Sunday, March 30, 2014

Laetare Sunday Rejoice

I don't know about you, but I have mixed feelings about Laetare Sunday, or Rejoice Sunday. A part of me says, "Be happy. The end of Lent is getting near! Another part, way down deep says, "Too bad! Time has gone so fast. I barely realized it was Lent." I just checked with my desk calendar. Easter is only three weeks away. The only time I and you have is now. So let's make the best of it.
Did you resolve to do or to avoid something for Lent: a food, an activity, a place? Why not dust off the excuses and start again. God looks at our efforts. As Mother Teresa said, probably hundreds of times, God does not ask success from us, but the effort to do good. As St. Theresa of the Child Jesus did, we can compare our forays into spiritual combat with ourselves as an infant learning to walk on her own. At first she may hoist herself up by hanging onto her crib. In the crib she walks around by hanging on. Once she is out onto the floor with nothing to steady her, she crawls then gets up, and soon is down again. Walking is a learned exercise. Who can count all the times that a baby walks a few feet then plops down on her round bottom. Then she rolls over and is up again. Anyone familiar with little kids knows what I mean. How often a baby starts out, falls, and looks up for approval from a grown up. Even if we are not looking up, God is watching our every desire to do good and to be good. In the Biblical Book of Hosea, God says, "It is love that I desire, and not sacrifice." In the same chapter, God assures us, "Even if your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow." We have a loving and forgiving God. May your fourth week of Lent be an exercise in loving and forgiving: first yourself and then the ones near you. Blessed James Alberione offers a short prayer to help us when we feel we haven't "made it" yet in our spiritual life:
By myself, I can do nothing. But with God, I can do sll things. To him honor and glory; to me the eternal reward.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lenten Check Up

How is your Lent going? Fridays of Lent for us who are Catholic are meant to have a keener focus on Christ. These Fridays are an invitation to check on what we proposed to do, or to avoid as our Lenten practice. Or, our Lenten penance. The purple vestments and altar covers in our churches stand for penance. In the book of Jonah, God spared the people of Nineveh
because they "believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth....When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out."
Sackcloth was scratchy and uncomfortable. It was a penance, a discipline to wear that instead of smoother, lighter clothing. When Jesus spoke about fasting and doing penance, he cautioned people to make it "low key" that is not to show off. God is the one we are doing this work for. "Do not look gloomy like the hypocrites." Wash your faces, be well groomed so you don't look like you are starving! We might put on a modern twist to this advice. Fast, yes. Fast from a critical attitude; fast from too many words; fast from wasting time in scrolling through websites just out of curiosity. If you prefer to go on-line check out one of the religious sites. Our Sisters at offer reflections, newsletters and prayers to give you a spiritual uplift. Father Robert Barron has a free spiritual guide for every day in Lent. One site that I use everyday is by the Irish Jesuits: Creighton University offers free daily reflections, and even an on-line retreat. The Internet has many free spiritual resources to help us remember God in our daily lives.
These reflections remind us that sin tends to erase our sensitivity to sin. When we gaze at the crucified Christ, we see the price Jesus paid to wash away our sin. Fridays are always a day to recall that the Sacred Heart of Jesus asked for reparation: acts of love to repair or make up for offenses to God. Just as we want to "make up for" having forgotten someone's birthday or anniversary; or we want to apologize and make up for an unwitting verbal barb we may have spoken--so we want to "make up to" or atone for our sins with some form of penance. What ever you chose, may it be done for love of God and with a peace-filled heart. And may he grant you the grace to persevere through the end of Lent. Then when Easter comes we will be more free to accept the Risen Christ into our hearts.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

St. Patrick Missionary and Patriarch

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Our dining room and our work space is well decorated with green, shamrocks, and St. Patrick statues here and there. I was delighted to receive a St.Patrick's Day card even from a friend in Ontario. For some this is a day of excess drinking and rowdiness. Were Patrick here to comment on the less than pious activities done in his name, he may well use his crozier (the staff which bishops use to symbolize their shepherding of Christ's flock)to corral the errant sheep. Patrick, who had once been captured by Irish ruffians who raided Britain, returned to that land after he had a dream. Much like the dream St. Paul had when a man from Macedonia called Paul to "come over to us Macedonians", Patrick could even name the person calling out to him:
I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: "The Voice of the Irish". As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: "We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us." (Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Patrick prayed and prepared himself and was ordained a bishop. Like Paul in his tireless missionary work, Patrick worked hard to bring Christ's message to the people "at the end of the world"--the expression used by Europeans of his day, since the Emerald Isle was the western most corner of their known world. A wimp by no means, Patrick's Letter to Coroticus, a fellow Roman citizen, supposedly a Christian, reveals his rage and sorrow at the soldier's massacre of newly baptized Christians. those who survived were sold as slaves. For me the core of Patrick's teachings is based on the Trinity and adhearance to Jesus Christ. With my best wishes for a very joyous celebration of this great Saint's feast day, I leave you with part of his famous Breastplate:
St Patrick’s Breastplate We wrap round ourselves today the great name of the Trinity, the Three in One, the One in Three, the God who lives eternally. Christ within us, Christ around us, Christ beside us, Christ surround us, Christ behind us, Christ before us, Christ to comfort and restore us. Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger, Christ beneath us, Christ above us, Christ to cherish and to love us.

Monday, March 03, 2014

On the Threshold of the 40 Day Retreat

First of all my apologies for a long hiatus from blogging.One excuse is that I recently changed my address. Now I am part of our Boston community. I have been assigned to Boston often. Now this seems more "permanent." often people have asked me, "Is this a 'permanent' placement? Will you always be here (in whatever city I happened to have been assigned to)?" In the early days of our religious life, the Founder had told us that we should be like the sparrows perched on a branch a;ways ready to fly off to whatever assignment came up. We are still surrounded by a blanket of snow. Old snow, frozen solid. Experience and faith tell us that one day that snow will melt and the green grass will sprout. Winter's icy grip and its stubborn clinging this year are all the more reasons to want to spend a fervent Lenten season. Lent requires more effort, more spiritual energy, more of the heat of the love of God and the love we have for God. One thing that has encouraged me to spend a better Lenten season was seeing the movie the Son of God last week. It is a good movie, and powerful especially in its depiction of Jesus' Passion. The actor who portrays Jesus does well as he becomes intensely serious as he foretells his sufferings to the Apostles. The scenes of Jesus suffering in the last days of his life tell the story of God's love shown to us through Jesus. Although some may criticize the film as "lame" or "not enough" I say no motion picture is "enough" to portray the love of the infinite God. We use finite means to convey an infinite love story. People do their best, but God's grace has to do the rest: to move our hearts to imitate the love Jesus showed on that first Good Friday.
No matter what your Lenten resolve is keep at it. A fourteen year old boy whose cause awaits canonization is Marjorino Viggolungo. He was one of the very first members of the Society of St. Paul founded 100 years ago. Marjorino was convinced that he could be an Apostle by bringing God's Word to life through the printed Word. His motto was "A little (more) every day" for God. That one resolve which he stuck to won him a holy death. The Son of God movie is in theaters in the USA right now. Don't complain about Hollywood. Instead support the good that Hollywood tries to do.