Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy Week Triduum

The Holy Week Triduum is upon us and I am pressed by the questions Ignatius of Loyola invites retreatants to consider in the First Week of the Spiritual Exercises: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What shall I do for Christ? We ponder these questions as we look out into God’s sweeping vision for the world and recognize all the many gifts we have been given by God – at the personal cost to God himself. Some gifts we have squandered; others we have used well. As we look at God’s most prized creation, Jesus, the man from Nazareth, we stand in awe before him and place our questions to him in admiration as he hangs upon the cross. He has lived a good life. He taught us well. Sure, he caused the religious leaders to become angry, but it was because they were so blindsided by their interpretation of God’s will that they were unwilling to change. Jesus came to proclaim that the kingdom of God is upon us and everything that he did showed evidence of it. And what did we do? We condemned him to death – an excruciating and humiliating death. The charge was blasphemy, but his fidelity to his mission and to God proved that charge wrong.

As Holy Week events unfold over the next few days in real time, I pause in silence and take stock of my relationship with Christ to see how I have lived or not lived up to the life to which he has called me. I think of the ways in which I have nursed or held onto anger unnecessarily – failing to love my brother or sister in light of the merciful way I am continuously forgiven by God. How many times have I seen the hurt in another and not stayed longer to just be with him or her? Too many. I ponder how well my love keeps moving outward towards others and I see the ways I remain deficient because I hold onto hurts and memories far too long. Have I resolved or clarified awkward moments with my family of origin? Not effectively well, but I realize I begin to lose when I fail to try. Does my care and affection for my Jesuit brothers become more generous? I have to keep relearning how to do this through every new interaction with them. The fact is that I hold onto too many things and I have to learn to give them to Jesus this week as he picks up his cross for me personally. I have to pile onto his shoulders all those burdens that weigh me down, and gosh, it is very difficult to do. I have become rather attached to those weights. I pray for the grace to hand them over to Jesus or to at least not resist too much when he tries to take them from me and place them crushingly on his cross. Do I deserve his love and care? No, but I am so grateful that he does this for me. Day after day after day.

Do I look forward to Holy Week? I answer with a quiet yes. I do not want to see him go through these horrific events once more and I know the events come alive freshly each year, but I know that in some way he makes sense of my inner story and that I need him to die for me - lifeless on the cross, deposed and placed in the tomb, with all my sins and failings alongside him. I do grieve my loss and I often wonder how to interpret joy when it comes around to the resurrection. Joy is a word seldom used and I don’t think it is well understood, but I see it as a sense of completeness, that all has been restored, that all is in right order once again. Who doesn’t want that? Is joy tip-toe happiness? Or an exuberant feeling of elation? For me, joy is a sober, ever-expanding, heart-gladdening awareness of who I am in relation to my Creator and God as I contemplate what the Trinitarian God has done for me. This is why I must ponder the questions, “What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What shall I do for Christ?”

What story do you bring with you into the week?

Poem: Spring by Mary Oliver

a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring
down the mountain.
All night
in the break and shallow restlessness
of early spring,
I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue
like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:
how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge
to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else
my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities,
it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;
All day I think of her –
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spirituality: A Short History of Sin – Part 5 of5

Theology of Vatican II – Liturgical form of rite

Word is Proclaimed
Welcome and peace
Word and Greeting

Acknowledgement of Sins

Pastoral Wisdom
Absolution and forgiveness


1. We are to explore possibilities contained in Ordo Penitentiae. Sacrament is a process, not merely a liturgical ritual.
2. Conversion is essential if you are open to the process. Turning to Christ, to God, to church.
3. Some awakening event occurs. Awaken need to return to Christ.
4. Conversion is not a solo journey: a friend, pastor, retreat or spiritual director, opponent.
5. Repentance is not a solo journey. The fullness of conversion involves many things.
6. Sin is a wound on the desires of Christ.

Four Ways of Christ’s Presence

o In Word: preaches as ministry of reconciliation
o In Priest: full authority to receive confession and offer forgiveness
o In Auxiliary Ministers: Christ performs actions and prays the prayers of Christ
o In Assembly Gathered: Christ gathers them together

Spirituality: David Fleming, S.J.

The Jesus who is at the center of our personal vocation and who is the center of consecrated life calls for a love relationship. We cannot relate to this Jesus as an abstract concept such as Wisdom, biblically authentic as its personification is. We cannot identify this Jesus with good actions which we perform in our religious mission: Jesus is more than some category of virtue enhancing human behavior. True, Jesus identifies with each person we serve or who serves us, but Jesus has his own identity and his own way of loving and of being loved. Jesus in our lives calls forth from us and from our religious congregation the awed response of love he called forth from Thomas: “My Lord and my God.” The mission of our congregation is not identified with making this world a better place to live; our mission as consecrated people is so related to the Jesus of the Gospels that together we make present the actions of Christ. Because of the goodness of a real relationship with Jesus, both as individuals and as congregations, we experience that Jesus is the center of our consecrated life, the center of our life-in-mission.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Prayer: Peter Claver, S.J.

Excerpts from Peter Claver's Notes

On the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, a great number of black people who had been seized from along the African rivers were put ashore from one very large vessel. We hurried out with two baskets full of oranges, lemons, sweet biscuits and all sorts of things… We had to force our way through the crowds till we reached the sick. There was a great number of them, lying on damp earth, or rather in mud but someone had formed the idea of making a heap of tiles and broken bricks in case the damp should be too much for them. This was all they had for a bed, all the more uncomfortable because they were naked without any covering at all.

Two of the black slaves were more dead than alive; they were already cold, and we could hardly feel any pulse in their veins. We got together some glowing embers on a tile, placed the dying men near them, and then threw aromatic spices on the fire. We had two bags of these spices and used them all. Then with the help of our cloaks – for the slaves have none of their own, and it would have been a waste of time to ask their masters – we got them to inhale the vapors, which seemed to restore their warmth and vitality. You should have seen the expression of gratitude in their eyes!

In this way we spoke to them, not with word, but with deeds; and for people in their situation who were convinced that they had been brought here to be eaten, any other form of address would have been pointless. Then we sat or knelt beside them and washed their faces and bodies with wine; by such acts of kindness we tried to cheer them up, and performed for them all the natural services which are calculated to raise the spirits of the sick.

Then we began to instruct them for baptism. We first explained to them the wonderful effects of the sacrament on both body and soul… we began to teach them at greater length concerning the one God who rewards and punishes each according to his deserts, and so on. We showed them a representation of Christ crucified above a baptismal font, into which the blood flowed from his wounds. Then we taught them to repeat after us the act of contrition in their own language.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spirituality: A Short History of Sin – Part 4 of 5

Challenge to the Church today

In the current church order, the current ritual is a liturgical action.

• Private
• Communal
• Mix of public and private

Rituals focus on personal sin; hence many forms of sin and evil do not make it into the ritual. Our understanding of sin has matured.

Church favors only one theology of reconciliation – private sin. It neglects the communal need of the whole church.

Paul’s mandate to community: Be reconcilers.

• Graciousness of God to forgive us. How do we interpret that?
 With kindness and leniency? Forgiveness can be made too easy
 With strictness and rigorism? We restrict God’s grace? How often is the church to forgive?

o Sin still exists in the life of the baptized
o Violation of unity was a key factor since unity was a feature of Christ.
o Determine the scope of sin: Dialogue between leniency and strictness
o Determine process for reconciliation. Needed concrete form of penitential act that restores one to the Eucharist.

Early Diocesan model

Sin is that which separates a person from the church community.

1. Sin had to be serious – murder, adultery, apostasy
2. Removal of penitent from communion of church; reconciliation with God and with other churches.
3. Penitent makes some act of contrition; promised some kind of penance; made satisfaction.
4. Penitent completes penitential period; person is reconciled to church. Person received a sort of 2nd baptism on Good Friday.
5. Process led back to Eucharist itself.

Does the remnants of sin stay with you? Absolution happens when your debt has been paid - penance must be done. What happens if you die before penance is done? Could someone else do your penance?

Substitution – living does the penance for the dead.
Living -> Dead: (remission of sins)
Living -> Living: (substitution)
Dead (saints) -> Living: (indulgences) We must tap into the merit of saints (opposite of debt.)

Spirituality: On Meditating

One way to achieve higher consciousness in through meditation. True meditation is the ultimate overcoming of toxic shame. Meditation aims at an immediate union with God. Physical love gave you an awareness of union. True love brought you into the chambers of the source of all union. Prayer allows you to dialogue with the source of union and meditation allows you to be united to the source of unionin a relationship of bliss.

Meditation is a search for immediate intimacy with God. The various techniques aim at creating the conditions for such intimacy. The main condition for this intimate union is called "the silence." Whatever the meditation technique, it aims at creating the silence. The techniques range from simple breath awareness to the activity exercises of the whirling dervishes. In between there are mandalas, mantras, music, manual arts, mental imaging and massage exercises.

After much practice you can create a state of mindlessness. This state is called the silence. Once the silence is created, an unused mental faculty is activated. It is a form of intuition. With this faculty, one can know God directly. Spiritual masters present a rather uniform witness on this point. They speak of an intuitive knowing variously as "unitive consciousness," or God consciousness, or higher consciousness. It is direct union with God. In this union, one also knows onself as one really is. This "knowing" is unmediated. With such inner vision one has new insights and enlightenments.

John Bradshaw - Healing the Shame that Binds You

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Passion Sunday and Holy Week

March 28, 2010

We follow Luke’s account of the Passion today and as I pray over it, I savor its uniqueness among the Gospels. In fact, each of the Gospels tells the story with different nuances and intentions. Too often, when we think of the story of Jesus and his Passion, we get a conflated view (four stories synthesized into one portrait) and we miss the richness of the author’s point of view. Luke is telling the story of Jesus, the prophet who heals, as he remains faithful to his mission despite the increasingly difficult odds. In fact, on Palm Sunday we hear about his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but he has to retreat in failure because like most prophets, he is rejected. Jesus is providing us a model for a lifetime of discipleship. We are to learn from his example and bring the prophetic words of the Gospel to others – even in light of our own rejection and suffering that we are sure to face.

I invite you to read Luke’s Passion (22:14-23:56) prayerfully and slowly again this week. Don’t just say, “Oh, I read this part before,” let the emotions of the scenes come alive for you. Imagine the dinner scene where Jesus as Teacher describes what will happen in some detail. Focus on the agony that so consumed him that he sweated blood. This is very real suffering that he did not want to experience. I always get choked up when I hear of Peter’s denial when “The Lord turns and looks at Peter,” who realizes what he has done to his best friend and runs away weeping bitterly. Other differences in this Gospel are: the political dance between Pilate and Herod, the grieving women of Jerusalem, the tone and purpose of Jesus’ last words, the presence of the two condemned thieves, and the role of Joseph of Arimathea. Savor Luke’s points early this week as you ready yourself to hear John’s Gospel proclaimed on Good Friday.

Finally, I invite you to use the fullness of your memory this week. Holy Week comes alive and has a power unto itself and the days are actually relived before our eyes in our own contexts. Pray for the grace to have compassion on Jesus as he gives up his life for us – in excruciating pain and suffering. It is very difficult to watch a loved one die. Our own memories of our experiences of death bring up so many complex, unresolved issues. It will happen again as we watch Jesus die. We may think of the times we denied him, betrayed him, or left him alone in his need. Suffering is never easy to watch, especially with a life-long friend. Yes, he must die and be buried in the tomb. If that doesn’t happen, he cannot be raised from the dead by God. In fact, as we move through life, we realize just how much we need Jesus to die for us and to make sense of our lives. My prayers will be with you as you pray this week. May the Lord reward you with the grace of much compassion as you experience the unfolding days of the Passion.

Quote for the Week

From the Transfer of the Holy Eucharist on Maundy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Hymn: Pange Lingua (Sing, My Tongue) and Tantum Ergo.

Sing, my tongue, the ageless story as the cross is lifted high!
Tell how Christ our Savior conquered, when for us he came to die
as a victim in the battle, death’s dominion to belie.
Come, adore this wondrous presence; Bow to Christ, the source of grace!
Here is kept the ancient promise of God’s earthly dwelling place!
Sight is blind before God’s glory, faith alone may see God’s face.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

Monday of Holy Week: We hear from Isaiah 4 in the First Oracle of the Servant of the Lord in which God’s servant will suffer silently, but will bring justice to the world. In the Gospel, Lazarus’ sister, Mary, anoints Jesus’ feet with costly oil in preparation for his funeral.

Tuesday of Holy Week: In the Second Oracle of the Servant of the Lord, he cries out that I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth. In deep hurt, distress and grief, Jesus tells his closest friends at supper that one of them will betray him and another will deny him three times before the cock crows.

(Spy) Wednesday of Holy Week: In the Third Oracle of the Servant of the Lord, the suffering servant does not turn away from the ridicule and torture of his persecutors and tormentors. The time has come. The Son of Man will be handed over by Judas, one of the Twelve, who sets the terms of Jesus’ arrest.

Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday: Only an evening Mass can be said today and we let our bells ring freely during the Gloria that has been absent all Lent. In Exodus, we hear the laws and customs about eating the Passover meal prior to God’s deliverance of the people through Moses from the Egyptians. Paul tells us of the custom by early Christians that as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. In John’s Gospel, Jesus loves us to the end giving us a mandate to wash one another’s feet.

Good Friday: No Mass is celebrated today though there may be a service of veneration of the cross and a Stations of the Cross service. In Isaiah, we hear the Fourth Oracle of the Servant of the Lord who was wounded for our sins. In Hebrews, we are told that Jesus learned obedience through his faith and thus became the source of salvation for all. The Passion of our Lord is proclaimed from John’s Gospel.

Holy Saturday and the Easter Vigil: No Mass, baptisms, or confirmations can be celebrated before the Vigil to honor the Lord who has been buried in the tomb. The Old Testament readings point to God’s vision of the world and the deliverance of the people from sin and death. All of Scripture points to the coming of the Righteous One who will bring about salvation for all. The Old Testament in relished during the Vigil of the Word as God’s story of salvation is told to us again. The New Testament epistle from Romans tells us that Christ, who was raised from the dead, dies no more. Luke’s Gospel finds the women at daybreak arriving at the tomb with spices so they could honor the dead body of Jesus. Two men in dazzling white garments talk with them and ask, “Why do you seek the living from among the dead? He is not here, but has been raised.” With instructions to return to the Twelve they told the others who disregarded their incredulous story. Only Peter ran to the tomb, saw the burial cloths, and went home amazed at what had happened. He is Risen. Alleluia.

Saints of the Week

No saints are celebrated during Holy Week. The solemn days of the Lord take precedence.

This Week in Jesuit History

• March 28, 1606: At the Guildhall, London, the trial of Fr. Henry Garnet, falsely accused of complicity in the Gunpowder Plot.
• March 29, 1523: Ignatius' first visit to Rome on his way from Manresa to Palestine.
• March 30, 1545: At Meliapore, Francis Xavier came on pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Thomas the Apostle.
• March 31, 1548: Fr. Anthony Corduba, rector of the College of Salamanca, begged Ignatius to admit him into the Society so as to escape the cardinalate which Charles V intended to procure for him.
• Apr 1, 1941. The death of Hippolyte Delehaye in Brussels. He was an eminent hagiographer and in charge of the Bollandists from 1912 to 1941.
• Apr 2, 1767. Charles III ordered the arrest of all the Jesuits in Spain and the confiscation of all their property.
• Apr 3, 1583. The death of Jeronimo Nadal, one of the original companions of Ignatius who later entrusted him with publishing and distributing the Jesuit Constitutions to the various regions of the early Society.

The Blessing of Palms

As we near the end of Lent, we celebrate Passion (Palm) Sunday. At the beginning of the liturgy, we receive palms in memory of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. As a symbol of triumph, the palms point us toward Christ's resurrection and might remind us of the saints in heaven "wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands" (Rev 7:9). The white robes remind us of baptismal garments, and the palms suggest their triumph over sin and death through the waters of Baptism.


I am currently making my 30-day retreat in silence and may not be able to send out the weekly email, but I will update my blog regularly. Access for weekly and daily updates or for my tertian program news.

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Spirituality: Self-Acceptance and Love

In order to heal the shame that binds you, you have to begin with self-acceptance and self-love. Love creates union. When we make the decision to love ourselves unconditionally, we accept ourselves unconditionally. This total self-acceptance creates at-one-ment. We are at one with ourselves. Our full power is available to us because we are not dissipating our power by having to guard our split-off parts. Choosing to love ourselves is possible, even if we have negative feelings about ourselves.

John Bradshaw, Healing the Shame that Binds You

Friday, March 26, 2010

Prayer: Canticle of the Sun by Francis of Assisi

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing. To you, alone, Most High, do they belong. No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, and clouds and storms, and all the weather, through which you give your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you brighten the night. He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you; through those who endure sickness and trial. Happy those who endure in peace, for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whose embrace no living person can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your most holy will. The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks, and serve him with great humility.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spirituality: A Short History of Sin – Part 3 of 5

The 20th Century

Our Church today results from our historical practices, which become second nature for a person. Most practices are self-serving and a good idea, and sometimes they are forms of social control to govern interpersonal relationships. Penance was intended for the person to be restored to God and to order himself or herself rightly in front of God.

1. The Penitentials were written to address real pastoral needs and were works of mercy by monks to enter into the chaos of the sinner. The Penitentials sought to be just by attending to stations in life and class differences.
2. Unfortunately, sin was identified with something that you did, and people became preoccupied with their own sin development (moral narcissism), with great focus on individualism rather than confessing as part of a community or Church. In some sense, people became obsessed with the law, particularly as our tradition has had nine centuries of practice of the priest as the just judge.
3. Moral formation was aimed at the priest in the Confessional and moral theology was not the forum to consider what was right.
4. Therefore, we have developed a weak notion of sin. Some would say that we went from the vice of despair to the vice of presumption (today), and we left out hope. We left out our need to be grateful for God’s mercy.

What does the New Testament say about Sin and Forgiveness?

1. Sin is real. Rom. 3:9; 1 John 1:8, James 4:17; 1 Cor. 8:12. Humans have an inability to do what is right; there is conflict in the human heart.
2. Seriousness of Sin. Apocalyptic. Mt 5:29-30; Mt 18:8-9; Mark 9:43-47. Nothing should keep you from following Christ; Sin is counter to life in Christ.
3. The sin of the people: unbelief. John 15 (hearing), John 16. Jewish world: sin is the hardness of heart and Israel’s inability to keep the covenant. Ezekiel 20: I will place my heart in you. God is doing something for us.
4. The Good News: In Christ all sin is overcome. Acts 2, 2 Cor. 5, Romans
5. Jesus has the authority to forgive sins. Mt 16:15-19; Mt 18:15-18
6. Jesus is the example and agent of forgiveness. “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
7. Being forgiven is contingent on our forgiving others. (This is a difficult one to do.) Mt 5.
8. Disciples have authority and mandate to forgive. Retain or loose
9. Range and scope of forgiveness. “how often shall I forgive?”
10. Sin and the baptized. We die to sin and rise to new life in Christ.
11. The sin against the Holy Spirit. The whole notion of sin is our inability to let the Spirit touch us. The very action of God to forgive is the Spirit.

Bottom line: Through the death and resurrection of Christ, all sin is forgiven.

Poem: Fiat by Robert Fr. Morneau

(on viewing Henry O. Tanner's The Annunciation"- 1988

On her bed of doubt,
in wrinkled night garment,
she sat, glancing with fear
at a golden shaft of streaming light,
pondering perhaps, "Was this
but a sequel to a dream?"
The light too brief for disbelief,
yet its silence eased not her trembling.
Somehow she murmured a "yes"
and with that the light's love and life
pierced her heart
and lodged in her womb.
The room remained the same
- rug still need smoothing
- jug and paten awaiting using.
Now all was different
in a maiden's soft but firm fiat.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Poem: The Annunciation by Denise Levertov

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lecturn, a book; always
the tall lily.

Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whome she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent. God waited.

She was free
to accept or refuse, choice
integral to humanness.

Aren't there annunciations
of one sort or another in most lives?
Some unwillingly undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,

More often those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.

God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes..

She had been a child who played, ate, spelt
like any other child - but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumpf.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked

a simple, "How can this be?"
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel's reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power -
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.

Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love -

but who was God.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spirituality: A Short History of Sin – Part 2 of 5

A Short History of Sin

The development of the Penitential manuals (a guidebook for confessors to help adjudicate sin in the one seeking reconciliation) moved Christians away from the Gospel teachings, which teach that sin is something within the person. Our tradition tells us that sin is a type of action that we are to avoid. The Penitents learned that sin is an external act, while Jesus taught that sin comes out of a sinful person.

1st – 5th Century: Becoming conscious of sinful actions in light of Gospel
6th – 12th Century: Focus shift to the lives of the Penitent and his or her incorporation
13th – 16th Century: The development of Confessional manuals

1st – 5th Century:

By the 5th c., people were naming their sins in the Penitential Rite during Mass. They were conscious of their sins which was often uncomfortable and embarrassing to the person and to the community. The big question they had to deal with was apostasy. People were denying they were Christians during persecutions. When the violence ended, former Christians wanted to come back. How do you readmit persons who apostatized? But not only did people apostatize; they also committed murder and adultery.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation was born. In Acts 15:29, the Council of Jerusalem made the following distinctions and parallels.

a. idolatry equated to - apostasy
b. blood equated to - murder
c. unchastity equated to - adultery

Dilemmas arose because a person could only be readmitted once. What happened if person was only a simple murderer and did not abandon community? The person had a notion that she did something wrong and a ritual developed to give someone a stiff penance.

People began to wait until they are near death for Reconciliation. They formed the Bonum Morum Society – O Happy Death. Priests would not be able to give penance to someone on their deathbed; therefore they had a happy death. The tradition of nine consecutive First Fridays began, as a way of receiving something like absolution because priest would not be able to come to a poor person.

6th – 12th Century:

Late in 5th c and early 6th c, monks in Ireland provided spiritual guidance. Mostly monks talking to fellow monks, but lay people wanted those conversations too. Monks began to give out fair penances – a system of equity, to be fair in the distribution of penance. It was pastoral practice, not Church legislation. Monks relied upon Abbots to write manuals (pamphlets) which were categorized by the 7 deadly sins

Sample Penitential manual were created. For each vice, there were 10-20 entries to ensure fairness. It was a way of cataloging the sins according to the status of penitent: Clerics, Nobles, and serfs. This is a list of sins people confessed from their experiences.

Noble people began to be hit with big penances. Nobles became members of the Happy Death Society, while the serfs did the penances. What perception results? only the poor sin. Nobles avoided public penance because they could not perform penance and carry out responsibilities. They developed a practice on their deathbed to give over 1/3 of estate to the needs of the diocese. What perception results? The noble person is benefactor.

13th – 16th Century:

The 12th century was marked by an awareness of spirituality and asceticism. It was an awakening that was marked by interiority, the importance of personhood, and that a person was created in the image of God. This gives birth to the Renaissance. The 12th c raises different questions about freedom, intentionality, motivation, and circumstances.

In 1215, Pope Innocent III institutionalized Confession stating one must go before Easter. All people are required to go, not just monks. The identity of the Confessor is to be a just judge and healer (physician). The priest is the one who determines the cause of sin.

In the 16th century (Trent), seminaries are established and moral theology is taught for the first time. They became concerned about how people are being formed to make good confessions. Trent writes a catechism in which the 10 Commandments are inserted (because people focused on the Seven Deadly sins which does not have a scriptural basis.) The catechism tells you what to avoid and what to pursue. However, only the confessor knows what these are because they are inserted into Confessional Manuals. These confessional manuals have been revised and used up through the 20th century.

Spirituality: Techniques for Dealing with Criticism

No one likes to be criticized. Rather, we appreciate feedback. The main recommendation in dealing with criticism is to NOT EVER DEFEND YOURSELF! Strange, huh? Here are some techniques to deal with unwanted criticism.

1. Cloud the issue: Acknowledge the possibility/probability of the truth. You do not defend, but let the critic's statement pass right through you.

Example: When a friend says, "Your life is a mess," you can reply, "You're right. Things are not going well for me." She retorts, "So when are you going to do something about it?" and you can reply, "I'll take care of it when I'm in a better space to do so. Thanks for your help."

2. Clarifying: You want to bring your critic back towards logic and objectivity. Her energy will soon dissipate and you have protected your own choices. Be like one of the detectives in CSI who always asks questions that probe and search for the person's subjectivity. You avoid defending yourself and get the other person out of her critical cover-up.

Example: When a friend says, "I don't like the color you painted your office," you can ask, "Well, what don't you like about it?" He replies, "Well, I don't like the color yellow?" which leads you to ask, "what don't you like about the color yellow?" He says, "It is just too bright and I don't like bright colors for an office," to which you can ask, "Why don't you like bright office colors?" The conversation ends or the real issue comes to the surface.

3. Assert Yourself: When you are criticized, you can assert yourself with simple guidelines.

a. Merely state what you see and hear, interpret, feel and want.
b. Use "I" statements to take responsibility for what you perceive, interpret, feel and want.
c. Describe the behaviors of others and yourself rather than judging or evaluative words.
d. Make eye contact with the person.

Example: When a friend says, "Wow. That is an expensive camera. I bet it could have paid five of my monthly car payments," you can say, "When you make comments like that, I interpret that you feel bad about my good fortune." It allows your friend to explain herself and why she made such comments. The burden is on her, not you.

4. Confessing: Just state that you have clearly done what your critic has accused you of doing.

Example: When a friend says, "You dropped my wine glass and broke it," you can simply say, "Yes, I did break your glass. I'm sorry."

5. Cofirming: When you are dealing with a person who is acting irrationally, it is good to say something to yourself interiorly like, "No matter what you say and do, I'm still a good and worthy person."

Example: Use the above statement when an angry boss is yelling at you over the phone.

6. Comforting: Comfort the other person when you have violated their boundaries and she is calling you on it. Reassuring words of your actions can help her out. It communicates that you are an accountable person.

Example: A friend says, "You picked me up late and made me late for an appointment." YOu can say, "I hear that you are upset and angry. I'll call your appointment to let them know that you are arriving late because of me."

7. Confuse the Other Person: This technique can work with people who you might meet on street, but are not close friends or family. You can confuse them to get them off your back. Use a Yogi Berra statement or something that doesn't quite make sense and it gets them thinking about something else.

Example: A co-worker complains that you have taken too much time to complete a task and you can make a non-sensical statemen like,"Just as I was ready to print the document, my olfactory senses were assaulted by what seemed to be a wombat." You can walk away leaving the other person to piece together what you said. Just have fun with the process so you don't get yourself down.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spirituality: Emotions

Emotions monitor our basic needs, telling us of a need, loss or satiation. They also give us the energy to act.

1. Anger - is an energy that gives us strength.

2. Sadness - is an energy we discharge over the losses to our basic needs. We are to integrate the shock of those losses and adapt to reality. We avoid the pain of sadness, but discharging it releases some energy involved in our emotional pain.

3. Fear - releases an energy that warns us of danger to our basic needs. This leads to our discernment and wisdom.

4. Guilt - is a former conscience that tells us we have transgressed our values and moves us to take action to change.

5. Shame - warns us not to try to be more or less than human. It reminds us of our essential limitations.

6. Joy - is an exhilarating energy that emerges when all our nees are being met. It signals all is well and we want to sing, run, and jump.

Spirituality: Enlightenment by Anthony de Mello, S.J.

"Calamities can bring growth and Enlightenment," said the Master.

And he explained it thus:

"Each day a bird would shelter in the withered branches of a tree that stood in the middle of a vast deserted plain. One day a whirlwind uprooted the tree, forcing the poor bird to fly a hundred miles in search of shelter -- till it finally came to a forest of fruit-laden trees."

And he concluded: "If the withered tree had survived, nothing would have induced the bird to give up its security and fly."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spirituality: A Short History of Sin – Part 1 of 5

Sin: A Failure to Bother to Love
(Note: This term is used by James Keenan, S.J. as a description of sin. Many of these comments are attributed to Keenan’s theological work on sin and morality.)

For centuries, Christians have held an overly simplistic view of sin. We called sin anything we did wrong. In many ways, we have “domesticated” sin. We believe sin is about wrong doing and not about bothering to love. We strive to do right, but with sin, sometimes we just don’t care. We fail to follow the Lord.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is the classic example of simply not bothering to love. The one who loves in that story is the Samaritan. Those who fail to love are the sinners. The Gospels attribute sin to those who don’t bother to love. Most people recognize their own wrongdoing, but it is harder to recognize our failures to love.

We develop blindness to sinning. It is the nature of sin to blind us and to dull our senses. It is difficult to spot a cold and uninterested heart. The hearts of sinners have not been ‘bothered” or “unsettled” – they are content, complacent, and rest assured.

Confessing one’s sins is illuminating. It uncovers our blindness. By actually naming where we did not bother to love we begin to see how deeply we sinned. Confession of sin is “effective.” Loving people regret the harm their shortcomings cause. Repentance is a summons from the outside. It challenges us to see where we did not bother to love, and it addresses the areas of our lives where we are strong – where we could have bothered. (pride, laziness, presumption)

Too often, we associate sin with weakness. In the Gospels, sin occurs where we are strong. We try hardest where we are weakest. Christ judges not the weak heart that struggles, but the strong one that does not bother.

Our tradition has viewed a moral act to be wrong when one of the conditions are wrong:
1. motives
2. act
3. circumstances

The sin is mortal (serious) rather the venial (less serious) when the following are in place:
1. sufficient reflection
2. full consent
3. grave action

Song: River in Judea by Jack Feldman

These are the lyrics to Jack Feldman's "River in Judea with an accompanying Youtube Video  Jack Feldman's "River in Judea"

Oftentimes I dream of music,
Of the river that freely flows.
And it sings a song sweeter than honey,

One everybody knows.

Late at night, I hear it singing.
Then again when I wake at dawn.
And it fills me up with hope and goodwill,
The will to go on,
Go on.
There is a river in Judea
That I heard of long ago.
And it's a singing, ringing river
That my soul cries out
To know.

I believe it keeps on trav'lin'
But it rests on the Sabbath day.
And the time when it pauses in stillness,
I almost hear it pray.

When I'm weary and downhearted,
How I long for the song it sings,
For the calm within its gentle blue,
The peace that it brings, it brings.

There is a river in Judea
That I heard of long ago.
And it's a singing, ringing river
That my soul cries out
To know.

May the time not be too distant
When we meet by the river (meet by the) shore.
'Til then dream of that wonderful day
As we sing once more, once more:

There is a river in Judea (hallelu)
That I heard of long ago (hallelu),
It's a singing, ringing river
That my soul cries out (my soul cries out)
To the river in Judea.
(optional repeat)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Prayer: Alcuin of York

Lord Christ, we ask you to spread our tables with your mercy. And may you bless with your gentle hands the good things you have given us. We know that whatever we have comes from you. Thus whatever we eat, we should give thanks to you. And having received from your hands, let us give with equally generous hands to those who are poor, breaking bread and sharing our bread with them. For you have told us that whatever we give to the poor we give to you.

Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 21, 2010

We need laws. We also need people to test the limits of the law so that it reflects the changing beliefs of our community, and we need judges who skillfully interpret the laws, which may challenge us and make us reflect upon who we are as a diverse people. We have an ambiguous relationship with the law; at times, we like it and uphold it, at other times, we disregard it without much consideration. We hold onto parts of the law that may advance our particular argument and then we don’t give much weight to another aspect of a law that doesn’t help our case. We are fickle. Personally, we so much desire mercy for ourselves and our wrongdoings, but we may want to exact harsh punishment for others who have transgressed or have erred repeatedly. How can we bring balance to our standards?

Jesus becomes an extraordinary judge as he is teaching at the temple when the elders and people bring in a woman caught in adultery. The Mosaic Law is clear and the woman (and her absent male partner) has committed adultery – a weighty sin against relationships. Jesus is acting as the new Moses, writing in the sand just as God wrote the Ten Commandments and delivered them to Moses. The implication is that Jesus is greater than Moses, the revered patriarch, and that the law and its judgments are fulfilled in him. So what kind of judgment will he make in this clear-cut case? Compassion. Mercy. Forgiveness. No condemnation, but a command to live in right relationship with one’s neighbor by sinning no more. The elders and the people are silenced as they realize the long-awaited merciful judgment of God through Jesus. God’s forgiveness opens us up to a new way of life. When we give this gift of reconciliation to others, we mirrors God’s modeling of judgment. We become a new creation when we forgive or allow ourselves to be forgiven.

The first reading asks us to remember not the events of the past, but to live in the redeemed world of today. “See, I am doing something new,” says the Lord. This is an indication that we ought not to hold on to those ways we have transgressed another’s boundaries or they ours. Once our sins are forgiven, we are free from our history, but we have to find ways to keep on living in the path of right relations. We do that when we imitate Paul in the second reading, “I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Our righteousness does not come from the law but from through faith in Christ. When we believe in him and the power of his resurrection, we find ourselves free from the law and able to do incredible and surprising good – maybe even forgiving someone of a grievous sin done to us.

In the Blog this week: Five Part Series on the History of Sin, Poem on the Annunciation, Poem called Fiat, and The Canticle of the Sun by Francis of Assisi.

Quote for the Week

From Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10, the first reading for the Annunciation of the Lord (Thursday).

“The Lord spoke at Ahaz, saying: Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God; let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky! But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord!” The Isaiah said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us!”

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The readings for this week are signposts for the Passion of Jesus. We begin with Daniel’s apocryphal account of the innocent Susanna who is condemned to death by false accusations. In Numbers, Moses makes a bronze serpent with healing properties for those bitten by deadly snakes. Those who gaze upon it will live. Back in Daniel, the Lord sends an angel to deliver Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from Nebuchadnezzar’s scorching fire. Jeremiah tells of the solitary suffering one who leans upon the Lord from deliverance from enemies who used to be his friends. In Ezekiel, the Lord God calls the children of Israel to return into a united family; they shall be made holy and the covenant will stand.

Gospel: We continue with John 8 when Jesus calls himself the light of the world as the Pharisees are desperately trying to figure out the source of his authority. He continues, “When you lift up the Son of Man, you will realize that I AM he.” To the Jews, he says that they will die in their sin, but if they believe in him they will become free. Irate, the Jews want to stone Jesus and arrest him, but he eludes them because his hour has not yet come. Jesus retires to the Jordan River, but the Sanhedrin plotted to kill Jesus according to Caiaphas’ prophesy: Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.

Saints of the Week

Tuesday: Toribio of Mogrovejo was a law professor in Salamanca, Spain and the chief judge of the Inquisition in Granada. Pope Pius V ordained him (as a layman) as archbishop and sent him to Peru. Toribio was appalled at the conducted of the European colonizers who oppressed the native populations. He sided with the natives and set up schools, hospitals, and churches to serve the needs of the people.

Thursday: The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord is celebrated today as the conception of Jesus to the Virgin Mary. The plan of redemption of the world begins with Mary’s “Yes” to God. The incarnation is celebrated nine months later. Mary becomes the mother of our Redeemer, both man and God.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Mar 21, 1768. In Spain, at a special meeting of the Council of State in the presence of King Charles III, the Suppression of the Society was urged on the pretense that it was independent of the bishops, that it plotted against the State, and that it was lax in its teaching.
• March 22, 1585: In Rome, the three Japanese ambassadors were received by Fr. General with great solemnity in the Society's Church of the Gesu.
• March 23, 1772: At Rome, Cardinal Marefoschi held a visitation of the Irish College and accused the Jesuits of mismanagement. They were removed by him from the direction of that establishment.
• March 24, 1578: At Lisbon Rodolf Acquaviva and 13 companions embarked for India. Among the companions were Matteo Ricci and Michael Ruggieri.
• March 25, 1563: The first Sodality of Our Lady, Prima Primaria, was begun in the Roman College by a young Belgian Jesuit named John Leunis (Leonius).
• March 26, 1553: Ignatius of Loyola's letter on obedience was sent to the Jesuits of Portugal.
• March 27, 1587: At Messina died Fr. Thomas Evans, an Englishman at 29. He had suffered imprisonment for his defense of the Catholic faith in England.

Environment and Symbols during Lent

In Lent, we simplify the environment of the church by eliminating flowers and most plants and bringing a more austere environment to the church. The vestment colors are primarily purple to signal a penitential mood, except for Laetare Sunday is which a mauve or rose colored vestment is used to highlight a celebratory tone that Lent is almost over. The sober environment of Lent stands in contrast to the celebratory atmosphere of Easter.


I am now on my 30-day silent retreat and I may not be able to send out the weekly email, but I will update my blog regularly. Access for weekly and daily updates or for my tertian program news.

To search for prayer and Jesuit resources, in the blog search field type in the keywords: poem, prayer, song, spirituality, Jesuit, constitutions, literature, photos, or specific phrases.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Prayer: Love in Action by Mother Teresa

Love cannot remain by itself - it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action and that action is service. A mission of love can come only from union with God. From that union, love for the family, love for one's neighbor, love for the poor is the natural fruit.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spirituality: Gerald May “Grace: Qualities of Mercy” Addiction and Grace Part 8 of 8

Living into the mystery of grace requires encountering grace as a real gift. Grace is not earned. It is not accomplished or achieved. It is not extracted through manipulation or seduction. It is just given. Nothing in our conditioning prepares us for this radical reality. We all have trouble accepting the radical giftedness of God’s grace, no matter how healthy or unhealthy our childhood experience. God’s grace is simply not part of our conditioning. Nor can we make it so, though we are sure to try. All our attempts to control the flow of grace will be frustrated because, like God, grace will not become an object for attachment.

Because grace is a pure gift, the most meaningful of our encounters with it will probably come at unintended times, when we are caught off-guard, when our manipulative systems are at rest or otherwise occupied. But still we can pray for grace, actively seek it, and try to relax our hands to receive it.

Prayer for a true gift is a very simple thing – just expressing our desire with no making of deals, no marketing, no manipulation. As the giver of grace, God deserves a straight-forward request. As children of God, we have the right to make that request. We can also search for grace, in both obvious and hidden places. The obvious places, which we might avoid or embrace depending on our religious conditioning, include the sacraments, Scripture, and community of our faith, as well as personal prayer and meditation. The hidden places include times of turmoil and failure, encounters with people we dislike, daily drudgery, boredom, and addictions. As we pray and search, we can try to relax our hands to receive graces as a gift. In the middle of beautiful times or ugly ones, peaceful situations or strife, we might just pause, take a breath, and relax.

Living into grace does not depend upon simple receptivity alone. It also requires an active attempt to live life in accord with the facts of grace, even when we do not sense them directly. The facts of grace are simple: grace always exists, it is always available, it is always good, and it is always victorious.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spirituality: A Personal Bill of Rights

Each of us can create our own Bill of Rights. We are to give ourselves total permission for our rights. Here are some you might consider:

a. You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts, and emotions and to take responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.

b. You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behavior.

c. You have the right to judge if you are responsible for judging other peoples' problems.

d. You have the right to change your mind.

e. You have the right to make mistakes and to be responsible for them.

f. You have the right to say, "I don't know."

g. You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them.

h. You have the right to be illogical in making decisions.

i. You have the right to say, "I don't understand."

j. You have the right to say, "I don't care."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Prayer: An Irish Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields, and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hands.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Poem: Primary Wonder by Denise Levertov

Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers,
their colored clothes; caps and bells.

And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng’s clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at tall,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Poem: Christopher Morley on Children

Children are one with the world.

Born comrade of bird, beast and bee
And unselfconscious as the tree...
Elate explorer of each sense
Without dismay, without pretense...
In your untrained transparent eyes
There is no conscience, no surprise --
Life's queer conundrums you accept.
Your strange Divinity still kept...
There were days, O tender elf
When you were poetry itself.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Song: Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam by Matthew Ferraro

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
For the Greater Glory of God
For the Greater Glory of God

My heart beats in emptiness
I reach to you, Lord, to find my spirit
Quietly listening, your voice is calling
In the wind, the trees, the power of the seas
In all creation I hear my Lord

What have I done for Christ?
What can I do for Christ?
What shall I do for Christ?

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
For the Greater Glory of God
For the Greater Glory of God

Take my will and memory
My imagination I give to you Lord
Renew my spirit; by your wounds cleanse me
Enlighten me with the Spirit
Walk with me to eternity

What have I done for Christ?
What can I do for Christ?
What shall I do for Christ?

From my sleep I now awake
My soul is full of your loving grace
In all the darkness fear will not take me
The light of the Lord is my fire, my sword
For He has called me by my name

Jesu Hominum Salvator
Jesu Hominum Salvator
Jesu Hominum Salvator
Jesu Hominum Salvator

Fourth Sunday (Laetare) of Lent

March 14, 2010

“My God, these are demanding readings! You tell us Lord, through Saint Paul, that you have reconciled us to Yourself through Christ and have given us the ministry of reconciliation. I need to do better with the gift of ministry you have entrusted to us because my humanity gets in the way every single day. I want the new creation about which Paul writes. Teach me to be more like the Father in your parable of the two sons who is ready to rejoice freely when I discover what was lost is now found once again. Give me the joy of your salvation.”

Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son to the Pharisees who question him about eating with tax collectors and sinners. These are the newer members of the family of faith who are invited by Jesus, but to the Pharisees they look selfish, greedy, lacking social morals and rebellious. The Pharisees have done all things well and kept the commands dutifully, never asking for anything more just like the older son. How do these two sides coexist without resentment? What sort of father (God) would welcome such people into his home and give them the most luxurious food and drink? How can he embrace them with such love and gratitude? After all, they insulted him by demanding their inheritance early and making the father vulnerable.

Our tension seems to be whether we can come to our senses when we realize that God’s love is ever-expanding and drawing us deeper into an embrace. The younger son wakes up and comes home, finds himself forgiven and is able to forgive others. The story ends before we are sure if the older son eventually gives in, but our imagination holds that he will in light of his father’s goodness. As he severely judges his brother, he falls victim to his own self-centeredness. We do know that God will not stop trying to embrace both sons, especially the one who clings to resentment. God will wait for us though. He will wait as long as it takes so that he can share his joy with all his children. Maybe this is why this reading is chosen for Laetare (Rejoice) Sunday. God rejoices because the lost has been found, but God is still waiting for others to return.

Quote for the Week

In honor of the Irish saint, I place the words of Patrick before you to the tune of “Morning Has Broken.”

This day God gives me strength of high heaven,
Sun and moon shining, flame in my hearth,
Flashing of lightning, wind in its swiftness,
Deeps of the ocean, firmness of earth.

This day God sends me strength to sustain me,
Might to uphold me, wisdom as guide.
Your eyes are watchful, your ears are listening,
Your lips are speaking, friend at my side.

Gods’ way is my way, God’s shield is round me,
God’s host defends me, saving from ill.
Angels of heaven, drive from me always
All that would harm me, stand by me still.

Rising, I thank you, mighty and strong One,
King of Creation, Giver of rest,
Firmly confessing Threeness of Persons,
Oneness of Godhead, Trinity blest.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Isaiah reveals God’s creative energy is Israel’s restoration by rejoicing in Jerusalem and exulting in God’s people. No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there. Ezekiel sees that the Temple is the salvation for all people. The Lord reminds the people of his covenant and promises to restore the land. The Lord send Moses down from the mountain to the people to command them to turn from their depraved ways as they forgot the miracles the Lord has done for them. Moses intercedes for the people asking the Lord to relent from his punishment.

Gospel: Belief is the key to discipleship in John’s Gospel; the royal official believes that Jesus will heal will deathly ill son and his son recovers immediately. Likewise, the sick man at the pool near the Sheep Gate is healed. When the Jews discover Jesus was the healer, they plan to prosecute him. In his defense, Jesus tells the Jews that he will not accuse them, but Moses, the one in whom they trust, will be the one to do so. As people discuss the identity and nature of Jesus, they search the scriptures to see if any prophet has arisen from Galilee. “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?”

Saints of the Week

Wednesday: Patrick was born in Wales in Britain in 385 and at the age of 16 was captured and sold as a slave where we worked as a shepherd in Ireland. After his escape at age 22, he became a priest and later a bishop. He returned to Ireland and converted many to Christianity. He faced threats from the pagans, but Christianity had reached nearly all of the country by the time of his death. He established native clergy to continue the sacraments and the evangelization of the faith.

Thursday: Cyril of Jerusalem (313 CE) was a biblical scholar who became Bishop of Jerusalem in 350. He was always under antagonistic attacks from the Arians and was mired in the doctrinal controversies discussed at the Councils of Nicea (325), which set out a common creed, and of Constantinople (381), which confirmed his jurisdiction over Jerusalem. Cyril wrote Lenten homilies for those who were to be baptized.

Friday: Joseph is honored for his role as husband of Mary today. He is known as a carpenter or builder whose skill was useful to the local community and Matthew tells us he is a descendent from David’s lineage. Joseph holds an awkward place in our imagination as he becomes the father of Jesus, born on virginal conception. His assent to take on Mary as his wife reveals his righteous and just nature.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Mar 14, 1535. Ignatius received his degree from the University of Paris.
• Mar 15, 1632. The death of Diego Ruiz, a great theologian, who studied on his knees.
• Mar 16, 1649. The martyrdom in Canada of John de Brebeuf, apostle to the Huron Indians. Captured by the Iroquois along with some Christian Hurons, he endured horrible tortures.
• Mar 17, 1964. The death of Joseph O'Callahan. He was awarded the US Medal of Honor for heroism as chaplain on the USS Franklin, off Japan on March 19, 1945.
• Mar 18, 1541. Two letters arrived from Lisbon from Francis Xavier. One was addressed to Ignatius, the other to Frs. LeJay and Laynez. They were written just before his departure to India.
• Mar 19, 1836. By imperial decree, the Society was allowed to re-enter the Austrian dominions.
• Mar 20, 1602. The first "Disputatio de Auxiliis" was held before Clement VIII. The disputants were Fr. Gregory de Valentia, S.J. and Fr. Diego Alvarez, O.P.

Scrutinies and Penance

The elect of the Church, the catechumen and candidates, are intensely preparing for the Easter sacraments. They are subjected to the Scrutinies, both by the community and by God, to determine if they are sufficiently ready to live by the faith that we confess. The elect will hear selected Gospel readings that will intensify their preparedness as we approach Holy Week and Easter. Last week, the elect heard John’s story of the Samaritan woman searching for the water that quenches ones thirst, today they hear John’s story of the man born blind, next Sunday they will hear John’s account of the raising of Lazarus.

Fully professed Catholics are also preparing for Easter as we continue our journey through Lent by focusing our gaze upon Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. As we observe and imitate his life, we are called to deeper reflection upon our sinfulness and upon the ways in which we receive God’s grace. At this point in Lent (Laetare Sunday), we quicken our reflection. It is a good time for us to ask the Lord to reveal to us where sin is present in our lives. The sacrament of Reconciliation puts our moral lives in order so that our hearts and souls can receive the newness of the Risen Lord in his Paschal victory.


I am now on long retreat and may not be able to send out the weekly email, but I will update my blog regularly. Access for weekly and daily updates or for my tertian program news.

To search for prayer and Jesuit resources, in the blog search field type in the keywords: poem, prayer, song, spirituality, Jesuit, constitutions, photos, or specific phrases.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Prayer: Ignatius of Loyola

Jesus...Best Friend,
may your soul give life to me,
may your flesh be food for me,
may your warm my hardened heart.

Jesus...Best Friend,
may your tears now wash me clean,
may your passion keep me strong,
may you listen to my plea.

Jesus...Best Friend,
may your wound take in my hurts,
may your gaze be fixed on me,
may I not betray your love.

Jesus...Best Friend,
may you call me at death's door,
may you hold me close to you,
may you place me with God's saints,
may I ever sing your praise. Amen.

Memorial: July 31

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Prayer: Henri J. M. Nouwen

For now, it seems that some fasting is the best way to remind myself of the millions who are hungry and to purify my heart and mind for a decision that does not exclude them

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spirituality: Shame-Based Family Rules

Each family system has several categories of rules. Shaming rules consciously shame the other members. Children receive the major brunt of the shame. Power is a cover-up for shame.

1. Control - The major defense strategy that controls all interactions, feelings, and personal behavior at all times.

2. Perfectionism - Always being right in all you do. The perfectionist imposes a measurement by which no one ever measures up. Fear and avoidance of the negative is the organizing principle of life.

3. Blame - Blame when things do not work out as planned. It maintains balance in a dysfunctional system when control has broken down.

4. Denial of Freedoms - It tells you that you should no perceive, think, feel, desire or imagine in that way you do.

5. No-Talk Rule - It prohibits the full expression of any feeling, need or want. Family members hide their true feelings, needs or wants.

6. No Mistakes - Mistakes reveal the flawed vulnerable self. To acknowledge one's mistake is to open oneself to scrutiny. Cover up your own mistakes and if someone else makes a mistake, shame her.

7. Unreliability - Never trust anyone and you can't be disappointed.

John Bradshaw - Healing the Shame that Binds You

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spirituality: Sources of Poisonous Shame

The possibility of toxic shame begins with our source relationships. If our primary caregivers are shame-based, they will act shameless and pass their shame onto us. There is no way to teach self-value if one does not value oneself.

It is multigenerational - passed onto one generation to the next. Shame-based people find others like them and get married. As a couple each carries the shame from his or her own family system. Their marriage will be grounded in their shame-core. The major result of this is a lack of intimacy. It is difficult to let someone get close to you if you feel defective and flawed as a human being. Shame-based couples maintain non-intimacy through poor communication, nonproductive circular fighting, games, manipulation, vying for control, withdrawal, blaming and confluence. Confluence is the agreement never to disagree. It creates pseudo-intimacy.

When a child is bor into these shame-based parents, the deck is stacked from the beginning. The job of parents is to model. Modeling includes how to be a man or woman; how to relate intimately to another person; how to acknowledge and express emotions; how to fight fairly; how to have physical, emotional, and intellectual boundaries; how to communicate; how to cope and survive life's unending problems; how to be self-disciplined; how to love oneself and another. Shame-based parents cannot do any of these. They simply do not know how.

John Bradshaw

Monday, March 8, 2010

Prayer: Alberto Hurtado, S.J.

I have something to say to you. How can we go on with this? I didn't sleep last night and I think you would have suffered from insomnia as well had you seen what I saw. I was arriving at St. Ignatius late last night when a man stopped me. He was standing there in shirtsleeves in the freezing drizzle. He was think as a rail and shaking with fever. The lamplight was sufficient to show me that his tonsils were inflamed. He had no place to sleep and he asked me for the price of a bed in a hostel. There are hundreds of men lik this in Santiago and they are all our brother, and that is no metaphor. Each one of these men is Christ, and what have we done for them? What has the Catholic Church in Chile done for these sons of hers who walk the streets in the rain and sleep in doorways in the cold nights of winter, their bodies found frozen in the early dawn. This sort of things is happening in a Christian country. Tonight a beggar may die in the doorway of any one of your houses. What stupid oxen we Catholics are, how lost in our dreaming, how untouched by the need for social solidarity! We are held back by the possibility of difficulties, obstacles, and scandals.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spirituality: Gerald May “Grace: Qualities of Mercy” Addiction and Grace Part 7 of 8

“We saw its glory,” says the ancient hymn. Not “I,” but “we.” It is a song of community. The soul and God are in love like planet and sun, but the family of humanity is perfused by an intergalactic radiance of grace, a power so immense and dynamic, a Word spoken and so cosmically expanded that time and form, space and substance become simultaneously meaningless and filled with burning glory. At intersections of paths through space that only God can chart, we are drawn together in systems of shared histories, we form covenants, and we become traditions, churches, communities of faith. Here our energies coalesce, and grace pours through the spaciousness of our communal solitude, through our intimacy and interdependence, and, with exponential brilliance, through the sacramental gatherings of true community.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Third Sunday of Lent

March 7, 2010

Vivid biblical scenes are put before us in today’s liturgy. We begin with Moses standing before God in the form of a burning, unconsumed bush inviting him to bring word to the Hebrews that the God of his religious tradition is with him and hears the suffering cries of the people. The God of the Living is with them. Paul then warns us against the sin of presumption by explaining that we have historical lesson to teach us about our appropriate dependence upon God. Jesus uses two illustrations of calamities that fell upon people as a way of unlinking their feelings of deserved punishment with the source of sin in light of accidents and natural disasters. God does not punish people for their wrongdoings by sending bad events to happen to them. Accidents are merely accidents.

But we have to be patient with the work of God and do our part- not doing more or any less. Realizing what we are called to do and doing it best gives great satisfaction. As we look at the image of the parable of the fig tree, we see that our efforts can be valuable even when it does not appear that way to us. Though it appears that the fig tree is barren and useless, we are to give it that extra bit of care and nourishment because it may bear fruit in the future. Stay the course a little longer. Persevere. We are all too quick to give up on our projects because they seem futile and pointless. We can never know what is happening below the surface until some fruit or new life arises.

Today’s message reminds me of Oscar Romero’s poem when he writes: “We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.” It is always helpful for us to remember that the work or ministry we are doing is first and foremost a mission from God. It is God’s project in which we are asked to do our part, however big or small a role it may be. Do it well and fully. Our God who is always with us will be there working alongside us.

Quote for the Week

From the Evening prayer at St. Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, Massachusetts:

“Lord Jesus Christ, grant us your peace, and when the trials of earth shall cease, grant us the morning light of grace, the radiant splendor of your face.”

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: We get many Old Testament readings designed to match the Gospel themes but do not tell a continuous story in the customary fashion. We start this week with 2 Kings and the story of Namaan, the Syrian leper, who was cleansed by the prophet Elisha rather than the many Israelite lepers. God works outside our boundaries. Then we turn to Daniel’s dreams as he asks the Lord to receive him and his associates with humble hearts. In Deuteronomy the people are exhorted to keep the commandments as a way of completing God’s work, but Jeremiah reminds us that the people will seldom listen to God’s voice. Hosea reminds us that God does not want our sacrifices, but our love.

Gospel: Jesus shows that he mirrors the miracles of the prophets Elijah and Elisha in healing people, except that his mission is broader than focusing only on the Jews. He describes the type of behavior needed for discipleship: it means deeply forgiving one’s brother and sister and keeping and preaching about the commandments. As he talks about the work of his disciples, he lets people decide whether they want to be a part of it. He tells them that whoever is not with him is against him, that the love of God is the most important action in the world, and that inclusion in the kingdom may be surprising as a dreaded tax collector makes it into the kingdom while a Pharisee does not.

Saints of the Week

Monday: John of God is a major saint to the Spanish for his tireless work with the neediest people of Granada. He drew others to his type of ministry as he cared for sick and the poor in remarkable ways. His order has been entrusted to the medical and dental care of the Bishop of Rome

Tuesday: Frances of Rome is an Italian saint who petitioned her wealthy parents to become a nun; instead they arranged a marriage for her that turned out to be happy. During a plague, she lost two of her six children. This sensitized her to the plight of the sick and the needy. She began a confraternity to assist the poor.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Mar 7, 1581. The Fifth General Congregation of the Society bound the professors of the Society to adhere to the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas.
• Mar 8, 1773. At Centi, in the diocese of Bologna, Cardinal Malvezzi paid a surprise visit to the Jesuit house, demanding to inspect their accounting books.
• Mar 9, 1764. In France, all Jesuits who refused to abjure the Society were ordered by Parliament to leave the realm within a month. Out of 4,000 members only five priests, two scholastics, and eight brothers took the required oath; the others were driven into exile.
• Mar 10, 1615. The martyrdom in Glasgow, Scotland, of St John Ogilvie.
• Mar 11, 1848. In Naples, Italy, during the 1848 revolution, 114 Jesuits, after much suffering, were put into carts and driven ignominiously out of the city and the kingdom.
• Mar 12, 1622. Pope Gregory XV canonized Sts Ignatius, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila, and Philip Neri.
• Mar 13, 1568. John Segura and five companions set sail from Spain for Florida, a fertile field of martyrs. (Nine Jesuits were killed there between 1566 and 1571.)

Stations of the Cross

Catholics have a tradition of praying the Stations of the Cross, particularly on Fridays in Lent. We walk the spiritual road with Jesus through Scripture-based Stations that depict the last moments of the life of Jesus. We reflect more deeply on particular moments in Christ's Passion: at prayer in the Garden of the Gethsemane, during Peter's denial, through his trial and judgment, ending with his death and entombment. At the end of each station, we add our prayers to God asking for strength, wisdom, courage, patience, and mercy to imitate His Son as we make the journey through Lent to the great Paschal celebration.

“We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”


We pray for the people of Chile who suffer from the devastating 8.8 earthquake that hit the middle of their country. Jesuits from the Maryland province have a long-standing relationship with the Jesuits in Chile. Please continue your prayers for the people as they strive to rebuild their country. Please be generous to the local church and social service agencies that will provide needed services.

The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola

Twelve Jesuits in Australia (including me) and seven in California who are at their last stage of formation (tertianship) are praying through an intense 30-day program of prayer called the Spiritual Exercises. These are a series of prayer exercises designed to bring a person deeper into his or her relationship with God. They are not only for Catholics. Retreatants move through four movements of prayer that allow them to notice the ways they may unknowingly block some aspect in their relationship with God. God works gently with a person to help him or her uncover those disordered attachments so that God can draw a person into closer friendship. It is a period of prayer that is usually full of surprises. Please pray for those of us who are making this long retreat this month.


I am now on long retreat and may not be able to send out the weekly email, but I will update my blog regularly. Access for weekly and daily updates or for my tertian program news.

To search for prayer and Jesuit resources, in the blog search field type in the keywords: poem, prayer, song, spirituality, Jesuit, constitutions, photos, or specific phrases.

Prayer: Michael J. Buckley, S.J.

What did Ignatius envisage as the Jesuit priesthood? A prophetic priesthood, one which was concerned to speak out the word of God in any way that it could be heard, assimilated, and incarnated within the social life of human beings, a priesthood which spoke with the religious experiences of human beings and - as did the prophets of the Old Testament - coupled this care for authentic belief with a concern for those in social misery: the ministry of the word, the ministries of interiority, the ministry to social misery. This is not an arbitrary collection of concerns. The preaching of the word very naturally tends to the ministries of interiority by which the word can be heard, and this tends very naturally to the ministries of justice through which it can be lived and shared with others in the historical living out of human life.... A Jesuit priest is ordained because he gives himself over to this call, because he is consecrated by the Church for this mission of the Church - a service of the word that gathers into its unity all the moments of his life.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Spirituality: Gerald May “Grace: Qualities of Mercy” Addiction and Grace Part 6 of 8

Often we do not sense the constancy of God’s grace-giving love. In many situations God may seem unloving or even completely absent. Sometimes this is because we are blinded by our attachment; we are so preoccupied – our attention is so kidnapped by our compulsions – that we tune out the background of God’s love. I am convinced that our brain cells do habituate the constant reality of God’s love.

Many other reasons exist for our lack of appreciation of God’s constant love. Sometimes the activity of grace so transcends our understanding that it becomes essentially invisible to us. We cannot notice God’s loving presence because it is too numinous, too elusively mystical to be perceived. There are also occasions when we cannot appreciate grace because we really do not want to. And sometimes God actively hides grace from us. But of all the possible explanations for our lack of awareness of grace, there is no possibility of God being indifferent, or falling in love with someone else instead of us, or pouting because of some insult, or being otherwise elsewhere attached.

The immanent God in us becomes wounded with us, suffers, struggles, hopes, and creates with us, shares every drop of our anger and sadness and joy. The reality of God is so intimate as to be experientially inseparable from our own hearts. But that very same God is at once transcendent, the creating, sustaining, and redeeming Power over and above all things. We should not be dismayed that God’s being surpasses understanding, for it is precisely through this mystery that God incarnate can both lovingly share our condition and powerfully deliver us from it. It is through this mystery that grace remains absolute, permanent, and victorious.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Spirituality: Styles of Shame-based Persons

Acting shameless embodies several behaviors that serve to alter the feeling of shame and to interpersonally transfer one's toxic shame to another. (Please note that these characteristics are only being described in a situation when a person is affected by toxic shame.):

Perfectionism: This flows from the boundariless core of toxic shame as it has no sense of limits. One never knows how much is good enough. This person was taught that he or she is valued for only doing. When parental acceptance and love is dependent upon performance - perfectionism is created. The performance is always related to what is outside self. The child is taught to strive onward. Never is there a place for rest or for inner joy and satisfaction.

Striving for Power and Control: Power is a form of control and control is a grandiose disorder of the will. Control insures that no one can ever shame us again. It involves controlling our thoughts, expressions, feelings and actions and it is involved in controlling other people's thoughts, feeling and actions. Control is the ultmate villian in destroying intimacy. We cannot share freely unless we are unequal.

Rage: Rage is a defense. It keeps others away or it transfers the blame to others. This person becomes bitter and sarcastic.

Arrogance: Arrogance offensively exaggerates one's importance. The victim of arrogance believes he or she is inadequate because of the lack of knowledge, experience or power.

Criticism and Blame: If I feel put down and humiliated, I can reduce this feeling but blaming and criticizing someone else. A parent telling a child that he or she never thinks of anyone else allows the child to interpret his or her self-worth as being bad.

Judgmentalism and Moralizing: These are off-shoots of perfectionism that seek a victory over the spiritual competition. Condemning another as bad or sinful is a way to feel righteous.

Contempt: One becomes intensely conscious of another person who is experienced as disgusting. In contempt, the self of the other ins completely rejected.

Patronizing: To patronize is to support, protect or champion someone who is unequal in benefits, knowledge or power, but has not asked you for your support. This is a subtle transfer of shame that usually hides contempt and passive aggressive anger.

Caretaking and Helping: Helpers are always helping themselves. A person who feels flawed and defective feels powerless and helpless. This person feels better about his or herself by taking care of others. Caretaking is an activity that often distracts one from one's feeling of inadequacy.

People-pleasing and Being Nice: The goal of a nice person is one's own image and not the other person. Being nice can manipulate people and situations by avoiding any real emotional contact and intimacy. By avoiding intimacy, this person insures that noone will see him or herself as one truly is.

Envy: Envy is the discomfort at the excellence or good fortune of another. Envy can bring about the other's belittlement and may assert itself in self-assertiveness, admiration or greed.

John Bradshaw

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Poem: Francis and the Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and
blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of the sow.

by Galway Kinnell

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Song: Ennio Morricone's "Gabriel's Oboe" from The Mission

Ennio Morricone conducts "Gabriel's Oboe" from the soundtrack "The Mission". Click on the link below to listen.

Ennio Morricone "The Mission"

Prayer: To Know God's Will by Ignatius of Loyola

May it please the supreme and divine Goodness
to give us all abundant grace
ever to know his most holy will
and perfectly to fulfill it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spirituality: Gerald May “Grace: Qualities of Mercy” Addiction and Grace Part 5 of 8

God’s love is more constant than human love can be. Human loving has its pure moments, and parental love especially can express a likeness of God in its deep steadiness. But however solid it may be, human love is always prey to selfishness and distractions bred by attachment. Even in the best of situations, human love is bound to become intermingled with attachment. When this happens, we can feel possessive of our loved ones or jealous or even vengeful if they do not meet our expectations. We can see our loved ones as extensions of ourselves, wanting them to make good impressions on other people so we ourselves will look good. We can want them to live out our fantasies, conform to our desires, meet our needs, provide us with security and worth. The degree to which we can feel or express authentic love is always conditional upon such attachments.

It is not so with God’s love. God goes on loving us regardless of who we are or what we do. This does not mean God is like a permissive parent who makes excuses and ignores the consequences of a child’s behavior. Such permissiveness is more cowardly than loving, because it devalues the child’s capacity for dignity and responsibility. In God’s constantly respectful love, the consequences of our actions are very real, and they can be horrible, and we are responsible. The freedom that God preserves in us has a double edge. On the one hand, it mean’s God’s love and empowerment are always with us. On the other, it means there is no authentic escape from the truth of our own choices.