Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Light and Love from above


Almighty God,
every good thing
comes from you.

Fill our hearts
with love for you,
increase our faith,
and by your
constant care
protect the good
you have given us.

We ask this
through our
Lord Jesus Christ,
you Son,
who lives and reigns
with you and the
Holy Spirit,
one God,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

Opening Prayer for today's Mass,
Wednesday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Inner beauty, ultimate truth

Blooming Hibiscus from within the monastery cloister courtyard.

"Beautiful things
draw us out of ourselves
into an encounter
with a truth that
is beyond us,
yet accessible
to our senses."
George Weigel

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fire that cannot be quenched


Fr. Denis Robinson, O.S.B., a confrere, a good and dynamic soul, and the president-rector of the Saint Meinrad School of Theology, also gave a rousing homily yesterday to the new and returning seminarians as the fall semester begins. I was not there to hear it (not being a seminarian), but his was the homily in the school chapel Sunday for the Opening Mass of the new school year. He focuses in on the first reading from Jeremiah, the prophetic flame of the Church in our hearts througout the world, and our individual calls to burn brightly with and for one another as the Body of Christ.

Fr. Denis has posted the homily, as he does with most, on his excellent blog. Please take the time to check it out. You may find some other posts there as well worth reflecting on -- with words for us all, not just seminarians. Listen to this prophet! His blog is The Substance of Things Hoped For: Reclaiming the Catholic Imagination. Please click the link to read the homily.

PAX
Br. Francis

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Follow me


NOTESoon, I hope to resume posting brief commentaries or reflections on each Sunday's Mass readings on this blog, as I did on my previous one. I was going to write one for today, but after hearing the homily of Fr. Germain Swisshelm, O.S.B., at today's Mass in the Archabbey Church, I decided I could do no better. Graciously, he gave me a copy, which follows. As I listened to these words in light of today's Gospel, a number of people came to mind: Fr. Rupert, who is in the hospital with a broken neck; Fr. Richard who is also in the hospital; and two monks whose feast days we celebrated today--Fr. Augustine, who is recovering from a stroke, and Fr. Aurelius, who suffers dementia. In addition, I considered my confreres who are suffering in various ways, known or unknown. I thought of my mother, who is recovering from back surgery, and many other relatives and friends facing one challenge or another. I thought of a very dear friend who has faithfully persevered in many respects. And I thought of all the others throughout the world who suffer silently and anonymously in ways many of us cannot begin to imagine. Where is Christ in all this? Fr. German provides the answer. -- Br. Francis

Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time--A

Jeremiah 20:7-9
Romans 12:1-2
Matthew 16:21-27
Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone wants to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me."

For us Christians, the cross means suffering, pain, humiliations; it means sickness, physical or mental illness. All this, the Lord warns us, lies in store for one who wants to become his follower.

According to the gospels, Jesus cured great numbers of sick and crippled people during his three-year ministry. But even so, there were thousands more who went uncured because they never had a chance to approach him. In our own time, there are saintly persons who have had power to cure sick persons miraculously. Think of St. Padre Pio, the Italian Capuchin, who cured people of every imaginable malady, many of them with terminal illnesses. But still, there are millions of others equally deserving who spend their whole lives in mental hospitals, in wheelchairs, in physcial or mental anguish, and who never receive a miraculous healing, though they are special objects of God's love and compassion.

We search Scripture to understand why some few are cured, but the majority must spend their whole lives patiently enduring their unrelenting sickness or crippledness.

The gospels themselves do throw some light on this question. All those sick people that Jesus did cure had a mission in life: to provide our Lord the occasion to show his power and to prove the divine origin of his ministry. But what about the millions of sick, lame, blind, the alcoholics, the addicted, persons whose life is a continual struggle with temptation? Do they have no mission from the Lord? How must suffering persons find a meaning to their seemingly unfulfilled lives? Or is there no rhyme or reason at all to suffering?

Such persons must be convinced that they do have a mission. Suffering Christians are like ordained ministers. They, by their patience, preach Christ to the world in a unique way. By their patient acceptance of suffering, they are one with Christ on the cross, who knew pain by personal experience. The work of redemption is being carried on by their participation in the cross of Christ. Christ goes on redeeming the world through them. Their sufferings, lovingly borne, are divine, supernatural acts. Their degree of participation in Christ's work of redemption is determined by the degree of their love for him and their union with the divine will.

The gospel tells us, therefore, that it is not a mere accident of fate that there are crippled, sick, and suffering persons in the world. They are special agents of God and their lives are filled with meaning because in each of them the redemptive activity of Christ continues for the salvation of humankind.

The world had to wait for our Lord to come, to show us the value of suffering by his willingly dying on the cross. He asks the sick and suffering of today to make some response to so much love, and their response takes the form of a patient and generous acceptance of his divine will.

Let us praise God's great wisdom and love in providing his Church with this special order of ministers, i.e., persons who patiently endure physical, psychological, or spiritual pain in union with our Lord's own sufferings on the cross. If anyone here is a member of this select group, you must take courage and not lose heart. Your patient suffering in union with Christ is bringing about the salvation of the world.

--Fr. Germain Swisshelm, O.S.B.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Good news

YOU
are
encircled
by the
arms
of the
mystery
of GOD.
Hildegarde of Bingen

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A little thing full of Love

X

God showed me a little thing,
the size of a hazelnut,
and it was round as a
ball.

I looked at it with the eye
of my understanding and thought
,
What may this be?

And it was generally answered thus:
"It is all that is made."

I marveled how it might last,
for it seemed it might suddenly
have sunk into nothing
because of its littleness.

And I was answered
in my understanding:
"It lasts and ever shall,
because God loves it."

Julian of Norwich

A Conversation with the Creator


***
The Lord called me from birth,
from my mother’s womb
he gave me my name.

 
Thus says the Lord:
“Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness
for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

See, upon the palms of my hands
I have written your name.

Raise your eyes to the heavens,
and look at the earth below;
Though the heavens grow thin like smoke,
the earth wears out like a garment
and its inhabitants die like flies,
My salvation shall remain forever.

For I am the Lord your God,
who stirs up the seas
so that its waves roar.

I have put my words into your mouth
and shielded you in the shadow
of my hand,
I, who stretched out the heavens,
who laid the foundations of the earth,
who say to you: You are my people!”

***
O Lord, you are our father;
we are the clay and you the potter:
we are all the work of your hands.

Thus says the Lord:
“I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth:
The things of the past shall not
be remembered or come to mind.
Instead, there shall always
be rejoicing and happiness
in what I create.”

-- Isaiah 49:1, 15-16; 51:6, 15-16;
64:7; 65:17-18

Thank you, Lord

Thank you , Lord,
for everything I do not see:
for wires and pipes
that hide within the walls,
for those who put them there
so long ago to serve.
And thank you, too,
for people passing by
who nod or smile,
but, I regret to say,
escape me unaware.
For every unseen hand
that washes, cooks, or cleans,
and every single kindness
so simply offered
that it passes me without a word
to mark its wide humanity.
For my oblivious culpability
I honestly ask some pardon
and give this thanks again
for everything I do not see.

-- Fr. Harry Hagan, O.S.B.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Eternal rest grant unto them ...

Fr. Wolfgang and Br. Thomas in the archives at Einsiedeln.
Br. Thomas is studying with us here at Saint Meinrad this year.
 
Uncle Lynn
Gomez
Kariuki
                     
... and let perpetual light shine upon them: 

-- Fr. Jorge Gomez and Stanley Kariuki, two young men tragically killed in a car accident early today in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Jorge just graduated from Saint Meinrad Seminary a few months ago, and was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Tulsa just last month. Stanley, from Kenya, was a seminarian here at Saint Meinrad studying for Glenmary Home Missioners, and was due to return here next week to resume classes for the fall semester. I didn't know either of them, although I was in a couple classes with Jorge. I do remember that Jorge ALWAYS had a big smile on his face, and was usually surrounded by a good number of friends and family members. You can read more about the accident by clicking here.

-- Fr. Wolfgang RenzO.S.B., 91, a monk of Einsiedeln Abbey in Switzerland, the motherhouse of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, who died Saturday. Fr.Wolfgang was an English teacher and monastery guestmaster for many years. Since he knew some English, I had several conversations with him when I was at Einsiedeln last summer. At that time, he was still playing the organ every evening at Vespers!

-- Lloyd "Lynn" Bridge, 82, of Monticello, Indiana, my mother's uncle, who died Saturday. He was the brother (one of five boys) of my maternal grandfather. All five have now passed on to eternal life. As kids, it was always a treat to make the trip from Ohio to Indiana and visit "Grandpa Bridge." It was also always fun to visit "Uncle Lynn" and "Aunt Jean" (+2000). They were faith-filled, hard-working, joyful people who knew the meaning of the word hospitality. ... And Uncle Lynn looked almost exactly like his brother -- my Grandpa Bridge!

May the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Light to our path


“It’s easy to be a Christian,” says Fr. Harry Hagan, a monk and former novice/junior master at Saint Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana, “It’s hard to be one every day.”
True enough. A life of faith is a sacred journey by which we are transformed into the very Life of God. However, it is a process that we must engage each step of the way. The road is a long one, and it is sometimes dark, winding, and rough in spots.
But God’s promise is this: Christ, who is the destination beyond the horizon, also comes to meet us and miraculously lights our seemingly mundane path. Just as the risen Jesus appeared on the road to Emmaus to reassure and sustain his followers in word and sacrament, so he does with us, each and every day. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” he tells us (John 14:6).
What does this mean? It means that we must get beyond the long-held but sadly mistaken notion that God is “up there” and we are “down here.” As we walk the path of life, we are all participants in God’s creative work in building up the Kingdom, right here, right now. It means, as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, that “the world is charged with the grandeur of God.”
We profess and strive to live an incarnational spirituality after the pattern of Jesus, the Word made flesh. So, the world has a sacramental character. Every thing, every person, and every circumstance somehow fit together in God’s universal plan of salvation—though some points may seem scattered and a few lines may appear crooked. As St. Paul tells us: “All things work together for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28).
With this in mind, I am happy to welcome you to my new blog, “The Path of Life: Musings on Meeting the Miraculous in the Midst of the Mundane.” As many of you know from reading my previous blog The Yoke of Christ, I recently made solemn vows as a Benedictine monk of Saint Meinrad. The title of that blog reflected a particular Scripture passage (Matthew 11:28-30) that spoke to my heart upon my “reversion” several years ago and subsequent discernment of a religious vocation. Looking back, I realize it was one piece of a larger call leading me to “put on the new self,” the life of Christ—in my case, as a monk. The yoke of Christ, to me, represents this new life.
Obviously, having made solemn vows, I do not now throw that yoke aside. It is more a part of me than ever—I hope. However, I have also entered a new stage along the Christian path of life, along my monastic journey. It can really only be described as “the long haul.” That is not a dreadful thing—quite the opposite.
The path toward eternal life is a journey we must make each day. As St. Anthony the Great said, “Each day, I begin again.” This is true for each and every Christian. For those embracing the monastic way of life in response to God’s call, they do so not because they are perfect, but to become perfect through the grace of God. Monks and nuns living according to the Rule of St. Benedict seek God in the ordinary, the routine, and the mundane. That is all that truly sets them apart. No matter what else they do, the ordered round of prayer in the monastery continually calls them back to listen and respond to the Word of God, who is the source of each of our lives.
While not everyone is called to monastic life, all Christians are called to discipleship, and the road to which we are beckoned is nothing more and nothing less than the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. St. Benedict speaks often of this in the prologue to his Rule, repeatedly using terms like road, way, path, and journey. Like Jesus, he doesn’t promise that it will be easy, only that it will be eternally rewarding. The road, he says, “is bound to be narrow at the outset. But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.”
The point is that faithful discipleship is the work of a lifetime, and is not something to be achieved cheaply, overnight, or all by one’s self. A life of faith is primarily a commitment to a process that pursues a sacred purpose: Union with God. So, Christ is not only our destination, but also a recurring rest stop along the way, where we spiritually refuel and regain our bearings, and then begin again—so that love may impel us and “bring us all together to everlasting life” as St. Benedict says.
As I have moved along that path in the monastery, this whole idea has, in a sense, pulled up alongside the call I heard in Matthew 11:28-30. Speaking just as forcefully to me now are the words of Psalm 16:11—“God will show me the path of life, the fullness of joy in his presence” (Cf. Psalm 139:24). In other words, the long haul of eternal life.
So, it seemed a good time to begin another blog reflecting this mindset. In addition, this Path of Life theme is at the heart of the work I do as a writer and editor for the publications division at the Abbey Press. I am principally involved with a relatively new venture at the Abbey Press called Path of Life Publications, which is modeled on all that I have recounted above. So, this new blog reflects not only my personal journey in the monastic way of life, but also its “marriage,” in a sense, with my work at the Abbey Press. I really see them as being integrated rather than as separate elements.
A few caveats: This blog will not be a mode of selling you anything, although it will include links to Path of Life Publications at the Press and occasional references to things I may be working on there. In many ways, it will be no different than my previous blog, The Yoke of Christ, which I began back in December of 2008. Only the title, look, and Internet address have changed, really. I expect the content—principally spiritual reflections on life—to be much the same (I do plan to still tinker somewhat with the design the next few days).
Also, I will not be taking down the The Yoke of Christ. It will remain in place. However, I will no longer be posting anything new there.
On a more personal note, I would like to thank all those who have blessed my journey by reading my blog. I really began blogging as just a little hobby on the side a few years ago, but it has taken on a life of its own—principally through your support and prayers. I never imagined that reflections on my own personal journey would hold such meaning and inspiration for so many other seekers (literally from around the world), which many of you have related to me in various ways. You have helped give me courage I never knew that I had.
To that, I can only say “The Spirit blows where it wills” (John 3:8).
So, thank you for joining me along the Path of Life. Together with Christ, let’s see where it leads us … one day at a time.
"I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Matthew 28:20