Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Cost of Discipleship

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In his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer wrote, “Christianity without the living Jesus Christ, remains necessarily a Christianity without discipleship and a Christianity without discipleship is always a Christianity without Jesus Christ .... And a Christianity of that kind is nothing more or less than the end of discipleship. In such a religion, there is trust in God, but no following of Christ.” (The Cost of Discipleship, 64.)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Encounter with Christ

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Ordinary people wondering how on earth to be faithful Christians have this rather simple prescription: Focus on Jesus. Listen to his teachings, examine his life, notice his relationships, hear his questions and follow his invitation to be his disciple. 

For Dietrich Bonhoeffer, it was a personal encounter with Jesus Christ that was necessary to discover a lived faith and not merely abstract belief in God. The more common notion of belief did not and could not compel persons to risk everything for the sake of the call of God. What resulted instead was a form of religion that had no connection to the transforming power of Jesus Christ. It is precisely the experience of casting oneself upon the living Christ that makes authentic discipleship possible. 

He wrote from prison, “Encounter with Jesus Christ [is what matters]. Faith is participation in this being of Jesus (incarnation, cross, resurrection). Our relation to God is not a ‘religious’ relationship to the highest, most powerful and best Being imaginable — that is not authentic transcendence — but our relation to God is a new life, existing for others, through participation in the being of Jesus.” (Letters and Papers, 381).

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Faithful Witness

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“This is the end — for me the beginning of life.” 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said these words to a fellow prisoner on April 9, 1945, before Gestapo guards took him away. Then this Lutheran pastor, theologian and leader of the Confessing Church was executed in a Nazi concentration camp at Flossenberg, Germany — paying the ultimate price for his role in the Abwehr plot against Hitler. He was only 39 years old.

Over sixty years later, we remember this kind and courageous Christian because his witness for Jesus Christ remains a brilliant light for all who seek to be faithful disciples. From the beginning, Christians have studied the lives of those who have died for their faith, whose example provides courage and hope for faithful living, especially in times of duress. Dietrich Bonhoeffer lives in that great company of Christian martyrs; by recalling his life, we gain fresh strength in our efforts to be faithful witnesses for Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Be these.

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Following Jesus might be personal but it's never private. Even when Peter denies even knowing Jesus, he couldn't get away with it. Once you are associated with him, it's an identity that sticks. Anyone we meet should be able to tell right away from our words, actions, compassion and way of living that we belong to him. They shouldn't have to guess!

Jesus would sternly warn his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah at this stage of his ministry. Well, now the secret is out and we have no such restrictions.

The question is whether people will be able to discover Jesus, see God, through the way we live our lives.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Sunday Word

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Our Gospel selection has Jesus turning to the question of his real identity. Jesus and the disciples arrive in "the district of Caesarea Philippi."

So one day he says to his disciples, "Guess who?"

His actual question was, "Who do people say that I am?" What's the buzz about me right now?

The answers given by the disciples are all connected to the prophets, even though most Jewish teachers at the time believed that authentic prophecy had ceased. Still, there was some expectation of a return of the prophets at the end time, particularly Elijah.

Some thought that John the Baptist was an Elijah figure, but when John was executed by Herod Antipas, they began to transfer that idea to Jesus.

Many of Jesus' miracles had seemed to mirror those of Elijah -- raising the dead being the most prominent.

When Jesus announced God's judgment on unrepentant cities and downplayed the central role of the temple, he sounded a lot like the prophet Jeremiah.

But those closest to Jesus began to suspect there was more to him than that. Jesus was more than a prophet; in fact, he was the One for whom they had been waiting. When Jesus asks his disciples the pointed question, "But who do you say that I am?" , it's a question that will not only define who he is but also define the identity of his followers.

Simon Peter answers with confidence, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Simon has examined the evidence and concluded that Jesus is the real deal.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Summer Retreat at Founders Hollow

Here at Founder's Hollow last week 26 Marianist high school young men took the opportunity to enjoy the silence at our summer retreat. 

We know that quiet is necessary for us to know who we are and who God is.

In fact, well-known monk and author Thomas Merton wrote that “the peace of solitude” is necessary in order to experience a full life. “All … need enough silence and solitude in their lives,” he wrote, “to enable the deep inner voice of their own true self to be heard…”

This summer retreat allowed us to withdraw from the busyness of summer in order to reflect on and deepen our relationship with God.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Papal thoughts

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(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday said “life is not a video game or a soap opera; our life is serious and the goal to achieve is important: eternal salvation.” Speaking to pilgrims gathered for the Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square, the Pope focused on the theme of eternal salvation and referred to the day’s Gospel reading in which a man asks Jesus how many people will be saved. “It doesn’t matter how many,” the Pope noted, “but it is important that everyone knows which is the path that leads to salvation.” And the door to salvation lies in Jesus, he said, and we can cross the threshold of God's mercy through love, and by overcoming pride, arrogance and sin.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Sharing brings joy

Image result for christian sharingThere are countless blessings to those who give of themselves wholeheartedly without any cost. God's grace and power are the unexpected benefits with one that is truly giving -- offering gifts of time and talent along with money.

Throughout history, Christians have worked to create a sharing society. In such a community, Christians share because they want to share, not because they are forced to share. They are active in the marketplace, working hard and always looking for what they can do next. They put people ahead of profits, and they try to avoid the worship of money. They discover that giving has unexpected benefits, including powerful testimonies and experiences of the grace of God.

But since we Christians were among the first to pool our resources in Jerusalem, we should always be on the lookout for ways to build a sharing society in new and even more powerful ways.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Queenship of Mary

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We celebrated on August 22nd a great Marianist feast, the Queenship of Mary.

In this feast, particularly cherished by the Popes of modern times, we celebrate Mary as the Queen of Heaven and Earth.

Pope Pius XII in the Papal Encyclical Ad Coeli Reginam proposed the traditional doctrine on the Queenship of Mary and established this feast for the Universal Church.

Pope Pius IX said of Mary's queenship: "Turning her maternal Heart toward us and dealing with the affair of our salvation, she is concerned with the whole human race. Constituted by the Lord Queen of Heaven and earth, and exalted above all choirs of Angels and the ranks of Saints in Heaven, standing at the right hand of Her only-begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, she petitions most powerfully with Her maternal prayers, and she obtains what she seeks."

And Pope Pius XII added the following: "We commend that on the festival there be renewed the consecration of the human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Upon this there is founded a great hope that there will rejoice in the triumph of religion and in Christian peace...

...Therefore, let all approach with greater confidence now than before, to the throne of mercy and grace of our Queen and Mother to beg help in difficultly, light in darkness and solace in trouble and sorrow...

. . Whoever, therefore, honors the lady ruler of the Angels and of men - and let no one think themselves exempt from the payment of that tribute of a grateful and loving soul - let them call upon her as most truly Queen and as the Queen who brings the blessings of peace, that She may show us all, after this exile, Jesus, who will be our enduring peace and joy."

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Marianists in the News

Catholic News Service
August 21, 2017

Marianist Brother Stephen Balletta, left, prays during a Mass marking World Day for Consecrated Life Feb. 5 at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre, N.Y. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

PHOENIX (CNS) -- The church needs to look beyond ordained clergy for leadership, said Marianist Father James Heft during an address at the annual meeting of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men in Phoenix in early August.

"Early on in the life of the church, religious life was a lay movement. Beginning in the third century, the desert fathers were typically not ordained, and a century later when monastic communities began to form, they remained a largely lay movement," Father Heft said.

"By the time active religious orders arrived on the scene in the 12th and 13th centuries, the vast majority of their members were ordained. If there were any brothers, they were to serve the priests," he said Aug. 3.

Father Heft is the Alton Brooks professor of religion and president of the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California. He founded the institute in 2006. Before that, he was at the Marianist-run University of Dayton in Ohio, first as chair of the theology department, then senior vice president and university provost and finally chancellor.

Author or editor of 11 books and numerous articles, he is now working on a book on the mission of Catholic colleges and universities.

"In our order the priests are ordained to serve first the brothers with whom they live, and then with them others through various ministries," he said in opening his address. "As one of our priests often remarked, 'I am a brother who happens to be ordained.' Brothers are not there to serve the priests, except through the mutual responsibilities that characterize any group that aspires to be a real community."

"Our common life and the three vows, plus a special vow that dedicates us to Mary, constitute our identity," Father Heft noted.

"At the time of the Reformation, what Protestants opposed, Catholics emphasized -- some might say exaggerated. The Protestants emphasized the priesthood of all the faithful and the Catholics, in response, the ordained priesthood," he explained in the main part of his address. "The Protestants put great emphasis on the study of the word of God and preaching while the Catholics emphasized the sacraments, most of which are celebrated only by priests. Most Protestant churches abolished religious life; the Catholics made it a higher calling than marriage.

Protestants emphasized the priesthood of all the faithful and the Catholics, in response, the ordained priesthood.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Marianist Monday

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So where does the name Mary come from:

Mary's name means "beloved" or "cherished." In Hebrew, however, her name has a different meaning. The Hebrew word miryam, from which "Mary" comes, means "rebellion." That may sound cute as the name of an infant, but hardly the name you want for a child in their terrible twos or teens.

In a sense, Mary needs both of those qualities for the work to which she is called. She is the beloved one, cherished of God, who is selected to carry and give birth to the Messiah. When the angel Gabriel first appears to her to tell her about her role in the Christmas story, he calls her "favored one."

On the other hand, that rebellious streak -- the ability to follow her inner voice when others might try to convince her to behave differently -- will come in handy throughout her pregnancy.

Her courage allows her to travel to Elizabeth and Zechariah's when the angel tells her to go. It sustains her through her and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem and Jesus' birth out in a stable. Most importantly, her rebellious nature gives her the ability to say yes to being used by God in this way when she knows the consequences could be dire.

We need to be more like Mary, rebelliously courageous because we know we are loved by God.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

God is God

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Our second reading for this Sunday focuses on the English word “irrevocable.” The word appears nowhere else in Scripture but here in verse 29. 

On one hand, the Scriptures acknowledge that seasons of blessing may be temporary. Rains come and go. Crops boom and bust. Riches can be transient.

But the irrevocable gift of God is here linked to one of his attributes, not merely his actions. Despite disobedience, he still offers his people mercy. “So that he may be merciful to all.”

Perhaps parents can best understand the heart which grants mercy in response to disobedience. It is a heart of love ... despite. A heart that longs for relationship over punishment. A heart that puts more stock in the future than in the past.

Here again this word “irrevocable” comes into play in a different way. The word irrevocable literally means “without regret”; something is given with no claim to do-overs. The only other place the same word appears is in 2 Corinthians: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret [‘irrevocable’], but worldly grief produces death.”

Bottom line, perhaps pastor Dennis J. Meaker put it best when he wrote us, saying that what we learn here is that “God does not give up on his commitments simply because they do not seem to be working out as planned.”

And that is good news for the world.

Things may not seem to be working out as planned.

Doesn’t mean that God is giving up on commitments made, promises offered.

God is God.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Sunday Word

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It's not too late to begin to prepare for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time by taking a good look at the readings.

The Gospel reading for the day picture the disciples with curmudgeonly attitudes. They continue acting cranky and obstreperous as they encounter the Canaanite woman. This Gentile woman meets Jesus and his followers on her home turf, the district of Tyre and Sidon, and immediately accosts them and cries out, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon."
Jesus does not reply at all, and the disciples sense from his silence that he is blowing her off. So, ramping up their excitement and nastiness, they call out, "Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us."

It's like the disciples are saying, "Hey, lady! Curb your enthusiasm."

The disciples' hearts are in the right place, but their enthusiasm is just a bit overwhelming. These 12 see themselves as the chosen few, the cream of the crop, the entitled elite, the devoted dozen, the Lord's own Dream Team. They are passionate about Christ and don't have much interest in sharing their mentor with the unenlightened masses.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Marianist vocations - alive!

Here is a wonderful sign of God's providence and the blessings of our Bicentennial celebration:

In Dayton, the FMI Sisters welcomed Emily Sandoval (second from left) as a pre-novice and in San Antonio, Leno Ceballos and Jordan Stewert began their aspirancy at the Casa Maria community.

Please pray for these four newest members of our religious family that they may grow in their vocations and in their love of our Marianist life.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Aspirant welcomed into Province of Meribah

The Marianists of the Province of Meribah were pleased to welcome Thomas Terrill as an aspirant into the Marianist community during the Rite of Acceptance.

The ceremony was part of the celebration of the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary on August 15th.

Brother Timothy Driscoll, Provincial, welcomed Thomas. Fr. Thomas, Assistant Provincial, presided at the Mass and gave the homily.

Thomas is pictured above with the novices. (Brother Peter, Brother Patrick, Aspirant Thomas and Brother Andrew)

Welcome, Thomas!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Blessed Jakob Gapp - Marianist

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Blessed Jakob Gapp, SM, was truly an extraordinary person. He was someone with a passionate and unflinching commitment to the Truth. He was passionate about what he believed and his convictions moved him to speak out and to give his life. In the midst of World War II and the darkness of the Third Reich, he witnessed to the Light of Jesus Christ.

What can we learn from him?

Today, wherever we are and in whatever circumstance, we can witness to the same undying Light and Love, whatever the cost.

FEAST DAY - August 13

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Assumption of Our Lady

Today, Catholics and many other Christians celebrate the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This significant feast day recalls the spiritual and physical departure of the mother of Jesus Christ from the earth, when both her soul and her resurrected body were taken into the presence of God.

Venerable Pope Pius XII confirmed this belief about the Virgin Mary as a teaching of the Church when he defined it formally as a dogma of Catholic faith in 1950, invoking papal infallibility to proclaim, “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

Although the bodily assumption of Mary is not explicitly recorded in Scripture, Catholic tradition identifies her with the “woman clothed with the sun” who is described in the Book of Revelation.

The passage calls that woman's appearance “a great sign” which “appeared in heaven,” indicating that she is the mother of the Jewish Messiah and has “the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” Accordingly, Catholic iconography of the Western tradition often depicts the Virgin Mary's assumption into heaven in this manner.

“It was fitting,” St. John of Damascus wrote in a sermon on the Assumption, “that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death,” and “that she, who had carried the creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles.”

In Eastern Christian tradition, the same feast is celebrated on the same calendar date, although typically known as the Dormition (falling asleep) of Mary.

Monday, August 14, 2017

St. Maximillian Kolbe - Obedience alone shows us God's will

“I rejoice greatly, dear brother, at the outstanding zeal that drives you to promote the glory of God. It is sad to see how in our times the disease called “indifferentism” is spreading in all its forms, not just among those in the world but also among the members of religious orders. But indeed, since God is worthy of infinite glory, it is our first and most pressing duty to give him such glory as we, in our weakness, can manage – even that we would never, poor exiled creatures that we are, be able to render him such glory as he truly deserves.

Because God’s glory shines through most brightly in the salvation of the souls that Christ redeemed with his own blood, let it be the chief concern of the apostolic life to bring salvation and an increase in holiness to as many souls as possible. Let me briefly outline the best way to achieve this end – both for the glory of God and for the sanctification of the greatest number. God, who is infinite knowledge and infinite wisdom, knows perfectly what is to be done to give him glory, and in the clearest way possible makes his will known to us through his vice-gerents on Earth.

It is obedience and obedience alone that shows us God’s will with certainty. Of course our superiors may err, but it cannot happen that we, holding fast to our obedience, should be led into error by this. There is only one exception: if the superior commands something that would obviously involve breaking God’s law, however slightly. In that case the superior could not be acting as a faithful interpreter of God’s will.

God himself is the one infinite, wise, holy, and merciful Lord, our Creator and our Father, the beginning and the end, wisdom, power, and love – God is all these. Anything that is apart from God has value only in so far as it is brought back to him, the Founder of all things, the Redeemer of mankind, the final end of all creation. Thus he himself makes his holy will known to us through his vice-gerents on Earth and draws us to himself, and through us – for so he has willed – draws other souls too, and unites them to himself with an ever more perfect love.

See then, brother, the tremendous honour of the position that God in his kindness has placed us in. Through obedience we transcend our own limitations and align ourselves with God’s will, which, with infinite wisdom and prudence, guides us to do what is best. Moreover, as we become filled with the divine will, which no created thing can resist, so we become stronger than all others.”

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Lord gave them bread from heaven.

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Psalm 78
The Lord gave them bread from heaven.

What we have heard and know,
and what our fathers have declared to us,
We will declare to the generation to come
the glorious deeds of the LORD and his strength
and the wonders that he wrought.

He commanded the skies above
and opened the doors of heaven;
he rained manna upon them for food
and gave them heavenly bread.

Man ate the bread of angels,
food he sent them in abundance.
And he brought them to his holy land,
to the mountains his right hand had won.

• “The Lord gave them bread from heaven."
How can we distribute this bread to the many people in our lives and our world hungry for food, love, companionship, justice, freedom, meaning and hope?
• As God heard the murmur and complaints of his suffering and struggling people, do we hear the murmur and complaints of those who call for help...and are we responding?

• Are we working (seeking) only for “the food that perishes” or do we hunger especially for God, seeking first and foremost God’s kingdom and righteousness?

• Jesus gave his life for the life of the world. How can we be more Eucharistic in our attitudes and actions toward others, especially those most in need?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Be imitators of God

St. Paul urges the Ephesians to practice seeing their work as an opportunity for service to those in need. When we're practicing disciples, all of our work hours -- no matter what we do -- can be seen as a means toward the goal of advancing God's kingdom.

We need to practice our speech as well. Loose and evil talk seems to be the norm in our culture, and it's easy for us to get caught up in it. But what would happen if, instead, we practiced saying nothing but "words that give grace to those who hear?" As disciples we must engage in the daily practice of disciplining our speech to reflect the building up of others rather than tearing down.

Next, Paul warns against grieving the Holy Spirit, which seems to be another way of saying we violate our baptism and our role in building up the community in holiness. If baptism is the mark of the Holy Spirit on us, then we need to be reminded daily that our conduct and thought life should reflect the Spirit's presence in our lives.

Our lives mirror the character of God

Paul sums up the argument by saying that if we're really practicing Christians, then things like bitterness, wrath, anger, arguments, slander and malice will eventually be "put away" and replaced with kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness. That will only happen through the discipline of practice.

The true gauge of success, according to Paul, is that character mirrors God in the way that a child mirrors a parent. The ultimate example of that kind of success is Jesus.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Lord, to whom can we go?

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Saint Peter says, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

In the context of what was happening that day, Peter's statement is remarkable. In effect, he was saying, "Despite the conclusion of all those who have turned away, despite the centuries of synagogue teaching, despite the improbability of any human being embodying the words of life, we believe that you, Jesus, have "the words of eternal life," and that you are "the Holy One of God."

With his answer to Jesus, Saint Peter actually shows us quite a bit about the nature of faith, for clearly he is aware that Jesus' offer of eternal life has been discounted by the crowd. And he surely knows there is no proof to the contrary. But he's saying that based on what he and the other 11 have seen of Jesus, they are choosing to believe. He's showing the truth that believing in Jesus is always a matter of choice. Peter is kin to a great many Christians down through the centuries who have acknowledged to themselves, if not to others, that there are enough reasons not to believe in Jesus if that is what they conclude, but there are also reasons to believe. And they have made the believing choice.