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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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Posted by on Jul 28, 2011

Novena to St. Ignatius Loyola – The Banner of Christ – Sixth Day – July 28th

Novena to St. Ignatius Loyola – The Banner of Christ – Sixth Day – July 28th

“May Christ our Lord give us his grace so that we may be always sensitive to his will and fulfill it entirely.”

This quotation is the closing salutation St. Ignatius used commonly in his letters and represents the state of openness that is the goal of the Exercises.

The Forces of Good and Evil

The Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises prepares us to make the “Election” or the choice to serve Christ the way he has served us in complete humility by the way of the cross. St. Ignatius takes us through the life of Christ from the Incarnation to the Baptism at the River Jordan.

Before we can get to this election we have to deal with the parts of ourselves that still hold on to sinful ways, attitudes, and tendencies. For St. Ignatius, there are two competing kingdoms symbolized by their own flags or standards. By accepting the banner of Christ and His Kingdom, we reject sin and evil within ourselves and move from a position of self-interest to one of complete surrender to the Divine Will.

The Banner of Christ

“The issue at stake at this stage of the Exercises is not the fact of salvation or of Christ’s victory over Lucifer. That has never been in doubt and the whole theology of the First Week presupposes it. The question is how this victory is to be made a reality for mankind here and now, through my choice. There is no doubt in Ignatius’ mind that the banner of Christ is the Vexilla Regis, the banner of the cross, and the Election is going to be a setting out on the way of the cross.” William Yeomans, “The Two Standards”

SacredHeart Fanelli 1994

Exercise:

What comes to my mind and heart when I say this prayer? What part do I play in God’s plan of salvation here and now: day in and day out?

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not count the cost;
to fight and not heed the wounds;
to toil and not seek for rest;
to labor and not ask for reward, except to know
that I am doing your will.

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 26, 2011

Novena to St. Ignatius Loyola – Reconciliation – Fifth Day – July 27 –

Novena to St. Ignatius Loyola – Reconciliation – Fifth Day – July 27 –

Testimony:

Thank God for His mercy and grace. If not for His grace and mercy, I would have been so lost in drugs and alcohol and misery. He sent His son to die for each of us. What I have now is peace that passes all understanding, and His Spirit that lives in me to give me actual joy in life. finally joy and peace that I thought was in pain killers and booze. That wasn’t joy, that was being numb. Not now! Not anymore! Thank God for His grace. – blog comment on “Your Grace Is Enough for Me” by stormyweather

Reflection:

This testimony is a beautiful example of true reconciliation. It involves a transformative healing and could have come right out of the pages of the Gospel – The Good News.

Confession, or the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is high on St. Ignatius’ list of priorities for the First Week of the Exercises. The challenge for most cradle Catholics is focusing on a long Church approved check list of sins, as opposed to focusing on the person of Christ. The things that bother us the most are obvious if we are honest with ourselves. Often we can become neurotically obsessed with our own behavior in terms of small things, without facing major issues like alcoholic parents; sexual, physical, or psychological abuse; refusing to forgive. People in lifestyles or marriages that don’t meet Church standards can feel that somehow God is not interested in them; somehow He died only for the good people.

Most of the detailed lists cover symptoms of some type of break-down in our relationship with God as codified in the Ten Commandments or the Seven Deadly Sins: pride, avarice, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, and sloth. However, this can lead to a denial of our own feelings and cause damage in other areas of our lives. If my anger is always close to the surface, it is not really helpful to keep confessing it and beating myself up over it without looking more deeply at what its cause is. My marriage can be problematic and my sex life unsatisfying. However, if I just keep focusing on the symptoms instead of these deeper issues, I am wasting time and energy and building up to something that will be very bad for everyone concerned.

Sin, guilt, and remorse can be very complicated. Returning veterans from the Middle East have not sinned when they killed people if you believe in the just war theory of morality. That doesn’t mean that they don’t carry a great burden. When they lash out in destructive ways as part of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, marriages are lost, children are harmed, suicide can follow. Going down a checklist doesn’t even begin to offer the healing we all need in these and most situations. Let us look at ourselves, our loved ones, and all others with honesty and compassion as we embrace the forgiving Christ. We are worth everything to God. Perhaps the greatest sin when we don’t see ourselves as worth saving. God does not make junk.

people-walking-on-street

Examination of Conscience

Place yourself in God’s presence and know that you are with a trusted friend. Put out of your mind all thoughts of an avenging father figure or some tyrannical authority figure. You are with the God who came to dwell among us and shared all things we endure except sin. Jesus was open and frank with people who came and spoke with him. He expects no less from you. If you are upset or confused, listen for the healing voice of your Friend. Open your heart and listen.

Start with a thank you for being redeemed and saved and for protection. Ask the tough questions. Why did my child die? What do I do with my alcoholic husband? My heart is broken. Can you mend it? I tampered with evidence to get innocent people convicted. I fought for tax laws that would protect me and take food, healthcare, housing, and education from the poor. I did my best to be careful, but I killed women and children in that village. I think the Church is wrong when it says we should get rid of the death penalty.

Be open to finding out the facts. Have I brought these issues to a counselor? How do I start to change things and to make amends. What is the deeper issue here?

Talk with Jesus. Accept His forgiveness. When he says “Go in peace and sin no more,” what will I do to make that a reality? If you are glum or downcast, something is wrong. You have been pardoned. Stretch, breathe, cry for happiness. Break out in song. Jump for joy. This day salvation has come to your house.

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 25, 2011

Novena to St. Ignatius Loyola – Soul of Christ – Day 4 – July 26

Novena to St. Ignatius Loyola – Soul of Christ – Day 4 – July 26


Opening Prayer

Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.

Suffer me not to be separated from thee.
From the malignant enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come unto Thee,
That with all Thy saints,
I may praise thee
Forever and ever.
Amen.

A favorite prayer of St. Ignatius, the Anima Christi has its origins in the 13th century, but the author remains unknown. It may seem a little jarring to juxtapose the exuberant “Worthy Is the Lamb” with the ancient and more subdued Anima Christi. However, they focus on our recognition of the source of our salvation and the compelling power of God’s grace. Across 800 years, the cultural idiom may have changed but not the Holy Spirit.

Foregiveness

Reflection

St. Ignatius focuses the First Week of the Exercises on sin and conversion. The activities concentrate on becoming aware of our sinfulness, our unworthiness, and God’s willing pardon. Sometimes this awareness can be overwhelming in inappropriate ways. The purpose of these actions is to change our hearts. In this regard, St. Ignatius is something of a behaviorist. His approach is to notice particular tendencies or actual sins and to keep a scorecard of our victories and defeats. Clearly, it is not enough to know our failings; it is more important to do something about them.

For those who are newly turned from sinful and self-destructive lifestyles, the First Week is a time of awareness, repentance, and a behavioral change in our awareness of our thoughts and actions. In many ways this mirrors St. Ignatius’ own experience during his conversion and pilgrim years. As a man of his times, he lived in a time of strict and rigid codes of honor, duty, and obligation. Feudal lords could exact terrible consequences from any of their vassals or peasants who breached obligations, whether the breach was real or perceived.

For many people today, Christian conversion is experienced in the intensity of the charismatic experience. The focus is on forgiveness, the terrible price Christ paid for each one of us, and the joy of our salvation. The reformation of our lives is worked out in this broader context.

Regardless of whether we are in the 16th or the 21st centuries, our journey begins with the experience of our salvation and the changing of hearts shown in our actual behavior.

Placing Ourselves in God’s Presence

Inhale slowly and deeply. Exhale slowly and mindfully.
Relax. Be at peace. Be aware that you are in God’s loving presence wherever you are.

Reviewing Our Lives With Gratitude

When did I first become aware of my sinfulness and God’s forgiving love? Who were the people in my life who showed me their changed hearts by their example? When did I first give or receive forgiveness from someone important in my life? When did I first stop looking at a check list of sins and realize that my actions could hurt and offend God?

Reflecting on Our Feelings and Spiritual Movements

What thoughts and feelings come to my mind and heart when I let God and others down? What do I feel when I see and reflect on the suffering and death of Christ? How do I feel when my love is not returned? Why is God’s love so encompassing?

Focusing on What Comes to Us

Let your feelings and images well up within you. What strikes you the most about the course of your life? What feeling or images come to you more clearly and peacefully?

Talking With Jesus Our Friend

Converse with Jesus as He is right now, right here – your friend. Share what comes from your heart – in a look, a few words, a smile. Talk frankly about the things that you are doing wrong in your life. Talk about grudges, bitterness, your regret, your shame. Ask for his healing and make a plan to start changing things, little by little, day by day.

Jesus, your love and your grace are enough for me. Let nothing come between us.

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 24, 2011

Novena to St. Ignatius Loyola – Prayer for Generosity –  Day 3 – July 25

Novena to St. Ignatius Loyola – Prayer for Generosity – Day 3 – July 25

Opening Prayer:

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not count the cost;
to fight and not heed the wounds;
to toil and not seek for rest;
to labor and not ask for reward, except to know
that I am doing your will.

– Prayer for Generosity – St. Ignatius Loyola
supernovae
Reflection

If there seems to be a strange resonance between Don Quixote’s “Impossible Dream” and St. Ignatius’ Prayer for Generosity, it is because they share the same inspiration.

Miguel de Cervantes published Don Quixote in two volumes in 1605 and 1615. This classic of western literature was intended as a parody of all the tales of the questing knight. Cervantes hoped his novel would put an end to the genre. St. Ignatius Loyola, who lived from 1491 to 1556, is imbued with this medieval notion of service to one’s lord and the quest for glory in acts of chivalry. Yet, St. Ignatius is also set on the threshold of the modern age. His feudal lord becomes the God of Heaven and he sets out on his quest, laying aside his armor and fine clothes for the homespun garment of the pilgrim.

The 1972 musical, “Man of La Mancha,” takes up the themes of Don Quixote as an assertion of meaning and purpose in the face of the absurdity and pessimism of the mid-20th century. Although it is not a “religious” song, “The Impossible Dream” is a great example of what St. Ignatius asks us to look for as contemplatives in action. God’s word is breaking forth. The book and the musical make it very clear that Don Quixote’s type of delusional world is clearly mad in the cold light of everyday reality. Yet surrendering to the gloom is more insane. Mother Teresa left a challenging but reasonable ministry as a teacher to do the completely impossible task of rescuing the dying in the gutters of Calcutta

The great challenge St. Ignatius gives us is the willingness to dream big – to be unreasonable – to be lifted out of ourselves in the ecstasy of tilting at windmills with God. St. Ignatius is immensely practical in his rules on spiritual guidance and discernment of spirits. However, he assumes that we come with a late medieval passion and desire to do great deeds.

The great problem with the post-modern world is that our vision has shrunk. Let’s get an education to get a job; to pay a mortgage; to buy an RV; to retire with money; to die. “The Impossible Dream” always moves those who hear it because we recognize the truth in its pure foolishness.

Placing Ourselves in God’s Presence

Inhale slowly and deeply. Exhale slowly and mindfully.
Relax. Be at peace. Be aware that you are in God’s loving presence wherever you are.

Reviewing Our Lives With Gratitude

What passions for making the world better have we received? How good are we at telling jokes; at laughing when we want to cry? When we have been crushed, defeated: who or what got us on our feet to try again? Who were the great people in our lives who taught us to dream; who taught us not to live in fear?

Reflecting on Our Feelings and Spiritual Movements

What impossible dreams and visions come to me? How do I feel about going on a quest? How do I feel about failure, disillusionment, betrayal? What visions and emotions come to me when I look at my life? In good times and bad times what has God been doing in my life?

Focusing on What Comes to Us

Let your feelings and images well up within you. What strikes you the most about the course of your life? What feeling or images come to you more clearly and peacefully?

Talking With Jesus Our Friend

Converse with Jesus as He is right now, right here – your friend. Share what comes from your heart – in a look, a few words, a smile. Ask for help on this journey; to see Him in all things; to be more in love everyday.

Jesus, our love and your grace are enough for me.

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 22, 2011

Novena for the Feast of St. Ignatius – Take Lord, Receive – Day 1 – July 23

Novena for the Feast of St. Ignatius – Take Lord, Receive – Day 1 – July 23

Opening Prayer

Take Lord, receive
all my liberty,
my memory,
my understanding, and
my entire will,
all that I have and possess.
You have given all to me.

Now I return it to you.
All is Yours, dispose of it wholly according to your will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
That’s enough for me.

Your love and your grace are enough for me.
– Ignatius Loyola

Placing Ourselves in God’s Presence

Inhale slowly and deeply. Exhale slowly and mindfully.
Relax. Be at peace. Be aware that you are in God’s loving presence wherever you are.

Reviewing Our Lives With Gratitude

Focus on the small and wonderful things in your life this day: the quality of the light, our children at play, the soothing touch of those who love us.

Reflecting on Our Feelings and Spiritual Movements

What am I going through? What feelings and experiences do I encounter? What is good and not so good in my life? Did I reach out in love and consideration? Did I perform my duties well? What do I feel good about? What causes me regret?

Focusing on What Comes to Us

Let your feelings and images well up within you. What strikes you the most about this day? What feeling or images come to you more clearly and peacefully?

Talking With Jesus Our Friend

Converse with Jesus as He is right now, right here – your friend. Share what comes from your heart – in a look, a few words, a smile. Ask for help on this journey; to see Him in all things; to be more in love everyday.

Your love and your grace are enough for me.

IgnatiusConcluding 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 Apr 26, 2011

Violence and Atonement: A Necessary Link?

Violence and Atonement: A Necessary Link?

Fireweed by Joseph N. Hall

The relationship between violence and atonement is closely woven in scripture and theology but it seems inimical to me. As a life long Catholic, anthropologist, and amateur theologian, I grew up with the notion of the Mass as the unbloody sacrifice of Calvary. Things changed after Vatican II to a focus on the Paschal mystery. Despite all of the language we have about the Father requiring satisfaction, it does seem contrary to Jesus’ own teaching about the fact that human fathers, “evil as you are,” would not give your son a stone when he asks for bread. (Matt 7:11)

Clearly, there is patriarchal and tribal language in the concept of satisfaction. This is still prevalent, as seen in a recent gang rape case in Pakistan. A young woman was brutally gang raped by men of another sub-tribe because her 13 year old brother had apparently flirted with a young girl of the other group. To settle the conflict and avoid greater reprisals, the elders of the young woman’s group offered her as a settlement. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/apr/22/world/la-fg-pakistan-rape-20110422

This is not only revolting to our current sensibilities, but it challenges the notion of sacrifice in the tribal sense. My own existentialist take on redemption has to do with authenticity. God took upon Himself our human condition and brought mercy, healing, and peace. For this he was publicly tortured to death.

My own post-modern sense is that the Father is not so much offended by our sin as appalled by it, as an act of vandalism or destruction of works of great beauty conceived in boundless love. The freedom that is required for the reciprocation of love can also be used to reject it. I personally cannot conceive of an infinite God who is somehow diminished or “offended.” To continue to anthropomorphize the Father as a post-modern, post-Freudian human father leads us to a Father, Son, and Spirit caught up in the continuing ongoing creation of bonum diffusivum sibi – good diffusive of itself. The Incarnation and Christ event are the result of an unlimited and unconditional love.

Clearly, this post-modern language flies in the face of Old Testament pastoral society and the cult of Temple sacrifice in the New Testament. Early Christians had to find a way to explain the Christ event in their own cultural and historical context. However, there is no denying that a post-modern Father is less monstrous to the secular humanist ethics and sensibilities that derive from the Christian tradition of the West.

As terrible as the death of Jesus was, it was completely overshadowed by the fact that no evil can come between us and the Love of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:39)

The great peril of a tribal metaphor is not its irrelevance nor its systemic violence, but rather the chasm it creates between God and us that continues to be the original and fundamental blasphemy alienating us from God and ourselves. The preface to the Eucharistic prayer at the Mass of the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday begins in astonishment “Father, you love us still and sent us the Christ.” Yes, what amazement there is, that in spite of our rejection, God never stopped loving us.

The demand for violence attributed to the Father elevates evil to the level of the divine. The unrelenting intrusion of the divine in the human train wreck, of necessity, requires God to confront violence; which he does with non-violence – even to death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)

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Posted by on Sep 3, 2010

New Wine / Old Wineskins – A Thought for the Day

New Wine / Old Wineskins – A Thought for the Day

John Michael Talbot

Once a day I like to go on Facebook and check out the activities and status of members of my large extended family. I also have a few “friends” who have long-standing work in ministry, music or other fields related to my own work. This morning I found this thoughtful quote from John Michael Talbot. Talbot is a Christian musician and recording artist who also leads a community, The Brothers and Sisters of Charity.

“Luke 5: 33-39 Jesus tells us not to put new wine into old wineskins. Yet, the old wine tastes better. There is no New Covenant, so there is no new church. But there are new movements all through history. The monks and Franciscans were such movements. Are we open to the new spiritual movements in the church today, or do we get stuck in the forms of the movements of the past? Revere the past, but live in the now.”

John Michael Talbot, September 3, 2010 – post on Facebook

May we all have the grace to live in the now with a spirit of gratitude and reverence for those who have come before us and a spirit of hope for those who will come after us.

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Posted by on Aug 11, 2010

Happy Feast Day, St. Clare of Assisi

Happy Feast Day, St. Clare of Assisi

 
 
 

St. Clare of Assisi - Window of the Chapel at St. Joseph's Monastery in Aptos, CA

 

On the feast of St. Clare of Assisi, I’d like to share a wonderful discovery. The chapel of St. Joseph’s Monastery of the Poor Clares in Aptos, CA has a beautiful set of stained glass windows illustrating aspects of Franciscan spirituality. The window for St. Clare is shown here. The website for the monastery has pictures of the windows and an explanation of the symbols associated with each of eight saints.

For St. Clare the text is as follows:

“St. Clare is shown holding the Monstrance, associated with the miracle performed by Clare of protecting the nuns living at the San Damiano Monastery. Over her arm is a towel, implying her role as a servant of God. The towel is embroidered in a style now known as the Assisi stitch. Above her are acorns, representing the cloister, and the oak branches extending from Francis. She stands on the deep river of spirituality.”

Thank you to the Sisters of St. Clare for all your prayers for us and our world. And thank you, St. Clare for all the doors you continue to open today, for new forms of ministry and outreach.

 

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Posted by on Jun 3, 2010

On Falling in Love – A Thought from Pedro Arrupe, SJ

I’ve seen this quote from Father Pedro Arrupe, S.J. in the past and always been delighted with it. I came across it again today. It seems quite apt as we are celebrating the time of the Holy Spirit of Love during this season of Ordinary Time.

Nothing is more practical than
finding God, that is, than
FALLING IN LOVE
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed
in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with
joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

Pedro Arrupe, SJ

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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 Mar 4, 2010

Divided by the Bonds of a Common Religion

Divided by the Bonds of a Common Religion

When I was growing up, one of the questions always asked when two people began dating  was, “Is she/he Catholic?” It was quite rightly assumed that differences in religion within a marriage could be a major source of stress and potentially lead to break-up of the marriage. In those days, we were just barely past the time that “mixed marriages” took place at the rectory or in the vestibule, and the non-Catholic partner had to promise to raise the children Catholic before a marriage could be blessed. Presumably, sharing the bonds of a common religion would serve to strengthen the marriage.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I married a Catholic man of Mexican ancestry and discovered that we were divided by the bonds of a common religion. Many aspects of his cultural experience of Catholicism were different from the Irish-German Catholic experience of my childhood. (And no, the German Catholic side were not converts.  They had been Catholic for centuries.)

Things we found that differed ranged from the relative importance of certain feast days (those of Our Lady were never to be missed) to questions as “serious” as Friday abstinence (could one eat gravy served on potatoes at a restaurant on a Lenten Friday?).

Fortunately, we were both graduate students in Anthropology and had a vocabulary with which to discuss and appreciate the cultural differences over which we were tripping. Feasts of Our Lady are extremely important in Hispanic culture and, as Our Lady of Guadalupe, she is trusted to handle any and all problems that arise. Friday abstinence from meat has been somewhat optional within Spanish speaking culture since the time of the Crusades. The male head of household had the prerogative to excuse the family from following the rule of abstinence. So the question of gravy on potatoes was moot! Simply a minor cultural difference in the experience of faith and definitely not something requiring confession. (Further research done in the course of writing this post indicates that meat based gravy was never actually prohibited, but general understanding of the rules within my culture of origin excluded it.)

This all came to mind again in the past couple of weeks. One of our daughter’s classmates is also Catholic, from a somewhat more traditional family than ours. On Ash Wednesday, the friend ruefully confessed that she had already forgotten and had a piece of candy that day. She had intended to give up candy for Lent. As it turned out, she had also forgotten (or perhaps never realized) that Ash Wednesday is a day of abstinence. She had packed a wonderful turkey sandwich for lunch that day. When apprised of the fact, she looked at the sandwich, declared, “Well, it would be a shame to waste it,” and ate her entire lunch.

When I was their age, the poor sandwich would have been returned to its wrapper and taken home for another day, or perhaps even thrown away. Some might have chastised the young woman for breaking a Church rule and eating the sandwich. She probably would have felt the need to confess her sin. Blessedly, she does not seem to have such worries today.

So a few questions arise.  How do rules fit into our experience of faith? Why even have rules of fast and abstinence if they aren’t going to be taken extremely seriously? How can religious rules be applied to one group of people and not another? That’s not fair! Aren’t there more important things to worry about than what people eat and when? Should religions have rules at all?

In looking at religion and behaviors associated with religion, Clifford Geertz‘ insight, in “Religion as a Cultural System,” that religion serves both as a model of society and a model for society provides a useful platform for analysis. Religions all around the world have codes of behavior — expectations of how people will act and for what reasons they will act as they do. These codes are normally posited to be the will of the deity. Generally, they uphold the social structure of the society and provide the rationale for the way social interactions occur. The song, “Tradition,” from the musical, Fiddler on the Roof, is an excellent example of the structuring of such social expectations and the recourse to God as their source.

This works pretty well when the religion in question is a small, localized one with a limited number of adherents. With groups that are larger and spread out over a larger geographic area, modifications begin to be seen. As Christianity spread out through the Roman Empire, accomodations were made to make it more understandable to peoples with different geographical, economic and cultural realities. If evergreen boughs are a symbol of everlasting life in a culture, for example, it’s a short jump to include them as symbols in Christian settings as well. But if evergreens mean nothing in a culture, they will often mean nothing in liturgical settings either. For this reason we are careful what we include in liturgy that must of its nature be open to be experienced cross-culturally.

The underlying reason for a practice is also important in analysis of how that practice plays out in the lived experience of a people. If the underlying reason is that there must be atonement for one’s failings, a penitential reason, then denying oneself something good but not necessary for life is often valued. If growth in self discipline is an underlying reason, again, denying oneself something makes sense. If one’s salvation from a nearly eternal cycle of birth and rebirth requires attaining perfection or enlightenment in this life, such practices again make sense. If the reason is that we choose to enter into a time and process of transformation of who we are so that we can be more open to meet our God when He comes, then it again makes sense.

Most religions and “spiritual” movements or quests require their adherents to make sacrifices during certain seasons or as part of their daily life. There is a recognition that we are not perfect and we do not live in a perfect world. It takes work to make things better and to become better persons. We only grow through difficult experiences, not when all is easy. So times of prayer and fasting and  giving alms are commonly found.

The trick in all of this is to keep things in perspective. What is a more serious offense, eating meat on Friday, for example, or betraying a friend? Is it more offensive to God and the community to miss Mass on Sunday because guests arrived unexpectedly or to turn away the guests because one has to get to church? Should we look to larger issues of how we use resources locally and globally in planning the forms our fasting and almsgiving will take? How do our religious beliefs lead us to act in our communities and countries? How do we weigh the relative importance of the wide variety of issues that must be addressed by our representatives when we decide who will represent us in government? Can people of good will take different positions and still be part of our community?

It seems to me that all of these questions and more are reflected in the simple decisions we make about things like abstaining from meat on Friday or wasting the food that has been prepared for us. Some things are simply matters of traditional practice and can vary from place to place or family to family. Others are fundamental issues that go to the heart of our relationship with God and creation. Nevertheless, we must be gentle with each other in addressing them. God does not go around bashing people over the head and we must not either. If our religious beliefs and practices do act as models of the societies in which we live and models for what those societies should be like, and in my experience they do, then let’s be careful to use them to shape a society in which God’s “little ones” are protected and supported, people are free to ask questions, think for themselves, and grow in wisdom, age and grace,  and the resources we have been given can be used wisely to benefit all of God’s creatures, human as well as non-human.

Just as my husband and I found we were divided by the bonds of a common religion, humans are divided by the bonds of our common human habit of designing social systems to meet the environment in which we find ourselves and the perception of reality that goes with and shapes those systems that we design. Only by accepting each other in love, giving up the attempt to change the other into our own image and culture, and laughing a lot as we go along can we be transformed so we are ready to meet the Lord who comes to us telling stories and trusting in His Father’s bounty and love to sustain Him.

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Posted by on Jan 6, 2010

The Magi, the Epiphany, and the Stars of the New Age

The Magi, the Epiphany, and the Stars of the New Age

There is often a lot of hand wringing and concern about the revival of pre-Christian earth based religions or neo-paganism. Whether it is the five pointed star -the pentagram- demons and vampires, or dancing and drumming at the equinoxes and solstices, all the signs seem to herald something worse than the age of atheism – the return of polytheism. We have now gone full circle from the one God back to many gods and goddesses.

New Age spiritualism allows people to celebrate the reality that is deeper than the merely physical without any of the doctrine or historical messiness of Christianity or any “organized” religion. It allows people to access the transnatural directly or in small groups led by a shaman. There is no need for big buildings, big groups, or any separation from the sacredness of nature.

The Magi or Wisemen were actually following the stars that announced the birth of a new King of Israel. The arrival of the Magi is called the Shining Forth – the Epiphany – the appearance of God to all of the world beyond Bethlehem of Judea.

What was wondrous to good people willing to see the obvious signs was hidden from the evil King Herod.

Although the resurgence of paganism is characteristic of something called the New Age perhaps it represents a search for the Divine in Creation, for the feminine, a faith that the Gaia may rally to overcome the forces threatening to destroy the biosphere and save us from ourselves.

The Magi today are poets, scientists, and dreamers led by Grace to see and understand the portents of the night sky as they search for Day. Caught up in our temples, traditions, and tedium have we missed the Star calling us forth?

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Posted by on Dec 31, 2009

New Year’s Greetings and Wishes

New Year’s Greetings and Wishes

New Year's Eve in Rio

New Year's Eve in Rio

It’s New Year’s Eve in Santa Cruz. A year has nearly ended and a new one is fast upon us. On top of that, the first decade of the new century is coming to a close. So much has happened in the past 10 years – for all of us. Some has been good. Some has been bad. Some has been just normal. That’s the way life goes.

Still, as Christians, we live with the belief and hope that God is in it all and brings good out of even the terrible times of our lives. The God who couldn’t bear to sit back in isolation from all of creation and from the human beings He created entered into our lives and history, to bring us all back into union again. It’s not up to us to become perfect and worthy of God. God became one of us and in doing so, made that re-union possible. We just have to let go of anger, jealously, hatred, fear, and all the other negative energies which we so easily hold onto and nurture. God will even help us let go of them.  It’s all a free gift!

So, at this time of a New Year and a New Decade, may the Love and Peace and Joy of God fill each of our hearts, so that no room remains for harboring the negative, life-draining spirits that lurk among us. May we look at each other and at ourselves and see the Face of God looking back at us. May we rejoice in the beauty of creation and of each person. May we trust that when the hard times come, as they certainly will, God will be with us personally, holding our hand and helping us through them. And may we move forward with confidence that we are loved and lovable, just as we are. Of course, there’s room for growth in love, patience, faithfulness, joy, and so forth, but we are each loved NOW, by our God who is absolutely crazy about us and just wants to hold us close in a huge, big hug.

What great good news that is!

Happy New Year.

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Posted by on Dec 2, 2009

“Ready or Not, Here I Come!”

“Ready or Not, Here I Come!”

 

Advent Wreath

Advent Wreath

This past Sunday was the First Sunday of Advent – our New Year’s Day in the Church. I was visiting the parish in which I was raised, St. Patrick’s Parish in Spokane, WA. The homilist, Fr. Kenneth St. Hilaire, spoke of his experience on Thanksgiving Day with his family. His nieces organized a game of Hide and Go Seek. It’s a game we played many times in my family as children, and so had he.

In this game, one person is chosen to be “It” and everyone else runs and hides. The person who is “It” counts to 30, shouts, “Ready or not, here I come” and then tries to find the other ones who are hiding. When a person is found, he or she becomes the next “It” and the game continues. Sometimes the game goes on until all are found. Other times those found become “prisoners” of the one doing the seeking. In some versions, if a person who has not yet been found gets back to the base of the one who is “It”, all get to hide again and that original person continues to be “It”.

Fr. Kenny suggested that the spiritual life can be like this childhood game. Sometimes we even try to hide from the Lord – to pretend that maybe we won’t be found. But whatever we do, at some point in our lives, the Lord is going to say to us, “Ready or not, here I come.” Advent is a time to remember that and begin again to prepare our hearts and minds to meet the Lord – because He is coming, and when the time comes, we can’t say, “Just a minute, I’m not ready yet!”

So, whether the coming is our individual meeting with the Lord at the moment of our death, or the one at the end of time, Advent is a time to remember that the Kingdom is coming, the Lord is returning and the world as we know it will pass away.

Advent is a good time to make time for prayer, whether 2 minutes stolen from a busy day at work or 15 minutes of “walking prayer” or a Rosary offered at home or in church. Time spent remembering our Lord and King, speaking from our hearts to Him, then listening to His response will bring us closer to the Kingdom.

Another good thing to do in Advent is to look closely at our lives and see what is excess. What can be cut out to make room for something better? What can be shared with someone who is in need? It needn’t be something huge. But it’s pretty likely that most of us have something we can share or something that we don’t really need to be doing. Making space in our lives for the Lord’s coming brings a richness that material things cannot ever fill.

Finally, Fr. Kenny suggested that we look to Jesus’ mother, Mary, as a model and a helper in this great journey of Advent. She waited for his birth for 9 months. She prepared for the coming of her child. She raised him, loved him, cared for him and then stood by him as he entered into his adult ministry. At the cross, she stood and waited as he died. According to tradition, she was part of the community that welcomed him after the Resurrection and received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. As our “big sister” in faith, she can help us to get ready for the Lord’s coming.

So, this Advent season, I invite you to join me in this “game” of preparing for the Lord’s coming. When we hear, “Ready or not, here I come”, may we all be ready to be found by our great Lord and King.

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