Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent Reflections

Yearly I am amazed at how close to reality the words of Scripture are. Today we hear of signs 'in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay'. The news media has been filled with the stories of nations in dismay: Paris, France; Beirut, Lebanon; Bamaka, Mali; Syria, Turkey, Israel, Latin America, the United States. The list goes on and on. We know that nations are in dismay. Heck, they are in chaos.

As winter draws near here in the land of the free and home of the brave, millions are hunkering down for warmth inside cardboard boxes with no jobs, no income, no food, no health care, no health. And at the same time in this land are the few who are sleeping in well-made beds, having feasted on anything they wanted and haven't a worry about jobs, income or health care. To be honest, it really isn't any different than 45 to 50 years ago when  it was reported that thousands of children who lived on the Mississippi Delta went to bed every night without any food, sometimes for days without any food. And many still do. There is the constant presence of injustice and justice on this earth.

What does this have to do with the fact that we are celebrating the first Sunday of Advent, the season when we prepare to remember the birth of the One who came into the world to save it and offer it the chance of eternal life?

It has to do with the title the prophet Jeremiah gave to the city of Jerusalem: “The Lord our Justice.” 

It has to do with Paul's words to the Thessalonians that ‘the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.' 

It has to do with Luke's words that your hearts not become ‘drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life.'

It has to do with the way we live our lives.

It would be nice this year, to spend the season of Advent simply waiting for the baby in the manger. It would be nice to experience Advent as nothing more and nothing less than a prelude to Christmas – a time of quiet meditation and joyful hope. It would be nice if we could just forget about “being vigilant” and avoid “praying for the strength to escape tribulation.” It would be nice to be simply waiting for that baby in the manger.

But the Scriptures proclaimed this first Sunday of Advent tell us there is more to Advent than simply waiting for the baby Jesus in the manger. There is more to this season than quiet meditation and joyful hope. We anticipate not simply the celebration of a birth, but the reminder that God has become one of us. We remember not only the moment when Jesus was born, but his ministry here on earth and the promise that he will return.

It's easier to look at the baby and the manger rather than the cross, especially in times like these. But the baby grew up. He challenged injustice. He reached out to the poor, the disenfranchised, the afraid, the strangers, the alienated. The baby grew up and healed, forgave and redeemed each and every person and still does. Our faith has to grow up too. We have to heal and forgive and redeem – do the work of God. This season reminds us that we are not spectators but participants. We have to enter that manger scene. We have to give birth to Christ and present him to the world. We have to leave that manger scene and grow up as Christ did and carry his message that God is with us.

But the signs of the times aren't only bleak; there are other signs – of God's reign. We see heroism and patience and understanding. We see honesty and unselfish service of others; we see genuine holiness and fidelity. This season reminds us that we can be transformed into God's instruments of peace. Let us remember that God walks with us as we journey together towards the redemption that awaits us. The light of our first Advent candle illuminates our way.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Sunday Word

This weekend brings us to the First Sunday of Advent and the beginning of a new liturgical year: the Year of Grace 2016!

We begin this year with Jeremiah who tells us "the days are coming" when the Lord's promise will be fulfilled. "In those days, in that time," there will come one from the House of David who will champion what is right and just that God's people might dwell secure... How do we not need to hear those words, that promise in our own times?

Our gospel passage leads us into the third year of the lectionary, with gospel passages drawn primarily from Luke. In this text Jesus points to signs in the heavens and peoples in dismay as signals that "the days are coming." The passage ends with some sharp words of warning that we'd do well to heed during "the holidays!"

The second reading is taken from Thessalonians and earnestly exhorts us to love one another that we might be strengthened and stand blameless before God. Again - good words for those about to enter a season of parties, excess and indulgence.

In light of the above we might ask ourselves, as St. Paul suggests, if we are "conducting ourselves in ways pleasing to God..."

Now, there's some food for thought for New Year's Resolution making - only 32 days from this coming Sunday!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Post Thanksgiving

The day after Thanksgiving....

Forgive us, Lord,
for yesterday's over-indulgence
and teach us at the same time
not to waste what's ours in abundance
or hoard the goods
that others need so much...

And as we plan and shop for Christmas
make us grateful first for all we have
and mindful, then, of others' needs
and generous in the ways we open up
our hearts and wallets to the poor...

Help us find the deeper meaning
in the days that lie ahead:
what is holy, healing, helpful,
and what makes us truly happy,
in the gift you are for us...



Thursday, November 26, 2015

Prayerful Thoughts

before I bake a pie or stuff a turkey this week,
I want to take some time to ponder
all my reasons to be grateful...

Help me remember, by name,
the most important people in my life,
on whom I depend for so many things,
who support, comfort and challenge me,
who help me make it day to day
and through the night,
one day at a time...

Help me remember, one by one,
all the gifts I have:
the gifts of faith and hope and love,
the gifts of wonder, tears and laughter,
the gifts of friendship and affection,
the gifts of peace and quiet
and the gift and grace of prayer...

Help me remember, Lord,
all my talents and my skills:
the ones I use every day,
and the ones I hide from others,
the ones I need to learn to share...

Help me remember
what I often take for granted:
my liberty and freedom,
the right to speak and write and vote,
the opportunity to seek my heart's desire
and to go where you may call me...

Help me remember all that I've forgotten,
all I should be grateful for,
all for which I owe you thanks and praise...

Help me remember, Lord,
so that on Thanksgiving I'll know why
I bow my head in prayer and whisper,
"Thank you, Lord my God!"

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Prayer at an Empty Chair

The Empty Chair by Dena Cardwell
For those grieving the loss of a loved one, Thanksgiving and "the holidays" can be a particularly difficult time. Anticipation of these special days begins early and so I'm posting this prayer today, a week ahead of Thanksgiving Day...
A Prayer at an Empty Chair

This Thanksgiving, Lord,
there’ll be an empty chair at our table,
an ache in our hearts
and tears on our cheeks...

We might shield others from our grief
but we can't hide it from you...

We pray for (name your loved ones)
whose loving presence we'll miss
at this homecoming time...

Help us remember and tell again
the stories that knit us as one
with the ones we miss so much...

Open our hearts to joyful memories
of the love we shared
with those who've gone before us...

Let the bonds you forged so deep in our hearts
grow stronger yet
in remembering those who've left our side...

Help us pray and trust that those we miss
have a home in your heart
and a place at your table forever
and that one day we'll be one with them
once again...

Teach us to lean on you and on one another
for the strength we need
to walk through these difficult days...

Open our eyes and our hearts
to the healing, the warmth
and the peace of your presence...

Give us quiet moments with you in prayer,
with our memories and loss,
with our thoughts and tears...

Be with us to console us
and hold us in your arms
as you hold the ones we miss...

Even in our grief, Lord,
this is the day that you have made:
help us be glad in the peace you've promised,
the peace we pray you share
with those who've gone before us...

For ourselves, Lord,
and for all who find the holidays to be a difficult time,
we make this prayer...

Prayer can provide a path through these days as well as opportunities for acceptance, healing and helping one another. You might pray this alone as Thanksgiving approaches or print it, forward, share and post it for others who might find it helpful...

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Ritual: where you might least expect to find it!

There begins this coming week the season generally referred to as “the holidays,” a portion of the calendar stretching from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Some of the celebrations in this season are common to all and others are particular to different faiths and followers. Without wanting to omit less well-known dates, “the holidays” are generally understood to include Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, the Solstice, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Day. And each of these celebrations has its own rituals.

Consider Thanksgiving Day which is fast upon us. How many times have you already been asked (or have you asked others) this question: “So, what are you doing for Thanksgiving?” There’s a ritual fascination for knowing when and where we and others will celebrate this day. And many times have you heard a response like, “Oh, we’re going to my sister’s - she’s having 29 for dinner.” At no other time of the year are we likely to know, much less announce to others how many people will be at table for a particular meal. A number of other ritual questions may follow: will it be a fresh or frozen turkey - and how much does it weigh? how many vegetables? sweet potatoes with or without marshmallows? who’s bringing what? is he bringing that string-bean casserole again? what kind of stuffing do you make? how many pies and what kind? are your married kids coming home or going to the in-laws?

Much conversation like this will be conducted before Thanksgiving and will then be repeated again after the holidays when folks begin to ask, “So, how was your Thanksgiving?” There’s a definite ritual dialogue that occurs before and after the actual Thanksgiving Day meal.

And what of the ritual dynamics and conversations that surround the Thanksgiving gathering? Will there a table for adults and a kids' table, too? Will there be a prayer before the meal even at tables where no prayer is usually offered? Do you go around the table inviting guests to mention things they’re grateful for this Thanksgiving? Who will carve the turkey? Who will get the drumsticks? Who will break the wishbone? What family stories are told every year and exaggerated even beyond last year’s telling? Who will be the predictable tellers of the predictable stories? What political and religious topics will be fair game during dinner? At what point will some portion of those gathered excuse themselves to go watch the game?

Odds are you’re adding your own family’s ritual words and deeds to the list I’ve offered above. True ritual behavior and dialogue have many functions. They reconnect us to our roots and one another. They offer us a conversation in which all participants know the vocabulary and their own part. Ritual can offer us, if only for a few hours, a moment of sanity and serenity amidst the chaos of the rest of life. We are drawn to such ritual gatherings because they have the power to reassure us that in spite of everything else, there is still point in time, a place in our lives, in which peace can be ours in the simple experience of sharing a meal among those who have helped, for weal or for woe, to shape our lives.

We should be grateful to know that a holiday like Thanksgiving not only survives but thrives in a culture that so easily dismisses ritual behavior as rote and empty. And following Thanksgiving a whole season of such experiences draws us together between the end of November and the early days of January.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it might be helpful to reflect on how such holiday and family rituals play out in and prosper our lives and well-being: how these tried and true, age-old familiar activities and conversations touch us in the depths of our hearts and connect us with realities more important than we might often realize and acknowledge.

And may I take this opportunity to remind you that this very same ritual dynamic is played out week after week in our houses of prayer? The ritual of worship in any faith is filled with: familiar words and dialogue; old, even ancient stories of the family of faith; meals shared in remembrance of our roots and our connection to one another; the offering of a place where peace can be found, where one can escape the chaos not by running away from it but by hastening towards a center, a calm, a serenity the chaos can never overwhelm.

The rituals of “the holidays” are life-giving in many ways but they also put us in touch with our losses, our hurts and our disappointments. Rituals in faith communities do the same but, again, such ritual offers a place not to deny our pain but to find healing for it in a community of others sharing joys and sorrows alike with any who will give themselves to the words and deeds of shared, ritual prayer.

May the rituals of this season of holidays enrich, strengthen, delight and heal you in your heart of hearts. And may the rituals of these holidays draw you home, through the new year, to the community of faith whose rituals are yours - and are waiting for you...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

For Christ the King

Christ KingA famous and traditional hymn is frequently used today.  A hymn has strong theology, beautiful poetry, noble and moving sentiments and a simple, worshipful and singable tune. This is not a praise song or a devotional ditty or a song which, if you changed the word ‘Jesus’ to ‘my baby’ could make it into the pop charts. Read it and maybe sing it and ask yourself if you understand all the allusions, the symbols, the Biblical references–and if you do not why not?
Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne.
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.

Crown Him the virgin’s Son, the God incarnate born,
Whose arm those crimson trophies won which now His brow adorn;
Fruit of the mystic rose, as of that rose the stem;
The root whence mercy ever flows, the Babe of Bethlehem.

Crown Him the Son of God, before the worlds began,
And ye who tread where He hath trod, crown Him the Son of Man;
Who every grief hath known that wrings the human breast,
And takes and bears them for His own, that all in Him may rest.

Crown Him the Lord of life, who triumphed over the grave,
And rose victorious in the strife for those He came to save.
His glories now we sing, who died, and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring, and lives that death may die.

Crown Him the Lord of peace, whose power a scepter sways
From pole to pole, that wars may cease, and all be prayer and praise.
His reign shall know no end, and round His piercèd feet
Fair flowers of paradise extend their fragrance ever sweet.

Crown Him the Lord of love, behold His hands and side,
Those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye at mysteries so bright.

Crown Him the Lord of Heaven, enthroned in worlds above,
Crown Him the King to Whom is given the wondrous name of Love.
Crown Him with many crowns, as thrones before Him fall;
Crown Him, ye kings, with many crowns, for He is King of all.

Crown Him the Lord of lords, who over all doth reign,
Who once on earth, the incarnate Word, for ransomed sinners slain,
Now lives in realms of light, where saints with angels sing
Their songs before Him day and night, their God, Redeemer, King.

Crown Him the Lord of years, the Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou has died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Executive orders…

I’m sure we all have our own ideas about the plans
the president announced on Thursday night.
And what we think of what he said will depend largely
on our thoughts about immigration reform.

But whatever our opinions on those issues,
there’s another question of executive privilege before us today,
also connected to thoughts on reform.

I’m talking about the executive privilege God enjoys over all of us
and the executive orders he issues about reform in our lives.

The full title of today’s feast is:
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
King of the Universe: you just can’t get more executive than that!
Nobody has authority higher, greater
or beyond the King of the Universe
and that’s how we honor Christ today.

Several questions follow from this:
- What authority over my life do I acknowledge and follow
above and beyond my own personal authority?
- How freely do I surrender my personal authority to Christ,
accepting his word and law as the norm
for reforming my life and my ways?
- In particular: do I accept Christ’s executive power over my life
when I’m uncomfortable with the reforms I believe
he’s calling me to make?

A feast like Christ the King challenges a culture like our own
which exalts the self as the ultimate authority, above all others,
and this day challenges us believers, followers of Jesus, to ask:
to whom do I pledge my allegiance?
to whom do I bend my heart?
to whom do I subject my will?

To whose rule do I turn when reviewing my need for reforming
my integrity? my honesty? my purity? my generosity? my charity?
my humility? my loyalty? my morality? my sincerity? my piety?
my decency? my fidelity?

It’s one thing to declare that Jesus the King of the Universe
but the harder question is this: is Jesus the King of my heart?
Does he rule over the choices I make?
Does he govern my desires?
Does he reign over my relationships?
Is he sovereign over my ethics?
Is he the crowned head of my family?

One way, a good way to know if Jesus is King of my heart
is to take a look around me
and see if I’m surrounded by sheep – or by goats.
In the gospel today Jesus took the time to list
not once, not twice, not three times - but FOUR times –
those signs by which I might know that I’m in with the sheep.

So bear with me
and listen a fifth time to the standards King Jesus sets
for reforming my life according to his heart:
feeding the hungry and thirsty, welcoming the stranger,
giving clothing to those who have none,
caring for the sick and for those who are in prison.

Whatever might be the implications of this scripture
for a nation’s immigration policies – and certainly there are some –
we need to remind ourselves that Jesus told this parable
not to crowds on a mountainside or by the shore,
but in a private conversation with his disciples, his closest followers.
He addressed it first to them
– and this morning to us, his followers today.

With regard to this scripture and today’s politics, two things are sure.
While Jesus is not proposing here a structure for immigration reform
(much less endorsing one plan over another)
it’s inescapably true that he’s handing over responsibility
for the care of the stranger, the poor, the sick and the incarcerated
into our laps, our checkbooks, our choices, our politics.
Jesus is less concerned with how we serve the least among us
and much more concerned that they be served
and not turned away – by you and me.

I cannot claim allegiance to Jesus as the sovereign of my heart
if I fail to find and serve him in the neediest of people,
wherever, however they come into our lives.

There are so many ways each of us can respond
to the very people King Jesus presents to us in the gospel --
right at our church doors this weekend.

There are the Giving Trees
and you can be sure that those gifts will go
in every case to the poor
and in many cases to newcomers, strangers in our land.

And the Prison Gift Bag Project will reach through the bars into cells
at MCI Concord to men who will be among the loneliest of all
on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Our parish is not unique in these efforts
and I know that many of us are being generous in other venues, too.
But this!
Let none of us be among the goats who, the day after Christmas,
might have to ask,
“But, Lord! When did we see you hungry or thirsty
or naked or a stranger or ill or in prison and not serve your needs?”
Rather, let all of us be counted among the sheep who recognize
and reach out to Jesus Christ, King of the Universe,
in the neediest and most marginalized of all God’s people.

Let us pray for a spirit of generosity among us
who so often have so much more than we need.

The King of the Universe invites us now to his table,
to feed our hungry hearts and slake our thirsty souls
serving us with his Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

May we who recognize and receive our King
in the Bread and Cup of the altar,
recognize and warmly receive and serve him
in the lives of the stranger, the poor, the sick and the imprisoned.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Sunday Word

Tomorrow is the Solemnity of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Year of Grace 2015. Next weekend will bring us to the First Sunday of Advent in the Year of Grace 2016. (On the liturgical calendar, the First Sunday of Advent is a kind of New Year's Day!)

It's time to sit down with the scriptures and prepare for hearing them proclaimed at Mass on Sunday.

The first scripture is from the Book of Daniel and includes the title "Son of man" (which we often hear in the gospels, though not in this week's gospel passage). This vision in Daniel gives us an ancient reference for the kingship of Christ. The gospel is from John and takes us to the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate, a text we hear every Good Friday. Here Jesus and Pilate debate their notions of kingship. The second scripture of the day is from Revelation: the text echoes some of the imagery from the Daniel passage and makes a fleeting reference to the Passion in the words, "those who pierced him."

Kingship, dominion, kingdom, the Almighty... these scriptures draw us to consider the power of God in our lives and God's sovereignty over us. These are categories somewhat foreign to our times and culture. The question comes, then, "Who and what reign over my heart and my life?"

Friday, November 20, 2015

“Lord, please let me see.”

“What do you want me to do for you?”
He replied, “Lord, please let me see.”
Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.”

Our Gospel is magnificent. It’s right smack in the middle really of Luke’s gospel. And it’s a a hinge story. Much will turn on this tale that Luke, Mark and Matthew tells. A tale undoubtedly based upon something very real. 

The fact that the person Jesus heals in the story is named. Not always the case. But in this case the person is named. Indicates it’s probably a story very vividly remembered. In fact, this person in question was probably around for some time after the Jesus’ death and resurrection and probably there telling and correcting this story, a point of reference for it.

And so it’s very much a real tale. At the same time I think it is a beautifully elaborated tale. What I mean, is the Gospel writers brings out the theological and spiritual significance of this healing of Jesus. That’s what I think it makes it powerful for us even 2,000 years after the event. Listen to how the story begins, “as Jesus approached Jericho” with his disciples and a sizable crowd. Now Jericho was a city in Jesus time, in fact, one of the oldest cities in the world. A city you can visit the ruins the ancient city today. But for any biblical person Jericho meant much more than a city east of Jerusalem. For Jericho was a city that the Israelites destroy when they came into the Promised Land, led by Joshua. Hence the famous parading around the walls of Jericho, the trumpet blast, the walls come tumbling down, Jericho then comes to symbolize sin or dysfunction.

If the Israelites symbolize God’s way in the world, then Jericho is the enemy of that, what stands in the way of it. Therefore, any bionically mindful person, reading this story and hearing about Jesus near Jericho has all kinds of associations. Jericho lying in a sort of lower area, the city of sin, symbolizing the fall away from grace, the fall away from the ways of God. Well sitting next by the wall of that city is a blind man the son of Timeaus, hence Bartimaeus, a blind man who’s by the wall of Jericho begging. Now to this day, you can find street people and beggars, some physically impaired who sit or stand outside of famous places and they beg. So that is the image we are meant to get here. Of this blind man who is begging. But, he is much more than that because of this spiritual overtone that Luke has. He is blind. Why? Well, he symbolizes all of us who to varying degrees live in the city of sin, who live in this dysfunctional place, perhaps violence, hatred, self-absorption, all those things opposed to God. As a result we are blind spiritually. We don’t see what we are meant to see. We don’t see the ways of God. We are blind to them. Furthermore, Bartimaeus is a beggar. Here’s a very deep spiritual truth. But our spiritual problem is not like that. It is not a problem that we can solve. Robert Barron explains, “ sin is a problem with the will and with the mind. They become perverse and twisted. Therefore if the mind and the will are the problem then more mind and more will ain’t going to be the solution. That’s why spiritually speaking all of us are beggars. Beggars, we’re blind, and we have to beg, to be saved. So, we are meant to identify with Bartimaeus. All of us are meant to identify with this blind beggar by the wall of Jericho.”

Bartimaeus, began to cry out and say, Jesus son of David have pity on me.” “Lord, have pity. Christ, have pity.” Lord have pity on me. We put ourselves ritually in the place of Bartimaeus, acknowledging as the Mass begins that we are blind, we have lost our way, we are beggars and we not able save ourselves. This by the way, is Bartimaeus’ great virtue, his great grace, is that he realizes he’s a beggar. He realizes he has to beg. Many don’t realize that. They think “all is well.” Or all can be made well by our own efforts. Yes, the secular culture teaches that, but not the Bible.

“Many rebuked him telling him to be silent.” Well people are kind of embarrassed by this display. Here’s the famous preacher going by and here is this embarrassing street person, this blind beggar and he’s crying out like a lunatic. So the people are embarrassed, you know, and they tell him to be quiet. The same way we probably would today, if a famous person was going by and there was some poor soul some street person and they cry out. Would probably get embarrassed too. Symbolically speaking we are on very holy ground here, because Luke is telling us, even to this day, when you acknowledge your blindness, and you acknowledge your incapacity to save yourself don’t expect a lot of support. We live in a culture that is very me-centric, we love people that are powerful, that are self-reliant. Who likes someone who is a beggar? Who acknowledges his powerlessness? No one likes that. We celebrate, we hold up people who have it together. Who can solve their problems? I’m OK you’re OK. I’m the King of the World. But in the spiritual order it does not work that way. Bartimaeus is the one here who’s seeing clearly. But the world is not going to stand with him. And it won’t stand with us either, when we beg the Lord for pity, Beg the lord for mercy. Don’t expect a lot of support.

Now his great virtue. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David have pity on me” Good for you, Bartimaeus, despite the crowd, despite this lack of support you keep begging. Its good advice forever one of us. We are not going to get allot of support from the crowd today, But keep asking, Keep asking. Keep begging. How often, by the way, in the Gospel the perseverance in prayer is recommended. Stay at it. Seek and you will find. Knock it will be open. Ask and you will receive. Don’t give up.

So Bartimaeus persevered. Jesus stopped. And Jesus said, call him. Jesus stopped. He is the still point. And they called him. Bartimaeus is being called out of his blindness. Out of Jericho. into a new way of being. Which means friendship with Jesus Christ. He’s a prototype here, of every one of us who are members of the Church. We have been called by Jesus out of Jericho into this new friendship. Take courage get up Jesus is calling you the crowd said, So he threw away his cloak. Sprang up. This is a baptismal image isn’t it.

Here Bartimaeus throws off his cloak. It’s symbolic of his old life. He springs up and comes to Jesus.

He says, The Lord says “What do you want me to do for you?”

Then the magnificent answer, “Master I want to see.”

What’s his problem? Blindness. Born of sin, born of self-absorption. What’s the solution? Sight. How do you get it? Not by your own efforts. You cannot make yourself un-blind. But you can come now into relationship with Jesus Christ. Who then gives you sight. So immediately he received his sight. And then what, the story ends with this, “he followed him” on the way.

Bartimaeus began stuck in the city of sin, blind and a beggar, but now called into the church, into friendship with Jesus Christ, he is now given his sight and then able to walk in the path of discipleship.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Daily Word

Today’s Gospel reading about the nobleman leaving his servants with gold coins was one I had to read carefully several times and even explore some commentary on. Jesus is trying to share a lot in this single parable and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing any of it. Sometimes I catch myself flying through a reading without stopping to really let it sink in and comprehend what God’s intention was behind writing it. It is a good practice for me to slow down, meditate on it, question it, and even seek other’s interpretation so that I don’t let Jesus’ teaching fall on deaf ears.

In this instance, the crowds had gathered around him that day expecting the kingdom to appear before them. Jesus used the parable to teach them that he would be leaving the world, although not empty handed, and would return again to meet us. While not necessarily gold coins, I think about all that Jesus did leave behind—the Holy Spirit, the Word, and unique gifts bestowed to us individually that together contribute to the body of Christ.

In giving us these gifts, Jesus expects that we would use them. It reminds me of the parable of the lamp in Mark 4:21, “Then Jesus asked them, ‘Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine.” When we are given gifts from the heavenly Father like these servants were, we are to use them to glorify God.

When the nobleman heard that one servant had hidden his coin because he was fearful of the master, he was angry. He set his expectations clearly and saw that the servant was lacking trust and faith in his master to not have put his gift to good use. I wonder if God sees me that way at times? Are there gifts I am not using because I am too timid or don’t quite trust that they are good enough to be used for Christ? I know I feel that way about the gift of evangelism. I don’t know if I have that gift. I am worried about offending people, losing friendships, saying the wrong thing, having the other party raise questions I can’t answer, etc. But God called us to share the Good News. If that is his command then I shouldn’t worry about how I view my gift, I should exercise it because God has generously bestowed it on me. We don’t need to worry about what the world says about our gifts or who we are; we need only worry about who God says we are.

Catie Bacon
Creighton University

Monday, November 16, 2015

First Response

Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Terror always seeks to separate us from those we most love. Through their suffering, courage and compassion, Parisians are reminding us that the common bond of humanity is strongest when the need is greatest. We pledge our prayers for everyone who suffers from this horrific violence and our advocacy to support all those working to build just and peaceful societies.

To the people of France, we mourn with you and honor the lives lost from several nations, including our own. To our brothers and sisters in the Church in France, your family in the United States holds you close to our hearts. May the tender and merciful love of Jesus Christ give you comfort during this great trial and lead you on a path toward healing and peace.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

First Reactions

People react near the cafe 'La Belle Equipe' at the Rue de Charonne in Paris on November 14, 2015, following a series of coordinated attacks in and around Paris late Friday. At least 128 people were killed in the Paris attacks on the evening of November 13, with 180 people injured, 80 of them seriously, police sources told AFP. AFP PHOTO / LOIC VENANCECardinal André Vignt-Trois of Paris

Our city of Paris, our country were hit last night with a particular savagery and intensity. After the attacks of January, after the attack in Beirut this week and many others throughout the past months, including Nigeria and other African countries, our country once again knows the pain of grief and must face the barbarism spread by fanatical groups. This morning I pray and I invite the Catholics of Paris to pray for those who were killed yesterday and their families, for the injured and for their loved ones and for those who are working hard to rescue them, for the police subject to a formidable power, for our leaders and our country so that together we may dwell in unity and peace of heart. I ask the parishes of Paris to comply with the safety regulations issued by the public authorities. I ask them to make this day and tomorrow, Sunday, days of mourning and prayer. Sunday at 6:30 pm, I will preside at Mass at the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris for the victims and their families and for our country; the bells of the cathedral will ring at 6:15. KTO Catholic television will broadcast the Mass, allowing all who wish to join it. Faced with the violence of men, may we receive the grace of a firm heart without hatred. That the moderation, temperance and control all have shown so far are confirmed in the weeks and months to come, that nobody indulges in panic or hatred. Ask for the grace to be peacemakers. We must never despair of peace, if one builds justice.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Vatican Issues First Statement in Response to Paris Terrorist Attacks

VATICAN CITY — Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, has issued a first statement in response to Friday evening’s terrorist attacks at six locations in Paris, which have left an estimated 160 people dead and a possible 100 additional people injured. Five attackers are also reported dead.

Fr. Lombardi’s statement came at 2 am Saturday morning Rome-time and reads as follows:

“At the Vatican we are following the terrible news from Paris. We are shocked by this new manifestation of maddening terrorist violence and hatred which we condemn in the most radical way, together with the pope and all those who love peace. We pray for the victims and the wounded, and for all the French people. This is an attack on the peace of all mankind which requires a decisive and supportive response by all of us to counter the spread of homicidal hatred in all of its forms.”

The Sunday Word

The Last Lecture of Jesus Christ, given to the disciples only hours from his execution, is found in this Sunday’s reading, Mark 13. Of course it wasn’t a lecture and he wasn’t in a classroom, although, in those days, “classrooms” and “lectures” were rare. Conversations on a walk were more the rule perhaps. 

Still, it’s not a stretch to think of these words of Jesus as his last thoughts, his last “lecture” in which he challenges the disciples to keep awake for his second coming, an earth-shaking event which will occur at an undetermined time after his death, resurrection and ascension. He promises that he will return as the Son of Man, coming in clouds with “great power and glory” to gather his people from the ends of the earth, and bring them into his kingdom. The danger is that the disciples will miss what really matters, distracted by the many assorted demands and details of day-to-day life. So Jesus says to them, “Keep awake.”

We face the same challenge as we enter the season of Advent, and begin our march through the wild weeks of decorating, shopping, partying and concert-attending that lie ahead. Jesus is going to be coming to us soon — maybe not in an earth-shaking second coming, but in a personal arrival that’s every bit as important to each one of us. He’ll be coming to speak to us in words of Scripture that have eternal power —“Heaven and earth will pass away,” says Jesus, “but my words will not pass away.” He’ll be coming to gather his people into a community that knows his everlasting salvation, a community stretching “from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” He’ll be coming to see if we are alert and ready for his arrival, living in a way that is focused on his will and his way.

The challenge for us is to “keep awake” — awake for the coming of the Lord during this Advent season.

So how do we do this? We begin by listening carefully to the words of Jesus, words that can be hard to hear in the middle of the noise of the holidays.

Friday, November 13, 2015


Spiritual but not religious.

The topic is certainly a hot one in Christian circles today. A middle-aged woman who spends Sunday mornings on a hiking trail might say, "I'm spiritual but not religious." A young man who says he loves Jesus but hates the church might identify himself as SBNR. Today, more than 70 percent of Millennials describe themselves as "more spiritual than religious."

But guess what? You cannot truly be spiritual without being religious.

It just doesn't work.

Nancy Ammerman, a sociologist of religion, has finished a new study of religion in everyday life. She concludes that the SBNR is a unicorn -- it is a species that does not exist in reality. Ammerman found that, for most people, organized religion and spirituality are not two separate realms. Instead, they are one. The people who were "most active in organized religion," she discovered, "were also most committed to spiritual practices and a spiritual view of the world."

Religion supports spirituality. It's hard to have one without the other.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Priest, and the Pieces of Christ’s Body He Protects

priest-fallen-eucharist-street-arist-photo-courtesy-of-gangjeong-villageYesterday, in the midst of social media silliness about Christians taking umbrage at red coffee cups, this image came across my desk and gave me real pause. It is not a new photograph, but it’s gripping and real in the way that coffee-cup drama never can be.

It is true that there are some in the United States who would like to see religions—all religions, not just Christianity—removed from the public square (“I support the right of people to believe what they do and say what they wish—in their pews, homes and hearts,” writes Frank Bruni, redefining “tolerance” down to silence and invisibility). And yes, the Little Sisters of the Poor have been forced to take their argument against the administrations HHS mandate to the Supreme Court, but Bruni’s position is, for the moment, a minority opinion, and at least we do currently have courts to which we may appeal. For the most part—quite unlike our counterparts in the Near and Middle East, of course, and in parts of Asia—Christians in the United States are pretty comfortable.

What we are seeing in this photograph is an older priest, attacked and knocked down as he was distributing communion, but concerned only with collecting and protecting the Holy Eucharist. According to the Asian Catholic News Agency, UCA News, it happened on August 8, 2012, in the village of Gangjeong, on the island of Jeju, South Korea. The priest, Father Bartholomew Mun Jung-hyun, was celebrating a Mass at the gates of a controversial naval base the government was building in the area. He was distributing Holy Communion when authorities broke in and began to beat those present, including the priest, throwing him to the ground. Amid reports that the spilled Eucharist had been stomped on by a police officer, the Diocese of Cheju immediately demanded an apology. Police denied the charge.

As an editor at Aleteia said, the image says more about the priesthood than a thousand theological treatises. Very true. And it should give serious pause to (the few but noisy)Christians tempted to cry “persecution!” when a secular interest like Starbucks maintains a determinedly secular stance at Christmas.

From time to time in the United States, activist groups will push limits and go too far, and what has happened before will doubtless happen again. In 1989 ACT UP invaded Holy Mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and desecrated the Eucharist, damaging their own credibility and losing a great deal of public sympathy in the process. Given the tenor of the times, we should be ready to encounter unhinged activity almost anywhere. If and when real persecution comes, it will arrive not in the form of a red paper cup from which one is free to drink or not drink but via mindless mobs or twisted authority or both.

Then, may we respond to it with dignity, and with our priorities purposeful and in right order. May we remember a priest in a small village in South Korea, answering a threat with no thoughts for himself but only for the blessed and broken Body of Christ—with humility that brings glory to God.

- Elizabeth Scalia

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day

Prayer for Veterans Day

We ask for blessings on all those who have served their country in the armed forces.
We ask for healing for the veterans who have been wounded, in body and soul, in conflicts around the globe.
We pray especially for the young men and women, in the thousands, who are coming home from Iraq with injured bodies and traumatized spirits.
Bring solace to them, O Lord; may we pray for them when they cannot pray.
We ask for an end to wars and the dawning of a new era of peace,
As a way to honor all the veterans of past wars.
Have mercy on all our veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq,
Bring peace to their hearts and peace to the regions they fought in.
Bless all the soldiers who served in non-combative posts;
May their calling to service continue in their lives in many positive ways.
Give us all the creative vision to see a world which, grown weary with fighting,
Moves to affirming the life of every human being and so moves beyond war.
Hear our prayer, O Prince of Peace, hear our prayer

Monday, November 9, 2015

Marianist Monday

Marianist spirit is family spirit

On Thursday we have a vocation evening in the Kellenberg Memorial Community known as Operation Fiat. It is a chance for those pondering religious life to have a look at a Marianist community and chat with some of the Brothers about the Community, our life, and our mission. The young men will spend the evening in Adoration, Benediction, Evening Prayer, dinner, and conversation.

While there will be many things that these young men experience, they will experience Marianist spirituality?

For us as Marianists,  our spiritual life is one that is guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit in all its aspects and dimensions. Our founder Blessed Chaminade left us a way of life and a mission. Yet if this tradition is to lead both those that hear us teach and the Brothers themselves to God, it must be founded on the one true God. That is, it must be founded on love. Hence a loving family spirit - that leads us to Jesus through Mary - the motto of the Marianists.

The New Testament inspires the whole of our community life. We are guided by this new commandment of love. If we forget this commandment, our life together will be a source of ruin. If this commandment of love directs our actions, our community life will rekindle with joy, inspire love and esteem our vocation, attract others to share our life, and strengthen our apostolic work of education.

So pray for these young men who will be with us on Thursday evening, that they would be open to the graces and the invitation of the Holy Spirit to be Marianists.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Dominicans Celebrate 800 Years of Following in the Footsteps of Jesus

ROME — Eight centuries ago Dominic de Guzmán launched one of the most influential spiritual movements in the history of Christianity.

Following in the footsteps of Jesus, the Order of Preachers sought to relive the experience of the first disciples, who went through streets of Galilee preaching the love of God in poverty.

On November 7, at their mother church of St. Sabina in Rome, the Dominican Order will initiate a jubilee year commemorating the bull promulgated by Pope Honorius III in 1216 and 1217, which ratified and confirmed the founding of the Dominicans.

Fr. Bruno Cadorè, Master General of the Order and 86th successor of their holy founder, told Aleteia in a recent interview that St. Dominic wanted his brothers to pray, to study—“not so that they would all be learned men; but rather, that through the continuous search for the truth found in the Scriptures, their humanity would be molded”—and to live in fraternity and poverty.

Dominic’s brothers traveled the globe. Today the Dominican family has 3,000 nuns in 209 monasteries; 6,000 brothers in 602 friaries; more than 40,000 apostolic sisters in more than 119 congregations and 150,000 lay-members.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The saints and all of us

ROME –Amidst all the Sturm und Drang of Synod 2015, something genuinely new in the life of the Church began, and it shouldn’t escape our notice. For the first time in two millennia, an entry in the liturgical books will now read, on the appropriate day, “Saints Louis and Zélie Martin, Spouses” – a happy addition to “Martyr,” “Confessor,” “Bishop,” “Religious,” “Pope,” etc, in the pantheon of vocations to sanctity. Spouses: a married couple, together on the tapestry that hung from the central loggia of St. Peter’s before, during, and after their canonization on October 18; a man and a woman, a dad and a mom, who were the parents of a saint, the Little Flower, and in whose married life mutual sanctification took place by cooperation with God’s grace.

Saints-as-spouses. There was something for Synod 2015 to ponder. And if insufficient attention was paid to this during the Synod, that’s no reason for the Church, in which millions of spouses are living lives of heroic virtue, not to take notice – and to reflect upon some old truths about the “canonization” of saints.

The Church doesn’t canonize saints for their sake. God takes quite good care of his holy ones, we may be sure, and being “raised to the dignity of the altars,” as the old phrase had it, does nothing for those so raised. No, the Church canonizes saints for our sake, so that we might have models who inspire us to be the holy ones we must be, if we’re to fulfill our Christian and human destiny. That’s why the Church sings the Litany of the Saints at its most solemn liturgical celebrations: the Litany of the Saints is the Church’s family album, the roster of those who form that “great cloud of witnesses” of which the author of the Letter to the Hebrews speaks so eloquently.

Another old truth worth repeating, with the holy spouses of the Martin family in mind, is that the Church doesn’t “make saints;” God makes saints, and the task of the Church, through the beatification and canonization process, is to recognize the saints that God has made. The process by which that recognition takes place has changed over time, from something resembling an adversarial legal procedure to something more akin to a doctoral seminar in history. The object of the exercise remains the same, though: to sift through the record of a life in order to find the traces and tracks of grace at work – as it is in all of us.

The lives of the holy spouses of Lisieux are also a great witness to the incredible capacity of the Catholic Church for self-renewal.

Louis Martin was born in 1823; Zélie was born eight years later. In other words, both were born a generation after the utter devastation of the French Church by the French Revolution. After the enforcement by state power of the Religion of Reason and the bloody slaughters of the Reign of Terror (a spasm of lethal Gallic craziness musically evoked by Francois Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites), who would have predicted that 19th-century France would be a seedbed of mission and sanctity, the effects of which would be felt from the hitherto-obscure village of Lourdes in the French Pyrenees to Francophone Africa to Oceania?

Yet it happened. Much of what we think of as “French Catholicism” today grew out from under the rubble of the Terror and the destruction of the Church of the ancien régime. Louis and Zélie Martin, and their daughter, the Doctor of the Church who gave Catholicism the “Little Way,” were all products of that astonishing flourishing of holiness and evangelical zeal that followed immediately after a period of unprecedented destruction. How did that happen? It happened because, life by life, men and women took the risk of fidelity. Ordinary people defied the claims of their putative ecclesiastical betters – too often heard during Synod 2015 – that asking the heroic is just too much.

No, it’s not. Summoning us to lives of heroic virtue is asking us to be the saints we – like Saints Louis and Zélie Martin, Spouses – were baptized to be.

- George Weigel

Friday, November 6, 2015

Vocations Awareness Week

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This week is Vocations Awareness Week 

The web site Vianney Vocations has a very good post on the subject of vocational discernment. Share this with a young man you know, and check out the site for some excellent resources. Meantime, take a look at this sage advice:

If you’re a young Catholic man, perhaps consecrated life or priesthood has crossed your mind, but fear pushes the idea away:

My friends would laugh out loud if they heard I was thinking about the religious life or the priesthood!

My parents would be shocked.
I’m scared to death of speaking in public.
I’m nowhere near holy enough.
I don’t want to give up sex.
I’ll be lonely.
Studies may be too hard for me.
Having a vocation looks boring.

These fears are very common, even for men who are already in studies. But literally thousands of men have had the same concerns and then went on to become holy and effective religious and priests.

The first principle to remember is that God does not speak through fear. Fear is a tactic of the Enemy to keep you from pursuing God’s will; it is like the bite of an animal that paralyzes its prey to keep it from moving. A man in fear will find it difficult to move toward God’s will.

So how do you overcome fear? Here are five ideas:

1) Turn your fears into concerns. You may have legitimate concerns about celibacy or preaching—but that is not the same as being afraid. Rather than feeling fear, look at the requirements of objectively. Sure, it’s true that you need a certain level of self-control and ability for public speaking. These and many other areas require serious self-assessment. Yes, you probably will discover areas that need to change and improve. But go about your discernment with a cool head, not a heart full of fear.

2) Look to scripture for consolation: “Perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18). Recall that when Jesus called Peter (Lk 5:1-11), our first pope said, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus then assured him that there was nothing to fear in following him. Likewise, Jesus knows your difficulties and weaknesses. If you trust him and “cast your net into the deep,” all will be well.

3) Reflect on God’s love. Fr. Brett Brannen, in his book To Save a Thousand Souls, recommends this meditation when a man feels fearful: “God is infinite in power and he loves me infinitely. There is no snatching out of his hand. God will never send me where his grace cannot sustain me. If he asks me to do something difficult, like become a priest, he will give me the grace to do it. I will not fail because he is with me. And I will be happy because I am doing his will. Even if I lack some of the needed qualities, God will help me develop them. In his will lies my peace.”

4) Entrust your fears to the Blessed Mother. Recall that after the angel told Mary to “fear not,”she readily she accepted God’s will for her: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Entrust your fears to her intercession, and she will help calm your heart and find the will of Jesus.
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5) Remember what studies are for. From a purely practical perspective, it’s comforting to know that if God calls you to be a religious or priest, vows and ordination are still years away. There is a period of intensive formation to help a man address his concerns, grow in holiness, and prepare for an effective ministry. No man enters religious life or seminary ready !

So as Pope Saint John Paul II reminded us so often throughout his pontificate: Be not afraid! Don’t let fear paralyze you. Instead, ask a religious or priest you trust to help you with your concerns. Remain faithful to daily prayer, trust in God, and your heart will be at peace, no matter what your vocation.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

None of us lives for oneself

St. Paul reminds us that “none of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself,” but we all live and die for the Lord.

Jesus tells us the parable of the lost sheep and lost coin. These parables convey a God of insane and irrational love. A simple risk analysis would tell anyone that if you lose one sheep, you should just cut your losses and move on. If you leave the ninety-nine sheep to look for one lost sheep, then you risk losing more sheep to theft or wolves. The rational decision is to forget that one sheep. But Jesus’ parable suggests that God’s love for us is not rational. God rejoices in finding the one lost sheep.

And a simple cost-benefit analysis would tell anyone that the effort in finding one coin is not worth the cost of lighting an expensive candle to look for it and then throwing a mini-celebration with friends and neighbors after finding the coin. No rational person would throw a party for finding one lost coin. The party would cost more than the coin! But God’s love is not rational and goes beyond our human calculus of love. And as Christians we are called to love as irrationally and foolishly as God.

I think that irrational and foolish love is the same kind of love my own mother, a widow and single parent raising three kids, modeled for me. I like to think that it’s the same kind of love I live out as a Jesuit priest and biologist. No matter what our vocation is, if we are leading authentic Christian lives, then our lives will not be our own. Instead, we will live and die for the Lord. We will lead lives of irrational and insane love for one another.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Bishop Robert Barron

Bishop Robert Barron to academics: debate Ross Douthat, don’t dodge him
October 31, 2015 by CNA Daily News

Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 31, 2015 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Robert Barron has weighed in amid a media controversy after the Synod on the Family, saying some academic critics of New York Times columnist Ross Douthat are avoiding a good argument in countering his commentary on the synod, some bishops, and Pope Francis.

“Are all of Ross Douthat’s opinions on the Synod debatable? Of course,” the bishop continued. “Do I subscribe to everything he has said in this regard? No. But is he playing outside the rules of legitimate public discourse in such an egregious way that he ought to be censored? Absolutely not!”

Bishop Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and former rector of Mundelein Seminary.

His comments, published Oct. 29 on his Word of Fire website, are among the latest in an ongoing controversy about the Synod of Bishops’ discussions on the role of the family in evangelization.

Douthat, a Catholic layman and author of the book Bad Religion: How we became a nation of heretics, engaged with the University of St. Thomas theology professor and news commentator Massimo Faggioli in an Oct. 23 Twitter exchange about heresy.

Faggioli had said that when he hears bishops and theologians at the synod called heretics, “I reach for my Denzinger,” referring to Henry Denzinger’s famous compilation of Catholic teaching “The Sources of Catholic Dogma.”

Douthat responded to Faggioli that is not fundamentalism to say that a proposal from Cardinal Walter Kasper regarding admission of some persons in states of life that are objectively gravely sinful “takes a view of marriage that the Church has consistently rejected.”

Cardinal Kasper’s proposal would admit to sacramental Communion some Catholics who have divorced and remarried civilly. Many hold that it would break with Catholic teaching about the absolute indissolubility of sacramental marriage and the need to receive sacramental Communion while in a state of grace.

Douthat wrote, “if you take a view the church has consistently rejected, you don't get to whine when the ‘h’ word comes up.” He added: “Own your heresy.”

Faggioli said he did not know whether Cardinal Kasper’s proposal was “perfect,” but he put it in a context of development of doctrine similar to Church teaching on slavery, Jews, and papal infallibility.

He then denigrated Douthat’s lack of a doctorate in theology. Faggioli claimed he won his first disputed theological question on Twitter, saying “what just happened to me as theologian on Twitter is very close to a debate between scientist and somebody saying the earth is flat.” He objected to heresy accusations against theologians who have devoted their life to the Church.

Faggioli then joined with other Catholic academics in writing to the New York Times editors. Their 100-word letter, made public Oct. 26, said Douthat has “no professional qualifications” for writing on Catholicism. Its writers said the columnist analyzed Catholicism through “a politically partisan narrative that has very little to do with what Catholicism really is.”

The letter said that accusing Catholics of heresy is “serious business that can have serious consequences for those so accused.”

“This is not what we expect of The New York Times,” the letter concluded.

The letter’s signers included Faggioli, Georgetown theology professor Father John O’Malley, S.J., Duquesne University School of Law professor Nicholas P. Cafardi, and Loyola University Chicago history professor Father Stephen Schloesser, S.J.

The letter was published in the Jesuit weekly magazine America and on the blog Daily Theology. One of America’s editors, Catholic commentator Fr. James Martin, S.J., publicized the letter through his extensive social media. He agreed with the letter and said heresy is “a grave charge.” The letter has attracted other signers.

For his part, Bishop Barron noted the letter’s closing sentence suggesting Douthat was performing below New York Times readers’ expectations. The bishop said this was “an unmistakable insinuation that views such as Douthat’s simply should not be allowed into the arena of public conversation.”

Douthat, a longtime public defender of the Church, has taken a critical turn under Pope Francis. He contended in an Oct. 17 column that the Pope sides with the controversial proposal of Cardinal Kasper. He described the Pope as “the chief plotter” and argued that the Pope had used his power to make special appointment of synod delegates to empower the cardinal’s supporters. He also faulted the Vatican press office, which he claimed was filtering the synod in a way that biased press coverage towards Cardinal Kasper’s position.

Bishop Barron in his commentary said Douthat is “careful in his expression” and an intelligent, committed Catholic.

He encouraged Douthat’s critics to “make an argument against him; prove him wrong; marshal your evidence; have a debate with him; take him on.”

Responding to the claim that Douthat sees the synod as excessively partisan, Bishop Barron said it can be reasonable to interpret Church history in a way focused on factions.

“When has the life of the Church not been susceptible to a political reading?” he asked.

The bishop also rejected the letter’s claim that Douthat is an unqualified commentator on religion due to his lack of a theological doctorate. He noted that many prominent Christian writers, such as Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, or more contemporary writers like Father Martin and George Weigel, have not had doctorates in theology.

The bishop said there is a problematic tendency in American culture “to avoid real argument and to censor what makes us, for whatever reason, uncomfortable.”

Monday, November 2, 2015

Marianist Monday

November, 2015

My dear friends in college . . . and beyond,

The school year is well underway. We have gotten used to our new schedule and settled into our classes. College freshmen have become involved in campus life. Residential students have gotten to know their roommates. We are comfortable. As November begins, we look forward to the upcoming Thanksgiving vacation. Those who go to college far away have probably already bought plane tickets home. Anyone who has flown on the day before Thanksgiving knows how many people fly that day. Everyone wants to be home for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving evokes strong feelings. We all have fond memories of our families celebrating together. We see cousins we do not see the rest of the year. We tell stories that we have heard many times before. We recall family members who have gone before us. We recall God’s blessings. We ask Him to continue blessing us. And mostly, we eat. Thanksgiving is essential to us as Americans.

Thanksgiving is also essential to us as Catholics. Every Sunday, we come together to celebrate. Our readings tell us stories of our past. We recall the saints who have gone before us. We remember God’s blessings. We remember the many graces God has bestowed on us. We ask for His blessings on us. And we eat. The word Eucharist means “thanksgiving.”

The center of our Catholic faith is thanksgiving. Every morning, the Church prays three songs in Morning Prayer. The third psalm is always a prayer of thanksgiving. Even on the darkest days of the Church year, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, Morning Prayer includes a psalm of Thanksgiving. We realize that in any situation, the proper response is thanksgiving.

It is said that the grateful man is the happiest man in the world. He realizes that everything he has is a gift. He rejoices in everything he receives. Think about it. Much of our unhappiness comes when things do not turn out the way we wanted. Our feelings of expectation and entitlement leave us feeling unfulfilled. What is the antidote? Thanksgiving. Rejoice in the God’s blessing.

So when things do not turn out as we expect, where can we turn? Mary is the perfect example of a grateful person. Her song of thanksgiving, the Magnificat, is a recognition of her need for God and a declaration of her thanks for His goodness. Mary rejoices that God has “looked upon His servant in her lowliness. Henceforth all ages will call me blessed.” Mary rejoices that God has “done marvelous things for me, and Holy is His Name.” What a magnificent outpouring of thanksgiving! Mary understood that everything she had was a gift from a loving God. If Mary’s prayer could be on our lips every day, how happy we would be!

So, as you look forward to Thanksgiving, remember, gratitude is the secret to happiness. Thank God for the blessings we have received as Americans. Thank God for the blessings of your family. But most importantly, thank God for the blessings He gives us every week. Every week is a Thanksgiving dinner. Rejoice!

On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,

Bro. John

Sunday, November 1, 2015

All Saints Day

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- At the end of the feast of All Saints, just before the sun set, Pope Francis celebrated an outdoor Mass at Rome's Verano cemetery and urged Christians to hang on to hope as they reflect on the promise that earthly life ends with eternal life in heaven.

In his homily at the evening Mass Nov. 1, Pope Francis set aside his prepared text, looked out at the thousands of people gathered between long lines of tombs and told them, "We reflect and think about our own future and about all those who have gone before us and are now with the Lord."

"The Lord God, beauty, goodness, truth, tenderness, the fullness of love -- all that awaits us," the pope said. "And all those who preceded us and died in the Lord are there," in heaven with God.

Even the best of the saints were not saved by their good works, the pope said, but by the blood of Christ.

"God is the one who saves, he is the one who carries us like father -- at the end of our lives -- to that heaven where our forebears are," he said.

The feast day reading from the 7th chapter of the Book of Revelation described a multitude of people from every race and nation standing before God. They were dressed in white, the pope said, because they were "washed in the blood of the Lamb. We can enter into heaven only thanks to the blood of the lamb, the blood of Christ."

"If today we are remembering these brothers and sisters of ours who lived before us and are now in heaven, they are there because they were washed in the blood of Christ," he said. "That is our hope, and this hope does not disappoint. If we live our lives with the Lord, he will never disappoint us."

"We are children of God," he said, and live in hope of one day seeing God as he is.

"On the feast of All Saints and before the Day of the Dead, it is important to think about hope," he said.

The early Christians used an anchor as a symbol of hope, he said, and "to have our hearts anchored up there where our loved ones are, where the saints are, where Jesus is, where God is -- that is hope. That is the hope that doesn't disappoint."

The feasts of All Saints and All Souls are "days of hope," he said. The virtue of "hope is like a bit of leaven that enlarges your soul. There are difficult moments in life, but with hope you go forward and keep your eyes on what awaits us. Today is a day of hope; our brothers and sisters are in the presence of God, and we, too, will be there in the Lord's arms if we follow the path of Jesus."

"Before sunset today, each one of us can think of the sunset of our lives," the pope said. "Do we look forward to it with hope and with the joy of being welcomed by the Lord?"

Throughout Italy, like in many predominantly Catholic countries, people take advantage of the All Saints public holiday to tidy up and take flowers to the graves of their loved ones on the eve of the Nov. 2 celebration of All Souls' Day. After the Mass, Pope Francis was to visit some of those graves, praying for the deceased and blessing their tombs.

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

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