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Posted by on Sep 27, 2010

A Chasm Was Fixed Between Them

In the Gospel for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C, Jesus tells the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31).

A rich man lived sumptuously, with everything money could by at his disposal. We don’t know how he came to have his money. Probably he was not a bad man. He was, however, a man who was not overly concerned with the plight of the poor of his community. We can assume this because a poor man called Lazarus lay on the doorstep of the rich man day after day, covered with sores, and the rich man did not take care of him. Even the dogs paid more attention to Lazarus than the rich man did. They came and licked his sores.

Now, in defense of the rich man, there were lots and lots of poor people around. Lots and lots of sick people. Maybe even some people who didn’t work when they could have worked to support themselves. Jesus doesn’t tell us what the rich man was thinking or why he didn’t stop to help Lazarus. He just notes that Lazarus was hungry, sick, and licked by dogs.

As Americans, the idea of having a dog lick one’s sores is not appealing, but it was even worse in those days. Dogs were not the much loved pets that they are for us. Dogs worked for a living or they were strays that fended for themselves. In many countries, dogs that were not working (tending flocks or guarding something/someone) were considered fair game as food by the poor. So here is Lazarus, lying sick and hungry at the door, having stray dogs licking his sores and unable to chase them away. Not a pretty picture.

As happens in life, Lazarus died. The angels of God swooped down, picked him up and took him to Abraham. Abraham, father of the Jewish nation, welcomer of all who came to him, welcomed Lazarus as well. He cared for Lazarus as one of his own.

As also happens in life, the rich man’s turn came to die. He died and was buried. But he did not find himself with Abraham. He was alone and in torment. He could see Abraham. He could see Lazarus with Abraham. He longed for a single drop of water to ease his pain, so he asked Abraham to send Lazarus with a drop of water for him. Note well —  he didn’t ask Lazarus for forgiveness or for the gift of a drop of water. He asked Abraham to send/order Lazarus to bring the water.

Abraham reminds the rich man of the relationship that had existed in life between the two men. He also tells the rich man that there is a great chasm fixed between them, one that neither side may cross freely.

I had always wondered about that chasm. Why would a loving God set up a barrier that would keep those in His presence and company (Heaven) from reaching out and helping those who were not (Hell)? Wouldn’t those who were united with Love and in Love be so overflowing with love themselves that they’d want to help those who were separated from Love?

Our homilist this Sunday, Fr. Ken Lavarone, OFM, addressed this question. Fr. Ken pointed out that the chasm between the two men was one of lack of relationship. Lazarus could not come to the aid of the rich man because there was not a relationship between them. The rich man had always stepped over Lazarus or ignored him. Even after death, the chasm remained. The rich man spoke to Abraham, not to Lazarus.

Jesus’ story continued. The rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers of the fate that awaited them – sort of like in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Abraham responded that the brothers had Moses and the prophets to warn him, as the rich man himself had had. When the rich man noted that the brothers wouldn’t listen to Moses and the prophets, Abraham retorted that those brothers would also not listen to one who returned from the dead.

These final lines of the story are of huge import for us as well. They were directed to the religious, church-going folks of Jesus time and of the early Church. Jesus returned from the dead. Affirming the message of Moses and the Prophets, Jesus said we are to care for the poor and helpless among us. How we do it will vary. Some will have monetary resources that will be shared. Others will have talents that can help make life more bearable for their less fortunate sisters and brothers. Some will only be able to offer a smile and a kind word — a recognition that the other person is also human and worthy of respect. Each of these responses is a way of entering into relationship with the other person. Each of these bridges chasms that would otherwise keep them apart.

In Jesus’ story, both men were children of Abraham due to their identity as Jews. Today, we know that we are all children/descendents of one woman who was a member of a group of people who lived in Africa around 200,000 years ago — a woman known as “Mitochondrial Eve.” We all have a responsibility to each other. We all can give the gift of a smile that raises another’s hopes and heart. We all sometimes turn away from the circle of community of God’s children. The good news is that someone did return from beyond the grave with a reminder that we can turn back at any time. We just need to remember that care of God’s little ones (the poor and the powerless) comes first when we choose our elected officials, design our social safety nets, vote for funding of community services, and allocate our personal resources of time, talents and treasure.

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Posted by on Sep 12, 2010

Rejoicing among the angels of God …

“… What woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefuly until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Lk 15:8-10)

This passage of Luke’s gospel falls between the account of the shepherd who goes searching for one lost lamb from a flock of 100 sheep and the story of the Prodigal Son whose father, even more prodigal in his love, welcomes home the child who has betrayed him, the family and the community then returned to ask forgiveness.

As I listened to the Gospel at Mass this morning, I found myself musing that most of us wouldn’t really worry all that much if we lost a coin. It’s not an image that awakens immediate comprehension in an American audience. After all, for most of us the loss of a penny, nickel, dime, quarter or even a dollar coin will not make a huge difference in whether or not we eat or have a place to sleep tonight!

As happens sometimes, I began musing about what might make the gospel more immediate for Americans and I remembered an experience from my early teenage years.

When I was about 12 or 13 years old, my father led members of our parish in starting a credit union. For many years, the credit union “office” was our dining room table. Eventually a porch was enclosed and the new room became a more formal office. A few years after I got married, the credit union moved out of the family home to an office of its own. But there were many memorable moments before that move took place.

One of those moments happened on a bright summer morning when the phone rang around 10 o’clock. An elderly man in the parish had passed away a few months earlier. His children were cleaning out his home before selling it. They had moved the mattress off the bed and found an envelop containing ten one thousand dollar bills. They asked my mother to come over to the house and pick up the money as a deposit to their credit union account. Mom was bonded, so if anything happened to the money on the way to the bank, it would be insured.

Mom brought the envelop home to prepare the bank deposit and each of us got a chance to hold a $1,000 bill before she took it all to the bank. Now there was a “coin” for which an American woman (or man) would scour the house and even have a party when it was found!

Still, Jesus didn’t come to call only those with lots of $1,000 bills. And the point of the story was that there is rejoicing in Heaven when even seemingly small, unimportant folks are found. God, who is Love, welcomes all and is especially pleased when those who have turned away in ways great or small, turn back again to love.

Our pastor, Fr. Ron Shirley, spoke of an observation made by the director of Covenant House, a program for children living on the streets in the United States, Canada and Central America. The director noted that although the children/teens ask questions about practical needs, their deeper, unspoken concern is whether God could still love and forgive them for what they’ve had to do to survive their lives on the streets.

The story of the woman searching for her coin – her penny, nickel or dime – is the answer to the children’s question. Of course God still loves and forgives them. And even better, God still loves and forgives us – the adults who allow conditions to continue in which children are exploited, the poor are left to struggle on their own, the elderly are ignored or abandoned and people around the world are denied the opportunity to live with basic human dignity, food, clothing, shelter, health care and education.

The catch, of course, is that we are expected to do our part to make this a world with justice and peace for all as we turn back to our God. We are to pray for each other, including those who have harmed us, and we are to work to bring the kingdom of justice and peace into being here and now. That’s the good news Jesus brought to the men, women and children of His time. It’s the same word He speaks to us today. We all matter to God and the angels rejoice as we return to God and love others in turn. That love is to have practical consequences in our world.

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Posted by on Mar 8, 2010

Quote of the Day – Mother Teresa of Kolkata

Quote of the Day – Mother Teresa of Kolkata

“Let us be like a genuine and fruitful branch of the vine, which is Christ, accepting him in our lives the way he gives himself to us: as truth, which must be spoken; as life, which must be lived; as light, which must shine out; as love, which must be loved; as a way, which must be trodden; as joy, which must be communicated; as peace, which must be radiated; as sacrifice, which must be offered in our families, to our closest neighbors, and to those who live far away.”    Mother Teresa

As quoted in Heart of Joy: The Transforming Power of Self-Giving, by Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado (Servant Publications, July 1987)

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Posted by on Feb 5, 2010

A Community of Fishermen (and Women)

A Community of Fishermen (and Women)

Going Fishing

The Sunday readings over the past few weeks have touched on the theme of being called. Called to speak on the Lord’s behalf as a prophet, called to preach the good news, called to teach, called to lead the people, and so forth. In years past and today, in all times and places, the Lord calls ordinary people to speak and act on his behalf.

The readings for this coming Sunday, the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, tell of the vision and call of Isaiah, the call of Paul to be an apostle and the call of Peter, James and John. Each of them responded in a similar manner when they realized Who was calling them. “Woe is me, I am doomed!” says Isaiah. “…I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God,” says Paul. “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man,” says Peter.

However, the Lord does not leave. Instead, a seraphim takes an ember from the altar of the Lord and purifies the mouth of Isaiah. Paul comes to faith through a period of physical blindness, receiving care from those he had journeyed to persecute. Peter and his companions are comforted, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

Each then responds with willing service. Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord, “Whom shall I send?” and responds “Here I am. … send me.”  Paul tells us, “by the grace of God I am what I am and his grace to me has not been ineffective.” Peter, James and John took their boats to the shore, left everything and followed Jesus.

Each of these ordinary people heard the Lord’s call in his own way and within his own everyday world. Their response is remembered today. Unfortunately, we often think that they were some sort of unusual people, extra holy or something – worthy to be called by God. But really, they were just ordinary people. When they heard God’s call, they answered “yes.” They hadn’t gone out of their way looking for God. They didn’t consider themselves particularly prepared or inclined to teach or preach or lead a community. Yet when the Lord asked them to do these things, they did them.

We too are called. We too have something the Lord needs and wants us to do. Each of us is to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit guiding our way and leading us into our worlds to share the good news, to remind others that God loves even those whose lives seem least worthwhile or important. We don’t know when or how it will happen that we will speak the Lord’s words to the person who needs to hear them. That’s OK. It doesn’t matter if we know. All we have to do is keep trusting the Holy Spirit to guide and then live as lovingly as we can.

A woman I’ve known since childhood has an approach that I often remember. She talks of “going fishing” when she finds herself in a position to share her experience of God’s love and care with others. Each of us is called to “go fishing” with the Lord. He’ll make us partners in his mission of fishing for men, women and children to build the kingdom of God together.

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Posted by on Oct 21, 2009

Quote of the Day – Adele Gonzalez

Quote of the Day – Adele Gonzalez

The Spirituality of Community

Words to ponder and celebrate from Adele Gonzalez in The Spirituality of Community.

In the beginning God created a community, simply because God is relational and desired to share a life of intimacy with all creation. God gave us the ability to love, relate, and create freely, in God’s image and likeness. We could say that God is community and that everything was created in Christ and for Christ. . . But Christ has no body now but ours; no feet, no hands, but ours. We have been called, gifted, and sent to be Christ to our struggling world, to walk with each other in this tremendous process of transformation.“

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Posted by on Oct 15, 2009

“Let Nothing Disturb You” – St. Teresa of Avila

“Let Nothing Disturb You” – St. Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila's Vision of the Dove - Peter Paul Rubens

Teresa of Avila's Vision of the Dove - Peter Paul Rubens

On this feast of St. Teresa of Avila, when all is so uncertain in our world and so many worries seem to plague us all, I offer her reminder of what really matters. This quote is sometimes called her “Bookmark” because after her death in 1582 it was found written on a piece of paper in her prayer book.

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away,
God does not change.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone is enough.

In the original Spanish:

Nada te turbe,
Nada te espante;
Todo se pasa.
Dios no se muda.
La paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta:
sólo Dios basta.

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Posted by on Sep 27, 2009

“Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink…”

“Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink…”

Sharing water

Today’s reading from the Gospel of Mark (Twenty-sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B) is one of the more challenging ones. Jesus’ disciples have been struggling to figure out what it really means to be great in the Kingdom, to be a follower of Jesus, and what kind of exclusivity pertains to their role as His followers. John tells Jesus that someone who is not one of their group is driving out demons in Jesus’ name. Jesus’ followers are trying to get the man to stop doing it – he’s not authorized to use the power – almost as if it were under trademark protection or something. Jesus assures them that anyone not actively against them is for them, so it’s OK for the other person to cast out demons using Jesus’ name (a term also meaning power and authority). He continues, “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.” (Mk 9:41)

The reading goes on to include Jesus’ teachings about removing things from our lives that get in the way of a free, loving  response to God’s presence and call  in our lives. It’s very dramatic in its images – plucking out an eye, or cutting off a hand or foot! But sometimes those physical actions might actually be easier than the spiritual work that is really required. Forgiving someone who has hurt us deeply, trusting again, giving freely of our time, talents and treasure when those gifts were not accepted graciously the last time we offered them, moving forward in faith when danger is all around and there seems no way that good can prevail… All in all, a couple of challenging passages.

Yet this year, the twenty-sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time coincides with the feast of St. Vincent de Paul.  And that has been on my mind all day today. Here was a man who took to heart the teaching that whatever is given to someone who belongs to Christ is given to Christ. Furthermore, he truly believed that whatever was given to the least of God’s children, was given to Christ. And he set about organizing groups of people, to care for those “children” of God, as well as working with political and religious leaders to change social and religious structures of oppression.

The work goes on today, some four hundred years after the time St. Vincent de Paul began his work. There are still oppressive social structures. People still struggle to survive. Many in the world go to bed hungry after spending all day hungry as well. Health care is not guaranteed to all. Education is not available to all children. Decent housing and clothing are not assured to all, even in the United States, the richest, most powerful nation in the world.

Still, we have Jesus’ promise and reassurance. “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ … will surely not lose his reward.” May we also be ones who give that cup of water to drink to others who belong to Christ, in all the beautiful and all the distressing forms in which they come to us.

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Posted by on Sep 8, 2009

The Birthday of Mary – September 8

The Birthday of Mary – September 8

Russian Icon of the Birth of Mary

Russian Icon of the Birth of Mary

The birthday of the mother of Jesus, Mary, daughter of Joachim and Ann, is celebrated on September 8. It is an ancient feast, dating from the fifth century dedication of a church in Jerusalem. The church is known today as the basilica of St. Ann, mother of Mary. The feast is celebrated both in the Eastern and Western churches. 

In honor of her birthday, I offer what is perhaps her second most famous prayer, a prayer banned even in our times by despots and dictators who feared its power to inspire hope, courage and trust in God’s goodness and love of the poor and oppressed. May this be our prayer too.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

                my spirit rejoices in God my savior.

For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;

                behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

The Mighty One has done great things for me,

                and holy is his name.

His mercy is from age to age

                to those who fear him.

He has shown might with his arm,

                dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones

                but lifted up the lowly.

The hungry he has filled with good things;

                the rich he has sent away empty.

He has helped Israel his servant,

                remembering his mercy,

according to his promise to our fathers,

                to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

(Lk 1:46-55)

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Posted by on Aug 30, 2009

Act on God’s Word – August 30, 2009

Act on God’s Word – August 30, 2009

Fr. Ron Shirley

Fr. Ron Shirley

The following is today’s homily from Fr. Ron Shirley, pastor of Resurrection Parish in Aptos, CA. Today’s readings are for the 22 Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B. (DT 4:1-2,6-8, JAS 1:17-18,21b-22,27, MK 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23)

Fr. Ron’s homilies are available every week at

An elderly priest made a retreat. In the course of it he was struck deeply by three things that he’d always been aware of but never had really taken to heart.

First, there are millions of people in the world who are hungry and homeless. Second, he had spent his entire priestly life preaching comfortable sermons to comfortable people. Third, he had bent over backwards to avoid disturbing or alienating people.

In other words, the priest found himself to be much like the priest played by Jack Lemmon in the film “Mass Appeal.” He preached only about those things that didn’t disturb his parishioners and made them feel good.

And now, like the priest in “Mass Appeal,” the old priest suddenly realized that he had been more worried about pleasing his people than about preaching the Gospel. He had been more worried about rocking the boat than about challenging his parishioners to look into their hearts to see if they were satisfied with what they saw there.

The week following his eye-opening retreat, the old priest looked up the Scripture readings to prepare his Sunday homily.

As he read the Gospel, these words of Jesus leaped right off the page: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

The priest resolved, then and there, that he was going to share his soul-searching with his parishioners. So he began his homily by saying:

“My homily this morning will be exactly 30 seconds long. That’s the shortest homily that I’ve ever preached in my life, but it’s also the most important homily I’ve ever preached.”

With that attention-grabbing introduction, the priest gave his 30-second homily. He said:

“I want to make just three points. First, millions of people in the world are hungry and homeless. Second, most people in the world don’t give a damn about that. Third, many of you are more disturbed by the fact that I just said damn in the pulpit than by the fact that I said there are millions of hungry and homeless people in the world.”

With that the elderly priest made the sign of the cross and sat down.

That homily did three things that many homilies don’t do.

First, it caught the attention of the people.
Second, it caught the spirit of Jesus’ words in the gospel.
Third, hopefully it made the people look into their hearts.

The story of this priest and the gospel reading make the same point.

Religion is not something we do on Sunday. It’s not primarily, observing certain laws, saying certain prayers, or performing certain rituals.

That’s what many people in Jesus’ time had turned religion into. To observe these rituals was to please God. Not to observe them was to sin. In short, observing rituals became identified with being religious.

To illustrate the hypocrisy of such legalism, William Barclay tells this story – about a Muslim pursing an enemy to kill him. In the midst of the chase, the Azan, or public call to prayer sounded. Instantly the Muslim got off his horse, unrolled his prayer mat, knelt down, and prayed the required prayers as fast as he could. Then he leaped back on his horse to pursue his enemy in order to kill him.

It was precisely this kind of legalism that Jesus opposed so vigorously in his time.

Jesus made it clear that religion isn’t something you do at certain times on certain days. It’s not saying certain prayers or performing certain rituals. It’s a thing of the heart. It’s a thing of the heart called love – love of God and love of neighbor. Love in action.

Today’s Scripture reading invites us to look into our hearts and to ask ourselves to what extent the words of Jesus in today’s gospel reading apply to us: “This people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

The Scriptures also invite us to look into our own hearts and ask ourselves to what extent the words of James in today’s second reading apply to us:

Act on (God’s) word.
If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves.”

I hope this homily today did 3 things:

First – it caught your attention.
Second – it caught the spirit of Jesus’ words in the Gospel.
Third – it makes all of us look into our hearts!

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Posted by on Aug 13, 2009

Camillus Health Concern – An Idea Worthy of a Presidential Medal of Freedom

Camillus Health Concern – An Idea Worthy of a Presidential Medal of Freedom

Dr. Pedro Jose Greer, Jr.

Dr. Pedro Jose Greer, Jr.

President Barak Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Dr. Pedro Jose “Joe” Greer, Jr. this week. The White House comment on Dr. Greer’s work follows:

Dr. Pedro Jose “Joe” Greer Jr. has devoted his career to improving medical services for the uninsured. A native of Miami, he followed his passion for helping others to medical school and founded the Camillus Health Concern (CHC) in 1984 as a medical intern. Today, CHC treats thousands of homeless patients a year, serving as a model clinic for the poor and inspiring physicians everywhere to work with indigent populations. Dr. Greer’s tremendous contributions to the South Florida community and our nation as a whole stand as a shining example of the difference one person can make in the lives of many.

The Camillus Health Concern, named in honor of St. Camillus de Lellis, patron saint of nursing, has been a leader in providing health care services to low income and homeless residents of Miami-Dade County since 1984. The work of the Brothers of the Good Shepherd at Camillus House (founded in 1960), including providing food, shelter, housing, rehabilitative treatment, and health care for the poor and homeless, is an example of ways the Gospel call to service of “the least of my brothers and sisters” is being lived in our day. The fruit of Dr. Greer’s work, begun while still a medical intern, to add primary care health services to the mixture of services at Camillus House is recognized by this award.

A video of the Presidential Medal of Freedom award ceremony may be seen here.

We at add our congratulations to Dr. Greer and the other winners of the Medal of Freedom.

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Posted by on Aug 7, 2009

The Feast of St. Dominic – August 8

The Feast of St. Dominic – August 8

Portrait of St. Dominic by Gionvanni Bellini - 16th century

Portrait of St. Dominic by Gionvanni Bellini - 16th century

Greetings and Happy Feast Day to our Dominican brothers and sisters.

St. Dominic was one of the first founders of a religious order to emphasize the importance of education and logic in thinking and teaching about God. He had noticed that Cathar/Albigensian preachers were not ignorant men but rather cultured, educated people living righteous lives. He reasoned that only equally educated and rational teachers/preachers would be able to turn the followers of the Cathar preachers away from heresy and back to traditional Christian beliefs. He and his companions set out to do just that, while always seeking truth wherever it might be found.

St. Dominic is the patron saint of astronomers, astronomy, the Dominican Republic, falsely accused people and the Santo Domingo Indian pueblo.

I’m curious and haven’t found the answer to this question. Why is he the patron saint of astronomers/astronomy? I’d love to hear from anyone who knows.

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Posted by on Jul 31, 2009

Following in the Footsteps of St. Ignatius Loyola

Following in the Footsteps of St. Ignatius Loyola

Company - Summer 2009 Cover

Company - Summer 2009 Cover

On the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, AKA “The Jesuits,” it seems fitting to look at one of the many ways the men (and women) who have come after him and his first group of followers have continued to serve God’s people – bringing the fruits of their experience of God’s presence in our world (a contemplative experience) into the messiness of everyday active life. This approach has been called “contemplation in action” and is a fundamental of Ignatian spirituality.

Ignatius and his friends, like many young men of his day, thought it would be a great idea to go to the Holy Land and convert all to Christianity. They had taken the standard vows of poverty, chastity and obedience that are common in religious orders. But they also took a vow to do whatever the Pope needed them to do. They suggested to the him that they go to the Holy Land on this mission and he turned down the offer. Instead, he asked them to preach and teach in Europe. It was a time of much upheaval in the Church. The Reformation/Protestant Revolution was in full swing. The Church was divided. Much of what we would call faith education was needed, along with basic education in reading, writing, mathematics and the other classical subjects. So the Jesuits got started in the education business and have continued their schools and universities to this day!

Then as now, people with money can afford excellent schooling for their children. People with fewer resources have fewer choices. Recently, members of various provinces of the Society in the United States have embarked on a program to provide high quality Catholic education for children of families whose income is under 75 percent of the median per-capita income of their city. These children would not ordinarily have the option of attending a private high school or even dreaming of attending college. Yet in 22 schools around the country, the dream is being realized.

The schools started in 1996 with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago. The great challenge for any private school is how to fund the costs of providing the educational program. How can the faculty be paid? Where will classes be offered? How can the rent be paid? At Cristo Rey, a unique solution was proposed. Corporate sponsors would provide entry level pay for students that would cover about 70% of tuition. Four students would share each job – each working one day per week. The other days the student would attend classes. Class days would be a bit longer than normal and the students would have a longer school year, but they would get a full year of education that way. Families that could afford to pay some tuition would do so. Others would receive additional financial aid to make their education possible. Students would also receive intensive training in the basics of functioning in the corporate world during the summer before their first year in the school, so they could be successful in their work. The combination of academics and real-world work experience in meaningful jobs has proven to be a key to the success of the school. It has been so successful, in fact, that other schools have been opened in other cities.

In 2008-09 the Cristo Rey Network  included 22 schools. Another two are opening this fall. In cities across the country, young men and women who would not have had much of a chance even to finish high school, are not only graduating from high school, but most of them are going on to colleges and universities. From there they are going out into the corporate world and entering successful careers in business, science, education, etc. The Ignatian charism (vision) of education of all students, both rich and poor, continues to bear fruit in our day.

Cristo Rey’s story has been told in a new book, More than a Dream: How One School’s Vision is Changing the World. 

Cristo Rey and other schools in the network are also featured in the Summer 2009 issue of the Jesuit magazine, Company, the world of Jesuits and their friends. The Summer issue is not online as of this date, but it should be there within a few weeks.


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Posted by on Jul 17, 2009

“Who was that saint who was a mercenary, Mom?”

“Who was that saint who was a mercenary, Mom?”

St. Camillus de Lellis

St. Camillus de Lellis (feast day July 18) was the man in question. An earlier post gives more details of his life. However, in brief, here’s a thumbnail sketch of it. Born in the mid-1500s, he founded an order of religious men who dedicate their lives to the care of the sick and dying. But before be became the founder of a religious order, he was a soldier, a mercenary, a gambler, and overall rowdy fellow. His mother, who was nearing age 60 when he was born, had a dream in which she saw him wearing a cross on his chest. Those condemned to death wore crosses on their chests on their way to their execution, so she feared that he would grow up to be a criminal or leader of criminals. She died when he was about 13 and didn’t see his rowdy adolescence and young manhood. I assume she continued to intercede on his behalf after her death — and her prayers were answered. By the time he was 25, his life turned around and he dedicated his remaining years to care of the sick.

Today we take it for granted that Christians/Catholics will care for the sick and dying. We have many hospitals and religious orders that do just that. But in his time, it was a new idea. Sick and dying people who found themselves in hospitals rather than receiving care from loved ones in their beds at home were often neglected, fed as little as possible, sometimes beaten and even taken to the morgue before they were actually dead. Camillus believed that was wrong and set about to change that reality. He began working in a hospital from which he had been ejected as an unruly patient. He got rid of employees who abused patients and brought in others who would treat their patients with care and compassion. As he explained, “We want to assist the sick with the same love that a mother has for her only sick child.” It was not to be just a job or an impersonal service. In caring for the sick, the understanding of St. Camillus and his brothers in the order was that they were caring for Christ as they cared for the sick and dying.

Camillians were among the first to go out onto battlefields and care for the injured and dying. In this, they preceded today’s Red Cross by approximately three centuries. The red cross on a black cassock worn by Camillus and his followers was a reminder to them that hospitals, like churches, were also houses of God and the voices of the sick were music in God’s garden.

The life of Camillus de Lellis is a reminder to us that God does not call perfect people to do great works. God calls everyday, ordinary people to step up and try to make things better in the day to day world of their lives. Those who have not suffered a bit, gotten bumped around a bit by life, or even crashed into chasms of suffering from which they could not emerge without help are generally not going to be as capable of letting God work through them. If we think we can do whatever it is ourselves, then we don’t let the power of God burst through us to do it so much better. Saints like Camillus de Lellis show us how much can be done when we let God lead.

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Posted by on Jun 14, 2009

The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

Cyprian Consiglio, OSB Cam

Cyprian Consiglio, OSB Cam

Cyprian Consiglio, OSB Cam. offered some interesting thoughts about the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (AKA Corpus Christi) today in his homily and his blog. He has graciously agreed to allow me to share them in a post for this feast.

The Inner Meaning

During this time of year when there are so many of our rites of passage taking place––weddings, graduations, ordinations (even birthdays)––it’s interesting to take a look at the purpose of ritual. Anthropologically speaking, a ritual is a way of expressing and passing on our understanding of reality or of an experience to someone else. So, for instance, a graduation is not about a piece of paper and a cap and gown: it’s weightier, it’s heavy; that’s why tears flow from the eyes of parents as they see their child graduate or get married. The ritual is trying to carry all those memories and meanings, and summarize them in a single gesture: an exchange of rings, the laying on of hands, a birthday card, an embrace, throwing a shovelful of dirt on a coffin: all these rituals mean more than they mean, they carry an almost indescribable load of treasures.

In the Roman rite we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ this week, and it’s safe to ask what Jesus was trying to convey to his disciples when he performed this rather odd ritual––not just breaking the bread and passing out the cup, but claiming that it was his very self. What exactly was he asking them to remember when they did it over and over again? I thought of five things, which certainly don’t exhaust the list of possible meanings.

1. First of all, this gesture looks backward and forward at Jesus’own life. Backward in that Jesus’ whole life had been spent being broken and passed out; his whole life had been dedicated to feeding those around him: taking care of their bodily needs through healing and feeding; and also feeding and healing them in a real way with the Wisdom of God, this incredible good news of God’s undying boundless care for every single hair on the head of very single human being from the greatest to––especially––the least. This ritual also looked ahead to the next day when Jesus allowed his body to be broken like bread and his blood poured out like wine––to say that it’s alright: you can survive even this, your real self cannot be annihilated, but like a seed that falls into the earth and dies it will yield a rich harvest of resurrection life.

2. This ritual symbolized––again what Jesus’ whole life symbolized––that Divine Love gives itself to humanity––that’s what God is like! The Divine is present, really present: divine love is offering itself to the world in this ritual meal.

3. This ritual also conveyed (and conveys) that this Divine Mystery is present everywhere, in creation, “in the earth and its produce.” Unfortunately the kind of hosts we use and our ornate chalices can actually hide the fact that this is actually wheat and grapes, real food: “which earth had given,” as we say, “fruit of the earth.” I think that this conveys that all matter is meant to be brought into right relationship with God, and that all matter can reveal and be a vehicle for the Grace of God. St Irenaeus wrote,

    “This is why he took a part of creation, gave thanks and said: This is my body. In the same way he declared that the cup, an element of the same creation as ourselves, was his blood: he taught them that this was the new sacrifice of the new covenant.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies)

But we add a line to the prayer over the gifts: it’s not just what ”the earth has given,” or “the fruit of the earth”; it’s also the work of human hands. There is a beautiful prayer of Teihard de Chardin:

    I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar––
    And on it I will offer you all the labors and sufferings of the world…
    I will place on the paten the harvest to be won by labor. . .
    Into my chalice I will pour all the sap which is to be pressed out this day from the Earth’s fruits.

So, the fruit of the earth and the work of our hands all become vehicles for God’s grace, all is meant to be brought into right relationship with God.

4. This ritual is also meant to convey to us that God wants us to participate in the work of creation, and in divinity itself. That’s why we pray that incredible prayer, “by the mystery of the water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who came to share in our humanity.”

5. And how do we participate? Well, that’s the last thing I want to mention that this ritual is trying to convey (though we could go on and on): it conveys that this divine mystery is especially present whenever and wherever human beings meet and share together, that God is present in every gesture of unselfish love, in every occasion of someone laying down their life for another. That’s why we read the story of the washing of the feet before we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.

The Hebrews didn’t need another ritual, another sacrifice; we don’t need another ritual; and God certainly didn’t and doesn’t either. The prophets leading up to Jesus kept telling the people how God was sick of their sacrifices and rituals! Jesus himself quotes the prophet Hosea twice saying: “Go and learn the meaning of these words, ‘It is love that I desire, not sacrifice. Knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.’”

The church, and this ritual, has no other purpose but to communicate and convey and reveal that––the love and knowledge of God that is hidden in the heart of creation and poured into the center of every human being as our very source and our ground. This is what we will be judged on as a church, as individuals, as communities and as a whole: not the forms of our rituals and doctrines, but by the reality of the love and knowledge of God that we manifest.

Bede Griffiths wrote that: “All myth and ritual, all doctrine and sacrament, is but a means to awaken our souls to this hidden mystery, to allow the divine presence to make itself known.”

So: as we participate in this ritual, as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and/or when we gaze at the reserved Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle or in a monstrance, let’s remember how weighty it is, how much it carries and conveys. And let’s especially pray that it would awaken us to the mystery of the knowledge of God, and the love of God that is poured into our hearts, so that we might make it manifest in our world, so that we might be the body and blood of Christ––that we might be broken and poured out for the sake of the world as Jesus was.

14 june 09

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Posted by on Jun 5, 2009

The Feast of Pentecost and the Age of the Holy Spirit

The Feast of Pentecost and the Age of the Holy Spirit

Eastern Orthodox Icon of Pentecost

Eastern Orthodox Icon of Pentecost

The Feast of Pentecost falls 50 days after Easter. Pentecost was originally a celebration of the first harvest and people came to Jerusalem from all over the known world to celebrate the feast.

For people in northern climes, the thought of a first harvest celebration in Spring may sound strange. After all, the snow has barely melted and crops are nowhere near ready to harvest. Even early crops like strawberries and lettuce aren’t ready yet. Nevertheless, in the Middle East, and by extension in that general latitude around the globe, many crops have already been harvested. Just go to a grocery store and you’ll see the fruits of our fields waiting for your table!

Within the Church, we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples – men and women who had been friends, family and followers of Jesus. This outpouring of the Spirit of God, the God Who is Love, gave birth to the Christian community that endures to this day. Jesus’ friends and followers were transformed from frightened “mice” into fearless “lions” who proclaimed boldly that Jesus had been raised from the dead, that He is the long awaited Christ, that God has made Him both Lord and Savior, that a new age has dawned and the Kingdom of God has begun.

These early disciples wasted no time in putting their beliefs into action. They shared what they had. They cared for and healed the sick. They took care of widows and orphans – the powerless ones of their society. They recognized the gifts of women who were leaders in their communities. They spread the Good News of the Lord to all who would listen. And they struggled to understand the implications for themselves and their society of the Good News and the freedom of God’s children. Who were God’s chosen ones? Who could be followers of the Way? What parts of the Law were non-Jews required to obey? How can the pastoral needs of the community be met? Who will look out for the powerless ones in our own communities? How do we choose leaders for our communities? How should Christian family members behave with each other?

For nearly 2000 years we have dealt with these issues as a community. Today we still face many of them, though in a much wider context, as a global, international community that includes peoples of all cultures. More than ever we must count on the continued outpouring of the Spirit to guide us and make us bold witnesses to the Good News.

Much of what we take for granted today is the result of the work of Christians who actively put their beliefs into practice and stepped out to make their part of the world a better place. Institutions such as hospitals, schools for poor and even middle-class children, education for girls, social safety nets, and many others have resulted from the Christian insight that God cares about all humans, even those who traditionally have been excluded.

The Christian belief that all receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation also leads to the understanding that all are responsible to share the gifts they have received and bear fruit in their lives. Together we listen to the Spirit and share in the development and shaping of both our Church community and the world.

As we move through these days following Pentecost, we face many challenges. It’s a time of global financial challenges. Governments are moving quickly to try to minimize the harmful effects of the banking crisis on their people. Social service agencies and churches are struggling to offer aid to the increasing numbers of people coming to their doors. Here in California there’s talk of dismantling all state funded social services, including health care programs for children of low income families and the welfare to work programs that helped so many families keep roofs over their heads and food on their tables.

What will we as children of God, brothers and sisters, do to address these challenges in our communities, states and countries? Will we say, as so many do, “It’s not my responsiblity to care for the children of the poor. Why don’t their parents just go get jobs?” Will we say, “Don’t ask me to pay more taxes. I shouldn’t have to cut back my lifestyle to pay for other people’s mistakes.” Will we sit in judgement of people who are losing their homes because they lost their jobs? Will we smugly assume that we’ve saved enough money to keep us safe if we get ill or lose a job? Will we criticize the people who lost their savings to the stock market when the money should have been somewhere safer? I hope not.

This year the time from Pentecost onward can be a time in which we truly listen to the Holy Spirit’s call to build up the Kingdom by caring for the poor, the powerless, those who are ill and who are losing their security (whether as a result of their own errors or those of others). It’s a time to trust that if we give of what we have, share from our abundance or our need, God will make sure that our needs are met. Our ethic of life must include not only the unborn but also those who are here and in need. Womb to tomb includes all those days in-between as well. Let’s not forget that as a Church community.

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