Thursday, February 28, 2013

The ark still sails

"The waters rose and swelled greatly on the earth,
and the ark sailed on the waters."
 
Genesis 7:18


"You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.
And the gates of the underworld
can never hold out against it."

Matthew 16:18

X
"The Church has had moments of joy and light, but also moments that were not easy. There have been moments in which the waters were turbulent and the wind contrary, as throughout the history of the church, and the Lord seemed to be asleep. But I have always known that the Lord is in that boat and that the boat of the Church is not mine, it is not ours, but it is his and he does not let it sink."
-- Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, final general audience
 
“May you always experience the joy
that comes from putting Christ
at the center of your lives.”

Benedict's final Twitter post
 
X
Heavenly Father,
strengthen your Church
in unity and charity
and, as you have entrusted
your servant Benedict
with the office of shepherd,
grant him and his successor
salvation and protection,
together with the flock
entrusted to his care.
Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Adapted from closing prayer
from Mass for the Pope
Roman Missal, 3rd Ed.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Religious brothers

X
A word about the vocation of religious brothers from Catholic News Service

RYE, N.Y. (CNS)—Religious brothers say they are an invisible group in the church, but that it's not such a bad thing because it allows them the freedom to be ordinary men performing an extraordinary ministry.

That's the view of brothers and other participants at a think tank convened last fall to examine their vocation.

“Our vocation is one of the church's best-kept secrets,” Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk, executive director the National Religious Vocation Conference, said. “We are vowed religious who commit ourselves to a particular ministry, live in community and share prayers.

“We are not part of the hierarchy of the church, which gives us more freedom in ministry to respond to those most in need. Our vocation complements the religious priesthood,” he said.

The number of religious brothers in the United States fell from 12,271 in 1965 to 4,477 in 2012, according to statistics compiled by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. More than half are at, or close to, retirement age.
...To read more of this article, click HERE.

The Gospel challenge


Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you,
what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers and sisters only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
 
Matthew 5:43-48

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ebb and flow


“Never give up
because you never know
what the tide
will bring in the next day."
 
Tom Hanks' character Chuck Noland
in the 2000 movie
Castaway

(After many years stranded alone
on a deserted island after a plane crash,
Noland is eventually able to get off the island
by building a raft using an object
that washes ashore one day:
a section from a portable toilet.)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Choosing the wise path


In the Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Lent (Luke 4:1-13), we hear once again of Jesus being tempted in the desert by the devil. In much the same way, each of us is tempted on a daily basis to choose the ways of the world over the ways of God.
What are the ways of the world? Primarily, “worldly wisdom” teaches that health and wealth, success, and influence (or power) are the ultimate values in life. We want to be disease- and injury-free, prosperous, triumphant, and in control of not only our own destinies, but often those of other people and events.
It is neither wrong nor evil to have or experience such things. What really matters is to what extent these gifts are valued by us, how they’re obtained, and how they are put to use. Each of these things, depending on our interior motivations and attachments, can be either the means of honoring God or foolishly forsaking him by making them idols.
The truly wise one, according to our Christian faith, is the one who recognizes that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). This is not a cowering, servile fear. It is grateful recognition of God as the Giver of all good gifts, and us as his stewards and ambassadors who respond in love to his divine goodness.
And choosing the wisdom of God is not a once-in-a-lifetime event, but an ongoing struggle to discern and act rightly. As Barbara Bowe points out in her book Biblical Foundations of Spirituality, “In the daily rhythms of life each one must choose between the ways of the wise and the ways of the foolish. In choosing the wise path, we choose the path of life.”
These choices are laid out in front of us every day in myriad ways—yes, even in the monastery! Each day, the monk—as with people in all walks of life—must make constant choices as to whether to serve oneself or serve others out of love for Christ.
Strengthened by that love, let us answer the temptation to act according to the world’s ways with the same words Jesus spoke to combat the Evil One: “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ashes to ashes

"You are dust, and to dust
you shall return."

Genesis 3:19

Skulls of deceased monks are displayed on Mount Athos.
The inscription reads: "
You shall also become as I am."
(We don't do this at Saint Meinrad, just so you know.)

In his Rule for monks, St. Benedict says that one must “keep death daily before your eyes” (Rule 4:47). The tomb, just as it received Christ’s lifeless body on Good Friday, awaits each and every one of us.

This is not a macabre admonition or an invitation to be perpetually morose. Quite the opposite, as the preceding sentence in the passage from the Rule demonstrates: “Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire.” Like the ancient Israelites, we are sojourners under the watchful and protecting gaze of our compassionate God as we travel to the Promised Land of eternal life through the love of Christ.

Lent is a reminder that the world as we know it is not the be-all and end-all. Something—or, more precisely, Someone—infinitely better awaits us. The joy of this knowledge, derived through faith, fills us with that holy desire needed to live radically here and now so that, as St. Benedict says toward the end of his Rule, Christ may bring us all together to everlasting life.

This is the hope that fills our days with joy without denying our deep sorrow. It is what makes us Christian. When things go terribly wrong, when failure and hardship seem to frame our days, and when people age and die, what we are really lamenting is the brokenness of Creation. We should feel sorrow, because the life for which God created us was not meant to be that way. However, we should also embrace the joy of knowing that in Christ, God has restored all things, and rightly ordered them as they are meant to be.

It is true that from our limited perspective, we cannot fully perceive that right-ordering. In Christ, however, the act has been completed, but is still growing to fulfillment. Similarly, when we plant a flower bulb in the earth during the lengthening shadows of autumn, we know that it will be months before it springs forth from the ground with life and color and fragrance—but its work has begun. The Incarnation continues to this very moment as the Body of Christ grows to maturity in each one of us. Truly, “with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day” (2 Peter 3:8).

The moment has been redeemed, and eternity calls out to us from the dark moments just before the dawn. Listen, and from the silence of the tomb, cling to Jesus’ words to his disciples the night before he died: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. You know the way to the place where I am going…I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:1-4, 6).
X
LENTEN PRAYER

Lord, I wait for the dawn of Resurrection often in the midst of darkness and death. Life is a struggle sometimes for all of us, and we are overwhelmed by uncertainty amid the passing days. Our hearts long for eternity—for you. However, by keeping death daily before our eyes, we are encouraged to prepare rightly for that moment when we will see your face. Help us along the way—in faith, hope, and love—to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Christ, forever trusting that if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his (cf. Luke 9:23; Romans 6:5).

Amen.
 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Prayer for the sick


NOTE: On this World Day of the Sick, a prayer for the suffering and those who care for them, from the Catholic Health Association of the United States:
X
Lord,
Grant your healing grace to all who are sick,
injured or disabled, that they may be made whole.
Grant to all who through illness are lonely,
anxious or despondent, an awareness of your loving presence.
Restore those who are in mental distress
to soundness of mind and serenity of spirit.
Bless physicians, nurses and all others who minister
to those suffering, granting them
wisdom, skill, sympathy and patience.
Grant all who serve in the ministry of health care
confidence, energy and courage to do the work
to which they have been called. Help them to be models
of encouragement so that others do not lose hope.
Lord, God of All Compassion, hear our prayer
and help us to live day by day with active concern,
like that of the Good Samaritan, for those suffering in body and spirit
whom we are called to serve, whether or not we know them
and however poor they may be.
Through the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes
and Our Lady of Graces, we pray.
Amen.

Let us pray


NOTE: By now you have likely heard that Pope Benedict XVI, citing his advanced age of 85, has announced that he will resign effective February 28. Benedict, who was elected in April 2005 as successor to Blessed John Paul II, is the first Pope to resign in more than 600 years. Below is the statement issued by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in response to the Pope's announcement. I particularly like the first paragraph and concur wholeheartedly. Let us pray for Pope Benedict, for the Church, and the world it serves and guides. In particular, through the intercession of the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, let us pray for those cardinals who will soon elect a new Holy Father, that in all things, God's will be done. -- Br. Francis

X
"The Holy Father brought the tender heart of a pastor, the incisive mind of a scholar and the confidence of a soul united with His God in all he did. His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the Church. We are sad that he will be resigning but grateful for his eight years of selfless leadership as successor of St. Peter.

Though 78 when he elected pope in 2005, he set out to meet his people – and they were of all faiths – all over the world. He visited the religiously threatened – Jews, Muslims and Christians in the war-torn Middle East, the desperately poor in Africa, and the world’s youth gathered to meet him in Australia, Germany, and Spain.

He delighted our beloved United States of America when he visited Washington and New York in 2008. As a favored statesman he greeted notables at the White House. As a spiritual leader he led the Catholic community in prayer at Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. As a pastor feeling pain in a stirring, private meeting at the Vatican nunciature in Washington, he brought a listening heart to victims of sexual abuse by clerics.

Pope Benedict often cited the significance of eternal truths and he warned of a dictatorship of relativism. Some values, such as human life, stand out above all others, he taught again and again. It is a message for eternity.

He unified Catholics and reached out to schismatic groups in hopes of drawing them back to the church. More unites us than divides us, he said by word and deed. That message is for eternity.

He spoke for the world’s poor when he visited them and wrote of equality among nations in his peace messages and encyclicals. He pleaded for a more equitable share of world resources and for a respect for God’s creation in nature.

Those who met him, heard him speak and read his clear, profound writings found themselves moved and changed. In all he said and did he urged people everywhere to know and have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

The occasion of his resignation stands as an important moment in our lives as citizens of the world. Our experience impels us to thank God for the gift of Pope Benedict. Our hope impels us to pray that the College of Cardinals under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit choose a worthy successor to meet the challenges present in today’s world."
-- Cardinal Timothy Dolan,
President, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Anchored to heaven


In my Biblical Foundations of Spirituality class (part of the graduate certificate in spiritual direction program), we have been discussing various metaphors and analogies for God which are related to us in Scripture. For example: Father, Shepherd, and Rock--to name only a few. All these point toward some aspect of God, but of course, all ultimately fall short because God cannot be named or defined. God is pure Spirit and Mystery, and such images only serve to draw us toward him in various ways. Different metaphors speak to different people at different points in their lives, but they are far from being exhaustive.

I mention this because this morning at Vigils and Lauds, our commentary reading mentioned another image which has always intrigued me--that of anchor. Specifically, the reading makes reference to Hebrews 6:19-20: "We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered." The commentary was intended to reflect upon our first reading (1Corinthians 15:12-34) dealing with the subject of resurrection, and I thought part of it was worth sharing (as you may recall, I posted part of it here back in August under the title Anchor of Hope. In any event, here is the excerpt from today's commentary:
In Christ God comes down to us, takes our carnal nature, and raises it above itself in order to carry it into the intimate presence of the Father, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. The resurrection of Christ constitutes the firstfruits of our own resurrection. With Christ, part of our humanity is already taken up into the abyss of the Godhead.

According to the metaphor employed by the writer to the Hebrews, Christ is like an anchor, which instead of being let down into the depths of the sea is cast up in the heights of heaven. He is the guarantee of our hope, because that hope has already been fulfilled in him. What is more, in virtue of a mysterious force of gravity, the glorified Christ draws the whole of humanity upward. "When I am lifted up from the earth," Jesus said, "I shall draw all things to myself" (John 12:32).

But our soul experiences the power of the resurrection even now. When we are dead through the sin that deprives us of the divine life, our souls are touched by the risen life of Christ, who revives the life of the Spirit in us. The Holy Spirit converts and strengthens our minds and hearts, filling them with his own life and empowering them to know and love the things of God.
-- Jean Danielou, The Resurrection

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Are YOU called to religious life?

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.
Before you were born I consecrated you."

Jeremiah 1:4-5


Today is World Day for Consecrated Life, and today's Mass readings (Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; 1Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Luke 4:21-30), each in their own way, highlight specific aspects of religious vocation. First, in Jeremiah, we hear God's call in intimate fashion. God forms us. He chooses us. Then he consecrates--or qualifies--us. We are not the master of our lives. We are chosen when and how God chooses, wherever we are and whatever we are like, for reasons God alone knows and fulfills. And God qualifies us for the task he has appointed after choosing us; we do not have to be qualified--or holy--first.

In the second reading, St. Paul expounds beautifully on the origin, meaning, and purpose of any vocation--love.

Finally, in the Gospel of Luke, we are offered a glimpse of the sort of challenges that following a call to a religious vocation will necessarily entail. The people of Jesus' own hometown, the people who "knew" him best, reject him, even trying to kill him. But they can't, we are told, because Jesus mysteriously "passed through the midst of them." Later on in Jerusalem, Jesus is killed by his own people, but once again he mysteriously escapes the reality of death in grand fashion by rising from the dead and giving hope of redemption to all. God's inherent message for the one who is called circles back to a line from the first reading in Jeremiah: "They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you."

If one is called to a religious vocation, God will provide everything he or she needs to fulfill his purpose. Do not be afraid.

Perhaps God is calling YOU to religious life? Perhaps even as a monk of Saint Meinrad? If so, come and see, and do not be afraid, for God is with you.