Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Gift of Christmas - THE PROMISED ONE

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God in his limitless mercy has sent His only begotten Son into time and place – then and now; into the world of sin and death – then and now; into grief and sorrow . . . terror and shame, then and now. God has mingled time and the fullness of eternal joy into the person of the human/divine Jesus. 

God has entered, enters and will always continue to enter fully into the time and place of us – all of us – God’s people. God brings salvation from all that destroys us. 

Today, wherever we live, TODAY is born our savior, who is the promised one.

This is the gift of Christmas.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Gift of Christmas - HOPE

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Hope is announced at Christmas.

Hope was announced from the pulpits all across the Christian world some 2000+ years after they were brought to fulfillment in an infant child, born of a poor Jewish woman.

May this promise open the doors of our shuttered heart to hope.

This is the gift of Christmas.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Gift of Christmas - salvation comes through the love of a human

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This is a night and the day when each one of us who takes the time to do so, can gaze into the face of the Christ Child and see the light of hope, the power of courage and the energy to take up life and live it fully.

This is a night and a day to gather with family and friends, to sing or talk, to play games or to walk, to eat and share stories, but above all to notice one another, and to see God’s people, the people who walked in darkness but now see a great light.

Look into the fear and death that surrounds you or even fills your heart, and know that God is gazing at you from the heart of mercy, bringing light to darkness and life where there seems only death. 

Know this: Christ reigns from the throne of your human heart if you give him room in the inn of your being. His reign is mercy.

 Rejoice oh Daughter Zion! Your salvation comes through the love of a human - conceived and born - to disclose and share love alone.

This is the gift of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Gift of Christmas

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Nativity at St. Martin de Porres Marianist School

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; . . . While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. . . .

say to daughter Zion, your savior comes! . . .

When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared,not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, . . .

So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. . .

The LORD has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God. . .

in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe, . . .

What came to be through him was life,and this life was the light of the human race;the light shines in the darkness,and the darkness has not overcome it.

(Texts from the three Masses of Christmas).

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


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Just a few weeks ago, at a ceremony for the lighting of the national Christmas tree, President Obama remarked on the meaning of the season. Here are some of the things he said:

“Over these next few weeks, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, as we retell the story of weary travelers, a star, shepherds, Magi, I hope that we also focus ourselves on the message that this child brought to this Earth some 2,000 years ago—a message that says we have to be our brother’s keepers, our sister’s keepers; that we have to reach out to each other, to forgive each other. To let the light of our good deeds shine for all. To care for the sick, and the hungry, and the downtrodden. And of course, to love one another, even our enemies, and treat one another the way we would want to be treated ourselves. It’s a message that grounds not just my family’s Christian faith but that of Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, non-believers—Americans of all backgrounds.”

Now in a way, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with these ideas and sentiments. Who could possibly be against treating others with respect, offering forgiveness for offenses, and caring for those in need? And I certainly don’t blame President Obama for making these remarks. Both Democrat and Republican presidents, in their capacity as chief magistrates of the civil religion, have expressed similar convictions for many years. What does bother me, however, is reducing Christmas to a level so low, so banal, that the great Christian feast is offensive to precisely no one. If President Obama is right, even those who profess no belief in God should welcome Christmas with nothing but enthusiasm! But this sort of reductionism is, in fact, directly repugnant to a feast which, in its essence, is revolutionary, subversive, and, if properly understood, offensive to just about everyone.

What could I possibly mean? Well, if we take an honest look at the Biblical texts dealing with Christmas, we will find that they have precious little to do with sentimentality, or the embracing of a common morality, or the cultivation of a “let’s all get along” attitude. In the second chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, we read of the visit of the Magi, astrologers from “the east,” probably from Babylon where a quasi-scientific star-gazing discipline was cultivated. They let it be known that they were in search of “the newborn king of the Jews,” whose star they had observed at its rising. When this news was spread about, was it met with delight, enthusiasm, excitement, and sentimental feelings? Hardly. Listen to what Matthew tells us: “When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”

Why would the arrival of a tiny baby, who would grow up to bear a message of love, have excited such negativity? We must remember that the child is described as a king, which means someone who comes to rule; more precisely, he is characterized as king of the Jews, and this was the very title that Herod claimed. Therefore, Herod, quite correctly, saw him as a threat to his prerogatives and position. But why would the entire capital be in an uproar? We must recall what the Bible consistently says about cities, that is, the way we human beings typically organize ourselves politically, socially, and culturally. Cain, the murderer of Abel, is the founder of cities; Babel, full of arrogance and imperialistic designs, is seen as a typical city; and Jesus himself implied that the devil controls all the cities of the world. The trembling of all of Jerusalem at the birth of the baby king is a function of the demand that that king will eventually make, the change that his rule will affect. Just to drive this point home, Matthew tells us that Herod, having been duped by the Magi, furiously lashed out, ordering the murder of every boy in Bethlehem under two years of age. Not exactly the reaction of someone who is just delighted that the Christmas season has arrived!

If we examine Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, we find very similar motifs. Luke sets up his story as the tale of two rival Emperors: Caesar, the king of the world, and Jesus, the baby king. While Caesar rules from his palace in Rome, Jesus has no place to lay his head; while Caesar exercises rangy power, Jesus is wrapped in swaddling clothes; while Caesar surrounds himself with wealthy and sophisticated courtiers, Jesus is surrounded by animals and shepherds of the field. And yet, the baby king is more powerful than Augustus—which is signaled by the presence of an army (stratias in the Greek) of angels in the skies over Bethlehem. All four of the Gospels play out as a struggle, culminating in the deadly business of the cross, between the worldly powers and the power of Christ. For Jesus is not simply a kindly prophet with a gentle message of forgiveness; he is God coming in person to assume command. He is the Lord. And the entire New Testament couldn’t be clearer that his Lordship means that all those who follow a contrary rule—meaning, pretty much every one of us—are under judgment.

To be sure, the distinctive mark of Jesus’ Lordship is love, compassion, forgiveness, and non-violence—but this is not the stuff of sentimentality and warm feelings. It is a provocation, a challenge, a call to conversion of the most radical kind.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

MERRY CHRISTMAS - The power of this Child

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Christmas!

Today the Church once again experiences the wonder of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and the shepherds of Bethlehem, as they contemplate the newborn Child laid in a manger: Jesus, the Saviour.

On this day full of light, the prophetic proclamation resounds:

“For to us a child is born,
To us a son is given.
And the government will be upon his shoulder;
and his name will be called
“Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is 9:6)

The power of this Child, Son of God and Son of Mary, is not the power of this world, based on might and wealth; it is the power of love. It is the power which created the heavens and the earth, which gives life to all creation: to minerals, plants and animals; it is the force which attracts man and woman, and makes them one flesh, one single existence; it is the power which gives new birth, pardons faults, reconciles enemies, and transforms evil into good. It is the power of God. This power of love led Jesus Christ to strip himself of his glory and become man; it led him to give his life on the cross and to rise from the dead. It is the power of service, which inaugurates in our world the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice and peace.

For this reason, the birth of Jesus was accompanied by the angels’ song as they proclaimed:

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (Lk 2:14).

Today this message goes out to the ends of the earth to reach all peoples, especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace.

Peace to men and women in the war-torn land of Syria, where far too much blood has been spilled. Above all in the city of Aleppo, site of the most awful battles in recent weeks, it is most urgent that assistance and support be guaranteed to the exhausted civil populace, with respect for humanitarian law. It is time for weapons to be still forever, and the international community to actively seek a negotiated solution, so that civil coexistence can be restored in the country.

Peace to women and men of the beloved Holy Land, the land chosen and favoured by God. May Israelis and Palestinians have the courage and the determination to write a new page of history, where hate and revenge give way to the will to build together a future of mutual understanding and harmony. May Iraq, Libya and Yemen – where their peoples suffer war and the brutality of terrorism – be able once again to find unity and concord.

Peace to the men and women in various parts of Africa, especially in Nigeria, where fundamentalist terrorism exploits even children in order to perpetrate horror and death. Peace in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, so that divisions may be healed and all people of good will may strive to undertake the path of development and sharing, preferring the culture of dialogue to the mindset of conflict.

Peace to women and men who to this day suffer the consequences of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, where there is urgent need for a common desire to bring relief to the civil population and to put into practice the commitments which have been assumed.

We implore harmony for the dear people of Colombia, which seeks to embark on a new and courageous path of dialogue and reconciliation. May such courage also motivate the beloved country of Venezuela to undertake the necessary steps to put an end to current tensions, and build together a future of hope for the whole population.

Peace to all who, in different areas, are enduring sufferings due to constant dangers and persistent injustice. May Myanmar consolidate its efforts to promote peaceful coexistence and, with the assistance of the international community, provide necessary protection and humanitarian assistance to all those who gravely and urgently need it. May the Korean peninsula see the tensions it is experiencing overcome in a renewed spirit of cooperation.

Peace to those who have lost a person dear to them as a result of brutal acts of terrorism, and to those who have sown fear and death into the hearts of so many countries and cities.

Peace – not merely the word, but a real and concrete peace – to our abandoned and excluded brothers and sisters, to those who suffer hunger and to all the victims of violence. Peace to exiles, migrants and refugees, to all those who in our day are subject to human trafficking. Peace to the peoples who suffer because of the economic ambitions of the few, because of the sheer greed and the idolatry of money, which leads to slavery. Peace to those affected by social and economic unrest, and to those who endure the consequences of earthquakes or other natural catastrophes.

Peace to the children, on this special day on which God became a child, above all those deprived of the joys of childhood because of hunger, wars or the selfishness of adults.

Peace on earth to men and women of goodwill, who work quietly and patiently each day, in their families and in society, to build a more humane and just world, sustained by the conviction that only with peace is there the possibility of a more prosperous future for all.

Dear brothers and sisters,

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given”: he is the “Prince of peace”. Let us welcome him!

To you, dear brothers and sisters, who have gathered in this Square from every part of the world, and to those in various countries who are linked to us by radio, television and other means of communication, I offer my greeting.

On this day of joy, we are all called to contemplate the Child Jesus, who gives hope once again to every person on the face of the earth. By his grace, let us with our voices and our actions give witness to solidarity and peace. Merry Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Allow God's presence to grow

The name Joseph comes from the Hebrew root Yosef, which means, "He will add," or "God increases."

In the Old Testament, we meet one named Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob, the one who struggled with God. The special treatment Joseph received from his father and the large ego that developed from it, prompted his 11 brothers to sell him into slavery. Through a series of God-ordained circumstances, Joseph was appointed manager of the food supply of Egypt during a devastating famine. This Joseph showed God's increase in his personal life -- rising from slave to government official -- and in his public life by saving Israel when the famine threatened the nation with starvation.

Now Mary's fiance Joseph is also a wonderful example of God's increase. When it would have been much easier to separate from Mary and the child she was having, Joseph listened to God and stayed with her. He didn't take matters into his own hands, but allowed God to work in his life, and the lives of Mary and their child. At the prompting of God, Joseph names the baby Jesus, takes his family to Egypt when threatened and brings them back when an angel tells him it is safe to do so. Joseph consistently gets out of the way to make room for God to do God's work in his life. He allows God to add to him, rather than trying to force his own will, even when God's plans completely alter the course of his life. We need to be more like Joseph, someone in whom the presence of God grows large.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Please, Christmas, don't be late

We often consider advent as a countdown to Christmas. Children light candles on the Advent wreath each Sunday, marking how our celebration of the arrival of the light of the world draws near. Parents purchase Advent calendars for their homes that serve as timers for the children, showing them just how many "sleeps" there are until Christmas. Advent is also a time of waiting and preparing for Jesus.

Jesus' story is not over. We live between Jesus ushering in the kingdom of God and it arriving in its fullness when he returns. As we prepare to celebrate the glorious gift of Jesus coming to us on that first Christmas morning wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, we also remember that we are called to wait patiently and prepare for the coming of Jesus again. Sometimes, the wait is for Jesus' healing hand to arrive in the brokenness of our lives.

During this season, we cry out with our children, "Please, Christmas, don't be late." In patience, we enter into the presence of Christ with us every day, living as though the return has already happened.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The "O Antiphons"

The "O" Antiphons are antiphons used to introduce the Magnificat at Evening Prayer on the last seven days of Advent. Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture: December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom) December 18: O Adonai (O Lord) December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse) December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David) December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring) December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations) December 23: O Emmanuel (O God is with Us) .

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Advent - Courageous Joseph

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Advent is beginning its fourth and final week. We are so focused on Mary and the Infant Jesus that we often overlook what a remarkably courageous figure Joseph was in responding to his mysterious call in a dream to take the pregnant Mary into his home as his wife.

I would suspect that if I had a dream where an angel commanded me to do something similar that I would wake up thanking heaven that the message was only a dream. Yet the Christmas story would have had a very different outcome if St. Joseph had done the first century equivalent of taking two aspirin and moving on because Mary’s explanation of her situation was crazy. Joseph obviously had a lot more faith than most of us.

Take a few minutes to reflect on your life to identify a time when God has called you to do something that has made all the difference. You just have to listen and act in faith when this happens even it the meaning is unclear.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Advent - we are redeemed

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Advent and Christmas inspired Father Delp in the following way:

That we petition Him, 
that He redeems us through the mystery, 
that we are rich and capable enough through God’s comfort 
to give mankind the comfort 
that it needs so much,
that we go away from this celebration as the great comforters, 
as the great knowers, 
the great blessed ones 
who know what it means to be consoled by God.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Advent - bear witness to the Light

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As we become true disciples of Christ, we proclaim him, no matter how bleak the situation around us: We bear witness to the Light. Fr. Delp encourages us, :

Therefore, deep down, we are the people who are comforted; and we are the last refuge for the homeless people who do not know anything about the Lord anymore . . . .May we impart the goodness. May we attend to humanity again, and witness to the Lordship of God again, and know of His grace and mercy . . . .may we go away from Christmas Eve with the consolation that we mean so much to God that no external distress can rob us of this ultimate consolation. Our hearts must become strong, to make the divine heartbeat into the law of life again.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Advent - powerless is a part of conversion

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Whenever we recognize our powerlessness it is part of the process of conversion. But true conversion, says Delp, is not a limp or tepid act; it is a profound transformation, a “trembling” and “quaking””where Christ impinges upon our world, shattering it, demanding from us a radical yes or no:

We have become accustomed to the idea that what God asks of us, the great basic teachings of our lives, and the great responses required by God are somehow accessories”as if we can take them or leave them”as if they are just trinkets for those who choose to accept them. We have very often forgotten that the God of freedom”the God of grace and divine humanity”is a God who challenges us. God wants to be taken seriously, wants to be all, not just an accessory. He does not just leave it to chance whether we say Yes or No. A time comes where our refusal is refusing the fulfillment of our lives, because we have not taken God into account and have not dealt with the Lord God in discernment.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Advent - leads us out of the dark

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Fr. Delp thought that Advent can lead us out of the dark, if we recognize our helplessness:

The deepest meaning of Advent cannot be understood by anyone who has not first experienced being terrified unto death about himself and his human prospects and likewise what is revealed within himself about the situation and constitution of mankind in general.

This entire message about God’s coming, about the Day of Salvation, about redemption drawing near, will be merely divine game-playing or sentimental lyricism unless it is grounded upon two clear findings of fact.

The first finding: insight into, and alarm over the powerlessness and futility of human life in relation to its ultimate meaning and fulfillment . . . The second finding: the promise of God to be on our side, to come to meet us.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Advent - Christ is available to us everywhere

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Fr. Delp saw that when the Incarnation, when Christ enters history and becomes its master, He makes himself available to us everywhere:

History now becomes the Son’s mode of existence; historical destiny becomes His destiny. He is to be encountered on our streets. In the darkest cellars and the loneliest prisons of life, we will meet Him. And that is already the first blessing and consecration of the burden: that He is to be met under its weight.

And he believed that mankind is hopeless without God; and Advent reminds us of our powerlessness:

By ourselves and with our own strength alone, we will not manage . . . . The theological principle that a man, by his own strength, cannot even sustain the basic ethical level of natural principles is the rationale for the misery that we are living through today.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Advent - central to Christian life

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As we approach the end of the Advent season we understand that advent is the season of hope and reflection. It is a time of prayerful expectation for Christians who await the Second Coming of the Lord, just as they celebrate his birth at Christmas. Many, however, do not really appreciate its significance, or see Advent as a dramatic call upon their lives.

One man who did was Fr. Alfred Delp.

Fr. Delp was a German Jesuit who joined the anti-Nazi Resistance, he was arrested and executed for his activities in 1945. Though not as well known as other martyrs, the writings he left behind are among the most moving in Christian literature. 

Fr. Delp believed advent to be central to the Christian life.

Christmas has always been subject to many misunderstandings. Superficialities, taking refuge in familiarity, idyllic playing around with Nativity scenes, and so forth, have displaced our view from the tremendous event this holy day represents . . . .One must take care to celebrate Christmas with a great realism . . . .One should bear in mind that we are celebrating the feast of God becoming man . . . .That is how man must understand it. It is the incomprehensible fact of God entering into history; that He stepped into our law, into our space, into our existence”and not only like one of us, but as one of us. That is the thrill and the incomprehensibility of this event.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Advent - life has an advent dimension

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Human life, Fr. Delp noted, “always has an Advent dimension,” namely, “lack of fulfillment, and promise, and movement . . . .Therefore there is no interim finality, and the attempt to create final conclusions is an old temptation of mankind. Hunger and thirst, and desert journeying, and the survival teamwork of mountaineers on a rope”these are the truth of our human condition.”

After commentating on “the truth will make you free” from the Gospel of John, Fr. Delp uncovers its meaning:

Truth is the essential theme of life. Everything else is only expression, result, application, consequence, testing, and practice. May God help us to wake up to ourselves and in doing so, to move from ourselves toward Him.

Every temptation to live according to other conditions is a deception. Our participation in this existential lie is really the sin for which we today”as individuals, as a generation, and as a continent”are so horribly doing penance. The way to salvation will be found only in an existential conversion and return to the truth.

Advent - "Yes"

One could mistakenly believe that Advent is about a squishy, adorable baby who mysteriously appears annually at this time of year. Yet this child who is born to us, this Son who is given is the Savior of the world. The Advent season asks us to prepare our hearts to receive a love that is humbling in its passion and amazing in its depth.

God's love does not fade, weaken or diminish. It's offered to us fresh and new every day. What are we asked to do for this love?

Simply say "yes" to God who is always willing to give us more.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Advent - the shiver of fear

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Let's remind ourselves that, on the church calendar, Advent is, in fact, not just a prelude to the celebration of Jesus' birth in a Bethlehem manger. Rather, it's a time to think more broadly about God's coming ("advent" means "coming") not only in the past, when Jesus was born, but also in the future, when he comes again. And from our perspective, living long after his first coming, it is his return that should concern us most.

During Advent 1928, Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached a sermon in Barcelona in which he spoke about the emotion for this season:

"It is very remarkable that we face the thought that God is coming so calmly," he said, "whereas previously peoples trembled at the day of God. ... We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God's coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God's coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us ..." 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Immaculate Conception

Today we celebrate the patronal feast of the United States, The Immaculate Conception.

Here is part of the Pope's reflection on this feast day:

"The Virgin Mary is not far from this love (of God): all of her life, all of her being is a ‘yes’ to God,”

“Let us look at her, and let us look to her,” encouraged Pope Francis, “in order to be more humble, and even more courageous in following the Word of God, to receive the tender embrace of her son Jesus, an embrace that gives us life, hope, and peace.”

Mary’s ‘yes’ to God “was certainly not easy for her!” he exclaimed. “When the angel called her ‘full of grace’ she remained ‘troubled,’ because in her humility she felt unworthy before God.”

Despite her concerns, “Mary listens, obeying interiorly and responds, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word’.”

This witness serves as an example for every Christian. “With great joy the Church contemplates Mary as ‘full of grace’,” Pope Francis explained. He encouraged the crowds to repeat with him, “full of grace!”

Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus, but “we too… are chosen by God to live a life of holiness, free from sin. It is a project of love that God renews every time we come close to him, especially in the sacraments,” the Pope said.

“Mary sustains us in our journey towards Christmas, because she teaches us to live this time of Advent in waiting for the Lord.”

Pope Francis recalled Mary’s humble origins.

“The Gospel of Luke presents us with a young girl from Nazareth, a little place in Galilee, on the periphery of the Roman Empire and also on the periphery of Israel. Yet upon her was the gaze of the Lord, who chose her to be the mother of His Son.”

“The mystery of this young girl from Nazareth, which is in the heart of God, is not irrelevant to us,” reflected the pontiff. “In fact, God places his gaze of love on every man and every woman.”

O Mary help us to believe with greater trust.
O immaculate Virgin give us the same courage to be alert to the call of Christ.
Encourage us to be alert, not to give into the temptation.
O Loving Mother may we have the courage to be "watchmen of the dawn", and give this virtue to all Christians so that we may be the heart of the world in this difficult period of history.
Virgin Immaculate, Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Marianist Monday

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December, 2016

My dear friends in college . . . and beyond,

About a year ago, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, delivered the Erasmus Lecture as part of the tradition of the magazine, First Things. I would like to start this letter by quoting the first few paragraphs of that lecture. The Archbishop started out in the following way:
I’ve always had an affection for French Canada. My father’s family began there.  When I was growing up in Kansas in the 1950s, Quebec was deeply Catholic, one of the most profoundly Catholic cultures in the world. The province had 90 percent church attendance. Catholic education, health care, and social services pervaded daily life.
All of that changed. A young Catholic friend recently moved to Quebec from Washington, D.C., with her husband. When she asked some of her new friends if they’d like to join her for Mass, the answer she got was: “What is a Mass?”

Today, barely six percent of Quebeckers attend Sunday services. Only nine percent of high school-age young people identify as Catholic. About thirty-eight abortions occur for every hundred live births. Nearly half of newborn children go unbaptized. And many of those who are baptized will grow up without seeing the inside of a church. In just fifty years since Quebec’s “Quiet Revolution” of the 1960s, an entire Catholic culture has collapsed.

That is a sad but accurate description of what has happened in many parts of the world. In fact, it has happened at different times all through the history of the Church – a deep fervor and sudden collapse. It occurred in the French Revolution where “the eldest daughter of the Church” became almost a pagan country. Father Chaminade grew up in that country at the time of the French Revolution. I am sure he could have identified with the words of Archbishop Chaput.

I think the Archbishop’s use of the word “collapse” is quite accurate. It is not a period where another religion takes over or during which there is some general religious movement afoot. It is a collapse, pure and simple, creating a void, a vacuum in society. Nothing replaces it except some type of vague feelings or heightened use of words or phrases, such as “spiritual but not religious.”

Father Chaminade’s experience for us is very relevant to that which we have today, particularly in the United States, but also in other parts of the Catholic world. Blessed William Joseph Chaminade described this as “an almost universal apostasy” and “indifferentism.” The latter term describes the situation of the vacuum. It is characterized by the expletive that you hear so often: whatever! Nothing means anything, and anything means nothing. It is reduced to a personal interpretation or personal experience without any background in reality or reference outside the self. It is very hard to deal with indifferentism. It has no energy into which you can plug your lifeline. It is neutral, barren, and energyless. At least if there were some energy, albeit negative or hostile, we could try to engage dialogue with that energy. This lack of energy paralyzes or inhibits severely any form of dialogue. Blessed William Joseph Chaminade realized the challenge that this presented to his time. How did he deal with it? I believe that is the same question that Pope Francis is trying to answer. Archbishop Chaput’s statements above indicate that “cultural Christianity” has failed. I believe that it has failed a number of times in the past. We build a culture and try to Christianize it, thinking that once the culture has some Christian roots, it will be there forever and continue to influence future generations in the faith. Often that transmission has failed in the history of the Church.

I had an experience that taught me about the vulnerability of depending on culture to evangelize. In 1965, I spent a summer in Germany, in the Sauerland at a retreat house where a series of pastoral seminars were given by German professors from various universities. It was in itself a wonderful experience. The group attending were from many different Dioceses of Europe – Switzerland, Germany, France. On one occasion, I talked with a German seminarian who, in the course of our dialogue, said, “You know, we Europeans really do not trust the American Church because it has no roots (In German, the word for roots is Wurzeln.) In a reply, somewhat chauvinistic, I said, “Is that so? Where were your German roots (deutsche Wurzeln) in the years 1933, 34, 35, 36, 37, etc.?” Needless to say, there was no rational answer to that question, since there was a large blackout of Christian influence during the Nazi time. From that encounter, I came to the conclusion that mere cultural Christianity will not carry the day. What is needed is continual conversion. Each person must be evangelized and take into his or her heart the Gospel message. Culture may help it at times, but it alone is not sufficient. I believe this is what our recent Popes have meant by “The New Evangelization.”

What did Blessed William Chaminade do to counteract this indifference and the loss of faith in post-revolutionary France? He decided to create small Christian communities aimed at those whom he found to have some spiritual sensibility, to bring them together, to reinforce their faith, and to create an atmosphere in which “the full Gospel could be lived.” It was tedious work, personal, and demanding a great deal of insight. He reminded us of the early Christian communities whose existence became a visible sign of the Gospel. His was not a mass movement or something that today we would commit to mass media. What Blessed William Joseph Chaminade wanted to create were core communities that would continue this process of evangelization. And thus he founded the Society of Mary, which would be the living embodiment of his apostolic method.

Before continuing on this theme of thought, I realize that some may say that you are creating “Ghetto Catholicism.” That certainly is a temptation, namely, that in times of religious failure, we would hole up with those who are still fervent and live a life totally independent of those around us. But such is not the case for the early Christians, nor was it for Father Chaminade, nor is it a choice for us today. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, wants us to be in dialogue with those who reject faith or are neutral to it; we are not to be in a mode of condemnation, correction, or excommunication. We do not change our principles, but we try to dialogue with others by the goodness of our lives and the witness of our communities in these areas that are so filled with bitterness and disagreement. The traditional Chaminadian role of building faith communities is very relevant to today’s crisis. We cannot depend on former cultural structures, even familial cultural structures. There has to be a living confrontation with Christ and with the small Christian community.

I want to conclude with a long quotation from Father Ronald Rolheiser. He has used the biblical image of Noah’s Ark to express the same need for community inculturation of the faith. Father Rolheiser sets the scenario:
The story might be recast this way: Every so often, there comes a time in
history when there is so little vision, faith, idealism, decency, and charity
left on this planet that there is a real danger that the world itself will sink,
will drown, and revert to a chaos that will kill everything that’s precious.
But one person, despite all that is going on around him or her, will keep
his or her eyes on what’s higher, keep faith intact, protect life, and refuse
to compromise charity and decency. Eventually the earth will drown in
chaos, but because of this one person’s vision, idealism, faith, decency,
and charity, a pocket of life, that still contains all that is precious, will
be preserved and given a new chance to grow.
Father Rolheiser describes the Noah’s Ark that we are to build:

Noah’s Ark is a boat of faith, vision, idealism, decency, and charity.
These virtues give us the capacity to float above the chaos that drowns
things. Moreover, our decency, charity, faith, and vision contain within
themselves all that’s precious
Father Rolheiser then gives an example of one who made an Ark. He cites Father Daniel Berrigan, who warned us:
Beware, beware, or the culture will swallow you whole! It’s easy to be
swallowed whole and drowned by our culture. It is that kind of a narcotic.
To counteract this in his own life, Father Berrigan chose to work full-time at a hospice for the dying. Father Rolheiser continues:
When you see your culture and your world through the eyes of someone
who is dying, things take on a very different perspective, and a lot of what
fires ordinary life (tiring our bodies, minds, and heart in its pursuit) is now
exposed as secondary and as not worthy of all the attention and energy it is
 For Daniel Berrigan, building an ark meant attending to the dying so as to be given the faith and perspective to not drown in our culture.Paraphrasing Rudyard Kipling, Father Rolheiser gives us some guidelines:
If you keep your faith when all about you they are losing theirs, but are
comfortable in the feeling that there is strength in numbers, that everyoneelse is following suit, that so many million people can’t be wrong;If you can keep giving others respect when, all about you, this is seen asweakness, and disrespect is held as strength and passion for truth;
If you can remain courteous and retain your manners, when all about youcourtesy is seen as quaint, and crassness and crudity are paraded as
sophistication; If you can live in tension when, all about you, there is compromise because it is judged that it is better to let the devil take tomorrow than to live intension today; If you can refuse to settle for second-best, when all about you it is accepted that this is all that life will offer; If you can combine chastity and passion, when all about you this is judged as na├»ve and impossible; If you can make room for Sabbath amidst the pressures of life, when all about you those pressures have begun to dictate all of life; And, if you can bear down even more in charity and forgiveness, lovingand forgiving those who hate you, when all about you they are advocating hate for hate; 
Then, just as surely as Noah, you will have built an Ark!


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Advent - The Gift

Image result for advent
As we celebrate Advent and Christmas, we're fully aware of where God's love is leading us.

The love might begin in the softly starlit manger, but it inevitably will lead to the harsh noonday sun reflecting on the Cross. God knows this, of course, but does not shy away from the pain that is coming. God's extravagant love is demonstrated in God's willingness to give sacrificially. 

God bestows the most precious gift, God's Son, knowing that this offering will not be appreciated, honored, or at times, even recognized. Yet God also sings, "can't regret what I did for love," as this love which is freely given is leading God's beloved children home. 

The price is great, almost beyond measure. The gift of Christmas is that God looks at the cost without blinking. God does indeed care enough to send the very best. The best is the gift of Christ, this bundle of love wrapped in cloths hastily assembled in the lowliest of birth places. It's the gift --

Advent - Patience 2

Image result for advent waiting"Be patient," says St. James.

Seek to live as those who are already citizens of the kingdom of God. 

We wait for Jesus to return and make the world what it was intended to be -- a reflection of our God of grace and love.

Advent is a time of patiently waiting, a time to prepare, a time to remember. During this season, we cry out with our children, "Please, Christmas, don't be late."

In patience, we enter into the presence of Christ with us every day, living as though the return has already happened.

Patience is not grumbling about our brothers and sisters because we know there is a better day to come. Patience is trusting that our struggle is in Jesus' hands, even when we cannot see the outcome. Patience is living today as if Christmas has already come, as if Jesus has already returned.

And so we patiently wait and prepare. Please, Jesus, don't be late.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Advent - Patience

Image result for advent waitingIsn't Advent a countdown to Christmas?

 The children light the candles of the Advent wreath each Sunday, marking how our celebration of the arrival of the light of the world draws near. Parents purchase Advent calendars for their homes that serve as timers for the children, showing them just how many "sleeps" there are until Christmas.

Advent is also a time of waiting and preparing for Jesus. Jesus' story is not over. We live between Jesus ushering in the kingdom of God and it arriving in its fullness when he returns. As we prepare to celebrate the glorious gift of Jesus coming to us on that first Christmas morning wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, we also remember that we are called to wait patiently and prepare for the coming of Jesus again.

Sometimes, the wait is for Jesus' healing hand to arrive in the brokenness of our lives. "Be patient," St. James writes, and we strive to live as those who have already been made whole.