Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Windsock Visitation by Bro. Mickey McGrath, OSFS***
 We cannot keep solely for ourselves this joy that we have received; joy must always be shared. Joy must be communicated. Mary went without delay to communicate her joy to her cousin Elizabeth. And ever since her Assumption into Heaven she has showered joy upon the whole world, she has become the great Consoler: our Mother who communicates joy, trust and kindness and also invites us to spread joy…

We can transmit this joy simply: with a smile, with a kind gesture, with some small help, with forgiveness. Let us give this joy and the joy given will be returned to us. Let us seek in particular to communicate the deepest joy, that of knowing God in Christ. Let us pray that this presence of God's liberating joy will shine out in our lives.

~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily of 12/18/05

***Brother Michael O'Neil McGrath, a joyful, vibrant artist, creates, displays and sells his sacred art at Bee Still Studio.  His cards and posters are bursting with life and energy, just like him!  Some of his artwork beautifully embodies the Salesian spirit of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal because Brother Mickey is an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales.  He has published several books and calendars and is currently completing a book centered on Dorothy Day.  When not at home in his studio, Brother Mickey travels around the country, giving days of recollection and making presentations to parishes, catechists, religious communities, and the like.  I've been following Brother Mickey since the early 80s, and I can honestly say that every single piece of his sacred art always speaks to my heart-of-hearts.  Sometimes it's a whisper, sometimes a shout -- but always I am lifted up, challenged and changed for the better.  Thank you, Brother Mickey!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, 1872-1918

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

It is possible to know true joy...

Poppies at Washington National Cathedral
by Ann L. Krumrein
It is possible! It is possible for humanity to know true joy, because wherever the Gospel arrives, life flourishes, just as an arid terrain that, irrigated by rain, is immediately verdant. ~Pope Benedict XVI, Regina Caeli, May 29, 2011

Dear Lord, Word made flesh and splendor of the Father, may Your words always become to me a joy and the delight of my heart.  Amen.  Alleluia!  (Jeremiah 15:16)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I will not leave you orphans. ~John 14:18

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor. ~John 14:16

If you love me, said Christ, keep my commandments. I have commanded you to love one another and to treat one another as I have treated you. To love me is to obey these commands, to submit to me your beloved.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor. This promise shows once again Christ’s consideration. Because his disciples did not yet know who he was, it was likely that they would greatly miss his companionship, his teaching, his actual physical presence, and be completely disconsolate when he had gone.

Therefore he said: I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, meaning another like himself.

They received the Spirit after Christ had purified them by his sacrifice. The Spirit did not come down on them while Christ was still with them, because this sacrifice had not yet been offered.

But when sin had been blotted out and the disciples, sent out to face danger, were preparing themselves for the battle, they needed the Holy Spirit’s coming to encourage them.

If you ask why the Spirit did not come immediately after the resurrection, this was in order to increase their gratitude for receiving him by increasing their desire.

They were troubled by nothing as long as Christ was with them, but when his departure had left them desolate and very much afraid, they would be most eager to receive the Spirit.

He will remain with you. Christ said, meaning his presence with you will not be ended by death.

But since there was a danger that hearing of a Counselor might lead them to expect another incarnation and to think they would be able to see the Holy Spirit, he corrected this idea by saying: The world cannot receive him because it does not see him.

For he will not be with you in the same way as I am, but will dwell in your very souls, He will be in you.

Christ called him the Spirit of truth because the Spirit would help them to understand the types of the old law. By He will be with you he meant, He will be with you as I am with you, but he also hinted at the difference between them, namely, that the spirit would not suffer as he had done, nor would he ever depart.

The world cannot receive him because it does not see him. Does this imply that the Spirit is visible? By no means; Christ is speaking here of knowledge, for he adds: or know him.

Sight being the sense by which we perceive things most distinctly, he habitually used this sense to signify knowledge. By the world he means here the wicked, thus giving his disciples the consolation of receiving a special gift.

He said that the Spirit was another like himself, that he would not leave them, that he would come to them just as he himself had come, and that he would remain in them.

Yet even this did not drive away their sadness, for they still wanted Christ himself and his companionship. So to satisfy them he said: I will not leave you orphans; I will come back to you.

Do not be afraid, for when I promised to send you another counselor I did not mean that I was going to abandon you for ever, nor by saying that he would remain with you did I mean that I would not see you again. Of course I also will come to you; I will not leave you orphans.

~John Chrysostom, c.347-407

Dearest Father, thank you for never abandoning us, for never leaving us alone!  Amen!  Alleluia!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hail Mary, full of grace!

"...you do not belong to the world...I have chosen you out of the world..."  ~John 15:9

"Full of grace" -- in the original Greek, kecharitoméne -- is Mary's most beautiful name, the name God himself gave to her to indicate that she has always been and will always be the beloved, the elect, the one chosen to welcome the most precious gift, Jesus: "the incarnate love of God." ~Pope Benedict, Angelus, 12/8/06

Hail Mary, full of grace!  Help us to see that God has also made us beautiful with His grace and has chosen us, like you and with you, to bear the fruit of your womb, Jesus, for the life of the world.  Amen.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Behold, your cross...

Behold, your cross has come to you; embrace it for the love of Him Who sends it to you.  ~St. Francis de Sales

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
~George Matheson

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Remain in my love. ~John 15:9

Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” ~John 15:9-11

Ave Maria! Every now and then I like to type a Scripture verse into Google and then search "Images". When I did that just now with "Remain in my love", the above picture was one of my first finds. It wonderfully depicts today's Gospel, which is so brief that I included it above in its entirety. To remain in the love of Jesus is to keep his commandments, which means to love one another, to serve each other, to lay down our lives for each and all. Only then do we experience true joy, the joy of the Lord, who came not to be served but to serve (Matthew 20:28). Only then is our joy full, perfect, complete -- "good measure and pressed down and shaken together and running over" (Luke 6:38).

Albert Schweitzer, German theologian, musician, philosopher, physician and Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian, once said, "I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve." I believe he got it quite right.

Dear Lord, teach me the joy of remaining in Your love. Amen.

P.S. You can find Dr. Schweitzer's obituary from the New York Times here, an interesting read.  He died in September 1965.  I had just begun my senior year in high school, and while I don't recall reading his obituaries, I did diligently copy his quote about service into my first of many "quote books."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Begin to abide now."

Abide in Me. ~John 15:4

The Spirit of Jesus is put into me by the Atonement, then I have to construct with patience the way of thinking that is exactly in accordance with my Lord. God will not make me think like Jesus, I have to do it myself; I have to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. "Abide in Me" - in intellectual matters, in money matters, in every one of the matters that make human life what it is. It is not a bandbox life.

Am I preventing God from doing things in my circumstances because I say it will hinder my communion with Him? That is an impertinence. It does not matter what my circumstances are, I can be as sure of abiding in Jesus in them as in a prayer meeting. I have not to change and arrange my circumstances myself. With Our Lord the inner abiding was unsullied; He was at home with God wherever His body was placed. He never chose His own circumstances, but was meek towards His Father's dispensations for Him. Think of the amazing leisure of Our Lord's life! We keep God at excitement point, there is none of the serenity of the life hid with Christ in God about us.

Think of the things that take you out of abiding in Christ -- Yes, Lord, just a minute, I have got this to do; Yes, I will abide when once this is finished; when this week is over, it will be all right, I will abide then. Get a move on; begin to abide now. In the initial stages it is a continual effort until it becomes so much the law of life that you abide in Him unconsciously. Determine to abide in Jesus wherever you are placed.

~from My Utmost for My Highest by Oswald Chambers

"In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me."
And I with you, dear Lord, now and always!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Father's Love

The Father himself loves you. ~John 16:27

"The Father loves me, He wants me, He needs me." That kind of attitude is our trust, our joy, our conviction. Anything may come: impatience, failures, joy, but say to yourself, "The Father loves me." God has created the whole world, but He is our Father. In prayer, create that conviction from the inside: Father and child.  ~Blessed Teresa of Calcutta


Ave Maria!  The Father loves me!  What a happy thought to begin my day!  And not just a mere thought but a "really real" reality ... not a fleeting idea or a passing inspiration but the absolute truth upon which I have built and will forever stake my very life ... "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you" (Jeremiah 31:3). 
The Father's love!
tender but strong, faithful and true ...
all-embracing and all-forgiving ...
without beginning or end ...
ineffable love, enduring love, abiding love!
"O Love that will not let me go!"
Oh Father who loves me so, let me remember You throughout this day!  When I forget, everything turns dark and dreary, and then I become lost, lonely and sad, a disconsolate orphan far from home.  May Your love for me, Your desire for me, and Your need of me keep me close to You, my true and eternal home.  Thank you, my God, for being my Father -- and for making me Your little child.  Amen.  Alleluia!

Monday, May 23, 2011


Faith in Jesus means to follow him daily in the simple actions that make up our day. ~Pope Benedict XVI, Regina Coeli, 5/22/11

Your every act should be done with love. ~1 Cor 16:14

Ave Maria!  This is how things appear to me as I look to the day ahead -- an overflowing stack of "to do's" that will really never end because things just keep piling up, one right after another.  The challenge for me will be to turn every "to do" into a "ta dah".  Do people even use this expression any longer?  For all I know, it might have a different meaning these days, but, for me, it's still an exclamation of triumph.  At the end of my day, I want to be able to say "ta dah!" -- not in congratulations of myself and my meager accomplishments but in exultation of my Beloved Lord who calls me to follow Him in the simple actions of my everyday life.  I want my "ta dah!" to mean "I live now, not I, but You in me!" (Gal 2:20)  I want the triumph to be all His, the glorious victory of His Love that died, rose again and is still with us -- eternal love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor 13:7).

Dear Lord, by the power of Your Risen Love, transform all my "to do's" into Your "ta dah's."  Amen!  Alleluia!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." ~John 14:6

Let us march forward intrepidly to meet our Redeemer, Jesus, pursuing our onward course without swerving until we come to the assembly of the saints and are welcomed by the company of the just.

It is to join our Christian forebears that we are journeying, to those who taught us our faith -- that faith which comes to our aid and safeguards our heritage for us even when we have no good works to show.

In the place we are making for the Lord will be everyone’s light; the true light which enlightens every human person will shine upon all.

In the house where we are going the Lord Jesus has prepared many dwelling-places for his servants, so that where he is we also may be, for this was his desire.

Hear his own words about them: In my Father’s house are many dwelling-places, and about his desire: I will come again, he says, and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.

“But he was speaking only to his disciples” you say, “and so it was to them alone that the many dwelling-places were promised.” Do you really suppose it was only for the eleven disciples they were prepared?

And what of the saying about people coming from all the corners of the earth to sit at table in the kingdom of heaven? Do we doubt that the divine will will be accomplished?

But for Christ, to will is to do! Accordingly he has shown us both the way and the place: You know where I am going, he said, and you know the way.

The place is where the Father is; the way is Christ, according to his own declaration: I am the way, and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.

Let us set out on this way, let us hold fast to truth, let us follow life. It is the way that leads us, the truth that strengthens us, the life that is restored to us through him.

To make sure that we really understand his will, Christ prays later on: Father, it is my desire that those whom you have given me may be with me where I am, so that they may see my glory.

How graciously he asks for what he had already promised! The promise came first and then the request, not the other way around.

Conscious of his authority and knowing the gift was at his own disposal, he made the promise; then, as if to show his filial submission, he asked his Father to grant it. He promised first to make us aware of his power; he asked afterwards to show us his loving deference to his Father.

Yes, Lord Jesus, we do follow you, but we can only come at your bidding. No one can make the ascent without you, for you are our way, our truth, our life, our strength, our confidence, our reward. Be the way that receives us, the truth that strengthens us, the life that invigorates us.

~St. Ambrose

Lord Jesus Christ, you said that you are the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Help us not to stray from you, for you are the Way; nor to distrust you, for you are the Truth; nor to rest on any other than you, as you are the Life.  You have taught us what to believe, what to do, what to hope and where to take our rest.  Give us grace to follow you, the Way, to learn from you, the Truth, and to live in you, the Life.  Amen. 

~Desiderius Erasmus

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Our Lady of Silence

If we had a keen vision of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of the roar which lies on the other side of silence.  As it is, the quickest of us walk about well-wadded with stupidity.   ~George Eliot

Ave Maria!  Now there was one who could see and hear what most of us miss because we are so "well-wadded with stupidity" -- Mary!  Stupidity, one dictionary says, is a poor ability to understand or to profit from experience.  How unlike Our Lady, who kept all things in her heart (see Luke 2:19, 51), pondering them the same way that she carried her precious Child in her womb, "with love beyond all telling."  Silence was her friend and her teacher, her wisdom and her strength.  Hers was "the silence of eternity, interpreted by love" (John Greenleaf Whittier).  We have no record that the Mother of Christ was present on that glorious Easter morn when her Beloved Son rose from the dead.  Yet surely, in the stillness of her heart, she heard His footsteps as He quietly walked the earth again, those once lacerated, bloody feet now beautiful and whole, bringing glad tidings and good news, announcing peace and salvation and saying "Your God is King!" (Isaiah 52:7) 

Our Lady of Silence, pray for us!

Let us ask the Virgin Mary to teach us the secret of silence that becomes praise, of recollection that is conducive to meditation, of love for nature that blossoms in gratitude to God.  ~Pope Benedict XVI

Friday, May 20, 2011

"the one great thing to love on earth..."

"Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament.....There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth, and more than that: Death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste (or foretaste) of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires."

"But I fell in love with the Blessed Sacrament from the beginning - and by the mercy of God never have fallen out again: but alas! I indeed did not live up to it...Out of wickedness and sloth I almost ceased to practice my religion --especially at Leeds, and at 22 Northmoor Road. Not for me the Hound of Heaven, but the never-ceasing silent appeal of Tabernacle, and the sense of starving hunger. I regret those days bitterly (and suffer for them with such patience as I can be given); most of all because I failed as a father. Now I pray for you all, unceasingly, that the Healer (the Hælend as the Saviour was usually called in Old English) shall heal my defects, and that none of you shall ever cease to cry Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini."

~from The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien

See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.
~Gerard Manley Hopkins

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"When hasn't He been here?"

Ave Maria! Living less than a block away from Half Price Books is a real perk for me. I come across great finds there all the time for two or three dollars, sometimes even less.  Recently I picked up and read the novel Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult. She is known for addressing hot-button topics and has been described as not only provoking the mind but also touching the flawed souls in all of us as she tackles "provocative and relevant moral dilemmas rich in nuance, mystery, and wit."

One of the characters in this book is Shay Bourne, a 33-year-old carpenter on death row who appears to have miraculous powers.  Yes, I know, not too transparent, especially once he acquires the name "Death Row Messiah."  More than once I was ready to toss the book aside, then I'd come across a passage that grabbed me, so I plodded on.  Another character is Fr. Michael, who, years before he became ordained a Catholic priest, was on the jury that found Shay guilty of murdering two people.  Now Fr. Michael is visiting Shay in prison and has a faith crisis of sorts.  When a Jewish rabbi tells him that some Jews believe that in every generation, a person is born with the potential to be the Messiah, Fr. Michael becomes even more unsettled.  Has the longed-for Messiah shown up on Death Row, he wonders, and, if so, what does this mean for him personally? 

Finally, at the very end of the book, Fr. Michael's pastor addresses Fr. Michael's crisis of faith, assuring him that he need not be embarrassed about it because it's all part of being human.  Then he says:  "I couldn't quite understand why you were so surprised when you thought God had showed up, Mikey.  I mean, when hasn't He been here?"

Indeed!  Is there any place where God doesn't show up?  Any time when He is not present?  The Word who became flesh and dwelt among us is with us until the end of time and beyond.  We have His promise on this, and we believe that all of His promises are true.  True, for now "we see through a glass darkly" (1 Cor 3:12), but we live by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).  We know the one in whom we've put our trust (2 Tim 1:12).  It is the Lord!  He arose from the dead and is still with us.  ALLELUIA!

Let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice!
Rejoice in the Lord, exult at his presence!
~from the Psalms

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Holiness Here and Now

I would remind you, once again, that "holiness" does not mean doing extraordinary things, but following the will of God every day, living one's own vocation really well, with the help of prayer, of the Word of God, the sacraments and with the daily effort for consistency. ~Pope Benedict XVI, from his address delivered May 8 to the assembly of the Diocesan Pastoral Visit, Basilica of St. Mark, Venice

Great opportunities to serve God rarely present themselves, but little ones are frequent. ~St. Francis De Sales, 1567-1622


Ave Maria!  Lately our Holy Father has been reminding us that holiness is not about extraordinary things but rather ordinary things.  The stuff of everyday life, though often unglamorous, overflows with small but excellent opportunities to serve God, as St. Francis de Sales reminds us.  "We like sugar better than salt," he notes, "but salt is in more common and frequent use" (Introduction to the Devout Life, Book 3, Chapter 1).  St. Francis wisely encourages us to "try sincerely, humbly, and devoutly to acquire those little  virtues whose conquest our Savior has set forth as the end of our care and labor.  Such are patience, meekness, self-mortification, humility, obedience, poverty, chastity, tenderness toward our neighbors, bearing with their imperfections, diligence, and holy fervor."  This "lower but safer way," he observes, "is better suited to our lack and littleness.  If we conduct ourselves with humility and good faith in this, God will raise us up to heights that are truly great."

As simple as all this sounds, it's really quite an arduous undertaking.  The word "ardor" comes from the Latin "ardere," which means to be on fire, to burn, to shine.  Only the fire of God's love can burn away my ego, which is my greatest enemy and my biggest obstacle to holiness.  Only His love can enflame me with the desire for those little virtues so dear to His heart and can shine through my feeble attempts to practice them.  Only His grace, especially present in His Word and the sacraments, can sustain me in making "the daily effort for consistency." 

Dear Jesus, Holy Lord, thank you for all the little opportunities for holiness that You will give me today.  Help me to make the most of them for the praise of Your glory and the salvation of the whole world.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Life laid down -- Life taken up again -- Life given."

Ave Maria!  Again in today's gospel (John 10:22-30), our Lord Jesus reveals Himself as our Good Shepherd.  Blessed John Paul II spoke at length about Christ our Shepherd during the Prayer Vigil on 8/14/93 at the Eighth World Youth Day in Denver, which I've excerpted below.  You can read the entire address here


Christ -- the Good Shepherd -- is present among us, among the peoples, nations, generations and races, as the One who "lays down his life for the sheep." What is this but the greatest love? It was the death of the innocent One: "The Son of Man is departing, as Scripture says of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed" (Mt 26:24). Christ on the Cross stands as a sign of contradiction to every crime against the commandment not to kill. He offered his own life in sacrifice for the salvation of the world. No one takes that human life from him, but he lays it down of his own accord. He has the power to lay it down and the power to take it up again (cf. Jn 10:18). It was a true self-giving. It was a sublime act of freedom.

Yes, the Good Shepherd lays down his life. But only to take it up again (cf. Jn 10:17). And in the new life of the resurrection, he has become -- in the words of Saint Paul -- "a life-giving spirit" (1 Cor 15:45), who can now bestow the gift of Life on all who believe in him.

Life laid down -- Life taken up again -- Life given. In him, we have that Life which he has in the unity of the Father and of the Holy Spirit. If we believe in him. If we are one with him through love, remembering that "whoever loves God must also love his brother" (1 Jn 4:21)....

You are the Good Shepherd!

And there is none other.

You have come that we may have Life -- and that we may have it abundantly. Life, not only on the human level, but in the measure of the Son -- the Son in whom the Father is eternally pleased.

Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you for having said: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10).

Monday, May 16, 2011

I am the good shepherd. ~John 10:11

In our sickness we need a savior, in our wanderings a guide, in our blindness someone to show us the light, in our thirst the fountain of living water which quenches for ever the thirst of those who drink from it. We dead people need life, we sheep need a shepherd, we children need a teacher, the whole world needs Jesus!

If we would understand the profound wisdom of the most holy shepherd and teacher, the ruler of the universe and the Word of the Father, when using an allegory he calls himself the shepherd of the sheep, we can do so for he is also the teacher of little ones.

Speaking at some length through Ezekiel to the Jewish elders, he gives them a salutary example of true solicitude. I will bind up the injured, he says; I will heal the sick; I will bring back the strays and pasture them on my holy mountain. These are the promises of the Good Shepherd.

Pasture us children like sheep, Lord. Fill us with your own food, the food of righteousness. As our guide we pray you to lead us to your holy mountain, the Church on high, touching the heavens.

I will be their shepherd, he says, and I will be close to them, like their own clothing. He desires to save my flesh by clothing it in the robe of immortality and he has anointed my body. They shall call on me, he says, and I will answer, “Here I am.” Lord, you have heard me more quickly than I ever hoped!

And if they pass over they shall not fall says the Lord, meaning that we who are passing over into immortality shall not fall into corruption, for he will preserve us. He has said he would and to do so is his own wish. Such is our Teacher, both good and just.

He said he had not come to be served but to serve; and so the gospel shows him tired out, he who labored for our sake and promised to give his life as ransom for many, a thing which, as he said, only the Good Shepherd will do.

How bountiful the giver who for our sake gives his most precious possession, his own life! He is a real benefactor and friend, who desired to be our brother when he might have been our Lord, and who in his goodness even went so far as to die for us!

~Clement of Alexandria, c. 150-215
Thank you, my Jesus, for being my good shepherd.  With you by my side, enough has been given.  My cup is overflowing!  Amen!  Alleluia!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I am the gate for the sheep. ~John 10:7

Standing in the temple of Jerusalem, preaching to worshipers and religious leaders, Jesus’s words about sheep would have evoked a bold awareness of the sounds and activities all around them. At tables nearby, bleating sheep were being sold and carried further into the temple, where they were led through a door to the place of sacrifice. Far from the peaceful setting of a pasture, Jesus spoke of sheep in the place where they were about to be slaughtered. Unlike the shepherd among passive lambs in many of our pictures, tending these sheep requires something more than a gentle hand and a watchful eye. These sheep needed to be saved.

So it is quite telling that Jesus first identifies himself, not as the Good Shepherd, but as the gate for the sheep. In the ancient walls of Jerusalem, there was a gate on the north of the city, by which animals were brought in from the countryside for sacrifice. It was called the Sheep Gate. Once inside the city and within the temple courts, there was only one door where the sheep went in, and no lamb ever came back out after entering the temple. They traveled in only one direction, and there they were sacrificed for the sin of men and women. For first-century hearers of Jesus’s words about sheep, such knowledge added to the shock of his words: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.... I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:7,9).

In the temple filled with sheep on their way towards death, Jesus declared there was a way out: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11).

...the Good Shepherd delights in the task of caring for his flock. He goes willingly to search for the one that has gone astray. He gently holds us in his arms and guides us through valleys and beside still waters. He calls us by name and smiles at our recognition of his voice.

But he also breaks into courtyards where there is no longer hope. He refuses to cower through the course of our rescue, though he is accosted by our sin and humiliated by our denials. He provides a way, though it costs him everything. He is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life, so that even one lamb can get away.

~Jill Carattini, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries

Dear Jesus, when I go astray like a foolish sheep and wander far from You, come and find me.  Bring me home with You to the Father.  Be forever the shepherd and guardian of my soul (1 Peter 2:25)!  Amen.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Make me breakable, Lord...

Sieger Koeder
They recognized Jesus at the breaking of the bread.

Their eyes were opened, and they knew him when he broke the bread. When bread is broken, it is in a way diminished, or “emptied.”

By breaking understand the virtue of humility, by which Christ—even he who is the bread of life— broke, diminished, and emptied himself. And by emptying himself he gave us knowledge of himself.

The hidden Wisdom of the Father, and a treasure whole and concealed—what use are they?

Break your bread for the hungry, Lord, the bread that is yourself, so that human eyes may be opened, and it may not be regarded as a sin for us to long to be like you, knowing good and evil.

Let him who from the beginning wished to strive after or grope for you in your undiminished state, know you through the breaking of bread.

Break yourself that we may learn to break our own selves, for you are not known through the breaking of bread. Balaam heard the words of God and saw visions of the Almighty, but he fell with open eyes because he did not know the Lord through the breaking of bread

It is the same today: you see many studying the Scriptures, teaching in cathedrals, preaching in churches, but their works do not agree with their words. With words they claim to have a knowledge of God, but with their deeds they deny it, because God cannot be known except through the breaking of bread.

Break yourself, then, by the labor of obedience, by the humiliation of repentance. Bear in your body the marks of Jesus Christ by accepting the condition of a servant, not of a superior. And when you have emptied yourself, you will know the Lord through the breaking of bread.

True humility opens our eyes, “breaking” and diminishing the other virtues which might blind us with a spirit of pride, and teaching us that of ourselves we are nothing. And when we humble ourselves by self-contempt, so much the more do we grow in the knowledge of God.

Twelfth century author, Sermon for Easter Monday

Lord of Love
broken by the Father
make me breakable, too
make me willing to be
like You
by You
for You
and for the hungry
of the whole world

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Holiness: "an ordinary -- not exceptional -- word"

It is necessary to make the term "holiness" an ordinary -- not exceptional -- word, which does not designate only heroic states of Christian life, but which indicates in the reality of every day, a decisive answer and an openness to the action of the Holy Spirit. ~Pope Benedict XVI, Message to 14th General Assembly of Italian Catholic Action, May 6-8, 2011

Ave Maria! Oh, the wisdom of our dear Holy Father! Once again, he is right on target. Holiness is so within our reach! Think about it. Why would God ask anything of me that is not possible? He who says "You shall be holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16), this loving, gracious God of ours gives me both the occasions and the means for holiness -- right here, right now!

Just look! The inclement weather, the aching joints, the daily grind, the pushy neighbor, the beautiful sky, the lovely flower, the loving friend, the daily Word and Sacrament -- all these things and so many others in my seemingly humdrum, everyday life are shining opportunities for holiness, for me to love God, to serve Him and adore Him, simply yet magnificently for His praise and glory. Oh, that I may not fail to see them, that I may never pass them by!

And the means for holiness? Oh, yes, they are there, too, and in such abundance, for from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace (John 1:16). These graces are endless! I thank God for each and every one -- the graces He gave me in the sacrament of Baptism, the graces He continues to give me in the sacraments of the church, and all the many graces He lavishes upon me day by day, moment by moment. These are what enable me to keep on making that decisive answer in openness to the Holy Spirit, who forever hovers over the world "with ah! bright wings" (G. M. Hopkins). Perhaps this is what heroism and holiness are all about.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Always Welcomed"

"Always Welcomed" by Ann L. Krumrein
Dear Lord, help me to keep ajar the door of my heart so as to always welcome You, whenever and however You come to me this day.  Amen.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Deo gratias! My Seven-Year Anniversary!

Let your light then shine before men and women, that your Father in heaven may be glorified and his plan of making all things one in Christ come to perfection.  ~from the Homily in the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity for Women Living in the World

Ave Maria! Seven years ago today I was blessed to receive the Consecration to a Life of Virginity for Women Living in the World from Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza here in the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese. The boundless joy of that glorious occasion has increased a hundredfold with each passing day as my Beloved Spouse, our Lord Jesus Christ, draws me ever closer to Him and makes me more and more His own.

The Prayer of Consecration, which Archbishop Fiorenza prayed with his hands extended over my head as I knelt before him, included these words: "Be yourself her glory, her joy, her whole desire. Be her comfort in sorrow, her wisdom in perplexity, her protection in the midst of injustice, her patience in adversity, her riches in poverty, her food in fasting, her remedy in time of sickness. She has chosen you above all things; may she find all things in possessing you." I often meditate upon and pray with these words because they express so perfectly and so fully the happy reality and the deepest truth of my life as the Bride of Christ.

Oh, yes, I've had my share of hardships and heartaches these past seven years. And I will experience many more before I pass from this earth to my everlasting home. Such is life in this valley of tears. But espoused as I am to my Crucified Lord, these things are my small but very real sharing in His Passion. And so I exult: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). As part of my preparation for consecration, Archbishop Fiorenza requested that I write my Rule of Life. I struggled for quite some time trying to put this into words. Finally I wrote down this Scripture verse at the beginning, and then everything just flowed onto the paper as if the Holy Spirit Himself was writing it – and He was, I'm convinced!

Dear ones, especially my family and friends who were with me at Mass in my parish on that happy, happy day of May 8, 2004, when, through God's most gracious and adorable will, today and always, I sing to you the words of the Psalmist:

O glorify the Lord with me!
Together let us praise His name!
~Psalm 34:3

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Do not fear...

"Do not fear":  Mary also addresses these words to us....  This world of ours is a world of fear: the fear of misery and poverty, the fear of illness and suffering, the fear of solitude, the fear of death.  We have in this world a widely developed insurance system; it is good that it exists.

But we know that at the moment of deep suffering, at the moment of the ultimate loneliness of death, no insurance policy will be able to protect us.  The only valid insurance in those moments is the one that comes to us from the Lord, Who also assures us:  "Do not fear, I am always with you."  We can fall, but in the end we fall into God's hands, and God's hands are good hands.

~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily of 12/18/05

Hail Mary, Mother Most Wonderful,
I have no fear for you are with me
and I am with you and your Beloved Son,
the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus.

Friday, May 6, 2011

First Friday of May -- Blessed be the Sacred Heart of Jesus!

Let us love, since that is all our hearts were made for.  ~St. Thérèse of Lisieux

O Lord, in simplicity of heart I offer myself to You this day, to be Your servant for ever.  (1 Chronicles 29:17)

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, set my heart on fire that I may be the servant of Your love!  Amen!  Alleluia!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"...it is the women who are constantly opening the door to the Lord..."

Myrrh Bearing Women by He Qi
Just as there were only women standing by the Cross -- apart from the beloved disciple -- so too the first encounter with the risen Lord was destined to be for them. The Church’s juridical structure is founded on Peter and the Eleven, but in the day-to-day life of the Church it is the women who are constantly opening the door to the Lord and accompanying him to the Cross, and so it is they who come to experience the Risen One.
~from Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week by Pope Benedict XVI

O the joy,
the utter joy and absolute glory
of being a woman!
Deo gratias!
Amen!  Alleluia!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Noli me tangere

Walking Madonna
by Elizabeth Frink
In the garden Christ gently but deliberately says to Mary Magdalene, "Noli me tangere." "Do not touch" is a misleading translation that deprives us of the significance of what is happening here. "Do not cling" is a more accurate rendering of the Greek, for surely we do need to touch, to touch the hem of the garment, to touch the wounds and feel them. But we must not cling, for that carries the danger of becoming dependent, of clutching or holding on in the wrong way. I love the statue of the Walking Madonna by Elisabeth Frink in the cathedral close at Salisbury. Here is this young woman who strides out boldly into the future, her one hand strong and determined, while the other is vulnerable. She knows that she has seen the Lord, the risen Christ; she has heard the resurrection message and now she is ready to cross the threshold and engage whatever lies before her. What gives her the strength to move forward with today: such assurance, calling out that loving welcome, that Deo Gratias, to a future that is unsure, unknown?

~from To Pause at the Threshold: Reflections on Living on the Border by Esther de Waal

O my Jesus, risen now in glory,
in Your love and truth
I walk the path of freedom
with ever-growing strength.
For ever may I sing Your praise!
Amen!  Alleluia!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"...Christ's presence always brings tranquility of soul..."

After eight days Jesus came in and stood among them.

By his miraculous entry through closed doors Christ proved to his disciples that by nature he was God and also that he was none other than their former companion.

By showing them his side and the marks of the nails, he convinced them beyond a doubt that he had raised the temple of his body, the very body that had hung upon the cross.

He had destroyed death’s power over the flesh, for as God, he was life itself.

Because of the importance he attached to making his disciples believe in the resurrection of the body, and in order to prevent them from thinking that the body he now possessed was different from that in which he had suffered death upon the cross, he willed to appear to them as he had been before, even though the time had now come for his body to be clothed in a supernatural glory such as no words could possibly describe.

We have only to recall Christ’s transfiguration on the mountain in the presence of his holy disciples, to realize that mortal eyes could not have endured the glory of his sacred body had he chosen to reveal it before ascending to the Father.

Saint Matthew describes how Jesus went up the mountain with Peter, James, and John, and how he was transfigured before them. His face shone like lightning and his clothes became white as snow. But they were unable to endure the sight and fell prostrate on the ground.

And so, before allowing the glory that belonged to it by every right to transfigure the temple of his body, our Lord Jesus Christ in his wisdom appeared to his disciples in the form that they had known.

He wished them to believe that he had risen from the dead in the very body that he had received from the blessed Virgin, and in which he had suffered crucifixion and death, as the Scriptures had foretold. Death’s power was over the body alone, and it was from the body that it was banished.

If it was not Christ’s dead body that rose again, how was death conquered, how was the power of corruption destroyed?

It could not have been destroyed by the death of a created spirit, of a soul, of an angel, or even of the Word of God himself. Since death held sway only over what was corruptible by nature, it was in this corruptible nature that the power of the resurrection had to show itself in order to end death’s tyranny.

When Christ greeted his holy disciples with the words: Peace be with you, by peace he meant himself, for Christ’s presence always brings tranquility of soul.

This is the grace Saint Paul desired for believers when he wrote: The peace of Christ, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds.

The peace of Christ, which passes all understanding, is in fact the Spirit of Christ, who fills those who share in him with every blessing.

~Cyril of Alexandria , Commentary on Saint John’s Gospel
O my Jesus, risen now in glory, thank You for the gift of Your Easter peace.  Amen!  Alleluia!

Monday, May 2, 2011

"there likewise is God..."

The heart contains an unfathomable depth. In it are reception-rooms, and bedchambers, doors, and porches, and many offices and passages. In it is the workshop of righteousness or of unrighteousness. In it is death; in it is life. In it is the good traffic, and the contrary.

...and the heart itself is but a little vessel, and yet there are dragons, and there lions, and there venomous beasts, and all the treasures of wickedness; and there are rough uneven ways, there chasms; there likewise is God, there the angels, there life and kingdom, there light and the apostles, there the heavenly cities, there the treasures, there are all things.

~from Fifty Spiritual Homilies of St. Macarios the Egyptian, tr. A.J. Mason (London, 1921

You have made me endless, such is your pleasure. This frail vessel you empty again and again, and fill ever with fresh life.

This little flute of a reed you have carried over hills and dates, and have breathed through it melodies eternally new.

At the immortal touch of your hands my little heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.

Your infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and still you pour, and still there is room to fill.

~Rabindranath Tagore

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Divine Mercy Sunday and Glorious Day of the Beatification of Pope John Paul II

"As a gift to humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness, and fear, the Risen Lord offers His love that pardons, reconciles, and reopens hearts to love. It is love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy! Lord, who reveal the Father’s love by Your Death and Resurrection, we believe in You and confidently repeat to You… Jesus, I trust in You, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world. Amen."

These are the last written words of Blessed Pope John Paul the Great, which he had prepared to be read on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 3, 2005.  He died the day before, April 2.

He who trusts in the Lord, loving mercy surrounds him.  ~Psalm 32:10