Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on November 30, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 4:18-22

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The Church celebrates today St. Andrew the Apostle. The gospel gives us a portrait of how Jesus called his disciples. They were people enmeshed in a set of circumstances. They had family members and jobs. But they also must have been people who could feel the stirring of their hearts and people who were able to respond generously to their hearts’ impulses, because when Jesus called them, they left what they were doing and responded to his invitation. Our hearts also experience movements. We need to create space in them so that we can hear the Lord’s voice and do the things the Lord calls us to.

Saint of the day: Andrew was St. Peter’s brother, and was called with him. “As [Jesus] was walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is now called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-20).

John the Evangelist presents Andrew as a disciple of John the Baptist. When Jesus walked by one day, John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Andrew and another disciple followed Jesus. “Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day” (John 1:38-39a).

Little else is said about Andrew in the Gospels. Before the multiplication of the loaves, it was Andrew who spoke up about the boy who had the barley loaves and fishes (see John 6:8-9). When the Gentiles went to see Jesus, they came to Philip, but Philip then had recourse to Andrew (see John 12:20-22).

Legend has it that Andrew preached the Good News in what is now modern Greece and Turkey and was crucified at Patras.

Spiritual reading:

Light of lights! All gloom dispelling,
Thou didst come to make thy dwelling
Here within our world of sight.
Lord, in pity and in power,
Thou didst in our darkest hour
Rend the clouds and show thy light.
Praise to thee in earth and heaven
Now and evermore be given,
Christ, who art our sun and shield.
Lord, for us thy life thou gavest,
Those who trust in thee thou savest,
All thy mercy stands revealed.
(St. Thomas Aquinas)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on November 29, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

Jesus said to his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We enter a new liturgical year today on this first Sunday of Advent as we move into weeks of expectancy and hope before our celebration of the birth of the Lord. In ancient eastern Christianity, the Epiphany was many holidays rolled into one: yes, certainly, the visit of the Magi, but the Church also celebrated at the Epiphany the birth of the Lord, his baptism, the wedding feast at Cana, and the Transfiguration. The Church celebrated on a single and very textured day all the ways the Lord surprises us and manifests his glory. In many churches of the East, catechumens received their baptism on the Feast of the Epiphany because of its connection to the Lord’s own baptism. During the weeks prior to their baptism, catechumens would pray, reflect, and fast in anticipation of their entry into the body of believers. It would seem then that what we begin today in Advent is the remnant of that practice. The Church prays, reflects, and fasts in these days because catechumens once did so before their baptism, but with the passage of time, the practice of baptizing on Epiphany withered away while the Church remembered the prayer, reflection, and fasting at this time of year and began to connect it to Christmas. But it’s no deep concern where the practice arose, because what the Church asks us to do in these weeks is to remember who we are as baptized persons and to renew in ourselves our baptismal promises. In other words, it is entirely appropriate that a season which probably began as a time of baptismal preparation should continue as a time of baptismal renewal.

The gospel passage today talks about the nature of our lives as baptized persons. It tells us to stand erect, that is, be people of integrity. It tells us to raise our heads, that is, be people of dignity and hope. It tells us to be vigilant, that is, be people who persevere. It tells us to pray, that is, be spiritual people who spend time talking with God each day. And it tells us to ask God that we may be strong, that is, it calls on us to rely on God’s own power.

Let us embrace our baptism today and all the days of Advent. Let us renew ourselves and prepare ourselves. Let us be open to the God of Surprises who will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves if only we open ourselves to it.

Spiritual reading: Every year we celebrate the holy season of Advent, O God. Every year we pray those beautiful prayers of longing and waiting, and sing those lovely songs of hope and promise. Every year we roll up all our needs and yearnings and faithful expectation into one word: “Come!” (The Divine Dawning, Karl Rahner, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on November 28, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 21:34-36

Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Today’s reading is the very last of the liturgical year; by a coincidence of the liturgical calendar, it is also a part of the gospel reading upon which we will reflect tomorrow, on the first Sunday of the new liturgical year. The passage cautions us not to give ourselves over to lives of self-indulgence and anxieties. Instead, Jesus invites us to remain vigilant in prayer that we may withstand the tribulations we face as we make our ways. We are called to a gathering greatness. Let us pray that we may be open to the mysterious ways that God calls us to stand before the Son of Man.

Saint of the day: Joseph Pignatelli, S.J. was born in Saragossa, Spain, 1737. Born of a Spanish mother and a princely Italian father, Joseph, a Spanish grandee, was educated in Saragossa. He joined the Jesuits at Tarragona when he was 16, made his vows in 1755, was ordained in 1763, and was assigned to Saragossa. In addition to teaching young boys, Father Joseph had a special ministry to those condemned to execution. After his profession, he taught at Manresa, Bilboa, and Saragossa.

When Charles III banished the Jesuits from Spain in 1767, Father Pignatelli and his fellow Jesuits went to Corsica, where they were forced to leave when the French, who had also banished the Jesuits, occupied the island.

They then settled in Ferrara, Italy, where Joseph was placed in charge of young recruits. When Pope Clement XIV, under pressure from the Bourbons, suppressed the Jesuits in 1773 as an administrative measure without condemning any of the Society’s actions. Joseph and the 23,000 members of the Society of Jesus were secularized.

He lived for the next 20 years at Bologna, Italy, contributing to the temporal support of his less fortunate fellow Jesuit exiles and strengthening their courage with brotherly advice. At the same time he worked hard for the restoration of his beloved institute and studied its history.

Meanwhile, Empress Catherine had refused to allow the bull of suppression to be published in Russia, and the Society of Jesus continued in existence there. In 1792, the duke of Parma invited three Italian Jesuits in Russia to establish themselves in his realm, and after receiving permission from Pius VI, Father Pignatelli made his profession again in 1797 and became superior, thus bringing the Jesuits back to Italy.

He began a quasi-novitiate at Colorno in 1799 and saw Pope Pius VII give formal approval to the Jesuit province in Russia in 1801. Father Pignatelli worked to revive the Jesuits, and in 1804 the Society was re-established in the Kingdom of Naples, with him as provincial–“the link between the old and the new Society.” The province was dispersed when the French invaded Naples later that same year, whereupon he went to Rome and was named provincial for Italy. Many Jesuits came back to Rome, where Pius VII offered them their former college and S. Pantaleon’s near the Colosseum. Thus, he restored the Society in Sardinia and helped conserve it when the French occupied Rome.

The Society of Jesus was not fully restored until 1814, three years after the death in 1811 of Joseph in Rome on November 11.

Spiritual reading: Our task now is to learn that if we can voyage to the ends of the earth and find ourselves in the aborigine who most differs from ourselves, we will have made a fruitful pilgrimage. That is why pilgrimage is necessary, in some shape or other. Mere sitting at home and meditating on the divine presence is not enough for our time. We have to come to the end of a long journey and see that the stranger we meet there is no other than ourselves – which is the same as saying we find Christ in him. (Mystics and Zen Masters by Fr. Thomas Merton)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on November 27, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 21:29-33

Jesus told his disciples a parable. “Consider the fig tree and all the other trees. When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near; in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus’ ministry, passion, death, and resurrection inaugurates the inbreaking of the kingdom of God into human history. What God gives us through Jesus is for keeps. God is not fickle: God keeps God’s promises. We can count on God to remain faithful even if we turn away.

Saint of the day: Born in Lucera (southeast Italy), Francesco Antonio Fasani entered the Conventual Franciscans in 1695. After his ordination 10 years later, he taught philosophy to younger friars, served as guardian of his friary and later became provincial. When his term of office ended, Francesco became master of novices and finally pastor in his hometown.

In his various ministries, he was loving, devout and penitential. He was a sought-after confessor and preacher. One witness at the canonical hearings regarding Francesco’s holiness testified, “In his preaching he spoke in a familiar way, filled as he was with the love of God and neighbor; fired by the Spirit, he made use of the words and deed of Holy Scripture, stirring his listeners and moving them to do penance.” Francesco showed himself a loyal friend of the poor, never hesitating to seek from benefactors what was needed.

At his death in Lucera, children ran through the streets and cried out, “The saint is dead! The saint is dead!” Francesco was canonized in 1986.

Spiritual reading: Where selfless love occurs in daily life; where people die devoutly, patiently, and hopeful of an absolute meaning despite of all the absurdities of existence; where people do the simplest tasks of their daily life without an egotistical turning in on themselves . . . this is what sainthood means. (Karl Rahner, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on November 26, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 17:11-19

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten persons with leprosy met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage that the Church gives us to consider on this Thanksgiving Day is a narrative that we encountered recently. Even so, it bears repeating. In the passage, ten lepers are healed, but only one, the one who is a foreigner, the one who stands outside the community, understands his own obligation of gratitude to the God who has made him whole. In many ways throughout the course of the year, God has made us complete and entire. Today as every day, let us model ourselves on the pattern of that outsider who stopped, reflected, understood what God has done, and fell on his knees to the Giver of All Gifts full of thanks.

Saint of the day: John Berchmans (1599-1621) personifies the ideal that ordinary deeds done extraordinarily well lead to great holiness. He died very young, only five years after entering the novitiate, but his great desire to be a priest inspired him to live religious life fully. He was born to a very religious family in Diest, Belgium, and started studies that would lead to the priesthood early in his life. He lived in the rectory of Notre Dame parish while he studied, but after three years his father told him he would have to leave school and learn a practical trade to help his family’s poor finances. The pastor of the Diest Béguinage offered to pay for Berchmans’ education in return for his service as a servant; in 1612 the young man took the same arrangement in Mechlin at the household of Canon Froymont. In Mechlin, though, Berchmans met the Jesuits and decided to join them rather than become a diocesan priest. His father was disappointed because a diocesan priest could contribute to the family while a Jesuit could not, but he gave his son permission to pursue his goal.

Berchmans entered the Jesuits in 1616 and performed all the novice duties with joy and exacting fidelity. He also sought to control himself through penances. A few months after he entered the Jesuits, his mother died; then his father gave up his shoemaking shop and entered the diocesan seminary. He was ordained a priest in April 1618. Later that year, on Sept. 25, John pronounced the three vows of religious life and went to Antwerp to study philosophy. After only three weeks he was informed that he would move to Rome for studies. Before he could return to Mechlin to say goodbye to his father, the latter died suddenly.

The young Jesuit arrived in Rome on Dec. 31 and joined the community at the Roman College, where he was as faithful to his studies and religious life as he had been in the novitiate. He excelled in his studies and at the end of his third year he was selected to defend the entire course of philosophy in a public disputation. His health had suffered from the effort he had put into studying for his final exam, and he became steadily weaker as he prepared for the public disputation, held on July 8. He hoped to rest when it was over, but he was also selected to represent the Roman College at another disputation to be held in August at the Greek College. The two events took too much out of his weakened condition.

On August 7 he suffered an attack of dysentery, and then a fever set in. When the superior saw how pale and weak Berchmans was, he sent him to the infirmary. The young Jesuit grew more ill day by day as his lungs became inflamed and he grew weaker and weaker. He spoke of Paradise as if he would soon be there when other scholastics came to visit. The brother infirmarian suggested that he should receive Communion the next day, even though it was not a Sunday. The Jesuit community came in procession bringing Viaticum to the their dying brother. He asked for his crucifix, rosary and rule book and received a steady stream of visitors, including Father General. He spent his final night in prayer and died on August 13 in the morning.

Spiritual reading:

All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given,
the Son, and Holy Ghost,
supreme in highest heaven,
the one eternal God,
whom earth and heaven adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be evermore.

(Martin Rinkart, 1636)

The Presiding Bishop’s Greeting as We Prepare for Advent

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational by Mike on November 25, 2009

November 25, 2009

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Advent and Christmas are for many people the most joyous time of year, a special opportunity for celebration, sharing, and family gatherings but sometimes, during all the activities associated with the Christmas season, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that Christmas is so much more than crowded malls, credit card bills, and wrapping paper. More importantly, however, Advent is the season of preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, and Christmas is the celebration of his Incarnation, the union of true God and true man in the Christ Child.

At the heart of Christmas is the “good news of a great joy” spoken of by the angels in Luke 2. “For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord.” Christmas is so sacred because it observes the birth of the Savior who is the Lord God Himself! God has visited his people to save them. The little babe in the feeding trough is Immanuel (God with us).

It is a time for prayer and personal renewal. It is a time to clear your mind and cleanse your soul in preparation for the Lord’s birth. Do something special this year during the season of Advent that will help you and your family to appreciate the great event of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem at Christmas: use this time as an opportunity to develop a better understanding of Jesus’ love and celebrate his life, death, and Resurrection. Use this Advent, this time of preparation, to discover the connection between Jesus’ coming at Christmas and his coming to you and to me in the holy Eucharist. Make a plan now for Advent. Resolve to perhaps go to Mass an extra day during the week. Read the Bible a half hour each day during Advent. Pray the Rosary every day of Advent.

Take the time to do this and you will find the joy and peace of Christmas, not in the rush to buy gifts and join in commercial celebration, but in the stillness and peace of that stable. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, which means, God with us.” “We rejoice in the knowledge that the God who came to Earth that night in Bethlehem is with us still, and will remain with us forever.”

Jesus came as a witness to the love of God in the world – a love that we desperately need in our own lives and in the lives of our community. May you and your families know that love in your hearts, this Christmas.

Sincerely yours, your Brother in Christ,
Anthony Santore
Presiding Bishop, CACINA

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on November 25, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 21:12-19

Jesus said to the crowd: “They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We know at this dawn of the third millennium that Jesus’ words about the cost of faith in Jesus have proven true. Real fidelity to the gospel can be very costly indeed. No matter the price that we pay for our faith in Jesus, however, Jesus promises to remain with us until the end, giving us wisdom to refute lies and promising that no one will be able to injure our most essential self.

Saint of the day: Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi and Maria Corsini were married in Rome on November 25, 1884. Typically, we celebrate a memorial on the day of a saint’s death, but because this couple, who were beatified together, died on two different days, the church celebrates their memorial on the anniversary of the day of their marriage. Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi was born in Catania, Italy in January1880, and Maria Corsini was born in Florence, Italy in June 1884. Together, they lived a life of holiness and devotion which they instilled in their marriage. As their children were born, Maria and Luigi shared with their family attendance each day at Mass, Holy Communion, the rosary, and consecration to Jesus’ Heart. They raised four children. Between 1924 and 1927, their firstborn son Phillipo began to pursue the priesthood, their son Cesare left home to become a trappist monk, and their daughter Stephania entered the Benedictine Cloister to become a nun. They lived the social gospel: during World War II, for example, they opened their homes to shelter refugees. Luigi suffered a heart attack and died on November 9, 1951. Maria died in her daughter Enirchetta’s arms at their house in the mountains in August 1965. They were beatified jointly in October 2001.

Spiritual reading: The Church is a prayer; the Church is a song; the Church is the tears of all mankind; the Church is the smile of a child; the Church picks up the last look of the dying man or woman. All these things are in the bosom of the Church, because all these things are in God, and God brought forth the Church. To leave the Church is to become lonely, so lonely.

Now, we who speak of prayer, of love, of many things that console others, we should really become a prayer for those who leave the Church. Not because they’re doing anything heretical. At the present moment people don’t even know how to spell “heretical” let alone understand it! It’s not that. It’s the tragic situation of a woman or man opening a door, closing it, going down a few steps, and entering into a loneliness for which there aren’t any words. For man without God is the loneliest person in the world. (The Servant of God Catherine Doherty)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on November 24, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 21:5-11

While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, “All that you see here–the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”

Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus calls us in this passage to be careful and prudent when we read the signs of the times. It is easy to be deceived and to err in our estimations of events. Many Christians read cataclysmic portents into the events of our day, but it is for God to know when time concludes: our task is to be available to the present moment and address what need God sets before us as we make our way.

Saint of the day: Persecution strengthened Catholicism in Vietnam. French missionaries in particular introduced Catholicism among the Vietnamese from the early 17th century onward. Conversions were abundant in the 18th century and up till 1819. But when the profligate Emperor Minh-mang ruled (1820-1841), he initiated a brutal persecution of Catholics. In an edict of January 6, 1833, he ordered all Christians to renounce their faith, and as a sign of that renunciation, to tread on a crucifix. This command was followed by the destruction of Catholic churches and religious houses, and the death penalty for all priests. Thousands died in the prolonged massacre, among them not only numerous missionary clergy and religious, but myriads of native Christians, priests, religious and laity, cruelly tortured and executed.

The death of Minh-mang marked a slackening of the murders, but under his successors, new legislation eventually renewed the attack against Christianity. Only in 1862 did the anti-Christian movement begin to give way but only because of French influence; the French justified their occupation of Vietnam in 1883 because of the incomplete implementation of religious liberty. Vietnam remained a French protectorate until it threw off French control in 1954. In the 1960s the country had a population of 31 million and a well-organized Catholic population of 2.25 million, a population that native bishops governed.

Few nations have had to pay so dearly for their Catholicism. As many as 100,000 had died for the faith by 1800. In the 19th century, the number of victims increased, with from 100,000 to 300,000 executed. It would have been impossible to name all these martyrs. The 117 saints that the Church has identified include eight missionary bishops, several missionary priests, and a large number of native victims: priests, religious, and lay people.

Spiritual reading: “I, Paul, in chains for the name of Christ, wish to relate to you the trials besetting me daily . . . the prison here is a true image of everlasting hell; to cruel tortures of every kind–shackles, iron chairs, manacles–are added hatred, vengeance, calumnies, obscene speech, quarrels, evil acts, swearing, curses, as well as anguish and grief. But the God who once freed the three children from the fiery furnace is with me always; He has delivered me from these tribulations and made them sweet, ‘for His mercy is forever.’ In the midst of these torments, which usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone–Christ is with me. Our Master bears the whole weight of the cross, leaving me only the tiniest, last bit . . . Come to me with the aid of your prayers, that I may have the strength to fight . . . We may not again see each other in this life. But we will have the happiness of seeing each other again in the world to come, when, standing at the throne of the spotless Lamb, we will together join in singing His praises and exult forever in the joy of our triumph. Amen.” (“Letter from Death Row to the Seminarian of Ke-Vinh” by St. Paul Le-Bao-Tinh, 1843)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on November 23, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 21:1-4

When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus has entered Jerusalem to begin the final period of his life. He observes a widow who gives freely of the entirety of her substance and thus shows her perfect trust that God will take care of her. The proximity of this account of the widow’s mite to the Lord’s own passion suggests the widow might be a symbol of Jesus himself who soon, in Luke’s account, also gives of the entirety of his substance to demonstrate his perfect trust in God’s providence.

Saint of the day: Born on January 13, 1891 in Guadalupe, Mexico, Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez was the eldest son of Miguel Pro and Josefa Juarez.

Miguelito, as his doting family called him, was, from an early age, intensely spiritual and equally intense in his mischievousness, frequently exasperating his family with his humor and practical jokes. As a child, he had a daring precociousness that sometimes went too far, tossing him into near-death accidents and illnesses. On regaining consciousness after one of these episodes, young Miguel opened his eyes and blurted out to his frantic parents, “I want some cocol” (a colloquial term for his favorite sweet bread). “Cocol” became his nickname, which he would later adopt as a code name during this clandestine ministry.

Miguel was particularly close to his older sister and after she entered a cloistered convent, he came to recognize his own vocation to the priesthood. Although he was popular with the senoritas and had prospects of a lucrative career managing his father’s thriving business concerns, Miguel renounced everything for Christ his King and entered the Jesuit novitiate in El Llano, Michoacan in 1911.

He studied in Mexico until 1914, when a tidal wave of anti-Catholicism crashed down upon Mexico, forcing the novitiate to disband and flee to the United States, where Miguel and his brother seminarians trekked through Texas and New Mexico before arriving at the Jesuit house in Los Gatos, California.

In 1915, Miguel was sent to a seminary in Spain, where he remained until 1924, when he went to Belgium for his ordination to the priesthood in 1925. Miguel suffered from a severe stomach problem and after three operations, when his health did not improve, his superiors, in 1926, allowed him to return to Mexico in spite of the grave religious persecution in that country.

The churches were closed and priests went into hiding. Miguel spent the rest of his life in a secret ministry to the sturdy Mexican Catholics. In addition to fulfilling their spiritual needs, he also carried out the works of mercy by assisting the poor in Mexico City with their temporal needs. He adopted many interesting disguises in carrying out his secret ministry. He would come in the middle of the night dressed as a beggar to baptize infants, bless marriages and celebrate Mass. He would appear in jail dressed as a police officer to bring Holy Viaticum to condemned Catholics. When going to fashionable neighborhoods to procure for the poor, he would show up at the doorstep dressed as a fashionable businessman with a fresh flower on his lapel. His many exploits could rival those of the most daring spies. In all that he did, however, Fr. Pro remained obedient to his superiors and was filled with the joy of serving Christ, his King.

Falsely accused in the bombing attempt on a former Mexican president, Miguel became a wanted man. Betrayed to the police, he was sentenced to death without the benefit of any legal process.

On the day of his execution, November 23, 1927, Fr. Pro forgave his executioners, prayed, bravely refused the blindfold and died, arms outstretched like Jesus on the cross, proclaiming, “Viva Cristo Rey”, “Long live Christ the King!” The photograph immediately above in this section shows Fr. Pro seconds before his execution. The photograph below shows Fr. Pro being shot at point blank range when the initial round of bullets failed to kill him.

Spiritual reading: Does our life become from day to day more painful, more oppressive, more replete with sufferings? Blessed be He a thousand times who desires it so. If life be harder, love makes it also stronger, and only this love, grounded on suffering, can carry the Cross of my Lord, Jesus Christ. (Miguel Pro)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on November 22, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 18:33b-37

Pilate said to Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We celebrate on this last Sunday of the liturgical year, as we do every year, the kingship of Jesus. The gospel passage we read is the interrogation of Jesus by Pilate, one in which the nature of Jesus’ kingship is the dominant theme. Pilate, the representative of the Roman Empire, asks in a mocking voice whether Jesus is a king, but Jesus, full of a dignity and power that Pilate apparently did not anticipate, challenges Pilate. Pilate modulates his tone in recognition that something is in Jesus that he had not at first recognized. In the conversation that follows, Jesus makes clear that he is a king but his kingship is not the kind that people in this world understand: My kingdom does not belong to this world. If his kingship is not a worldly one, then what is is?

Jesus says that his kingship lies in his mission of witness: I came into the world to testify to the truth. Jesus is the very Word of the Father who has come and pitched his tent with us. The Father cannot lie, so the Father’s Word is entirely the Truth. And when we hear the Truth and conform to it, by our lives lived for the poor and oppressed, prayerful attentiveness to the Spirit’s urging, and commitment to carrying the gospel with us, we are ourselves subjects of Christ the King.

Spiritual reading: 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 become 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 (Mark 10:42-45)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on November 21, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 20:27-40

Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, if someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless. Then the second and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?

For all seven had been married to her.” Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” Some of the scribes said in reply, “Teacher, you have answered well.” And they no longer dared to ask him anything.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus argues for the resurrection because the Bible proclaims a truth about God as the God of the living. At the core of today’s gospel is the proclamation that our God is the God of the living. So as it is written in Deuteronomy, Choose life, so you may live, that God may be your God indeed.

Saint of the day: The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a feast celebrated by both the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches. It is the celebration of a presumed event of which there is no strict historical record – namely, that Mary, as a child, was presented to God by her parents. There is no mention of this event anywhere in the New Testament. But it appears, for instance, in an apocryphal work called the Infancy Narrative of James.

According to this story, Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne, who had been without children, received a heavenly message that they would bear a child. When a girl was born, the parents went in thanksgiving to the Temple in Jerusalem to consecrate her to God. The story then says that Mary remained in the Temple until she reached puberty and then she entrusted to Joseph who was to be her guardian.

Other versions of the story from works such as the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary say that Mary was brought to the Temple about the age of 3 in fulfillment of a vow by her parents. And she was to remain there to be prepared for her future role as the Mother of God.

Western art usually focuses on the figure of the little girl Mary climbing the steps of the Temple, having left her parents at the bottom, and approaching the Chief Priest and other Temple figures at the top of the steps. The Presentation was one of the traditional scenes illustrating the Life of the Virgin.

Spiritual reading: MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

(“Thoughts in Solitude” by Thomas Merton)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on November 20, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 19:45-48

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” And every day he was teaching in the temple area. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words.

Reflection on the gospel reading: When Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, he goes to the temple and sees the commercial exchanges that surrounded the animal sacrifices that represented an integral component of the Temple system of worship. Consistent with his ministry that sought to foster hearts with attention focused on the Lord, he made a demonstration against the sellers. The parties which had a vested interest in the existing system, that is the priests, scribes, and leaders of the people, decided they had to contain Jesus and determined the need to sentence him to death. Scripture scholars generally agree that this event, the disturbance in the Temple, was the immediate cause of the plot that led to Jesus’ crucifixion. This passage then teaches us that a single-hearted devotion to God is worth dying for.

Saint of the day: Bernward was of a Saxon family and was raised by his uncle Bishop Volkmar of Utrecht when orphaned as a child. He studied at the cathedral school of Heidelburg and at Mainz, where he was ordained in 987. He became imperial chaplain and tutor to the child Emperor Otto III. He was elected bishop of Hildesheim in 993, built St. Michael’s church and monastery there, and administered his See capably. He was interested in architecture, art, and metal work and created several metalwork pieces. He was engaged in a dispute for years with Archbishop Willigis of Mainz over episcopal rights to the Gandersheim convent, but eventually Rome ruled in Bernward’s favor. He became a Benedictine in later life and died on November 20, 1022.

Spiritual reading: The good in any prophecy is ultimately shown if it awakens us to the gravity of decision in courageous faith, if it makes clear to us that the world is in a deplorable state (which we never like to admit), if it steels our patience and fortifies our faith that God has already triumphed, if it fills us with confidence in the one Lord of the still secret future, if it brings us to prayer, to conversion of heart, and to faith that nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ. (Karl Rahner, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on November 19, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 19:41-44

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In this passage from Luke, Jesus approaches Jerusalem, where he is about to undergo his passion, death, and resurrection. Using words from scripture evocative of the siege and wasting of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, he foretells a new desolation for the city, fulfilled in the destruction of the city by the Romans almost 40 years later. Jesus suggests that if Jerusalem had accepted him and his message, that terrible fate would be spared it, that a way to peace would open before it, but given the failure to accept his message, there would be no peace. And so it is with us in our own lives: our acceptance of Jesus is a pathway to peace, one to which we should set our feet.

Saint of the day: Raphael Kalinowski was born as Joseph Kalinowski in 1835 in what is now Vilnius, Lithuania. The son of Andrew Kalinowski, a prominent mathematics professor at the College of Nobility, and Josepha Poionska Kalinowski, Joseph studied at his father’s school. Though he felt a call to the priesthood, Joseph decided on college first. He studied zoology, chemistry, agriculture, and apiculture at the Institute of Agronomy in Hory Horki, Russia, and at the Academy of Military Engineering at Saint Petersburg, Russia.

A lieutenant in the Russian Military Engineering Corps in 1857, he planned and supervised the construction of the railway between Kursk and Odessa. He was promoted to captain in 1862 and stationed in Brest-Litovsk. There he started, taught, and bore all the costs of a Sunday school, accepting anyone interested.

In 1863, he supported the Polish insurrection. He resigned from the Russian army and became the rebellion’s minister of war for the Vilna region; he took the commission with the understanding that he would never hand out a death sentence or execute a prisoner. Arrested by Russian authorities in March 1864, he was condemned to death in June 1864 for his part in the revolt, but the authorities feared they would be creating a political martyr and commuted his sentence to ten years forced labor in the Siberian salt mines. Part of his sentence was spent in Irkutsk.

Released in 1873, he was exiled from his home region in Lithuania. He moved to Paris, France, and worked as a tutor for three years. In 1877, he finally answered the long-heard call to the religious life, and joined the Carmelite Order at Graz, Austria, taking the name Raphael. He studied theology in Hungary, then joined the Carmelite house at Czama, Poland. He was ordained in January 1882.

He worked to restore the Discalced Carmelites to Poland, and for church unity. He founded a convent at Wadowice, Poland in about1889. He worked with Blessed Alphonsus Mary Marurek. Noted spiritural director of both Catholics and Orthodox. An enthusiastic parish priest, he spent countless hours with his parishioners in the confessional. He died November 15, 1907 at Wadowice, Poland of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: There is nothing too small to pray about. “Oh God come to my assistance; O Lord make haste to help me.” Sometimes one is so tired, so dull, so hopeless, that it is a great effort of the will to remember to pray even so short a prayer. “Oh Lord hear my prayer. Let my cry come unto Thee.” (“On Pilgrimage – July/August 1973” by Dorothy Day)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on November 18, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 19:11-28

While people were listening to Jesus speak, he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the Kingdom of God would appear there immediately.

So he said, “A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return. He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’ His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.’ But when he returned after obtaining the kingship, he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money, to learn what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, ‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’ He replied, ‘Well done, good servant! You have been faithful in this very small matter; take charge of ten cities.’ Then the second came and reported, ‘Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’ And to this servant too he said, ‘You, take charge of five cities.’ Then the other servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your gold coin; I kept it stored away in a handkerchief, for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding man; you take up what you did not lay down and you harvest what you did not plant.’ He said to him, ‘With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant. You knew I was a demanding man, taking up what I did not lay down and harvesting what I did not plant; why did you not put my money in a bank? Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’ And to those standing by he said, ‘Take the gold coin from him and give it to the servant who has ten.’ But they said to him, ‘Sir, he has ten gold coins.’ He replied, ‘I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.’”

After he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The whole gospel of Luke is a continuous journey toward Jerusalem. In the other gospels, Jesus is reported to come and go as he journeys about Palestine, but in Luke’s gospel, there is one continuous movement toward Jerusalem. In Luke’s gospel, movement toward Jerusalem is movement toward God and God’s purpose. In today’s gospel, we are near the end of the the story: Jesus is about to arrive in Jerusalem and the fateful events that occurred there during Holy Week and thereafter. God’s purpose for Jesus’ life is being fulfilled.

This parable then fits within that context. Jesus is the master who leaves his kingdom in the charge of others. Some of them invest what he has given them, and they return to him greater sums that he originally left them. These people are people who till the fields on behalf of the gospel and reap the reward that God will give to them.

Another class of people does nothing with what God has entrusted to them. They horde their riches, that is, they fail to preach the gospel and give nothing to those who are in need. In this failure, they displease their master.

The parable suggests that there is a still worse group of people. The third class of people completely reject the Lord. They look upon the Lord and totally turn away from him.

All of us have received gifts from God. Our charge, as each of us makes her or his way toward that particular Jerusalem which God sets before us, is to bring more back to God for all that God has given us.

Saint of the day: Born August 19, 1769 at Grenoble and educated by the Visitation nuns at Sainte Marie d’en Haut, Rose Philippine Duchesne entered the Visitation community at the age of 17. During the Reign of Terror the community was expelled from France and. Philippine returned home. After the Concordat of 1801, she and her companions attempted to rebuild their convent but were unsuccessful. In 1804, she met Father Varin and offered her house and her community to Mother Barat, who arrived there December 13, 1804. Mother Duchesne and her companions were professed the 21st November, 1805.

From 1805 on, Philippine felt a call to be a missionary. In a letter to Saint Madeleine Sophie she described the grace she received during an all-night vigil before the Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday (April 3-4, 1806). This remarkable letter testifies to her ability to incorporate into her prayer a universal dimension not particularly common to nineteenth century devotion.

“All night long I was in the New World, and I traveled in good company. First of all I reverently gathered up all the Precious Blood from the Garden, the Praetorium, and Calvary. Then I took possession of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Holding Him close to my heart, I went forth to scatter my treasure everywhere, without fear that it would be exhausted. St. Francis Xavier helped me to make this priceless seed bear fruit, and from his place before the throne of God he prayed that new lands might be opened to the light of truth. St. Francis Regis himself acted as our guide, with many other saints eager for the glory of God. All went well, and no sorrow, not even holy sorrow, could find place in my heart, for it seemed to me that the merits of Jesus were about to be applied in a wholly new manner.”

It was only in 1818 that Philippine could realize her dream. Answering an appeal of Bishop Dubourg, she left with four companions for the U.S.A. In a log cabin, at St. Charles near St. Louis, Missouri, she founded the first house of the Society in the new world. In 1820, she opened the first American free school west of the Mississippi. In 1828, she had already founded six houses. In 1840, Rose Philippine Duchesne resigned as superior to devote herself, at the age of 71, to beginning a school for the Indians at Sugar Creek, Kansas. Deteriorating health forced her to resign this much cherished work and on November 18, 1852, she died at St. Charles, having spent 34 years of her life extending the work of the Society as an international community.

Spiritual reading: We cultivate a very small field for Christ, but we love it, knowing that God does not require great achievements but a heart that holds back nothing for self. (Rose Philippine Duchesne)

Weekend Retreat

Posted in church events by Mike on November 18, 2009

This last weekend, some parishioners from Holy Trinity in Reston, Virginia; St. Charles of Brazil in Lansdowne, Maryland; and St. Andrew the Apostle in Warrenton, Virginia gathered for a retreat at the 4-H Center not far from Front Royal. The retreat started on Friday evening and concluded on Saturday evening. Fr. Jim led the retreatants in reflection and prayer. Here are some photographs from the time set apart for prayer and reflection.

This photograph presents all the participants:

Fr. Jim shared his faith, hope, and love with us as he encouraged the participants to enter into the Light of Christ:

Fellowship among believers was an elemental part of the weekend:

Art as prayer:

Jesus is at the center of everything we aspire to do. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed during the retreat for periods of private meditation and prayer:

Carry the gospel with you

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

Jesus and ZacchaeusGospel reading of the day:

Luke 19:1-10

At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” And he came down quickly and received him with joy. When they saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: This narrative from Luke’s gospel shows how Jesus looks into hearts to see what is there. While the people around him judged by appearances, Jesus judged by the impulses of a person’s heart. People condemned Zacchaeus because they saw him as a public sinner, but Jesus saw a man whose heart had turned to penance and God. People’s outsides don’t always tell the story: we need to give people the benefit of the doubt, because there are things going on inside of them we cannot possibly know.

Saint of the day: Born in 1576 in Paraguay and one of the Jesuit Martyrs of Paraguay, Roch Gonzalez was a noble and Jesuit priest. One of the architects of the Jesuit Reductions in Paraguay, Roch realized the damage of the slave trade and with his fellow Jesuits gathered the indigenous Indians and went inland. In roch_gonzalesParaguay, beginning in 1609, they built settlements, taught agriculture, architecture, construction, metallurgy, farming, ranching and printing. By the time the Jesuits were expelled in 1767, they had 57 settlements with over 100,000 native residents.

Roch served as doctor, engineer, architect, farmer, and pastor, supervised the construction of churches, schools and homes, and introduced care for cattle and sheep to the natives. He adapted his tactics to the indigenous people’s love of ornament, dancing, and noise. On the great feasts of the Church, Roch solemnly celebrated Mass outside the little thatched church, and then the whole village dressed in their best and celebrated the rest of the day with games, bonfires, religious dances, flute music, and fireworks. Fierce warriors were softened by Roch’s gentle Christianity, put aside their hatred for religion, and embraced the faith. Violent revenge, previously part of the local culture, was abandoned.

This progress received a severe blow by the arrival of slave traders who were able to influence the Spanish crown and get permission for their activity. They lured natives away from the Reductions, betrayed them, and sold them into slavery. Roch became a stanch protector of their freedom, pleading the Indian cause so forcefully with the Spanish Government that the Reduction of Saint Ignatius was finally left in peace.

Because of his success evangelizing the natives, a local witch-doctor who was losing his power base, Nezú, martyred Roch along with Saint John de Castillo and Saint Alonso Rodriquez. He died in 1628 at Caaro, Brazil just as he finished celebrating Mass.

Father Gonzalez left the chapel on the morning of Nov. 15 after finishing Mass and noticed some men setting up a bell. As the Jesuit bent down to attach the clapper, one of Nezú’s henchmen split the priest’s skull with an axe. When Rodríguez heard the noise, he came out of the chapel and was immediately struck down. The bodies of both priests were thrown into the chapel which was then set on fire.

jersey_cow_350x350Spiritual reading: Some people want to see God with their eyes as they see a cow and to love him as they love their cow – they love their cow for the milk and cheese and profit it makes them. This is how it is with people who love God for the sake of outward wealth or inward comfort. They do not rightly love God when they love him for their own advantage. Indeed, I tell you the truth, any object you have on your mind, however good, will be a barrier between you and the inmost truth. (Meister Eckhart)