Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Second Sunday in Advent


December 4, 2011
Isaiah 40:1-15; 9-11; Psalm 85; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8

          We are already at the Second Sunday of Advent and yet far enough away from Christmas that we can still listen to the voice of the One who calls us to slow down and offer quality time in prayer. These are the days in which we initially prepare ourselves for the Lord's arrival. Our good choices today will determine how meaningful the Advent and Christmas season will be for us.

          Amidst all the upcoming frenetic activities, the distant voice of John the Baptist is coming into range. This is the voice foretold by Isaiah 40. He stands in the desert urging people to prepare the way of the Lord, who is preceding the faithful ones on their return from exile to holy Jerusalem. In Mark, the Baptist declares the repentance for the forgiveness of sins is the fitting preparation to meet the Lord.  

          I prayed over this passage before I began a nature walk at Crane's Beach in Ipswich, Massachusetts the other day. As I walked through the narrow path that meandered through the sand dunes, it was easy to imagine the people who left the towns of Judah in search of John the Baptist. I wondered what it would be like to encounter a man who was so fervent about his faith and had such a peculiar dietary practice, but I wondered more about the throngs of people who left the comfort of their homes to publicly speak their sins to this wild-eyed man. Something deep was drawn out of them, which led them to him.

          I considered what would have attracted me most to the Baptist - his eyes that penetrate deeply into human souls or the words that announce that our salvation is at hand. What about acknowledging my sins in public? This is uncomfortable and yet John was able to elicit trust in each of the penitents who sought his counsel and baptism. Coming clean about our sins leads to our liberation. Sin will no longer rule over us once we speak them to another. No greater jail exists than the silence we contain within us.

          The effect of letting another know of our sins is that we no longer pay attention primarily to our own voice that mediates judgment. We can finally hear what the Lord proclaims - for God proclaims peace. The psalmist sings, "kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss." We have to consider what we really fear in keeping our sins to ourselves, then we have to meditate on the liberation we experience when we are met with God's mercy.

          The Lord asks Isaiah to speak these words to the people. "Comfort, give comfort to my people. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her service is at an end and her guilt is expiated." This does not sound like a harsh, angry, judgmental God, but rather one who desires to welcome a long-exiled people home. This is a parent God who wants to give the returning children a big, warm, longing embrace as they return home. God desires nothing more than our presence so God can delight in us.

          Just as I walked the sandy paths of Crane's beach and the Jews crossed the desert to see John the Baptist, we journey through treacherous terrain on our quest to meet God. If we learn to listen to God's voice and heed the words of our sage guides, then the path that opens before us is simple and straight. We can walk that path any time - even in the midst of holiday busyness.

          If we truly believe we can meet God, we can respond with excitement just like the returning exiled Jews who cried out at the top of their voices, "Here is our God! Here comes with power the Lord God. Like a shepherd he feeds his flock, in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care."

          Set out on your journey with the expectation you will meet your God. Be confident that God will meet you. Learn what God wants to do for you. Feel the ways your heart wants to explode when God tells you your salvation is at hand. Let God carry you in his bosom and lead you with the tender care he wants to show you.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:  Isaiah details the ways that all of Judah will rejoice with the return of God's redeemed. All creation will burst forth to reveal the glory of the Lord. Safe passage for the purified ones is assured. God turns to the weary people to give them comfort and to speak tenderly to them for God is glad they have repented and returned. This God is the King of Glory and is mighty in all deeds. God will teach them what is for their good and will lead them on the way. The people just need to trust that God means good for them at all times. ~ The prophet Elijah appears and speaks with words as hot as a flaming furnace. His words shut up the heavens and his deeds are awesome. Here is a prophet people can hear. He will turn back the hearts of fathers towards their sons and will re-establish the tribes of Jacob.

Gospel: As Jesus was teaching, some men brought a paralyzed man to him on a stretcher so he could be healed. Jesus forgave his sins amidst the Pharisees protests. He then healed the man even though it was the Sabbath. Jesus then asks if a good shepherd would leave behind his ninety-nine sheep in search of one that is lost? He tells us that the Father would do this for you. He then tells the people to learn from him for he is gentle and humble of heart. Jesus then speaks of the fickle present generation who would not dance when the flute was played for them and will not mourn when a dirge is played for them. People begin to wonder about the origin of his extraordinary power to do good. As Jesus came down the mountain with his friends they asked about the timing of the coming of the Messiah. Their belief tells them that Elijah must come first. Jesus tells them Elijah is already present in the person of John the Baptist.

Saints of the Week

Tuesday: Nicholas, bishop (d. 350), lived in southwest Turkey and was imprisoned during the Diocletian persecution. He attended the Council of Nicaea in 324. Since there are many stories of his good deeds, generous charity, and remarkable pastoral care, his character became the foundation for the image of Santa Claus.

Wednesday: Ambrose, bishop and doctor (339-397) was a Roman governor who fairly mediated an episcopal election in Milan. He was then acclaimed their bishop even though he was not baptized. He baptized Augustine in 386 and is doctor of the church because of his preaching, teaching and influential ways of being a pastor.

Thursday: The Immaculate Conception of Mary is celebrated today, which is nine months before her birth in September. She immaculate conception prepares her to become the mother of the Lord. Scripture tells of the annunciation to Mary by the angel Gabriel. Mary's assent to be open to God's plan makes our salvation possible.

Friday: Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (1474-1548) was a poor, simple, indigenous man who was visited by Mary in 1531. She instructed him to build a church at Guadalupe near Mexico City. During another visit, she told him to present flowers to the bishop. When he did, the flowers fell from his cape to reveal an image of Mary that is still revered today.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         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.
·         Dec. 6, 1618: In Naples, the Jesuits were blamed for proposing to the Viceroy that a solemn feast should be held in honor of the Immaculate Conception and that priests should make a public pledge defend the doctrine. This was regarded as a novelty not to be encouraged.
·         Dec. 7, 1649: Charles Garnier was martyred in Etarita, Canada, as a missionary to the Petun Indians, among whom he died during an Iroquois attack.
·         Dec. 8, 1984: Walter Ciszek, prisoner in Russia from 1939 to 1963, died.
·         Dec. 9, 1741: At Paris, Fr. Charles Poree died. He was a famous master of rhetoric. Nineteen of his pupils were admitted into the French Academy, including Voltaire, who, in spite of his impiety, always felt an affectionate regard for his old master.
·         Dec 10, 1548. The general of the Dominicans wrote in defense of the Society of Jesus upon seeing it attacked in Spain by Melchior Cano and others. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Prayer: of Praise

Blessed is the tree that takes times to sink deep roots. It shows us what we have to do in order to withstand the storm.

Blessed is the seed that falls on good soil and so produces a rich harvest; It shows us what happens when we take the word of God to heart.

Blessed is the vine which, having been pruned becomes all the more fruitful. It shows us the good of self-denial.

Blessed are the flowers of the field. Their beauty bears witness to God's prodigal artistry.

Blessed are the many sparrows. Their carefree life gives us a lesson to trust in providence.

Blessed is the wind, coming from where we do not know, to set sails in motion, to breathe life into dying embers. It reminds us of the mysterious workings of the Spirit.

Blessed is the rain that falls without favor on all fields. In it we see a reflection of God's indiscriminate love for all God's children.

Blessed are the leaves that know when to let go and do so in a blaze of color. They show us how to die.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Prayer: Thomas Merton

The Advent mystery is the beginning of the end of all in us that is not yet Christ.

Prayer: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes … and is completely dependent on the fact that the door to freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Prayer: Anthony of Padua

The creator of the heavens obeys a carpenter; the God of eternal glory listens to a poor virgin. Let the philosopher no longer disdain from listening to the common laborer; the wise, to the simple; the educated, to the illiterate; a child of a prince to a mere peasant.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Prayer: Augustine of Hippo

There is something in humility that strangely exults the heart.

Prayer: Albert Schweitzer


It's not enough merely to exist.... That's all very well, but one must do something more. Seek always to do some good somewhere. Everyone has to seek in his own way to make his own self more noble.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Literature: Freedom in The Brothers Karamazov


When the Inquisitor ceased speaking, he waited some time for the prisoner to answer him. His silence weighed down upon him. He saw that the prisoner had listened intently all the time, looking gently into his face and evidently not wishing to reply. The old man longed for him to say something, however bitter and terrible. But he suddenly approached the old man in silence and softly kissed him on the bloodless aged lips. That was all his answer. The old man shuddered. His lips moved. He went to the door, opened it, and said to him, "Go..."

And the kiss glowed in the old man's heart. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Question: Thankfulness

In what ways are you showing your gratitude to God and others as we in the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving? How do you celebrate your harvest thankfulness in other parts of the world?

Prayer: Teresa of Calcutta

If we want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

First Sunday in Advent

November 27, 2011
Isaiah 63:16-19; 64:2-7; Psalm 80; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37

          What are you waiting for? The Gospel tells us we are to be watchful while waiting for our time to come. This type of waiting is an actively vigilant one. It consumes energy as we discern the signs and events that signal something is about to happen, but we do not get a clue about what we are to look for. Through our faith, we see this passage as an admonition to be ready for the return of the Lord Jesus who promises to come again at the end of the age.

          Isaiah knows what he was waiting for. As a people in exile, he wants a restored relationship with the Lord God because he recognizes his people's ungrateful ways. He wants to know if God still cares for them. He reasons that God must care because God created us and formed us and gave us freewill to make good or poor choices. The people still choose imprudently and turn away from God and Isaiah reasons that God has every reason to be annoyed with their impetuousness and yet Isaiah cannot believe deep down in his core that God turns his back on them.

          Isaiah sounds a lot like the psalmist who tells God that God has always been faithful as a father would to his child or as a potter would value his clay. Surely this God will not orphan his people because they are ill-informed in their decisions. This awesome God who can do more than any other god can forgive the people's waywardness. "No ear has ever heard, no eye has ever seen" any god who can do the marvels of the Lord God of Israel.

          The psalmist beckons the shepherd of Israel to "rouse your power and come to save us." Isaiah and his people wait for God to look warmly upon them and come to deliver them from their Babylonian oppressors. They await God's tender outreach that re-establishes good healthy bonds once again. Forgiveness and reconciliation will alleviate their alienation.

          The words of these passages are powerful because we still await God's decision to turn to us with a loving gesture. We still cry out to a God who we need to save us. We feel alienated for a multitude of complex reasons and we are drained of any power that will let God take notice of our soulful suffering. We feel interpersonal and psychic loss all around us. Even the very instrument that is established to mediate God's love for us (that is, the church) finds ways to increase that feeling of alienation. Many lament that they have no place of comfort in which to bring their prayers to a God who they hope still loves them - even if they don't feel it within God's church. They are like the Jews in exile or the early Christians who were kicked out of their very own synagogues. People wait for a sign that God still cares for them and wants to save them.

          What are you waiting for? Perhaps your waiting is expectant and hopeful. Maybe it is anxious and filled with fear. Without a clear expectation, it may be filled with frustration because one cannot see an apparent outcome. What stirs within your heart as you wait in Advent? Trust that stirring. It leads to somewhere, but we have to wait a while longer.

          I think of the Occupy Wall Street movement that continues to evolve. Without any apparent leadership or goals, the people gather and wait. What do they wait for? They wait to be seen and heard - by Wall Street and big banks, by politicians and civic leaders, by the wealthy and middle class, by organized institutions. They want to be seen and heard. Something is amiss and people are speaking out merely by becoming visible to others. We want the same thing from our church.

          We want the same thing from God. Gather. Come together. Share your faith stories of joy and heartache. Come together and acknowledge one another so we are seen and heard. As a community we share ourselves and speak of our needs. We are turned closer towards one another when we learn of one another's needs. We want to be generous to each other. Give each other the gift of being seen and heard. We have to do it when leaders and institutions do not do it. We will see God's mighty power because God will see and hear us and will turn towards us with compassion. Gather together, share your lives, and wait. The God who wants to save us will come soon.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: At the year's start we turn to Isaiah who relates the Lord's vision for Judah and Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the holy mountain where the Lord's house will be established and all nations will stream to it in worship. The Lord shall judge the earth from this vantage point. His justice will offer in a peaceable kingdom in which natural adversaries will live in harmony. Jerusalem will be a strong, fortified city filled with songs of praise. The city shall speak of peace. The unfair, unequal ways of this world will come to an end under his rule. Those is darkness will be led to the light; the blind shall see; those under oppression will be set free. Days of mourning will be over and the Lord will graciously console those who grieve. The teacher will make himself and his wisdom known and every need will be satisfied.

Gospel: A centurion whose servant is sick appeals to Jesus to heal him; he does. He believed in the authority of Jesus. His trusting obedience persuaded Jesus to desire to heal his servant. Jesus rejoices in the Holy Spirit and thanks his Father for the many blessings he has received from him. Jesus then tells his disciples they are blessed for witnessing many things in his name. He tells his disciples that everyone who calls on his name will not be saved because many hear his words but do not do the will of the Father. Two blind men are healed by Jesus and then follow him on the way. As more signs and wonders are seen by an increasing number of people, Jesus continued to teach in the synagogues. He cured many of diseases and afflictions. As he saw so many people with so many needs, his heart went out to them with pity because they appeared to him as sheep without a shepherd. Therefore, he called together many, select Twelve who would be his closest confidants, and gave them authority over unclean spirits and to make known the nearness of the Kingdom of heaven.

Saints of the Week

Wednesday: Andrew, apostle (first century) was a disciple of John the Baptist and the brother of Simon Peter. Both were fishermen from Bethsaida. He became one of the first disciples of Jesus. Little is known of Andrew's preaching after the resurrection. Tradition places him in Greece while Scotland has incredible devotion to the apostle.  

Saturday: Francis Xavier, S.J., priest (1506-1552) was a founding members of the Jesuit Order who was sent to the East Indies and Japan as a missionary. His preaching converted hundreds of thousands of converts to the faith. He died before reaching China. Xavier was a classmate of Peter Faber and Ignatius of Loyola at the University of Paris.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         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.
·         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 Bryant 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. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Prayer: Francis de Sales

Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself. I mean, do not be disturbed because of your imperfections, and always rise up bravely after a fall.

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

Problems only exist in the human mind.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Prayer: John of Avila

Be sure to show to your neighbor the same love which God has shown towards you.... God will pardon your many crimes for the one offense you forgive your neighbors; God will be long-suffering with you in return for a little patience shown towards others; God will reward you with abundant riches for the small alms you bestow. Strive earnestly, therefore, to keep the law of charity, for that is your life.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

This is a fascinating video about a parking attendant who validates. It shows the rich power of a kind word.

The Parking Lot validator

Spirituality: John Howard Griffin

Tragedy is not in the condition but in [hu]man's perception of the condition.

Literature: Dante

Midway in our life's journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Prayer: Faith Healing by Isabel Lagarda, 2004

(Based on Mark 5: 21-43)

It started out as a tiny stain
a secret mark only I could see.

But then it grew
I had no control

the scarlet trickle
now so many streams
waves of body-crumpling pain
my very life flowing out
washing my worth away

A dozen years go by
like a river
a hundred thousand suspicious looks
and noses wrinkled in disgust
abhorring the sickening smell

my bleeding from within
a shame
my shame
a bleeding from within
the blame on me
itself a stain
the doubt like cobwebs in my mind
impossible to sweep aside

my twisted, lonely womb
a wasteland
fruitless
suffering
exhausting years

doctors’ bloody fingers prodding
in their scientific way
uprooting memories invading,
haunting, tearing through
my flesh
hurting, the looks of so many men
condemning, the women looking away,
then the doctors’ hands held out
for coins that I no longer had
even after I swept desperately,
every corner,
on my hands and knees.

If only I could reach
the borders of some miracle.
What are the chances
some person on this miserable earth
would take the yoke of my trouble
and bear the burden with me?
No one wants to hear this story.
No one wants to look at pain.
No one believes the pain is that bad.
I cannot just curl up and hope.
I cannot wait.

The crowd swarms around me.
I am salt in the sea.
I can smell the rank sweat on the men
on all sides.
They would call me unclean
but they are no cleaner.
They’re pressing too hard;
I can barely breathe.
I am so close—just another arm’s length,
just beyond that wall of shoulders,
then I won’t have to wait
for the face-to-face plea.
I can hide, faceless, nameless, worthless
among these worthier ones.
My secret will be safe.

The healer passes by.
The crowd begs him to stay
but a synagogue leader’s child is ill—
what am I to that?
So many woes much greater than mine,
so many hands reaching for him.
If I stoop low enough
I’ll be able to touch some part of him
just a sandal strap
the edge of his robe
something, anything to connect
my stinking life
with a presence holier than all this.
I would gladly take
a crumb from his table
a scrap of his care
the leavings
a particle
—there must be some power
infinite enough
to fill a particle.

He pauses to smile at a baby who smiles.
The grown-ups are impatient.
The moment has come.

I am on my knees again.

The threads of his cloak
are just beyond my fingertips.
The blood oozes from me
as I strain to reach,
reminding me of my shame.
a little more…
a little farther…
just a little more…
I can reach him…
There!
I grasp the cloth in my hand.
Sweet relief: it is accomplished.
At first the momentary joy is enough.

But he turns.
Somehow he knows.
Who touched me, he says.
I recoil; my hands begin to shake.
The men start to laugh
But he is dead serious.
I’m scared.
My soul is caving in.
Where can I run?
There is no place to hide.
Everyone is reaching, grasping, holding,
but he can feel the difference—
in his body
he felt the transformation
as my own body and blood were changed.

He will bring all eyes upon me
who would never merit a second glance.
You touched me, he says softly,
not in accusation
but in recognition
as if he were talking to a friend.
Please do not make me the center of all this
Please leave me in peace
Attend to that precious, precious child
Don’t delay for a woman
Whose life counts for nothing.
But this man is not like other men.
This man reverses everything.
The unnoticeable he notices;
the unlovable he loves;
punishment and payment are not his way;
suffering and death not ours.

He says I had faith before I came
but he doesn’t know
how could he know
I did not have any faith at all
I don’t even know what that is
apart from what I see in him:
enough faith
to look at each of us
as if each of us were priceless,
to know joy even in a world full of pain,
to speak to the hungry and eat with sinners,
to bring life where no life is possible.

Talitha koumi he says
as if it were that simple.
He says to those who cannot even move
Rise, pick up your mat, and walk.
Rise, he says—

and why should that be so hard?
After all
we have seen the face of God

and lived.

-Isabel Legarda, 2004

Friday, November 18, 2011

Prayer: Teresa Benedicta of the Cross


It is most important that the Holy Eucharist becomes life's focal point: that the eucharistic Savior is the center of existence; that every day is received from his hand and laid back therein; that the day's happenings are deliberated with him. In this way, God is given the best opportunity to be heard in the heart, to form the soul, and to make its faculties clear-sighted and alert for the supernatural. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Eastern Point Retreat House


Click to Enlarge

Prayer: Caryll Houselander

The rhythm of God's law is the gathering rhythm of song. It is set in great measures, not conflicting with human nature, but keeping time with it, and catching it up into its own torrent of beauty as a pebble is caught up in a running stream.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christ the King


November 20, 2011
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; Psalm 23; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28; Matthew 25:31-46

          The Feast of Christ the King marks the final Sunday of the year and the return of the Lord Jesus to inaugurate the final judgment of our moral choices. It becomes our day to check in on ourselves to see how faithfully we are imitating the life of Jesus and make needed amends. All of creation will be called to account and the righteous will be taken up into heaven as a reward for their fidelity.

          The feast is relatively new to the church calendar as Pius XI instituted it in 1925 as a response to the rise of secularism in which church leaders thought the role of Christ was becoming displaced. It falls on the 34 Sunday of Ordinary Time in November. With the rise of dictatorships in Europe, Pius XI thought that the masses of people were getting pulled into the orbits of earthly leaders with new types of secular-based governments. Mass attendance was at a low point and respect for Christ and the Church was waning. This feast was to bolster a strong image of the church and remind everyone that Christ still reigned supreme while other governmental leaders would pass away.

          The image of a strong, kingly Christ depicted by Pius XI is diametrically opposed to the one presented in the readings. Ezekiel describes the right leader of Israel to be a caring, compassionate shepherd who will exhaust his resources to rescue his scattered sheep when it is cloudy and dark. This shepherd will tend to them by giving them rest, by binding up the injured, healing the sick, and seek out the strayed and the lost. This leader will separate his sheep for those of other shepherds and lead them to safety. He knows his sheep well enough to segregate them from other sheep and from rams and goats. This leader has intimate knowledge of his flock and will provide for all their needs. The responsorial psalm, the Twenty-Third, gives us another glimpse of this care-giver who refreshes our souls and leads us to right paths.

          In the Last Judgment passage in Matthew, Jesus becomes the Good Shepherd once again. He too will separate his sheep from those sheep who belong to others. He will separate them from the goats as well. His measure of discernment is whether his sheep grow in intimate knowledge of him and thereby imitate his attitude towards others. We mimic his outpouring concern for others by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, and caring for the imprisoned. Our response to others is to be genuine service to them because we care for their human dignity. We are not concerned for glory from God or humans because our natural response is human regard for those who struggle and suffer.

          We desire in our church not leaders who are strong and firm in their authority but those who lovingly and affectionately understands and provides for the people of God. Speaking loudly with firm purpose does no good if the people do not sense the leader cares for them. Fostering a culture that adheres to unyielding universal rules and making pronouncements about who is righteous or sinful builds little trust or credibility when the flock cannot sense genuine concern for every person's dignity and well-being. The flock recognizes either genuine or inauthentic motives in the one who sets out to be their shepherd. Without genuine care, the flock scatters. The flock will not abandon the true shepherd (they still recognize his voice), but may seek other ways to access the good shepherd.

          We want our church to have leaders who like being with the people of God and will exhaust resources to provide for them in darkness. The world is filled with people who hunger for the word of God and we are to speak in new ways to attract people to the Good Shepherd. We are to lead people who are dry and weary with life to the one who offers the cup of eternal life. We are at our best when we welcome the stranger - not put restrictions on them or create a smaller, purer church - but let them know that their unique contributions will enrich us. We reach out to those who feel disempowered and we help them access the power of Christ, the redeemer and liberator. We know that so many are bound by demons and imprisoned by disordered attachments and we want them to come to know that by journeying together with our struggles we meet the face of God.

          Christ the Shepherd is our King. Long live Christ the King. May we imitate his tender, gentle ways and respond to his loving invitations!

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Daniel, Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem and tried to rebuild Israeli nobility in his own image. He selected Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah among others as his recruits. Daniel sought not to defile himself with the king's food and wine. After dietary tests, the four men gave knowledge and proficiency in literature and science. Daniel became known for his dream interpretations. Daniel interpreted a dream for the king that predicted his future fate. Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom will fall to be replaced by others, but God's kingdom shall stand.

During a feast of the king's son, Belshazzar, a vision of a human hand appeared and wrote: Mene, Tekel, Peres. Daniel interpreted it to mean the kingdom was numbered, Belshazzar's rule was found lacking, and the kingdom will be divided among the Medes and the Persians. Daniel violated the king's prohibition because of his prayer and the king tried to rescue Daniel, but his adversaries demanded thorough justice. Daniel was thrown into the lion's den and remained throughout the night, but the lion did not attack him. The king rejoiced and Daniel was found innocent before God. Daniel then interpreted an apocalyptic dream with four beasts. One like the son of man approached the Ancient One and this man received dominion, glory, and kingship on heaven and earth. He will rule and judge the world giving dominion to the ones who will serve and obey him.

Gospel: In Jerusalem, the people are looking for a sign and Jesus tells them that someone else will come in his name to deceive people into thinking the time has come. Wars and insurrections will happen before the great war that will usher in the lasting kingdom. His followers will face persecution and will be kicked out of their houses of worship. However, his spirit will be with them to give solid witness. Their lives shall be saved. Great calamity and confusion will beset the world as events shake out. After all these things occur, the Son of Man will come in a cloud with power and great glory. Be fortified because redemption is at hand. Heaven and earth will pass away, but his words will remain eternal. Therefore, do not let your hearts get drowsy from licentiousness or the anxieties of daily life. Be vigilant and pray that you have the strength to escape the immanent tribulations.

Saints of the Week

Monday: The Presentation of Mary originated as a feast in 543 when the basilica of St. Mary's the New in Jerusalem was dedicated. The day commemorate the event when Mary's parent brought her to the Temple to dedicate her to God. The Roman church began to celebrate this feast in 1585.

Tuesday: Cecilia, martyr (2nd or 3rd century), is the patron saint of music because of the song she sang at her wedding. She died just days after her husband, Valerian, and his brother were beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to the gods. She is listed in the First Eucharistic prayer as an early church martyr.

Wednesday: Clement I, pope and martyr (d. 99) is also mentioned in the First Eucharistic prayer. He is the third pope and was martyred in exile. He is presumed to be a former slave in the imperial court. He wrote a letter to the Corinthians after a revolt and as pope he restored ordered within the ministries.   

Columban, abbot (d. 615) was an Irish monk who left Ireland for France with 12 companions to found a monastery as a base for preaching. They established 3 monasteries within 10 years. Columban opposed the king's polygamy and was expelled. He set up monasteries in Switzerland and Italy before he died. Though he was expelled, the monasteries were permitted to remain open.

Miguel Pro, S.J., martyr (1891-1927) lived in Guadalupe, Mexico before entering the Jesuits. Public worship was forbidden in Mexico so Miguel became an undercover priest often wearing disguises. He was arrested and ordered to be shot in front of a firing squad without benefit of a trial. Before he died she shouted out, "Long live Christ the King."

Thursday: Andrew Dung-Lac and companion martyrs (1785-1839) were missionaries to Vietnam during the 17th through 19th centuries. Over 130,000 Christians were killed, including priests, sisters, brothers, and lay people. Many of these were Vietnamese citizens.

Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. is derived from a mix of European and Native American traditions. Joyous festivals were held in Europe to give thanks for a good harvest and to rejoice with others for their hard work. It is a day to give thanks for the many blessings we have received through God's generosity throughout the year.

Friday: Catherine of Alexandria, martyr, (d. 310) is said to have been born in Egypt to a noble family. She was educated and converted to Christianity because of a vision. She refused to marry a man arranged to be her husband by the emperor, and she denounced him for persecuting Christians. She was arrested, tortured, and killed.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         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.
·         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: Geronimo 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.
·         In 1927: the execution of Fr. Michael Augustine Pro, SJ, by leaders of the persecution of the Church in Mexico.
·         Nov 24, 1963: The death of John Lafarge, pioneer advocate of racial justice in the United States.
·         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 the arrest and imprisonment of St Claude la Colombiere. He was released after five weeks and banished.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Prayer: Thomas More

I will not mistrust God, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear... I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the storm seas hold me up from drowning.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Poem: Hand's Inner Self by Rainer Maria Rilke

Hand's inner self.
Sole, that does its walking
just with feelings. That holds itself face up
and, as in a mirror,
receives from heaven its own meandering pathways.
That has learned to walk on water
when it splashes.
That walks on wells,
transforming every journey.
That finds itself in other hands
and turns them into landscapes,
wanders and arrives in them,
fills them with arrival.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Homily for 33rd Sunday (adapted for retreat)


Retreat Homily for
Thirty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(adaptation of Sunday's regular homily)

          Jesus prepares his friends for the end times by telling them another parable about one's disposition to enter into the kingdom. Last week, the ten virgins were exhorted to remain vigilant for the bridegroom. This week, we hear a story of a man who is leaving for a journey of unexpected duration. He entrusts his talents to three servants with an undeclared expectation that they will prudently invest these talents for greater profit.
          Without haste, the first two servants trade them in an apparently vibrant economy and is able to earn double their worth. The third servant decides to be very responsible. He hides the single talent entrusted to him and returns it to his master who is angry with his course of action. The master wanted him to invest and use the talent wisely - earning even a small degree of interest. Making use of what was given to him is more important than hoarding it for safe keeping.
          The damaging aspect of the non-risk servant is that he operates out of fear. He sees no excitement in the possibilities of watching the talent's value grow. His fear stunts his freedom. It is likely that he worried day and night about the buried talent. He thinks he does not have to worry about his master's return because he would be able to present the talent intact. He can't lose anything. Think about the gladness of the other two servants who proudly present their good investment to the master. Surely, even if the non-risk servant failed and lost the talent, his master would not have treated him harshly because he took a daring chance. To do nothing means to fall behind.
          Part of our problem is that we have constructed air-tight answers to the reasons we don't allow ourselves to do certain things. We say 'no' to invitations, and that is that. No one is going to change our answers. We are in control and no one is going to derail us. I wonder if the non-risk servant thought like this too. He built so many answers around his fear that he could no longer see that he fundamentally operates out of fear. What a shame. Fear stops us from living fully. Fear stops us from being happy. We tighten up our firm control when we encounter the slightest bit of fear. What will it take to make us vulnerable once again?
          This parable gives me pause when I consider how well I use the talents invested to me by God. Sure, I have used some and I'm grateful for those few that I have been given, but I know I have not invested in them to the degree expected. I often take a safe route and adopt a conservative approach for my own needs. I tend not to speak up for myself in words or through actions. Fear still holds me back because I do not boldly ask for what I want and need. I try to consider what others want first. I may give 10 percent to my talents, and maybe I'm expected to give 60 percent more. Perhaps I was not formed to nurture my talents. I guess I am a lot like the non-risk servant and I can understand his protective measures. For me to break out of my current rationalizations would mean to confront my fears - and this is uncomfortable and I need a nudge.
          The value of friends cannot be underestimated on this journey. The Book of Proverbs tells us this friend or spouse only brings us that which is good. Friends' investments in us will help us live fulfilled lives. Friends believe in us, which encourages us to try with greater confidence. Friends respect our day-dreams and implore us to act upon them because of the magical stuff they see in us. Too often, we say 'no.' We need one another because we are brought out of ourselves by each other.
          Our friendships on earth mirror the friendship we can have with God. When we learn to relate to God as friend, we can note the ways God encourages us to develop parts of ourselves that are still in potency. God will also work with us to transform our wounds into glory. We learn to accept sincere praise from others so we can more fully actualize ourselves. We learn to accept sincere praise from God, who is always laboring for us. God's praise will take away our fears and give us confident, grounded courage. God will bring us from the status of a non-risk servant to one who invests generously to make the best yield for ourselves and for God. God will help us have fun while doing it. We really have nothing to lose.
          Fortunately, the master has not yet returned and it is still my responsibility to double the effect of my talents. I will be called on to give an accounting for my use of the talents plus interest. I wonder where I will stand when I am called into account. I know that I do not have much time left to reform my actions. I have to be open to opportunities and to listen to friends' counsel. I still have to figure out with God which talents are to be explored and which ones to leave behind.
          I know that when I am on retreat, it is my most provocative time for day-dreaming. I consider all the things in life that I would still like to do - all those things that will bring me personal happiness and a tremendous sense of freedom. It never feels self-centered or selfish. It always feels like a fulfillment of my childhood dreams. Day-dreaming can be wild and fantastic, but it is never a place where I encounter fear - only desire.
          Ignatius of Loyola came to know this. His greatest illumination from God came not from prayer, but from the down-time when he was just day-dreaming as he sat on the banks of the Cardoner River near Manresa, Spain. He did not do anything, but let his mind wander to where his desires led him. They led him back to the one who fulfills all desires. Ignatius recounts that day of dreaming as his most instructive and fulfilling.  We have to give our dreams and aspirations more courage and energy.
          Soon we will be standing before God at the end of our lives. We have to give an accounting. I hope that I stand before God empty-handed - with not a single bit of talent left - so I can say to God, "I used everything you gave me."


Prayer: Freedom is not license

"Christ's call on our lives is a call to liberty. Freedom is the cornerstone of Christianity."

We have repeatedly been told what freedom isn't. We know it is not license, but freedom has been defined in a negative sense - as if it is a form of social control.

"Such an approach, whatever its limited truth, is defensive and afraid. Those using it wish above all to warn us of the dangers of thinking about freedom, of yearning for freedom. Such an approach generally ends up by showing us, or at least attempting to show us, that freedom actually consists in following the law or in submitting to authority or in walking a well-trod path. Again, there may be some truth in these conclusions, but there is lacking a sense of the dark side of the law, and of authority, and of the well-trod path. Each may be and has been turned into an instrument of tyranny and human suffering."

From "The Ragamuffin Gospel" by Brennan Manning

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Prayer: Rose Philippine Duchesne

We may not understand God's will for us in time, but in eternity the veil will be drawn and we shall see that God acted only for our happiness.

Prayer: Augustine of Hippo

God is an infinite circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Prayer: I am

I was regretting the past and fearing the future and suddenly my Lord said:

"My name is I am." He paused. I waited.

He continued: "When you live in the past with its mistakes and regrets, it is hard to find me for I am not there.

My name is not "I was."

When you live in the future, with its problems and fears, it is hard to find me for I am not there.

My name is not "I will be."

When you live in this moment, it is not hard. I am here.

My name is "I am."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veterans Day Prayer

Prayer: For Veterans of Foreign Wars
Here is a prayer I composed to remember the veterans of our foreign wars on November 11th.

Loving God,
we remember those who have served our nation
and died to protect
and defend our freedom.
Help us never to forget them
and their efforts to keep us safe.

We honor those who were in combat,
and returned home safely.
May they know our thankfulness.

We honor those in the service who supported
our military behind the front lines.
May they know our gratitude.

We pray for those whose bodies and spirits
are ravaged by war,
whose memories cannot forget the
brutality war inflicts upon others,
whose pain is too deep for others to touch.

Help us find ways to reach out
to our brothers and sisters who have returned from war
and are in psychic pain
so they may know they are important to us.
May we come to know their pain
and be in solidarity with them so
they will not take their own lives.

We pray for those who are in combat today.
Shield them from danger
and bring them home safely and soon.

May we all work to end all wars
and establish a lasting peace
that is built on justice, charity, and mutual understanding.
Help us to live in hope
that your kingdom of heaven
can reign here on earth.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Litany of Remembrance

O Lord of life, bless the memories we cherish. This day affords us a glimpse of eternity. May the sorrow we have known be softened by our sense of your infinite wisdom, your abiding love, and your eternal promise

In the rising of the sun to its setting, we remember them.

In the blowing of the wind and the chill of winter, we remember them.

In the opening of the buds in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.

In the blueness of the sky and the warmth of summer, we remember them.

In the rustling of the leaves and the beauty of autumn, we remember them.

In the beginning of the year and at its close, we remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.

When we are lost and sick of heart, we remember them.

When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them.

So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us and we remember them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time


November 13, 2011
Wisdom 6:12-16; Psalm 63; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

          Jesus prepares his friends for the end times by telling them another parable about one's disposition to enter into the kingdom. Last week, the ten virgins were exhorted to remain vigilant for the bridegroom. This week, we hear a story of a man who is about to leave for a journey of unexpected duration. Before he leaves, he entrusts his talents to three servants with an expectation that they will prudently invest these talents for greater profit.

          The most responsible servant is given five talents. Without haste, he trades them and is able to earn another five talents. The second does likewise with the two talents, but the third servant decides to be very responsible. He hides the single talent entrusted to him and returns it to his master who is angry with his course of action. The master wanted him to invest and use the talent wisely - earning even a small degree of interest. Making use of what was given to him is more important than hoarding it for safe keeping.

          The damaging aspect of the non-risk servant is that he operated out of fear. He did not see the excitement in the possibilities of seeing the talent's value grow. His fear stunted his freedom. It is likely that he worried day and night about the buried talent. He thought he would not have to worry about his master's return because he would have been able to present the talent intact. Think about the gladness of the other two servants who proudly presented their good investment to the master. Surely, even in the non-risk servant failed and lost the talent, his master would not have treated him harshly because he took a chance. To do nothing means to fall behind.

          It gives me pause when I consider how well I have used the talents invested to me by God. Sure, I have used some and I'm grateful for those that I have been given, but have I invested in them to the degree expected? I often take the safe route and have a conservative approach to matters concerning myself. I tend not to speak up for myself in words or actions. I may give 10 percent to my talents, and maybe I'm expected to give 60 percent more. Perhaps I was not formed to nurture my talents. I guess I am a lot like the non-risk servant.

          However, the master has not yet returned and it is still my responsibility to double the effect of my talents. Fear may still hold me back because I do not boldly ask for what I want and need. I try to consider what others want first. I will be called on to give an accounting for my use of the talents plus interest. I wonder where I will stand when I am called into account. I know that I do not have much time left to reform my actions. I know that I have to be open to opportunities and to listen to friends' counsel. I still have to figure out with God which talents are to be explored and which ones to leave behind.

          The value of friends cannot be underestimated on this journey. The Book of Proverbs tells us this friend or spouse only brings us that which is good. Friends' investments in us will help us live fulfilled lives. Friends believe in us, which encourages us to try with greater confidence. We need one another.

          Our friendships on earth mirror the friendship we can have with God. When we learn to relate to God as friend, he can note the ways God encourages us to develop parts of ourselves that are still in potency. God will also work with us to transform our wounds into glory. We have to learn to accept the sincere praise from others so we can more fully actualize ourselves. We have to learn to accept sincere praise from God, who is always laboring for us. God's praise will take away our fears and give us confident, grounded courage. God will bring us from a non-risk servant to one who invests generously to make the best yield for ourselves and for God. God will help us have fun while doing it. There's really nothing to lose.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: A dispute between the progressive Jews and the hard-line, conservative Maccabeans broke out during the brutal occupation of Antiochus Epiphanes. Some Jews tried to make peace with their Gentile occupiers to make life easier for the people; while others held fast to their religious convictions - an event that ushered in harsh persecution. Eleazar, a leading scribe, was ridiculed and force to eat pork, but he chose a glorious death to a life of defilement. His friends tried to reason with him to spare his life; he was promised a life of kind treatment if he would just eat the pork. Eleazar refused and was summarily executed.

At the same time, seven brothers and their mother were arrested and tortured with whips for the same reason, but they refused to eat pork in violation of God's laws. The mother watched her seven sons perish in a single day. She could have stopped the murder of each of her sons, but would not give in. Mattathias, a leading, honorable, wealthy man with a large family, also chose to keep the covenant of their fathers; another Jew came forward to offer a sacrifice on the altar of Modein in accord with the King's wishes. Matthathias became enraged and killed the man. He and his sons left everything behind and fled to the mountainside and desert in isolation.

An army of Alexander, son of Philip of Macedonia, developed a fierce, formidable army that was victorious against many nations. King Antiochus knew he could not win against Alexander. On his deathbed, he became remorseful for all the evil he wrought against Jerusalem and its people.

Eventually, the enemies of the Jews were crushed and Judas Maccabee and his brothers went to the sanctuary to purify and rededicate it. It was the anniversary of the day the Gentiles defiled it. For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar with sacrifices of praise and deliverance.

Gospel: As Jesus approaches Jericho on his way to Jerusalem, he encounters a blind man sitting by the road. He was waiting for Jesus to pass by. Jesus asks, "What do you want me to do for you?" The man asks for sight and is given both vision and faith. On his way, Jesus met Zacchaeus, a short tax collector who climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus. Jesus announces that salvation has come to his house today; Zacchaeus repays all he has defrauded his neighbors. Jesus then tells a parable about a nobleman who entrusts his servants with ten gold coins. Some traded and invested wisely; others with moderate success; and one was too timid to do anything so he wrapped them in a handkerchief and stored them away. The nobleman was furious with his poor choices. Upon entering Jerusalem, Jesus makes straight away for the Temple where he drives out vendors for defiling the house of prayer. The chief priests, scribes, and leaders decide to put him to death. Sadducees, who deny the resurrection, ask Jesus about successive marriage of seven brothers to the same wife at the end of the age. Jesus concludes by telling them that God is the god of the living, not the dead.  

Saints of the Week

Tuesday: Albert the Great, bishop and doctor (1200-1280), joined the Dominicans to teach theology in Germany and Paris. Thomas Aquinas was his student. With his reluctance, he was made bishop of Ratisbon. He resigned after four years so he could teach again. His intellectual pursuits included philosophy, natural science, theology, and Arabic language and culture. He applied Aristotle's philosophy to theology.

Wednesday: Margaret of Scotland (1046-1093) was raised in Hungary because the Danes invaded England. She returned after the Norman Conquest in 1066 and sought refuge in Scotland. She married the king and bore him eight children. She corrected many wayward abuses within the church and clarified church practices.  

Gertrude the Great (1256-1302) was placed for childrearing into a Benedictine monastery at age 5 in Saxony. She lived with two mystics named Mechthild and as she developed her intellectual and spiritual gifts, she too became a mystic. Her spiritual instructions are collected into five volumes. She wrote prayers as a first advocate of the Sacred Heart.

Thursday: Elizabeth of Hungary, (1207-1231) was the daughter of Andrew II, king of Hungary. She married Ludwig IV of Thuringia and as queen supported many charities. When her husband died in a crusade in 1227, she entered the Third Order of Franciscans.  

Friday: The Dedication of the Basilicas of Peter and Paul celebrates churches in honor of the two great church founders. St. Peter's basilica was begun in 323 by Emperor Constantine - directly over Peter's tomb. A new basilica was begun in 1506 and it was completed in 1626. Many great artists and architects had a hand in building it. St. Paul Outside the Walls was built in the 4th century over Paul's tomb. It was destroyed by fire in 1823 and subsequently rebuilt.

Rose Philippine Duchesne (1769-1852) joined the Sisters of the Sacred Heart and at age 49, traveled to Missouri to set up a missionary center and the first free school west of the Mississippi. She then founded six more missions. She worked to better the lives of the Native Americans.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         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.
·         Nov 15, 1628. The deaths of St Roch Gonzalez and Fr. Alphonsus Rodriguez. 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. 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.