Tuesday, March 31, 2009

He Fell

The Seventh Station - Jesus Falls a Second Time

V. We adore You, O Christ, and we praise you

R. Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.

The Gospels do not record the "falls" of Jesus but surely he fell and probably more than three times. The weight of the cross, the loss of blood from the scourging and the crown of thorns, even the jeers of the crowd had to have contributed to the falls. All the more, our sinfulness caused the "Man of Sorrows" to fall; he rises once again to carry the cross, to reach Calvary.

When our sinfulness causes us to fall, we need to rise again. We sin more than three times in our lives and each time we need to rise again. He leads us beyond Calvary to the Resurrection. He promises us life eternal if only we embrace the Cross.

Monday, March 30, 2009



In the years prior to the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, the name given to the Divine Office of Matins and Lauds, celebrated the evening before Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, was Tenebrae (Latin for Darkness), anticipating the liturgical Offices of the last three days of Holy Week (now the Liturgy of the Hours of the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer, celebrated on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday mornings). It differed, in many ways, from the Divine Office of the whole rest of the year. Its tone was sad and mournful; nothing could more emphatically express the grief that weighed down the heart of our holy Mother Church at the death of Jesus. Throughout these celebrations of the liturgy of the Divine Office she forbad herself the use of those prayers of joy and hope which, on all the other days during the year, she began her praise of God in the light of the morning. All that was left was what was essential to the Divine Office: psalms, lessons and chants, all expressive of grief at the death of Jesus, the Lord. The tone of the whole Office was mournful: the Lessons were taken from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the Glory be to the Father was omitted and the darkness of these services was designed to mark the Church’s desolation at the death of Jesus.

The name Tenebrae was given because it was celebrated in the hours of darkness, anticipating the early morning Offices on the evening before those great days. In the sanctuary, near the altar, stood a large triangular candlestick, the Tenebrae Hearse, holding fifteen unbleached wax candles. At the end of each psalm or canticle, one of these fifteen candles was extinguished, but the one candle at the top of the Hearse was left lighted. During the singing of the Canticle of Zachariah at the end of Lauds (Morning Prayer), the six candles on the altar (also of unbleached wax) were also put out. At the end of the Office, a loud noise was made signifying (the end of the service) or the earthquake at the moment of Christ’s death and the earthquake that marked His resurrection. All departed in silence. Today, a similar liturgical service takes place.

The meaning of these ceremonies is centuries old. The glory of the Son of God had been obscured, eclipsed, by the sufferings and ignominies He endured during His Passion. He, the Light of the World, powerful in word and work, Who but a few days ago had been proclaimed King by the people of Jerusalem, is now robbed of all His honors. He is, according to the prophet Isaiah, the “Man of sorrows”, (Isaiah 53:3) a “leper”; a “worm” of the earth, and “no man” (Psalm 22:7). He is, an object of shame even to his own disciples, for they are all scandalized by him (Mark 14:27) and abandon Him; even Peter, the Rock, protests that he never knew Him (Lk. 22:57). The desertion on the part of His apostles and disciples is expressed by the candles being extinguished, one after the other, not only on the Hearse, but also on the altar itself. But Jesus, our Light, though despised and betrayed, is not extinguished, not put out. This is signified by the single candle at the apex of the Hearse which continues to burn. It symbolizes our Redeemer suffering and dying on Calvary but also rising to new life on Easter morning. The loud noise expresses the convulsions of nature which occurred when Jesus died on the cross: the earth quaked, rocks were split, and the dead came forth from their tombs. On the morning of that first Easter, the earth shook again as the stone rolled back from the tomb, and the now risen Savior received the homage paid to the Conqueror of sin and death. (Excerpted from the revered Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger, the Catholic Encyclopedia and other sources.)

This year we will pray Tenebrae at St. Sebastian on Good Friday and Holy Saturday mornings.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

From Tragedy to Triumph

This is a reflection on Holy Week from several years ago.

Holy Week is different than other weeks during the year, or it ought to be. This is our annual commemoration of the most significant events in Salvation History. During Holy Week we move from triumph (Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem) to tragedy (The Passion) and from tragedy (Jesus’ death) to triumph (His resurrection), with many moments in-between.

Holy Week is about movement in time and space. This most sacred week in the life of the Church is a gift given to us each year as we are permitted to experience once again the life-giving death and glorious resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Church invites us to go back in time to the center-point of all human history, the “Place of the Skull” and to see the Cross as a moment in time which changed eternity.

The Church also asks us to see the death and resurrection of Jesus re-presented under sacramental signs of bread and wine in the Sacrifice of the Mass. Each time we are present at Mass, we are present at Calvary. The Sacred Host and Precious Blood we receive are His Body and Blood, given and poured out for us upon the Cross.

Finally, on Easter, especially at the Vigil, we are plunged into the mystery of darkness and light, death giving way to new life, time being replaced by eternity. It is our common celebration of our individual baptisms which joins us together as one in Jesus Himself.

How will you make this week holy for yourself? What will you do to remind yourself of the great events this week celebrates? Plan to attend your parish celebrations during Holy Week; go to as many as you can. Make the sacrifice of time and you will experience eternity.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Take My Life

Take my life, and let it be, consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move, at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use, every power as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

Frances R. Havergal

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Garden and the Gardener

As Holy Week so swiftly approaches, may I share with you a reflection I wrote last year.

As Catholic Christians we all share a common identity as children of God, made so by the waters of Baptism. To be a child of God is to be a brother or sister of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is to be united as one in the power of the Holy Spirit and incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.

Each year as we come to the end of our Lenten journey from ashes to Easter, in Holy Week we take leave of the desert and in the Sacred Triduum enter into gardens. On Holy Thursday, the garden is Gethsemani and as Jesus prays, we fall asleep with the other disciples. How conscious and aware are they, are we, of all that is to transpire over these next three days.

On Good Friday, the garden is the place of the tomb where the body of the Lord, our brother Jesus, is laid to rest.

On Easter, we come to the garden and, with Mary Magdalene, encounter the Gardener – the Risen Lord Jesus!

The sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is destroyed by the new Gardener whose bapitsmal waters bring life and freshness to each of us.

This Easter, as we renew our Baptismal Promises, may we give thanks to the Divine Gardener from whose life we draw life itself.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The True Image

The Sixth Station - Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

V. We adore You, O Christ, and we praise you
R. Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.

She comes from the crowd and returns to it. She has courage, she has faith. In an instant her life is changed. She does what she has to, what her heart tells her. What does my heart tell me about this "Man of Sorrows"? How do I respond to His sufferings? What love do I feel as He imprints His Holy Face on my heart. Am I a true image of Him?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Young Woman and the Angel

This is a detail from the Window of Prophecy in the Chapel of Our Lady of Woodside at St. Sebastian Church in Woodside, New York.

This is the mural of the Annunciation in St. Sebastian Church. It is in the sanctuary on the Ambo side. It's companion piece is the Visitation, on the other side of the baldachino.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Saddle Shoes and Wings

John Collier's contemporary depiction of the classic scene captured my heart and imagination when I first saw it. I cannot tell you how it helps me to pray this Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. What do you see when you look at the image? When you look at Mary's young face?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hidden God

I found this and wanted to share it.
Hidden God, I cry to You!
Hidden Light, I turn to You!
Hidden Love, I run to You!
With all my strength, I worship You;
With all my love, I cling to You;
With all my soul, I long for You,
And fear no more to fall away from You.
Jesus, undying Love, who seeks me,
You Who died for love of me,
King in all Your splendor, come to me,
Depart no more, dear Lord, from me.
O God, most precious and most priceless One;
O God, most glorious Uncreated One;
O God, Eternal Beatific One;
O God, O Infinite and Hidden One;
O God, Immense, O God the Living One;
You, Wisdom of the Everlasting One;
With all my heart I give myself to You;
O patient Love, Who wearies not of me.
Call me to ever follow You;
O bear with me, till I lose myself in You,
O bear with me, till I am found in You!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Why me," he asked?

The Fifth Station - Simon of Cyrene carries the cross for Jesus
V. We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You
R. Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.
Simon was coming in from the country, probably for Passover. He had no idea what was happening. He was "pressed into service," forced to carry the cross for Jesus. We never hear of him again, although there is a tradition that he became a bishop. St. Mark tells us that he was the "father of Alexander and Rufus" two individuals who were probably known to his readers.
A day that at its start was like every other, became a life changing event for Simon and his sons. Could you imagine yourself in Simon's place? What must he have been thinking, feeling? How long did he carry it? Did he stay to the end?
We are all too ready to ask Jesus for help with our "crosses" quick to ask that our "cup of suffering" pass us by and yet Jesus invites His followers to take up the cross daily and follow in His footsteps.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mother - The Fourth Station

The Fourth Station: Jesus meets his sorrowing Mother

V. We adore you O Christ and we praise you
R. Because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

Mary had said to the angel, "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." That's how it all started, with an angel and a "yes". Then there were angels at the birth.

Where are the angels now? And the shepherds? And the Wise Men? Where the gold, frankincense, and myrrh? Where is the wood of the manger, of his cradle? He had spent so much of his life in the carpenter shop, surrounded by wood. Later, he was often in boats made of wood. Why this huge cross of wood? what has my son done? Where are the "hosannas" of just a few days ago?

I stood by my son so often in life, so will I now as he goes to die.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Little Flower - A Powerful Intercessor

Novena to St Teresa of the Child Jesus

O St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, who during your short life on earth became a mirror of angelic purity, of love strong as death, and of wholehearted abandonment to God, now that you rejoice in the reward of your virtues, cast a glance of pity on me as I leave all things in your hands. Make my troubles your own, speak a word for me to Our Lady Immaculate, whose flower of special love you were to that Queen of Heaven "who smiled on you at the dawn of life." Beg her powerful intercession the grace I yearn for so ardently at this moment...(mention your intention)...and that she join with it a blessing that may strengthen me during life, defend me at the hour of death, and lead me straight on to a happy eternity. Amen.

O God, who did inflame with the Spirit of Love, the soul of your servant Teresa of the Child Jesus, grant that we also may love you and make you much loved. Amen.

Bells and Prayer

The bells at St. Sebastian are the recorded kind, but they still peal loudly. In addition to the bells that announce the Masses each day, and the musical selections that ring periodically through the day, on Ash Wednesday we instituted a ringing of bells at three o'clock, the Hour of Great Mercy. Church bells are a way of reminding us of things that we ought to do, like go to Mass or pray during the day, or recite the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at 3pm.

There is also a very ancient custom related to bells that some say goes back to the 11th century. Bells ring at 6 am, Noon, and 6pm and people stop and pray a very brief prayer called The Angelus. As a courtesy to the rest of the world, the first Angelus bell rings at 8am rather than 6am in most Catholic parishes, but in monasteries they usually stay with the earlier hour -- the monks and sisters have been long up anyway.

The bells ring three times, pause, ring three times again, pause, and ring three times again and pause, followed by nine single peals.

When I was a child on a trip to Rockaway, our favored and affordable vacation spot, at Noon you could hear the peal of the Angelus bells from the churches. As the first bell sounded people would stop what they were doing and stand, reciting the Angelus privately to themselves. Within an instant the whole beach crowd was on its feet, only to go back to what they had been doing after the last bell sounded. It made an impression on at least one young boy!

The point of a prayer like the Angelus is the sanctification of time. In much the same way as priests, deacons and religious women and men, and an increasing number of lay people recite The Liturgy of the Hours throughout the day, everyone could adopt the practice of privately reciting The Angelus every day.

The Angelus

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary:
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord:
R. Be it done unto me according to Your word.

Hail Mary . . .

V. And the Word was made Flesh:
R. And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary . . .

V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

Pour forth, we beseech You, O Lord, Your grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Your Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven)
(This prayer takes the place of the Angelus during the Easter Season.)

V. Queen of Heaven rejoice, alleluia.
R. For He whom you merited to bear, alleluia.
V. Has risen as He said, alleluia.
R. Pray for us to God, alleluia.

V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. Because the Lord is truly risen, alleluia.

Let us pray : O God, who by the Resurrection of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, granted joy to the whole world: grant we beg You, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may lay hold of the joys of eternal life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

St. Paul of the Cross and Stations

During the Holy Year of 1975 Pope Paul VI used these Stations of the Cross on Good Friday at the Coliseum in Rome. The Stations incorporated meditations from Saint Paul of the Cross since the Holy Year was also the the 200th anniversary of his death

The Stations of the Women

Ruth M. Fox, OSB produced a series of 15 Stations called "The Way of the Cross with the Women of the Gospel." Something else to enrich our prayer life during this Lenten season and again it asks that we use our imagination to depict the scene.

1. Jesus is anointed by the woman at Bethany to prepare him for his passion. (Mk. 14:1-9)

2. Jesus is condemned by Pilate and defended by Pilate's wife. (Mt. 27:19-24)

3. Jesus accepts the cross. (Lk. 9:23-25)

4. Jesus meets Mary, his mother. (Lk. 2:33-35)

5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross. (Mk. 15:20-21)

6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus. (Mt. 25:37-40)

7. Jesus falls amid rejection. (Mt. 23:37-39)

8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem who lament his suffering. (Lk. 23:27-31)

9. Jesus is stripped of his clothes. (Mt. 27:33-36)

10. Jesus is nailed to the cross. (Lk. 23:33-34, 35-38)

11. Jesus dies on the cross, comforted by the faithful women. (Mk. 15:33-41)

12. The body of Jesus is taken down from the cross. (Jn. 19:33-38)

13. The body of Jesus is laid in the tomb. (Mt. 27:59-61)

14. The women find the tomb empty. (Mk. 16:1-8)

15. Jesus commissions the women to evangelize. (Mt. 28:8-10)

Joseph the Carpenter

St. Joseph is very dear to me. My Dad's name was Michael Joseph. Michael because he was born on the 29th of September, but the family never called him that; he was Joe to everyone in the family and Mike at work and to everyone else. It's an Irish thing! So on his feast day, some prayers.

Prayers to St. Joseph

O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your Heavenly power I may offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of Fathers. O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen

Memorares of Saint Joseph

Remember, O most chaste spouse of the Virgin Mary, that never was it known that any who implored your help and sought your intercession were left unassisted. Full of confidence in your power, I fly unto you, and beg your protection. despise not, O foster-father of the Redeemer, my humble supplication but in your bounty hear and answer me. Amen.


Remember, O most illustrious Patriarch St. Joseph, on the testimony of St. Teresa, thy devoted servant, that never has it been heard that anyone who invoked thy protection or sought thy assistance has not obtained relief. In this confidence I come to thee, my loving protector, chaste spouse of Mary, foster father of the Savior of men and dispenser of the treasures of His Most Sacred Heart. Despise not my prayer, but graciously hear and answer my petition. (mention your request)

Litany of St. Joseph
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us

Holy Mary, pray for us
St. Joseph, pray for us
Renowned offspring of David, pray for us
Light of Patriarchs, pray for us
Spouse of the Mother of God, pray for us
Chaste guardian of the Virgin, pray for us
Foster father of the Son of God, pray for us
Diligent protector of Christ, pray for us
Head of the Holy Family, pray for us
Joseph most just, pray for us
Joseph most chaste, pray for us
Joseph most prudent, pray for us
Joseph most strong, pray for us
Joseph most obedient, pray for us
Joseph most faithful, pray for us
Mirror of patience, pray for us
Lover of poverty, pray for us
Model of artisans, pray for us
Glory of home life, pray for us
Guardian of virgins, pray for us
Pillar of families, pray for us
Solace of the wretched, pray for us
Hope of the sick, pray for us
Patron of the dying, pray for us
Terror of demons, pray for us
Protector of Holy Church, pray for us

Lamb of God, You who take away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord!

Lamb of God, You who take away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord!

Lamb of God, You who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

V. He made him the lord of His household.
R. And prince over all His possessions.

Let us pray

O God, Who in Your ineffable providence did vouchsafe to choose Blessed Joseph to be the spouse of Your most holy Mother; grant, we beseech You, that we may be worthy to have him for our intercessor in heaven whom on earth we venerate as our Protector. Who live and reign, world without end. Amen.

A Workingman's Prayer to St. Joseph

Glorious St. Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work in a spirit of penance for the expiation of my many sins; to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my inclinations; to work with gratitude and joy, considering it an honor to employ and develop, by means of labor, the gifts received from God; to work with order, peace, moderation and patience, without ever recoiling before weariness or difficulties; to work, above all, with purity of intention, and with detachment from self, having always death before my eyes and the account which I must render of time lost, of talents wasted, of good omitted, of vain complacency in success, so fatal to the work of God. All for Jesus, all for Mary, all after your example, O Patriarch Joseph. Such shall be my watchword in life and in death. Amen.

A Daily Prayer to Saint Joseph

Supported by the patronage of the Spouse of Your Most Holy Mother, we beseech Your clemency, O Lord, to make our hearts despise all earthly things and to love You, the true God, with perfect charity. Who live and reign, world without end. Amen.

The Carpenters

John Collier is one of my favorite contemporary artists. Consider this wonderful painting of Joseph and the young Jesus. It can really help you, as it did and does me, to begin to get my head around the real people that they were. What elements do you see in the painting that draw your particular interest and contemplation?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Stations by JPII

 If you'd like to pray the Stations of the Cross that the late beloved Servant of God, Pope John Paul II prayed in Rome beginning in 1991, the USCCB has them on the web. They are wonderful as well!

The Art of St. Sebastian Church

Visit http://www.mychurchart.com/ to see some extraordinary versions of the art at St. Sebastian.

The Third Station - He Falls

It is related in the annals of Clairvaux that St. Bernard asked Our Lord which was His greatest unrecorded suffering, and He answered: "I had on My Shoulder while I bore My Cross on the Way of Sorrows, a grevious Wound which was more painful than the others, and which is not recorded by men. Honor this Wound with thy devotion, and I will grant thee whatsoever thou does ask through its virtue and merit. And in regard to all those who shall venerate this wound, I will remit to them all their venial sins, and will no longer remember their mortal sins"

Upon his death, it became known that St. Pio of Pietrelcina -- Padre Pio -- had a shoulder wound as well!

Prayer to the Shoulder Wound of Christ

Most loving Jesus, meek Lamb of God, I, a miserable sinner, salute and worship the most Sacred Wound of Thy Shoulder on which Thou didst bear Thy heavy Cross which so toreThy flesh and laid bareThy Bones as to inflict on Thee an anguish greater than any other wound of Thy Most Blessed Body. I adore Thee, O Jesus most sorrowful; I praise and glorify Thee, and give The thanks for this most sacred and painful Wound, beseeching Thee by that exceeding pain, and by the crushing burden of Thy heavy Cross to be merciful to me, a sinner, to forgive me all my mortal and venial sins, and to lead me on towards Heaven along the Way of Thy Cross. Amen. (Imprimatur: +Thomas D. Beven, Bishop of Springfield.)

Another use of the imagination to help us in prayer.

Do you remember falling when you were a child? Have you fallen as an adult? Falling is one of the great fears of the elderly. What's the opposite of falling?

Newer Stations

Following in the footsteps of the late beloved, Servant of God Pope John Paul II, in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI approved a new set of Stations of the Cross for private meditation and public celebration. They are all events based on the scriptural accounts of the Passion of Our Lord.

1. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Lk. 22:39-47,54)

2. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested (Mt. 26:45-49)

3. Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin (Mk. 14:55-64)

4. Jesus is denied by Peter (Lk. 22:54-62)

5. Jesus is judged by Pilate (Lk. 23:20-25)

6. Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns (Jn. 19:1-3)

7. Jesus takes up his cross (Jn. 19:14,17)

8. Jesus is helped by Simon to carry his cross (Mk. 15:21-21)

9. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem (Lk. 23: 27-31)

10. Jesus is crucified (Lk. 23:33-34, 35-38)

11. Jesus promises his kingdom to the good thief (Lk. 23:39-43)

12. Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other (Jn. 19:25-27)

13. Jesus dies on the cross (Mk. 15:33-41)

14. Jesus is laid in the tomb (Mt. 27: 57-61)

Even if you are not able to "walk" the Stations, nothing prevents you from doing them where ever you are. You could decide to do all 14 at one sitting or you could take one a day for 14 days. If you wish, you may add a "15th Station" -- The Resurrection.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saint Patrick's Confession

The Saint writes:

So for that reason one should, in fact, fish well and diligently,just as the Lord foretells and teaches, saying, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,' and again through the prophets: 'Behold, I am sending forth many fishers and hunters, says the Lord,' et cetera. So it behoves us to spread our nets, that a vast multitude and throng might be caught for God, and so there might be clergy everywhere who baptized and exhorted a needy and desirous people. Just as the Lord says in the Gospel, admonishing and instructing: 'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always to the end of time.' And again he says: 'Go forth into the world and preach the Gospel to all creation. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe shall be condemned.' And again: 'This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached throughout the whole world as a witness to all nations; and then the end of the world shall come.' And likewise the Lord foretells through the prophet: 'And it shall come to pass in the last days (sayeth the Lord) that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit and they shall prophesy.' And in Hosea he says: 'Those who are not my people I will call my people, and those not beloved I will call my beloved, and in the very place where it was said to them, You are not my people, they will be called 'Sons of the living God'.

The Confession of St. Patrick

Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Patrick on the Blessed Trinity

In his Confessions the Saint writes:

"Because there is no other God, nor ever was, nor will be, than God the Father unbegotten, without beginning, from whom is all beginning, the Lord of the universe, as we have been taught; and His son Jesus Christ, whom we declare to have always been with the Father, spiritually and ineffably begotten by the Father before the beginning of the world, before all beginning; and by Him are made all things visible and invisible. He was made man, and, having defeated death, was received into heaven by the Father; and He hath given Him all power over all names in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess to Him that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe, and whose advent we expect soon to be, judge of the living and of the dead, who will render to every man according to his deeds; and He has poured forth upon us abundantly the Holy Spirit, the gift and pledge of immortality, who makes those who believe and obey sons of God and joint heirs with Christ; and Him do we confess and adore, one God in the Trinity of the Holy Name."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Apology

As I mentioned earlier, Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh is holding a “Service of Apology" on the Tuesday of Holy Week. He said, and I can say with him: “Unfortunately, I am sure there were times where my actions or words were the cause of hurt! Unfortunately, I am sure that there were times where actions or words by others who represent the Church were the cause of hurt!”

I have thought and prayed about what Bishop Zubik wrote since I read it earlier in the week. If I am honest with myself the I must join my words to his as I offer this prayer today:

Loving and merciful God,
touch our hearts with your tender compassion,
convert us to yourself.
Grant us the grace and courage to ask forgiveness
from those who have been harmed in any way by any
representative of the Church and her leaders or me, your priest.
Where sin has divided and scattered
may your love make one again.
Where sin has brought weakness and hurt,
may your power heal and strengthen.
Where sin has brought death,
may your Spirit raise to life.
Help us all to say tenderly and truthfully
those three powerful words: “I am sorry.”

God bless you!

St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day is a Holyday of Obligation in Ireland. While the focus here in the States isn't as religious, it is the day we celebrate the Patron Saint of Ireland and the Archdiocese of New York. Perhaps this prayer may give us an insight into the Saint and inspire our hearts as well.

St. Patrick's Breastplate

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the Judgment Day.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

You could read more about Patrick if you wish.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Were you yelled at in Confession?

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh is holding a "Service of Apology" on the Tuesday of Holy Week in the Cathedral of St. Paul. Writing in his diocesan newspaper he told a story about a man who approached him recently at some event and expressed his hurt that Bishop Zubik had not responded to a letter he had written to him. The Bishop said he never received the letter, but apologised for the hurt the man felt. He went on to say:

"Unfortunately, I am sure there were times where my actions or words were the cause of hurt! Unfortunately, I am sure that there were times where actions or words by others who represent the Church were the cause of hurt!

Were you ever hurt by a brusque or sarcastic comment from a leader in the Church? Have you stayed away from the Sacrament of Penance because some priest decades ago “yelled” at you in Confession? Was there some disagreement while employed with the Church that unjustly ended with you losing your job? Were you in any way, in any way, harmed by any representative of the Church? Did you feel picked on by a teacher in one of our religious education classes or in one of our schools?"

In my thirty-something years of priesthood I have tried to avoid words or actions that could have been the cause of "hurt" but I am sure I did not always succeed. I think the Bishop of Pittsburgh quite pastoral in his approach. It's that kind of "servant leadership" that Jesus calls all of us to embrace.

God bless you!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Personal Approach

Bishop David Zubic of Pittsburg had a great column back in November of 2007.It speaks of the kind of outreach that should be made to Catholics who are not as close to the Church as they could be. Very personal!

The Stations of the Sorrowful Mother

We are all familiar with the Stations of the Cross but there is also a very ancient devotion called the Stations of the Sorrowful Mother. It is based on the Seven Sorrows of Our Blessed Mother: The Prophecy of Simeon, The Flight into Egypt, The Loss of Jesus in the Temple, Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary, Jesus Dies on the Cross, Mary Receives the Dead Body of Jesus in Her Arms, Jesus is Placed in the Tomb. Again, that Directory of Popular Piety speaks about this devotional practice.

As Christ and Our Lady of Dolours were associated in God's saving plan (Lk 2, 34-35), so too they are associated in the Liturgy and popular piety.

As Christ was the "man of sorrows" (Is 53, 3) through whom it pleased God to have "reconciled all things through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth, when he made peace by his death on the cross" (Col 1, 20), so too, Mary is "the woman of sorrows" whom God associated with his Son as mother and participant in his Passion (socia passionis).

Since the childhood of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary's life was entirely lived out under the sign of the sword (cf, Lk 2, 35). Christian piety has signalled out seven particular incidents of sorrow in her life, known as the "seven sorrows" of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Modelled on the Via Crucis, the pious exercise of the Via Matris dolorosae, or simply the Via Matris, developed and was subsequently approved by the Apostolic See(140). This pious exercise already existed in embryonic form since the sixteenth century, while its present form dates from the nineteenth century. Its fundamental intuition is a reflection on the life of Our Lady from the prophecy of Simeon (cf. Lk 2, 34-35), to the death and burial of her Son, in terms of a journey in faith and sorrow: this journey is articulated in seven "stations" corresponding to the "seven dolours" of the Mother of Our Saviour.

This pious exercise harmonises well with certain themes that are proper to the lenten season. Since the sorrows of Our Lady are caused by the rejection of her Son (cf. John 1,11; Lk 2, 1-7; 2, 34-35; 4, 28-29; Mt 26, 47-56; Acts 12, 1-5), the Via Matris constantly and necessarily refers to the mystery of Christ as the suffering servant (cf. Is 52, 13-53, 12). It also refers to the mystery of the Church: the stations of the Via Matris are stages on the journey of faith and sorrow on which the Virgin Mary has preceded the Church, and in which the Church journeys until the end of time.

The highest expression of the Via Matris is the Pietà which has been an inexhaustible source of inspiration for Christian art since the middles ages.

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The Wonder of Confession

Yesterday, we had priests available for confessions for 12 hours from 7am to 7pm and there was a nice stream of people through the day. I am grateful to the priests from other parishes and ministries who came and sat in the confessional to be the source of God's healing and forgiveness for the people.

Sitting in a confessional is an extraordinary and humbling experience. Most of the time those who come to confession have not been "away" from the Church and their confessions are confessions of devotion. On days like yesterday, especially, I find that some will come who have been "away" for many, many years. Those confessions are just such an uplifting experience for the priest and when I ask, as I always do, "what was it that brought you here today?" the answer is always just very simple, "I came to the church to say a prayer and just decided that today was the day." That's the Holy Spirit at work!

The Second Station - Jesus Carries His Cross

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

As you look at this image, what do you imagine the soldier is thinking? He has probably done this a hundred times, hefting the cross onto a man, but this man is different, or is he? The soldiers seem to be the harshest in their treatment of Our Lord, certainly in the Mel Gibson film The Passion of the Christ they are brutal. In St. Matthew's Passion(Mt.27:27-31) and in Mark's(Mk.15:16-20) and in St. John's(Jn.19:1-3) it's the Roman soldiers. St. Luke tells us it was Herod's soldiers(Lk.23:11), but all the evangelists agree that he was treated badly. He was just another criminal. And yet after his death it is a soldier, a centurion, who proclaims "Truly this man was the Son of God"(Mk.15:39, Lk.23:47, Mt.27:54). The experience of Jesus's death leads to conversion - that is what Lent is all about.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cardinal Egan is very serious here

Florida Catholic | Married priests a possibility says Cardinal Egan

Remember, though, this is always for the future. Those already priests have promised celibacy, so would not be permitted to marry.

The Pope's Letter to his brothers

I make it a habit to read what the Pope writes. Today the news and blogs are full of the latest letter Pope Benedict XVI sent to all the Bishops of the world, and it is, from my perspective, absolutely, and amazingly personal. You can see other takes on it elsewhere, but I see it as one of the most personal letters I could ever imagine a Pope writing.

Pope Benedict XVI, uses the phrases "An unforeseen mishap" and "Another mistake" to begin the second and third paragraphs of the letter. He is writing to his "dear brothers", the bishops, because he feels "obliged" to write to them so that he can "contribute to peace in the Church". A "gesture of mercy" and a "gesture of reconciliation" became "an apparent step backward with regard to all the steps of reconciliation between Christians and Jews taken since the Council".

The Pope writes that this has "upset peace between Christians and Jews as well as peace within the Church, is something which I can only deeply deplore". "I have learned the lesson" he says, mentioning that he has been told that "consulting the information available on the internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on." That's the Holy Father's way of saying I did not do my homework, but I will from now on.

It's a great letter! If you would like to read the entire letter I think it would be worth your while.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What did Pilate Think?

When we do the Stations of the Cross, there can be a tendency to quickly pass the First Station - Jesus is Condemned to Death - and see it almost as a prelude to the action. Yet it is absolutely a magnificent moment of encounter between Jesus and the Roman Governor. The Jew before the pagan. The dialogue between Jesus and Pilate (John 18:33-38),(Lk.23:3 and Mk 15:2-5),(Mt. 27:11-14) and St. Matthew's account of Pilate's wife's dream (Mt.27:19) and the famous scene of Pilate washing his hands of Jesus' blood (Mt.27:24-25) is tremendously challenging for us. What did Pilate think of the man who stood before him?

When you consider this First Station, don't see it from the perspective off Jesus alone; see it from the eyes, heart, mind, and will of the one who speaks the sentence of death.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

St. Patrick and a Novena

The Saint's Day is next week. I had meant to post this earlier, and I actually thought I did, but better late than not at all. The language is dated but the sentiment and fervor is real.

Novena to St. PatrickSay once a day for 9 days, especially beginning on 8 March and ending on 16 March, the eve of the Feast of St. Patrick.

Blessed Saint Patrick, glorious Apostle of Ireland, who became a friend and father to me for ages before my birth, hear my prayer and accept, for God, the sentiments of gratitude and veneration with which my heart is filled. Through you I have inherited that faith which is dearer than life. I now make you the representative of my thanks and the mediator of my homage to Almighty God. Most Holy Father and patron of Ireland despise not my weakness; remember that the cries of little children were the sounds that rose, like a mysterious voice from heaven, and invited you to come to Ireland. Listen, then, to my humble supplication; may my prayer ascend to the throne of Almighty God, with the praises and blessings which shall ever sanctify your name and your memory. May my hope be animated by the patronage and intercession of our forefathers, who now enjoy eternal bliss and owe their salvation, under God to your courage and charity. Obtain for me the grace to love God with my whole heart, to serve him with my whole strength, and to persevere in good purposes to the end, O faithful shepherd, who would have laid down a thousand lives to save one soul, take my soul, and the souls of all men and women, under your special care. Be a father to the Church and her faithful people. Grant that all hearts may share the blessed fruits of the Gospel you planted and watered in Ireland. Grant that, as our ancestors of old had learned, under your guidance, to unite science with virtue, we too, may learn, under your patronage, to consecrate all Christian duty to the glory of God. I commend to you the land of Erin, which was so dear to you while on earth. Protect the United States as well, and, above all, guide and direct the bishops of our nation as they teach us. Give them grace to walk in your footsteps, to nurture the flock with the Word of Life and the Bread of Salvation, and to lead the heirs of the Saints you formed to the possession of that glory which they, with you, enjoy in the Kingdom of Heaven, through Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

V. Pray for us, O glorious saint Patrick.
R. And obtain for us the intention of this Novena.

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Popular Piety

This is a link to the entire Vatican Document

Directory on popular piety and the liturgy. Principles and guidelines

Monday, March 9, 2009

Take up your cross and follow

The Way of the Cross or Stations of the Cross (the Via Crucis in Latin)is a popular devotion among Catholics especially during Lent. The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, Principles and Guidelines was published in December 2001 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

This is what it has to say, in part, about this Lenten practice:

The Via Crucis is a synthesis of various devotions that have arisen since the high middle ages: the pilgrimage to the Holy Land during which the faithful devoutly visit the places associated with the Lord's Passion; devotion to the three falls of Christ under the weight of the Cross; devotion to "the dolorous journey of Christ" which consisted in processing from one church to another in memory of Christ's Passion; devotion to the stations of Christ, those places where Christ stopped on His journey to Calvary because obliged to do so by His executioners or exhausted by fatigue, or because moved by compassion to dialogue with those who were present at His Passion.

In its present form, the Via Crucis, widely promoted by Saint Leonard of Port Maurice (+1751) consists of fourteen stations since the middle of seventeenth century.

The Via Crucis is a journey made in the Holy Spirit, that divine fire which burned in the heart of Jesus (cf.Lk.12:49-50) and brought Him to Calvary. This is a journey well esteemed by the Church since it has retained a living memory of the words and gestures of the final earthly days of her Spouse and Lord.

In the Via Crucis, various strands of Christian piety coalesce: the idea of life being a journey or pilgrimage; as a passage from earthly exile to our true home in Heaven; the deep desire to be conformed to the Passion of Christ; the demands of following Christ, which imply that His disciples must follow behind the Master, daily carrying their own crosses (cf Lk.9,23).

Every day during Lent there are so many people who walk the Way of the Cross in churches throughout the world. If you haven't tried it lately, Lent is an ideal time!

God bless you!

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All Day Confessions

On Thursday March 12, we will have Confessors available from 7am to 7pm at St. Sebastian. This is a practice we adopted my first Advent here in 2002. We invite other priests to help us for a full day of confessions in Advent and in Lent. There is a fairly steady stream of people who come to church during the day and receive the Sacrament of Penance.

This year the Diocese of Brooklyn, following the lead of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, has designated the Monday of Holy Week as Reconciliation Monday. That means on April 6 a priest will be available for confession from 3pm to 9pm. A great opportunity to receive the boundless mercy of God.

God bless you!

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Don't be Stingy with God

Today's Gospel(Lk.6:36-38) is one of my favorites because of the image Jesus uses in verse 38 "Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap". Do you have the image?

It's the "heaping teaspoon". Some one asks to borrow a cup of flour, are you one who just pours the flour into the cup and levels it off at 'exactly' one cup? Or are you someone who pours the flour into the cup, tamps it down, shakes it down more, and then fills it all over again until the cup is overflowing its the brim? One is stingy and the other generous but both give the requested cup of flour.

All this Jesus places in the context of "judging", "condemning",and forgiveness. As usual with Jesus he challenges us "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful".

I like that "heaping" notion of God's mercy!

God bless you!

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Composition of Place

This is a link to a great article on The Composition of Place by Nicholas Standaert, SJ that appeared in The Way, 46/1 (January 2007)


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The Only Day I Work

The running joke in my family is that Sunday is the only day I work. Today was one of those days that seem like it lasted a week.

First off, today is Announcement Sunday for the Annual Catholic Appeal of the Diocese of Brooklyn. What this means for me is that I have to speak at all the Masses, 6 English and 2 Spanish, and show the Appeal video. I have on more Mass to go, the 6PM this evening and I am so tired of the video. Thank God that the parishioners only have to watch it once!

Before I start the video, I begin by thanking the people of St. Sebastian Parish for their tremendous generosity. This is my seventh Appeal and the parishioners never cease to amaze me. St. Sebastian has the largest goal, by far, of any parish in Queens or Brooklyn, $133,349. Every year we have surpasses our goal, sometimes even doubling it, with the amount over goal coming back to the parish.

I have to confess that it really kills me to replace a homily at Mass with a pitch for the Appeal but it is just that important!

Today is the Second Sunday of Lent and the Gospel(Mk.9:2-10) is the story of The Transfiguration. This year we read St. Mark's version but you may wish to read Luke(9:28b-36) and Matthew(17:1-9) as well.It's a great opportunity to practice "composition of place"(compositio loci). First, read the Gospel passage. Now spend time with it an put yourself into the scene. The Evangelists tells us that Jesus went to a high mountain to pray. Can you see yourself being led up the mountain by Jesus? Do you feel the rigor of the journey? Can you imagine the place? What can you see as you look around? He only has Peter, James, and John with Him. He went there to pray, and while at prayer this amazing "transfiguration" takes place. The three disciples are watching Jesus at prayer and they see Him change in appearance. "His clothes become dazzeling white."(Mk) "His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light."(Mt) All this imagery, can you picture what this must have been like for the disciples; their hearts racing, their minds startled, their vision blinded. Then they see Moses and Elijah - representing The Law and The Prophets(The Old Covenant)- in conversation with Jesus. St. Luke tells us that they "spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem."

Peter speaks, and it's obvious he hasn't a clue as to what he is seeing; "they were so terrified." Can you see what is happening? Is your heart pounding? Then the cloud, the voice, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." Then, all is back to normal; or could anything ever be "normal" again for the three disciples, or for us.

You might want to try spending time with the Transfiguration during your prayer this week.

God bless you!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Lent and the Bishops

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a great series of Lenten ideas and practices you may wish to consult.Click on the link below to see what they have.

USCCB - The Lenten Season 2009

God bless you!

Restaurants and Catholics

Last night I sat at a table in a small restaurant and listened to some of the other diners. I have done that a lot as I'm sure many of you have as well. It's not exactly eavesdropping since I'm not listening to the whole conversation. I'm listening for Catholics. Last night four young people, "thirtysomethings", were seated nearby and as they ordered drinks,Lent came up immediately. The conversation centered for a good five or so minutes on who gave what up for Lent. I couldn't say if these Catholics go to Mass every Sunday, but the all had a real consciousness of Lent.

I've been in other restaurants, and sometimes theatres and movie houses, where I've found myself listening for Catholics as well, and always finding them. Catholics speaking of their parishes, the priests, the homilies. Almost every place I go, without very much effort you can hear Catholics if you listen for them. Oddly enough, rarely do I ever hear people excessively critical of their parishes or priests. In fact, when I listen, I hear Catholics proud of their religion, proud of their parishes, and proud of their priests!

God bless you!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Our Lady of Woodside

The building that currently serves as the parish church for the people of St. Sebastian in Woodside, New York was built in 1926 as the Lowe's Woodside Movie House. In the early 1950's because of an anti-trust decision it went on the market and was acquired by St. Sebastian parish and wonderfully renovated into a magnificent worship space seating approximately 1,800 people. It was completely redecorated in the early 1990's and is an even more beautiful place for the community of believers of St. Sebastian Parish.

When I came to St. Sebastian in June 2002 I found this incredibly prescient stained glass window. It represents Our Lady of Woodside with the newly canonized Pope Saint Pius X and Asians, Africans, Europeans, and Native Americans all united under her mantle. In 1955 when the church opened, only the European Immigrants would have been in the mind of any artist other than one guided by the Holy Spirit. Today, the images on the glass depict the Woodside community and the parish of St. Sebastian.

I believe that, especially during Lent, we need to be attuned to the Holy Spirit and the directions he lays out for us. So often we miss the signs of His presence and are the less for it. It's too easy to keep our eyes fixed on this world; He invites us to left our gaze heavenward and open ourselves to His plan for our salvation!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Christ at the Center of New York City

The Window of the Incarnation is one of a series of magnificent stained glass windows designed and executed by Joep Nicolas which may be found in the Chapel of Our Lady of Woodside located at St. Sebastian parish in Woodside.
St. Sebastian is located at the intersection of 58th Street and both Woodside and Roosevelt Avenues in Queens New York. About four blocks to the south on the westbound service road island of Queens Boulevard, there is a marker, installed by the New York City Parks Department, indicating "The Geographic Center of NYC." It's nice to think that, Jesus, His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, sacramentally present in the Holy Eucharist in the tabernacle of St. Sebastian Church is only a few blocks away from the center of our City.
If you look at the images in the window, on the lower right are depicted the four Evangelists ,symbolically depicted (from the bottom, Luke, Mark, Matthew on the left, and John on the right). The top panel invites us to contemplate the newborn Christ-child in the arms of His Blessed Mother and the panel at the bottom left portrays Christ "The Man" after the Crucifixion, once again in the arms of Mary, the Mother. At birth and at death she cradles His body and contemplates His glory!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Jonah in the Belly of the Whale

I remember where I first heard the story of Jonah and the whale. It was part of an old Abbott and Costello routine on their television show; not as famous as "Who's on first" but a great skit none the less.

The book of Jonah is really short, three chapters totalling 48 verses, its a single page (back and front) in my New American Bible. It's the eighth book from the rear of the Old Testament and a really quick and somewhat humorous read!

Today's selection (Jonah 3:1-10) is such a great piece. Nineveh is described as a city so large "it took three days to go through it." After only one day the people repent and the king and all the people humble themselves before the Lord. God repents of his action and Jonah is annoyed! He tells God that that's exactly why he didn't want to go in the first place! "I knew that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, rich in clemency, loathe to punish."

The Gospel (Lk. 11:29-32) for this Wednesday of the First Week of Lent, quotes Jesus as speaking about Nineveh and Jonah. He also identifies himself as the Messiah, if you pay close attention to what he says and what he doesn't say. He's upset because the people are looking for a sign, and they can't see who or what is directly in front of them. He says it quite plainly but they don't hear. They already have their minds made up and nothing he can say or do will change them. They look for a sign, a miracle, so that they can be in charge. Jonah learned much from God about His mercy and love. I hope we can learn more about Him as well this Lent.

God bless you!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Lord's Prayer and Water

How many times a day do you say The Lord's Prayer? It's worth thinking about for a moment. Today's Gospel (Mt. 6:7-15) is Jesus teaching His disciples how to pray. How often do you avert your attention to the invitation I use at Mass as the introduction to the Our Father: "we use the words of our brother Jesus as we pray..." These really are the words of Jesus and He allows us to call God "Our Father." In and through the waters of baptism, we become Children of God, a relationship we enjoy for both time and eternity.

Jesus also tells us "Your Father knows what you need before you ask him." What is the quality and quantity of our prayer? What is it that we really "need" to ask of God? If you're like me and were to make a list of the things I've asked God for, I am embarassed by the importance I have given to some things that I have brought to God with urgency in prayer. When I was younger, a child, teenager, or young man, I was asking God to make up for my lack of studying, my lack of preparation, my "something I should have done" or worse, "something I did." I'd like to say that as a priest, I have become much better in prayer, but I still fall back into some old habits. The difference is that now I catch myself, and look for what it is that I truly need; I ask Him to tell me, and then I listen. The listening part is the hardest part of prayer; make sure you try it!

Water in some form or another is all over the readings of the Lenten Season. In the first reading for today(Is. 55:10-11), rain and snow have the task of watering the earth "making it fertile and fruitful." The prophet Isaiah speaks on behalf of God Himself when he says God's word has a mission too, it "goes forth from my mouth ... shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it." Think: First, waters of baptism and their role in making the earth "fertile and fruitful." Then, the "word that goes forth from my mouth" is Jesus, the Eternal Word of God.

Every morning upon rising and every evening at bedtime we ought to bless ourselves with Holy Water, thanking God for His protection through the night in the AM and asking for it as we go to rest in the PM.

Do you have Holy Water in your home?

God bless you!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Be Holy!

God speakes to his people, through the great prophet Moses, in today's first reading(Leviticus 9:1-2,11-18) and challenges them and us to "Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy." What an incredible invitation and it's what Lent is all about!

I know a lot of people become uncomfortable when they hear the word "holy." I guess we think of it as something saints are and sinners are not, and we fall into the latter rather than the former category. The Church is a "holy Church of sinners" and "sinners" is a great thing to be since that's who Jesus came to invite to a change of heart.

The Gospel (Mt. 25:31-46) is the parable of the Last Judgement.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.'
Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Jesus continues the story for the "goats" who chime in just as the "sheep" did, "when did we see you ... and not minister to your needs?" It's like saying "If I knew it were you, I'd certainly have done it, but I didn't recognize you in those "least brothers" of yours."

Holiness is recognizing the Lord, in whatever guise, and ministering to Him. That's what Jesus means when He speaks about giving alms in the Ash Wednesday Gospel (Mt.6:1-6).

Be holy!

God bless you!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Temptation and the Desert

Today is the First Sunday of Lent. I had the 1.15 Mass and we sent 5 adults who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil and 2 others who will receive Confirmation and Holy Communion as well, to the Diocesan Rite of Election. It is always great for the catechumens to see how many others are coming into the Church along with them.

The Gospels particularly suited to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) are those from the YEAR A cycle of Sunday readings. Those would be the Temptation of Jesus in the Desert Mt. 4:1-11), the Transfiguration(Mt. 17:1-9), the Samaritan Woman at the Well (Jn. 4:5-42), the Cure of the Man Born Blind(JN. 9:1-41), and the Resurrection of Lazarus (Jn. 11:1-45). You might find the reading of these Gospel accounts particularly fruitful, especially if you think about baptismal themes and images. Water, its presence and absence; darkness and light, rebirth and healing; make a list as you read and keep the word "Baptism" in your head as you read.

The Church is in YEAR B of the Sunday Cycle this year.

Today's Gospel is St. Mark's account of the Temptation of Christ in the Desert (Mk. 1:12-15). All three of the Synoptic Evangelists - Mark, Matthew(Mt. 4:1-11), and Luke (Lk. 4:1-13) -- tell the story. As you can see, the others took a longer time to tell the story and elaborate more on it. St. John doesn't have any account of it and St. Mark tells it in two verses really. In the Matthew and Luke Gospels Jesus is "led by the Spirit" whereas St. Mark tells us "the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan." It's another one of the "energy" words we frequently find in St. Mark's Gospel. He wants to tell the story of Jesus' ministry. Anything extraneous to it, like the mission of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus and the temptation account take away from the story of Jesus' mission and, for St. Mark, the urgency of belief in Jesus for the Gospel's hearers and readers.

Three little baby girls baptized today! How wonderful for them and for their families!

God bless you!