Saturday, April 30, 2016

Marian faith

Marian faith, for Chaminade, was a faith of the heart as well as an intellectual assent, a faith so deep that, like Mary’s, it could conceive and give birth to Jesus. Mary in her assent embodies the openness and cooperation with the action of the Holy Spirit that is at the center of Christian faith. Inspired by the Spirit, Mary brings Jesus into the world, dramatically showing us that with God all things are possible. 

Secondly, Chaminade knew that transforming the social order required the action not just of individuals, but of many people working together with a common mission. For Chaminade, communities of faith were the natural embodiment of a vibrant Christianity. He frequently cited the example of the first Christians who held everything in common, prayed, and broke bread together. And as Mary, first of believers, gathered in prayer with the apostles in the upper room and gave birth to the Church, so she still stands at the center of all Marianist communities of faith. 

Finally, Father Chaminade worked to infuse these communities of faith with a deep sense of mission. Faced with the devastation of the Revolution, Marianist communities of faith aimed at nothing less than rebuilding the Church. Religious and lay, men and women, wealthy and poor they came together and looked to Mary for inspiration in their great task. Mary, who formed Jesus for his mission, who despite her great faith had to ponder many things she did not fully understand, who despite an uncertain future uttered her fiat—this same Mary will form us, Chaminade believed, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to become like Jesus for the sake of others. The person and influence of Mary is a distinguishing thread woven throughout the entire fabric of Marianist spirituality.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Innovative missionary strategies

The characteristics of Marianist education take their distinctive form from Marianist spirituality. Fr. Chaminade spent part of the French Revolution in exile in Saragossa, Spain, where he passed many hours in prayer and contemplation at the shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar. Guided by God’s Spirit, he envisioned innovative missionary strategies that the signs of the time were urgently demanding. 

Upon his return to Bordeaux, Chaminade’s sense of urgency led him to form a diversity of apostolic communities inspired by Mary: first, lay communities, then two religious congregations—the Daughters of Mary Immaculate and the Society of Mary—and finally, schools, teacher formation and other educational institutions. This work took many years. It was guided by and at the same time helped to shape a deepening, distinctively Marianist spirituality. All subsequent Marianist educational work has been inspired by this spirituality with its three characteristic dimensions: a spirit of Marian faith, the building of communities of faith, and a deep sense of mission.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

“For new times, new methods.”

Grounded in this faith-filled view, the Marianist tradition invites a prudent openness to social and cultural change in the world, following the maxim of Father Chaminade: “For new times, new methods.” 
We encourage the creative imagination. Facing new times while relying on faith benefits all those who work in Marianist education, including those of other faiths, because it so deeply respects what is most human in students and in one another. In being faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate, we live with and for the people of our time and share with them their joys and hopes, their anxieties and sufferings.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Marianist Education

Marianist education aims to sow, cultivate, and bring to fruition the Christian spirit in the human race. For this reason, in all our educational institutions, formation in faith and the animating of Christian communities are truly our priorities. 

Consonant with the tradition of the Catholic Church and of Marianist education, we believe that each person has been created in the image and likeness of God. Basically good, the human person is also weakened by sin and must acquire good habits through personal discipline. Nonetheless, human worth is inherent and not reducible to occupation or achievement. Endowed with intelligence and freedom, a person becomes more fully human by serving and loving in community. These fundamental principles regarding the human person ought to inform all Marianist educational activities.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Blessed Chaminade

William Joseph Chaminade was born in France in 1761, the youngest of the 15 children of Blaise and Catherine Chaminade. Early in his life he felt called to the priesthood, was ordained and spent the early years in the ministry of teaching.

Undaunted by the rising political tension and religious persecution that would precipitate the French Revolution, Chaminade continued his ministry. In the first waves of the forced exile of religious and priests from France, Chaminade remained. Defying the authorities, he went underground disguised as a tinker or needle peddler. He continued to bring to the Church of Bordeaux his compassion and ministry. Hunted by the political authorities, he was finally captured and exiled to Spain.

It was during years of exile in Saragossa, Spain, that Chaminade was inspired to see his mission to the Church of France in a new way. It was there deep in prayer before the statue of Our Lady of the Pillar in the cathedral of Saragossa, that Mary’s role in the Incarnation would become for him the archetype of his efforts to rechristianize France: the most faithful imitation of Jesus, Son of God become Son of Mary.

When he returned to France in 1800, the vision of Saragossa was engraved in his heart, and he began the work of actualizing this vision with the establishment of the first lay communities, and later the Daughters of Mary Immaculate (with the collaboration of Mother Adèle), and the Society of Mary.

From the founder we carry forth the prayer which allows us to act on behalf of people in new and bold ways. We are convinced that “still today the Gospel can be lived in all the force of its letter and spirit” (Rule of Life, article 9).

Fr. Chaminade was beatified in 2000 at a ceremony in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

The Daughters of Mary Immaculate (Marianist Sisters) and Society of Mary celebrate the bicentennials of their foundations in 2016 and 2017.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Marianist Life in Community

In living in community, we seek daily to recognize and witness to the presence of Jesus in our midst.

We understand our religious community to be our primary community, through which we work to help other communities of faith develop, flourish and multiply. Our Rule of Life calls us to live a common life of prayer, shared faith and transforming relationships. It is a life that helps us witness to the Gospel here and now.

Living a vibrant community life as men of different ages, personalities and sensitivities takes cooperation and mutual sacrifice, and we accept this challenge in faith.

We find in Mary the mother of Jesus our inspiration for family spirit, hospitality, simplicity and apostolic courage. The mysterious presence of Mary informs our way of living and working together in ways we don’t understand.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Dedicated to forming people and communities of faith

The Society of Mary (Marianists) is an international Roman Catholic religious congregation of brothers and priests. 

Blessed William Joseph Chaminade founded the Society of Mary in France in 1817. Marianists have been present in the United States since they first arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1849.

Marianists priests and brothers live and minister as equals, modeling our lives after Mary, the mother of Jesus. As part of a wider Marianist Family that includes Marianist Sisters and committed lay men and women, we are dedicated to forming people and communities of faith through education, parish work, social service, the arts, and other ministries.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

His endless mercy follows me

Jesus, the Good Shepherd pledges his voice, his word,
for our hearing.
And we hear the Shepherd’s voice in the scriptures, in prayer,
in our hearts and in our minds, in our conscience.
His voice is always there to be heard, to be followed:
though whether we hear and follow where his voice leads - is up to us.

The Good Shepherd promises to know us.
And no one knows me better, no one knows you better,
than Jesus, the Shepherd of us all.
He knows us better than we know ourselves.
He knows us inside out – and still loves us.
He knows everything we do, everything we think of doing
and everything we’ve failed to do – and still forgives us.
He knows the secrets of my heart and all its desires
but still gives us, time after time, opportunities
to improve on our mistakes, to try again, to begin again,
to win again his favor and his love.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, promises us eternal life.
And in light of that promise, anything else we think we need to be happy
pales in comparison.
The problem comes whenever I begin to think
that what I believe I need to be happy this week
is greater, more important or more compelling
than the promise of the gift of life forever.

Finally, Jesus, the Good Shepherd promises us
that we shall not perish,
that no one and nothing can snatch us from his hand.
Indeed, the promise of life forever tells us that even in death,
we do not perish,
that not even death can snatch us from the Shepherd’s hand:
we are always and ever held in the palm of the Lord’s saving hand.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray
for all the good and gracious things we came to pray for today.
It only means that the happiness, the serenity, the contentment
that any of those things might bring us
is little, indeed,
in light of all that Jesus, the Good Shepherd promises
to us who are in his flock.

The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.
Jesus, my Good Shepherd,
I trust in you alone
for your endless mercy follows me,
your goodness will lead me home…

Friday, April 22, 2016

“a reason for us to have hope…

This simple faithfulness to the gospel and to Marianist pedagogical traditions serves the Church by making available to all the energy and grace that spring from the Marianist charism. We hope thereby to revitalize our educational institutions and our personal presence, to offer people what Father Chaminade believed that Mary offers to all our lives: “a reason for us to have hope…a support, a help, and a renewed strength.”

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, in this vision and this work we give encouragement and confidence to each other. Open and attentive to new approaches, each educator keeps Marianist education up to date by their contributions. Even further, as lay and religious Marianist educators, we are called to offer to those around us the testimony of our lives, to live in such a way that we vigorously revivify the message of the reign of God, already present in the midst of our world, but the fullness of which is yet to come. We hope that this renewal and putting into practice of the characteristics of Marianist education will be a blessing for all those whom we serve in the educational communities in which we minister.

The Good Shepherd knows my story

The Lord, my good shepherd, knows me
and knows my story,
knows the whole of my story
– and he knows you and your story just as well.

The Lord knows the stories behind our stories.
He knows the simplicities and the complexities,
the joys and the sorrows,
the selfishness and the generosity,
the strengths and weaknesses,
the hopes and disappointments,
the talents and disabilities
and the circumstances and opportunities
that are part of every one of our stories - yours and mine
- and the story of us all together as his people, as the Church.

And he knows and understands how all of these
contribute to the twists and turns, the ups and downs,
the graces and the challenges that weave together
our thoughts, words, deeds, choices and decisions
- into the story that each of our lives is.

But… to say that the Lord knows and understands our stories
does not free us from accountability for our lives and our deeds.

In the greatest story of all, the story of God’s love for all of us,
you and I are living, human characters in God’s story,
created by God and called by God to write the stories of our lives
– as a response to his love for us.

We’re responsible not only for our thoughts, words and deeds:
we’re responsible for the narrative that knits them all together
and responsible for the relationship with God and with others
we spend our lives strengthening – or weakening.

The Lord, my good shepherd, knows me
and knows my story,
knows the whole of my story
– and he knows you and your story just as well.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The good shepherd knows me

The good shepherd knows me as his own
- and he knows me inside out.
And he good shepherd knows you as his own
- and he knows you inside out.

And the good shepherd knows our stories
and with his Spirit’s help he is ever by our side
as we write a new chapter in those stories every day.

That the Lord knows me as well as he does
is no reason to be afraid of him but rather a reason to rejoice
since he himself is no stranger to the human story,
he himself lived our narrative of human pain and suffering,
even through death, laying down his life
to take it up again – and rise.

We gather to tell the story of God’s love for us,
in Word and in Sacrament,
precisely to refresh in our minds and hearts the pattern
by which we’re called to shape and live our own stories.

As we tell again, today, the story of Jesus’ love for us,
of how, on the night before he died, he gave himself to us at his Table
and then on the next day gave himself for us
on the altar of the Cross,
as we tell that story again,
may the narrative of love we hear and celebrate
shape and change the stories of our lives,
our relationship with God,
until his story becomes ours and our story becomes his.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Lord knows me

In naming himself our good shepherd,
Jesus reminds us that he knows us:
“I know my sheep, and they know me.”

The Lord knows me -- the Lord knows you --
the Lord knows everyone of us
better than anyone else knows us or possibly could know us.
The Lord knows me infinitely better than I know myself.

Now, consider what all this means.

It means the Lord knows every one of my faults,
he knows all of my secrets;
he knows things about me that no one else knows;
he knows things about me that I don’t know;
he knows my every thought and desire;
he knows everything I don’t want anyone else to know about me!
All of this is as disturbing as it is true!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tuesday Tunes

The Lord is my Shepherd,
I have all I need,

He makes me lie down in green meadows,
Beside the still waters he will lead.
He restores my soul, he rights my wrongs,
He leads me in a path of good things,
And fills my heart with songs.

Even though I walk through a dark and dreary land,
There is nothing that can shake me,
He has said he won't forsake me,
I'm in his hand.

He sets a table before me in the presence of my foes,
He anoints my head with oil,
And my cup overflows.

Surely, surely goodness and kindness will follow me,
All the days of my life, And I will live in his house,
Forever, forever and ever.

Glory be to our Father, and Brother, And to the Holy of Holies,
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, Life, without end.

Monday, April 18, 2016

My Good Shepherd

The Lord, my good shepherd, knows me
and knows my story,
knows the whole of my story
– and he knows you and your story just as well.

In spite of all the Lord knows about me
– and how well he knows me - and each of you -
still, he’s willing to lay down his life for us
-- for every one of us.

Sometimes I might be tempted to think
that the Lord’s knowledge of me
is information entered in a perfectly accurate database,
storing every one of my thoughts, words and deeds,
past, present – and future!
And it’s true that there’s nothing about me the Lord doesn’t know.

But more important than all that knowledge is this:
the Lord knows my story.

The Lord knows the narrative that links together
all the data in the file he might be keeping on me.

My life is much more than the sum of all my words and deeds.
My life is the story of my relationship with God
and with others, near and far, who are part of my story.

So, in addition to knowing everything I’ve ever done –
the Lord also knows why I did it
and what was its impact, for good or for ill
on me and my relationship with God and with others.

Besides knowing every thought that has ever crossed my mind–
the Lord knows where each thought came from, how it got there,
what I did with it, and how it touched my relationship
with him and with others in my life.

As well as knowing my every desire, every want, every lust,
the Lord also knows well what are my deepest and truest needs
and all the ways, good and bad, that I try to satisfy them.

The Lord, my good shepherd, knows me
and knows my story,
knows the whole of my story
– and he knows you and your story just as well.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Lord is my Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. 
Fresh and green are the meadows where he gives me repose. 
Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit. 
He guides me along the right path;he is true to his name. 
You are there with your crook and your staff; 
with these you give me comfort...
-Psalm 23 

A place where I want for nothing?
Meadows, fresh and green?
Restful waters to lift my spirits?
Sounds great -- I'm there, Lord!

Well, actually, it's more like I want to get there
and since on many days I'm not there,
I just might need someone
to lead me on the right path, in the right direction -
someone to shepherd me...

I need someone like you, Lord, to shepherd me
from nagging problems and troubles and fears,
from too many worries and distractions
that keep me from just that peaceful place within me
where you wait, patiently,
wait for me to settle down and rest
in the peace that only you can give...

Give me grace to find this place of peace,
the place I often miss because I run too fast
or waste my time or begin to think that I can find
on my own, without your help,
without you there to shepherd me...

Without your shepherd's lead I lose my way,
without your shepherd's crook I go astray,
without your shepherd's voice to call my name
I wander in dark valleys, in confusion and in fear...

But I know you're by my side, Lord,
always showing me the way and finding me
when I run off alone...

Be my shepherd, Lord,
and lead me and guide me
to the meadows of your peace... 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Sunday Word

It's time to look ahead to the Scriptures for this coming weekend, the Fourth Sunday of Easter. Because the Gospel passage on this Sunday each year highlights a particular image of the Lord, this is sometimes called "Good Shepherd Sunday."

On all the Sundays of this Easter season the first reading is taken from the Acts of the Apostles and this week's passage gives us some of the story of Paul and Barnabas and their trials in preaching the gospel.

The second reading in Paschaltide this year is taken from the Book of Revelation, this week's entry offering the interesting image of "the Lamb who will shepherd them..."

From John comes this Sunday's Gospel, only four short verses but dense with truth and content as Jesus speaks to us as our Shepherd.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Draw near… touch me and see…

St. Paul tells us:
“Eye has not seen and ear has not heard
nor has it even entered the human heart
what God has ready for those who love him.”

The story of Jesus rising from the dead
and the stories of his appearing to his friends
give us a glimpse of what we’ve not yet seen or heard,
of what God has ready for those who love him.

And the Eucharist does the same.
Offering a sacrifice of praise at the altar,
we have a glimpse of the sacrifice Jesus offered on the Cross.
And in the Bread and Chalice of the Eucharist,
Jesus touches us with his Body and Blood.

At this table Jesus says to us,
as he did to his disciples 2,000 years ago,
Draw near… touch me and see…

May the Sacrament we receive as we draw near
help us touch and see that Jesus is risen among us
and give us at least a glimpse
of what God has ready for those who love him.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

He took it and ate it

They gave Him a piece of baked fish;
He took it and ate it in from of them.
Ghosts don’t chew. Ghosts don’t swallow. Ghosts don’t eat.

The battered, wounded, crucified, pierced body of Jesus
has risen from the dead - and he lives!

Today, we, like the apostles, might still think,
might even prefer to think, that Jesus is a ghost.

It would be easier for us if he were:
it would be a lot less messy,
not so much of all this touching every one
- because you can’t touch a ghost!

But that’s not how it happened.
He rose from the dead: body and soul.
And that’s Good News for us because in it we are promised
that after we die, at the end of all time,
our souls (yours and mine) and our bodies (yours and mine)
will be reunited -- in a way we cannot even begin to imagine,
and we will know one another and love one another again,
in God, in peace and - for ever!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

We touch Him where He is risen

At the heart of our faith stands Christ
calling us to draw near enough to Him that He might touch us
- and we might touch Him.

And how might we touch Him?

We touch Him where He is risen – in the lives of others.

• The risen Jesus call us to touch one another
with tenderness, consolation, compassion and healing.

• We’re called to touch our neighbors in supporting them,
lifting them up, mending their brokenness, bearing their burdens
and holding them secure.

• Jesus especially asks us to touch those who are deemed
the diseased, the outcast, the different, the marginalized;
and all those “untouchables,” in my life and yours,
who are on the other side of our anger, our resentment,
our selfishness and stubbornness and our grudges.

• Jesus invites us to touch the divine presence wherever it is found
in creation: in nature, in the heavens, in the earth, in the oceans,
in everything that lives and breathes.

Ours is a faith of touching, because we are a sacramental church
and at the heart of who we are as God’s people
stands the Risen Jesus, inviting us: Touch me and see…

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

We are a sacramental Church

“Touch me and see...”

The reason Jesus invited his friends to touch him was simple:
he wanted them to know that he had risen from the dead,
and that he was not some illusion, some ghost,
some figment of their collective imagination.
This was no “virtual Jesus” - not a hologram.
He wanted them to know that he was real.
“Touch me and see,” he said...

The faith of our tradition has been a “touch me and see” affair
ever since Jesus rose from the dead.

Even in the simplest of ways.

• I’ll bet the first thing you did on entering this church today
was to reach out and touch some holy water,
and then to touch ourselves with that water,
in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

• Walking into the Chapel today I found a place
and touched one knee to the ground,
recognizing that here, like the apostles in the Gospel,
I am in the sacramental presence of the Risen Lord.

• At the beginning of Mass when the celebrant approached the altar
he touched it with a kiss,
a sign of reverence for Christ who is the altar of our salvation.

• Before the Gospel we touched our forehead, mouth and breast
praying that the Gospel will touch our minds, our words and our hearts.

• We will touch each other with the sign of peace.

• We will touch the very Body and Blood of Christ in Communion,
receiving the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation
into our hands, and into our bodies.

Ours is a faith of touching, because we are a sacramental church
and at the heart of who we are as God’s people
stands the Risen Jesus, inviting us: Touch me and see…

Monday, April 11, 2016

Marianist Monday

April, 2016

My dear friends in college . . . and beyond,

Why writer’s block now? I’m rarely at a loss for words. Usually when I write, it’s not getting started that’s my problem; it’s wrapping things up. So, I’ve learned all the tricks of the trade for those of us who suffer from verbosity. I’ll whittle away at the margins. I’ll shrink the font size. I’ll edit out just enough words and phrases so that the letter or the article or whatever I am writing fits – barely – into the allotted space. Or, when all else fails, I’ll ask a trusted friend to edit my writing and “make it fit.”

Today, however I find myself staring at a blank computer screen, making more false starts than I care to admit. In fact, I just deleted the first two paragraphs of my third attempt at this letter, muttering to myself, “No, that’s not it. That’s not something I would write at all.”

As a former English teacher, I know quite well the importance of a writer finding his or her own voice. Absent that, the words seems hollow; inauthentic; someone else’s, perhaps, but certainly not my own.

I’ve hit a roadblock, I think, because I have this sense that I’m supposed to write about Easter joy, but, right now, I’m not feeling much of it. My mind turns to the death of so many members – young members – of the Chaminade and Kellenberg Families, including current parents and even recent graduates. As I write this letter, one of our faculty members, Mr. Christopher Lynch, is bravely battling cancer; he was diagnosed over the February vacation. And as I look at the world around me, I am deeply dismayed by the particularly petty character of this year’s Presidential election cycle, all the while as our country faces grave threats from ISIS, from North Korea, from a looming budget deficit, and from domestic ideological and racial polarization deeper than any I have seen in many, many years.

In the midst of all this, just where is the victory of Christ? Is there any evidence at all that the world has been redeemed? Given all this tragedy and disappointment, how are we to experience Easter joy?

Maybe, I wonder, just maybe, Easter joy comes in the small signs of hope that point to the ultimate victory of Jesus Christ over sin and death.

One such sign of hope comes in the form of a book that I recently finished. In fact, I picked up the book at the suggestion of one of you guys – a Chaminade graduate from the Class of 2013. The book is entitled Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. The book consists of scores of stories and reflections by Gregory Boyle, S.J., a Roman Catholic priest who has worked for over 25 years in the barrios of Los Angeles, ministering to a predominantly Mexican-American and African-American community. The founder of “Homeboy Industries,” Fr. Greg, or “G-Dog,” as his “homies” call him, has worked tirelessly to stem the tide of gang violence by providing young men and women with jobs; counseling services; a sense of self-worth; and, for most, the first experience in their lifetime of actually being loved.

It has by no means been a walk in the park for Fr. Greg. He has connected hundreds of young men and women, many of them former convicts, with real jobs and a new lease on life, but he has also buried over 800 “homies” lost to drugs use and gang warfare. Many of these “lost ones” had seemed to have a bright new future ahead of them, only to have a bullet or a hypodermic needle get in the way.

After one funeral,

. . . I give myself permission now, to allow this pain into some cherished,
readied place in my heart. Every homie’s death recalls all the previous
ones, and they all arrive in a rush. I’m caught off guard, as well, by the
sudden realization that Chico’s burial is my eighth in the past three weeks.
I decide to walk away from the coffin and spot a lonely tree not too
far from the crowd. I stand there by myself and welcome all the feelings
of this great loss. I cry.

Fr. Greg writes candidly about the disappointment and the heartache he experiences every day:

Are you, in the end, successful? Naturally, I find myself heartened by
Mother Teresa’s take: ‘We are not called to be successful, but faithful.’ The
distinction is helpful for me as I barricade myself against the daily dread of
setback. You need protection from the ebb and flow of three steps forward,
five steps backwards. You trip over disappointment and recalcitrance every
day, and it all becomes a muddle.

“Oh, death, where is your victory? Oh, death, where is your sting?”

“Everywhere!” we might be tempted to cry out in utter frustration.

But “the still, small voice of God” suggests otherwise, and I heard that still, small voice of God echoing on every page of Tattoos on the Heart:

At Homeboy Industries, we seek to tell each person this
truth: that they are exactly what God had in mind when God
made them – and then we watch, from this privileged place, as
people inhabit this truth. Nothing is the same again. No bullet
can pierce this; no prison walls can keep this out. And death
can’t touch it – it is just that huge.

Or elsewhere,

Fabian’s childhood was a dense mix of gangster father,
mentally ill mother, and no one ever really in their cinco sentidos –
always high, all the time. When he was ten or so, his mother was
beating him with her high heel, when he sought refuge in the closet.
She commenced to beat on Fabian’s brother, Michael, and when
his brother’s screaming stopped, Fabian peeked out of the closet and
saw that his mother had wrapped a wire hanger around his neck,
and he was turning blue. Fabian flew to her and body-slammed
and wrestled her to the ground. Consequently, no one would have
been surprised if Fabian had taken up permanent residence in some
state-run, locked-down facility.

But somehow, by a mysterious and gracious turn of some
steering wheel, Fabian found other coordinates and navigated his
way out of the treacherous waters where others perished.

In fact, Fabian went on to become a staff member of Homeboy Industries and an expert at dissipating gang violence:

I just don’t know how Fabian managed it.
With more mystery than I can explain away, Fabian locked
on to the singularity of love that melts you. It doesn’t melt who you
are, but who you are not. Turns out he wasn’t all the abuse he endured.
He was something else, astonishing and glorious.

With the dark shadow of Christ’s Crucifixion still fresh on our minds and the glory of the Resurrection overcoming that shadow with light and life, Easter is indeed a time for us to “lock on to the singularity of love that melts you. It doesn’t melt who you are, but who you are not.” Turns out we’re not all the negative baggage we carry along with us. We are something else, “astonishing and glorious.” Funny thing is, it’s true of everyone.

And that is indeed good and joyful news. Amen. Alleluia!

On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,

Bro. Stephen Balletta, S.M.

P.S. Turns out I not only had trouble starting this letter, but wrapping it up as well.

P.S. 2 By the way, Tattoos on the Heart is the theme for our upcoming May retreat for college-age

men. We’re holding it at Founder’s Hollow, and it runs from Monday afternoon, May 23 to Wednesday afternoon, May 25. We’ll be providing transportation, or you can drive up to Founder’s on your own. For more information and to register online, follow this link:

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Sunday Word

This weekend brings us to the Third Sunday of Easter.

The first reading each Sunday in the Easter season is taken from the Acts of the Apostles. This week's passage paints a picture of the consequences of "preaching in that name," the name of Jesus. This lectionary text omits some verses and you might want to read the more complete text.

Lost in a deep mystical experience, John's words in the second reading, taken from Revelation, give us an image of the heavenly liturgy. It's possible that some of the hymnody at Mass this Sunday will quote from this Scripture about "the Lamb that was slain."

The Gospel comes in a longer and shorter form. The longer version tells the story of Jesus preparing breakfast on the shore while the disciples go fishing and includes the dialogue between Jesus and Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?"

How wonderful would that be, to have breakfast with Jesus on the shore?

Saturday, April 9, 2016

God loves us, delights in us

Brother Lawrence, a Christian mystic, suggests that the practice of the presence of God involves the realization that we're constantly under God's gaze. It includes a daily determination to be sensitized to God all around us, to be aware of his sovereignty, to be submitted to his authority. It involves the realization that God loves us, delights in us, and desires a close, personal relationship with us. It's a life of Coram Deo, in the presence of God, one in which we are constantly aware of God's saving actions on our behalf, and one in which our day-to-day actions become nothing less than acts of service to God.

Through this growing awareness and activity, we move ever closer to enjoying no degree of separation.

The saints of God are those who are standing before the throne and before the Lamb, in this life and in the life to come. They are a group of ordinary people - past, present and future - who have an extraordinarily close relationship with God. They are not perfectly sinless people, nor are they especially powerful people, but they are profoundly connected people: men and women who are linked directly to God and to the Lamb, Jesus Christ. This makes them stand out in a world well-known for six or 60 or 600 degrees of separation.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Saints of God

"They loved their Lord so dear, so dear," wrote Lesbia Scott in a popular children's hymn, "and God's love made them strong." This 1929 hymn, titled "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God," makes it clear that saints are those who have a close, personal relationship with our ever-loving Lord. Scott includes doctors and queens and shepherdesses and soldiers and priests in her charming list of the saints of this world - as well as one who "was slain by a fierce wild beast" - and she insists that "there's not any reason, no, not the least, why I shouldn't be one, too."

There's no reason she shouldn't be one. No, not the least. And there's no reason you shouldn't be a saint, either.

One of the elders in Revelation asks John, "Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?" John shrugs his shoulders, and so the elder answers his own question. They are not necessarily the best and the brightest, the most sophisticated or the most successful, but instead they are the ones "who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

Out of the great ordeal they have come, out of a life of trials and temptations, distractions and interruptions. Although being pushed, pulled and sometimes pulverized by earthly events, they have done their best to remain close to God through prayer, praise, Scripture study and acts of simple service. They have been bloodied by life, but then washed clean by their faith in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

They - like you - are the saints of God.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Coram Deo

The saints of God can show us the way to the Lord. In Revelation, John has a vision of heaven, and in it he sees a great multitude from every nation standing before the throne and before the Lamb of God, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cry out in a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!"

These saints are standing in the presence of God, proclaiming that salvation belongs only to God and to the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. There is an ancient Latin phrase for their particular position, Coram Deo, which means "before the face of God," or "in the presence of God." To stand Coram Deo is to be aware of God's presence, and to be sensitive to the involvement of God in human life. To live Coram Deo is to realize that God is working to forgive, heal, strengthen and save us; it is to believe that salvation belongs only to God and to the Lamb!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Mercy: gushing forth from his heart

Pope Francis said:

The Lord asks us above all not to judge and not to condemn.
If anyone wishes to avoid God’s judgment,
he should not make himself the judge of his brother or sister.
Human beings, whenever they judge,
look no farther than the surface,
whereas God looks into the very depths of the soul.
                           (No. 14, Misericordiae Vultus)
We’ll need to see what this Year of Mercy will bring
for the Church and the world.

For now, we go to the Lord’s table to celebrate his supper,
the very meal he shared on the night before he died with those who,
only hours later, would betray, deny and abandon him.
But he broke bread with them, he shared his cup with them,
he gave them at that table, that night, the gift of his life,
precisely because his mercy was there for them
before they failed him
and he knew that one day, through his grace,
they would claim that mercy, gushing forth from his heart.

And the same Lord waits at this table, this morning,
for US to come and to claim our share of the that mercy divine
which the heart of the risen Jesus has in abundance
for each of us, and for all of us.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Mercy to spare.

God’s mercy is always there to wash away, to forgive, to erase that sin
long before I did what I did,
long before I failed to do what I should have done.

God only waits for me to claim the mercy already prepared for me
and offered to me in prayer and in the sacrament of reconciliation,
that I might be set free of what burdens and haunts my heart.

God has mercy to spare:
eternal springs and rivers and oceans of mercy to spare. 

Many of us spend a good part of our lives struggling to believe
that God’s mercy and love are truly meant for us.

And many of us spend a good part of our lives struggling to forgive
someone who has hurt us deeply.

Sometimes the only way we can forgive those who have hurt us
is to entrust them to the mercy of God,

God who has so generously forgiven us
who find it so difficult to forgive one another.

Monday, April 4, 2016

God = mercy!

God is mercy!
God is a river, an infinite ocean of mercy.
The heart of Jesus is an eternal fountain of forgiveness
that never stops pumping, flowing, gushing forth with mercy,
mercy that has no end.
The font of Jesus’ mercy is never turned OFF
by the vagaries of our repentance - or lack of it.

Nor do our sins (small, medium, large or extra large!)
nor do our sins act like a faucet regulating the flow of God’s mercy.
The image we really want here is Niagara Falls
or at least a fire hydrant,
opened, gushing and flooding a city street on a hot summer’s day!
Not even the greatest of our sins is powerful enough to build a dam
that might hold back the waves of divine mercy
pounding on the shores of our souls.
God’s mercy precedes our sins.
God knows that we will sin
and is ready to forgive our sins
long before we even think of sinning.

Parents do this all the time.
Why not God?
A mother and father look on their newborn infant in all its innocence
and even though they know their child will make mistakes,
even some big ones,
even though they know their child may one day hurt them deeply,
they build no wall of protection between themselves and their baby.
Their love, like God’s love, stands ready ahead of time,
ready to forgive whatever hurt their child might bring them,
even before the hurt comes.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

God is MERCY!

We speak of the “mystery” of God’s mercy
but I’m not sure there’s much mystery to God’s mercy at all!
God is God! God is love!

God is the fullness of all things bright and beautiful;
all things just and true; all things sweet and pure.
That the risen Jesus would find it in his divine heart of hearts
to forgive this unfaithful bunch doesn’t surprise me at all.
What does mystify me, however, is how
Jesus invites, Jesus asks, Jesus even commands us
to forgive one another as fully and freely
as he forgave the unfaithful apostles,
and as fully and freely as he forgives each of us.

Sometimes we might think and act as if God’s forgiveness
is kept in a big “mercy bank” in heaven
and that when you or I tell God, “I’m sorry for such and such...”
God goes to the mercy bank,
withdraws a sufficient amount of forgiveness
and deposits it in our salvation savings account.

Boy, are we WRONG!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Sunday Word

Doubting Thomases everywhere!

If you haven't yet done your scripture homework in preparation for Mass this weekend, I hope these variations on Caravaggio's The Incredulity of Thomas might pique your interest and lead you to Sunday's texts and spending some time with them along with these images.

The Incredulity of Thomas by Caravaggio

Incredulidad de Santo Tomas by Reubens

Doubting Thomas by John Gregory Granville

Image source for Doubting Thomas

Doubting Thomas by Generic Art Solutions

Doubting Thomas by Jonathan Hilson

Resurrection by Peter Sheesley -with the artist's permission.

The Doubt of St. Thomas by He Qi

Doubting Thomas by Ben Steele

Friday, April 1, 2016

JESUS offers peace and mercy!

So, Jesus is risen from the dead only a matter of hours
(not even a whole day)
and here he is appearing to his unfaithful friends,
the very ones who deserted him when he needed them the most.
And his first words to this motley crew are
words of forgiveness, words of peace, words of mercy.
No judgment. No condemnation.

Huddled in fear in this locked room are these friends of Jesus
who, after the Last Supper,
could not stay awake one hour to pray with him,
and who ran away when the Roman guards came to arrest him;
friends who spoke not a word in his defense at his trial
- except for Peter who three times denied he even knew Jesus.
Here are the closest disciples of Christ
who were nowhere to be found
when Jesus needed help carrying his cross.
They were counted among the absent at the foot of the cross.
They were afraid to go with the women to the tomb on Easter morning.
And to such as these
Jesus offers words of forgiveness, peace and mercy.
Not a word of judgment.

Not a word of condemnation.