Monday, February 29, 2016


Marianist Monday

March, 2016

Dear Friends,

“How is your Lenten journey going?” Around this time last year, a relative of one of the Brothers was visiting for a few days, and this was how she began the conversation at breakfast one morning. It’s a legitimate question, but it isn’t really something I wanted to discuss with a near stranger over my bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats.

The question stuck with me and got me thinking about Lent and the idea of Lent as a journey. Every year, as Lent approaches, I am deluged with e-mail advertisements and print catalogues for resources that are meant to help me have a “good Lent.” I always wondered what people meant by that expression, a “good Lent.” Does it mean I faithfully abstain from whatever it was that I chose to give up for the season, like a person who keeps his New Year’s Resolutions? Or, does it mean that I am spiritually prepared for Easter? Honestly, I think that it’s supposed to be the latter, but we tend to emphasize the former.

Lent is a journey, and the purpose of any journey is to get you to some destination; otherwise, it’s just wandering around. The whole point of Lent is to get us ready for Easter. It is like spiritual spring-cleaning, where we clear out all of those things that have become obstacles to our relationship with God. The traditional Lenten practices of Prayer, Fasting, and Alms-giving are great ways to do this. They help us to recognize the things in our lives that we might give too much value and then help us to put them in their proper place. But, Prayer, Fasting and Alms-giving aren’t the only things we can do.

Pope Francis declared this year a Jubilee of Mercy, and maybe this Lent would be a good time to begin thinking about Mercy if you haven’t done so already. In his message for Lent 2016, the Holy Father encourages us to incorporate the corporal and spiritual works of mercy into our Lenten practices. He writes:

. . . Divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbor and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbors in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them.

When you get down to it, the Works of Mercy are about bringing the love of Christ to our neighbors, and I think Pope Francis is saying is that maybe the best way for us to prepare for Easter is to reach out to our brothers and sisters in need. Maybe this also means that we should be less concerned about what we are giving up and more concerned about what we are giving. (Besides, giving mercy is much more satisfying than giving up chocolate.)

Fasting and abstaining are important spiritual disciplines that shouldn’t be neglected, but we can over-emphasize them and run the risk of treating them like ends in themselves. As I said before, the whole purpose of Lent is to get us ready for Easter and Easter is all about joy. So, if what we are doing is only making us gloomy, it isn’t preparing us for Easter. Pope Francis tells us that “an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!” and St. Augustine, who doesn’t have a reputation of being a barrel of laughs, tells us that “We are an Easter people and ‘Alleluia’ is our song.”

So, I wish you success on the rest of your Lenten Journey, but even more, I hope you have the fullness of Easter Joy, the joy that is a foretaste of Heaven.

May God bless you and your families.

Yours in Christ,

Bro. Patrick Sarsfield, S.M.

P.S. For your reference, the traditional works of mercy are:

Feed the hungry; Give drink to the thirsty; Clothe the naked; Shelter the homeless; Visit the sick; Visit the imprisoned; Bury the dead; Counsel the doubtful; Instruct the ignorant; Admonish sinners; Comfort the afflicted; Forgive offenses; Bear wrongs patiently; Pray for the living and the dead

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Giving Others Notice, Even When it Costs Us Something

sleeping or dead D Sharon Pruitt ccIn Hong Kong, an elderly woman sits down at a McDonald’s and at some point asks for and is given, a drink of water. After a while, she slumps over on her table, dead, and no one notices for hours as people eat and drink and socialize, and employees who do not wish to be discourteous clean around her.

In New York, a hospital worker goes to the Emergency Room, is seen by triage, and then disappears. Five days later, his body is discovered in a bathroom, after his concerned family demands that the hospital look at security video to determine what had happened.

We are living in an era where privacy is at a premium, where security cameras and closed circuit televisions track our public movements, whether we are crossing a street, or visiting a restaurant or making a trip to the ER, and yet it seems people are dying in the seat next to us, or going “missing in plain sight” — disappearing from our awareness and remaining unchecked-upon — as we do our own things, and mind our own business while we’re at it.

In the great filibuster scene from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the protagonist, Jefferson Smith, says to his fellow U.S. Senators, “I wouldn’t give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn’t have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness — and a little looking out for the other fella, too.”

What a quaint notion, to engage in “a little looking out for” each other.

Do we dare? Our society has become so strange, and so litigious, that— never mind “looking out for” — simply noticing someone can be dangerous; “looking” can be seriously construed as a “micro-aggression” which, on college campuses and in some offices, can get you hauled up before authorities wondering just what you meant by allowing your eyes to rest upon something other than the i-thing in your hand, the screen on your desk, or some nebulous region just above, or between, other people.

That’s not to say we really do notice each other much, anymore. We are a distracted people, increasingly focused upon ourselves or any idol that will reflect us back to ourselves in a manner sufficient to our needs. Consider the story of the Alpha Chi Omega Sorority of Arizona State University. Chapter members attended an Arizona Diamondback game, where they ignored the batters and base-runners to better stare into their individual phones — to hold them aloft for incessant selfie snaps or poses with their hot dogs and their churros. When game announcers spotted the young women in all of their distraction, and poked fun at them, the sisters took umbrage. They demanded an apology for the perceived “rant” — which was quickly given — and then, (to their credit) asked the Diamondbacks to make up for daring to notice them by contributing to a favored charity.

Had the announcers been more appreciative of their antics, perhaps the sorority would not have taken such offense. On the other hand, they might have been further piqued; the jeers of a few male announcers might have made the women feel “selfie-shamed”, but public admiration might have brought charges of aggression, sexism and objectification. Either way, the game announcers and the Diamondbacks got off cheap for their sin of having noticed pretty women in the stands; whether feeling mocked at or mooned-over, the sorority sisters could conceivably have brought injury suits, claiming that they had suffered psychological distress from public shaming, or that they were no longer capable of feeling safe while in public, due to the unasked-for notice.

Because we are not supposed to notice anything about anyone, anymore; noticing suggests judging, which is a forever-sin.

And so an older, homeless woman appears to be sleeping in a restaurant, and is given no notice; an injured man walks past someone on the way to the bathroom and no one wonders why he doesn’t return; a bathroom door seems locked for days, but no one questions it.

“How many [people] feel left out of family celebrations, cast aside and longing each day for a little love?”
— Pope Francis July 6, 2015

When Pope Francis talks about reaching out to the peripheries to find people who are slipping through the cracks, he is not only talking about the big gestures, he is talking about the little ones, too; the simple act of looking up, stepping out of our own i-spheres, and noticing another human being.

One night in Penn Station, my son saw a disheveled middle-aged woman asking people for change, because she was hungry. He walked with her to a food stand and bought her a hamburger and fries and a drink and then, as she ate, he sipped on his own soda and chatted with her, casually. When she had finished, she asked if she could hug him, before he took his leave. He didn’t mind that.

When I asked him why he didn’t simply hand her a few dollars and keep walking, which is what I – what most — would have done, my son said doing so would have seemed “dismissive” — that the woman was as deserving as anyone else of being seen, and heard, and known, even if just for a few minutes.

What Pope Francis has been calling us to is the mission of noticing each other, consenting to be aware of each other, fully present to each other, alive to each other, affirming each other, for God’s sake.

Noticing each other is a good thing; it is not a sin; it is not a judgment. Even if – as has happened of late – simply noticing another dares the disapproval of society, we need to do it. It is the first step in becoming Christ for each other.

Elizabeth Scalia 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Mercy Prayer

God of all mercy,even before I sin,
before I even think of failing
to abide by your word,
before I fall from grace,
your mercy is awaiting me,
to pardon and forgive me,
to mend me and to heal me,
to lift me up into your arms...

I don't deserve such mercy,
no good I've ever done
could merit such a love
as yours for me -
and yet your mercy and your love
are there for me without fail
and for the asking...

Who, then, Lord,
waits for my mercy?
my pardon?
my love?

Who waits on the other end
of my long held grudges and resentments?
Who waits for my mercy,
my compassion and love?

Who waits outside the door of my anger?
Who waits for my compassion,
my understanding,
my pardon and my mercy?

Who waits, Lord, on the other side
of my silent treatment?
Cut off from me, who waits
to be welcomed back?
to hear my voice?
to hear a loving word from me once more?

And because your mercy for me
is there even before I think to seek it,
long before my heart is moved
to beg your gracious pardon -
must I not hold within my heart
a store of mercy,
waiting for the one who's wronged me?
Waiting and ready to forgive,
to speak a word of kindness,
to mend and heal,
to welcome back to my embrace
the one who has offended me...

God of mercy,
you're always there for me,
ready to forgive and to embrace:
give me the grace I need
to hold within in my heart
a store of mercy,
ready for any who wait
for me to share it...


Friday, February 26, 2016

The SundayWord

Time to take a look at the Scriptures for this Sunday's liturgy - there's no better way to prepare to hear God's Word than to become familiar with it ahead of time, pondering and praying with what will be proclaimed at Mass.

Today's gospel raises two questions:

1) Does God punish us with disasters, disappointments and distress?

2) What do you do with a figless fig tree?

Stay tuned - or better yet, tune in now!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Merciful like the Father

What are the Corporal Works of mercy?

Pope Francis has asked us to rediscover the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Throughout the Gospels Jesus admonishes us to follow his example, an example that sets down tangible ways we might better serve our brothers and sisters in need. As its name implies, the Corporal Works are directed toward serving the body: corpus, in Latin, means “body."

Feed the hungry

Give drink to the thirsty

Clothe the naked

Shelter the homeless

Visit the sick

Visit the imprisoned

Bury the dead

This Jubilee we should make a concerted effort to perform these beautiful Works of Mercy.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Prepare this lent

Fr. Bill Reiser, SJ has proposed some questions to ponder as we prepare in Lent to renew our baptismal promises at Easter. Perhaps his questions will provide food for thought and prayer as we prepare this Lent to celebrate the Paschal mystery.

- Do you accept Jesus as your teacher, as the example whom you will always imitate and as the one in whom the mystery of God’s love for the world has been fully revealed?

- Do you dedicate yourself to seeking the reign of God and God’s justice, to praying daily, to meditating on the Gospels and to celebrating the Eucharist faithfully and devoutly?

- Do you commit yourself to that spirit of poverty and detachment that Jesus enjoined on his disciples, and to resisting the spirit of consumerism and materialism that is so strong in our culture?

- Do you accept responsibility for building community, for being a person of compassion and reconciliation, for being mindful of the poor and the oppressed, and for truly forgiving those who have offended you?

- Will you try to thank and praise God by your works and by your actions, in times of prosperity as well as in moments of suffering, giving loyal witness to the risen Jesus by your faith, by your hope, and by the style of your living?

- Do you surrender your life to God as a disciple and companion of Jesus? Do you believe that God is the Lord of history, sovereign over nations and peoples, and that God’s promise to redeem all of creation from its bondage to death and decay will one day be accomplished?

All of these questions, the traditional and the additional, are offered here as “food for thought and prayer” in preparation for Holy Week and our celebration of Easter.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Lenten walls

There has certainly been a lot of talk recently about national borders
and the plight of refugees.
Some of those ways will be more Christian than others, some less.
More important than one’s plan or scheme for handling immigration
is the question of whether and how much
one’s heart is open –or closed-
to welcoming and serving Christ who stands at the door and knocks,
Christ who is the hungry and homeless stranger, the alien, the refugee.

How can we not think, here, of Robert Frost’s poem, “Mending Wall”

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.

Such a caution should find a place in every human heart
and certainly in every Christian heart.
Perhaps this Lent we might invite Christ
to open our hearts for us to probe a little and to ask, each of us,
“To what homeland do I owe my deepest allegiance?
In what homeland do I claim my citizenship –
not the one on my passport, but the one in my heart?”

Might we look at the walls we’ve built in our own lives? in our hearts?
And might we ask,
What and whom am I walling in?
What and whom am I walling out?
Can we not find at least something in our hearts
“that doesn’t love a wall?”
When we look at Christ upon the Cross we see no wall at all.
All is open, all is laid bare, all is there for all to have.
All are welcome to enter into the kingdom he won for us
by laying down his life for us.

At this table we celebrate, even now, the place we hope will be ours
when we reach the homeland of our hearts
when this life ends and eternity begins.
This table is open to all who would invite Christ into their hearts
even as he invites us into his.

Pray with me this Lent that any walls we’ve built
between us and God, between us and our neighbor,
will begin to come down,
and that we’ll find that in a Christian’s heart
there is indeed something “that does not love a wall.”

Monday, February 22, 2016

Marianist Monday

The founding charism of the Society of Mary(Marianists) is good news because it involves an experience of God (spirituality) and a method to make a difference in the world (approach to service). 

In a famous retreat that Chaminade gave for the Marianist Family in 1821, he said

“. . . God calls us not only to personal sanctification, but to revive the faith in France, in Europe, in the whole world, to preserve the present generation from error. What a noble, vast undertaking! What a holy and generous project! It is most appealing to a soul that seeks the glory of God and the salvation of men. And God has chosen us from among many others.”

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Francis’ Visit Made Me Reexamine Myself

While covering the Pope’s visit last week for Aleteia, I was fortunate enough to be sitting front and center at the USCCB Media Center in Washington, DC, where we reporters were provided with a live, unfiltered feed of many of the Pope’s activities — including, at times, his travel from venue to venue, and some of the downtime in between events. Because Francis is who he is, this meant I spent a lot of time watching him simply interact with people … all kinds of people, from some of the wealthiest and most powerful on Earth to those on the fringes — the homeless, the disabled, the young. The people the Holy Father encountered in DC were a veritable cross-section of humanity, and it was impossible not to notice his passionate love for a very specific type of person — the needy ones.

Watching Francis traverse my adopted hometown, I was struck by how the weaker and more openly helpless a person appeared, the happier our Pope seemed to be to see him. While at times he seemed to be barely tolerating the presence of some of our more puffed-up elected officials with their tailored suits, expensive accessories and perfectly styled hair — maybe even a bit exhausted by them — he found a fresh spring in his step each time he crossed paths with the lowly.

The joy on his face as he embraced unkempt people living on the streets; profoundly disabled people reclining semi-aware in wheelchairs; and tired, overstimulated children in their parents’ arms was inspiring. He didn’t just grin at them, he glowed. He showered them with kisses and blessings. Gone was the stiffness and formality of his interactions on Capitol Hill and at the White House. Out among the crowds, he could find the people he clearly preferred — and they didn’t look anything like the people who fill most of our “aspirational” Instagram feeds.

As I watched Francis pour out his love on the least-wanted people in our society, I was reminded of the Christ of the Gospels. And it made me feel terrible, because it made me wonder — what would Francis think of me? What does Jesus think of me?

You see, while I’m as broken inside as anyone else — maybe in more ways than most, even, since I have an “invisible” disability I struggle daily to live with, and some serious personal wounds — I do my level best to hide it all. As far as most of the world knows, I’m living the dream: I’m a moderately successful writer with a loyal, attractive husband; two cute, healthy, clever children; brilliant, interesting friends; and a lovely home. They think that because that’s what I show them — in my writing, on social media, and often during small talk at the playground or at parties.

And why wouldn’t I? Our culture abhors neediness. Our American sense of individualism tells us we’re only worth as much as our measurable contributions to the world. Meanwhile, any demands we make on the time or resources of others actually diminish our worth. If, God forbid, we’re really inconvenient, we can actually drop below “worthless” in the eyes of society and become something worse — dead weight, a drain on resources, a net liability, a parasite. What is abortion, really, but a way to eliminate the neediest and most helpless among us before they can suck away our precious resources? Likewise, doctor-assisted suicide is already legal in a few states, and may soon spread to more, as elderly and gravely ill people too terrified to become burdensome in their infirmity try to hang on to their last shred of “dignity” by attempting to go out on a high note — before they have to feel the final bits of love and respect offered by those around them fade away.

In a nation where “elective termination” is not only an accepted, but the most common outcome for developing babies suspected of having Down Syndrome; where we’d rather lock the mentally ill and drug addicts away in prisons than look them in the eye and offer help, where a young girl who makes the mistake of revealing her emotional needs to a boy after she gives him her virginity is blacklisted as a “Stage 5 Clinger;” it’s no wonder that social media has given rise to this Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest culture, in which we all pretend for the camera and each other that we are doing just fine … better than fine, actually — terrific, amazing, couldn’t be better! #so blessed

Last week, Francis called our bluff as he appeared to take us at our word. Over and over, he asked us — the ones who like to pretend we have it all together — to pray for him, while he showered love, blessings and words of comfort on the ones who couldn’t pretend to have it together if they tried.

This isn’t a story of the prodigal son and his elder brother. I don’t begrudge the needy the very deserved attention they received from our Holy Father last week, and I’ve never claimed to be a perfect Catholic, or even a particularly good one. At no point did I want to deny the marginalized the feast Pope Francis offered them.

No, if there’s a Bible story that applies to my conflicted feelings about last week, it’s the one about the rich young man who approached Jesus and asked “What must I do to follow you?” Jesus told him to sell all his possessions, give the money to the poor, and then follow him … in other words, abandon the entire identity he’d built up as an independent, successful young man and take his place among the marginalized. Ultimately, the young man found the cost too high.

As Francis challenges us to embrace our brotherhood with society’s “untouchables,” how will we react?

For my part, I’ve realized that on the inside, I’m not that different than many of the people on the fringe, I’m just better at hiding it. (I thank God for a friend who reminded me as I was writing this piece that Jesus, unlike Francis, can see the heart.) Now, I’m wondering if hiding my many weaknesses behind protective walls is such a good thing, after all. Maybe it’s time for me to start revealing my own brokenness to the world … if not all at once, then bit by bit, until the barriers between myself and mercy — and myself and my spiritual brothers and sisters — crumble away with the rest of my sinful pride.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Sunday Word

In Jesus Christ, the third person on the mountain of the transfiguration, we have a perfect response to the law and the prophets, and that response is called: Good news! Gospel!

Moses, the face of the law, is on the mountain with Jesus. So is Elijah, the face of the prophets. They are there with Jesus, the face of the gospel.

We've met Moses.

We've met Elijah.

That is, we know the law. We know we fail miserably to keep it.

We've heard the prophet. We know we're called to holiness. We know we've failed miserably to live righteously as we should.

Now meet Jesus.

He kept the law of God -- perfectly.

He lived a life of holiness -- perfectly.

And -- wait for it -- the good part, is that God has agreed to accept his perfection on our behalf.

Now, we are "free from the law" and free from religious obligations. This does not mean we're lawless or have no obligations. Even Jesus said that he did not come to destroy the law. No, because someone has kept the law for us when we could not keep it ourselves, we are able to serve to follow Jesus and serve God motivated by love and thanksgiving.

That's Jesus, the face of the gospel, the face of good news. The law and the prophets have been fulfilled in Christ who calls us to a new life in him.

We begun our Lenten journey toward the cross. Perhaps Jesus' conversation with Moses and Elijah was about this very journey.

In this story of the transfiguration, the face of the law and the face of the prophets meet the one who is the face of the good news.

In Jesus, the law and prophets come together, and we are set free.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Merciful like the Father

What can I do to make the most of the Year of Mercy?

The particular ways one can celebrate this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy are up to one's own discernment. To that end, we've prepared a helpful (but not comprehensive) list of ideas to get you started!

Go to Confession regularly — monthly or even weekly.

Forgive those who are in need of your mercy.

Fulfill the conditions for plenary indulgences and consider offering those indulgences for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

Go on a pilgrimage.

Practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy every day.

Place the Divine Mercy Image in a prominent place in your home and venerate it daily. 

Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy daily, imploring mercy "on us, and on the whole world."

Make the Stations of the Cross regularly, especially at 3 p.m., the Hour of Great Mercy.

Pray Pope Francis's Year of Mercy Prayer.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Are you putting on Christ?

†♥ ✞ ♥†  Let me ask you this, when you get up in the morning are you putting on yourself or are you putting on Christ?  †♥✞♥†  Let's put on Christ and make our homes sing today! †♥✞♥†  "Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature."  {Romans 13:14}     †♥✞♥†   Let's put on Christ and make our homes sing today! †♥ ✞ ♥†  Follow us at

Remember any synonyms for mercy?

How well do they fit God?
How well do they fit us?
Are you and I clothed in:


Are we clothed in these garments?
Is this how we’re dressed?
Or is my heart clothed in "garments" that would better be removed?

Thinking of that list of synonyms,
what clothing do I need to add to my heart's wardrobe?
How, this Lent, might I put away any garb
that masks and burdens my heart
and, instead, clothe myself in mercy?

And, who needs the gift of my heartfelt mercy?
People in our families, right in our own homes…
Folks I work with, interact with day to day…
Classmates at school, on my team, in my circle of friends…
People in my neighborhood, Brothers in my Community…
Everywhere we look there are others
waiting for us to show them - the mercy God shows us.

Perhaps, this Lent, I need to take an honest look, an inventory
of the outfits that costume my heart and my life
and ask God for the grace to put away what I shouldn't put on
and to clothe my heart, instead, in garments of mercy,
of grace, and of human kindness...

Jesus reminds us that we don’t live on bread alone,
rather, we live on gift of God’s mercy.
And he reminds us that we are to worship only our God
and to serve him first, above all,
for he is the God whose mercy saves us.
And Jesus reminds us not to test God and presume upon his mercy
but rather to acknowledge and confess
how and when and where and why
we stand so much in need of his merciful love.

In the shadow of the mercy that flows from his crucified heart
we stand at the Table where he shares with us
the gift of his merciful love
in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist.

May what we receive here today help us, each one of us,
to clothe ourselves in heartfelt mercy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Plant to Teach Us the Lessons of Lent

WEB LENT GARDENING PLANT PASSION FLOWER Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH-ShutterstockWhenever Lent begins, even though it’s a season of penitence, excitement fills a gardener’s heart. Most of us are familiar with the origins of the word Lent, meaning the lengthening of days, and in the northern hemisphere it’s a time of expecting spring! Spiritually and horticulturally, we are drawn to new life at Easter.

During the weeks of Lent we intently focus on the Stations of the Cross, the Passion of Christ. Several plants are used in a garden setting to symbolize the Passion. Here is one of the most familiar.

The perennial flowering vine Passiflora incarnata is a medium-sized vine growing to about eight feet tall and wide, sprawling in nature by spreading roots — so give it room to show its beauty. It attaches itself to fences and arbors with tendrils that twist onto the support. The flowers are breathtaking in their fragrance and intricacies, blooming from June to September. It is listed as hardy in USDA Zones 5-9 — though it eventually dies out in my Zone 5 area — and will grow in most non-saline soils, including clay. Grow in full sun to bright open or afternoon shade in warmer climates. Watering needs are medium to low, and it’s fairly drought tolerant. It is a healthy plant with few insect or disease problems, and it’s deer resistant. The fruits, called maypops, are edible and frequently used for jellies.

The passion flower is one of the few plants that can be traced back to pre-literary times as a teaching tool for religious practices. The passion flower meanings are:

Ten petals representing the 10 of the 12 apostles who did not betray (Judas) Jesus or deny him (Peter).
The three topmost stigmas (the part of the flower that receives the pollen and rises out of the top center of the passion flower) as attached to their styles (tiny little stems) recall the three nails that impaled our Lord to the cross.
The five stamens that hold the anthers (the pads of pollen) together signify the five wounds of our Lord.
The anthers alone represent the sponge used to moisten Jesus’ lips.
The central column of the three stigmas and five anthers signifies both the post to which Jesus was scourged and also the cross on which he was hung.
The 72 radial filaments are for the number of lashes Jesus received throughout his passion. They also are said to represent the crown of thorns.
The leaves of most species are shaped like a lance and represent the spear thrust into Jesus’ side.
The red stain on the corona at the base of the central column and the red speckling on the style holding the stigma is a reminder of the blood Jesus shed.
The fruit of most passion flowers is round and signifies the world that Jesus came to save.
The tendrils symbolize Jesus holding firmly to his purpose, and being supported by God’s love.
The wonderful fragrance is said to represent the spices that the holy women brought with them on the day of the resurrection.
The duration of the flower’s life is three days: the time elapsed before the resurrection of our Lord.

The passion flower is an amazing plant rich in symbolism. When we feel ourselves faltering in our faith, we can reflect on this flower and in its beauty find confidence in the greatest love story ever lived.

Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Peter Maurin and Concrete Acts of Love

Today I'd like to highlight one of the great Catholic figures of the twentieth century, Peter Maurin. He was born in May of 1877 in the south of France, one of 23 children—that's not a typo. He was educated by the Christian Brothers and, early on, became deeply inspired by the example of St. Francis.

In 1909, Maurin sailed for North America and for about twenty years lived a sort of radical Franciscan life, performing manual labor during the day, sleeping in any bed he could find, dining in skid-row beaneries. Any money he made, he spent on books or gave to those less fortunate.

During these years, Maurin was trying to develop a coherent Catholic social philosophy. The main problem with society, he felt, was that sociology, economics, and politics had all been divorced from the Gospel. The Gospel was a private concern of “religious” people and had no discernable effect on the way the political, social, and economic realms were run.

In a word, he thought that society had lost its transcendent purpose. Life had come to be organized around the drive for production and the search for profits, rather than around the real spiritual development of the person.

Maurin knew that the Church had an answer to this, and it was the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Maurin’s program was what he called “a personalist revolution,” which meant the building of a new world within the shell of the old, rather than waiting for social circumstances to change. The Christian should simply begin living according to a new set of values.

In 1932, Peter Maurin met a young woman in New York named Dorothy Day. For some years, Dorothy had been trying to find her path, a way of reconciling her new-found Catholic faith with her deep commitment to social action. With the arrival of Peter Maurin, she felt that her prayers had been answered.

He told her to start a newspaper which would present Catholic social teaching and provide for greater clarity of thought, and then to open “houses of hospitality” where the works of mercy could be concretely practiced. And this is precisely what she did. Together Day and Maurin founded the Catholic Worker Movement. They operated soup kitchens and bread lines for the poor, and invited homeless people to stay with them.

Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day remind us that we simply cannot love Christ without concretely loving those most in need. Love of Christ and love of neighbor coincide. Heaven and earth must come together.

-Bishop Robert Barron

Monday, February 15, 2016

Marianist Monday

This is the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

So for starters, let us look at the dictionary’s synonyms for the word mercy.


Certainly, all of those are descriptive of God’s heartfelt mercy.
One need only look to the Crucifix to know that the Lord’s mercy
flows from his heart.

Now, I'd like to clothe myself in the Lord’s mercy
but I know that to do so,
I will first need to name how and when and where and why
I need his mercy:
In other words, I'll need to name my weaknesses, my faults,
my wrongdoing and my sins.
And that’s the hard part for us, isn’t it.

We all want the mercy,
we all want the pardon, we all want the forgiveness
but we’re not quick to acknowledge and confess
the reasons we need these things.

We know we’re not saints but we’re slow to call ourselves sinners.
We know we’re not perfect,
but it’s often so hard for us to admit our mistakes.
We know we need to make some changes,
but it’s not easy for us to begin to change.

On the other hand, we’re pretty good, some of us even expert,
at noticing our neighbor's faults and flaws
even when we’re blind to our own.
We find it easy to identify him, or her or them – as sinners
-- but not so much ourselves.

Lent is a time to look at ourselves honestly
and take a personal inventory
to see ourselves as God sees us, to stand in the light of God’s truth,
to see our own faults and weaknesses,
to see how we’ve failed God,
how we’ve failed our neighbor,
and how we’ve failed ourselves.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

“Beauty in Transition”

beauty in transition

Catholics who are visiting the city of Philadelphia this week for the World Meeting of Families are aware that back in February of 2015 Pope Francis had showers installed and encouraged local barbers to volunteer their services to Rome’s homelessness.

A similar initiative started by Jody Wood was created in the form of a mobile hair salon that visited Philadelphia this past summer. Wood swung through Philadelphia as an artist in residence at the Asian Arts Initiative, a community-based art center located in Chinatown North.

“Hair care is kind of seen as a non-essential need for people that are homeless,” Wood, creator of Beauty in Transition, said. “It’s an extra maybe even some people think is superfluous, but I’m interested in trying to resist in this process of losing one’s identity.”

Beauty In Transition launched in Lawrence, Kansas, in 2006, and has since traveled to Denver and New York City. Wood partners with various institutions and providers to create a mobile, outdoor beauty salon that serves homeless shelters throughout different cities.

It is an unexpected service, Wood says, driving to shelters around the country in a refurbished truck she purchased through Craigslist. Most of the stylists who volunteer their assistance are from trendy, “pop” hair salons.

A traveling salon catering to homeless clients may seem unorthodox, but a simple hairstyle can help an invisible person feel visible.

“In Philadelphia, shelters are not mandated by the city,” Wood says, “so you might not have a bed at night. In that daily struggle, you’re just thinking about how you’re going to feed yourself, how you are going to feed your family. A lot of parts of identity kind of recede and because people attach a label to homelessness, people will view you negatively and that hurts you more.”

Wood sees homelessness as a transitional state, not as a label — a difficult chapter in a person’s life that they hope to overcome one day, with the help of others who are willing to give.

That notion, of people willing to help others with a hand up, either materially or through human outreach such as Wood provides, seems to fit neatly into Pope Francis’ repeated urgings, during his visit to Cuba and the United States. “Serving others chiefly means caring for their vulnerability,” said the pope in Havana:

Caring for the vulnerable of our families, our society, our people. Theirs are the suffering, fragile and downcast faces which Jesus tells us specifically to look at and which he asks us to love. With a love which takes shape in our actions and decisions. With a love which finds expression in whatever tasks we, as citizens, are called to perform. People of flesh and blood, people with individual lives and stories, and with all their frailty: these are those whom Jesus asks us to protect, to care for, to serve. Being a Christian entails promoting the dignity of our brothers and sisters, fighting for it, living for it. That is why Christians are constantly called to set aside their own wishes and desires, their pursuit of power, and to look instead to those who are most vulnerable.

As the pope has often noted, this is sometimes easier said than done. We are conditioned, through our society, and in the prosperity of the West, to function in a self-interested manner. It’s not just a Philadelphia problem; it’s universal.

“Public attitude toward people who are homeless needs to change,” Wood said, adding that what is most important to realize is that housing is a human right — like water, food and air.

“I want to offer a service that will express your identity however you want,” Wood says. “And that’s how we express our identity, through our hair and our clothing. It’s a way of expressing our personality. It’s who we are. And that is a luxury that is unfortunately not afforded to everyone economically.”

Dominique “Peak” Johnson

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Sunday Word

Resolve now: 

Each week in Lent,  I will take time to study the scriptures for the coming weekend to be better prepared to hear, understand, receive and be nourished by the Lord's Word in my mind and heart on Sunday!

The gospel passage for the First Sunday of Lent tells of Jesus' time in the desert and his being tempted by the Evil One. This year we hear Luke's account. I like the illustration to the left because it presents the temptation of Christ in the way I often experience temptation: in the half-light of shadows, seeming to sneak up on me out of nowhere, appearing harmless and innocent, beckoning...

The first reading, from Deuteronomy, does not pair obviously or with great strength with the day's Gospel but does offer us the heart of the Hebrew scriptures: a confession of faith based on thanksgiving for God's deliverance of his own in the Exodus. 

The second reading, from Romans, serves as a call to Christians at the beginning of this holy season, that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Friday, February 12, 2016

Merciful like the Father

What are the plenary indulgences associated with the Year of Mercy?

Like all past Jubilees in the Church, the Year of Mercy features a very special plenary indulgence—the complete remission of all temporal punishment due to sin. In celebration of this Extraordinary Jubilee, Pope Francis is making the indulgence as widely available as possible.

"To experience and obtain the Indulgence, the faithful are called to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door, open in every Cathedral or in the churches designated by the Diocesan Bishop, and in the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion." -Pope Francis

To receive the Jubilee Year indulgence, you must fulfill the usual conditions, and perform the act of indulgence: passing through a designated Holy Door during the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, or performing one of the Corporal or Spiritual Works of Mercy.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Francis Wager: A Lenten Challenge for the Pope-Peeved


Try this Lenten experiment

Some of us Catholics have a love/hate relationship with Pope Francis. There is a sense that his image is bruised, in part by self-inflicted wounds. Didn’t he diss large families? Didn’t he embrace a Marxist crucifix? Didn’t he try to help hijack the synod?

Others of us know none of that is true but are frankly a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume and urgency of his calls to holiness.

To strain a metaphor a bit: If the pontificate of John Paul or Benedict were a Facebook friend, their posts would be rare, challenging and refreshing. Pope Francis’ pontificate feels more like the guy who is constantly question-commenting, posting on your timeline and inviting you to join new groups.

But while I think it’s a mistake to think of a pope as the incarnation of the Holy Spirit, I also think it’s dangerous to simply ignore him and hope he goes away.

In fact, I think the Holy Spirit made a rather wise play in dealing us the Pope Francis card when he did.

Fine. That’s where my Lent 2016 proposal comes in. Call it the Francis Wager.

Paschal’s Wager said why not behave as if God exists, and then you’re safe either way.

I’m saying to those who would rather pass on this pope: this Lent — as a penance, knowing that it’s hard, knowing that it means stretching yourself a little and taking solace that it’s temporary — why not behave as if Francis were a pope you were enthusiastic about?

The first thing to do is to share your plan with those in your life whose cooperation you will need to make this work. Tell the friend who emails you the latest seeming outrage of Pope Francis that you’ll be happy to hear from them again after Easter, but that you are giving Pope Francis a 40-day chance, and you would appreciate if they would help you out.

The next thing to do is to read (or reread) Francis. Begin with his Lenten meditation , then reread one or more of the major works of his pontificate, with an open spirit, trying to embrace what he is asking: “A Big Heart Open to God,”Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato Sí, and the USA addresses.

Grit your teeth and do it. It’s Lent. When it gets tough, remind yourself that Benedict said all this first (this worksfor global warming, for “small-minded rules” and, heck, for a lot of stuff).

Third, follow his advice. Pretend it’s good advice if you must, but try it out. You know you should simplify your life; do it Pope Francis-style. You know you should put the smartphone aside and pray more. Try the Francis schedule this Lent: no television, and celebrate daily Mass, Breviary, Rosary and Eucharistic Adoration. Do at least one of them every day.

Last, practice the culture of encounter. There is nothing mysterious about it. Pope Francis is simply saying that we should encounter Christ in prayer and then encounter others in real life.

We Americans should lead the way in the culture of encounter: We network; we “discuss” issues instead of lecturing; we get “employee buy-in on major decisions”; we know the only way to close a deal is in person.

How about this? Invite someone to Mass (you’d be surprised how open people are), invite someone outside your circle to dinner, chat with the person who lives next door .

I think you will find that Pope Francis, for all his flaws, is delivering a needed critique to our time, and that the most challenging thing about him is not when he’s wrong but when he’s right.

Pope Francis says it’s not just your knowledge of doctrine that counts; it’s your experience of Jesus.

He wants to move from lobbing grenades in a culture war to tending wounds in a field hospital.

For him, the new evangelization doesn’t just mean using new means — it means knocking on new doors.

He doesn’t say to strengthen your circle of friends; he says to widen it.

I know, I know; none of this is easy. But, heck, it’s only for 40 days, right?

Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What's it all about?

Ash Wednesday can seem to appear out of nowhere, as it does this year when it comes so early on the calendar. Here are some "starter questions" for your prayer and reflection over the next couple of days...

1) Lent is a kind of spiritual spring training for Christians. What has grown weak, what's out of shape in my spiritual life? in my prayer life? in my relationship with Jesus? How do I need to exercise my spiritual life to condition and strengthen it? What in my spiritual life needs stretching and working out? What small steps might I take every day in Lent to develop a discipline, a routine in my prayer?

2) Lent is a time for fasting and going without. What fills me up? What food and drink, what leisure and entertainment, what work and activity stuffs my body, my heart, mind and imagination, my days and nights, my self? If I experienced in my body the hunger of fasting and giving things up for Lent, might I discover a hunger for more satisfying, substantive food for my soul?

3) Lent is a time for giving to the poor (almsgiving). What's my attitude to the poor? to the plight of refugees? what are my prejudices about them? Over the course of the year, how much do I give to the poor? How much of my time do I give to serving the poor? When I complain about what I don't have, do I take an honest look at all I do have? Could it be that I actually have more than I really need? How might I simplify my life this Lent - and how would that free me to give more to others?

Lent is a time to live for forty days 
the way a Christian should live all year round!

So, some questions and thoughts to help us begin to begin Lent this Wednesday, a season of 40 days intended to help us prepare to celebrate Easter with minds, hearts and habits refreshed and renewed by the Word and sacraments, by our Lenten practice - by the grace of God.

Tuesday Tunes

Monday, February 8, 2016

Marianist Monday

“Faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbors in body and spirit,” the pope said in his message for Lent, which begins Feb. 10 for Latin-rite Catholics.

Feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, welcoming strangers, offering instruction, giving comfort—“on such things will we be judged,” the pope wrote in the message, which was released at the Vatican Jan. 26.

Particularly during the Year of Mercy, he said, Catholics are called to recognize their own need for God’s mercy, the greatness of God’s love seen in the death and resurrection of Christ and the obligation to assist others by communicating God’s love and mercy through words and deeds.

On Saturday, February 6th the 2 Marianist high schools hosted the 27th Annual Junior-Senior Prom at Queen of Peace Residence with the Little Sisters of the Poor and their elderly poor. Close to 100 students danced with the music of The Irish Mist.

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

"Duc In Altum," which means "go out into the deep."

In a place called Magdala, along the sea of Galilee, something amazing has been going on for the past nine years.

The story begins in 2004 when Rev. Juan M. Solana, director of the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, a guest house for Christian pilgrims, was inspired to build a retreat center in the Galilee region where much of Jesus’ ministry took place.

Four plots of land were acquired on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee near the small Israeli town of Migdal and the destroyed Arab village of Al-Majdal—both named for the ancient town of Magdala, which was the only town on the western side of the Sea of Galilee until Herod Antipas began to build Tiberias in the year 20.

Fr. Solana’s plan was to knock down some holiday cabins from an old beach resort and build a 300 person retreat center with a restaurant and spirituality center. By 2009 everything was in place for construction to begin—except for a routine dig of the site, which is a requirement in the region. No one expected to find anything, but less then two feet below the surface diggers struck something hard—a stone bench.

It soon became clear that this wasn’t any stone bench, but part of a first century synagogue, one of only seven from the Second Temple period known to exist, and the first to be found in the Galilee region. It is also the first synagogue excavated from the time of Jesus where we know from Scripture that He actually walked and taught. In fact, local coins found in a side room of the synagogue were dated from the year 29—when Jesus would likely have been active in His ministry.

According to Fr. Eamon Kelly, vice-chargé of the Pontifical Institute of Notre Dame who is also involved in the Magdala project, the synagogue is the most beautifully decorated of all seven, full of beautiful mosaics and frescoes. It was also active until the year 67.

"Among the Jewish people who used it would have been Jesus’ disciples who were not yet separated from the Jews, and for this reason the synagogue is also a kind of ‘icon’ of our commonality, what we share from our origins, " said Fr. Kelly.

In the synagogue, archeologists discovered the sculpted "Magdala Stone," considered by many experts to be one of the most outstanding discoveries of the last 50 years. Carved into the Stone is the oldest Menorah found to date, as well as the only Chariot of Fire found in Israeli archeology. All of the symbols on the Stone are related to the Second Temple. Fr. Kelly says there are currently many theories about the Stone’s purpose and meaning and speculation will continue for a long time.

Not only did archeologists find the synagogue, they unearthed an entire town—the ancient town of Magdala, believed to be the home town of Mary Magdalene. So far, the dig has uncovered three ritual purification baths, supplied by fresh spring water (the highest of the six possible gradations of water quality for a ritual purification bath, according to experts), market places, residential areas, thousands of first century coins (including numerous “widow’s mites”), lots of period pottery, and even a Roman sword in its sheath. In addition, the infrastructure for fish processing has been discovered. A similar one exists in Spain, but it’s not nearly as complex and well developed, according to Fr. Kelly.

"Flavius Josephus reported that fish processed in Magdala was sold in the markets in Rome and that has now been validated, " he said.

Another significant finding is the market place of the first century port. It was here that fishermen brought their catch to sell for export. It is a significant place for Christians as it is likely where the disciples who were fishermen sold their fish. (Flavius Josephus also wrote that 240 boats sailed away with women and children from this port before the Romans crushed the Jewish rebellion in 67-68.) Wharf structures of the port area have also been uncovered, and much more needs to be excavated.

In fact, only about 15 per cent of the site has been excavated to date so there is still much to discover.

Near the site where the marketplace was discovered, stands a unique spirituality center called "Duc In Altum," which means "go out into the deep." It was created as a place for visitors to pray, reflect, and discover aspects of Jesus’ public life. Completed in May 28, 2014, many architects, builders and artists from around the world, as well as locally, came together to make it happen. It’s beautiful altar, made of cedar wood in the shape of a boat, with a reflecting pool strategically placed behind it outside, conjures up the picture of Jesus evangelizing from the boat on the Sea of Galilee.

A central part of Duc in Altum is the Atrium, an octagonal space dedicated to the women of the New Testament, and all women, with four special side chapels adjoining it for groups to use.

"I think Duc in Altum will become known as time progresses," says Fr. Kelly. "It is a deeply inspiring place for Christians, as well as many non-Christians — and even people of no faith. Photos don’t do it justice. Since it is very likely that Jesus walked in the market place there, so close to the fishing boats in the port, we figured this was good spot to create a place that represents unity and honors women, especially Mary Magdalene, ‘the apostle to the apostles’. It is a place that emerges from history and expresses people’s feelings today. It invites everyone to come together."

Duc in Altum was dedicated by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem in May 2014, at the same time that the Archeological Park was officially inaugurated.

Next to open will be the Magdala Guesthouse, a multifaceted pilgrimage center to accomodate up to 300 guests, as well as a restaurant with seating for up to 900. The restaurant exterior is built now and the guest house is currently under construction.

"The rich archeology here makes this a cross roads of Jewish and Christian history; therefore it’s an ideal place for ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue and encounter. We hope everyone will come to Magdala and experience it for themselves."

Zoe Romanowsky 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Sunday Word

“Duc in altum.”

“Put out into the deep.” 

Jesus spoke these words to Simon Peter, encouraging him to cast the nets once more after a fruitless night fishing. Simon Peter’s trust and willingness to respond bore great fruit. We now offer these same words to you to encourage you in your discernment.

As the story unfolds in Chapter 5 of the Gospel of St. Luke, Simon Peter followed the command of Christ and netted more fish than he could manage on his own. Following this great catch, an even greater invitation came: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

The first invitation required Simon Peter to take a chance on the fishing advice of Christ. He was willing to step into the unknown and trust Jesus. The second command, although coming in light of the miraculous catch, required Simon Peter to take an even greater step into the unknown and place even more trust in Jesus. He did not know where following Christ would lead him, but he did know that Jesus was capable of great things.

The process of discerning a Marianist religious vocation can be difficult in the midst of a busy life. But the nature of Christ’s invitation is to each of us similar to the invitation Simon Peter received in that boat so many years ago.

It is an invitation to step out into the unknown. Following that invitation requires the same willingness to trust in Jesus as well as the same boldness to step forward despite not knowing where He will lead us.

Initially, there may not have been much on which Simon Peter could base his trust in Jesus’ fishing advice. Yet we do have a good bit on which to base our own trust.We recognize that we have the witness of the lives of countless saints to show us that the Lord does amazing things with those who put their trust in Him. Each of the saints was given a similar invitation to trust in the Lord and step into the unknown. Each of them was held firmly in the palm of the Lord’s hand while following His invitation.

If you find your trust in the Lord lacking, especially after what seems like fruitless days and nights of discernment, take heart in the witness of Peter, James, John, and the other Apostles. Take heart in the witness of the countless Marianists who you know so well.

Pick up a book on the lives of the saints and notice how they were not abandoned by the Lord. Look back on your own life and notice how you as well were not abandoned when you took risks in following the Lord. See that the Lord is worthy of your trust.

Together with the saints who have gone before us, we can place our trust in the Lord, “put out into the deep,” and follow Christ into the unknown. WE are praying for your vocations.

“Duc in altum.”

Friday, February 5, 2016

Good Man, Good Monk

I first met Brother Augustine Wilmeth when he was one of the students where I served as chaplain. As a convert, he was intensely interested not only in his new Catholic faith but in the more traditional expressions of life and worship.
I followed his progress through the years and had the chance last summer to visit him a few months before he took his first vows as a monk at the Benedictine monastery that has been reestablished at Norcia in Italy.

Brother Augustine spoke to me for Aleteia about his vocation, his life in the monastery and his work brewing and bottling beer.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker: When did you first start thinking about pursuing a monastic vocation?

I first began thinking distinctly about a monastic vocation, as something God might be calling me to, during my first year of college. Even before, that in high school after my conversion, I was really drawn by Gregorian Chant and the Benedictine love and devotion to the liturgy.

Why go all the way to Norcia when there are plenty of Benedictine Monasteries in the USA that need young monks?

Coming to Norcia wasn’t a rejection of all the Benedictine monasteries in the states.

In God’s providence when I was really interested in visiting Benedictine monasteries my sophomore year of college, I happened to find out the monks at Norcia were offering a monthlong summer discernment program.

I came and had a very deep, life-changing experience, after which it was clear to me that, without any force or coercion, God was telling me that this monastery was where he was calling me and desiring that I seek him.

Norcia is a small Italian town. How does a young American fit in with the life there? Are you ever homesick? What do you miss about USA?

A young American like myself can have a tough time at first; you don’t just have to leave the world and experience all the newness of monastic life (this by itself is not easy!), but you also have to learn Italian, come into contact with a whole new culture and learn to live in the monastery with brothers from all over the world.

I don’t get homesick but I do miss things about the USA, the ease of doing business and living life (here everything economic and political is so bureaucratic and complicated!). Fortunately, Europe, even though it has forgotten its Christian roots, has a culture that feels very real and rooted in history (you sense this even in the buildings) that helps one feel at home here.

St. Benedict calls his monks to work and prayer. What does this mean for you day by day? What is your typical routine?

Our life here follows a very traditional Benedictine pattern. The day is very full, of both prayer and work. We get up around 3:30 and begin prayers at 4 a.m. on most days; the last prayer finishes at 8 p.m. and we go to bed.

Our main meal is at three in the afternoon. During the other times we are either engaged in spiritual reading, or working. It’s a strict way of life. There isn’t really much free time. We do have 30-minute recreation each evening before compline where we come together as a community and can engage in conversation.

Do you work in the brewery? What is your job there?

I first began as an assistant, helping with all steps of the brew cycle: brewing, bottling, labeling and boxing, preparing orders and then loading and receiving shipments.

Since September I have been the manager of the brewery. I have to keep the operation running on a day to day basis, this involves a lot of email and correspondence, paperwork, as well as coordinating orders for supplies and sales with clients.

How has your Benedictine brew been received? How does brewing connect with traditional Benedictine life?
Our beer has been very well received and there was initially such high demand we quickly began working on expanding our production capacity shortly after the brewery opened. We also get high compliments from beer connoisseurs and lovers of Belgian style monastic beers.

Brewing has been part of the the monastic heritage since the middle ages, and is one of the many ways that monks take the fruits of the earth and transform them into something truly remarkable.

Do you pray as you brew beer or do you brew beer as you pray?

The goal of our life is to pray always, whether brewing, cooking or walking down the corridor. Continual prayer; it may happened we are brewing or bottling or drinking while we are praying …

What advice would you give a young Catholic man who is thinking about a vocation to the religious life today?

Come and see; make sure you visit monasteries and religious communities and witness firsthand the way God’s grace can really transform your soul and free you. Besides that, pray, and spend time with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Merciful like the Father

Has this ever happened before?

Jubilee years have traditionally been called every 25 to 50 years. The most recent one was called by Pope St. John Paul II in the year 2000. Throughout Church history there have been 26 ordinary Jubilees and only 3 extraordinary Jubilees. Pope Francis has specifically titled this year's Extraordinary Jubilee as the Year of Mercy. Although past Jubilees have not been designated as the Year of Mercy, all Jubilees place emphasis on pardoning and forgiving others—an important facet 
of mercy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Papal Thoughts

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Respond to the crisis of vocations with intensified prayer, not despair or a lax admissions process, Pope Francis told women and men religious.

He said he is tempted to lose hope, too, asking God, “What is happening? Why is the womb of consecrated life sterile?” But he warned against fast fixes, saying some religious “congregations experiment with ‘artificial insemination,'” in which they accept anybody, leading to a host of problems.

The vocations process must be done “with seriousness, and one must discern well that this is a true vocation and help it grow,” he told members of religious orders, secular institutes and consecrated virgins Feb. 1 in the Vatican audience hall.

The pope met with some 5,000 men and women taking part in events in Rome to mark the close of the Year for Consecrated Life, which began Nov. 30, 2014, and was to end Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the Jubilee of Consecrated Life. Handing his written text over to Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Consecrated Life and Institutes for Apostolic Life,

Pope Francis said he preferred to speak from his heart “because it’s a bit boring to read” a prepared talk. Both his prepared text and his impromptu talk highlighted the three most important “pillars” of consecrated life: being prophetic; being near all people; and having hope. It is important to be obedient while being prophetic, which is always about following God and reflecting his divine love, he told his audience.

Obedience for a religious is not the same as “military obedience,” he said; it’s about giving one’s heart and seeking to discern what is being asked. If the rules or requirements are not clear, then one must speak with one’s superior and always obey the final word, he said. “This is prophecy — against the seeds of anarchy, which are sown by the devil.” Just doing whatever one feels like is “anarchy of the will,” which is “the child of the devil, not God.” Jesus wasn’t an anarchist, the pope said; he didn’t round up his disciples to fight against his enemies. While he pleaded that God “take this cup from me,” he still requested his father’s will be done. Likewise, the pope said, if members of a religious community are asked to obey something that doesn’t sit well, then — he gestured taking a big pill and gulping it down. “Since my Italian is so poor I have to speak sign language,” he smiled, adding that “one must stomach that obedience.”

Being prophetic is telling and showing the world that “there is something truer, more beautiful, greater and better that we are all called to,” he said. Consecrated men and women are called “not to distance myself from the people and live in comfort,” but to be close to Christians and non-Christians in order to understand their problems and needs, he said. However, when it comes to offering love and attention, the sisters and brothers who live in one’s community get priority, he said, especially elderly members who may be isolated in an infirmary. “I know that you never gossip in your communities. Never, ever!” the pope said smiling.

Backstabbing and gossip are a danger to religious life, he said. “Whoever gossips is a terrorist,” he said, because they drop harmful words like bombs against others, leaving behind destruction while the attacker walks away unscathed. “If you feel like saying something against a brother or sister,” he said, “bite your tongue. Hard. No terrorism in your communities.”

Resolve differences or problems face-to-face with the person in question, he said. But when it’s time for general chapters or other forums involving community life, then people need to be forthright in voicing concerns openly and frankly. He said, “In public, you have to say everything you feel because there is the temptation to not say things during the chapter” meetings, which then leads to resentment afterward.

“During this Year of Mercy, if each one of you were able to never be a gossip-terrorist it would be a success for the church, a success of great holiness. Be brave!” he said. The pope thanked religious men and women for their work, especially consecrated women. “What would the church be if there were no sisters?” he asked, recalling their presence in Catholic hospitals, schools, parishes and missions around the world.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Marianist Monday

February 2016

Dear friends in college and beyond,

“Shape up or ship out!”

The first time I heard those words, I was about ten years old. I was with a friend in the St. Anne’s Parish auditorium, waiting for the play Camelot to begin. My sixteen-year-old sister was in the play, sponsored by the parish Sodality, and I had to attend. But my friend and I had been joking around before it started, and now neither of us could stop laughing – loud enough apparently, that the program moderator, a tall man with a booming voice, had to walk down the aisle to shut us up. We didn’t really know what his words meant, and we were so nervous that we were tempted to laugh even more, but we “shaped up” nonetheless!

The word “shape” has so many uses in the English language:

Shape up or ship out! . . . Get in shape! . . . We’re in good shape! . . . This idea is really taking shape!

I would like to reflect briefly on a less common use: “What is the shape of my life?”

Last year, my younger sister gave me a page-per-day calendar of Catholic quotes. I have really enjoyed this gift-that-keeps-on-giving as a new spiritual gem shining its light on my soul each day. On December 8 (the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary), I read this quote from Caryll Houselander (a mid-20th century spiritual writer who wrote a beautiful book about Mary called the Reed of God. Actually, I think she was also quoted recently in another of these letters):

Our Lady said “yes” for the human race. Each one of us must echo that “yes” for our own lives. We are all asked if we will surrender what we are, our humanity, our flesh and blood, to the Holy Spirit and allow Christ to fill the emptiness formed by the particular shape of our life.”

On February 2, we will celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. It is also the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life and the conclusion of the Year of Consecrated Life. The Gospel is from Luke 2:22-23:

Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord.”

The dictionary defines consecrated as “dedicated to a sacred purpose.” What is the shape of your life? Well, at Baptism, each of us was consecrated to the Lord, similar to the way Jesus was presented in the temple by His parents. Our life is already consecrated, dedicated to a sacred purpose. We can think of consecration as the “shape” that God fills in each of us. Like Mary, we are called to “allow Christ to fill the emptiness formed by the particular shape of our life.”

As consecrated religious, the Brothers’ lives “take shape” around the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability; around our daily times of prayer; and in the family spirit we share at meals and in many other ways in our community life.

Blessed William Joseph Chaminade once wrote,

It was in the womb of the Blessed Mary that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and there he was formed in our likeness. It is also in the virginal womb of Mary that the elect must be conceived by the operation of the Holy Spirit and formed by the maternal care of Mary to the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Blessed Chaminade’s words are sometimes difficult for our modern ears to grasp, but he really has a beautifully balanced sense of how our lives “take shape.” Like Mary, we can actually give birth to Christ also. The Holy Spirit uses Mary’s love to form Jesus. Christ is formed or “takes shape” in us through a kind of “alchemy” of Mary’s love, the events of our lives, and our own collaboration with the Holy Spirit. The more we are open to Mary’s love and to the work of the Holy Spirit, the more we give birth to Christ – bring Christ into our world, to the people we love and live with – in our own unique, personal way. That is the “shape of our life”!

“Shape up or ship out!” Harsh words indeed! But if you’re anything like me, perhaps your spiritual life could use a little shaping up. What better time than Lent, which begins on February 10. Let us reflect this Lent: “How will Christ fill the emptiness formed by the particular shape of my life?” May we all take advantage of the graces Lent offers through the Sacraments of the Church, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Maybe you can take a pilgrimage through one of the Holy Doors (The Diocese of Rockville Centre has designated four pilgrimage churches.) during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Finally, I invite you to consider adding a small devotional prayer to your daily routine this Lent: perhaps a decade of the Rosary; or Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55); or the following prayer to the Holy Spirit by St. Augustine, which I find particularly helpful:

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.

Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.

Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.

Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.

Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.”

The practice of such devotions can help us to be open to the special work the Holy Spirit wants to accomplish in each of us.

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

On behalf of all of my Marianist Brothers,

Bro. Peter Heiskell, S.M.