Monday, June 29, 2015

Marianist Monday

Christian tradition holds that Jesus died at three o’clock in the afternoon.

The Three O’ Clock Prayer is a prayer based on that belief and focuses on the final moments of Jesus’ life when he entrusted the care of his mother Mary to his beloved disciple. Blessed William Joseph Chaminade believed that when he proclaimed to John that from this time forward Mary would be his mother, Jesus entrusted the Church into the care of his mother. 

The Marianists adopted that prayer as a means of uniting the Marianists around the world in an act of prayer and solidarity. Students in Marianist schools pray this prayer at the end of the school day as a way to join in this tradition.

The Three O’ Clock Prayer

Lord Jesus, 
we gather in spirit at the foot of the cross 
with your Mother and the disciple whom you loved.

We ask your pardon for our sins which are the cause of your death.
We thank you for remembering us in that hour of salvation 
and for giving us Mary as our Mother.
Holy Virgin, take us under your protection 
and open us to the action of the Holy Spirit.

Saint John, obtain for us the grace of taking 
Mary into our life, as you did, and of assisting her in her mission.

May the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit 
be glorified in all places through the Immaculate Virgin Mary.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Sunday Word II

Saint Mark tells us today that when Jesus crosses in a boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, a great crowd gathers around him because rumors are flying about the Amazing Jesus-Man. Imagine the buzz in the crowd: One person says that she saw Jesus remove an unclean spirit from a man, leaving everyone amazed and saying, "What is this? A new teaching -- with authority!" 

Another says he watched Jesus heal a paralytic and reports that all who witnessed it were amazed and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"

A third tells of how a demoniac was healed by Jesus, and then the man "went away and began to proclaim how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed."

Again and again, Saint Mark reports that people are amazed. The Amazing Jesus-Man.

All of Jesus' mighty acts are intended to save them. Whether they're facing evil, illness, destruction or death, Jesus wants to come to the rescue. In fact, the Greek word for "save" pops up again and again in the gospel of Mark, although it's usually reduced to bland English words such as "heal," "cure" or "get well." What amazes the crowds is that Jesus is working to rescue them, to save them.

Jesus saves

First to appear is Jairus, one of the leaders of the synagogue. Although you might think that he would be in league with the authorities who are anxious to stamp out the "Jesus menace," Jairus is desperate. He falls at Jesus' feet and begs him repeatedly, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live."

What the Greek actually says is that Jairus wants Jesus to lay hands on her, "so that she may be saved, and live." Jesus goes with Jairus, and a large crowd follows him and presses in on him. And just as you think, one challenge is never enough -- he goes to save one person and is unexpectedly pulled aside to save another. A woman who has been suffering hemorrhages for 12 years comes up behind Jesus in the crowd and touches his cloak, believing, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well."

She says to herself, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be saved."

The woman reaches out, touches Jesus, and immediately her bleeding stops. She is healed of her disease and rescued from a miserable life of pain, social isolation and exploitation. Jesus saves.

But wait. Jesus has a feeling that his power has flowed out of him. Jesus spins around in the crowd and says, "Who touched my clothes?" His disciples look at him as though he's crazy, since a mob of people are pressing in on him from every side. But Jesus searches the crowd for the person he knows is out there, until the woman finally confesses what she's done. He doesn't rebuke her, but instead says, "Daughter, your faith has made you well."

Sort of. What he really says is, "Daughter, your faith has saved you."

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Sunday Word

Time to look at the Sacred Scriptures for this weekend, the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time. You'll find the texts and background material on them here

The first reading, from the Book of Wisdom, answers the question, "Where did death and other undesirable things come from?" (Hint: not from God!)

The second reading, from II Corinthians, contains a number of parallelisms which add a finer literary flair than Paul usually offers us and includes this mysterious verse, almost a riddle: Whoever had much did not have more and whoever had little did not have less.

And our Gospel is a complex text.  It is the story of Jesus raising Jairus' daughter from the dead and includes an account of a second healing Jesus performed on the way to Jairus' house.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Papal Thoughts

Recalling the day’s Gospel reading in which the people marvel at Jesus’s authoritative teaching, Pope Francis said that people today know “when a priest, a bishop, a catechist, a Christian, has the consistency that gives him authority.” Jesus, he said, “admonishes his disciples” to beware of “false prophets.”

But how to discern the true preachers of the Gospel from the false ones?

Pope Francis said there are three things to look for: how do they speak, what do they do and, do they listen?

“They talk, they do, but another attitude is lacking: that is the basis, which is the very foundation of speaking, of doing. They lack the ability to listen.”

But, the pope said, “the combination of speaking-doing is not enough … “ and can often be deceptive. What Jesus expects of us instead, he said, is to “listen and do – to put into practice:” ‘Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice,’ Jesus said, ‘is like a wise man who built his house upon a rock.’

Instead, Pope Francis asserted, those who “hear the words but fail to make them their own…do not listen seriously or fail to put them into practice will be like the one who builds his house on the sand.”

“When Jesus warns people to beware of ‘false prophets’, he says: ‘By their fruits ye shall know them’. And here, by their attitude: so many words, they speak, they do wonders, do great things but they do not have an open heart to hear the Word of God; they are afraid of the silence of the word of God and these are the ‘pseudo Christians’, the ‘pseudo pastors ‘. It’s true, they do good things, it is true, but they lack the rock. “

What such people are lacking, the Pope continued, is “the rock of the love of God, the rock of the Word of God.” And without this rock, he warned, “they can’t preach, they cannot build: they pretend [and] in the end everything collapses.”

These are the “pseudo pastors,” the “worldly pastors…or Christians also, who talk too much,” the Pope added. “They are afraid of silence; maybe they do too much.” And, the Pope insisted, they are not capable of embracing what they’ve heard – [they like the sound of their own voices] – and this does not come from God.”

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Daily Word

Amazing detail
In the last half of today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that hearing and acting on the word of God is like building a house on rock while hearing and not acting on his word is like building a house on sand. This can be applied to so many areas in our own lives. And all of these areas need a strong foundation in faith and a willingness to act on that faith to survive all the storms that will inevitably come.

Belief in God and his support provides purpose and strength for the efforts required for successful relationships. Finding God in another provides the motive and ability to love them when they are not at their best and to put the other ahead of self. Trust in God’s unwavering love provides the ability to share and survive the pains and losses that come to every human relationship. Even friendships that are centered on God are not perfect because we are not perfect, but they are more likely to weather the trials and pains that come their way.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

God is gracious

It’s just about six months until Christmas!

Go ahead. Gasp.

But for a preview of coming attractions, and a glance ahead to Christmas, look no further than the feast we celebrate tomorrow, the nativity of John the Baptist. Even now, in the blazing light of June, just past the summer solstice, when the days are longest and we’re lathering on the SPF 40 sunscreen…our attention is being drawn to a distant star of winter.

Because today, we meet another miraculous infant: the one who will grow up to prepare the way of the Lord.

This is a phenomenal feast – and a rare one. Only three times during the year does the Church celebrate a birthday: for Jesus, for His mother…and for John the Baptist. The Baptist is in illustrious company, and this serves to remind us just how important he is to our salvation history.

When you consider the circumstances surrounding it, the Nativity of John the Baptist is almost as full of wonder as the nativity of Jesus. Like Jesus’s birth, there is great mystery. There was an angel who announced it, and parents who hadn’t planned on it, and a name for the baby that was chosen by God.

In one of the more remarkable moments of this Gospel, Elizabeth defied family tradition with one succinct phrase: “He will be called John.” She was able to make that leap of faith and give this child the name for which he was destined.

“He will be called John.”

John is an ancient Hebrew name rich with meaning – for Zechariah and Elizabeth. And for us.

As the Gospel indicates, the name is not an accident. It was pronounced by the angel Gabriel – and its meaning serves to send a message to the world. Some translations have it as “Gift of God” or “Graced by God.” But in one interpretation that I like, the name means “God is gracious.”

In giving an aging, childless couple a new life…God is gracious.

In making what seemed impossible possible…God is gracious.

In working miracles where we least expect…God is gracious.

He is gracious in offering us that most precious and elusive commodity: hope. And so it was that before this child has uttered a word John, just with his name, announced the hope that would come with the Christ.

God is gracious.

How desperately we need to hear that now. The news can be numbing, and dispiriting. In a time of church scandal, of political mudslinging, of economic anxiety and war and volatility around the globe…it can be tempting to forget that simple, undeniable and enduring truth:

Despite our hardships and misgivings, our problems and setbacks…God is gracious. And His grace is what sustains us.

The birth of John the Baptist is the pivot around which our calendar turns – just as his life was the fulcrum for our faith. He was the last prophet of the Old Covenant – and the first prophet of the New. He is the doorway through which humanity was able to enter the Christian era.

He opened the world’s ears – and eyes – to possibility. He made us ready for Christ.

Consider that. Consider what that has meant for us, and how the forerunner of the Messiah was also the forerunner of all that we do here this day. He prepared the way of the Lord. And he prepared the way for all that would follow – including this Holy Sacrifice that we celebrate today.

Beyond being a prophet, and a martyr, and a saint, John the Baptist was one of God’s gifts to a needy and searching world – a sign to us of a Father’s generous love for His children. A cause for optimism and a reason for hope. You could almost consider this feast the Christmas BEFORE Christmas. And it comes to us as a blessed reminder of what God can do.

Elizabeth, the Baptist’s mother, put it so clearly and so perfectly, as mothers often do.

“He will be called John.”

Because God is gracious.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Marianist Monday

The prayer of Marianist communities flows from an understanding of being formed by Mary to be Christ. 

Marianist prayer attempts to make God’s word the energy and conviction that guides our feelings and choices. We ponder the mysteries of Jesus’ life as presented in the Scriptures; we are moved by an insight or feeling; we express that insight or feeling in a personal prayer of gratitude, conviction, or petition; we examine in our conversation with God how our day-to-day behavior reflects (or does not reflect) the attitude of Jesus about which we are praying. And finally, we offer thanks to God for this treasured time of prayer and commend our lives to God and Mary. Sounds simple, but it takes a lifetime!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day

I just stumbled across this terrific meditation on God as Father, written by Marcellino D’Ambrosio.

While it has nothing to do with today’s readings for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, it could serve as an inspiring Father’s Day homily — or, at least, heartfelt food for thought. Take a gander:

Most of the great religions of the world believe in one God and teach the gist of the Ten Commandments.

But that the supreme Being is not just “King of the Universe” or “Master” but “Father,” that he desires that we have a close, familiar relationship with Him–these ideas you don’t find anywhere outside the teaching of Jesus.

To call God “Father” does not mean to say, of course, that he is an old man with a white beard. Only the second person of the Blessed Trinity wedded himself to a male human nature in the womb of Mary. The Father and the Holy Spirit are pure Spirit and transcend male and female, masculine and feminine (CCC 239). This is no new insight brought to Christianity by the feminist movement. It has always been taught that the word “Father” applied to God, is used by way of analogy. Analogies tell us something very true despite being imperfect. Until recently, the father was recognized by Western society as origin, head and provider of the family. To call the first person of the Trinity “Father” means that he is the origin and transcendent authority of all and cares for the needs of all.

But we all instinctively know that a father who just pays the bills and barks orders is not enough. We expect a dad to have an intimate, affectionate relationship with his children, to spend “quality time” with them. To call God “Father” means, then, that he is near to us, intimately concerned with us, fond of us, even crazy about us. He is not the distant, clockmaker God of Thomas Jefferson and the Deists. This aloof God of the philosophers created the world to run by virtue of its own natural laws so that he could withdraw and occupy himself with more interesting pursuits.

No, the God whom Jesus calls Father cares about us and knows us intimately. “Every hair on your head is numbered (Mat 10:30).” He loves us more than we love ourselves and knows us better than we know ourselves.

That is something we often forget, and something, I think, that we need to hear, now more than ever. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Praised Be

Pope Francis is calling for an “ecological conversion” for the faithful in his sweeping new encyclical on the environment. In “Laudato Si,” or “Be Praised” (or “Praised Be,”) he warns of harming birds and industrial waste and calls for renewable fuel subsidies and energy efficiency.

Here are 10 key ideas people will read closely, everything from climate change and global warming to abortion and population control.

1) Climate change has grave implications. “Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever,” he writes.

2) Rich countries are destroying poor ones, and the earth is getting warmer. “The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming.”

3) Christians have misinterpreted Scripture and “must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.”

4) The importance of access to safe drinkable water is “a basic and universal human right.”

5) Technocratic domination leads to the destruction of nature and the exploitation of people, and “by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion.”

6) Population control does not address the problems of the poor.“In the face of the so-called culture of death, the family is the heart of the culture of life.” And, “Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion.”

7) Gender differences matter, and “valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different.”

8) The international community has not acted enough: “recent World Summits on the environment have not lived up to expectations because, due to lack of political will, they were unable to reach truly meaningful and effective global agreements on the environment.” He writes, “the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good.” And, “there is urgent need of a true world political authority, as my predecessor Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago.”

9) Individuals must act. “An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness,” he writes. We should also consider taking public transit, car-pooling, planting trees, turning off the lights and recycling.

10) By the way, why are we here on Earth in the first place? “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” he writes.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Get ready

Pope Francis: encyclical part of Church's social doctrine

Pope Francis asked the faithful and all persons of good will to receive his new Encyclical letter on the care of creation with open hearts. Speaking to pilgrims and tourists gathered for his weekly General Audience on the eve of the much-anticipated document’s official release, Pope Francis said, “Tomorrow, as you know, the Encyclical on the care of the ‘common house’ that is creation will be published.”

Pope Francis went on to say, “Our ‘house’ is being ruined, and that hurts everyone, especially the poorest among us.”

The Holy Father concluded, saying, “My appeal is, therefore, to responsibility, based on the task that God has given to man in creation: ‘to till and tend’ the ‘garden’ in which humanity has been placed (cf. Gen 2:15). I invite everyone to accept with open hearts this document, which places itself in the line of the Church’s social doctrine.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Keeping up the Appearances

Today in our passage of Scripture, Jesus has a go at those who do a similar thing in their spiritual lives. People whose real righteousness is not that great, but try to keep up spiritual appearances by doing spiritual looking things so that other people will think they are pretty good. And in our passage Jesus looks at three aspects of spirituality, which are good things in and of themsleves. They are: giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting. And each time Jesus has much the same thing to say about them, which is summed up in Mt. 6.1

“Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father."

Hmmm this is interesting, Jesus has been telling us how we ought to live - how we ought to practice our righteousness.

And now Jesus is not telling us not to practice our righteousness. 

Now what Jesus is now telling us, is who we should be practicing our righteousness for, and who we shouldn’t. Jesus wants to warn us against doing righteous looking things in front of other people in order to impress them. And in Jesus’ day there were lots of people who did that. Remember Jesus told us that our righteousness needed to exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees. 

Now the Scribes and the Pharisees were the spiritual gurus of the day. They wanted everyone else to know how righteous they were. How holy, how good, how close to God they were. They did this because they wanted others to think they were pretty good. They were only concerned with how they looked to others, so they concentrated on the externals, not the internals, and we’ve seen how Jesus is not just interested in the externals as He is with what goes on inside.

And as Jesus says, if we do good things just so other people will think we are spiritual or holy or religious, then we’ve already received our reward from those people, and so we won’t get any reward from God our Father. Jesus then uses three ways that the people of His day tried to look righteous before others: giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting. And the structure of each one is very similar. In each case, Jesus gives an example of how we can do righteous deeds, but do them only to win the favor of other people. And if we do them for that reason, then we receive our reward from those people, and won’t be rewarded by our Father.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Sunday Word

Saint Mark's Gospel tells us that Jesus chose to speak in parables. Some people find that very annoying, and even a bit dishonest. Why didn't Jesus come right out and say what he meant? Why did he leave behind all these cryptic sayings, loaded with innuendo, instead of a crisp code of laws or a stack of essays with titles like "How to Be a Good Disciple," "A Brief Definition of the Kingdom of God" or "Seven Key Features of the Coming Kingdom and What This Means to You." 
But no. Instead we have this cross-eyed, cryptic, incomplete, awkward, and at times seemingly absurd collection of sayings known as Jesus' parables.

All of us are in the process of writing our own gospels -- our own accounts of experiencing the Good News of the coming kingdom in our midst. Writing a gospel through the very act of living is part of being a disciple of Christ. It is why Jesus gave the power of the parable to all those listening to his words. Storytelling is one of the most basic practices common to all human communities. Stories connect us to one another, to our ancestors, to our world and to our God. 

In today's Gospel text, Saint Mark notes that when Jesus spoke to the crowds around him, he "spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables." Jesus knew that only parable power had the ability to make the Good News of the kingdom a potent reality for every listening ear.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary

In celebrating Mary’s immaculate heart today, we celebrate her single-heartedness. Sin divides our heart between self and God, making us no longer single-hearted, no longer immaculate of heart. But, as with any other time when we honor Mary, we run the risk of making her distant and inimitable, precisely as we mean to exalt her: congratulations, Mary, but we are not in the same league.

So today I want to bring up another dimension of Mary’s heart, a dimension that helps us realize that she is very much in our league, a dimension that is hinted at the end of today’s Gospel reading, namely, her pondering heart: his mother kept all these things in her heart.

Mary faced a number of situations she did not understand. We are told explicitly this much at the Nativity and in the episode narrated in today’s Gospel reading. Implicitly we are told the same when she hears Simeon’s prediction, when her Son appears to be telling her at the Cana wedding this is none of our business, when she hears Jesus say who is my mother?, and most of all at the foot of the cross. But Mary kept moving on without understanding, pondering in her heart.

Her steadfastness, her single-heartedness was not based on external evidence, but on trust. Her pondering in her heart without understanding had helped her to move from not understanding to not needing to understand –how could a mother understand that her innocent Son is being cruelly executed? Being sure and being assured are not the same thing. Being sure speaks of understanding, which rests on evidence. Being assured speaks of an inner stance, which rests on trust. Mary was assured, even when she could not be sure.

Mary was steeped in a trust born of her pondering heart, her immaculate undivided heart.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

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Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

V. Lord, have mercy on us.
R. Christ, have mercy on us.

V. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.

R. Christ, graciously hear us.
V. God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.

God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mother’s womb.
Heart of Jesus, substantially united to the Word of God.

Heart of Jesus, of infinite majesty.
Heart of Jesus, holy temple of God.
Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most High.
Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of heaven.
Heart of Jesus, glowing furnace of charity.
Heart of Jesus, vessel of justice and love.
Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love.
Heart of Jesus, abyss of all virtues.
Heart of Jesus, most worthy of all praise.
Heart of Jesus, King and center of all hearts.
Heart of Jesus, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Heart of Jesus, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead.
Heart of Jesus, in whom the Father was well pleased.
Heart of Jesus, of whose fullness we have all received.
Heart of Jesus, desire of the everlasting hills.
Heart of Jesus, patient and rich in mercy.
Heart of Jesus, rich to all who call upon You.
Heart of Jesus, fount of life and holiness.
Heart of Jesus, propitiation for our offenses.
Heart of Jesus, overwhelmed with reproaches.
Heart of Jesus, bruised for our iniquities.
Heart of Jesus, obedient even unto death.
Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance.Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation.
Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection.
Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation.
Heart of Jesus, victim for our sins.
Heart of Jesus, salvation of those who hope in You.
Heart of Jesus, hope of those who die in You.
Heart of Jesus, delight of all saints.

V. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, R. spare us, O Lord.
V. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, R. graciously hear us, O Lord.
V. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, R. have mercy on us.
V. Jesus, meek and humble of Heart, R. Make our hearts like Yours.

Let us pray.
Almighty and eternal God,
look upon the Heart of Your most beloved Son
and upon the praises and satisfaction which He offers You in the name of sinners;
and to those who implore Your mercy, in Your great goodness,
grant forgiveness in the name of the same Jesus Christ,
Your Son, who lives and reigns with You forever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Heart to Heart

For the coming feast of the Sacred Heart tomorrow, let us reflect on a stirring homily, delivered by James Douglas Conley, the auxiliary for Denver, whose episcopal ordination took place on this day. 

I have chosen for my episcopal motto “Cor ad cor loquitur” (heart speaks to heart). This isn’t an original quotation. I stole it from my mentor, the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, the great 19th century English convert to the Catholic faith. My first encounter with Newman was during my sophomore year in college when I had to write an essay on an English prose writer, and I chose Newman. It wasn’t even a religious essay. My mom typed the paper for me. I’m not sure she remembers that. But it began for me a life-long love affair with Newman that continues to this day. In fact, tomorrow, May 30, will mark the 161st anniversary of Newman’s ordination to the priesthood which took place in Rome on May 30, 1847. For me, this is another sign of Newman’s influence in my life.

But that line, “heart speaks to heart”, was not even original to Newman. He borrowed it for his motto when he was named a cardinal in 1879, from a letter written by the great 17th century spiritual writer and Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales.

These words “heart speaks to heart” can first be understood as the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Heart of God, speaking to our heart, calling us to holiness, leading and guiding us to the Father.

But “heart speaks to heart” can also describe a type of pastoral charity where an individual leads another individual to God, through love and kindness. One heart at a time, person to person, heart to heart.

Newman believed that, next to the power of supernatural grace, the greatest influence over the human soul is the example of goodness in another person.

We might think of the people in our own lives who have shaped us the most. Perhaps our parents, a teacher, a priest, a good friend, someone we wanted to emulate. This happens every day. It is through friendship that we are moved to rise above our own weakness, our own vanity and pride, to embrace holiness and virtue, to strive for goodness, truth and beauty. I think we have all experienced this in our lives.

And ultimately, it is the example of love and virtue in Jesus, the friendship of the soul with Christ, that draws us to want to lay down our lives for our beloved, to do great things, to love in a heroic way.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Papal Words

In his homily this weekend, the Holy Father repeated the view that we are in a sort of third world war:

“Peace is God’s dream, his plan for humanity, for history, for all creation. And it is a plan which always meets opposition from men and from the evil one,” the Pope added. “Even in our time, the desire for peace and the commitment to build peace collide against the reality of many armed conflicts presently affecting our world. They are a kind of third world war being fought piecemeal and, in the context of global communications, we sense an atmosphere of war.” 

“Some wish to incite and foment this atmosphere deliberately, mainly those who want conflict between different cultures and societies, and those who speculate on wars for the purpose of selling arms. But war means children, women and the elderly in refugee camps; it means forced displacement of peoples; it means destroyed houses, streets and factories; it means, above all, countless shattered lives. You know this well, having experienced it here: how much suffering, how much destruction, how much pain! Today, dear brothers and sisters, the cry of God’s people goes up once again from this city, the cry of all men and women of good will: war never again!” - Vatican Insider

Pope Francis has said it before - that we are in a sort of piecemeal third world war. The atmosphere is ripe for it. It's undeclared - but we hear of all the conflicts, the mass killings - and we know it is happening - it is indeed an atmosphere of war.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Marianist Monday

Do not neglect prayer, however busy you may be.”

                                                                  Blessed William Joseph Chaminade

Mary, teach me to pray as your taught your child Jesus, and show me God’s glory in ordinary things. Remind me that nothing need escape the embrace of God’s love, no matter how trivial or dreary. As the Holy Spirit transformed your simple everyday duties, making them bright threads in the tapestry he was weaving in your life, pray that he do the same for me. I want to do ordinary things with extraordinary love. Amen.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Corpus Christi - “Do this in remembrance of me.”

Many years ago Father Walter Ciszek preached a retreat in our Community. And years afterward, I visited him several times at Fordham University. There is a hall named for him up at Fordham. The cause of his canonization is being pursued and he has been declared a “Servant of God.”

Walter Ciszek was the son of Polish immigrants, born in a coal-mining town in Pennsylvania in 1904. He had a rough child hood – and was even a member in a gang. So his family was shocked when he announced that he wanted to become a priest. Young Walter ended up joining the Jesuits, and went to the Soviet Union to serve as a missionary. For a while, he worked as a logger, ministering to people privately, trying to avoid arrest.

But in 1941, he was arrested and charged, falsely, with working as a spy for the Vatican. He spent the next 23 years in prison – sometimes in solitary confinement, sometimes in a gulag, at times doing hard labor.

Despite that, he found ways to celebrate mass – often at tremendous risk. Years later, Fr. Ciszek wrote about it.

He described in painstaking detail how the prisoners would observe the Eucharistic fast, often going without breakfast, working all morning on an empty stomach, so they could receive communion. A priest would gather them in an assigned spot – everybody, even the priest, wearing rumpled work clothes. And there he would take a small piece of bread and a few drops of wine and transform them into the body and blood of Christ.

As he wrote: “In these primitive conditions, the Mass brought you closer to God than anyone might conceivably imagine. The realization of what was happening on the board, box, or stone used in the place of an altar penetrated deep into the soul.”

And he explained:

"Many a time, as I folded up the handkerchief on which the body of our Lord had lain, and dried the glass or tin cup used as a chalice, the feeling of having performed something tremendously valuable for the people of this Godless country was overpowering. I was occasionally overcome with emotion for a moment as I thought of how God had found a way to follow and to feed these lost and straying sheep in this most desolate land…I would go to any length, suffer any inconvenience, run any risk to make the bread of life available to these men.”

This feast of Corpus Christi today, this feast of remembrance, let us remember that. Every Sunday, we come forward for communion. But we cannot take this miracle for granted. And let us realize not only the tremendous gift we have been given, but also the generosity of the one who gave it. The words we pray just before communion, the words of the Centurian before Christ, speak for us all: “Lord I am not worthy.”

We aren’t. None of us is. And yet we pray to be made worthy, drawn to this sacrament by love, and by hunger. A hunger for the bread of life. A hunger to take God into our hands, and bring Him into our hearts.

And we are drawn as well by the desire to live out those six words that have changed the world – and that will change each of us, if only we let them.

“Do this in remembrance of me.”

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Look at the host, and you look at Christ.

This Sunday we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi. 

One of the Fathers of the Church described how the first Christians received communion. They did it the way we do it today, offering their outstretched hands, one over another. And he offered this instruction: “Make of your hands a throne,” he wrote. Make yourselves ready to receive a king.

Do we understand that today? I’m not so sure.

We are receiving an incalculable gift. We are taking into our hands, and placing on our tongues, something astounding.

We are being given God.

Look at the host, and you look at Christ.

Too often, we take it for granted. It’s just one more part of the Mass. Something else to do.

No. It isn’t.

Look at the host, and you look at Christ.

Everything we are, everything we believe, everything we celebrate around the altar comes down to that incredible truth. What began two thousand years ago in an upper room continues at altars all around the world.

The very source of our salvation is transformed into something you can hold in the palm of your hand.

Just think what we become when we receive the body of Christ. We become nothing less than living tabernacles. God dwells within us. As the hymn tells us, we become what we receive. And what we receive becomes us. That is the great mystery, and great grace, the great gift of this most blessed sacrament.

My question on this feast: what will we do with that knowledge? Once we have been transformed, by bread that has been transformed, how can we leave a holy place without seeking to transform the world?

We carry something greater than ourselves. And that makes us instruments of God’s great work in the world – literally.

In some small way, we have been changed.

When we receive communion we become instruments of Christ, bearers of Christ.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Painting by Joseph Fanelli © 1994 New York, New York
“And He showed me that it was His great desire of being loved by men and of withdrawing them from the path of ruin into which Satan hurls such crowds of them, that made Him form the design of manifesting His Heart to men, with all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification and salvation which it contains, in order that those who desire to render Him and procure for Him all the honor and love possible, might themselves be abundantly enriched with those divine treasures of which this Heart is the source.

He should be honored under the figure of this Heart of flesh, and its image should be exposed…He promised me that wherever this image should be exposed with a view to showing it special honor, He would pour forth His blessings and graces. 

This devotion was the last effort of His love that He would grant to men in these latter ages, in order to withdraw them from the empire of Satan which He desired to destroy, and thus to introduce them into the sweet liberty of the rule of His love, which He wished to restore in the hearts of all those who should embrace this devotion.”…. “The devotion is so pleasing to Him that He can refuse nothing to those who practice it.”

 -Revelations of Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Stand up for Christ

Fr. Paul Turner says:

“Standing for communion,” he wrote, “demonstrates our belief that Christ is risen and that the Eucharistic food we share is a foretaste of the life to come. Standing emphasizes our participation in the mystery of the mass, which is the point of communion.”

With that, he touches on something that I think is even more beautiful: “our participation in the mystery of the mass.” Central to that mystery is prayer.

So, consider how we pray. During the mass, whenever we pray together, we stand. We do it at the beginning of mass, for the opening prayer, and for the “Gloria.” In a few moments, we will stand to pray together the Creed and the Prayer of the Faithful. We will stand for the “Holy Holy Holy” and the “Our Father.” And we will stand for the Prayer After Communion. More often than not, when the priest says those three words – “Let us pray” – we stand.

So it seems to me it is only fitting that we stand, too, for the most important prayer we say in the mass, that instant when we receive Christ in the Eucharist.

Receiving the Eucharist is a form of prayer. It is a testament of faith, a song of praise. It is a call, and a response. And it is also an affirmation of everything we hold to be true.

We are shown the host and the minister of communion says “The Body of Christ.” It’s not “Do you want one?” Or even “Are you worthy?” It is simple and direct: “The Body of Christ.” In other words: behold what is tangible. Real. Present. He is here. And we respond with one small word – a word that sounds almost like a whisper, but that echoes like thunder.



Yes. I believe. Yes, I accept the Body of Christ – broken and beautiful and present in the appearance of this fractured piece of bread. Yes, I want Him to become a part of me. Yes, I hold this mystery in the palm of my hand and hold it, as well, in my heart.

Yes, I will carry Him with me, in me, into the world.

Yes, I believe.

That is what we say with every “Amen” at every communion.

Yes. One small word. But how much power is in that word! It is the word that a simple peasant girl uttered 2,000 years ago, when she was also asked to accept the Body of Christ into her own life, into her own body. “Yes,” she said. And with that, Mary became the very first tabernacle. And like Mary, in a similar way, each of us at every mass also becomes a tabernacle. It happens every time we say “Yes” to that sliver of bread, the Body of Christ.

We do that, and we carry Christ. He becomes a part of us. We become a part of him. It is a moment that is nothing less than monumental.

And saying “Yes” to all that is the greatest prayer we can make.

On this coming feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi on Sunday, let us strive to say that prayer, that “Amen,” as if it is the first time we’ve ever said it.

When you consider all that it means, all that it contains, all that we believe in all its mystery and wonder and awe…that is something to stand for.

And: to stand up for.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A prayer for vocations

We come today, Lord,
to be with you and to pay attention 
to what you say to us in the Gospel. 

We want to pray with a sense of urgency, 
that there may be laborers 
for the harvest of the Church. 

We want to remain with you, 
calmly, in silence, savoring your Presence. 

We offer you our vocation. 
Thank you for your call. 

We know that you listen to us. 
We are here because you call us. 
You have called us in different ways 
within the Marianist Family: 
a diversity of vocations, 
sisters, brothers, lay people. 

During this time of prayer, 
we ask you to strengthen 
each of our vocations 
and to give us the gift of new vocations.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Tuesday Tunes

Marianist Monday

June, 2015

My dear friends in college . . . and beyond,

The English poet T.S. Eliot, in his signature modernist poem The Waste Land, famously claims that “April is the cruelest month.” But personally, I think May and June have April beat by a long shot.

You see, May and June are months of departure. I am writing this letter on a Saturday morning in May, the third Saturday of the month, when many of you are graduating from college. In three weeks, over nine-hundred young men and women will graduate from Long island’s three Marianist schools – Chaminade, Kellenberg Memorial, and St. Martin de Porres. The best of intentions notwithstanding, graduation means that we will see many of the people who became some of our closest friends a lot less than we would like. May and June give us plenty of moments to celebrate, but they also bring a series of bittersweet good-byes that tug at our hearts.

As I write this letter, I think back as well to the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. Again, our minds turn to departure. The Apostles’ hearts must have been heavy. Their Lord was taken from their sight as He ascended into Heaven. I can’t imagine them experiencing anything but a profound sense of confusion and loss. The Ascension Thursday reading from the Acts of the Apostles hints at this: “While they were looking intently at the sky as He was

going, suddenly, two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?’ ” (Acts 1: 10 – 11)
May and June are the cruelest months, or so they seem. For all the bittersweet departures of these two months, however, May and June also remind us of enduring presence. Indeed, this is the promise of the Risen Lord: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20) We read the same promise in the Gospel of John: “I will not leave you as orphans.” (John 14:18)

These transitional days of springtime into summer, from the halls of high school to the campuses of college, and from the world of college to the world of work, are marked by two great feasts of God’s enduring presence.

One of these is Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit in tongues of flame. “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

Two weeks after Pentecost, the Church celebrates another great feast of God’s enduring presence: Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper, He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’ (Luke 22: 19 – 20). Saint Albert the Great frames the significance of the Body and Blood of Christ in this way: “Nor could He have commanded anything more lovable, for this sacrament produces love and union. It is characteristic of the greatest love to give itself as food. . . . as if to say, ‘I have loved them, and they have loved me so much that they may become my members. There is no more intimate or natural means for them to be united to me, and I to them.’ ”

As many of you know, the Church has just reached the midway point in its observation of the Year of Consecrated Life, convoked by Pope Francis, himself a Jesuit, to celebrate the one-million-plus men and women worldwide who have dedicated their lives to Christ as members of religious 
Image result for marianists meribahcongregations. When he promulgated this Year of Consecrated Life that we are now celebrating, Pope Francis announced as his theme, “Wake up the World.” “Wake up the world!” the Pope has exhorted us, “to a different way of doing things, of acting, of living!”

Well, just what are we waking the world up to? I’d like to suggest that we are waking up the world to the gift of God’s enduring presence, to the truth of communion, and to the lived reality that you and I are not alone.

And how do we do this? By living in Community and by sharing the fruits of Community with everyone we meet. Community life, family spirit, God’s enduring presence among us – these are at the heart of so many religious congregations. And I know from personal experience that Community life, family spirit, and God’s enduring presence are certainly at the heart of the Society of Mary.

Some months ago, Bro. Rysz and I saw Disney’s film version of the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods. It’s a retelling of several classic fairy tales, with a modern existentialist twist, of course. As the characters travel deeper and deeper into the woods, they are forced to deal with loss, confusion, and frightening decisions – the kinds of things we all experience when we fear that we have lost our way. Towards the end of their journey into the woods, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and the Town Baker team up for a heartfelt rendition of perhaps the most important song in the entire musical – “No One is Alone.” Despite the devastating losses that befall many of the characters, they nevertheless realize, “No one is alone. Truly. No one is alone. Believe me. Someone is on your side. No one is alone.”

For some reason, that song affected me profoundly. It got me thinking about the kinds of loneliness and loss that I see day in and day out. I think of the kid who’s really working hard in my class but just barely passing. Or the guy with the 99 average whose constant quest for the highest grades leaves him perpetually uptight and nervous, anxious and upset. (I was that kid.) Or the last guy to get cut from a team, or the athlete who seems to spend most of his time warming the bench, and it’s really got him bumbed out. Or maybe the last one to be picked for a team in gym class. (I was that kid too.) None of these people are alone.

The young adult who’s struggling to maintain his purity. Or anyone reading this letter right now who carries the heavy burden of sin and cannot forgive himself or herself for it. Maybe we’re battling depression, or alcoholism, or substance abuse. Perhaps a loved one is. Maybe you just received your college diploma, but you’re still having a hard time securing a job. Maybe you face a mountain of college debt. At times like these, I know that we think we’re alone. But we’re not.

Perhaps someone reading this letter is the young man who has lost a parent. The spouse who has lost a husband or a wife. Someone whose grandmother or grandfather is stricken with Alzheimer’s. Is your family emotionally drained as a loved one gradually slips away from you because he or she is gravely ill? You are not alone. Truly.

Or the single parent trying so hard to raise three kids? The family torn apart by argument and strife? You are not alone. Believe me.

No one is alone. We are not alone. We have Christ’s promise of God’s enduring presence, of His enduring love. That promise is made good – daily – in the Body and Blood of Christ that is the Eucharist. And it is fulfilled as well in the Body of Christ that is the Church – all of us, living in communion, becoming the eyes, the hands, the feet of our brother, Jesus Christ, for the sake of our brothers and sisters in this world.

“Lo, I am with you always.” “I will not leave you as orphans.” “No one is alone.”

On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers, peace, prayers, and the promise to extend God’s love and compassion to you whenever you are feeling lost and alone,