Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on October 18, 2009

pra068Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 10:35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus asks a question this week that we will hear him ask again next Sunday, “What do you wish me to do for you?” Just as Jesus addressed this question to his followers James and John, he addresses this question to us. Many of us will respond to the Lord with what it is that we need now, whatever it may be: a job, the next mortgage payment, whatever urgent need immediately presents itself. But such needs, while important and unavoidable, do not go to the core of who we are as people who have received the Lord’s baptism.

As this passage opens today, Jesus has just made the third prediction of his suffering and death, and yet James and John ask him for the privilege of sitting at his right and left. It is clear that they have not understood what the Lord said. They still imagine an earthly messiah, one who will enjoy political glory, one who will restore David’s throne and throw off Roman oppression. They have missed the point of Jesus’ life and ministry, and by implication, the point of their lives and ministries.

So Jesus tries again: he replies that insofar as he can honor their request, their lots will be to share in his suffering: as Jesus metaphorically styled it, they will drink the cup he drinks and be baptized with his baptism. One of the Church’s ancient traditions, in fact, suggests James and John did do just that, being martyred in a persecution in Jerusalem in 44.

The answer to the question of, “What do you wish me to do for you,” in the light of the gospel then, is, “Will you, Lord, let us drink from the cup from which you drink and be baptized with the baptism by which you are baptized.” It is only in our pouring ourselves out for the gospel, in whatever charism God has given us, that we realize the import of Jesus’ question for our own lives.

Spiritual reading: In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken St. Lukeup, after giving instructions through the holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.” (The Acts of the Apostles by Luke the Evangelist)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on October 17, 2009

jesus-with-the-angelsGospel reading of the day:

Luke 12:8-12

Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.

“Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus in today’s gospel talks about witness. If we witness to Jesus, Jesus says he will witness to us. But if we fail to witness to Jesus, the chance remains to reconcile with the Lord. It is only when we set ourselves up in absolute opposition to the truth, that is, when we sin against the Holy Spirit, that all hope for reconciliation perishes. This gospel’s moral is that we should pray to persevere in witness to the truth that we have received in baptism: the truth who is Jesus.

Saint of the day: Ignatius of Antioch (also known as Theophorus) (ca. 35 or 50-between 98 and 117) was among the Apostolic Fathers, the third Bishop and Patriarch of Antioch, and possibly a student of John the Apostle. En route to his ignatius_of_antiochmartyrdom in Rome, Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of very early Christian theology. Important topics addressed in these letters include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.

St. Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch after Saint Peter and St. Evodius (who died around AD 67). Eusebius records that St. Ignatius succeeded St. Evodius. Making his apostolic succession even more immediate, Theodoret reported that Peter himself appointed Ignatius to the see of Antioch.

Besides his Latin name, Ignatius, he also called himself Theophorus (“God Bearer”), and tradition says he was one of the children Jesus took in His arms and blessed. St. Ignatius may have been a disciple of the Apostle John.

St. Ignatius is one of the Apostolic Fathers (the earliest authoritative group of the Church Fathers.) He based his authority on being a bishop of the Church, living his life in the imitation of Christ.

Epistles attributed to St. Ignatius report his arrest by the authorities and travel to Rome:

From Syria even to Rome I fight with wild beasts, by land and sea, by night and by day, being bound amidst ten leopards, even a company of soldiers, who only grow worse when they are kindly treated. —Ignatius to the Romans.

Along the route he wrote six letters to the churches in the region and one to a fellow bishop. He was sentenced to die in the Colosseum, to be eaten by lions. In his Chronicle, Eusebius gives the date of his death as AA 2124 (2124 years after Adam), which would amount to the 11th year of Trajan, i.e., 108 AD. His body lies entombed under St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Spiritual reading: I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God. (Letter to the Romans by Ignatius of Antioch)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on October 16, 2009

crucifixion copyGospel reading of the day:

Luke 12:1-7

At that time, so many people were crowding together that they were trampling one another underfoot. Jesus began to speak, first to his disciples, “Beware of the leaven–that is, the hypocrisy–of the Pharisees.

“There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops. I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. I shall show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna; yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one. Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus says in the fifth chapter of Matthew’s gospel, May your light so shine before men that they may see goodness in your acts and give praise to your heavenly Father. It is exactly this transparency of the Christian who lives the gospel that Jesus infers today when he condemns the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and says that every secret we have held in the darkness will open eventually before the light. We should endeavor, then, to be people through whom the light of God shines.

Saint of the day: Gerard Majella is the patron of expectant mothers. He was born at Muro, Italy, in 1726 and joined the gerardRedemptorists at the age of 23, becoming a professed lay brother in 1752. He served as sacristan, gardener, porter, infirmarian, and tailor. However, because of his great piety, extraordinary wisdom, and his gift of reading consciences, he was permitted to counsel communities of religious women.

It seems that God had given him, in particular, the special power to help mothers in need. In life and since his death, he has helped so many women who have prayed to him during labor that he earned the nickname the “Saint of Happy Deliveries.” Many mothers from all over the world have even named their child Gerard after him in gratitude, and have adopted him as their patron in the joys and fears of childbirth.

This humble servant of God also had the faculties of levitation and bi-location associated with certain mystics. His charity, obedience, and selfless service as well as his ceaseless mortification for Christ, made him the perfect model of lay brothers. He was afflicted with tuberculosis and died in 1755 at the age of twenty-nine.

Spiritual reading: To love God much, always united to God, to do all for God, to love all for God, to conform myself to his holy will, to suffer much for God. (Gerard Majella)

The one year anniversary of our blog

Posted in church events by Mike on October 15, 2009

It was a year ago today that Bishop Tony Santore, presiding bishop of CACINA, established this blog with this post. The motto of our church is, “All are welcome,” and to each of you who visits us here, we extend an embrace in the Lord Jesus, saying to you, “Welcome! You are most welcome here!”

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Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on October 15, 2009

Jesus300Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 11:47-54

The Lord said: “Woe to you who build the memorials of the prophets whom your fathers killed. Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building. Therefore, the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and Apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute’ in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the temple building. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood! Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.” When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus did not hesitate to speak up for his vision of life, and this text and other narratives make clear that he understood that the price of his forthrightness would be his own life. Yet he stood his ground, inveighing against hypocrisy and the obstacles that the powerful set up before the weak to seek and find God. So it is that we must reach down into our depths and find courage to speak truth, truth even to power, truth even when injury may befall us as the result of it.

Saint of the day: Born March 28, 1515, Teresa of Avila was a Spanish noble and the daughter of Don Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda and Doña Beatriz. She grew up reading the lives of the saints and playing at “hermit” in the garden. Crippled by disease in her youth, saint-teresa-of-avila-04which led to her being well educated at home, she was cured after prayer to Saint Joseph. Her mother died when Teresa was 12, and she prayed to Our Lady to be her replacement. Her father opposed her entry to religious life, so she left home without telling anyone, and entered a Carmelite house at 17. Seeing her conviction to her call, her father and family consented.

Soon after taking her vows, Teresa became gravely ill, and her condition was aggravated by the inadequate medical help she received; she never fully recovered her health. She began receiving visions, and was examined by Dominicans and Jesuits, including Saint Francis Borgia, who pronounced the visions to be holy and true.

She considered her original house too lax in its rule, so she founded a reformed convent of Saint John of Avila. Founded several houses, often against fierce opposition from local authorities. A mystical writer, she is called a Doctor of the Church. She died October 4, 1582 at Alba de Tormes in the arms of her secretary and close friend Blessed Anne of Saint Bartholomew.

Spiritual reading:

Let nothing disturb thee,
Nothing affright thee;
All things are passing;
God never changeth;
Patient endurance
Attaineth to all things;
Who God possesseth
In nothing is wanting;
Alone God sufficeth.

(Lines Written in Her Breviary by Teresa of Avila)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on October 14, 2009

Jesus and the SadduceesGospel reading of the day:

Luke 11:42-46

The Lord said: “Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others. Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces. Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.”

Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The Pharisees have gotten a bad rap as history has looked backward in the light of the gospels. In fact, in many ways, the Pharisees were religious innovators whose reforms saved Judaism from annihilation when the Romans destroyed the temple and sent Israel into a worldwide diaspora. Many Pharisees were very decent, godly human beings. When Jesus inveighs against the Pharisees in the gospel, he does not condemn a class but a certain group with a certain attitude: it is an attitude that is altogether too human, and one that can afflict any of us, Catholic, other Christian, or non-Christian. It is an attitude that finds comfort in strict adherence to the rules but does not attend to the love of God and neighbor. It is an attitude that places obligations on others that we ourselves don’t intend to bear. Hypocrisy is the vice the Lord most detested and mercy, the one the Lord most extolled.

Saint of the day: Burchard of Würzburg was a Bishop of Würzburg in 741–754. He was an Anglo-Saxon who left England after the death of his kinsfolk Burchardand joined Boniface in his missionary labors, some time after 732. When Boniface organized bishoprics in Middle Germany, he placed Burchard over that of Würzburg; his consecration cannot have occurred later than the summer of 741, since in the autumn of that year, we find him officiating as a bishop at the consecration of Willibald of Eichstädt.

Burchard appears again as a member of the first German council in 742, and as an envoy to Rome from Boniface in 748. With Fulrad of Saint-Denis, he brought to Zachary, bishop of Rome, the famous question of Pepin, whose answer was supposed to justify the assumption of regal power by the Carolingians.

Julian-of-Norwich-780314Spiritual reading: And I thought: “What is sin?” For I saw in truth that God does all things, no matter how small they may be. And I saw that nothing happens by chance, but by far-sighted wisdom of God. If it seems like chance or accident to us, it is because we are blind and blinkered . . . And here I saw truly that sin has no substance, for in all this there was never a sight of sin. And so the rightfulness of God’s work was shown to my soul. (Revelations of Divine Love by Dame Juliana of Norwich)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on October 13, 2009

Jesus at table

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 11:37-41

After Jesus had spoken, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home. He entered and reclined at table to eat. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal. The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We know that Jesus was observant of the religious traditions of his people, but we also know that Jesus often looked for opportunities to teach. Certainly, the practice of washing hands before a meal as a hygienic practice is strongly recommended, but the Pharisees had turned the practice into a religious obligation, one not supported in the Mosaic law, and one that they used to pass judgment. Jesus well may have observed the custom in his ordinary life but elected in this circumstance to make a point about what really makes one clean inside, like taking care of the poor through almsgiving, rather than external religious practices with little or no capacity to manifest the deepest truths about the human condition. Examples of human legislation influencing religious practice are abundant in our times, so the lesson that Jesus taught the Pharisee is equally applicable to our own circumstances. For example, what tells the greatest truths about our Christian life isn’t abstinence from meat on Fridays in Lent; it is how we respond to the beggar on the street who asks us for some change.

Saint of the day: Edward the Confessor was the son of King Ethelred II and Queen Emma and the half-brother to King Edmund Ironside and King Hardicanute. When his father was unseated by Danish invasion, Edward and his brother were sent to Denmark to be quietly killed, but the officer in charge took pity on the boys and edward-confessorsent them to Sweden. From there they went to the King of Hungary to be raised and educated. Edward’s interests were in things religious. When grown, the brothers moved to Normandy and waited their chance to return to England.

In 1035, Edward and Alfred tried to regain the crown of England, but they were turned back, Alfred was killed, and Edward returned to Normandy. He returned to England again in 1042, and was chosen king by acclamation, ascending the throne on April 3. Edward gained a reputation as just and worthy of the kingship, and the people of England supported him.

During his reign Edward repulsed invasion, helped restore the King of Scotland to his throne, remitted unjust taxes, and was noted for his generosity to the poor and strangers, and for his piety and love of God. He married to satisfy his people, but he and the queen remained chaste. Tradition claims he had the power to heal by touch. He built churches, including Westminster Abbey.

giving_receivingSpiritual reading: The meaning of life is in giving and receiving love. (Evangelicum Vitae by Blessed Karol Wojtyla)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on October 12, 2009

jesus-and-birdsGospel reading of the day:

Luke 11:29-32

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus addresses his fellow sons and daughters of Abraham, the chosen people of God. In this passage, he reminds the crowd that pagans have accepted God’s word more easily than they have accepted him. Jesus cautions them that the sign given them, that is, Jesus, is far greater than the signs that were given to the Queen of Sheba and the Ninevites. And so it is with us; it is true we have received the baptism of the Lord, and it is true that we feed at his table. But our salvation, as we read last Saturday, is in hearing the word of God and keeping it.

Saint of the day: Wilfred of York was the son of a Northumbrian king in 634 in Northumbria, England . His mother died when he was a boy, and he never got along with his step-mother. At age 14, partly to escape the miserable family life, he was sent to the court of Oswy, King of Northumbria. He studied at the monastery of Lindisfarne for three years, then accompanied Saint Benedict Bishop to Rome where he studied under archdeacon Boniface. He stayed in Lyons for three years to study the monastic life, and became a monk, but left during persecutions of the local Christians. He was appointed abbot of the monastery at Ripon for five years, and placed it under the Benedictine Rule and became a priest.

saintw64He was instrumental in bringing Roman liturgical practice and rules to the region, working influentially at the Synod of Whitby in 664. Bishop Colman and several of his monks, opposing the new practice, withdrew to the north. Wilfrid was chosen as the new bishop and traveled to France for ordination, considering the dissenting northern bishops to be schismatics. He returned to England in 666, nearly dying at the hands of hostile pagans when his ship wrecked on the coast of Sussex. However, he had taken so long to come back that Saint Chad had been chosen to replace him. Wilfrid retired to the monastery at Ripon and evangelized in Mercia and Kent. In 669 Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury explained to Saint Chad that Wilfrid should have the see; Chad withdrew, and Wilfrid resumed the bishopric.

During his tenure Wilfrid worked to enforce Roman ritual, founded Benedictine monasteries, and rebuilt the minster of York, all while living a simply and holy life himself. He became embroiled in political discord when he encouraged Queen Etheldrida to move to a convent when she no longer wished to live with her husband, King Ecgfrid. When Archbishop Theodore subdivided Wilfrid’s diocese to reduce his influence, Wilfrid appealed to Rome. The bishop of Rome ruled in Wilfrid’s favour, and the three intruding bishops were removed. However, when Wilfrid returned to England King Ecgfrid accused him of buying the decision, and imprisoned him at Bambrough then exiled him to Sussex.

He worked as a missionary in heathen Sussex. He reconciled with Archbishop Theodore, who had also been working in Sussex, in 686, and when Aldfrid became king of Northumbria, Theodore insured Wilfrid’s return from exile. He served as bishop of Hexham, and then of York again. However, when he tried to consolidate the dioceses again, the king and Theodore opposed him, and he Wilfrid was forced to appeal again to Rome in 704. Through a series of meetings, synods and rulings, Wilfrid became bishop of Hexham and Ripon, but not York. He died in 709 at Oundle, Northhamptonshire, England.

body_of_christSpiritual reading: In general, when you deal with the neighbor, let your eyes be averted, and try not to think of this one or that one as handsome or ugly, but rather as the image of the most holy Trinity, as a member of Christ and bathed in His blood. (Letter to Emerio de Bonis, May 23, 1556, by Ignatius of Loyola)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on October 11, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 10:17-27

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your jesus_and_rich_manmother.” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We read today the beautiful and terrible story of Jesus and the rich young man. As believers, the gospel passage we receive today ought to trouble us deeply. Even in the midst of a painful recession that has adversely affected and caused many people great anxiety and crushing problems, we by-and-large are far more comfortable than even the rich of another age. It should not be difficult for us to put ourselves in the man’s place and all of us to think of ourselves as the person in dialogue with Jesus in this narrative.

The man clearly has endeavored to live a moral life. He approaches the Lord with reverence, falling on his knees, and calling Jesus, “Good teacher.” Yet there is a certain self-centeredness in what the young man asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” His question is about a prize that he desires for himself. Jesus’ response is instructive. He quotes every commandment that concerns relationships with other human beings. Given the young man’s response, he must have been pleased to hear what Jesus says up to this point, since he reports he has done all these things from his youth. But Jesus is not done; he has one more thing to say, “Go, sell everything you have, and give it to the poor.” Jesus speaks to the radical nature of the commitment we need to give the gospel; the young man is crestfallen and walks away very sad, for he had many possessions.

What the gospel tells us is that it is not sufficient for us to live a moral life: we must be companions of Jesus, and being companions of Jesus requires extraordinary acts of self-renunciation. Many of us are generous and readily give of our surplus, but reaching down deep into our substance, reducing our personal comfort to raise the comfort of people who have less than we do: this is something a lot fewer of us actually do. Even so, it is exactly what Jesus says the Good News requires of us and the thing precisely necessary to inherit eternal life.

Very few of us actually satisfy this mandate. And as the passage from Mark attests–with God nothing is impossible–this failure leads us to the mercy of God, but if the passage does not leave us troubled, I don’t believe we have read it correctly.

HolyTrinitySpiritual reading:

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation
(St. Patrick’s Breastplate)

Saint Damien of Molokai

Posted in inspirational by Mike on October 11, 2009

I always have had a great love and admiration for Father Damien of Molokai. I am filled with joy that the universal Church, with his canonization early today in Rome, recognizes him as a man who enjoys the vision of God and a man whose self-renunciation is worthy of our imitation.

Here is a picture of Damien as a young man:


And here is the photograph of him as an older man who has contracted Hansen’s Disease as the result of his service to people with Hansen’s Disease:


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Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on October 10, 2009

womanandjesusGospel reading of the day:

Luke 11:27-28

While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: A woman in today’s gospel comes to Jesus and marvels at who she perceives Jesus to be. She likely did not know who Jesus’ mother was, but in an expression that was appropriate within her cultural context, she praised Jesus by praising the mother who nurtured such a son. When Jesus gently contradicts her, there is some humility in it. He essentially is saying, don’t praise me, but marvel at the wonderful things God does when God moves hearts in a way that lives in conformity to God’s will.

Saint of the day: Born on October 28, 1510 in Spain to the nobility, Francis Borgia was the great-grandson of Pope Alexander VI, grandson of King Ferdinand of Aragon, and son of Duke borgia2Juan Borgia. He was raised in the court of King Charles V and educated at Saragossa. He married Eleanor de Castro in 1529 and was the father of eight children. He accompanied Charles on his expedition to Africa, 1535, and to Provence in 1536. He served as the Viceroy of Catalonia from 1539 to 1543. He was the Duke of Gandia from 1543 to 1550. Francis’s wife died in 1546.

He was a friend and advisor of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and joined the Jesuits in 1548. Ordained in 1551, he became a notable preacher. Given charge of the Jesuit missions in the East and West Indies, he became the Commissary-general of the Jesuits in Spain in 1560 and General of the Jesuits in 1565. Under his generalship, the Society established its missions in Florida, New Spain, and Peru and greatly developed its internal structures. Concerned that Jesuits were in danger of getting too involved in their work, he introduced their daily hour-long meditation. His changes and revitalization of the Society led to him being sometimes called the “Second Founder of the Society of Jesus.” He died September 30, 1572 at Ferrara, Italy.

1187512864_f160a373c6Spiritual reading: My heart is transformed by the smile of trust given by some people who are terribly fragile and weak. They call forth new energies from me. They seem to break down barriers and bring me a new freedom. It is the same with the smile of a child: even the hardest heart can’t resist. Contact with people who are weak and who are crying out . . . is one of the most important nourishments in our lives. When we let ourselves be really touched by the gift of their presence, they leave something precious in our hearts. As long as we remain at the level of doing things for people, we tend to stay behind our barriers of superiority. We ought to welcome the gift of the poor with open hands. Jesus says, “What you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.” (Jean Vanier)

Who is human?

Posted in Christianity, ethics, religion by Rev. Larry Hansen, BCC, CT on October 9, 2009

As I noted in my last posting, there is a larger question underneath the consideration of extending life vs. prolonging death. When we use the word “life”–and particularly “human life”–what exactly do we mean? Are we referring to the involuntary action of respiration and circulation? Is a life human when that is all the outside observer can see? Is more required, or is it enough to consider that a body breathing and circulating blood, even if by artificial means, is truly “alive” and therefore needs to be supported by all the medical technology we can muster? What about the ability to relate to one’s surroundings? Is that what’s required for a life to be considered truly human? Or the ability to feed oneself and/or care for at least a minimum number of personal needs?

From my experiences, I’m not sure that there is a universal standard that can be objectively applied to these situations. For example, I remember a patient with ALS who told his Chaplain that he wanted to live as long as he could talk and have a conversation with the people he loved. He told her that when he was no longer able to do that, he would consider that God was telling him that it was time to turn off the artificial ventilator that was breathing for him. That was his definition of human life, the ability to converse normally with others. For Stephen Hawking, normal conversation is out of the question. He uses an electronic voice synthesizer to communicate. But would anyone deny that he has lived a human life?

At one point during my years in business, I attended a sales conference at which the main attraction was the motivational speaker Zig Ziglar. He began his talk by telling us that he spent a lot of time talking to people about making money. But that’s far from the most important thing in the world, he said, and then he told us about a day he had recently spent in another town. His morning was taken up visiting with a very wealthy man who was extremely depressed. This gentleman had more money than he could possibly spend in 10 lifetimes, but he had gained it at the expense of his marriage and his relationship with his children. He told Ziglar that he didn’t feel that he had had a life at all and that he often felt like killing himself. Ziglar passed the afternoon visiting with the residents of a facility that housed people living with quadriplegia. None of them could do any physical thing for her- or himself. They were completely at the mercy of their caregivers. But Ziglar related that he could not remember having had such an uplifting and truly-joyous experience as he had enjoyed with those men and women. “And they were funny,” he said, with great jokes and lots of laughter.

I note this not to make light of anyone’s difficult burdens, but to point up that what makes a life genuinely-human may not be able to be defined using the quantitative, objective measures we so often consult. As Christians, we say we believe that life is essentially a gift from God, but I wonder if any of us has really thought much about how life is “for me?”  Do we really believe that life is a trust we receive from God and not a personal possession, and do our decisions regarding our own life and health reflect that conviction?  One thing I believe is true: at some point, most of us will have to make critical decisions about the meaning of life, our own or someone else’s. The time to consider what makes a life human is now and not in the darkest hours when one is faced with otherwise-impossible choices. This is a matter for serious prayer and contemplation.

Fr. Larry Hansen
Cana House
Portland, Oregon

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on October 9, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 11:15-26

When Jesus had driven out a demon, some of the crowd said: “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.” Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven. But he knew icontheir thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons. If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

“When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it roams through arid regions searching for rest but, finding none, it says, ‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’ But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage that we receive today shows God’s loving power in healing a man who was mute. In this passage, Jesus argues that a human being made whole is a sure and certain sign of God’s intervention: no other interpretation makes sense. A word of encouragement is always from God.

denisSaint of the day: Denis was a missionary to Paris and that city’s first bishop. He was born in Italy. Fabian, bishop of Rome, sent him on a mission to convert the non-Christians of Gaul because of his virtuous life, knowledge of sacred things, and firm faith. His success roused the ire of local pagans, and he was imprisoned by the Roman governor. Denis was martyred in the persecutions of Valerius. His companions were Saint Rusticus and Saint Eleutherius. Legends have grown up around his torture and death including one that his body carried his severed head some distance from his execution site. Saint Genevieve built a basilica over his grave. His feast was added to the Roman Calendar in 1568, though it had been celebrated since 800. One of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. Denis was beheaded in about 258 at Montmarte (a word that implies, “mount of martyrs”); his corpse was thrown in the Seine but recovered and buried later that night by his converts. The saint’s remains lie in the monastery of Saint Denis.

Spiritual reading: People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It never was between you and them anyway. (Mother Teresa)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on October 8, 2009

010Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 11:5-13

Jesus said to his disciples: “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.

“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. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The passage from the gospel of Luke that we read today continues the theme of prayer. Jesus counsels us to persevere in our prayer. God wishes us to pray continuously not because God needs to be persuaded but because we grow better when we pray. Jesus asks of persistence not because we God is reluctant to give good things but because we realize the depths of our beings through the aspirations of our hearts to achieve the presence of God.

Saint of the day: Born in1541 in Italy, John Leonardi worked as a pharmacist’s apprentice while studying for the priesthood. After ordination on December 22, 1572, he worked with SaintJeanLeonardiprisoners and the sick. His example attracted some young laymen to assist him, most of whom became priests themselves. This group formed Clerks Regular of the Mother of God, a congregation of diocesan priests which, for reasons having to do with the politics of the Reformation and an unfounded accusation that John wanted to form the group for his own personal aggrandizement, provoked great opposition. The Clerks were confirmed as a congregation in 1595, but John was exiled from Lucca for most of the rest of his life. John was assisted in his exile by Saint Philip Neri, who gave him and his pet cat quarters.

In 1579, he formed the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, and published a compendium of Christian doctrine that remained in use until the 19th century. He died on October 9,1609 at Rome, Italy from a disease caught while tending plague victims. By the deliberate policy of the founder, the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God have never had more than 15 churches, and today form only a very small congregation. The arms of the order are azure, Our Lady Assumed into Heaven; and its badge and seal the monogram of the Mother of God in Greek characters.

ImageSpiritual reading: Sanctity can never abide a merely speculative solution to the problem of suffering. Sanctity solves the problem not by analyzing but by suffering. It is a living solution, burned in the flesh and spirit of the saint by fire. Scripture itself tells us as much. “As silver is tried by fire and gold in the furnace, so the Lord trieth hearts” (Prov 17:3). (“Saint John of the Cross” by Fr. Thomas Merton)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on October 7, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 11:1-4

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name,
your Kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In yesterday’s gospel, the account of Jesus’ visit to Martha and Mary, we learned the value of attentive listening to the Lord’s word, that is, a kind of contemplation. The very next passage in Luke’s gospel is an instruction on what to do when we pray; it is Luke’s presentation of the Our Father. These verses are a shorter version of the comparable prayer that we receive in Matthew’s gospel; here there are five petitions while in Matthew, there are seven petitions. Many scholars believe Luke’s account is closer to what Jesus taught than is Matthew’s version: for instance, we know Matthew had a predilection for the number seven, so he might have crafted an account of the prayer that increased the number of petitions from five to seven.

In any event, we receive the instruction at Luke 21:36 that we should always be watchful and prayerful, and Paul, at 1 Thessalonians 5:17, tells us to pray without ceasing. It is a coincidence that Luke’s account of the Our Father occurs on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, but this coincidence ought to remind us that prayer should be a part of the warp and woof of our lives. It is attentiveness to that still small voice within us that will see us through bad and good times alike.

343_vierge_orante_largeSaint of the day: The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary commenced in 1573 as a way to thank God for a military victory at Lepanto—a victory attributed to the praying of the rosary. The feast was extended to the universal Church in 1716.

The development of the rosary has a long history. First, a practice developed of praying 150 Our Fathers in imitation of the 150 Psalms. Then there was a parallel practice of praying 150 Hail Marys. Soon a mystery of Jesus’ life was attached to each Hail Mary. Though Mary’s giving the rosary to St. Dominic is recognized as unhistorical, the development of this prayer form owes much to the followers of St. Dominic. One of them, Alan de la Roche, was known as “the apostle of the rosary.” He founded the first Confraternity of the Rosary in the 15th century. In the 16th century the rosary was developed to its present form—with the 15 mysteries (joyful, sorrowful and glorious). In 2002, the Mysteries of Light, which include reflections on the public life of Christ and the nature of vocation, became a part of this devotion.

pray-without-ceasing3Spiritual reading: Pray without ceasing. (1 Thess 5:17)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on October 6, 2009


Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 10:38-42

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In yesterday’s gospel, we read of one who becomes a neighbor, the Good Samaritan, through what he does. But in today’s gospel about Jesus’ friends, the sisters Martha and Mary, Jesus counsels it is not enough to do: we also need to listen. Martha is very busy, but it is Mary who hears what Jesus has to say. In our own lives, too, it is quite possible to become incredibly busy with the Lord’s work, but if we don’t take time to listen, that is, to engage in prayerful contemplation, we can lose our way. In the passage we read yesterday and the one we read today, Jesus calls us to combine our action with our prayer.

Saint of the day: St. Bruno was born in Cologne, Germany around the year 1030. While still quite young, he went to Reims, France, whose schools were famous. His keen intelligence and application to study earned the admiration of the Archbishop of Reims, who invited him to be director of all the educational establishments of the Diocese.

St.Bruno1The new master had numerous pious disciples, among them Eudes de Châtillon, the future Pope Urban II, preacher of the First Crusade. St. Bruno was wise and erudite, learned in Greek and Hebrew. He also had a natural gift for poetry and an amiable disposition. These characteristics explain the enthusiasm roused by his comments on Sacred Scriptures.

His orthodox teaching and the fame of his sanctity raised up many enemies against him. The Archbishop of Reims was engaged in simony, giving ecclesiastical privileges in exchange for money. When St. Bruno realized this, he denounced him to superior ecclesiastical authorities, and the unworthy Prelate was called to answer for his misdeeds. The Prelate’s reply was to persecute St. Bruno. Bruno lost his post, his titles, and his goods, and was exiled.

Only in 1080, after a definitive sentence against the persecutor came from Rome, could St. Bruno return. He was invited to be the Archbishop of Reims, as successor to the bad Prelate. Bruno, however, refused. Having come to understand the vanity of worldly things, he had made a vow to abandon the world and serve God in solitude.

In 1084, he, along with six companions, went to the Dauphiné, a province of France, and asked his former student St. Hugo de Châteauneuf, Bishop of Grenoble, to provide them an isolated place to live. St. Hugo conducted and installed them in a wild spot on the Alps called Chartreuse, amidst precipitous rocks and almost inaccessible. Bruno soon initiated the building of a hermitage, which was finished one year later and its chapel consecrated. The style of this small edifice served as model for all the Carthusians in France and other countries.

The tranquil life of prayer and retirement of St. Bruno was short-lived. In 1090 a letter of Pope Urban II called him to Rome to assist the Apostolic See. After passing some months in the papal court, Bruno again managed to retire to a hermitage in Southern Italy, where Count Robert of Calabria had given him a large tract of land. It was there that in 1101 he serenely slept in the Lord.

lilly pondSpiritual reading: We are one, after all, you and I. Together we suffer, together exist, and forever will recreate each other. (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.)