Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Refuse God nothing."

Refuse God nothing. Accustom yourselves to doing everything for him. ~St. Jeanne Jugan

Ave Maria!  Today is the feast of St. Jeanne Jugan, also known as Sister Mary of the Cross.  In her forties, she founded the Little Sisters of the Poor, which continues to provide loving homes for the elderly throughout the world.  Some good reads about St. Jeanne and her Little Sisters can be found here, here, here, here and here.  Be sure to check out George Weigel's article here.  The blog for the Little Sisters of the Poor, which can be found here, has a lovely article entitled "The JOY of St. Jeanne Jugan," which is surely the best and greatest gift that the Little Sisters freely give to the residents of their homes.  I know this from experience because when I lived in the Washington, DC area, I volunteered for several years at the St. Jeanne Jugan Residence there.  It was truly a privilege for me to work with these beautiful Sisters and their family of elders.  I've more than once hoped that, God willing, in my declining years I might end up in one of the Little Sisters homes because I strongly suspect that it would be such a lovely blessing.

"Eternal Father, open your gates today to the most miserable of your children, but one who greatly longs to see you. O Mary, my dear Mother, come to me. You know that I love you and I long to see You." ~the last words of St. Jeanne Jugan

Monday, August 29, 2011

Carrying the Cross

As with the disciples, Jesus also addresses the invitation to us. "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). A Christian follows Christ when he accepts his cross with love, which in the eyes of the world seems a defeat and a "loss of life" (cf. verses 25-26). But the Christian knows that he does not carry the cross alone but with Jesus, sharing in his way of donation.... do not be afraid to take up the challenge in today's Gospel to give your lives completely to Christ. Indeed, may all of us be generous in our commitment to him, carrying our cross with faith and courage.

~Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Message of 8/28/11

For you have been my strength;
In the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
~Psalm 63:8-9

Dear Jesus, with You by my side,
I can carry any cross You give me.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself. ~Matthew 16:24

If anyone wished to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and come after me.

Our Lord’s command seems hard and heavy, that anyone who wants to follow him must renounce himself. But no command is hard and heavy when it comes from one who helps to carry it out. That other saying of his is true: My yoke is easy and my burden light. Whatever is hard in his commands is made easy by love.

We know what great things love can accomplish, even though it is often base and sensual. We know what hardships people have endured, what intolerable indignities they have borne to attain the object of their love.

What we love indicates the sort of people we are, and therefore making a decision about this should be our one concern in choosing a way of life.

Why be surprised if people who set their hearts on Christ and want to follow him renounce themselves out of love? If we lose ourselves through self-love we must surely find ourselves through self-renunciation.

Who would not wish to follow Christ to supreme happiness, perfect peace, and lasting security? We shall do well to follow him there, but we need to know the way.

The Lord Jesus had not yet risen from the dead when he gave this invitation. His passion was still before him; he had still to endure the cross, to face outrages, reproaches, scourging; to be pierced by thorns, wounded, insulted, taunted, and put to death.

The road seems rough, you draw back, you do not want to follow Christ. Follow him just the same. The road we made for ourselves is rough, but Christ has leveled it by passing over it himself.

Who does not desire to be exalted?

Everyone enjoys a high position. But self-abasement is the step that leads to it. Why take strides that are too big for you—do you want to fall instead of going up? Begin with this step and you will find yourself climbing.

The two disciples who said: Lord, command that one of us shall sit at your right hand in your kingdom and the other at your left had no wish to think about this step of self-abasement. They wanted to reach the top without noticing the step that led there.

The Lord showed them the step, however, by his reply: Can you drink the cup that I am to drink? You who aim at the highest exaltation, can you drink the cup of humiliation?

He did not simply give the general command: Let him renounce himself and follow me but added: Let him take up his cross and follow me.

What does it mean to take up one’s cross?

It means bearing whatever is unpleasant — that is following me. Once you begin to follow me by conforming your life to my commandments, you will find many to contradict you, forbid you, or dissuade you, and some of these will be people calling themselves followers of Christ.

Therefore if you meet with threats, flattery, or opposition, let this be your cross; pick it up and carry it — do not collapse under it. These words of our Lord are like an exhortation to endure martyrdom.

If you are persecuted you ought, surely, to make light of any suffering for the sake of Christ.

~St. Augustine, 354-430; Sermon 96, 1-4: PL 38, 584-586

Dear Lord, I beg for the grace to take up my cross with joy and to follow You with love.  Amen.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

"a mystery of hope and of joy"

That which we celebrate today [the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary] is a great mystery, and above all a mystery of hope and of joy for all of us: In Mary we see the end toward which all those who know how to link their lives to that of Jesus are journeying, those who know how to follow him as Mary did. This feast, then, speaks of our future, it tells us that we also will be next to Jesus in the joy of God and it invites us to have courage, to believe that the power of the Resurrection of Christ can operate also in us and make us men and women who every day seek to live as risen ones, taking the light of goodness to the darkness of evil that is in the world. 

~Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Message for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 8/15/11

Dear Mary, teach us how to follow Jesus as you did and to live as His risen ones for the hope and joy of all.  Amen.

Friday, August 26, 2011

"The Cross was not a sign of failure, but an expression of self-giving in love..."

World Youth Day, 2011, Madrid
Ave Maria!  As always, whenever Pope Benedict XVI speaks to a particular group of people, he speaks to everyone.  His words at the end of the Way of the Cross during World Youth Day in Madrid last week are a reminder for each one of us that our Crucified Lord calls all of us "to spend our lives following in his footsteps and becoming signs of his consolation and salvation."  Thank you, dear Holy Father, for always teaching us, by your words and your example, the "mysterious wisdom of the Cross"!
Dear Young People,

We have celebrated this Way of the Cross with fervour and devotion, following Christ along the path of his passion and death. The commentaries of the Little Sisters of the Cross, who serve the poor and most needy, have helped us enter into the mystery of Christ’s glorious Cross, wherein is found God’s true wisdom which judges the world and judges those who consider themselves wise (cf. 1 Cor 1:17-19). We have also been assisted on this journey to Calvary by our contemplation of these wonderful images from the religious patrimony of the Spanish dioceses. In these images, faith and art combine so as to penetrate our heart and summon us to conversion.

When faith’s gaze is pure and authentic, beauty places itself at its service and is able to depict the mysteries of our salvation in such a way as to move us profoundly and transform our hearts, as Saint Teresa of Jesus herself experienced while contemplating an image of the wounded Christ (cf. Autobiography, 9:1).

As we were making our way with Jesus towards the place of his sacrifice on Mount Calvary, the words of Saint Paul came to mind: "Christ loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). In the face of such disinterested love, we find ourselves asking, filled with wonder and gratitude: What can we do for him? What response shall we give him? Saint John puts it succinctly: "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 Jn 3:16). Christ’s passion urges us to take upon our own shoulders the sufferings of the world, in the certainty that God is not distant or far removed from man and his troubles. On the contrary, he became one of us "in order to suffer with man in an utterly real way — in flesh and blood ... hence in all human suffering we are joined by one who experiences and carries that suffering with us; hence con-solatio is present in all suffering, the consolation of God's compassionate love — and so the star of hope rises" (Spe Salvi, 39).

Dear young friends, may Christ’s love for us increase your joy and encourage you to go in search of those less fortunate. You are open to the idea of sharing your lives with others, so be sure not to pass by on the other side in the face of human suffering, for it is here that God expects you to give of your very best: your capacity for love and compassion. The different forms of suffering that have unfolded before our eyes in the course of this Way of the Cross are the Lord’s way of summoning us to spend our lives following in his footsteps and becoming signs of his consolation and salvation. "To suffer with the other and for others; to suffer for the sake of truth and justice; to suffer out of love and in order to become a person who truly loves — these are fundamental elements of humanity, and to abandon them would destroy man himself" (ibid.).

Let us eagerly welcome these teachings and put them into practice. Let us look upon Christ, hanging on the harsh wood of the Cross, and let us ask him to teach us this mysterious wisdom of the Cross, by which man lives. The Cross was not a sign of failure, but an expression of self-giving in love that extends even to the supreme sacrifice of one’s life. The Father wanted to show his love for us through the embrace of his crucified Son: crucified out of love. The Cross, by its shape and its meaning, represents this love of both the Father and the Son for men. Here we recognize the icon of supreme love, which teaches us to love what God loves and in the way that he loves: this is the Good News that gives hope to the world.

Let us turn our gaze now to the Virgin Mary, who was given to us on Calvary to be our Mother, and let us ask her to sustain us with her loving protection along the path of life, particularly when we pass through the night of suffering, so that we may be able to remain steadfast, as she did, at the foot of the Cross.

But God forbid that I should glory,
save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ;
by whom the world is crucified to me,
and I to the world.
~Galatians 6:14

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The dwelling place and throne of God

Indeed, is it not clear that the soul of the faithful person, the most worthy of all creatures because of the grace of God, is greater than heaven itself? For the heavens with the rest of creation cannot contain their Creator. Only the faithful soul is His dwelling place and His throne, and this is possible only through the charity which the wicked do not have. He who is the Truth has said: Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him, and we shall come to him and make our dwelling place with him (John 14:21).  ~St Clare of Assisi

O Lord, I love the house where you dwell, the place where your glory abides.  ~Psalm 26:8

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Other "Mansfield Girl"

The Other "Mansfield Girl"
 Ave Maria!  Little did I know yesterday morning while I was writing my memories of Daddy that my sister Annie, the other "Mansfield Girl," was busy doing the same!  Yesterday afternoon she emailed to her Doug, David and Deborah -- her three adult children -- and me the following tribute to Daddy.  Oh, how wonderfully she captures Daddy's lively and loving spirit.  Thank you, dear Lord, for making us the Mansfield Girls!  And thank you, too, for my dear sweet Annie!

"This is the day…..39 years ago today, Richard J. Mansfield walked up Rodman Street, N.W., Washington, DC….a typical Monday, back to work, back to schedule summer day. My little sister, Alice Claire, the other "Mansfield Girl" happened to be with our father. So very glad she was. Daddy had just turned 81 on July 13, 1972, and was still full-time employed, taking the bus Monday through Friday to 711 14th Street, N.W. What a truly amazing man, a truly awesome father we had!! This is but a quick tribute for time and thoughts would crowd out the freshness of that all-to-sudden moment of having our only living parent leave us. Oh my…such great sadness, such disbelief. How much I took for granted those daily phone calls which guided me through early parenthood. Daddy had always been there, from his attempt to brush my hair as a little girl to quietly watching me become a parent myself. He even attended my first piano recital….and I was a mother of two little boys and quite proud to have my Daddy in the audience!!

"Daddy always sought out the best in everyone; gave all that he had for the betterment of a perfect stranger; found the joke in everything, especially himself; always spun me around the room for a dance, either a waltz or polka; and allowed me to chase down the nearest parade with him. His pockets were always full of lifesavers! Oh how I still hear his voice and wish to please him for he gave so much and still provides through his loving spirit.

"Thank you, Daddy. I love you, and believe that loving mankind -- especially my family, my sister, my children -- are due to being part of you. You have been constantly with me throughout this remembrance day. OH HAPPY DAY!!

All my love, always…

Ann Louise"

Monday, August 22, 2011

Today's Happy Anniversary

Ave Maria! I'm the last person in the world to post a picture of myself on the Web, but I have a good reason for doing so today and for making it this particular one. My dear cousin Christine took this picture of me when we were in Lincolnville, Maine last month visiting my sweet sister Annie and her husband John. That day as I strolled along the beach, invigorated by the brisk sea breeze, I kept thinking of my beloved father, who loved the ocean so much and was forever buoyed up by its immensity and beauty.

When I received this photo from Christine a few days ago and eagerly opened it, I instantly saw Daddy in myself, his smile in mine and his bearing in my own. I could even see the spring in his step in my step. Daddy went home to our loving Father 39 years ago today, and, to the very last moment, even as we boarded the bus together that morning to go downtown to work, he retained the spring in his step. Of course he did, because the wellspring of life and love, the eternal God Himself, was always leaping up within Daddy and spilling over to everyone he met. Daddy incarnated the psalmist's gladsome prayer: "All my springs are in you" (Ps 87:7).

When he died at the age of 81, Daddy was old and tired, he had many and various aches and pains, his heart had been tried and broken more than once according to our Father's mysterious plan, and he ardently longed to be reunited with his loved ones in heaven, especially his wife and our mother, who had died 16 years earlier. Through it all, Daddy was the Lord's good and faithful servant, steadfastly trusting in Him who, as he so often reminded me, would never be outdone in His generosity. The peace and joy that Daddy radiated gave witness to his confidence in God and his deep love for Him.

This picture Christine took reminds me of the truth I've always known -- I am my father's child. And so is my sister. About twenty years ago, Annie and I journeyed back to the cottage our parents owned at Rexhame Beach in Marshfield, Massachusetts, where we spent many happy summers.  Part of the time our cousin Christine and her brother Stephen joined us with their parents, and we had enormous fun, as only close cousins can. When Annie and I arrived at our old cottage, I told her that we should knock on the door and see if the couple who bought it was still living there. Annie wasn't so sure about that, but I persisted and she finally agreed. The gentleman who answered the door was indeed the same person, and as he called out to his wife, he exclaimed, "It's Dick Mansfield's girls!" How I thrilled to hear those words! Daddy's girls! And Mummie's, too!

I still thrill that Annie and I are "Dick Mansfield's girls." I forever rejoice that Mummie and Daddy are our mother and father. Especially today, I thank God with all my heart for our dear Daddy. Amen! Alleluia!

They are happy, who dwell in your house,
for ever singing your praise.
They are happy, whose strength is in you,
in whose hearts are the road to Zion.
As they go through the Bitter Valley
they make it a place of springs,
the autumn rain covers it with blessings.
They walk with ever growing strength,
they will see the God of gods in Zion...
One day within your courts
is better than a thousand elsewhere.
The threshold of the house of God
I prefer to the dwellings of the wicked.
For the Lord God is a rampart, a shield;
he will give us his favor and glory.
The Lord will not refuse any good
to those who walk without blame.
Lord, God of hosts,
happy the man who trusts in you!
~from Psalm 84

Sunday, August 21, 2011

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

You are Peter; to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. ~Matthew 16:18-19

Peter was to be entrusted with the keys of the Church, or rather, he was entrusted with the keys of heaven; to him would be committed the whole people of God. The Lord told him: Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Now Peter was inclined to be severe, so if he had also been impeccable what forbearance would he have shown toward those he instructed? His falling into sin was thus a providential grace to teach him from experience to deal kindly with others.

Just think who it was whom God permitted to fall into sin—Peter himself, the head of the apostles, the firm foundation, the unbreakable rock, the most important member of the Church, the safe harbor, the strong tower; Peter, who had said to Christ, Even if I have to die with you I will never deny you; Peter, who by divine revelation had confessed the truth: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

The gospel relates that on the night that Christ was betrayed Peter went indoors and was standing by the fire warming himself when a girl accosted him: You too were with that man yesterday, she said. But Peter answered: I do not know the man.

Just now you said: Even if I have to die with you, and now you deny him and say: I do not know the man. Oh Peter, is this what you promised? You were not tortured or scourged; at the words of a mere slip of a girl you took refuge in denial!

Again the girl said to him: You too were with that man yesterday. Again he answered: I have no idea what man you mean.

Who was it that spoke to you, causing you to make this denial? Not some important person but a woman, a doorkeeper, an outcast, a slave, someone of no account whatever. She spoke to you and you answered with a denial.

What a strange thing — a girl, a prostitute, accosted Peter himself and disturbed his faith! Peter, the pillar, the rampart, could not bear the threat of a girl! She had but to speak and the pillar swayed, the rampart itself was shaken!

A third time she repeated: You too were with that man yesterday, but a third time he denied it. Finally Jesus looked at him, reminding him of his previous assertion. Peter understood, repented of his sin, and began to weep. Mercifully, however, Jesus forgave him his sin, because he knew that Peter, being a man, was subject to human frailty.

Now, as I said before, the reason God's plan permitted Peter to sin was because he was to be entrusted with the whole people of God, and sinlessness added to his severity might have made him unforgiving toward his brothers and sisters. He fell into sin so that remembering his own fault and the Lord's forgiveness, he also might forgive others out of love for them.

This was God's providential dispensation.

He to whom the Church was to be entrusted, he, the pillar of the churches, the harbor of faith, was allowed to sin; Peter, the teacher of the world, was permitted to sin, so that having been forgiven himself he would be merciful to others.

~St. John Chrysostom, c.347-407 (On Saints Peter and Elijah: PG 50, 727-728)

Friday, August 19, 2011

The truth of life is love.

"...I lay down my life for my sheep.... Therefore does the Father love me: because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No man take it away from me: but I lay it down of myself, and I have power to lay it down: and I have power to take it up again. This commandment have I received of my Father."  ~John 10:15; 17-18

Truth is only accessible in liberty.  
~Pope Benedict XVI, 8/18/11
World Youth Day 2011, Madrid

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Festival of Forgiveness at World Youth Day 2011

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

Ave Maria!  One of the finest things about the Catholic Church is confession.  And when lots of Catholics come together for a special occasion, such as World Youth Day, we can be sure to find one or more priest available for this wonderful sacrament of reconciliation. World Youth Day 2011, which is now gloriously unfolding in Madrid, is no exception. The Festival of Forgiveness has 200 confessionals that are now open for business, so to speak.  According to the official Web site for WYD 2011: "From Tuesday 16th to Saturday 20th August, hundreds of priests will be available in turns to administer the sacrament of Confession in Spanish, English, French, Italian, German, Polish, Portuguese and any other language that the confessor may master. The timetable will be Tuesday to Friday (from 10 am to 10 pm) and Saturday (from 10 am to 3 pm). The Holy Father will also go along to hear the Confession of some lucky young people."  There will also be special accommodations for the deaf and disabled. 

WOW!  How great is that?!  What a celebration of God's love must be going on there right now -- yes, a true festival!  God bless all those priests and all those penitents!  I pray that each one may deeply experience the "holiness, peace and joy" of confession.  And then, like the skater in the picture above, may they move on, "forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead [as they] press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14).

Praised be Jesus Christ, so rich in love and mercy!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Dandelions are flowers, too!"

It's funny what things we identify as enemies. Dandelions, for instance. Mushy daylilies or slightly putrid rose petals are easy to categorize as loathsome, but dandelions? Dandy lions with yellow manes? Puff balls that predict love's truth? Let me praise dandelions. They carpet the fields with a yellow so loud it croons in the sun. They're streetwise and hardy, thriving in sidewalk cracks as easily as they do in a topiary garden. Their greens taste good, and they make a light, summery wine. Heaven knows, they're persistent. In late fall, when all the color has drained out of the grass, the brilliant flowers have vanished like a mass hallucination, and even the trees have forgotten how to green, one still sees dandelions gamely blooming. Their long, thick taproots grab deep and send off fine rootlets, divining water other shallow plants miss. They're fun to play with when they go to seed, because the lightest shake or breath launches their parachutes. They're quaintly named. The French thought their serrated leaves looked like the teeth of a ferocious lion, or dents de lion, which the English misheard as dandelion.

And yet, only poison ivy is more despised. Why are dandelions regarded as the pinwheels of Satan? Perhaps because they're too short to qualify as model flowers. The same shape and yellow on a lanky stem – coreopsis, for example, we find classy. They multiply fast because they gush with nectar, and manufacture loads of pollen, so all sorts of insects visit them and spread their pollen. But they're also self-contained, and if no insects were to visit they could still produce seeds without pollen. One way or other, they quickly dominate a yard. I suppose they're too ordinary to prize. Common as ants, they're easy to overlook. Some people may feel they ruin the solid green methods of the lawn. I've watched many homeowners patrol their lawns like serial killers, flashing a pair of scissors with which they methodically decapitate every dandelion, and still they search for more trophies. I'm tempted to stop at those yards, perhaps holding a placard that says "Dandelions are flowers, too!"

~Diane Ackerman in Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden

Dear God, in Your loving plan, everything is Your gift to us and nothing is too ordinary to prize.  Help me to welcome and to cherish all the beautiful dandelions in my life.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Canaanite Woman and Assiduity

Ave Maria!  On Sunday morning, I posted a sermon by St. John Chrysostom on the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28).  Later in the day I came across Fr. Ted's Blog, which notes the following commentary on this sermon by Orthodox Biblical scholar Fr. Stanley Harakas
What precisely was the Canaanite woman’s inner spiritual virtue that Jesus wanted to reveal so that she would be blessed with the healing of her daughter and so that the disciples (and we) could profit spiritually? In his explanation, St John Chrysostom uses the word "assiduity" in his translation. This older English word is a characteristic of a person who is diligent, energetic, industrious, persevering, persistent resolute, and zealous. No wonder Jesus said to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire"!

Chrysostom explains: "Never mind,” he says, “that you are unworthy. Become worthy by your assiduity. For it is possible both that the unworthy should become worthy from his assiduity, and that God assents more when called on by ourselves than by others."
Assiduity!  Now there's a word we rarely see or hear these days.  And what a jam-packed word!  So rich and powerful!  As Fr. Harakas points out, assiduity is made up of many fine and desirable things:

diligence, which is attentive care;

energy, which is vigor or power;

industry, which is steady or habitual effort;

perseverance, which is steadfastness;

persistence, which is tenacity;

resoluteness, which is unwavering determination; and

zeal, which is eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something.
WOW!  Nothing would do but for me to search for a translation of this particular sermon by St. John C. wherein the word "assiduity" is used rather than "perseverance."  I found it here, numbers 12 and 13 at the end of the page.  In short, he says:  "But you are unworthy. Become worthy by your assiduity of soul we shall be able to become worthy...For nothing -- nothing is more powerful than prayer when fervent and genuine."

Dear Lord, with a bit of trepidation and a whole lot of humility, I ask You for the grace of assiduity.  Amen.

Monday, August 15, 2011

ALLELUIA!!! Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

As angels sang their hymns of praise, Mary was raised on high to the Kingdom of glory by God's own power.  Who can tell the joy of that loving embrace whereby Jesus welcomed and admitted His own Virgin Mother to unending union with Him in the glory of heaven!   ~Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D.

The Feast of the Assumption is a day of joy. God has won. Love has won. It has won life. Love has shown that it is stronger than death, that God possesses the true strength and that his strength is goodness and love.

Mary was taken up body and soul into Heaven: there is even room in God for the body. Heaven is no longer a very remote sphere unknown to us.

We have a mother in Heaven. And the Mother of God, the Mother of the Son of God, is our Mother. He himself has said so. He made her our Mother when he said to the disciple and to all of us: "Behold, your Mother!". We have a Mother in Heaven. Heaven is open, Heaven has a heart.

In the Gospel (Luke 1:39-56) we heard the Magnificat, that great poem inspired by the Holy Spirit that came from Mary's lips, indeed, from Mary's heart. This marvellous canticle mirrors the entire soul, the entire personality of Mary. We can say that this hymn of hers is a portrait of Mary, a true icon in which we can see her exactly as she is. I would like to highlight only two points in this great canticle.

It begins with the word "Magnificat": my soul "magnifies" the Lord, that is, "proclaims the greatness" of the Lord. Mary wanted God to be great in the world, great in her life and present among us all. She was not afraid that God might be a "rival" in our life, that with his greatness he might encroach on our freedom, our vital space. She knew that if God is great, we too are great. Our life is not oppressed but raised and expanded: it is precisely then that it becomes great in the splendour of God.

The fact that our first parents thought the contrary was the core of original sin. They feared that if God were too great, he would take something away from their life. They thought that they could set God aside to make room for themselves.

This was also the great temptation of the modern age, of the past three or four centuries. More and more people have thought and said: "But this God does not give us our freedom; with all his commandments, he restricts the space in our lives. So God has to disappear; we want to be autonomous and independent. Without this God we ourselves would be gods and do as we pleased".

This was also the view of the Prodigal Son, who did not realize that he was "free" precisely because he was in his father's house. He left for distant lands and squandered his estate. In the end, he realized that precisely because he had gone so far away from his father, instead of being free he had become a slave; he understood that only by returning home to his father's house would he be truly free, in the full beauty of life.

This is how it is in our modern epoch. Previously, it was thought and believed that by setting God aside and being autonomous, following only our own ideas and inclinations, we would truly be free to do whatever we liked without anyone being able to give us orders. But when God disappears, men and women do not become greater; indeed, they lose the divine dignity, their faces lose God's splendour. In the end, they turn out to be merely products of a blind evolution and, as such, can be used and abused. This is precisely what the experience of our epoch has confirmed for us.

Only if God is great is humankind also great. With Mary, we must begin to understand that this is so. We must not drift away from God but make God present; we must ensure that he is great in our lives. Thus, we too will become divine; all the splendour of the divine dignity will then be ours. Let us apply this to our own lives.

It is important that God be great among us, in public and in private life.

In public life, it is important that God be present, for example, through the cross on public buildings, and that he be present in our community life, for only if God is present do we have an orientation, a common direction; otherwise, disputes become impossible to settle, for our common dignity is no longer recognized.

Let us make God great in public and in private life. This means making room for God in our lives every day, starting in the morning with prayers, and then dedicating time to God, giving Sundays to God. We do not waste our free time if we offer it to God. If God enters into our time, all time becomes greater, roomier, richer.

A second observation: Mary's poem - the Magnificat - is quite original; yet at the same time, it is a "fabric" woven throughout of "threads" from the Old Testament, of words of God.

Thus, we see that Mary was, so to speak, "at home" with God's word, she lived on God's word, she was penetrated by God's word. To the extent that she spoke with God's words, she thought with God's words, her thoughts were God's thoughts, her words, God's words. She was penetrated by divine light and this is why she was so resplendent, so good, so radiant with love and goodness.

Mary lived on the Word of God, she was imbued with the Word of God. And the fact that she was immersed in the Word of God and was totally familiar with the Word also endowed her later with the inner enlightenment of wisdom.

Whoever thinks with God thinks well, and whoever speaks to God speaks well. They have valid criteria to judge all the things of the world. They become prudent, wise, and at the same time good; they also become strong and courageous with the strength of God, who resists evil and fosters good in the world.

Thus, Mary speaks with us, speaks to us, invites us to know the Word of God, to love the Word of God, to live with the Word of God, to think with the Word of God. And we can do so in many different ways: by reading Sacred Scripture, by participating especially in the Liturgy, in which Holy Church throughout the year opens the entire book of Sacred Scripture to us. She opens it to our lives and makes it present in our lives.

But I am also thinking of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that we recently published, in which the Word of God is applied to our lives and the reality of our lives interpreted; it helps us enter into the great "temple" of God's Word, to learn to love it and, like Mary, to be penetrated by this Word.

Thus, life becomes luminous and we have the basic criterion with which to judge; at the same time, we receive goodness and strength.

Mary is taken up body and soul into the glory of Heaven, and with God and in God she is Queen of Heaven and earth. And is she really so remote from us?

The contrary is true. Precisely because she is with God and in God, she is very close to each one of us.

While she lived on this earth she could only be close to a few people. Being in God, who is close to us, actually, "within" all of us, Mary shares in this closeness of God. Being in God and with God, she is close to each one of us, knows our hearts, can hear our prayers, can help us with her motherly kindness and has been given to us, as the Lord said, precisely as a "mother" to whom we can turn at every moment.

She always listens to us, she is always close to us, and being Mother of the Son, participates in the power of the Son and in his goodness. We can always entrust the whole of our lives to this Mother, who is not far from any one of us.

On this feast day, let us thank the Lord for the gift of the Mother, and let us pray to Mary to help us find the right path every day. Amen.

~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily for the Solemnity of the Assumption, 2005

My dearest Mother Mary, so gloriously assumed into heaven, lead us home to the fruit of your womb, your Beloved Son Jesus!  Amen.  Alleluia!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

20th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Sadao Watanabe
"Woman, you have great faith." ~Matthew 15:28

The Canaanite woman whose daughter was tormented by a devil came to Christ begging his help. Most urgently she cried out: Lord, have pity on me. My daughter is grievously tormented by a devil.

Notice that the woman was a foreigner, a gentile, a person from outside the Jewish community. What was she then but a dog, unworthy to obtain her request? It is not fair, said the Lord, to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs.

Nevertheless, by perseverance she became worthy; for Christ not only admitted her to the same noble rank as the children, dog though she was, but he also sent her away with high praise, saying: Woman, you have great faith. Let it be as you desire.

Now when Christ says: You have great faith, you need seek no further proof of the woman’s greatness of soul. You see that an unworthy woman became worthy by perseverance.

Now would you like proof that we shall gain more by praying ourselves than by asking others to pray for us?

The woman cried out and the disciples went to Christ and said: Give her what she wants -- she is shouting after us. And he said to them: I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
But when the woman herself, still crying out, came to him and said: That is true, sir, and yet the dogs eat what falls from their master’s table, then he granted her request, saying: Let it be as you desire.

Have you understood?

When the disciples entreated him the Lord put them off, but when the woman herself cried out begging for this favor he granted it. 

And at the beginning, when she first made her request, he did not answer, but after she had come to him once, twice, and a third time, he gave her what she desired. By this he was teaching us that he had withheld the gift not to drive her away, but to make that woman’s patience an example for all of us. 

Now that we have learned these lessons, let us not despair even if we are guilty of sin and unworthy of any favor. We know that we can make ourselves worthy by perseverance.

St. John Chrysostom, c.347-407

Friday, August 12, 2011

St. Clare, continued

...Clare is the passionate lover of the poor, crucified Christ, with whom she wants to identify absolutely.

Clare fixed her eyes on the poor and crucified Christ.

She puts it thus in one of her letters: "Look upon him who became contemptible for you, and follow him, making yourself contemptible in this world for him. Your Spouse, though more beautiful than the children of men, became for your salvation the lowest of men, was despised, struck, scourged untold times throughout his entire body, and then died amid the suffering of the cross.... Gaze upon him, consider him, contemplate him, as you desire to imitate him. If you suffer with him, you shall rejoice with him; if you die with him on the cross of tribulation, you shall possess heavenly mansions in the splendour of the saints, and in the Book of Life your name shall be called glorious among men."

~Bl. John Paul II, Address of 8/11/93
Dear Jesus, my Crucified Lord and Redeemer, may I, like St. Clare, have eyes only for you!  Amen.
P.S.  Ave Maria!  The above image of St. Clare comes from the Web site for the Ty Mam Duw Poor Clare Colettine Community in Wales.  This site exudes the utter joy of St. Clare and her sisters who are called to be "spouses of the Holy Spirit."  Be sure to scroll down the various pages as sometimes there's a good amount of white space before any material appears.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Feast of St. Clare of Assisi (and my own feast day!)

Draw me after you, let us make haste.  The king has brought me into his chambers.  We will exult and rejoice in you; we will extol your love more than wine; rightly do they love you.  ~Sg 1:4

In reality, Clare's whole life was a Eucharist because ... from her cloister she raised up a continual thanksgiving to God in her prayer, praise, supplication, intercession, weeping, offering and sacrifice. She accepted everything and offered it to the Other in union with the infinite "thanks" of the only-begotten Son, the Child, the Crucified, the risen One, who lives at the right hand of the Father.  ~Bl. John Paul II, Address of 8/11/93

Oh, beautiful, radiant St. Clare!  How lovely the light which shines forth from you -- it is Jesus!  I join my little Eucharistic thanksgiving to your great and holy one, confident that you will help me become, like you, all His and His alone.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Here we are, look; we're beautiful."

"Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air, amply spread around everywhere, question the beauty of the sky, question the serried ranks of the stars, question the sun making the day glorious with its bright beams, question the moon tempering the darkness of the following night with its shining rays, question the animals that move in the waters, that amble about on dry land, that fly in the air; their souls hidden, their bodies evident; the visible bodies needing to be controlled, the invisible souls controlling them; question all these things. They all answer you, 'Here we are, look; we're beautiful.' Their beauty is their confession. Who made these beautiful changeable things, if not one who is beautiful and unchangeable?" ~St. Augustine

O God, make me beautiful, too, so that my beauty may confess Your unchangeable beauty and everlasting love.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Feast of St. Teresa Benedict of the Cross (Edith Stein)

Who are you, sweet light, that fills me
And illumines the darkness of my heart?
You lead me like a mother's hand,
And should you let go of me,
I would not know how to take another step.
You are the space
That embraces my being and buries it in yourself.
Away from you it sinks into the abyss
Of nothingness,
from which you raised it to the light.
You, nearer to me than I to myself
And more interior than my most interior
And still impalpable and intangible
And beyond any name:
Holy Spirit eternal love!

~From Verses for a Pentecost Novena
by Edith Stein, aka St. Teresa Benedict of the Cross

Monday, August 8, 2011

Feast of St. Dominic

A person who governs personal passion is the master of the world. We must either rule them, or be ruled by them. It is better to be the hammer than the anvil.  ~St. Dominic de Guzman

Dear Lord, give me the wisdom and the strength to bring my every thought into captivity and obedience to You so that You alone may truly live and reign in me.  Amen.  (cf. 2 Cor 10:5)

P.S.  Ave Maria!  Some good resources on Dominican Spirituality can be found here, here, and here (be sure to scroll down the page).

Sunday, August 7, 2011

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Bid me come to you upon the water." ~Matthew 14:28

The gospel tells us how Christ the Lord walked upon the waters of the sea, and how the apostle Peter did the same until fear made him falter and lose confidence. Then he began to sink and emerged from the water only after calling on the Lord with renewed faith.

Now we must regard the sea as a symbol of the present world, and the apostle Peter as a symbol of the one and only Church. For Peter, who ranked first among the apostles and was always the most ready to declare his love for Christ, often acted as spokesman for them all.

For instance, when the Lord Jesus Christ asked who people thought he was and the other disciples had cited various opinions, it was Peter who responded to the Lord’s further question, But who do you say I am? with the affirmation: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. One replied for all because all were united.

When we consider Peter as a representative member of the Church we should distinguish between what was due to God’s action in him and what was attributable to himself. Then we ourselves shall not falter; then we shall be founded upon rock and remain firm and unmoved in the face of the wind, rain, and floods, which are the trials and temptations of this present world.

Look at Peter, who in this episode is an image of ourselves; at one moment he is all confidence, at the next all uncertainty and doubt; now he professes faith in the immortal One, now he fears for his life.

Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you upon the water. When the Lord said Come, Peter climbed out of the boat and began to walk on the water. This is what he could do through the power of the Lord; what by himself? Realizing how violently the wind was blowing, he lost his nerve, and as he began to sink he called out, "Lord, I am drowning, save me"!

When he counted on the Lord’s help it enabled him to walk on the water; when human frailty made him falter he turned once more to the Lord, who immediately stretched out his hand to help him, raised him up as he was sinking, and rebuked him for his lack of faith.

Think, then, of this world as a sea, whipped up to tempestuous heights by violent winds. A person’s own private tempest will be his or her unruly desires. If you love God you will have power to walk upon the waters, and all the world’s swell and turmoil will remain beneath your feet. But if you love the world it will surely engulf you, for it always devours its lovers, never sustains them.

If you feel your foot slipping beneath you, if you become a prey to doubt or realize that you are losing control, if, in a word, you begin to sink, say: Lord, I am drowning, save me! Only he who for your sake died in your fallen nature can save you from the death inherent in that fallen nature.

~St. Augustine, 354-430


Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Transfiguration of Our Lord

On the Mountain You were Transfigured, O Christ God,
And Your disciples beheld Your glory as far as they could see it;
So that when they would behold You crucified,
They would understand that Your suffering was voluntary,
And would proclaim to the world,
That You are truly the Radiance of the Father!
~from the Liturgy of the Orthodox Church

"Rise, and do not be afraid."  ~Matthew 17:7

Friday, August 5, 2011

The joy of consecrated love!

"Through their pledge to follow Christ more closely, virgins are consecrated to God, mystically espoused to Christ and dedicated to the service of the Church, when the diocesan Bishop consecrates them according to the approved liturgical rite." Code of Canon Law, #604 §1, on the order of virgins

Ave Maria!  This morning I am exulting in the joy of consecrated love!  I have just learned that next Wednesday evening, August 10, Janet LeBlanc of Waterville, ME will receive the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity Lived in the World from Bishop Richard Malone, Diocese of Portland, ME (news release available here).  It's always such a happy celebration for me when another woman becomes a consecrated virgin.  To be called by the Lord Jesus to a life of consecrated virginity ... to receive this consecration from the Church, who is His Bride and our Mother ...  and then to become herself His bride and the spiritual mother of all ... oh, what indescribable joy! I do not know Janet LeBlanc, nor will I be able to attend her consecration, but my heart is jubilantly united with hers as her glorious wedding day approaches.  Deo gratias!

"I am espoused to him whom the angels serve;
sun and moon stand in wonder at his glory."
~from the Rite of Consecration

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The joy of human love!

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child;
Friends on Earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild;
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

"For The Beauty of The Earth"
by Folliott S. Pierpoint, 1864

Ave Maria!  I've been singing to myself the above hymn ever since Tuesday when I boarded a plane in Portland, ME to return home to Houston after two glorious weeks there.  I stayed in Lincolnville with my sweet sister Annie and her husband John, and the second week there we were joined by our cousins Christine and Stephen and his wife Patricia.  The four of us cousins are very close as we spent many years living together when we grew up.  What a wonderful reunion we had!  Every single moment was so special, so lovely, and so precious, whether we were sunning at the ocean's edge or drinking morning coffee or cleaning up after supper.  What we did wasn't important.  It was more than enough that we were together, enjoying each other's company and discovering anew that which unites us forever through time and space -- the Everlasting Love that has never let us go.  Truly, my cup runneth over.  Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!

And I smiled to think God's greatness
Flowed around our incompleteness --
'Round our restlessness His rest.

~Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1809-1861)

P.S.  I hope to post some pictures of us soon!