Friday, October 30, 2015

Oct. 30, 2015 Friday: 30th Week in Ordinary Time B

Oct. 30, 2015 Friday: 30th Week in Ordinary Time B

Closest to His Heart

Maybe someone among us here is thinking: my sin is so great, I am as far from God as the younger son in the parable, my unbelief is like that of Thomas; I don’t have the courage to go back, to believe that God can welcome me and that he is waiting for me, of all people. But God is indeed waiting for you; he asks of you only the courage to go to him. How many times in my pastoral ministry have I heard it said: "Father, I have many sins"; and I have always pleaded: "Don’t be afraid, go to him, he is waiting for you, he will take care of everything". We hear many offers from the world around us; but let us take up God’s offer instead: his is a caress of love. For God, we are not numbers, we are important, indeed we are the most important thing to him; even if we are sinners, we are what is closest to his heart.

God’s patience has to call forth in us the courage to return to him, however many mistakes and sins there may be in our life.

-Pope Francis. Homily, Divine Mercy Sunday, April 7, 2013

Jesus said, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-8). In prayer, open yourself to the intimate relationship God wants to have with you.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Oct. 29, 2015 Thursday: 30th Week in Ordinary Time B

Oct. 29, 2015 Thursday: 30th Week in Ordinary Time B

If God is for us, who is against us? The very God who did not spare his own Son but who delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall impeach the elect of God? It is God who acquits. Who is he who condemns? It is Jesus Christ who died, nay, rather, who was raised from the dead, and who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trial, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (Romans 8:31-9)

Paul says in effect: ‘God for us did not spare his own Son; surely that is the final guarantee that he loves us enough to supply all our needs.’ The words Paul uses of God are the very words God used of Abraham when Abraham proved his utter loyalty by being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac at God’s command. God said to Abraham: ‘You have not withheld your son, your only son, from me’ (Genesis 22: 12). Paul seems to say: ‘Think of the greatest human example in the world of an individual’s loyalty to God; God’s loyalty to you is like that.’ Just as Abraham was so loyal to God that he was prepared to sacrifice his dearest possession, God is so loyal to men and women that he is prepared to sacrifice his only Son for them. Surely we can trust a loyalty like that for anything.

Paul goes on with a poet’s fervour and a lover’s rapture to sing of how nothing can separate us from the love of God in our risen Lord. No affliction, no hardship, no peril can separate us (verse 35). The disasters of the world do not separate us from Christ; they bring us closer.

Here is a vision to take away all loneliness and all fear. Paul is saying: ‘You can think of every terrifying thing that this or any other world can produce. Not one of them is able to separate the Christian from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ, Lord of every terror and Master of every world.’ Of what then shall we be afraid?

William Barclay
Letter to the Romans: the New Daily Study Bible

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Inclement Weather Changes Plan for Sunday, Nov. 1 Blessing of Cemeteries at Ascension and St. Francis

Change of plans for Blessing of Cemetery on Sunday, Nov. 1 at Ascension and St. Francis Cemeteries

Due to forecasted heavy rain on Sunday, Nov. 1, we will move our services indoors.

For Ascension Cemetery, we will have a prayer service inside the Ascension Catholic Church at 3PM (Nov. 1). The cemetery will be privately blessed by Fr. Paul Yi at another time.

For St. Francis Cemetery, we will have a prayer service inside the St. Francis Catholic Church at 11:30AM (Nov. 1).

October 28, 2015 Wednesday: Sts. Simon and Jude

October 28, 2015 Wednesday: Sts. Simon and Jude

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. (Eph 2: 19-22)

Reflection: His Living Body
We all like to belong, and so this reading is comforting. It is important to remind ourselves that we are “fellow citizens with the holy ones.” Christ unites us all. We are his living body.

I imagine the Church as large oak tree. The roots, the trunk, the branches and the leaves are the people that make up this beautiful creation of God. The leaves are important for creating energy and giving life to the tree. The roots are there for stability, grounding the tree to the earth. The trunk and branches provide structure and connection. I imagine Christ as the water that flows through and gives life to every part of the tree. We are all unique in our gifts and talents, but Christ unites us and flows through us all as one body and one church.
—Elise Huber

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,

—St. Teresa of Avila

Monday, October 26, 2015

Oct. 26, 2015 Monday: 30th Week in Ordinary Time B

Oct. 26, 2015 Monday: 30th Week in Ordinary Time B

You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ”Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15)

You have probably seen a child stumble or be startled by an intimidating new encounter with a stranger or a barking dog. Instinctively, that child will call out for his or her parents. This is the kind of instinct that the Holy Spirit places in our hearts. Paul talks about how the Spirit within us is the One who remembers that our Father will listen to us. So if you are attentive to the Spirit, you’ll remember to call out to God for help whenever you feel threatened, weary, or scared.

With a Father who is the Creator of the universe, a brother who is the Savior of all people, and a spiritual family that is spread throughout the world, you are in a good place to face up to fear! Of course, knowing these things doesn’t make fear instantly disappear. But the Holy Spirit is in you, reminding you of your status as God’s son or daughter. Remember to tune in to the witness of the Spirit, so that every day you can become more deeply aware of your adoption—and more free and courageous as a result.

“Holy Spirit, thank you for calling me a child of God! Remind me today to live with the confidence and freedom of one adopted into his family.”

-Word Among Us,

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Oct. 25, 2015: 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Oct. 25, 2015: 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Click to hear Audio Homily
This Friday, Bishop Muench visited Ascension Catholic School students in their classrooms. While he was in the senior religion class, he said, “I’m now going to read your mind. I see that you are worried about where you’re going to go and what you’re going to do next year when you graduate high school.” The students all nodded in agreement. (He was such a great mind reader!) We all experience the fear of the path unknown. This fear and worry can make us feel like being blind at times. Are you experiencing this fear or worry at this time? What can we learn from Bartimaeus’ experience with Jesus?

Bartimaeus in the Gospel lived all his life blind; that’s the only life he had known. Was he happy with his way of life? No, because we see him calling out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me,” hoping that Jesus can change his life. Jesus approached him and asked, “What do you want me to do for you,” and Bartimaeus replied, “Master, I want to see.” Bartimaeus wanted to exchange what had been his world for something better that the Lord could give. We can imagine when Bartimaeus was healed and was able to see, he saw the world of possibilities for himself--now he could work, (he could date), he could travel and expand his horizon. Yet, he chose one thing only--to follow Jesus. He didn’t just gain sight; he gained faith.

Physical sight is a great gift, but Jesus didn’t come on earth to give us physical sight. He came to give us the kind of sight that enables us to perceive heavenly realities. St. Paul put it this way, “Once you were in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” (Eph 5:8) There is a blindness worse than physical blindness--the blindness of unbelief that the world revolves only around me. Jesus’ encounter unlocked Bartimaeus’ heart. It set him free; it healed him; it gave him hope and a new life as a disciple of Jesus.

If Jesus was to approach you personally today, what would you ask him to do for you? Would you ask for Jesus to immediately solve a pressing problem or take away a worry or suffering? Or would you ask him, “Jesus, show me how I can be a more faithful servant of yours--how to be generous without counting the cost, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward, only desiring that I do your will.”
-Fr. Paul Yi

Friday, October 23, 2015

Oct. 23, 2015 Friday: St. John Capistrano

Oct. 23, 2015 Friday: St. John Capistrano

[Jesus] also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens.” LUKE 12:54–55

We have to be aware to learn the lessons experience has to offer. For example, when a baby cries in a certain way, we recognize it is time for a feeding. Or when we feel angry, we know we may explode and speak inappropriately or stuff our feelings and become depressed, resentful, or vengeful. Or when loneliness connection and becoming more alienated from our heart. Or when we are tired, we find ourselves less patient, more irritable, less respectful, more intolerant of others.

When we become aware of the signs that lead to dysfunction, imbalance, or hostility, we know we need God, our source of peace and love, more than ever. We intentionally turn to God in prayer rather than allowing our human reactions to control us. As we develop our prayer practice, we learn to see signs of God’s presence in every situation and become more deeply in tune with the presence of God in each moment. We discover that we ourselves are a sign of God’s presence to others when we take the time to come back to our center and allow God to guide our thoughts, words, and actions in the way of love and peace.

Ponder: What signs alert me that I need God’s help in the moment?

Prayer: Lord, I am grateful that you let me lean on your wisdom, strength, and love. Help me to be aware of the signs of your presence everywhere I go.

Rev. Warren J. Savage & Mary Ann McSweeny

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Oct. 22, 2015 Thursday: St. John Paul II

Oct. 22, 2015 Thursday: St. John Paul II

If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!
-St. John Paul II

Around you, you hear all kinds of words. But only Christ speaks words that stand the test of time and remain for all eternity. The time of life that you are living calls for decisive choices on your part: decisions about the direction of your studies, about work, about your role in society and in the Church. It is important to realize that among the many questions surfacing in your minds, the decisive ones are not about “what”. The basic question is “who”: “who” am I to go to, “who” am I to follow, “to whom” should I entrust my life?

You are thinking about love and the choices it entails, and I imagine that you agree: what is really important in life is the choice of the person who will share it with you. But be careful! Every human person has inevitable limits: even in the most successful of marriages there is always a certain amount of disappointment. So then, dear friends, does not this confirm what we heard the Apostle Peter say? Every human being finds himself sooner or later saying what he said: “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”. Only Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and of Mary, the eternal Word of the Father born two thousand years ago at Bethlehem in Judaea, is capable of satisfying the deepest aspirations of the human heart.

In Peter’s question: “To whom shall we go?” the answer regarding the path to follow is already given. It is the path that leads to Christ. And it is possible to meet the divine Master personally: he is in fact truly present on the altar in the reality of his Body and Blood. In the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we can enter into contact with the person of Jesus in a way that is mysterious but real, drinking at the inexhaustible fountain that is his life as the Risen Lord.

-St. John Paul II
Sunday 20 August 2000

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Oct. 21, 2015 Wednesday: 29th Week in Ordinary Time B

Oct. 21, 2015 Wednesday: 29th Week in Ordinary Time B

[And the Lord said] “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” LUKE 12:48B

We have been given so much. We have food, water, clothing, and shelter. We have access to good education, free libraries, and multiple resources to satisfy our curiosity about any subject. We have legal rights, freedom of speech, and the privilege of voting. We can practice our religion without fear of persecution. The point of having so much given to us is privileges, to make the world a loving, more peace-filled, more God-centered place.

The greatest gift we have been given is Jesus, embodiment of compassion and love, model of service to the poor, a perfect example of perfect surrender to the will of God. Because we have been given Jesus as our teacher and mentor, we are called to stretch ourselves a little more, to be the first to forgive, the first to resolve conflict, the first to overcome impatience, indifference, and the need to be in control. We are called to reach out a little further, to be quick to welcome a newcomer, to give a little more time to a charitable event, to participate more frequently in Scripture study, to make a bigger effort to support a local food pantry. With all that we have been given, the Lord asks us every day to intentionally choose the way of compassion, kindness, peace, and love.

Ponder: What gifts and talents have I yet to use?

Prayer: Lord, I am grateful you have blessed me with abundant gifts. Make me ready to use them in service to my sisters and brothers.

Rev. Warren J. Savage & Mary Ann McSweeny

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Oct. 20, 2015 Tuesday: 29th Week in Ordinary Time B

Oct. 20, 2015 Tuesday: 29th Week in Ordinary Time B

[Jesus said to his disciples] “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.” LUKE 12:35–36

We encounter ordinary people dressed for action in uniforms and expect them to be ready and available for some form of service. We see firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses, and paramedics, expecting them to be ready to respond to emergencies, wait on us. We see salesclerks at the mall, expecting them to be ready to assist us. We see Girl and Boy Scouts, expecting them to be prepared to do volunteer work.

We also encounter people whose situation calls us to be dressed for action. We need to be ready to provide food for the poor and shelter for the homeless. We need to be ready to visit the sick and the elderly. We need to be ready to assist undocumented immigrants. We need to be ready to advocate for victims of abuse and domestic violence. We need to be ready to mentor troubled children and youth. We need to be ready to respond with compassion to anyone who is suffering.

At baptism, we became disciples of Christ and dressed for action. We were commissioned to continue Christ’s work. The gospel reminds us that we cannot just wait for Christ’s coming. Each of us is expected to be ready and available to offer God’s compassion to all people, especially to those whose lives have been shattered. We prepare each day for Christ’s coming by serving others with a joyful heart.

Ponder: How do I prepare for Christ’s coming?

Prayer: Lord, I am grateful for your gift of eternal life to those who believe in you. Give me patience as I complete your work on earth.

Rev. Warren J. Savage & Mary Ann McSweeny

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Oct. 18, 2015: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Oct. 18, 2015: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

On one occasion during the American Revolutionary War, preparations were being made for an up-coming battle. A man dressed in civilian clothes passed a corporal who was screaming orders at his men. Seeing that they were obviously exhausted from their labor, the man asked the corporal, “Why don’t you help them?” “Sir,” the corporal bristled as his anger rose, “I am a corporal!”

With a quick apology, the stranger took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves and set to work with the soldiers. “Mr. Corporal, Sir,” he said when the task was completed, “whenever you need someone to help with a job, feel free to call on your commander-in-chief. I will be happy to be of service.” With that, George Washington put on his coat and left. Whether his motivation was gospel-driven or not, Washington understood that those who aspire to greatness or rank first among others must serve the needs of all.

Incidents like this one continue to surprise because the message of today’s gospel has yet to find a realistic foothold in our society. Who among us looks for greatness in small places or within menial ministries? There is a timeless quality in Jesus’ lesson on ambition, authority and service; perhaps this is so because the problem is ever with us.

Jesus turns human expectations about rank and privilege upside down.

The basic trouble is that it is human nature to want to do as little as possible and to get as much as possible. It is only when we are filled with the desire to put into life more than we take out that life for ourselves and for others will be happy and prosperous. Rudyard Kipling has a poem called ‘Mary’s Son’ which is advice on the spirit in which work must be done:

If you stop to find out what your wages will be    
And how they will clothe and feed you,
Willie, my son, don’t you go to the Sea,    
For the Sea will never need you.

If you ask for the reason of every command,    
And argue with people about you,
Willie, my son, don’t you go on the Land,    
For the Land will do better without you.

If you stop to consider the work that you’ve done    
And to boast what your labour is worth, dear,
Angels may come for you, Willie, my son.    
But you’ll never be wanted on earth dear!

The world needs people whose ideal is service –that is to say it needs people who have realized what sound sense Jesus spoke. To clinch his words Jesus pointed to his own example. With such powers as he had, he could have arranged life entirely to suit himself, but he had spent himself and all his powers in the service of others. He had come, he said, to give his life a ransom for many.

Occasions for serving others are part of each believer’s daily experience. Parents, teachers, civil servants, managers of every kind, pastoral leaders, must all be servants, as Jesus was a servant. The closer we are to Jesus, the more we are expected to mirror him.

One woman’s insight into the possibilities for service is embroidered on a little plaque that hangs above her kitchen sink: “Apostolic service is rendered here, three times a day!”

William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible

Friday, October 16, 2015

October 16, 2015 Friday: St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

October 16, 2015 Friday: St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Devotion to the Sacred Heart After 50

In the dining room of our house is an unassuming depiction of the Sacred Heart of Jesus embroidered by my grandmother. I can’t remember a time when it hasn’t graced the walls of our home. Beneath it is a simple glass shelf, a small votive candle, and a pamphlet about the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in the home.

Another image of the Sacred Heart stands out from my childhood. In St. James Church, our parish, to the right of the main altar was a marble statue of the Sacred Heart. I often would stand before the Sacred Heart of Jesus and pray, and lighting candles there was special, especially as a child. Even today when I return home for vacation, I stop to pray before this statue when I make my Hour of Adoration in the church each morning.

In my teenage years I read The Imitation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. From what I remember, each chapter of the book developed one of the virtues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that we could imitate in our own life. The text was structured in the form of a conversation between the disciple and Jesus. When I read the book I could "hear" Jesus speaking to me.

Those are beautiful memories. Today in my fifties, however, after half-a-lifetime or more of relationships, problems, dreams, the joy of giving life and love to others, disillusionments, sorrows, my devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is very different. Below are ways in which someone in their fifties lives their love for Jesus and their devotion to his most Sacred Heart.

Our hearts, like the heart of Jesus, have been pierced.

No one escapes sorrow in their life. When our dreams have been dashed or our trust betrayed, our hearts are pierced as was the Heart of Jesus. Sometimes we may react in anger and aggression, but even this anger is a sign of the depth of the pain we are in, a cry lifted to heaven for mercy and help. At other times we have born our sorrow in silence and in patient love and in so doing we have become more like Jesus.

We’ve loved and been betrayed and decided to keep loving.

The mystery of the love of the heart of Jesus is that even after betrayal Jesus continues to love us. Even after his death, when his heart is pierced by a lance, he pours out blood and water, symbols of the sacraments, his continued presence within us. There are many times in our lives, no doubt, in which we can look back on ways we reacted for which we are sorry. We haven’t continued to love, we’ve perhaps collapsed inward to protect ourselves or lashed outward in anger. But I bet there is at least one time, if not more, in which we have decided to keep loving, even if we stumbled along in trying to carry out what we have decided to do. In that decision, in those sometimes fumbling steps, we have been like the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And for any of those times in which we haven’t kept loving when we’ve been hurt or outraged by the actions of another, we can find right now our refuge in Jesus’ most Sacred Heart, where he continues to love us with great tenderness. The more we choose to love, the more we become like the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

We’ve given our life for others.

Perhaps we haven’t literally laid down our life for another, but every time we’ve put another first, given birth to and raised a child, gotten up in the middle of the night as a doctor, police officer or fire fighter, stopped to pray for someone in need of God’s help, given up our plans in order to be of service to another, dedicated our life to God as a priest or religious, made an ethical decision in an uncomfortable situation, in these and in many other situations in our life, we’ve followed Jesus and have given our life for others. Christianity is the walk of discipleship by which we become Jesus who selflessly made himself the servant of all even unto death that we might have life abundantly.

We’ve forgiven and been forgiven again and again.

Jesus told St. Peter that he needed to forgive seventy times seven times…meaning always. In any human relationship, the only glue that can hold it together is reconciliation because none of us is perfect. Even the relationship between man and God can only be held together through forgiving love, God’s forgiving love of us. Without that love we would cease to be. In the second half of our life we can’t even begin to count the times we have forgiven others and been forgiven ourselves. Learning to live in a greater readiness to understand, show compassion, and treat others (and ourselves) with gentleness, makes us more and more like the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

We’ve assumed responsibility for our place in salvation history, at times at great personal cost.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said yes to love, yes to us. Though he asked that the cup of suffering might pass him by, he was ready to do whatever would fulfill God’s will that we would be reconciled to him. As parents, religious, priests, professionals, in the single state, we know by now that we are actors on a grand stage of history, that our yes, sometimes at our own cost, is what is needed that another might find grace. Remembering these yeses throughout our life, helps us realize all we have given and how much we have become like Christ.

In conclusion, by now, for those of us who are in our fifties or older, we have learned that devotion to the Sacred Heart is not simply a set of prayers. Devotion to Jesus’ Most Sacred Heart instills in us compassion, the capacity to “suffer with,” to feel what the others feel so that we can walk side by side through life’s journey with all those Jesus sends our way. And it is through the mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that we gain the strength to do this each and every day.

The “motto” that Pope Francis has given us for the Jubilee of Mercy beginning this December is: “merciful as the Father is merciful.” “In mercy we find proof of how God loves us. He gives his entire self, always, freely, asking nothing in return. He comes to our aid whenever we call upon him" (from the Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee Year, Face of Mercy).

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

How has your devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus grown throughout the years?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Oct. 15, 2015 Thursday: St. Teresa of Avila

Oct. 15, 2015 Thursday: St. Teresa of Avila

Humor of St. Teresa of Avila

The saint was seen as our fellow traveler along the way to God; by following his or her example the saint provides us with a model of Christian life. In other words, they serve as our models. So we can look to the saints as examples of those who not only lead joyful, laughter-filled lives, but often worked against the kind of deadly seriousness that infects religion.

St. Teresa of Ávila, the 16th-century Carmelite nun and reformer, herself spoke out against that kind of deadly serious Catholicism. “A sad nun is a bad nun,” she said. “I am more afraid of one unhappy sister than a crowd of evil spirits….What would happen if we hid what little sense of humor we had? Let each of us humbly use this to cheer others.” Here is a woman whom the Catholic church has designated as “Doctor of the Church,” an eminent teacher of the faith, recommending a sense of humor.

Humor suffuses the writings of St. Teresa, an intelligent, capable and strong-willed woman. Indeed the first line of her autobiography is famously lighthearted. She begins, “Having virtuous and God-fearing parents would have been enough for me to be good if I were not so wicked.”

Later on, after a lengthy description about the nature of prayer, Teresa writes, “It seems to me I have explained this matter, but perhaps I’ve made it clear only to myself.” It is a charmingly self-deprecating remark, which instantly invokes the reader’s sympathy and friendship. And throughout her writings she regularly addresses God in the most familiar, even playful terms. Susan M. Garthwaite, Ph.D., refers to the saint’s “playful teasing of God” in an article in Spiritual Life (Spring 2009) entitled “The Humor of St. Teresa of Avila in The Life.”
And one of her most famous lines, though probably apocryphal, is also apposite: “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us.”

This quotation of Teresa’s is one of the most well known of the saint’s, and is quoted in many popular books on her spirituality, not to mention its appearance all over the Internet. And it is certainly in keeping with her zestful and joyful approach to the spiritual life. There’s only one problem: it seems to appear nowhere in her writings.

Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D., a Catholic scholar, a translator of her works, and a member of the male branch of the Carmelite Order, told me that he could not find it in any of her writings, though he pointed me to other places where she speaks about joy and lightheartedness in the spiritual life. “That doesn’t mean that she didn’t say it,” Father Kavanaugh told me, “only that it’s not written down.” In any event, it’s a great little prayer.

And while Teresa’s spirituality was a deeply reverential one, her humor also evinces a kind of playfulness in her relationship with God. Once, when she was travelling to one of her convents, St. Teresa of Ávila was knocked off her donkey and fell into the mud, injuring her leg. “Lord,” she said, “you couldn’t have picked a worse time for this to happen. Why would you let this happen?”

And the response in prayer that she heard was, “That is how I treat my friends.”

Teresa answered, “And that is why you have so few of them!”

This story, one of the most well known about St. Teresa, is often told as a way of demonstrating the abundant humor of the saint. But it shows something else: her playful way of addressing God. Moreover, it shows her assumption of God’s playfulness with her.

-Fr. James Martin, SJ
Excerpted from Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life, by James Martin, S.J. (HarperOne)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Oct. 14, 2015 Wednesday: 28th Week in Ordinary Time

Oct. 14, 2015 Wednesday: 28th Week in Ordinary Time

For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the very same things. We know that the judgment of God on those who do such things is true. Do you suppose, then, you who judge those who engage in such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you hold his priceless kindness, forbearance, and patience in low esteem, unaware that the kindness of God would lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:1-4)

There was story I read from One Day At A Time of Francis Kong about a diver and his unforgettable experience. A young man who had been raised as an atheist was training to be an Olympic diver. The only religious influence in his life came from his outspoken Christian friend. The young diver never really paid much attention to his friend’s sermons but he heard them often.

One night that diver went to the indoor pool at the college he attended. The lights were all off but as the pool had big skylights and the moon was bright, there was plenty of light to practice by.

The young man climbed up to the highest diving board and as he turned his back to the pool on the edge of the board and extended his arms out, he saw his shadow on the wall. The shadow of his body was in the shape of a cross. Taken aback, he thought for a moment. And for the first time he knew something was happening.

The sight of the shadow of the cross was too powerful for him. He began to review his life and now, perhaps for the first time, he accepted the fact that it was not a peaceful one at all. He wanted a change and it’s so strange. To have something like this, happen right in the middle of an evening under a moonlight sky.

Instead of diving, he knelt down and asked Jesus Christ to come into his life. As the young man stood, a maintenance man walked in and turned the lights on.

Had he took his dive, it would have been the end of his life. It is because there was no water. The pool had been drained for repair.

God just wouldn’t let him go. His love is too strong and bigger than the young man’s unbelief. That’s the kind of love we find in the God we have and let us spread this love of God to other people by becoming His witnesses.

Fr. Joseph Benitez

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Oct. 13, 2015 Tuesday: 28th Week in Ordinary Time

Oct. 13, 2015 Tuesday: 28th Week in Ordinary Time

Although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. (Romans 1:21)

It happens every year when flu season rolls around: the endless reminders to wash your hands. Hand sanitizers begin appearing on kitchen counters, at workplace desks, and in women’s purses. And it makes sense, doesn’t it? You want to do whatever you can to prevent illness.

Well, the same is true for our spiritual lives. There are some very simple steps we can take if we want to guard against the infections of sin and temptation. In today’s reading, Paul tells us that God has filled the world with proclamations of his power. Every part of creation declares that a mighty Creator has brought it forth. He then tells us that those who chase after sin do so, not because they don’t believe in God, but because they don’t worship him. After all, his existence is hard to deny. The only question is whether we are willing to bow down to him in adoration for his goodness and majesty. And according to Paul, those who don’t worship God end up with “darkened” minds that are more vulnerable to sin (Romans 1:21).
So what do you think would happen to those who do worship and adore the Lord? Most likely, their minds would become more “enlightened,” and they would find the grace they need to resist sin and to please the Lord. You see, it’s not just that praise and worship protect us from darkness; it’s far too powerful just to keep us in a neutral state. No, worshipping the Lord opens our hearts. It helps us lower our natural defenses. It helps set us free from anxiety. All because we are lifting our hearts and minds to the One who has authority over all creation. We are coming in touch with his love and mercy, and our hearts are changing as a result.

So in your prayer today, offer words of praise, thanksgiving, and worship to the Lord. If words fail you, turn to the psalms instead. At Mass, imagine yourself joining the angels and saints as they cry out, “Holy, holy, holy!”

Lift up your heart, and watch the devil flee—and all his temptations with him!
“Praise to you, Lord, my Redeemer! You are worthy of all praise and honor. You hold all things together. You are mighty and powerful. Jesus, I trust in you!”

Word Among Us

Monday, October 12, 2015

Oct. 12, 2015 Monday: 28th Week in Ordinary Time B

Oct. 12, 2015 Monday: 28th Week in Ordinary Time B

When the crowds were increasing, [Jesus] began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” LUKE 11:29

Jesus is the living sign of God’s presence in the world. And so are we. As followers of Jesus, we have the privilege of imitating his example of compassion, forgiveness, and healing in a world that doubts the nearness of God. We have the honor to shine our goodness and love in a world dark with fear and hate. We have the calling to bear witness to God’s mercy and kindness through our own words and actions.

We have a very human tendency to want signs of God’s presence, to need proof of God’s nearness, to demand evidence of God’s love. We depend on our senses—sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch—to reassure ourselves of reality. Yet God’s reality is far beyond anything our human senses can take in. God is a mystery beyond dimension. God is our beginning, our middle, and our end. All that we experience is in God, through God, and with God. Our challenge is to become aware of our experiences, to open our hearts to let God find us in each experience, and to open our minds to accept God’s presence in each experience. As we begin to trust our experiences of God, our five human senses are no longer our measure for reality and we no longer rely on touchable signs of God’s presence. We deepen our faith in God’s Spirit within us and know we are being shown, being led, being embedded deeper into the heart of God.

Ponder: How am I a sign of God’s presence?

Prayer: Lord, I am grateful for every experience you send me. Open my heart and mind to find you wherever I am.

Rev. Warren J. Savage & Mary Ann McSweeny

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Oct. 11, 2015: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Oct. 11, 2015: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Click to hear Audio Homily
A couple of weeks ago at our parish mission, Fr. Cedric Pisegna mentioned about a preacher who stunned his congregation by preaching a 5-word sermon. The five words were, "Are you going to Hell?" This week, I could easily preach a 6-word homily and sit down (although I won't). The 6-words are, "How are you getting to Heaven?"

When a rich young man approached Jesus and asked the question, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life," the young man was quite certain that he had what it took to get into Paradise. The man was doing everything that his Jewish faith required and he was confident that he lived a moral life following the commandments. Yet, Jesus said to him, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." Jesus called him to be an apostle; he called him to give up everything else in his life and follow him. Although the man didn’t realize it, there were things he possessed that he loved more than he loved God. Let’s be honest about it, when it comes to spiritual and moral matters—i.e., to matters of the soul—many people today are quite content to be minimalists!!! As we go through this life, the crucial questions are not: How can I be the person God wants me to be? How can I be holier and more virtuous? The key questions are: How much can I get away with and still not go to hell? What’s the absolute minimum I need to do as a Catholic?

Sometimes we progress in our spiritual life giving everything that God asks of us -- until the day he asks for something we are not prepared to give. Our spiritual life stalls – sometimes for years – until we are willing to respond ‘yes’. Christ calls all of us to perfection, that is, to place God above all things. Jesus said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" There’s nothing wrong with riches themselves. Abraham, Isaac, and King David were quite well-to-do. The question is – what importance do we attach to wealth? Does it rule our life? Does it keep us from being attentive to our family, friends or our faith life? Jesus promises that if we give up our own selves to follow him, he will fill our lives with himself.

The error in the young man was that he trusted in himself instead of depending on God. If we are trusting ourselves and not depending on God, we are not going to get far. It is only due to God's undeserved mercy for us that we have a shot at Heaven. Jesus is asking us to change, to let go of our attachments that keep us from following him unreservedly. Change is always a result of God’s grace and our personal choice (a continuous act of the will). We need a courageous “willingness.” Change is not just a one-time choice, it is a continual habit that we must adopt. If we do our part, God will do his part.

Question is then, what do we change? We can change our mind about how we treat people. We don't have to be unforgiving and cynical. We can change from sin. Rather than being caught in the stronghold of consistent habits of lust or selfishness, we can experience freedom and selflessness. We can change the amount of time we are preoccupied with our possessions and spend that time going deeper in Scriptures. Jesus would not have told us to change unless it was possible and attainable. What is the one small thing that you are attached to that keeps you preoccupied? Can you ask Jesus to help you let go?
-Fr. Paul Yi

Friday, October 9, 2015

Oct. 9, 2015 Friday: St. Denis and Companions

Oct. 9, 2015 Friday: St. Denis and Companions

[Jesus said] “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” LUKE 11:23

Reflection: We can progress in life with good people in our lives. We grow in self-confidence when people believe in us, love us, trust us, and affirm our goodness. We can succeed in life with committed, loyal collaborators. We can overcome personal difficulties with caring companions to listen to us, to guide us with their wisdom, and to walk with us on the journey of life. We can endure all things when we have a community of people around us to support us throughout the seasons of life.

Life becomes burdensome when people do not believe in us and in our goodness. We find it difficult to advance in life without the love, care, and support of others. We become overwhelmed and frustrated when people do not acknowledge and appreciate our unique gifts and talents. We become discouraged when our close companions have no time to listen to us and help us resolve our problems. We feel abandoned when the people we have always depended on to be with us scatter. The gospel teaches us that being a follower of Christ in the world is not easy. We find living a life of discipleship more challenging when people of faith abandon God’s work of love and scatter. Being Christlike requires deep commitment and a constant change of heart. We will experience joy and disappointment in living and giving witness to our faith. We can live a vibrant spiritual life with the support of a community of believers. We can spread Jesus’ liberating message of love, compassion, peace, and forgiveness with the help of faithful coworkers.

Rev. Warren J. Savage & Mary Ann McSweeny

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Oct. 7, 2015 Wednesday: Our Lady of the Rosary

Oct. 7, 2015 Wednesday: Our Lady of the Rosary

By Immaculee Ilibagiza
Excerpt from the Book, "The Rosary: The Prayer that Saved My Life"

Even though I’ve been asked the question hundreds of times, I’m still a little amazed when someone wants me to describe what the rosary is. I have three different reactions when the question is put to me. At first I’m both a bit shocked and a tad saddened, realizing that not everyone was as lucky as I was to have been exposed to the rosary in childhood. But when the surprise passes, I am delighted to produce a rosary from my pocket and talk about my favorite subject. And then, for a moment at least, I am inexplicably tongue- tied by the enormity of the question— it’s like being asked to explain what the ocean is. I could say that the ocean is a huge body of salt water, which is a simple and accurate answer. Or I could give a more meaningful reply, explaining that the ocean is God’s gift to us, the source of life that brings the rain to our crops and helps to warm and cool our planet. Without the ocean, life on Earth would be impossible. I could answer the question about the rosary in much the same way. I could hold it out in the palm of my hand and say, “As you can see, it is a string of prayer beads.” Or, I could say, “It is a string of prayer beads that, like the ocean, is a gift to us from God. It was presented to us by the Virgin Mary. When we pray with it the way the Blessed Mother instructed us, it will sustain us and our spirit will flourish. And without prayer, a spiritual life is impossible.” Of course, that still wouldn’t answer the question properly or enough. So what I do, and have done on so many occasions, is to sit down and share the story about how I came to know and learn about the rosary. And if you will allow me, that is what I’d love to do with you right now.

I PROBABLY FIRST HEARD THE GENTLE RATTLE of my parents’ prayer beads on the very day I was born. Both of my parents loved to pray the rosary, but my father was especially devoted to the daily practice of using the beads to connect with God, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary. My dad was raised as a Protestant, but as a young man converted to Catholicism because (among other reasons) when he read the Bible he fell in love with the purity radiating from the My dad was raised as a Protestant, but as a young man converted to Catholicism because (among other reasons) when he read the Bible he fell in love with the purity radiating from the heart of the Virgin Mary. In Rwanda’s Catholic Church he found a place where Mary was truly venerated and the rosary was accepted and encouraged in an individual’s public and private prayer life.

When I was still an infant Mom, Dad, and my two older brothers— Damascene and Aimable— prayed the rosary together, kneeling as a family on the living room floor. By the time I was four years old I had a rosary of my own and was praying with the rest of my family. I just accepted that this was a part of my life. I cannot recall a single instance from my childhood when I felt awkward or embarrassed when, no matter where we were, my family would pull out our rosaries and begin praying together. If we went to visit relatives in a neighboring village, you could be certain that the hours- long car ride would be passed reciting rosary prayers.

When I was old enough to walk to school on my own, I carried a rosary in my hand and prayers on my lips the entire eight- mile hike there and back. To ensure we were never without a rosary, or had spares if an unexpected guest dropped by during prayers, my parents kept extra rosaries tucked away in cubbyholes all over the house. This may make my folks sound like religious zealots, but nothing could be further from the truth. They were very balanced in their religious beliefs— devoutly Catholic, but universal in their Christian beliefs and always did unto others as they would have others do unto them. What made them special, in my eyes and in my heart, was their love for the Virgin Mary and for Mary’s special affinity for the rosary. I believe that my father knew that the rosary was one of the greatest tools of prayer and devotion available to humankind. He did everything in his power to instill within his family, friends, and community the same love and fervor he had for the rosary.

I’m also aware that the first impression many have of the rosary is of people sitting in dark churches mumbling Hail Marys in an endless, repetitive monotone. But I never thought of the rosary as a dull recitation of meaningless words, not even as a rambunctious child who loved playing outside more than anything. No, to me the sound of that lovely prayer to the Blessed Mother— Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death landed softly upon my ears like sweet music floating down from heaven. Besides, praying made me feel good … I felt special, I felt loved, and I felt protected. Any form of prayer filled me with a warmth and sense of well- being that was always strongest when praying the rosary with my family. It was as though every cell in my body was absorbing peace and happiness as I listened to the prayers being recited, and I often found my eyes welling with tears.

In all honesty, I really didn’t know what all the prayers meant when I was child, and I couldn’t commit more than one or two of them to memory. More often than not I just repeated the Hail Mary and listened to my parents and older brothers recite the other prayers. I guess the problem for me was that most of the rosary prayers are contemplative; you have to think about certain Bible stories and events between reciting the Hail Marys. Well, deep meditation wasn’t my strong suit as a child; instead, I preferred getting lost in the beautiful words and rhythm of the Hail Mary prayer. I didn’t feel the need to probe the depths of the words or dwell upon the stories. At that point in my life it didn’t matter to me what I was saying as long as I was part of my family’s prayers and a member in good standing in the family of God. I had a blessed childhood— I was a very, very happy little girl. I loved my family, I loved God, I loved praying, and more and more, I was growing in my love for the Virgin Mary.
- By Immaculee Ilibagiza

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Oct. 4, 2015: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Oct. 4, 2015: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Click to hear Audio Homily
What’s the toughest question that a child has ever asked you? Pope Francis shared with those gathered recently at the World Meeting of Families Festival in Philadelphia that once a child asked him a very difficult question: “Holy Father, what did God do before creating the world?” He admitted that was a very difficult question to answer. After thinking awhile the Pope answered the child, “Before creating the world, God loved. Because God is love.” He then went on to explain that the most beautiful thing that God created was the family. He said, “All of the love that God has in himself, all the beauty that he has in himself, he gives it to the family. And the family is really family when it is able to open its arms and receive all that love.” However, Pope went on to explain that we sometimes destroy this beauty of the family because “we are a bit confused.” The first human family of Adam and Eve allowed the devil to enter their lives and to separate their love for each other and for God. This loss of love spilled over to their children, Cain and Abel which resulted in a family tragedy--jealousy between brothers lead to a murder.

When man and his wife made a mistake, God did not abandon them. So great was His love, that He began to walk with humanity, with His people, until the right moment came, and He made the highest expression of love – by sending His own Son to be with us. And where did He send his son – to a palace? To a city? No. He sent him to a family that truly had an open heart.

It is evident that in scriptures this weekend, God wants us to be able to experience faithfulness and love. Not the kind that comes and goes but the steadfast and unfailing love that looks and feels like God. At the time of Jesus, the Jewish laws held high ideal of chastity and faithfulness in marriage. However, the lived lives of ordinary Jews fell far short of the ideals. In fact, the Jewish law regarded woman as an object; she had no legal rights whatsoever, but was at the complete disposal of the male head of the family. At that time, men divorced their wives for the most trivial reasons, and women hesitated to marry at all because marriage was so insecure. With that in mind, the Pharisees wanted to test Jesus whether he held heretical views about about marriage, divorce, and remarriage in contrary to the established laws. But Jesus rebuffed them by pointing out the hardness of their hearts--hearts closed to the love that God desires to pour into families. Jesus told the Pharisees, "Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate."

In our own time, what do we observe? We know that within our families we have divorce and remarriage. Often times, the divorce is not because of trivial reasons--there may have been unfaithfulness, physical abuse, unchastity, lack of maturity, addiction, selfishness--which led to fracturing of spousal love and family. And yes, our children suffer irreparably in the process. Yet God puts in our midst couples who may not be perfect, but strive to live daily lives of selflessness, sacrifice, and faithfulness. Perhaps the couple is your own mom and dad, or your grandparents.

How would you assess your own family at this moment? Is it a place of mutual trust and understanding? Does your spouse look forward to coming home after a long day of work? Do you hear your children laugh in your house? If not, today, Jesus would like to come to your home. Jesus came to redeem our broken world so that love can abound in our homes, communities, and workplace. No one has a perfect family, yet Jesus would like to journey with your family to build up trust, patience, and compassion. If your spouse is struggling with chastity, Jesus wants to strengthen your spouse with purity of heart. If your spouse is lacking in patience, Jesus would like to enlighten your understanding of each other. I encourage all families to pray together to strengthen family bonds. During this month of October, let us especially pray the Rosary to allow Blessed Mother to help form a family after God’s own heart. Begin small. Just pray one decade together. It will take you less than 5 minutes, but it will be an important foundation to building a family where joy, love, and peace abounds.
-Fr. Paul Yi

Friday, October 2, 2015

Oct. 2, 2015 Friday: Guardian Angels

Oct. 2, 2015 Friday: Guardian Angels

Guardian Dear

See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of My heavenly Father. — Mt 18:10

The dumbest angel is smarter than the smartest human being. The angels of heaven are immortal spirits who've lived since the dawn of creation, in service to the Most High. They can go anywhere God wills, any time, faster than a blink of an eye. And they care about you. More than that — they serve you.

Whenever you want to count the number of people in a room, you have to double the number. Why? Because according to the (small t) tradition of the Church, every single human being has at least one guardian angel.

Some of the saints and mystics have seen the guardian angels, both their own and the guardian angels of others. Director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy Dr. Robert Stackpole shares with us about St. Faustina Kowalska's visions of the angels:

Those who lean on the mercy of God can be sure that our Savior sends His angels to surround and protect them, even as He did for St. Faustina. When she was dangerously ill, a radiant seraph brought her Holy Communion for 13 days (see Diary of St. Faustina, 1676). She saw them defending a dying man for whom she was praying (see 1565), and giving glory to God in heaven (see 1604). She also recorded how her guardian angel defended her from an assault by evil spirits (see 419) and accompanied her on a visionary journey to purgatory and to hell (see 20 and 741). In general, St. Faustina was constantly comforted by the thought — and sometimes given supernatural assurance — that we are not alone in our struggles for faith and love, but are surrounded (whether we know it or not) by a "great crowd of witnesses" (Heb 12:1). She wrote:
One day, when I was at adoration, and my spirit seemed to be dying for Him, and I could no longer hold back my tears, I saw a spirit of great beauty who spoke these words to me: "Don't cry — says the Lord." After a moment I asked, "Who are you?" He answered me, "I am one of the seven spirits who stand before the throne of God day and night and give Him ceaseless praise." Yet this spirit did not soothe my yearning, but roused me to even greater longing for God. This spirit is very beautiful, and his beauty comes from close union with God. This spirit does not leave me for a single moment, but accompanies me everywhere (Diary, 471).
Elsewhere, St. Faustina wrote:

Then I saw one of the seven spirits near me, radiant as at other times, under a form of light. I constantly saw him beside me when I was riding on the train. I saw an angel standing on every church we passed, but surrounded by a light which was paler than that of the spirit who was accompanying me on the journey, and each of these spirits who were guarding the churches bowed his head to the spirit who was near me.
...I thanked God for His goodness, that He gives us angels for companions. Oh, how little people reflect on the fact that they always have beside them such a guest, and at the same time a witness to everything! Remember, sinners, that you likewise have a witness to all your deeds (Diary, 630).

The Lord God has countless numbers in the heavenly host, each one absolutely unique, each one a species unto itself. And one of those immortal spirits is assigned to you. Your guardian angel is with you all your life, at every moment of your life, tasked with aiding you to your heavenly home — if you'll allow it.

The more we invite our guardian angels to act in our lives, the more freedom they have to maneuver. Just like their Lord, the angels respect our free will and are bound if we refuse to cooperate with their loving assistance.

So pray the guardian angel prayer today (see below)! Talk to your guardian angel as a friend, as a companion on the long journey of life, and talk to the guardian angels of your friends, family and enemies. Ask the guardian angels assigned to your friends for every good thing within their power to give on behalf of your friends. Ask your family's guardian angels (especially the guardian angels of your children and godchildren) to protect and defend them, to lead them along straight paths to Jesus and all good. Ask the guardian angels of your enemies to help them toward conversion, toward holiness, toward the life and love of God.

Ask, and you shall receive the assistance, protection, and love of the mightiest creatures of God in the service of goodness, truth, and love.

Guardian Angel Prayer
Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love commits me here, ever this day be at my side to light, to guard, to love, and guide. Amen.