CACINA

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 28, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 9:28b-36

Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.

Reflection on the gospel reading: We have today Luke’s account of Jesus’ transfiguration, which though shared by Matthew and Mark, is uniquely in Luke’s gospel, cast as a prayer experience. Moses and Elijah are figures in the narrative who come down from heaven as witnesses to Jesus: that is, the Law, represented by Moses, and prophecy, represented by Elijah, attest to Jesus. Peter tries to make Moses and Elijah Jesus’ equals by erecting tents for all three of them, but a voice from heaven admonishes the disciples that Jesus is quite unique, and we are to listen to him.

Spiritual reading: There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers. (Teresa of Avila)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 27, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel that we read today is a radical position utterly contrary to the wisdom of the world and even many religions. Love, in psychological terms, is joy in the presence of a person accompanied by acceptance of that person. It is easy to feel joy and acceptance in the presence of people who feel joy and acceptance in our presence, but to experience joy and acceptance in the presence of our enemies and persecutors is an an extraordinary thing. It is not a thing we can do naturally; it is the experience of people who are plugged into the life of God. What is difficult for us is easy for God, and the nearer we draw to God through daily prayer and meditation, the more the perfection of the Father flows into us and makes possible for us what otherwise would be unnatural and even impossible.

Saint of the day: Born in Italy in March 1838 into a large family and baptized Francis, St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows lost his mother when he was only four years old. He was educated by the Jesuits and, having been cured twice of serious illnesses, came to believe that God was calling him to the religious life. Young Francis wished to join the Jesuits but was turned down, probably because of his age, not yet 17. Following the death of a sister to cholera, his resolve to enter religious life became even stronger and he was accepted by the Passionists. Upon entering the novitiate he was given the name Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Ever popular and cheerful, Gabriel quickly was successful in his effort to be faithful in little things. His spirit of prayer, love for the poor, consideration of the feelings of others, exact observance of the Passionist Rule as well as his bodily penances—always subject to the will of his wise superiors— made a deep impression on everyone.

His superiors had great expectations of Gabriel as he prepared for the priesthood, but after only four years of religious life symptoms of tuberculosis appeared. Ever obedient, he patiently bore the painful effects of the disease and the restrictions it required, seeking no special notice. He died peacefully on February 27, 1862, at age 24, having been an example to both young and old. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was canonized in 1920.

Spiritual reading: More than ever I find myself in the hands of God. This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth. But now there is a difference; the initiative is entirely with God. It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands. (The Servant of God Pedro Arrupe, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 26, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus unfolds in the Sermon on the Mount his treatment of the fundamental characteristics of Christian life. In the section that precedes this, we read the Beatitudes where Jesus called us to compassion, gentleness, justice, and clear-sightedness. In the passage, he called us to a lively faith lived in relationship with others. In yesterday’s reading, he called us to faithfulness and constancy. And here in the reading from today’s gospel, he calls us to forgiveness and reconciliation.

All of these patterns of Christian life address who we are as people who are connected to other people. Compassion, gentleness, justice, witness, faithfulness, and reconciliation all are about how we live with others. Christian life ultimately and primarily is a set of relationships through and in which we discover the Lord. And that discovery presupposes a particular way we live with one another.

Saint of the day: Paula of Saint Joseph of Calasanz was born in 1799 in Spain. A member of a large and pious family in a small seaside village, her father died when Paula was 10 years old. She worked as a seamstress and lace-maker and helped raise her siblings. She also helped in her parish with other children.

At age 30, still single and devoting herself privately to God, she and her friend Inez Busquets opened a school in Gerona to provide a good education mixed with spiritual guidance. The school was such a success that she was able to found a college in May 1842, and another school in 1846. To staff and manage the schools, she founded the Daughters of Mary (Pious School Sisters) in February 1847 and took the name Paula of Saint Joseph of Calasanz. Paula served as its leader. These schools have now spread to four continents. She died in February 1889 of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: For if we never fell, we should not know how feeble and how wretched we are of our self, and also we should not fully know that marvelous love of our Maker. (Juliana of Norwich)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 25, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 7:7-12

Jesus said to his disciples: “Ask and it will be given to you; 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. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.”

Reflection on the gospel: In today’s gospel, we have a series of sayings by Jesus that addresses the solicitude of God for God’s children. They assure us of God’s parental concern and commitment to our well being. I once not so long ago had an opportunity to give a short talk at a community meeting, and I observed to the people in the room that it amazes me that despite all the evidence I have that God ever sustains me, I still should ignore the evidence and fear for my future. Let us be confident in God who cradles us in strong and gentle arms.

Saint of the day: Sebastian of Aparicio’s roads and bridges connected many distant places. His final bridge-building was to help men and women recognize their God-given dignity and destiny.

Sebastian’s parents were Spanish peasants. At the age of 31 he sailed to Mexico, where he began working in the fields. Eventually he built roads to facilitate agricultural trading and other commerce. His 466-mile road from Mexico City to Zacatecas took 10 years to build and required careful negotiations with the indigenous peoples along the way.

In time Sebastian was a wealthy farmer and rancher. At the age of 60 he married. His wife’s motivation may have been a large inheritance; his was to provide a respectable life for a girl without even a modest marriage dowry. When his first wife died, he married for the same reason; his second wife also died young.

At the age of 72 Sebastian distributed his goods among the poor and entered the Franciscans as a brother. Assigned to the large (100-member) friary at Puebla de los Angeles south of Mexico City, Sebastian went out collecting alms for the friars for the next 25 years. His charity to all earned him the nickname “Angel of Mexico.”

Sebastian was beatified in 1787 and is known as a patron of travelers.

Spiritual reading: One must pass through the desert and spend some time there in order to receive the grace of God; it is there that one empties oneself, that one drives away from oneself everything which is not God and that one empties completely the house of one’s soul in order to leave all of it to God alone. (Charles de Foucald )

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 24, 2010

Gospel 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 jesus-and-birdsends 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: In today’s gospel, Jesus implies that many of his listeners are not ready or willing to hear his call. They have no need any signs: Jesus has been giving them an abundance of signs through his teaching and healing work. On the judgment day, they, the chosen people of God, will be surprised to see the Queen of the South rise up because she, pagan that she was, came a long distance to listen to the wisdom of Solomon – and Jesus is someone far superior to Solomon. They will be surprised to see the people of Niniveh, pagans that they were, rise up because they repented at the preaching of Jonah – and Jesus is far greater than Jonah. We too, who claim to be God’s People, may be surprised to see who will be called to God’s side on judgment day because they heard and followed God’s word according to their capacity. Our God is a tricky God: let us not be so locked into our vision that we are unwilling to understand things anew.

Saint of the day: In 1220, St. Anthony was preaching conversion to the inhabitants of Padua when a young nobleman, Luke Belludi, came up to him and humbly asked to receive the habit of the followers of St. Francis. Anthony liked the talented, well-educated Luke and personally recommended him to St. Francis, who then received him into the Franciscan Order.

Luke, then only 20, was to be Anthony’s companion in his travels and in his preaching, tending to him in his last days and taking Anthony’s place upon his death. He was appointed guardian of the Friars Minor in the city of Padua. In 1239 the city fell into the hands of its enemies. Nobles were put to death, the mayor and council were banished, the great university of Padua gradually closed and the church dedicated to St. Anthony was left unfinished. Luke himself was expelled from the city but secretly returned. At night he and the new guardian would visit the tomb of St. Anthony in the unfinished shrine to pray for his help. One night a voice came from the tomb assuring them that the city would soon be delivered from its evil tyrant.

After the fulfillment of the prophetic message, Luke was elected provincial minister and furthered the completion of the great basilica in honor of Anthony, his teacher. He founded many convents of the order and had, as Anthony, the gift of miracles. Upon his death he was laid to rest in the basilica that he had helped finish and has had a continual veneration up to the present time.

Spiritual reading: The joy of Jesus will be my strength – it will be in my heart. Every person I meet will see it in my work; my walk, my prayer – in everything. (Mother Teresa)

Carry the gospel with with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 23, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 6:7-15

“In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This is how you are to pray:

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

“If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: In the gospels, we have two accounts of Jesus’ disciples asking the Master to give them a prayer. Luke’s account provides a version of the Lord’s prayer that is comparably spare. Here, in Matthew’s account, we have a a slightly more elaborate prayer, and it is this version that we use most frequently both in private and public recitation.

The prayer has various characteristics that teach us much about praying: it evokes reliance on God as a parent common to us all, acknowledgment of God’s greatness, a submission to God’s will, and a request for the things that sustain our lives: food, the dual graces of personal forgiveness and compassion toward others, being spared, and being saved from evil.

In this gospel passage, Jesus emphasizes the need for mercy: how can we expect mercy if we fail to show mercy?

Saint of the day: Fr. Ludwik Mzyk came from a miner’s family. His father was a foreman. Ludwik, the fifth of nine children, was born in Pland on April 22nd, 1905 into a deeply religious family. Ludwik was an altar boy from his childhood and showed interest in religion and the Church. He discovered his missionary vocation during parish retreats run by a missionary from Nysa. He revealed his desire to his parents but they did not approve of it. His relatives supported him. Together with his eventually convinced parents they secured a place for Ludwik in the minor seminary of the Divine Word Missionaries at the Holy Cross House in Nysa. Ludwik arrived in Nysa in1918. His father died when Ludwik was still in secondary school. In order to help his mother financially Ludwik, together with his brother, worked in a mine during his summer holidays. After he left Nysa, he entered the novitiate and eventually took vows. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1932 and completed a doctorate in theology at the Gregorian University in Rome in 1935. After a brief time in Austria, he returned to Poland where he became novice master of a new novitiate for the Divine Word Missionaries.

When the war began almost all the inhabitants of the house were evacuated to eastern Poland. He himself stayed in the house. He welcomed with joy all those who returned after a couple of weeks. His calm positively influenced the young. The situation at the beginning of the occupation remained almost unchanged. The Nazis rarely visited the house. However, learning about forced displacement of the population and arrests, the superiors thought about sending the novices back home. Unfortunately, there already were problems with changing addresses. Fr. Ludwik tried different ways to safeguard the future of the novices. He got in touch with the SVD in Austria, Germany, and Rome trying to find a place for them. He even proposed to move the novitiate to Bruczków where the novices could work on the farm to earn their living. However, traveling was banned. Gradually it became clear that although educated in Austria and Germany he did not know how to deal with the Germans as occupants. He made one serious mistake in his contacts with the Gestapo. Talking with one of the officers, and being unaware that he was Gestapo, Fr. Mzyk said that he preferred to negotiate with the army than with the Gestapo, because he trusted the former more. That event had a decisive influence on his future. Using that conversation as a pretext, the Gestapo arrested him on January 25th, 1940. Another priest who returned later to Chludowo reported how cruelly Fr. Ludwik was treated during the loading of the truck in Poznan. He said: “Your Master is a true angel.”

All the information about the martyrdom of Fr. Mzyk was taken from the reports of eye-witnesses, prisoners of Fort VII in Poznan’. Frs. Sylwester Marciniak wrote: “I met Fr. Mzyk in the cell No.60 in Fort VII in Poznan’ on February 1st, 1940. There were 28 others in that cell with him, mostly students. They all starved… The guards entered the cell day and night and beat them without any reason. Fr. Mzyk fulfilled all orders scrupulously and warned everybody not to do things that were forbidden… It was evident that he prayed all the time.”

On February 20, 1940, apparently sensing the end might be near, Fr. Mzyk asked a fellow priest for absolution immediately before he suffered a vicious beating. After the beating, Fr. Mzyk was ordered to stop at the gate and shot him in the back of his head. Fr. Ludwik Mzyk was beatified in 1999 as one of the 108 Polish martyrs.

Spiritual reading: To live without faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for truth, that is not living but existing. (Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 22, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage that the Church gives us today portrays Jesus asking his disciples who people say he is. The disciples give a variety of answers, but Peter looks into the heart of the thing and confesses that Jesus is the messiah. The question that Jesus ask is a question as relevant today as it was in Jesus’ lifetime. The answer to the question has great significance for who we are and what we will do with our lives. So who do you say that Jesus is?

Saint of the day: Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski was born in 1913 in Poland. A priest, he died in Dachau on February 23, 1945. He is the patron of Polish scouting. He joined Scouting on March 21, 1927. Stefan served as Patrol leader and later as Troop Leader and during his years in the High Seminary of Pelplin Diocese he was an active member of its Scout Club. He also was an active member of the Marian Congregation and from the age of nine, Stefan had been an altar boy. During his years in the seminary of Pelpin he was active in the Temperance movement. On March 14, 1937 he was ordained a priest in Pelpin. In the following years he served as a priest in Pelpin and Torun’. While working as a priest he continued his studies on the university of Lwów. In Torun’ he was responsible for the parish press. In 1938 he became leader of the Old Scouts and chaplain of the scout district Pomerania. Arrested by the Gestapo on October 18, 1939, he was imprisoned in the German concentration camps Stutthof, Grenzdorf, Sachsenhausen and Dachau where he died. Working with the typhus patients in the camp, he himself contracted the disease and died of it. On June 7, 1999 Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski was beatified.

Spiritual reading: Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. (M. Scott Peck)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 21, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 4:1-13

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, One does not live on bread alone.” Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.” Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and: With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.

Reflection on the gospel reading: On this first Sunday of Lent, the Church reminds us that if we are tempted, Christ was tempted before us. Throughout the New Testament, in all four of the gospels and in various epistles, we learn that it was a strong and consistent tradition in the early Church that Jesus faced tests during his ministry.

The tests we read about today go to the heart of what it means for Jesus to be messiah. The devil presents to Jesus a vision of messiah very similar to the vision of messiah that Israel, in Jesus’ troubled day, held in its heart. They are tests toward the use of power to change creation for Jesus’ own pleasure, set up an earthly dominion to control human beings through political and military might, and force God’s protection of Jesus.

In the end, though, Jesus did not change stones into bread to feed himself but instead fed the multitudes with bread. He did not set up an earthly kingdom but trusted God to use his example of service to build up a heavenly kingdom. He did not succumb to the temptation to put his life on the line to see if God would save him but remained obedient unto death, yes, death on cross.

In the end, Jesus rejected each of act of violence that the devil sat before him to embrace for himself the path of peace and devise a messianism that Israel never had imagined.

Spiritual reading: Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays. (Soren Kierkegaard)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 20, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 5:27-32

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus’ critics considered themselves virtuous, but in truth, they lacked both love and compassion. When they criticized Jesus’ effort to reach out in love and compassion, the Lord rebuked them.

A shopworn truism suggests itself: what goes around, comes around. We need to be careful when we are tempted to judge others. All of us, without exception, have areas in our life that are not whole, and the compassion we show today for another well may be the compassion we need for ourselves tomorrow.

Saint of the day: Francisco Marto (June 11, 1908–April 4, 1919) and his sister Jacinta Marto (March 11, 1910–February 20, 1920), together with their cousin, Lucia Santos (1907–2005) were the children from Aljustrel near Fátima, Portugal who reported witnessing three apparitions of an angel in 1916 and several apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1917.

The youngest children of Manuel and Olimpia Marto, Francisco and Jacinta were typical of Portuguese village children of that time. They were illiterate but had a rich oral tradition to rely on, and they worked with their cousin Lucia, taking care of the family’s sheep. According to Lucia’s memoirs, Francisco had a placid disposition, was somewhat musically inclined, and liked to be by himself to think. Jacinta was affectionate if a bit spoiled, and emotionally labile. She had a sweet singing voice and a gift for dancing. All three children gave up music and dancing after the visions began, believing that these and other recreational activities led to occasions of sin.

Following their experiences, their fundamental personalities remained the same. Francisco preferred to pray alone, as he said “to console Jesus for the sins of the world.” Jacinta was deeply affected by a terrifying vision of Hell reportedly shown to the children at the third apparition. She became deeply convinced of the need to save sinners through penance and sacrifice as the Virgin had reportedly instructed the children to do. All three children, but particularly Francisco and Jacinta, practiced stringent self-mortifications to this end.

The siblings were victims of the great 1918 influenza epidemic which swept through Europe in 1918. Both lingered for many months, insisting on walking to church to make Eucharistic devotions and prostrating themselves to pray for hours, kneeling with their heads on the ground as instructed by the angel who had first appeared to them.

Francisco declined hospital treatment and died peacefully at home, while Jacinta was dragged from one hospital to another in an attempt to save her life which she insisted was futile. She developed purulent pleurisy and endured an operation in which two of her ribs were removed. Because of the condition of her heart, she could not be anesthetized and suffered terrible pain, which she said would help to convert many sinners. On February 20, 1920, Jacinta asked the hospital chaplain who heard her confession to bring her Holy Communion and give her the Anointing of the Sick because she was going to die “this very night”. He told her that her condition was not that serious, and that he would return the next day. A few hours later Jacinta was dead. She had died, as she had often said she would, alone: not even a nurse was with her.

Spiritual reading: Growth begins when we start to accept our own weakness. (Jean Vanier)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 19, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 9:14-15

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage is about what is most meaningful. Fasting and other forms of asceticism have had their place in every world religion; Jesus does not denigrate the practice when it is used for a purpose, but the point is not to fast but rather to cultivate and rejoice in the presence of the Lord.

Saint of the day: Born in 1290, Conrad of Piacenza was a nobleman who married Euphrosyne, daughter of a nobleman. One day while hunting, he ordered attendants to set fire to some brush in order to flush out the game. A strong wind carried the flames to nearby fields, forests, towns, and villages. Conrad fled in panic; an innocent peasant was imprisoned, tortured into a confession and condemned to death for the fire. Remorseful, Conrad stepped forth to confess, saving the man. He then paid for the damaged property.

Conrad and his wife saw the hand of God in the dramatic events and chose to give the poor everything they owned. They then separated: she to a Poor Clare monastery, he to a group of Franciscan teriary hermits. Conrad lived such a life of piety that his reputation for holiness spread quickly; had the gift of healing. Visitors destroyed his solitude, so he fled to a the valley of Noto in Sicily where he lived 36 years in prayer as a hermit.

Legend says that when the Bishop of Syracuse visited him, the bishop asked if Conrad had anything to offers guests. Conrad said he would check in his cell. He returned carrying newly made cakes, which the bishop accepted as a miracle. Conrad returned the bishop’s visit, and made a general confession to him. As he arrived, he was surrounded by fluttering birds, who escorted him back to Noto. Conrad died kneeling before a crucifix in 1350.

Spiritual reading: I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 18, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 9:22-25

Jesus said to his disciples: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”

Reflection on the gospel: The text here is rich in implications: Jesus talks about his rejection and then talks about picking up the cross. Being misunderstood and even rejected does not feel good, but when we risk being misunderstood and even rejected for the sake of the gospel, we embrace the gospel and imitate Christ. The elders, chief priests, and scribes, of course, were the religious authorities of Jesus’ day, but Jesus’ vision of the truth led him to reject their leadership and set out on a path that the Father had revealed to him. In an age when many religious leaders are turning to stale and lifeless teachings, we must be bold in our proclamation of the vision that the Father gives us and tenaciously hold to our prophetic mission even as Jesus tenaciously held to his prophetic mission, even if it risks death, yes, death even on a cross.

Saint of the day: John of Fiesole, the patron of Christian artists, was born around 1400 in a village overlooking Florence. He took up painting as a young boy and studied under the watchful eye of a local painting master. He joined the Dominicans at about age 20, taking the name Fra Giovanni. He eventually came to be known as Fra Angelico, perhaps a tribute to his own angelic qualities or maybe the devotional tone of his works.

He continued to study painting and perfect his own techniques, which included broad-brush strokes, vivid colors and generous, lifelike figures. Michelangelo once said of Fra Angelico: “One has to believe that this good monk has visited paradise and been allowed to choose his models there.” Whatever his subject matter, Fra Angelico sought to generate feelings of religious devotion in response to his paintings. Among his most famous works are the Annunciation and Descent from the Cross as well as frescoes in the monastery of San Marco in Florence.

He also served in leadership positions within the Dominican Order. At one point Pope Eugenius approached him about serving as archbishop of Florence. Fra Angelico declined, preferring a simpler life. He died in 1455.

Spiritual reading: The world is not full of evil because of those who do wrong. It is full of evil because of those who do nothing. (Albert Einstein)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 17, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: On this Ash Wednesday, the gospel calls us to reflect on the meaning of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Today’s reading addresses three pillars of religious practice among Jesus’ people, and by extension and adoption, among us who are Jesus’ followers. Those three practices are almsgiving, prayer, and penance. There is a common theme among the three. Yes, Jesus encourages us to give to the poor, pray, and repent, but he tells us to do each of these things in a way that does not draw attention to ourselves. When we do these things to gain the admiration of other people, we have received our reward. Our religious practice is to be a relationship between God and ourselves: it is not to make us look better in the eyes of other people. The passage from Matthew, as we enter into Lent, emphasizes the importance of doing all these things quietly and in a way that only God sees. Let us give freely to the poor. Let us pray continuously in our hearts. Let us do penance for the injuries we do to our relationship with God. But let us make of each of these practices a truly religious practice between God and ourselves.

Ash Wednesday: Ash Wednesday is the Wednesday 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays and the Triduum.) The name dies cinerum (day of ashes) which it bears in the Roman Missal is found in the earliest existing copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary and probably dates from at least the eighth century. On this day all the faithful according to ancient custom are exhorted to approach the altar before the beginning of Mass, and there the priest, dipping his thumb into ashes previously blessed, marks the forehead in the sign of the cross, saying the words: “Remember man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” The ashes used in this ceremony are made by burning the remains of the palms blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. In the blessing of the ashes four prayers are used, all of them ancient. The ashes are sprinkled with holy water and fumigated with incense. The celebrant himself receives, either standing or seated, the ashes from someone else. In earlier ages a penitential procession often followed the rite of the distribution of the ashes, but this is not now prescribed.

Spiritual reading: If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love. (Juliana of Norwich)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 16, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 8:14-21

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” They concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread. When he became aware of this he said to them, “Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?” They answered him, “Twelve.” “When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?” They answered him, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Reflection on the gospel: This is a difficult and cramped passage, one that is not easy to understand. It essentially emphasizes the lack of understanding by the pharisees and disciples alike. Neither of them has a true understanding of who Jesus is and what his actions mean. Moreover, they doubt his power. So too it is with us. We often confess his power with our lips but doubt in our hearts its relevance in our lives. Becoming people who trust God is a difficult task, but practice makes perfect, and reliance on God’s power today will bring about great things for us.

Saint of the day: Maternal nephew of St. Joseph Cafasso, Joseph Allamano was born in Castenuovo d’Asti on January 21, 1851. He did his first years of primary school at Valdocco, under the guidance of Don Bosco. At the age of 22 he was ordained priest in Turin. Immediately following the ordination, he was put in charge of other seminarians under formation. At the age of 29, he was appointed as rector of the biggest Marian shrine in the city of Turin, the one dedicated to Our Lady Consolata. At the same time he was charged to lead the newly ordained priests of the diocese.

Fr. Allamano founded the Institute of Consolata Missionaries on January 29, 1901 in Turin. The event was then documented in the shrine bulletin as follows: “The devotion to Consolata will not only be contemplative but also active,” which implied that with the Consolata missions, the Marian shrine acquired a universal dimension. In May 1902, he bade farewell to the first four missionaries who left Torino for Kenya. The first group consisted of two priests and two brothers.

In 1910, Joseph Allamano founded the congregation of the Consolata Sisters. He died in Turin on the 16th February 1926. His remains lie in the church of Blessed Joseph Allamano, adjacent to the motherhouse of the Consolata Missionaries in Torino.

Spiritual reading: Help all without discrimination, friend and foe alike. Everyone is our neighbor. (Blessed Mother Angela Truszkowska )

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 15, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore.

Reflection on the gospel: In the passage that precedes this one, Jesus has fed the 4,000, and yet the pharisees at such a moment come to him asking for a sign. In their spiritual blindness, they refuse to see who Jesus is and what he is doing. Mark frequently tells us about the feelings that Jesus experiences. Here, the Pharisees ask for a sign, and Jesus expresses his exasperation both in what he says (“No sign will be given”) and in what he does (takes off in the boat.) It is the richness and familiarity of Jesus’ humanity that Mark shows us even as he describes the wonderful things Jesus did and said. As we move through our day today, let us strive to know the Lord ever more accurately and acutely in our own hearts and thoughts, putting off our own spiritual blindness and seeking to make the vision of Jesus central to our existence.

Saint of the day: Saint Claude de la Colombière, S.J., who was born in Grenoble, France on February 2, 1641, was the confessor of Saint Margaret-Marie Alacoque. His feast day is the day of his death, February 15. He was a missionary and ascetical writer, born of noble parentage.

He entered the Society of Jesus in 1659. After fifteen years of religious life in the Jesuits, he made a vow, as a means of attaining the utmost possible perfection, to observe faithfully the Rule and Constitutions of his order under penalty of sin. Those who lived with him attested that this vow was kept with great exactitude.

In 1674 Claude was made superior at the Jesuit house at Paray-le-Monial, where he became the spiritual director of Saint Margaret-Marie Alacoque and was thereafter a zealous apostle of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1676 he was sent to England as preacher to Mary of Modena, Duchess of York, afterwards Queen of Great Britain. He lived the life of a Religious even in the Court of St. James and was as active a missionary in England as he had been in France. Although encountering many difficulties, he was able to guide Saint Margaret Mary by letter.

His zeal soon weakened his vitality and a throat and lung trouble seemed to threaten his work as a preacher. While awaiting his recall to France he was suddenly arrested and thrown into prison, denounced as a conspirator. Thanks to his title of preacher to the Duchess of York and to the protection of the King of France, Louis XIV, whose subject Claude was, he escaped death but was condemned to exile in 1679. The last two years of his life were spent at Lyon where he was spiritual director to the young Jesuits, and at Paray-le-Monial, where he repaired for his health. He died February 15, 1682 in France of natural causes. He was beatified in 1929 and canonized in 1992.

Spiritual reading: Perfection consists in doing the will of God, not in understanding his designs. (Claude de la Colombiere, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 14, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 6:17, 20-26

Jesus came down with the twelve and stood on a stretch of level ground with a great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon. And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: I don’t know about you, but this gospel passage always makes me uncomfortable. It is a real challenge to us Christians who live in material comfort.

The passage we read today from Luke’s gospel commences the Sermon on the Plain. It is a shorter but roughly parallel list of sayings with material comparable to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Like the Sermon on the Mount, the Sermon on the Plain begins with the Beatitudes, but while Matthew offers us eight Beatitudes, Luke gives only four but complements these Beatitudes with four woes.

Luke’s gospel is the gospel of material poverty, and the Beatitudes in Luke reflect this. In Matthew’s beatitudes, Jesus speaks about spiritual poverty, that is, an interior freedom that disposes us to do God’s will, a poverty that, in other words, may or may not be material. Luke’s approach is fundamentally different. Jesus in Luke tells the poor to rejoice for their condition, not just because of the blessings that God gives to them because they are poor people but also because the rich have had their reward.

We Americans live in a country that has been immensely blessed. Those of us who live in the middle class may not feel rich, but if we have a little money in a bank account and a jar somewhere in our houses filled with coins, we actually have much more than most of the people of the earth. It is easy to dismiss what we read here in this passage and cling to the notion of spiritual poverty, but I think it should fill us with dread caution to remember how much we have been given and what is demanded of those who have been given much.

Spiritual reading: Our actions have a tongue of their own; they have an eloquence of their own, even when the tongue is silent. For deeds prove the lover more than words. (Cyril of Jerusalem)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 13, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 8:1-10

In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat, Jesus summoned the disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance.” His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?” Still he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They replied, “Seven.” He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to distribute, and they distributed them to the crowd. They also had a few fish. He said the blessing over them and ordered them distributed also. They ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over—seven baskets. There were about four thousand people. He dismissed the crowd and got into the boat with his disciples and came to the region of Dalmanutha.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospels strongly reflect the ritual life of the early Christian community, and we see in this passage clear implications of the Eucharist. The Lord takes loaves, breaks them, and gives them to the disciples: exactly the same actions he takes during the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Note what happens to the people when they receive this bread: they eat and are satisfied. So it is with the Eucharist: we multitudes in this time and we multitudes across the centuries eat this bread, and it satisfies our hearts.

Saint of the day: In the same year that a power-hungry Napoleon Bonaparte led his army into Russia, 1812, Giles Mary of St. Joseph ended a life of humble service to his Franciscan community and to the citizens of Naples.

Francesco was born on November 16, 1729 in Taranto to very poor parents. His father’s death left the 18-year-old Francesco to care for the family. Having secured their future, he entered the Friars Minor at Galatone in 1754. He wished to become a priest, but lacked the education, and was received as a lay brother. For 53 years he served at St. Paschal’s Hospice in Naples in various roles, such as cook, porter, or most often, as official beggar for that community. As Porter and gate-keeper at his monastery’s seminary, he was in constant contact with those in need.

“Love God, love God” was his characteristic phrase as he gathered food for the friars and shared some of his bounty with the poor—all the while consoling the troubled and urging everyone to repent. The charity which he reflected on the streets of Naples was born in prayer and nurtured in the common life of the friars. The people whom Giles met on his begging rounds nicknamed him the “Consoler of Naples.” He was canonized in 1996.

Spiritual reading: Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him….He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me to strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me; still He knows what He is about. (John Cardinal Newman)