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Posted by on Jan 21, 2015

Martin Luther King, Jr. — A Gift of One’s Self

Martin Luther King, Jr. — A Gift of One’s Self

 

January 19, 2105 is the Martin Luther King holiday in the United States. The first reading of the day in the lectionary is Hebrews 5: 1-10. Christ’s adherence to the will of the Father has led Him on a path of suffering, death and glorification. Dr, King took this path of God’s will to which we are all called.

“In the days when he was in the Flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” – Hebrews 5: 5-10

The Feast of Martin Luther King, Jr is not a feast of the Roman calendar, but it is a national holiday to celebrate a civil rights leader and a Baptist minister who advocated non-violence. Today is a tribute to all who work for human and civil rights for African-Americans and all people. Many of us are of an age to remember the Reverend King. The three television networks brought us live coverage in black and white of the marches, the sit-ins, and the fire hoses and police dogs that were part of the black struggle against white oppression. There was the famous “I have a dream speech” at the Lincoln Memorial. The haunting last speech before Dr. King was gunned down, “I Have Been to the Mountain Top” in which he saw the promised land of freedom, “I may not get there with you but I have seen it.”

Like all of us, Dr. King was an imperfect human being. Like all of us he was a sinner, but his redemption, like ours, is based in obedience to Christ, the source of eternal salvation for all. We know that precisely because Jesus is the Son of God, His will is perfectly aligned with that of the Father. Since Jesus was truly divine and truly human, his obedience came at a human cost. “In the days when he was in the Flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, AND HE WAS HEARD because of His Reverence.

In his work of announcing the kingdom, healing the sick, feeding the multitudes, Jesus did not shy away from doing the will of his Father. But he knew where his call was leading. It became more and more obvious that if he stayed true to the person he was — the Divine Word become human — that His hands that had been raised in blessing and healing would be nailed to the cross. With loud cries and tears he asks the Father to take this cup away, but he is true to his calling and the will of the Father. “Let not my will be done but yours.” It is through this obedience that Jesus goes to his excruciating death on the cross and to the glory of the resurrection. He WAS HEARD because of His Reverence.

For Dr. King, Mahatma Gandhi, all Christian saints and martyrs, and ourselves, this call to obedience is not only a question of observing certain commandments but a deeper call to be the person God created us to be, to be at one with God, to hear at one with God, to accept God’s truth about our mission in life to advance the kingdom of heaven.

There were many black leaders in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Dr. King didn’t need to have such a high profile in the movement. Yet it was something that Dr. King was drawn into despite all of the obvious risks to himself and his family. He was born and raised in Atlanta in a strictly segregated society. Dr. King knew what happened to black people who broke the rules. He certainly could have taken an easier type of ministry, but he heard the Word of God, the Will of the Father for his life and his death.

Most of us think that we are not called to such types of work. We are certain that God’s will for us involves something less “glamorous,” nothing so heroic as what Jesus and the saints like Mother Teresa and Dr. King did. But I wonder. All of us have that little voice within us to do something special, something only we can do, but we know that it will cost us. Dr. King used his gift of oratory, of speaking and preaching, to give voice to the prayers and aspirations of the millions enslaved and oppressed using the language, song, and rhythm that the Spirit had given them in their bondage and oppression.

Many of us see fewer years ahead of us than the ones that have fled so swiftly. The babies we held are now grown adults with their own babies. What are we called to do to announce the Kingdom of Heaven and to make it a reality? What can we do to end poverty, hunger, oppression, and violence? How do we draw closer to God and each other in prayer? How do we move toward reconciliation and forgiveness?

We can only do it if we take the time to be quiet and to listen — to pay attention to that little voice that comes to us or the massive cry that comes to us in outrage at the atrocities of the world visited upon the young, the poor, the defenseless. There is a price to be paid, and eternal life to be gained.

 

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Posted by on Jan 20, 2015

Why Do Children Suffer? Pope Francis Speaks to Filipino Youth

Why Do Children Suffer? Pope Francis Speaks to Filipino Youth

 

The video and the text are largely in Spanish, though a simultaneous translation into English is included. This is a summary of a small part of the Pope’s extemporaneous speech.

During a presentation to young people in the Philippines, the Holy Father set aside his prepared text to answer a question that had been raised by a 12 year old girl who had been rescued from the street. Tearfully weeping, Glyzelle Palomar, recounted the miseries of her life in a few words and asked, “Many children are abandoned by their own parents, many are victims of many terrible things such as drugs and prostitution. Why does God permit these things even though the children are not at fault.Why do so few people come forward to help?” In this video we can view the scene and the Pope’s compassionate embrace of the child.

What response is possible to the perennial problem of evil? Pope Francis did not try to evade the question with platitudes. He took the question head-on, educating about 30,000 of the faithful and challenging them. First, he noted the shortage of women among those making presentations and he emphasized the importance of the point of view of women. The Pope said that women pose questions which men could never stop trying to understand, that is, never grasp.

We can understand something, added the Holy Father, “when the heart reaches the place in which it can ask the questions and cry. Only through tears do we arrive at a true compassion which can transform the world.” Pope Francis described a common, worldly type of compassion as one in which we just take a coin out of our pocket. He added that if Christ had shown this type of compassion, he would simply have spent a little time with a few people and gone back to the Father. Jesus could comprehend our lives, the Pope said, when He was able to cry and did cry.

He notes, “In today’s world, there is a lack of crying. Although the marginalized, the poor, and the outcasts cry, those of us who do not lack anything essential do not cry. Only those eyes that have been cleansed by tears are able to so see things as they are.”

The Pope challenged the faithful. “Let us not forget (this young woman’s) testimony. She asked the great question ‘why do children suffer?’ crying. And the great answer all of us can give is to learn how to cry.”

 

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Posted by on Jan 20, 2015

¿Por qué Sufren los Niños? Papa Francisco a Los Jóvenes en Filipinas

¿Por qué Sufren los Niños? Papa Francisco a Los Jóvenes en Filipinas

 

El Santo Papa dejó su texto preparado para contestar la pregunta que le había puesto una niña rescatada de la calle.  Con lágrimas, gemiendo, Glyzelle Palomar contó en pocas palabras las miserias que había padecido y preguntó, “Hay muchos niños abandonados por sus propios padres, muchas víctimas de muchas cosas terribles como las drogas o la prostitución. ¿Por qué Dios permite estas cosas, aunque no es culpa de los niños? ¿Y por qué tan poca gente nos viene a ayudar?” En este video podemos ver el escenario y la compasión del abrazo del Santo Padre.

¿Qué respuesta es possible al perenne problema de la maldad? El Papa Francisco no trataba de evadir la cuestión con palabras blandas y dulces. Enfrentó la cuestión enseñándoles a unos 30 mil de los fieles y desafíandoles. Primero notó la escasez de mujeres en las presentaciones y la importancia del punto de vista feminino. Dijo el Pontífice que la mujer se puede hacer preguntas que los hombres “no terminamos de entender.”

Podemos entender algo añadió El Santo Papa “cuando el corazón alcanza a hacerse la pregunta y a llorar.” Solamente por lágrimas llegamos a la verdadera compasión que se puede transformar al mundo. El Papa Francisco describió una compasión mundana por lo cual solamente sacamos una moneda del bolsillo. Añadió que si hubiera Cristo demonstraba esa compasión, hubiera pasado unos momentos con algunas personas, y se hubiera vuelto al Padre. Jesucristo entendió nuestros dramas, dijo El Papa, cuando fue capaz de llorar y lloró.

Declaró, “Al mundo de hoy le falta llorar, lloran los marginados, lloran los que son dejados de lado, lloran los despreciados, pero aquellos que llevamos una vida más o menos sin necesidades no sabemos llorar. Solo ciertas realidades de la vida se ven con los ojos limpiados por las lágrimas.”

El Papa desafió a los fieles “No olvidemos este testimonio. La gran pregunta ‘por qué sufren los niños’ la hizo llorando. Y la gran respuesta que podemos hacer todos nosotros es aprender a llorar.”

 

 

 

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Posted by on Jan 16, 2015

The Magi and the Gift of Holy Discontent

The Magi and the Gift of Holy Discontent

 


Fr. Geoffrey Plant of Sydney, Australia has prepared a multimedia homily for the feast of the Epiphany. In his homily, Fr. Plant presents the main points of the feast.

The term “epiphany” comes from the Greek meaning to “shine forth”. We tend to assume that there were three kings because there were three gifts named: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Fr. Plant notes that they were not called kings but “magi” in Greek, with stands for wise men or sages.

The gifts are symbolic of the nature and meaning of Jesus. Gold is a symbol of royalty, frankincense is a sign of the divine, and myrrh is for burial, indicating that Jesus will triumph through suffering and death.

Fr. Plant suggests the wise men also brought the gift of Holy Discontent. Examples of holy discontent may be seen in the character of Popeye. An example of unholy indifference is seen in the the character of Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. Fr. Plant sees the magi as showing a holy discontent: a willingness to search, to be changed, and not to feel comfortable again. He compares them to Herod’s wise men who despite being so close to Bethlehem fail to see the signs in the heavens though others have seen them from afar.  Quoting W. H. Auden, Fr. Plant compares the hardness of heart of Herod’s wise men to our own post-modern era:

We would rather be ruined than changed

We would rather die in our dread

Than climb the cross of the moment

And let our illusions die

W.H. Auden, The Age of Anxiety

This gift of Holy Discontent — the gift of prophecy and activism — is what the wise men bring to the Christ child and to us according to Fr. Plant. It is the divine call to the kingdom through suffering, death, and resurrection.

 

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Posted by on May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014 — A Reflection

Memorial Day 2014 — A Reflection

Remembering and Honoring Those Who Died in War

Becoming Peacemakers Today

 

Many of you have directly faced the horrors of war.

Many of you have made great personal sacrifices that haunt your dreams.

Many of us have lost sons, daughters, and friends in war.

 

Today is the day we gather to remember them

And to ask ourselves if there is any way to end wars,

To end the waste of wonderful men, women, and children,

the destruction of cities and entire countries,

the destruction of Faith, Hope and Love.

 

Is there any way to keep mad men from coming to power?

Will there be a day when defense won’t be necessary?

The Lord Jesus offers us a way out of war – The Kingdom of Heaven.

 

We are sent to proclaim it,

To announce the New Law of Christ.

 

It is a path for the poor in spirit,

for the merciful, for peacemakers.

It is a path of persecution for all of us

Who are called to be its prophets.

 

Called to non-violence,

Called to speak truth to power,

Called to end hunger and want.

 

The words sound great,

but we are discouraged.

They crucified the Master

and we had such hopes that he was the Messiah,

Said the disciples on the way to Emmaus,

 

Many looked at the Mountain of Despair of racial injustice and despaired.

Dr. King picked up the stone of hope from that Mountain

and moved the world.

We prayed to St. Michael,

Worked for peace, and the Soviet Union fell.

 

A Day to Remember.

A Day of Peace.

Do this to remember me.

Bless the Peacemakers.

Now, let us draw near

To the altar of Sacrifice,

To the blessing of the bread and wine

In which Christ becomes truly present.

 

With Him,

Let us be consumed in the Love of the Father

and the Fire of the Spirit

To become the Peace of God’s Anointed

in our homes,

at work,

among the nations,

Let us be peacemakers.

As we are the Peace of Christ.

 

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Posted by on Dec 22, 2013

O Rex Gentium – King of All the Nations

December 22 — O Rex Gentium

“O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.”

Dust thou art — to the Stars you are called
Leave the dark of agony
The cold of loneliness
Go out to welcome your King

King of All Hearts
King of the World
Line the runways
Announce His coming on the loud speakers

You have only your chains to shed
Your shackles to break
By your word of forgiveness
By exchanging your heart for His

Death has no more claim
Open the gates to the Stars of Grace
Welcome in the joy and peace
Of mercy given, mercy received.

 

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Posted by on Dec 20, 2013

O Clavis David – Key of David – Key to the Gate of Heaven

December 20 – O Clavis David

“O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.”

And lead us into Freedom
The promised land
Out of our darkness
Fear, anxiety, and certainty

Break down the prisons
of our making
Those with wall to wall carpets
Harboring unforgiven hurt

With swimming pools
and security cameras
with sweeping vistas
Fending off death with denial

O Sol Invictus, Unconquered Sun
Fade the street lamps
of our night
With your dawn O Risen Son.

 

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Posted by on Aug 8, 2013

St. Dominic’s Insight and Evangelization Today

St. Dominic’s Insight and Evangelization Today

St. Dominic

Insights from Conversing with an Innkeeper

Dominic Guzmán (1170-1221), a Spanish priest traveling with his bishop in southern France, spent an entire night talking with an innkeeper who was a believer in Catharism, a dualistic religious cult that originated in the East. He discovered that the man had not really rejected Catholic teachings but rather was ignorant of them. This discovery led to the founding of the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans), a group dedicated to learning theology and other disciplines and communicating the beliefs of the Church to all they met, while living as beggars and travelers on the highways and byways of Europe. Many great theologians and prophets, both men and women, have served the church through the centuries as followers of Dominic and his early companions.

Moving into a Changing World

Dominic’s insight that the Gospel must be taught both with words and through the lives of the ones proclaiming it in the contemporary world with all of its challenges holds as true today as it did some eight hundred years ago. In many ways, we as a community of faith had, until recently, settled into an almost self-satisfied attitude that all of the answers to the questions of faith and  moral behavior had been resolved by theologians of the Middle Ages and/or at the Council of Trent. As Tevye (of “Fiddler on the Roof”)  might have expressed it, “Everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to be!”

Yet such an attitude of self-confident satisfaction with who we are and what we believed did not serve us well. The world’s people continued to discover new truths in science and new understandings of human behaviors and cultures. Industrialization brought changes in family life and opportunities. Education of both boys and girls has become a given in Western societies and increasingly this is also the case in non-industrial societies around the world as well. More strikingly, perhaps, we did not as intelligent inhabitants of this planet learn how to live together in peace, with the common good as our highest concern. Instead, we set about conquering each other, with the nations having the strongest military plundering the regions they had conquered. Somehow the old teachings no longer answered the new questions about God, life, and the reality of evil in the world.

Evangelization Today

Pope Francis and his recent predecessors have called the Church to a new focus on evangelization. The teachings of the Church, including new insights from theology, philosophy, anthropology, psychology and other disciplines, must be presented to the world and lived out joyfully by Christian believers. Pope Francis repeatedly stresses the importance of going out into our communities and meeting people where they live and work. We are to work to alleviate poverty and suffering. We are to serve without judging others whose lives and values differ from ours. We are to be true to the traditions of our community, but recognize that those traditions may need to be presented in different words and explained using different images. Some of those traditions may need to be stretched so they express the lived experience of a new generation of believers. This is the age of the Holy Spirit in salvation history and we must recognize that God is so much bigger and more amazingly wonderful than we could ever imagine, that no human formulation could ever totally express the full reality of who God is.

Like the times of Dominic Guzmán, there is a great need in today’s world for people of faith to learn about God, about our Christian beliefs and traditions, and about the newly emerging insights of our living faith community. The days when the catechism lessons of childhood sufficed for an adult life of faith are long since gone, if they ever truly existed. We are all called to continue to learn, to study Scripture, to reflect on God’s active presence in our lives, and to share what we have learned with others. And we do this not just at Church or in catechism classes, but also in our daily activities on the highways and byways of our lives. The People of God are once again called to be proclaimers of the loving presence and activity of our God.

And that innkeeper with whom Dominic spoke all night? He returned to the Catholic faith once he understood what the community really believed.

St. Dominic, Pray for us!

Image: St. Dominic by Fra Angelico, Side panel of the Altarpiece in Perugia

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Posted by on May 15, 2012

Words of Wisdom from Peter Maurin

Words of Wisdom from Peter Maurin

 

Peter Maurin

Peter Maurin, with Dorothy Day, was a cofounder of the Catholic Worker — the newspaper and movement begun in 1932 to advance the social message of the Gospel for our times. Maurin believed that disconnecting social values from their basis in the Gospels causes the majority of the problems of contemporary society. He believed in the power of individuals to make a difference by living according to a new set of values — ones based on the radical social message of the Gospel.

Though Maurin died in 1949, these words of his offer hope for those who work to create a more just society today.

“The future will be different if we make the present different.”

Image from the Marquette University Archives.

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Posted by on Feb 25, 2012

The Eternal Present –  Living in the Now

The Eternal Present – Living in the Now

Blooming daffodils

Summer-like weather had kissed the coastal city in mid-winter. The warm sun shone brightly, not a cloud in the sky. Birds sang happily, chattering away noisily with their peers while enjoying their southern sojourn. Flowers bloomed merrily in every garden and by the wayside paths. It was the kind of day when no one should be stuck inside. But that was where she had been all day. There were dishes to wash, groceries to purchase, documents to proof-read, checkbooks to be balanced. That was all on top of caring for a small child and keeping him safe as he explored the many nooks and crannies of his world. By the time all was done and they could go outside, it was already time for her to begin dinner preparations, so someone else got to go out with him!

By late evening, as bedtime approached, dinner now having been completed, dishes done, beds ready for their occupants, the little guy decided he didn’t want to stop playing and get ready for bed. She was frustrated and tired — not at all in a mood to be patient and gentle. Fortunately, she recognized the need for a quick break and walked into another room long enough to regain a bit of peace. When she came out, the child ran towards her, his face one big smile from ear to ear. All memory of the battle waged a few moments earlier long gone from his mind. He had a story for bedtime. Could they read it?  Of course, they could, and the rest of the evening ritual proceeded pleasantly. She even got a few minutes of quiet before retiring herself.

The experience of our “heroine” is, I think, all too common for many of us today. There is so much to be done. So many expectations of how quickly we must respond, so many opportunities to be “busy about many things,” that we end up over-stressed and missing the wonders of the present moment. Yet we would be well advised to notice the child’s way of living in each moment. After all, Jesus told his followers that the Kingdom is made of child-like people — people who can be present in the moment.

God exists in the Eternal Present. Every moment is new in that Eternal Present. Nothing carries over except God’s ever outpouring love. God does not hold on to the past — all is new and everything is possible. “Your sins I remember no more.” (Isaiah 43:25)

We, on the other hand, get stuck in the upsets, angers, resentments and disappointments of the past. Our ability to see and respond to love gets paralyzed. We become separated from our loving, ever present God and the wonder of ever new life flowing out as the present moment.

Jesus comes to lead us from that separation, that paralysis of living and re-living the past (aka, our sinfulness). Once we accept that healing, we can once again rise from our mats as did  the paralyzed man in the Gospel (Mark 2:1-12), dancing in the joy of new life in God’s NOW.

Daffodils Bloom – from public-domain-image.com

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Posted by on Feb 22, 2012

Almsgiving, Prayer and Fasting – Lenten Practices in Our Lives Today

Almsgiving, Prayer and Fasting – Lenten Practices in Our Lives Today

Praying Hands - Albrecht Durer

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, brings with it a reminder from Jesus of the importance of 1) caring for each other, especially those in need, 2) staying in close communication with God, and 3) strengthening our physical, mental, and spiritual lives through actions that help us develop more control over the urges that don’t lead us to God. The traditional names for such activities are almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.

Catholics who grew up before and during the years of Vatican II often think first of fasting or giving up something as the activity of choice for Lent. This practice was generally phrased in terms of “What are you giving up for Lent?” There were (and still are) days in which fasting from normal amounts of food was required of adults between the ages of 21 and 59. However, there were other days in the year which were also set aside for fasting, so that was not unique to Lent. What was unique to Lent was giving up something: candy, television, movies, cigarettes, drinking, etc.

Ash Wednesday’s reading from Matthew 6:1-18 is a reminder that all three practices are important and even interdependent. They are also to be done quietly, without great fanfare, and without even congratulating ourselves on how well we’re managing to do them! So, how can we — citizens of a busy, busy world — find time to pray, identify and organize resources to share with others, and make fasting somehow different than dieting?

A few thoughts come to mind.

1) Almsgiving: The sharing of worldly treasures has been a mark of the Christian community since its earliest years. Christians recognized from at least the time of St. John’s Gospel, and before, that Jesus is present in the community.  To the extent that anyone is suffering from lack of basic necessities, those who do not lack them have failed to meet the needs of Jesus. This is a hard teaching sometimes, especially when times are tough and there is little left over to share. Remember: we are called to share our time, talents, and treasures. If what you have is time, then give of that. If what you have is talent (maybe for telephoning or organizing a bake sale), offer that talent to help provide for those who need food or shelter. If you have enough money (treasure) to support yourself and your family, then share from what you have; maybe eating more simply for a few meals or waiting an extra month before buying that new pair of jeans, and giving the savings to feed those who don’t have enough.

The important thing is to be open to sharing what you have and creatively listening for the opportunities to do so.

2) Prayer: Time for prayer is not easy to find —  if you think you have to set aside an hour a day to pray. On the other hand, if you remember to intersperse prayer into your entire day, then it becomes easier. A quick thank you for the morning as you open your eyes, a blessing over breakfast, a smiled expression of gratitude for a pretty sight on the way to work or the joy of a child exploring her world, a few moments of reflection on how the day is going at lunchtime, a quick prayer for the right words to say in conversation with a friend or co-worker, a blessing at the end of the day, a few moments of reading scripture while supervising a child’s bathing — all are ways to pray in a busy life. God is present in all of these moments and in the unpleasant, difficult moments as well. But God generally doesn’t burst into our lives and shout, “Do This Now!” God is much more subtle, inviting us to notice the presence of the divine in the everyday creation in which we live, and always leaving us free to respond to that presence as we choose.

3) Fasting: Limiting the amount of food eaten, or not eating at all, is the generally understood meaning of fasting. Going hungry on occasion is a good thing to do. It helps develop a greater appreciation of the gift of food. It also helps strengthen the will, so when other things must be declined, the will is strong enough to do so. However, fasting from food is only one way to fast. The practice of “giving up something” was a form of fasting. When we turned off the television on weekdays during Lent during my childhood, we broke its spell and no longer felt we had to watch any programs. We had time to do things together as a family that we didn’t do when the television was on: board games, music, conversation, outdoor play, cooking together, etc.

Fasting today may mean limiting our consumption of: consumer goods, recreational activities, social media including Facebook, television, text messages, tweets, online games, lunches or dinners out, or (insert your own time-consuming activity).  It creates a space for other things – for God to be noticed and heard.

Perhaps, out of fasting in this broader sense will come opportunities for prayer and resources for almsgiving as well. Then the circle of activities that quietly draw us closer to God will have become complete.

Praying Hands by Albrecht Durer – Public domain image

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Posted by on Nov 26, 2011

Celebrating Feasts With Food – St. Catherine of Alexandria

Celebrating Feasts With Food – St. Catherine of Alexandria

Icon of St. Catherine of Alexandria

 

St. Catherine of Alexandria was born towards the end of the 3rd century. According to legend, she became a Christian at the age of 14 following a vision. She was known for her wisdom and is said to have successfully debated 50 non-Christian philosophers when she was only 18. Responsible for the conversion of hundreds of people, she was eventually martyred (around 310 AD). Condemned to death on the wheel, instead she was beheaded because the wheel broke at her touch. Catherine is remembered since the 14th century as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers saints to whom people prayed especially for healing and protection from diseases.

In the middle ages, a tradition arose of celebrating her feast by visiting neighbors, singing songs requesting food and drink (cakes and breads or apples and beer). I came across this recipe for Catherine’s Cake (Kattern Cakes or Catterning Cakes). It is simple to make and would make a great project to do with children to help make it fun to be Catholic Christians. The detailed recipe on the web is written in metric system, however, there’s a basic description with quantities in the old English system we still use in the United States.

Catherine’s Cake

2 pounds yeast bread dough
2 oz  (1/4 cup) butter
2 oz  (1/4 cup) sugar
1 egg, beaten
A few caraway seeds

Frozen bread dough may be used, or make your own. Soften the butter and mix with sugar, egg, and caraway seeds, then knead into the dough. Allow to rise in a warm place for approximately 2 hours.

Once the dough has risen, either divide it into tennis ball sized loaves or form it into a larger loaf and place on/in a floured baking pan. Allow to rise another 30 minutes. If you have made the smaller loaves, flatten them slightly to make “cakes” for individual servings.

Bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) for two hours. (Smaller cakes may require a shorter baking time.)

Invite in the neighbors and enjoy with sparkling cider or other festive drink!

Image in the Public domain –
From St. Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt

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Posted by on Oct 15, 2011

“… Love calls for love in return.” Teresa of Avila

“… Love calls for love in return.” Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila - by Francois Gerard

The great Carmelite reformer, mystic, and saint, Teresa of Avila, was known for sometimes blunt statements about the spiritual life and life in community. She insisted that the spiritual life was not about being gloomy or depressed. (“God, deliver me from sullen saints.”) Life in community required all to share in the daily work of the community so all might share in the joys of relaxation and the natural world. She knew that the fundamental reality for Christians is the love of Christ, a love that reaches beyond church buildings and monasteries into all of creation.

One of her statements, a sentence from a larger work, struck me today.

“Whenever we think of Christ we should recall the love that led him to bestow on us so many graces and favors, and also the great love God showed in giving us in Christ a pledge of his love; for love calls for love in return.”

What does this mean in my life or in your life? Take some time to reflect on this with me. Be practical. Some might find it means minding a tongue that can speak spitefully or spreading gossip. Some might find it mean patiently reading a story to a small child for the fifth time in one day. For some it might mean getting up and out to door to work. Others might be called to smile at a panhandler and offer a friendly greeting rather than walking past with eyes averted.

Then move to the larger world – regional, national and international concerns. What does love mean in these contexts? How responsible am I for what happens in my city, county, state or nation? Does it matter whether I get involved in political debates or not? Do I have any responsibility to those less well-off than I or to the children of other families? Do we as a nation (community) have responsibilities to protect and support those to whom we are not related by blood? What does love demand of us? What does it mean to love? Can I act in love and still support the national and international status quo?

I don’t have answers to these questions for everyone. I don’t even have answers to all of them for myself. I know I fail all too often to “love in return” in practical ways. Yet I believe these questions must be raised and it seems to me that Teresa of Avila’s reflection on God’s love offers a challenge for us today.

“… love calls for love in return.”

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Posted by on Jul 29, 2011

Novena to St. Ignatius Loyola – Applying the Senses – Eighth Day – July 30

Novena to St. Ignatius Loyola – Applying the Senses – Eighth Day – July 30

With Christ in Real Time

For St. Ignatius, the spiritual journey is a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and into the very life of Christ. The application of the sense is a type of prayer that is just the opposite of a “mind trip.” Here are some excerpts from Fr. Bob Gilroy, SJ, a Jesuit priest who is an artist, art therapist, hospital and jail chaplain and his beautiful site Prayer Windows.

Becoming Free for God’s Sake

In many ways, Ignatius helps retreatants paint a picture with the mind and senses. The aim of his manual was to inspire people, so that they could enflesh the Gospel of Jesus Christ and live their lives for God and others. This methodology heightened one’s awareness of personal weaknesses and strengths in order to know how best to serve others. The object is to undergo conversion in order to be free for God’s sake.

Composition of Place: An Example

For example, let us look at a selection from the second phase of the Spiritual Exercises, called “The Blind Beggar.” (Fig.15) As I prayed with Mk 10:46-52, which is the story of Bartimaeus, a blind man, I began to imagine the landscape of the setting. It was dry, hot and dusty as I found myself being Bartimaeus, sitting by the roadside. I can smell the animals as they pass by and hear people’s voices in the background. Then I realize from the conversation that Jesus is near, so I cry out to him. I hear the footsteps of someone I believe to be Jesus approach me. I become filled with eager anticipation. Jesus is so close I feel his breath on my face and I hear him say, “I trust you. If there is anything you want to tell me I will listen to you.”

At this point in my life I was wondering whether to consider other job opportunities. As I revealed my fears and hopes in prayer, I felt more freedom to continue looking for confirmation to remain in my present situation. I was asking to see how I could grow spiritually in order to help others by encountering Jesus in a deeper way. This was one example of Jesus restoring my sight in order to follow him.

The revelation of God through the stories of Jesus is made present through imaginative participation. The mind engages the heart. As Hugo Rahner comments, “… the aim of this mode of prayer is to make the events of salvation ‘present’ in the mind, and thus to attain that direct experience.” Ignatian Prayer Windows

Humanitarian Aid

Exercise

What scene in the life of Christ is your favorite. Spend some time there, in the moment, with the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of the instant. What does Christ say and do to you and for you. How do you respond?

Concluding Prayer

St. Ignatius, you signed your letters “pobre de bondad,” poor in goodness, and called yourself a pilgrim. Please pray for me to be open to what God is calling me to do to announce and build up the kingdom. Transform my petitions into questions of discernment and pray for us to remember that all of our true needs and desires are already known to God. Pray that I be taken beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.

In your writings and by your example we are reminded to pray for the Church and the Holy Father, for all who dwell in darkness, and for the millions lacking food, water, and other necessities. We join our prayer with yours for true openness so that we can contemplate the Divine presence in all things and praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord in action.Pray for us to have the courage to meet and to serve the Lord Jesus in the poor and the suffering.

Praise be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
Now and Forever. Amen.

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Posted by on Jul 28, 2011

Novena to St. Ignatius Loyola – Discernment – Seventh Day – July 29th

Novena to St. Ignatius Loyola – Discernment – Seventh Day – July 29th

Roland Joffe’s 1986 Movie “The Mission” traces and telescopes the Jesuit missionary efforts in Paraguay. In 1995, the Vatican Film List singled out “The Mission” as one of 15 films of special religious significance. In this scene Fr. Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) plays his oboe to make contact with the Guarani after several of his brothers had been killed in similar attempts. The song is the now famous “Gabriel’s Oboe” by Morricone. Right click on this link to open it in another tab for a symphonic and choral arrangement as a background for your own meditation on this day of the novena.

The Invitation of Christ

St. Ignatius is very clear in his distinction between the Call of Christ and that of Satan. Like Gabriel’s Oboe, the call of Christ is peaceful, inviting, encouraging. The snares of Satan are fear, anxiety, and compulsion. These are the primary ways in which we can begin to discern the source of motions and movements within our soul. The banner of Satan has been called the path of least resistance while the banner of Christ is that of consciousness.

The banner of Christ requires openness, humility, and real courage, as we see in the scene from the movie. In fact, the Jesuit missionary experience in Paraguay would follow the path of the cross as the Portuguese killed the missionaries and enslaved the Guarani. This in turn was only the prelude to the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1767 because of its opposition to the absolute power given to kings and emperors during the Enlightenment. The Society was restored in 1814.

A Growing Sensitivity

Wholeheartedness in the service of God demands a constant effort of discernment, a growing sensitivity to the will of God. Without this, generosity can lead only to ‘the expense of spirit in a waste of shame’…

At all events, Ignatius characterizes Lucifer as a tyrant who drives and compels his subjects (he uses a vocabulary of compulsion and trickery), whereas when describing Christ his vocabulary is one of friendship, persuasion, gentleness…

What I have to see is that my personal option must be made in the light of this universal vision. My choice must integrate me into the great movement of salvation already accomplished in Christ and now being worked out on earth. My choice will be a reproduction in me of the option of Christ who chose the cross, despising its shame. We may note that this idea finds its first development with Origen but is already contained in germ in the phrase of Ignatius of Antioch – ‘Let me be an imitator of the passion of my God’. – William Yeomans (emphasis not in the original)

Mother Teresa

Exercise:

Placing myself in God’s presence, I ask these questions of myself and the Holy Spirit. What is my path of consciousness? What is my path of least resistance?

Concluding Prayer

St. Ignatius, you signed your letters “pobre de bondad,” poor in goodness, and called yourself a pilgrim. Please pray for me to be open to what God is calling me to do to announce and build up the kingdom. Transform my petitions into questions of discernment and pray for us to remember that all of our true needs and desires are already known to God. Pray that I be taken beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.

In your writings and by your example we are reminded to pray for the Church and the Holy Father, for all who dwell in darkness, and for the millions lacking food, water, and other necessities. We join our prayer with yours for true openness so that we can contemplate the Divine presence in all things and praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord in action.Pray for us to have the courage to meet and to serve the Lord Jesus in the poor and the suffering.

Praise be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
Now and Forever. Amen.

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