Sunday, July 30, 2017

Marianist Monday

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August, 2017

My dear friends in college . . . and beyond,

How is your summer going? For some of you perhaps, your summer is going too rapidly, and you are starting to feel the all-too-familiar pressure of the coming school year. I myself have mixed reactions. I do not want summer to end, but I am also excited to welcome a new class of wide-eyed frosh into the sacred halls of Chaminade.

I see August as a transition month. We are all more relaxed and may even have real opportunities for vacation time. At the same time, in the not-too-distant future, we see the responsibilities and expectations of a new year in college or work.

For me, August has been a special month, for it was on August 15, 1962 that I made my final vows in the Society of Mary. August gives me a real opportunity to examine how I am living those vows, that initial commitment. Am I doing whatever He tells me? Am I closer to Mary now, and am I sharing her story, her love with others?

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15, is one of the oldest celebrations in the Church. Mary, the Ark of the Covenant, the one who bore the Messiah in her womb, has not been left to return to dust, but is now what we will all be in time. Her flesh even now is glorified and enjoys the vision of God. Even Islam, in chapter 9 of the Quran, honors Mary and accepts her Assumption.

When I reflect on Mary, I am constantly drawn back to the mystic, Meister Eckhart, who was strong in his belief that we, like Mary, should become the womb of Jesus. What does that mean? We must carry Jesus with us every day of our lives. We must transmit joy because of that union.

As I reflect on my spiritual journey after all of these years and ask myself if I have become the womb of Jesus, I invite you to spend some time asking yourself the same question, perhaps on August 15, On that day, will you will pray for me, as I will pray for you?

Remember, Mary will never abandon you.

On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,

Bro. Lawrence Syriac, S.M.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Grace of a Marianist Vocation

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"And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, an abundant grace was upon them all." Acts 1:8

The Lord indeed grants special graces to those who answer His call!

I recently spent a week living in one of the Marianist communities here on Long Island. Wow! What abundant grace God has poured out on the Brothers who, like the apostles, give testimony to Jesus by sharing in His work. To say that the day of a Marianist is full might be an understatement. From early in the morning (and I'm not a morning person!) to late in the evening the Brothers pray, share meals, and operate our schools tirelessly and with a great joy that can only be explained by God's grace. Jesus may invite us to share in His ministry, but He doesn't send us out alone - He fills us with His Spirit and energy.

During this week of prayer and self-reflection I asked God for two personal graces: wisdom and patience. One morning I was driving along and the old Stealers Wheel song Stuck In The Middle With You came on the radio, "Yes I'm stuck in the middle with you, and I'm wondering what it is I should do...trying to make some sense of it I am, stuck in the middle with you." Sometimes I really do feel stuck when it comes to answering God's call. I am often tempted like Moses at Meribah to repeatedly strike the rock in frustration. Provide water now God! Conform to my time frame! Make this easier! Make this clearer!

My consolation is knowing that I am stuck in the middle with Christ, who was literally stuck in between one cross and another, crucified in the middle. From the cross Jesus doesn't offer ease or clarity, He offers grace.
Wisdom and patience, Lord, grant me the wisdom to know your will and the patience to endure your plan!

Contributed by a Marianist high school graduate

Friday, July 28, 2017

Marianist Prayer Week: Charity begins at home

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Our prayer week offers us the opportunity to reflect on the virtue of thankfulness. Thanking God is one way we show that we love Him. But St. John says, "If anyone says, "I love God," but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen."

In other words, I will more readily thank God for His benefits if I customarily show gratitude to the people around me. A sincere "Thank you" should always be on my lips. I should say it to my fellow Brothers. Then, because I have set gratitude at the core of my character, I will remember to give a heartfelt "Thank you" to the Lord.

The adage, " Charity begins at home," implies that the home is the best place to start showing more thankfulness. Let us begin by showing more of it in our Communities and in our homes. Let us express more appreciation for what others do for us.

As we learn the habit of thanking people and acknowledging our dependence on them, we will develop a keener sense of our dependence on God. He is our Creator, the Giver of life. Through Him life has meaning and purpose. The past holds no enduring shadows. The future shines now with hope.

It is He who covers us with a robe of righteousness, who makes our failures a training ground for spiritual success. He strengthens us until we can serve in His temple forever. He is the One who erases all our pain and dries all our tears and gives us a renewed self to serve as a tabernacle for the soul.

Let us indeed give thanks—let us give thanks by giving Him the praise He is due.

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Pray for the Canonization of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade

"It is fortunate that we do not work for men or for our own interests, but for our great Master and the honor of his august Mother."

Blessed William Joseph Chaminade

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Marianist Prayer Week: Gratitude is an intentional act

Our prayer reflections often focus on the joy of our religious vocation. We are thankful for so many things. In our Province we must never lose the habit of being appreciative. 
Fostering an attitude of gratitude is not just feeling but it is expressing thankfulness.

Counting our blessings and literally listing them until the "haves" overwhelm the "have-nots." Consciously being aware of the services that we do for one another. Preparing the meals, retrieving the newspapers, locking up each night, and checking up on one another are just a few of the day-to-day courteous actions in our Communities.

There is a case study in which one group of people listed five things they were thankful for. They did this weekly for 10 weeks. Comparison groups in the study wrote different kinds of weekly lists — “five major events,” “five hassles this week,” etc. The “thankful” group reported more happiness and contentment than did the comparison groups. They even reported improved health in the form of fewer headaches and coughs.

So, skip the doc. Just say “thanks” more.

In pay-it-forward fashion, people we intentionally thank will also experience increased happiness. Expressing gratitude is the stone thrown into the flat water. It creates a ripple that affects everything around it.

The new age bumper sticker encourages us to “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty."

“No!” we would say.

Don’t make our acts random and senseless. Make them planned, intentional and habitual. Attach them to Brothers with whom we live so we can infect them with happiness also.

We can think of this as a halo of happiness. Gratitude first impacts its giver and then radiates through the receivers.

Although God may appreciate this approach , in all actuality He is probably smiling a told-you-so grin. Expressing gratitude brings joy to the giver but also radiates happiness to people around us.

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Pray for the Canonization of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade

"I went to see a good priest who was my Director, and when I asked him how I was to act, he told me: “Our Lord would not have done that . . . Our Lord did this.” Indeed, this was an excellent answer."

Blessed William Joseph Chaminade

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Master's Touch

Each morning the Brothers arise and gather for Morning Prayer, Meditation and Mass. Recently we reflected on this theme: “We approach Christ, and He responds with love.”

St. Matthew offers us the story of the leper whom Jesus healed. The leper who showed great faith was convinced that Jesus could help him if he wanted to. But knowing that wasn’t enough; he had to do something about it as well. Despite his disfigurement and illness, he made his way through the crowd and walked up to Jesus. It took all the courage he had to declare: “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean." Jesus rewarded his confidence: In an instant, his leprosy was gone. But that wasn’t the end of the story.

We know the leper’s approach had basically three elements:

1) The leper came with confidence. He had no doubt that, if Jesus willed, Jesus would make him clean. He had perfect confidence in Jesus’ power.

2) The leper came with humility. He did not demand healing. It were as if he said, “I know I don’t matter; I know the other men will flee from me and will have nothing to do with me; I know that I have no claim on you; but perhaps you will give your power even to one such as I.” It is the humble heart which is conscious of nothing but its need that finds its way to Christ.

3) The leper came with reverence. That leper could never have told anyone what he thought Jesus was; but he knew that in the presence of Jesus he was in the presence of God.

And then came the reaction of Jesus. First and foremost, that reaction was compassion. For Jesus there was only one obligation in life – and that was to help.

For us now, we know the power of the touch of Christ. We are engaged in his mission on a daily level. In a very real and dramatic way we are asked to imitate the power of Christ. Pope Benedict put it this way just a few weeks ago:

"If your mission is to be truly effective -- if the words you proclaim are to touch hearts, engage people's freedom and change their lives -- you must draw them into an encounter with persons and communities who witness to the grace of Christ by their faith and their lives.”May we continue to be graced with confidence, humility, and reverence, to respond with compassion. Blessed William Joseph Chaminade calls all of us: "It is an infinite honor to be like Him."

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Marianist Prayer Week - Creating Solitude

Yearly the Marianist communities take some time to re-focus our spiritual efforts with a week-long retreat or prayer week. 

Opportunities like this prayer week give us time for solitude. Christian solitude is simply spending time alone with God. It has great value. In a world that does not value physical solitude and isolation from others, Christian solitude is essential to our Marianist life. There are, however, some valuable dynamics that occur as we make the conscious decision to spend time alone with God. Remarkably, solitude allows us to develop greater unity, deeper compassion, and renewed perspective.

Thomas Merton who is perhaps the most famous monk and spiritual writer of the twentieth century has offered us some insight into Christian solitude. As a young Cistercian monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani, he increasingly felt the need for solitude. After much difficulty and testing, he eventually lived as a hermit near his monastery. Merton's experience of solitude demonstrates this paradoxical truth: The journey into greater and greater solitude increasingly unites the heart and soul to all peoples, especially those who are poor and most in need.

During Merton's life he made a shift from solitude for monks to solitude for laity,
"Not all men are called to be hermits, but all men need enough silence and solitude in their lives to enable the deep inner voice of their own true self to be heard at least occasionally. ... For he cannot go on happily for long, unless he is in contact with the springs of spiritual life which are hidden in the depths of this own true soul."
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Pray for the Canonization of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade

"We are dealing with a jealous God, who will not share our souls with anyone else, since he had no associate when creating us or when redeeming us: the extent of his rights is the foundation of his jealousy"

Blessed William Joseph Chaminade

Monday, July 24, 2017

Marianist Prayer Week - Creating relationships

Yearly while we are on our prayer week we focus our attention on the Marianist call to conversion.

The conversions we usually hear about, whether of a religious nature or of some other type, are often accompanied, at least initially, by excitement, passion, intensity, an eagerness to tell others about it and efforts to make significant changes in one’s life. And often, the converted person looks back at the time of the conversion as a significant turning point.

For example, consider how the folk singer Judy Collins describes her turn from classical music performance to folk music performance. She was 14 years old when this happened. She had been playing piano for 11 years and loved classical music. Her piano teacher was a famed conductor and pianist, and told Collins that she had a bright future in classical music performance.

But then one day, while Collins was preparing to perform with a local orchestra, she happened to hear an old English ballad on the radio. It was the first folk song Collins had ever heard, but it captured her.

It took Collins a full year to switch gears. She continued studying piano while immersing herself in folk music. She taught herself to play a guitar, practicing till her fingers bled. Her parents and her piano teacher opposed the change, but Collins had become convinced that her future was in folk music. And once she made the change, she says, she “felt ecstasy, as if a burden had been lifted.”

That sounds like conversion to me.

Likewise, our Marianist way is a life of conversion. It is the primary work of anyone truly dedicated to Mary and the Gospel. God calls us all to conversion. The love of God changes us, turns us in new directions, and challenges us to be committed to the lifelong work of conversion. In the end, we not only change for the better, but become more truly ourselves.

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Pray for the Canonization of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade

"Let this thought encourage us: let us not be vanquished by our weakness, but let us vanquish it. If our work frightens us, then let the eternal reward promised give us new vigor."

Blessed William Joseph Chaminade

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Love others

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“Until we learn to love others as ourselves, it's difficult to blame broken people who desperately try to affirm themselves when no one else will.” 

― Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The truth will set you free

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“Before the truth sets you free, it tends to make you miserable.” 

― Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life


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"every time God forgives us, God is saying that God's own rules do not matter as much as the relationship that God wants to create with us.”

― Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

Friday, July 21, 2017


During our annual retreat we are delving into the thoughts and spirituality of Richard Rohr more than any contemporary spiritual leader. He says everything I could ever say and says it much better and much more succinctly.

Image result for ooopsIn his book, he noted, “I have prayed for years for one good humiliation a day, and then I must watch my reaction to it. In my position, I have no other way of spotting both my well-denied shadow self and my idealized persona.”

Rohr is very attuned to the presence of the ego in all spiritually-inclined people and is forthright about wrestling with his own ego daily. I think that his daily prayer for “one good humiliation a day” is his way of asking for his eyes to be opened daily to his own frailty and egotism. For, it is often very humiliating when this happens to someone, especially one who holds himself/herself forth as a “spiritual person.”

I do not think he is calling for us to deliberately go out and humiliate ourselves each day. He is merely asking us to pay attention, to be honest with ourselves, to practice “mindfulness” and be prepared to embrace the subjective experience of a sudden illumination about our own “flesh” being hard at work in our spiritual practice.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


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Personal growth is “a treasure hidden in a field” (Matthew 13:44). 

It is only discovered by the release of our current defense postures, by letting go of fear and our attachment to self-image. Then the inner gift lies present and accounted for! 

Once our defenses are out of the way and we are humble and poor, truth is allowed to show itself. 

God could not risk giving truth to proud and power hungry people; they will always abuse it. Truth shows itself when we are free from ideology, fear, and anger.