Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 14, 2013

titian-christ-carrying-crossGospel 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: When things go well, following Jesus is not hard. But the acid test is following Jesus when things are not going well–when following Jesus means we will lose friends and family, leave us with damaged or ruined reputations, become jobless or even homeless, and perhaps even die. And sometimes, even the big things are easy; as Flannery O’Connor once observed, “She thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick.” Sometimes the acid test of being a follower of Jesus is keeping our cool in terrible traffic, being compassionate when our children make mistakes, or being kind and thoughtful to someone who is neither to us. Faith which doesn’t work through love, faith that sits there dumbly and blindly, faith that ignores the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the orphan, is not the faith of Jesus. Søren Kierkegaard once said that purity of heart is to will the one thing. For Christians, of course, the one thing is Jesus both in thinking as he thought and doing as he did. What distinguishes the saints from all the rest of us is their ability to lose themselves completely and will the one thing, thus losing their lives to save them.

Saint of the day: Valentine was a priest in Rome and possibly a bishop. A physician, he was imprisoned for giving aid to martyrs in prison, and while there converted the jailer by restoring sight to the jailer’s daughter. While Valentine of Terni and Valentine of Rome sometimes have separate entries in martyrologies and biographies, most scholars believe they are the same person.

There are several theories about the origin of Valentine’s Day celebrations. Some believe the Romans had a mid-February custom where boys drew girls’ names in honor of the sex and fertility goddess, Februata Juno; pastors “baptized” this holiday, like some others, by substituting the names of saints such as Valentine to suppress the practice. Others maintain that the custom of sending Valentines on February 14 stems from the belief that birds begin to pair on that date. By 1477, the English associated lovers with the feast of Valentine because on that day “every bird chooses him a mate.” The custom started of men and women writing love letters to their Valentine on this day. Other “romance” traditions have become attached to this feast, including pinning bay leaves to your pillow on Valentine’s. Valentine died a martyr in about 269. He was beaten and beheaded at Rome and buried on the Flaminian Way. His remains were later moved to the Church of Saint Praxedes.

Spiritual reading: The person who wills one thing that is not the Good, he does not truly will one thing. It is a delusion, an illusion, a deception, a self-deception that he wills only one thing. For in his innermost being he is, he is bound to be, double-minded. Therefore the Apostle says, “Purify your hearts ye double-minded”, that is, purify your hearts of double-mindedness; in other words, let your heart in truth will only one thing, for therein is the heart’s purity. (Søren Kierkegaard)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 13, 2013

Jesus_Crucified_AgainGospel 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: What we do constitutes who we are. We cannot be giving people if we don’t give. We cannot be prayerful people if we don’t pray. We can’t master ourselves if we don’t practice self-control. It’s easy to walk by homeless people without giving them something and still imagine we are loving. It’s easy to rarely if ever turn our minds to God and still fancy we are reflective. It’s easy to get diverted by every whim and still believe we are disciplined. Physical exercise, however, provides a good analogy for the spiritual life. The more we exercise, the stronger we become, the more we can endure, and the greater our flexibility. But we stop exercising, and the benefits we realized while we were working out begin to slip away. After a time, it’s almost as though we had never exercised. In the same way, it’s easy to deceive ourselves that we are giving, prayerful, self-disciplined people because we have been charitable earlier in our lives, meditated when we were young, or fasted several years ago during Lent. Lent reminds us that we are what we do: the present is where we realize ourselves. If we want to be loving, contemplative, and disciplined, we need to do things in the present that makes those things real today. What we did yesterday, or last month, or last year is not enough to make us what we want to be today. Lent is a way to focus our minds on right now–today. It is a way of reminding us that we become whole by doing wholesome things and that what we do today is the only thing that counts.

Saint of the day: 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: Even the darkest moments of the liturgy are filled with joy, and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the lenten fast, is a day of happiness, a Christian feast. The Paschal Mystery is above all the mystery of life in which the Church, by celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ, enters into the Kingdom of Life which He has established once for all by His definitive victory over sin and death. We must remember the original meaning of Lent, as the ‘ver sacrum’, the Church’s ‘holy spring’ in which the catechumens were prepared for their baptism, and public penitents were made ready by penance for their restoration to the sacramental life in a communion with the rest of the Church. Lent is then not a season of punishment so much as one of healing. (Thomas Merton)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 12, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 7:1-13

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.) So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”

He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:

This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” He went on to say, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said,

Honor your father and your mother, and Whoever curses father or mother shall die.

Yet you say, ‘If someone says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”‘ (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: It is easy to confuse pious practices that arise in historical and cultural circumstances with the will of God. At the end of the day, Jesus doesn’t care whether we abstain from meat on a given Friday in Lent if we don’t live lives of unconditional love of our neighbors. It’s not the number of Bible verses we memorize that impresses the Father but how we treat people.

Saint of the day: St. Julian the Hospitaller, or “the Poor Man,” came from a wealthy, noble family in the early 4th century and is a popular saint in Western Europe. According to a legend, Julian had just recently been married and was a jealous husband. One day when Julian was hunting, he had a vision that he would murder his mother and father.

saintj31While he was hunting, his mother and father made an unexpected visit to his castle. His wife gave them one of the best rooms. When Julian returned from his hunt and saw the two figures in bed, he assumed it was his wife with a lover. In a jealous rage, Julian killed his mother and father.

Julian was so horrified upon learning the truth that he swore to devote the remainder of his life to good works. He and his wife then undertook a pilgrimage to a distant country where he established a hospital.

The hospital was near a river that was frequently crossed by people prompted to travel by the Holy Crusades. People frequently drowned crossing this river so Julian took responsibility of ferrying travelers across and tending to the sick.

One night, thieves came into their hospital and killed Julian and his wife in the same way Julian had killed his mother and father.

“There were great miracles without end in that place and land,” discipleshiprecounts the legend. “So many that, as it pleased God, their bodies were brought to Brioude (France).”

St. Julian is considered the patron of ferrymen, innkeepers and circus performers.

Spiritual reading: What I believe is so magnificent, so glorious, that it is beyond finite comprehension.

To believe that the universe was created by a purposeful, benign Creator is one thing. To believe that this Creator took on human vesture, accepted death and mortality, was tempted, betrayed, broken, and all for love of us, defies reason.

It is so wild that it terrifies some Christians who try to dogmatize their fear by lashing out at other Christians, because tidy Christianity with all answers given is easier than one which reaches out to the wild wonder of God’s love, a love we don’t even have to earn. (Madeleine L’Engle)

Homily February 17, 2013 First Sunday of Lent

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on February 11, 2013

As you might recall from a few weeks ago, Jesus was baptized by John and the Spirit of God came down and proclaimed him as “My Beloved Son” and led him into the desert to begin His ministry with prayer and contemplation. For forty days He ate nothing and prayed and pondered the unfolding ministry that was to be His life. In His humanity, He pondered and prepared to carry out God’s plan that would lead to His passion and death. After forty days, He was hungry. Now we see the entrance of the devil or evil, to shape or change the course of his mission by presenting an easy way out. He is presented with what I would call the first shortcut to fulfill his mission. It was simple enough, you’re hungry, just take these stones and make bread, get rid of your hunger. He had the power, so do it. Jesus rejected this for the power was for the Word of God that filled up the real hunger of humanity and that hunger was far more immediate than the hunger in His own stomach. God;s word can cure-all of humanity’s hunger.

The second shortcut is an offer of power and politics Use popularity, power, influence and be the messianic king the people expected like a David or a Solomon. All He was asked was to worship this evil spirit or devil and it was done. But Jesus in all of His humanness, knew and understood that the use of power was corrupting of what was God’s real purpose for humanity. Worship was for God and His mission was to serve and teach and even give his life so all others could have life in the Spirit. As easy as it might be He rejected it.

The third shortcut was the big show or grandstand play. Jump off the temple and show God will save Him because He is the chosen one. This was it for Jesus as he dismissed the devil saying you do not test God. He was going to do His ministry by God’s will not His own. It would mean a daily giving of Himself and prayerful resolve. He will often go aside from the immediate surroundings to pray and contemplate God’s will.

In summing up, I think most of us have a very basic idea of what is good and what is evil. However there are times when a gray area arises and even an easy way or shortcut appears when we are forced to make choices in our life. It is so easy sometimes to say what’s in it for me and forget our call to love. Love God and love our neighbor as ourself. If we ask what’s in it for me, aren’t we forgetting that call? Remember there are really no shortcuts in loving, it is a totality of giving.

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 11, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 6:53-56

After making the crossing to the other side of the sea, Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret and tied up there. As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him. They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Whatever else one may want to say say or think about Jesus, it is indisputable based on the evidence we have that Jesus made a huge impression on the people who met him. Many are those who wish to deny him, and this is a God-given right, to embrace or reject Jesus, but if any among us is honest about the record that we have received, we have to ask what it was about this man that caused his fame to grow in his lifetime. And even in our own time, his life continues to challenge and change the lives of countless individuals who one by one encounter him. Could it be that then as now as many as touched him were healed?

Saint of the day: Venerable Mother María Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, also called Mother Luisita was a Mexican Roman Catholic nun who founded the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles.

saintmbvShe was born in 1866 María Luisa de la Peña y Navarro in Atotonilco el Alto, Jalisco, the third of fourteen children raised in a Catholic family. At age 15 she married medical doctor Pascual Rojas. Together they worked to provide medical care for the poor. Rojas died when Mother Luisita was 29 years old.

Mother Luisita founded the order of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart (Hermanas Carmelitas del Sagrado Corazón, also called Carmelitas de Tijuana) on December 24, 1904 in the Mexican state of Jalisco. In the 1920s, during the Mexican Revolution, Mother Luisita took a group of nuns to Los Angeles, California to protect them from the Catholic persecution unleashed by the authorities. This group of nuns became the basis for the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. Mother Luisita herself went back to Mexico in 1930 where she continued her work of providing healthcare for the poor.

Mother Luisita died on February 11, 1937. In 1942 her remains were secretly taken to be buried in Guadalajara, Jalisco. In 1966 they were brought back to the place of her birth Atotonilco. In 1998 they were placed in a special chapel in that town. She was declared venerable in 2000.

Spiritual reading: If you want your faith, you have to work for it. It is a gift, but for very few is it a gift given without any demand for time devoted to its cultivation . . . . Even in the life of a Christian, faith rises and falls like the tides of an invisible sea. It’s there, even when he can’t see it or feel it, if he wants it to be there. (Flannery O’Connor)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 10, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 5:1-11

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep 20060907Depart from mewater and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.

Reflection on the gospel reading: An accident of the liturgical calendar placed this gospel passage on the Sunday before the beginning of Lent. Luke tells of a miracle at the start of Jesus’ ministry which is remarkably similar to a miracle which the resurrection accounts in John’s gospel tell, a great catch of fish after a profitless night of attempting to harvest the same waters. Both here and at the end of John, the miracle leads to the commissioning of Peter as a minister of the good news. It is possible that Jesus performed the same miracle twice, or it is possible that Luke has borrowed a resurrection account to place it in Jesus’ public life. Conversely, perhaps John has made a miracle during Jesus’ early ministry a feature of the resurrection accounts. In any event, the central mystery of Christian life is how God transforms woundedness, brokenness, disaster and makes it new, complete, and utterly transformed. In this passage, just as img_2042the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God takes something injured and unwhole–Peter and his companions–and fashions it into something totally different and entirely good. Redolent with intimations of resurrection because of the same miracle here and at the end of John, the gospel narrative on the Sunday before Lent connects Christian mission to a complete transformation of the individual in Christ.

Spiritual reading: The spiritual life is one of continually falling on your face, getting up, brushing yourself off, looking sheepishly at God, and taking another step. (Aurobindo)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 9, 2013

Jesus-restingGospel reading of the day:

Mark 6:30-34

The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them.

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Alphonsus Liguori once wrote, “Pray, pray, pray, and surely you will be saved.” Yet our lives are busy, and the one thing which is most important is the easiest thing for us to neglect, or even if we engage in a disciplined life of prayer, it’s the first thing many of us let go when the day becomes too full. This tension is not unique to us: this scripture makes clear it was a tension even for the disciples–even for Jesus.

Jesus and the disciples face the demands of a busy life with people coming and going in great numbers. Understanding the need for rest and prayer, Jesus and his disciples take off in a boat for a solitary place. But in the effort to take time and connect with God, they encounter human need, and Jesus quickly makes the decision that this is a moment to be available. It is true that the usual discipline of prayer can suffer in the midst of the vagaries of the every day, but even on days when the routine may break down, there is still time to talk with God as we rush between our duties. And when life allows, we must reestablish the routine of our prayer, for if we pray, pray, pray, surely we shall be saved, and what could be more important than that.

Saint of the day: In 2002, the Diocese of Richmond opened the cause for the canonization of the Spanish Jesuit Martyrs of Virginia. This has renewed interest in the fascinating, almost fantastic, tale of a lost Spanish colony in Virginia and the men who died trying to bring the gospel to the Ajacan Indians. On September 10th, 1570, thirty-seven years before Jamestown, a Spanish ship entered Chesapeake Bay, which was then called Bay of the Mother of God. Somewhere along the James River, not far from the later site of Jamestown, a small crew disembarked: two Jesuit priests, three Jesuit brothers, three novice Brothers, a Spanish boy and an Indian guide. The party was led by Jesuit Father Juan Baptista de Segura and was intent upon establishing a mission in the region of Virginia to evangelize the Indians. This was the first true European settlement in Virginia.

The hopes for the mission were placed on their young Indian guide, a man named Don Luis. Don Luis had been rescued at sea by the Spaniards some years earlier and was taken back to Spain, where he spent ten years learning Spanish customs and getting a rigorous instruction in the faith from the Spanish Jesuits. The small mission had placed much hope in this Don Luis–he said that his uncle was a powerful chief in Virginia and that he would obtain material assistance for the Jesuits when they arrived. In consequence Fr. Segura–perhaps naively–had come with very little food or supplies, being told by Don Luis that they could get them all from his tribe.

At first Don Luis was helpful to the Jesuits, but being on his native soil made him restless, and gradually he began to share off the western culture that he had acquired in Spain. Finally, he abandoned the missionaries and went to live with the Indian’s of his uncle’s village, about a day and a half away. This move was quite serious, for the Jesuits had depended on Don Luis as an intermediary to obtain food and supplies. The reality was, the Indian villagers near by had scarcely enough food to feed themselves, and there was also a drought devastating their crops that year. They were in no position to share food with the Jesuits.

wampanoagNevertheless, the Jesuits persisted in their mission amidst the difficulties. They set up a school for Indian boys and a chapel for daily Mass. The three novices made their professions into the Society of Jesus, the first recorded religious professions in what would one day become the United States. The little community hung on.

However, word soon reached Fr. Segura that Don Luis had completely abandoned Christianity, had taken multiple wives, and had returned to the ways in which he had been reared. Fr. Segura sent several messages to Don Luis begging him to return to the gospel, and finally settled upon sending three of his companions, Fr. Luis Quiros and Brothers Gabriel and Juan, to the village to reason with Don Luis. The embassy was received with kindness in the village, and Don Luis listened to their words and promised to return with them to the mission the next day. The next morning, the party left for the mission, confident in Don Luis’ good will. However, Don Luis appeared on the road with a band of warriors and slew all three of the Jesuits while they vainly attempted to figure out what was happening.

Fr. Segura was much concerned about the party, which did not return. Four days later, on February 9, 1571, Don Luis appeared at the mission at the head of a band of Indians. He told Fr. Segura that he had come to help him, and the good Fr. Segura fully welcomed him back as a prodigal come home. Don Luis and his men offered to cut some firewood for Fr. Segura, and so Fr. Segura allowed them into the storeroom to get some axes–once all of the Indians were armed, they raised a war-whoop and fell upon Fr. Segura and the Jesuits, killing all of them. Only the young boy, Alonso de Olmos, was spared to be adopted into the local Indian tribe.

Several months later a supply ship arrived in the James River; the Europeans were suspicious when they saw some Indians on the shore dressed in Jesuit cassocks. The Spaniards engaged the Indians and took some prisoners, from whom they found out about the killing of the Jesuits and the captivity of the boy Alonso. Enraged, the Spanish colonists 134545107587176597_bVE9UrRf_cin Florida made a northern expedition the following year, 1572, and arrested the chief and several other Indians. They demanded the release of Alonso and the handing over of Don Luis for punishment. Alonso escaped and fled to the Spanish ship, but Don Luis escaped and was never heard from again. The Spanish governor held court and condemned the captive Indians. Some were released, by seven were hanged as complicit in the murder of Fr. Segura. The Richmond diocese has designated St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in New Kent County as the new Shrine of the Jesuit Martyrs.

Spiritual reading: I’ve written that laughter is carbonated holiness. I love to make people laugh. I love that people find my writing is useful in terms of saying what the spiritual life is like–that it’s not about tidiness and order. It’s like fits and starts. (Anne Lamott)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 8, 2013

CaravaggioVH2Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 6:14-29

King Herod heard about Jesus, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah”; still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.” But when Herod learned of it, he said, “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.” Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. Herodias had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. His own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore many things to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” Her mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”

The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Reflection on the gospel: Most of us just muddle through life. We announce great truths and commit ourselves to be faithful to them. But rigorous adherence to the norms of conscience is often inconvenient, and expediency can get in the way of faithful living. Part of our esteem of people of strict conscience, like John the Baptist in his confrontation with Herod, Thomas More in his disagreement with Henry VIII, or Jesus in his circumstances with Pilate and the Jewish leaders, comes from their refusal to deny their consciences to take the convenient path. People of transparent goodness, wisdom, and integrity challenge the status quo and catch up many of us short as we fail to live up the examples they set. The danger, of course, for people of conscience is the possibility some will want to eliminate them, and it is a danger all of us implicitly recognize; the danger for us in such people is that they are inconvenient, and we will want to ignore them.

Saint of the day: Josephine Bakhita was born in 1868 to a wealthy Sudanese family. She was kidnaped by slave-traders at age 9, and given the name Bakhita by them. Sold and resold in the markets at El Obeid and Khartoum, she finally was purchased in 1883 by Callisto Legnani, Italian consul who planned to free her. She accompanied Legnani to Italy in 1885, and worked for rembrandt_jesusthe family of Augusto Michieli as nanny. She was treated well in Italy and grew to love the country. An adult convert, joining the Church in 1890, she took the name of Josephine as a symbol of her new life.

She entered the Institute of Canossian Daughters of Charity in Venice, Italy in 1893, taking her vows in 1896 in Verona and serving as a Canossian Sister for the next fifty years. Her gentle presence, her warm, amiable voice, and her willingness to help with any menial task were a comfort to the poor and suffering people who came to the door of the Institute. After a biography of her was published in 1930, she became a noted and sought after speaker, raising funds to support missions. She died on February 8, 1947 in Italy from natural causes.

Spiritual reading: I cannot dance, O Lord, unless you lead me. (Mechtilde of Magdeburg)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 7, 2013


Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 6:7-13

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick –no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus calls all of us to a poverty of spirit, that is, a position of complete dependence on God. Jesus calls us to a life that assumes God is in charge, and we are creatures created to praise, love, and serve God. Before all else, we depend on God for our happiness and fulfillment. The gospel passage calls us to a radical freedom where we serve God and others without reliance on anything but God’s goodness.

Saint of the day: Francis Joseph Parater was born into a devout Catholic family on October 10, 1897, in the city of Richmond, Virginia. His parents were Captain Francis Joseph Parater, Sr. and his sec ond wife, Mary Raymond. Francis Sr.’s first wife died as did several children she gave birth to by him. Mary Raymond was raised as a devout Episcopalian and communicant at Saint John’s Episcopal Church on Church Hill (where Patrick Henry made his famous speech). Since, at the time of her marriage, she agreed to raise any children born to them as Catholics, she decided she could do that best by becoming Catholic herself.

Frank Jr. was baptized at Saint Patrick’s Church on Church Hill, the highest of Richmond’s seven hills. He grew up in a close knit family and in the large Catholic Community that resided in the Church Hill neighborhood at the time. Frank’s father was a city employee who cared for the park across from their very modest home. He also took care of the garden at the Monastery of the Visitation located two blocks from their home. From their home Frank could easily walk to the monastery for daily Mass where he served as an altar boy from the day of his first communion until he left Richmond for college.

Frank was educated at the Xaverian Brother’s School (currently Saint Patrick’s School) and at Benedictine High School in Richmond. He graduated in 1917, top in his class and valedictorian. In his late teens, Frank became very active in the Boy Scouts of America. His involvement was so exemplary that he was asked to serve in roles of leadership even at his young age. As a scout, he achieved the rank of Eagle. A remarkable young man, Frank was known for his ideals and practical judgment. At a time when the Catholic faith was not considered to be a social asset, Frank was well thought of by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In fact, newspaper accounts note his achievements, his natural talents and his gifts of heart and mind. His vocation decision to study for the priesthood, his journey to Rome, his untimely death and his Last Will and Testament received press coverage far beyond what one might have expected for the times.

In 1917, Frank began studies for the priesthood at Belmont Abbey Seminary College in North Carolina. He continued to lead a very devout life as is detailed in the journal he kept while there. His stated goal was: “To strive by every possible means to become a pure and worthy priest, an alterus Christus [sic].” During this period, he continued to go to Mass and receive Holy Communion daily, prayed the Rosary and Memorare daily, and went to confession weekly in accord with a Rule of Life he had drawn up for himself. He had an abiding sense that “…the Sacred Heart never fails those that love Him.” The Benedictine Fathers made him aware of the spirituality of the Little Flower, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, O.C.D. While at college seminary, Frank madethe decision to study for the diocesan priesthood. This decision was made with the assistance of his spiritual director and after discussions with the Right Reverend Denis J. O’Connell, D.D., Bishop of Richmond. Frank decided that there was such a great need for priestly ministry in his native Virginia that he would forego his desire for monastic life in favor of direct service to the people of God.

During the summers, while at Belmont Seminary College, he was active in the Knights of Columbus summer wartime activities for youth and was director of the summer camp for the Boy Scouts of America. The leaders of the Scouts saw such virtue and ideals in Frank that they wanted him to serve as a summer camp director supervising those who were his seniors. He was considered a “four-ply scout”, exceptional in every way. In the fall of 1919, Bishop O’Connell, who had been a former Rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, sent Frank to study at the North American College. Frank was instantly popular among his fellow seminarians and displayed a warm sense of humor and cheer as he continued to deepen his spiritual life. In December he wrote an Act of Oblation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which was sealed and marked to be read only in the event of his death. Frank expressed his motivation in making his offering in this way:

I have nothing to leave or to give but my life and this I have consecrated to the Sacred Heart to be used as He wills…This is what I live for and in case of death what I die for. Since my childhood, I have wanted to die for God and my neighbor. Shall I have this grace? I do not know, but if I go on living, I shall live for this same purpose; every action of my life here is offered to God for the spread and success of the Catholic Church in Virginia. I shall be of more service to my diocese in Heaven than I can ever be on earth.

In late January 1920, Frank Parater contracted rheumatism that developed into rheumatic fever causing him tremendous suffering. He was taken to the hospital of the Blue Nuns on January 27th. The spiritual director of the college, Father Mahoney, explained to Frank that his illness was grave, as he administered Last Rites. Frank wished to get out of bed and kneel on the floor to receive Holy Communion as Viaticum, but was prevented from doing so. With great devotion, and unafraid of death, he knelt on the bed and made his last Holy Communion. On February 6, Monsignor Charles A. O’Hern, rector of the college, offered the Mass of the Sacred Heart for Frank. Frank Parater died the following day. Less than three months after his arrival in Rome this promising young seminarian was buried in the College Mausoleum at Campo Verano.

Spiritual reading: The path God has destined me to walk glistens before me like the shimmering path of moonbeams on the water. (Servant of God Frank Parater)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 6, 2013

Jesus-in-synagogue-e1331496076773Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 6:1-6

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished.

They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Reflection on the gospel reading: People underestimate Jesus, and he surprises people. His wisdom and mighty deeds in his day and in ours catch people off guard. The person of Jesus brings us up short as we make our way through life because we forget what an encounter with him is like, and he amazes us often when we least expect it. We do better to cultivate a receptiveness to the possibilities of an encounter with Jesus, but remaining radically open to Jesus requires attention. Some have suggested that attention is the soul itself, and if that is so, what better soul work is there than Jesus?

Saint of the day: Nagasaki, Japan, is familiar to Americans as the city on which the second atomic bomb was dropped, immediately killing over 37,000 people. Three and a half centuries before, 26 martyrs of Japan were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki. Among them were priests, brothers and laymen, Franciscans, Jesuits and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, simple artisans and servants, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and his Church.

Brother Paul Miki, a Jesuit and a native of Japan, has become the best known among the martyrs of Japan. While hanging upon a cross Paul Miki preached to the people gathered for the execution: “The sentence of judgment says these men came to Japan from the Philippines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true Japanese. The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you to become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ’s example I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.”

When missionaries returned to Japan in the 1860s, at first they found no trace of Christianity. But after establishing themselves they found that thousands of Christians lived around Nagasaki and that they had secretly preserved the faith. Beatified in 1627, the martyrs of Japan were finally canonized in 1862.

Spiritual reading: The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason that I die. I believe that I am telling the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ’s example, I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain. (St. Paul Miki)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 5, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” He went off with him and a large crowd followed him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, Who touched me?” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house of the DRK322879synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

Reflection on the gospel: Mark has a particular stylistic approach that he uses over and over throughout his gospel. He starts to tell one story, then he veers off to tell a second but related story. Once he has finished the aside, he goes back and explains the conclusion of the original story. Scripture scholars call this a Markan Sandwich. Over the last several days, we have seen Jesus’ deep commitment to making the wounded whole, and today, the gospel reading continues this theme of Jesus as healer.

A synagogue official approaches Jesus to tell him his daughter is very ill and ask him to heal his daughter. On his way to the official’s home, a woman touches his garment to be healed of a long-standing illness, a hemorrhage that not only was a source of personal embarrassment to her but rendered her ritually impure. Her touch of the Lord heals her. After the encounter, Jesus goes to the little girl, now apparently dead, and commands her to rise. And his command does just that. The little girl is restored.

Both the accounts contain similar elements. Yes, Jesus is so open to healing the brokenness that surrounds him that even when unbidden, the woman’s touch of the Lord’s garment restores her to health. And in the case of Jairus’s daughter, the news that the girl is dead does not stop the Lord’s willingness to go to her. Jesus encourages Jairus to remain confident. Here we also have the other side of the equation: not just Jesus’ willingness to heal but our willingness to believe Jesus will heal. Both Jairus and the hemorrhagic woman place great trust in Jesus’ willingness and ability to heal them. And Jesus places great stock in the faith of both of them.

Both parts of the Markan sandwich point to similar sets of facts: Jesus’ complete readiness to heal, and the trust that the one in need of healing places in the Lord’s ability to heal. Both of these two stories folded into one story speak to Jesus’ willingness to make us whole and his desire that we know this fact about him.

Saint of the day: Fr. Pedro Arrupe, was the 28th general of the Society of Jesus, serving in that position from 1965 to 1983. Born Nov. 14, 1907 in the Basque country of Spain, Fr. Arrupe interrupted medical studies at the University of Madrid to join the Jesuits in 1927. He was ordained at St. Mary’s Seminary in Kansas in 1936, and in 1938 he went to Japan, where he spent a total of 27 years as a missionary.

555994_10151225763751496_1626622461_nFr. Arrupe became Jesuit vice provincial (1954-58), the first Jesuit provincial for Japan (1958-65), and was elected superior general at the 31st General Congregation of the Society of Jesus in 1965. He has been called “The Second Founder” of the Society of Jesus. Confronted by momentous world events that helped shape his interior life, Arrupe was chosen to lead the Jesuits through a tumultuous period of ecclesial and cultural renewal after the Second Vatican Council. Arrupe resigned due to an incapacitating stroke in 1983 and was the first Jesuit superior general to resign instead of remaining in office until his death. He died in Rome on Feb. 5, 1991.

Spiritual reading: Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything. (Servant of God Pedro Arrupe, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 4, 2013

jesus6Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 5:1-20

Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes. When he got out of the boat, at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him. The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain. In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him, crying out in a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!” (He had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”) He asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “Legion is my name. There are many of us.” And he pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory.

650992_73096163-1024x633Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside. And they pleaded with him, “Send us into the swine. Let us enter them.” And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned. The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town and throughout the countryside. And people came out to see what had happened. As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion, sitting there clothed and in his right mind. And they were seized with fear. Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened to the possessed man and to the swine. Then they began to beg him to leave their district. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead, “Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.” Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Like the man in this gospel passage, all of us suffer. Sometimes we are so deprived of anything comforting that the only thing we have to give the Lord is the pain that afflicts us. In our woundedness, brokenness, fragility, we throw ourselves on the Lord asking for his healing. Our healing, when it comes, is the good news about what the Lord in his pity has done for us.

Saint of the day: Délia Tétreault was born in Marieville, Quebec, on February 4, 1865. At the age of two, her mother died and she was brought up by her aunt and uncle. She had weak health and was usually sick.

Delia_Tetreault_nunWhen she was a child, she had a very significant dream. She was kneeling by her bed when all at once, she saw a wheat field. The heads of the wheat each changed to heads of children from different parts of the world. At the age of 13, she felt a calling for the religious life. At the age of 15, she made the vow of perpetual chastity. At the age of 18, she asked to join the Carmelite order of Montreal but they refused her. She went to the Sisters of Charity of Saint-Hyacinthe where she was accepted as a postulant. However, her poor health brought her back to her uncle. In 1891, Délia joined the Sisters of Bethany and stayed there for 10 years. It was in this time that Délia realized her dream. Her dream was an apostolic school for women and a seminary for the foreign missions. Around this time, she met Father Gustave Bourassa who was her guide and led her to all the important persons she needed to fulfill her dreams. By 1905, Délia took her perpetual commitment in the new Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and took the name Sr. Marie du Saint-Esprit. In 1909, the first six Sisters of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception left for Canton, China. Within a short time, several convents opened in the Province of Quebec to support the missions. In 1920, they launched a missionary review, Le Précurseur. On February 2, 1921 the Seminary for the foreign missions came to life. Officially, the founders of this new group were known to be the bishops of the Province of Quebec, however, the inspiration truly came from Mother Délia. In 1933, Délia became seriously ill and on October 1, 1941, Mother Délia died.

In 1958, the first steps were taken for the beatification of Délia. She was declared venerable in 1997. Presently the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception are in 13 countries and of 17 nationalities including 582 professed sisters and 87 sisters in initial formation.

Spiritual reading: No one born passes this life without pain, bodily or mental. (Dialogue by Catherine of Siena)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 3, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 4:21-30

Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’” And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only lecture-731365to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Last Sunday, Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth reads a passage from Isaiah which describes what the messiah does: he brings glad tidings to the poor, proclaims liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, lets the oppressed go free, and proclaims a year acceptable to the Lord. The verse which ended last week’s gospel is the verse which begins this week’s reading. Jesus affirms Isaiah talks about him. The rest of the reading is about Jesus’ explanation of the implications of his mission and the reaction of the Nazarenes to his teaching. When Jesus tells the stories about the outreach of Elijah and the outreach of Elisha, he is talking about missions to the Gentiles. The people of Nazareth are filled with rage when they hear Jesus, because what he is talking about in their cultural context is openness to a group of people they completely reject.

There are many groups of people in this day and time who are outside our group and rejected. When we hear that Jesus embraces the outcasts of our own day, we may feel the hair stand up straight on the back of our necks. Jesus was rejected by his own simply because he spoke of God’s openness to Gentiles, and it a risk we ourselves must accept if we are to embrace the Lord on his own terms.

At the end of the gospel passage today, Jesus walks away from those who reject his openness to people who do not conform to Nazarene preconceptions about acceptability. What if Jesus were to walk away pain-imagefrom us when we deem some other human being by whatever definition as unacceptable. As Anne Lamott says, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

Spiritual reading: The Glory of Jesus lies in this: in weakness, vulnerability, and apparent failure He has called forth disciples to come after Him, willing and able to carry the cross and relive His passion with compassion. They are marginal people, not part of the scene, irrevelent to the “action.” In their ministry or quiet presence they do not need to win or compete. They may look like losers, even to themselves. The world ignores them. But they are building “the Kingdom of God” on earth by reaching out in vulnerability and weakness to share the suffering of their brothers and sisters. Where the compassionate One is, there will His servants be. (Brennan Manning)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 2, 2013

Jesus Stills the Storm (Chirico)Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 4:35-41

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

Reflection on the gospel reading: I sometimes see disasters when I imagine the future. But everything I think can go wrong is not real, and there is nothing less real than the pictures I have inside of my head of what is down the road. These fantasies come despite all the evidence of my life that God has followed me at each step, and when I fear impending disasters, I assume that God will not be near in the future even though God has been near in the past. Strong winds sometimes blow through our lives, and we may fear catastrophe, but trust is the hope that the God who cares for us today is the God who will care for us tomorrow. God is faithful, so let us be, too.

Saint of the day: Saint Jeanne de Lestonnac was born in Bordeaux, France in 1556 to a prominent family. Her father, Richard de Lestonnac, was a member of the French Parliament while her mother, Jeanne Eyquem, was the sister of the philosopher, Michel de Montaigne. She grew up in a time where the conflict between the Jeanne de LestonnacProtestant reformists and the defenders of the Catholic faith was at its height. This was evident in her family. While her mother was an enthusiastic Calvinist, her father and her uncle Montaigne remained Catholic.

At the age of 17 Jeanne married Baron de Montferrand-Landiras and had three children, but these died after they were born. Later on she had five more children, 2 boys and 3 girls. She was married for 24 years before her husband died. This marked a painful time in her life where not only her husband but her father, uncle, and eldest son also died.

Following her husband’s death, Jeanne turned to a contemplative life and entered the Cistercian Monastery in Toulouse at the age of 46 and took the name Jeanne of Saint Bernard; however, she became very ill and had to leave. After she left, she lived in the La Mothe countryside and began a period of deep discernment. In 1607, at the age of 51, she established a religious order, the Company of Mary. She envisioned the essential task of the order was to educate girls. Soon the order established its first school for girls in Bordeaux. By the time she died in 1640 at the age of 84, 30 houses existed in France. Jeanne was beatified in 1900 and canonized in 1949.

Spiritual reading: The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most. (Thomas Merton)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on February 1, 2013

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”

He said, “To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Reflection on the gospel reading: If you consider the context in which Jesus spoke these parables or think about the context in which the Church originally retold them, something wonderful and amazing has occurred which calls us to move beyond our own weak faith. In the two parables, Jesus is essentially saying that the spread of the gospel and its victory are absolutely certain. We can trust that the message will take root and ultimately produce a great harvest. When the parables were first told, Jesus was walking on dusty roads on the remote edge of what the world considered important, and there was absolutely no way to credibly predict an itinerant preacher who made his way through the backwater villages of a poor and oppressed nation would offer a message that resonated throughout the earth. And when Mark recollected these parables and wrote them down, the struggling Church lived in small and scattered communities, surrounded by hostile elements ready to destroy it. Yet look what has happened. The early Christians would scarcely believe how the gospel as reached all corners of the earth. Yet here we are, afraid the good news might somehow die in our own time. Jesus calls us today to trust his parables: the gospel will triumph in a complete and total way. Our optimism for the Church can be complete.

Saint of the day: Living in the ninth century, Ansgar was the “apostle of the north.” A missionary to Scandinavia, he had enough frustrations to become a saint—and he did. He became a Benedictine at Corbie, France, where he had been educated. Three years later, when the king of Denmark became a convert, Ansgar went to that country for three years of missionary work, without noticeable success. Sweden asked for Christian missionaries, and he went there, suffering capture by pirates and other hardships on the way. Less than two years later he was recalled, to become abbot of New Corbie (Corvey) and bishop of Hamburg. The pope made him legate for the Scandinavian missions. Funds for the northern apostolate stopped with Emperor Louis’s death. After 13 years’ work in Hamburg, Ansgar saw it burned to the ground by invading Northmen; Sweden and Denmark returned to paganism.

He directed new apostolic activities in the North, traveling to Denmark and being instrumental in the conversion of another king. By the strange device of casting lots, the king of Sweden allowed the Christian missionaries to return.

Ansgar’s biographers remark that he was an extraordinary preacher, a humble and ascetical priest. He was devoted to the poor and the sick, imitating the Lord in washing their feet and waiting on them at table. He died peacefully at Bremen, Germany, without achieving his wish to be a martyr.

Sweden became pagan again after his death, and remained so until the coming of missionaries two centuries later.

Spiritual reading: Humility is the mother of all virtues; purity, charity and obedience. It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal. (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta)