Monday, November 30, 2009

Prayer: Roman Rite

Father in heaven,
the day draws near when the glory of your Son
will make radiant the night of the waiting world.
May the lure of greed not impede us from the joy
which moves the hearts of those who seek him.
May the darkness not blind us to the visions of wisdom
which fills the minds of those who find him.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Two Church Worldviews: The Classicist and the Historical-Minded

Our church today is mired in some complex issues and we notice that there are various ways of approaching these complicated moral issues. We each have an initial point of view or a starting point for our conscious understanding of the world. This forms the basis for our morality. Let us look at two predominant worldviews that often find themselves in opposition to each other.

The Classicist worldview

The Classicist worldview is one that was predominant in the pre-Vatican II theology and often comes to be associated with a theology of the Catholic hierarchy.

1. It sees the world as a finished product where the “good” is associated with “knowing.”
2. The intellect and reason is highly valued where the truth is eternal, universal and unchangeable. They are like Platonic ideals that are static and perfect are within the grasp of those few leaders who can understand such principles.
3. Therefore, their job is to teach others about what is right and wrong. Those who are able to access this truth sees the world comprised of natural, unchanging principles that remain valid forever.
4. Their language is replete with the words certitude and clarity, and for them, deductive logic is the key by which they approach the world’s problems.
5. God is transcendent, remote, inaccessible and largely unconcerned with the sufferings of the world. In this high theology and high Christology, God will sweep down into the world to save us and correct our behaviors.

However, when trying to apply this viewpoint within moral theology, we encounter some significant challenges. What happens when the truth is applied for one point in history, but does not fit another circumstance? Can truth be immutable?

6. We exist at a certain historical moment with distinct cultural challenges.
7. Also, it becomes difficult to apply the truth geographically and cultural for all times and places.
8. The Classicist view is concerned more for “what is known” rather than being concerned for the knower. The knower is irrelevant and impartiality is a virtue.
9. This worldview is not interested in compromising community standards for an individual’s understanding of a moral dilemma.

The Historical Mindedness worldview

The Historical Mindedness worldview represents a relatively recent shift in theology. It is characteristics of the reforms of Vatican II. It is represented by many of the believers who try to integrate their faith into the weighty matters of the day.

1. For them, the knower, the person, the subject is extremely important.
2. Moral theology is to be interpreted from within a specific context and audience.
3. The individual person is to be involved in the process of creating principles and guidelines to better understand the situation and the needs around him or her.
4. The knower is an essential part of the decision-making process, but criteria and competency are key values. Partiality becomes a critical value.

For a person with this historical-minded viewpoint, the world is constantly changing and we must investigate the particularity of a situation to gain better understanding. Truth can only be grasped at, but never attained, and it can be better understood through our judgments.

5. We learn more and change based upon the world around us. We are continuously emerging and becoming.
6. Therefore this group seeks to listen and ask questions.
7. We therefore become suspicious of clarity. Inductive logic is the preferred methodology for analyzing problems.
8. This is a church that is always seeking, always striving, to know more, but realizes that we cannot know perfectly or absolutely.
9. God is imminent, near, accessible and intimately concerned with the sufferings of the world. In this low theology and low Christology, God has always been present in the world and stands with us in solidarity – urging us forward to become all that God has created us to be.

The Church as a combination of both

Over the years, the Church has become more historically-minded about many issues, but it lags behind when dealing with moral social teaching. No one can be strictly one way or the other and we need both viewpoints to obtain a fuller picture. It becomes a matter of degree, not of kind. You can see that these viewpoints often will run in parallel and will seldom meet on a certain issue. Therefore, neither side is filled with good or bad people, but merely that our starting points of moral theology are different. Both are valid, good and necessary, but somehow we have to move closer together to help each other understand the ways in which we approach our moral dilemmas.

Examine the social issues of our day with this context and you may be able to see how one side or the other arrives at their judgments.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

First Sunday of Advent

November 29, 2009

Happy New Year! We might expect joyful, celebratory readings on this first day of the new liturgical year; instead we get a sliver of hope in the midst of great tension. Jeremiah is speaking to a distraught people in Israel and Judah who will face such severe calamities that even their beloved Jerusalem, their sure stronghold, is threatened to be laid to waste. Luke’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that all the signs around them will be confusing and difficult to understand. Such high levels of disorder will abound that some will die of anxiety and all of us, even the most assured ones among us, will be assaulted of the Day of the Lord.

Are today’s times confusing enough for you? Our world offers overwhelming challenges to us as competing philosophies of life tempt us in al sort of directions. Even the surety of our Catholic faith is gone and we sometimes feel that part of our church is at times adrift without a rudder. Politicians are publicly opening a dialogue with bishops over positions in health care reform; educated, reflective Catholics hold dissenting opinions with their bishops over same-sex marriages; the fight between pro-life and pro-choice believers takes such hard-line stances that dialogue is no longer possible; the closing or merging of parishes leave people feeling rootless. Some in the church would rather have those who disagree with them outright leave. Reading the signs of the times with certitude is nearly impossible today.

Within these complicated social positions, many in the church are no longer able to be hospitable to one another, or to show a caring mercy, or a patient solidarity that tries to be enriched by the other through true listening that leads to understanding. We would be at ease if we only examined our tradition and returned to fundamental Christian values. Gone are the days when Christians were once known as a curious people for their remarkable hospitality because they would show mercy to anyone who called upon the name of the Lord. A Roman official once remarked to a church father, “See how much they love one another.”

Under all this mess is Jeremiah’s prophecy that God will raise up a shoot that new life from the house of David and that this Messiah will rule the world with God’s merciful justice. Jesus assures us that in the midst of the swirling chaos, you will be able to detect his still voice; therefore you must pray constantly to know his voice so that you recognize him when you stand before him on that final day. If we read between the lines, God is steadfast and faithful to us and is always present for us. God has come, is coming, and will always come for us. Let us watch our hope in God grow this year.

Quote for the Week

The beginning of Advent is not complete without our singing “O Come , O Come, Emmanuel,” so I am listing out the first stanza of the lyrics below.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

In this new year, we quickly turn to the Advent prophet Isaiah as he speaks his prophecy about the peaceable kingdom and the advent of the Messiah. On the Lord’s mountain, God will wipe away our tears and God will somehow manage to save us. A song will break out in the land of Judah and all will serve the Lord forever because of his goodness to us. The dawning of this new Kingdom of heaven will set all believers in awe and wonder. The people will realize just how much God suffers with them and desires to lead them to freedom.

In the Gospels, Luke reminds us that God will give grace and understanding to the simple ones who trust in him. Then Matthew shows how Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy by showing that the lame walk and the blind see. Signs and wonders point to Jesus’ life and ministry ushering in God’s peaceable kingdom. The one who listens to Jesus’ words and accepts them can gain entrance into this new family. The blind men illustrate their coming to sight as entrance into this new realm. Jesus then sends out his disciples to the lost sheep of Israel to tell them about this new reality.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Andrew, apostle, was a fisherman like his brother Simon Peter. Andrew was one of the first two apostles called by Jesus in John’s Gospel. He may have preached in Greece, but he is better known for the cross of St. Andrew that represents Scotland on the flag of the United Kingdom.

Thursday: Francis Xavier, priest, was one of the seven founding Jesuits who was sent to the Indies and Japan as a missionary by Ignatius of Loyola. He converted and baptized hundreds of thousands to the faith and established foreign missions. He is venerated across the world and is one of the best known Jesuits.

Friday: John of Damascus, doctor, is a doctor of the church for his writings that summarized the early doctrinal positions of Christian theology. He is the last of the Greek Fathers of the Church.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Nov 29, 1773: The Jesuits of White Russia requested the Empress Catherine to allow the Letter of Suppression to be published, as it had been all over Europe. She bade them lay aside their scruples, promising to obtain the Papal sanction for their remaining in status quo.
• Nov 30, 1642: The birth of Br Andrea Pozzo at Trent, who was called to Rome in 1681 to paint the flat ceiling of the church of San Ignazio so that it would look as though there were a dome above. There had been a plan for a dome but there was not money to build it. His work is still on view.
• Dec. 1, 1581: At Tyburn in London, Edmund Campion and Alexander Briant were martyred.
• Dec. 2, 1552: On the island of Sancian off the coast of China, Francis Xavier died.
• Dec. 3, 1563: At the Council of Trent, the Institute of the Society was approved.
• Dec. 4, 1870: The Roman College, appropriated by the Piedmontese government, was reopened as a Lyceum. The monogram of the Society over the main entrance was effaced.
• Dec. 5, 1584: By his bull Omnipotentis Dei, Pope Gregory XIII gave the title of Primaria to Our Lady's Sodality established in the Roman College in 1564, and empowered it to aggregate other similar sodalities.

An Advent Prayer

All-powerful God, our hearts desire the warmth of your love and our minds are searching for the light of your Word. Increase our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light that he brings to the dark areas of our world. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Spirituality: Discerning an Ignatian Way of Life

Ignatian spirituality centers on the imitation of Jesus – focusing on those priorities which constitute Christ's mind, heart, values, priorities and loves. What are those values, priorities and loves? Ignatius would encourage us to consider what Jesus said and did. At the foundation of Jesus' life was prayer, a continuous search for how best to live as an authentic human being before a loving God. Jesus preached forgiveness of sins, healed the sick and possessed, and gave hope to the poor, to those socially and economically outcast. Jesus spoke of joy, peace, justice and love; he summoned men and women from all classes of society to continue to follow his way to God and his commitment to helping people become whole and holy.

Jesuits and their companions attempt to incorporate these same gospel values into all its works. Jesuits stress the need to take time to reflect and to pray, in order to find out how God wants us to serve in all our ministries. This active commitment to seeking God's leadership is called discernment . The overriding characteristic Jesuits see in Jesus is loving obedience, an open-hearted desire to find and to pursue how God wants other men and women to be forgiven, to be free, to utilize all their talents and opportunities in ways which build up this world as a place where faith, justice, peace and love can flourish. This kind of spirituality is incarnational. It views the world as a place where Christ walked, talked and embraced people. It views the world, therefore, as a place of grace, a place of being able to give life to others.

At the same time, Ignatian spirituality is realistic. The world Christ faced was also a world of cruelty, injustice and the abuse of power and authority. Consequently, Ignatian spirituality affirms our human potential but also is dedicated to the ongoing, day-in-day-out struggle between good and evil. No one apostolic work exhausts how good can be done; therefore, Jesuits do all kinds of work. The Jesuit norm is to find where God will best be served and where people will best be helped.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Prayer: St. Francis of Assisi

Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received... but only what you have given: a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Spirituality: Ignatius and his Spiritual Exercises

Ignatius of Loyola began his spiritual journey as a wounded soldier convalescing after the battle of Pamplona in 1621. He received mystical illuminations during his months of prayer in the cave at Manresa just north of Barcelona. During these months, Ignatius noticed how God led him to pay attention to the diverse "voices" inside of him -- to the movements of consolation and desolation in his heart and spirit. Furthermore, he gradually learned to discern the sources of these desires, thoughts and movements of the heart and spirit: which of them came from God and which of them drew him away from God -- and, perhaps most importantly, which of them he should act upon. Throughout this time, Ignatius learned how important it is to look for God in the stuff of his everyday experience; he learned that God was shaping and forming him to be a companion of Jesus.

The fruit of these months of prayer and reflection is contained in his Spiritual Exercises. If there is any genius to the Society of Jesus, it lies in this little treatise on prayer written over 450 years ago. The method of prayer outlined in this book helps each Jesuit to follow Jesus and seek God's will in any circumstances, from the most mundane day of teaching, administrating or writing, to a particularly trying experience of walking with people experiencing grave suffering or social injustice.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Prayer: The Life-Light

The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
in readiness for God from day one.

Everything was created through him;
nothing - not one thing! -
came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn't put it out.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Prayer: Psalm 23 - adapted by Nan Merrill

O my Beloved, you are my shepherd,
I shall not want;
You bring me to green pastures for rest
and lead me beside still waters
renewing my spirit,
You restore my soul.
You lead me in the path of goodness
to follow Love's way.

Even though I walk through the valley
of the shadow and of death,
I am not afraid;
for you are with me forever;
your rod and your staff they guide me,
they give me strength and comfort.

You prepare a table before me
in teh presence of all my fears;
you bless me with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the heart of the Beloved

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Feast of Christ the King - Last Sunday (34th) of Liturgical Year

November 22, 2009

The opening prayer for the Solemnity of Christ the King contains the following beautiful words: “Open our hearts, free the entire world to rejoice in his peace, to glory in his justice, to live in his love. Bring all together in Jesus Christ.” These words convey to us that today’s feast is not about a harsh judgment condemning our world and our tendency to sin, but that it is about a call from the Eternal King who has an overarching desire to bring all to himself in the merciful love of God. It is a day of great and tender rejoicing because the one who creates us, loves us, redeems us and sustains us promises to call us home to himself. We belong to God who cares for us like the perfect parent cares for one’s child. Our God, who loves us with such a longing, will provide us with the most intimate embrace that we could ever imagine. In this last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Compassionate One will gather us all together to remain with him for eternity.

The reading from the apocalyptic Book of Daniel points to a mysterious person, a son of Man, who receives absolute, yet divine authority from the Ancient One. His authority is to govern the entire world with a vision that transcends time and place. The Evangelist, John, portrays Jesus as a King whose authority is not from this world, but has jurisdiction over this world, but not in the manner of earthly kings. Sadly, in John’s Gospel, the king of the universe is not to be immediately recognized by the world’s standards and is fated to suffer death at the hands of those who cannot grasp this transcendent reality.

Ironically, this feast was instituted in 1925 to convey to the secular world that Christ is the ultimate king. At that time, the church as it was facing pressures in the modern culture took a stand over and against the forces of the world rather than inserting itself into the dialogues of the day. However, our prayers and readings for the day remind us that God created the world and has placed Christ as the merciful king over it and the universe. The world is good and is redeemed by the Christ event. Christ does not stand over and against the world, but can be found in every aspect of the world. May he rejoice in the extensive amount of goodness that he finds.

Quote for the Week

The first reading for the Thanksgiving Day Mass is taken from the Book of Sirach and is a thoughtful prayer of gratitude to God for the many blessings bestowed upon us.

“And now, bless the God of all, who has done wondrous things on earth; who fosters people’s growth from their mother’s womb, and fashions them according to his will! May God grant you joy of heart and may peace abide among you; May God’s goodness toward us endure in Israel to deliver us in our days.” Sirach 50:22-24

Themes for this Week’s Masses

The church turns to the apocalyptic literature of Daniel during this last week of the year and it highlights the testing of Daniel and his three Judean colleagues who withstood the favor and testing of the Chaldean king. These four men resisted defilement by eating the foods of Gentiles, but the king still found them to be among the worthiest in his court. With his visions, Daniel interpreted the king’s dream – his kingdom would fall and the kingdom of heaven will be firm and will last forever. Daniel tells his vision to Nebuchadnezzar’s son, King Belshazzar, further stating that the Chaldean kingdom will collapse and be divided among their enemies. A further vision tells of the Ancient One, a son of man, who will come to rule the world as all the terrifying beasts and powers of this world will pay homage to the Ancient One.

As Jesus’ journey in Luke concludes, we hear again about the poor widow who drops in two small coins into the Temple treasury as a sign of her charity and fidelity to her faith. Jesus then instructs his disciples to figure out how to read the signs of the times and to be attentive to his voice and also to be aware that one’s fidelity to the word of God will bring about persecution and death. He tells us the kingdom of God is near, but while much passes away in this transitory life, his words will endure. Be vigilant and cherish his words.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Pope Clement I, martyr, was the fourth pope of the church. He navigated through some disorder in the church at Corinth when some elder priests revolted and were deposed. Columban, abbot, was an Irish monk who became a missionary to France to establish monasteries. He opposed the King’s polygamy in 610 and was expelled. He continued his work in Switzerland and Italy. Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, S.J. priest and martyr, is also remembered for his witness in Mexico as an undercover priest because public worship was forbidden (1926.) He administered the sacraments, presided at Mass, and served the poor. As he was being executed without benefit of a trial, he shouted out, Viva Cristo Rey! (Long Live Christ the King!)

Tuesday: Andrew Dung-Lac, priest, was martyred with his companions in Vietnam in 1839. Over 130,000 Christians, mostly native-born, were killed in Vietnam from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Wednesday: Catherine of Alexandria, martyr, is remembered for her conversion to Christianity because of a vision. She refused to marry a man that the Emperor arranged for her and she condemned the Emperor’s persecution of Christians. For that she lost her life.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Nov 22, 1633. The first band of missionaries consisting of five priests and one brother embarked from England for Maryland. They were sent at the request of Lord Baltimore. The best known among them was Fr Andrew White.
• Nov 22, 1791: Georgetown Academy opened with one student, aged 12, who was the first student taught by the Jesuits in the United States.
• Nov 23, 1545: Jeronimo de Nadal, whom Ignatius had known as a student at Paris, entered the Society. Later Nadal was instrumental in getting Ignatius to narrate his autobiography.
• Nov 23, 1927: Fr Michael Augustine Pro, SJ was executed by leaders of the persecution of the Church in Mexico.
• Nov 24, 1963: John LaFarge, a pioneer advocate of racial justice in the United States, died.
• Nov 25, 1584: The Church of the Gesu, built in Rome for the Society by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, was solemnly consecrated.
• Nov 26, 1678: In London, Claude la Colombiere was arrested and imprisoned. He was released after five weeks and banished.
• Nov 27, 1680: In Rome the death of Fr Athanasius Kircher, considered a universal genius, but especially knowledgeable in science and archeology.
• Nov 28, 1759: Twenty Fathers and 192 Scholastics set sail from the Tagus for exile. Two were to die on the voyage to Genoa and Civita Vecchia.

A Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Creator Lord, all-powerful giver of life, your gifts of love are countless and your goodness infinite. On Thanksgiving Day we come before you with gratitude for your kindness: open our hearts to concern for our fellow brothers and sisters in need, - the marginalized, neglected, forgotten, and the very least in our society, especially those who hunger and thirst for real food and drink - so that we may share your gifts in loving service. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Notable Book

Three Cups of Tea is a very good story about a young man named Greg Mortensen who, after a failed mountain expedition in Central Asia, recognizes the need for education, especially of girls in Afghanistan and Asia. He devotes his life’s work toward the building up of these schools and as a result begins to build a road to peace. Ignorance is the great enemy of peace. I recommend this book because it is a good story, yet I find, because of the writing style, it is a sluggish read.

A Serious Movie

Billed as a comedy, A Serious Man, does not send you out of the movie theatres laughing – or even in a good mood. It does drive you to your Bible to re-read the Book of Job because it is a contemporary adaptation of the ancient book that is set in the 1960s. It is a story of a middle-age man whose life is going rather well until the ancient curse heaped upon his forebears comes back to take away all that is meaningful to him. It is a worthwhile film to view, but it evokes more pondering than it does laughter.

End-of-Year Catechesis

Check out earlier posts on this blog that tell of our Christian belief about the communion of saints, the end times, the resurrection of the body, and of last things.

Also, stay tuned this week for a definition of two competing theological viewpoint in the church: the Classicist and the Historical-Mindedness approaches. Fortunately, the church is large enough to encompass these points of reference with ease. It helps to understand the various methodologies of our faith that we find in the contemporary church.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Spirituality: What is Spiritulality?

Spirituality is hard to define. It has to do with the "style" or the "spirit" of our life -- with the way in which we live out our faith in God: our way of being religious. Richard McBrien has written:

To be "spiritual" means to know, and to live according to the knowledge, that there is more to life than meets the eye. To be "spiritual" means, beyond that, to know, and to live according to the knowledge, that God is present to us in grace as the principle of personal, interpersonal, social and even cosmic transformation. To be "open to the Spirit" is to accept explicitly who we are and who we are called always to become, and to direct our lives accordingly.

[ Catholicism , Winston Press: Minneapolis, Minn. 1980. 1057.]

Each of the great religious families in the Church, like the Benedictines, Franciscans and Dominicans, has a distinctive way of following the Risen Christ and responding to the Holy Spirit. The best way to come to know Jesuit spirituality is to incorporate some of its principles and prayer into your daily life and to talk with Jesuits and other people who live by the spirituality of St. Ignatius. Developing some habits of regular prayer and reflection will give you a feel for the Ignatian way of following Jesus.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Heaven, Hell and Our Bodies (4 of 4)

In my last post, I talked about the individual judgment and the universal judgment that will occur in the end times. This Sunday, November 23rd, we face the end times of our Christian year with the celebration of Christ the King.

The Resurrection of the Body

As we believe that Christ will come again, we also profess that the dead will be resurrected on that day when Christ draws all to himself. Associated with that resurrection is the resurrection of the body in which each person will be completely human, both body and soul, for all eternity. How will this happen? Who really knows, but St. Paul in his 1st letter to the Corinthians writes about our spiritual bodies being raised. Material creation will also be transformed and God will provide for us an environment in which our resurrected, glorified bodies would thrive for all eternity.

What is heaven?

We always think about heaven as a place high above the earth with pure white and fluffy clouds, but heaven is more of a state than a place. It is the state of eternal life in union with God and with those who share in his life. Heaven in the perfect fulfillment of our life – we will finally be completely what God intends us to be - and we shall come to know God directly. Our response undoubtedly will only be one of happiness.

In heaven, we will retain our individuality, but the transforming love of Christ will mold us into totally unselfish images of the Father. Those virtues and characteristics that we strive for on earth – peace, love, truth, wisdom, goodness, beauty, justice, companionship and understanding – will be fulfilled.

So, then what is purgatory?

Purgatory essential means a state purification or cleansing. We are to be free from all of our sins before we enter into heaven. That is why the church administers the viaticum – formerly the last rites – so that we can confess our sins before we meet our maker.

While we have scant references to purgatory in scripture, we read about our need to pray for the dead so that they may be released from their sin. The prayers of the living, especially at the Eucharist where we offer Masses for the repose of a person’s soul, help those who are in purgatory.

A person may enter purgatory due to the nature of the sins committed, or for one’s hesitation in totally opening one’s heart to God, or for our unwillingness to love God perfectly. During the Beatific vision when we encounter God face to face, our sinful infidelities may burn within us as we recognize the ways we failed to love God, but God’s gaze eventually penetrates and melts away our imperfections so that our hearts can totally accept the eternal union that God offers us.

And what about hell?

Hell is eternal separation from God. A person who has died and has turned away from God’s love is turned inward to one’s own self – eternally – cutting oneself off from other relationships. A person experiences a sense of loss and a suffering of the senses. All people exercise free choice to accept or turn away from God. It has to be this way for God to respect our free will.

Who is in hell? Who knows? God’s merciful judgment is essentially for us, but we know that it is possible for a person to definitively reject God, but I wonder if any person could actually do that.

Be assured. A person who fundamentally loves God will act out of one’s love so we don’t need to unnecessarily fear hell. Our actions shape our selves and our future destiny by each of our actions. We always have to remember that God loved us so much that he sent Jesus into the world to save us from ourselves so that we may have eternal life. That is indeed the best good news that I have ever heard.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Prayer: Total Surrender by Mother Teresa

However beautiful the work is,
be detached from it,
even ready to give it up.
You may be doing great good in one place,
but obedience calls you elsewhere.
Be ready to leave. The work is not yours.
You are working for Jesus.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prayer: Ignatius' Letter to Students in Coimbra

May 7, 1547 from Rome

To recapitulate in a few words, my message is this. Consider well how great your obligation is to take up position in order to further the honor of Jesus Christ, and to help in the salvation of the people around you. See how imperative it is to make yourselves ready, with all possible effort and exertion, so that you become instruments of divine grace suitable for this purpose, especially since these days there are so few workers of whom it can truly be said, "They seek not your own interests, but those of Jesus Christ." Since God fashions for you in this calling and with these resolves so special a grace, you must make all the more effort..."

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Last Things - God's Judgment (3 of 4)

In my last post, I wrote about the Last Things (eschatology) of creation because we are in the last days of our Christian year that ends with the Feast of Christ the King on November 23rd. We believe that this temporal world is transitory, but that there is the promise of eternal life with our Creator God. Therefore, as Christians, we live in a “now and not yet” reality. We are citizens of two worlds and must pay respects to both planes of existence. But if there is a next world, what makes us think that we will get there? We do not want to arrogantly presume we will be admitted into the eternal kingdom. First we have to pass the Judgment that is offered to us on our last day of personal existence.

In the Old Testament, judgment by God has always been metered out in a positive sense, such as Yahweh (God) judged (delivered) King David from his enemies. In the New Testament, God has already judged the world (he redeemed it and found it good) and yet God’s kingdom is not fully established so we await the judgment at the end time. One’s personal ‘day of judgment’ refers to a person’s fundamental, permanent decision to accept Jesus Christ or to reject him. Therefore, if we want to accept him at our moment of death, we ought to use our time now to get to know him and let him know us. Finally, there will be a final judgment when there is the ultimate victory over evil. We profess in our creed that Jesus shall come again to judge the living and the dead.

Our Individual Judgment

Scripture tells us that one part of the judgment happens now. If we fundamentally choose Jesus, we are to live immediately in response to God’s laws and will and help to take care of our neighbor’s needs. Each choice we make is a decision for or against God.

We will appear immediately before God after death. Our earthly trial will be over. One of three things can happen:

a. We die in God’s friendship, have no need of further purification, and enter into heaven.
b. We die in God’s friendship, still need purification, and enter heaven when our purgatory is complete.
c. We die in the state of mortal sin – completely cut off from God’s grace. We enter hell.

We will see ourselves as we truly are. We will see our life as God sees it. Do I make a loving response to the God I have come to know during my earthly life or do I self-centeredly turn away from God’s love?

As Jesus has revealed to us, God is not vindictive and God is fundamentally rendering his positive judgment for us, not against us.

The Judgment at the End of Time

A general judgment will be made when Christ, the Son of Man, comes in his glory to gather all the nations to himself and to separate the sheep from the goats. The heavenly community will be established at this time and everyone will be able to plainly see God’s entire saving plan.

Jesus, as we know, will serve as judge. And what do we know of Jesus? He was good, practiced restorative justice, was merciful and compassionate, and granted us his peace. The question that will be asked us comes from Matthew 25: “Did we love God with our whole heart and our neighbor as ourselves?

So what is the Second Coming of Christ?

When Christ ascended into the heaven, he entrusted the task of spreading the kingdom that he established on earth to us – the people of God. With his Spirit to help us, we are to continue his work of social justice, forgiving sins, bringing about peace, and establishing the dignity of every person so that we can stand together as one human community.

Though the kingdom is already present, we still have to work against the forces that oppose God’s kingdom. We have to be “with others” before we can be “for others.” The work of establishing the kingdom is ongoing and we look forward to the day when the work of Christ will be complete and he will return, gather all of creation together, and consecrate it in offering to the Creator Father.

When will this happen?

Who knows? Only God knows. Christians look forward to this day when we will joyously encounter the Lord again. This is one reason why it is prudent for us to spend time in our lives to come to know the Lord and develop a friendship with him. Everyone who has ever lived with recognize Jesus as Lord of all.

Next up: A brief word on the resurrection of the body, heaven, purgatory and hell.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time

November 15, 2009

As the fluttering of falling leaves gives way to the world’s slumbering stillness, we naturally begin to think about our own end times and the meaning we make of our lives. During this month we prepare ourselves to spend time with family and loved ones and we give thanks for the many blessings we have received from God throughout the year. It is also a time for us to contemplate our mortality and ponder what lies ahead. As Christians, we live in the hope of a glorious world to come where all the righteous of the world and our loved ones will live in the glory of God eternally.

In Daniel’s day in the first reading, his people are under the distress of many trials and they wonder about the apocalyptic end times. He wonders if the sufferings of this world will be vindicated in heaven. Daniel advances the belief in the resurrection in Jewish thought and the people begin to hope for an eternal reward of the righteous, like many Wisdom literature authors before him wondered about their vindication. Jesus also speaks about the end times assuring his friends that he will come again in power and glory and gathering all of his chosen ones from the end of the earth to the end of the sky. His gathering up of his elect transcends time and space. Jesus will search the universe for all his faithful ones who have suffered tremendously in their earthly life. Through the person of Jesus, life will rise again.

Today, we do not worry too much about the timing of Christ’s coming again. In Scripture he tells us that the present generation will see the end times unfold while also telling them that only God knows the day or hour. We just rely upon our belief that he will come again for us because we trust in his merciful love that will never forget us. We especially depend upon this comforting knowledge when we suffer and wonder if there will be relief for our chaos and tribulations. Only a deeper affection, a greater love, can make sense of our suffering. Christ has been steadfast in his abiding love and I believe he will gather us all together in God’s Kairos time.

Quote for the Week

"The struggle against injustice and the pursuit of truth cannot be separated nor can one work for one independent of the other."

Ignatio Ellacuría, S.J.
Murdered superior of Jesuit community at the University of Central America in El Salvador

The lives of the prophetic voices of Oscar Romero, the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador, and the four church women who were brutally slain remind us of the call to serve and be with the poor. Their deaths are a demonstration of the ultimate witnessing to this call.

These prophets influenced the lives of the people whom they served in El Salvador
and they continue to serve as modern models of faith, service, and justice through action.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

We feel the intensity of the approaching end of the liturgical year when we encounter the fidelity of the Maccabees under persecution and threat of death for refusal to accommodate to the pagan cultural rituals. Eleazar declares he will be loyal to the holy laws of God rather than to defile himself by eating unclean meat. His death becomes an inspirational model for others, most especially the seven Maccabean brothers and their mother who resist the king’s appeals. Many others who are zealous for the law commit great acts of bravery and eventually flee into the desert and mountains. A year later with the enemies crushed, they seek to purify the sanctuary and rededicate the Temple. King Antiochus, ready to mount an attack on the Temple, falls ills and realizes that the evils he has done to the land of Judah is the cause of his encroaching death.

In Luke, Jesus’ journey is also nearing its end as he approaches Jericho on the way to Jerusalem and heals the blind man who wants his faith (his sight) restored. He then encounters Zacchaeus, a wealthy defrauding tax collector, who is converted to righteousness after Jesus invites himself to dine with him at his house. Jesus tells his friends that they are to prepare for the kingdom of heaven just as a good servant invests his boss’s gold coins for greater profit. As Jesus nears closer to his beloved Jerusalem, he weeps for the errors of its citizens. Upon entering the city, he besieges the temple by driving out all those who make a mockery of the sacred place. The Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection, question Jesus about his belief and he declares that God is the God of the living; therefore to God, all are alive.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Margaret of Scotland moved back to England after exile in Hungary in 1058. The Norman Conquest in 1066 caused her family to find refuge in Scotland where she married the King of Scotland. She set out a series of church reforms to correct abuses and she clarified ambiguous church practices. Gertrude was raised with mystics and nuns and she nicely developed her spiritual and intellectual gifts under their care. Her visions are recorded in five of her books about spiritual instruction.

Tuesday: Elizabeth of Hungary became a Third Order of the Franciscan member where she cared for the sick, the elderly and the poor. As the daughter of King Andrew of Hungary she married Ludwig IV of Thuringia, but when her husband died her brother-in-law expelled her from the royal court to assume power.

The church commemorates the Dedication of the great Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul, apostles on Wednesday. The construction of St. Peter’s began in 323 over the tomb of the first pope and the new basilica was completed in 1626, while St. Paul’s Outside the Walls was also built in the 4th century and rebuilt in 1854. Rose Philippine Duchesne, a sister of the Society of the Sacred Heart, built missions along the Mississippi River to serve Native Americans and she opened the first free school in the U.S. west of the Mississippi.

The feast of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday tells of the probable Jewish custom that would have presented Mary to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer her to God. This day recognizes May as a unique temple where God dwelt as she served as the mother of Jesus.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Nov 15, 1628. St. Roch Gonzalez and Fr Alphonsus Rodriguez died on this date. They were some of the architects of the Jesuit missions in Uruguay and Paraguay.
• Nov 16, 1989. In El Salvador, the murder of six Jesuits connected with the University of Central America together with two of their lay colleagues.
• Nov 17, 1579. Bl Rudolph Acquaviva and two other Jesuits set out from Goa for Surat and Fattiphur, the Court of Akbar, the Great Mogul.
• Nov 18, 1538. Pope Paul III caused the governor of Rome to publish the verdict proclaiming the complete innocence of Ignatius and his companions of all heresy.
• Nov 19, 1526. Ignatius was examined by the Inquisition in Alcala, Spain. They were concerned with the novelty of his way of life and his teaching.
• Nov 20, 1864. In St Peter's, Rome, the beatification of Peter Canisius by Pope Pius IX.
• Nov 21, 1759. At Livorno, the harbor officials refused to let the ship, S Bonaventura, with 120 exiled Portuguese Jesuits on board, cast anchor. Carvalho sent orders to the Governor of Rio de Janeiro to make a diligent search for the supposed wealth of the Jesuits.

20th anniversary of the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador

In the early hours of Nov. 16, 1989, members of the Salvadoran military invaded the residence of six Jesuits at the University of Central America. The invasion resulted in the brutal murder of the six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her young daughter. Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria, Fr. Ignacio Martin-Baro, Fr. Amando Lopez, Fr. Segundo Montes, Fr. Juan Ramon Moreno and Fr. Joaquin Lopez y Lopez were martyred for standing in solidarity with the poor and persecuted people of El Salvador. Julia Elba, the housekeeper, and her 15-year-old daughter, Celina, were murdered for witnessing the crime. In 1991 a Salvadoran jury sentenced two military men to jail for a maximum of 30 years for their role in the murders. Just two years later both men were amnestied.

Jesuits and their colleagues gather yearly at the gates of the former School of the Americas (WHINSEC) at Fort Benning, Georgia to peacefully and prayerfully remember those who lost their lives to the men who are trained at WHINSEC. Our efforts are to close down the school and change our tactics so that we no longer teach torture and coercive techniques to armies of other nations in our military schools. No Mas. No More. To all whose lives were taken before there time: Presente!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Spirituality: What is Ignatian Spirituality?

During the European Renaissance, at the very beginning of the modern age, Christians were restless to find new kinds of holiness. They wanted saints who, though unworldly in their desires, remained fully in the world and wise in the ways of the world, searching for a spirituality that would combine the ancient Christian mysticism with dedicated and purposeful action on behalf of others in that expanding new world.

They were seeking a spirituality with the confidence of this new age, that embraced the beauty and goodness of the world, and trusted the power of thoughtful human enterprise to make good things happen in this world, shaping and reshaping it as best they could under the influence of God’s redemptive love.

For more than 450 years, the spirituality of Ignatius of Loyola, based on his own mystical insights and realizations, and worked out at a deep schematic level in his Spiritual Exercises, has drawn women and men into a deeper intimacy with God and a renewed energy in their service of others.

Ignatian spirituality has at its center the life, the teachings, the death and resurrection of Jesus, acknowledged as the Christ, and invites people to come to know, love, and follow Jesus more wholeheartedly, as Ignatius did. This spirituality teaches us that while we live in a world of much darkness and brokenness, God is passionately involved with all creation, working to bring healing and reconciliation, justice and hope, forgiveness and love to everyone.

Ignatius taught that God could be found at work in every situation, relationship, and experience of human life—in the daily stuff of working, raising children, caring for neighbors, seeking justice in civic life, protecting the earth, and building the human community, as well as in experiences of friendship, of solidarity in a common cause, in times of rejoicing and great happiness, times of sorrow and grieving, and times of loneliness and fear.

Finally, Ignatius developed, out of his own experience, an original contribution to the practice of spiritual “discernment" in the Catholic tradition, a practice that enables people to understand more clearly God's movement in their hearts and God's purposes for their lives.

Those who adopt Ignatian spirituality—whether they be Jesuits, members of other religious orders, or lay men and women—find themselves more and more being "contemplative in action," finding God in whatever they do, if they do it with their whole being; finding God in whomever they serve, if they are fully honest and attentive in their service. So too, in the Ignatian heritage, we seek to find God in friends and colleagues, with affection and gratitude; and in prayer, in song, in solitary thought, in periods of contemplation; and in working together with others for the transformation of the world and the liberation of all women and men from every kind of oppression.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Creed: The Last Things (2 of 4)

We are in the last few weeks of the liturgical year that follows the life cycle of the events of Jesus’ life. For Christians, the last day of this year is Saturday, November 29th. We celebrate the feast of Christ the King on Sunday, November 23rd as he stands victorious over all creation. Christ is victorious over our old foes – Sin and Death.

Death looks directly into the face of every person in the world and we are powerless to turn away from death’s stare. In many ways, death seems to win out because our physical death is inevitable. It prompts us to raise such questions as: What is the meaning of life? Is there really a God? What is the meaning of death and how are we to enter into it? Where, how and when will the world end? Is there life after death, and what does it look like? Familiar questions? I thought so.

For a believer in the Lord Jesus, death does not have the last word. Our physical death becomes the gate to a new plane of existence.

It is natural for us to die, and we naturally fear it. Scripture also tells us that death and sin are related. Death is a penalty for sin. If sin had not infected the human race, we would be immune from bodily sin.

Therefore, to find meaning in death, we must look to Jesus Christ. Jesus was not immune from fear about his own violent death. He certainly was anxious as we can tell from his experience in the Garden at Gethsemane. Jesus certainly wrestled with the will of God. Don’t we all do that? At Gethsemane, however, Jesus was able to make his final act of self-giving to the Father. He followed the will of his Abba Father, even though he had his moments of doubt, hesitation and fear. Fear is NOT faith. Fear may be natural, but ultimately, we learn to move beyond our fears into trust in Jesus.

Jesus actively entered into his death. He assented to the will of his Father and made his choice. It is the faith of Jesus that saves us – not our faith in Jesus. It is because Jesus obediently complied with the will of God that he was able to win salvation for us. We, as Christians, are called to imitate Jesus, and like him, we are to recite with him, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” when it is our time to leave this earth.

As humans, we will struggle with death and its implications, but in our faith we know the Jesus has conquered death. Jesus of Nazareth, the historical person, has been vindicated by God and has become our Christ of faith. Jesus still lives and death has no claim over him. And that is why these words from John’s Gospel are so important:

“I am the resurrection. Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

As Jesus lives, he wants to always draw us into a closer relationship with himself. He wants to be our friend in this life so that we can live joyfully with him in eternity. This is the good news that he brings to us to share with us. To that, I say “wow.”

Next up: The Judgment in the End Times

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

November 8, 2009

Compassion and care for widows and orphans was a hallmark of Jewish society because it expressed God’s preferential love for the poor. Today we hear about two widows who faithfully gave all they had to live on even though it imperiled their very existence. They are remarkable heroes to us because they had great enough trust to be able to share with others despite risking their lives in a tenuous future. While their radical generosity does not seem to make good sense, it speaks volumes about placing one’s ultimate trust in God’s providence.

The widow of Zarephath is down to her last morsel of flour and drop of oil in a time of drought when she meets Elijah who demands that she bake him a cake before she tends to her son and herself. This was to be her last meal before death by starvation. When she does, Elijah tells her that she will have enough to eat until the long drought ends and the rains come again. In the Gospel, Jesus eyes among many well-to-do faithful Jews a poor widow who drops her last two coins into the Temple treasury. She gave all that she had to live on in her duty to the Temple and love for her faith. Jesus upholds her as a woman who is able to give her entire self to God – a prefiguring of his own self gift as he moves closer to his Passion.

Jesus does not reject or ridicule the offerings of the many generous, rich people who gave out of their surplus. I would have to imagine that he was well pleased with their beneficence. He opposes the hypocrisy of the Temple authorities. He rejects the glory of humans that is exemplified in the actions of the scribes who flaunt their wealth at the expense of widows and the indigent of society. I suspect that Jesus was remarking on the underlying goodwill of those who rightfully are to be the recipients of our generosity. This woman seems to give cheerfully, even in the presence of the scribes who will feed off of her contribution for their own selfish gains. She relies upon the hope that someone less fortunate than herself will benefit from her sacrifice. She trusts not only in God, but in the good that is found in human hearts.

Quote for the Week

In light of Veteran’s Day, I attach a portion of Isaiah’s dream for the peaceable world as he wrote about in 11:6-9.

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

This week we shift back to the Old Testament texts as we prepare for the end of the liturgical year and the last judgment of the world. Wisdom tells us that we were formed to be imperishable and that we who are just and righteous will experience God’s abiding grace. The one who learns wisdom and does not sin will find immortality with God, but death comes to the presumptuous ones. Personified Wisdom is described as one who is fair and exceedingly attractive and will come to the aid of all who call upon her. The lovers of knowledge and riches of this world have missed the mark; their success cannot compare to the rewards of the truly wise ones for it is the Wisdom of God that makes all things new.

As we near the end of Jesus’ ministry in Luke, Jesus continues to describe how we are to live in anticipation of kingdom of heaven. We are to uphold the dignity of another person, even if by worldly standards they are lesser than us, and we are to show our gratitude to those who have been good to us, like one of the ten lepers who returned to Jesus after being healed. In looking for the kingdom of heaven, we are to be attentive to the slightest movements of God by reading the signs of the times and noting God as the source of these miraculous events. We will be surprised about the ones who will make it into heaven for it will include those who lose his or her life for the sake of others. Jesus reminds us that we are to pray unceasingly just like the persistent woman who pleads her case to the unjust judge who finally gives her what she seeks. We have to sustain our prayer until the end times come so we can be sure to recognize the Lord when he comes again.

Saints of the Week

Monday is the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, the cathedral church that serves as the Pope’s local parish as the Bishop of Rome. The church symbolically stands as the head of all churches of the city and of the world. Established in 324, it was eventually named St. John Lateran church because the funds were donated by the Laterani family and the baptistery was named after St. John. The church was renovated in the 1500’s in a baroque style after it had survived barbarian attacks, earthquakes, and fire.

Leo the Great is honored on Tuesday as Pope and Doctor of the church. A peacemaker, Leo reconciled the warring Roman factions that strengthened them against the impending barbarian attacks, and he also initially persuaded Attila the Hun from plundering and pillaging Rome. Attila eventually laid siege to Rome three years later. Leo wrote many sermons and his writings on the Incarnation influenced the doctrine at the Council of Chalcedon.

Ironically, on this Veteran’s Day (Wednesday), Martin of Tours could not reconcile his Christian faith with his military service and eventually left the army. He founded the first monastery in Gaul and soon was proclaimed bishop of Tours. Because of Martin’s administrative skills, we have inherited his division of dioceses into “parishes.”

Josaphat is remembered on Thursday as a Basilian priest who tried to unite the Ukrainian Church with the Catholic Church. His enemies killed him in 1623 and he is the first Eastern saint to be canonized in the Roman Church.

On Friday, Frances Xavier Cabrini is celebrated as the first American citizen to be canonized by Rome for her founding of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. In 1889, her congregation traveled across the U.S. to serve the Italian immigrants. Her order expanded to the rest of the Americas and Italy and England.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Nov 8, 1769. In Spain, Charles III ordered all of the Society's goods to be sold and sent a peremptory demand to the newly-elected Pope Clement XIV to have the Society suppressed.
• Nov 9, 1646. In England, Fr Edmund Neville died after nine months imprisonment and ill-treatment. An heir to large estates in Westmoreland, he was educated in the English College and spent forty years working in England.
• Nov 10, 1549. At Rome, the death of Paul III, to whom the Society owes its first constitution as a religious order.
• Nov 11, 1676. In St James's Palace, London, Claude la Colombiere preached on All Saints.
• Nov 12, 1919. Fr General Ledochowski issued an instruction concerning the use of typewriters. He said that they could be allowed in offices but not in personal rooms, nor should they be carried from one house to another.
• Nov 13, 1865. The death of James Oliver Van de Velde, second bishop of the city of Chicago from 1848 to 1853.
• Nov 14, 1854. In Spain, the community left Loyola for the Balearic Isles, in conformity with a government order.

Prayer for Veteran’s Day Holiday

Let us pray for all men and women who courageously gave their lives to the cause of freedom. We also pray for those who currently serve or have served our nation in the military at home and abroad. Protect our brothers and sisters with your blessing, Lord, especially those who live in chronic suffering from the injuries they sustained. We pray for an end to all violence and conflict everywhere across the world. We pray that people of goodwill in every nation will be united to work for peace and justice. All these we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Prayer: A Celtic Reflection on Death

I pray that you will have the blessing on being consoled and at peace about your own death.

May you trust in your soul that there is no need to be afraid.

When your time comes, may you be given every blessing and grace that you need. May there be a beautiful welcome for you in the home that awaits you. You are not going somewhere strange or unknown. You are going back to the home that you never left.

May you possess a wonderful passion to live your call in Christ. May you live compassionately and creatively, ever transfiguring all that is negative and not of the Light, within you and about you.

When you come to die, may it come after a long and full life.

May you be peaceful and joyful, dwelling in the presence of those who truly care for you.

May your going be sheltered and your rest assured.

May your soul smile in the embrace of your brother, Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Feast: All Saints and Blessed of the Society of Jesus

November is the month to remember our beloved dead. We begin with All Saints Day on November 1st, followed by All Souls Day on November 2nd, and the Jesuits have our own family celebration on November 5th - a day to affectionately remember our brothers who have been canonized and beatified. The Jesuits have 45 saints and 140 blessed and there are many more Jesuits whose love of God and devoted service has been rewarded by God. We rejoice with our brothers who have achieved the goal that each of us on earth still strives to attain.

The following is the preface of the Mass in honor of All Saints and Blessed:

Holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
it is indeed right, and the way to salvation,
to thank you at all times and in every place.

As we pass through this changing world
on pilgrimage to heaven,
you point out to us, each in his own calling,
the sure path to perfect union with your Son
through the Saints and Blessed of our Society.
In our work to advance your kingdom
you have given them to us
as our inspiration and example,
as our patrons and friends,
as our companions in adoration.
Sustained by their prayers,
our Society is to go forward in strength,
advancing your glory throughout the world,
and working with greater zeal
at the task you have assigned to it.

We join the angels and saints in their
great hymn of praise.

If a deceased Jesuit has been meaningful to you,
I invite you to make a special prayer in his honor today.

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Poem: Du bist die Zukunft, grofses Morgenrot

You are the future,
the red sky before sunrise
over the fields of time.

You are the cock’s crow when night is done,
you are the dew and the bells of matins,
maiden, stranger, mother, death.

You create yourself in ever-changing shapes
that rise from the stuff of our days –
unsung, unmourned, undescribed,
like a forest we never knew.

You are the deep innerness of all things,
the last word that can never be spoken.
To each of us you reveal yourself differently”
to the ship as a coastline, to the shore as a ship.

From Rilke’s Book of Hours
“Love Poems to God”
By Rainer Maria Rilke

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Prayer: GC 34 Our Mission and Culture

"Only when we make sense of our own experience and understanding of God can we say things which make sense to contemporary agnosticism. This is a ministry which should not ignore the Christian mystical tradition that repeatedly treats of the wordless and imageless experience of God which surpasses human concepts...."

--General Congregation 34, Our Mission and Culture, #20

Monday, November 2, 2009

Poem: Meditation on Life

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circle flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

Author Unknown

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Communion of Saints (1 of 4)

As we pray for All Saints on November 1st each year, I thought I might give you some information about what the church teaches about the “communion of saints.” We profess our belief in the communion of Saints each Sunday and whenever we say our creed.

The church is a community that is formed in Jesus Christ. The Lord sends the Spirit of love to us to endow us with the necessary gifts to continue Christ’s work for the kingdom. Jesus calls all Christian to lives of holiness.

We read in Paul’s letters about the saints, that is, those who have come to know Christ. His point is that these Christians were not perfect, but they were striving for holiness. Saint literally means “holy one.” Today, we therefore are called to become holy in imitation of Jesus Christ.

Who Belongs to the Communion?

The communion of saints includes those who are now living on earth (a pilgrim people), those who are being purified in purgatory (the church that suffers), and those who are blessed in heaven (the church in glory.)

We understand that we are a Eucharistic community. The church is a real communion gathered around the Table of the Lord and unified by the Holy Spirit. We encounter the Lord in the words proclaimed in Scripture and in the elements of bread and wine that we offer for consecration. We receive the gift o the risen Lord, the source of all that is holy, to redeem and sustain us. The Spirit of love that surrounds this celebration unifies us.

Why do we pray to the saints?

We, who still live, depend upon the prayers and good works of our brothers and sisters to help us through our journey of life. We know the value of prayer for our departed brothers and sisters who are being purified in purgatory. We believe that our loved ones in heaven are vitally interested in those of us who are still living or in purgatory. At each Eucharist, we come together as one – gathered by the Lord – to help one another on the journey.

We honor our saints in heaven when we petition them to intercede for us to God, our Creator Father. They already possess a deep, personal, loving relationship with God. They have proven their friendship to God and to us by the goodness of their lives while on earth.

We pray to our canonized saints too because they inspire us by the example of their lives. While they undoubtedly had flaws in life, they were real people who rose to the challenge of the Christian life and discipleship. We admire (to look towards) and are inspired by a virtue they possessed and we want to attain. We imitate their particular virtues because it speaks to us of our inner desires.

November 1st is All Saints Day. November is the month of All Souls. Let us continue to remember one another, living and deceased, in our prayers and at Eucharist. We can all benefit from each other’s prayers. We are all pilgrims moving closer to the heart of the Lord.

What’s next?

As we move closer towards the end of the liturgical year, would you like to receive a reflection on “The Last Things,” that is, judgment, death, the Resurrection of the Body, and the life of the world that is to come when Christ comes again? What else could be of interest to you?