CACINA

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 30, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 9:1-8

After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town. And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to men.

Reflection on the gospel reading: In the ancient world, people viewed illness as a punishment from God for sin, so it was natural for Jesus to make the connection between the forgiveness of sin and physical healing. In our own time, of course, we do not believe God works this way, so what are we to make of the story? The scribes accuse Jesus, at least accuse him in their own minds, of blasphemy when Jesus says the sins of the paralytic are forgiven him. Ultimately, however, Jesus reduces the scribes to silence when he changes his formula from the forgiveness of sin to a command that the paralytic stand up and walk. For the paralytic does just that. Jesus proves his power to forgive sin in an equation where he demonstrates his power to heal broken bodies. All of us are broken in some way, perhaps physically, perhaps spiritually, perhaps both, but the Lord is able to heal us whether we are not whole in either body or soul. It is for stories like the one that we read today that we should be confident in the Lord’s power to heal us no matter what wounds we bear.

Saint of the day: Today is the memorial of the first Martyrs of Rome. The Roman Christian community is testimony to the rapidity with which the early Christians carried the gospel with them. There were Christians in Rome within a dozen or so years after the death of Jesus, though they were not the converts of the “Apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 15:20). Paul had not yet visited them at the time he wrote his great letter in a.d. 57-58. The explanation for this early Christian community in a distant city likely resulted from the frequent travel between Jerusalem and the capital of the empire and the fact that there was a large Jewish population in Rome. Probably as a result of controversy between Jews and Jewish Christians, the Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome in 49-50 A.D. Suetonius the historian says that the expulsion was due to disturbances in the city “caused by the certain Chrestus” [Christ]. Perhaps many came back after Claudius’s death in 54 A.D. Paul’s letter was addressed to a Church with members from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds.

In July of 64 A.D., more than half of Rome was destroyed by fire. Rumor blamed the tragedy on Nero, who wanted to enlarge his palace. He shifted the blame by accusing the Christians. According to the historian Tacitus, many Christians were put to death because of their “hatred of the human race.” Peter and Paul were probably among the victims. Threatened by an army revolt and condemned to death by the senate, Nero committed suicide in 68 A.D. at the age of 31.

Spiritual reading: Think what the world could look like if we took care of the poor even half as well as we do our bibles! (Dorothy Day)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 29, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 8:28-34

When Jesus came to the territory of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him. They were so savage that no one could travel by that road. They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?” Some distance away a herd of many swine was feeding. The demons pleaded with him, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And he said to them, “Go then!” They came out and entered the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea where they drowned. The swineherds ran away, and when they came to the town they reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district.

Reflection on the gospel reading: This gospel presents us with a rather strange narrative. There is at the base of this story, however, the theme of healing, the kind of theme that has been characteristic of many of the gospel passages that we have read over the course of the last several days. At its deepest root, this gospel passage tells us that Jesus possesses the power to liberate us from whatever enslaves us. This gospel points to the Lord’s absolute power to free us from the snares that entrap us.

Saint of the day: Reverence for the two great apostles, Peter and Paul, goes back to the earliest year of Christian faith. Peter and Paul are the solid rock that founds the Church. They are at the origin of her faith and will forever remain her protectors and her guides. To them the Church owes her true greatness, for it was under God’s providential guidance that they were led to spread the gospel, a gospel for which they gave their lives.

Peter suffered martyrdom under Nero, in A.D. 66 or 67. He was buried on the hill of the Vatican where recent excavations have revealed his tomb on the very site of the basilica of St. Peter’s. St. Paul was beheaded in the via Ostia on the spot where now stands the basilica bearing his name. Through the centuries, Christian people have gone on pilgrimage to the tombs of these Apostles. Today, we continue the celebration of their witness.

Spiritual reading: Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin. (Mother Teresa)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 28, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 8:23-27

As Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him. Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but he was asleep. They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. The men were amazed and said, “What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We can read in the gospel a witness to the apostles’ struggle to understand just who it is that is their friend, that is, that the man in the boat has powers that they ascribed only to God. We also can read in the gospel a witness that even when it seems that God is asleep and oblivious to our plights, God indeed is aware of the tumult that surrounds us as we make our way. God is sensitive to the waves that crash upon us and threaten us. The Lord is with us as we make our way, and the Lord truly does care about our fates.

Saint of the day: John Southworth was born in 1592, Lancashire, England. Southworth is one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Father John Southworth came from a Lancashire family who lived at Samlesbury Hall. They chose to pay heavy fines rather than give up the Catholic faith.

He studied at the English College in Douai, now in northern France, (and then moved to Hertfordshire, St. Edmunds College) and was ordained priest before he returned to England. Imprisoned and sentenced to death for professing the Catholic faith, he was later deported to France. Once more he returned to England and lived in Clerkenwell, London, during a plague epidemic. He assisted and converted the sick in Westminster and was arrested again.

He was again arrested under the Interregnum and was tried at the Old Bailey under Elizabethan anti-priest legislation. He pleaded guilty to exercising the priesthood and was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. At his execution at Tyburn on June 28, 1654, he was hanged but spared the drawing and quartering.

The Spanish ambassador returned his corpse to Douai for burial. His corpse was sewn together and parboiled, to preserve it. Following the French Revolution, his body was buried in an unmarked grave for its protection. The grave was discovered in 1927 and his remains were returned to England. They are now kept in the Chapel of St George and the English Martyrs in Westminster Cathedral in London.

Spiritual reading: It is no use saying that we are born two thousand years too late to give room to Christ. Nor will those who live at the end of the world have been born too late. Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts. (“Room for Christ” by Dorothy Day)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 27, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 8:18-22

When Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side. A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Another of (his) disciples said to him, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We read today Jesus’ reply to two men who would follow him. The first of these two men is a scribe who says he will follow Jesus anywhere. Jesus observes to him that the cost of discipleship is to be prepared to own nothing, that is, to follow him is to have “nowhere to rest his head.” The second of these two men is a disciple who says he has to go and bury his father, but Jesus tells him that the needs of the kingdom must have first place. In both cases, what the Lord communicates is that following Jesus must be an unconditional act. Christianity is a way of life, and its demands sometimes inconvenience us, but a life of discipleship is a radical commitment that demands of us a total response.

Saint of the day: Born in Neustra, Hungary, July 29, 1040, Ladislaus died at Nitra, Bohemia, July 29, 1095. Ladislaus of the house of Arpad, son of King Bela, was elected king of Hungary in 1077 by the nobles. He followed in the footsteps of Saint Stephen I of Hungary. Immediately he was faced with the claims of a relative and son of a former king, Solomon, to the throne, and defeated him on the battlefield in 1089. He developed the power of his young kingdom. He fought just and successful wars against Poles, Russians, and the Tartars.

Ladislaus married Adelaide, daughter of Duke Welf of Bavaria, one of Rupert’s supporters. While Ladislaus encouraged Christian missionaries and fostered Christianity within his dominions, he allowed religious freedom to the Jews and Islamics within his realm.

He was distinguished personally for the justness of his rule and the virtue of his life. In 1091, Ladislaus marched to the aid of his sister, Helen, Queen of Croatia, against the murderers of her husband. When she died childless, he extended the boundaries of his kingdom by the annexation of Croatia and Dalmatia despite objections from the pope, the emperor in Constantinople, and Venice.

In 1092 at the Synod of Szabolcs, Ladislaus promulgated a series of laws on religious and civil matters. He was chosen to lead the armies of the first crusade but before he could go he died. In a sentence, Laszlo was the ideal national hero. He is venerated for his zeal, piety, and moral life. In 1192, his relics were enshrined as those of a saint in the cathedral he had founded at Nagyvarad.

Spiritual reading: Every part of the journey is of importance to the whole. (The Way of Perfection by Teresa of Avila)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 26, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 6:51-58

Jesus said to the crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We Catholics easily see in this passage a reference to the Eucharist. Because we do this, we can skip over certain meanings implicit at the core of what Jesus says here. When we do this, that is, gloss over the text with a superficial understanding of its Eucharistic overtones, we fail to recognize not only what Jesus really is saying here, but we also avoid a radical truth about the Eucharist itself.

Our bodies, both flesh and blood, are completely identified with who we are. There is no way that we can know each other except as bodily. When Jesus talks in this passage about eating his body and drinking his blood, he is talking about our complete identification with the totality of who he is: what Jesus knows; what Jesus feels; how Jesus acts. Jesus in this passage makes an offer of presence in our lives that calls for a response, either for a yes or for a no to knowing as Jesus knows, feeling as Jesus feels, acting as Jesus acts, becoming identified with Jesus’ totality in our totality. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. If we understand the passage asks for our total identification with Jesus, we have understood the passage.

We Catholics, of course, recognize Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist, and after years of going to communion, it’s easy for us to look into this passage and see advice that we should go to mass and receive the Eucharist. But if we understand the passage in its deep meaning, we need to recognize that there is something radical that we should understand when we go to communion. Our Eucharist should be a radical commitment to think, feel, and act with Jesus. Eucharist isn’t a wimpy walk to the communion rail: it is a fundamental statement about who Jesus is, who I am, and the inseparability of those two realities.

Spiritual reading: Christianity has all too often meant withdrawal and the unwillingness to share the common suffering of humankind. But the world has rightly risen in protest against such piety… The care of another – even material, bodily care – is spiritual in essence. Bread for myself is a material question; bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one. (Jacques Maritain)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 25, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 8:5-17

When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” He said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven, but the children of the Kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” And Jesus said to the centurion, “You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.” And at that very hour his servant was healed.

Jesus entered the house of Peter, and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, the fever left her, and she rose and waited on him.

When it was evening, they brought him many who were possessed by demons, and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick, to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet:

He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.

Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel, we have a series of healing stories. First, Jesus heals the centurion’s servant. Jesus then heals Peter’s mother-in-law. Finally, Jesus heals all the sick people they bring to him at the end of the day. These various healing stories, coming one on upon another, show how freely Jesus heals. In the first case, someone who is not sick pleads for someone who is sick but at a distance. In the second case, Jesus himself goes to a person who is sick. In the third case, people bring to Jesus those who are sick. In the initial narrative, the stranger pleads with Jesus. Then Jesus heals the relative of his friend. Afterward, Jesus heals crowds. In all of these cases, Jesus heals with neither conditions nor boundaries: People ask for others; people ask for themselves; people don’t ask. It doesn’t matter: Jesus is lavish, profligate, even wanton in his healing. Indeed, we might say and we ought always to remember that Jesus is the prodigal healer.

Saint of the day: Dominic Henares, OP died in Tonkin, Vietnam in 1838; he is one of the Martyrs of Vietnam. Bishop Dominic Henares and the tertiary catechist Francis Chien died together with many others during the Annamite persecution.

Bishop Henares was born in Spain in 1765. He became bishop- coadjutor to Ignatius Delgado in 1803. In 1838, Bishop Henares, Bishop Ignatius Delgado, the apostolic-vicar of Tonkin, and Francis Chien were captured during a persecution stirred up by the mandarin. The prelates and a young priest had been hidden in the village of Kien-lao, and were accidentally betrayed by a little child who was cleverly questioned by a pagan teacher searching for the foreigners.

Alarmed at the sudden activities, the captors of Bishop Delgado put him into a small cage which was locked around him, and then put into jail with criminals. Delgado was tortured but refused to hint at the location of the others and was eventually killed. The young priest escaped.

Bishop Henares was captured at the same time. He had hidden himself in a boat, and the nervousness of the boatmen gave him away. Five hundred soldiers were detached to bring in the two dangerous criminals–the bishop and his catechist. They, too, were questioned endlessly. Two weeks after the death of Bishop Delgado, Henares was led out and beheaded in company with Chien.

Spiritual reading: Let us not forget: we are a pilgrim church, subject to misunderstanding, to persecution, but a church that walks serene because it bears the force of love. (Archbishop Oscar Romero)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 24, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 1:57-66, 80

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.

He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Reflection on the gospel reading: God is gracious: this is the meaning of the name that Elizabeth and Zechariah gave to their child. Elizabeth and Zechariah had passed the time in their lives when children typically were born to people, and this was a source of embarrassment, no doubt, to Elizabeth in a culture that placed great stock on a woman’s ability to bear children. How often does God come into our lives at times of bareness and abandonment to instill life in us in some way that we could not have anticipated? God is gracious because God enters our lives in unexpected ways to make possible what we believed to be impossible. In this case, of course, not only did Elizabeth and Zechariah receive a child when they had despaired of the possibility, but the child they received was one marked by God for a special mission and a deep holiness. When God acts in our lives, God sometimes does not merely surprise us but also outdoes our every expectation. God is gracious.

Saint of the day: John the Baptist, the last of the prophets and the forerunner of our Lord, was a man of the desert. The son of a priestly line, born of aged parents as if by a miracle, brought up as a Nazarite, that is, dedicated from birth to God’s service with lifelong obligations never to shave, take wine, or indulge in human pleasures. He lived in the wilderness, a rugged and magnetic figure, clothed in the skin of a camel, living on locusts and wild honey.

He is the most startling figure in the Gospel narrative, a man of mystery, not as other men, bronzed by the desert sun, with piercing words of ominous malediction, uncompromising and aggressive. No greater contrast can be imagined than the appearance by the river of this prophet of fire and the figure of Jesus as ‘the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world.’

Crowds followed him, held by his hypnotic power and rugged eloquence and lashed by his bitter invective. “You offspring of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth fruits meet for repentance. The axe is laid to the rotten trees.” The wheat is being threshed and the stubble burnt in the empty fields. It was the voice of the old dispensation, the last echo of Moses and Elijah, the final challenge of the fire and thunder of the God of the ancient Jews.

But John also prepared the way for Jesus,and with all his fierceness exercised a vital and realistic ministry. With it went a surprising humility and tenderness, for he recognized his own limitations and that he was but a forerunner and a road-builder; and when the time came, he graciously made way for our Lord. He shrank even from the thought of baptizing Him, and spoke of Him with wonder and devotion. I am not the Christ, he said, I am but a voice. “He that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear.”

His end was tragic, the result of a squalid intrigue. With characteristic boldness he had denounced the unlawful marriage of the infamous Herodias, and, as a result, had been thrown into the gloomy fortress of Machaerus on the shores of the Dead Sea. Then, to gratify the cruel and frivolous whim of a dancing girl, Salome, the daughter of Herodias, who had been prompted by her mother, Herod, to his own disgust, but unwilling to take back his word, put him to death, and there followed the shameful display of his head on a charger.

Thus ended the life of this sublime and extraordinary figure who blazed the trail for our Lord. The disciples gave his body decent burial and then broke the tragic news to Jesus, who, overcome by grief and unable to face the crowds that thronged Him, took a boat and retired for a while to a desert place apart.

Spiritual reading: The Word of God, incorporeal, incorruptible, and immaterial, entered our world. Out of his loving-kindness for us he came to us, and we see this in the way he revealed himself openly to us. Taking pity on humankind’s weakness, and moved by our corruption, he could not stand aside and see death have the mastery over us. He did not want creation to perish and his Father’s work in fashioning man to be in vain.

He therefore took to himself a body, no different from our own, for he did not wish simply to be in a body or only to be seen. By dying for others, he immediately banished death for all mankind. The corruption of death no longer holds any power over mankind, thanks to the Word, who has come to dwell among us through his one body. (Athanasius)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 23, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 7:21-29

Jesus said to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

Reflection on the gospel reading: We come to the end of the Sermon on the Mount. In today’s gospel, Jesus makes it clear that outward dispositions and signs are not enough for true discipleship. We can make professions of faith and work wondrous signs, but unless our conversion of life is at the core of our beings, all the outward manifestations are without worth. True discipleship, one might say, is an inside job.

Saint of the day: Basil Hopko was born on April 24, 1904 in Hrabské, Austria-Hungary in county Šariš, presently in eastern Slovakia. His parents, Basil and Anna née Petrenko, were landless peasants. While Hopko was still an infant, his father was struck by lightning and died. His mother left him in care of her father, while she emigrated to the United States in search of work. When Hopko was 7 he was sent to live with his uncle Demeter Petrenko, a Greek Catholic priest.

He attended the Evangelical gymnasium in Prešov, then Czechoslovakia, graduating with honors in 1923. Hopko studied at the Eparchial Seminary in Prešov. He had dreams of joining his mother in America, and of pursuing his priestly vocation there, but the cost of recurring health problems left him unable to afford to travel. He later wrote that when he finally decided to stay and to serve in his homeland, he was suddenly cured, and realized he had been given a sign about his calling. He was ordained a Greek Catholic priest on February 3, 1929.

He served as a parish priest (1929–1936) at the Greek Catholic parish in Prague, the Czechoslovak capital, where he was known for his focus on the poor, the unemployed, and students. His mother returned from the US after 22 years and rejoined her son in Prague, becoming his housekeeper at the parish rectory.

In 1936 he returned to teach in Prešov’s Eparchial Seminary, and was awarded the title of monsignor. He had already begun graduate studies at Charles University while in Prague, and he completed his Doctor of Theology in 1940 at Comenius University in Bratislava. In Prešov he headed the Eparchy’s publishing division, where he edited a monthly periodical.

After World War II, a growing Soviet Bolshevik influence caused Bishop Pavol Peter Gojdič of Prešov to ask the Vatican for an Auxiliary Bishop to help defend the Greek Catholic Church. Hopko was appointed to the post on May 11, 1947. The Communist take-over of Czechoslovakia wreaked havoc on the Greek Catholic Church. In 1950 it was officially abolished, and its assets were turned over to the Russian Orthodox Church. Gojdič was arrested and was imprisoned for life. Hopko was arrested on April 28, 1950 and kept on starvation rations and tortured for weeks. Eventually he was tried and sentenced to 15 years for the “subversive activity” of staying loyal to his faith. He was repeatedly transferred from prison to prison. His health, physical and emotional, failed, and in 1964 he was transferred to an old age home. He never recovered his health.

During the Prague Spring the Czechoslovak government legally cleared Hopko on June 13, 1968 and the Prešov Eparchy was restored. However, activists insisted that a Slovak bishop be appointed to the see, and the Vatican named the Slovak priest Ján Hirka as Hopko’s successor. Hopko died at age 72 on June 23, 1976.

Spiritual reading: I had to endure many difficult moments, which I would not wish even on my worst enemies. Nevertheless, I consider my prison days as a higher education in humility. In prison I learned a great many things, as how to be of service to others in their need. Prison in itself is not such a terrible place after all. What is frightening is the company one is forced to keep, being locked up in the same cell with all kinds of criminals, spies, insane, and some other strange characters. (Blessed Basil Hopko)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 22, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 7:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel warns us against being deceived by people who come promising to tell us the truth but in fact are merely serving their own agenda. When the good news is preached truthfully, it is a gift given freely and without reserve. We shall know it by the goodness it produces. When it is preached for self-serving purposes, it will all too readily become apparent.

Saint of the day: Thomas More was born at London in 1478. After a thorough grounding in religion and the classics, he entered Oxford to study law. Upon leaving the university he embarked on a legal career which took him to Parliament. In 1505, he married his beloved Jane Colt who bore him four children, and when she died at a young age, he married a widow, Alice Middleton, to be a mother for his young children. A wit and a reformer, this learned man numbered bishops and scholars among his friends and by 1516 wrote his world-famous book Utopia. He attracted the attention of Henry VIII who appointed him to a succession of high posts and missions, and finally made him Lord Chancellor in 1529. However, he resigned in 1532, at the height of his career and reputation, when Henry persisted in holding his own opinions regarding marriage and the supremacy of the Pope. The rest of his life was spent in writing mostly in defense of the Church.

In 1534, with his close friend, St. John Fisher, whose feast it also is today, he refused to render allegiance to the King as the Head of the Church of England and was confined to the Tower. Fifteen months later, and nine days after St. John Fisher’s execution on June 22, he was tried and convicted of treason. He told the court that he could not go against his conscience and wished his judges that “we may yet hereafter in heaven merrily all meet together to everlasting salvation.” And on the scaffold, he told the crowd of spectators that he was dying as “the King’s good servant-but God’s first.” He was beheaded on July 6, 1535.

Spiritual reading: What men call fame is, after all, but a very windy thing. A man thinks that many are praising him, and talking of him alone, and yet they spend but a very small part of the day thinking of him, being occupied with things of their own. (Thomas More)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 21, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 7:6, 12-14

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the Law and the Prophets.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Life presents to us a wide array of options. We can do whatever we want to do, whenever we want to do it, that is, we can take that broad road that leads to destruction. Conversely, we have the possibility to enter through the narrow gate that leads to life. And where is this narrow gate? It is in the active pursuit of the good for others that we would desire for ourselves: the Golden Rule that Jesus gives us in today’s gospel, “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” It is a narrow gate because it requires of us focus and single-heartedness. Really, it isn’t so hard a thing to do, this living for the good of the other, but it does require us to be consistent and determined. Focus, single-heartedness, consistency, and determination: these are the reasons we may perceive that gate which leads to life as a narrow one.


Saint of the day: Born in 1568 in Italy, Aloysius Gonzaga was an Italian noble who grew up in a castle; he was the son of a compulsive gambler and cousin of Blessed Rudolph Acquaviva, a Jesuit martyr who died in India. He trained from age four as a soldier and courtier. He suffered from kidney disease which he considered a blessing as it left him bed-ridden with time for prayer. While still a boy himself, he taught catechism to poor boys. He received First Communion from Saint Charles Borromeo who was his teacher, confessor, and parish priest. At age 18, he signed away his legal claim to his family’s lands and title to his brother and became a Jesuit novice. He was a spiritual student of Saint Robert Bellarmine who was Aloysius’ confessor and who worked for his canonization after he had died. Aloysius tended plague victims in Rome in the outbreak of 1591. He died June 20-21, 1591 at Rome of plague and fever. He is buried under the altar of Saint Ignatius Church, Rome.

Spiritual reading: Man is born for action; he ought to do something. Work, at each step, awakens a sleeping force and roots out error. Who does nothing, knows nothing. Rise! to work! If your knowledge is real, employ it; wrestle with nature; test the strength of thy theories; see if they will support the trial; act! (Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 20, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 7:1-5

Jesus said to his disciples: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus clearly did not like hypocrisy. Jesus’ repugnance at falseness comes up again and again in the gospels. Yet the subject that the gospel treats today, passing judgment on another, is something I imagine almost all of us are guilty of.

When we judge others, we often do not have the courage to confront the person to her or his face. We might seek to change this behavior in ourselves, if we were guilty of it, through a resolve to never level a charge against another except when kindness compels us to share the observation directly with the person. If we adopted this practice, my guess is that it would eradicate most of our judgments. In the rare cases where we ought to speak to people about things we have observed in their attitudes or behaviors, we either may learn something about them that we did not know, or we may even earn their gratitude that we let them know how things they do are perceived. In any event, this kind of practice, if applied consistently, has the potential to remove from us a failing that the Lord has said he does not like.

Saint of the day: Thomas Whitbread, S.J. was born in Essex, England. He died 1679. Thomas was educated at Saint Omer and joined the Society of Jesus in 1635. He was provincial of the English mission and at the time of the Popish Plot and was convicted with four other Jesuit priests on a false charge of conspiring to murder Charles II. For this, he was hanged at Tyburn.

Spiritual reading: Let us abandon ourselves unreservedly to God; let our thought concern itself only with following the way which God through all eternity has marked out for us and which we now are treading. (Abandonment to Divine Providence by Pere Jean-Pierre de Caussade, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 19, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 3:16-18

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Today is the celebration of diversity in the undivided life of God. The Church from very close to the death and resurrection of Jesus has understood and taught the Trinitarian reality of the one God. Matthew, written probably in the 80s, has an explicit reference to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Jesus’ commandment to go out and baptize, and the oldest extent copies of Matthew contain this formula. Paul, writing to the Philippians in the 50s, quotes a beautiful Christological hymn, a hymn that well may date to the late 30s and one that contains overt inferences to the divinity of Jesus. The very term that the New Testament over and over again uses to refer to Jesus, the Greek word Kurios meaning Lord, is exclusively reserved to God in the Old Testament. It is quite true that the dogmatic definition of the Trinity occurred in 325 at Nicaea, but that event was just an effort to put a clear label on an experience that the followers of Jesus believed and prayed from the very earliest years of the Christian community. The triune nature of the one God is not something that the mind readily accepts, but it is how Christians from the very inception of the Church have interacted with God. And in an age that has recognized and celebrated the immense diversity of human experience even as it still longs for community, the interior life of God teaches us that perfect unity despite multiplicity is not just possible but the most basic condition of reality.

Spiritual reading:

God for Us, we call you Father.
God Alongside Us, we call You Jesus
God Within Us, we call you Holy Spirit.

You are the Eternal Mystery
That enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things.
Even us, and even me.

Every name falls short of you
Goodness and Greatness.

We can only see who You are in what is.
We ask for such perfect seeing.

As it was in the beginning, is now,
And ever shall be. Amen.

(Richard Rohr, OFM)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 18, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 6:24-34

Jesus said to his disciples: “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: I once many years ago read that the people who live in the Himlayan Mountains, who of course are good mountain climbers, employ what might be considered a spiritual practice in their mountain climbing. When they move up a mountainside, they do not look up. The reason that they don’t look up is that they believe the one who does, has to climb the mountain twice, once in his or her mind and then once in reality.

This insight is precisely the insight that Jesus shares with us in today’s gospel as we continue our journey through the Sermon on the Mount. The one who thinks continually about the future and is anxious about his or her needs at a future date lives the anxiety of those moments both in anticipation and on the day the cause for anxiety materializes. It is better that we live, as members of Alcoholics Anonymous recommend, one day at a time. Today has enough to keep us busy.

Saint of the day: Born in 1126 at Germany, Elizabeth of Schonau was a Benedictine abbess who was a gifted mystic. She had her first vision in 1152 and was known for ecstasies, prophecies, and diabolical visitations. She became abbess in 1157. Her cult was never formalized, but she is listed as a saint in the Roman Martyrology. Her brother, Ethbert, a Benedictine abbot, wrote her biography and recorded her visions in three books. She died June 18, 1164 at Bonn, Germany.

Spiritual reading: Loving your neighbor means living in voluntary poverty, stripping yourself, putting off the old Adam, denying yourself, etc. It also means non-participation in those comforts and luxuries which have been manufactured by the exploitation of others. While our brothers and sisters suffer, we must be compassionate with them, suffer with them. While they suffer from lack of necessities, we will refuse to enjoy comforts. These resolutions, no matter how hard they are to live up to, no matter how often we fail and have to begin over again, are part of the Vision. And we must keep this vision in mind, recognize the truth of it, the necessity for it, even though we do not, cannot, live up to it…though in our execution we may fall short of the mark over and over. St. Paul says it is by little and by little that we proceed. (“Meditations” by Dorothy Day)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 17, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 6:19-23

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel today reminds us that our values shape our perspectives. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be, reminds us that what we treasure orients us, and If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness reminds us that our basic orientation in life shapes how we see things. If we value money, money will be the filter that shapes our perspectives. On the other hand, if we value God, union with God will shape our perspectives. In the verse that immediately follows the gospel narrative we read today, the Lord counsels us that we cannot serve two masters: we must choose among the possibilities, and that choice will give us the path that we shall follow. Scripture tells us that we have been made little less than gods, and gods of course create. What we are to become is an act of our divine creative power, instilled in us by God. Let us value what is right that we may choose to become what is best.

Saint of the day Adam Chmielowski was born on August 20, 1845 in Poland to a wealthy aristocratic family. He initially studied agriculture in order to manage the family estate. Involved in politics from his youth, he lost a leg at age 17 when injured while fighting in an insurrection. In Krakow, he became a popular, well-known and well-liked artist. His interest in politics and art made him keenly aware of the human misery around him. A gentle and compassionate soul, he felt called to help those in need. After years of reflection, he understood that this desire was how God was calling him to service and Himself.

A Franciscan tertiary, taking the name Albert, he abandoned painting and began a life of working with and for the poorest of Krakow. In 1887, he founded the Brothers of the Third Order of Saint Francis, Servants of the Poor, known as the Albertines (named for him) or the Gray Brothers (after their rough gray habits). In 1891, he founded the women’s congregation of the Order (Gray Sisters). The Albertines organized food and shelter for the poor and homeless.

Albert preached that the great calamity of our time was that so many refused to see and voluntarily relieve the suffering of their miserable brothers and sisters. The “haves” lived away from the “have-nots” in order to ignore them and leave their care to others.

In 1949, Karol Wotlywa, later elected bishop of Rome, wrote a well-received play about Albert; the work was filmed in 1997, released as Brother of Our God. Albert was the spiritual teacher of Blessed Maria Bernardina Jablonska. He died December 25, 1916 at Krakow, Poland, of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: The holiest, most common, most necessary practice in the spiritual life is the presence of God, that is, to take delight in and become accustomed to His divine company, speaking humbly and talking lovingly with Him at all times, at every moment, without rule or system. (The Practice of the Presence of God by Br. John Lawrence of the Resurrection.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 16, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples: “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 others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Today’s gospel reading tells us that God already knows what we need before we ask God for anything, so why should we pray at all? Soren Kierkegaard once observed that prayer was not something that changes God but something that changes ourselves. Modern science, of course, can offer us nothing to explain God, but it has taught us much about how the material world changes, and our ability to see into the brain as it engages in various activities tells us much about what prayer actually does do. We know as scientific fact that prayer changes our brains and makes us better people.

The practice of meditation engages the social circuitry of the brain. Meditation attunes us to other human beings. It connects us to our shared humanity. It allows us to read and understand the emotions of other people: it makes us more compassionate. We can feel the pain of other people and want to take action to ameliorate it. The Lord’s prayer, then, captures the very essence of the neurological implications of a life spent with daily meditation. It is fundamentally a “we” prayer. The we of our reliance on God as a parent common to us all; the we that acknowledges God’s greatness; the we that submits to God’s will; the we of our shared need for food, forgiveness and compassion, 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? And just as Jesus clearly understood and science now confirms, meditation is exactly the road that opens us, in compassion and with mercy, to experience our shared humanity.

Saint of the day: The Carthusian Martyrs were a group of monks of the London Charterhouse, the monastery of the Carthusian Order in central London, who were put to death by the English state from June 19, 1535 to September 20, 1537. The method of execution was hanging, disemboweling while still alive, and then quartering. The group also includes two monks who were brought to that house from the Charterhouses of Beauvale and Axholme and similarly dealt with. The total is of 18 men. At the outset of the “King’s Great Matter,” (the term that described Henry VIII’s decision to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn) the government was anxious to secure the public acquiescence of the monks of the London Charterhouse, since for the austerity and sincerity of their mode of life they enjoyed great prestige. When this attempt failed in this, the only alternative was to annihilate the resistance, since a refusal engaged the prestige of the monks in the opposite sense. The Church remembers today several of those Carthusians who willingly embraced death before they would betray the consciences.

Spiritual reading: Dear Lord, I do not ask to see the path. In darkness, in anguish and in fear, I will hang on tightly to your hand, and I will close my eyes, so that you know how much trust I place in you. (Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on June 15, 2011

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: 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’ own 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 emphasizes that true religion is an “inside job;” it suggests we should cultivate religion that does not seek the approval of human beings and is performed in a way that only God sees. Let us give freely to the poor. Let us pray continuously in our hearts. Let us seek to set right the injuries we do to our relationship with God. But let us make of each of these practices an affair of the heart which God alone sees.

Saint of the day: Born at Pibrac (near Toulouse), France, in 1579, Saint Germaine was the daughter of Laurent Cousin, a farm worker, and his wife, Marie Laroche. Her mother died while she was still an infant. A sickly child, she suffered scrofula among other conditions, and her right hand was deformed. Her father and his second wife treated her badly. After her stepmother’s children were born, Germaine was kept isolated from her siblings. She slept in the stable or in a cupboard under the stairs and was poorly fed on scraps. At the age of nine, Germaine was put to work as a shepherdess, which is not a terrible business for one who liked to pray.

Germaine was very devout, however, and refused to miss Mass. If she heard the bell calling the faithful to Mass while she was tending the sheep, she set her crook and her distaff in the earth, declared her flock to be under the care of her guardian angel, and went to church. Her sheep never came to any harm during her absences, even though ravening wolves inhabited the nearby forest of Boucône.

Germaine was so poor that it is hard to imagine she would have the resources to exercise the corporal works of mercy. Yet love can always find a way. She was always ready to lend a hand to anyone needing it, especially the children whom she would gather in the fields to teach a simple catechism. She shared what little food she received with those poorer than herself.

The neighbors laughed at her religious devotion and called her ‘the little bigot’; Germaine took it all in good humor. Once in the winter her stepmother accused her of stealing bread and pursued her threateningly with a stick. When Germaine opened her apron, summer flowers tumbled out. The neighbors and her parents were awed and began to treat her as a holy person. Her parents invited her to rejoin the household, but Germaine chose to continue living as before.

At 22, she was found dead on her straw pallet under the stairs. She died in 1601. Documents attest to more than 400 miracles or extraordinary graces through the intervention of Saint Germain. They include cures of every kind (of blindness, both congenital and resulting from disease, of hip and spinal disease), and the multiplication of food for the distressed community of the Good Shepherd at Bourges in 1845.

Spiritual reading:

Sir Thomas More: Why not be a teacher? You’d be a fine teacher; perhaps a great one.
Richard Rich: If I was, who would know it?
Sir Thomas More: You; your pupils; your friends; God. Not a bad public, that.
(From A Man for All Seasons)