Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Great Pumpkin

The Great Pumpkin

I am sure we all have watched a little bit of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Any praying person has to identify a little with poor Linus, as his primitive belief in the Great Pumpkin, though doomed and ultimately inadequate, has some elements of theological sophistication.

First, he knows that the Great Pumpkin will not appear if he is dismissed or disbelieved. He requires sincerity and faith, just like the God for Whom believing is seeing. And one only has to peruse the Gospel according to John lightly to see that this is indeed the case; to believe and to see God are ultimately the same thing. Meister Eckhart knew this when he famously said, "the eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me."

Second, Linus knows that the Great Pumpkin is not just a fulfiller of selfish human wishes. Unlike Santa Claus, he does not take requests. He brings you something, yes, but you can't choose it and are only called to be grateful.

Third, Linus knows that, despite the failure of the Great Pumpkin to appear, or better, our failure to allow him to appear, Linus must remain faithful.

October ends

In Hardwood Groves

The same leaves over and over again!
They fall from giving shade above
To make one texture of faded brown
And fit the earth like a leather glove.

Before the leaves can mount again
To fill the trees with another shade,
They must go down past things coming up.
They must go down into the dark decayed.

They must be pierced by flowers and put
Beneath the feet of dancing flowers.
However it is in some other world
I know that this is the way in ours.
- Robert Frost

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

"God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

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"God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Let’s face it, this is a prayer that each of us can say, because each of us has an ongoing relationship with at least one of the seven deadly sins — lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. Each of us needs to be forgiven, whether we acknowledge it or not, just as the Pharisee needed to be cleansed of the sin of pride when he said, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people.”

It’s time to get honest — honest with God, and honest with ourselves. We cannot go home justified, restored to right relationship with God and one another, unless we admit that we need to be forgiven.

The opportunity comes to us here, just as it came to the Pharisee and the tax collector in the temple — the opportunity to see our mistakes, confess our hidden faults, and ask for the gift of forgiveness.

It all begins with two words, honestly spoken: “My bad.”

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The humble heart

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Pray every morning that we will be less critical of others, that we will look at yourself more honestly and at others with more compassion.

Monday, October 28, 2019

“God, be merciful!"

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We err when we are not honest with God — or honest with ourselves — about our need for forgiveness. The tax collector saw himself clearly, and he confessed his sinfulness, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Sunday, October 27, 2019


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The  Pharisee’s fasting and tithing seemed noble at first, and his pride in his good behavior seemed to be a minor mistake, but together these factors created a disaster. Without humility, there was no way for him to be right with God! 

When you trust God, you get God. But when you trust only yourself, you get … only yourself.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Surprising twist

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In a surprising reversal, Jesus concludes the parable by saying, “I tell you, this tax collector went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

The tax collector restores his relationship with God by asking for forgiveness, while the Pharisee moves farther away from God by boasting of his righteousness.

This isn’t what the hearers of the parable expect. They’ve been taught that good behavior draws you closer to God, while bad behavior drives you away. But Jesus is insisting that unless we are aware of our secret faults, and humble enough to know that we need forgiveness, we’re going to discover that our minor mistakes can get out of control and destroy us.

It’s always better to say “My bad” than to boast “My good.”

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Sunday Word

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Jesus says that two men go up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and one a tax collector. The natural assumption made by anyone hearing this story is that the Pharisee is the devout person. The tax collector, on the other hand, is the sinner. 

Sure enough, the Pharisee steps away from the crowd in order to maintain his purity before God, and launches into a list of all his religious accomplishments: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.”  He does everything right, according to the standards of the day, obeying all the religious rules of the road. In terms of keeping God’s commandments, he is way above average.

Then the tax collector bows his head, beats his breast, and says, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” He’s feeling so ashamed that he cannot even raise his hands and look up to heaven, which is the standard position for first-century prayer. The tax collector doesn’t make any boasts or excuses — he simply asks for God’s mercy.

There’s no reason to assume that this tax collector is a particularly spectacular sinner. If he were a thief, a rogue or an adulterer, Jesus would say so. It’s much more likely that he is confessing a set of secret, hidden faults — a collection of oversights, errors and miscalculations that only he would know.

So the above-average Pharisee boasts, while the sin-sick tax collector says, “My bad.”

Thursday, October 24, 2019

A New Saint for the Age of Loneliness

A New Saint for the Age of Loneliness
Cardinal John Henry Newman’s writings on friendship are more relevant than ever.

John Garvey Oct. 10, 2019

On Sunday Pope Francis will officially recognize as a saint the British clergyman and Oxford academic John Henry Newman (1801-90). Nearly 130 years after his death, Newman’s writings still offer readers incisive theological analysis—and practical wisdom.

A theologian, poet and priest of the Church of England, Newman found his way to Catholicism later in life and was ordained a Catholic priest in his 40s. Pope Leo XIII made him a cardinal in 1879.

I feel a special kinship with Newman. He founded the Catholic University of Ireland in 1854. More than 150 years later, I became president of the Catholic University of America and looked to his writing for wisdom. “The Idea of a University,” a series of lectures he delivered on taking the job in Dublin, was the inspiration for my inaugural address. But it’s the cardinal’s writings about loneliness and friendship that feel most salient today.

Cigna, a global health service company, surveys feelings of social isolation across the U.S. using the UCLA Loneliness Scale. Last year Cigna released the results of a study of 20,000 Americans. It found that adults 18 to 22 are the loneliest segment of the population. Nearly half report a chronic sense of loneliness. People 72 and older are the least lonely.

I spend a lot of time with young adults in my job, and the results don’t surprise me. I often observe young couples out on dates, looking at their cellphones rather than each other. I see students walking while wearing earbuds, oblivious to passersby. Others spend hours alone watching movies on Netflix or playing videogames. The digital culture in which young people live pushes them toward a kind of solipsism that must contribute to their loneliness.

“No one, man nor woman, can stand alone; we are so constituted by nature,” Newman writes, noting our need to cultivate genuine relations of friendship. Social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter connect people, but it’s a different sort of connection than friendship. The self one presents on Facebook is inauthentic, someone living an idealized life unlike one’s daily reality. Interaction online is more akin to Kabuki theater than genuine human relations.

When young people do connect face to face, it’s often superficial, thanks in part to dating and hookup apps like Tinder and Bumble. Cigna’s study found that 43% of participants feel their relationships are not meaningful. Little wonder, if relationships are formed when two people decide to swipe right on their phones.

Cardinal Newman never married, but warm, sincere, and lasting friendships—the kind that we so seldom form through digital interactions—gave his life richness. He cultivated them with his neighbors in Oxford and, after his conversion to Catholicism, at the Birmingham Oratory. He sustained them in his correspondence, some 20,000 letters filling 32 volumes.

In one of his sermons, delivered on the feast of St. John the Evangelist, Newman reflects on the Gospel’s observation that St. John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” It is a remarkable thing, Newman says, that the Son of God Most High should have loved one man more than another. It shows how entirely human Jesus was in his wants and his feelings, because friendship is a deep human desire. And it suggests a pattern we would do well to follow in our own lives if we would be happy: “to cultivate an intimate friendship and affection towards those who are immediately about us.”

On the other hand, Newman observes that “nothing is more likely to engender selfish habits” than independence. People “who can move about as they please, and indulge the love of variety” are unlikely to obtain that heavenly gift the liturgy describes as “the very bond of peace and of all virtues.” He could well have been describing the isolation that can result from an addiction to digital entertainment.

When Newman was named a cardinal in 1879, he chose as his motto Cor ad cor loquitur. He found the phrase in a letter to St. Jane Frances de Chantal from St. Francis de Sales, her spiritual adviser: “I want to speak to you heart to heart,” he said. Don’t hold back any inward thoughts.

That is a habit of conversation I hope we can revive among our sons and daughters. Real friendship is the cure for the loneliness so many young people feel. Not the self-referential stimulation of a cellphone or iPad; not the inauthentic “friending” of Facebook; not the superficial hooking up of Tinder, but the honest, intimate, lasting bond of true friendship.

Mr. Garvey is president of the Catholic University of America.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Lead me to the Cross

Savior I come
quiet my soul remember
redemptions hill
Where Your blood was spilled
For my ransom
Everything I once held dear
I count it all as lost

Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, lead me to the cross

You were as I
Tempted and trialed
You are the word became flesh
Bore my sin and death
Now you're risen

To your heart
To your heart
Lead me to your heart
Lead me to your heart

Monday, October 21, 2019

Marianist Monday

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“Ours is a work, a magnificent work. If it is universal, it is because we are missionaries of Mary, who has said to us, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ 

Each one of us has received from the Blessed Virgin a commission to work at the salvation of our brothers and sisters in the world.”

Sunday, October 20, 2019


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Just don't give up trying to do what you really want to do ... Where there's love and inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong. (Ella Fitzgerald)

The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is, that one often comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won't. (Henry Ward Beecher)

Never, never, never, never give up. (Winston Churchill)

-House of Quotes,

Saturday, October 19, 2019


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I have a 7-year-old granddaughter by marriage named Madeline. She is blond, skinny and tall for her age. ...

What I want Madeline to know is that the best thing about prayer is the relationship itself. Whether or not she gets what she asks for, I want her to keep asking. I want her to pester God the same way she pesters her mother, thinking of 12 different ways to plead her case. I want her to long for God the same way she longs for her father, holding fast to him even when his chair is empty.

When she complains that none of this does any good, I am going to ask her to tell me the difference between how she feels while she is praying versus how she feels when she thinks about giving up. If I am lucky, she is going to tell me that she feels more alive when she is praying, and that is when I will tell her the story about the persistent widow ... .

-Barbara Brown Taylor, "Bothering God," Christian Century, March 24-31, 1999, 356.

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Lord's Prayer

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Arthur Boers, in his book, Lord, Teach Us to Pray, A New Look at the Lord's Prayer offers some insight into the importance of learning the Lord's prayer and continuing to pray it into adulthood. He writes:

As I tell my children I love them, I also come to understand more and more what it means to have my parents love me. I find myself increasingly appreciating and loving my parents. Thus the meaning of saying "I love you" becomes deeper and richer all the time. 

When we teach our children to say, "I love you" we cannot expect them to understand what they say. Yet it is not wrong to teach them the words. The words are true, even when not understood. 

All my life I told my parents I loved them. It was always true, even though it becomes an increasingly complex reality. It was true when I was an accepting child. It was true when I was a rebellious adolescent. It is still true (only more so) now that I am an adult and myself a parent. 

They are words that are always true and words that we can always grow into. As the years go by, we understand them better and better. As parents, we are in the best position to give to our children the words they need in our relationship. 

The given prayers such as the Lord's Prayer, are much like the love formula taught to us by our parents. The Lord's Prayer is a gift. Its words help us when we are immature in our faith, and they are words that we can always grow into. Martin Luther said: "To this day I am still nursing myself on the Lord's Prayer like a child and am still eating and drinking of it like an old man without getting bored with it."

-Ruth Preston Schilk, "Persistence in prayer,"

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Pray always

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Last June, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against student-initiated, student-conducted prayer at public high school football games, it seemed like yet another setback for Christian believers.
In one sense, it is quite discouraging, although some have wondered whether a football game is an appropriate place for something as sacred as prayer. But a [Campus Journal] devotional is not the place to discuss issues of constitutional law. Instead, let's focus on all the places we can pray, rather than complain about the situations where we can't.

When we start to develop that list, we see that we have lots of opportunities to pray - in school (e.g., before that chemistry final), at home, at church, outside, inside, with friends, alone. The Supreme Court did take away that 30 seconds of prayer before a football game, but that still leaves a lot of time.

-"Where can you pray?" 
Campus Journal, January 30, 2001.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


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Jesus essentially told the chief priests and elders:If you think you have it figured out, think again. Take another look at what you think is important.

You can change your minds—and change your hearts.

“Change,” in fact, is a significant word in this gospel. It pops up twice: describing the son who does change, and describing the chief priests and elders who don’t.

Some commentators have compared this passage in Matthew to the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke; both stories revolve around two sons, and a choice, and change.

It is clearly a theme that Jesus wanted to drive home again and again to his listeners. It is one that has echoed down through history as the Christian faith has been passed on: the notion that there is another way, a better way.

The Father’s way. The Father’s will. He is calling. Are we listening?

The fact is, he has something in mind for each of us.

Saint John Henry Newman put it beautifully:

“God has created me to do Him some definite service,” he wrote. “He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another…I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work.”

It isn’t always easy. But if we listen to what God is trying to tell us, follow the direction he’s trying to take us and trust in his will for our lives, we may be amazed at where he leads us.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Tuesday Tunes

Like the runner in a marathon, keep your eyes on the prize...on Jesus, your only hope, your only goal, your only God.

Keep your eyes on the prize.

Not on where you've been or what’s around you, not on what somebody’s saying or doing, not on the gossipers and the doomsayers. No. Keep your eyes fixed firmly on Jesus, your hope and your prize.

For only then can we win the race. That’s the lesson of today’s tune for each of us who seek the truth. Don’t let the darkness distract you, or the politics gets you down: keep your eyes on the prize...on Jesus.

Don’t let the temporary triumphs of the Culture of death distract you from the race: keep your eyes on the prize...on Jesus. Don’t let media struggles and ideological battles frighten you or slow you down: keep your eyes on the prize...on Jesus. For he is the only way, the only truth, and the source life. He is the light which no darkness can overcome, the truth no lie can destroy, and the life which defeats even death itself!

For, in the end, this is really not our battle. It is the latest chapter in the primordial struggle between light and darkness, goodness and hate, life and death. And each of us, unworthy servants that we are, but play our role. And the victory of the Gospel of Life, when it comes (and it surely will) will not be ours. It will be his.

Monday, October 14, 2019

The faith walk

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Although Tom Dempsey was a place-kicker for five teams and played in several playoff games, his NFL career can be reduced to one moment. On November 8, 1970, Dempsey kicked a 63-yard field goal on the game's last play to give New Orleans a victory over Detroit. The record-breaking kick nearly overshadowed a more impressive fact: Dempsey was born with only half his right foot (his kicking foot) and no right hand. 

The 6-foot, 2-inch Dempsey played for New Orleans (1969-70), Philadelphia (1971-74), Los Angeles (1975-76), Houston (1977), and Buffalo (1978-79). In his rookie year Dempsey kicked a 55-yard field goal, 1-yard shy of the then-record 56 yards. He played in the Pro Bowl following the 1969 season. 

-Ed Maloney, "Legends tell all," National Football League,

The faith walk of the Christian is strenuous and demanding. We need strong legs, and healthy feet for the journey.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Life is worth preserving

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Viktor Frankl, the eminent psychologist and founder of the so-called Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy (Logotherapy), provides a revealing example of what it means to express gratitude for wholeness and wellness. Frankl, who died last year at the age of 91, was a prisoner in the concentration camps during World War II. Dr. Gordon Allport, in his preface to Frankl's significant work, Man's Search for Meaning (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984), says that "there he found himself stripped to a literally naked existence. His father, mother, brother and his wife died in the camps or were sent to the gas ovens, so that except for his sister, his entire family perished in these camps. How could he -- every possession lost, every value destroyed, suffering from hunger, cold and brutality, hourly expecting extermination -- how could he find life worth preserving? A psychiatrist 
who personally has faced such extremity is a psychiatrist worth listening to."

Frankl answers Allport's question when he recounts his experience immediately following his liberation from the camps:

"One day, a few days after the liberation, I walked through the country, past flowering meadows, for miles and miles, toward the market town near the camp. Larks rose to the sky and I could hear their joyous song. There was no one to be seen for miles around; there was nothing but the wide earth and sky and the larks' jubilation and the freedom of space. I stopped, looked around and up to the sky -- and then I went down on my knees. At that moment there was very little I knew of myself or of the world -- I had but one sentence in mind -- always the same: "I called to the Lord from my narrow prison and he answered me in the freedom of space."

Saturday, October 12, 2019


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In our Sunday Gospel Saint Luke uses the word "saw." When Luke uses the word “saw,” he’s talking about the single man who, observing that his illness had disappeared, turned back and praised God in a loud voice and then prostrated himself before Jesus in deep thankfulness. Certainly the other nine also noticed that their diseased skin was healed, but they failed to see that praise belonged to God and that thanks belonged to Jesus because of it.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Sunday Word

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There is no better time to prepare for our Sunday readings than today. Sunday's Gospel occurs near the end pf Jesus' journey to Jerusalem. It is similar to a travel segment which allows Luke to incorporate various teachings and healings in a long narrative setting.

This particular healing account has two main points. One point is the miraculous healing of the lepers
and the other point is the gratitude of the Samaritan.

The ability to see is an important part of this story. Saint Luke reports that Jesus was moved to heal all 10 after he saw them, which suggests something more than just physical sight. Jesus’ vision enabled him not only to be aware of their presence, but also to grasp their predicament and to empathize with their sufferings to the point that he acted to help them.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Divine Adoption

By Br. Francis Mary Day, O.P.

What does it mean that we have been saved? What happened to us when we became Christian? There are many ways to speak about this, many important distinctions can be made, and many consequences can be fleshed out—but my favorite model or “image” of what happens is that of adoption. As St. John tells us, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 Jn 3:1).” What is adoption but a completely gratuitous gift of love, a “becoming part of the family?” This family is nothing less than the Mystical Body of Christ, which is a participation in the Holy Trinity.

Our membership in this family is not natural, not something owed to us, but it is nonetheless real and given to us in baptism by sanctifying grace. The Father sent his Son into the world that we might be sons “in the Son.” “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (Jn 1:12).

When a child enters a family, it does so on terms that are not its own, hoping to receive a love and care that it cannot fully reciprocate. This sense of trust, born in wonder, has often been made a model of Christian life. It is rooted in the realization that we cannot provide for ourselves, our own needs, or own own protection. It can only come from the truth, lived out in our daily lives, that we have a Father in heaven who knows every hair on our head.

It doesn’t make sense by worldly standards, although there have been Christians who have tried to transpose worldly notions of self-sufficiency onto Christianity. The desire to grow in the spiritual life, to be “perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48), can only come out of this childlike sense of dependency. Looking at Jesus, the Son of God, we see someone whose whole existence is caught up in a tender love for his Father, and whose only desire is to do the Father’s will. Our life in Christ, sharing in his sonship, cannot develop without this kind of love. Without its being rooted in filial love, any moral goal can quickly become a list of rules that leads nowhere. Family life has its rules and obligations but these are all accidental to a family’s center: love. We are adopted sons and daughters of the Father and we are called to act as his beloved sons and daughters.

The Christian moral life is really rooted in the dignity of being a part of God’s family. It is not so much a checklist as it is a new sense of honor and value. It is not so much a company code of conduct as a life lived like a son or daughter of God. All our talk about holiness can only come from a profound appreciation of what has been given to us in Christ, and our response to it. This is what it means to say that we have been saved: that we are now sons and daughters of God in Jesus Christ, and that we share in the life and grace of Jesus Christ.

Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P (used with permission)

Monday, October 7, 2019

Marianist Monday

Praying With the Saints
by Bro. David Betz

When those who have gone before us in faith are declared saints or blesseds, the Church assigns them a Feast Day. These Feast Days are usually associated with the days when the saints or blesseds entered eternal life, either by martyrdom or natural causes. This assignment is an acknowledgement that these men and women can be venerated publicly throughout the worldwide Church. Prayers are distributed and used when we need to invite the saints or blesseds into our prayer life. These prayers enable us to ask for the intercession of God’s grace. The prayers usually reflect the perssonal attributes these venerable people were known for during their holy lives.

Here are two prayers that were created, one for Venerable Marie Thérèse De Lamourous and another for the Martyrs of Ciudad Real (Blesseds Carlos Eraña, Fidel Fuidio and Jesús Hita) whose Feasts we celebrated in September:

Marie Thérèse* (September 14)
God, source of all holiness, we thank you for the gift of Marie Thérèse. Her love of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the message of the Gospel inspire us today. We ask that we, like her, will be of service to all our brothers and sisters now and in the future. We pray for the enthusiasm with which she spread the Gospel and love for Christ and His mother. Amen.

Martyrs of Ciudad Real (September 18)
Lord, our God, to Blessed Carlos Eraña , Fidel Fuidio and Jesús Hita, who were influenced with the love of the Virgin Mary, you gave the grace to suffer for Christ; grant that; through their intercession, we may remain firm in the faith which they taught to children and youth, and to which they bore witness with their own blood in martyrdom. We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Bonaventure's Life of Francis

This week we have focused on the customary blessing of animals on St. Francis Day. The following passage from Bonaventure's Life of Francis is worth recalling:

“One day when Francis went out to meditate in the fields he was passing by the church of San Damiano which was threatening to collapse because of extreme age. Inspired by the Spirit, he went inside to pray.

Kneeling before an image of the Crucified, he was filled with great fervor and consolation as he prayed. While his tear-filled eyes were gazing at the Lord's cross, he heard with his bodily ears a voice coming from the cross, telling him three times: 'Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.'

Trembling with fear, Francis was amazed at the sound of this astonishing voice, since he was alone in the church; and as he received in his heart the power of the divine words, he fell into a state of ecstasy. Returning finally to his senses, he prepared to put his whole heart into obeying the command he had received.

He began zealously to repair the church materially, although the principle intention of the words referred to that Church which Christ purchased with his own blood, as the Holy Spirit afterward made him realize....”

For the record, the moment recounted above took place in 1204... yet then as now, the call of the Cross remains the challenge of our time. So as the work continues, and another St Francis' Day has passed, may we all ever just keep on, keep trying and -- flaws, faults, warts and all -- keep building.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Happy Birthday Meribah

Marianist Monday

Since October 5, 1970 Meribah - the Chaminade Retreat House has sponsored retreats and programs to thousands of young and old. Located on 8 1/2 wooded acres in Muttontown, New York, Meribah offers a perfect setting for personal reflection, prayer, service and recreation.

Meribah has undergone many transformations since its earliest days. The one thing that has remained is the flow of youth that continue to walk through the beautiful home to challenge and grow in their faith.
The Meribah chapel houses the one main "table" in the retreat house. Morning, evening and night prayer, private reflection and the celebration of the Eucharist are the hallmarks of this retreat house that celebrates 49 years today.

Happy Birthday Meribah and congratulations to all who have shared the graces of this spiritual home.

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Friday, October 4, 2019


One year ago, Stella Maris Retreat House, was established and has already been used by hundreds of students. A place for spiritual refreshment has been used by many Kellenberg students during its first year.


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