Mother of God
Mary’s Divine motherhood is based on the teaching of the Gospels, on the writings of the Fathers, and on the express definition of the Church. St. Matthew (1:25) testifies that Mary “brought forth her first-born son” and that He was called Jesus. According to St. John (1:15) Jesus is the Word made flesh, the Word Who assumed human nature in the womb of Mary. As Mary was truly the mother of Jesus, and as Jesus was truly God from the first moment of His conception, Mary is truly the mother of God. Even the earliest Fathers did not hesitate to draw this conclusion as may be seen in the writings of St. Ignatius, St. Irenaeus, and Tertullian. The contention of Nestorius denying to Mary the title “Mother of God” was followed by the teaching of the Council of Ephesus proclaiming Mary to be Theotokos in the true sense of the word.
Our Guiding Light
In God’s gift of faith, a supernatural infused virtue, we realize that a great love has been offered us, a good word has been spoken to us, and that when we welcome that word, Jesus Christ the Word made flesh, the Holy Spirit transforms us, lights up our way to the future and enables us joyfully to advance along that way on wings of hope. Thus wonderfully interwoven, faith, hope and charity are the driving force of the Christian life as it advances towards full communion with God. But what is it like, this road which faith opens up before us? What is the origin of this powerful light which brightens the journey of a successful and fruitful life?
-Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei
Queen of Heaven
For He whom thou didst merit to bear in your womb, alleluia.
Has risen, as He promised, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.
- Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
- For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
Let us pray. O God, who through the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ gave rejoicing to the world, grant, we pray, that through his Mother, the Virgin Mary, we may obtain the joy of everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Porque el que mereciste llevar en tu seno; aleluya.
Ha resucitado, según predijo; aleluya.
Ruega por nosotros a Dios; aleluya.
Gózate y alégrate, Virgen María; aleluya.
Porque ha resucitado verdaderamente el Señor; aleluya.
Oremos: Oh Dios, que por la resurrección de tu Hijo, nuestro Señor Jesucristo, te has dignado dar la alegría al mundo, concédenos que por su Madre, la Virgen María, alcancemos el goce de la vida eterna. Por el mismo Cristo Nuestro Señor. Amén.
Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia,Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia,
Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.
Gaude et lætare, Virgo Maria, alleluia.
Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.
Oremus. Deus, qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi, mundum lætificare dignatus es: præsta, quæsumus, ut per eius Genitricem Virginem Mariam, perpetuæ capiamus gaudia vitæ. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Christ the King
What is a king?
There are not a lot of political kings in the modern world. In an age that glorifies self governance, the concept of a royal monarchy is OK for fairy tales and pomp, but few consider it a practical governing system. Nevertheless, the feast of Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI as late as 1925 to remind the world that Christ’s Kingdom is as real today as ever.
Traditionally, a king is both the founder and father of a nation. It is because the king establishes the kingdom that he has the right to rule. All that live in the king’s domain are his subjects, but those related to that king have special status, they have ’royal blood’ and are the rightful heirs. Even the etymology of the word “king” is derived from “kin”.
The idea of a kingdom is offensive to the modern man. Our concept of equity forbids that some citizens are born into a higher class than others. What is heredity rule if not glorified nepotism?
While Pope Pius IX had no intention of reestablishing the monarchy in the secular political arena, he understood the importance of Christ’s kingship to our faith. There are three ways in which Christ establishes his dominion. First, by the hypostatic union (divine and human nature in Jesus), Christ is the Eternal Word who established all of Creation. Second, Jesus is royal by heredity. He is a descendant of David, whose earthly kingdom was established by God; and the covenant God makes with David (2 Samuel 7:8-17) is fulfilled in Christ. Third, and most importantly, Christ is the first fruits of a new Creation through his death and resurrection. By his life and death, Jesus refused to be mastered by sin, and thereby usurped dominion of evil which was the result of Original Sin.
A Kingdom of Peace
In his encyclical Quas Primas Pius IX affirms that Christ is a ruler in every sense of the word. But Christ’s kingdom is essentially spiritual, and Christ rules it in freedom through the Holy Spirit. That makes if very different from every other kingdom on Earth, which is why he says “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” (Jn 18: 36a) In spite of the establishment of Christ’s kingdom; the potential for sin still exists, and sin is the origin of all suffering. When we look at the beatitudes we can see that those who live according to Christ’s example still suffer in this life, but are not abandoned in their struggles. The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults tells us:
The Kingdom of God is his [Jesus] presence among human beings calling them to a new way of life as individuals and as a community. This is a Kingdom of salvation from sin and a sharing in divine life… The kingdom is realized partially on earth and permanently in heaven.” (p.79-80)
Sin is entirely incompatible with the Kingdom of God. Even the one sin of Adam was sufficient for him to be cast from Eden and forfeit the dominion extended to him and his progeny.
Heirs to the Kingdom
So how do we share in this Kingdom? Pius IX tells us:
The gospels present this kingdom as one which men prepare to enter by penance, and cannot actually enter except by faith and by baptism, which, though an external rite, signifies and produces an interior regeneration. This kingdom is opposed to none other than to that of Satan and to the power of darkness. It demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things, and a spirit of gentleness. They must hunger and thirst after justice, and more than this, they must deny themselves and carry the cross. (Quas Primas n.15)
By baptism we are called to a complete conversion in Christ; dying to sin and rising again as a new creation. Christ calls us to be as perfect as our Heavenly Father (Mt 5:48). This seems a tall task, but “Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger, abounding in kindness.” (Ps 103:8) Christ not only gives us rebirth in Baptism, but through the Sacramental ministry of the Church provides nourishment, healing and support so that we remain in him.
Panis AngelicusBread of Angels,
made the bread of men;
The Bread of heaven
puts an end to all symbols:
A thing wonderful!
The Lord becomes our food:
poor, a servant, and humble.
We beseech Thee,
Godhead One in Three
That Thou wilt visit us,
as we worship Thee,
lead us through Thy ways,
We who wish to reach the light
in which Thou dwellest.
- St. Thomas Aquinas
“O King of glory, though you hide your beauty, yet the eye of my soul rends the veil. I see the angelic choirs giving you honor without cease.”
- St. Mary Faustina Kowalska
Let’s keep the “Hallow” in Halloween
There are many tales surrounding All Hallow’s Eve. Many legends present the night as a festival of debauchery in which the powers of evil are given some special outlet for the devious undertakings. The story behind the famous tone poem Danse macabre by Saint-Saëns is a perfect example of this.
According to legend, “Death” appears at midnightevery year on Halloween. Death calls forth the dead from their graves to dance their dance of death for him while he plays his fiddle (here represented by a solo violin). His skeletons dance for him until the rooster crows at dawn, when they must return to their graves until the next year.
Well, since All Hallow’s Eve is originates from Catholic feast of all saints, it’s time to set the story straight. First off, “Death” has no power on Halloween or any other night (1 Cor. 15:55); but Christ has authority over all. He tells us: “Do not be afraid. I am… the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld.” (Revelation 1: 17b-18). And in John’s Gospel Jesus tells us:
For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself. And he gave him the power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation. (Jn 5: 26-29)
We know that the glorified bodies of the just will shine with beauty (Mt XIII: 43). But let us remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xxii): “Perhaps in that kingdom we shall see on the bodies of the Martyrs the traces of the wounds which they bore for Christ’s name: because it will not be a deformity, but a dignity in them; and a certain kind of beauty will shine in them, in the body, though not of the body.”
Well, that ought to make up for some great costumes! So for Halloween, why not dress up as a saint? ”Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”; as the saying goes.
In times of tragedy, Jesus’ presence is felt
GUELPH, ONT. – In my role as a vice principal in a Catholic high school, God is revealed in raw emotional landscapes: old-fashioned fist fights, cruel words in 120 character texts that ravage reputations, startlingly tragic losses.
On a wall in my office hang some crucifixes: a Mayan one from Guatemala, an Italian one from Assisi, a tarnished pewter one that once hung in a hospital chapel. On the surface, they are a collection, a Catholic cluster. At a deeper level, they all witness to the places of hurt where God meets us in our daily suffering, the way God is found in Jesus on the cross.
On the Friday that began Christmas vacation, Eric, one of our Grade 12 students, was driving the family car to pick up a friend for a movie. Water, the same substance used to initiate him into the life of the Church at his baptism, lay invisible and frozen on a stretch of road with one too many turns. Eric’s car hit the black ice and then a concrete pole.
The brain injury Eric sustained, just a week after his 17th birthday, was irreparable. Before the machines that kept him alive after the accident were removed, surgeons harvested four organs for families who had been waiting: hope against hope.
During the visitation, which had been delayed a few days due to the zenith of the Christmas feast, many of Eric’s friends gathered to cling to each other, to cry with one another, to support the family in the face of unseasonable death. The “undiscovered country” — remembered from sleepy English classes where Hamlet spoke in soliloquy — is now less remote but more barbed. The funeral Mass was well attended. Teenagers gathered to say a prayerful goodbye to their friend, whose coffin rested at the foot of the sanctuary. They were solemn and tearful.
Their communion of shared grief and shock revealed the sacredness of all life: fragile, poignant and celebratory. Most of them were not regulars at Sunday Mass. Few of them could explain the sacramental theology of the Eucharist. But they prayed. Like the Israelites in the desert, like the 5,000 on the hillside, like the 12 at the last supper, they were fed. Jesus was present, and Jesus healed.
Excerpt written by Richard Olson, CNS photo/Mike Crupi
Catholic Register Special; Sunday, 13 January 2013
Justice Never Dies!
Saint Justus of Beauvais (c. 278—c. 287)
Feast Day: October 18
Justus was born in 278 and lived at Auxerre, France, with his father. At that time, the persecution of Diocletian was in full force. When Justus was nine years old, he and his father went to Amiens to ransom a relative. While there, Justus was reported to the authorities to be a Christian magician, and soldiers were sent to arrest him. They confronted him at Beauvais, Justus, who was nine years old, confessed that he was a Christian. Some accounts say that he was immediately martyred for this; the Martyrologium Romanum says that Justus was beheaded for refusing to tell the Romans where his father and uncle were hiding.
Legend has it that soon after his decapitation, young Justus stood upright with his head in his hand, at which the soldiers fled. Later accounts say that he converted the soldiers. In the painting to the right, by Peter Paul Rubens (June 28, 1577 – May 30, 1640), Justus meets his relations on a country road, still carrying his severed head in his arms. He is requesting that they bury his body and give his head to his mother.
What does it mean to be Catholic?
Today Roman Catholics celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch. St. Ignatius was a bishop in the first century. He is honored as a Father of the Church for his writings, many of which he wrote on his way to martyrdom.
St. Ignatius is also responsible for the first known use of the Greek word katholikos (καθολικός), meaning “universal”, “complete” and “whole” to describe the church, writing:
Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid. — Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8, J.R. Willis translation.
It is from the word katholikos (“according to the whole”) that the word “catholic” comes. When Ignatius wrote the Letter to the Smyrnaeans in about the year 107 and used the word catholic, he used it as if it were a word already in use to describe the Church. This has led many scholars to conclude that the appellation Catholic Church with its ecclesial connotation may have been in use as early as the last quarter of the 1st century.
Last week Pope Francis talked about what it means to be Catholic in the Church today.
Professing that the church is “catholic” means accepting its teachings, accepting the gifts it offers to help one grow in holiness and accepting the fact that it is composed of different people with different gifts and opinions, Pope Francis said.”The church is catholic because it is the space, the home in which the faith is proclaimed in its entirety, where the salvation Christ brought us is offered to all.”
“We are not all the same and we shouldn’t all be the same,” he said. Each person has his or her own gifts, qualities and character, which “is one of the beauties of the church — everyone brings what God has given him or her to enrich the others.”
“When we try to impose uniformity, we kill the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” the pope said. He asked people at the audience to pray that the Spirit would make all church members more “catholic.”
While emphasizing the importance of individuality and the variety of gifts we offer, Pope Francis also stressed the communal nature of Catholicism. Being Catholic means being part of a family, he said. No one should or can go it alone; “in a family, each one of us is given what we need to grow, mature and live. We cannot grow alone, we cannot walk alone, in isolation, but we must move forward and grow in a community.”
One obligation, he said, is to share the Gospel message with others and support the church’s missionary activity. “The church is catholic because it is universal, it is present in every part of the world and proclaims the Gospel to every man and every woman.”
St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
Feast Day: October 15
Patron Saint of: Headache Sufferers
Teresa lived in an age of exploration as well as political, social and religious upheaval. It was the 16th century, a time of turmoil and reform. She was born before the Protestant Reformation and died almost 20 years after the closing of the Council of Trent.
The gift of God to Teresa in and through which she became holy and left her mark on the Church and the world is threefold: She was a woman; she was a contemplative; she was an active reformer.Her writings, especially the Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle, have helped generations of believers.
In 1970, the Church gave her the title she had long held in the popular mind: doctor of the Church. She and St. Catherine of Siena (April 29) were the first women so honored.
Brother Roger Schutz
Founder of Taize (1915 – 2005)
On the site of an abandoned abbey in Taize, France, he set out to realize this vision, forming a community that would include Catholic and Protestant brothers.
As he noted, “I have found my own identity as a Christian by reconciling within myself the faith of my origins with the mystery of the Catholic faith, without breaking fellowship with anyone.”
At the same time, Taize became a spiritual refuge for the youth of the world. Tens of thousands of young people flocked to Taize each year to imbibe the spirit of prayer and spiritual renewal. They, in turn, carried the spirit of Taize back into the world and across the globe.
On August 16, 2005, during evening prayers at Taize, Brother Roger was stabbed to death by a deranged woman. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, credited him with changing the religious climate of his time.
“He changed the image of Christianity itself for countless young people; he changed the church’s perception of the absolute priority of reconciliation…and he did this without any position of hierarchical authority.”
For whoever knows how to love, for whoever knows how to suffer, life is filled with serene beauty.” – Brother Roger of Taize
Scientist and Apologist (1623-1662)
A brilliant intellectual and scientist, Blaise Pascal was an ornament of the dawning Age of Reason. Before turning twenty, he had invented the calculating machine. He went on to lay the foundation for calculus and designed the first public transportation system for Paris.
But his life was dramatically changed one night in a mystical encounter with God.
He recorded the incident on a scrap of paper sewn in his coat: “Fire. ‘God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,’ not of philosophers and scholars. Certainty, certainty, heartfelt, joy, peace…”
After his profound experience of conversion he turned his genius to a defense of Christianity, convinced that faith gave access to a dimension of truth beyond the reach of reason.
Pascal’s Pensees, his comprehensive case for Christianity, was published posthumously. Despite its fragmentary nature, it became one of the most significant works in the literature of Christian reflection.
Rather than beginning with the typical appeal to authority – whether of the Church or Scripture – Pascal based his arguments on the evidence of the human heart.
With deft psychological insight, he painted a picture of human wretchedness: “Inconstancy, boredom, anxiety.”
Yet, he argued, there is a greatness in human nature, a yearning for transcendence that points in the direction of our true destiny. In Jesus Christ we find an explanation for this duality of the human condition, for in Jesus we learn simultaneously that God exists and that we are sinners.
Pascal died on August 19, 1662, at the age of thirty-nine.
“The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.”
- Blaise Pascal
Love: The Clarifying Lens
Abracadabra: the teacher from Nazareth becomes Daniel’s glorified Son of Man! For Peter, James, and John, it’s an astonishing revelation of cosmic realities.
For us today, it’s a glimpse into quantum possibilities.
Our doctrine carefully dissects this event. Jesus is truly God and truly human, it says. Don’t make the mistake of missing the God in the person, or the flesh on the Deity.
Our impulse is to distinguish these two as worlds apart: divinity and humanity, so obviously dissimilar as to be polar opposites.
Yet somewhere in history, an equator of being we call both Jesus and Christ was born, lived, taught, died, and rose again.
The Jesus of history wasn’t welded onto the Christ of faith as a false front.
Only a real human could be fastened down to a cross and cry out in the anguish of abandonment…and only a real God could escape the tomb and live eternally.
If Peter, James, and John could recognize that their friend and teacher who grew up in their neighborhood was also the dazzling beloved Son of God, what else might they see behind the neat commonplace appearance of things? And what might we see as well? When we love someone or something, we catch sight of an otherworldly radiance that others may not see.
Love enables us to see the things as they really are in God’s eyes.
A good teaching tool on the Sacrament of Reconciliation for children and – perhaps – a great refresher for yourself!
A Great Mentor for us in this Year of Faith
Cardinal Yves Congar
Dominican Theologian (1904-1995)
Yves Congar, one of the towering figures in the twentieth-century Catholic theology, was born in France in 1904. Ordained as a Dominican priest, he was called up in 1939 to serve as a military chaplain. After capture by the Germans, he spent years as a prisoner of war, an experience that confirmed his commitment to ecumenism and to the need for greater openness to the world.
In the 1950s Congar published groundbreaking books on the role of the laity and Church renewal. With his fellow Dominicans he sought to chart a fresh course apart from the rigid neo-scholasticism of the day – ironically, by “returning to the sources” of Scripture and the early Church Fathers.
His work was controversial, and for some years he was forbidden to write or teach. But eventually Pope John XXIII asked him to serve on the preparatory committee for Vatican II. Ultimately he became one of the chief architects of the documents on revelation, the Church, mission, ecumenism, and the Church in the modern world.
His mark is particularly reflected in the definition of the Church as “the People of God,” in the emphasis on the role of the laity, and in the confession of the Church as being “at once holy and always in need of reformation.”
Pope John Paul II named him a cardinal in 1994. Congar died on June 22, 1995, at the age of ninety-one.
The future is prepared in the waiting when the seed, once deposited, puts forth a shoot and grows. What is essential is to have sown the seed.
Blessing for Our Graduates
Bless our graduates who have completed a course of study and now begin a new part of their lives.
Let them not be troubled about the past nor anxious about the future, but let them be concerned about the moment they must now live.
Strengthen their faith – ease their fears – that they may courageously follow your Spirit and live fully the life you give them.
When doubt and confusion about their purpose surround them, light their way and give them peace in your plan for them. Let them use the gifts that they have received in their studies that they may become a source of inspiration and blessing for the world.
And when each day is ended, give them DELIGHT in knowing that the good work you have begun in them shall come to completion in you.
We ask this through our brother, Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Fear, panic, and axiety touch each of us at certain times in our lives. For some people these emotions are especially frightening because they can open up a place of darkness inside that seems to overwhelm or eclipse the light.
Did you know that the words “Be not afraid” and “Fear not” show up 365 times in Scripture? We truly need daily confirmations of God’s presence…and God knows that!
God, who is present in every cell in our body and is as close to us as our breathing, is nearer to us than our fears. God, who is peace, took up residence in your heart before the first fear ever set in.
If you think of it that way, the fear we often feel is really second.
Breathing is a great way to equalize the powerful presence of fear. I love to remind people when they are stressed out – “keep breathing.” When we panic, we often forget to breathe and our abilty to see and think clearly goes out the window.
We could paint the reminder to believe, not fear, keep breathing on the walls of our house where we will see the words everyday and remember or, as it says in Scripture, we could emblazon the conviction upon our hearts.
The Greek word for wind or Spirit is RUAH
When I need help finding perspective and shutting out fear I like to think of the Spirit of God as the breath that works within me to help me find balance and a calm center.
Someone else said it like this:
May I be held safe
in the arms of God.
May I be open
to the guiding presence of God.
May I be
an instrument of peace at all times.
Let us pray for each other!
Up to Your Neck, Into the Water
This Easter Vigil many were baptised into our faith communities and WE WELCOME YOU!
When someone walks into the water of baptism, or is held into the flow of water as an infant, we may realize what ELSE the water represents…or we may not.
The water is deep. You can’t always see your toes. It’s hard to move forward and trust.
We want to know where we are going so that we can pack our backpack and lunch and know that we will “get there” in good time. We take our I-phone and ball cap and bug repellent; we wear socks that will ward off the ticks and sticky weeds. We want to be ready…for anything.
To be a person of faith, someone once told me, isn’t about your religion.
If you only ”believe” what your senses tell you to be true, that is not faith at all…it is logic. Faith is hope in things unseen and yet promised by God. Baptism reminds me of that. It is a commitment bigger than I am. It places me square in the hands of God…who sees the bigger picture and sets me – over and over again – on the right path.
“We are a grasping people. That is perhaps why baptism seems so daunting. If you carry everything you’ve scratched and fought to accumulate into those waters – all the stuff, all the cars, the house, the resentments and emotions – you will surely drown. Every lifeguard knows: you need to be light, buoyant, to float. You must let go.” Melissa Musick Nussbaum wrote that and it makes really good sense.
Time to set down my burdens, my concerns, my worries. Jesus Christ is RISEN!!! When I embrace this truth, my arms must be empty.
Today – and in the 50 days forth as we celebrate Easter – I let go of everything which weighs me down and stops me from wholeheartedly walking into the up-to-my-neck, deep water. Alleluia!! He is truly risen!!!
One Life and Two Callings
Her parents were musical, and it became a calling for her as well. Not only did she study music in grade school, high school, and collegefessionally, playing cello in well-known orchestras in the United States and in Canada, for many years.
But when she stumbled upon the Carmelite nuns, she gave up her music for a new higher calling in her life. That was 30 years ago.
“I was so committed to the lifestyle,” Sister Claire told me, “that I entered thinking I might never touch the cello again. I was prepared to give it all up to live the life of the Carmelites. But I’ve found a way to use all my gifts now.”
The Carmelite nuns are committed to contemplative prayer. And they use their given talents every day. Saint Teresa of Avila was one of their recognized founders.
In 2014, Carmelites worldwide will celebrate what would have been Saint Teresa’s 500th birthday. When Sister Claire realized that no music had ever been written in their founder’s honor, she decided to do it herself. And during the past few years, she has composed eight pieces specifically for the upcoming celebration.
That music took center stage in early January at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in south Reno as the Bella Voce Choir, accompanied by Sister Claire and a handful of musicians, had the music professionally recorded.
“It’s almost like a birth,” Sister Claire said. “It has been in gestation for so long now, and I have asked others what they think, but to have it all played together and have such beautiful voices singing, it is like a birthday. It’s wonderful!”
Others will add to the CD, including former Renoite and opera star Dolora Zajick. And the plan is to have it published in August 2014, in plenty of time for the year-long Carmelite celebration planned for October 2014.
“I do hope others enjoy it and that it is seen as my way of honoring Saint Teresa of Avila,” Sister Claire said. “I have such joy to have integrated this music into the life I love so much.”
The way the voices filled the church make it sound as if angels themselves had arrived to perform. And her pride was obvious as Sister Claire played her cello and heard it harmonize with the violin and the harp, bringing to life the music that’s been in her head for so long.
And that isn’t even the most amazing part. To me, the amazing thing was to meet someone who’s had two such monumental callings in one life, realized them both and then found a way to merge the two.
Written by Erin Breen – Reno Gazette Journal – January 8, 2013
Over-rated 5 Star Reviews?
I have never been to Tennessee but I bought a book on Amazon a few months ago, and that is where it came from. I’ve scanned a bit of the package, here, for you because of what else I saw next to my name.
The red ink on the left implores me to leave a 5 Star feedback about their service and the condition of the product…”please! rate us well for our competition!”
Is “rating” over-rated?
I understand the need – the desire, even – to be better than the next guy.
In the business and marketing world profitability, longevity, and success have always relied on the good things customers and peers say about you. When I bought a new phone over the holidays and the phone man popped his head out the door as I left and said, “Hey, give us a good YELP rating, would you?” Ratings can go viral quickly – for better or worse!
Personal ratings can leave us feeling vulnerable
What about when you have been through a performance review or a job evaluation? How do you feel when you are handed the feedback by your manager and it reveals that you are less of an asset than you know you really are – OR that your pay scale or position, itself, is in jeopardy?
Being measured is tough. No one likes to be compared to someone else.
There is so much more to who I am than what can be summed up by a report upon my efforts related to one, small facet of my life.
So…how would you rate GOD today?
When dark things happen we may look beyond ourselves to someone who would wield a bigger stick – who could do the damage control that we can’t. We might find ourselves glaring at God as we try to pick up the pieces.
Why didn’t God act? Why didn’t God step in to prevent this terrible, tragic circumstance we deal with right now?
We may rate God in real-time or we may rate God in secret…”please God, don’t get me later because of what I am thinking!”
- What would you use as a scale to rate God?
- What would God need to do that would result in a “satisfactory” grade?
- How is God doing and what evidence do you see – or not see - of God’s presence in your world right now?
but the times we live in call for candor and honesty. What are you thinking? What are your friends thinking? Let’s talk. Post a comment – there is room here for what you’re turning over and over in your mind.
Founder of Madonna House (1896 – 1985)
Catherine Kolyschinke, born in Russia to a wealthy Catholic diplomat, married a baron at the age of fifteen. No sooner had she entered the Russian aristocracy than war and revolution stripped her of everything. Eventually, close to starvation, she escaped with her newborn son and made her way to New York. Her marriage had collapsed, but Catherine soon found a lucrative career giving lectures on her experiences in Russia.
Later still, remarried to the journalist Eddie Doherty, she returned to Ontario and established Madonna House, a place of prayer and retreat. In Poustinia and other books, she drew on her Russian roots to promote the values of silence and prayer.
Through her writings and the work of Madonna House she continued to promote the two principles by which she lived: a commitment to the social apostolate in the world and the need to root such a commitment in a life of prayer and the spirit of Christ.
She died on December 14, 1985.
Catherine lived as she wrote, “It is only in the eyes of another that we can find the icon of Christ. We must make the other person aware we love him. If we do, he will know that God loves him.”
Cofounder of the Catholic Worker
Dorothy Day was born in Brooklyn in 1897. She spent much of her youth as a journalist and activist dedicated to radical social reform. A turning point in her life came in 1926 while living on Staten Island with a man she deeply loved. The discovery that she was pregnant sparked a profound conversion, turning her heart to God. She decided to have her child baptized, a step she followed in 1927, though it meant a painful separation from her daughter’s father (he would not consent to marry). She also worried that in joining the Church she was abandoning the cause of the poor.
In 1932, after meeting Peter Maurin, an itinerant French philosopher, she found a way to combine her faith and her commitment to justice. Together they launched The Catholic Worker, a paper devoted to propagating the social message of the Gospel. Soon the paper gave birth to a lay movement (still active around the world today), combining voluntary poverty, community among the poor, and the practice of the works of mercy.
In the time the Catholic Worker offered a prophetic voice for peace and nonviolence. Day and her companions were repeatedly arrested for acts of civil disobedience. All the while her activism was rooted in a disciplined life of prayer and sacrament.
By the time of her death on November 29, 1980, Day was widely regarded as the radical conscience of the American Church.
In 2002 the Vatican accepted her cause for canonization and she was named a Servant of God. In early November of this year, the American Bishops have renewed their commitment to zealously promote the canonization of Dorothy Day.
”The mystery of the poor is that they are Jesus, and what you do for them you do for Him.” – Dorothy Day
No one could argue that Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is not a beautiful, historic place of worship. The Rose window, made of thousands of shards of colored glass, perfectly assembled in order to reflect God’s light, is breathtaking high up in the north facade. Each panel of the window tells the story of creation and salvation in ways that the illiterate people of the time could understand and then talk about with others.
Churches were built-in the middle ages to teach us truths about our relationship with God.
When people could see the way a building embodied what they already believed about God and the Body of Christ, it helped to anchor the reality in strong ways; enabling the faithful to have a visual connection to what may – often - have felt as abstract teachings.
The challenge is that as human beings we may easily transfer our ideas about the grandeur and “divinity” of these visual representations in ways that actually might separate us from the truth they are meant to convey.
So, when this occurs, the church building becomes the perfect, holy place where God prefers to dwell and the statues, meant to inspire us to follow the good example of those depicted, may become entities of adulation in and of themselves.
Yet, what is the deeper invitation here for us?
You are the living tabernacle of God. God has chosen your heart as the living, breathing temple in which the Spirit dwells. You are holy ground – daily invited, to be sure, to deepen your reception of the Spirit of God and the graces that come with that acceptance.
You take God’s breath away.
God’s love for you is not based on your perfection…nor is it sustained by your ability to live your faith without struggle or stain. When God looks at you, God sees a sacred reflection…God sees God. Saint Catherine of Genoa recognized this when she cried out, “My deepest Me is God!”
You are the one who carries within you the very life of God – the very Spirit of God. Think about it for a moment. How could we think that a building made of stone might reflect God in a better way?
ADVENT is coming…a time which encourages us to connect the God of heaven with the God who took on skin and walked among us.
When gazing on the beautiful visuals of God around you in the world and in the church, don’t be distracted from the greater, truer reality – you are the home God has chosen. There is a bit of time before Christmas.
What can you do during these days to change the way you see yourself? How can you begin to see yourself with the eyes of God?
A man went to Tye D. the tailor to be fitted for a new suit. After Tye D. altered the suit, the man stood in front of the mirror to examine the fit. He noticed that the jacket’s right sleeve was rather short.
“Say, Tye D,” he noted, “this sleeve looks a little short. Would you please lengthen it?” “The sleeve isn’t too short,” the tailor answered emphatically. “Your arm is too long. Just pull it back a few inches, and you’ll see that the sleeve fits perfectly.”
The man lifted his arm a bit, and indeed the sleeve was matched with his wrist. But this motion affected the upper portion of the jacket. “Now the nape of the collar is several inches above my neck,” he complained.
It’s All in Your Mind
“There’s nothing wrong with the collar,” Tye D. the Tailor responded. “Your neck is too low. Lift the back of your neck and it will fit just right.” The man raised his back and neck a bit – sure enough, the collar rounded it where it was supposed to. But now there was another problem: the bottom of the jacket was resting high above the man’s seat.
“Now my whole backside is sticking out!” the customer exclaimed. “No problem,” Tye D. returned. “Just lift up the edge so that it stays under the jacket.”
Again the man complied, which left his body with a very contorted posture. Tye D. had convinced him that the problem wasn’t with the suit, but with him.
Soon two women passed him as he walked along, and they bid him a good morning. A few moments later one woman turned to the other and commented, “That poor man is really crippled!”
“He sure is,” the other replied, “but his suit fits great!”
Ever Feel Like This?
Life imposes many things upon us; some of them fit well, but many of them don’t. So often it isn’t until we are well into the middle of something before we realize how much of ourselves we have “contorted” and compromised in order to make it fit.
Behavior and choices which truly match who you are will enhance the gifts that are already present. There will be a resonance of truth to your choice; a sense of a natural “fit” with the person God is creating.
Ill-fitting suits can feel like a straight jacket to us; yet we may still try to jam others into roles and positions that don’t fit them either. Does anyone jump to mind? Take a deep breath. You are a work in progress. That means that there are definite imperfections in you – but who is asking for perfection?
Respecting the unfinished work of God in others can open our hearts to all the good that is taking place in our own hearts and lives; these two realities go hand in hand. The Feast of All Saints reminds us that we are saints in the making…still time to work on the patterns that are developing and to take in the seams that are a bit rough.
Fr. Isaac Jogues arrived in New France in 1636, one of a company of French Jesuits who undertook the perilous mission among the Indians of North America.
Apart from the difficulties of language, the harsh environment, and the Indians natural distrust of Europeans, the Jesuit “Blackrobes” as they were called, also had to contend with the state of perpetual warfare among the tribes of the region.
In 1642 Jogues was captured by a war party of Mohawks. He was subjected to terrible tortures and kept as a slave for many months before escaping and making his way back to France.
In Paris, Jogues was welcomed as a national hero, but he found the publicity and acclaim no more than a second ordeal. He begged permission to return to the Mohawks, to carry on the work of evangelization, and to offer his life, if necesary for their slavation.
The Jesuits acceded to his wish and obtained for him a special gift: a papal dispensation from the canonical rubrics (rules), allowing him to celebrate mass despite his mutilated fingers (which were a result of his torture).
Eventually Jogues returned to the very village where he had been held captive. At first he was received respectfully. But when crop failures were follwed by a deadly epidemic, suspicion fell on the Blackrobe, and he was beaten to death.
Jogues and several companions are commemorated as the first North American Martyrs. His feastday is October 19.
Caryll Houselander, an English laywoman, had a very definite sense of her vocation: to awaken others to the presence of Christ in the world. This conviction was implanted from her childhood by a series of mystical experiences that continued throughout her life.
The most striking of these visions occurred as an adult, while she stood on a crowded underground train in London.
As she looked at the people around her, “quite suddenly I saw with my mind, but as vividly as a wonderful picture, Christ in them all…living in them, dying in them, rejoicing in them, sorrowing in them.”
When she left the train “it was the same here, on every side, in every passerby, everywhere – Christ.” This vision lasted intensely for several days and altered her life completely.
Houselander supported herself by woodcarving and decorating churches. Later she wrote poetry and children’s books. Her true mission, however, consisted in her relationships with others – not just friends, but strangers, neurotics, friendless people whom others avoided.
Simply through attention and friendship, she sought to awaken them to a sense of their own divine spark. Eventually her writing mission took over. During the Second World War she offered a message of consolation to those struggling with their faith, sharing the good news that Christ was truly present in the sufferings of the world. She died of breast cancer on October 12, 1954.
“The arms of Christ stretched on the cross are the widest reach there is, the only one that encircles the whole world.” – Caryll Houselander
On October 28, 1958, a new pope greeted the Church from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square. There stood the smiling, rotund figure of Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli, the son of peasants and recently the patriarch of Venice.
“I am called John,” he said.
In appearance and in almost every other respect Pope John XXIII stood in contrast with his gaunt and otherworldly predecessor. Gregarious and open, John exuded an enthusiasm for life that in itself set a positive tone for his pontificate and raised hopes for a season of change.
He spoke of the need to “open the windows” of the Church and to let in fresh air. It was the signal of an extraordinary renewal, an era of openness and positive dialogue between the Church and the modern world.
He died on June 3, 1963. In a few brief years he had won the hearts of the world, and his passing was universally mourned. His beatification came in 2000.
“It is not the Gospel that changes; it is we who begin to understand it better…the moment has arrived when we must recognize the signs of the itmes, sieze the opportunity, and look far abroad.” – Blessed John XXIII
Today begins a year that Catholics celebrate as the Year of Faith. It is a year which commemorates the 50th anniversary of Vatican II initiated by John XXIII and the 25th anniversary of the Catholic Catechism.
The words of John XXIII are striking. Utilizing the graces of this year, what changes will you strive to make in the way you connect to God?
Taken from an unpublished
talk by Richard Rohr, OFM
In most paintings of people waiting for the
Holy Spirit they are looking upward, with their
hands outstretched or raised up, the assumption
being that the Holy Spirit will descend from “up” above.
LOOKING DOWN INTO THE EARTH
In the Great Basilica in Assisi where St. Francis is buried, there’s a bronze statue of him honoring the Holy Spirit. His posture and perspective are completely different from what we have come to expect. He’s looking down into the earth with expectation and desire! This is the change of perspective that became our alternative orthodoxy—although it should have been mainline orthodoxy! He was merely following the movement of the Incarnation, since Christians believe that the Eternal Word became “flesh” (John 1:14), and it is in the material world that God and the holy are to be found.
Francis recognized and took to the logical conclusion the implications of the Incarnation. If God became flesh in Jesus, then it is in the world, the physical, the animal, in the natural elements, in human sexuality that God must be found.
THE HIDDEN GOD
Speak of embodiment, physicality, and the world—use whatever words you want—these are the hiding places and the revelation places of God. This is how Christianity was supposed to change everything.
Most of us just kept looking up, when God in Jesus had, in fact, come down. (This is the foundation of Franciscan mysticism.) On this day in 1226, Francis died at sunset and asked to lie on the earth as he died. The friars were uncertain, but conceded to his wish. Now you know that it made total sense.
THE CATHOLIC PERSPECTIVE
Faith Forum – Reno Gazette Journal – August 26, 2012
What is the purpose of pilgrimage – penance, healing, gratitide, fulfilling a vow, education, purification, spiritual awakening, connecting to a higher power? Does it help in achieving religious goals? Which pilgrimage is more meaningful – external or internal?
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF PILGRIMAGE?
Pilgrimage has a long history in the Catholic faith. Some pilgrims venture inward for clarification, healing, and peace; others take to the road. Some people travel alone to better hear the voice of the One whose wisdom they seek, while others join fellow human beings on a quest that can be fulfilled only in the company of like-minded / like-souled companions.
All human beings who take time for the quiet become aware of a desire for a connection with an eternal Being / Life-source.
We come from eternal stuff. We know, innately, that there is more to life than can be accomplished by our own efforts or understanding. Discerning what that “more” is can be the seed or the fruit of a pilgrimage.
Where will the longing for God lead you – today?
Faith Forum - Reno Gazette Journal – August 19, 2012
“Religions preach love and non-violence, but recent incidents like the mass shootings at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin and the Colorado movie theater indicate that senseless violence is very much alive. How can we transform society and make the world a safe place for all?”
SEEING OTHER AS BROTHER
Transforming society into a place where violence is unacceptable is a reality which involves all people. Religion may play a part but ‘credos’ alone are not the answer. How do I view reality? Is this my world or our world? If I see myself as one who mysteriously shares past, present, and future with you then our stories become co-mingled, as does – hopefully – our purpose. At the heart of successful societies is a deep commitment to one another. Catholics believe that all people are made in the image of God. Our intention is critical. My behavior flows from my conviction that all are one.
I am called to advocate for all people as chosen and deeply loved by God. Human sinfulness and apathy will lead to real and painful gaps in consistency but seeing the Other as Brother will powerfully contribute to harmony and a world less tolerant of violence.
FAITH FORUM – Reno Gazette Journal – August 12, 2012
What defines personal morality? On what do we base our moral actions, decisions, judgements, and thoughts? New scientific and technological advancements create new issues that we have never faced before. Are our moral standards, yardsticks, parameters fixed or do they keep changing? Why are everyone’s moral standards and concerns no the same? Is there a naturally moral way to live?
AT THE HEART OF WHO WE ARE
Exploring questions of morality – personal or corporate – begs the consideration that all humanity is made in God’s likeness. In our hearts, existing as gift, is natural law.
The Catholic Catechism states, ‘Natural law is a participation in God’s wisdom and goodness…it expresses the original moral sense, which enables humanity to discern, by reason, the good and evil, the truth and lie. (1978,1954)’ In order for our moral values and practices to be more than reactions to circumstance, it is critical that we hold an objective truth. For Catholics, this truth is recognized in natural and divine law.
From the Catechism, ‘Natural law provides the solid foundation on which humanity can build the structure of moral rules to guide their choices. It also provides the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community. (1959)’ Ultimately, the natural moral law finds its fullness and its unity in Christ.” – excerpt from the Faith Forum printed in the Reno Gazette Journal on Sundays
LEADING FROM THE CENTER
We believe that the body of Christ, so central to incarnational theology, refers – as well – to the corporate body of those who gather around the Spirit, wherever it is found.
Jesus consistently exercises the only kind of leadership that can evoke authentic community – a leadership that risks failure (even crucifixion) by making space for others to act.
When a leader takes up all the space and preempts all the action, he or she may make something happen, but that something is not community. Nor is it abundance, because the leader is only one person and one person’s resources invariably run out.
When a leader is willing to trust the abundance that people have and can generate together, willing to take the risk of inviting people to share from that abundance, then and only then, may true community emerge.
-Parker J. Palmer, The Active Life
Jesus consistently exercises the only kind of leadership that can evoke authentic community – a leadership that risks failure (even crucifixion) by making space for others to act.
Lots of us hold some form of leadership; leadership in our families, our workplaces, through our civic commitments or in our faith communities. How have you been led by others? What made/makes it tough to follow?
Number One question: What purpose does my leadership serve / is “community” a consideration?
Number Two question: Can I lead in a way that risks failure / how do I make space for others to act?
TAMING OF THE TONGUE
James uses clever metaphors to describe how something as small as the tongue can wield vast power. He notes how a tiny flame starts a huge fire. Many of us certainly know how those tiny flames have wreaked havoc in town in the last 7 months.
Then James comments on how we have a choice in how we use our tongue, that small yet significant part of our body; “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.” vs. 10.
A while ago I read a wise adage that urged everyone who speaks about another to first ask three questions: “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” Only if the response is yes to all three should the person then continue speaking. I LOVE THIS!
It really made me think. If I really followed this teaching I would be a lot more careful with my words.
Hey, let’s take on James, today. What will come from our mouths? A blessing or a curse?
I am, indeed, a person of my word. What do my words say about me?
Take a moment to look around at what you have – and be grateful – instead of wasting time on what you don’t have…and know that God always keeps a promise.
Thank God as well for the people that offer you joy and safety and let’s not forget that Saint Francis would want us to give a shout for the wee beasties, too!”
Blessings on Your Day! Love, Sister Mary Grace
Once upon a time when Moses was hiking in the desert keeping an eye on his sheep as they grazed, he saw something which forever changed his life. He saw a bush – on fire – yet not consumed by the flames. Imagine! A roaring fire engulfing this bush and no ash, no cinders, no smoke could be seen!
Was it just a trick of the eye? Did the bush only seem to be on fire because of the way the sunlight hit the branches?
One second later there was no room for doubt. This was not just sunlight. This was not just a typical encounter with nature on the hillside of a desert he knew so well. We know what happens one second later because we have all heard this story since our childhood days. That is one reason – perhaps – that we have forgotten to ponder the meaning of the moral of the story for ourselves.
One second later the bush actually spoke to him…well…the bush didn’t actually speak…God spoke through the bush.
We know that the invitation God extended to Moses that day was one that had powerful and lasting repercussions through the ages. God had heard the cry of the Hebrew people, as they slaved in Egypt, and would set them free.
Freedom is a reality that is concretely front and center as we are a country at war. Concepts of freedom come to the forefront of our thinking quite a bit in an election year. For many of us, unless we have fought for our country or have had family members do so, our understanding of freedom may be more cerebral than physical. We understand freedom in our head and appreciate and are grateful for the benefits of freedom as it pertains to our rights, our preferences, and our comforts.
However, the freedom which God offered the chosen people was not just physical liberation from the struggles of their slavery in a foreign land. God offered an interior freedom as well.
If we apply the wisdom of the early experiences of our ancestors in faith to our own life we could ask ourselves:
“What holds me hostage within?” or “Of what, am I not totally free?” To what or to whom have I surrendered my freedom, my will, my power? I don’t ask these questions of myself to judge myself. The past challenges of my life sometimes required that I made choices that put myself in the back seat.
“Who is my burning bush?” Through whom – or what circumstances – does God invite me to step forward and to walk by a new path? Who shakes me up and pushes me to consider a new way out of my comfort zone?
Today I ask myself, “What am I going to do about this?” “Is interior freedom within my power, within my reach?” Just like with the Hebrews, God has fought for my freedom. What will I do with this gift? God says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the LIFE.”
This all started for Moses with that burning bush a very long time ago. What started this encounter with God in your life? Life is short. Why surrender to a hostile takeover? Advocate for your life, for your mysterious self. Pray for me – as I pray for you – may the choices we make today be choices for a rich, joyful, generous, abundant life with God and remember to smile. Jesus Loves you!
WHAT CHANGE TO YOUR ROUTINE HAS SAVED YOU THE MOST TIME – MORE TIME FOR PRACTICES OF FAITH?
Time flies – whether you’re having fun or you’re too busy to remember what “fun” is. You can’t make the day longer, but you can maximize the hours you have. This will offer more time to linger with God…and will reveal a whole new kind of “fun” in God’s company. We asked some of our readers to contribute – here’s what they are doing to scrape together a few extra moments in the day:
Instead of scrambling to make dinner every night, I declared Saturday my cooking day. I spend it preparing meals so that when I come home from work, I can just stick a premade dish into the oven. Now I have more time to spend with my daughters, asking about how they recognized God that day, or time to open the Bible. – Angel, NV
For 10 years, I commuted to work during rush hour, suffering through a 90 minute traffic-choked drive. Then early last year, my boss gave me permission to work from home for three hours each morning and leave for the office after rush hour, around 10am. Now the trip takes half as long. As a result I logged 150 fewer hours on the road in 2011 than I did the previous year. – Mike, CA
I love to read Saint stories for inspiration, and I discovered how to do it during my busy days – by swapping my paperbacks for audiobooks. This has productive while I enjoy my hobby. Now I clean the house, do the laundry, and weed the flower beds as I listen to the lives of these great people. In fact, I welcome the chores. They are a good excuse to play my latest download! – Melody, WA
When the price of gas started to rise a few years back, I decided to run all my errands in one weekly trip. I make a list of where I need to go (the bank, the library, and the gas station for example) and hit the road. I usually get everything done in a few hours, leaving myself more time to enjoy at home with a cup of tea and time with God – whatever shape that time takes! – Cathy, NV
For years I’ve followed this rule: Don’t put it down, put it away. Even if I am in a hurry to change my clothes, I automatically hang up the old outfit before I put on another. And when I’m cooking, all the ingredients go back in the cabinet as soon as I am done with them. This habit saves me tons of time, because I never have to look for things or clean up clutter. It leaves me the time to go outside for a walk where I can see God more clearly than in other places. – Maria, NV
What are some things that have worked for you? Please take a minute and share them here below so that we can learn from you and help ourselves to find God in the ordinariness of our daily lives!
Surrender and Mission
God, I want to do what you ask of me:
In the way you ask,
For as long as you ask,
Because it is you who ask it of me.
Let me love you, my God,
and see myself as I really am:
a pilgrim in this world,
a Christian called to respect and love
all those whose lives I touch, those in authority
over me or those under my authority, my
Help me conquer anger with gentleness,
generosity, apathy by fervor.
Help me to forget myself and reach out to
Teach me to realize that this world is passing,
that my true future is in heaven, that life on
earth is short, and that the life to come, eternal. Lead me safely through death to the endless JOY of
In Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe…
We give thanks for mothers everywhere.
Mary, Mother of God, embrace all mothers, give them strength and courage and mother their spirits so they can continue to heal the wounds of their children and of the world. We give thanks for mothers everywhere. Amen.
-Jane Deren, Education for Justice
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” John 20:1
While it was still dark – she could no longer sleep. While it was still dark – she got dressed and left the empty house. While it was still dark – and the whole landscape was shadows and soft rustling noises – she single-mindedly made her way back to the tomb. While it was still dark – she sought him out.
While it was still dark…
FAITH often feels like walking in the dark – following what we know is true but can’t explain, or can’t always see clearly, or perhaps on some level, are even afraid of. Sometimes we may feel crazy for believing in something – in someone – that can seem so removed from what is concrete in our lives, yet we hear that as believers we walk by the light of faith.
While It Was Still Dark…
You, too, may reach through the darkness to follow Jesus the Light. Your faith is at a point where you can no longer just wait for the light to get to you…you walk into the dark in search of the Light. That is why you come here, to be provoked and to reflect, in your hunger for the Light to fill you and sustain you.
Mary Magdalene – marvelous mentor – walked into the darkness. She made her way to Jesus while it was still dark and unclear to her and because she did, she saw the Light which transformed her forever.
This season of Easter is just underway for us. We are now People of Light! So – how will you share that light today? Easter HAS to make a difference, right? BE in-your-face LIGHT! Let your light shine and be generous with that light, to a world which sometimes seems to prefer the darkness. Godspeed!
This week is about hard things – and cruel things. This week is about holiness going the distance, running the race against evil, and having the victory look – at least at first – as bloody and messy as death.
There are a LOT of examples in the news these days about mothers and fathers having to bury their children too early in life.
When we bury someone who has been a victim of violence it seems even harder sometimes than if we were “prepared” for them to die of illness or old age.
Whatever we can say about Mary, the young woman who said yes to God with her whole life ahead of her, we can’t say that she doesn’t understand our sorrow. Unlike many statues of her, Mary is not made of plaster with a painted smile on her face. Mary is a mother who lost her only son, Jesus, as a victim of violence.
What must it have been like for Mary to hold the body of her son? What emptiness did she feel? We can almost hear her cry out, “My heart is broken! You not only killed my son - you ended this part of my life, as well! What gave you the right to make this decision; to take this action?”
We, too, often groan under the weight of our suffering – over loss of life and relationship – over unfair, even brutal, betrayals by those we trusted. The darkness of this kind of sorrow is so hard to bear and often – hard to share. We all feel it.
This week offers a great opportunity to spend some time keeping vigil with Jesus…spend some time with Mary. I am not just talking about the Mary and Jesus in Jerusalem. Spend some time with Jesus and Mary in your own home, in your own neighborhood, in your own workplace.
What kind of violence do you see around you? Even harsh words, “the silent treatment,” or unneccessary criticism can be a form of violence. Do my words do the same kind of damage as physical weapons?
Beside being a week of hard and cruel things, this is also a very holy week. A week when we embrace what it means to follow someone who didn’t return violence for violence. WWJD? What if we did something radically different this week? What if we laid down our verbal weapons of choice?
Jesus help me to be non-violent in the way I engage people – especially the people that bother me.
View from the Tomb
So this past weekend was the Third Scrutiny for RCIA candidates and catechumens. And if you were at a Sunday liturgy where the Scrutiny was celebrated, you would have heard the story of the Raising of Lazarus. If not, then click here to go and read it: Raising of Lazarus.
What do you think Lazarus saw when he emerged from the tomb? Maybe something like this…
It’s dark… it’s damp… it’s deep in the earth… Lazarus has been dead for a while… so it smells really bad!
What does it make you think of?
It makes me think of…
Z – O – M – B – I – E – S !
You think it’s a stretch? Read on…
How long have you been doing Lent? 10 years… 20 years… maybe 30 or more… forever…
Have you chosen the same thing to give up for Lent more than once? Maybe even every year? Do you find yourself longing for Holy Week just to get out of the rut of Lent?
Maybe you’re in the middle of the plot for the new blockbuster movie … Lent of the Zombies!
It’s a Dead Feeling.
Similar in nature I think to what Lazarus experienced… that cycle of living and dying and living again just stops… and it can feel like everything is dead in your spirit. That’s when you have to examine whether or not you’ve become accustomed to living in Zombie-Land.
I have a Facebook friend who asked everyone… just out of the blue… What’s your favorite zombie movie? I thought that was SO random!
Then he put out a couple of status updates about being alive. And then I heard the reading about Lazarus at church. AH HA!
I get it! Zombies and Lazarus rising from the tomb. Lazarus isn’t a zombie by any stretch. He is, in fact, fully human and fully alive again after Jesus calls him to leave the tomb.
What does that mean for us? When Jesus calls us to new life from our own self-made tombs, how will we respond? Will we rise and start living again? What does it mean to rise?
Choose to be ALIVE! Choose to love and forgive / to heal and reconcile / to celebrate and rejoice in the life that Jesus’ resurrection gives.
Don’t be a zombie. It’s a dead end.
What Else Did Jesus Offer the Woman at the Well?
I heard Father Michael Fish OSB Cam. speak at the Carmelite Monastery last Saturday night – perhaps you heard him as well?
His words inspired me to spend some further time with this amazing story from the life of Jesus and reflect on what took place between himself and the Samaritan woman – the woman at the well. I can’t help but think, “What if that were me at the well?”
Drawing Water in Solitude
In the middle of this very hot day when other women had already done their fetching - this woman approaches the well alone. There she encounters Jesus, who has also been left alone for a while by his disciples. He asks her for a drink of water. Simple request. “I’m thirsty.” She gives many reasons why she should not be expected to respond to his simple question. Doesn’t he know any better? she thinks to herself.
But, Jesus doesn’t think like she does. What if he just wanted to take a moment with her, to sit together at the side of the well and talk? He could see – from a mile away – the interior burden she was carrying. She has a bucket. She has a cup. He has neither and is thirsty and would enjoy this moment with her. “Please, give me something to drink.” Is it that simple?
How many times have I been uncertain as to
what Jesus is really asking of me?
Could Jesus have another motive?
Could it really be this simple?
People of Doubt
The woman at the well was suspicious. She had this idea that Jesus was other than he seemed. There’s got to be a catch, doesn’t there? So, here is a thought. What if Jesus behaves in these unexpected ways – Doesn’t he know any better? – to get past our filters; our expectations of God. In getting past our foregone conclusions, and shaking us up a bit, there is a chance for God to get to our heart before we can put our guard up again.
Time at the Well
These 40 days of Lent are quickly slipping into single digits – where have the opportunities for reflection and change gone?
In the midst of your incredibly busy life, there sits a well. A well at which Jesus waits. He is thirsty – not just for a drink, but for you. Time with you. Time at the well of your heart and soul.
When he cried out from the cross on Calvary, someone ran to get a sponge filled with wine so that he could drink. In some ways that was just too easy. What else did Jesus thirst for? Today Jesus thirsts for the same thing: an honest relationship with you. He longs for your permission to access your heart and to place his own shoulder under the burden you bear so that you won’t have to draw water alone.
Find the well of your soul. Imagine Jesus sitting there waiting for you with no secondary agenda. Forget the excuses you will be tempted to make. Doesn’t he know any better? Let the next days of Lent lead you to a regular encounter with the God who loves you. Why should you draw water alone? What will you discover in the depths that only Jesus could bring to light?
Enjoy this provocative reflection which Kathy McGovern, instructor at the Denver Catholic Biblical School, has written about Lent:
And so the search for God continues. It turns out that fasting from food without fasting from selfishness is worse than no fasting at all. But the true fast that God desires is too hard for us most of the time. Let me fast and pray all day, but don’t ask me to organize the stacks of papers that sit on the dining room table, where family and friends could gather for a meal and restful re-creation.
Let me exhaust myself with meditation, but don’t ask me to clean out the car so that little kids from the housing project could have a ride (and a chaperone) to the rec center.
And my accusations go on. My sin is ever before me. But I also know this from years of failure: A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Have you stumbled upon this surefire way of connecting with God? If you can be brave enough this Lent to let your heart be broken (again) by your own patterns of missing the mark, God promises to hear you, and heal you.
Find the wound that keeps you hungry and thirsting for God. Take off the dressing of busyness and denial. Touch it at its most tender spot. And here’s the hardest part: acknowledge how it keeps you bound in the cycle of sin. In your brokenness, call out to God for help.
Ah. Can you hear it? That’s God’s voice saying, Here I am.
Read more of Kathy’s weekly reflections that connect Scripture with life.
It’s hard to take on new habits. A well-known fact is that in order to form a new habit you have to repeat the new practice 21 times in a row without failing. The first time you forget to pick up the new habit, your are back to square one and have to start all over again – even if you were at number 20 in your new practice!
It’s hard to take on new habits – mostly – it is because we have to pay attention to what we are doing and – by description – a habit is often something we don’t really think about, we just do it!
Extraordinary Counter-Cultural Behavior
Virtue doesn’t often make the news; we read more about the people who don’t live virtuous lives and take short cuts on the backs of others. This month we are talking a lot about what it means to choose a different path from the rest of the world and how that makes us different – like a light on a hill or just a lot more like Jesus.
For twenty years I worked at a terrific summer camp with teens. Early on, we decided that for the week we were there, away from the regular lives we led, we would start practicing new choices and shaping new habits. Talking about Jesus inspired us! WWJD? We were ready to try it out for ourselves.
Opting For VIRTUE
We penciled twenty virtues onto a poster- virtues that seemed to be missing from our world – and matched each of those virtues with a different colored bead. After considering our own toughest top three we committed to changing the way we lived by applying those traits, those virutes, to our lives. We wove leather bands, strung our top three, and wore our “Virtue Beads” for the rest of the summer.
It was challenging to keep my heart open. Some of these virtues – and practices – had to find a new home in me. I had to give my earlier biases and judgements their walking papers, in order to have room to really grow into someone new – not just add new practices to the same old, same old. You have to intentionally practice virtue – once it slips into habit, it’s not virtue anymore.
We’ve all made resolutions to live differently! What makes this different?
How do you remember to live
a life that is counter-cultural?
Physical reminders can be really helpful! Hang a cross or crucifix from your neck, keep a Bible nearby, suspend a medal from your car mirror, toss a cross in your pocket, or wear a shirt with a logo which reminds you that you are called to be a light in a world that is blinded by darkness and desperate to see again.
Called To Follow and To Lead
The call to live your own unique life in connection to faith is one that evolves over time. You certainly don’t live it the same way today as you did 5 years ago! Virtue ties you to God in unmistakeable ways. It also binds you to others. It really helps when we can see each other making counter-cultural choices. Virtuous choices make us stretch further - outside our comfort zone – connecting what we know in our head to the physical way we meet the day. It means I go out of my way to meet God in you. That is the stuff of saints, isn’t it?
You are made of that
very same saintly stuff.
Go online to discover the A to Z list and sit for a while pondering what each virtue would look like if you took it on for the season. Is there a special “attitude of being,” that would let that light of yours shine even more brightly?
Switch it up! Be creative! Which virtue will you practice this week? next week? We’d love to hear how the challenge of virtue works for you!
What would it take to make the cut?
Super Bowl sunday reminds me of some of the happiest times in my life. I loved playing sports as a young person and the feeling of belonging to a group of people who played with the same intensity and goals…well…it could not be matched by much else.
I played first base for 10 years. My favorite coach would tell me that he counted on me to catch, field, and run for everything that came my way. The whole team counted on me…counted on each member to play their part and to focus on playing the best game we could. We had a reputation to defend!
Yet, sometimes I wondered if his praise of my game was true. I easily remembered the overthrow to third base and the time I just missed the tag at first. I replayed those errors everytime a similar situation arose and hoped I wouldn’t mess it up again. As a worthy coach, he focused on the better part of my game and of my efforts.
We play on lots of teams in our lives…and most of them are not on a ball field.
“Hey there, that’s right, you – have I got a plan for you!”
Jesus was on a mission – a mission that had a small window of time – and in order to be successful, he would require help. The first disciples were to be “fishers of people”, not just “deliverers of a message.” How would he choose the twelve who would share in the hopes of God? What did he look for in them? What characteristics bought them a place on the team…and, dare I think it…would there have been a spot for me?
What was Jesus’ bottom line?
What was non-negotiable?
The Twelve, the foundation of the future community, were often sent out to do exactly the same work that Jesus had been doing.
They were given authority over unclean spirits, they preach repentance – that radical conversion (metanoia) to the vision of the Kingdom, anointing the sick with oil and healing them. Notice that these three activities cover the whole person: spiritual, mental and physical. Healing and wholeness, health and holiness. To be holy is to be whole.
The disciples went off and did the three central works of Jesus:
This is what we are also called to do within the circumstances of our life. We live here now. Jesus invites us to commit to the vision and to giving our best effort to every moment .
Let’s take the three efforts of the apostles as our own model for ministry. Can Jesus send you out like he did the twelve?
- Recognizing the characteristics of my life that least reflect the mission of Jesus,
- admitting the way I have tolerated these characteristics, and
- deciding what exactly to do differently is a great beginning to proclaiming the kingdom.
If freedom is the essence of discipleship, I need to take it one step further.
- What binds me and keeps me looking over my shoulder? Is my freedom as a disciple connected to what others may think of me?
- What freezes me up? As long as I allow that to have control over my actions, I am not yet free and am not yet the best disciple I can be.
What do I bring to people? Do they hide their true selves when I join the conversation? Jesus brought healing and wholeness. A greater awareness of and compassion for the struggles people endure around me will give the insights to begin to support healing and wholeness for others.
The message of Jesus is a life-giving message and we who deliver it are challenged in a particular way to carry the message in our flesh, in our words, in our non-verbal communication- well, in every encounter with others we have.
What does it take to make the team?
Prayer- and humility.
We are all contributors. What you say and do matters to the end game. How well do we mirror Christ? WWJD? Ultimately, that is the measure of how effective we will be and how many people learn of the kingdom.
I was watching an old classic the other night; if only my directional choices were as straightforward as following the yellow brick road; a single path before me with a well-meaning wizard and a solid guarantee that those golden bits of clay will take me where I want to go.
I am sure your experience matches mine; it is rarely that simple. There is rarely a single road before us; there are always options. Which road do I usually take to the city? Which streets do I prefer to get to the market? Human nature leans toward taking the same road every single time. It is expedient. It is rather helpful, even…throw the mind into ‘automatic pilot’ and off we go! Hooray for multi-tasking!
Look at the data
Data Reveals the Road Most Frequently Taken
In these last months I have been looking more closely at the choices we make for our diocesan ministry outreach and it is becoming clear that much of our connection with parishioners is done in the same ways with the same faithful people in attendance. This is a nationally recognized phenomenon, still, let’s look at our little corner of the world first. Where is everyone else? How do we reach those Catholics who do not choose to join the faith community in traditional ways?
Two roads diverge ahead. The road we have traditionally chosen for ministry has born fruit in the past and so we have continued down the same path.
Yet, as Catholics today, we live in a society which often strips away our efforts to set aside time and place for the practice of faith. We are hungry for a relevant connection with our faith and with fellow believers in ways that many do not currently experience.
If we have the ears to hear and the eyes to see then our hearts begin to point us to a consideration of another road.
What do numbers of a declining connection with our fellow catholics tell us?
Our outreach currently focuses on those who are already here, in church with us, receiving sacraments, attending evenings of reflections, and parish fiestas. It is evident we must re-create connections with those whom we no longer see in church.
Communities of faith are messy communities in progress. It can be challenging to interact with people whom we wouldn’t talk to otherwise or choose as friends. Thus, many people – seeing the messiness of a faith community and thinking that it might not be worth the effort – are going elsewhere.
The message of renewal celebrated through Vatican II – i.e. encouraging the People of God to understand the parish community as a family of faith in which all have a voice and a place at the table – may have become blurred through personal preference, reluctance to change, and bias.
Questions follow this line of thought for me – what are you thinking?
- Who is responsible for the life of the church?
- How vital does a community carried by a few, remain?
- What makes people stop choosing the church as a relevant and committed partner for life? What is our responsibility to reach out?
“Hey! This road looks different from the yellow one – the one we have taken before.”
It is less familiar, certainly. There may be fewer “experts” on this road since we will all be learning to read the signs together… as a family of faith… where everyone has a voice and offers a gift.
This change is imperative for a thriving population and a thriving faith community. The gift of our faith is real. Our greatest desire is to share it with all whom we meet, with anyone who will listen!
We dare to dream this way because God is dynamic. Relationships with God are dynamic – not static or predictable. We want to have those kinds of conversations, to build those kinds of relationships here. The time for comfortable, incremental change is over.
There is an invitation to all of us here. What will this kind of desire for change demand? Is there a limit as to how I will respond?
Makes All the Difference
So this is the first question I am going to put out there: “What needs to change in the way I see church and understand my faith community and what part do I play to become the welcome that is longed for?”
The Hub is a central place on this website where we meet the whole person.
Saint Thomas Aquinas observed five characteristics of the soul – five aspects of the human person which makes us – well – alive and human, therefore more like God.
- Imagination - the ability to see beyond what our eyes take in and to dream of what might become
- Intellect – the ability to know truth and act on it
- Emotion – the ability to be touched and moved by what we encounter, to feel compassion
- Will – the ability to act with intention beyond logic or limit
- Memory – the ability to recall both concrete and spiritual realities
Each of these characteristics shapes a response in us. These characteristics are at the core of “whole person” existence which take us out of our head -with our tendency to intellectualize our faith- allowing us to discover and hear the God within through the whole self – our whole being created in God’s image.