Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Christ asleep within my boat"

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. ~Mark 4:37-38

Ave Maria! When a storm blows up in my life and I feel overwhelmed, how greatly I identify with today's gospel (Mark 4:35-41)! Like the apostles, I'm out there in my little boat on the big, wide ocean amidst wind, rain, thunder and lightning, and Jesus is in the stern -- alseep! With much consternation, I clamor as they did, "Lord, wake up! Do you not care that I am perishing?"

Then I recall St. Thérèse of Lisieux's comment about her Profession retreat: "I suffered complete spiritual dryness, almost as if I were quite forsaken. As usual, Jesus slept in my little boat." As usual, she says, implying that this is the way it is for her. So be it. Our Lord is there, just asleep. "It’s likely that as far as I'm concerned, he will stay asleep until the great final retreat of eternity," she notes. Does that bother her? Apparently not, for she immediately adds, "But that doesn’t upset me. It fills me with great joy."

Perhaps I also can find joy during times of unrest, dryness and seeming abandonment. "To be near God is my happiness," the psalmist proclaims (Ps 73:28). Is it not enough for me that Jesus is in my boat? Do I not yet understand that "With the Lord at my right, I shall never be shaken" (Ps 16:8)?

Back in 1966, Medical Mission Sister, writer and singer Sr. Miriam Therese Winter made her first recording, the gold record album "Joy is Like the Rain". This was a favorite song of mine then, and I still sing it at times when Jesus is asleep in my boat. The words are simple but profound:

I saw raindrops on my window,
Joy is like the rain.
Laughter runs across my pain,
slips away and comes again.
Joy is like the rain.

I saw clouds upon a mountain,
Joy is like a cloud.
Sometimes silver, sometimes grey,
always sun not far away.
Joy is like a cloud.

I saw Christ in wind and thunder,
Joy is tried by storm.
Christ asleep within my boat,
whipped by wind, yet still afloat.
Joy is tried by storm.

I saw raindrops on the river,
Joy is like the rain.
Bit by bit the river grows,
till at once it overflows.
Joy is like the rain.

St. Thérèse had enormous trust in God and in His enduring love for her. She was also very humble. These two virtues -- confidence and humility -- make fertile ground for joy to take root, bloom and grow. Today I ask the Little Flower to help me cultivate these virtues, especially when Jesus is asleep in my boat.

The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent; they are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness. My portion is the Lord, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him. Good is the Lord to one who waits for him, to the soul that seeks him; it is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord. ~Lamentations 3:22-26

Friday, January 28, 2011

Today's Feast: St. Thomas Aquinas

The life and teaching of St Thomas Aquinas could be summed up in an episode passed down by his ancient biographers. While, as was his wont, the Saint was praying before the Crucifix in the early morning in the chapel of St Nicholas in Naples, Domenico da Caserta, the church sacristan, overheard a conversation. Thomas was anxiously asking whether what he had written on the mysteries of the Christian faith was correct. And the Crucified One answered him: "You have spoken well of me, Thomas. What is your reward to be?". And the answer Thomas gave him was what we too, friends and disciples of Jesus, always want to tell him: "Nothing but Yourself, Lord!" ~Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience of 6/2/10

My happiness lies in you alone. ~Psalm 16:2

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Like a River

May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

Rainier Maria Rilke

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. ~Psalm 46:5

Dear Lord, please make me like that river, gladdening your heart and singing you as no one ever has! Amen!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The spirit God gives us

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control. ~2 Timothy 1:7

Ave Maria! Like all human beings, there are times when my faith wavers and my spirit quails. "I can't do this," I think when God asks the seemingly impossible of me. "Not me. Not here. Not now. Not ever. NOT!"

Depending on which dictionary we consult, the timid person is shy, hesitant, easily frightened, and/or lacking in self-confidence or determination. The word "timid" comes from the Latin word "timere," which means to fear or be afraid. Yep, that's me by nature, a little shrinking violet that would much prefer to stay hidden in the woods. But Christ our Lord calls me to so much more! He calls all of us to such greater and grander things for the Father's praise and glory! And He gives us His power to respond with all our being!

St. Paul tells us that "the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Romans 5:5). He also reminds us that we can do all things in Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). On the natural level, I may indeed be timid, but Jesus Himself bids me, "Come up higher, my friend!" (Luke 14:10). He gives me His own spirit of power, love and self-control so that I may rise above myself and live "with the strength that comes from God" (2 Timothy 1:8). I live now, not I, but Christ in me (Galatians 2:20). Thanks be to God!

"Per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso..."
Through him, and with him, and in him,
O God, almighty Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honor is yours,
for ever and ever.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Today's Feast: Conversion of St. Paul

Let us celebrate the conversion of Saint Paul the apostle. He was transformed from being a persecutor of Christ into a vessel of his grace. ~Liturgy of the Hours for Conversion of Paul, Apostle

Ave Maria! The conversion of Saul the Pharisee to St. Paul the Apostle, which we celebrate today, is a dramatic one. And who doesn't enjoy at least a tad of drama? Most of us secretly long for a flashing light and a booming voice now and then. As the artist Mary Engelbreit writes, "Life is just so daily!" The majority of us experience conversion in almost mundane ways. That makes sense, because our conversion is life-long and should always be happening, not once but over and over again, and how could we ever handle all those ongoing lights and voices? While we might occasionally fall to the ground blinded by the light as St. Paul did, we eventually have to get up and be busy doing God's work. That's the real proof of our continual conversion -- not the drama of it all but the return to our humdrum lives and the steadfast carrying out of His will for us in the present moment, which we now undertake with renewed vigor and joy because God has poured out His love and mercy upon us. We know with St. Paul that "Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 1:13-14). We are sinners in need of constant conversion, no question about it -- but we know the one in whom we put our trust (2 Tim 1:12), and He is our hope and our joy. Alleluia!

I will glorify your name for ever, Lord.
So great has been your compassion toward me.
~Liturgy of the Hours for Conversion of Paul, Apostle

Dear St. Paul,
help me to always be open to conversion
so that I may be transformed as you were
into a vessel of God's grace and glory.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Today's Feast: St. Francis de Sales

What is the use of building castles in Spain when we have to live in France? ~St. Francis de Sales

Ave Maria! Or perhaps my greeting should be "Live Jesus!" because today is the feast of St. Francis de Sales, who often said and wrote these words. His entire life was about "living Jesus," which he did with enormous devotion. We don't use that word much today and may even look upon it askance because it seems archaic. For St. Francis, however, devotion meant love; thus, from his perspective, devotion remains highly relevant for us today. We could even think of his spiritual classic, Introduction to the Devout Life, as an introduction to the life of love -- the eternal love of God who "placed you in this world not because he needs you in any way -- you are altogether useless to him -- but only to exercise his goodness in you by giving you his grace and glory" (Bk I, Ch 10) . Love begets love, and as St. Francis leads us through his Introduction, he suggests time-honored practical and well-balanced ways to show God that we do love him and all His children.

The genius of the Introduction is that it applies to all men and women in every vocation, time and place. Everyone can and must love God, each person in his and her own unique way. St. Francis is most adamant about this! He strongly emphasizes how crucial it is for each one of us being totally faithful to the life to which God has called us. True devotion, he insists, enhances our vocation and life: it "hinders nothing, but on the contrary it perfects adorns and beautifies all" (Introduction, Bk I, Ch 3).
Dear St. Francis de Sales, help us to bloom where we are planted for the honor and glory of God who loves us so! Amen!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Great Light

He went to Capernaum, that the prophecy of Isaiah might be fulfilled. ~Matthew 4:14

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Everyone knows that we were all born in darkness, and once lived in darkness. But now that the Sun of Righteousness has risen for us, let us see that we no longer remain in darkness.

Christ came to enlighten those who lived in darkness, overshadowed by death, and to guide their feet into the way of peace. Do you ask what darkness?

Whatever is present in our intellect, in our will, or in our memory that is not God, or which has not its source in God; that is to say, whatever in us is not for God’s sake, is a barrier between God and the soul—it is darkness.

In himself Christ brought us light which would enable us to see our sins, and hate our darkness. His freely chosen poverty, when there was no place for him in the inn, is for us a light by which we can now learn that the poor in spirit, to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs, are blessed.

The love with which Christ offered himself to instruct us, and to endure for us injuries, ostracism, persecution, lashes, and death upon a cross; the love finally which made him pray for those who crucified him—that love is for us a light by which we may learn to love our enemies.

The humility with which he emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave, and with which he scorned the glory of the world, and willed to be born, not in a palace but in a stable, and to die ignominiously on a gibbet—that humility is for us a light showing us what a detestable crime it is for clay, that is to say, for poor weak creatures, to be proud, to exalt themselves, or to refuse submission, when the infinite God was humbled, despised, and subject to human beings.

The meekness with which Christ endured hunger, thirst, cold, harsh words, lashes, and wounds, when he was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb before his shearer opened not his mouth— that meekness is for us a light.

By it we see how useless it is to be angry, how useless to threaten. By it we accept our own suffering, and do not serve Christ merely from routine. By it we learn how much is required of us, and that when suffering comes our way we should bewail our sins in silent submission, since he endured affliction with such patience and long-suffering, not for his own sins, but for ours.

Reflect then, beloved, on all the virtues which Christ taught us by his example, which he recommends by his counsel, and which he enables us to imitate by the assistance of his grace.

John Justus Landsberg (Sermon 5, volume 3, 315-317)
Christ our light, so burn in me that I may become one single flame of love leaping up for Thee. Amen.

Friday, January 21, 2011


And Jesus went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. ~Mark 3:13

…now Jesus ascends "the mountain," which signifies the place of his communion with God – the place on the heights, above the works and deeds of everyday life…. The calling of the disciples is a prayer event; it is as if they were begotten in prayer, in intimacy with the Father. The calling of the Twelve, far from being purely functional, takes on a deeply theological meaning. Their calling emerges from the Son's dialogue with the Father and is anchored there… "Jesus called to him those whom he desired." You cannot make yourself a disciple – it is an event of election, a free decision of the Lord's will, which in turn is anchored in his communion of will with the Father.

Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth, p170
Dear Lord, with infinite love you have desired me and called me, saying to me from your "communion of will with the Father": "I have called you by name: you are mine … you are precious in my eyes and glorious … I love you … you are my witness, my servant whom I have chosen … you, whom I formed for myself, that you might announce my praise" (Isaiah 43). Domine, non sum dignus … Lord, I am not worthy! But may my unworthiness, inadequacies and fears never keep me from saying "YES!" to you as fully as I can so that I may proclaim your praise all the days of my life! Amen! Alleluia!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


But peace has nothing to do with passivity. Wanting to trust in God and to strengthen our faith in Providence is quite different from allowing ourselves to act selfishly, and not wanting to think about the big burden that falls on others. True peace is accompanied by action in which we strive in all submissiveness to go to meet the God who comes to meet us.... Can you imagine the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph at the terrible time of the flight into Egypt trying to figure out how they would manage there, where living was certainly more expensive than in frugal Judea? They prepared their few provisions and took with them what could reasonably be carried on a donkey's back, and that's all.

Let us do all we can do. But when we can't do anything more, let's keep quiet. Let's think about our duty to encourage optimism and joy around us, and let's not be like those somber and glib prophets who each day think it is their duty to announce increasing woes and all kinds of hardships.

We should love the period in which we live. because it was given to us as a means of getting to heaven. We should make ourselves amiable in order to make this duty easier for others.

~Mother Marie des Douleurs in Joy Out of Sorrow

O Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
grant us Your peace which surpasses all understanding!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow." ~Mary Anne Radmacher

God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the Lord,
and he has been my savior.
~Isaiah 12:2

Dear Lord, make me a person of courage. Amen.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Something New!

See, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
~Isaiah 43:19

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Behold the Lamb of God!

When he saw Jesus coming toward him John said: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” ~John 1:29

No longer does he say: Prepare. That would be out of place now that at last he who was prepared for is seen, is before our very eyes. The nature of the case now calls for a different type of homily. An explanation is needed of who is present, and why he has come down to us from heaven.

So John says: Behold the Lamb of God, of whom the prophet Isaiah told us in the words: He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb before his shearer he opened not his mouth.
In past ages he was typified by the law of Moses, but because the law was merely a figure and a foreshadowing its salvation was only partial; its mercy did not reach out to embrace the whole world.

But now the true lamb, the victim without blemish obscurely prefigured in former times, is led to the slaughter for all to banish sin from the world, to overthrow the world’s destroyer, to abolish death by dying for the entire human race, and to release us from the curse: Dust you are and to dust you shall return.

He will become the second Adam who is not of earth but of heaven, and will be for us the source of every blessing. He will deliver us from the corruptibility foreign to our nature; he will secure eternal life for us, reconcile us with God, teach us to revere God and to live upright lives, and be our way to the kingdom of heaven.

One Lamb died for all to restore the whole flock on earth to God the Father; one died for all to make all subject to God; one died for all to gain all so that all might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.

Because our many sins had made us subject to death and corruption, the Father gave his son as our redemption, one for all, since all were in him and he was greater than all. One died for all so that all of us might live in him.

Death swallowed the Lamb who was sacrificed for all, and then disgorging him disgorged all of us in him and with him; for we were all in Christ who died and rose again for us.

Once sin had been destroyed how could death, which was caused by sin, fail to be wholly annihilated? With the root dead how could the branch survive? What power will death have over us now that sin has been blotted out?

And so, rejoicing in the sacrifice of the Lamb let us cry out: O death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting? All wickedness shall hold its tongue, as the Psalmist sings somewhere.

Henceforth it will be unable to denounce sinners for their weakness, for God is the one who acquits us. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for our sake, so that we might escape the curse brought down on us by sin.

~ Commentary on Saint John’s Gospel 2: PG 73, 191-194) by Cyril of Alexandria

O Lamb of God,
may I always rejoice in Your sacrifice,
by which, in utter love,
You have forgiven our sins
and redeemed the world.
Amen! Alleluia!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A humble and hidden life...

Mary witnesses to the value of a humble and hidden life. Everyone usually demands, and sometimes almost claims, to be able to realize fully his own person and qualities. Everyone is sensitive to esteem and honour. The Gospels frequently mention that the Apostles were ambitious for the most important places in the kingdom and they argued among themselves as to which of them was the greatest. In this matter Jesus had to teach them the need for humility and service (cf. Mt 18:1-5; 20:20-28; Mk 9:33-37; 10:35-45; Lk 9:46-48; 22:24-27). Mary, on the contrary, never sought honour or the advantages of a privileged position; she always tried to fulfil God's will, leading a life according to the Father's plan of salvation.

To all those who often feel the burden of a seemingly insignificant life, Mary reveals how valuable life can be if it is lived for love of Christ and one's brothers and sisters.

~Pope John Paul II
Dear Mary, how good and beautiful is the humble and hidden life that the Father has chosen for me! Nothing that comes from Him is insignificant -- rather, all is gift, everything is grace. Help me to live my life as you lived yours, joyfully, confidently and courageously, and always in union with your Beloved Son, Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wonderful News from Rome!!!

Prayer joined to sacrifice constitutes the most powerful force in human history.
~Pope John Paul II

Ave Maria! Last night I wasn't sure I'd be able to get to sleep. I couldn't stop thinking about and rejoicing in the wonderful news reported yesterday by Vatican analyst Andrea Tornielli that cardinals and bishops from the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints had convened and "examined and approved the miracle attributed to the intercession of John Paul II.” Now all that is needed for his beatification is Pope Benedict XVI’s approval of the congregation’s findings. Read more here.

There are no words to describe how thrilled and happy I am. And I am not alone. Catholics and non-Catholics alike throughout the world are exulting. Meanwhile, Satan and his minions are undoubtedly fuming furiously and busily inciting all possible mudslingers to join them. That's what always happens whenever goodness and truth, beauty and holiness prevail. Pope John Paul II knew well the full force of evil, and he met it head-on with the power of "prayer joined to sacrifice," which is simply and magnificently the power of our Lord Jesus Christ united to the Father through the Holy Spirit.

Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift! ~2 Cor 9:15

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Blue, blue and blue!!!

Blue is the only color which maintains its own character in all its tones. Take blue in all its nuances, from the darkest to the lightest--it will always stay blue; whereas yellow is blackened in its shades, and fades away when lightened; red when darkened becomes brown, and diluted with white is no longer red, but another color, pink. ~Raoul Dufy, French Fauvist Painter, 1877-1953
Ave Maria! The color blue makes me think of God ... constant and true ... "my changeless friend" ... the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) ... unvarying yet always new ... faithful in all his words and loving in all his deeds (Psalm 145:13) ... His praise shall last for ever! (Psalm 111:10) AMEN! ALLELUIA!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

When I see the heavens...

When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god; with glory and honor you crowned him, gave him power over the works of your hand, put all things under his feet...

How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth!

~Psalm 8

Ave Maria! One of my favorite Web sites is Astronomy Picture of the Day. For me, each one of its magnificent photos are what Daddy would call, quoting William Blake, "a vision of eternity." Daddy always said that such beautiful visions would cause a peculiar pain in his heart, and they do in mine, too. "Beauty, more than bitterness, makes the heart break," the poet Sara Teasdale wrote. Both she and Daddy got it right. And however insignificant I might feel when I gaze upon these splendors of the universe, my heart always exults because the Creator and Lord of all not only thinks of me, He also cares for me! Even more, He crowns me with glory and honor! Such are the marvels of His wondrous love!

Though You have the seraphim
in Your heavenly court,
You still seek my love;
You desire my heart.
Jesus, I give it to you.
~St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ordinary Time Begins

Ave Maria! The Church begins Ordinary Time today. Fittingly enough, the gospel at Mass is Mark 1:14-20, which contains both a proclamation and a summons. "Preaching the gospel of God," Christ announces that the kingdom of God is at hand, then calls us to repent and believe. "And passing along," our Lord invites us to follow Him, just as He invited Simon and Andrew and the fishermen of old. What will my response be today? Will I immediately leave everything to walk with Him? Will I abandon even those I hold most dear so as to live for Jesus alone? Will I let Him so captivate and possess me that his proclamation and summons become a new song in my life, an eternal hymn of love and praise as He Himself becomes my strength and my song (Exodus 15:2)?

In simple trust like theirs who heard
Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
Rise up and follow Thee.
from "Dear Lord and Father Of Mankind"
by John Greenleaf Whittier

O Lamb of God, I come!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

This is my beloved Son,
with whom I am well pleased.
~Matthew 3:17

His baptism, then, is at the heart of his mission to heal us. He enters even the wounds of our self-rejection, without having made the rejection himself. He accepts full solidarity with us even if it means being seen as sinner. Jesus’ baptism is one of his earliest great transformations of our human condition. The first was that the Word itself could take human flesh. All the further implications would follow: that he would be tempted to reject this mission of transformation; that he would undertake all manner of healing and disarming of devils; that he would announce a kingdom to transmute all blindness, poverty, imprisonment, and darkness; that he would, at last, suffer the very fate of sin in death.

Just as we now baptize our children to announce a new fate for the human body, the baptism of Jesus is the inauguration of that fate. Announced as sinner, wholly one with our condition, Jesus, hovered over by the very spirit of God, is gazed upon by the Father who sent him and who now says to him and all of us who share his flesh—“This is my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”

John Kavanaugh, S. J. of Saint Louis University

Ave Maria! Dr. He Qi is the artist of the above painting of Christ's baptism by his cousin John. Dr. Qi's vibrant art doesn't just stir me -- it positively jolts me! Visit the He Qi Gallery to see more of his lively creations. And learn more about him here, here, here, here, here, and here. While his art understandably may not appeal to everyone, this explanation of it can help anyone appreciate him. "One can better understand the art of He Qi when it is seen as a reinterpretation of sacred art within an ancient Chinese art idiom. Chinese religious art, being an expression of Buddhism, was historically typified as a tranquil and utopian portrayal of nature, often painted with black ink and water. He Qi is especially influenced by the simple and beautiful artwork of the people in rural China. Within that framework, he seeks to redefine the relationship between people and spirituality with bold colors, embellished shapes and thick strokes. His work is a blend of Chinese folk art and traditional painting technique with the iconography of the Western Middle Ages and Modern Art." One commentator notes that "Every painting of Dr. He Qi could be a stained-glass window." Oh, how I would enjoy having a window like that in my home!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The darkness is past, Light is made

Ave Maria! Yesterday I was led to Elpenor, "Home of the Greek Word" on the Web. If you scroll down the home page, you'll come to "The Greek Word, Three Millennia of Greek Literature." Simply click on that to see what treasures are available. Elpenor describes its offerings as such: "Compared with the thousands of more or less important texts, what is here seems to fall short. The purpose of this anthology is to offer a grounding, so that, even if someone were to study nothing else, the loss would not be decisive. It is a Philokalia, a gathering of some of the most important works of Greek thinking." I like that because I'm such a newbie in reading Greek works. Over the past couple of years I've been reading more and more of the Fathers of the Church, so I'm happy to find some of their important works here.

I've barely begun exploring Elpenor and look forward to doing so soon. Meanwhile, at first glance, Gregory Nazianzen has caught my eye and captivated my heart with his reflection "On the Theophany, or Birthday of Christ," some of which I've excerpted below. He notes that we should keep the feast of Christmas not as the world does but "in a fashion above the belonging to Him Who is ours." In today's reading at Mass from John 5:14-21, the Evangelist reminds us that "We know that we belong to God, and the whole world is under the power of the Evil One. We also know that the Son of God has come and has given us discernment to know the one who is true. And we are in the one who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life." For us who armed with this knowledge and abiding in the true God, every day is a celebration of Christmas, of the coming of the God to us, of the passing of darkness and the making of Light. Every day is the Lord's birthday -- and ours, too, as Christ calls us to "undergo the beautiful conversion" and thus experience the healing and re-creation of Him who makes all things new. O come, let us adore Him!

Again the darkness is past; again Light is made.... Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new. The letter gives way, the Spirit comes to the front. The shadows flee away, the Truth comes in upon them.... For God was manifested to man by birth. On the one hand Being, and eternally Being, of the Eternal Being, above cause and word, for there was no word before The Word; and on the other hand for our sakes also Becoming, that He Who gives us our being might also give us our Well-being, or rather might restore us by His Incarnation, when we had by wickedness fallen from well being. The name Theophany is given to it in reference to the Manifestation, and that of Birthday in respect of His Birth.

This is our present Festival; it is this which we are celebrating to-day, the Coming of God to Man, that we might go forth, or rather (for this is the more proper expression) that we might go back to God—that putting off the old man, we might put on the New; and that as we died in Adam, so we might live in Christ, being born with Christ and crucified with Him and buried with Him and rising with Him. For I must undergo the beautiful conversion, and as the painful succeeded the more blissful, so must the more blissful come out of the painful. For where sin abounded Grace did much more abound; and if a taste condemned us, how much more doth the Passion of Christ justify us? Therefore let us keep the Feast, not after the manner of a heathen festival, but after a godly sort; not after the way of the world, but in a fashion above the world; not as our own but as belonging to Him Who is ours, or rather as our Master's; not as of weakness, but as of healing; not as of creation, but of re-creation.

Gregory Nazianzen the Theologian On the Theophany, or Birthday of Christ (Oration XXXVIII)

Friday, January 7, 2011

The True Star

Ave Maria! Yesterday in his homily for the Solemnity of Epiphany, which is celebrated on January 6 in some parts of the world, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the star that the Magi saw and followed. He noted that "these men were seeking the traces of God; they were seeking to read his 'signature' in creation; they knew that 'the heavens tell the glory of God' (Psalm 19:2); they were certain, namely, that God can be perceived in creation." Yet they also knew, Holy Father observed, that creation has its limits: "Thus a last important element of the event of the Magi appears very clear to us: the language of creation enables us to follow a good portion of the way to God, but it does not give us the definitive light. In the end, for the Magi it was indispensable to hear the voice of the Sacred Scriptures: they alone could indicate the way to them. It is the Word of God that is the true star, that, in the uncertainty of human discourses, offers us the immense splendor of the divine truth. Dear brothers and sisters, let us allow ourselves to be guided by the star, which is the Word of God, let us follow it in our life, walking with the Church, where the Word has pitched its tent. Our way will always be illumined by a light that no other sign can give us. And we too will be able to become stars for others, reflection of that light that Christ made to shine over us. Amen."

Dear Lord,
I stand in awe of your word!
Your word is founded on truth.
Teach me by your word.
By your word revive me,
by your word raise me up,
by your word give me life.
May I always
trust in your word,
hope in your word,
obey your word,
follow your word,
keep your word.
May your holy and gracious word
always be a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
Mother of the Incarnate Word,
pray for me,
pray for all of us
that your Son,
Word made flesh and splendor of the Father,
will make us "stars for others,"
reflections of His glorious and everlasting light.
Amen! Alleluia!
(cf. Psalm 119)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Gold, frankincense and myrrh

Ave Maria! Today at Mass, we sing the same responsorial psalm as yesterday: "Lord, every nation on earth will adore you." The verses that follow both yesterday and today are from Psalm 72, which is a prayer for a new king. This prayer asks that he will rule in justice plus it extols the royal power of the Messiah. The concluding verses of this psalm praise the Lord God: "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name for ever; may his glory fill the whole earth! Amen and amen!"

The heading for this psalm in the Liturgy of the Hours is "The Messiah's royal power" (cf. Week II, Thursday, Evening Prayer). Immediately after the heading is this verse from Matthew's gospel about the Wise Men's visit to the Christ Child (2:11): "Opening their treasures, they offered him gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh." These gifts, of course, signify the mystery of Christ incarnate -- gold for the kingship of Jesus, frankincense for his divinity, and myrrh for his humanity, especially in his Passion and death. The footnote for this verse from The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible notes that, according to St. Gregory the Great, "the treasures signify the gifts we present to Christ in our daily lives. Gold is Christ's wisdom, which shines in us, frankincense is the prayer and adoration we give him (cf. Rev 8:3-4), and myrrh is our daily self-sacrifices (cf. Rom 12:1)."

Reflecting upon all this along with our psalm response yesterday and today -- "Lord, every nation on earth will adore you!" -- I ask myself: does "all that is in me adore Him"? have I truly laid my life before Him? am I myself "a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God"? do I worship Him in spirit and truth with all my being? do I love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength?

Of myself, I can do nothing, I am nothing. But united with Him who does wondrous things, I can indeed open my treasures and give Him my gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Blessed be His glorious name for ever! Amen and amen!

"Lord Jesus, I unite myself to Your perpetual, unceasing, universal Sacrifice. I offer myself to You every day of my life and every moment of every day, according to Your most holy and adorable Will. Since You have been the Victim of my salvation, I wish to be the victim of Your love. Accept my desire, take my offering, and graciously hear my prayer. Let me live for love of You; let me die for love of You; let my last heartbeat be an act of perfect love." ~The Act of Oblation of Saint Therese Couderc, founder of the Sisters of the Cenacle

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"It is I!"

Ave Maria! This powerful painting, "Snow Storm -- Steam-Boat Off A Harbor's Mouth" by Joseph Mallord William Turner, could be an icon for today's gospel, Mark 6:45-52. The disciples were "far out on the sea...tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them." Their distress turned into terror when they saw what they thought was a ghost walking towards them, and they cried out in fear. What sweet and blessed relief must have been theirs when they heard the voice of their Master immediately saying to them, "Take heart, it is I; have no fear!" And when Jesus got into the boat with them and the wind ceased, they were completely astounded. They had not understood the multiplication of the loaves and fishes that our Lord has just accomplished to feed the crowd of five thousand. They had not grasped the immensity of His power, the wideness of His mercy, the greatness of His compassion, the depths of His love. They had not really believed Him after all, they did not trust Him. Their hearts were hardened, the evangelist Mark relates, and so they faltered.

How like us! How like me! My heart, too, sometimes becomes hardened. Anxiety, cynicism, self-pity, doubt -- these are but a few of the many hardening agents that make my heart resistant to that perfect love of God which casts out fear (1 John 4:18). The evangelist John reminds us that "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us" (1 John 4:16). Today I pray for myself and for all of us that we may remain in God's wondrous love and find therein our confidence and our joy.

God is for us a refuge and strength, a helper close at hand, in time of distress, so we shall not fear though the earth should rock, though the mountains fall into the depths of the sea; even though its waters rage and foam, even though the mountains be shaken by its waves. The Lord of hosts is with us: the God of Jacob is our stronghold. ~Psalm 46:2-4

P.S. For some odd reason, the link to this painting that I inserted above takes you to the home page for this Web site, so when you get there, go to the left frame and scroll down to Joseph Mallard William Taylor. Click there, then scroll down the page to "Snow-Storm -- Steam-Boat Off A Harbor's Mouth" to read more about this fabulous painting.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Today's Feast: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

“The first end I propose in our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly, to do it in the manner he wills it; and thirdly, to do it because it is his will.” ~St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Ave Maria! Today's saint is most dear to my heart. An excellent biography about her can be found here and a Google search will lead to many others. If I were still living in Washington, DC, I'd be making a pilgrimage this week to the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland. It's a beautiful place to visit, even in the deep mid-winter. St. Elizabeth Ann's presence permeates the entire place. Whenever I would go there, she would always fill my heart with the courage that lead her to make her daring leap of faith when she came into the Catholic church and was ostracized by her family as a result. Her utter love for our Lord in His Holy Word and in the Blessed Eucharist was a deep and solid one that nurtures my own. And her serene perseverance in establishing the Sisters of Charity amidst great hardships and abject poverty strengthens my faint-heartedness.

Did I say that I love this wise and holy woman? I do, I do! So today I'll make an interior pilgrimage to Emmitsburg, savoring her fruitful heritage and asking her to help me to do the will of God with the sort of joy and love that overflowed from her heart so captivated by Him.

Prayer of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Lord Jesus,
Who was born for us in a stable,
lived for us a life of pain and sorrow,
and died for us upon a cross;
say for us in the hour of death,
Father, forgive,
and to Your Mother,
Behold your child.
Say to us, This day you shall be with Me in paradise.
Dear Savior, leave us not, forsake us not.
We thirst for You, Fountain of Living Water.
Our days pass quickly along,
soon all will be consummated for us.
To Your hands we commend our spirits,
now and forever.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The one who is in us!

The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. ~1 John 4:4

The one who is in us ... the one born of Mary, gentle virgin ... the King who is our peace ... the eternal Word, born of the Father before time began ... who emptied himself for our sake and became man ... the little child: little and yet called the mighty God ... man's creator who has become man ... the Lamb of God ... the light of the world ... the King of heaven and earth, whose Kingdom shall endure forever ... the true vine that brings forth the fruit of life ... the chief shepherd and guardian of our lives ... the Son of the living God ... the Word made flesh and splendor of the Father ... the image of the invisible God ... the first-born of all creatures ... the head of the body, the church ... the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth ... Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace .. oh come, let us adore HIM, now and forever more! AMEN! ALLELUIA!
(Ave Maria! All of the above comes directly from the Liturgy of the Hours for the
Christmas season.)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Solemnity of Epiphany

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory. ~Isaiah 60:1-2

We, too, can become bearers of the light that comes from Bethlehem. Then we can pray, full of confidence: Adveniat regnum tuum. Your kingdom come! Your light come! Your peace come! ~Pope Benedict XVI

answered now,
in the newborn babe.

The Christ now within us,
our lives forever

make us
shining stars
to lead all people

to you.

A. Osdieck

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

source of light in every age,
the virgin conceived and bore your Son
who is called Wonderful God, Prince of Peace.
May her prayer, the gift of a mother's love,
be your people's joy through all ages.
May her response, born of a humble heart,
draw your Spirit to rest on your people.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
Alternative Opening Prayer for Mary, Mother of God