Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Visitation

The Visitation of Elizabeth by Mary

Now in these days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town of Judah. And she entered the home of Zachary and saluted Elizabeth. And it came to pass that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe in her womb leapt and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she lifted up her voice with a loud cry and said, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb! And whence this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come unto me? For behold, when the sound of thy salutation fell on mine ears, the babe in my womb leapt with gladness. And blessed art thou who hast believed, for what the Lord promised thee shall be accomplished.”
And Mary said: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath exulted in God my Savior, because he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaid: Yea, behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Because he who is mighty hath wrought great things for me, and holy is his name.”
- Luke 1:39-49 

In the painting, Elizabeth’s mature age is represented by the tree with fruit behind her, while behind Mary is a young tree in flower. The mysterious knowledge of the coming of Christ is first known by the unborn babe and then by his mother Elizabeth. Thus the sacred things are revealed first to the innocent one who represents the mysterious inner life within us all.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Be witnesses!

The Ascension of Christ - Be witnesses!

Dali said that his inspiration for The Ascension of Christ(above) came from a "cosmic dream" that he had in 1950, some eight years before the painting was completed. In the dream, which was in vivid color, he saw the nucleus of an atom, which we see in the background of the painting.

If we consider the readings from today's liturgy we find the following phrases:

Jesus had done and taught
he gave his instructions to the apostles
he had shown himself alive to them
he had continued to appear to them
he had told them not to leave Jerusalem
but to wait there
you ... will be baptised with the Holy Spirit
It is not for you to know times or dates
but you will receive power
when the Holy Spirit comes on you
and then you will be my witnesses
he was lifted up while they looked on
and a cloud took him from their sight.
staring into the sky
two men in white were standing near them
why are you ... standing here looking into the sky?
Jesus ... has been taken up from you.
he will come back.

Today we are called to see the work of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

The Apostles just stand there looking, staring, even waiting and this is precisely what God asks of them. It is only when they receive power from on high that they become something - witnesses - to all they have seen and heard and received. Don't you see? It's all God's work and, consequently, we are all God's work.
Just as with the Apostles, the Father completes his work in us by the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who gives us power to become all that we can be, all that we should be. In spiritual terms this means becoming witnesses to Christ in the lives we lead and the words we speak.

So if you are feeling powerless, out of control, hopeless, don't despair and don't try to play Mr Fixit. Stay put and wait in prayer, and "you will receive power."

Be patient, do what you can, pray - and don't give up!

"The Church, the Fathers, Catholic tradition—all bid us look up to Mary as our advocate and mediatrix. Thus the Church always applied to Jesus the example of the great King Solomon who, in the days of his glory and his wisdom, entrusted to his mother the exercise of his royal authority. Likewise, throughout the centuries, Christians have ever regarded Mary as their Queen, their helper in every need, their life, and their hope."

Blessed William Joseph Chaminade

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Marianist Fraternity

"Because religious community is a Schola Amoris which helps one grow in love for God and for one's brothers and sisters, it is also a place for human growth."

Above, the Brothers listen attentively during Father Garrett's morning homily.

Above, Brother Stephen Vincent intones the responsorial psalm as the Community cantor.

In our Community liturgy this morning we reflected on the Vatican document entitled "Fraternal Life in Community."

In our Community we see our Brothers as an extention of that great Communion of Saints. Our Brothers are saints in Community.

The Gospel of John and the tradition of the Society of Mary tell us that Community is critical. Living together as one family is our goal. Living together as Brothers is our task. Living together as members of the one true Church is the essential.

This implies relationship and communion. And relationship and communion sometimes seems to go against instincts and nature.

For us, our relationship and communion is best seen when we are "committed to ordinary and useful tasks."

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

Remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice

This Memorial Day weekend when you are spending time with your family please remember to teach your children and grandchildren about our brave men and women who have lost their lives in service for our freedom. Let's especially remember their families in prayer.

This video below is for Veterans' Day, but I think it is very fitting for Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Visit of Peace & Hope

Celebrating Mass on his first day in the Holy Land, Pope Francis said hope for peace in a region torn by sectarian conflicts comes from faith in God. “The way of peace is strengthened if we realize that we are all of the same stock and members of one human family, if we never forget that we have the same heavenly father and are all his children, made in his image and likeness,” the pope said May 24 in his homily at Amman’s International Stadium.

“Diversity of ideas and persons should not trigger rejection or prove an obstacle, for variety always enriches,” he told the congregation of some 30,000 people. “We ought, therefore, to show concrete signs of humility, fraternity, forgiveness and reconciliation. “Peace is not something which can be bought,” the pope said. “It is a gift to be sought patiently and to be crafted through the actions, great and small, of our everyday lives.”

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Sunday Word

Not too late to prepare yourself for the weekend's celebration by reading and reflecting on the Sunday readings from Sacred Scripture.

The first reading for this Sixth Sunday of Easter comes again from the Acts of the Apostles and details the power and joy that came from Philip's preaching and the gift of the Holy Spirit shared through the laying on of hands. 

The second reading, from 1 Peter, counsels suffering for doing good rather than for doing evil and includes this challenging verse:

Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope...

What reasons support your hope? 
What explanation, what accounting might you offer for the hope you have?

The Gospel is from the farewell discourse in John's Gospel and gives us the comfort of these words:

I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me, because I live and you will live.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Your name

Iona Commencement

May 17, 2014

Thank you, Dr. Nyre, faculty, Mr. Hynes, and members of the board, for the distinction of this honorary doctorate. Since I not long ago just finished paying off my tuition for the degree I earned way back, I particularly savor this one which cost me nothing! Thanks for the joy of being recognized by a splendid Catholic institution of higher learning, and thanks to the leadership and support of generous people who keep Iona strong.

Congratulations, my now new classmates, beloved class of 2014! You’ve strained and struggled for this bright day of accomplishment, and, I trust, along the way had a good time with friends you will cherish forever. With you and for you I say alleluia!, the Hebrew word for “praise God.”

I have the satisfaction of attending quite a few commencements, where I’m not, as usual, the only one wearing a funny costume! I always have a box seat for the lengthy but significant ritual as your names are called and degrees are granted. From this box seat I will see not only you, class of 2014, as you process up for your diploma; I can see the beaming faces of your moms and dads, your grandparents, family, and friends whose smile is expansive, eyes a bit moist and throat somewhat lumped as they stretch to see you of whom they are so rightly proud.

My congratulations go to all of you as well, you who today are hardly spectators, but who have been loving, supporting hands, hearts, shoulders, and wallets for the graduates we applaud today.

Usually, the long-awaited event of graduation is a celebration of what we can now do as college is completed, and a celebration of something we now have, namely, a diploma representing new skills and competence.

Yes, let’s toast indeed what we can do and what we now have . . . but might I propose that the wisdom presumed in a college graduate prompts us as well to celebrate what we cannot do and what we still do not have?

For as the Bible reminds us, the wise person is he or she who is aware of what he does not know, of how much there is yet to learn; and the blessed person is she who realizes her value comes in who she is, not what she can do.

As the Christian Brothers who founded our alma mater would put it, our identity , who we are as a child of God, made in His image, is a lot more important than what we can do; or, as Pope Saint John Paul II reminds us, “being is more important than having and doing.”

So, you bet, today we bask in what you can now do: teach history, for instance – - although, good luck, that’s what my degree is in and I could never get a job! – - or marketing design, auditing, nursing, advertising, physically rehabilitation – - wonderful things you can now do, thank God . . . but we today humbly admit what we can’t do by ourselves: alone, we cannot find love; alone, without God, we cannot achieve salvation; alone we cannot communicate or construct; alone, we cannot bring peace, advance goodness, virtue and justice; alone, we are useless.

So, yes, Iona has given us new knowledge and skills that will help us do things; but Iona has also imparted a wisdom which reminds us of what we can’t do alone, as we detect that longing within that seeks God, love, family, friends, community, and a culture that sustains us as together we count on one another to achieve what we can’t do by ourselves.

That’s why the most important item on your parchment is not the title of this esteemed college; not “B.A.,” “M.S.,” or even “Ph.D”; not “science,” “arts,” “education,” or “business” – - as significant as all of those tags are, what is most essential on your diploma is … your name.

. . . the name given you at birth or baptism;

. . . the name cooed by your mom and dad when they held you as babies;

. . . the name known by God, your Creator, who, as the psalmist tells us, already knew you as He knit you in the womb;

. . . the name enrolled in this college;

. . . the name which brings smiles to your friends and classmates;

. . . the name that will be toasted today and appear on cakes;

. . . the name which God calls you in prayer, whispers in times of crisis and, yes, a the moment of death.

You . . . your name . . . for who you are, dear new classmates, who you are - – a child of God, made in His very image, the apple of His eye, redeemed by His Son, Jesus, destined for love and joy and purpose and meaning in this life; intended to live forever with Him – - who you are is far more important than what you have or can do.

The degree to which you are loved or can love hardly depends on the degree you’ll happily receive in a moment;

For God and the folks who share His eternal penetrating vision do not so much care about the letters after your name as much as the name before the letters;

For the Lord and the people who look at life as He does do not only care about what you can do, but about what you acknowledge you can’t do without them;

Because, when all is said and done, when the cap and gown is returned, the diploma framed, the tuition paid, the careers and jobs embarked upon, we don’t really care what you know, but sure want to know that you care!



God’s blessings!
Timothy Cardinal Dolan

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The power of Hope

If you want to understand the proper way to live out hope in the midst of suffering, says the writer of 1 Peter, the best example is Jesus. Jesus was crucified unjustly, suffering under the worst human violence and insult one could imagine, yet his death and resurrection were the ultimate triumph of hope over injustice, sin and death. It was through that suffering that Christ was able to "bring us to God. " Jesus’ triumph over death enabled Him to proclaim hope to the "spirits in prison" — those who had died in Noah’s flood and those like them who died apart from a saving knowledge of God.

Jesus continues to proclaim that message of grace and liberation to us in the present through baptism, which the writer sees as "an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." When we’re baptized, we take on the results of Christ’s suffering for us — cleansing from sin and new life in God’s grace, all the things for which we hope. In Christ, God had taken on the worst the world can dish out and came out the other side victorious. As Jesus’ people, we can respond to the lingering evil of the world not by retaliating, complaining or retreating, but by proclaiming the hope, the realized hope, that is within us.

We just need to share the rest of the world with that message!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Prayer for Wednesday

(Perhaps one of these short prayers
may be a prayer you need today...)

When fears and worries overwhelm
then give me courage, Lord,
to keep it in today...

When darkness tempts and beckons me
then draw me to the light
and let your face shine bright upon me...

When easy answers seem enough
then lead me to the truth,
that in your truth I'll be set free...

When angry grudges weigh me down
then teach me to forgive, Lord,
as you have pardoned me...

When gossip's brewing in my thoughts
then bless my speech with kindness,
with your word upon my lips...

When my heart is green with envy
then show me just how much I have
of all you've freely given...

When I must choose the right from wrong
then give me wisdom, Lord,
and help me do what you would do...

When time for me is all I have
then open me to others
and to you in others' needs...

When I've run out of words to pray
then let me listen, Lord, and hear
what you would say to me...
                                                                 H/T A Concord Pastor Comments

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Sunday Word

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells his friends:

"You know the way to the place where I'm going."

But Thomas replies,

"Lord, we don't know where you're going -
how can we know the way?"

Ever been in Thomas' shoes?

Trying to find the way?

Trying to find your way?

Trying to find the Lord's way - and the Lord's way for you?

The best way to begin to prepare for Mass this weekend, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, is to take a look at the Scriptures and ask the Lord for directions... how do we feed our hearts the power of Christ? It comes down to being connected to the promises of his Word, found in the Scriptures, and the power of his presence, found in his people. Just as someone who's cultivating physical heart health by taking up running might, God's Word and his people are essential for a strong heart of faith.
Christ makes a promise, saying, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." Quite often, when our hearts are troubled and we feel furthest from Christ, it's simply because we are far from the two places - his Word and his people - where He is promised to always be found.

What's more, we live in a world in which access to God's Word has never been easier. J

Once your heart of faith is fed with Christ, the essential element is to make sure it's regularly stretched, exercised and put to the test in a lifestyle of relentlessly pursuing Christ. Immediately after telling his disciples to feast on him, Jesus boldly proclaimed that they would be living lives of faith in which they achieved more amazing things than he did! "Truly, truly," said Jesus, "whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these he will do ..." The disciples needed hearts that were fed with Christ because they had be thrown into lives of doing incredible, frightening, heart-straining works in the name of Christ.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Enter the Mystery

The Pope reflected on yesterday's readings in his homily. He focused on the fact that “the Christian life is always a matter of being on the way, and of not going alone”, but of going “in the Church, amid God’s people”. The Pontiff then noted that, in the day’s Gospel, Jesus himself says that “he is the way: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. Everything. I give you life, I reveal myself as the truth, and if you come with Me, I am the way”. That is why coming to know him who presents himself “as way, truth, and life” requires starting out on a “journey”. Indeed, Pope Francis said, “knowing Jesus is our life’s most important work”, also because in coming to know him we come to know the Father.

“But how can we know Jesus?”, the Pontiff asked. The Pope agreed with those who answer that “we have to study much”. Here therefore invited everyone to “study the Catechism: a beautiful book, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we must study it”. Yet he was quick to add that we cannot limit ourselves to “believing that we will know Jesus through study alone”. Indeed, there are some who “imagine that ideas and ideas alone will lead us to the knowledge of Jesus”. Even “among the early Christians” some thought in this way, and “they ended up a bit tangled up in their thoughts”. For “ideas alone do not give life”. Thus one who travels by this way “ends up in a labyrinth” from which “there is no way out”.

This is precisely why, from the beginning there were heresies in the Church that often involved “seeking to understand who Jesus is only with our minds”. Here the Pope recalled the words of the great British author G.K. Chesterton, who called heresy an idea gone mad. In effect, the Pope said, “this is how it is: when ideas are isolated and alone, they go mad”.

The Pope then pointed out three doors we need to open if we want to know Jesus. Reflecting on the first of these doors, i.e. prayer, the Pope said that “study alone without prayer is useless. The great theologians do theology on their knees”. For, he said, if “by study we advance a little, without prayer we will never know Jesus”.

Regarding the second door, i.e. celebration, the Bishop of Rome said that prayer alone “is also not enough”. For “the joy of celebration is needed as well: celebrating Jesus in the Sacraments, for it is there that he gives us life, nourishes us, comforts us, makes a covenant with us, gives us a mission. Without the celebration of the Sacraments we will not arrive at the knowledge of Jesus; and this [celebration] belongs to the Church”.

Finally, to open the third door, i.e. the imitation of Christ, the Pope advised that we take up the Gospels in order to discover there what [Jesus] did, what his life was like, what he told us, what he taught us”, in order to “seek to imitate him”.

Passing through these three doors means “entering into the mystery of Jesus”, Pope Francis said. Indeed, “we can only come to know him if we are able to enter into his mystery”. And we need not be afraid of doing so. The Pope therefore concluded his reflection inviting those present to consider “over the course of the day what the door of prayer is like in my life” ... but true prayer, he said, “the prayer of the heart”.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Online with God?

When we get online with God through Jesus, the only agenda that really matters is: "Thy will be done." When we hack into heaven, we are challenged to discover something new about the Lord's agenda, not our own.

Fortunately, this access also brings an opportunity - an opportunity to carry God's attitude and agenda into the world. If it is the Lord's desire,  then we will be equipped to work for that salvation. If it is God's will, then we will be shown the way. If it is part of the divine plan, then a door will be opened to us. But watch out: God's view of power and status may be different from our own!

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life," proclaims Jesus. "No one comes to the Father except through me." Christ is the one who gives us access to almighty God, the one who is our channel to God's heavenly home page, and the one who gives us the ability to make a lasting difference in this world. "Very truly, I tell you," says Jesus, "the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these." Belief in Christ gives us access to a power that can change our society for the better.

Because of Jesus, we don't have to hack into heaven.

We have all the access we need.

Jesus gets us online with God, and in line with a divine attitude and agenda.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Open Our Hearts

(Vatican Radio) We cannot understand the things of God only with our heads, we need to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit too. This was Pope Francis’ message at morning Mass Tuesday at Casa Santa Marta. The Pope also said that faith is a gift of God which we cannot receive if we live our lives “detached” from His people, the Church.

As usual, the Pope reflected on the readings offered by the liturgy of the day, which show us "two groups of people". In the First Reading, "there are those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose" following Stephen’s martyrdom. "They were dispersed with the seed of the Gospel - the Pope said – and they carried it everywhere". At first, they only spoke to the Jews. Then , "almost naturally, some of them" who had come to Antioch, "began to speak to the Greeks". And so, slowly, "they opened the doors to the Greeks, to the pagans”. Once the news arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas was sent to Antioch "to carry out an inspection". He noticed that everyone “was happy" because " a large number of people was added to the Lord".

Pope Francis noted that these people did not say “let's go to the Jews first, then the Greeks, then pagans, then everyone. No! They allowed themselves to be carried by the Holy Spirit! They were docile to the Holy Spirit". And then, he said, "one thing leads to another" and "they end up opening the doors to everyone: to the pagans, who were considered unclean in the mentality of the time”, "they opened the doors to everyone." This, he stressed , "is the first group of people, those who are docile to the Holy Spirit". "Sometimes - he added - the Holy Spirit prompts us to do bold things: like how he drove Philip to go and baptize" the Minister of Ethiopia , "like how he pushed Peter to go and baptize Cornelius".

"Other times, the Holy Spirit leads us gently and the virtue is in allowing ourselves to be carried by the Holy Spirit, in not resisting the Holy Spirit, in being docile to the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit works in the Church today, is acting in our lives today. Some of you may say: ' I have never seen him!'. 'But, pay attention to what is happening, to what comes to your mind, to what comes in your heart. Good things? It is the Spirit that invites you to take that path. It takes docility! Docility to the Holy Spirit”.

The second group presented to us in the readings of the day is the "intellectuals, who came to Jesus in the temple: they are the doctors of the law." Jesus, the Pope noted, has always had problems with them, "because they never arrived at understanding: they always came back to the same point, because they believed that religion was a thing of the mind, of laws". They saw it as a question of "fulfilling the commandments and nothing more. They cannot even imagine the existence of the Holy Spirit". The questioned Jesus , "they wanted to argue. Everything was about the mind, the intellect". "These people had no heart - he added -there is no love or beauty, there is no harmony" these people “only want explanations":

"And you give them their explanations and, not convinced, they return with more questions . This is their way: they spin round and round ... As they spun Jesus around throughout his life, until the time that they were able to take him and kill him! These people do not open their hearts to the Holy Spirit! They believe that the things of God can be understood only with the head, with ideas, with their own ideas. They are proud. They think they know everything. And what does not fit into their intelligence is not true. You can raise a dead man in front of them , but they do not believe".
Jesus "goes further" and says "something very strong": "You do not believe because you are not part of my sheep! You do not believe because you are not of the people of Israel. You have left the people. You are in intellectual aristocracy". This attitude, he warned, "closes the heart. They have denied their own people".

"These people had become detached from the people of God and therefore could not believe. Faith is a gift from God! But faith comes if you are in His people . If you are - right now - in the Church, if you are helped by the sacraments, brothers and sisters, by the assembly. If you believe that this Church is the People of God. These people had distanced themselves, they did not believe in the people of God, they only believed in their own things, and thus built a whole system of commandments that chased the people away: they chased people away and would not let them come into the Church, the people. They could not believe! This is the sin of resisting the Holy Spirit".

Pope Francis concluded: "Two groups of people”, those who are "gentle, sweet people, humble, open to the Holy Spirit", and the others "proud, self-sufficient, detached from the people, intellectual aristocrats, who closed their doors and resist the Holy Spirit". "This is not just stubbornness", he said , "it is much more: it is having a hard heart! And this is more dangerous". "Let us ask the Lord for the grace of docility to the Holy Spirit to move forward in life, to be creative, to be joyful, because the other people were not joyful". When "there is a lot of seriousness - he said - the Spirit of God is lacking". We ask, therefore, "for the grace of obedience and that the Holy Spirit will help us to defend ourselves from this other evil spirit of self-sufficiency, pride, arrogance, closure of the heart to the Holy Spirit".

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Good Shepherd - Vocation Sunday

On a spring morning in 2010, a young man by the name of Dayan Machado found himself in a place he once would never have expected: face down on the floor of a cathedral in Florida, praying to the saints.

How he got there is a story unto itself—and illustrates beautifully, I think, part of this Sunday’s gospel message, about recognizing and listening to the voice of the shepherd.

Dayan was born in Cuba, raised without any religion at all in a country that officially promoted atheism and restricted religious practice. But one day in 1998, his parents turned on the TV and there was something surprising: a man in white, preaching to the people of Cuba and celebrating Mass in flawless Spanish. It was Pope John Paul II. Dayan listened intently and heard him speak of faith and freedom, of peace and forgiveness and hope.

And with that, the 15-year-old boy’s life changed. He later said he felt like an electric charge moved through him. He needed to learn more.

He began stopping by a local church to watch the Mass through an open window. After a few months, he got up the courage to speak to the priest. He told him he wanted to become Catholic. Dayan started attending catechism class with a few other students on the roof of the church. He never told his parents—but his father soon found out. “Do you think I’m blind?” his father asked him. “I know where you’re going. But,” he added, “don’t be afraid. We support you.”

A few weeks later, Dayan’s father won a lottery to leave Cuba with his family. But before they left, the parish priest baptized Dayan—choosing to do so on an afternoon when the church is normally locked and it wouldn’t attract attention.

In 1999, the Machado family left Cuba and settled in Tampa, Florida. Then, after finishing high school, Dayan made another big choice.

He decided to enter the seminary. He wanted to become a priest.

While studying for the priesthood, a longtime prayer of his was answered. His mother and father were baptized.

And so it was a few years later that Dayan found himself on the floor of that cathedral, hearing the litany of the saints—a young man who had grown up without any faith was taking the ultimate leap of faith, and committing his life to God.

The day he was ordained, his parents wrote him a letter.

They wrote about remembering how nervous he was to tell them that he wanted to be a priest. His father repeated the words that had been spoken so often by John Paul: “Do not be afraid.” And they concluded poignantly: “With a heart filled with holy pride, we seek your blessing.”

Today, Dayan Machado is a priest in Florida. And like countless other priests around the world, this weekend he will be praying in a special way that others will hear God’s call like he did, and make their own leap of faith.

This is Good Shepherd Sunday, and it is also Vocation Sunday, when the church asks us to pray for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life.

But if Dayan Machado’s story teaches us anything, it is this: vocations don’t necessarily begin in the pews. They can come from unlikely places—even in places that don’t know God.

But in spite of that, his life of faith began as so many do: in the home.

Sometimes a vocation begins in the kitchen, with a teenager watching TV, and an inner spark catching flame.

It might begin around the dining room table, or in the car on the way to soccer practice, or in the classroom, when someone poses a casual question and you can’t get it out of your head:

“Did you ever think about becoming a priest?”

It’s been said that prayer should be like a conversation with a friend. A prayer for vocations needs to be a conversation, too. A conversation with God. And a conversation with one another. I would challenge everyone here this morning to have that conversation, with your son or daughter, your brother or sister, your niece or nephew.

Dare to ask the question: have you ever thought about religious life?

Do you think you might want to be a priest? A deacon? A sister?

And I’m not just talking about young people. God’s calendar isn’t our calendar. He calls at different times, for different reasons. He called me when I was in my 40’s, at a moment when I was finally ready to answer that question and able to form the word, “Yes.”

Is he calling someone you know?

Is he, perhaps, even calling you?

It all comes back—I believe— to the home. The family. I often tell parents at baptisms: you are where it all begins. You are the first teachers of your children. From you, I tell them, they will learn to pray. To hope. To dream. From you, they will learn how to persevere, how to get up when they fall. They will learn compassion and mercy.

From you, they will learn how to love.

And that includes how to love God and love our faith—and then put that faith into practice.

The family is where we really begin to learn who we are, what we want, what we believe, what we value.

That’s where examples begin and where lessons are taught.

That’s where the conversation needs to happen.

That’s where God slips in and calls to us, often in a whisper.

And this Mother’s Day weekend, I think it’s also good to be reminded of the vital role mothers play in vocations. There’s a story that’s told about Pope St. Pius X, a humble man with a saintly mother. She lived to see her son become pope. The day of his installation, she bent down to kiss his large ring, as is the custom, and she then presented to him her tiny wedding band. “Now you kiss my ring,” she said. “For without it, you never would have received yours.” And he did.

The gospel we heard today speaks to us about listening and responding to the voice of the shepherd. On this Good Shepherd Sunday, when we pray for vocations to religious life, we need to ask ourselves:

Are we listening?

Are we making it possible for others to listen?

And are we responding?

Because as Dayan Machado discovered: sometimes when you listen, what you hear will change everything.

By the grace of God…you will know the grace of God.

And your life will never be the same.
H/T The Deacon's Bench

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Prayer for Vocations

Pope Francis’ Prayer for Vocations

The 51st World Day of Prayer for Vocations will be celebrated on May 11, 2014, Good Shepherd Sunday.

Prayers of the Faithful:

For young men and women;

That God may give them the gift of understanding to discern their service in the Church, the priesthood, diaconate, or consecrated life; And for the gift of courage to follow His call. We pray to the Lord. . . .

For young people;

That they may know the personal love of the Lord for them, and respond with open and generous hearts. We pray to the Lord. . . .

Friday, May 9, 2014

World Day of Prayer for Vocations

The World Day of Prayer for Vocations is celebrated this Sunday, May 11 this year, the Fourth Sunday of Easter. The World Day of Prayer for Vocations is also known as Vocations Sunday or Good Shepherd Sunday and will be celebrated this year on the theme ‘Vocations: Witness to the Truth’.

In his message for Vocations Sunday Pope Francis says: “A vocation is a fruit that ripens in a well cultivated field of mutual love that becomes mutual service, in the context of an authentic ecclesial life. No vocation is born of itself or lives for itself. A vocation flows from the heart of God and blossoms in the good soil of faithful people, in the experience of fraternal love. Did not Jesus say: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35)?”

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Sunday Word

Every year on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, the Gospel offers an image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. This day, then, is often called Good Shepherd Sunday.

This year the Gospel is from Saint John who reminds us of how the Good Shepherd knows each of his sheep by name and protects them from thieves and robbers. In this passage, Jesus refers to himself as "the gate." Now, that's an interesting title!

Here's a picture of what Jesus is talking about, followed by an explanation.

Sheepfolds, even to this day, offer a nighttime enclosure and protection for the flock. An opening in the wall allows the shepherd to herd his flock to their pen at day's end but often there's no gate to ensure that the sheep stay put and no harm intrudes. In fact, the shepherd sleeps right there and so, the shepherd is the gate...

So Jesus said again,

"Amen, I say to you,
I am the gate for the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and robbers,
but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the gate.
Whoever enters through me will be saved
and will come in and go out and find pasture..."

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Witness to the Faith

Emer McCarthy reports:

In his homily Pope Francis traced the path that led to the death of the first martyr of the Church, a death that was the exact replica of Christ’s. He, too, like Jesus , he said, had encountered “the jealousy of the leaders who were trying" to eliminate him. He too had "false witnesses" , a "rushed judgment”. Stephen warns them that are resisting the Holy Spirit, as Jesus had said , but "these people - said the Pope – were uneasy, were not at peace in their hearts". These people , he added, had " hatred " in their heart . That is why, on hearing Stephen’s words, they were furious . "This hatred - said Pope Francis - was sown in their hearts by the devil", "this is the devil’s hatred of Christ”.

The devil "who did what he wanted with Jesus Christ in his Passion now does the same" with Stephen. This "struggle between God and the devil" is clearly seen in martyrdom. “On the other hand, Jesus had told his disciples that they had to rejoice to be persecuted in his name: "To be persecuted, to be a martyr, to gives ones’ life for Jesus is one of the Beatitudes". That is why, the Pope added , "the devil cannot stand seeing the sanctity of a church or the sanctity of a person, without trying to do something". This is what he does with Stephen, but "he died like Jesus forgiving".

"Martyrdom is the translation of a Greek word that also means witness. And so we can say that for a Christian the path follows in the footsteps of this witness, Christ’s footsteps, to bear witness to Him and, many times, this witness ends up in laying down one’s life . You cannot understand a Christian without witness. We are not a ' religion' of ideas, of pure theology, beautiful things, of commandments. No, we are a people who follow Jesus Christ and bear witness – who want to bear witness to Jesus Christ - and sometimes this witness leads to laying down our lives”.

On Stephen’s death, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, "a severe persecution began against the Church in Jerusalem". These people , the Pope observed , "felt strong and the devil provoked them to do this" and so "Christians scattered to the regions of Judea and Samaria". This persecution, the Pope noted, means that "the people spread far and wide" and wherever they went they explained the Gospel , gave testimony of Jesus , and so "mission of the Church" began. "So many - he recalled - converted, on hearing these people". One of the Fathers of the Church, explained this by saying : "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians". With "their witness, they preach the faith" :

"Witness, be it in everyday life, in difficulties, and even in persecution and death, always bears fruit. The Church is fruitful and a mother when she witnesses to Jesus Christ. Instead , when the church closes in on itself , when it thinks of itself as a - so to speak - 'school of religion', with so many great ideas, with many beautiful temples, with many fine museums, with many beautiful things, but does not give witness, it becomes sterile. The Christian is the same. The Christian who does not bear witness, is sterile, without giving the life he has received from Jesus Christ".

The Pope continued, "Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit", and "we cannot bear witness without the presence of the Holy Spirit in us". Pope Francis advised those present: “In difficult times, where we have to choose the right path, where we have to say 'no' to a lot of things that maybe try to seduce us, there is prayer to the Holy Spirit, and He makes us strong enough to take this path of witness":

"Today thinking about these two icons - Stephen, who dies, and the people, the Christians, fleeing, scattering far and wide because of the violent persecution - let us ask: How is my witness? Am I a Christian who witnesses to Jesus or are a simple numerary in this sect ? Am I fruitful because I bear witness, or sterile because unable to let the Holy Spirit lead me forward in my Christian vocation?" .

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Sunday Word

For a woman in Davidson, North Carolina, it was a disturbing sight.

Driving by the local Episcopal church, she noticed a vagrant sleeping on a bench outside. She called the police, who came to investigate. It turned out to be a false alarm.

The homeless man on the bench wasn’t a man at all.

It was a statue.

It was created by well-known Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz—it’s a life-sized sculpture of a man sleeping on park bench, completely covered by a blanket. The only parts of him you can see are his bare feet.

But look closer, and you see something else.

The feet bear the scars of crucifixion.

The homeless man on the bench is Jesus.

This artwork, “Jesus the Homeless,” challenges our perceptions of Christ, and our perceptions of the poor. It invites us to see Christ, even among the homeless. The artist has said that his inspiration was St. Matthew’s gospel: “Whatever you did to the least of these, you did to me.”

But after reading the news from North Carolina, and looking over this Sunday’s gospel, I’m also reminded of what happened on the road to Emmaus.

I have to wonder:

If we saw Jesus today, would we even know it? Would we recognize him?

St. Luke describes the blindness of the disciples on the road to Emmaus: “Their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.”

We can speculate why. They were probably disillusioned and confused, maybe even angry. Their great hope, Jesus, the one who had made the blind see and the lame walk, was dead. Worse, he had been brutally executed like a common criminal. It all seemed so senseless.

Maybe they had lost faith.

Maybe they couldn’t recognize what was staring them in the face—or who was staring them in the face—because they had given up. They had lost their way—literally lost their sense of direction. They were leaving Jerusalem, and the rest of Christ’s followers, and were headed someplace else.

But perhaps, it goes even deeper than that.

St. Augustine has said that he believes their eyes were closed…because their hearts were closed.

Preaching about this passage, he said that the whole story pivots around one critical moment. Everything begins to change once these disciples make the choice to invite Jesus to stay with them. What was missing, Augustine suggested, was what Christ had been teaching all along: compassion, charity, love of neighbor, even when the neighbor is a stranger.

“When you receive another,” Augustine said, “you receive Him… Let a hungry Christ be fed here, a thirsty Christ be given drink, a naked Christ be clothed, a foreigner Christ be taken in, an ill Christ be visited,” he said. “These are needs that arise on the journey. This is how we are to live in a world where Christ is in need.”

When the disciples on their journey welcomed Christ—a Christ without a home, a Christ in need—everything changed.

Each of us, I think, is on our own journey, to our own Emmaus. Each of us carries with us our own uncertainties, our doubts, our worries. We grow anxious about our futures. About our families. About our jobs. About school. About where we are headed in life.

But we do not walk alone. That is part of the beautiful, hope-filled message of Easter. He is risen. He is still with us.

He walks with us on our journey. And he will stay if we only invite him. The Jesus who stands at the door and knocks stands, too, at the door of our hearts. Easter, this time of rebirth and renewal, is the perfect time to open the door.

It can be tempting, in these first weeks after Easter, to forget that, to take the Resurrection for granted. After a few days, we throw out the wilted flowers and the stale chocolate and plastic grass from the baskets and just get on with our lives as if it was just another holiday and it’s over. It isn’t! We just spent 40 days of Lent preparing for this feast—a feast that on our calendar stretches into an entire season of 50 days. This is the defining event of salvation history, the pivotal moment in our lives as Catholic Christians.

Do we recognize that?

Do we recognize him?

Again and again, Luke’s gospel reminds us that Jesus comes to us in startling, unexpected ways: as a baby in a manger; as a stranger on a road; in bread that is broken, blessed and shared.

We need to keep our eyes, and our hearts, open to his presence in our lives.

The statue of the homeless Jesus, meantime, is slowly becoming more familiar. It’s sparked debate and discussion and garnered a fair amount of media attention. The artist took it the Vatican, where it was blessed by Pope Francis. Other churches have requested copies. You can even buy small replicas to keep in your home. The Christ who was unrecognizable in North Carolina, it seems, is gaining recognition around the world. This provocative work of art is inviting people to see Jesus in a different way—and challenging us to see those around us differently, too.

As Augustine put it: our world is a hungry Christ to be fed, a naked Christ to be clothed.

Let us pray to have eyes to see this Christ in all those we encounter.

And may we always invite the risen Christ to be our companion on the journey, as long as that journey may last, wherever the road may take us.
H/T The Deacon's Bench

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Sunday Word

God's view of power and status may be different from our own!

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life," proclaims Jesus. "No one comes to the Father except through me." Christ is the one who gives us access to almighty God, the one who is our channel to God's heavenly home page, and the one who gives us the ability to make a lasting difference in this world. "Very truly, I tell you," says Jesus, "the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these." Belief in Christ gives us access to a power that can truly protect God's creatures and change our society for the better.

Because of Jesus, we don't have to hack into heaven.

We have all the access we need.

Jesus gets us online with God, and in line with a divine attitude and agenda.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Easter wake up

Over the past few weeks our two high schools have taken a deeply traditional pilgrimage that almost all Americans feel pulled to make at least once in their lives - to America's new heartland, Disney.

Disney's role in America's modern mythology is absolutely critical, even central. Increasingly the world sees Disney as the real symbol of America. Forget the Statue of Liberty, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights - America means Mickey Mouse. The recreational mecca called Disney World has now supplanted America's historical mecca called Washington, D.C., as the nation's most popular tourist site. Some now argue that Disneyland/World is the spirit of America, the nation's key sacred space, the bearer of the images that carry American meaning and mission.

Disney's mission statement is simple and straightforward: "Provide People Happiness." In its quest to meet this goal, Disney focuses all its energies in the realm of fantasy - convincing the whole country that to find happiness involves escaping reality.

When you visit Disney World, its central image is the Castle of Sleeping Beauty. Its graceful, soaring storybook towers and turrets preside over the rest of the theme park below. Yet unlike all the other attractions in this wonderland it is only a hollow shell - void of content. Except for a few novelty shops along the walkway that cuts through it, this beautiful symbol of Disney's fantasy world come to life is empty.

But its very emptiness is full of meaning. For that is precisely the function of Disney World - to empty us of the harsh realities of life and render us unconscious to those things which are too hard to bear. That is part of the experience of Disney - to become "unconscious" of the real world and to enter a never-never land of fantasy and fakery. Fittingly Sleeping Beauty's Castle - a monument to a trance-like sleep - serves as the portal to this plane.

If Disney entices participants to fall asleep in order to escape life, the Church's mission is to urge people to wake up - in order to experience an authentic and full existence. Easter is a reveille call to all believers announcing the dawning of our new relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This is a radically new reality. The message of Easter wakes us, not just from a stuporing slumber, but also calls us forth from tombs of sin, bound in grave clothes of despair, to wear robes of righteousness and hope!

Easter is not an empty Disney-fantasy. Easter is the rousing, transforming power of God shaking each and everyone of us awake to a life in Christ, a life eternal.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Sunday Word

Well, have you started preparing for hearing the Scriptures at Mass this weekend?

This Sunday's Gospel is the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and their encounter with Christ in person, in Scripture and at table.

In the same way, we accompany each other, friends and strangers alike, every day, on the road from here to there.

In the same way, Christ approaches, joins and walks with us, wanting to engage us with his presence and word.

In the same way, the Lord wants to be with us at day's end...

And in the same way, we often don't recognize the Lord right by our side...

Do we see him? welcome him? meet him? speak with him?