Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 31, 2014 Thursday: St. Ignatius of Loyola

From Vatican Radio, the complete text of Pope Francis' homily at the Gesù, given on the Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola: July 31, 2013

In this Eucharist in which we celebrate our Father Ignatius of Loyola, in light of the Readings we have heard, I would like to propose three simple thoughts guided by three expressions: to put Christ and the Church in the centre; to allow ourselves to be conquered by Him in order to serve; to feel the shame of our limitations and our sins, in order to be humble before Him and before the brothers.

1. The emblem of us Jesuits is a monogram, the acronym of “Jesus, the Saviour of Mankind” (IHS). Every one of you can tell me: we know that very well! But this crest continually reminds us of a reality that we must never forget: the centrality of Christ for each one of us and for the whole Company, the Company that Saint Ignatius wanted to name “of Jesus” to indicate the point of reference. Moreover, even at the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises he places our Lord Jesus Christ, our Creator and Saviour (Spiritual Exercises, 6) in front of us. And this leads all of us Jesuits, and the whole Company, to be “decentred,” to have “Christ more and more” before us, the “Deus semper maior”, the “intimior intimo meo”, that leads us continually outside ourselves, that brings us to a certain kenosis, a “going beyond our own loves, desires, and interests” (Sp. Ex., 189). Isn’t it obvious, the question for us? For all of us? “Is Christ the centre of my life? Do I really put Christ at the centre of my life?” Because there is always the temptation to want to put ourselves in the centre. And when a Jesuit puts himself and not Christ in the centre, he goes astray. In the first Reading, Moses forcefully calls upon the people to love the Lord, to walk in His ways, “because He is your life” (cf. Deut. 30, 16-20). Christ is our life! The centrality of Christ corresponds also to the centrality of the Church: they are two flames that cannot be separated: I cannot follow Christ except in and with the Church. And even in this case we Jesuits and the whole Company, are not at the centre, we are, so to speak, “displaced”, we are at the service of Christ and of the Church, the Bride of Christ our Lord, who is our Holy Mother Hierarchical Church (cf. Sp. Ex. 353). To be men routed and grounded in the Church: that is what Jesus desires of us. There cannot be parallel or isolated paths for us. Yes, paths of searching, creative paths, yes, this is important: to go to the peripheries, so many peripheries. This takes creativity, but always in community, in the Church, with this membership that give us the courage to go forward. To serve Christ is to love this concrete Church, and to serve her with generosity and with the spirit of obedience.

2. What is the way to live this double centrality? Let us look at the experience of Saint Paul, which was also the experience of Saint Ignatius. The Apostle, in the Second Reading that we heard, writes: I press on towards the perfection of Christ, “because I have indeed been conquered by Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:12). For Paul it came along the road to Damascus, for Ignatius in his house at Loyola, but the fundamental point is the same: to allow oneself to be conquered by Christ. I seek Jesus, I serve Jesus, because He sought me first, because I was conquered by Him: and this is the heart of our experience. But He is first, always. In Spanish there is a word that is very graphic, that explains this well: He “primerea” first ahead of us, “El nos primerea”. He is always first. When we arrive, He has already arrived and is expecting us. And here I want to recall the meditation on the Kingdom in the Second Week. Christ our Lord, the eternal King, calls each one of us, saying to us: “He who wants to come with Me must work with Me, because following Me in suffering, he will follow after Me likewise in glory” (Sp. Ex. 95): Being conquered by Christ in order to offer to this King our whole person and all our hard work (cf. Sp. Ex. 96); to say to the Lord that he would do anything for His greater service and praise, to imitate Him in bearing even injury, contempt, poverty (Sp. Ex. 98). But I think of our brother in Syria in this moment. To allow ourselves to be conquered by Christ means to be always directed towards what is in front of me, toward the goal of Christ (cf. Phil. 3:14), and to ask oneself with truth and sincerity: “What have I done for Christ? What am doing for Christ? What must I do for Christ?” (cf. Sp. Ex. 53).

3. And I come to the final point. In the Gospel, Jesus says to us: “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it . . . If anyone is ashamed of me . . .” (Lk 9:23). And so on. The shame of the Jesuit. The invitation that Jesus makes is for us to never be ashamed of Him, but to always follow Him with total dedication, trusting Him and entrusting ourselves to Him. But looking at Jesus, as Saint Ignatius teaches us in the First Week, above all looking at Christ crucified, we have that very human and noble feeling that is the shame of not reaching the highest point; we look at the wisdom of Christ and at our ignorance; at His omnipotence and our weakness; at His justice and our iniquity; at His goodness and our wickedness (cf. Sp. Ex. 59). Ask for the grace of shame; the shame that comes from the constant dialogue of mercy with Him; the shame that makes us blush before Jesus Christ; the shame that puts us in tune with the heart of Christ who is made sin for me; the shame that harmonises our heart in tears and accompanies us in the daily following of “my Lord”. And this always brings us, as individuals and as a Company, to humility, to living this great virtue. Humility that makes us understand, each day, that it is not for us to build the Kingdom of God, but it is always the grace of God working within us; humility that pushes us to put our whole being not at the service of ourselves and our own ideas, but at the service of Christ and of the Church, like clay pots, fragile, inadequate, insufficient, but having within them an immense treasure that we carry and that we communicate (2 Cor. 4:7). It is always pleasant for me to think of the sunset of the Jesuit, when a Jesuit finishes his life, when the sun goes down. And two icons of the sunset of the Jesuit always come to me: one classical, that of Saint Francis Xavier, looking at China. Art has painted this sunset so many times, this ‘end’ of Xavier. Even in literature, in that beautiful peace by PemÀn. At the end, having nothing, but in the sight of the Lord; it does me good to thing about this. The other sunset, the other icon that comes to me as an example, is that of Padre Arrupe in the last interview in the refugee camp, when he told us – something he himself said – “I say this as if it were my swan song: pray.” Prayer, the union with Jesus. And, after having said this, he caught the plane, and arrived at Rome with the stroke that was the beginning of so long and so exemplary a sunset. Two sunsets, two icons that all of us would do well to look at, and to go back to these two. And to ask for the grace that our sunset will be like theirs.

Dear brothers, let us turn again to Our Lady, to her who bore Christ in her womb and accompanied the first steps of the Church. May she help us to always put Christ and His Church at the centre of our lives and of our ministry. May she, who was the first and most perfect disciple of her Son help us to allow ourselves to be conquered by Christ in order to follow Him and to serve Him in every situation. May she that answered the announcement of the Angel with the most profound humility: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38), make us feel the shame for our inadequacy before the treasure that has been entrusted to us, in order to live the virtue of humility before God. May our journey be accompanied by the paternal intercession of Saint Ignatius and of all the Jesuit saints, who continue to teach us to do all things “ad majorem Dei gloriam.”
-Pope Francis

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July 30, 2014 Wednesday: St Peter Chrysologus

The Fearful Hoarders

Once there was a group of people who surveyed the resources of the world and said to each other: “How can we be sure that we have enough in hard times? We want to survive whatever happens. Let us start collecting food and knowledge so that we are safe and secure when a crisis occurs.” So they started hoarding, so much and so eagerly that other people protested and said: “You have much more than you need, while we don’t have enough to survive. Give us part of your wealth!” But the fearful hoarders said: “No, no, we need to keep this in case of an emergency, in case things go bad for us too, in case our lives are threatened.” But the others said: “We are dying now; please give us food and materials and knowledge to survive. We can’t wait, we need it now!” Then the fearful hoarders became even more fearful, since they became afraid that the poor and hungry would attack them. So they said to one another: “Let us build walls around our wealth so that no stranger can take it from us.” They started erecting walls so high that they could not even see anymore whether there were enemies outside the walls or not! As their fear increased they told each other: “Our enemies have become so numerous that they may be able to tear down our walls. Our walls are not strong enough to keep them away. We need to put explosives and barbed wire on top of the walls so that nobody will dare to even come close to us.” But instead of feeling safe and secure behind their armed walls they found themselves trapped in the prison they had built with their own fear.

When Saint John so beautifully says that perfect love drives out fear, he points to a divine love that comes from God. He does not detail a strategic plan with development goals or security systems. He does not speak about human affection, psychological compatibility, mutual attraction, or deep interpersonal feelings. All of that has its value, but the perfect love about which Saint John speaks embraces and transcends all plans, feelings, emotions, and passions. The perfect love that drives out all fear is the divine love in which we are invited to participate as we learn to dwell in intimacy with the author of love. That intimate place of true belonging is therefore not a place made by human hands. It is fashioned for us by God, who came to pitch his tent among us, invited us to dwell in his place, and has prepared a room for us in his own house.
-Fr. Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

July 29, 2014 Tuesday: St. Martha

Our Lord’s words teach us that though we labor among the many distractions of this world, we should have but one goal. For we are but travellers on a journey without as yet a fixed abode; we are on our way, not yet in our native land; we are in a state of longing, not yet of enjoyment. But let us continue on our way, and continue without sloth or respite, so that we may ultimately arrive at our destination.

Martha and Mary were sisters, related not only by blood but also by religious aspirations. They stayed close to our Lord and both served him harmoniously when he was among them. Martha welcomed him as travellers are welcomed. But in her case, the maidservant received her Lord, the invalid her Savior, the creature her Creator, to serve him bodily food while she was to be fed by the Spirit. For the Lord willed to put on the form of a slave, and under this form to be fed by his own servants, out of condescension and not out of need. For this was indeed condescension, to present himself to be fed; since he was in the flesh he would indeed be hungry and thirsty.

Thus was the Lord received as a guest who came unto his own and his own received him not; but as many as received him, he gave them the power to become sons of God, adopting those who were servants and making them his brothers, ransoming the captives and making them his co-heirs. No one of you should say: “Blessed are they who have deserved to receive Christ into their homes!” Do not grieve or complain that you were born in a time when you can no longer see God in the flesh. He did not in fact take this privilege from you. As he says: Whatever you have done to the least of my brothers, you did to me.

But you, Martha, If I may say so, are blessed for your good service, and for your labors you seek the reward of peace. Now you are much occupied in nourishing the body, admittedly a holy one. But when you come to the heavenly homeland will you find a traveller to welcome, someone hungry to feed, or thirsty to whom you may give drink, someone ill whom you could visit, or quarrelling whom you could reconcile, or dead whom you could bury?

No, there will be none of these tasks there. What you will find there is what Mary chose. There we shall not feed others, we ourselves shall be fed. Thus what Mary chose in this life will be realized there in all its fullness; she was gathering fragments from that rich banquet, the Word of God. Do you wish to know what we will have there? The Lord himself tells us when he says of his servants, Amen, I say to you, he will make them recline and passing he will serve them.
- St. Augustine of Hippo

Monday, July 28, 2014

July 28, 2014 Monday: 17th Week in Ordinary Time A

Faith of a Mustard Seed
from words of St. Therese of Lisieux

During her temptations against faith St. Therese of Lisieux wrote: "I strive to work by faith though bereft of its consolations. I have made more acts of Faith in this last year than during all the rest of my life.

"On each fresh occasion of combat, when the enemy desires to challenge me, I conduct myself valiantly: knowing that to fight a duel is an unworthy act, I turn my back upon the adversary without ever looking him in the face; then I run to my Jesus and tell Him I am ready to shed every drop of blood in testimony of my belief that there is a Heaven, I tell Him I am glad to be unable to contemplate, while on earth, with the eyes of the soul, the beautiful Heaven that awaits me so He will deign to open it for eternity to poor unbelievers." (Story of A Soul, Chapter IX)

He whose Heart ever watcheth, taught me, that while for a soul whose faith equals but a tiny grain of mustard seed, He works miracles, in order that this faith which is so weak may be fortified; yet for His intimate friends, for His Mother, He did not work miracles until He had put their faith to test. Did He not let Lazarus die through Martha and Mary had sent to tell Him that he was sick? At the marriage at Cana, the Blessed Virgin having asked Him to come to the assistance of the master of the house, did He not reply that His hour was not yet come? But after the trial, what a recompense! Water changed to wine, Lazarus restored to life...(Story of A Soul, Chapter VI)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

July 27, 2014: 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time A

Click to hear audio homily
Do you lose track of time when you work? On Thursday morning, I glanced at my calendar, and I noticed that it was clear in the afternoon. I wrote down for 3PM, "Visit to the Adoration Chapel." When 3PM came, I kept on working. When 3:15PM came, I kept on working. At 3:30PM, I got a prompting, "Paul, do you treasure your work more than I?" I hurriedly closed the office and headed to the Adoration Chapel. I profusely apologized to Jesus for taking Him for granted. I was reminded that if it was an important figure like a governor, I would have showed up at least 30 minutes I treated God Almighty with disrespect!

What do you treasure the most? Is it the kind of treasure which you store in a safe somewhere? How vulnerable is the treasure from being lost or stolen?
When Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to a "treasure" discovered in the ground, or a "pearl of great price," He is calling us to consider the kingdom of heaven as the fulfillment of our dreams. In the parables, the one who finds the treasure sells all that he has to buy the land on which the treasure was found, and the merchant who finds the pearl sells all that he has in order to buy it. How far would we be willing to go to pursue the dream of the kingdom? Would we be willing to give our all for it?

Let’s see what St. James the Apostle did when he found a treasure. James and his brother John were fishermen by trade, but something happened to them that changed the course of their lives forever. The Gospel of Matthew narrates, “Jesus saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.” What was so compelling to these two brothers that they would abandon their career and family to follow a man they hardly knew? Their decision mirrored the parables Jesus told today about a man finding treasure in a field and a man finding a pearl of great price. When they found the treasure, they sold everything they owned to possess that one treasure. What was the treasure that Jesus promised James and John?

Did Jesus promise them earthly wealth, fame, or honor? Perhaps mother of James and John thought so. She approached Jesus to ask him for a favor for her sons.  “What do you want,” was the question Jesus asked their mother.  The question was similar to the question that God asked King Solomon in today’s First Reading, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” The mother of James and John asked, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” In contrast, Solomon replied to God, “O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act… Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” Like Solomon, the one treasure James and John discovered was that they were chosen to serve God; they realized that God had given them the privilege to be servants of God. James and John gave up all earthly possessions to possess this one treasure God had given.

Pilgrims trekking on the Camino de Santiago
So what was this treasure worth to St. James? He walked an amazing 3,500 miles from Jerusalem to Spain to spread the Good News. Then after preaching, he walked back that same great distance to Jerusalem, only to face martyrdom by King Herod Agrippa in the year 44 AD. His disciples then carried him back to Spain by boat and buried him in the church now known as the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Many pilgrims walk portion of this path that St. James took--walking 100, 200, or even 500 miles--to reach the Cathedral. This coming Wednesday, our seminarian Ryan will give a presentation on his two-week pilgrimage to Spain that he went on in 2011. Along with many pilgrims, he walked 220 miles to reach the Cathedral.

A pilgrim on the Camino in pain
Many embark on this pilgrimage not knowing what they want out of the experience. Many face challenges along the way, such as blisters on their feet, tendonitis, and sore feet unable to go any further. Gradually though, as they gaze at the beautiful sunrise and sunset, develop new friendship with fellow pilgrims from various countries, and witness the kindness of strangers, they experience a spiritual epiphany that somehow God had arranged this incomparable experience just for them. Pilgrims then begin to let go of all the things they’ve been holding on to in the dungeon of their hearts. They begin to let go of anger and resentments that had prevented them from forgiving. They begin to stop being judgmental, envious, and selfish. Knowing that they are getting closer to the destination keeps them determined to persevere, but it’s what they learn on the journey that transforms them.

All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily. As a result, we should appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our
Cathedral of St. James (Santiago de Compostella)
growth toward our goal. In our daily lives we can spend a lot of time and resources acquiring possessions, seeking recognition, and yearning for comfort. Jesus reminds us, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” King Solomon asked for the right treasure--the wisdom to know how to serve God here on earth. We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God. Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me.

July 26, 2014 Saturday: St. Joachim and St. Anne

Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden, Book 1 - Chapter 9
On the Parents of Blessed Mother

“I am the Queen of Heaven. Love my Son, because he is most worthy; when you have him, you have everything that is of worth. And he is most desirable; when you have him, you have all that is desirable. Love him, too, because he is most virtuous; when you have him, you have all the virtues. Let me tell you how beautiful his love for my body and soul was and how much honor he gave to my name. He, my own Son, loved me before I loved him, since he is my Creator. He joined my father and mother in so chaste a marriage that there was no more chaste couple then to be found. They never desired to come together except in accordance with the Law, solely for the sake of procreation. When an angel announced to them that they would give birth to the Virgin from whom the salvation of the world would come, they would rather have died than come together in carnal love; lust had died in them.

But, I assure you, out of divine charity and on account of the angel's message they did come together in the flesh, not out of concupiscence but against their will and out of love for God. In this way my flesh was put together from their seed through divine love. When my body had been formed, God sent the created soul into it from his divinity; the soul was immediately sanctified along with the body, and the angels watched over and ministered to it day and night. It is impossible to tell you what a great joy came over my mother when my soul had been sanctified and joined to its body. Afterward, when the course of my life was done, he first raised up my soul, as being mistress of the body, to a place more eminent than others next to the glory of his divinity, and then my body, so that no other creature's body is so close to God as my own.

See how much my Son loved my soul and body! There are some people, however, who wickedly deny that I was assumed body and soul, and there are others who simply do not know better. But the truth of it is certain: I was taken up to God's glory in body and soul. Hear how much my Son has honored my name! My name is Mary, as the Gospel says. When the angels hear this name, they rejoice in their understanding and give thanks to God because he worked so great a grace through me and with me and because they see the humanity of my Son glorified in his divinity. The souls in purgatory rejoice beyond measure, just like a sick man does as he lies in bed and hears a word of comfort from others and it pleases his heart and makes him suddenly glad.

At the sound of my name, the good angels immediately draw closer to the just souls to whom they have been given as guardians and rejoice over their progress. Good angels have been given to everyone as a protection and bad angels as a test. It is not that angels are ever separated from God, but, rather, that they assist the soul without leaving God and remain steadily in his presence while still inflaming and inciting the soul to do good. The demons all dread and fear this name. At the sound of the name of Mary, they immediately let the soul go out of their clutches. Like a bird with its claws and beak on its prey leaves it as soon as it hears a sound, but comes right back when it sees nothing happening afterward, so too the demons let go of a soul, frightened at the sound of my name, but fly back and return to it again as swift as an arrow, unless they see some improvement afterward.

No one is so cold in the love of God - unless he be one of the damned - that the devil does not immediately draw away from him if he invokes my name with the intention of never returning to his bad habits, and the devil keeps away from him unless he resumes his intention of sinning mortally. However, sometimes the devil is allowed to trouble him for the sake of his greater reward, but never to gain possession of him.”

Thursday, July 24, 2014

July 25, 2014 Friday: St. James the Apostle

Why do people make the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of St. James (Santiago de Compostella) in Spain by walking hundreds of miles?


Not many movies coming out of Hollywood these days are ones you can take your elderly parents and high school kids to see. That's what's so unique about The Way, a new movie about grief, family, and faith set on the Camino de Santiago, and starring Martin Sheen, from director/writer/producer Emilio Estevez. The father and son team have been touring the country by bus lately sharing their project with anyone willing to listen. And the responses are encouraging.

The Way is a very personal project, born out of an impromptu driving trip Martin Sheen took with his grandson Taylor on the Camino de Santiago, a thousand year old walking trail in the north of Spain. There, Taylor (Emilio's son) met the girl of his dreams, his now wife.

Inspired by the trail, The West Wing star enlisted the writing talent of his son to make a movie with the Camino as the backdrop. Estevez initially resisted the idea, but was later convinced a moving story could be told. He started with his main character - Tom, a backslidden Catholic who treks the Camino after his son accidentally dies walking the trail during a violent storm.

As an agnostic (according to an interview with, Estevez does not hold the same faith as his father, who is a practicing Catholic. But, he does acknowledge the divine favor during the 40-day filming of The Way. A key scene in the film almost didn't happen. It wasn't until 48 hours before they were set to shoot inside the cathedral that they were finally given the permission to do so.

"No room at the inn, they said," recalls Estevez with a smile.

"They only allow documentaries, and occasional newsreel footage, but never let anyone in there with a script. They didn't know whether we were going to denigrate it or uphold the sacredness of it," says Sheen.

"It was right on their part to think that we were just yet another bunch of cynical Americanos who were going to disrespect the church," Estevez says. "It didn't matter about [Dad's] faith. It didn't matter what the movie was about. They said, 'No entrance. We can't have this'. And they also didn't want to set a precedent."

With the church leadership against allowing the shoot, Estevez took a leap of faith and asked his Hollywood seasoned cast and crew to do something a little unconventional.

"He made the demand as the director to all of the crew to begin praying, lighting candles to lift the embargo against us," Sheen recalls. "And it worked, [just] 48 hours before we got there."

Producer David Alexanian also noticed how even the weather cooperated with their filming schedule despite reports that they should expect to fight with rain every day of their 40-day shoot on the trail. To the cast and crews amazement, only two days were wash outs and both were days scheduled for indoor filming.

"Regardless of your religion, you had to believe that there was something working in our favor," Alexanian says.

"These are gifts. Accept them and accept the cup as offered...," Estevez says chiming in as he remembered the miracles that happened on set. "Every day was in our favor. It was Providence."

Faith is realized in dramatic way on screen as well, through each character's reaction as they enter the grand cathedral.

"What's interesting is that Tom's a lapsed Catholic, and the other three are really non-believers. But over the course of the journey, there is conversion for all of them," Estevez explains. "Jack [the novelist] says churches are temples of tears; and he's referring to the conflicts in Northern Ireland. The church has a lot to answer for. And, in fact, he gets to Santiago, and "temples of tears"; takes on a whole new meaning. It brings him to his knees."

"Joost [the fat Dutchman] is literally brought to his knees and humbled before God," he recalls. That was "one of those moments when we were shooting it, we thought, 'Oh, we don't know if this will work'. But it ends up being one of the more powerful moments in the whole film."

The pilgrimage each trekker makes is one that leads to deep realizations and for some a spiritual awakening. This has been the history of this trail, which coincidentally ends in Sheen's father's hometown of Galicia, Spain.

"In the old days, those cathedrals were built so that they could be seen from many, many miles away. The pilgrims would see them, and it would inspire them to keep going because it was like an image of Heaven," Sheen says. "They would stay for long periods once they got there. So it's not just a passing thing; it was life-changing."

"Each step is a prayer when you're out there. You generally start out with a lot of stuff because you want to be prepared for whatever happens. As you go, you begin to have confidence and you begin to realize you over packed, and you begin to disperse all the stuff," Sheen says. "The real pilgrimage begins on the inside, and you begin to let go of all the things you've been holding on to in the dungeon of your heart. You begin to let that one go that you couldn't forgive. You begin to stop being judgmental, and envious, and angry, and selfish, and resentful, and all the dark parts of our spirit begin to be released."

Destinations keep us determined to persevere, but it's what we learn on the journey that matters. The Way speaks volumes to this and the effect reflection about life, community, and God can have on a life.

Sheen sees a great takeaway in the film for American families, especially during this difficult economic time.

"People are beginning to focus on, well, what is really important," he says. "Families are starting to come together, starting to eat together. They're not on the run all the time. There's nowhere to run now. They're forced to relate to one another; and they're finding value in things that they'd overlooked because of this mass media and the hustle and bustle and anxiety of modern life. It's taken its toll. And maybe there's something going on, spiritually, that we had not anticipated. God works in very, very mysterious ways. Maybe something's going on that is going to cause a rising in people that is going to be grace-filled for all of us."

July 24, 2014 Thursday: St. Charbel Makhluf

Although this saint never traveled far from the Lebanese village of Beka-Kafra, where he was born, his influence has spread widely. Joseph Zaroun Makluf was raised by an uncle because his father, a mule driver, died when Joseph was only three. At the age of 23, Joseph joined the Monastery of St. Maron at Annaya, Lebanon, and took the name Sharbel in honor of a second-century martyr. He professed his final vows in 1853 and was ordained six years later.

Following the example of the fifth-century St. Maron, Sharbel lived as a hermit from 1875 until his death. His reputation for holiness prompted people to seek him to receive a blessing and to be remembered in his prayers. He followed a strict fast and was very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. When his superiors occasionally asked him to administer the sacraments to nearby villages, Sharbel did so gladly.

He died in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve. Christians and non-Christians soon made his tomb a place of pilgrimage and of cures. Pope Paul VI beatified him in 1965 and canonized him 12 years later.

The Call to Silence and Solitude
By Bishop Francis M. Zayek, S.T.D., J.C.D., Diocese of St. Maron, U.S.A, June 1977
St. Maron Annaya monastery

The "call of the desert" is a call to silence and solitude. The "desert" for most of us is not the wilderness of the Sahara, but the call to be quiet and to reflect upon our own salvation: a time to be alone with God. "We all have the desert in our everyday lives. The sand and the sun and heat and lack of water and loneliness may take different forms, but we all experience them: problems, deprivations, physical inconveniences, discomforts and loneliness." (F. Le Clerc)

This call is made particularly to those who live in the midst of incessant chatter and noise. If God is to speak, man must be silent. An ancient Egyptian prayer says, "O Thoth, thou sweet well for a man thirsting in the desert. It is sealed up to him who has discovered his mouth, but it is open to the silent. When the silent comes, he finds the well." In the Old Testament, Israel first met Yahweh in the desert, and the story of the desert wandering remained the type of the encounter of man with God. The Church in her wisdom has always encouraged the faithful to take time for silence and solitude, to have a "desert experience". Father Clifford Stevens writes, "There is much talk these days about a 'desert experience', a kind of religious retreat where we truly go into the 'desert', into a silence and aloneness broken only by the most necessary of outside activities... Each one of us needs our personal 'desert experience' and the Church has provided it". Take, for example, retreat houses, days of recollection and various periods of meditation that are all a part of the Church's life.

Although this call to a "desert experience" is meant for every Christian, there are today those who want to seclude themselves for their entire life, dedicating themselves to work and prayer in almost absolute silence. These men and women stand in absolute opposition to the materialistic world in which we live. "Again, as in other turbulent ages, hermits are seeking God in the radical simplicity of the wilderness. They are not doing this in large numbers. The desert charism, a call to contemplative witness in solitude, was never for many. But they are doing it, whether in actual forests or in the spiritual desert of a 'poustinia'* where privacy and silence are assured."

Speaking of solitude, Merton states that, "The habitual argument of those who protest against exterior solitude is that it is dangerous besides being totally unnecessary. Unnecessary because all that really matters is interior solitude; or so they say. And this can be obtained without physical isolation. There is, in this statement, a truth more terrible than can be imagined by those who so glibly make it, as a justification for their lives without solitude, silence and prayer".

Through the centuries, the hermits have continued to enrich the Church by their lives of prayer, work in the fields, meditation, silence and penance. "They are the witnesses of another kingdom. They withdraw into the healing silence of the wilderness or of poverty, or of obscurity, to heal in themselves the wounds of the entire world. Carlo Carretto writes, "Man on the way to the roots of his being towards his end, his Creator, after having been purified by the suffering dryness of human pleasure and selfishness, finds himself at the doorway of eternity. His own strength can do nothing, meditation itself becomes impossible and words, once so effortless, can only repeat some mono syllables of love and lament".
Inside the Church of the tomb of Saint Charbel at the
Monastery of Saint Maron Annaya

The hermit attests to the primacy of the spiritual life in the message of Christ and in the Church, and continues to recall to us the presence and greatness of the Invisible One with whom they continually try to live and conform.

"The genuine hermit is driven by a passion which seeks its outlet in a steep, straight way to God. The calling is sublime but the path is not simple... He who enters the hermitage must live a different life from men of his time. The hermit is valuable to the world precisely insofar as he is not part of it. His life should be a prophetic witness and the effectiveness of that witness depends not on what he might say, but on what he is".

The hermits serve and enrich the Mystical Body of Christ as well as the world, which they left, by their prayers, penance, and silence in order that the message of Christ be better heard. They renounce the world, sin and themselves m sinplicity and humility, to meditate on the Mysteries of God immanent to their being and whose transcendency they try to attain by this means. In the dark night of the spirit they live in the hope and light of that vision which will never end.

The spiritual life of the hermit has always involved to a great extent 1) a profound liturgical life; 2) meditation upon Holy Scriptures (the Word of God - The Tablets); 3) adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (The Manna); 4) devotion to the Mother of God (Ark of Covenant).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July 23, 2014 Wednesday: St. Bridget of Sweden

Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden, Book 1 - Chapter 7

“I am Mary who gave birth to the Son of God, true God and true man. I am the Queen of angels. My Son loves you with his whole heart. So love him! You ought to be adorned with the fairest of clothes and I will show you how and what kind of clothes they should be. Just as before you had an underbodice, then a bodice, shoes, a cloak, and a brooch upon your breast, so now you should have spiritual clothes. The underbodice is contrition. Just as the underbodice is worn closest to the body, so contrition and confession are the first way of conversion to God. Through it the mind, which once found joy in sin, is purified and the unchaste flesh kept under control. The two shoes are two dispositions, namely the intention of rectifying past transgressions and the intention of doing good and keeping away from evil. Your bodice is hope in God. Just as a bodice has two sleeves, may there be both justice and mercy in your hope. In this way you will hope for the mercy of God because you do not neglect his justice.

Think on his justice and judgment in such away that you do not forget his mercy, for he does not work justice without mercy or mercy without justice. The cloak is faith. Just as the cloak covers everything and everything is enclosed in it, human nature can likewise comprehend and attain everything through faith. This cloak should be decorated with the tokens of your bridegroom's love, namely, the way he created you, the way he redeemed you, the way he nourished you and brought you into his spirit and opened your spiritual eyes. The brooch is the consideration of his passion. Fix firmly in your breast the thought of how he was scoffed at and scourged, how he stood alive on the cross, bloody and pierced in all his sinews, how at his death his whole body convulsed from the acute pain of the passion, how he commended his spirit into the hands of his Father. May this brooch be ever on your breast! On your head let there be set a crown, I mean, chastity in your affections, making you rather endure lashing than be further stained. May you be modest and worthy! Think about nothing, desire nothing but your God and Creator. When you have him, you have everything. Adorned in this way, you shall await your bridegroom.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July 22, 2014 Tuesday: St. Mary Magdalene

St. Anselm's Prayer to St. Mary Magdalen

"St Mary Magdalene, you came with springing tears to the spring of mercy, Christ; from him your burning thirst was abundantly refreshed through him your sins were forgiven; by him your bitter sorrow was consoled.

My dearest lady, well you know by your own life how a sinful soul can be reconciled with its creator, what counsel a soul in misery needs, what medicine will restore the sick to health.

It is enough for us to understand, dear friend of God, to whom were many sins forgiven, because she loved much.

Most blessed lady, I who am the most evil and sinful of men do not recall your sins as a reproach, but call upon the boundless mercy by which they were blotted out.

This is my reassurance, so that I do not despair; this is my longing, so that I shall not perish.

I say this of myself, miserably cast down into the depths of vice, bowed down with the weight of crimes, thrust down by my own hand into a dark prison of sins, wrapped round with the shadows of darkness.

Therefore, since you are now with the chosen because you are beloved and are beloved because you are chosen of God, I, in my misery, pray to you, in bliss; in my darkness, I ask for light; in my sins, redemption; impure, I ask for purity.

Recall in loving kindness what you used to be, how much you needed mercy, and seek for me that same forgiving love that you received when you were wanting it. Ask urgently that I may have the love that pierces the heart; tears that are humble; desire for the homeland of heaven; impatience with this earthly exile; searing repentance; and a dread of torments in eternity.

Turn to my good that ready access that you once had and still have to the spring of mercy.

Draw me to him where I may wash away my sins; bring me to him who can slake my thirst; pour over me those waters that will make my dry places fresh. You will not find it hard to gain all you desire from so loving and so kind a Lord, who is alive and reigns and is your friend.

For who can tell, beloved and blest of God, with what kind familiarity and familiar kindness he himself replied on your behalf to the calumnies of those who were against you? How he defended you, when the proud Pharisee was indignant, how he excused you, when your sister complained, how highly he praised your deed, when Judas begrudged it.

And, more than all this, what can I say, how can I find words to tell, about the burning love with which you sought him, weeping at the sepulchre, and wept for him in your seeking?

How he came, who can say how or with what kindness, to comfort you, and made you burn with love still more; how he hid from you when you wanted to see him, and showed himself when you did not think to see him; how he was there all the time you sought him, and how he sought you when, seeking him, you wept.

But you, most holy Lord, why do you ask her why she weeps?

Surely you can see; her heart, the dear life of her soul, is cruelly slain.

O love to be wondered at;

O evil to be shuddered at;

you hung on the wood, pierced by iron nails, stretched out like a thief for the mockery of wicked men; and yet, 'Woman,' you say, 'why are you weeping?' She had not been able to prevent them from killing you, but at least she longed to keep your body for a while with ointments lest it decay.

No longer able to speak with you living, at least she could mourn for you dead. So, near to death and hating her own life, she repeats in broken tones the words of life which she had heard from the living.

And now, besides all this, even the body which she was glad, in a way, to have kept, she believes to have gone.

And can you ask her, 'Woman, why are you weeping?'

Had she not reason to weep?

For she had seen with her own eyes--if she could bear to look--what cruel men cruelly did to you; and now all that was left of you from their hands she thinks she has lost.

All hope of you has fled, for now she has not even your lifeless body to remind her of you.

And someone asks, 'Who are you looking for? Why are you weeping?'

You, her sole joy, should be the last thus to increase her sorrow. But you know it all well, and thus you wish it to be, for only in such broken words and sighs can she convey a cause of grief as great as hers. The love you have inspired you do not ignore,

And indeed you know her well, the gardener, who planted her soul in his garden. What you plant, I think you also water.

Do you water, I wonder, or do you test her?

In fact, you are both watering and putting to the test.

But now, good Lord, gentle Master, look upon your faithful servant and disciple, so lately redeemed by your blood, and see how she burns with anxiety, desiring you, searching all round, questioning, and what she longs for is nowhere found.

Nothing she sees can satisfy her, since you whom alone she would behold, she sees not.

What then?

How long will my Lord leave his beloved to suffer thus?

Have you put off compassion now you have put on incorruption? Did you let go of goodness when you laid hold of immortality?

Let it not be so, Lord.

You will not despise us mortals now you have made yourself immortal, for you made yourself a mortal in order to give us immortality.

And so it is; for love's sake he cannot bear her grief for long or go on hiding himself. For the sweetness of love he shows himself who would not for the bitterness of tears.

The Lord calls his servant by the name she has often heard and the servant knows the voice of her own Lord.

I think, or rather I am sure, that she responded to the gentle tone with which he was accustomed to call, 'Mary'. What joy filled that voice, so gentle and full of love.

He could not have put it more simply and clearly:

'I know who you are and what you want; behold me; do not weep, behold me; I am he whom you seek.'

At once the tears are changed; I do not believe that they stopped at once, but where once they were wrung from a heart broken and self-tormenting they flow now from a heart exulting. How different is, 'Master!' from 'If you have taken him away, tell me'; and, 'They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him,' has a very different sound from,

'I have seen the Lord, and he has spoken to me.'

But how should I, in misery and without love, dare to describe the love of God and the blessed friend of God? Such a flavour of goodness will make my heart sick if it has in itself nothing of that same virtue.

But in truth, you who are very truth, you know me well and can testify that I write this for the love of your love, my Lord, my most dear Jesus.

I want your love to burn in me as you command so that I may desire to love you alone and sacrifice to you a troubled spirit, 'a broken and a contrite heart'.

Give me, 0 Lord, in this exile, the bread of tears and sorrow for which I hunger more than for any choice delights.

Hear me, for your love, and for the dear merits of your beloved Mary, and your blessed Mother, the greater Mary.

Redeemer, my good Jesus, do not despise the prayers of one who has sinned against you but strengthen the efforts of a weakling that loves you.

Shake my heart out of its indolence, Lord, and in the ardour of your love bring me to the everlasting sight of your glory where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, God, for ever. Amen.'

- Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), Doctor of the Church

Saturday, July 19, 2014

July 20, 2014: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Click to hear audio homily
This week I was asking different folks about something I had no idea about--poison oak. A parishioner pointed out a poison oak vine growing intertwined through the sago palm on the side of the church. All I knew about poison oak was not to touch the leaves or the plant’s oily sap because it will cause an itching rash when it comes in contact with the skin. First I did what I had seen on a commercial for a weed-killer. In the commercial, a man wearing a cowboy hat holds the nozzle of the weed killer and shoots weeds growing near his garage. My attempt didn’t turn out so successful. Only parts of the poison oak shriveled, and in the process of spraying, I also killed portions of the sago palm. Then someone suggested that I put on a long-sleeve shirt and rubber gloves to pull up the vine. I was able to pull one main vine with the root intact, but other smaller ones broke in the middle as I pulled on them. I know those will be growing back shortly.

Many things we encounter in our lives are similar to my experience with poison oak. The good and the beautiful are mixed with the bad and the ugly. With some things you can’t just spray chemical poison to make them go away. The weeds of life are resilient, and some are even permanent. Take for example our personality. One religious sister said, “I’m Italian by nationality. We’re very short-tempered—always mad! Sometimes I wake up in the morning impatient and angry. Little things bother me like not finding my cane or my shoes...I went to Confession one time and I told the priest, ‘I lost my temper,’ and the priest said, ‘Keep it, nobody wants it.’ Well, I never said ‘lost’ again because I was afraid I’d get another smart-aleck comment.”

St. Paul puts it this way, “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate...For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” Do you find yourself saying this too? One of the largest sections in bookstores are self-help section because many of us want to learn how to eliminate the parts of ourselves we do not like.  Our Lord gives us a different approach to things that we’d rather wish would go away. He uses an image of a farmer who sowed a field of good wheat. He later unexpectedly finds weeds growing everywhere and was greatly disappointed. Yet when his servants suggest pulling the weeds up immediately, the farmer stops them, for he fears that the good wheat will be pulled up together with the weeds.

Through the parable of the farmer, Jesus reveals Heavenly Father’s approach with each of us. As we learn in the First Reading, God is lenient and mild in His judgment.  Not only lenient, He has has great patience in dealing with our weaknesses and faults. He knows that we enter His house sometimes after making mistakes like the Prodigal Son. It should be a relief for us to know that the Church is not a museum for perfectly behaving saints, but a school for sinners. When do our faults and weaknesses finally go away? The moment we die.

Meanwhile living on earth, maturing as a Christian means having the strength not to be ruled by one’s emotions or allowing one’s feelings to dictate one’s choices, and possessing the determination to stand upright in the face of an emotional storm. This is the path of becoming a saint. Our short temper, impatience, quick tongue, or critical judgment can feel like a storm that we cannot control. We cannot endure our emotional storms on our own strength; we need strength from God’s grace. Someone said, “When I feel my volcano of anger coming up from my belly, I quickly pray a Hail Mary, and it helps me calm down. The anger is still there, but I don’t feel like I’m a slave to anger.”

 God may not remove thorns or weeds that cause much suffering in us. St. Paul had to face his own thorn too, which he asked God three times to remove the thorn from him. God simply replied to his request, “My grace is sufficient for you.” We may ask God for an “instant chemical spray” to deal with a personality faults, interpersonal problem, an illness, or an obstacle. But God allows the “poison oak” in our lives to shape and mold us into the image of His Son Jesus. Holiness and virtue are a slow process. Our goal is not so much to totally eliminate the weeds in our lives, for there will always be some in our lives. Instead we need to ask from God for the grace to resist the temptation of the moment, to see it as an opportunity to grow in virtue and rely upon the grace of God. Every day we can make a choice to be like Jesus and transform our soul.

Friday, July 18, 2014

July 18, 2014 Friday: 15th Week in Ordinary A

Lord have mercy!

At a daily Mass recently, during the penitential rite, the presider invited us to thank God for God’s mercy, to ask for mercy, and to pray for mercy for all people. It struck me that he didn’t first mention sin or regret or forgiveness, but just invited us to stand and enjoy God’s mercy. Then he just simply intoned: Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord have mercy. It was so simple.

And that is the difference between sacrifice and mercy. Sacrifice begins with the negative: that we/I have sinned. And this then would require one to first make an atonement, some sort of sacrifice or denial or obligation in order to satisfy God. With this understanding, one’s sacrifice is necessary prior to being welcome by God.

But mercy already resides in God’s embrace. Mercy already is gift given, gift received, gift offered and gift to share with another. God is already satisfied with me. Mercy is God’s love given because God just cannot help it.

Sacrifice begins with an obligation to earn or restore God’s love; sacrifice embraces a separation between me and God. Mercy embraces God’s divine presence with intimacy and trust; mercy knows no moment of separation from God, but is an ongoing and constant relationship.

Do I sometimes feel unworthy to be in God’s mercy freely given? And thus judging others as unworthy to receive my mercy? How am I truly willing to receive, embrace, enjoy, celebrate and share God’s mercy?

—Fr. Glen Chun, S.J.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 17, 2014 Thursday: 15th Week in Ordinary Time A

"Take My yoke upon your shoulders." Matthew 11:29
A yoke is a strong wooden beam with curved wooden circles that fit over the necks of two oxen so they will pull a plow in the same direction. We are yoked with Jesus, willingly or unwillingly. When we refuse to accept Jesus as Lord of our lives, we decide that we will go in a different direction than that which Jesus knows is best for our lives and His kingdom.

There's not much of a future in pulling against Jesus, for He is God (Jn 1:1), "I Am Who Am" (Ex 3:14). We find Jesus to be a literal "pain in the neck." We become "stiff-necked people" (Ex 33:3), bitter, frustrated, and perpetually angry with God.

When we decide to walk where Jesus walks, our necks no longer hurt. We no longer pull against Jesus; instead, we let it be done to us (Lk 1:38) as He shoulders our load, doing most of the work Himself. In addition, Jesus is gentle (Mt 11:29) and considerate. He gives us rest (Mt 11:29). He leads us beside restful waters and makes us lie down (Ps 23:2-3). He will take us to Calvary and pull us through the cross to risen life. When we pull with Jesus, we are working for Him, and His justice compels Him to be sure that we are nourished and sustained well (cf 1 Tm 5:18; 1 Cor 9:7-10).

When we are bound to Jesus' yoke, we may seem like slaves in the eyes of the world. However, a slave yoked to Jesus is truly free (Jn 8:36). His "yoke is easy" (Mt 11:30). "Submit your necks to the yoke of" Jesus (see Jer 27:12). Accept Jesus as Lord of your life.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

July 16, 2014 Wednesday: Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery in Haifa, Israel
The slopes of Carmel, a high ridge that runs down the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea at the altitude of Galilee, are dotted with numerous natural caves, beloved by hermits. The most famous of these men of God was the great Prophet Elijah, who in the ninth century before Christ strenuously defended the purity of faith in the one true God from contamination by idolatrous cults. Inspired by the figure of Elijah, the contemplative order of Carmelites arose. It is a religious family that counts among its members great saints such as Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thérèse of the Child Jesus and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (in the world: Edith Stein). The Carmelites have spread among the Christian people devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, holding her up as a model of prayer, contemplation and dedication to God. Indeed, Mary was the first, in a way which can never be equalled, to believe and experience that Jesus, the Incarnate Word, is the summit, the peak of man's encounter with God. By fully accepting the Word, she "was blessedly brought to the holy Mountain" (cf. Opening Prayer of the Memorial), and lives for ever with the Lord in body and soul. Today, I would like to entrust to the Queen of Mount Carmel all contemplative life communities scattered throughout the world, especially those of the Carmelite Order, among which I recall the Monastery of Quart, not far from here, that I have had the opportunity to visit in these days. May Mary help every Christian to find God in the silence of prayer. (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, July 15, 2006)

Interior of Stella Maris Monastery
What is the origin of the scapular?

The word scapular comes from the Latin "scapulae" that means “shoulders”. Originally it was a piece of clothing like an apron that would fall at the shoulders and the monks would wear during their work. With time, it was given the significance of the daily cross that as disciples of Christ we carry on our shoulders. Particularly for the Carmelites, it came to express their special dedication to the Blessed Virgin and their desire to imitate her life of complete dedication to Christ and others.  

The Blessed Virgin Mary gives the scapular on July 16, 1251

In the year 1246 St. Simon Stock was named general of the Carmelite order. He understood that without intervention from the Virgin, the order had little time remaining. Simon recurred to Mary, placing the order under her care, since they all belonged to her. In his prayer he called her “Flower of Carmel” and “Star of the Sea” and he begged her protection for the whole community. In response to this fervent prayer, on July 16, 1251 the Virgin appeared to St. Simon Stock and gave him the scapular for the order with this promise:

"This must be a sign and privilege for you and for all Carmelites: whoever dies wearing the scapular will not suffer eternal fire.”
Although the scapular was given to the Carmelites, with time many lay people began to feel called to live a life more committed with the Carmelite Spirituality and that is how the association of the scapular began, and many laity were added through their devotion to the Virgin and the use of the scapular. The church has extended the privilege of the scapular to all laity.

The blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Pope John XXII in the XIV century and promised that those who would comply with the requirements to this devotion “as Mother of Mercy with my pleadings, prayers, merits, and special protection, I will aid, so that free as soon as possible from their sufferings in purgatory, (…) those souls will be taken to heaven.”

Explanation of the promise:

Many Popes, saints, and catholic theologians have explained that according to this promise, whoever has the devotion to the scapular and wears it, will receive from the Blessed Virgin Mary at the hour of their death, the grace of persevering in the state of grace (without mortal sin) or the grace of contrition (repentance). For the one who has this devotion the scapular is a symbol of their compromise to live a Christian life following the example of the Blessed Virgin.

The Scapular has 3 meanings:
1) The love and maternal protection of Mary: The symbol is a small piece of cloth or cloak. We see how Mary when Jesus is born wraps Him up in a cloak. A Mother always tries to shelter her children. To wrap us up in her mantle is a very maternal sign of protection and care. A sign the she wraps us up in her maternal love. She makes us hers. She covers us from the disgrace of our spiritual nakedness.

We see in the Bible:

-God clothes Adam and Eve after they have sinned. (Cloak-sign of forgiveness)
-Jonathan gives his cloak to David: sign of friendship
- Elijah and gave his cloak to Elisha and gave him his spirit at his departure.
-Saint Paul: “For all of you, who were baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3: 27) - to clothe ourselves with the cloak of His virtues.

2) Belonging to Mary: We take with us a sign that distinguishes us as her chosen children. The scapular becomes a symbol of our consecration to Mary.

Consecration: “to belong to Mary” is to recognize her maternal mission over us and to allow ourselves to be guided, taught, and molded, by her and in her heart. This way we can be used by her for the growth of the kingdom of her Son.

-In 1950 Pope Pius XII wrote about the scapular: “that it may be your symbol of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which we particularly need in these dangerous times.”
In the words of the Pope we see that devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is devotion to the Immaculate.
Whoever wears a scapular must be conscientious of their consecration to God and to the Virgin and be coherent in their thoughts, words, and deeds.

3) The gentle yoke of Christ: " Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves.” (Mt 11:29-30).

-the scapular symbolizes the yoke that Jesus invites us to carry but Mary helps us to take.
Whoever wears the scapular must identify themselves as Catholic without fear of the rejections and difficulties this might bring them.

You must live the meaning
The scapular is a symbol of our identity as Catholics, bound intimately to Mary with the purpose of fully living our baptism.  It represents our decision to follow Jesus through Mary in the spirit of a religious but adapted properly to our vocation. This requires that we must be poor (a simple lifestyle without material attachments), chaste, and obedient for love of God.

In wearing the scapular we are constantly making a silent petition of continual assistance from our Blessed Mother. The Virgin teaches and intercedes so that we can receive the grace to live as her, with open hearts to our Lord, listening to His word, praying, discovering God in our daily lives and in the necessities of our brothers. The scapular is also a reminder that our goal is heaven and that all in this world is passing.

In moments of temptation, we take the scapular in our hands and invoke the help of our Mother, determined to be faithful to the Lord. She guides us to the Sacred Heart of her Divine Son and the devil is forced to back away, defeated.


July 15, 2014 Tuesday: St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

If you learn everything except Christ, you learn nothing. If you learn nothing except Christ, you learn everything.

~ St. Bonaventure


Pierce, O most sweet Lord Jesus, my inmost soul with the most joyous and healthful wound of Thy love, and with true, calm and most holy apostolic charity, that my soul may ever languish and melt with entire love and longing for Thee, may yearn for Thee and for thy courts, may long to be dissolved and to be with Thee. Grant that my soul may hunger after Thee, the Bread of Angels, the refreshment of holy souls, our daily and supersubstantial bread, having all sweetness and savor and every delightful taste.

May my heart ever hunger after and feed upon Thee, Whom the angels desire to look upon, and may my inmost soul be filled with the sweetness of Thy savor; may it ever thirst for Thee, the fountain of life, the fountain of wisdom and knowledge, the fountain of eternal light, the torrent of pleasure, the fullness of the house of God; may it ever compass Thee, seek Thee, find Thee, run to Thee, come up to Thee, meditate on Thee, speak of Thee, and do all for the praise and glory of Thy name, with humility and discretion, with love and delight, with ease and affection, with perseverance to the end; and be Thou alone ever my hope, my entire confidence, my riches, my delight, my pleasure, my joy, my rest and tranquility, my peace, my sweetness, my food, my refreshment, my refuge, my help, my wisdom, my portion, my possession, my treasure; in Whom may my mind and my heart be ever fixed and firm and rooted immovably. Amen.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

July 13, 2014: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Click to hear Audio Homily
When you look back over this past week, is there something that happened that brings a smile to your face? This past Tuesday was the last session of the summer program that that our parishioners and student volunteers put on for the children living in the homes run by Donaldsonville Housing Authority. Each Tuesday, the children came to enjoy reading, exercising, singing, and making art projects. One of the adult volunteers sent me a video from Tuesday’s session of all of us doing aerobic exercise to the animated music of the movie Lion King. I just had to laugh when I saw the video -- two grown men (Seminarian Ryan and myself) dancing and prancing with animal hats on our heads. The parents of the children also enjoyed the strange sight too; I heard chuckling from the parents in the video. (FYI, I will not post the video on the website in fear that it would go viral). Seeing the video reminded me of what St. Paul said to the Corinthians, “We are fools for Christ...we toil, working with our own hands. When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently. We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment.” (1 Cor 4:8-13)

Most of the volunteers agreed that we received far more from the program than what we put into it. The children soaked up all the love and attention that we gave them; their hearts were like parched soil craving for the water of love and affection. When the volunteers planted the seeds of hope in their hearts by being present to them, the children responded and bloomed.

Jesus reminds us today in the Gospel, that he is constantly planting seeds in our hearts. Our hearts are like soil that is ready to be planted with his seeds of joy. How Jesus longs for us to be people of joy! We know through our experience that we don’t always welcome Jesus wholeheartedly, and when we don’t welcome Jesus, we are less inclined to obey his prompting. We also have to be mindful that the evil one is real and his preoccupation is to snatch away any joy and grace we receive from Jesus. Recently Pope Francis talked about this in a homily. He said, “We too are tempted, we too are the target of attacks by the devil because the spirit of Evil does not want our holiness, he does not want our Christian witness, he does not want us to be disciples of Christ.”

We also know through our experience that our own preoccupations choke the joy we received from Jesus. Take for example not keeping custody of our eyes when watching TV or on using the Internet. The degrading images of a human person on the screen also degrades the purity of our heart -- and when that happens, our heart is hardened with guilt. A good analogy would be our inordinate desire for unhealthy, yet delicious food such as a donut. It tastes sweet in the mouth, but once in the stomach, the greasy trans fats begin to clog the arteries. Our seminarian Ryan also gave a great example from one of his classes he taught at a Catholic high school. He asked his students, “Should we listen to music that degrades the dignity and beauty of women?” Everyone replied, “No.” Then he asked, “Do you have music on your iPod or iPhone which is degrading to women?” Most of the hands went up.

Another preoccupation that chokes the joy we receive from Jesus is our preoccupation with money. The lure of riches affect those of us who make little or those of us who make a lot. When we lack the gratitude to God for what we already have, the evil one sneaks in with the temptation of greed. The evil one plays on our fear of the future, and we jump on a ‘hamster wheel’ expending all of our energy and time preoccupied with acquiring more. As Jesus puts it, “The seed sown among the thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.”

What is the condition of your heart? Is it ready to welcome Jesus and his word or is it distracted and choked by attachments to world? Jesus desires our hearts to be fertile soil that welcomes him, understands his wishes, and carries them out with great joy. How can we develop a heart that is fertile for God's words to take root? First, we must cultivate a habit of making scripture as much a part of our daily routine as taking a cup of coffee for breakfast. With the availability of smartphones, it's now so easy to listen to the daily mass readings in the car.

Second, we need to cultivate a welcoming attitude the beginning of each day. Those of us who work in retail know the common phrase we often repeat to our customers, "How may I help you?" Likewise, we should turn to God with a humble openness and say, "Speak Lord, your servant is listening. I have come to do your will." Lastly, we need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude that God desires to use us as instruments. As kids we may recall that when playing sports in our neighborhood, we often cried out, "Pick me! Pick me!" God has picked us already, despite our weaknesses, and He waits for our response. We should thank God that He chooses us time and time again to accomplish His mission.

Friday, July 11, 2014

July 11, 2014 Friday: St. Benedict, Abbot

Speaking Truth

Sometimes the most important things go unsaid because we “don’t know what to say.” In the case of words of gratitude and important memories shared with a dying relative or friend, waiting until the right time can just become too late. Especially words of emotional depth and great meaning–forgiveness, sadness, gratitude, etc.–may just go unsaid because we wait and ponder until we know exactly what to say and how to say it. And most often for me, these important words go unsaid, buried just inside me in my interior folder titled “Regret.”

This very natural human fear of speaking wrongly or incompetently is reflected in today’s Gospel passage: “…do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say.” Those moments when my heart is most burning with desire but my fear holds me back are those very moments when I most need to turn away from “me” and turn to two others: the person to whom I want to speak, and to the Holy Spirit.

First, I call upon the Lord to be with me, to trust in God’s wonderful gift of speech. And second I consider what the other person needs to hear from me. This is more important than giving into the interior fear and hesitation that I experience.

When have I recently felt this burning in my heart to say something deeply important and meaningful, but let the moment pass? Is it too late to invite (ok, “to push”) myself to go back to that opportunity? Can I trust in God’s love and grace in these important moments?

—Fr. Glen Chun, S.J.,

Thursday, July 10, 2014

July 10, 2014 Thursday: 14th Week in Ordinary Time A

New Start
Each one of us with our bodies, our hearts, our minds, is beautiful. Each one of us has our own cycle of growth which brings with it ups and downs, summer and winters, good times and bad times; setbacks and times of drought are part of life. They are phases we have to go through, and a new start is always possible.

Jean Vanier, Seeing Beyond Depression, p 41

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

July 9, 2014 Wednesday: 14th Week in Ordinary Time

Pope Francis
"Make this proclamation: 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand"

We must have the courage of faith not to allow ourselves to be guided by the mentality that tells us: “God is not necessary, he is not important for you”, and so forth. It is exactly the opposite…: God is our strength! God is our hope! Dear brothers and sisters, we must be the first to have this steadfast hope and we must be a visible, clear and radiant sign of it for everyone… Our hope as Christians is strong, safe and sound on this earth, where God has called us to walk, and it is open to eternity because it is founded on God who is always faithful… Being raised with Christ through Baptism, with the gift of faith, an inheritance that is incorruptible, prompts us to seek God’s things more often. Being Christian is not just obeying orders but means being in Christ, thinking like him, acting like him, loving like him; it means letting him take possession of our life and change it, transform it and free it from the darkness of evil and sin. Dear brothers and sisters, let us point out the Risen Christ to those who ask us to account for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Pt 3,15). Let us point him out with the proclamation of the word, but above all with our lives as people who have been raised. Let us show the joy of being children of God, the freedom that living in Christ gives us which is true freedom (Rm 8,21), the freedom that saves us from the slavery of evil, of sin and of death! Looking at the heavenly homeland, we shall receive new light and fresh strength, both in our commitment and in our daily efforts. This is a precious service that we must give to this world of ours which all too often no longer succeeds in raising its gaze on high, no longer succeeds in raising its gaze to God.

General Audience of 10/04/13

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

July 8, 2014 Tuesday: 14th Week in Ordinary Time

St. Faustina's Experience of the Mass

Once when my confessor [Father Sopocko] was saying Mass, I saw, as usual, the Child Jesus on the altar, from the time of the Offertory. However, a moment before the Elevation, the priest vanished from my sight, and Jesus alone remained. When the moment of the Elevation approached, Jesus took the Host and the chalice in His little hands and raised them together, looking up to heaven, and a moment later I again saw my confessor. I asked the Child Jesus where the priest had been during the time I had not seen him. Jesus answered, "In My Heart." But I could not understand anything more of these words of Jesus.

That same day, when I was in church waiting for confession, I saw the same rays issuing from the monstrance and spreading throughout the church. This lasted all through the service. After the Benediction, [the rays shone out] on both sides and returned again to the monstrance. Their appearance was bright and transparent like crystal.

Tell My Priests: The Words of Our Lord to Priests
About His Mercy As Revealed to Sr. Faustina Kowalska

Fr. George W. Kosicki

Monday, July 7, 2014

July 7, 2014 Monday: 14th Week in Ordinary Time A

How Time Heals

"Time heals," people often say. This is not true when it means that we will eventually forget the wounds inflicted on us and be able to live on as if nothing happened. That is not really healing; it is simply ignoring reality. But when the expression "time heals" means that faithfulness in a difficult relationship can lead us to a deeper understanding of the ways we have hurt each other, then there is much truth in it. "Time heals" implies not passively waiting but actively working with our pain and trusting in the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.
-Fr Henri Nouwen

Saturday, July 5, 2014

July 6, 2014: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Click to hear audio homily
Do you think a 5 year old child worries about anything? We might say,  “What could they possibly worry about? They don’t have to pay bills, cook dinners, or manage carpools.” Yet — just like adults — they have their share of daily demands and things that don't go smoothly. If frustrations and disappointments pile up, kids can get stressed or worried. A five year old girl was worrying about how long her mawmaw would be with her on earth, so she asked her mawmaw how old she was. Mawmaw replied that she was so old she didn’t remember anymore. Her granddaughter then made a suggestion, “If you don’t remember you must look in the back of your underwear. Mine says five to six.’

What do you worry about? Some wise person at one mass said, “Father, you haven’t seen me in a while because I was ill. May I give you advice? Don’t get old.” We worry about many things like getting old, our high cholesterol level, or paying our bills on time. Somethings we can do something about, but we have been putting them off. Somethings we begrudgingly accept because they are an inevitable part of life, while other things we worry about we have no control over. People find the Serenity Prayer to be helpful at times when they worry a lot. We are all familiar with the first part of that prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” I will share the rest of the serenity prayer a little later.

Do you remember the times that you turned to Jesus when you were worried or anxious about something? In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to do just that: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” We may ask, “What possibly can Jesus do for me and my burdens? What does He know about my burdens?” During the years he spent at Nazareth, Jesus lived among the ordinary people. For many years he lived the life of a working man. He knew, first-hand, the struggles, difficulties, and frustrations ordinary people had to endure. He was aware of the heavy burdens life placed on their shoulders. He felt the pain of  the ordinary people and wanted to lighten their burdens. Many came to him from everywhere with their sickness and misery. His mere presence could bring peace to an anguished soul.

Jesus goes one step further. He invites us to place our hands in His hands, just as a child places his hands in his father’s, and open ourselves to be led by Him. He says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” For those of us who do not yet believe in the love of Jesus, our circumstances appear the same as they did before we entrusted them to Jesus. They may even taunt us, “Your situation hasn’t changed a bit! This Jesus is just positive-thinking nonsense!” But for those of us who believe in the love of Jesus, we know that the heavy cross Jesus carried to Calvary was the very burden we are carrying now--our hardship, anxiety, loneliness, handicap, failure, bitterness, guilt, grief, illness, old age, feeling that we are a burden to others. This is the secret that Jesus withheld from the wise and the learned but revealed to the child-like.

Jesus invites us today to trust him as we entrust our doubtful and burdened hearts in His. He invites us to pray the second half of the Serenity Prayer with faith: “Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that Jesus will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.”

Friday, July 4, 2014

July 4, 2014 Friday: Independence Day

Sharing Freedom with Mercy

During the period of Jesus’ life, “tax collectors and sinners” formed those “others” who were shunned by proper people, considered unclean and generally despised.

Immigration is one of our most contentious contemporary social and political issues. Even in the USA–“a nation of immigrants”–there seems to be such a surprising increase in anti-immigrant sentiment. Yet our national history from the beginning is that of general distrust and dislike for immigrants, let alone those who are poor and needy, those who by circumstance do not possess acceptable identity documents.

These realities illustrate an underlying and deeper theme: that we, humanity in general, tend to distinguish and separate ourselves from others. Yet in reality all of these categories for “other” are human constructs.

God calls on us to break down these barriers, these human constructs. In this passage, Jesus expresses this: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. That is, God calls on us to share God’s compassion and love with all people, rather than hoard it for ourselves.

On this day when we celebrate Independence Day in the USA, let us ponder and reflect on this wonderful gift of freedom, which in most cases began with an immigrant welcomed to our shores. Can we, can I, find ways to share this gift of freedom with more people—doing so with mercy, compassion, and love? After all, at some point in history, this same gift of freedom was generously and mercifully offered to each of our immigrant ancestors.

—Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. ,

Thursday, July 3, 2014

July 3, 2014 Thursday: St. Thomas the Apostle

Pope Francis on St. Thomas the Apostle

To meet the living God we must tenderly kiss the wounds of Jesus in our hungry, poor, sick, imprisoned brothers and sisters. Study, meditation and mortification are not enough to bring us to encounter the living Christ. Like St. Thomas, our life will only be changed when we touch Christ’s wounds present in the poor, sick and needy.

Jesus after the Resurrection, appears to the apostles, but Thomas is not there: "He wanted him to wait a week - said Pope Francis - The Lord knows why he does such things. And he gives the time he believes best for each of us. He gave Thomas a week. " Jesus reveals himself with his wounds: "His whole body was clean, beautiful, full of light - said the Pope - but the wounds were and are still there" and when the Lord comes at the end of the world, "we will see His wounds". In order to believe Thomas wanted to put his fingers in the wounds.

"He was stubborn. But the Lord wanted exactly that, a stubborn person to make us understand something greater. Thomas saw the Lord, was invited to put his finger into the wounds left by the nails; to put his hand in His side and he did not say, 'It's true: the Lord is risen'. No! He went further. He said: 'God'. The first of the disciples who makes the confession of the divinity of Christ after the Resurrection. And he worshiped Him”.

"And so - continued the Pope - we understand what the Lord’s intention was when he made him wait: he wanted to guide his disbelief, not to an affirmation of the Resurrection, but an affirmation of His Divinity." The "path to our encounter with Jesus-God - he said - are his wounds. There is no other”.

"In the history of the Church there have been some mistakes made on the path towards God. Some have believed that the Living God, the God of Christians can be found on the path of meditation, indeed that we can reach higher through meditation. That's dangerous! How many are lost on that path, never to return. Yes perhaps they arrive at knowledge of God, but not of Jesus Christ, Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity. They do not arrive at that. It is the path of the Gnostics, no? They are good, they work, but it is not the right path. It’s very complicated and does not lead to a safe harbor. "

"Others - the Pope said - thought that to arrive at God we must mortify ourselves, we have to be austere and have chosen the path of penance: only penance and fasting. Not even these arrive at the Living God, Jesus Christ. They are the pelagians, who believe that they can arrive by their own efforts. " But Jesus tells us that the path to encountering Him is to find His wounds:

"We find Jesus’ wounds in carrying out works of mercy, giving to our body – the body – the soul too, but – I stress - the body of your wounded brother, because he is hungry, because he is thirsty, because he is naked because it is humiliated, because he is a slave, because he's in jail because he is in the hospital. Those are the wounds of Jesus today. And Jesus asks us to take a leap of faith, towards Him, but through these His wounds. 'Oh, great! Let's set up a foundation to help everyone and do so many good things to help '. That's important, but if we remain on this level, we will only be philanthropic. We need to touch the wounds of Jesus, we must caress the wounds of Jesus, we need to bind the wounds of Jesus with tenderness, we have to kiss the wounds of Jesus, and this literally. Just think of what happened to St. Francis, when he embraced the leper? The same thing that happened to Thomas: his life changed. "

Pope Francis concluded that we do not need to go on a “refresher course” to touch the living God, but to enter into the wounds of Jesus, and for this "all we have to do is go out onto the street. Let us ask St. Thomas for the grace to have the courage to enter into the wounds of Jesus with tenderness and thus we will certainly have the grace to worship the living God. " March 7, 2013