Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Cross

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“The cross teaches us that in life there is failure and victory. We must be capable of tolerating defeat, of bearing our failures patiently, even those of our sins because He paid for us. We must tolerate them in Him, asking forgiveness in Him, but never allowing ourselves to be seduced by this chained dog. It will be good if today, when we go home, we would take 5, 10, 15 minutes in front of the crucifix, either the one we have in our house or on the rosary: look at it, it is our sign of defeat, it provokes persecutions, it destroys us; it is also our sign of victory because it is where God was victorious”.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

God shows no favoritism

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"My brothers and sisters, show no partiality
as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ."

James 2:1

So how does one move away from showing partiality, making distinctions and judging people on outer appearance? Surprisingly, the answer is not better theology, morality or biblical interpretation.

It's better habits.

Monday, September 17, 2018

St. Robert Bellarmine

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St. Robert Bellarmine, the scholar, the Cardinal, the devoted servant of God, wrote some 500 years ago: “If you are wise, then, know that you are created for the glory of God and your own eternal salvation. This is your goal; this is the center of your life; this is the treasure of your heart (Bellarmine, On the Ascent of the Mind of God).” 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

5 Common Fears with Discerning your Vocation

John Paul II raising Holy Eucharist
1. What if I am making the wrong (or a bad) decision?


If you are praying daily, striving to live a virtuous life, and remaining close to the Sacraments, you will know if you are making the wrong decision. Applying for seminary or a religious community does not necessarily mean that you are definitely going to be a priest or religious. Religious formation is a process where you continue to discover and realize God’s call in your life. The Church has specific processes where an individual tests his or her call to see if it feels right. When you enter a religious community, there is a period of one to two years (or longer) that you experience before you profess vows or make any further commitment. God only asks you to be open and be willing to follow. During this time of testing one’s vocation, you will know if it is or is not right for you. You will sense God’s peace in the direction He is leading you. Additionally, religious communities are wise in the discernment process and only want candidates who have an authentic call to commit themselves to the way of life, and this call is most fully realized when it is tested over a period of time.


2. The fear of what others will think, especially parents or friends


Everyone wants acceptance, support, and affirmation, especially from those that they are closest to. Sometimes due to disagreements in faith, or for a variety of other reasons, friends and family members may not understand or completely accept your decision to enter religious life. This experience can be painful and a burdensome cross to bear. You might find consolation that Jesus’ relatives didn’t always understand his mission and thought he was “out of his mind” (Mark 3:21). It is important to be patient with others if they do not support you—it might be their way of being protective and looking out for your best interest. Our loved ones want to see us happy and fulfilled, but many mistakenly believe that if you enter religious life, with its rules, structure, and sacrifices, that you could not possibly be happy or fulfilled. It is important for friends or family to visit the religious community for themselves and have the opportunity to meet and interact with its members. If you decide to enter a community and find peace and fulfillment, it often alleviates the pressure that comes from friends or family members, because their opposition diminishes when they see your joy.



3. Focusing too much on the sacrifices


When considering religious life, many young people focus excessively on the sacrifices, or “what you have to give up.” The culture often tries to tell you what you need or must have to be fulfilled in this life. It is true that there are sacrifices that a person has to make to follow Christ in religious life. However, the sacrifices can be exaggerated in your mind, and often once you test your vocation, what you thought would be a significant obstacle, may not be so difficult after all. Besides that, sacrifices are also only part of the picture. Ultimately, God is loving and generous with us beyond all measure. Jesus assured St. Peter, “Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life” (Mt 19:29). In the face of such a fear, you have to be willing to be generous with your life. Do not be afraid to live no longer for yourselves, but for Christ. There are many joys and blessings in following Christ in religious life, and many times you find yourself surprised by how good and generous God truly is!


4. I’m afraid that I’m following my own voice and not Jesus’ voice


Listening to God is difficult because God doesn’t normally speak to you with an audible voice. We have many ‘voices’ and influences that we have to sort out at any given time throughout the day. While you are in prayer, you must express your desire to follow God’s will. In an ever-changing world, you must listen carefully for the steady and consistent message that God speaks in the peace of your heart. If you truly desire to hear God, the call will not remain hidden, nor will it be presented as a puzzle that you have to ‘figure out.’ Gather all the information necessary to make a well-informed and prudent decision, pray as if it all depends on God, but when it is time to act, place your trust entirely in God. The Holy Spirit will guide and direct you. If your decision was made peacefully and with a desire to please God, then you can move forward with confidence. Since it is a real challenge not to be guided by self-will, it is most important to find a priest or spiritual director, someone wise and attentive to the Holy Spirit, to listen and guide you throughout the process. Whenever you place your trust in your spiritual director, it shows humility and a sincere desire to follow God’s will in your life. The Rule of Saint Benedict adds this advice: “Do everything with counsel, and you will not be sorry afterward” (3:13).


5. I’m not worthy or holy enough


Many young people who see religious men and women from afar can think that they are somehow more angelic than human. You can have lofty ideals of what your prayer life should be like or how you should do a better job avoiding sin, and when you find yourself struggling, many can find themselves disappointed or frustrated. You might even fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. These experiences lead people to think they are not worthy or holy enough to enter religious life since they still wrestle with any number of sins. Religious life is not for the perfect, but for those who desire holiness and strive to call themselves to conversion each and every day. Jesus said, “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners“ (Mark 2:17). Most religious men and women seek community life because they are aware of and readily admit their need for the support and encouragement of others to persevere on the path that leads to God. The call to holiness requires that you embrace your humanity, with both your strengths and weaknesses, to become the man or the woman that God desires you to be. God’s grace is more powerful than your weaknesses and your perception of yourself. You just have to remain open and willing to allow grace to change you.



In his inaugural homily, Saint John Paul II said, “Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power.” His words echo the refrain heard from Jesus throughout the Gospel Resurrection accounts where his disciples are often struck with fear. Jesus comes to them and simply says, “Peace be with you.” Many men and women who are discerning a religious vocation hesitate in taking the next step because they are restrained by any number of fears. Acknowledging and expressing these fears is usually the first step to overcoming them. Listed below are five fears common to men and women discerning religious life and some helpful advice to banish the fear and draw near to the Risen Christ who offers you “peace.”

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Our Lady of Sorrows


The Church commemorates Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows today. For many centuries, Christians have meditated upon the Seven Sorrows of Mary described in the Gospels.

Mary's first Sorrow was when she and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem for His circumcision. For the Jews circumcision is a sign of their covenant with God, and the spilling of Jesus' blood in this Temple foreshadowed His eventual death sentence. This sealed the New Covenant in His blood.

At the Temple, Mary was met by the prophet Simeon. He told her that Jesus would be the promised light to both the Israelites and the Gentiles. Also, that Christ would also be rejected and that Mary herself would be pierced by a sword of sorrow. This is why in Christian art, Mary's heart is often shown wounded by a sword or swords.
Mary's second Sorrow came when an angel warned Joseph to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus. King Herod wished to destroy the child, and was willing to slaughter thousands of children in order to do so. For a man who was supposed to protect the people to show such hatred for innocent human life must have broken Mary's heart. This sorrow reminds us that it is the duty we have to protect innocent human life.

Her third Sorrow came when she and Joseph lost Jesus in the Temple. Years later, Mary would again lose Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem during the Feast of the Passover. There, the religious leaders would once again question him, this time condemning him to die.

Mary's experienced a fourth great Sorrow years later, when she followed her Son out of Jerusalem as He carried His cross to the hill of Calvary.

Mary's greatest Sorrow, the fifth, was seeing her Son die. His hands had healed so many, even raising the dead back to life. Now His healing hands were held back by nails. The face that she once washed clean was covered in blood, the hair that she once combed now tangled in a crown of thorns.

Mary's sixth Sorrow was when Her son's lifeless body was taken down and given to her. Along with the other disciples, it was Mary's duty to clean the body and prepare it for burial. She suffered to bring Him into our world, to raise him, and now He dies to pay for our sins.

Mary's last Sorrow came when she buried her son. Jesus is now buried in a cavern carved into a rocky hill. Now He lies in a borrowed tomb. Buried in a simple white shroud.

On this day commemorating the seven sorrows of Mary we are called to imitate her, bravely accepting suffering, showing kindness to others who suffer. In a certain way, we can find joy and hope in knowing that Jesus has conquered suffering and death. His victory is our peace.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Triumph of the Cross

Both of our high schools today began the school year with Triumph of the Cross celebrations. Bishop Barres joined the Kellenberg Memorial family for our outdoor prayer service where over 3,000 attended.




Thursday, September 13, 2018

Success - habit of doing things differently

Image result for James 2:1-5


"My brothers and sisters, show no partiality
as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ."

James 2:1

So how does one move away from showing partiality, making distinctions and judging people on outer appearance? Surprisingly, the answer is not better theology, morality or biblical interpretation.

It's better habits.

Over at Febreze, the focus shifted to the habits of consumers, not employees. When Febreze was launched as an odor-cleaning product in 1993, it flopped. Why? Because people with stinky houses didn't know they needed it. But when the company discovered that people are proud to finish their chores, they suggested a new habit -- rewarding yourself with a blast of Febreze. The product now makes $1 billion annually.

Success comes from getting in the habit of doing things differently.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Marianist Patronal Feast Day

Luke tells us in his Annunciation narrative, "And the Virgin's name was Mary (Mariam, Luke 1:27c). This is the beautiful way Mary is welcomed into the pages of the most artistic and literary of the Evangelists. She is according to the Jesuit exegete and Marian scholar, Fr. Ignatius de la Potterie, S.J., given a new name by the address Gabriel announces as he calls her attention by saying "KECHARITOMENE" that is, You who have been highly favored and graced. This new name points our Mary's holy call to be the mother of the Savior precisely because she has already been favored and graced by God for this role. The expression is a perfect passive particple which shows us the beginning of her graced life and the mission that this will bring about, namely, the giving of Jesus as Savior to the world.The Annunciation is both a heavenly proclamation and a vocation story about Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

For us Marianists, this is our patronal feast day and the center of our charism, or as Fr. Paul Marshall calls it, the lens which helps us see the other charisms of the Society of Mary clearly. For Blessed Chaminade this definitely was central to his spirituality which influenced all of his writings and his foundations. It is for the honor and glory of Mary that we Marianists do pronounce our vows to God and take on the mission of Mary of bringing Jesus to today's world. Our Blessed Founder loved this passage and always encouraged his followers to reflect upon this call of Mary. I personally take great delight in Luke's account and it is one of the most motivational parts of Scripture for me as a Marianist; the other, which comes at the end of John's Gospel is the scene at the foot of the Cross where the Beloved Disciple is entrusted to Mary and becomes her spiritual son.

In the "Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin" the song of Mary is used for the response between the initial reading from Genesis. This great psalm or hymn expresses our joy on this Feast of the Holy Name of Mary and it comes to us from her very lips. St. Luke may have composed it, but it expresses the sentiments and praises of Mary to God that inspired him to give the Magnificat to his readers in a community that was dedicated to the person of Mary because of the role she played in the conception, birth, and education of Jesus.

Here is a reflection from Blessed William Joseph Chaminade on the Annunciation: "God, in the wisdom of his counsels, predestined Mary from all eternity to be the Mother of the Savior of the world, to be the instrument of the Incarnation, which is the universal principle of grace. This choice is a gift of God and infinitely glorious for Mary. But the gifts of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29), hence this choice will remain forever. All the graces received by us are merely applications or outcomes of the grace of the Incarnation." (Marian Writings of William Joseph Chaminade, Vol 1, p.51, J.-B. Armbruster, S.M., Marianist Press, 1980).

May all the members of the Marianist Family rejoice and celebrate as we honor Mary our spiritual Mother and learn from her who to say "Yes"-- "Let it be done to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38). Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum." Amen.

-Fr. Bert Buby, S.M.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Repair my House

The gray gloom and soddening drizzle seemed like cynicism itself had been turned to unwelcome weather.

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And you might have expected that the prospect of trudging through it for hours would have kept most people away from the 17th annual 9/11 Walk of Remembrance, which retraces the steps of FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge from Saint Francis of Assisi Church in mid-Manhattan to his death at the World Trade Center.
Image result for Rescue workers carry fatally injured New York City Fire Department Chaplain Father Mychal Judge from one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City, early Sept. 11, 2001.
Yet despite even the added murk of the continuing sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, this particular church on West 31st Street in Manhattan was packed to capacity for the Mass preceding the walk on Sunday morning.

The surprise imparted by the standing room-only crowd was heightened by the sound that rose from before the altar with the homily. This was not the rote rumbling of some aging cleric grown

despondent in representing a dying institution. This was the vibrantly youthful voice of a priest on the job for just three years who had been grappling with a continuing crisis that had extended all the way to the Vatican.

“Do I want to belong to this organization?” 29-year-old Father James Hansen was saying he had asked himself. “Do I want to stay in this? Do I want to be a priest?”

Hansen was young enough just to walk away and set his life on another course. But he had the example of the fallen fire chaplain who had raced into the most mortal danger from this very spot. He also had the twinned example of the cop who had originally organized this memorial walk 16 years before.

Detective Steven McDonald had been shot and paralyzed from the neck down by a 15-year-old bicycle thief in Central Park in 1986. His wife, Patti Ann McDonald, had been pregnant with their first child.

The question of what kind of father he would be was swirling through McDonald’s mind when Judge filled in for a fire chaplain who was filling in for the police chaplain and visited him at Bellevue Hospital. Mychal introduced Steven to the Prayer of Saint Francis.

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.”

The contemplations of fatherhood and the words of the prayer joined what resided at McDonald’s core. The result was conveyed in a letter from him to the people of the City of New York that Patti Ann read aloud—he being unable to do so himself—at the christening of their son, Conor.

“On some days, when I am not feeling very well, I can get angry,” the letter noted. “But I have realized that anger is a wasted emotion, and that I have to remember why I became a police officer.”

The letter continued, “I’m sometimes angry at the teen-age boy who shot me. But more often I feel sorry for him. I only hope that he can turn his life into helping and not hurting people.”

The letter then said, “I forgive him and hope that he can find peace and purpose in his life.''

McDonald and Judge became as close as brothers, and some later called them twin towers of faith. They were really twin bridges, for they shared a belief that the sacred distance was not to tower over but to reach across. They also both believed that just as the devil is to be found in evil, then God is to be found in good. Judge felt certain that good and therefore God were stronger in McDonald than in anyone.

On 9/11, McDonald got the heartbreaking news that Judge had been killed, a photograph of his body being carried from the fiery ruins later to be called the modern Pieta. McDonald arrived at the medical examiner’s office and rolled his motorized wheelchair up to his friend’s mortal remainImage result for Rescue workers carry fatally injured New York City Fire Department Chaplain Father Mychal Judge from one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City, early Sept. 11, 2001.
Rescue workers carry fatally injured New York City Fire Depatment Chaplain Father Mychal Judge from one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City, early Sept. 11, 2001.

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

As the first anniversary approached, McDonald led the way in his wheelchair on the first Walk of Remembrance, pausing at the fire and police stations along the route as if they were Stations of the Cross. He and the others on the walk offered prayers for cops and firefighters from each command who had fallen on 9/11.

McDonald kept leading the walk for year after year after year. He was still doing so on the 15th anniversary, which happened to be the same day Mother Teresa was canonized in Rome.

“For the first time, we pray to Saint Teresa of Calcutta,” FDNY Chaplain Chris Keenan said during the Mass preceding that walk.

On the walk that day, McDonald suggested to a friend that Judge should become a saint. The friend noted that Judge’s twin sister, Dympna Jessich, had once half joked that her brother would have considered it a demotion. She meant that Judge was of the opinion that such goodness is in everybody. McDonald remained of the opinion that there should be a Saint Mychal.

“We need heroes,” McDonald said that day in 2016 as if he were not one, as if he had not been Judge’s greatest hero, as if Judge had not believed that if anybody was going to be made a saint, it should be Steven McDonald.

Four months later, McDonald died, his lungs having failed after three grueling decades on a respirator, maybe an all-time record for anybody. His son, Conor, had joined the NYPD and had become a sergeant. He and his mother made sure the annual walk kept going. 

“This was the most important accomplishment I think he did after he was injured, besides forgiving the young man that shot him and spreading his word of forgiveness and reconciliation,” Conor McDonald was quoted saying at last year’s walk, the 16th. “He put his heart and soul into this walk because Father Mychal meant so much to him.”

On Sunday, Conor and Patti Ann McDonald were back at St. Francis for the 17th. Everybody wished Steven and Mychal had possessed the powers from on high to stop the drizzle and clear the skies, but the unwelcome weather provided a challenge that made the turnout all the more heartening.

At a time when the Catholic Church seems endangered, here was a fine full house on a lousy day, the moment made perfect by Hansen’s vibrant young voice. He announced that the examples of McDonald and Judge and other first responders made clear to him how he should respond to the scandals. He would remain a priest and take on the problems.

“Human nature is really to go away from the problem,” Hansen said. “Then you had a group of people who are running straight at the problem. They said, ‘No, I’m going to go straight to the problem and try to bring healing.’”

In the outsized mosaic behind Hanson was a depiction of the small church of San Damiano, which was falling into ruin when Saint Francis stepped inside to pray before the crucifix. The saint is said to have heard a voice say, “Francis, go and repair my house, which, as you see, is falling into ruin.” Francis came to understand that the voice meant not this particular physical structure, but the church as a whole.

Hansen was now saying that by following the example of New York’s twin bridges and running straight at the problem, the church can be repaired.

“The church will get through this,” Hansen said. “Steven McDonald, pray for us. Mychal Judge, pray for us.”

At the end of the Mass, Conor McDonald rose with his mother from the front pew to lead this year’s walk. Hansen of course joined them, walking in the rain wearing only his clerical garb, politely declining the offer of waterproof gear.

“It feels good,” he said.

One member of the procession remarked to him that there was serious talk that Steven McDonald might indeed be canonized.

“I hope,” Hansen said. “I hope.”

And then the young priest continued with the others, shining in the soddening gloom as if he were himself the very stuff of hope.


The Daily Beast

Monday, September 10, 2018

Show no partiality

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"My brothers and sisters, show no partiality
as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ."

James 2:1

So how does one move away from showing partiality, making distinctions and judging people on outer appearance? Surprisingly, the answer is not better theology, morality or biblical interpretation.

It's better habits.

The New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg has written a book called The Power of Habit (Random House, 2012). In it, he tells the story of companies that found success simply by replacing established routines with smarter habits.

Back in the 1990s, Starbucks employees were regularly cracking under the pressure of so many custom-made coffees. Then Starbucks created the LATTE method for their baristas: LATTE stands for Listen, Acknowledge, Take action, Thank the customer and Explain why the problem occurred. With this new habit, customer and employee satisfaction radically improved.

Success comes from getting in the habit of doing things differently.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Sunday Word



Our Sunday's Gospel sees Jesus opening the ears of the deaf man with a word. It was such an awesome moment. The word that resounded in this pericope is "Ephphatha.”

Words have power!

Words have also supernatural power.

The words a husband and wife exchange on their marriage day have power.

The words a religious proclaims on the day of first profession have power.

The words of Christ at the Last Supper, "This is my body; this is the cup of my blood," makes Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist possible.

What about us? Do we realize that our words are powerful? Do we use words to heal?

Can we hear each other’s words?

Are our lives so full of events and noise that we can't hear God?

Today we see the seemingly strange gesture that Jesus did with the deaf-mute as a symbol of the sacraments thanks to which he continues "touching" us physically to heal us spiritually.

This week, make a deliberate attempt to choose your words deliberately. Realize that the Eucharist helps us overcome the inability to communicate with our neighbor, making us possible to experience the most wonderful communion with God.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Birthday of Mary

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Today, on Our Lady's birthday, the Church celebrates the first dawning of redemption with the appearance in the world of the Savior's mother, Mary.

The Blessed Virgin occupies a unique place in the history of salvation, and she has the highest mission ever commended to any creature. We rejoice that the Mother of God is our Mother, too. Let us often call upon the Blessed Virgin as "Cause of our joy," one of the most beautiful titles in her litany.
Since September 8 often can mark the end of summer and beginning of fall, this day has had many thanksgiving celebrations and customs attached to it.

The winegrowers in France called this feast "Our Lady of the Grape Harvest". The best grapes are brought to the local church to be blessed and then some bunches are attached to hands of the statue of Mary.

In the Alps section of Austria this day is "Drive-Down Day" during which the cattle and sheep are led from their summer pastures in the slopes and brought to their winter quarters in the valleys. This was usually a large caravan, with all the finery, decorations, and festivity. In some parts of Austria, milk from this day and all the leftover food are given to the poor in honor of Our Lady’s Nativity.



Excerpted from The Holyday Book by Fr. Francis Weiser, SJ

Friday, September 7, 2018

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta




Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. Amen.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Nourish the soul

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Martha Beck

I have discovered that many of the things I thought were priceless are as cheap as costume jewelry, and much of what I labeled worthless was, all the time, filled with the kind of beauty that directly nourishes my soul.…Now I think that the vast majority of us “normal” people spend our lives trashing our treasures and treasuring our trash. We bustle around trying to create the impression that we are hip, imperturbable, omniscient, in perfect control, when in fact we are awkward and scared and bewildered.

Source: Expecting Adam

Tuesday Tunes on Wednesday

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A students prayer, by St. Thomas Aquinas

Our Marianist schools open today. 

And it is suppose to be a challenge for all.

Paraphrasing St. John of the Cross, “to come to enjoy what you don’t know, you must go through what you don’t know,” and even though learning is a deeply satisfying experience, the process itself can often be frustratingly hard, and we might find ourselves in need of a little help from our friends.

That’s where St. Thomas Aquinas, patron saint of scholars, walks in: here’s a prayer he himself wrote, addressing God as the source of all knowledge.

Creator of all things, true source of light and wisdom, 
origin of all being, 
graciously let a ray of your light penetrate the darkness of my understanding.

Take from me the double darkness in which I have been born, 
an obscurity of sin and ignorance.

Give me a keen understanding, a retentive memory, 
and the ability to grasp things correctly and fundamentally.

Grant me the talent of being exact in my explanations 
and the ability to express myself with thoroughness and charm.

Point out the beginning, direct the progress, 
and help in the completion. 
 I ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.


Monday, September 3, 2018

Marianist Monday

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September, 2018

My dear graduates of Chaminade, Kellenberg Memorial, and St. Martin de Porres Marianist School,

I have some thoughts about surfing to share with you today. That’s right, surfing. Now, you are probably thinking to yourself, “Gee, I know Bro. Steve, and he just never struck me as a surfer! I mean, he’s a nice guy and all, but I can’t imagine him catching and riding a wave. He’s kind of clumsy on his feet and waddles when he walks. It’s hard to picture him gracefully hanging ten.”

And you would be right. I have never gone surfing in my life. So, in a spirit of full disclosure, let me tell you right from the start that these thoughts about surfing are borrowed directly from Bishop Richard Henning CHS ’82 and the remarks that he made at the end of his ordination to the episcopacy this past July.

“What is a surfer without a wave?” Bishop Henning asked the congregation at the outset of his remarks. What is a surfer without a wave? The answer, of course, is “not much at all.” He may drive the latest sports car, he probably sports a healthy tan, and he (or she) is most assuredly a strong swimmer. But, if it’s surfing he has in mind, a surfer is nothing without a wave. He is a hopeless dreamer, a guy whose big plans are going nowhere fast. Without the waves, a surfer’s day at the beach amounts to some sunbathing, some swimming in a calm ocean, and perhaps a little Frisbee or beach volleyball. To paraphrase Psalm 146, “His plans that day come to nothing.”


But with a wave, a surfer is transformed. He rides atop the wave, resplendent, a thing of transcendent beauty. A wall of water rises behind him as he masters the forces of nature. The surfer becomes a study in perfect balance, in complete harmony with the wave and with himself. In a race against the raging water that would spell certain doom for most of us, he reaches the shore, just seconds before the crashing surf. The ecstasy of the moment is palpable.

In my research for this reflection, I learned that Nazaré, Portugal, holds the record for the tallest swells ever surfed. In November of 2017, Brazilian surfer Rodrigo Koxa rode a whopping 80-foot-tall wave. He won the World Surf League’s 2018 Big Wave Award, edging out the previous record-holder, Garrett McNamara, who surfed a 78-foot tall wave in 2011 at the same venue. If you will excuse the colloquialism, that’s really “gnarly.

All of us are a bit like the surfer, aren’t we? Like the surfer, we all have desires, and sometimes aspirations to do something big. Without our own “waves,” however, our desires and dreams come to nothing. We remain hopeless, frustrated, stuck.

Luckily, we can all count on a number of waves in our lives: the education we have received and the opportunities we have been given, inspiring teachers and caring mentors, family and friends, the people who believe in us and motivate us to strive for something more in our lives.

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Of course, the biggest wave in all of our lives is God Himself. Without God, we are hopeless dreamers. We have nothing to support us, nothing beneath us, no wave to lift us up and take us home. With God, we are like the world’s best surfers. We are a thing of transcendent beauty, resplendent in the reflected light of God’s glory. We are transformed, transfigured. And lest you think that I am slipping into the starry-eyed idealist here, consider this: We are all called to be saints. Which means we are all called to be transformed. This will never happen unless we are riding the wave that is God. (Our universal destiny to be saints, by the way, has emerged as one of the major themes of Pope Francis’ daily preaching.)

Nor is riding the wave that is God a simple task. No, I am not that naïve to think so, nor should you be. Riding the “wave” that is God requires perseverance and discipline. It will inevitably mean that we have to navigate some rough surf and harness some primal energies that, at first, seem downright terrifying. As Fyodor Dostoyevsky writes in The Brothers Karamazov, “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.” An 80-foot-tall wave is a harsh and dreadful thing. Without a wave (Although, admittedly, not all of them have to loom 80 feet tall.), however, the surfer is nothing. The love of neighbor; the love of parents, and siblings, and spouse, and children; and, a fortiori, the love of God – all these make “harsh and dreadful” demands of us. Without them, however, we are nothing.

One more thought, if you will permit me: Too often, we underestimate surfers. Among some, at least, “surfer dudes” are mischaracterized as a bit lazy, a tad lackadaisical, idlers who have sand on the brain and not much fire in the belly.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Surfers have plenty of passion, and an extraordinary expertise in their field. They have to be observant. They know the waves as if they were one with them. Surfers must know and “feel” exactly the right moment to catch the perfect wave. They need to be resourceful and resilient to keep on top of their boards. Sometimes, surfers slip and stumble and fall off their boards. If they are going to advance, they have to get right back up again. And, I would submit, a surfer needs a lot of courage and passion to ride an 80-foot wave – or even a 10-footer. Just to attempt such a feat requires daring and determination.

The parallels to the spiritual life, I hope, are quite clear. Those who seek the perfect wave need passion and perseverance, courage and determination. So too do those who seek God!

Does all of this sound a little bit daunting? Take heart, because there is one enormous difference between seeking the perfect wave and seeking God. If a surfer loses his footing – even the most experienced surfer – he might very well “wipe out,” meeting certain disaster and doom. When the God-seeker loses his footing, he falls into the ocean of God’s mercy. Because of God’s boundless compassion, no stumble or fall need bring disaster and doom.

Surf’s up! September, I am told, ranks as one of the best times on Long Island to ride the waves. So, dive in! Without the wave, the surfer is nothing. Without God’s love, we are nothing. The ocean of God’s unfathomable love and mercy is calling us now, today!

On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,

Bro. Stephen

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Sunday Word

Image result for Mark 7:1-8
Our reading from Saint Mark today is quite shocking. It is shocking because no one, but no one, could hope to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees. Righteousness is their norm. It was their job. That’s why in our reading today when they saw that the disciples of Jesus did not wash their hands before eating, and did not observe other traditions concerning the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles, they were quick to spot the infractions. 

Jesus is now telling the crowds to look at the Pharisees and their righteousness and then tells them they have to do better than that!

It must have seemed hopeless — but then Jesus takes some time and explains what he means. He launches into a series of “You’ve heard it said ... but I say to you” statements.

The point is clear. Righteousness is not what you do on the outside, but who you are on the inside. Righteousness is not about the hand, it is about the heart. The Pharisees, Jesus noted, looked good on the outside, but were clueless and rotten on the inside.

So the bad news for the people of Jesus’ day was they had to be better than the Pharisees to get into heaven.

The good news is that if we can get the heart right, everything else will fall into place.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Marianist tradition

"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."
Rule of Life