Friday, February 28, 2014

Feb. 28, 2014 Friday: 7th Week in Ordinary A

Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply.

You might be afraid of the pain that deep love can cause. When those you love deeply reject you, leave you, or die, your heart will be broken. But that should not hold you back from loving deeply. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love ever more fruitful. It is like a plow that breaks the ground to allow the seed to take root and grow into a strong plant. Every time you experience the pain of rejection, absence, or death, you are faced with a choice. You can become bitter and decide not to love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds.

The more you have loved and have allowed yourself to suffer because of your love, the more you will be able to let your heart grow wider and deeper. When your love is truly giving and receiving, those whom you love will not leave your heart even when they depart from you. They will become part of your self and thus gradually build a community within you.

Those you have deeply loved become part of you. The longer you live, there will always be more people to be loved by you and to become part of your inner community. The wider your inner community becomes, the more easily you will recognize your own brothers and sisters in the strangers around you. Those who are alive within you will recognize those who are alive around you. The wider the community of your heart, the wider the community around you. Thus the pain of rejection, absence, and death can become fruitful. Yes, as you love deeply the ground of your heart will be broken more and more, but you will rejoice in the abundance of the fruit it will bear.

-Henri Nouwen

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Feb. 27, 2014 Thursday: 7th Week in Ordinary Time A

Facing Our Mortality

We all have dreams about the perfect life: a life without pain, sadness, conflict, or war. The spiritual challenge is to experience glimpses of this perfect life right in the middle of our many struggles. By embracing the reality of our mortal life, we can get in touch with the eternal life that has been sown there. The apostle Paul expresses this powerfully when he writes: "We are subjected to every kind of hardship, but never distressed; we see no way out but we never despair; we are pursued but never cut off; knocked down, but still have some life in us; always we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our ... mortal flesh" (2 Corinthians 4:8-12).

Only by facing our mortality can we come in touch with the life that transcends death. Our imperfections open for us the vision of the perfect life that God in and through Jesus has promised us.
-Fr. Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Feb. 26, 2014 Wednesday: 7th Week in Ordinary Time A

Children of God

When I was a young boy we were taught that if you were not Catholic, you could not go to heaven. I remember having a good friend who was not Catholic. When we argued and it came down to “fighting time,” he would run, and he was faster than me and my brothers. As he ran we would yell at him, “you’re not going to heaven because you’re not Catholic!” We were not very Christian to say the least! On the other hand, another childhood memory is of an uncle who was not Catholic, but was one of the kindest men I knew. How could he not be going to heaven?

In today’s gospel Jesus is telling us not to draw such lines. Rather, he encourages us to look at the results and be inclusive rather than exclusive. This makes sense to me. It is not an exclusive club to which we belong. It is the family of God. We are all children of God, created from his infinite love and called to the same love. Let’s be inclusive and assume the best in other people. Isn’t this the message Pope Francis has been teaching us this past year?

—David McNulty is the Provincial Assistant for Advancement, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Feb. 25, 2014 Tuesday: Divine Mercy Week 1 - Pray for the Health of Priests

During the personal retreat I made last week, I was asking Our Lord and Blessed Mother what the focus of the Divine Mercy Novena should be for this Lent. “Pray for the priests of our diocese,” kept coming up. So, at each week of the novena, we’ll have a sheet for you to take home which has a prayer and a list of names of priests to pray for that week. Each week, there will be a different intention. This week we are going to pray for the health of priests. At this time, some of our priests are ill, yet are still actively serving in parishes.

Take for example, Fr. Than Vu. I first met him when I was an engineer and living near Sherwood Forest. I would go to early morning mass at St. Patrick’s before heading to Geismar for work. The first time I went to daily mass there, an Asian priest was at the door greeting people as we entered. He shook my hand and said, “Hi, my name is Fr. Than, like a ton of bricks.” I said, “Hi, my name is Paul Yi. Where is your bathroom?” I don’t know which was funnier, his attempt to make his name more familiar or my attempt to familiarize myself with the facility for the active emergency I was having.

Fr. Than is currently the vicar general of our Diocese as well as the pastor of St. Aloysius Parish in Baton Rouge.  About four months ago, Fr. Than learned that his lung cancer had reoccured. He had been successfully treated for the cancer more than four years ago.  He is still fulfilling his two full-time roles -- administrative work at the Diocese and ministering to approximately 2,800 families in St. Aloysius Parish -- despite taking treatment for his cancer. He continues his work humbly and without pretension. He is one of the priests who offers himself as a victim to the sacrifice of the Holy Mass for souls. Fr. Than is one of the disciples of Jesus who truly embraces Jesus’ words, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”

As we pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy today, we pray for the physically ill priests, who are the ministers of the Divine Mercy on this side of Heaven.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Divine Mercy Mass & Novena at Ascension Catholic Church, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 6PM

Divine Mercy Mass & Novena
at Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church
on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 6PM

You are invited to join us for a very special 9 week Divine Mercy Novena. We begin with the Holy Mass at 6PM followed by singing of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. This Tuesday (Feb. 25), Staci Gulino will share the graces she received from the Divine Mercy in her testimony which follows the Chaplet.
716 Mississippi St., Donaldsonville LA 70346

Feb. 24, 2014 Monday: 7th Week in Ordinary Time A

James 3: 13-18
Beloved: Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show his works by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.

“I can do so much, and only so much.”

Lately, I have been struck with how many times a day I compare myself, or my situation in life, with someone else. Unfortunately, this is a common practice and one that rarely causes me comfort. It almost always seems “greener” when looking at someone else’s predicament—they do it better, more beautifully, easier that I can. And this comparison breeds jealousy which, James cautions, also creates “disorder”. I would agree with that both in my heart and mind.

I feel that this reading is bringing my attention to my need for humility in accepting all that I am. I can do so much, and only so much. At some point, I will confront a limitation and no matter of comparing to another person helps me in accepting this reality peacefully. Often times, I turn to my husband to help me in this way—both naming my limitations and accepting them. He is able to bring a kind and gentle eye to me and I feel that in a good marriage, this is an exceptional gift!

—Carrie Nantais

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Feb. 23, 2014: 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:17-18)

A Meditation by Don Schwager

If someone insults you or tries to take advantage of you, how do you respond? Do you repay in kind? Jesus approached the question of just retribution with a surprising revelation of God's intention for how we should treat others, especialy those who mistreat us. When Jesus spoke about God’s law, he did something no one had done before. He gave a new standard based not just on the requirements of justice – giving each their due – but based on the law of love and mercy.

Jesus knew the law and its intention better than any jurist or legal expert could imagine. He quoted from the oldest recorded law in the world (also known as the lex talionis or law of retaliation): "If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe" (Exodus 21:23-25; see also Leviticus 24:19,20 and Deuteronomy 19:21). Such a law today seems cruel, but it was meant to limit vengeance as a first step towards mercy. This law was not normally taken literally but served as a guide for a judge in a law court for assessing punishment and penalty (see Deuteronomy 19:18). The Old Testament is full of references to the command that we must be merciful:

You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD (Leviticus 19:18). If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink (Proverbs 25:21). Do not say, "I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done"(Proverbs 24:29). Let him give his cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults (Lamentations 3:30).

Grace and loving-kindness
In Jesus' teaching on the law he does something quite remarkable and unheard of. He transforms the old law of justice and mercy with grace (favor) and loving-kindness. Jesus also makes clear that there is no room for retaliation. We must not only avoid returning evil for evil, we must also seek the good of those who wish us ill. Do you accept insults, as Jesus did, with no resentment or malice? When you are compelled by others to do more than you think is resonable, do you resist by claiming your rights, or do you respond with grace and cheerfulness?

What makes Christians different from others and what makes Christianity distinct from any other religion? It is grace – treating others not as they deserve but as God wishes them to be treated – with loving-kindness and mercy. God is good to the unjust as well as the just. His love embraces saint and sinner alike. God seeks our highest good and teaches us to seek the greatest good of others, even those who hate and abuse us. Our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and selfish towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us. It is easier to show kindness and mercy when we can expect to benefit from doing so. How much harder when we can expect nothing in return. Our prayer for those who do us ill both breaks the power of revenge and releases the power of love to do good in the face of evil.

How can we possibly love those who cause us harm or ill-will? With God all things are possible. He gives power and grace to those who believe and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. His love conquers all, even our hurts, fears, prejudices and griefs. Only the cross of Jesus Christ can free us from the tyranny of malice, hatred, revenge, and resentment and gives us the courage to return evil with good. Such love and grace has power to heal and to save from destruction. Do you know the power of Christ’s redeeming love and mercy?

Was Jesus exaggerating when he said we must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect? The original meaning of “perfect” in Aramaic is “completeness” or “wholeness – not lacking in what is essential.” God gives us every good gift in Jesus Christ so that we may not lack anything we need to do his will and to live as his sons and daughters (2 Peter 1:3). He knows our weakness and sinfulness better than we do. And he assures us of his love, mercy, and grace to follow in his ways. Do you want to grow in your love for God and for your neighbor? Ask the Holy Spirit to change and transform you in the image of the Father that you may walk in the joy and freedom of the gospel.

“Lord Jesus, your love brings freedom and pardon. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and set my heart ablaze with your love that nothing may make me lose my temper, ruffle my peace, take away my joy, nor make me bitter towards anyone.”
-Don Schwager,

Friday, February 21, 2014

Feb. 21, 2014 Friday: St. Peter Damian

Mark today outlines the cost of discipleship, pointing to the fundamental end of the Christian spiritual life: freedom. The great Saints of our tradition show us this. From Francis to Tekakwitha, Ignatius to Kolbe, we learn that the Christian path is a struggle for freedom: freedom from that which keeps me away from Christ’s love, and freedom for a full reception of this very same love.

The challenge presented in today’s reading is not in its novelty, for surely this is one of the most familiar in all of scripture. These lines are cited popularly in heroic conversion moments, Francis rejecting the world’s riches or Ignatius turning away from vainglory. And yet, the deeper challenge is as often claiming my conversion each day, as important as those seminal moments are. Conversion away from sin towards love that frees is a lifelong process, not simply a once for all moment.

Francis and Ignatius surely sinned after they dropped their riches or swords. And so do we. We take up our cross each day. Praying with the inspiration of Mark to name that which binds me today, and that I need God’s grace to be free from. I beg God’s assistance. Make haste to help me, O Lord!

—Matthew Couture

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Feb. 19, 2014 Wednesday: 6th Week in Ordinary A

The Basis of Our Security

What is the basis of our security? When we start thinking about that question, we may give many answers: success, money, friends, property, popularity, family, connections, insurance, and so on. We may not always think that any of these forms the basis of our security, but our actions or feelings may tell us otherwise. When we start losing our money, our friends, or our popularity, our anxiety often reveals how deeply our sense of security is rooted in these things.

A spiritual life is a life in which our security is based not in any created things, good as they may be, but in God, who is everlasting love. We probably will never be completely free from our attachment to the temporal world, but if we want to live in that world in a truly free way, we'd better not belong to it. "You cannot be the slave both of God and of money" (Luke 16:13).
-Fr. Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Feb. 18, 2014 Tuesday: 6th Week in Ordinary A

Creating Beautiful Memories

What happens during meals shapes a large part of our memories. As we grow older we forget many things, but we mostly remember the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners in our families. We remember them with joy and gratitude or with sadness and anger. They remind us of the peace that existed in our homes or the conflicts that never seemed to get resolved. These special moments around the table stand out as vivid reminders of the quality of our lives together.

Today fast-food services and TV dinners have made common meals less and less central. But what will there be to remember when we no longer come together around the table to share a meal? Maybe we will have fewer painful memories, but will we have any joyful ones? Can we make the table a hospitable place, inviting us to kindness, gentleness, joy, and peace and creating beautiful memories?
-Fr. Henri Nouwen

Monday, February 17, 2014

Feb. 17, 2014 Monday: 6th Week in Ordinary A

"Why does this generation seek a sign? "

The greatest act of faith is that which rises to your lips in total darkness together with the sacrifices, sufferings and wholehearted efforts of a determined will to do good. This act of faith strikes through the darkness of your soul like lightening. In the midst of tempest it raises you up and leads you to God. Living faith, unshakeable certainty, and an unwavering cleaving to the Lord's will: these are the light that illumines the steps of the People of God in the desert. It is this same light that shines at every moment in every soul pleasing to the Father. It is this light, too, that guided the Magi and caused them to worship the newborn Christ. It is the star that Balaam foretold (Nb 24,17), the torch guiding the steps of everyone who seeks God. Even so, this light, star, torch are what enlighten your soul and direct your steps to keep you from stumbling. They are what strengthen your spirit in God's love. You don't see it, you don't understand it, but that isn't necessary. You will see only darkness, not, to be sure, that of the “sons of perdition”, but rather that which encompasses the everlasting Sun. Hold it as certain that this Sun is shining in your soul: about this the prophet of the Lord sang: “In your light we see light” (Ps 36[35],10).
-Saint [Padre] Pio de Pietrelcina

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Feb. 16, 2014: 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

One weekend while in college, I decided to volunteer for a street basketball tournament in downtown Austin. At that time, I did not know much about the game of basketball, except the difference between 2-point and 3-point play. I thought I was just going to make sure that players were hydrated, but to my shock and amazement, I was given a pad of scoring paper and a whistle. I was to be the scorekeeper and the referee for a game of 3 on 3. One team was definitely playing much more aggressively. When they realized that I didn’t call a foul on them for roughing the other team, they took advantage of my ignorance. The other team was quite angry with me for allowing all these infractions.  

In sports, rules, regulations, and laws are there to ensure safety, sportsmanship, and fair competition. Although the vast majority of athletes abide by the rules and regulations, we know of high profile athletes who intentionally fly under the radar--using dishonest but legal tactics--in order to win; we feel the just anger at their unsportsmanship and unfair intent. In life, as in sports, we feel just anger when someone does not play fair, who injures us with their unjust words or actions. Anger is based upon reason, which weighs the injury done and the satisfaction to be demanded. We are seldom angry unless someone has injured us in some way — or we think he has. The anger over injury can linger with us, even to our grave. How many families have I encountered at the funeral preparation, where I can feel the thick tension formed by anger over past hurts!

Jesus addresses this anger in the Gospel today. We need to be mindful why Jesus came -- He came to open the eyes of our hearts, to call us to freedom and to true happiness. He always spoke, not to condemn, but to save us. We may feel that we are justified in holding onto our anger, which we feel is not serious, but Jesus teaches us that anger can destroy us and relationships. He calls us to remove the attitudes and actions that lead to killing and, indeed, every obstacle to unconditional love. He quotes the fifth commandment, ‘You shall not kill,’ which prohibited murder, not capital punishment or killing in war (Exod 21:12-17; Num 31:3-8). But Jesus goes beyond the letter of the law, calling people to avoid even the kind of anger and critical speech that seeks to wound another person and thus destroy relationships. It’s not enough to merely claim that we have not broken rules and regulations of the Ten Commandments; God looks at our hearts and sees how we skirt the Commandments with our subtle compromises and rationalization. Jesus desires us to fulfill the spirit of the Law, to live the Heavenly life of freedom and true happiness here on earth.  There was a demonstration of living above the letter of the law this past week at an 8th Grade basketball game between Ascension and St. John Catholic School. 

The rivalry between Ascension and St. John is always spirited. On this occasion, a St. John’s player was dribbling the ball to the goal. This 8th grader has mild autism. As he approached the goal, Ascension players stopped in their tracks and stood in their place, allowing the young man to shoot a basket. When it didn’t go in, an Ascension player took the rebound and passed it back to that St. John player. On his second attempt, he scored. No basketball rules and regulations were broken; what Ascension team did was fulfilling the letter of the law, through love. Everyone in the gym were deeply touched. It was a glimpse of Heaven, where everyone fulfills the letter of the law through the Spirit of love.

All of us are given the freedom to choose. Here on earth, we will have many occasions when people--even
our friends and family--will violate our trust and hurt us by their words and actions or inactions. We ourselves do this as well, blinded by our selfish desire. Even when we are unjustly wronged and injured by selfishness, we have the freedom to choose to love or to hate. Our Lord chose love even when he was on the cross.  Nailed to a  cross by cruelty, selfishness and fear, he cried out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Forgiveness interrupts the senselessness of injury against reason and love.

As we approach the season of Lent and the beginning of the Divine Mercy devotion, let us begin to ponder those tendencies within us that keep us from choosing the path of love and joy.  

Friday, February 14, 2014

Feb. 14, 2014 Friday: 5th Week in Ordinary A

Seeing the Beauty and Goodness in Front of Us

We don't have to go far to find the treasure we are seeking. There is beauty and goodness right where we are. And only when we can see the beauty and goodness that are close by can we recognize beauty and goodness on our travels far and wide. There are trees and flowers to enjoy, paintings and sculptures to admire; most of all there are people who smile, play, and show kindness and gentleness. They are all around us, to be recognized as free gifts to receive in gratitude.

Our temptation is to collect all the beauty and goodness surrounding us as helpful information we can use for our projects. But then we cannot enjoy it, and we soon find that we need a vacation to restore ourselves. Let's try to see the beauty and goodness in front of us before we go elsewhere to look for it.
- Fr Henri Nouwen

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Feb. 13, 2014 Thursday: 5th Week in Ordinary Time A

Persistence in Prayer

Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have You present so that I do not forget You. You know how easily I abandon You.

Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak and I need Your strength, that I may not fall so often.

Stay with me, Lord, for You are my life, and without You, I am without fervor.

Stay with me, Lord, for You are my light, and without You, I am in darkness.

Stay with me, Lord, to show me Your will.

Stay with me, Lord, so that I hear Your voice and follow You.

Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love You very much, and always be in Your company.

Stay with me, Lord, if You wish me to be faithful to You.

Stay with me, Lord, for as poor as my soul is, I wish it to be a place of consolation for You, a nest of Love.

Stay with me, Jesus, for it is getting late and the day is coming to a close, and life passes, death, judgement, eternity approaches. It is necessary to renew my strength, so that I will not stop along the way and for that, I need You. It is getting late and death approaches. I fear the darkness, the temptations, the dryness, the cross, the sorrows. O how I need You, my Jesus, in this night of exile!

Stay with me tonight, Jesus, in life with all its dangers, I need You.

Let me recognize You as Your disciples did at the breaking of bread, so that the Eucharistic Communion be the light which disperses the darkness, the force which sustains me, the unique joy of my heart.

Stay with me, Lord, because at the hour of my death, I want to remain united to You, if not by Communion, at least by grace and love.

Stay with me, Jesus, I do not ask for divine consolation, because I do not merit it, but, the gift of Your Presence, oh yes, I ask this of You!

Stay with me, Lord, for it is You alone I look for. Your Love, Your Grace, Your Will, Your Heart, Your Spirit, because I love You and ask no other reward but to love You more and more.

With a firm love, I will love You with all my heart while on earth and continue to love You perfectly during all eternity.


- St. Pio of Pietrecina (Padre Pio)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Feb. 12, 2014 Wednesday: 5th Week in Ordinary Time A

Where does evil come from and can we eliminate it from our personal lives? Jesus deals with this issue in response to the religious leaders' concern with ritual defilement – making oneself unfit to offer acceptable worship and sacrifice to God. The religious leaders were very concerned with avoiding ritual defilement, some no doubt out of reverent fear of God, and others because they wanted to be seen as observant Jews. Jesus points his listeners to the source of true defilement – evil desires which come from inside a person's innermost being. Sin does not just happen from external forces. It first springs from the innermost recesses of our thoughts and intentions, from the secret desires which only the individual mind and heart can conceive.

When Cain became jealous of his brother Abel, God warned him to guard his own heart: "Sin is couching at the door; it's desire is for you, but you must master it" (Genesis 4:7). Cain unfortunately did not take God's warning to heart. He allowed his jealousy to grow into spite and hatred for his brother, and he began to look for an opportunity to eliminate his brother alltogether. When jealously and other sinful desires come knocking at the door of your heart, how do you respond? Do you entertain them and allow them to overtake you? Fortunately God does not leave us alone in our struggle with hurtful desires and sinful tendencies. He gives us the grace and strength we need to resist and overcome sin when it couches at the door of our heart.

The Lord wants to set us free from the burden of guilt and from the destructive force of sin in our personal lives. He wants to purify our hearts and renew our minds so we can love and act in every situation as he would love and act. The Lord is ready to change and purify our hearts through the grace and help of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. Like a physician who probes the wound before treating it, God through his Word and Spirit first brings sin into the light that we may recognize it for what it truly is and call upon his mercy and grace for pardon and healing. The Spirit of truth is our Consoler and Helper. His power and grace enables us to choose what is good and to reject what is evil. Do you believe in the power of God's love to heal, change, and transform your heart and mind?

"Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit and make my heart like yours. Strengthen my heart, mind, and my will that I may freely choose to love what is good and to reject what is evil."

Don Schwager,

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Feb. 11, 2014 Tuesday: Our Lady of Lourdes

Bishop Fulton Sheen's Experience of Pilgrimage to Lourdes
One of the first pilgrimages to Lourdes was while I was a university student at Louvain. I had just enough money to go to Lourdes but not enough to live on once I arrived. I asked my brother Tom if he had any money, but he was a typical university student too—no money. I said to him: “Well, if I have faith enough to go to Lourdes to celebrate the fifth anniversary of my Ordination, it is up to the Blessed Mother to get me out.” I arrived in Lourdes “broke.” I went to one of the good hotels—though by no means would any hotel in Lourdes ever be considered in the luxury class. I decided that if the Blessed Mother was going to pay my hotel bill, she could just as well pay a big one as a little one. I made a novena—nine days of prayer—but on the ninth morning nothing happened, the ninth afternoon nothing happened, the ninth evening nothing happened. Then it was serious. I had visions of gendarmes and working out my bill by washing dishes. I decided to give the Blessed Mother another chance. I went to the grotto about ten o'clock at night. A portly American gentleman tapped me on the shoulder: “Are you an American priest?” “Yes.” “Do you speak French?” “Yes.” “Will you come to Paris with my wife and daughter tomorrow, and speak French for us?” He walked me back to the hotel; then he asked me perhaps the most interesting question I have ever heard in my life: “Have you paid your hotel bill yet?” I outfumbled him for the bill. The next day we went to Paris and for twenty years or more after that, when I would go to New York on weekends to instruct converts, I would enjoy the hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Farrell, who had become the agents of the Blessed Mother to save me from my creditors.

Spiritual aid to needy souls has not kept pace with the material aid we gather for needy bodies. No want of collections exists to help those in body need, but there is a lessened sense of reparation for the spiritually starving. “If one member suffers anything, all the members suffer with it.” If there are eye banks for the blind and blood banks for the anemic, why should there not be prayer banks for the fallen and self-denial banks for sinners? Many a spiritually wounded traveler is without the Good Samaritan to pour the oil of intercession and the wine of reparation into his weary soul. Devotion to the Blessed Mother brought me to the discovery of a new dimension in the sacredness of suffering. I do not believe that I ever in my life said to the Good Lord: “What did I do to deserve all these trials?” In my own heart I knew that I received fewer blows than I deserved. Furthermore, if Christ the Lord had summoned His Mother, who was free from sin, to share in the Cross, then the Christian must scratch from his vocabulary the word “deserve.” When she brought her Divine Child to Simeon she was told He would be a “sign of contradiction” and “a sword would pierce her heart too.” His Mother was the first to feel it—not in the sense of an unwilling victim, but rather one whose free act of resignation made her united to Him as much as a creature could be united with Him in the act of redemption. If I were the only person who had eyes in a world full of blind people, would I not try to be their staff? If I were the only one in a battlefield who was unwounded, would I not try to bind sores? Then shall virtue in the face of sin be dispensed from cooperation with Him Who even paid in advance for her gift of being immaculately conceived?

-Bishop Fulton Sheen, Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen

Monday, February 10, 2014

Feb. 10, 2014 Monday: St. Scholastica

God truly and really present at Mass

To rediscover the sense of the sacred, the mystery of the Real Presence of God in the Mass: that was Pope Francis’ invitation during the Eucharistic celebration this morning at Casa Santa Marta.
The first Reading of the day speaks about the “theophany” of God in the time of Solomon the king. The Lord came down like a cloud upon the temple, which was filled with the glory of God. The Lord, the Pope said, speaks to His people in many ways: through the prophets, the priests, the Sacred Scriptures. But with the theophanies, He speaks in another way, “different from the Word: it is another presence, closer, without mediation, near. It is His presence.” This, he explained, happens in the liturgical celebration. The liturgical celebration is not a social act, a good social act; it is not a gathering of the faithful to pray together. It is something else. In the liturgy, God is present,” but it is a closer presence. In the Mass, in fact, “the presence of the Lord is real, truly real.”

“When we celebrate the Mass, we don’t accomplish a representation of the Last Supper: no, it is not a representation. It is something else: it is the Last Supper itself. It is to really live once more the Passion and the redeeming Death of the Lord. It is a theophany: the Lord is made present on the altar to be offered to the Father for the salvation of the world. We hear or we say, ‘But, I can’t now, I have to go to Mass, I have to go to hear Mass.’ The Mass is not ‘heard’, it is participated in, and it is a participation in this theophany, in this mystery of the presence of the Lord among us.”
Nativity scenes, the Way of the Cross... these are representations. The Mass, on the other hand, “is a real commemoration, that is, it is a theophany: God approaches and is with us, and we participate in the mystery of the Redemption.” Unfortunately, too often we look at the clock during Mass, “counting the minute.” This, the Pope said, is not the attitude the liturgy requires of us: the liturgy is God’s time, God’s space, and we must place ourselves there, in God’s time, in God’s space, and not look at the clock”:

“The liturgy is to really enter into the mystery of God, to allow ourselves to be brought to the mystery and to be in the mystery. For example, I am sure that all of you have come here to enter into the mystery; however, someone might say: ‘Ah, I have to go to Mass at Santa Marta, because on the sight-seeing tour of Rome, each morning there is a chance to visit the Pope at Santa Marta: it’s a tourist stop, right?’ All of you here, we are gathered her to enter into the mystery: this is the liturgy. It is God’s time, it is God’s space, it is the cloud of God that surrounds all of us.”
The pope recalled that, as a child, during the preparation for First Communion, there was a song that spoke about how the altar was guarded by angels to give “a sense of the glory of God, of God’s space, of God’s time.” And when, during the practice, they brought the hosts, they told the children: “Look, these are not the ones you will receive: these count for nothing,” because they have to be consecrated. So, the Pope concluded, “to celebrate the liturgy is to have this availability to enter into the mystery of God,” to enter into His space, His time, to entrust ourselves to this mystery:
“We would do well today to ask the Lord to give to each of us this ‘sense of the sacred,’ this sense that makes us understand that it is one thing to pray at home, to pray in Church, to pray the Rosary, to pray so many beautiful prayers, to make the Way of the Cross, so many beautiful things, to read the Bible... The Eucharistic celebration is something else. In the celebration we enter into the mystery of God, into that street that we cannot control: only He is the unique One, the glory, the power... He is everything. Let us ask for this grace: that the Lord would teach us to enter into the mystery of God.”

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Feb. 9, 2014: 5th Week in Ordinary Time A

We had several funerals in our parish this week, and there was one name that kept popping up in conversations among family and friends of the deceased. The person’s name is very familiar to you if you went to Ascension Catholic School here in Donaldsonville. That person’s name is Sister Marie. She passed in 1981. Our parishioners remember her for her strict disciplinarian style when they were taught by her. A few of her students, now grown men, remember vividly that Sister Marie sent them behind the now-famous piano to cool off for a period of time for their not-so-good behavior in class. They also remember her for her great compassion for the poor. They say that Sr. Marie knew all of the poor in town by name. She would ask local merchants and parishioners to donate food and clothing for them.

Let me ask you this question. Yes or no? Can your child ever do anything wrong? Can your child
ever lie about anything, even to you? Can your child hide some details from you when something bad happens? If your answer was ‘no’ to all of the above, what would Sister Marie say to you? In Sr. Marie’s time, if you got in trouble in school, you got in double trouble at home from your parents. It seems to me, however, that that’s not the case anymore. Has our human nature advanced to a degree, that our children don’t sin anymore? Obedience and discipline habituates a child to forget immediate desires for the sake of higher duties. Without discipline, a child becomes a slave to his own caprices.  Affection and tenderness, which are essential, lose their happy effect if they degenerate into lack of discipline. Aren't we now living in an era where the children are awarded or even placated when they do something wrong, perhaps because we fear that we are going to damage them psychologically? When these children grow up to be adults, will they expect everyone to obey them, expecting everyone to satisfy what they want? Can you imagine having a husband or wife like that? Can you imagine a priest like that? How about civil leaders, business professionals, or even teachers? Pope Francis recently used an interesting term for these persons--“little monsters.”

Our Lord in the Gospel uses the image of salt losing it’s taste. He said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Have you ever tasted salt which lost its taste? I haven’t, but it’s a powerful image to describe a person who has ceased to be an instrument of God, a person who no longer serves God but is self-serving.  It describes a person who has received the great gift of life from God, but who does not appreciate this gift. The person does not return to God the love which God has given him.  In short, the person has lost the purpose and meaning of who he or she is.
Everyone is searching for his or her identity, but the real you only emerges when you are united to God. We need His grace, and without it we are stumbling in darkness. We can only understand who we are by knowing God, because He has a very special plan for each of us. Does the fourth Commandment say, “Father and mother, obey thy children?” No! Without obeying God in humility, we are like a child expecting our parents to obey us. Without sincerely asking God, “Heavenly Father, I desire to do what You will for me,” we can easily fall into the temptation of pursuing only personal success and comfort to the exclusion of a relationship with God.  Will our personal success so enrapt us that we will forget the Master? Shall the glitter and the glamor of lights and attention, block Him out? Will we forget our sinner condition and think only of praise?

Those of you who are converts to Catholicism may remember the part of the Rite of Christian
Initiation of Adults (RCIA) where your sponsor makes the sign of the cross over your senses. The priest pronounces the following words: Receive the sign of the cross on your ears,  that you may hear the voice of the Lord (while the ears are signed). / Receive the sign of the cross on your eyes,  that you may see the glory of God. / Receive the sign of the cross on your lips,  that you may respond to the word of God. / Receive the sign of the cross over your heart,  that Christ may dwell there by faith (while the chest is signed). / Receive the sign of the cross on your shoulders, that you may bear the gentle yoke of Christ (while the shoulders are signed). / Receive the sign of the cross on your hands,  that Christ may be known in the work which you do (while the hands are signed). /  Receive the sign of the cross on your feet,  that you may walk in the way of Christ (while the feet are signed). What a powerful reminder it is to us that all of our body parts are to serve the Lord.

What was Sr. Marie trying to instill in her students? She was trying to impress upon them the most important life lesson--that they must love as Jesus loved them. She also wanted them to know that to love means to sacrifice, not living for themselves but to sacrifice their self-will and to live for others.

Let us ponder this week what we are doing with the great gift of Life that God has given us. Do we trust God’s will for our lives? Are we like the salt that still has the flavor, infusing our daily lives with the inspirations of the Holy Spirit?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Feb. 7, 2014 Friday:4th Week in Ordinary Time A

Pope Francis invited everyone “to ask for the grace of dying at home: dying at home, within the Church”. He remarked that “this is a grace” that you “cannot buy” because “it is a gift from God”. We “ought to ask: Lord, grant me the gift of dying at home, within the Church”. Even if we are “all sinners”, we must never be “traitors” nor “corrupt”.The Church, the Pope explained, “is a mother and wants it to be so”, even if “at many times dirty”. For it is she who “cleanses us: she is our mother, and she knows how to do so”. But it is up to us to “ask for this grace of dying at home”.

Pope Francis then proposed his second thought about David’s death. “In this story”, he noted “you can see that David is quiet, peaceful, and serene”. To the point where he “calls upon his son and says: I want to go the way of every man on earth”. In other words, David acknowledges: “now it is my turn!”. We then read in Scripture that “David slept with his fathers”. The king, the Pope explained, “accepted his death with hope, in peace”. And “this is another grace: the grace to die with hope”, with the “awareness that this is only a step” and that “we are awaited on the other side”. Indeed, even after death there will be “home, there will be family, I will not be alone!”. It is a grace to be sought especially “in the last moments of life, because we know that life is a struggle and that the evil spirit takes the spoils”.

The Holy Father also recalled the testimony of St Therese of the Child Jesus, who “said that, at the end of her life, there was a struggle in her soul, and when she thought about the future, about what awaited her after death, in heaven, she felt as if a voice was saying: but no, don’t be silly, darkness awaits you, only the darkness of nothing is awaiting you”. That, the Pope said, “was the devil who did not want her to trust in God”.

Therefore it is importance to “ask for the grace to die with hope, trusting in God”. But “trusting in God”, the Pope said, “must begin now, in life’s little things, and also in the big problems: we must always rely on the Lord. In this way, trusting the Lord becomes a habit and hope springs forth”. Therefore “to die at home and to die with hope” are “two things that we can learn from David’s death”.The third reflection Pope Francis shared was that of “the problem of legacy”. In this regard, “the Bible”, he explained, “tells us that when David died, all of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren came to ask for their inheritance!”. There are often “many scandals concerning inheritance, scandals that divide families”. But the inheritance that David leaves behind is not wealth. We read in the Scriptures: “And his kingdom grew strengthened”. David had “left a legacy of 40 years of government to his people and the people were strengthened”.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Feb. 6, 2014 Thursday: St. Paul Miki and Companions

Returning to God's Ever-Present Love

We often confuse unconditional love with unconditional approval. God loves us without conditions but does not approve of every human behavior. God doesn't approve of betrayal, violence, hatred, suspicion, and all other expressions of evil, because they all contradict the love God wants to instill in the human heart. Evil is the absence of God's love. Evil does not belong to God.

God's unconditional love means that God continues to love us even when we say or think evil things. God continues to wait for us as a loving parent waits for the return of a lost child. It is important for us to hold on to the truth that God never gives up loving us even when God is saddened by what we do. That truth will help us to return to God's ever-present love.
-Fr. Henri Nouwen

St. Paul Miki and Companions

These twenty-six martyrs are sometimes called the martyrs of Nagasaki and the martyrs of Japan. St. Francis Xavier brought the Good News of Christianity to Japan in 1549. Many people accepted the Gospel and were baptized by St. Francis himself. Although Francis moved on and eventually died near the shores of China, the Catholic faith continued to grow in Japan. By 1587 there were 200,000 Japanese Catholics. Missionaries from various religious orders were working in the country, and Japanese priests, religious and lay people lived the faith joyfully.

Paul Miki was born at Tounucumada, Japan, in 1562. He was educated by the Jesuits at Anziquiama, and joined their order in 1580. Paul was an excellent preacher and catechist.

In 1588, the emperor of Japan ordered all Jesuits to leave the country within six months. Many stayed, in disguise, because they knew that faithful Catholics would need them, especially during the coming times of persecution.

In 1597, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who ruled Japan in the emperor’s name, heard a false rumor that the missionaries were only bringing Christianity to the Japanese so that it would be easier for Spain and Portugal to defeat Japan. Fearing this was true, Hideyoshi ordered all the Christians to be arrested and put to death.

On February 5, 1597, Paul Miki was crucified along with two other Japanese Jesuit catechists, six Franciscans from Spain, Mexico and India, and seventeen Japanese Catholic lay people, including children as young as twelve and fifteen. Paul’s last words from his cross were to encourage the community of believers to be faithful, even in the face of death. Then, at the same moment, twenty-six executioners thrust twenty-six spears into the Christians as they hung on their crosses.

St. Paul Miki and his companions were canonized as the martyrs of Japan by Pope Gregory XVI in 1862.

We can pray every day for people who live in parts of the world where they are persecuted for their belief in God. We can also ask St. Paul and his companions for the courage to be faithful to Jesus.
-Daughters of St. Paul

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Feb. 5, 2014 Wednesday: St. Agatha

God's Unconditional Love

What can we say about God's love? We can say that God's love is unconditional. God does not say, "I love you, if ..." There are no ifs in God's heart. God's love for us does not depend on what we do or say, on our looks or intelligence, on our success or popularity. God's love for us existed before we were born and will exist after we have died. God's love is from eternity to eternity and is not bound to any time-related events or circumstances. Does that mean that God does not care what we do or say? No, because God's love wouldn't be real if God didn't care. To love without condition does not mean to love without concern. God desires to enter into relationship with us and wants us to love God in return.

Let's dare to enter into an intimate relationship with God without fear, trusting that we will receive love and always more love.
- Fr Henri Nouwen

St. Agatha

Most of what we know about St. Agatha is based on legend. Agatha was a beautiful Christian girl from a wealthy family in Sicily. She lived in the third century, a time when the emperor Decius was persecuting the Christians. While she was still young, she dedicated her life to God, vowing not to get married.

The governor heard of Agatha’s beauty and brought her to his palace. He wanted to make her do sinful things, but she was brave and would not give in. “My Lord Jesus Christ,” she prayed, “I belong only to you. Help me to be strong against evil.”

Then the governor tried sending Agatha to the house of a wicked woman. He hoped the woman would convince Agatha to do sinful things. But Agatha had great trust in God and prayed all the time. She kept herself pure. She would not listen to the evil suggestions of the woman and her daughters. After a month, Agatha was brought back to the governor. “You are a noblewoman,” he said kindly. “Why have you lowered yourself to be a humble Christian?”

“Even though I am a noble,” answered Agatha, “I am a slave of Jesus Christ.”

“Then what does it really mean to be noble?” the governor asked.

Agatha answered, “It means to serve God.”

When he realized that Agatha would not agree to the evil he wanted her to do, the governor became angry. He had Agatha whipped and tortured. As she was being carried back to prison she whispered, “Lord, my Creator, you have protected me from the cradle. You have taken me from the love of the world and given me patience to suffer. Now receive my soul.”

Agatha died a martyr at Catania, Sicily, in the year 251.

We can learn from St. Agatha’s example. Like her, we can pray with all our heart when we are tempted to do anything wrong. This is the way we can develop a good and strong character.
-Daughters of St. Paul

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Feb. 4, 2014 Tuesday: 4th Week in Ordinary Time A

Becoming Kind

Kindness is a beautiful human attribute. When we say, "She is a kind person" or "He surely was kind to me," we express a very warm feeling. In our competitive and often violent world, kindness is not the most frequent response. But when we encounter it we know that we are blessed. Is it possible to grow in kindness, to become a kind person? Yes, but it requires discipline. To be kind means to treat another person as your "kin," your intimate relative. We say, "We are kin" or "He is next of kin." To be kind is to reach out to someone as being of "kindred" spirit.

Here is the great challenge: All people, whatever their color, religion, or sex, belong to humankind and are called to be kind to one another, treating one another as brothers and sisters. There is hardly a day in our lives in which we are not called to this.
-Fr. Henri Nouwen

Monday, February 3, 2014

Feb. 3, 2014 Monday: St. Blaise

Do you ever feel driven by forces beyond your strength? A man driven mad by the evil force of a legion found refuge in the one person who could set him free. A legion is no small force – but an army 6,000 strong! For the people of Palestine, hemmed in by occupied forces, a legion, whether spiritual or human, struck terror! Legions at their wildest committed unmentionable atrocities.Our age has also witnessed untold crimes and mass destruction at the hands of possessed rulers and their armies. What is more remarkable – the destructive force of this driven and possessed man – or the bended knee at Jesus' feet imploring mercy and release? God's word reminds us that no destructive force can keep anyone from the peace and safety which God offers to those who seek his help. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand; but it will not come near you. ..Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation (Psalm 91:7,9).

Jesus took pity on the man who was overtaken by a legion of evil spirits. The destructive force of these demons is evident for all who can see as they flee and destroy a herd of swine. After Jesus freed the demoniac the whole city came out to meet him. No one had demonstrated such power and authority against the forces of Satan as Jesus did. They feared Jesus as a result and begged him to leave them. Why would they not want Jesus to stay? Perhaps the price for such liberation from the power of evil and sin was more than they wanted to pay. Jesus is ready and willing to free us from anything that binds us and that keeps us from the love of God. Are you willing to part with anything that might keep you from his love and saving grace?

"Lord Jesus, unbind me that I may love you wholly and walk in the freedom of your way of life and holiness. May there be nothing which keeps me from the joy of living in your presence."

Don Schwager,

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Feb. 2, 2014: The Presentation of the Lord A

Were you ever called “four-eyes” when you were a kid? I certainly was!  When I was in second grade, my mom noticed that I was squinting as I was trying to read something.  When I went to the optometrist, I could not even read the big E that was at the very top of the chart; that’s how bad my sight was. When I got my glasses, I refused to wear them. I had to admit though, with the glasses I could see and did not have to squint.  

We can become near-sighted about our faith too. We insist that we are spiritual and do not need any assistance in living out our faith. But let’s face it -- we’re not good at finding our way to God on our own. There is a good example of this kind of myopia in the Gospel today.

Mary came with her husband, Joseph, to hand over the child Jesus to the Lord as prescribed by the Law of Moses. The first-born belonged to the Lord according to the Book of Exodus (13:1-2) but the Book of Numbers (18:15-16) tells us the first-born could be redeemed or bought back by paying five shekels.  Hundreds of faithful visited the Jerusalem temple that day to offer sacrifice and worship God. How many faithful and the religious leaders in the temple recognized Jesus? Just two--Simeon and Anna. Through the eyes of Simeon, we learn that something even greater is happening here. We learn that it is God himself who has handed over his only begotten Son to us. Today’s Presentation of the Lord is a prelude to another, future presentation – to that presentation that will take place on Calvary, in our Lord’s sacrificial death on the cross, of which every Mass is a re-presentation.

Simeon alone embraced the Child and saw in Him fulfillment, hope and truth. Lots of people come to Church today, give a nod to Christ and then move on with their lives unchanged. This last echo of Christmas this year teaches us that we can be like Simeon. We can embrace Christ more fully as He comes to the “temple” of our lives and see in Him our fulfillment of our hope and our truth. We can also do something Simeon could not do and that is to follow Christ with our life.
Simeon and Anna recognized Jesus because of their commitment and faithfulness to their prayer life. How many of us are not as faithful to prayer and cannot recognize the face of Jesus even in our own families? Forty days ago when we celebrated Christmas, how many of us did not recognize the Christ Child as Our Lord and Our Savior? Listen to this old spiritual hymn called, “Sweet Little Jesus Boy.”

Sweet little Jesus boy they made you be born in a manger
Sweet little holy child
And we didn't know who you were

Didn't know you'd come to save us Lord
To take our sins away
Our eyes were blind we could not see
And we didn't know who you were

You have told us how we are trying
Master you have shown us how even when you were dying
Just seems like we can't do right, look how we treated you
But please sir, forgive us Lord
We didn't know it was you

Sweet little Jesus boy born long time ago
Sweet little holy child
And we didn't know who you were