Friday, January 26, 2007

A Little Help from His Friends

Blessings and Peace on the Feast of Sts. Timothy and Titus!

Jesus sent out his disciples two by two.” We are not supposed to ‘go it alone,’ because we are part of the body of Christ. Paul, in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, shows us that even a powerful believer and preacher can use ‘a little help from his friends.’

For this is why I wrote, to know your proven character, whether you were obedient in everything. Whomever you forgive anything, so do I. For indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for you in the presence of Christ, so that we might not be taken advantage of by Satan, for we are not unaware of his purposes. When I went to Troas for the gospel of Christ, although a door was opened for me in the Lord, I had no relief in my spirit because I did not find my brother Titus. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.
“For even when we came into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way--external conflicts, internal fears. But God, who encourages the downcast, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus, and not only by his arrival but also by the encouragement with which he was encouraged in regard to you, as he told us of your yearning, your lament, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.”

Sts. Timothy and Titus helped him out.
St. Francis had his friends, like Br. Leo and Lady Jacoba, who encouraged and helped him on. May we thank God for those who help us along the path of life, and the way of faith!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Conversion of Paul, Ananias, Francis

To see Christ in the ones you persecuted
and the people of God in the heathen Gentiles.
To see God's chosen servant
in the very man who had sworn to destroy
God's people.
To see a leper on the road, and embrace Jesus.
Thank You, Lord, for conversion.
Help us all to see!

Monday, January 22, 2007


Peace! Yesterday we had the beautiful reading from St. Paul about being the one Body, and how all the parts have to work together. He mentions how those parts that seem less honorable we clothe with greater care.
We can use this to reflect on our society. How do we work together to support the whole body? An important question: how do we treat those who are least able to defend themselves? How do we treat the unborn, the ill and incapacitated, those debilitated by age or other factors?
Once as a hospital chaplain I was called in to visit a mother who had given birth prematurely. I visited the baby, so tiny and helpless. All the doctors and nurses were working so hard to help this child survive. We prayed and baptized him.
Why does our law commend, and even command, such heroic efforts in regard to a child born early, and yet gives no protection at all to a child, the same age, still in its mother’s womb? Both are precious, both children of God. The debate about abortion raises such contradictions, and reveals the dark side of our culture and society.
I know these are not new reflections, but they have to be repeated. Not so that we can attack them, those outside of us, and so feel smug in our pro-life stance. It is so we can first of all face the basic contradictions in ourselves, in all of us. And first bring that contradictory self to God, the only light in the darkness. This is what St. Francis prayed: “Lord, enlighten the darkness of my heart.”
And, yes, from that place we must act. I commend all those who are on the march for life this day, all those who are fighting in a public way to change our laws. We all have to be part of that struggle, as God guides and gives us. Again: not one of us can do everything, but each of us can do something.
As St. Francis told his brothers; “Let us begin to do good, for up to now we’ve done so little.” And yet, even our little can be taken up by the Good God.
Let us begin today!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Fulfilled in Your Hearing

Peace and Good! I think one of the secrets of St. Francis' attraction is that He learned to consider Jesus Christ a living presence, not just someone from the past. This is what happened in his encounter with the leper on the plain of Assisi: he experienced God as present, there and then. So when Francis sought to imitate Jesus, it was not so that he could live the life of a first century Palestinian preacher--it was to be a living Gospel and witness to Christ present in 13th century Italy.
And we are called not to become 13th century saints, but living witnesses of the living Christ in 2007.

Many people are gathering in Washington, D.C., to witness to the value of human life and the need to protect it. They tell me, once more, that despite the problems and evils around us, God has not abandoned us. Christ is among us. He fulfills His word.
And, like Francis, we have to decide if we want to be witness of that living presence.
Thank You, Lord, for those who allow Your face to shine in theirs. Thank You, too, for Your whole body. None of us can do everything, but in You each of us can do something, and You will fulfill Your promise to be with us, even to the end of the world.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Do Whatever He Tells You

Peace and Good!

Here is a prayer composed by St. Francis:

Hail, O Lady, Holy Queen,Mary, holy Mother of God:
you are the Virgin made Church
chosen by the most Holy Father in heaven whom He consecrated with His most holy beloved Son and with the Holy Spirit the Paraclete,
in whom there was and is all fullness of grace and every good.
Hail His Palace!
Hail His Tabernacle!
Hail His Dwelling!
Hail His Robe!
Hail His Servant!
Hail His Mother!
And hail all you holy virtues which are poured into the hearts of the faithful through the grace and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, that from being unbelievers, you may make them faithful to God. Amen.

It might seem odd, the way “hail all you holy virtues” seems tacked on to a prayer to our Lady. But it is a deep insight of Francis, reflective of his knowledge of the scriptures. In the Gospel from last Sunday (the Wedding at Cana), Mary is an instrument, bringing the needs of the couple to her Son, Jesus. She also says, “Do whatever He tells you.” And when we pray for her help, she says the same to us. And that, of course, is virtue, following the words and example of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, which can only happen in the Holy Spirit.
(Note: icon from the Orthodox Cathedral of St. Seraphim, Dallas TS)

God bless!

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Clay God Uses: St. Bernard of Corleone

Many people have heard of Corleone, Sicily, though mostly through the Godfather movies. “Hey, that’s the town Don Vito is from; that’s where he got his name!” It was an appropriate choice, actually, as the town has had a reputation for violence. Its seal (which I put here) is a lion eating a human heart.
Philip Latino soaked in a culture of violence, and adapted to it, becoming an excellent swordsman with a fierce reputation. But from his parents he had also absorbed the Christian faith, and an example of another way. So when he severely wounded someone in a sword fight and felt regret in his heart, he knew there was another way he could live. He turned to Christ and ended up joining the Capuchins, living a holy life in the midst of a violent society. He is St. Bernard of Corleone, whose feast is today.

Our world is a violent one, and violence seems the only effective response. But St. Bernard shows that there can be an alternative, even for those who have given in to the lure of violence.
St. Francis lived in violent times, and he too was lured by violence, even to fighting in Assisi’s war against Perugia. But defeat, imprisonment and illness made him disillusioned with violence. By God’s grace, he, too, saw another way was possible, and walked in it.
God’s power to transform is not limited. I think we should keep that in mind when we consider our own lives and our faults and sins, as well as those of others. We should pray for those who use terror as a weapon. Pray not for their death but their conversion. Imagine if all that energy were used to build up the world! Hard to imagine, yes. But it is just as hard to imagine that slaying the Messiah would, in fact, be a work of redemption.
God’s mercy and love are not limited. May God help us believe that, and live the consequences.
Peace and Good!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I Do Want it: Be Healed

Peace and Good! Today's Gospel is Jesus' encounter with the leper in the first chapter of Mark's gospel. It is a simple, powerful scene. There is the leper's confident plea, and Jesus' response. First of all, "I do will it." We can forget that God wants our healing, our salvation. We don't have to make God love us, but that is often how we look at our religion. God wills us to be healed; the question is: Do we want to be healed?

Even more impressive is the fact that Jesus stretched out his hand to touch that leper. This was a violation of the law as well as common sense. You just didn't touch a leper. Unless you're Jesus, God's compassion made flesh.
This all brings to my mind Francis of Assisi and his encounter with the leper outside of Assisi. Here we see his first real attempt to be Christ-like, to do what Jesus did. It was hard for him, I am sure. But he himself testifies that God worked in the whole experience: what was bitter was changed to sweetness of soul and body. Francis was faced with the question: do you want to be healed. And that day he answered, I do will it.
Finally, let's not forget the lepers, either in the Gospel or in Assisi. They were not just props, objects to show the power of Jesus or the conversion of Francis. They were real persons, loved by God. Maybe God did something powerful for those lepers in their encounters. We know he healed the man in the Gospel. But maybe the leper outside of Assisi needed someone to embrace him, to remind him that he was human, to keep him from despairing. Maybe Francis was God's instrument of the leper as much as the leper was for Francis.
God is wonderful.
God bless and keep you!

Monday, January 08, 2007

St. Elizabeth Ann

Peace! Since my last post, I've had a chance to visit the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland. It is a beautiful place. I am attaching a couple photos. It is a great thing to reflect on her life, knowing that she didn't live all that long ago, and was an American by birth and life. May she intercede for all of us!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Clay God Uses: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Peace and Good!
Today's Gospel from John mentions three times "which is translated as..."
The saints are those who learned how to translate the Gospel into living witness.
Elizabeth Ann Seton was called to do this in many ways.
One dramatic moment: after her conversion to Roman Catholicism, she was shunned by many of her family, who were angry that she joined the "shabby, shiftless, scrubby Catholics." They made her life very difficult, and tried to get her out of New York, her home. But one of them became ill, and asked for Elizabeth to visit her and help her as death neared. Elizabeth had to decide if she would go, despite the pain that her relatives had caused her. She decided she needed to 'translate' the Gospel message, to show love to those who made her suffer. She went to the bed of her relative, and helped her to die in prayer and peace.
This was one of the big reasons people were so drawn to St. Francis of Assisi: he 'translated' the Gospel into living witness. In an era when there was much debate over words and concepts, he made the Gospel message real by his example and life.
This is what Jesus calls us all to do.
Why do we think it's possible? Because first of all, that is what Jesus Himself does. The Incarnation is the 'translation' of God's love into terms we can understand. "God so loved the world that He sent His only Son."
Jesus Christ is this love made present, not only in the past, but each day, each moment. One of the things that caused St. Elizabeth Ann's conversion was here awe at the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. It made real for her the Lord's promise to be with us (as it did with St. Francis). Through Jesus she also came to know Mary, His Mother, whom He gave to us as our Mother too.
Secondly, we have the example of the saints. Each in his or her own way translated the Gospel into a living message. And we are all called to do the same, each in a particular way.
May God bless and help us in this New Year 2007 to believe in Christ present among us, and, like Mary our Mother, ponder on that in our hearts and then live it in our daily lives.
God bless and keep you!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Mary, Mother of God

Peace and Good! I just read somewhere that the idea of making Jan. 1 the beginning of the New Year was actually Julius Caesar's. The month of January was named after Janus, the two-headed Roman god who watched the gates and doors, a sort of guardian. Mary has often been called the Gate, so it's good to enter the New Year with her feast. She is the one who opened her heart and her body to receive God's Son, and then opened them both to give Him to the world. Thank you, Blessed Mother of us all. Help us to open ourselves as you did.
As the reading today says, and St. Francis often repeated:
May the Lord bless you and keep you,
May the light of His countenance fall upon you.
May He turn His face to you and have mercy on you.
May the Lord give you peace!
God bless us all in 2007.