Thursday, November 26, 2020
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Thursday, November 12, 2020
This past Friday, Governor Cuomo’s new COVID-19 restrictions went into effect in the state of New York. The state believes that the increase of cases is particular to certain areas of life: bars, restaurants, gyms, house parties. Because of the colder weather leading people to gather indoors, where the virus can spread more easily, the state decided to put the new restrictions in place to avoid a second wave. Throughout this pandemic, governments and individuals have been precise and firm in preventing exposures to the virus, willing to sacrifice many aspects of life for the sake of bodily well-being.
One of my favorite spiritual writers is St. Alphonsus Ligouri: bishop, theologian, philosopher, Patron Saint of Vocations, and a Doctor of the Church. A single line in his book, Preparation for Death: Considerations on Eternal Truths, gives a succinct, yet complete, summary of what we see during this global pandemic:
“When there is question of the body, men speak rationally; but when the soul is concerned, they speak like fools.”
This pandemic has shown that as a culture, we are spiritual fools.
To clarify, I am not saying that implementing health precautions to prevent a COVID-19 resurgence while reopening our society is necessarily wrong. However, the fact that corporeal well-being has received such an intense priority in our culture over that of the soul reflects a greater crisis. We are body and soul; physical health is an important and integral part of human life. However, our culture seems to be indifferent to the words of Christ:
“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matthew 10:28)
Corporeal well-being is important, but not of the highest importance. Illness ultimately is temporary. The secular world has pushed off eternal questions, only focusing on the reality of this life. This is a serious problem: living with corporeal well-being as our priority is a prescription for misery. Because secular culture is only concerned with the flesh, their only ultimate concern is, and can only be, the unavoidable reality of death (Romans 8:6). From this, the necessary reaction is chaos and fear. One doesn’t need to observe the current state of affairs for long to see the truth of that claim.
Many are beginning to realize that when we severely limit this life in the name of saving it, something about our human experience is undermined. Saving this life is not our ultimate purpose, it is impossible to do so. We are wired for something deeper in our human experience: eternity. The beauty of this life is our ability to freely work towards our ultimate purpose: the salvation of our soul, being unified with God – who is the source of all being. St. Alphonsus Ligouri says:
“The peace of a soul that is united with God surpasses all the pleasures that the senses and the world can give.”
We don’t need to, nor should we, disregard corporeal well-being. However, we need to realize that bodily health is ultimately meaningless when concern for our eternal souls is abandoned.
An active awareness in this life of eternal matters puts our corporeal struggles and joys in their proper perspective. The greatest possible danger is the destruction of our soul. While the virus can destroy the body, it cannot destroy the soul. A life of sin, which is contrary to our soul’s deepest desires, can. Sin “blinds the understanding, and deprives the soul of reason” (St. Alphonsus Liguori). While the secular culture may not grasp this reality, we people of faith do. We understand that “although we are in the flesh, we do not battle according to the flesh” (2 Corithians 10:30).
We should use the experience of this pandemic for reflection: do we avoid the dangers of sin with the same intense effort that our culture avoids COVID-19? Do we avoid near occasions of sin as intensely as our culture avoids being exposed to the virus? Are we as persistent in going to confession to cleanse our soul as our culture is about using hand sanitizer? Are we ready to eliminate things from our life that make us sin as willingly as our culture eliminates things deemed to be COVID-19 risks? Are we more careful to not fall into mortal sin than our culture is with getting the virus?
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, more important than the salvation of our souls. Getting into heaven is not a walk in the park, Christ makes it very clear that it is difficult to do so (Matthew 7:13-14). Ultimately, as the Venerable Fulton Sheen said, “Sin, in its fullness, is the rejection of Christ.” The secular culture has gone above and beyond, sacrificing almost every aspect of life, for the sake of preventing exposure to COVID-19. We must recognize not only our ability, but that it can also be necessary for us to go to similar measures to avoid sin (Mark 9:43-45). We should tremble more at the possibility of falling into mortal sin over being infected with this virus. None of us are perfect, all of our souls need attention and care. Let’s have the same precision and intensity with our souls as we have with COVID-19: don’t be a spiritual fool.
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
We ask for healing for the veterans who have been wounded, in body and soul, in conflicts around the globe.
We pray especially for the young men and women, in the thousands, who are coming home from Iraq with injured bodies and traumatized spirits.
Bring solace to them, O Lord; may we pray for them when they cannot pray.
We ask for an end to wars and the dawning of a new era of peace,
As a way to honor all the veterans of past wars.
Have mercy on all our veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq,
Bring peace to their hearts and peace to the regions they fought in.
Bless all the soldiers who served in non-combative posts;
May their calling to service continue in their lives in many positive ways.
Give us all the creative vision to see a world which, grown weary with fighting,
Moves to affirming the life of every human being and so moves beyond war.
Hear our prayer, O Prince of Peace, hear our prayer.
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Saint Martín de Porres was noted for tireless work on behalf of the poor, establishing an orphanage and a children's hospital. He maintained an austere lifestyle, which included fasting and abstaining from meat. His devotion to prayer was notable even by the pious standards of the age. Among the many miracles attributed to him were those of levitation, bilocation, miraculous knowledge, instantaneous cures and an ability to communicate with animals.
St. Martin de Porres became the patron saint of hairdressers because hairdressing was one of the duties he performed for his brothers in the friary.
Check him out, doesn't he look like the guy who played Jesus in Madonna’s Like A Pray music video?
St. Martin de Porres was born at Lima, Peru, in 1579. His father was a Spanish gentleman and his mother a black freed-woman from Panama. At fifteen, he became a lay brother at the Dominican Friary at Lima and spent his whole life there-as a barber, farm laborer, and infirmarian among other things.
I wonder what I have to do to get canonized as a modern day saint?
“Since I have the chance now, there is something I very much want to say to you. I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some of the future saints of the twenty-first century.
What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness.
Perhaps some of you have never thought about this before. Perhaps some of you think being a saint is not for you. Let me explain what I mean. When we are young, we can usually think of people that we look up to, people we admire, people we want to be like. It could be someone we meet in our daily lives that we hold in great esteem. Or it could be someone famous. We live in a celebrity culture, and young people are often encouraged to model themselves on figures from the world of sport or entertainment. My question for you is this: what are the qualities you see in others that you would most like to have yourselves? What kind of person would you really like to be?
When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best. I am asking you not to pursue one limited goal and ignore all the others. Having money makes it possible to be generous and to do good in the world, but on its own, it is not enough to make us happy. Being highly skilled in some activity or profession is good, but it will not satisfy us unless we aim for something greater still. It might make us famous, but it will not make us happy. Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key to it is very simple – true happiness is to be found in God. We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.
Not only does God love us with a depth and an intensity that we can scarcely begin to comprehend, but he invites us to respond to that love. You all know what it is like when you meet someone interesting and attractive, and you want to be that person’s friend. You always hope they will find you interesting and attractive, and want to be your friend.
God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. As you come to know him better, you find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life. You are attracted to the practice of virtue. You begin to see greed and selfishness and all the other sins for what they really are, destructive and dangerous tendencies that cause deep suffering and do great damage, and you want to avoid falling into that trap yourselves. You begin to feel compassion for people in difficulties and you are eager to do something to help them. You want to come to the aid of the poor and the hungry, you want to comfort the sorrowful, you want to be kind and generous. And once these things begin to matter to you, you are well on the way to becoming saints.”
--Pope Benedict XVI
Greeting to Catholic Pupils of the United Kingdom
St Mary's College, Twickenham
17 September 2010
Monday, November 2, 2020
The prayers of All Saints Day highlight our belief that we continue to be in relationship with those who have gone before us, marked with the sign of faith. It is not only a matter of our honoring the holy lives these brothers and sisters led but also of acknowledging that they who are already with the Lord continue to be concerned for us and our welfare.
That the very work of God can be manifest in our lives calls us to the responsibility of living in a way that the love of God be transparent in our deeds and relationships. Finally, our prayer on All Saints Day reminds us that when we share at the altar of the Lord's table we have a foretaste of the banquet the saints share forever in the reign of God.
The church calendar sets aside many days to honor the most famous of saints. November 1 is the day for us to remember and honor those saints whose lives made headlines not in the daily papers but in the hearts of those they served and touched. All of us know such saints in our own lives - some who have gone home to the Lord and some who are still with us.
Happy All Saints Day to all!
Sunday, November 1, 2020
known, loved and served.Religious life is to Christianity what Christianity is to humanity. It is as imperishable in the Church as the church is imperishable in human society. For this reason, it would be futile to pretend to re-establish Christianity without the institutions which permit men to practice the evangelical counsels. However, it would be difficult and inopportune to try to revive these institutions today under the same forms they had before the Revolution. But no form is essential to the religious life. One can be a religious under a secular appearance. It will be less offensive to the misguided. It will be more difficult for them to be opposed. The world and the Church will be even further edified. Let us then form a religious association by pronouncing the three vows of religion, but without name or costume. Nova bella elegit Dominus (The Lord had chosen new wars); and let us put the entire plan under the protection of Mary Immaculate, to whom her Divine Son has reserved the final victories over hell.Let us be, my child,... let us be, in our humility the heel of the Woman.
(From Blessed Chaminade's Letter of August 24, 1839 Letter to the Retreat Masters.)
Saturday, October 31, 2020
When you think of Halloween, what comes to mind? For a lot of people, Halloween has become synonymous with candy, costumes, scary stuff, witches, ghosts and pumpkins. But do you know the Christian connection to the holiday?
The true origins of Halloween lie with the ancient Celtic tribes who lived in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. For the Celts, November 1 marked the beginning of a new year and the coming of winter.
The night before the new year, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, lord of the dead. During this festival, Celts believed the souls of the dead, including ghosts, goblins and witches, returned to mingle with the living. In order to scare away the evil spirits, people would wear masks and light bonfires.
When the Romans conquered the Celts, they added their own touches to the Samhain festival, such as making centerpieces out of apples and nuts for Pomona, the Roman goddess of the orchards. The Romans also bobbed for apples and drank cider, traditions which may sound familiar to you. But where does the Christian aspect of the holiday come into play? In 835, Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration for all the martyrs (later all saints)from May 13 to November 1. The night before became known as All Hallows' Even or holy evening. Eventually the name was shortened to the current Halloween. On November 2, the Church celebrates All Souls Day.
The purpose of these feasts is to remember those who have died, whether they are officially recognized by the Church as saints or not. It is a celebration of the "communion of saints," which reminds us that the Church is not bound by space or time.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that through the communion of saints "a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things" (CCC #1475).
Friday, October 30, 2020
Halloween reminds us that we are mortals, formed of the earth. None of us is God; none of us is immortal. We have limited time on Earth, as creatures of flesh and blood and bone, to take the path of service to God. Horror movies can be scary, but there's really nothing more terrifying than the path of evil.Most important, Halloween points us to All Saints' Day. It is, after all, All Hallows' Eve. Halloween reminds us that "we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses", a heavenly congregation of faithful servants of God who have gone before us. On Halloween, we should remember that the barrier between the physical and spiritual is really quite thin -- thin in the sense that we can easily see the examples of the graceful and loving relatives, friends, and colleagues who have entered everlasting life with God.
On All Hallows' Eve, let's not focus so much on the living dead -- zombies that pop up on movie screens. Instead, let's remember the dead who are still living as saints of God, and as inspirations to us.
Thursday, October 29, 2020
Our theme for the junior retreat has been Community. While it is a relatively short retreat I was somewhat amazed at how quickly the junior retreatants are able to articulate the theme. Certainly they understand what we have been trying to instill on a day-to-day basis in school. And while they are on retreat, they articulate our philosophy very well.
Yesterday they shared during their discussions and the homily some of these one-liners :
There are two important tables for us on retreat. The Eucharistic and dining table. Both are important.
Our lives are about relationships.
We have come as strangers and now we are friends.
Communication is never easy, but it is very important.
Community is not an easy thing to create.
It is easier to be a part of a group, than to stand alone.
We prayed, cooked, ate and had a long diner celebration in a night filled with laughing and stories. They talked about their relationships, their friends and their families.
Whatever the configuration of families or community, it is central to our lives. In today’s brief, two-line gospel we listen as a woman calls to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” Jesus’ responds, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”
What struck me about the Gospel today is that Jesus is surprising us with a change of focus. He is not discounting his own mother and their close relationship, but he is telling us that our own relationship with him can be blessed to the degree we let it be a relationship of hearing and keeping his word. Our fidelity to him blesses us with a family relationship with him.
By extension, that also means that we are invited to be family with those beyond our immediate family relationships. We include others because we have been included by Jesus.
Both inside and outside our families, we are called to reach out to others who need us as a way to really unite to Jesus and his mission on earth. What does Jesus want from us? A deeply personal relationship. Jesus isn’t looking for us to read more about him or discuss the theology of his ministry. Jesus longs for a close and personal family relationship with us as we speak to him about our lives and lean on him for support in times of need. Blessed by his love, we hear the call from this love to keep his word by loving as he has loved us.
Today Jesus imvites us to leave that family table and reach out to those who need us as we join with Jesus in his mission. Pope Francis has called us to be families of inclusion, dialog and service for all.
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
The priority of consecrated (religious) life is] prophecy of the Kingdom, which is non-negotiable. The emphasis should be on being prophets… To be prophets, in particular, by demonstrating how Jesus lived on this earth, and to proclaim how the Kingdom of God will be in its perfection. A religious must never give up prophesying. Prophecy makes a noise, uproar, a mess… Prophecy announces the spirit of the Gospel.
The witness [of religious life] that can really attract is that associated with attitudes which are uncommon - generosity, detachment, sacrifice, self-forgetfulness – in order to care for others. This is the witness, the martyrdom of religious life.
Wake up the world! Be witnesses of a different way of doing things, of acting, of living! It is possible to live differently in this world.
The above excerpted from “Wake Up the World! Conversation with Pope Francis about the Religious Life
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
There's nothing wrong with being happy. The pursuit of happiness can even be a godly activity. But to know happiness in its fullness, we need to keep God in the equation.
Look at it this way: When the Good Samaritan helped the injured man by the road, God certainly evaluated his work as good and upright, and the Samaritan also reflected God. But chances are, the Samaritan felt good about what he had done as well. He likely experienced pleasure that he had really helped someone in need and had pleased God. He may have been inconvenienced by the help he gave, but that doesn't mean he was being self-sacrificial. He loved his neighbor as he loved himself, and self-love is part of happiness. Thus, the Samaritan was happy in all three senses that Wesley identified.
Here's something else: Almost certainly the Levite and priest who passed by the injured man without helping didn't arrive at their destination as happy men. They had no doubt come up with some sort of justification for their decision to pass by on the other side, but such justifications don't yield self-love. They support selfishness (which is different from self-love), but they don't result in a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction.
As we learn to enact the kind of self-love the Good Samaritan showed, our happiness deepens. And, in effect, we are rejoicing in the Lord, as Paul recommends in today's text. When Paul told the Philippians to "Rejoice in the Lord always," he wasn't recommending a worshipful ritual, but urging his readers to feel the genuine delight that comes from living and acting God's way.
Happiness, the Bible teaches us, is a feeling that comes from doing what pleases God.
Monday, October 26, 2020
They want a couple of prime cabinet posts in the messianic administration of Jesus, sitting in the seats closest to the very regent of God. Nothing would make them happier than having people look up at Jesus and his Dream Team, marveling at how great they are.
But there are a couple of problems with being great. The first is a life of illusion, and the second is a state of confusion.
The illusion is that you are more invincible, powerful and righteous than you really are.
The confusion is that you do not know the true meaning of greatness.
History teaches that greatness is often linked to a life of illusion, one which causes people to believe that they are more invincible, powerful and righteous than they really are.
Jesus addresses in the gospel of Mark. "You do not know what you are asking," says Jesus to the aspiring great ones, James and John. "Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" Jesus senses that they are confused about what they are getting into, and he makes clear that the path to glory goes straight through the wilderness of suffering.
Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, asks Jesus -- the cup of my blood, shed on the cross for the forgiveness of sin? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with -- the baptism of dying and rising, one in which suffering and death always precede joy and new life?
John and James reply, "We are able." The two come across as supremely confident, but you have to suspect that they don't know what they're talking about. They're still confused about the path that lies ahead.
Jesus doesn't shoot them down. Instead, he nods in agreement. "The cup that I drink you will drink," he promises; "and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized." He knows that they are walking the way of the cross, which will lead to suffering for all and to death for some.
James and John. Both suffered. One was martyred. They drank the cup and experienced the baptism.
But as for positions of honor, Jesus says: "to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant." Jesus can promise suffering, death and new life to all who follow him in faith, but the granting of special places in the kingdom of heaven? That's God's call, because God is in control.
Sunday, October 25, 2020
Saturday, October 24, 2020
Saint Paul asks: “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”
The answer, of course, is a ton of stuff. Paul even lists some of them: “hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword.” All of these things were very real possibilities for the Christians in Rome of the first century. Self-identifying as a Christian often meant a loss of rights, the inability to conduct business in the marketplace, a loss of economic well-being, the possibility of being reduced to abject poverty, and even the possibility of losing one’s life, or watching loved ones lose theirs.
What’s at stake for us when we identify ourselves as Christians? We may gain the respect and admiration of others, but chances are we’ll be considered a bit odd, or off. We may be linked to fringe religious groups that we really don’t have any connection to. It’s not easy in our culture to proclaim our faith boldly.
But, even though “God be for us,” there are plenty of storms that come our way that serve to challenge, to weaken the bridge we’re crossing. We’re fearful of relationship problems, we’re concerned about health issues, we’re caught in battles of sobriety, sanity, depression and despair. We worry about terrorism, global warming, prices, crime rates and even road rage. This is a bridge that is critical to our well-being — even our salvation.
This bridge must be a bridge that can stand strong in the storm. And it is. Because God is for us. Many things may be against us, but the bottom line is: Nothing can prevail against us!
This is a bridge that is long enough. Walk this bridge and we’ll make it to the other side. Nothing, Paul writes, “will be able to separate us from the love of God.”
Friday, October 23, 2020
Jesus answers with words that were familiar to every Jew, words that were recited every morning and evening as a prayer. The "Shema" was so important that pious Jews took the commandment to "bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" literally. Little scrolls containing the words of were worn on the foreheads of pious Jews in leather boxes called phylacteries and attached to doorposts in little containers called mezuzahs. It was a command to be carried, worn and touched.
But even more than that, it was a command to be lived. In a sense, the words on the scroll were unnecessary because they were prayed and recited daily. The irony of the "test" is that those standing in front of Jesus in their phylacteries had the text in paper and ink and yet they did not realize that in their desire for religious correctness they were allowing it to disappear.
Indeed, Jesus tells the crowds to listen to the teaching of the Pharisees but not to do as they do "for they do not practice what they teach." Of all the commandments in their scrolls, Jesus says, this commandment is "the first and greatest" -- not just to be taught, but to be lived. Even if the words on the scrolls disappeared, this commandment remains permanent.
The second commandment is "like" the first: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" . This commandment wasn't just to be worn on the forehead, but it was to be kept in the heart and obeyed through the hands. For Jesus, love of God naturally works its way outward in love for neighbor, and love for neighbor can be an expression of love for God. If you put these two commandments together, says Jesus, you will boil down all the words of "the law and the prophets." The words printed by the water-jet printer may disappear every 24 hours, but the words of Jesus will never disappear.
Thursday, October 22, 2020
We don't really know if Jesus ever put pen and ink to paper. No record exists that he ever wrote anything or kept a library of his own. We do know, however, that Jesus was immersed in Israel's Scriptures in a way that did not require him to carry a Torah scroll with him or keep a filing system. The text never disappeared from his memory, and the words that he spoke were so important that among tons of paper and gallons of ink ever used in history, they are the most important -- so much so that precious ink is still used to show them to the world. And perhaps none of those words are as important as those spoken by Jesus known to history as "The Great Commandment."In Matthew's Gospel, this passage appears in a series of rapid-fire questions from the religious authorities who are grilling Jesus in the temple. The Pharisees maintained huge libraries of commentaries about the Torah and believed themselves to be experts in the law as it appeared on ink and paper. When they heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, another religious literate group, they gathered together and had a lawyer among them ask Jesus a question designed to "test" him.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
There's a pop-Gospel song entitled, "If You're Happy, Notify Your Face." Not a well-known song among the contemporary Christian songs. The first stanza goes like this:
If you're happy, notify your face,
Take that frown off and put a smile in its place;
If you love Jesus, well, show it to the human race,
If you're happy, notify your face.
The song is catchy and cute, but, in reality, our facial expression is affected by the whole range of things we experience. Do you know people whose natural facial expressions when at rest looks like smiles? If projecting happiness is a Christian obligation, then those people have an edge on the rest of us because they don't need to think about notifying their faces. But, of course, their usual expressions are merely the result of how the muscles in the face function. These same people might tell us that their lives aren't happy at all. On varying occasions, we might even see their faces projecting pain, upset and anger. Most of us find it impossible to be happy all the time. Life is just too complicated for that.
Author Thomas Kelly tells of a well-known Christian of an earlier era, John Wilhelm Rowntree (1868-1905), who began to lose his sight, and went to a doctor. After examining Rowntree, the doctor told him that nothing could be done; he was soon going to go completely blind. Afterward, outside the office, Rowntree stood holding onto a railing to collect himself, when he suddenly felt the love of God wrap around him and he "was filled with a joy he had never known before." Under the circumstances, that was hardly happiness at all, but it was the powerful presence of God. And certainly that radiates a quality of joy!
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
But if truth be told, a more appropriate mantra for this generation is: "It's all about me." In fact, Web sites abound making that very claim. Type in "It's all about me" and you'll find thousands of self-declarative, self-proclaiming, self-expressing netizens professing "It's all about me" - whoever "me" might happen to be.
Ebay, the online auction site, encourages "about me" pages because "Your About Me" page is a great way for people to understand who you are. You describe who you are - or if not who you are, then maybe how you see yourself, or wish yourself to be. You create a Web site which defiantly declares, "It's about me! It's all about me! Me, me, me, me! Notice me! See me! Here I am! I matter! Read about me! Know me!"
Jesus is well aware of the destructive nature of the "all-about-me" mentality. That's why he warns that his followers must be willing to deny themselves before they can be counted as true disciples. He understood that the only thing that stands between God and me, is me. I'm in my own way. Every time I try to walk alone I trip over myself.
This getting-out-of-the-way is what makes Peter's proclamation about Jesus so remarkable, so extraordinary, so inconceivable. For a moment, perhaps for the first time in his life, Peter gets out of his own way. For a moment Peter stops thinking about himself. He stops putting "me" first. In a flash of insight he understands, if only for that instant, that it isn't "about ME" - it never was and never will be. In effect, Peter proclaims, "It's all about you, Jesus!"
It's about Peter's becoming smaller inside himself and allowing Jesus to become bigger inside him. John the Baptist had the same insight when he said about Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease."
Monday, October 19, 2020
The eight Jesuits--Jean de Brébeuf,Noël Chabanel, Antoine Daniel, Charles Garnier, René Goupil, Isaac Jogues,Jean de Lalande and Gabriel Lalemant--are some of the most heroic and noble men in the church’s calendar of saints. They worked in the wilderness, among people with whom they had little in common other than their common humanity, far from their homelands, sometimes together, sometimes apart, always bound to the Lord, in “New France,” in the 17th century.
His life, like the lives of all the North American Martyrs, has much to teach us about working and living among those who are different from us, the inevitability of difficulties even for the most devout of souls and the necessity of faith at all times.
When he returned to New France in 1635, he was cheerfully welcomed by his Huron friends. Immediately he and Antoine Daniel, another Jesuit, began their work in earnest. (They were one of several Jesuits working in the region at the time.) Near a town called Ihonotiria, near current-day Georgian Bay in Canada, Fathers Brébeuf and Daniel began teaching the people about Christianity. They were later joined by two other French Jesuits, Charles Garnier and Isaac Jogues.
With the arrival of their new companions, though, a smallpox epidemic broke out among the Jesuits, which spread to the Hurons, who had no immunity whatsoever from the illness. The missionaries cared for the sick and baptized thousands of Hurons. But because they had baptized those who were dying, the Hurons concluded that baptism brought death, and so many of the Hurons began to turn against the "Blackrobes." Brébeuf then moved to Sainte-Marie, a center for the Jesuits in the area.
Then a new danger arose. Rumors (false ones) circulated that Jean was in league with a sworn enemy of the Hurons, the Seneca clan of the Iroquois. So he prudently moved to another site, Saint Louis. On March 16, the Iroquois attacked the village and took the Hurons, who were mainly Christians, along with Jean and another Jesuit, Gabriel Lalement, prisoner. He knew that the possibility of martyrdom was imminent.
Jean de Brébeuf's torture was among the cruelest any Jesuit has had to endure. (You might want to avoid this next paragraph if you're squeamish.)
The Iroquois heated hatchets until they were glowing red and, tying them together, strung them across his shoulders, searing his flesh. They wrapped his torso with bark and set it afire. They cut off his nose, lips and forced a hot iron down his throat, and poured boiling water over his head in a gruesome imitation of baptism. They scalped him, and cut off his flesh while he was alive. Finally someone buried a hatchet in his jaw.
After 14 years as a missionary, Jean de Brébeuf died on March 16, 1639. He was 56. At his death his heart was eaten as a way for the Iroquois, who were stunned by his courage, to share in his bravery. Eight other Jesuits were martyred around this same time, and are now referred to as the North American Martyrs.
May they pray for us and be our examples of patience, fortitude and faith.
Excerpt from James Martin, SJ
Chaminade - A Man of Faith & VisionTo the south of Bordeaux a road leads down across the Pyrenees into Spain. This was the road Father William Joseph Chaminade followed into exile in September of 1797.
He was a French priest in disguise, escaping the enemies of the Church in his native land. Close by lay the danger of arrest. Other priests had already died as martyrs.
But Father Chaminade was at peace. He was a man of faith.
The night before his journey into exile Father Chaminade wrote:
“What is a faithful man to do in the chaos Of events which seem to swallow him up? He must sustain himself calmly by Faith. Faith will make him adore the eternal plan of God .Faith will assure him that to those who love God all things work together for good.”
In Saragossa, Spain, near the Shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar, Father Chaminade settled down to wait out his exile. Here he prayed and planned for his future work. And here he received from Our Lady a special message. He was to be Mary’s missionary. He was to found a society of religious who would work with her to restore the Faith in France.
So vivid and detailed was the inspiration given to Father Chaminade, that years later he could say to his first religious, "As I see you now before me, I saw you in spirit at Saragossa, long before the foundation of the Society. It was Mary who conceived the plan of the Society. It was she who laid its foundations, and she will continue to preserve it."
Two of Father Chaminade’s favorite prayers reveal the intensity of his love of God and of Mary:
The most just, most high, and most amiable will of God be done, praised, and eternally exalted in all things!
May the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit be glorified in all places through the Immaculate Virgin Mary.
Monday, October 12, 2020
On October 12th we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar in Saragossa, Spain. Near the Shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar, Father Chaminade settled down to wait out his exile. Here he prayed and planned for his future work. And here he received from Our Lady a special message. He was to be Mary’s missionary. He was to found a society of religious who would work with her to restore the Faith in France.So vivid and detailed was the inspiration given to Father Chaminade, that years later he could say to his first religious, "As I see you now before me, I saw you in spirit at Saragossa, long before the foundation of the Society. It was Mary who conceived the plan of the Society. It was she who laid its foundations, and she will continue to preserve it."
Two of Father Chaminade’s favorite prayers reveal the intensity of his love of God and of Mary:
"The most just, most high, and most amiable will of God be done, praised, and eternally exalted in all things!"
" A true Christian cannot live any life but the life of Our Savior Jesus. When we try to imitate Him the divine plan is carried out in our lives. The Blessed Virgin is our Model. She is a very exact copy of her Son Jesus. When we are devoted to Mary we will imitate Jesus.
Wednesday, October 7, 2020
Fear makes all of God's creatures do strange things. Once adrenalin hits the bloodstream, who can predict the ways of fight or flight? For example, unlike other bears, grizzlies merit extreme caution from hikers because they have a highly unstable adrenal gland and are "high" on this fight-flight drug most of the time. Imagine having your insides - your nerves, stomach and heart - jangling, reeling and pounding all the time like you'd just seen the latest Halloween movie. Poor bears! And poor anyone who gets in their way!
The disciples experienced that mouth-drying, heart-thumping, knee-buckling kind of fear many times. The disciples could not fathom the magnificence of the divine presence. The mystery was far beyond their ken and kin.
No wonder the disciples often reacted by curling into defensive little fear-balls at Jesus' feet.
Tuesday, October 6, 2020
H/T to The Deacon's BenchI still have my first set. Do you?
It was given to me as a first communion gift: simple black beads with a plain cross. They're small, child-sized, but I carried them in May processions when I was in grade school. They served to teach me the rudiments of one of our faith's most popular - but often misunderstood - forms of prayer.
Since October is dedicated to this devotion, and since the Holy Father specifically recommended rediscovering the rosary..., I thought it would be a good time to remind ourselves how meaningful it is, and to appreciate even more the part it plays in our Catholic culture.
Monday, October 5, 2020
“My Mother, help me, you who succeed at everything. Christ, my ideal is going to be to live always united with you so that each day is closer to the goal of my vocation: to be a religious at the service of people for the love of Christ.
Mother, help me to attain my ideal”
(Diary, June 22, 1961)
Born in Valencia (Spain) on August 4,1946, he was a student at "Colegio Nuestra Señora del Pilar" from the time he was six until he died on March 3,1963, of Hodgkin's disease, while he was studying pre-university courses.
Joyful and congenial, he was enthusiastic about sports, camping, and everything good. Few could have suspected the greatness of soul hidden in the small body of this boy who was everybody's friend: his fidelity in every trial,his iron will, his intense love of Christ, his filial affection for the Virgin. He was a member of the Sodality-State of Mary Immaculate from 1962, and on February 9,1963, after receiving the Sacrament of the Sick, he made his definitive consecration.
From 1960, feeling the call of the Lord, his great ideal was to consecrate his life to the salvation of souls as a Marianist religious. Before he died, he promised to concern himself with vocations in Heaven.
Through his diary, one can see the work of the Holy Spirit in his soul, totally dedicated to the Lord.
Sunday, October 4, 2020
What is a cross for? It was not just a burden to be borne. Far more than that, it was an instrument of death and total sacrifice. Jesus said take up our cross and follow Him. He bore a cross and we must bear our cross and follow Him. But where was He going with His cross? He had just said He was going to die. In the next verse Jesus said we must give our lives for Him. Then He asked what good our lives would be to us, if we are unacceptable at the judgment.
Hence, "taking up your cross" refers to giving your whole life to God, as Jesus was about to give His life for us. This involves bearing burdens, but it is deeper than that. It is a total dedication of life. Our whole life is given to His service in anything He says. This will lead us to willingly deny self. Following Him then requires us to live as He lived His life.
The determination to give our lives to God's service is called "repentance." In repenting we determine to turn away from our own will and live our lives to please God. We cannot be saved without this, and that is why repentance is so important in salvation.
The next verse then helps us understand Jesus' point and strengthens the application. If a person holds his life so dear to himself that he wants to use it to please himself, do his own will, and accomplish his own purposes, rather than denying self and serving God, that person will in the end loses his life eternally. But anyone who loses his life for Jesus' sake - gives it in service and sacrifice to God by denying himself, as described above - such a man will save his life by gaining eternal life.
There can be no greater or clearer teaching anywhere of the meaning of being a disciple. This is how our Master lived, so this is how His disciples must live. We must live lives of complete and total submission to the will of God.
Saturday, October 3, 2020
Between Jesus and Mary, Father Chamiande taught, existed an unsurpassed intimacy and spiritual union that inseparably united Mary to all his mysteries.
Just as Mary is Mother of God, she too, is the mother the Church, the mystical body of Christ. Thus Mary becomes our mother.
Finally for Blessed Chaminade, in order to assist in Mary's mission of bringing her children to her son, Mary must be known in order to be loved and served.
May we always love and serve our Mother Mary, that we may know, love and serve her son, Our Lord Jesus Christ!
Friday, October 2, 2020
On December 8, 1817, several men made private vows and on September 5, 1818, seven men made public vows as members of the Society of Mary.
October 2, Foundation Day for the Society of Mary, is the feast of the Guardian Angels. Remembering the Guardian Angels has been important to members of the Society of Mary. Guardian Angels were seen as guardians of the students in Marianist schools. To help students behave appropriately, members of the Society of Mary were encouraged to “invoke the Guardian Angels of their pupils at the beginning of class and surveillance periods." Hopefully, the angels would guarantee that students behaved in a proper manner so as to be receptive to the classroom instruction of the Brothers and priests.
"Education is a participation in the work of Mary. She is the great teacher of mankind. Her mission has been, and still is, to give birth to Jesus Christ and to rear Him….In calling us to the work of education, Mary has constituted us Her collaborators in this mission. Our pupils are Her children more than ours…and it is Her name that we ought to try to form Jesus in them. "
Emil Neubert, S.M., (1954)
Thursday, October 1, 2020
They're capricious little critters. But cross them just once, and they'll zing you and sting you.
So you've got to wonder why a monk named Remy Rougeau spends so much time with them.
On days like today, when heavy snowfall blankets the upper Midwest, Remy puts on his snowshoes and walks two miles over prairie hills with a shovel. He passes antelope, snowy owls and jackrabbits. Mule and whitetail deer are everywhere. One year, a porcupine was hanging around the bee yard. His reason for making this trek is to clear the snow off the honeybee hives, because if hive entrances are covered, the bees can suffocate.
But Remy does more than simple snow-clearing. Throughout the year, he keeps some bees at the abbey so that he can sting himself.
Sting himself. On purpose. Each week he takes a bee in the knee. A local allergy specialist suggested this. "Years ago," he recalls, "when I was first assigned the apiary, I nearly choked to death when a bee got into my suit and stung me in the neck. I was far from help and not breathing well. Fortunately, I had an anaphylactic kit ... and after three injections of epinephrine my throat began to relax. Later, after the allergist thoroughly tested me, he suggested regular exposure to venom. And nowadays, I have no reaction to bee stings at all. They hurt for 10 seconds and it's over."
Exposure to venom. It's not a deadly thing for Remy Rougeau. In fact, it's the poison that enables him to maintain his passion for the honeybees.
In a certain way we should open our eyes and see that God loves us in the same way that this monk loves his honeybees. God adores us despite the fact that we are unpredictable little buzzers, responsibly making honey one second, and then aiming our stingers and shooting venom the next.
According to the letter to the Hebrews, God made Jesus - the pioneer of our salvation - "perfect through sufferings." Jesus exposed himself to our venom so that he could identify completely with our suffering and death, and so that he could have a full understanding of the human condition.
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
To the Church has been given the mission of spreading the Gospel. 'Go teach all nations' is the sanction inscribed on the standard of the missionary, but the religious teaching orders are the reserves of the missionary army, subject to call, and for them the word is rather 'come and teach.'Such has been the experience of every body of religious teachers, and such is particularly the experience of the Society of Mary. It is a very simple method of expansion and a sure one as well. There is no pretense of a world outlook, no vast planning to spread afar the Kingdom of God, but only the pious uplook to heaven and a simple devotion to the work at hand, doing the present duty faithfully, fervently, skillfully; until, by little and little their success becomes more generally known and requests for new foundations comes in.
The good work spreads by its own devotedness and skill; by apostleship of duty done, rather than of intentions proclaimed; by a kind of auto-porpaganda.
John Garvin, S.M.
The Centenary of the Society of Mary
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Saint Michael is one of the seven archangels that include Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Jehudiel, Beraquiel and Sealtiel. As an archangel, he was known as the protector of Israel and the Church and presents our prayers to the Most High. He is mentioned several times in the Sacred Scriptures . We also read in the Book of Revelation about the battle between the good angels and the devils which were led by Lucifer. So it was also Saint Michael who was at the head of the angels in the battle against the devils and the head of the Guardian Angels. The meaning of the name, Michael, in Hebrew is, ‘Who is like God.’
Saint Gabriel is one of the three archangels whom the Bible calls by name. He is called the messenger of redemption, six hundred years before the coming of Jesus, the time when Christ would be born. In the New Testament, he appeared to Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist, in order to give the news of the pregnancy of his wife, Saint Elizabeth. But when Zechariah doubted, St. Gabriel said: “I am Gabriel, who stand before God, I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled at their proper time."
Saint Gabriel also sent by God to the Blessed Virgin Mary to announce the Good News of the incarnation of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He said: “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you…. Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favored with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you name him, Jesus…."
Saint Raphael which means “medicine of God” is one of the seven archangels who always stand before the Lord. His mission is connected with the story of Tobias that according to Scriptures, he was sent by God in order to help the family of Tobias. Tobias was healed of his blindness and took care of him on his journey, the one who owed him was asked to pay and he was given a young wife. He was considered as the patron saint of the blind, nurses, physicians and travellers.
Hence the name, ‘angel,’ has been appropriated to them. The angels are all pure spirits, that is, they are uncompounded immaterial substances which have no parts as bodies and matter, have. In them nothing is to be found of color, shape, extension or any other qualities of matter. They possess superior intelligence, enormous strength and surpassing holiness. They enjoy an intimate relationship with God. They are, by a property of their nature, immortal as every spirit is.
Anyone who needs special means of support should know whom to call upon. In times of temptation, have recourse to Saint Michael and let us pray these words: “Saint Michael, protect us from all temptations of the devil and wickedness.” Let us imitate the promptness of Saint Gabriel in fulfilling the will of God and in sickness or necessity, let us invoke the intercession of Saint Raphael.
Monday, September 28, 2020
Blessed William Joseph Chaminade:
Sunday, September 27, 2020
It is a good sign that consecrated religious speak often of God; for this indicates that their hearts are occupied with the very reason for their vocation.When Saint Teresa of the Andes was discerning her vocation, this is one reason why she preferred the convent in the Andes over a different convent; "I noticed that the Sister at the turn asked me about all kinds of worldly things that I didn't like...On the other hand, at Los Andes, we spoke only about God and just mentioned a few people to recommend them to God in our prayers...Their presence and conversation has deepened my recollection and brought me great peace".
Saint Alphonsus tells us that the mere "good examples of saintly companions" will help raise the religious to the heights of sanctity and "remind us continually of the transgressions into which we have fallen". Indeed, religious are meant to be set apart from the world; they are called to become saintly, not simply seculars living under the same roof who recite prayers together.
Saint Bernard says that "a worldly spirit under the garb of the habit, is an apostasy of heart."
As Saint Faustina once mentioned; "I tremble to think that I have to give an account of my tongue. There is life, but there is also death in the tongue."
Indeed, just as edifying words can help sanctify one's companions in a community, so too can their bad example lead one another to ruin.
Blessed Pope John Paul II once said; "you end up resembling the company you keep". Why then, should we not seek out a community that will support and encourage each other through speech, prayer, and sacrifice? Is this not a prime advantage of community life?
Saturday, September 26, 2020
The classical form of the Three O'Clock Prayer was fashioned by Father Simler for the 1885 edition of the "Marianist Prayer Book". For practical reasons, the prayer was shortened and the exact time no longer strictly observed. A special invocation to St. John was added and spiritual identification with the apostle as patron and model was encouraged.
Beginning in 1857, efforts were made to acquaint Marianist students with the three o'clock devotion. This venture, although blessed with modest success, shows that Chaminade's followers were eager to share with others what was dear to their own hearts. The suggestion of the 1928 General Chapter of the Society of Mary, to print the Three O'Clock Prayer on the back of holy cards and to distribute them in classrooms and elsewhere, illustrates a long- standing tradition which until this day has not been interrupted.
The Three O'Clock Prayer first began as a daily spiritual reunion for the dispersed members of the Sodality, and, even today, it is still considered a spiritual reunion of all members of the Family of Mary. Marianists gather at three o'clock to express communion with Mary and the beloved disciple so closely united with Jesus on the Cross. They also gather with other members of the Family of Mary around the world. The Three O'Clock Prayer strengthens the solidarity of those who share in the Hour of Jesus and the Hour of the Woman, meaning in the glorification of Jesus Christ and the entrusting of his ongoing mission to Mary-Church. The Three O'Clock Prayer speaks to apostles and spirituals, to pragmatists and intellectuals.
Friday, September 25, 2020
he began to ask them,
"What were you arguing about on the way?"
But they remained silent.
They had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
"If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all."
Taking a child, he placed it in the their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
"Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me."
Jesus confronted his disciples about their argument over who among them was His favorite — er, the greatest. He made a statement and then gave an example.
The statement was, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and servant of all.” And for the example, Jesus called over a child who lived in that house, took the child in his arms, and said, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me.”
We probably don’t have too much trouble understanding the statement, but without knowing something of those times, we may miss altogether the point of the example.
In that culture, children were essentially non-persons. They were left with the women, who themselves were considered subservient to the men, but children were even further down the social ladder. Only slaves were lower in social standing than children.
And as if to reinforce the insignificance of children, Mark doesn’t even identify the gender of the child. The Greek word he uses is paidion, which like the English word “child” into which it is translated, is neuter. Thus, the account says that Jesus “took a little child and put it among them."
You can’t get much more impersonal than “it.”
Thus, to say that the followers of Jesus could welcome him by welcoming a child was a mind-blowing suggestion. But Jesus wanted them to understand how God viewed greatness. It came not from being high on society’s status ladder, but by welcoming those on the bottom rungs or those who don’t have a place on the ladder at all.
“Greatness” is a word based on measurement. In our usual way of thinking, a person can be designated great only if he or she excels in some way beyond others, is more than others.
For us to be called great would mean that there are others who do not measure up to our status or achievement, and who are therefore less than we are. Jesus was not taking issue with the idea of measurement to determine greatness; he was simply saying that the disciples were measuring in the wrong direction. True greatness is not from how far we rise above others in status or fame or achievement, but in how far we are willing to go in including and caring for the least and the lowly in his name.