Tuesday, January 31, 2012

St. John Bosco

And God gave to Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart as the sand that is on the sea shore. ~1 Kings 4:29

Ave Maria!  Today the Church honors St. John Bosco.  In the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, the above verse from Scripture is the Introit, or what is called the Entrance Antiphon in the Novus Ordo.  How aptly it describes St. John Bosco, who dedicated his life to helping the young!  The Salesian family that he began with 17 men in Italy during 1859, now, 152 years later, numbers in the hundreds of thousands and is spread throughout the entire world.  Its three largest groups are the Salesians of Don Bosco, priests and brothers who serve in 128 countries; the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians (also known as the Salesian Sisters), consecrated women religious who serve in 85 countries; and the Salesian Cooperators, married and single lay men and women who live their Catholic faith and the Salesian spirit in the normal situations of their life and work, according to their lay state.  While numbers can be impressive, of far greater importance is the love that wisdom, understanding and largeness of heart generate, the love of God and of all His people that we see so clearly in the life, witness and ministry of St. John Bosco and the Salesian family today. 

O God, who raised up the Priest Saint John Bosco as a father and teacher of the young, grant, we pray, that, aflame with the same fire of love, we may seek out souls and serve you alone.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.  ~The Roman Missal, Collect, St. John Bosco

Monday, January 30, 2012

Corrections and Admonitions

A true sign that one loves the virtue he is striving to acquire is to appreciate the corrections and admonitions received for the defects committed against this virtue. This is a great indication of advancing toward perfection. – St. Francis de Sales

Ave Maria!  What a gift it is to have people in our lives who correct and admonish us!  They are my true friends who point out to me my faults, especially those weaknesses of mine that I so blithely ignore or proudly deny.  With an honesty born of love, they help me to keep growing in the ways of our Lord and in the true freedom of the children of God.  Admittedly, sometimes I don't want to hear what these companions of  mine have to say, but I know that I can trust them because they also are striving for holiness and wholeness.  Through their kindness to me, my shortcomings become stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks as together we advance in God's grace and glory.  Thanks be to God!
Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head. ~Psalm 141:5

Sunday, January 29, 2012

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

This is a new kind of teaching -- he speaks with authority! ~Mark 1:27

But Christ really saw, and ever saw, the face of God, for He was no creature of God, but the Only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father. From eternity He was with Him in glory, as He says Himself, dwelling in the abyss of the infinite greatness of the Most High. Not for forty days, as Moses on the mount in figure, but for ever and ever was He present as the Counsellor of God, as His Word, in whom He delighted. Such was He of old; but at the time appointed He came forth from the Father, and showed Himself in this external world, first as its Creator, then as its Teacher, the Revealer of secrets, the Mediator, the Off-streaming of God's glory, and the Express Image of His Person. Cloud nor image, emblem nor words, are interposed between the Son and His Eternal Father. No language is needed between the Father and Him, who is the very Word of the Father; no knowledge is imparted to Him, who by His very Nature and from eternity knows the Father, and all that the Father knows. Such are His own words, "No man knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him" (Matthew 11:27). Again He says, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9); and He accounts for this when He tells us, that He and the Father are one (John 10:30); and that He is in the bosom of the Father, and so can disclose Him to mankind, being still in heaven, even while He was on earth.

Accordingly, the Blessed Apostle draws a contrast between Moses and Christ to our comfort; "the Law," he says, "was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" [John 1:17). In Him God is fully and truly seen, so that He is absolutely the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. All our duties are summed up for us in the message He brings us. Those who look towards Him for teaching, who worship and obey Him, will by degrees see "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in His face," and will be "changed into the same image from glory to glory." And thus it happens that men of the lowest class and the humblest education may know fully the ways and works of God; fully, that is, as man can know them; far better and more truly than the most sagacious man of this world, to whom the Gospel is hid. Religion has a store of wonderful secrets which no one can communicate to another, and which are most pleasant and delightful to know. "Call on Me," says God by the prophet, "and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not of" (Jeremiah 33:3). This is no mere idle boast, but a fact which all who seek God will find to be true, though they cannot perhaps clearly express their meaning. Strange truths about ourselves, about God, about our duty, about the world, about heaven and hell, new modes of viewing things, discoveries which cannot be put into words, marvellous prospects and thoughts half understood, deep convictions inspiring joy and peace, these are a part of the revelation which Christ, the Son of God, brings to those who obey Him. Moses had much toil to gain from the great God some scattered rays of the truth, and that for his personal comfort, not for all Israel; but Christ has brought from His Father for all of us the full and perfect way of life. Thus He brings grace as well as truth, a most surprising miracle of mercy from the freeness of the gift, as well as a true wisdom from its fulness.

~Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, 1801-90
Parochial and Plain Sermons, Volume 7, Sermon 9

The light of thy countenance O Lord, is signed upon us:
thou hast given gladness in my heart.  ~Psalm 4:6

Friday, January 27, 2012

...to the Tabernacle...

Go perseveringly to the Tabernacle, either bodily or in your heart, so as to feel safe and calm: but also in order to feel loved ... and to love.  ~ St. Josemaria Escriva

O Lord of Hosts, one day within Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.  My greatest blessing, my deepest joy is to dwell always with You, my King and my God.  Amen. (cf. Ps 84)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What's my measure?

The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. ~ Mark 4:24

Ave Maria!  This verse from today's gospel (Mark 4:21-25) is a sobering one.  I get as much or as little as I give.  And the choice is always mine -- I can be either a spendthrift or a tightwad in the matters of the heart.  If I love lavishly, then my entire being will continually expand more and more to welcome and receive the God who so ardently longs to give each one of us His entire being.  And still more will be given to us!  If I love meagerly -- which really isn't love at all -- then I've pretty much closed the door of my heart to my prodigal God, whose love alone is the source of my love. 

St. Francis de Sales, whose feast day we celebrated earlier this week on January 24, got it right when he proclaimed, "The measure of our love is to love without measure."  Or, as the Lutheran radio preacher and author Paul Scherer noted in his book Love is a Spendthrift: Meditations for the Christian Year, "Love is a spendthrift, leaves its arithmetic at home, is always 'in the red.'"

Today, in the Spirit of Love, I make the following prayer by author Flora Larsson the meditation and cry of my heart.

I want to be a spendthrift, Lord,
A spendthrift of my time and strength
Giving instead of withholding,
Sowing instead of wanting to reap.

Don’t let me be a miser, Master,
Cuddling myself to myself,
Careful of every effort,
Counting each step,
Hoarding my physical resources
For the demands of a tomorrow that might never come.

Make me a glad spendthrift, Lord:
Joyously giving my love and care,
Opening the sluice-gate of my small reserves,
Pouring out what little I have to give
Without measure or stint,
Without anxious debate,
And trusting You for tomorrow.

Don’t let me shelter myself in a glass case,
Fearful lest the light of day should fade me,
Dreading that the hand of time should touch me,
Shrinking from effort that might drain me,
Saving myself up for what?
To look nice in my coffin?

Let me give what I have to give with open hands,
Offering myself to You each day for service,
Happy to be used as long as life shall last,
Living for You as a glad spendthrift.
For at the end, Lord
You will not ask me what I have saved,
But what I have given.

To go forward with such a spirit is what I intend to do!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Conversion of St. Paul

Conversion of St. Paul by Roy Ruiz

[But] whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ.  More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection and [the] sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  ~ Phil 3:7-11

This turning point in [St. Paul's] life, this transformation of his whole being was not the fruit of a psychological process, of a maturation or intellectual and moral development. Rather it came from the outside: it was not the fruit of his thought but of his encounter with Jesus Christ. In this sense it was not simply a conversion, a development of his "ego", but rather a death and a resurrection for Paul himself. One existence died and another, new one was born with the Risen Christ. There is no other way in which to explain this renewal of Paul. None of the psychological analyses can clarify or solve the problem. This event alone, this powerful encounter with Christ, is the key to understanding what had happened: death and resurrection, renewal on the part of the One who had shown himself and had spoken to him. In this deeper sense we can and we must speak of conversion. This encounter is a real renewal that changed all his parameters. Now he could say that what had been essential and fundamental for him earlier had become "refuse" for him; it was no longer "gain" but loss, because henceforth the only thing that counted for him was life in Christ. ~ Pope Benedict, 9/3/08, General Audience on the Conversion of St. Paul

Smite me, Lord, with Thy bright light
even though it gives me fright.
Quickly now I take my flight
from every shadow of the night.
Forevermore by love and might
Thou alone my sweet delight.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Choose Life!

"...at the origin of every human being there is not something haphazard or chance, but a loving plan of God."  ~ Pope Benedict XVI

Ave Maria!  God's plan for us is life.  Why, then, would we choose anything else, anything less?  Yet we do, every single one of us, at one time or another.  Perhaps we don't deliberately end people's lives, but in many small ways we fail to respect their being, to recognize their dignity, and to uphold their God-given right to life.  Or so it seems to me when I come before the Lord of All Being, the Giver of Life, and examine my conscience according to His gospel.

As we all know, yesterday was the 39th annual March for Life in Washington, DC.  You can read all about it on the Web, so there's nothing for me to say.  However, I do want to include this powerful image that appears today on the Washington Post Web site in its coverage of the March.  I also want to direct you here to one mother's thoughts as she gladly marched yesterday for life.  She begins her reflection by saying: "Today I marched...I marched for my daughter and the dignity of her life. The worlds says she is a burden, my mother's heart says she is the heart of our home and we would not know who we are without her."  How utterly amazing by the world's standards!  Mary's daughter Courtney, who is profoundly disabled, is the heart of their home!  And Mary, her husband and their son wouldn't know who they are without her!  The world's standards, did I say?  But we, through the grace of God, have the mind of Christ! (1 Cor 2:16).  Thanks be to God!  And many, many thanks to all those individuals who yesterday reminded us of this in their March for Life.

And be not conformed to this world;
but be reformed in the newness of your mind,
that you may prove what is the good,
and the acceptable,
and the perfect will of God.
~ Romans 12:2

Monday, January 23, 2012

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

"This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." Mark 1:15

In today’s gospel, beloved, we heard the exhortation to repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Now the kingdom of heaven is Christ, who, as we know, is the judge of good and evil and scrutinizes the motives for all our actions.

We should therefore do well to forestall God’s judgement by freely acknowledging our sins and correcting our wrongheaded attitudes; for by failing to seek out the needful remedies and apply them, we place ourselves in danger.

And our knowledge that we shall have to account for the motives behind our shortcomings makes the need for such a change of heart even greater.

We must recognize the greatness of God’s love for us; so generous is it that he is willing to be appeased by the amends we make for our evil deeds, provided only that we freely admit them before he has himself condemned them. And though his judgments are always just, he gives us a warning before he passes them, so as not to be compelled to apply the full rigor of his justice.

It is not for nothing that our God draws floods of tears from us; he does so to incite us to recover by penance and a change of heart what we had previously let slip through carelessness. God is well aware that human judgment is often at fault, that we are prone to fleshly sins and deceitful speech.

He therefore shows us the way of repentance, by which we can compensate for damage done and atone for our faults. And so to be sure of obtaining forgiveness, we ought to be always bewailing our guilt.

Yet no matter how many wounds our human nature has sustained, we are never justified in giving ourselves over to despair, for the Lord is magnanimous enough to pour out his compassion abundantly on all who need it.

But perhaps one of you will say: "What have I to fear? I have never done anything wrong." On this point hear what the apostle John says: If we claim to be sinless, we deceive ourselves and are blind to the truth. So let no one lead you astray; the most pernicious kind of sin is the failure to realize one’s own sinfulness.

Once let wrongdoers admit their guilt and repent of it, and this change of heart will bring about their reconciliation with the Lord; but no sinner is more in need of the tears of others than the one who thinks he has nothing to weep for. So I implore you, beloved, to follow the advice given you by holy Scripture and humble yourselves beneath the all-powerful hand of God.

As none of us can be wholly free from sin, so let none of us fail to make amends; here too we do ourselves great harm if we presume our own innocence. It may be that some are less guilty than others, but no one is entirely free from fault; there may be degrees of guilt, but no one can escape it altogether.

Let those then whose offenses are more grievous be more earnest in seeking pardon; and let those who have so far escaped contamination by the more heinous crimes pray that they may never be defiled by them, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

~ Caesarius of Arles (c. 470-543)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Occasions of Merit

When life gets prickly, keep on blooming!

From me is thy fruit found.  ~ Hosea 14:9

Never let pass a single occasion of merit from which you can gain some spiritual profit as, for example, some harsh little word someone might say, an obedience asked of you against your will, a chance to humiliate yourself, to practice charity, meekness and patience. All these occasions are profitable to you and you yourself should look for them. And you should go to sleep quite content on the day you have had more occasions of merit, just as the businessman does when he has had the opportunity of realizing a profit, for on that day business went well for him. ~ St. Ignatius of Loyola

My dear Lord, help to look for and make the most of  all the occasions of merit you will give me today, not only for my spiritual profit but also -- and most importantly! -- for the praise of Your glory.  Amen.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Attend to yourself

If you really want to become perfect, you must firmly hold to the counsel of the Apostle (St. Paul): Attend to yourself, which implies two things. The first is not to look at the affairs of others nor at their defects. For the one who wishes to do his duty well and correct his own faults certainly has enough to do. The second is to strive for your own perfection and work incessantly for it, without worrying whether or not the others are doing so.  ~Abbot Pastore

Ave Maria!  What excellent advice for all of us!  Attend to myself.  Cultivate my own garden.  Mind my own business.  Take the log out of my own eye.  Thomas à Kempis comes to mind:  "Do not be concerned overmuch who is with you or against you, but work and plan that God may be with you in all that you do" (Imitation of Christ, Bk 2, Ch 2).  Sounds like a very good plan for me today -- and every day!  Thank you, my dear Lord!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Those Who Challenge Us

Bless those who challenge us for they remind us of doors we have closed and doors we have yet to open. ~Native American Prayer

Ave Maria!  This little prayer made me smile today when it appeared in my email box.  I immediately thought of various people in my life who sometimes challenge me -- individuals such as my sweet sister Annie, my spiritual father, a small group of older women whom I lovingly call "my elders," and a few special girlfriends who are truly my soul sisters.  I welcome their challenges, which for me are an invitation to clarify my thoughts, beliefs and actions as well as a summons to "come up higher, my friend" (Luke 14:10).  Because I know that these challenges are born of love, I need not be afraid.  I can and do trust these dear friends of mine -- and, yes, I bless them and thank God for them with all my heart for they are His precious gift to me.  Alleluia!

P.S.  Of course, not everyone who challenges us does so out of love.  Perhaps I'll write about them later...!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

O Lamb of God, I come!

They saw where Jesus lived, and they stayed with him.  ~John 1:39

Spurred on by the testimony of John the Baptist, the glorious apostle Andrew left his teacher and ran to the one pointed out by him. John’s words were his signal, and, moving more swiftly than John could speak, he approached the master with obvious longing, his companion, John the Evangelist, running beside him. Both had left the lamp to come to the sun.

Andrew was the first to become an apostle. It was he who opened the gates of Christ’s teaching. He was the first to gather the fruits cultivated by the prophets, and he surpassed the hopes of all by being the first to embrace the one awaited by all. He was the first to show that the precepts of the law were in force only for a limited time.

He was the first to restrain the tongue of Moses, for he would not allow it to speak after Christ had come.

Yet he was not rebuked for this, because he did not dishonor the teacher of the Jews, but honored more the sender than the one sent.

In fact Andrew was seen to be the first to honor Moses, because he was the first to recognize the one he foretold when he said: The Lord God will raise up for you from among your kindred a prophet like myself. Listen to him.

Andrew set the law aside in obedience to the law. He listened to Moses who said: Listen to him. He listened to John who cried out: Behold the Lamb of God, and of his own accord went to the one pointed out to him.

Having recognized the prophet foretold by the prophets, Andrew led his brother to the one he had found. To Peter, who was still in ignorance, he revealed the treasure: We have found the Messiah for whom we were longing.

How many sleepless nights we spent beside the waters of the Jordan, and now we have found the one for whom we longed! Nor was Peter slow when he heard these words, for he was Andrew’s brother. He listened attentively, then hastened with great eagerness.

Taking Peter with him, Andrew brought his brother to the Lord, thus making him his fellow-disciple. This was Andrew’s first achievement: he increased the number of the apostles by bringing Peter to Christ, so that Christ might find in him the disciples’ leader. When later on Peter won approval, it was thanks to the seed sown by Andrew.

But the commendation given to the one redounded to the other, for the virtues of each belonged to both, and each was proud of the other’s merits. Indeed, when Peter promptly answered the master’s question, how much joy he gave to all the disciples by breaking their embarrassed silence!

Peter alone acted as the mouthpiece of those to whom the question was addressed. As though all spoke through him, he replied clearly on their behalf: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. In one sentence he acknowledged both the Savior and his saving plan.

Notice how these words echo Andrew’s. By prompting Peter the Father endorsed from above the words Andrew used when he led Peter to Christ. Andrew had said: We have found the Messiah.

The Father said, prompting Peter: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, almost forcing these words on Peter.

“Peter,” he said, “when you are questioned, use Andrew’s words in reply. Show yourself very prompt in answering your master.

Andrew did not lie to you when he said: We have found the Messiah.

Turn the Hebrew words into Greek and cry out: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”
~Caesarius of Arles

My dearest Jesus, I have found You whom my soul loves.  May I always hold You and never let You go!  Amen.  (cf. Song of Solomon 3:4)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Living in the World as a Consecrated Virgin

"The destiny of each of us is linked to that of everyone else." 
~Pope Benedict XVI, 1/12/12

Ave Maria!  The Holy Father made the above point yesterday in an audience which you can read more about here.  He affirmed that we are called to live in relation with other people and with God, Who alone "is capable of welcoming man unconditionally and of giving him infinite love."  We are not alone!  We have God and each other!  This is both comfort and challenge.  Being a high introvert, it's so easy for me to unintentionally withdraw from the people around me.  Solitude has always come naturally to me, even as a child, and it is an absolute priority for me in my life of prayer and contemplation as a consecrated virgin.  But precisely because I have been consecrated as a virgin "living in the world," I must constantly venture forth from my solitude to be, as Pope John Paul II exhorted us to be, the hands and feet of the Church, the Bride of Christ.  The love of Christ impels me (2 Cor 5:14).  And in giving, I receive -- blessedly and abundantly so!

Thank you, my dear Jesus, for binding us together in Your wondrous Love!  Amen.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Epiphany of the Lord

"The Adoration of the Magi" by Andrea Mantegna

We have come from the East to worship the king.  ~Matthew 2:2

Dearly beloved, the day on which Christ first showed himself to the Gentiles as the Savior of the world should be held in holy reverence among us. We should experience in our hearts the same joy as the three wise men felt when the sign of the new star led them into the presence of the king of heaven and earth, and they gazed in adoration upon the one in whose promised coming they had put their faith.

Although that day belongs to the past, the power of the mystery which was then revealed has not passed away; we are not left with a mere report of bygone events, to be received in faith and remembered with veneration. God’s bounty toward us has been multiplied, so that even in our own times we daily experience the grace which belonged to those first beginnings.

The gospel story specifically recalls the days when, without any previous teaching from the prophets or instruction in the law, three men came from the far east in search of God; but we see the same thing taking place even more clearly and extensively in the enlightenment of all those whom God calls at the present time.

We see the fulfillment of that prophecy of Isaiah which says: The Lord has bared his holy arm in the sight of all nations, and the whole world has seen the salvation that comes from the Lord our God. And again: Those who have not been told about him shall see, and those who have not heard shall understand.

When we see people being led out of the abyss of error and called to knowledge of the true light, people who, far from professing faith in Jesus Christ, have hitherto devoted themselves to worldly wisdom, we can have no doubt that the splendor of divine grace is at work.

Whenever a shaft of light newly pierces darkened hearts, its source is the radiance of that same star, which impresses the souls it touches by the miracle of its appearance and leads them forward to worship God.

If on the other hand we earnestly ask ourselves whether the same threefold oblation is made by all who come to Christ in faith, shall we not discover a corresponding gift offering in the hearts of true believers?

To acknowledge Christ’s universal sovereignty is in fact to bring out gold from the treasury of one's soul; to believe God’s only Son has made himself truly one with human nature is to offer myrrh, and to declare that he is in no way inferior to his Father in majesty is to worship him with frankincense.

St. Leo the Great, c. 400-61