Thursday, March 31, 2011

A thankful spirit

If anyone would tell you the shortest, surest way to all happiness and all perfection, he must tell you to make it a rule to yourself to thank and praise God for everything that happens to you.  For it is certain that whatever seeming calamity happens to you, if you thank and praise God for it, you turn it into a blessing.  Therefore, if you could work miracles, you could not do more for yourself than by this thankful spirit, for it heals with a word and turns all that it touches into happiness.

~William Law

I will give praise to thee, O Lord, with my whole heart: I will relate all thy wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing to thy name, O thou most high.
~Psalm 9:102 (Douay-Rheims Bible)

In Your goodness, dear Lord, give me a glad and grateful heart.  Make of me a living sacrifice of praise to the glory of your name.  Amen!  Hallelujah!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

To Life!

Ave Maria! Kathryn Spink wrote a book about Blessed Mother Teresa called Mother Teresa: A Complete Authorized Biography. Ms. Spink notes that in her seventies, Mother Teresa wrote her own resume of her philosophy of life.  Whenever I read it and reflect upon it, I am enormously energized and gloriously uplifted -- and immensely grateful for the gift of life that God gives me anew each day.  Dear Lord, life is so beautiful -- I'm glad I'm here!

Life is an opportunity, avail it.
Life is a beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is costly, care for it.
Life is a wealth, keep it.
Life is love, enjoy it.
Life is a mystery, know it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, brace it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is life, save it!
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
~Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

To forgive the inexcusable...

So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart. ~Matthew 18:35

"…If you don’t forgive you will not be forgiven. No part of His teaching is clearer, and there are no exceptions to it. He doesn’t say that we are to forgive other people’s sins provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don’t, we shall be forgiven none of our own…

"...To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

"This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life -- to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son -- How can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night "Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us." We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God's mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says."

C. S. Lewis

Let me remember your mercies, O Lord! Let me be mindful of your kindness and the love you have shown of old. May my memory of others be like your memory of me, full of compassion and forgiveness. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. In you I hope all day long because of your goodness, O Lord.  ~adapted from Psalm 25

Monday, March 28, 2011

Jesus' weariness...a prelude to the passion..."

Ave Maria! In his Angelus message of yesterday, 3/27, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the meeting of Christ and the Samaritan woman at the well. Referring to St. Augustine's commentary on this Gospel passage, a portion of which I posted here, the Holy Father said that "Jesus' weariness, sign of his true humanity, can be seen as a prelude to the passion, with which he brought the work of our redemption to completion."

Quoting St. Augustine, Pope Benedict noted that Jesus "had thirst of the woman's faith, " adding "as he has for the faith of all of us. God the Father sent him to quench our thirst for eternal life, giving us his love, but asks our faith for bestowing this gift. Love's omnipotence always respects man's freedom; it knocks at his heart and awaits his answer with patience."

"Each one of us can identify ourselves with the Samaritan woman: Jesus awaits us, especially during this season of Lent, to speak to our hearts, to my heart," the Holy Father observed. "Let us pause a moment in silence, in our room, or in a church, or in a place apart. Let us listen to the voice that says: 'If you knew the gift of God.' May the Virgin Mary help us not to miss this opportunity on which our true happiness depends."

As a hart longs for flowing streams,
so longs my soul for thee, O God.
My soul thirsts for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?
~Psalm 42:1-2

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Jesus is tired..."

The water that I shall give will turn into a spring of eternal life. ~Jn 4:14

Wearied by his journey, Jesus sat down beside a well. It was about the sixth hour. Already divine mysteries begin. Not for nothing is Jesus wearied; not for nothing does the Power of God suffer fatigue. Not for nothing does he who refreshes the weary endure weariness. Not for nothing is he wearied, whose absence makes us weary, whose presence gives us strength.

Jesus is tired, tired out by his journey. He sits down. On the edge of a well he seats himself. It is midday, and he sits there exhausted. All these details have meaning. They are meant to signify something. They capture our attention, persuading us to knock and investigate further. We have Christ’s own exhortation to do so, for he said: Knock and it will be opened to you. May he, then, open up the meaning of this text to us as well as to you.

It was for your sake that Jesus was wearied by his journey. In Jesus we encounter divine power together with weakness. He is strong and weak at one and the same time: strong, because in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. present with God from the beginning. Would you know how strong the Son of God is? All things were made through him, and apart from him nothing came into being. The whole universe was made without effort. Could any greater power exist than the power of one who was able effortlessly to construct the entire universe?

And would you know him in his weakness? The Word was made flesh, and lived among us. The power of Christ created you; the weakness of Christ recreated you. Christ’s power caused what did not exist to come into being; Christ’s weakness saved existing things from destruction. In his might he fashioned us; in his weakness he came in search of us.

Jesus, then, is weak, tired out after his journey. Now that journey of his, undertaken for our sake, was his incarnation. How could he otherwise journey when he is present everywhere, and absent from nowhere? To what place or from what place could he travel? In only one way could he come to us, and that was by assuming our visible human flesh. Since then he condescended to come to us in that way, and to appear in the condition of a servant by taking to himself a human nature, that assumption of our nature was his journey.

The fatigue caused by his journey, therefore, was the weariness Jesus experienced in our human nature. In his human body he was weak, but you must not be weak. You must be strong in his weakness, for there is more power in divine weakness than in human strength.

~St. Augustine, 354-430

Dear Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, You shared in all our fatigue -- physical, mental and spiritual -- and found Your rest in Your Father's adorable will.  When I am weary, I will come to You and be refreshed.  Amen.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Confession, a privileged source...

The Prodigal Son
by James Tissot

So he got up and went back to his father.  While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.  He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.  ~The Parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-32

Confession remains a privileged source of holiness, peace and joy.
~Pope Paul VI, Gaudete in Domino

Thank you, my Father, for the sacrament of confession, the gift of Your infinite love, pressed down, full measure and overflowing.  May I come to it often and so come home to You.  Amen.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

In a certain sense Mary lived her Eucharistic faith even before the institution of the Eucharist, by the very fact that she offered her virginal womb for the Incarnation of God's Word. The Eucharist, while commemorating the passion and resurrection, is also in continuity with the incarnation. At the Annunciation Mary conceived the Son of God in the physical reality of his body and blood, thus anticipating within herself what to some degree happens sacramentally in every believer who receives, under the signs of bread and wine, the Lord's body and blood.

As a result, there is a profound analogy between the Fiat which Mary said in reply to the angel, and the Amen which every believer says when receiving the body of the Lord. Mary was asked to believe that the One whom she conceived "through the Holy Spirit" was "the Son of God" (Lk 1:30-35). In continuity with the Virgin's faith, in the Eucharistic mystery we are asked to believe that the same Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary, becomes present in his full humanity and divinity under the signs of bread and wine.

"Blessed is she who believed" (Lk 1:45). Mary also anticipated, in the mystery of the incarnation, the Church's Eucharistic faith. When, at the Visitation, she bore in her womb the Word made flesh, she became in some way a "tabernacle" –- the first "tabernacle" in history –- in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light as it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary. And is not the enraptured gaze of Mary as she contemplated the face of the newborn Christ and cradled him in her arms that unparalleled model of love which should inspire us every time we receive Eucharistic communion?

Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia

Dear Mary, Handmaid of the Lord, pray for me that in my life, through the power of the Holy Spirit, every Eucharist may become an Annunciation for the life and salvation of the world.  Amen.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Lenten Character

Ave Maria!  Sister Laurel at Notes from Stillsong Hermitage notes that St. Benedict says in his Rule of Life that all monastic life should have a Lenten character (see her entry "Feast of St. Benedict").  She includes the following prayer written by a Benedictine oblate and Presbyterian clergywoman.  Wow, what an examination of conscience!  It's a keeper and now has a permanent place in my spiritual survival kit. 

Search me, penetrating Spirit,
drag my depths for the sunken
accumulations of my life.
Retrieve it all:
the old, unhealed wounds,
the memories I've tried to keep
from you, who alone
can remedy and soothe.
Receive my sacrifice
of grudges, the sludge of unforgiveness,
the slights I horde like green pennies,
the pettiness I practice to protect myself
from pain.  I offer you the worthless cache
of my spirit's cuts and bruises, the elaborate
self deceptions that have long outlived their use.
Take what you find in the sodden sea chest
of my mind, and show it all to me.
Let me see what I've submerged:
what I ought to salvage,
what it's time to purge.

Rachel M. Srubas, Oblate, OSB

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately corrupt;
who can understand it?
I the Lord search the mind and try the heart,
to give to every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his doings...
Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;
save me, and I shall be saved;
for thou art my praise.
~Jeremiah 17:9-10; 14

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The cup of Christ...

Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?  ~Matthew 20:23

The road, you shall follow it.
The success, you shall forget it.
The cup, you shall drain it.
The pain, you shall hide it.
The truth, you shall learn it.
The end, you shall endure it.
Dag Hammarskjold, 1905-1961

Dear Lord, sometimes I think that I've had quite enough of Your wild, imperious ways.  Then You remind me that Your cup of bitterness, Your bath of pain -- the unfathomable depths of Your Crucified Love! --  await me still.  O my Jesus, I am so fearful and so weak!  Passion of Christ, strengthen me!  Take me in Your arms and forever hold me close so that with You I may pass over from death to life.  Amen.

But my trust is in You, O Lord.
I say, "You are my God."
In your hands is my destiny...
save me in Your steadfast love!
~Psalm 31

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

St. Leo the Great on the Transfiguration

His face shone like the sun.  ~Matthew 17:2

In the presence of chosen witnesses the Lord unveils his glory, investing with such splendor that bodily appearance which he shares with the rest of the human race that his face shines like the sun and his clothes become white as snow.

The primary purpose of this transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of Christ's disciples; the greatness of his hidden glory was revealed to them to prevent their faith being shaken by the self-abasement of the suffering he was voluntarily to undergo.

In his foresight, however, he was also laying the foundations of the Church's hope, teaching the whole body of Christ the nature of the change it is to receive, and schooling his members to look forward to a share in the glory which had already shone forth in their head.

The Lord had told them of this when he spoke of his coming in majesty: Then shall the just shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

The blessed apostle Paul bears witness to the same thing: I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.

And again: You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Still further instruction was to come from the transfiguration to fortify the apostles and perfect their understanding. Moses and Elijah, representing the law and the prophets, appeared in conversation with the Lord.

Thus through the presence of these five men the saying was fulfilled: On the evidence of two or three witnesses every work shall stand.

What could be more firmly established than that Word in whose proclamation the trumpets of Old and New Testaments sound in unison, and the writings of ancient witnesses are in perfect accord with the teaching of the gospel?

The pages of both covenants agree with one another. He who had been promised beforehand by mysteriously veiled signs was now revealed clearly and distinctly in the radiance of his glory, since, as Saint John says. The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.

In Christ what was promised by prophetic figures and what was signified by legal precepts are alike fulfilled, for by his presence he teaches the truth of the prophecies, and by grace he makes it possible for us to obey the commandments.

May we all therefore be confirmed in our faith through the preaching of the holy Gospel, and let no one be ashamed of the cross by which Christ has redeemed the world.

None of us must be afraid to suffer for the sake of justice or doubt the fulfillment of the promises, for it is through toil that we come to rest and through death that we pass to life.

If we continue in the acknowledgment and love of Christ who took upon himself all the weakness of our lowly nature, what he conquered we too shall conquer, and the promise he gave us we shall receive.

So then, whether it is to encourage us to obey his commands or to endure hardships, let the Father's voice always be ringing in our ears and telling us: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased: listen to him.

~St, Leo the Great, c. 400-461
Sermon 51, 3-4. 8: PL 54, 310-311. 313

Monday, March 21, 2011

Super Moon Spectacle

Bless the Lord, my soul!  Lord God, how great you are, clothed in majesty and glory, wrapped in light as in a robe!  ~Psalm 104:1-2

Great Blue Heron against super moon
rising in Daytona Beach, FL

Ave Maria!  The super moon on Saturday evening past was truly magnificent!  It was just a mere 220,625 miles from the earth, the closest it's been since January 19, 1992.  I felt as though I could reach up and touch it, it seemed that near.  And it was so gloriously bright that I couldn't bear to leave it.  I kept running back outdoors to see it, each time exulting anew in the marvels of our Creator God.  If you missed Saturday's spectacle, you can view some images here.  FYI, at its furthest, the moon can be 250,000 miles from our planet.

Super moon rising at
St. Augustine Lighthouse, FL

Though we speak much we cannot reach the end, and the sum of our words is: "He is the all."  Where shall we find strength to praise him?  For he is greater than all his works.  Terrible is the Lord and very great, and marvelous is his power.  When you praise the Lord, exalt him as much as you can; for he will surpass even that.  When you exalt him, put forth all your strength, and do not grow weary, for you cannot praise him enough. Who has seen him and can describe him?  Or who can extol him as he is?  Many things greater than these lie hidden, for we have seen but few of his works.  For the Lord has made all things, and to the godly he has granted wisdom.  ~Sirach 43:27-33

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Transfiguration of Our Lord

But since Thou bidst us
leave the mount,
come with us to the plain.
Awestruck at the sight of the transfigured Lord who was speaking with Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John were suddenly overshadowed by a cloud, out of which came a voice which proclaimed: "This is my beloved Son on whom my favour rests; listen to him" (Mk 9: 7).

When one has the grace to live a strong experience of God, it is as if one is living an experience similar to that of the disciples during the Transfiguration: a momentary foretaste of what will constitute the happiness of Paradise. These are usually brief experiences that are sometimes granted by God, especially prior to difficult trials.

No one, however, is permitted to live "on Tabor" while on earth.  Indeed, human existence is a journey of faith and as such, moves ahead more in shadows than in full light, and is no stranger to moments of obscurity and also of complete darkness.  While we are on this earth, our relationship with God takes place more by listening than by seeing, and the same contemplation comes about, so to speak, with closed eyes, thanks to the interior light that is kindled in us by the Word of God.

The Virgin Mary herself, among all creatures closest to God, still had to walk day after day in a pilgrimage of faith (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 58), constantly guarding and meditating on in her heart the Word of God addressed to her through Holy Scripture and through the events of the life of her Son, in whom she recognized and welcomed the Lord's mysterious voice.

And so, this is the gift and duty for each one of us during the season of Lent:  to Christ, like Mary.  To listen to him in his Word, contained in Sacred Scripture.  To listen to him in the events of our lives, seeking to decipher in them the messages of Providence.  Finally, to listen to him in our brothers and sisters, especially in the lowly and poor, to whom Jesus himself demands our concrete love.  To listen to Christ and obey his voice:  this is the principle way, the only way, that leads to the fullness of joy and love.

~Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Message of 3/12/06

"...the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, grieving exceedingly with her only begotten Son, uniting herself with a maternal heart with His sacrifice, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth."  Lumen Gentium, n. 58
Dear Mary, whether on Tabor or on Calvary, let us advance steadfastly and happily with you in our pilgrimage of faith, content to see now "through a glass darkly" until that glorious day when, by God's gracious will, we behold our Beloved Jesus face-to-face.  Amen.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


This screeching of plane and saw; it is Joseph in his workshop: the crack of raw lumber, the ring of a broken vase; Mary is there. Morning, noon, and evening they pray together, sometimes they sing; they eat from the same plate at the same table, they divided chores between them...

And one day, suddenly...Mary and Joseph look at each other, he guesses the truth, and she sees that he has guessed. She says nothing and he says nothing. "But Joseph her husband, being a just man, was minded to put her away privately." [Matt. 1:19]

Behold the first thrust to that pure heart, the prelude to the Seven Sorrows of the divine office. Behold the humiliation which serves as a stepping stone for her whom we call Queen of Heaven and Queen of Angels. Notice how she ushers God into the world: in secret, as an intruder, under suspicion. And watch this righteous man who must be sacrificed, first victim of Him who said that He had not come to bring peace, but the sword. What can she do? Her lips are sealed; it is not in her power to breathe the Word which is there within her.

He who becomes the friend of God must be prepared for surprises. It is not Judas, it is my love, my beloved wife, bound to me by a tie stronger than marital love, who has betrayed me. In his pain, he hurriedly devises a plan.

There is something strange in the atmosphere; some new element has been introduced which works against the carrying out of that decision he reached so sorrowfully. Joseph has now the feeling that if he sent this woman away, it would be he and not she who would be excluded.
And then occurs the event of which we are told in the Gospel: An angel appears to him in a dream, the angel of the Annunciation, we may be sure. And it is the very scene of the Annunciation, for all the explanation he is given! Good God, he has understood!

A day, two days pass. And on the third day Mary does not rise from the table; she lingers there, looking at her husband. She does not look at his eyes, she looks at his lips. His eyes are closed and tears are rolling down over his grey beard. His lips are moving, they begin silently to form that first salutation which passed from the mouth of the Angel to that of a priest: Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
~Paul Claudel in I Believe in God

Moon Watch Tonight!

"You made the moon to mark the months." ~Psalm 104:19

This image is of the moon last night in Los Angeles.  The "supermoon" will rise tonight.  Read about it here.  Moonrise in Houston will be at 7:50pm.  Check here for times in other locations.  Behold the glory of God!

O God, hear my cry!

For I am poor and needy
and my heart is pierced within me.
I am afflicted and humbled exceedingly.
My spirit is overwhelmed within me.
For tribulation is very near:
for there is none to help me.
This you have seen, O Lord:
keep not silence:
O Lord, be not far from me.
~The Psalter

Friday, March 18, 2011

Remember your mercy, Lord!

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!
O let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleading.
~Psalm 130:1-2

How long must I carry sorrow in my soul,
grief in my heart day after day?
~Psalm 13:3

O God, listen to my prayer, do not hide from my pleading,
attend to me and reply; with my cares, I cannot rest.
~Psalm 55:2-3

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day!

Ave Maria!  And Happy St. Patrick's Day!  As to be expected, the Web is full of Irish treasures plus lots of blarney as well.  A real gem is the chapter on St. Patrick by Robert Ellsberg from his book All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses From Our Time, which can be found here.  Noting that "St. Patrick was himself the victim of Irish injustice before he ever became the symbol of Irish pride," Ellsberg writes of this saintly man: "His extraordinary return to the site of his oppression -- not to wreak his vengeance, but to implant reconciling seeds of his own hard-won faith -- deserves appropriate commemoration. The gospel drove Patrick to return to his oppressors that he might devote his life to their peaceful conversion and the cause of their salvation. But the spiritual conquest of Ireland followed the prior victory of love over anger and bitterness in his own heart. If the memory of this dimension of St. Patrick's life had long ago become a feature of his feast day celebration, it might be truly said that there are no serpents left in Ireland." 

Dear St. Patrick, pray for us as we pray with you that Christ may be with us always, His power to hold and lead, His eye to watch, His might to stay, His ear to hearken to our needs, His wisdom to teach, His hand to guide, His shield to ward, His word to give us speech, His heavenly host to be our guard. Thanks be to God who has given us the victory through Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!  Amen!  Hallelujah!

In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  ~Romans 8:37

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

François Fénelon on charity

Charity does not demand of us that we should not see the faults of others; we must in that case shut our eyes. But it commands us to avoid attending unnecessarily to them, and that we be not blind to the good, while we are so clear-sighted to the evil that exists. We must remember too God’s continual kindness to the most worthless creature, and think how many causes we have to think ill of ourselves; and finally we must consider that charity embraces the very lowest human being. It acknowledges that in the sight of God the contempt that we indulge for others has in its very nature a harshness and arrogance opposed to the spirit of Jesus Christ. The true Christian is not insensible to what is contemptible; but he bears with it.

Because others are weak, should we be less careful to give them their due? You who complain so much of what others make you suffer, do you think that you cause others no pain? You who are so annoyed at your neighbour’s defects, are you perfect?

How astonished you would be if those whom you cavil at should make all the comments that they might upon you. But even if the whole world were to bear testimony in your favour, God, who knows all, who has seen all your faults, could confound you with a word; and does it never come into your mind to fear lest He should demand of you why you had not exercised towards your brother a little of that mercy which He, who is your Master, so abundantly bestows on you?

~From the Letters and Reflections of François de la Mothe Fénelon
Ave Maria!  As always, Speaking to the Soul at the Episcopal Cafe, where I happed upon the above reflection, does just this -- speaks to my soul.  And I learned a new word upon reading this:  cavil.  By the time I looked it up, I had guessed its definition.  Sure enough, the verb means to quibble.  Synonyms include carp, niggle, nitpick, squabble, brabble, bicker, and pettifog.  Guilty as charged!  Not a pretty picture at all!  I must have been born this way because I surely didn't learn this nasty behavior from Mummie and Daddy.  But thanks be to God for His love and mercy!  Only His grace keeps me from being a full-blown, full-time quibbler and enables me to become the person He is calling me to be for the praise of His glory.  Hallelujah!
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence,
and take not thy holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of thy salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
~Psalm 51:10-12

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Paul Claudel on love of neighbor

Ave Maria!  Yesterday's Magnificat contained an excellent reflection by Paul Claudel on what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves.  It comes from his book I Believe in God: A Meditation on the Apostles' Creed, the full text of which can be found on the Web here.  This book is also available from various booksellers.

Love of Neighbor

The second of the great commandments charges us to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is what is meant by fellowship: that there is not one of these individuals whom an ill-named chance thrusts in our path and offers to our scrutiny who is not our brother and with whom, as children of God, we are not the co-heirs of a certain joint legacy.

Yes, this peasant with his leathery face, this cringing and surly alcoholic, the image of the concierge's fat dog, this storekeeper, with her mean scowl, repainting her ancient lips: these are our brothers and sisters; Jesus Christ died for them. There is a star embedded in the heart of this tormented flesh, deeper than the redeeming drachma in the belly of the carp of Genesareth.

Loving our neighbor means something altogether different from courtesy, or a doubtful and meager forbearance. It springs from the awareness of this universal summons, this interrogation which will not tire of knocking until the door has been opened; somewhere, some debt is owed to us which we cannot remove until it has been discharged.

The day has come when it is absolutely necessary that we learn to get along with this brother who is thrust forcibly, whether we want him or not, into our arms.
~Paul Claudel
Dear Lord, bring us to the fullness of charity.  Amen.

Vatican web resources on the beatification of Pope John Paul II

VATICAN CITY — Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Center are putting snippets from their vast audio and film archives of Pope John Paul II’s pontificate online on YouTube and Facebook.

The initiative, launched today, is meant as a run-up to the late pope’s beatification May 1.

The new YouTube page is here and features short clips of Pope John Paul, starting with his election in 1979.

Each video will be categorized by year, theme or the language the pope was speaking at the particular event. Three or four new videos will be added each day.

The same videos will also be uploaded to the Vatican’s general YouTube channel and then also linked to a new Facebook page dedicated to Pope John Paul’s beatification.

Those who like JP2 should be aware that Facebook is awash with unofficial John Paul II (and Pope Benedict) fan pages and spoofs. The page being run by Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Center is here.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy. ~Leviticus 19:2

Jesus wants us to be holy as His Father is holy. Holiness is not the luxury of the few, but a simple duty for you and for me. ~Mother Teresa

Dear Lord, teach me the ways of Your holiness.  Amen.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Temptations of Jesus

Jesus fasted for forty days and nights.  ~Matthew 4:2

We must not expect baptism to free us from the temptations of our persecutor. The body that concealed him made even the Word of God a target for the enemy; his assumption of a visible form made even the invisible light an object of attack.

Nevertheless, since we have at hand the means of overcoming our enemy, we must have no fear of the struggle. Flaunt in his face the water and the Spirit. In them will be extinguished all the flaming darts of the evil one.

Suppose the tempter makes us feel the pinch of poverty, as he did even to Christ, and taking advantage of our hunger, talks of turning stones into bread: we must not be taken in by him, but let him learn what he has still not grasped. Refute him with the word of life, with the word that is the bread sent down from heaven and that gives life to the world.

He may try to ensnare us through our vanity, as he tried to ensnare Christ when he set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said: “Prove your divinity: throw yourself down.” Let us beware of succumbing to pride, for the tempter will by no means stop at one success.

He is never satisfied and is always pursuing us. Often he beguiles us with something good and useful, but its end is always evil. That is simply his method of waging war.

We also know how well-versed the devil is in Scripture. When Christ answered the temptation to turn stones into bread with a rebuke from Scripture beginning: It is written, the devil countered with the same words, tempting Christ to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. For it is written, he quoted, he will give his angels charge of you, and on their hands they will bear you up.

O past master of all evil, why suppress the verse that follows? You did not finish the quotation, but I know full well what it means: that we shall tread on you as on an adder or a cobra; protected by the Trinity, we shall trample on you as on serpents or scorpions.

If the tempter tries to overthrow us through our greed, showing us at one glance all the kingdoms of the world—as if they belonged to him—and demanding that we fall down and worship him, we should despise him, for we know him to be a penniless impostor.

Strong in our baptism, each of us can say: “I too am made in the image of God, but unlike you, I have not yet become an outcast from heaven through my pride. I have put on Christ; by my baptism I have become one with him. It is you that should fall prostrate before me.”

At these words he can only surrender and retire in shame; as he retreated before Christ, the light of the world, so will he depart from those illumined by that light.

Such are the gifts conferred by baptism on those who understand its power; such the rich banquet it lays before those who hunger for the things of the Spirit.

~Gregory Nazianzen, 329-389

You, O Lord, are my lamp,
my God who lightens my darkness.
With you I can break through any barrier,
with my God I can scale any wall.
~Psalm 18:29-30

Dear Lord, make me strong in my baptism.  Amen.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thou shalt not oppress!

Ave Maria!  If we've not yet decided what our Lenten fast will entail this year, we might consider what the prophet Isaiah suggests in today's first reading (58:9b-14):  not just abstaining from but actually removing from our midst "oppression, false accusation and malicious speech."  It's not just the Pharaohs of the world and the gossipmongers of the media who overwhelm or crush people.  We do it, too, in countless little and even not-so-little ways in our daily lives.  Or at least I do this now and then ... such as when I speculate on people's motives ... when I analyze their behavior ... when I report their idiosyncrasies or mistakes to others and make fun of them ... when I ignore or avoid them because I am wrapped up in myself ... when I must have the last word ... when I insist upon doing something my way.  Sometimes it's not what I say but how I say it that oppresses others ... my tone of voice ... the rolling of my eyes ... the lifting of my eyebrows ... the heavy sighs ... the sharp breaths.  What if this Lent I removed all these things from my midst, from my heart and mind, and replaced them with love, the love of Christ for the upbuilding of His body?  Then I might be considered a "repairer of the breach" and a "restorer of ruined homesteads."  Then I might become more like Jour Lord esus, who calls us to follow Him through death to life.

Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth.
~Psalm 86

Friday, March 11, 2011

Catholic Relief Service to assist those affected by earthquake and tsunami in Japan

This just in from Catholic Relief Service...

Catholic Relief Service personnel throughout the Pacific are standing ready to assist those affected by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan early Friday morning.

“We know from 2004 the devastating impact that these tsunamis can have,” said Sean Callahan, CRS’ executive vice president for overseas operations. “As with all such disasters, CRS will help people recover from the emergency and stand with them as they recover in the months and years to come.”

Caritas Japan is beginning to assess the needs in that country where the tsunami has caused extensive damage. CRS has programs in the Philippines and Indonesia and works with Caritas Oceania that is active in numerous islands in the Pacific that might be affected. Central American countries where CRS works could also be in danger.

“We will reach out to our Caritas partners to help them in any way we can,” Callahan said.

To donate, go here.

Journey of Conversion

The Christian life is itself a constant journey of conversion and renewal in the company of the Lord, as we follow him along the path that leads through the Cross to the joy of the Resurrection. The primary way by which we follow Christ is by the liturgy, in which his person and his saving power become present and effective in our lives. In the Lenten liturgy, as we accompany the catechumens preparing for Baptism, we open our hearts anew to the grace of our rebirth in Christ. This spiritual journey is traditionally marked by the practice of fasting, almsgiving and prayer. The Fathers of the Church teach that these three pious exercises are closely related: indeed, Saint Augustine calls fasting and almsgiving the “wings of prayer”, since they prepare our hearts to take flight and seek the things of heaven, where Christ has prepared a place for us. As this Lent begins, let us accept Christ’s invitation to follow him more closely, renew our commitment to conversion and prayer, and look forward to celebrating the Resurrection in joy and newness of life.  ~Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience of Ash Wednesday, 3/9/11

Teach us your ways, O Lord,
and lead us in your paths.
~Psalm 24:4

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ash Wednesday 2011, part 2

Ave Maria!  The Houston Chronicle Web site has a gallery of photos here from yesterday's celebration of Ash Wednesday.  This one, captioned "Punk-Rock Penance," caught my eye when I viewed these photos last night.  It made me think of the wide variety of individuals who came to the nine Ash Wednesday Masses celebrated yesterday in my parish, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.  I served at four of these Masses and assisted in distributing the ashes.  What moved me most and filled me with such joy was seeing how eagerly and happily people came forward to receive the blessed sign of the cross on their foreheads.  I like to think that the beginning of this "acceptable time" of Lent gave them increased joy in the salvation that is ours through the Cross of Christ and also renewed hope to continue on the road to conversion for the praise of His glory.  That is what I prayed for each individual, and for myself, too.  The joy and hope of this Lenten season is the joy and hope of Christ Himself, crucified in love and risen in glory.  Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!

Whoever loses his life for my sake,
he will save it.  ~Luke 9:24

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday 2011

Direct our hearts to better things, O Lord; heal our sin and ignorance. ~Responsory, Mass for Ash Wednesday

   Father…Each year you give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed.
    You give us a spirit of loving reverence for you, our Father, and of willing service to our neighbor.
   As we recall the great events that gave us new life in Christ, you bring the image of your Son to perfection with us.
    Now, with angels and archangels, and the whole company of heaven, we sing the unending hymn of your praise: Holy, holy, holy…

~Preface of Lent I

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Something New!

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

Monday, March 7, 2011

My refuge and my home...

That man is perfect in faith who can come to God in the utter dearth of his feelings and his desires, without a glow or an aspiration, with the weight of low thoughts, failures, neglects, and wandering forgetfulness, and say to him, "Thou art my refuge, because thou art my home."  ~George MacDonald, "The Child in the Mist," Unspoken Sermons

How lovely is your dwelling place,
Lord, God of hosts!
The sparrow herself finds a home...
and am I not worth more than many sparrows?
Are you not my Jesus,
to whom little ones belong?
I am weak, but you are strong!
O my love, my fortress,
my stronghold, my savior,
my shield, my place of refuge,
my God in whom I trust!
O Lord of hosts, my King and my God!
May I always make my home in you!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

O Will of God!

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven."  ~Matthew 7:21
O will of my God, how dear art thou to me! My will is ever to live and die united to and bound up with Thee. Thy pleasure is my pleasure. I will that Thy desires shall also be my desires.... I love Thee, O will of God, as much as I love God, since Thou art one with Him. I love Thee, then, with my whole heart, and give myself all to Thee. ~St. Alphonsus Liguori

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Knowledge and Wisdom

Ave Maria! I've always felt a bit sad for non-Catholics because they don't have the book of Sirach in their Bibles. Its so full of godly wisdom and practical advice that I wonder why they've not embraced it. I've been reflecting on today's first reading from this book, which is a vibrant passage in grateful praise of wisdom (51:12cd-20). Without wisdom, our knowledge is incomplete.

Knowledge says "I've left everything to follow you." Wisdom admits "I am an unworthy servant. I have only done my duty."

Knowledge says "Jesus is Lord." Wisdom proclaims "My Lord and my God! My God and my all!"

Knowledge says “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” Wisdom remembers "I will never forget you."

Knowledge says "I'm only human." Wisdom declares "God made me in His image and likeness, only a little lower than the angels, and He has crowned with glory and honor."

Knowledge says "You have laid me in the depths of the tomb." Wisdom professes " You will raise me from the depths of the earth; you will exalt me and console me again."

Knowledge informs. Wisdom leads the yearning heart in the secret ways of the Most High God.

"My heart was stirred to seek her, therefore I have gained a good possession." (Sirach 51:21)

Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for me to become wise with the wisdom of your Beloved Son, Jesus, in whose Sacred Heart are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Amen.

Friday, March 4, 2011

He trembled...

It is so consoling to think that Jesus, Divine Strength Itself, has experienced our weakness, that He trembled at the sight of the bitter chalice, the chalice that He had so ardently desired. ~St. Thérèse of Lisieux

I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart and glorify your name for ever; for your love to me has been great: you have saved me from the depths of the grave. ~Psalm 86

Thursday, March 3, 2011


The glory of the Lord fills all his works. ~Sirach 42:16

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

No comfort blankets!

Faith is not meant to be a comfort blanket.… It is a strenuous call to engage all we are with the Father of Jesus. ~Sister Wendy on Prayer by Sister Wendy Beckett

Ave Maria! Sr. Wendy's astute observation on faith, which arrived in my email box this morning, ties in well with today's gospel (Mark 10:32-45) where James and John tell the Lord "we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” and then ask him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus makes it clear that he's not handing out comfort blankets -- not now, at least, and as for later, that's not his to give. In his typically unequivocal fashion, the Master enlightens his followers with the truth: “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And when they blithely respond, "We can," Christ spells out the details so that they might understand and accept that faith is, as Sr. Wendy says, "a strenuous call to engage all we are with the Father of Jesus."

The disciples just don't get it. And neither do I most of the time. I very much want my comfort blanket and all the creature comforts that go with it. I'm afraid of drinking the chalice of suffering that my Lord drank, of being baptized unto death as He was. The idea of being servant and slave of all overwhelms me. I'm not that good, that generous, that loving. I am selfish, proud, ambitious. I have my needs and desires. And yet, more than anything else, I do ardently long to follow Jesus through death to life for the glory of the Father. With St. Paul, I want to be found in Christ, "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 4:9-11). I am weak, but He is strong. With Him, I shall do bravely. Deo gratias!
Dear Lord, strengthen my faith and enlarge my heart so that I may live and die for You alone. Amen.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

"Take," O spirit of Jesus Christ, "that which is his and give it to me", that it may be mine. Let your light shine forth within me, so that I may recognize his truth. Bind my heart to the loyalty of faith, so that nothing may lead me from it. And teach me to love, for without love truth is dead. "That love resides, not in our shewing any love for God, but in his shewing love for us first." Convince my heart of God's love, and give me the strength to love him in return, that "I may abide in God and he in me".

O Spirit, you bring up the new creation in the old world; fill me with confidence in your holy power. It is not of earthly kind, and amidst the forces and wiles of earth it often appears foolish and weak. And so give my heart the hope for "the glorious freedom of God's sons".

O Holy Spirit, our Lord lived from you, and in your power he has "overcome the world". But this world is ourselves: our selfish, blind and foolish heart. Take it in your power, make it ready and open, so that he may live in us and we in him.


~ "The Coming of the Holy Spirit" by Fr. Romano Guardini in Prayers from Theology

(to be continued)