Thursday, March 31, 2016


How do all of us Johnny-come-latelys,
standing outside the empty tomb
where the stone has been rolled away,
how do we, like Mary and Peter and the others,
carry the news of the Risen Jesus.

Late though we may be,
when we ask the Lord, “Anything I can do to help?”
we can be sure that he’s got plenty of work for us to do.

But for now, our work is to come to this table, his altar,
and to move nothing heavier than our hearts,
however heavy our hearts might be this Easter,
to move and lift our hearts up to the Lord with thanksgiving
that all the heavy lifting he did for us on the Cross
is now his gift to us in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist.

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead
and he’s got a little work for us to do.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


As we celebrate Easter,
listen to what the others say and then take a few minutes,
maybe just a few sentences, to say what Easter means to you.

You might simply share that Easter gives you hope
or reassures you of God’s forgiveness,
or prompts you to live a better Christian life.
You might say that Easter this year has caused you to think again
about God and faith and prayer in your life.

You might just say that Easter reminds you
that the heavy work of your faith has already been done for you
and that now, your work, is to live in gratitude
for what God has done.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


That’s the mercy of Jesus, the most innocent of all, who suffered,
who did the heavy lifting for us, that we might be spared.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t still some work left for us to do.

It’s not too late to do what Mary of Magdala did
when she found that the heavy work had been done for her -
she went home to tell her friends.

If, this Easter, we realize what Jesus has done for us,
then ours is the work of sharing news of that with others,
with whomever we might meet later today.

Sharing our faith in Jesus might seem to many of us
to be very hard work - but it needn’t be.
Some folks might rather try to move the stone away from the tomb
than have to talk to others about their faith.

Monday, March 28, 2016


Have you ever been just about done with a big piece of work when someone shows up, much too late, and asks, “Is there anything I can do to help you?”

Every one of us is just such a Johnny-come-lately, arriving this Easter at the empty tomb and finding, as did Mary of Magdala, that the stone has been rolled back for us, the heavy work had already been done - long before we got here. 

And that’s a good way of saying what Easter is all about: the heavy work has already been done for us, for you and for me. 

And not just the heavy work of moving the stone that sealed Jesus’ tomb. 

There was also the heavy work of Good Friday. The work of being unjustly accused and condemned – on our account. The work of being mocked, spat upon and crowned with thorns; the work of carrying a Cross to one’s own execution; of suffering the nails of crucifixion; the work of dying for others; all that work has already been done for us, for you and for me. 

But more than that - and weightiest of all work: carrying on one’s shoulders the sin and guilt of all humankind, including yours and mine, that work has been done for us, for you and for me. 

That’s the mercy of God.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


How do you suppose they felt, these three women,
Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome?
How do you suppose they felt
as they made their way to Jesus’ tomb?
that first Easter Sunday morning?
They had rested on the Jewish Sabbath
but bright and early on Sunday morning,
these three who had stood at the foot of the Cross
made their way to the tomb
where they had left their dear friend’s body,
late Friday afternoon.

Their mission was to embalm him with spices.
I’m sure the pace they kept was slow,
their steps burdened by loss and grief,
by disappointment in their hearts, confusion in their minds,
and a hollow, aching sadness in their souls.
They felt helpless.
They wondered how they would even get into the tomb,
the stone blocking its entrance was so large and heavy.

They didn’t dress up for the first Easter Sunday.
They weren’t planning a nice brunch for later in the day.
There wasn’t a Cadbury egg or a jelly bean in sight
and they met no bunnies with baskets along the way.

And us? Some of us got dressed up for the occasion.
And maybe that bunny has left us an Easter basket
or a bowl of sweets.
And we are probably going to have
a nice dinner this Easter Sunday afternoon.
We’ve got all that stuff.
The question to ask, however, is this:
Will all that we have fill us as fully
as Mary and Mary and Salome were filled
when their grief was interrupted by the peace and joy
of Jesus rising from the dead?

It’s THE Easter question
and it’s as much a question for me as it is for you:
where is Jesus in my life?

Is he still hanging on the Cross,
a murky mirror of my own pain and suffering?
Am I stuck in Good Friday, awash in troubles,
with little trust or hope?
Have loss and confusion and disappointment
and the dull ache of sadness
rolled a stone against my heart,
entombing me in my fears and my anxieties?

Or am I making my way towards the tomb,
one, heavy step at a time,
slowly making my way to find Jesus,
even a Jesus who has died,
so that I might get at least that close to him?

Or perhaps I’ve arrived at the tomb
and concluded by virtue of my own inspection that indeed –
there is no Jesus –
just an empty hole in the earth which others
(fools that they are!) take as proof of something that is - not.

Or: perhaps like the two Mary’s and Salome,
I’ve arrived at the tomb to find in its unexpected,
unanticipated emptiness
the healing of yesterday’s pain and suffering
and reason to hope that all is not lost;
that even what I thought was gone forever,
what I was sure I had buried,
what I thought I’d never find or see or love again: LIVES !

I thank God that Jesus rose from the dead 2000 years before
the invention of smart phones.
I thank God that the news of the resurrection wasn’t Tweeted
or texted, or FaceBooked or emailed.

I thank God that the angel at the tomb
told Mary and Mary and Salome:
“You - go tell Peter, go tell the disciples, go tell the others.
Tell them what you’ve seen, what you’ve come to believe:
that Jesus is afoot and he’s going ahead of you
and you’re going to see him, they’re going to see him again.”

And that, of course, is what I’m doing right now.
I’m telling you what I know in my own life.
It’s some 2,000 years since Jesus’ death
but I’ve often been stuck in the pain of Good Friday.
I’ve never been to the Holy Land
but I know what it is to confront a stone
rolled against the door of my heart and keeping me from peace.
And though I’ve never had an actual vision of Jesus,
I have seen him and found him in times and places
that first seemed empty and then, unexpectedly
filled with unanticipated life when, with faith and with courage
I walked into that emptiness
and allowed God’s Spirit to fill me.

And I have seen Jesus, the risen Jesus, in you.
I have seen Jesus healing your hearts and calming your confusion.
I have seen Jesus strengthening your resolve and easing your grief.

I have seen Jesus in you when, like him, you put the needs of others
ahead of your own, with a love that empties itself to fill another.
I invite you, then, to ask the Lord’s help
in taking down your suffering from Friday’s Cross
and putting it to rest in his outstretched arms.
I invite you to believe, deeply,
that what you’ve locked in - can be set free,
that what you’ve buried - can rise again,
that every empty place in your heart is waiting to be filled
with the love of Jesus who has risen from the dead
and goes ahead of you to be there for you
wherever your path may take you.

And I invite you to share your story with others,
just as Peter did, sitting down with that family
and telling them the story of Jesus.

In the next day or so, someone’s going to ask you,
“How was your Easter?”
Be prepared to share something in response
beyond baskets and bunnies and brunch.
Be prepared to share how you know Jesus
and how his peace has risen in your heart.

Jesus does indeed go before us
and the first place he’ll meet us this Easter
is here at his table.

Before any of us goes off to brunch or Easter dinner,
the Risen Jesus invites to his Supper
and to share in the gift he offered us on the Cross, his life,
now in his Body and Blood in the Bread and Cup of Communion.

Come to his table and ask the Risen Jesus to fill your heart’s emptiness
with the fullness of his joy and peace.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Easter Vigil

At the Exsultet:

The light of Christ surrounds us;
the love of Christ enfolds us;
the pow'r of Christ protects us;
the presence of Christ watches over us.

All the earth is ablaze
with the glory of God,
for the light has come
to burn away the darkness.

Let us fill every space
with the sound of our joy,
praising Christ who is
living now among us.

As this candle shines out
through the darkness of night,
may the love of Christ
burn ever in our hearts.

In the East, the Morning Star
rises bright upon you,
in its peaceful light
shines the glory of the Lord.

The light of Christ surrounds us;
the love of Christ enfolds us;
the pow'r of Christ protects us;
the presence of Christ watches over us.

-Marty Haugen


On Holy Saturday the Church waits at the Lord's tomb,
meditating on His suffering and death.

The painting above by Mantegna is a compelling image,
confronting us with the reality of Jesus' death...

On this day, the altar is left bare, Mass is not celebrated.

Only after the solemn vigil during the night,
held in anticipation of the resurrection,
does the Easter celebration begin with a spirit of joy
that overflows into an Easter season of fifty days.

A Prayer for Holy Saturday

This is the hardest time to pray:
after the drama and catastrophe,
before the angels and the big reveal.

The passion, the agony, the desperate grief
have given way to numbness
and absence
in this time in between.

God seems to be offstage,
preparing for the final scene,
taking care of ancient souls in other worlds
or clothing the hidden, broken body
in resurrection glory.

So let our prayer this day be plain
and to the point:
May God be with us in the waiting,
and may we wait with hope,
and every time in between.


- by Kerry Greenhill

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday II

This story is rife with elements that offend our sensibilities.
So much is so wrong
in the story of the suffering and death of Jesus.

Jesus was up against a "system" that was corrupt and self-serving:
when it suited the needs of the religious or civil authorities
both were willing to cooperate for personal or corporate gain.

The court proceedings involving Jesus were ludicrous
and about as far from standards of common law and common sense
as one might imagine.

• Jesus is hauled in on trumped-up charges
on the word of a dime-dropping traitor.
• False witnesses are seriously entertained.
• The defendant is invited to incriminate himself.
• The defendant’s only counsel is that of another kingdom.
• He is judged by a governor who admits his ignorance of the truth.
• He is subjected to the brutality of military police.
• The sentence is handed down by a mob
which has not had the benefit of witnessing the proceedings
of the kangaroo court that found Jesus guilty.

• A known rebel and murderer is set free
and Jesus becomes the victim.
• Nothing here is as it should have been.
• Nothing here is right or fair or just.
• Everything here is so wrong.

“Jesus, innocent and without sin, gave himself into our hands
and was nailed to a cross.”

Jesus is the victim – the innocent victim:
“the lamb led to the slaughter,”

the holy, spotless scapegoat
who took upon his shoulders our sins, our failures, our injustices,
our faults, our transgressions, our infidelities.
He deserved what he suffered
no more than we deserve his suffering for our sakes.

Is there an injustice greater than this:
that an innocent man is condemned and the guilty are set free?
that Barabbas is let go and Jesus put to death?
that we be forgiven and Jesus pay the price?

Everything here is so wrong,
and yet it is in this very injustice done to Christ
that we are justified before God.

It was “our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured…
he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins;
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole…
upon him was laid the guilt of us all…
by the stripes on his back, we were healed.”

If such justification offends our modern sensibilities,
it’s possible that we run the risk
of dismissing the suffering and death of Jesus
as something foolish; a waste;
a sad, pious dated story.
But only at our own peril
do we not take seriously and take to heart and soul
the gift of God’s mercy
mediated in the tragic and redeeming death of Christ.

Apart from the sacrifice of this tremendous lover named Jesus,
what hope has any of us before the judgment seat of God?
Outside the embrace of Christ’s arms outstretched on the Cross,
how will we hope to be gathered into and held
in the everlasting arms of God?

If this story does offend our sensibilities, then:
- let us use our indignation to fuel our efforts
to right injustices in the governing
of our nation and our church;
- let us use our righteous anger to rescue the innocent
victimized by war, power and finance;
- let us use our embarrassment to right the wrongs in our own lives,
in our families, our schools, in our communities and at work.

But let us never be offended by the outpouring of love
flowing from the wounds of Jesus
who took no offense at taking on his shoulders
the shame of our sins.

“For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and find grace for timely help.”
(second reading)

“We should glory in the Cross of Christ
for he is our salvation, our life and resurrection;
through him we are saved – and we made free!”
(Galatians 6:14)


Meditation on the Crucifixion by Mimi Ess 

While Meditating Upon the Passion

I long to be the teardrop
Rolling ever so slowly down your cheek
Searching the curves and creases of your most holy face
Lightly kissing moisture upon your dry lips.

I long to be the air that becomes your breath
Bought with your agony as you push up to draw me in,
Absorbed into your body offered to the Father,
Flowing mercy from your wounds,
Exhaling love upon the world.

I long to be the cry
Welling up from the depths of your soul
Blinded by the night that envelops it.
Rushing to meet you as the all-consuming pain
draws you deeper into the darkness,
Finally bursting forth a helpless scream,
The cry of God - to God -
For mercy.

I long to be the last beat of your heart,
Suspended there in time
Until the Father grants you life anew
And then -
Captured there in eternity,
A prisoner of Divine Love.

- Brenda Stinson

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Passover moon and the Easter moon

Photo by CP

That's the moon over Uniondale, NY on Tuesday night, March 22nd. It appears to be a full moon and it almost is - but not quite! A full moon will occur on Wednesday, March 23rd at 8:01 a.m.

For Jews and Christians alike, it's the moon that determines the dates of our greatest religious celebrations.

Determining the date for Passover:
The Jewish calendar year begins in late September or early October with the celebration of Rosh Hashana. Unlike our calendar which is based on the solar year, the Jewish calendar uses twelve lunar months, 29-30 days in length. The new moon marks the beginning of each month with the full moon occuring halfway through the month. The seventh month in a normal Jewish calendar year is the month of Nisan. Passover is celebrated on the 14th day of Nisan at the time of the full moon - this year on Friday, April 22.

Determining the date for Easter (Western Church):
Easter is observed on the first Sunday following the full moon that comes on or after the vernal equinox (March 21). Thus Easter can take place as early as March 22 but no later than April 25. This full moon is normally the full moon which takes place on the 14th day of Nisan. Thus in most years Easter is celebrated on the Sunday following Passover - this year on Sunday, March 27.

Determining the date for Easter (Eastern/Orthodox Church):

The Western Church (Catholic and Protestant) celebrates Easter based on the Gregorian Calendar, while the Eastern Church (Orthodox) follows the Julian Calendar. As a result, in most years the Orthodox Easter follows the Western Easter by one or more weeks, although in some years the dates coincide. The Eastern Churches will be celebrate Easter this year on Sunday, May 1.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spy Wednesday

Wednesday of Holy Week (today) is sometimes called Spy Wednesday because today's Gospel tells how Judas (the "spy") conspired to betray Christ and hand him over to the authorities for thirty pieces of silver:

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over...

When it was evening, Jesus reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.” 

How has betrayal played out in my life? Have I ever been betrayed? Is there someone I've betrayed? Have I been accused of betrayal? What wound, what scars has betrayal left in my life and in the lives of those around me? Fr. Aidan Kavanagh used to speak of Holy Thursday and the Last Supper as "the night in which Jesus was betrayed by the worst in us all..." That offers a good perspective on Judas' betrayal of Jesus. It's easy to accuse Judas of betraying Christ - but not so easy to accuse myself. On the night Christ was betrayed, Judas stood in for all who have betrayed God's love and our neighbor's love. Innocent and without sin, Jesus then carried on his shoulders and suffered in his wounds the burden of our infidelities...

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us! Here's a very contemporary setting of the Agnus Dei(Lamb of God) by Rufus Wainwright. The opening sounds drill into our hearts and the depths of our betrayals. But that's also where God's mercy meets us: right in our sinfulness, where we most need his healing love and the gift of his peace. This song might help us image Judas plotting against Jesus and help us look more honestly at our own betrayals. But the wrenching music doesn't leave us in Judas' despair or our own remorse - it moves us beyond to the consolation of the One who takes our sins away, and finally, the song resolves in great peace: dona nobis pacem...

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: miserere nobis.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world:
have mercy on us.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: miserere nobis.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world:
have mercy on us.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: dona nobis pacem.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world:
grant us peace.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tuesday of Holy Week

Dear God,

Every dawn begins a holy day, a new beginning,
a new chapter in the story of your love for us...

Every year we enter a whole Week we call Holy,
a solemn, joyful time to remember and celebrate
the love you poured out for us
in the suffering, dying and rising of Jesus...

Only you, Lord,
know how you want to teach and touch me this week...

Open my mind and heart
to what you have in store for me
in these holy days ahead…

Open my time, my schedule, my calendar
to spending time with you in prayer...

Make my days and nights free for you
that you might free me
for the all you have in store for me...

Draw me to the church’s prayer,
especially this Thursday, Friday and Saturday...

You have opened your heart for me, Lord,
help me open mine to you...

Lord, in your love and mercy,
hear my prayer...


Monday, March 21, 2016

Marianist Monday - Simply Living Lent

Simply Living Lent – Holy Week


Dear God,

Every dawn begins a holy day, a new beginning,
a new chapter in the story of your love for us.

Every year we enter Holy Week,
a solemn, joyful time to remember and celebrate
the love you poured out for us
in the suffering, dying and rising of Jesus.

Only you, Lord,
know how you want to teach and touch me this week...

Open my mind and heart
to what you have in store for me in these holy days…

Open my time, my schedule, my calendar
to spending time with you in prayer.

Make my day free for you
that you might free me
for the day you have in store for me...

Draw me to the church’s prayer,
especially on Thursday, Friday and Saturday...

You have opened your heart for me, Lord,
help me to open my days and nights this week to you...

In this time of special prayer, I make this request of you...

And please keep close to your heart those I love and care for,
whose names I lift up to you now...

Lord, in your love and mercy, hear my prayer.

Our Father...


- Good Friday is a day of fast and abstinence:
no meat, only one full meal, no eating between meals.
It is an ancient custom to continue this fast into Holy Saturday.

- If you have not yet reached out to the poor during Lent,
you may want to do so during the holy days of this week.

- Find out the times of the Holy Week liturgies and plan now to participate in them.


Lord, on the night before you died
you prayed alone in the garden
and offered your Father
the burdens of your mind, heart and soul.

Hear the prayers of all your sons and daughters
who share their burdens and fears with you this night.

Be with those who are afraid to be alone
with their memories and fears.

Stand guard with those who serve and protect us,
and with all who are in harm’s way this night.

Help us to trust that tomorrow will dawn
with new offers of your grace and presence.

Give us deep sleep and help us to rest this night in your arms
that we might be prepared to enter the spirit of these holy days
and come to the joy and peace of Easter.

Hail Mary...

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Prayerful Pause

Holy Week is all about your mercy, Lord:
about how much I need it,
how my heart longs for your pardon
and the peace you make with all of us,
time and time again...

Holy Week is all about your love, Lord:
about how much I need it,
how I take it so for granted,
how your kindness mends and heals us,
time and time again...

Holy Week is all about new life, Lord:
about how much I need it,
how I thirst for new beginnings
and for you to rise in each of us,
time and time again...

Help me walk this holy week with you, Lord:
to your mercy, love and life,
to Easter's hope and joy,
to the promise of the peace you offer,
time and time again...

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Sunday Word

Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week and is one of only two days on the church calendar when we proclaim and hear the complete story of the passion and death of Jesus. 

The entrance rite for Palm Sunday offers several options and so it's possible that the Mass you attend may begin with a proclamation of the gospel of Christ's entry into Jerusalem. This will take place at Masses including a special Palm Sunday procession.

Yes, the proclamation of the gospel this weekend is much longer than usual and you might hear some grumbling about that. But this is a story all Christians need to hear: it tells the depths of Jesus' love for each of us and for all of us...

Without the story of Christ's suffering and death there is no story of Easter joy and peace...

Spend some time with all of the readings, especially the Gospel. You might find it helpful as your read it to imagine yourself as one or several of the characters and ponder:
what if I had been one of the apostles?
what if I had been one of the priests, the elders or the scribes?
what if I had been Pilate? or Judas? or Peter?
or one of the bystanders?
what if I had stood at the foot of the Cross?
what if I had been Jesus?

At one time or another in our lives, we are all of these...
who am I, who are you
in this Week we call Holy?

Friday, March 18, 2016

Mother Teresa’s List of Humility

Mother Teresa (L) gives her blessing to a child at the Gift of Love Home on October 20, 1993, in Singapore. The 1979 Nobel Peace Prize winner is on a stop-over while enroute to China where she will set up a fist home for Chinese handicapped children in Shanghai. AFP PHOTO ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP / ROSLAN RAHMANBlessed Teresa of Calcutta, the soon-to-be saint — who experienced decades of spiritual darkness while working among the poorest of the poor — also had a practical and down-to-earth (and very memorable) way of speaking and teaching what she knew. Here is how she advised us to cultivate humility in our lives.

“These are the few ways we can practice humility:

To speak as little as possible of one’s self.

To mind one’s own business.

Not to want to manage other people’s affairs.

To avoid curiosity.

To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.

To pass over the mistakes of others.

To accept insults and injuries.

To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.

To be kind and gentle even under provocation.

Never to stand on one’s dignity.

To choose always the hardest.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How's your Lent

As we continue our journey through the season of Lent, let's shift our focus from the outside to the inside, and begin to look at inner changes instead of outer changes. We can do this by following the guidance of the great prophets, who predicts that our lives will be transformed when we make the choice to return, learn, gather and pray.

Yes, this is a day to pray, not to feel dismay.

First, we return to the God who says, "Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping and with mourning." To return to God is to repent -- to turn around and go in a new and opposite direction. When we repent, we turn to the path that God has laid out for us, so that we are living a life that is different than before.

Novelist and poet Ron Rash says that he is fascinated by the duality of human beings: the capacity for evil, but also for goodness. He tells haunting tales of the American South. "Evil always rises up," he says. "And yet there are always people who fight against it. I am fascinated by the war between what is best in our natures and what is worst."

When we repent, we fight against evil and turn away from what is worst in our natures. We return to God and turn toward what is good, toward what is best in our natures. This fight against evil feels like a war, but with God's help we can win it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tuesday Tunes

There was a young woman who had lived on the streets for many years as a prostitute, who had HIV/AIDS. I can’t remember her name. I learned her story in bits and pieces while I was there, and especially after she died when another volunteer shared more details with me. When this woman came to Gift of Peace she was bitter and angry, cursing and even spitting on the sisters and volunteers.

Eventually, though, she softened under the influence of patient love, and in time expressed interest in being baptized. After she had received instruction in the faith for a few weeks, she indicated she felt ready. One day, when the woman was still preparing for baptism, she asked one of the Sisters why God had looked on all those years and done nothing to intervene while she, as a child and young woman, suffered terrible injustices at the hands of others.

The Sister to whom she posed this shattering question gave what I believe to be a brilliant and inspired response, one I would never have thought to give. Sister said to this woman: “Why don’t you ask Him yourself?” and then walked the woman over to the Chapel.

Sister offered her a brief catechesis on the significance of the Blessed Sacrament and explained the meaning of the words found next to the Crucifix: “I thirst.”

Then she left her there alone.

The woman remained in the Chapel for at least two hours, crying loudly for stretches of time. Afterward, she went to the Sister and very simply indicated she was ready for baptism. No more questions.

I wrote later in my journal:

How humbling. If she had asked me where God was, I would’ve tried to give her an answer, a justification, a defense. Sister is a genius. I imagine the only answer this woman received from God was the ‘Why?’ of Jesus. Her objection became His. She was answered by the sight of a Victim not of a victimizer, by the sight of unrequited love, by the sight of a Lover athirst with love for the loveless and unloved …

She was not persuaded by rational arguments, but gazed on the compassionate Solution who had endured the same evils — a God with us who was, as Kreeft says, off the hook because He was on the hook. For Christians, theodicy [the problem of evil] is Christology. Theodicy is resolved only in an encounter with a God who suffers and dies and rises with us and for us. Christ is God’s response to our protest against evil. But I now think, even more profound: Christ reveals that our most strident protests against evil are only but a faint echo of God’s own (Gen.3:13; 4:10; 6:6).

Jesus’ “My God, my God, why?” (Mark 15:34) we thought was ours alone, raised against a silent, distant God…but we discover in Christ it was first His; and in Christ His and ours join in a blend more intimate than language itself can bear…and as they join on the cross, the Father to whom they are addressed erupts, explodes (Hosea 11:8-9) in an all-consuming response on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4) …

“For in [Jesus] every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’ For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen,’ to the glory of God.” (2 Cor. 1:20)

Bishop Robert Barron

Monday, March 14, 2016

Marianist Monday

Dear families, You know very well that the true joy which we experience in the family is not superficial; it does not come from material objects, from the fact that everything seems to be going well… True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons, something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life’s journey. But the basis of this feeling of deep joy is the presence of God in the family and his love, which is welcoming, merciful, and respectful towards all. God alone knows how to create harmony from differences. But if God’s love is lacking, the family loses its harmony, self-centeredness prevails and joy fades. But the family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally. That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world; it is the leaven of society. 

Pope Francis

Keeping in mind these words of Pope Francis about the presence of God in the family, our two high schools have sponsored their annual Communion Breakfasts during the Lenten season.

The Communion Breakfast is one of our finest traditions. It is one of the beautiful occasions during the course of the school year when parents, students, and teachers can gather as a school community and share in faith, friendship, and a meal. It is precisely this common faith that unites us.

One heart, one mind
Fortes in Unitate

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Day God Barged Into My Life:

The Day God Barged Into My Life: Fr. John Riccardo’s Amazing Testimony

My first memory is of the crucifix in my boyhood parish, Holy Name in Birmingham, Michigan. I do not know how old I was, but I knew Jesus had died for me and my whole life was suppose to be a response to this. This is certainly not a typical first memory but my family was anything but typical. My father, John, was the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board for the Chrysler Corporation, and also a devout Catholic.

My father proved that religion was not just a crutch for the weak. Every night he was on his knees before he went to bed, and even during his frequent travels he went to daily Mass. My mother, Thelma, was initially a Methodist, but she accompanied us to Mass long before her eventual conversion to the Catholic faith.

I was the youngest of five children and my very existence occurred against the advice of my mother’s doctor, because of her painful and crippling back condition. My mom later told me that I was a gift to her and my father, and in turn, they gave me back to God.

During my childhood, my prayers centered around my mother’s bad back. Endless treatments failed to alleviate her constant pain. When I was thirteen, one of my sisters called our mother to tell her she had just come from a charismatic prayer meeting and someone had sensed that God wanted to cure someone with a bad back. My sister was convinced it would be our mother.

Within a month, mom was playing tennis — completely healed — although there was no medical reason for the pain to be gone. Two years later, she formally converted to the Catholic faith.

Growing up in this home of prayer and miracles gave me a strong anchor. Yet, ironically, as a teenager, I began to hide my faith. I never stopped praying, but I began to live a life as one leading to hell. I no longer went to confession and by the time I attended college at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, my attendance at Mass was sporadic. It wasn’t enjoyable to hear the Gospel when I was not living a holy life.

Not until my junior year in college, in 1986, did my life change. I began connecting with a group of young men for basketball games who were part of an ecumenical Christian brotherhood outreach group. I saw men my own age who were normal guys but really knew God and were not afraid to talk about it. I began to examine my life and went through a conversion. At this time, I broke off a serious romantic attachment, leaving me free to concentrate on Christian outreach to university students.

Upon graduation, armed with a degree in English and communications, I interviewed for jobs in the automotive industry. It soon became clear to me that this was not the life God intended for me. So while trying to find his niche in the world, I accepted a job baking bread. With great trepidation, I drove home to tell my father of my plans to bake bread. I thought my dad would be disappointed. Instead, he told me he would be thrilled with whatever I chose to do in life
even if I wanted to be a priest. I assured him that would never happen.

Driving back to Ann Arbor that day, tears streamed down my face as I felt my life was moving beyond my own control. I wanted to follow Jesus, but as yet, I was unclear where that led. What I was suddenly clear on, however, was that following Jesus was not romantic; that the cross is heavy. I realized I was not the one in control.

As I cried, the words to a Christian song, "God’s Own Fool" played on my car stereo. "…So come lose your life for a carpenter’s son, for a madman who died for a dream. And you’ll have the faith His first followers had and you’ll feel the weight of the beam."

by John Riccardo

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Pause for a Psalm

We haven't turned our clocks yet and the equinox is just around the corner but it sure is feeling like spring around where I live - and I'm loving it!

Our Saturday morning prayer today began with opening wide the windows in our Community chapel and praying this beautiful setting of Psalm 23, a perfect psalm for beginning a new season and for today's reflection...

Friday, March 11, 2016

Christian art

Image result for the calling of matthewSome of the greatest Christian art has been produced by some really rotten Christians.

You don’t need to be saintly to paint a saint.

In fact, writes journalist Elizabeth Lunday, if you want a heavenly picture, it’s often best to hire a sinner.

Check out The Calling of St. Matthew by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. See how the apostle is in a dark and dirty Roman tavern, surrounded by lowlifes? That’s because Caravaggio spent plenty of time in these pubs himself, drinking and brawling. In 1606, this hot-tempered artist killed a Roman thug in a fight following a tennis match.

Or how about Rembrandt’s 1633 etching The Good Samaritan? It’s so down to earth that it has a dog relieving itself in the foreground. Members of the Dutch Reformed Church loved Rembrandt’s realistic artwork but didn’t appreciate his relationships with women. He painted his wife, Saskia, as a

prostitute in a tavern, sitting in the lap of one of the most well known of Jesus’ characters, the prodigal son. After Saskia died, he became lovers with his housekeeper and then left her for another servant, causing his housekeeper to take him to court. Messy, messy, messy.

Rembrandt lost the support of church members because of his behavior and died in poverty in 1669 — but not before he painted one of his greatest works, Return of the Prodigal Son. Like the sinful son in the parable, Rembrandt knew he needed forgiveness.

Then there’s Salvador Dali, the artist who created The Sacrament of the Last Supper. Although born to devout Catholic parents in Spain, he was an atheist who indulged every outlandish whim, including the throwing of orgies that he called “erotic masses.” Dali returned to his Catholic roots after moving to the United States, but some people questioned his sincerity. Dali may have been motivated more by money than by spirituality, bragging that postcards of his Last Supper sold more copies than all of the works of Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael combined.

Great Christian art, produced by not-so-great Christian artists — if indeed “Christian” at all.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Catholic Leadership Service Award

Partners in Mission & FACTS Management
Present Catholic Leadership Service Award

On Monday, February 29 at the National Leadership Conference for Catholic Schools in Naples, FL, Partners in Mission and FACTS Management presented the Catholic Leadership Service Award to Father Philip K. Eichner, President of Kellenberg Memorial High School in front of over 130 other Catholic school leaders.

The award, recognizing a genuine leader in Catholic Education, is given to one who ignites and inspires all through their leadership in Catholic Education.

Father Eichner has led the 2,700 student, academically acclaimed Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale, New York since its founding thirty years ago. This came after serving twenty-five years as President of his alma mater, the highly acclaimed Chaminade High School in Mineola, New York where he established an endowment in 1986 valued today at more than $60 million. In fact, during 1987 through 1992, Father served as President of both schools.

Beyond building stellar reputations and success at both schools, through his leadership both schools fostered vocations leading to a remarkable 26 members for his Marianist Order.

Among a host of other leadership roles, Father Eichner serves as Chair of the Board of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Pictured above with Father Eichner are Dan Hughes, Senior Vice President of FACTS Management, and Larry Furey, Founder and Partner of Partners in Mission, who were on hand to present the award.

“Our passion is often ignited through the inspiration of an individual readily recognized as a genuine leader in Catholic Education like Father Eichner,” stated Larry Furey.

Dan Hughes stated, “Father Eichner’s contributions to Catholic Education is truly inspiring and it is an honor to have ad the opportunity to participate in recognizing such a remarkable leader and contributor to Catholic Education.”

Through this Catholic Leadership Service Award, Partners in Mission and FACTS Management recognize Father Eichner's accomplishment while saying “thank you” for igniting our passion and inspiring each of us to excellence in advancing the mission of Catholic education.

Sister Clare Fitzgerald, SSND, Founder and Director of the Catholic School Leadership Program of the Graduate School of Education at Boston College, was the first recipient in 2014 of this award.

This will be presented in alternate years at The National Leadership Conference for Catholic Schools held in Naples, Florida. The next conference is planned for February 25-28, 2018.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

That we come to God

Did you know that the welcome given the prodigal son
is the welcome that awaits every one of us!

Only one thing is required: that we come to God.
However imperfect or self-serving the young son’s contrition,
it was enough to bring him home.

No matter how strong the elder son’s indignant pique,
the father came out to urge him to come in.

Only one thing is required: that we come to God.

Such is the mercy of God for each of us – without exception.
Like the father in the story,
God waits for us to come home and be reconciled.

And when we can’t find what we need to reach out for God’s forgiveness,
then God comes out to draw us into his loving arms.

At the end of the parable there’s a great banquet
and at the end of our lives, a banquet is waiting for us, too.

Will we confess and leave our sins behind and come home to God,
asking for mercy and pardon?

Will we bow to God’s mercy when we see how he draws near
to draw us into his love?

Lent is a season to consider questions just like these
and to understand that God’s greatest desire is to forgive us
and hold us in his healing love.

The altar before us is a sign of the table that waits us in the kingdom.
It’s a mercy table where the Lord invites all of us to join him.
The way to the table is path of contrition and forgiveness.

Pray with me, this Lent, that all of us will, as did the younger son,
“come to our senses” and come home to receive the gift of God’s mercy.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Marianist Monday

Image result for loop of graceWhat a great privilege we have in the middle of Lent to hear one of the greatest stories ever told. I’m talking about what’s generally regarded to be Jesus greatest parable. The parable of the Prodigal son or maybe better, the Father and his two sons. There is so much spiritual wealth in the story that Christian thinkers and artists up and down the centuries have used.

Here is how we begin. A man had two sons and the younger son, said to his Father “give me the share of your estate that should come to me.”

Now as many have pointed out, this is shockingly insulting language, especially for that time and place. What the younger son is saying basically was, "why don’t you hurry up and die, you want your father to die before you got your inheritance." He saying basically "I can’t wait for that, just hurry up, go ahead and die." It’s very deeply insulting to the Father.

Notice too, in this one line. Three times he emphasizes me. Give me my share of my estate that’s coming to me. So three times he emphasizes me. Well, here is the heart of the problem, isn’t it. God’s being is forgiving, I mean that in a double sense, it gives away, God is love, to love is to will the good of the other. The sinful consciousness is the one that looks inward. Me. Mine. My prerogatives.

The younger son is showing that he just doesn’t get his father. He does not get the dynamic of his father’s life. But the father respecting the son’s freedom, acquiesces . Divides the property between them. Then we hear after a few days, the younger son collects all of his belongings and goes off to a distant country. A distant country or a big empty space. That’s where the young son went.

Do you see how the link to God, the link to the father, who is giving, is the source of life, as long as we are connected, we are willing to receive the gift that God gives, then we have life and life to the full. What happens now is, when you sever that link and you say let me have the divine life as my own possession what happens by a kind of inevitable spiritual physics is, you lose that life. And you see why. The Father’s or God’s life exists only in gift form. That means when you receive it as a gift, you must then, give it as a gift. When you do that, it increases in you. That’s the spiritual physics. What goes wrong is what you say; I will receive the divine life, and make it mine. Then, you wander indeed into the great empty space. There he squandered his inheritance in the life of dissipation.

And he lost everything

So it goes when we live in the space of the ego and outside of the space of God’s living love.

How wonderful it is that we hear a famine hit that land. That’s a spiritual image.

Lifelessness, dryness happened when we are cut off from the love of God.

The son realizes the lowest level people have more than enough. So he got up and goes off to his Father.

And while the son is wandering off in the empty space, the Father is waiting for us to return. God is not this fussy policeman. God is like this Father who watches and waits for us to return. He ran to his son. Embraced him and kissed him.

There was a proverb in Jesus time that said, an old man’s cloak should never move. Meaning He does not walk or move to you. You must walk or move to him.

You see, the Father throwing caution and respectability to the wind, comes running after his son.

If you want, humiliating himself before the son who has humiliated him.

That catches the dynamic in the relationship between us and god.

Every time we sin, we all have wandered into the big empty space, we have insulted our Father. We said, Give me my share coming to me. Nevertheless, God will humiliates himself before us who humiliated him. That’s a revolution in the understanding of God that is contained in this story.

The son said to him, Father I have sinned against heaven and against you, I no longer deserve to be called your son.

The father cuts him off and does not let him finish this well rehearsed speech.

He said to his servants “Quickly bring the finest Robes/Put a Ring on his finger/ Sandals on his feet. He dresses him up. Reminding him of his nobility. You see every one of us created by God, redeemed by Christ, baptized has this sacred nobility. We can throw it all away. We can wander in the big empty space.

But the Father restores us.

What is the proper dynamic of life?

God gives/we receive and we give back/ and in that loop of grace we come to life.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Evangelical icon points the way with faith and reason

While surfing through some TED Talks on Netflix the other day, I heard some fascinating speeches: from MIT’s Sherry Turkle on how our social media devices are leaving us “alone, together”; from Berkeley philosopher John Searle on how his “biological naturalism” dissolves the mind-body problem; and from UCLA’s Gregory Stock on why humanity, in order to continue evolving, needs to overcome bioethical scruples and better integrate and implement technology into our organic life – in short, “upgrade.”

Smack dab in the middle of all these fascinating talks on science, technology, and philosophy from Silicon valley and professors across the country, one name jumped out at me: evangelical icon Billy Graham.

“One of these things is not like the others.”

My first feeling was resentment. Of course. Why should it be someone like Charles Taylor or Fr. George Coyne making the case for the Christian faith in Silicon Valley? That would smudge up the razor sharp “divide” between matters of reason and matters of faith so carefully drawn down the heart of the secular age. Better to send in the clown – a TV preacher – to emote, speculate, and thump his Bible, flattening religious language through overuse and cordoning it off through fideism. Let him wave his arms and tell us to repent and believe, and then we can all get back to the interesting stuff in the lab.

Whether that was the intent, or whether the TED conference was genuinely interested in hearing Billy Graham speak on technological innovation, I can’t say. Graham himself expresses surprise in the first few minutes at having been invited at all. “As a clergyman, you can imagine how out of place I feel,” he says. “I feel like a fish out of water. Or maybe an owl out of the air…some of you may be wondering why they have a speaker from the field of religion. Richard [Wurman] can answer that, because he made that decision.”

Therein begins an altogether surprising talk, one that gave me a newfound respect for the man. The depth of what he says is surprising; but the candor and care with which he says it, even more so. Age and illness clearly had slowed him down considerably and his softspoken demeanor stands in sharp contrast to fiery black and white broadcasts from the 50s. He’s funny, relatable, and self-deprecating, but never without gravitas.

The talk was filmed almost 20 years ago. At 96, Graham is still preaching. We can see why. It’s not just because he’s a man of deep-seated faith, though he is that. It’s also because he’s a man of reason. He knows what he believes and why. He doesn’t just enjoin us to believe by appealing to the emotions; he quotes from Pascal, Solzhenitsyn, and other great thinkers, appealing to the mind. He looks to history, science, and other fields of human knowledge, seeing in them diverse pointers to the mystery of revelation. And as a farm boy from North Carolina, none of it was handed to him as a matter of course; it was just faith seeking understanding.

Graham does what probably many in the audience were not expecting him to do: he makes a compelling case for a reasonable faith that has everything to do with technology – especially its limitations. “David found that there were many problems that technology could not solve,” Graham declares. “There were many problems still left. And they’re still with us. And you haven’t solved them…the problem is within us, within our hearts and our souls. Our problem is that we are separated from our Creator, which we call God.”

Watch the entire talk below:

Saturday, March 5, 2016

God is Patient

Image result for Patient god

Jesus is the patient gardener
and he patiently cultivates his grace in your life and in mine,
-- especially, when we’re not bearing fruit.

A problem is that many of us may be oblivious to God’s patience
because we never acknowledge the things in our lives that beg for it.
That’s why, in the Gospels,
Jesus calls us to repent.
He calls us to examine our lives,
to see if we have yielded the fruit he looks for
and patiently waits for us to produce.

How long will he be patient with us?
Look at the burning bush!
the Lord's patience with us burns like a heart afire --
but it’s never consumed, never exhausted: it never gives up on us.
The Lord’s loving heart burns bright for us always,
warming us with his light, his mercy, his pardon.
The flame of his patient love for us never goes out, it never dies.

Lent is a season, perhaps THE season
for us to remember how patient God is with us –
and a season for us to remember why and how much
we stand in need of God’s merciful and patient love and pardon.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Find a patch of holy ground

Image result for Holy ground

Lent is a time to look for and to find a patch of holy ground,
a place, a time to stand before God, to meet him in his mercy,
and to let the fire of His love give us light to see our lives as they are:
not as we wish they were or pretend they are – but as they are
and to acknowledge, to confess, our need for God’s mercy.

Sunday after Sunday, Lent after Lent, year after year,
in spite of our forgetfulness, our faults and our failure to bear fruit,
the Lord sets this table for us
where he patiently cultivates his grace in our hearts
through the Eucharist, the gift of the Cross and the altar.

May this be the Lent, Lent 2016,
when we find the holy ground of God’s presence,
confess our need for his mercy,
and yield the fruit of his grace in our lives