Monday, June 30, 2014

Marianist Monday

On the reverse side of Fr. Philip's 60th anniversary of profession of vows holy card yesterday we read, 
"All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.'"

The words are from Julian of Norwich—a woman who has set herself apart for God and lived isolated in a cell. Like her contemporaries of 1373, she was Roman Catholic and believed that the last rites gave special sanctifying grace and strengthened a sick person bodily and spiritually at death. Recognizing her need for a deeper love of Christ, she appealed to God for three things:

• a stronger understanding of Christ’s passion
• a sickness unto death while still young, allowing her to experience all that a body and soul experience in death (including attack by devils and administration of the last rites) but without actual death—so that she might learn to live more mindful of God
• three “wounds:” absolute contrition, kind compassion, and steadfast longing toward God.

It seemed her unusual prayer was being answered. Julian had indeed become deathly ill. Everyone around her despaired of her life. She also believed she was dying. The last rites were administered to her.

Then a wonderful thing happened: Julian experienced what a future generation might describe as a near-death experience. At the crisis of her sickness, she received fifteen “showings,” or revelations. She reported that heaven opened to her, she saw Christ in his glory, and she saw the meaning and power of his sufferings. She also sees Christ’s mother, Mary, exalted and beloved.

In her thirteenth showing, Julian received a comforting answer to a question that had long troubled her:

“In my folly, before this time I often wondered why, by the great foreseeing wisdom of God, the onset of sin was not prevented: for then, I thought, all should have been well. This impulse [of thought] was much to be avoided, but nevertheless I mourned and sorrowed because of it, without reason and discretion.

“But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that is needed by me, answered with these words and said: ‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.'

“These words were said most tenderly, showing no manner of blame to me nor to any who shall be saved.”

In this she recognized the compassion she had prayed for. She was impressed with her need to be joyful in all circumstances, however adverse, and for no particular reason, except this: that all things will ultimately be put right by Christ. She came to such a sense of the awfulness of sin that she reckoned the pains of hell were to be chosen in preference to it. Indeed, to one who recognized the horror of sin, sin itself is hell. “And to me was shown no harder hell than sin. For a kind soul has no hell but sin.”

The following night Julian received a final, sixteenth showing while she slept. In it Satan and his hosts assailed her, but God gave her grace, and she fixed her eyes on the crucified Christ and trusted that because of his suffering and victory over sin he can protect her, and he delivered her from the demonic jeers and mutterings.

She recovered to live thirty-three years longer. Soon after her recovery, Julian recorded a short account of her revelations. Twenty years after her visions, having meditated long upon them, she added additional thoughts to their meaning. Both the short and the long accounts are widely disseminated in manuscript form and, after the invention of the printing press, were published in many editions.

He who has begun this good work in you, bring it to completion.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Prayer

Why is it, Lord, that I more easily grow weary
of doing what's right than doing what's wrong?

Not always, but more often than not,
I know what's right and what's wrong,
I know the difference between the two and
I know which path I should walk.

But the path to what's wrong is so often a short cut
with plenty of bells and whistles, lights and glitter along way.
The path to what's right often looks longer, harder to travel
and not always as exciting as the low road...

You must never grow weary
of doing what is right...

I'm old enough, smart enough, perhaps even wise enough
to know that the wrong path is a dead end,
that its momentary thrills and pleasures will leave me empty...

And I know that the harder path, the right one,
will lead to truth, to what really satisfies my heart,
to a place and a time I know is meant for me and waits for me...

Give me a good, clear conscience, Lord,
to help me know what you ask of me, to go where you lead me,
and to do what is right in every choice and decision I make...

Give me the heart and the will to pursue
what I know to be good and true...

Give me the strength and courage it takes
for me to follow through and do what it right...

Give me the grace and spirit I need to do what is right
when I'm tired or bored, when I'm anxious or angry,
when I'm lazy or feeling sorry for myself:
help me never weary of doing what is right...

Let me not grow slack or careless, Lord.
When I'm restless or distracted, give me direction
and help me not grow weary of
doing what's right, saying what's right
and making right judgments...

Keep me awake and alert, Lord, to watch the road I travel,
to stay on the path you've given me, to keep my eyes on the prize
and to walk, step by step, by your side and in your company.
If I walk by your side, Lord, I'll keep to your way
and find you close by when I need your strength and your help...

Help me not grow weary but rather,
help me find my strength
in doing what's right...

This time for prayer refreshes me, Lord, and strengthens me.
Keep me faithful to stopping here, by the roadside,
to catch my breath and check the map to make sure I'm following you.
Let my prayer be a time of rest for when I grow weary.
Let the quiet stillness calm my mind and heart
and keep me in your good grace.

You are near - you are here by my side
and you never grow weary of me and my problems.
You never tire of my need for your help.
Let me never grow weary of seeking you, Lord,
and of doing what is right...

To ponder and pray over...
What wearies me in my efforts to do what is right?
What tires me and tempts me to take the short cut?
What refreshes me when I'm lazy or bored?
What will I ask of the Lord today?
From this prayer time, what word or phrase will I keep with me
to carry through the rest of my day?
H/T A Concord Pastor Comments

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Celebrating Marianist Vows

Celebrating Marianist Vows
(Brother Roger assists in singing of the Passion during the Good Friday Services at Founder's Hollow)

The primary function of the religious consecration of vows is to provide the religious with a life orientation structured toward personal sanctification on the one hand and the salvation of souls on the other. The religious Brother serves as a reminder of the ultimate importance of God in everyone's life. It is as the late Pope John Paul II said, "By seeking and following Christ, particularly in chastity, poverty and obedience, you give the world a concrete testimony of the primacy of spiritual life."

Today, June 28th, the Marianists will celebrate the religious consecration to the Church and the Blessed Virgin of four Brothers in the Province of Meribah. Many years ago these Brothers made the following profession:

For the glory of the Most Holy Trinity,
the honor of Mary,
and to follow Christ more closely in His saving mission,
I promise to God and vow to observe for one year,
chastity, poverty, and obedience,
conformably to the Rule of Life
of the Society of Mary.

Congratulations to the many years of faithful service

Father Paul Landolphi
70 years a Marianist

Father Philip Eichner
60 years a Marianist

Brother Mark Ormond
50 years a Marianist

Father James Williams
25 years a Marianist

May the one who has begun this good work in you bring it to fulfillment.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The month of June is set apart for devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. 

Margaret Mary Alacoque entered the Visitation Convent in 1671 and six years later Christ appeared to her in a vision in which "I could plainly see His heart, pierced and bleeding, yet there were flames, too, coming from it and a crown of thorns around it. He told me to behold His heart which so loved humanity. Then He seemed to take my very heart from me and place it there in His heart. In return He gave me back part of His flaming heart."In all, there were four revelations, the last of which is responsible for the nine First Fridays' devotion.

Also requested by the Sacred Heart was the establishment of a feast in His honor. We now celebrate this Feast of Sacred Heart on the first Friday after the octave of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, in addition to honoring the Sacred Heart every first Friday of the month.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Sunday Word 1

This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29.

Sts. Peter and Paul are two great companions and spiritual brothers. In fact they are often called the founding pillars of the Church. In this brotherly dyad Peter is regularly read as the rock, the steady one at the center, the leader of the Jewish Christian community in Jerusalem and Antioch and Rome. And Paul, then, is the one sent to the margins, the peripheries, to bring good news to the gentiles in Galatia and Athens and Thessalonica. 

But just like most brothers – and just as other passages from both the book of Acts and another of Paul’s letter tell us – they also ran headlong into conflict with one another. Take Galatians for example. There Paul writes, “and when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong.” There it is, plain as day. Conflict between the saints we celebrate on a single day. Even more, this wasn’t the first time Peter had been called to conversion.

We see another example of Peter’s need for a change of mind and heart immediately after the close of the Gospel we just heard. Peter, in what must have been one of those rare moments of being fully absorbed by the Holy Spirit, has just named Jesus “the Christ, the son of the living God.” And Jesus, always breathing deeply of that same Spirit, has in turn bestowed a name upon Simon son of Jonah: “You are Peter,” he said, “and upon this rock I will build my Church.”

And then Jesus calls Simon not Peter, the rock, but “Satan,” the tempter. What happened in the thin gap between those two names?

Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Papal Moment

"Dear friends, if we walk in hope, allowing ourselves to be surprised by the new wine which Jesus offers us, we have joy in our hearts and we cannot fail to be witnesses of this joy. Christians are joyful, they are never gloomy. God is at our side. We have a Mother who always intercedes for the life of her children, for us, as Queen Esther did in the first reading (cf Est 5:3). Jesus has shown us that the face of God is that of a loving Father. Sin and death have been defeated. Christians cannot be pessimists! They do not look like someone in constant mourning. If we are truly in love with Christ and if we sense how much he loves us, our heart will “light up” with a joy that spreads to everyone around us. As Benedict XVI said here, in this Shrine: “the disciple knows that without Christ, there is no light, no hope, no love, no future”

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tuesday Tunes

When the boat is tossed upon the waves
When I wonder if You’ll keep me safe
Even in the storms, I’ll follow You
Even in the storms, I’ll follow You”

                            – Jon Guerra “I will follow you” 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Corpus Christi Prayer

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere
to give you thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord.

At the last supper,
as he sat at table with his apostles,
he offered himself to you as the spotless lamb,
the acceptable gift that gives you perfect praise.

Christ has given us this memorial of his passion
to bring us its saving power until the end of time.

In this great sacrament you feed your people
and strengthen them in holiness,
so that the family of humankind
may come to walk in the light of one faith,
in one communion of love.

We come then to this wonderful sacrament
to be fed at your table
and grow into the likeness of the risen Christ.

Earth unites with heaven
to sing the new song of creation
as we adore and praise you for ever:

Holy, holy, holy ...

-Preface for Corpus Christi

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Corpus Christi

On Thursday, the feast of Corpus Christi, Pope Francis led an hour of prayer before the Eucharist at St. Peter's in Rome.

The pope invited dioceses and parishes around the world to join him in this prayer. In my parish we offered an hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament from 7:00-8:00 p.m.

About 50 people gathered for this on Sunday night here at Holy Family. After a brief introduction and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and between extended periods of silent prayer, we listened to three readings from scripture ( 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; I Corinthians 5:6-8; andRevelation 5:11-24), interspersed with three songs (Psalm 23; Where Charity and Love Prevail; and Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence). After a brief homily and a beautiful flute piece (Meditation from Thaisby Massenet) we ended with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

This hour of prayer was actually about an hour and ten minutes long and this because the presider (yours truly) let the periods of silence run a little longer than he had planned. And yet the feedback I've received has pointed to the silent prayer times as one of the greatest features of the evening. There's a grace in praying in silence in the company of others that brings its own blessing.

Pope Francis invited us to pray for two particular intentions in this shared hour of prayer and I'm sure he would appreciate our keeping these in prayer long after the Corpus Christi event has passed us by:

1) “For the Church spread throughout the world and united today in the adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist as a sign of unity. May the Lord make her ever more obedient to hearing his Word in order to stand before the world ‘ever more beautiful, without stain or blemish, but holy and blameless.’ That through her faithful announcement, the Word that saves may still resonate as the bearer of mercy and may increase love to give full meaning to pain and suffering, giving back joy and serenity.”

2) “For those around the world who still suffer slavery and who are victims of war, human trafficking, drug running, and slave labor. For the children and women who are suffering from every type of violence. May their silent scream for help be heard by a vigilant Church so that, gazing upon the crucified Christ, she may not forget the many brothers and sisters who are left at the mercy of violence. Also, for all those who find themselves in economically precarious situations, above all for the unemployed, the elderly, migrants, the homeless, prisoners, and those who experience marginalization. That the Church’s prayer and its active nearness give them comfort and assistance in hope and strength and courage in defending human dignity.”
Much to ponder, much to consider, much to pray for..

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Prayer for Graduates

All of our Marianist schools have completed the academic year and now are enjoying their summer recess.

It is only appropriate that we offer a prayer for those who have graduated. This prayer by Thomas Merton I received years ago when I graduated from high school. It's a great prayer for graduates - and for anyone else as well. Pray it slowly... each line deserves reflection...

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know my self.
And the fact that I think am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that, if I do this,
you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will not leave me to face my perils alone.

-Thomas Merton

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Sunday Word

Yearly, the second after Pentecost celebrates the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. This day was and is still known by many as "Corpus Christi" (Body of Christ).

The first reading from Deuteronomy encounters Moses reminding the people of how God fed them in the desert with the gift of manna. The second reading from first Corinthians reminds us of how early in the history of our faith did our ancestors understand that in the breaking of the bread and in the sharing of the cup we have a participation in the Body and Blood of Christ. The Gospel reading from Saint John reinforces the Pauline text, reminding us that Christ's flesh is true food and his blood true drink, offered to us that we might have eternal life. Some of those hearing Jesus speak these words had trouble understanding and believing him. Some, today, struggle with the same questions.

As you're reading and pondering the weekend's scriptures, you might want to listen to and pray with some music found below that is suited to the feast we are about to celebrate.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Papal thoughts

A “very sad” story that, even if very old, is still a reflection of one of the most “handy” sins: corruption. Pope Francis reflections turned on the story, told in the readings of the day, of Naboth, the owner of a vineyard that had been in his family for generations. When King Ahab – meaning, explained Pope Francis, to “to widen his garden a bit,” – asks him to sell it, Naboth refuses because he does not intend to dispose of' the “inheritance of his fathers.” The King took the rejection very badly, so his wife Jezebel weaves a trap with the help of false witnesses, and Naboth is dragged into court, convicted and stoned to death. In the end, Jezebel delivers the desired vineyard to her husband, who takes the land calmly, “as though nothing had happened.” Pope Francis said, “This story is continuously repeating itself,” among the ranks of those, who wield power, whether material, political or spiritual:

“In the newspapers we read many times: ‘Ah, that politician who got rich by magic has been brought into court. That business owner, who got rich by magic – that is, by exploiting his workers – has been dragged into court. We hear too much talk of a prelate who has become rich too, and left his pastoral duty to care for his power. So, the corrupt politicians, the corrupt businessmen and the corrupt clergy, are to be found everywhere – and we have to tell the truth: corruption is precisely the sin that the person with authority – whether political, economic or ecclesiastical – over others has most readily to hand. We are all tempted to corruption. It is a ‘handy’ sin, for, when one has authority, one feels powerful, one feels almost like God.”

Pope Francis went on to say that one becomes corrupt “along the way that looks out for number 1 [It- la strada della propria sicurezza],” with “well-being, money, then the power, vanity, pride – and from there, everything [becomes possible], even killing.” The Holy Father went on to ask, “who pays the price for corruption?” and answers that it is, in fact, the poor who pay the price:

“If we talk of politically or economically corrupt people, who pays for [their corruption]? Pagano hospitals without medicine, the patients who did not receive care, the children without education. They are the modern Naboths, who pay the price for the corruption of the haughty. And who pays the price for the corruption of a prelate? The children pay, who cannot make the sign of the cross, who do not know the catechism, who are not cared-for. The sick who are not visited, the imprisoned, who receive no spiritual attention. The poor pay. Corruption is paid by the poor: the materially poor and the spiritually poor.”

Instead, says Pope Francis, “the only way to escape corruption, the only way to overcome the temptation to – the sin of – corruption, is service.” Because, he says, “corruption is pride, arrogance – and service humiliates you.” It is “humble charity to help others”:

"Today, we offer the Mass for them – many, many of them – who are paying the price for corruption, bearing the cost of the lives of the corrupt. These martyrs of political corruption, economic corruption, and ecclesiastical corruption. We pray for them. May the Lord bring us closer to them. Surely He was very close to Naboth, in the moment he was stoned to death, as He was to Stephen. May the Lord be close and give strength [to those bearing the burden of corruption], so that they might go forward with their witness.”(From archive of Vatican Radio)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tuesday Tunes

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once described what discipleship actually means for the ordinary Christian.

“One must completely abandon any attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, or a converted sinner, or a churchman, a righteous man or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings but those of God in the world — watching with Christ in Gethsemane. That, I think, is faith; that is metanoia; and that is how one becomes a man and a Christian. (Letters and Papers from Prison, 369-370.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Marianist Monday

In many countries of the world, the present situation is very similar to the one that followed the French Revolution of 1789. Needless to say, today the Faith is not destroyed by a revolutionary wave as it was back then. Nevertheless, there is great disarray in our world: its reference points are often not Christian. 

The hustle to get “more and more”, of consumerism, progress and “sensationalism” rather than “service” is in contempt of the real nature of humankind. The injustice of the “survival of the fittest” widens the gap between the rich and the poor. 

In this pluralistic world, Father Chaminade continues to call us to strongly promote the Faith in today's society. We have Good News to bring to everyone. Father Chaminade is topical. And Mary is the guide on the path of Faith and action. Like the disciples of Cana, she calls us to the mission: “Do whatever he tells you!”

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Every time we begin our Mass we began with something that all of us probably take for granted, and hardly think about. We do it so often.

It’s the sign of the cross.

In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

It’s not just a gesture that we use to punctuate prayer. It’s not just a sign of our Catholicity.

It is a faith statement. It is a re-statement of our baptism.

At our own baptism when water was poured over our heads…the first words that made us members of the Body of Christ, was the sign of the cross. Those words we speak again, and in effect, re-Christen ourselves. We brand ourselves with God in His three persons. And whatever we do or say after is in the name of the Father…and the Son…and the Holy Spirit.

We become icons of the Blessed Trinity.

What an incredible gift.

What an incredible responsibility.

Just think of what that simple gesture means.

We touch our heads for the Father – the one whose mere idea, whose smallest thought, created us. This is where we began, in the mind of God.

We touch our hearts for the Son – the one whose unceasing love took him to the Cross, and the one who taught us how to love through his own Sacred Heart.

We touch our shoulders for the Holy Spirit – the one who gives us strength, and who carries us on His shoulders — on His wings if you will – and who enables us to be God’s arms, working on earth.

When we make the sign of the cross, and pray the sign of the cross with those words, we make of ourselves an offering, and a prayer. We embody what the Trinity represents. And we seek to bring that with our lives and with our actions to all those we meet. We do it in the name of God – all that He is, all that He does.

We do it in the name of the Trinity.”

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Reconstructing a Saint

Forensic experts attempt to reconstruct face of St. Anthony
Anthony of Padua. Credit: Veneranda Arca Di San Antonio.
The University of St. Anthony of Padua’s Anthropology Museum, together with a team of international forensic researchers, have attempted to reconstruct the face of St. Anthony using only a digital copy of his skull.

Using the latest 3D technology, the researchers worked to recreate the saint’s face, which they say is “one of the most faithful reconstructions of the face of St. Anthony.”

The face was presented on June 10 at a congress in Padua with archeologist Luca Bezzi, who created the three-dimensional image of the saint’s face, and the director of the Center for St. Anthony Studies, Franciscan Friar Luciano Bertazzo, who provided all of the relevant source material from the era.

3D designer Cicero Morales of the University of Sao Paolo, renowned for his work in archeological facial reconstruction, also took part in the presentation.

The Brazilian expert was asked to reconstruct the saint’s face knowing only that the skull belonged to a 36-year-old male.

“At each step I asked myself, who was that man? When I found out, I was speechless, literally amazed. Although I am not religious, I felt a huge responsibility. Millions of people in the world would be able to see the face of their saint!” Morales said.

The face of St. Anthony will be revealed to the public June 12-22 at the basilica dedicated to the saint in Padua, where his relics are also venerated.

Born in Lisbon on August 15, 1195, St. Anthony joined the Augustinians in 1210 but left to join the Franciscans 10 years later. He took part in the order’s general chapter in Assisi in 1221 and personally met St. Francis.

He died at the convent of Arcella in Padua, Italy, on June 13, 1231.

Believed to be the second fastest canonization in history, he was declared a saint just one year after his death, in May 1232.

In 1946, Pope Pius XII proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church

Friday, June 13, 2014

An Ode to Earth

A short tribute to the Planet Earth and the the people that inhabit it.

Edited by Grahambo Productions.

Song: Baba Yetu by Christopher Tin.

Most clips are from the BBC series' Planet Earth and Human Planet.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Disturb us, Lord

Disturb us, Lord,
when we are too well pleased with ourselves;
when our dreams have come true
because we have dreamed too little;
when we arrive safely
because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord,
when with the abundance of things we possess
we have lost our thirst for the waters of life;
when having fallen in love with life,
we have ceased to dream of eternity;
and in our efforts to build a new earth,
we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord,
to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas
where storms will show your mastery;
where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes,
and to push us into the future
in strength, courage, hope, and love.

- Sir Francis Drake

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

St. Barnabas

Today the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the life of St. Barnabas - the name given to a contemporary of Jesus who was a Jewish convert to Christianity. That name “Barnabas” means “son of encouragement.” (Acts 4:36) If we pay attention to what is happening in today’s first reading, it is easy to see why he was bestowed with such a title.

We encounter Barnabas as he has been sent by the disciples in Jerusalem to go investigate what they are hearing about a community of Jesus’ followers in Antioch, some 300 miles to the north. Imagine how powerful their reputation must have been if it traveled that distance upon sandals and burrow backs! And what is the first thing Barnabas does when he arrives? “He rejoiced and encouraged them all.” (Acts 11:23) I love that!

And it only gets better. Once Barnabas realizes there is more faith formation to do in Antioch, he lives up to his new name yet again. He travels 300 miles round trip to Tarsus and back to encourage another Jewish convert named Saul to help him out. This is the same Saul who the early church kept at a distance out of fear and mistrust. Not Barnabas. He sees Saul’s potential and encourages him to spread the faith with him. Look at the incredible impact that encouragement had on our faith today as we continue to draw wisdom from Saul, otherwise known as St. Paul.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Pray for Peace

Pope Francis holds rare prayer meeting for Israeli, Palestinian presidents

Pope Francis invited Israeli and Palestinian leaders to the Vatican for joint prayers that while presented as nonpolitical may lend some support to a peace dialog between the two adversaries.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


Pentecost/He Qi
Spend some time with this reflection* in preparation for celebrating Pentecost this weekend...

I have days when I’m confident Christ’s love is pulsing in my heart and flowing through all my veins. And other days, I’m a tumbleweed of a soul, a dry tangle of brush, blown here and there where any stray breeze might take me.

Outside my anxieties, beyond the throes of romance, absent the imperatives of danger: what, who impels me?

Whose wisdom drives my choices and decisions? Whose strength pushes my will past satisfied contentment? Whose force empowers me to do what’s right and just?

Who impels my life? my ways? my reason for being?

With Christ at the wheel my course is clearly charted, my sails billow with the Spirit’s breath and I cross the roughest seas like a well bred mariner ought to do. But apart from Christ to captain my journey and the Spirit to fill the sheets, my sails flag and I stall in the doldrums, listless and lost. My resolve wanes and my firm “Yes” and my determined “No” become an ambiguous “maybe,” a weak “I’m not sure,” an unpromising, “maybe tomorrow.”

Only Christ’s Spirit has power to fill my sails and bring me back to life. Only Christ’s love will forge my choices in wisdom, keep me from my selfish ways, and strengthen me to do what’s just. Only when the love of Christ impels me will my old order pass away and all things be made new in my heart.

* My reflection appeared in the June 2013 issue of Give Us This Day

Let us pray...
Come, Holy Spirit:
be the wind in my sails,
the light in my mind
and the strength of my soul...

Come, Holy Spirit:
bind me to Christ,
to his truth, his grace
and his gospel of peace...

Come, Holy Spirit:
on good days and bad
bring the gifts that you offer
and the joy my heart seeks...

H/T A Concord Pastor Comments

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Pentecost is here!

The 50 days of the Easter season end this weekend with Pentecost Sunday.

Take a look at the scriptures before you set out for Mass this weekend.

And to set the mood for reading the scriptures or for celebrating the Holy Spirit in your own prayer,
listen to some of the music here. (My own favorite: Every Time I Feel the Spirit!)

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Sunday Word

Sunday is Pentecost, the day that God sent the Holy Spirit into a room full of the first followers of Christ. Acts tells us that divided tongues, "as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability."

What a shock to the system! The apostles must have been worried about a meltdown, with tongues of fire on their heads and new languages coming out of their mouths. But fortunately, Jesus had strengthened their spiritual circuits.

Later, the apostle Paul speaks of the high charge of this Spirit in his letter to the Romans. "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now," he observes. Something new is being born in the world, as innovative as the invention of quick-charge batteries and hardened-up electric cars. The new age of God is not just a redesign of the old age, but is the birth of something fresh and unexpected. God's new creation will come out of the old creation, and will quickly grow up to replace it.

At the center of this transformation is the Holy Spirit, a current of divine power that comes directly from God. Paul says that "we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, grown inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies." We have already tasted the "first fruits" of the Spirit -- the sure sense of God's presence that comes to us in moments of prayer, in the uplift of worship services, in close bonds with other Christians, in acts of selfless service.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Without Gloss: Francis of Assisi and Western Catholicism

Without Gloss: Francis of Assisi and Western Catholicism
Editor’s note: The following essay was written for the “St. Francis of Assisi and the Western Tradition” conference sponsored by the Thomistic Institute and delivered at the NYU Catholic Center on April 25, 2014.

I want to start with a simple statement of fact. All Christian life is a paradox. What I mean is this.

In Isaiah 55, God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts [higher] than your thoughts” (8-9).Then in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples, “You therefore must be perfect, [even] as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48).

Scripture tells us that God is utterly different from us, vastly higher than us. Then it tells us to become like him. Therein lies the paradox. The task seems impossible. And yet we know it to be possible. We know it through the witness of the saints. In Hebrew, God is called hakadosh, “the Holy One,” with the word kadosh meaning holy. Our English word “saint” derives from the Latin word sanctus, which means the same thing:holy. Holy does not mean “good,” though holy people are always good and often—though not always—nice. St. Jerome was certainly holy and good, but “nice” might not be the first word that springs to mind in remembering him.

Holy means “other than.” It means different from the world; set apart from the profane; sacred. The saints are ordinary men and women—persons with every kind of talent, weakness and personality—who took a different path, one step at a time, away from the routine habits of the world. They fell in love with God. They followed him. They conformed their lives to him in simple ways that became extraordinary ways. And now their example and their intercession give us hope that we can do the same.

I mention all this because my job today is to talk about “St. Francis and Western Catholicism.” I’m a Capuchin Franciscan, so I’m happy to do that. But I want to do it by posing three questions: Who is Francis, this pope? Who was Francis, the man of Assisi?And after 800 years, what, if anything, can a man from the Middle Ages teach us about being alive and free and human?

So first: Who is Francis, this pope? The short answer is, I don’t know. I’m not sure anyone really knows yet, outside the Holy Father’s friends and close coworkers. A number of Latin American bishops have told me how different the Pope now seems from his years as a bishop in Argentina—much more outgoing and ebullient than they remember. But these are their thoughts, not mine. I did have the privilege of working with him for a month in November and December 1997 when we were both delegates to the Special Assembly for America in Rome. He was an impressive man. He had a keen intelligence, a healthy realism about the problems facing the Church in our hemisphere and a strong emphasis on evangelization. But these are just anecdotes from a long time ago.

I do think we can draw some conclusions from the example he already gives us. He has a deep sense of the continuity of the Church. The respect he shows to Benedict, the Pope Emeritus, literally has no precedent. And his affection for Benedict clearly comes from the heart. On Sunday, he’ll canonize two of his predecessors; the two greatest men of the Second Vatican Council—Pope John XXIII, who had the vision and courage to convene it; and Pope John Paul II, who helped draft some of its key documents and who embedded the meaning of Vatican II in the life of the post-conciliar Church.

John XXIII and John Paul II are perfectly paired in sainthood. In canonizing them together, Pope Francis places them as bookends to one of the central events in Catholic life since the Reformation. They were untiring in their discipleship. Zealous in their love of God and God’s people. And also thoroughly human in their complexity.

John XXIII saved Jews from the Holocaust as a Vatican diplomat. He radiated warmth, humor and a concern for peace. He worked a revolution in Catholic thought and life.And he also frowned on the worker-priest movement in France and forbade Catholics from voting for the Communist Party. John Paul II helped bring down the Soviet bloc. He worked vigorously for the purity of Catholic teaching. He defended the rights of workers, the suffering and the unborn. And he was also a profound shepherd of mercy—a message that runs through his whole pontificate, from his encyclical “Rich in Mercy” to his placing Divine Mercy Sunday on the universal Church calendar.

Pope Francis stands in this line of great recent popes. But in choosing the name “Francis,” he also makes himself distinct from it.

Until now, every pope of the last 200 years—no matter how gifted or how saintly—has been, in a sense, a prisoner of war. The Church has centered herself in Europe. Every pope in recent history has been a European. And the civil war for Europe’s soul that began before the Enlightenment and ran through the bloodiest century in history—the twentieth century—continues today in Europe’s denial of its Christian roots and its self-destroying battles over marriage, family, sexual identity and euthanasia.

Europe has exhausted itself. Europe has exhausted the world. And so, when John Paul II called for a “new evangelization,” maybe he spoke more prophetically than he could know. Maybe a genuinely new evangelization can never be achieved except by a new voice with a new spirit from a new world. Pope Francis is no stranger to poverty or violence, the plague of corrupt politics or the cruelty of human trafficking. But neither is he a child of the Old World, with its cynicism and despair, its wars and its hatreds.

Francis seems to be something different. He embodies a Christian spirit older than Europe’s civil war and younger than its fatigue and loss of hope. He’s a surprise; disarming, improbable, the kind of man no one could have predicted—a surprise that keeps unfolding into more surprises.

There’s something stunning about a pope who—for the first time in history—takes the icon of Christian simplicity and poverty as his namesake, and then tries to live like he means it. There’s something exhilarating about a pope who worries about “Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter.” Who warns that “an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral.” Or who takes a detour in a teaching document to talk in plain language about the mechanics of a good homily.

I asked a few moments ago, Who is Francis, this pope? The answer is an anomaly. He’s a Jesuit with a Franciscan heart. What does that mean?

The early Jesuits played an immense role in the Counter-Reformation and the intellectual renewal of Catholic life. Their legacy goes well beyond the Society of Jesus. It still helps to shape the life of the Church. Our two previous popes—Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger—were world class, formidable minds by any secular standard.

But we live at a time when science, in the name of reason, seems to undermine the credibility of reason itself. We live in a time that’s not just anti-ideological, but in many ways anti-intellectual. It’s not that people have forgotten how to think. Rather, too many of us think badly, or just don’t like thinking at all. We have no common body of beliefs to inform our public logic and discourse. As Alasdair MacIntyre might say, we’re all emotivists now. And religion, when it’s not portrayed as a dangerous source of hatred, is cast instead as a kind of organized sentimentality; an outlet for pious good will.

Pope Francis is so intensely popular because he embodies what the world imagines St. Francis was like: a mendicant and troubadour, not a judge and not a scholar. The Holy Father clearly has a sophisticated mind formed in the spirit of Ignatius. But what appeals to the world about Pope Francis are his serenity and informality; his passionate embrace of the poor and the outcast; and his studied avoidance of condemning anyone.

Whether that popularity can last in the face of the pastoral challenges facing the Church is an issue for the future. How the Pope speaks and acts over the next 20 months on matters like marriage, family and sexuality—issues of burning interest to the media of the developed world—will have a big impact on the way he’s treated by the press. In the end, Popes lead. It’s the nature of their ministry. And leaders inevitably displease somebody; sometimes a great many somebodies. But of course the real St. Francis never turned away from a task simply because it was hard.

That brings me to the second of the three questions I posed for this talk: Who was Francis, the man of Assisi?

Francis: The Man from Assisi
Francis Bernadone—born 1181 or ’82, died 1226—has been a magnet for pious stories almost since the day of his death. The wolf of Gubbio is a legend—lovely, but not true. And there’s no evidence that the saint ever said, “preach the Gospel always; when necessary use words.” And the famous Prayer of St. Francis—“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace”—dates only to 1912, when it appeared in La Clochette, a small French spiritual magazine.

We do rightly remember Francis for his joy and freedom of spirit. These qualities deeply marked the man. And through the man, they’ve left a lasting mark on Western Christianity. But there was a great deal more to Francis than a gentle love of nature. A Capuchin friend of mine once said that if the real Francis were alive today, quite a few moderns would see him as a religious crank. He was demanding on himself and demanding on his brothers. Poverty, chastity and obedience are wonderful ideals when we read about them in the foggy past. Living them is another matter. And Francis took his vows and the Rule of his community utterly seriously. He expected his brothers to do the same.

Actually, Francis battled with his brothers quite often, especially when they wanted to water down the inspiration that God had given him. In the year 1221, just a few years after the Franciscan community began, some 3,000 friars gathered with Francis for a general chapter. And the ministers—the brothers who led the community—wanted to change the Rule. They wanted to modify it to the times, and make it less demanding.

Francis fought that vigorously. He chose the following verse from Scripture as the theme for his preaching that day: “Blessed be the Lord my God, who trains my hands for war.” He spoke those words to his brothers as he began his sermon. And he won the day. The Rule was later modified anyway, but not that day, because Francis knew how to fight zealously for what he believed was right. Like Mother Teresa and so many other saints all through Church history, Francis was holy and good and kind—but when it came to matters of faith and principle, he was never soft.

The key to Francis was a kind of holy radicalism. He liked to say that “the saints lived lives of heroic virtue, [but] we are satisfied to talk about them.” Francis himself never felt satisfied with pious words. He wanted to act on the things he believed. He called his brothers to live the Gospel with simplicity and honesty. And that’s why he used the words sine glossa—“without gloss”—in his Testament. He saw that the Gospel wasn’t complicated, but it was demanding and difficult. The theologians and Church lawyers of his day had written commentaries called glosses. And these glosses were very good at either explaining away the hard parts of the Gospel, or diminishing our need to follow Christ’s demands. Francis wanted none of that. He wanted to experience discipleship at its root.

Francis lived in an age of political confusion in Europe; a time of the great, inhuman heresy of Catharism in France and Italy, and constant warfare between Christians and Muslims around the Mediterranean. It was also a time of deep corruption and clerical infidelity within the Church. But the medicine Francis used against that corruption was a witness of obedience, encouragement, reverence and service—not rebellion. He knew instinctively that people are converted by love, not by rejection or fear or anger.

In his biography of Francis, Augustine Thompson—the Dominican author—notes that Francis had a passionate devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. It was the heart of his life. The Mass was the grounding for all his work. There’s no way of reinterpreting Francis in generically do-gooder or humanitarian terms. He had hard words for those who oppressed the poor, but even harsher words for those who ignored the Eucharistic presence. Francis had a special horror of the cheap and tarnished chalices and filthy linens that [many priests of his time] considered good enough for use in worship. Francis’ sense of beauty and decency, which he had mortified by choosing to live amid poverty and outcasts, had not been deadened. Its object was no longer fine garments and meals for himself, but items dedicated to the Lord who died for him.

He goes on to say that Francis demonstrated his devotion [to the Church] by kissing the hands of any priest he met…. He begged the brothers who met a priest on horseback, especially one carrying the Blessed Sacrament, to kiss the horse’s hooves rather than wait for the priest to dismount. Francis wanted that ‘subjection to all’ which was so much a part of his conversion, to be a lived reality among the brothers.

Again: Who was Francis, the man of Assisi? G.K. Chesterton, his other great biographer, put it in these words:

St. Francis [was] a Lover. He was a Lover of God and he was really and truly a Lover of men … [And] as St. Francis did not love humanity but men, so he did not love Christianity but Christ … [To Francis] his religion was not a thing like a theory, but a thing like a love affair…. What gave him his extraordinary personal power was this: that from the Pope to the beggar, from the Sultan of Syria in his pavilion to the ragged robbers crawling out of the wood, there was never a man who looked into those brown burning eyes without being certain that Francis Bernadone was really interested in him; in his own individual inner life from the cradle to the grave; that he himself was being valued and taken seriously and not being added to the spoils of some social policy or the names in some clerical document.

This is the love that the apostles must have seen when they looked into the eyes of Jesus. It’s the love, I suspect, that Pope Francis wants people to see in the eyes of every Christian and in every element of Catholic life.

What Francis Can Teach Us Today
That brings us to the third and final question I posed for this talk: After 800 years,what, if anything, can a man from the Middle Ages teach us about being alive and free and human? That term “Middle Ages” is a curious one. It’s implicitly negative. It consigns an entire civilization to a kind of trough between waves. And it fits perfectly with the vanity, the ignorance and the amnesia of the modern era—an era which clings to its delusion that reason precludes religious faith, in the same way drowning sailors grab for a life raft.

The philosopher RĂ©mi Brague once wrote that

Christianity was founded by people who could not have cared less about “Christian civilization.” What mattered to them was Christ, and the reverberations of his coming on the whole of human existence. Christians believed in Christ, not in Christianity itself; they were Christians, not “Christianists.”

We need to remember that simple lesson. The Catholic faith is not an ideology. It’s a romance. It’s a love affair with God. We’re a people who believe in Jesus Christ—not the ideas, but the person of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for our sake purely out of his love for us. And living the Catholic faith should be an experience of gratitude and joy that flows from a daily personal encounter with God’s son and a communalrelationship with God’s people.

There’s a reason the Church calls St. Francis the vir Catholicus, the exemplary Catholic man. Francis understood that gratitude is the beginning of joy, and that joy in this world is the aroma of heaven in the next. He reveled in the debt he owed to God for the beauty of creation, for his friends and brothers, and for every gift and suffering that came his way. He treasured his dependence on the love of others, and returned their love with his own. He gave away all that he had in order to gain the deepest kind of freedom—the freedom to pursue God, to share God with others, and to experience life without encumbrance or fear.

Maybe the best way we can spend our time together during this conference is to compare what we know about Francis with the terrain of American life all around us—terrain we adults, including we adults in the Church, helped to create. We worship autonomy. We’re jealous of our time and our privacy. Our economy runs on a steady catechesis of entitlement and dissatisfaction. And billions are spent every year on a nonstop creation of one new appetite after another. That’s not living. That’s not even really human.

A young married friend once quipped that having fun is to joy, as having sex is to love—they ought to go together in a rightly ordered way. And when they do, life is beautiful. But too often they just don’t, because fun and sex become things to take, things to consume. And joy and love can only grow in a heart that gives.

Acquisitiveness makes us poorer and hungrier in the only things that matter. In turning away from that kind of life, Francis became fully alive; a man free to think and act without excuses, without compromise, without glosses to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ more comfortable and less liberating. Here’s the point: We can make the same choices Francis did, one person, one family, one Christian community at a time. And if we do, that begins a revolution, the only kind that achieves anything that endures. This conference is the proof. Eight centuries after he died, here were are, still moved and still drawn to the life of an Italian poor man in rags. So are millions of others.

Scripture says, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33). We need to consider two simple questions: First, do we believe the Word of God or not? And second, if we do believe, then what are we going to do about it? We renew the witness of the Church, not with techniques or programs or resources, but with the zeal and purity and obedience of our own lives. That path leads to the kind of freedom and joy that no one could ever take from Francis, and no one can ever take from us.

From the cross at San Damiano, Jesus said to Francis: Repair my house, which is falling into ruin. Those same words are meant for every Christian life and home and parish. How we respond is up to us.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Greater Love!

Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward
toward greater consciousness and greater love!

At the summit you will find yourselves united
with all those who, from every direction,
have made the same ascent.

For everything that rises must converge.

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Monday, June 2, 2014

Marianist Monday

The Call

God calls us to do many different things. Sometimes he calls us to be a teacher or a doctor. Sometimes we are called to married life, single life or possibly a special calling. What is this “special calling” you ask? Well this “special calling” is to priesthood or religious life. Some, but not all might have this special calling.

The other day I stumbled onto a very unique video. It got me thinking about my own life. The video I happened to stumble upon was a vocation video. I know that a call of this nature is quite frightening. Some surely would just run away from God and think nothing of it. Then there are the others. Others who let the idea develop in their hearts. These are the real men. These are the brave ones who are willing to explore the possibility of a vocation. Could you give your life up for Christ? And then I ask myself, if I could give my life up for Jesus Christ?

There are many who have given their lives up for the service of the Church as Marianist Brothers or diocesan priests. If you know some of these men, you can certainly see that they are very devoted and happy at what they do.

Are you receiving a “special call” from God? If so how will you respond?
May God who has begun this good work in you know bring it to completion. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Sunday Word

JOY that's what this Sunday is all about!

Jesus prayed that his disciples would experience joy: "so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves."

Have you ever traveled with a group on a tour? If so, you know what that's like. You can throw in your own story here. It's not long before you've got people tagged. The person who's always late, holding up the bus. The person who's going to talk your ear off. The person who knows everything, even more than the tour guide.

And then there's the Complainer. This is the person who doesn't like the food. Doesn't like the bed. Doesn't like the hotel. Doesn't like the people. You're thinking, "Why don't you just go back from where you came? Why did you even sign up for this trip of a lifetime?"

Jesus knows all about this. His disciples don't have passports anymore for this world. They're of another world, God's world. He wants them to experience joy. Attitude is important. This attitude adjustment comes from the Holy Spirit. If you cannot be happy on your assignment in this world, well, you are either in for a long, miserable life, or you're going to go over to the dark side, and then it's all over.