Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Prayer: John of the Cross

In order for the soul to succeed in reaching God and to become united with God, it must have the mouth of its will opened to God alone, and freed from any morsel of desire, to the end that God may satisfy and fill it with love and sweetness.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Prayer: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

Over the pope as expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one’s own conscience which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even the official church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism.

(in: Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II ) 1967

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Prayer: Rainer Maria Rilke, Book of Hours

How surely gravity's law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world...

This is what the things can teach us;
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Spirituality: Necessary Suffering

There is a necessary suffering that cannot be avoided, which Jesus calls "losing our very life," or losing what I and others call the "false self." Your false self is your role, title, and personal image that is largely a creation on your own mind and attachments. It will and must die in exact correlation to how much you want the Real. "How much false self are you willing to shed to find your True Self?" is the lasting question. Such necessary suffering will always feel like dying, which is what good spiritual teachers will you about very honestly. If your spiritual guides do not talk to you about dying, they are not good spiritual guides!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Prayer: Teresa of Calcutta

When we handle the sick and the needy, we touch the suffering body of Christ. We need the eyes of deep faith to see Christ in the broken body and dirty clothes under which the most beautiful one among us hides.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Homily for Thursday, July 26th

        Just as the disciples were sometimes confused about the reasons he spoke in parables to the crowds, you perhaps sometimes wonder why retreat directors speak the parabolic way we do. Let's face it: we respond to your questions by asking silly ones back, like, "Is that what you think Jesus would say or did you ask him?," "Tell me: what does your heart say? What is your body saying?," or "How are you feeling - not thinking, but feeling?." Or simply, when you ask a question, we sit back in silence - and wait. It is frustrating at times. You may wonder: "Why can't you just tell me what you are thinking or tell me what to do? That would be simpler." Yes, it would be, but your freedom is most important to us.

          I hope you have felt that we have held you in prayer and presented you to God, that we cared for you, that we assisted you as a friend to deepen your friendship with the Lord. I think you know very clearly that our loving God is the one who directs your retreat and soon we will be but a faint memory to you. We have done our job if we have brought you into the Company of Jesus as a friend. We are merely fellow sojourners and we are privileged to walk with you on a sometimes intense, often passionate, and deeply intense encounter with the one who yearns deeply for you. Christ beholds you each day and is astonished by you. You take his breath away and fill up his senses.

          This is one of the Gospel points. Jesus blesses our senses - not our intellect or even our heart. "Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear." The senses are the place where we experience God and it often comes in the most undetectable ways. Perhaps as you needed consoling, you felt slight pressure over your heart from the healing hand of Jesus after begging to make himself known to you. Or maybe you sat in the tomb with the dead body of Jesus and before you knew it, you felt his hand brush over yours when all you wanted to do was to comfort him and hold his hands. Or you gazed blankly at a repetitive ripple of ocean waves and you sensed that somehow Jesus Christ is alive and present to you. Or maybe your ears noticed the familiar footsteps of Jesus as he walked into the courtyard where his mother sat in her grief and said, "Mom, I'm O.K." as she sprang up to greet him tenderly. I'm sure you have personal, maybe private unexplainable instances of God reaching out beyond all boundaries to touch your senses and to let you know of God's radical, relentless care for you. It feels so real and you know you can't adequately explain it to others. It is real. Allow God to bless and heighten your senses and speak through them.

          I think of two stories of men I encountered in my late 20's who have taught me something about ministry. The first was when I was a Eucharistic Minister at Massachusetts General Hospital. I walked by this one room where I saw an 80-year old man sitting on a bed. He looked awful. I looked at the room number and my list of Catholics and I hoped he was not one. He had fallen down a flight of stairs and his face and body were bruised, swollen, and covered with drying oozing blood. I did not want to look at him. I planned to avoid eye contact and get in and out of the room quickly. He welcomed me and told me he was lonely. His wife died two years earlier and he had no immediate family around. He said, "I fought in the war and I've seen and heard the most terrible things and I have always prided myself that I never cried, but now I'm alone..." As I reached out for his hand to gently console him, he held out his arms for a hug. I recoiled inwardly and then embraced him. He collapsed into my arms and sobbed safely pressing the whole weight of his body and his raw wounds against me as he held onto his only connection with humanity.

          I also brought holy communion to a ninety-nine year old man who was hard of hearing and lacking sight and in a different sphere, but he always recognized why I was there to visit him. At one point, as the President of the United States was on television, he said "That man has nothing to really tell me, but you have something to tell me and you hardly speak." He shuddered. His eyes widened and he sat back in his chair as if he just received a great insight and he exclaimed in wonderment, "It's all so simple. It's all so simple. Why did I not see it before. It is all so simple." When I departed, I could hear him repeat his mantra, "It's all so simple. It's all so simple." A healing touch, the invitation of outstretched arms, the sitting is silence and dimness - can speak loudly of what is most real and meaningful.

          The risen Jesus of Nazareth still carries the sting of the pain and the memory of the crucifixion, but he does not look toward his pain because the pain we carry is burdensome and he reaches out to console us. It astounds me that reaching towards another who has suffered takes away his pain. The same for ourselves. When I held that bruised older man in my arms, I only wanted him to know that someone cares for him. When the blind, deaf man came to his "aha" moment, I held his life of regret and insight before me. Our vocation is to be like Jesus who consoles one another. We forget about ourselves because our hearts are moved by the one in front of us. We are able once again to say: "Take Lord,..."

          Just as we begin most retreats, it is fitting to end the retreat in a similar way. We take time to breathe and we absorb the beautiful environment around us. It is good for us to take off our shoes again, to listen not only to the rich sounds, but also the absent ones, to smell the earthiness of the forest floor, to let our imaginations be overactive again. Your imagination will bring meaning to your experience as it unites your mind with your heart. It is time to let yourself live again. Let your senses become heightened with a renewed sense of compassion and joy. Say 'yes' to the invitations that come your way - because grace is ready to bound forth from those unexpected places. Live courageously and be your own artist. Dream as a poet does. It is all so simple.

          The poet, Rainer Marie Rilke, at the height of his fame, was once contacted by a young man from a small, provincial town. The young man expressed his admiration for Rilke’s poetry and told him that he envied him, envied his life in a big city, and envied a life so full of insight and richness. He went on to describe how his own life was uninteresting, provincial, small town, too dull to inspire insight and poetry. Rilke’s answer was not sympathetic. He told the young man something to this effect: 

          “If your life seems poor to you, then tell yourself that you are not poet enough to see and call forth its riches. There are no uninteresting places, no lives that aren’t full of the stuff for poetry. What makes for a rich life is not so much what is contained within each moment, since all moments contain what’s timeless, but sensitive insight and presence to that moment.”

Spirituality: Are you poet enough?

The poet, Rainer Marie Rilke, at the height of his fame, was once contacted by a young man from a small, provincial town. The young man expressed his admiration for Rilke’s poetry and told him that he envied him, envied his life in a big city, and envied a life so full of insight and richness. He went on to describe how his own life was uninteresting, provincial, small town, too dull to inspire insight and poetry. Rilke’s answer was not sympathetic. He told the young man something to this effect: 

“If your life seems poor to you, then tell yourself that you are not poet enough to see and call forth its riches. There are no uninteresting places, no lives that aren’t full of the stuff for poetry. What makes for a rich life is not so much what is contained within each moment, since all moments contain what’s timeless, but sensitive insight and presence to that moment.”

Grandparents: Joachim and Anne

          I never really connected emotionally to the feast of Joachim and Anne, the parents of Mary. We are not even sure that we have their names right because the data that scholars pulled together were taken from non-scriptural writings like the Protogospel of James. Devotion to Anne existed in 6th century Constantinople and 8th century Rome. It seems like the Eastern churches began many valuable traditions that eventually took hold in the West. Joachim was honored since the earliest days and the West eventually honored him in the 16th century.

          The parents of Joseph, however, are not similarly honored. Through Matthew's genealogy, we know that Jacob was the father of Joseph, but we do not know Jacob's wife's name. I can only imagine that they enjoyed watching the boy Jesus grow just as much as Anne and Joachim. It seems that most parents enjoy the opportunity to be a grandparent.

          I only remember one grandparent, which is probably why I don't relate to this memorial very well. I am named after my two grandfathers. My father's parents both died before I was born and each of them remarried giving us two step-grandparents, Doc and Melba, but since they lived in the Midwest we saw them twice in our lifetime. My maternal grandfather, Alfred, died before I was born leaving only his wife, Maria, as our grandmother. We thought God somehow made a mistake in giving her to us because she spoke in a thick Italian accent and my mother spoke English flawlessly. I thought somehow she was supposed to be given to someone else's family, but we knew her as Grandma. Since we lived in a remote place, we seldom saw her.

          By wondering what it must have been like for Jesus to have both sets of grandparents nearby and a whole village, I wonder how my life would have been enriched. It does take a village to raise a child. My friends who are grandparents love their vocation to nurture their young ones. It gives them great joy - and lots of hope. Let us pray for our grandparents and older relatives today because of the many ways they enrich our lives. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 29, 2012
2 Kings 4:42-44; Psalm 145; Ephesians 4:1-6; John 6:1-15

          No one has ever become poor by being generous. When we hit scarcity in our lives, we might tend to hold back on our generosity so we have enough to survive. It is natural to conserve limited resources. This is evidenced in 2 Kings when Elisha receives twenty barley loaves from fresh grain from a man from a neighboring town. Elisha tells him to set it before a hundred people so they may eat. The man is reticent because he knows it is not enough to satisfy everyone, but when he complies with Elisha's request everyone has more than enough to eat - and there's a sufficient amount left over.

          Jesus re-enacts Elisha's multiplication of the bread, but on a much grander scale. The gathering crowd reaches over five thousand men - and this does not include their families. To emphasize the immensity of the situation, Philip replies, "Two hundred days wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little." The disciple Andrew notes that he sees a boy who has five loaves of bread and two fish. He sees that amount as insignificant. No apparent solution can be found and the disciples are surprised that Jesus does not send them home.

          Two aspects of this meal are noteworthy. It is the time of the Passover, the principal Jewish feast. Some say that this multiplication meal is a foreshadowing of the Eucharist that will become the great feast for Christians. Jesus then shows himself to be a real true shepherd of Israel. It calls to mind Psalm 23 where the Lord makes people lie down in green pastures. The Gospel quote casts allusions back to the role of God as the Good Shepherd. A shepherd knows the needs of his flock and does the best to care for it. Jesus responds spontaneously because he knows they must be fed. Other leaders would have sized up the situation and sent the people home. While it may have seemed prudent to send them along, it does not reveal a compassionate response. The crowd was a huge number. They left satisfied and many who were there realized the complexity of the dilemma and knew a mysterious power was behind the distributed meal. No caterer today could match the efficient and effective response.

          I think of two situations in the world when I reflect upon our need to give more freely to others. Sure, we sometimes want to impose conditions on our generosity, but that means our generosity is not freely given. I've had numbers of times when I've given to others in hopes that they would respond in a way that benefits their overall situation and I've mostly been disappointed. Some will undoubtedly make poor choices. I can never take away the good intentions and desires I've had for the others. In a time when our economy is mightily struggling, I wonder what it would look like if we were to double or triple our generosity to others. A more equitable distribution of resources will help those in the most dire need. We cannot fix other people's problems because free will is always operative, but the effect of goodness towards others lasts forever. I gratefully remember those who were generous to me. No one has ever become poor by being generous.

          I also think of the religious sisters who have historically lived in near subsistence lifestyles. They gave much of their lives without an adequate stipend or the dignity of wages. They have always given out of charity - especially to their own institution and have not been treated well by them in return. Today, as they attempt to enter into dialogue with church authorities, they continue to generously put their lives forth as good shepherds care for their own. They gently hold their leaders compassionately and wait to see what their goodwill brings. They do not know the outcome and at times it looks bleak, but no one has ever become poor by being generous.
Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The Lord tells Jeremiah to bury a linen loincloth in Parath where it will rot. The rot symbolizes the great pride of Jerusalem. The loincloth is designed to cling to a man just as Israel is designed to cling to God, but pride separates the nation from God. The people are filled with sorrow because God is promising to destroy those whom he loves dearly. They plead for God to change his course. Jeremiah begins his laments. He is sorry that he is born because has been called to a difficult task that he dislikes. In his pity, the Lord asks him to rise up and go to the potter's house where he will receive a message. The word came to him that God will make and remake Israel many times like a potter molds clay until it is in the form he wants. Jeremiah gets the courage to speak God's word to the people of Judah, but the religious authorities forbad him to speak further and said he should be put to death. As Jeremiah defends himself, some of the priests come to his aid and spare his life.

Gospel: Jesus speaks more parables to describe qualities in the kingdom of heaven. It can be likened to a mustard seed's miraculous growth or like yeast that invisibly causes wheat flour to rise. Jesus dismisses the crowds to explain to his closest friends that the one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man and the weeds are the children of the Evil One and the enemy who sows them is the Devil. The Son of Man will come at the end times to collect the good seeds and bring them to his heavenly Father. The kingdom of heaven is also like a field where a person find a treasure. The wise person buys the field so the treasure is safe. Finally, he proclaims the kingdom is like a fisher's net that collects many types of fish and other debris that are separated from the good harvest. The scribes are like the head of a household who bring forth both the old and the new. When Jesus returns home to teach in the synagogue, his neighbors question the source of his authority. At the same time, Herod the tetrarch was hosting a dinner and made a promise to his new wife's daughter. She desired the head of John the Baptist on a platter. So it was done. John's disciples came to take away the corpse, then they told Jesus.

Saints of the Week

July 29: Martha (1st century), is the sister of Mary and Lazarus of Bethany near Jerusalem. Martha is considered the busy, activity-attentive sister while Mary is more contemplative. Martha is known for her hospitality and fidelity. She proclaimed her belief that Jesus was the Christ when he appeared after Lazarus had died.

July 30: Peter Chrysologus, bishop and doctor (406-450), was the archbishop of Ravenna, Italy in the 5th century when the faithful became lax and adopted pagan practices. He revived the faith through his preaching. He was titled Chrysologus because of his 'golden words.'

July 31: Ignatius of Loyola, priest (1491-1556), is one of the founders of the Jesuits and the author of the Spiritual Exercises. As a Basque nobleman, he was wounded in a battle at Pamplona in northeastern Spain and convalesced at his castle where he realized he followed a methodology of discernment of spirits. When he recovered, he ministered to the sick and dying and then retreated to a cave at Manresa, Spain where he had experiences that formed the basis of The Spiritual Exercises. In order to preach, he studied Latin, earned a Master’s Degree at the University of Paris, and then gathered other students to serve Jesus. Francis Xavier and Peter Faber were his first friends. After ordination, Ignatius and his nine friends went to Rome where they formally became the Society of Jesus. Most Jesuits were sent on mission, but Ignatius stayed in Rome directing the rapidly growing religious order, composing its constitutions, and perfecting the Spiritual Exercises. He died in 1556 and the Jesuit Order was already 1,000 men strong. 

August 1: Alphonsus Liguori, bishop and doctor(1696-1787), founded a band of mission priests that became the Redemptorists. He wrote a book called "Moral Theology" that linked legal aspects with kindness and compassion for others. He became known for his responsive and thoughtful way of dealing with confessions.

August 2: Peter Faber, S.J., priest and founder (1506-1546), was one of the original companions of the Society of Jesus. He was a French theologian and the first Jesuit priest and was the presider over the first vows of the lay companions. He became known for directing the Spiritual Exercises very well. He was called to the Council of Trent but died as the participants were gathering.

August 2: Eusebius of Vercelli, bishop (d. 371), was ordained bishop after becoming a lector. He attended a council in Milan where he opposed the Arians. The emperor exiled him to Palestine because he contradicted secular influences. He returned to his diocese where the emperor died.

August 2: Peter Julian Eymard, priest (1811-1868) left the Oblates when he became ill. When his father died, he became a priest and soon transferred into the Marists but left them to found the Blessed Sacrament Fathers to promote the significance of the Eucharist.

August 4: John Vianney, priest (1786-1859) became the parish priest in Ars-en-Dombes where he spent the rest of his life preaching and hearing confessions. Hundreds of visitors and pilgrims visited him daily. He would hear confessions 12-16 hours per day.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Jul 29, 1865. The death in Cincinnati, Ohio of Fr. Peter Arnoudt, a Belgian. He was the author of The Imitation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
·         Jul 30, 1556. As he lay near death, Ignatius asked Juan de Polanco to go and obtain for him the blessing of the pope.
·         Jul 31, 1556. The death in Rome of Ignatius Loyola.
·         Aug 1, 1938. The Jesuits of the Middle United States, by Gilbert Garrigan was copyrighted. This monumental three-volume work followed the history of the Jesuits in the Midwest from the early 1820s to the 1930s.
·         Aug 2, 1981. The death of Gerald Kelly, moral theologian and author of "Modern Youth and Chastity."
·         Aug 3, 1553. Queen Mary Tudor made her solemn entrance into London. As she passed St Paul's School, an address was delivered by Edmund Campion, then a boy of thirteen.
·         Aug 4, 1871. King Victor Emmanuel signed the decree that sanctioned the seizure of all of the properties belonging to the Roman College and to S. Andrea. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Spirituality: Healing

Jesus touched and healed anybody who desired it and asked for it, and there were no other prerequisites for his healings. Check it out yourself. Why would Jesus' love be so unconditional while he was in this world and suddenly become unconditional after death? Is it the same Jesus? Or does Jesus change his policy after his resurrection? The belief in heaven and hell is meant to maintain freedom on all sides, with God being the most free of all, to forgive and include, to heal and to bless even God's seeming "enemies." How could Jesus ask us to bless, forgive, and heal our enemies, which he clearly does (Matthew 5:43-48), unless God is doing it first and always? Jesus told us to love our enemies because he saw his Father doing it all the time, and all spirituality is merely the "imitation of God" (Ephesians 5:1).

Richard Rohr, Falling Upwards: Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

Monday, July 23, 2012

Poem: "All is Gift" by Kathy Sherman

The colors of a sunrise,
a morning suprise,
the love you find in another's eyes.
The hand that helps you up, when you've fallen down;
All is gift, my friend, all is gift from a loving God.

The changing of the seasons, life is born anew.
Laughter and smiles and birds that sing;
that hope that we cling to when the darkness comes;
All is gift, my friend, all is gift from a loving God.

Memories of a yesterday, tears that flow,
broken dreams, broken hearts we learn to grow.
A God who will let us know we're not alone,
we're not alone.
All is gift, my friend, all is gift from a loving God.
Hearts that unite, a friendship born,
in sacred earth seeds are sown and we are fed.
Hands unafraid to reach and souls that touch;
All is gift, my friend, all is gift from a loving God.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Spirituality: Depression and Sadness

Let's distinguish good and necessary sadness from some forms of depression.

Many depressed people are people who have never taken any risks, never moved outside their comfort zone, never faced necessary suffering, and so their unconscious knows that they have never lived - or loved! It is not the same as necessary sadness, although it can serve that function. I am afraid that a large percentage of people in their later years are merely depressed or angry. What an unfortunate way to live one's final years.

One of the great surprises is that humans come to full consciousness precisely by facing their own contradictions and making friends with their own mistakes and failings. People who have had no inner struggles are invariably both superficial and uninteresting. We tend to endure them more than communicate with them because they have little to communicate. Shadow work is almost another name for falling upward.  Lady Julian put it best of all: "First there is the fall, and them we recover from the fall. Both are the mercy of God."

Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Spirituality: Heaven

A person who has found his or her True Self has learned how to live in the big picture, as a part of deep time and all of history. This change of frame and venue is called living in "the kingdom of God" by Jesus, and it is indeed a major about-face. This necessitates, of course, that we let go of our own smaller kingdoms, which we normally do not care to do. Life is all about practicing for heaven. We practice by choosing union freely - ahead of time - and now. Heaven is the state of union both here and later. As now, so it will be in then. No one is in heaven unless he or she wants to be, and all are in heaven as soon as they live in union. Everyone is in heaven when he or she has plenty of room for communion and no need for exclusion. The more room you have to include, the bigger your heaven will be.

Richard Rohr, Falling Upwards: Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

Friday, July 20, 2012

Spirituality: Carl Goldberg, Understanding Shame, p. 57

Shame.... derives from a sense of betrayal - the shocking or startling realization that we are frail, vulnerable and finite beings, no different than the vulnerable people around us. The function of shame, as a self process, is to confront us with the impact of our tenuous existence as human beings.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Spirituality: Teilhard de Chardin

To understand the world, knowledge is not enough;
you must see it, touch it, live in its presence and drink
the vital heat of existence in the very heart of reality.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Homily for Matthew 11:25-27

          I understand that in this passage scholars portray Jesus as the incarnation of Lady Wisdom who stands on the street corner and calls any ready person to come into her camp. While that may be so, I conjure up an image of Jesus as a very relaxed man filled with bubbling-over delight. I can picture him sitting on a rock under the shade of a tree - just feeling happy. I like paying attention to the human emotions of Jesus.

          If Jesus represents the mind, heart, and attitude of God, then I want to know and acknowledge how he feels. I don't think we do that enough. If we were to read the Gospels with an eye toward understanding what Jesus and the main characters feel, our intimacy with him would grow much deeper. We would understand his life better as an historic man. After all, our faith is based on knowing the person of Jesus of Nazareth as a 100% fully human person. Sadly, our religious education conflates stories of the four Gospels into one cohesive portrait. It distorts the way we think of Jesus - because most Christians see him as an omniscient, all-powerful God stuffed into a human body. Our faith is based on the reality that he is not a mixture of God and human, but completely, irreducibly human - just like you and me.

          Jesus pauses in the midst of his public ministry. He takes a break from the most meaningful work there is on earth. (Therefore we can take a break once in a while.) He give thanks to his Creating God for what God is actively doing in his life. He cherishes those who have been given to him and acknowledges that everything is handed over to him by God. It is a mutual delighting in one another. It is a passage I like to linger over.

          However, I do not like to linger over Isaiah's passage. I don't like hearing about the Lord's anger and destruction towards other nations. Arrogant Assyria is judged harshly for she has oppressed her people and is a godless nation. Assyria is held up as a warning to Israel. God will punish whole nations for their disobedience for a covenantal break. Ouch! ~ However, the Psalmist reassures us that the Lord will not abandon his people, but I can't help but remember that God permits suffering.

          Can you imagine the countless cries of suffering the walls of this room have absorbed over the years? Some of the tragedies of life seem senseless and purposeless. We've been victims of other peoples' malice that springs from their unmet needs. Formation within our families has produced indelible reservoirs of toxic shame. Abuse from trusted people and institutions have taught us to withhold our generosity and trust. We learn to protect our true selves so much that we no longer recognize our real identity. Year after year, deaths and losses mount and weigh us down. Each of us fragilely suffer - mostly silently. When we speak of it, we delicately bring it before one another on a superficial level.

          When I hear Jesus speaking about the revealing to those who are childlike, I almost always think of my older sister, the first-born of seven. In an adult body, her mind and soul were innocent and simple. My sister was born with profound mental retardation through negligence of a doctor in 1956 who filled in for my mother's regular obstetrician. Her life was dotted with many happy moments, but the last years of life were marked by suffering in a most excruciating way possible with no relief except death.

            My sister's illness taught me to look squarely into the face of suffering long and hard. The last seven years of her life found her muscles atrophied and constricted where she could no longer swallow or be fed, where pain wouldn't let her sleep, when her voice could not express meaningful words, and with eyes catatonic. Her pain was so great nurses and doctors wanted her discharged because her moaning frightened them and other patients. All we could do was to hold her and caress her to let her know we were around and to stare into those eyes that infrequently recognized us. I was free enough to get angry with God in prayer and scream because no god ought to allow this sort of suffering. Seven long years of suffering after a harsh life and Jesus only spent 3 hours on the cross. I pleaded until I was spent. I let God know of many strong feelings.

            Astonishingly, it was by peering into her suffering eyes that I found Jesus hanging on the Cross broken-hearted, sobbing, weeping for my sister. His outstretched arms and broken body were much like hers, except that they could hold her soul in ways no human could. By gazing into this void of silence and aloneness, I met a vulnerable Christ whose compassion places himself at risk. Jesus becomes vulnerable because both suffering and love fundamentally changes a person. Love and suffering are twins. They turn us very intimately toward the other. I met a God who hurts when we suffer and whose paradoxical greatest moment of love, that is, the Cross, gives meaning to life and suffering. Suffering, with its tendency to isolate, can also heighten our sensitivity to others' suffering.

            We have a fundamental decision to make about our suffering. Jesus cannot avoid the Cross; we can't look away from it. We can try to avoid it and think of our pain as distractions in prayer or we can figure out how to accept it and enter into it. We just can't escape it. It is painful and unpleasant and we do not want to recall awful memories because their sting is too great, but accepting the cross means that we have to do just that. Memories are to be transformed. It is the reason we prayer the Suscipe: Take Lord, Receive...

            Jesus sits under that tree and tells us of his great desire to reveal God's love to us. We want that and yet we know love and suffering cannot be separated. He wants to hold our suffering in his heart. He is reaching out to us to give us God's promise to be with us - even in our worst suffering. He knows it is awful to look at our suffering alone; He does not advise it because he had to go it alone. He went to his death, according to Mark and Paul, believing that his Abba Father failed to show up. Because Jesus is alive to us, we can look at our suffering with him who is bringing it forward in our consciousness. He is asking us to look at our memories with him with his characteristic compassion because he wants to reveal to us something new. God knows it will hurt us, but Jesus is doing it so we can have relief. He wants to bring meaning to our suffering and to give us new freedom. Jesus will reveal his cross to you. You must decide how you will respond to it.

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 22, 2012
Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 23; Ephesians 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34

          Ah! The emotions of Jesus. I enjoy coming across passages where feelings of compassion ooze into my consciousness. In Mark 6, the disciples return to Jesus to tell them all they saw and did. They are filled with stories of remarkable healings and conversions and they simply want to share the good news with Jesus. I can imagine their animated gestures as they speak of the wonders they just saw. Jesus tells them to come and rest awhile with him. Perhaps he does this to affirm and thank them. He wants to spend time with them to hear of their tales. Their time for work is over. It is time to rest. Jesus knows the value of downtime.

          Just as the disciples begin to rest, people come and go in great numbers. They want something more from the disciples, but Jesus knows they need rest from their labors so they set off in a boat until they get to a deserted place. Relentless, the people from the neighboring towns find them again. They can't get away for some replenishment. Just then, Jesus gets out of the boat and he is overcome with emotions. His need for rest and for processing the disciples' events are put on the back burner because the needs of others are great.

          Since Jesus represents the mind and heart of God, we are comforted by his response to this wounded crowd. They want their stories known by Jesus. Each person has a unique story that is intriguing. The sheer horror that someone goes through in life takes ones breath away in disbelief. Real life is stranger than fiction. It is horrifying what we can do to one another - especially those who are in our families or are trusted associates. No wonder that we cannot trust in God. We learn not to trust others and to go along on our own because our faith in a friend or colleague has tarnished the relationship. We learn not to trust at all. We act as if everything depends upon us.

          The church and the world need leaders who act out of compassion. People seek out those who will respond to their stories. While an image of shepherd may be foreign to our culture, the abiding sense that the shepherd makes himself responsible to those entrusted to him touches our sensibilities with spot-on precision. People can see through a leader whose motivation is careerism, honors or glory, authority, or status. They will tolerate, but not respect her. Rather, the one who demonstrates a very human response to the person standing before her will earn affection and trust. It is actually rather simple and it is surprising we seldom get it right.

          Beware of those who want to be leaders. Egoism of some sort is at play. This type of person may be saying, "I can take care of your needs - better than you can. Trust me." The problem is this type of leader seldom asks what you need. Rather, look in different places for unenthusiastic leaders. Look for those who have the ability to listen and enter into a dialogue that enriches and resolves conflicts amicably. Natural leaders are chosen because they can be trusted. They are probably be reluctant to take center stage. They would prefer to listen to you. They just naturally act out of their own goodness as they respond to you. They are seldom concerned for self. Ask God to empower more people to bring forth these reluctant leaders who are good shepherds. The church and society needs new models and the needs are becoming greater. People are still searching and clamoring to know that God still personally cares for them.
Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Micah and the Lord talk about how they have mistreated one another. They yearn for each other as they were in times past. All that is required is that one do the right, love goodness, and walk humbly with God. Micah asks the Lord to be like a good shepherd for his flock who brings them to pasture, has compassion on them, and vanquishes their enemies. ~ Jeremiah hears this word of the Lord: Remember our happy past days. They can be restored. However, the people have defiled the land and their heritage. They have turned away to worship Ba'al. Return, rebellious children, to the Lord. The Lord will take you, one from a city, two from a clan and bring you to Zion to be shepherds after his own heart. The Lord then sends Jeremiah to the Temple gates and exhorts them to reform their moral lives and return to the Lord. He proclaims: This is the Temple of the Lord.

Gospel: Amazed by his authority, the scribes and Pharisees want to see a sign from Jesus so they can know whether the source is divine or evil. Jesus tells them that God's power is not used as a spectacle because it comes from compassionate concern for others. Jesus redefines family. His biological family, embarrassed by his antics, came to collect him and bring him home. Jesus replies that his family are those who do the will of God. The disciples ask Jesus why he does not speak plainly. He blesses the eyes and ears of those who have faith. Great glories will be experienced by them. Jesus then tells them the parable of the sower whose seed falls on rocky grounds, among thorns, and on fertile land. The one on fertile soil has the best chance, but the one who blossoms where he or she is will produce bountiful fruit. He then tells the parable of the sower whose seed was stolen and thrown in among weeds. The disciples wanted to clear out everything, but he said to leave them where they are. The final threshing of good from bad will come at the end times.

Saints of the Week

July 22: Mary Magdalene, apostle (1st century), became the "apostle to the apostles" as the first witness of the resurrection. Scriptures point to her great love of Jesus and she stood by him at the cross and brought spices to anoint his body after death. We know little about Mary though tradition conflates her with other biblical woman. Luke portrays her as a woman exorcised of seven demons.

July 23: Bridget of Sweden, religious (1303-1373), founded the Bridgettine Order for men and women in 1370, though today only the women’s portion has survived. She desired to live in a lifestyle defined by prayer and penance. Her husband of 28 years died after producing eight children with Bridget. She then moved to Rome to begin the new order.

July 24: Sharbel Makhuf, priest (1828-1898), joined a monastery in the Maronite tradition and lived as a hermit for 23 years after living fifteen years in the community. He became known for his wisdom and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

July 25: James, Apostle (1st century), is the son of Zebedee and the brother of John. As fishermen, they left their trade to follow Jesus. They occupied the inner circle as friends of Jesus. James is the patron of Spain as a shrine is dedicated to him at Santiago de Compostela. He is the patron of pilgrims as many walk the Camino en route to this popular pilgrim site.

July 26: Joachim and Anne, Mary's parents (1st century) are names attributed to the grandparents of Jesus through the Protogospel of James. These names appeared in the Christian tradition though we don't know anything with certitude about their lives. Devotion of Anne began in Constantinople in the 6th century while Joachim gained acclaim in the West in the 16th century. He was revered in the Eastern churches since the earliest times.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Jul 22, 1679. The martyrdom at Cardiff, Wales, of St Phillip Evans.
·         Jul 23, 1553. At Palermo, the parish priests expressed to Fr. Paul Achilles, rector of the college, indignation that more than 400 persons had received Holy Communion in the Society's church, rather than in their parish churches.
·         Jul 24, 1805. In Maryland, Fr. Robert Molyneux was appointed the first superior by Father General Gruber.
·         Jul 25, 1581. In the house of the Earl of Leicester in London, an interview occurred between Queen Elizabeth and Edmund Campion. The Queen could scarcely have recognized the worn and broken person before her as the same brilliant scholar who had addressed here at Oxford 15 years before.
·         Jul 26, 1872. At Rome, the greater part of the Professed House of the Gesu was seized and appropriated by the Piedmontese government.
·         Jul 27, 1609. Pope Paul V beatifies Ignatius.
·         Jul 28, 1564. In a consistory held before twenty-four Cardinals, Pope Paul IV announced his intention of entrusting the Roman Seminary to the Society.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Poem: Wordsworth

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
the soul that rises with us, our Life's star
hath had elsewhere in its setting,
and cometh from afar:
not in entire forgetfulness,
and not in utter nakedness,
but trailing clouds of glory do we come
from God, who is our home;
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
upon the growing boy,
but he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
he sees in it his joy.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Prayer: Lamplight, Sunlight

In my little house the lamps are burning in every room. Outside the night is dark; inside it would be just as dark, were it not for these little lamps. They make me feel safe. They give me identity. They are the things I cherish, the things I can't imagine being without: my health and strength, my five senses, my mobility, my intellect, my circle of friends, the security of being accepted by my own tribe, my comfort zones of every kind.

So I live in dread of any of these lamps being extinguished. I cling to them; everything I think I am depends on them.

But then something happens. Outside a new dawn is breaking. Beyond and around and above my house, my safe little box, the sun is rising.

Its dazzling brightness draws me beyond myself, beyond my house. I walk out, in awe and wonder ad this greater light and warmth.

The lamps in my house are still burning, but they are barely discernible in the brightness of daybreak. I can't even remember whether I have switched them off. It doesn't matter anymore. The morning eclipses them all. And I choose to set my face toward the new day.

From Compass Points by Margaret Silf

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Prayer: Augustine

You were within, but I was without. You were with me, but I was not with you. So you called, you shouted, you broke through my deafness, you flared, blazed, and banished my blindness, you lavished your fragrance, and I gasped.

From the Confessions

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Spirituality: W.H. Auden

We would rather be ruined than changed. We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the present and let our illusions die.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Prayer: Anselm of Canterbury

I do not try, Lord, to attain your lofty heights, because my understanding is in no way equal to it. But I do desire to understand your truth a little, that truth that my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand so that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Prayer: Luke 11:9

And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 15, 2012
Amos 7:12-15; Psalm 85; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13

          Amos shows us that prophets are seldom accepted by those in authority. Amaziah, the priest, tells Amos that he is not wanted; therefore the king of Bethel sends him away. Amos remains faithful to proclaiming the word of God to Israel despite the confronting opposition he faces. He shakes off the dust from his feet and moves on. These are similar to the instructions Jesus gives his disciples in Mark's Gospel. The message proclaimed by the disciples is included in Ephesians, which is known as God's plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. Every spiritual blessing in the heavens is designed for each person in particular as God lavishes grace upon us.
          The instructions Jesus gives to his disciples contain practical advice. They are to go out two-by-two for safety purposes as the road is filled with bandits. They are to take no food, money, or a bag to collect items, but only a walking stick so they fully rely upon the hospitality of strangers. Wearing sandals and having only one tunic makes their poverty credible. They rely upon the goodness of others who have little or nothing to give, but room and shelter. They are to cheerfully reside in their host's house and not utter a negative word about their living conditions. They are to proclaim peace. If their host village does not welcome them, they are not to complain but are to be at ease about moving forward without anger. The work of the Gospel is more important than petty physical inconveniences.

          Most importantly, Jesus is revealing his style of living to his friends. He is attracting people to his family of faith and he is doing so in a manner that is both credible and enticing. He shows that he is different from other preachers in that he is not seeking human power or glory. He is not interested in making them serve his needs. He is showing that he is truly about God's message of salvation - not winning converts or positioning himself strategically. He is different from religious leaders that he points out to be hypocrites that speak demanding words and don't follow their own teachings.

          Jesus makes us look at him. We study his body language and gestures. It is the small gestures that gives us clues about whether we can trust someone. He makes us believe in his warm tone of voice or a kindly facial expression. We notice the way he smiles or affirms another person when he heals them. These set of instructions are designed for us to notice the type of person he is. A person with good conduct, lofty motives, and proper behavior will be accepted more easily than one who disregards the boundaries of hospitality.
          We read these instructions year after year. As we hear them, they can be energizing. They are meant for us as much as they are for his disciples. We have to deal with these questions: "How well am I responding to his invitation? Is my ministry more effective this year than it has been in the past? Have I upped the ante a little higher because I my friendship with him is more secure? To what way of life am I called as a disciple of Jesus?" It is folly for us to read this passage as an historical event, but one to which we are always called to greater commitment. Each time we hear this, we have changed in subtle ways. May we all be open to the greater service Christ asks of us.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Isaiah tells the people that the Lord is not interested in sacrifices and rituals. Rather, the Lord wants justice restored, wrongs redressed, care for the orphan and widow, and the pursuit of good and noble actions. The Lord encourages Isaiah to hold firm when we meets the leader of Aram. He is to tell them that Ephraim will be crushed as a nation. He cries "Woe to Assyria" because they are an impious nation that plunders from those so they can fatten themselves. The way of the just, even in war, is smooth. Israel is to walk in the way of the Lord so their good example can be seen by every nation on earth. When Hezekiah was ill, Isaiah visited him and asked him to put his hour is order. The Lord told Isaiah to prepare a poultice for him and in three days he will be healed. ~ In Micah, woe is destined for those who plan iniquity. Destruction shall come to their small-minded plots.

Gospel: Jesus ups the ante with his Apostles. He tells them that his mission is serious business. He did not come to bring warm fuzzy feelings to the earth, but that his mission has serious consequences that will separate blood relatives from one another. Jesus laments the towns that failed to bring him hospitality or to repent from their sins. The judgment against them will be woefully harsh. Jesus then praises the simple and the childlike because they are able to discern God's will among them. God reveals his plans through his Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal. He asks people to come to him to learn gentleness and humility and to find rest for their souls. ~ Jesus then passes through a grain field with his disciples and he begins to pick heads of grain to eat. The Pharisees object to his flaunting of the dietary restrictions but Jesus reminds them sacrifice is not required or expected, only mercy. As the Pharisees plot against him, he heals many people and casts out demons. The suffering servant passages from Isaiah's scripture is remembered.

Saints of the Week

July 15: Bonaventure, bishop and Doctor (1221-1273), was given his name by Francis of Assisi to mean "Good Fortune" after he was cured of serious childhood illnesses. He joined the Franciscans at age 20 and studied at the University of Paris. Aquinas became his good friend. Bonaventure was appointed minister general of the Franciscans and was made a cardinal. He participated in the ecumenical council at Lyons to reunite the Greek and Latin rites. Aquinas died on the way to the council.

July 16: Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the patronal feast of the Carmelites. The day commemorates the day Simon Stock was given a brown scapular by Mary in 1251. In the 12th century, Western hermits settled on Mount Carmel overlooking the plain of Galilee just as Elijah did. These hermits built a chapel to Mary in the 13th century and began a life of solitary prayer.

July 18: Camillus de Lellis (1550-1614), began his youthful life as a soldier where he squandered away his father's inheritance through gambling. He was cared for by Capuchins, but was unable to join them because of a leg ailment. He cared for the sick in hospitals that were deplorable. He founded an order that would care for the sick and dying and for soldiers injured in combat.

July 20: Apollinaris, bishop and martyr (1st century) was chosen directly by Peter to take care of souls in Ravenna. He lived through the two emperors whose administrations exiled and tortured him, though he was faithful to his evangelizing work to his death.

July 21: Lawrence of Brindisi, priest and doctor (1559-1619) was a Capuchin Franciscan who was proficient in many languages and well-versed in the Bible. He was selected by the pope to work for the conversion of the Jews and to fight the spread of Protestantism. He held many positions in the top administration of the Franciscans.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Jul 15, 1570. At Avila, St Teresa had a vision of Blessed Ignatius de Azevedo and his companions ascending to heaven. This occurred at the very time of their martyrdom.
·         Jul 16, 1766. The death of Giuseppe Castiglione, painter and missionary to China. They paid him a tribute and gave him a state funeral in Peking (Beijing).
·         Jul 17, 1581. Edmund Campion was arrested in England.
·         Jul 18, 1973. The death of Fr. Eugene P Murphy. Under his direction the Sacred Heart Hour, which was introduced by Saint Louis University in 1939 on its radio station [WEW], became a nationwide favorite.
·         Jul 19, 1767. At Naples, Prime Minister Tannic, deprived the Jesuits of the spiritual care of the prisoners, a ministry that they had nobly discharged for 158 years.
·         Jul 20, 1944. An abortive plot against Adolf Hitler by Claus von Stauffenberg and his allies resulted in the arrest of Fr. Alfred Delp.
·         Jul 21, 1773. In the Quirinal Palace, Rome, the Brief for the suppression of the Society was signed by Clement XIV.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Prayer: The Potter's Hands

Strong hands hold
a shapeless lump;
clay to be pounded and kneaded
until, even textured and air-freed,
it is supple-smooth for the potter's wheel.

The swift-spinning motion;
pressuring hands that pull
and draw relentlessly into center -
for what is not centered must be put away;
only centered clay can yield its inmost.

Clay thus opened to shaping action -
hand moving steadily



asking for the form that is hidden in the clay
hand strong in supportive stillness
speaking its own unceasing demands.

To one-in-answer; to the other in trust
the clay




surrenders the form hiding in itself....
becoming one with the potter's will
until spent and shaped
is freed to wait for the time
to confirm into hardened shape
in dialogue with the potter.

Not as a final respite,
but only to be turned
so that what is not perfect may be revealed
and placed ruthlessly
beneath the cutting tool,
until, smooth-grooved and time-hardened
it is purified by fire into final shape;
now enabled to receive
color and shine from another's hand -
final surrender to the potter's wish.

Lord Jesus,
it is your hands
that take
and knead
and center
and open
and support
so that clay can yield itself
in obedient answer and trusting surrender
to your loving, painful action
that draws, relentlessly, into God-center,
so that open,
totally one with your loving will
it is freed to wait
and confirmed in shape
and burnt in fire
and clothed in color-
to delight the heart of its potter.