us to something, the Resurrection of Christ. In our fasting we enter into the sufferings of Christ, in order that we can enter into the joy of the Resurrection.

If Lent were just about giving something up for 40 days, it will would seem like a really silly idea. But that is not the point. It has meaning and purpose.If we treat Lent like it is just a simple religious tradition we aren’t going to get very far.

If you are struggling this Lent I want to offer you one suggestion that I believe can transform your Lent into a fruitful spiritual encounter:

Remember what the sacrifice is for.

We sacrifice during Lent (by praying, giving alms, and fasting) because we enter into the season of Christ’s suffering and death, not only with our hearts, but with our bodies. We need to give our spiritual and physical sacrifices to the Lord during Lent because we need that physical reminder of what the Lord has done for us.

Next time your Lenten promises seem hard, remember what the sacrifice is for! Our sacrifices are not in vain. While they may seem hard, we will soon enter into a season where we celebrate the victory of the Lord.

Next time you want to reach for that chocolate, don’t think about what you can’t have, but think of the sacrifice Christ made for you and offer your sacrifice back to him.

Lent isn’t over yet. If you haven’t kept up with your commitments, recommit yourself. If you are struggling to find meaning in your sacrifices, think about Christ on the cross and refocus your sacrifice and energy back to Him.

There is still time to make this Lent count.

Michelle Neitzke