Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Labor Day Prayer

A prayer for Labor Day weekend

O God, creator of the world,
of sun and moon and stars,
you chose to fashion us as your own,
your handiwork of love...

Indeed, we are your hands’ own work
and yet into our hands
you give the care
of every living thing..

In more ways than we can count
our work builds up
- or tears apart- what came
as gift from you...

Keep us faithful in preserving
all you’ve given
lest we harm the smallest part
of all you’ve made...

Give us good and honest work to do
and rest at each day’s end.
Let a just and fair day’s wage be paid
for a good day’s work well done...

Give us work that nurtures and sustains
the ones who serve and those they serve.
Let those who labor work in peace,
in freedom, without fear...

Give those in need a job to do
and to the tired well earned rest.
Let all our toil and labor, Lord,
give glory to your name...


A Concord Pastor Comments

Good to Know Insights

It's good to know stuff before you hit the road
Jesus' words to his disciples in today's Gospel are packed full of "good to know" insights. They come at us -- no matter how many times we've studied them or heard them -- with a tone that can feel harsh when read and seems to lack context for the stark picture it paints. After all, prior to this moment the picture Matthew paints has been largely positive for Jesus and his followers. Yes, John the Baptist has been murdered, but for Jesus it's been miracles, healings, profound parables and victorious verbal battles with the religious elite. Plus, just a few verses earlier, Peter had the greatest "a-ha moment" of human history, clearly confessing that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Yet here comes Jesus with a list of stark, strange insights about following him that jar us out of our joy. Yet they're so laden with truth that we can't ignore them. We cannot help but sense they'll come in handy sometime soon. They're good to know. Let's examine a few:

Jesus is not surprised by his suffering, death and resurrection. He saved us with eyes wide open. Good to know. It's tempting to see Christ as a fortuitous Savior, thrust to the cross rather than one who embraced it and steadily pursued it on our behalf. Christ perceived the path of righteousness as one marked by suffering and how he understood his ultimate trial.  His death must shape how we see our own lives, following in his footsteps.

Jesus doesn't need us to protect him or defend him, but to follow him. We're his disciples, not members of his entourage. In an entourage, there's the star at the center, the one around whom all the others orbit and who live off of his or her awesomeness. Part of the job then is to protect the shine of the star, to help her or him perpetually look good and in doing so to protect the glow that you get to live in. But Jesus reminds us, that our task is not to protect Jesus, but to follow him. Good to know.

To "find" ourselves, we must be willing to "lose" ourselves. This is also very good to know. What Jesus tells us is counter-intuitive. In the same way that we don't protect Jesus from his path, we must not protect ourselves from it either. In this broken world, everything is backwards. We will only discover the greatness of God when we know and experience our very human limits. We fight against this truth in a thousand different ways. And yet, we must always temper ourselves with the truth that God's grace is located at the end of our rope, not the top of it.

It's all "good to know" -- essential to know -- but many don't yet know it. Or at the very least are in great need of being reminded of it.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Sunday Word

This weekend marks the unofficial end of summer! Labor Day is upon us and it's a holiday. But there is no holiday from worshiping the Lord so it's time to open up the Scriptures and begin to prepare to hear them on this 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time.

• Ever felt you've been duped by God? So did the prophet Jeremiah - and he says so in this Sunday's first reading.

• St. Paul, writing to the Romans and to us, urges us not to conform ourselves to the present age... tough words - and tougher to understand in each succeeding age.

• Do you find yourself carrying a cross? Jesus has something to say about that in the Gospel for this Sunday.

These are strong words: do a little Bible study on your own and get ready to hear them!

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Passion of John the Baptist

John the Baptist was a man of joy precisely because he was a man of humility! The two are connected. He was a man who understood that life wasn't all about him. He emptied himself willingly and was thus able to reveal Jesus to others. He was the 'best man' at the wedding.

His humility opened a space within him for true joy to take root and set him free! John is a sign of contradiction for this present age, which, like Herod, is drunk on self worship and lost in narcissistic self absorption. He points to the path to true freedom, living a lifestyle of self emptying.'He must increase and I must decrease'. This way of living leads to becoming a new creation.

John is also a man to be imitated in both life and death. We learn from him how to live our lives as joyful penitents; ever aware of our utter dependency on God's grace. John still points to Jesus, in both his birth and his martyr's death. That is why we celebrate both.

Two millennia after his mission as the harbinger of Christ, we readily accept, as we should, his prophetic role in the revelation of God's plan of salvation and the advent of the Gospel. Yet, how might we have seen John if we had been his contemporaries? Would we have so readily accepted him, or might we have rejected him as a fanatic or extremist?

Let's face it: John was peculiar. He dressed like a cave man, ate insects and railed at politicians. He sequestered himself in the desert where he tirelessly initiated converts. He proclaimed the end if the people failed to repent and he used vivid and mystical imagery. In the popular "media" of the day, he was portrayed as a nut and dangerous fanatic.

John made himself terribly unpopular. At the end, he publicly and relentlessly criticized the personal behavior of the most powerful politician in Judea, Herod. As a result he was arrested and executed as a traitor.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Back to School

Post image for Go Back to School in Solar StyleAlmost all the Marianist schools have begun their orientation days. So, you might think of praying the Student's Prayer below at home on the first day of school. You might slip a copy into backpacks - and of course, the refrigerator door makes a good home for this prayer.

+ + + 

A Student's Prayer

Dear God,
Help me remember that you're always by my side
at school and all day long.
Help me be the best student I can be,
using all the gifts and talents you've given me.
Help me study well and often
– especially when I don't feel like studying at all!
Help me finish all my homework – on time.
Help me listen to my teachers and coaches.
Help me play fair and play safely,
Help me be honest when I’m tempted to cheat.
Help me always tell the truth.
Help me be kind to everyone at school
and to treat others as I’d want them to treat me.
Help me make good friends
and help me be a good friend to others.
Help me know how I can help others
and to ask for help when I need it myself.
Help me love and respect, trust and appreciate my parents
- and to be honest with them.
Help me remember that you’re with me always, Lord,
and that you’ll never leave my side.
ConcordPastor.blogspot. com

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Set your loves in order

Fr. Robert Barron writes:

In the Catholic tradition, the saints are not simply models or people to be admired. They are, above all, friends. When we have a devotion to a particular saint, we've found a soul companion, a spiritual guide.

Barron recommends that we find a saint who is like you in personality, who struggled with one of the same things you struggle with, or who loved the same things you love. Find a heavenly soul-mate and make him or her part of your prayer life - read about them and pray with them. You might not connect with every saint, but chances are you'll find one whose style is agreeable to you.

Also, and here’s the more challenging suggestion, choose another saint who bothers you, one whom you don’t really appreciate or who maybe rubs you the wrong way. It might be just this saint who helps fill you out, to realize in you that aspect of the holy you especially need.

Now I don’t know which type of saint we have today for you. Is it one that is like you personally, one who struggles with the same things you struggle with, or who loved the same things you love. Or do with have a saint today, whom you don’t really appreciate, or who rubs you the wrong way.

Either way I want to give some praise to Saint Monica whose feast day we celebrate today.

Monica is a mother who never gave up on a wayward son named Augustine. Nor did she give up on her pagan and, at times, violent and unfaithful husband, Patritius, whom she won for Christ at the eleventh hour. Where Monica lived in North Africa, in the mid-fourth century, Catholic Christians were a minority. Most of the people were still pagan and there were plenty of sects and heresies as well. Catholic women, who were in a similar situation as Monica, with pagan husbands from arranged marriages, looked up to her as a model of patience. Her advice was to speak to their spouses when the opportunity was ripe, and never respond to a husband’s anger with abrasive words, rather keep silence and be patient.

With the conversion of her husband, her hopes soared that his influence would bring about their son’s conversion, for Patritius was always very good to his son, supporting him in his education and, making a man out of a boy. Even though Augustine’s parents did convince him to enroll as a catechumen, his mother’s ardent aspiration did not materialize, as young Augustine was off on his own keeping society with dangerous companions and imbibing the doctrines of the new and popular. So upset was Monica when Augustine abandoned the faith that she even ordered him out of the house; she soon after relented when she received a vision in her sleep assuring her that the young man would become a Christian. It would take eighteen long years before the mother’s tears and prayers would win the battle and conquer the soul of her first-born son. Eighteen years! But she always believed and hoped. One bishop, known for his holiness, encouraged her at a time when she was most desolate: “It cannot be that God would allow the child of so many tears to be lost.”

One day, when Augustine was around thirty-years-old, he told his mother that he was going down to the docks to see a friend who was embarking for Italy. He lied to his mother, foolishly imagining that if he told her the truth it would end up in an emotional scene. It was Augustine himself who boarded that ship to Rome. When Monica discovered this, what did she do? Did she retreat into despair? Did she complain to God? No, she did not. What she did do was she got on the next ship and followed her son to Rome. And when she discovered in Rome that Augustine had gone north to Milan, she took off for Milan. You all know the rest of the story, how she convinced her son to go and speak to the bishop, Saint Ambrose. This meeting between the two doctors was a major step in Augustine’s conversion, which came shortly afterwards.

After the baptism of her son in 386, the two were inseparable. They settled for a time near the seashore in Ostia where Augustine, always the scholar, would hold weekly symposiums on the Faith. His mother held the chair of honor in every meeting, often offering her wisdom and her questions to the participants. It was here she and Augustine started speaking about the mystery of the Blessed Trinity that they both, as one mind, entered into an ecstasy, each receiving the same identical light and vision, a vision not of forms but of spirit. Saint Augustine writes in his Confessions that human language could not convey what they experienced that night in that divine light.

Soon after this experience Saint Monica as a gentle mother told her son very gracefully that her mission was over and that she had a premonition that she would soon die. On her deathbed she had one request of her son, who by this time had determined to become a priest, that was that he would “remember her soul at the altar.” It was less than a year after Augustine’s conversion that Saint Monica died.

She was a patient woman, a gentle mother, known for her silence and persistence. She told Augustine at the end of her life, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” He was thirty-three and she was fifty-one. Their bodies rest together today in the Church of Saint Augustine in Rome.

If there was anything Monica taught her son Augustine it was to love well, which meant to love God above all things—and to place everything else in the light of that foundational and all-encompassing love.

It is this deep love of God that enabled Monica to let go of her own career and family plans for her son, that enabled her to die in peace in a foreign land and be buried apart from her husband, that enables her even today, despite the 1600+ years that separate her life from ours, to witness and speak poignantly that same message that she lived and spoke to her son: let God set your loves in order.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Marianist Monday

What distinguishes the Marianists 
from other Catholic religious orders?

Image of Father ChaminadeThe Marianists are distinguished by their particular charism—the particular gift or collection of gifts given by God to a congregation for the benefit of the Christian community. As men dedicated to Mary as a model of faith, members of the Society of Mary seek to witness to the Gospel by living in and building communities of faith wherever they are. A unique feature of the Marianist charism is its embodiment of a discipleship of equals: brothers and priests share equal status within the congregation, and more broadly, they play their part in the wider Marianist Family, which includes sisters and lay men and women who share in the same charism and work collaboratively. Like Mary, Marianist Brothers strive to bring Christ to the world and work for the coming of His kingdom.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Catholic Identity

“Since, therefore, the Catholic school can be such an aid to the fulfillment of the mission of the people of God and to the fostering of the dialogue between the Church and mankind, to the benefit of both, it retains even in our present circumstances the utmost importance.” — Gravissimum Educationis (Declaration on Christian Education, 1965)

While much attention has been given to the issue of Catholic identity at colleges and universities over the last several decades, many of these institutions educating elementary-, middle- and high-school students are also assessing their priorities in transmitting the faith.

Witness to the Gospel

Kevin Kiefer, 37, just completed his third year as principal of Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman Catholic High School, home to more than 1,300 students. Since he started working at Bishop Gorman, one of his primary focuses has been on increasing Catholic identity in the school. “Without a clear focus on Jesus Christ, Church teaching and a Christian, anthropological operating philosophy, Catholic schools run the risk of becoming elitist private schools,” Kiefer believes.

In keeping with the U.S. bishops’ recommendation to Catholic school principals to “recruit teachers … who can contribute to the achievement of the school’s Catholic identity and apostolic goals” (National Directory for Catechesis, 2005), Kiefer and his administrative team take the hiring and training of educators seriously.

“It is important that those who work in a Catholic school are committed to the mission of the Church and are living witnesses to the truth we profess,” Kiefer explained. This idea of Catholic educators giving authentic witness to the faith was encouraged by Pope Benedict XVI, who said, “The central figure in the work of educating, and especially in education in the faith, which is the summit of the person’s formation … is specifically the form of witness” (“Address to the Participants in the Ecclesial Diocesan Convention of Rome,” 2005).

“The other critically important piece to make Catholic identity a priority is to ensure that the faculty and staff are well formed,” Kiefer elaborated. To do this, he and his staff are taking steps to ensure that their annual retreat day focuses on prioritizing Catholic identity, as well as working on best practices for ongoing spiritual and catechetical formation for the adults on campus.

Prioritizing Catholic Identity in Education
What Schools Are Doing Right

by Katie Warner

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Sunday Word

Sunday is just around the corner and it's time to take a look at those Scriptures in preparation for keeping the Lord's Day holy.

Keys are very significant for this Sunday. There are keys in the first reading (Isaiah) and keys in the Gospel (Matthew.) 

So besides the keys we all carry, how are these keys important in our lives?

This Sunday's scriptures include some very powerful verbs:

pull down

How will these Scriptures (and their verbs!) impact our lives?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Queenship of Mary

We celebrate today a great Marianist feast, the Queenship of Mary.

In this feast, particularly cherished by the Popes of modern times, we celebrate Mary as the Queen of Heaven and Earth.

Pope Pius XII in the Papal Encyclical Ad Coeli Reginam proposed the traditional doctrine on the Queenship of Mary and established this feast for the Universal Church.

Pope Pius IX said of Mary's queenship: "Turning her maternal Heart toward us and dealing with the affair of our salvation, she is concerned with the whole human race. Constituted by the Lord Queen of Heaven and earth, and exalted above all choirs of Angels and the ranks of Saints in Heaven, standing at the right hand of Her only-begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, she petitions most powerfully with Her maternal prayers, and she obtains what she seeks."

And Pope Pius XII added the following: "We commend that on the festival there be renewed the consecration of the human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Upon this there is founded a great hope that there will rejoice in the triumph of religion and in Christian peace...

...Therefore, let all approach with greater confidence now than before, to the throne of mercy and grace of our Queen and Mother to beg help in difficultly, light in darkness and solace in trouble and sorrow...

. . Whoever, therefore, honors the lady ruler of the Angels and of men - and let no one think themselves exempt from the payment of that tribute of a grateful and loving soul - let them call upon her as most truly Queen and as the Queen who brings the blessings of peace, that She may show us all, after this exile, Jesus, who will be our enduring peace and joy."

Pope Francis personally calls

The death of American journalist James Foley at the hands of the Islamic State has been mourned internationally since the tragic news broke.

On Thursday, Pope Francis personally called Foley's grieving family in Rochester, New Hampshire, to "console them for their loss and assure them of his prayers,"according to Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi.

Foley's relatives were "deeply grateful and moved by the pope's gesture," reports NBC.

Prayer was an important part of Foley's life, according to a letter published on Marquette University's website. Foley graduated in 1996 from the Catholic, Jesuit university. He shared his experiences during the first time he was kidnapped in 2011 by Qaddafi loyalists in the midst of the Libyan civil war, writing:

I prayed [my mom would] know I was OK. I prayed I could communicate through some cosmic reach of the universe to her.

I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. 
I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.

After his death was confirmed, his mother Diane Foley posted a message on the Facebook page, "Free James Foley." She wrote:

We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.

We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.

We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim.

As a global leader, Pope Francis has been vocal about the need to stop the violent acts perpetrated by the Islamic State. On a personal level, the call to Foley's relatives shows that he still takes on the role of a pastor, ministering to families in their time of bereavement.

H/T Huffington Post

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Sunday Word

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out! 'Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?' 'Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?' For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever! Amen."
Romans 11:33-36 
So we have come to the end of the long proclamation by Paul of the wonderful and mysterious works of God. In this ascription of praise, we can see Paul has been meditating deeply on the mystery of God's working and ways. He has had in mind, not only these last three chapters, but the whole revelation of Gospel truth God has made known to Paul, and to which he has been giving testimony all through his letter to the Romans. We see Paul overwhelmed with the greatness and glory of God's purposes of grace, and the mysterious character of these ways. We see the apostle overwhelmed with a sight of the glory and love of God. Even though Paul's words here are exalted, there is a sense in which he knows he is unable to express all that is in his heart, and unable properly to proclaim the worship and wonder that fills his heart. I feel totally inadequate as I contemplate on Paul's words. Everything I say must fall short of the heights that Paul raises us to. However Scripture is given to us for the nourishment of our souls, and for this reason we need to do all we can to dig as deep as we can in understanding what it reveals.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Papal Thoughts

2015 is the Year of Consecrated Life

I am sure all are pleased to share my joy that Pope Francis has announced that 2015 will be celebrated as “The Year of Consecrated Life”, a special time to celebrate God’s gift of Consecrated Religious life to the Church and world. While there are a seemingly endless variety of ministries and works undertaken by Consecrated Religious, ranging from serving the poor, promoting social justice, health care, education, missionary and preaching ministries, prayer and worship, spiritual direction, hospitality, etc., what we all have in common is the intense love of Jesus and Mary, as well as, the desire to bring Christ's Presence and Love to the world.

Perhaps most significantly in our modern culture, Religious bear witness to a life that is different, by making the love of God through Mary and selfless service to neighbor in His Name the ultimate priority.

As Pope Francis has said:

“A radical approach is required of all Christians, but Religious persons are called upon to follow the Lord in a special way: They are men and woman who should be able to wake up the world. Consecrated life is prophecy.”

Monday, August 18, 2014

Marianist Summer Renewals

happy annversary!

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

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity put together in words what we have tried to do on our summer renewals. She reminds us that we are all called to a greater relationship with Christ and His Mother. In order to attain this, however, one must become detached from the things of this world, and even oneself, and order them all to the love of God, as Elizabeth writes:

"To walk in Jesus Christ seems to me to want to leave self, lose sight of self, give up self in order to enter into Him with every passing moment, so deeply that one is rooted there, and to every event, to every circumstance we can fling this beautiful challenge: "Who will separate me from the love of Jesus Christ?'"

Our summer renewal is always an opportunity to reorder our lives toward the ultimate goal of the human race: eternal happiness in the presence of God.

The Province of Meribah also celebrated its 38th anniversary today. With joy we have been graced with many blessings from Almighty God. May God continue to bless us with his grace.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

For an increase of vocations to the Marianists

We offer this prayer today, that you might join with us for an increase of vocations to the Marianists of the Province of Meribah. 

Many young men have expressed an interest in our Province and are discerning their vocations.

May they be filled with grace and courage as they discern where God is calling them.

" O Jesus! Look with kindness upon the Marianist Family.
You said to us: “Pray to the lord of the harvest 
that he send workers into his harvest.” 

We humbly ask you, let new vocations 
be born into our Marianist Family. 
Look with love upon the young people around us. 
May they live with joy and gratitude your call 
and commit themselves in a genuine response. 

We ask you this through the intercession of Mary, 
the woman of Yes, your Mother and our Mother.”

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Feast of Marianist Martyr Jakob Gapp

Jakob Gapp, the seventh child in the working-class family of Martin Gapp and Antonia Wach, was born July 26, 1897, in Wattens, a small village in the Austrian Tyrol. The following day Jakob was baptized in the Wattens parish church of St. Lawrence.

After completing elementary school in his native village in 1910, he entered the Franciscan-run high school in Hall, a neighboring town in the Tyrol.

Jakob was called to military service during World War I in May 1915, and served on the Italian front, where he was wounded on April 4, 1916. For this he received the Silver Medal of Courage Second Class. November 4, 1918, he was interned as a prisoner of war at Riva del Garda, and released August 18, 1919.

When Jakob returned home, he learned about the Society of Mary (Marianists) from a relative. On August 13, 1930, he entered the Marianist formation program, and on September 26 he began the year of novitiate at Greisinghof, Upper Austria, and pronounced his first vows there on September 27, 1921.

The young religious was assigned to the Marian Institute at Graz, Styria, where he served as a teacher and sacristan for four years. At the same time he was preparing himself through private study for the seminary.

Brother Jakob made perpetual vows at Antony, a suburb of Paris, France, on August 27, 1925.

In September of 1925 he entered the Marianist international seminary at Fribourg, Switzerland, which was then under the direction of the revered Father Emile Neubert, S.M. Bishop Marius Besson of Fribourg-Lausanne-Geneva ordained Jakob to the priesthood in the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Fribourg on April 5, 1930.

Upon returning to Austria, Father Jakob Gapp was involved as teacher, director of religious education, and chaplain in Marianist schools at Freistadt, Lanzenkirchen, and Graz. During a time of severe unemployment during the economic depression, while at Graz, Father Gapp’s deep concern for the poor surfaced in distinct ways. He gathered food and the necessities of life not only from his students, but also refused to heat his own bedroom in the winter, to be able to give aid and fuel to the poor.

At this time, as National Socialism (Nazism) began to grow strong, first in Germany and then in Austria, the young priest Jakob Gapp developed a clear judgment about the incompatibility between National Socialism and Christianity by studying diligently the statements of the German and Austrian bishops and Pope Pius XI’s encyclical letter, Mit brennender Sorge. When teaching and preaching, he continued to emphasize fearlessly this truth.

Consequently, when German troops arrived in Austria in March 1938, he was obliged to leave Graz. After a few months at Freistadt his superiors sent him to this hometown in Tyrol, since they recognized in his anti-Nazi preaching a threat to the very existence of those institutions whose elimination had already been decided by the Nazis. In Tyrol, with his relatives at Wattens, Erl, Terfans, Umlberg, and Vomp, he enjoyed the last period of peace in his earthly life. He had been an assistant pastor in Breitenwang-Reutte for only two months when the Gestapo, at the end of October 1938, forbade him to teach religion. Father Gapp had taught the uncompromising law of love for all men and women without reference to nationality or religion.

In a sermon on December 11, 1938, at his home parish of St. Lawrence in Wattens, he defended Pope Pius XI against the attacks of the Nazis, and directed the faithful to read Catholic literature rather than Nazi propaganda. After this sermon Father Jakob Gapp was advised to leave his hometown.

With the help of his religious superiors Father Gapp was able to escape in January 1939 to Bordeaux, France, where he served at the Chapel of the Madeleine, the cradle of the Society of Mary, as chaplain and librarian. In May 1939 he fled to Spain, where he labored in the Marianist communities at San Sebastian, Cadiz, and Valencia. For a time he was tutor for a family at Lequeitio while teaching at the school of the Mercedarian Fathers in that city. In Spain he stood alone and was always misunderstood because of his rejection of Nazism, since Hitler had earlier offered aid to Franco.

Gestapo agents followed his journey from the time he left Austria, and took advantage of his inner isolation. Two individuals pretending to be Jews from Berlin told Father Gapp about their fictitious experience of flight from Nazi persecution. In Valencia they asked him to instruct them in the Catholic faith and prepare them for baptism. After gaining his confidence, they invited him on a trip, and abducted him across the border into France, then occupied by the Germans. Within a few minutes they stopped in Hendaye, France, where the Gestapo was waiting to arrest him and take him to Berlin as a prisoner.

On July 2, 1943, the feast of the Sacred heart of Jesus, a feast of special significance in Austria and in the life of Jakob Gapp, he was condemned to death by the President of the People's Court, Dr. Roland Freisler. Any type of pardon or transfer of his remains to his relatives for a simple burial was denied for the reason that Father Jakob Gapp had "defended his conduct on expressly religious grounds. For an explicitly religious people Father Gapp would be considered a martyr for the faith, and his burial could be used by the Catholic population as an opportunity for a silent demonstration in support of an already judged traitor of his people who was pretending to die for his faith."

At 1:00 p.m. on August 13, 1943, the anniversary of his entrance to the Marianist novitiate, Father Jakob Gapp was informed that his execution would take place that evening at 7:00 p.m. The two farewell letters he was permitted to write after this announcement are truly moving manifestations of his faith. At the appointed time Jakob Gapp was beheaded by guillotine in the Ploetzensee Prison, Berlin.

His remains were sent to the Anatomical-Biological Institute at the University of Berlin for study and research, and then destroyed.

The only relic remaining is the gold ring which Jakob received at his profession of perpetual vows. That ring is preserved and displayed at Haus Chaminade, the Marianist center at Greisinghof, near Tragwein, Austria.

On the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1987, Archbishop Hans Hermann Groer of Vienna officially opened the cause for his canonization. Father Enrique Torres, S.M., Postulator General, and Father Josef Leavit, S.M., Vice Postulator, directed the necessary research and documentation.

Blessed Jakob Gapp, S.M., Marianist martyr of World War II, was beatified by Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, on November 24, 1996, feast of Christ the King.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Marianist Monday

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Sunday Word

The Gospel for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time is a familiar story: Peter walks on water.

You’re in a small boat on a large lake, working hard to get across. The wind is against you, you’re being battered by waves, and you spend the entire night straining to make progress. When morning comes, you slump over your oars, discouraged, exhausted and seasick. 

Suddenly Jesus appears, walking on the water. You’re shocked, surprised, stunned ... even terrified. Is it a hallucination? A ghost? A god? Certainly nothing human can walk on water. This paranormal behavior is way over the top.

But then Jesus says, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid”.

Jesus invites you to step into this blue ocean with him, and so you carefully put a foot out. You begin to make your way across the waves, but the wind suddenly whips up and startles you, and you begin to sink. Jesus reaches out, catches you, and chides you gently, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?

To succeed you have to trust the power of God.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Take me as I am, Lord

Every once in a while I like to draw your prayerful attention to a simple song. Yesterday, this prayer saved and made my day: perhaps it will do the same for you, today...

Take me as I am, Lord:

Friday, August 8, 2014

For an increase of vocations to the Marianists

We offer this prayer today, that you might join with us for an increase of vocations to the Marianists of the Province of Meribah. Many young men have expressed an interest in our Province and are discerning their vocations.

May they be filled with grace and courage as they discern where God is calling them.

" O Jesus! Look with kindness upon the Marianist Family.
You said to us: “Pray to the lord of the harvest 
that he send workers into his harvest.” 

We humbly ask you, let new vocations 
be born into our Marianist Family. 
Look with love upon the young people around us. 
May they live with joy and gratitude your call 
and commit themselves in a genuine response. 

We ask you this through the intercession of Mary, 
the woman of Yes, your Mother and our Mother.”

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pause for Prayer

Summer Vacation Prayer

Let us put ourselves into the hands of the Lord,
and pray that God will bless us and our families
during the wonderful months of summer.

May we all help make our homes a place of relaxation, joy, love, peace, and safety.
May we be generous and considerate,
not thinking only about ourselves,
but helping others enjoy the blessings of summertime.

Lord God, Creator of all things,
guide our steps and strengthen our hearts,
during these months of summer and vacation days.
Grant us refreshment of mind and body.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

+ Amen.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Marianist Monday

This altar contains the remains of founder
Blessed William Joseph Chaminade


Blessed Chaminade's  devotion to Mary resulted in the foundation of two religious families to assist in her Apostolic Mission in modern times, which means bringing divine life to all her children, a particular aspect of her Spiritual Maternity. It was the conviction of her Apostolic Mission that inspired these foundations.

Marianist Father Emil Neubert explained further:

Father Chaminade did not begin with thinking about a new apostolic society that he would place under the auspices of Mary. Rather, the very idea of Mary's Apostolic Mission gave birth in him to the idea of a new religious family totally dedicated to her as her ministers for the accomplishment of this mission. At the feet of Our Lady of the Pillar he meditated long hours on Mary's Mission. There he understood that her mission is a predominantly apostolic one. God had given him the conviction that this mission was to be especially manifest in modern times.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

God invites

"Come, buy and eat!" This is Isaiah's invitation and God's invitation in today's first reading. And the implication is that there's no waiting to receive the blessing of the Lord. Come and be satisfied. Now!

We all know about waiting. If you live in New York, studies show that you're waiting in a grocery checkout line way too long!  Think about how long you wait. Think about how many text messages you could tap out, how many pages on your Kindle you could read, how many games you could play on your iPhone.

But there's no waiting when you work out on your Isaiah budget; no waiting when you accept God's invitation.

As you look at your budget of time today, does it reflect the priorities of God's kingdom, or are you spending your money and labor on things that do not satisfy? Like the people of the exile, we must not fail to take a lesson from a crisis. May we all organize our spiritual and economic lives around the priority, purpose and provision of God!

"Eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food."

Saturday, August 2, 2014

How do I read the Bible?

I meet tens of thousands of people a year at different events. Most of them are Catholic Christians who want to start reading the Bible but don't know where to start.

So if you've ever wanted to go deeper into God's Word but haven't known how to approach it, allow me to suggest a few tips (so you can learn from my mistakes).

Like anything else, if you want to build something … in this case, your knowledge and love for the Scriptures … you don't just grab a hammer and some nails and start pounding. To ensure that you don't just jump in and then quit out of frustration or confusion, there are certain things you can do to be more successful.

We'll attack this on three levels … the tools, the blueprint and the construction. By the end you'll have ten total steps to help you build your bodily temple into a Biblical fortress, able to resist anything the devil can throw at you.


Let's start with three things you should do before you start studying.

1. Pick a time, but not just any time. Commit to a daily time that you'll open God's Word but be sure it's an intelligent time. If you're really tired, for example, than reading the Bible once you're in bed probably isn't the best time. Pick a time when you're totally awake so you can give your full attention.

2. Pick a Bible that you can understand. Get yourself a good Catholic Bible (that way you have all 73 books), but if you don't have one right now, that shouldn't keep you from reading. The best translation today is the one that you already have. It's important that your Bible is comfortable to read, light enough to take with you, durable enough to really use, and inexpensive enough that you don't feel bad writing or marking in it. If you haven't seen it … I highly recommend the Life Teen Catholic Teen Bible. Remember, your Bible is meant to be used.

3. Have other books that help you understand the BOOK. There are some great resources out there designed to help you understand the Bible better.You Can Understand the Bible by Peter Kreeft is a great resource, as is the Ignatius Bible Study series by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch. There are other resources like Sword of the Spirit that highlight specific books (like St. Paul's epistles, in this case) as well as Finding Yourself in Scripture. It's also great to have The Catechism of the Catholic Church handy, so you can use it as you study.

Next, we'll cover three things you can do as you study.

1. Pray, and then pray some more. Before you open God's Word, ask the author of that word – the Holy Spirit – to be present in a bold and fierce way. Quiet yourself, spend some time in silence, and hold the Bible in your hands as you pray. Ask God, through the power of His Spirit, to open your mind, your eyes and your heart to His truth. Thank Him for the gift of His Word, a gift that millions have given their lives to defend and offer you the freedom to read and pray. It doesn't have to be a long prayer but take some time … this is the most important step in Bible study.

2. Have a plan. If you were planning on reading the Bible cover to cover … don't. The Bible isn't a novel; it wasn't designed to be read from Genesis straight through to Revelation. After you have studied it for a while, if you want to go back and read it cover to cover, go for it. Until then you'd be wise to attack it from a different angle. Pick one book that you are going to start in and make that book your focus for a while. If you are starting from scratch, I'd suggest the Gospel of Mark. St. Mark's gospel is the shortest and easiest to understand.

3. Get the background. If you do start in a Gospel, take the time to learn about who the author was, who he was writing to, and what the basic themes are of his Gospel account. Ask yourself what makes that specific account different than the other three. Don't just jump into a letter of St. Paul without knowing what is going on in the city to which he is writing. If you are reading a prophet, know what was going on in his world at the time.

'Where do I learn these things?' you might ask. Read the Introduction to the Gospel on the pages preceding it. Use one of your additional books or resources to help you. When you know what is going on with the author and the audience, the words will jump out at you in a much different way and you will have a far greater insight.


Finally, let's hit four things you should remember, while reading the Bible and beyond.

1. Less is more. Don't just open up the Gospel and read until you get tired or 'for fifteen minutes' because that's what you committed to doing. Most Bibles break down the chapters into subchapters. If you began in the Gospel of Mark, for instance, you shouldn't just start in verse 1 and continue through verse 45 (the end of the chapter). Instead, take verses 1-8 and spend 15 minutes meditating on them. Take just verses 9-11 and ruminate (chew) through them. That first chapter (the 45 verses) should be broken down into about 10 different studies alone. Studying the Scriptures is not like driving across country … it's not about how much distance you cover in a set amount of time. Enjoy the time, roll down the windows and take everything in.

2. Periods are there for a reason. The periods at the end of each sentence are almost as much a gift as the words that precede them. Each little 'dot' is an invitation to take a breath and reflect on what you just read and prayed. At each period, take a moment to envision the story that's unfolding. If you are reading about the Baptism of Jesus (Mk. 1:9-11), don't just say 'Hey cool, Jesus is getting baptized.' Go deeper. At each period, put yourself more deeply into the story … at His baptism, where are you? Are you on the shore, on the mountain overlooking the scene or in the water right next to Christ? Is it hot out? Does the water smell bad? Is it noisy or peaceful? Let the story come alive.

3. Journal. As you are writing and verses confuse you or questions arise, write them down in a journal. Don't allow yourself to get hung up on 'tough verses.' Scribble down the verse number with a question mark and keep moving. Later on you can search the footnotes, other books, this website or just ask someone knowledgeable in the Bible for more help. The journal isn't just for questions, though. You should also use it to write out reflections that the verses stir within you. Write down images God gives you in your imagination. Record key verses that stand out to you spiritually. God will reveal a great deal about yourself to you when you let Him.

4. Put the Book down. Don't become a Bookworm, who never takes their eyes off of the page. The Bible is the Living Word (Jn. 1:1-5, Heb. 4:12). It lives and breathes well beyond the page that contains it. Share what you learn. Write out passages and post them up in your room, locker or office. Email verses to people. Put them on the fridge. Just like the Eucharist, the Word should be taken, blessed, broken (down), and shared. The greatest gift you can give someone is to live a life that mirrors the Gospels … reflecting God in all you do. The second greatest gift is to invite others to peer into that mirror.


Okay, so that's a substantial start. Get the tools, pull together your blueprints, and start building your love for God's Word. There are several ways to begin reading Scripture … these are just what I've found over the years to be the best, most realistic steps to begin and keep reading it daily.

And don't just think that you have to 'study' every time you open the Bible. It's great if you set aside 30-45 minutes every day to begin studying, but that doesn't mean you can't flip the pages in other books like the Psalms, Proverbs, Sirach, Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, or in St. Paul's letters … you'll be blessed by all of them.

I also strongly recommend the Book of James in the New Testament. Romans is a gorgeous and extraordinarily well-written book but is sometimes a little 'too deep' for the Biblical beginner. While Romans teaches us how to get to Heaven, James teaches us how to live on Earth (with people who might annoy you and try your patience). It's great.

All I can tell you from my own experience is that the Word of God has changed my life. It has deepened my experience of the Eucharist, both at Mass and in Adoration. It has deepened my love for our Mother Mary and my gratitude for intercessory prayer and the communion of saints. It has deepened my love for the Church, the Papacy, and basic human dignity. It has fueled a fire within me for truth, the need to proclaim it, defend it, and uphold it – especially in this morally relative culture. I pray it will do the same for you.

H/T Mark Hart/LifeTeen

Friday, August 1, 2014

Pause for a Prayer

Too easily and much too often, Lord,
I take you for granted...

I take for granted your Spirit,
always moving in my mind and heart
and stirring me to do what's right and true...

And when I do what's wrong and fail the truth
I take for granted the mercy you so freely offer
when from my faults and sins I turn away
and seek your pardon...

I take for granted how you're always with me,
that not a moment of the day or night would find you
anywhere except right by my side...

I take for granted all the ways
your wisdom whispers in my thoughts
and how your counsel echoes in my conscience,
always moving me to live as your word calls me...

I take for granted that you've heard me say a thousand times,
"I will! I pledge! I promise!"
and yet you offer me another chance when once again,
I fail to follow through...

I take for granted all the people in my life,
each one a gift from you:
those who hold me up when I'm bowed down,
who are my strength when I am weak,
who give me hope when times are hard...

I take for granted how you're always there
to hear my mumbled, stumbling prayer,
to listen to my problems, to wipe away my tears,
to take away my fear and to share my every joy...

I take for granted how you love me as I am
and how patiently you wait for my becoming
all you created me to be...

I take for granted how faithful and abiding
is your gracious love for me
and how there is no end to your compassion,
your understanding and your kindness...

I take for granted, Lord,
how you never take me for granted...

Help me take to heart what I have prayed here, Lord,
and not for a moment take for granted the grace
of being in your presence,
of knowing that you listen to my prayer,
of trusting that you hear what my heart speaks...

H/T Concord Pastor Comments