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Posted by on Aug 11, 2018

St. Clare of Assisi – Contemplative Prayer and Hope for the World

St. Clare of Assisi – Contemplative Prayer and Hope for the World

We know Chiara Offreduccio di Favarone (1193 – 1253) as St. Clare of Assisi. She was a contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi and also focused on the poverty of Christ. It was not uncommon for men and women to live as hermits throughout the history of Christianity, dedicating their lives to prayer, contemplation, and penance. Some women live as hermits or anchorites in private rooms adjacent to churches such as Hildegaard of Bingen. St. Clare continued in St. Hildegaard’s tradition and also gathered a small group of women who shared this contemplative lifestyle. Today, they are know as the Poor Clares.

From the Poor Clare Nuns of Belleville:

13th century St. Clare stands as a 21st century witness of Gospel hope.  She is reminder that human fulfillment is not a matter of power or prestige or possessions, but of discovering the treasure that lies hidden in the field of the world (3rd Letter of St. Clare to St. Agnes of Prague).  Clare bears shining witness that the kingdom of God is within.   She shows the world that a life full of God is a life full of hope.   She confirms this telling observation of Pope Benedict XVI:  Prayer is the language of hope — not a hope which isolates or renders indifferent to the sufferings of the human family, but a hope that gives the individual a heart for the world and thus to all that makes the world truly worthy of its divine destiny.

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Posted by on Dec 6, 2017

The Liturgy of Life – the Summit and Source of the Church’s Liturgy

The Liturgy of Life – the Summit and Source of the Church’s Liturgy

“The liturgy of life is the summit and source of the church’s liturgy and not the other way around.”  – Peter Phan

Phan’s insight as cited In the introduction to the Liturgy of Life by Fr. Manalo builds on insights into Vatican II’s documents on the liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium and Gaudium et Spes, the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Although, Phan’s insight seems logical, it is startling because it presents a paradigm shift in our notion of divine worship. We are inclined to think of it as something that we do in the realm of the sacred. It is something divorced from the everyday or the profane.

This sacred and profane paradigm derives from pre-Christian religions around the world. In our Judaeo-Christian tradition we tend to focus on the ritual of sacrifice which finds its clearest expression in the Letter to the Hebrews. We hold this in common with most peoples around the globe. we are acknowledging the power of the trans-natural – gods or the One God – in providing for us by responding in some effort of reciprocity or compensation to restore equilibrium in a relationship which we may have damaged.

Of course, there is another, perhaps even more important strain in our Judaeo-Christian heritage that focuses on the true acknowledgment and celebration of our relationship with God by righting the wrongs of our personal and social relationships in terms of justice for the dis-empowered and the dispossessed. In the Hebrew scriptures and the Gospels, ceremonial sacrifices are an affront to God unless we are reconciled to our neighbor.

Perhaps our Tridentine ritual focus on the Mass as the re-enactment of the “unbloody” sacrifice of Calvary tended to reinforce our pre-Christian Mediterranean heritage of the sacred and the profane. However, beginning with the modern liturgical movement in the late 19th century and culminating in the Post Vatican II period of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, we have returned to a more Pauline experience and understanding of Christ as the Lord of the Cosmos. (Col 1:9-20) This refrain is echoed in the patristic writings of the East in god’s self-disclosure in the the book of scripture and the book of nature. Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment Laudato Si is also based on this insight.

Chardin’s celebration of this spiritual, mystical experience in his Mass on the World in the early 20th century was seen as confusing and equating God with creation, a heresy called pantheism. As a Jesuit priest and a paleontologist (a scholar of primate and human origins), Chardin, in the fusion of his personal devotion and liturgical life saw all of creation and humanity spiraling upward in the Risen Christ. This was actually an extension of the Aristotelian and Thomistic notion of God as pure being that holds everything that is in existence.

This renewed paradigm situates our personal and and assembled (ecclesial) response to God in Christ as Lord of the cosmos in a creation that is healed and restored as she groans in childbirth. (Rom 8:19)

We are no longer in the realm of the sacred and the profane we are in the Mysterium Tremendum of the Risen Christ as all and in all. (Col 3:11) God’s grace suffuses all and irrupts in all that is truly human everywhere in the Liturgy of Life.

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Posted by on Dec 5, 2017

Liturgy and Culture – Latin Mass vs English Mass – Shrink Wrapped Religion

Liturgy and Culture – Latin Mass vs English Mass – Shrink Wrapped Religion

Neotraditionalist forms of Catholicism that repudiate the Second Vatican Council seem almost perfect illustrations of commodified nostalgia. … Such nostalgic retrievals inevitably idealize the past by abstracting it from the particularities that created it and sunder it from any organic relation the present …Inevitably such traditionalist retrievals are not only innovative but also deeply contemporary. Fundamentalism is a thoroughly modern phenomenon.[1]

Mitchell quotes Vincent J. Miller[2] above on the non-traditional nature of the neotraditionalist Restorationist movement in the Catholic Church. Interestingly, those Catholics adhering to Vatican II’s contemporary Novus Ordo liturgy can also miss the point. They tend to see liturgy as a “production”. It becomes a work of human artistry and creativity that is choreographed, rehearsed, and performed. According to Gallardetz, choosing between a “relevant” contemporary style of liturgy and “transcendent” traditionalist one is a false dichotomy. The quests for transcendence and community cannot be separated since liturgy is a communion with God and one another. [3] This contemporary divorce reflects a schizoid culture in which literalism forecloses on the sacramentality of metaphor and denies our entry into the eternal hymn beyond our comprehension but within our joy.

Mitchell refers to the “lie” of the metaphor “The moon is my mother”. [4] It is not literally true, but it is true in a deeper sense. The contradiction, the juxtaposing of unlike things opens something else up entirely. In our post-modern consumerist culture our communion is achieved not through the consumption of sacramental elements but the consumption of goods and services. Such a ”communion” only links us to ourselves in our solitary confinement. Our homes, bank accounts, and cars point to nothing beyond ourselves.  Their nameplate brands may offer us explicit and implicit association with excellence, luxury, and power but they are cold comfort on a winter’s night.

In much of our worship we attempt to tame the divine by literalizing and explaining the metaphors of the rites. We have sacred spaces that we do not hallow. We explain the musical score while refusing its transport as something beyond sound and rhythm. Most tragically, perhaps, is that we are joined by fellow spectators in a comfortable and comforting venue. They are nice people and we know many of them from around town.

We are like infants who can play in parallel. Only much later can the child begin to play in encounter. Whether a rock band or schola cantorum is on the marquee, we have come to pray as individuals to be with and to be removed from those around us.  Yet we cannot be that eternal doxology, we cannot join the dance of the Trinity because we are not emptying out ourselves for others. We are in proximity but not in relation. This is often true not only within church walls but in our homes. We have entire industries to manage and develop personal and business relationships but none of them are based on communion. We have definite rules about qualifications to receive the Eucharist but no real requirements about being community to effect the Eucharist. Certainly, we have rules about church attendance but nothing about what attendance is beyond physical presence.

Jules Henry, [5] the anthropologist, decried the commoditization of humanity in mid-twentieth century American society. In his view, the advertising industry embodied by Madison Avenue created consumer demand in Americans by preying on human vulnerability. People were sold goods and services that could make them more attractive, more powerful, and more valuable. The recent and very successful cable television series “Mad Men” [6] portrays the creators of this consumerist culture and the ways it destroys their lives. Henry saw the adoption of consumerism as part of an effort to deny vulnerability by covering it with a sham that created a false self. Over time the tension between the false self and the real self, caused a deep alienation manifested in self- destructive behavior and addiction.

Henry decried the rise of the meritocracy, that our worth and social position are measured only by our most recent achievements. Henry said that people were becoming “pecuniary” or seen only as amounts of financial wealth. Today we would say that people are being “monetized” the way in which we seek to find ways for people to give us money for visiting our websites or using our apps. Our relative worth today is legally based on our current and projected income. Settlements paid out to the families of the 911 attack on New York City were based on the current and projected life long income of the deceased. [7] People lose their jobs, their social standing and worth all at the same time. The companies they have worked for see them as commodity resources.  There is a growing trend for companies to lease employees from a corporation whose only task is to employ them, provide few if any benefits, and place them at the client’s worksite where they have no job security nor prospects for advancement.

This is the lived experience that people are immersed in when they enter the doors of the church on Sunday. Unless we build communities by organizing them in the sense of empowering people to tell their own stories and to create community to overcome consumerist alienation, we can have no real community of praise and thanksgiving. Our rites become colorful or blasé performances or productions of comfort. At worst they become a venue for celebrating one’s monetary success and status. Our sacraments become rites of passage and self-congratulation. Our sacred spaces become artistic venues for video productions.

Our life of praise, wonder, and thanksgiving-communion is a living doxology. It is a hymn of praise echoed by all creation. It is voiced by a human communion transformed by and caught up in the communion of the Trinity. Unfortunately, many times when we offer this, we and others love the words so we eat the menu and wonder why we are not nourished. In other words we think that when perform the liturgy correctly we have done our part. In the restaurant all we have to do is to be polite and read the menu. No passionate, messy eating and drinking is involved. However, we are called and redeemed by making physical our response to God’s activity in the Body of Christ. We are called to live in the Trinity by transforming our lives and those around us in justice and charity. If we only show up and follow the rules without the fire of the Spirit, our communion is only laminated cardboard.

 

[1] Mitchell, N D Meeting Mystery: Liturgy, Worship, Sacraments, Maryknoll, New York, Orbis Books,2006, 216

[2] Miller, Vincent J, Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture, New York, Continuum, 2004, 81.

[3] Mitchell, 2006, 215   citing Richard Gallardetz, “North American Culture and the Liturgical Life of the church: The Separation of the Quests for Transcendence and Community,” Worship 68, No. 5 (September 1994) 403 -16

[4] Mitchell, 2006, 195

[5] Henry, Jules, Culture Against Man, New York, Vintage Books, 1965

[6] AMC Television series from 2007 – 2015

[7] Between Tragedy and Farce: 911 Compensation and the Value of Life and Death

November 29, 2017

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Posted by on Sep 1, 2016

Pablo Escobar, Jr and The Parable of the Merciful Son

Pablo Escobar, Jr and The Parable of the Merciful Son

NASA South America 2007

South America – NASA Image – Public Domain

 

CNN published an unusual story of hope, forgiveness, and mercy “Escobar’s Son Lives with Two Truths”.

“I could easily have turned into Pablo 2.0, but I found out about the violence and the pain,”

What happens when you are the son of one of the world’s most notorious criminals? You say good bye to your father on the phone and get a call a few minutes later from the police from your father’s phone. What do you say when they tell you that they have just killed the man who loved you unconditionally with great tenderness?

How do you reconcile the man who is a great father with the man who set up the Medellin drug cartel in Colombia, killed hundreds including police, lawyers, and judges while smuggling 15 tons of cocaine into the United States everyday?

The usual television script would call for the son to follow in the footsteps of the father in a remake of “The Godfather”. Yet a young man decided not become Pablo Escobar 2.0 and gave up that name to become Sebastian Marroquin (say Marro-keen).

Marroquin chose a path of peace and reconciliation. In the recently released English translation of Pecados de Mi Padre (The Sins of my Father) as Pablo Escobar, My Father. Marroquin presents the loving father and the monstrous criminal. He talks about his own efforts to make amends with the children of the key Colombian leaders killed by his father. His reason, “because absolute silence kills us all.” The meetings have been very difficult for everyone involved but also healing. Some have told Marroquin that he is one of the victims himself and that no apology was needed since he hadn’t committed or ordered the murders.

This is an extraordinary account of repentance offered and mercy given. How many of us would even speak to the son of the man who murdered our father? How many of us could look past our own pain and rage to absolve the murderer’s son and bring him into the ranks of the victims? Generally, human history is replete with examples of revenge after wave of revenge lasting for generations.

Marroquin’s main reason for promoting his book is that he feels that the coming release of season two of “Narcos” by Netflix glamorizes his father and gangsters.

“I am not worried that the image of my father is bad. What worries me is the image of him that says, ‘It’s cool to be a narco trafficker.'”

A new parable for our time?

 

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Posted by on May 22, 2015

Why Mary is Important

Why Mary is Important

Hail Mary - F Fong

When we think or speak of Mary, the Mother of God, it is always important to keep in mind that she is best understood in the context of her relationship with her son, Jesus. Said formally, Mariology is always constructed in the context of Christology. This is so because Christ is the redeemer and the sole source of salvation. Everything in creation came to be through him. Mary, because of her role, participates in the creative and redeeming action of God in a special way.

Mary’s exceptional conception as sinless affords her the choice to live fully for God. She was not programmed to be good, but rather, Mary did not carry the deep fear of interference and resistance against God that exists in all other human beings. The rest of the human race has the grace and possibility to work with and overcome fear and anger, but we must work to limit our desire for control and instead surrender to God’s grace. We often do not choose right away to stop being resentful or angry. We often project onto others the responsibility for our own self-inflicted injuries. Mary had a clear vision of her place in life. She was born totally honest and prepared to grow. She chose to say “yes” over and over to these qualities, even when they brought suffering.

According to the Scriptures, Mary grew in her understanding of her son, herself, and the work of God in the world for salvation. We read more than once in the Gospel of Luke that she “pondered” how their lives were unfolding and what God was doing. She did not have a road map to reassure her of where they were going, but she had given her consent at the Annunciation and she trusted over and over. Her pregnancy was unexpected and controversial. The choices that Jesus made had consequences. His declaration in the synagogue that he was the Messiah brought immediate violence and ejection from the community. We find him and Mary later in the Gospel living in a completely new town, Capernaum, not a hill village like Nazareth but a fishing village.

Icon of the Wedding at Cana - Lucia 398 - CCWhen Jesus began his itinerant preaching and healing ministry we know that Mary, her sister and a group of women accompanied him as well as the crowds. This was not a normal lifestyle for first century Jewish women. Mary had to give up her reputation, village, old friends and the comforts of a house. In all of these ways she was an excellent listener of God as he called her out of the usual, the expected. She had to be quite aware of the danger that Jesus was in. In the Gospels, in village after village, the rage and jealously grew in the scribes and Pharisees. They hated his penetrating honesty, his clear perception of their air of superiority. They despised Jesus’ humility and closeness to the cast-offs of society. Mary must have constantly had to put her worries in the hands of God. She modeled an exceptional surrender to God and acceptance of His will. No one could have gone through this without being in deep prayer and interior connection to God all the time. She stood by Jesus from Cana to Golgotha and we have no reason to believe that she knew that “everything was going to be all right.”

Throughout the centuries Mary has been understood as the second Eve who reversed the willfulness and disobedience of the first Eve. Even when this story is understood metaphorically, Mary still is understood as the first human to be perfectly and happily obedient. She is also appreciated as the mother of the Church because she remained as the center of the early church community and loved them as her own. But it is her maternity of Jesus which stands out as the most important role she has because of its eschatological (future reaching) character. What is meant by this is that she is not just a person who did something unique in the past. Mary was and is “full of grace.” In the spiritual relationship which she has with her son and the whole of creation, Christ’s grace pours through her as the first disciple to all of humanity. Mary mothers us (protects and strengthens us) if we let her. Catholicism understands all of humanity, living and dead, to be in spiritual solidarity, a mystical body. Because of this solidarity or communion, Mary can help us to have a readiness to commitment, trust even in unbearable loss, and unimaginable joy when we are united to her son.

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Posted by on Jul 22, 2011

Preparing for the Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola

Novenas – Nine days of prayer before major feasts are a widespread Catholic devotion. The practice derives from the nine days  the disciples spent in prayer after the Ascension of Jesus which concluded with their anointing in the Spirit at Pentecost.

Generally novenas are based on asking for something. Often we pray for solutions to personal problems – illness, finances, worries about family and friends. We often approach God with a wish list. Throughout the course of the novena we come to a more peaceful and hopeful feeling about these problems and issues in our lives.

I would like to propose something a little different for the nine days leading up to the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola on July 31. St. Ignatius left us with some marvelous ways to listen to the Holy Spirit and what God is calling us to do for our happiness and fulfillment. So, instead of asking St. Ignatius to pray for us to help us in our personal difficulties, let’s take nine days to see how we can be more aware of God in our lives and be more attentive to ways in which we can be of service to God and our neighbor.

Obviously, our concerns and worries will come into our prayer and our contemplation in action throughout the day. However, let’s take this time to set these aside as things that need to be solved and try to feel and visualize where the Spirit is leading us. St. Ignatius has given us a very powerful type of prayer called the Examen. Translating it literally as “examination” doesn’t capture its meaning in Latin or Spanish. A good translation is Reflection. The five steps of the Examen / Reflection empower us to become aware of God in our lives. This novena will be based on this special method of prayer.

After all, our journey is not really about us and our cares and concerns. Jesus said that we should not be as worried about material things as we should about responding to the much greater calling we have to announce the Kingdom and to make it a reality through healing and the alleviation of poverty and suffering. Let’s spend these nine days as the disciples did during the first novena. Hopefully, we will be as surprised and transformed as they were.

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Posted by on Jan 3, 2011

Last Chance to Copy and Save Your Data!

We will be shifting to a new platform for our discovery engine. Due to circumstance beyond our control, the discovery engine has been down. There is now a narrow window of time to copy and save your own private password protected directories and lists. It is very simple. (For our readers who are familiar with the copy and paste function, we apologize for the great detail. However we are trying to make it as clear as possible.)

To save each item we recommend this method:

First, open a new Excel or similar type of spreadsheet program.
Next, open your directory.
Highlight the title of the item and press the control and “c” keys at the same time to copy it.
Next, move your cursor or “pointer” to the cell at the top of the left column on the Excel spreadsheet and paste the copied title by pressing the control and “v” keys at the same time.

Second, copy the description of the item.
Next, paste the description in the second column next to the title on the spreadsheet.

Finally, repeat the same process for the tags by copying and placing that information in the third column next to the body for the same entry. Be sure to press the down arrow at the end of your line of tags in Theologika to make sure that you copy them all.

Begin the pasting of each item on a new row of the spreadsheet.

Repeat these steps for each item to create an orderly table. Remember to save your file as you go along!

Another option is to create a table with three columns and at least enough rows to correspond with your number of items in your directory in Word or other word processing program. You can copy and paste the information using the process that we have outlined above and increase the number of rows as necessary.

If you have any difficulties or questions please email kathypozos@theologika.net.

Best wishes for a happy New Year. Stay tuned for the new Theologika.net 2011!

Randy and Kathy Pozos

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Posted by on Dec 24, 2010

All the World At Peace – The Christmas Proclamation

All the World At Peace – The Christmas Proclamation

The New – The Social Media Nativity

A Digital Nativity Story

The Old: The Christmas Proclamation

This is one my favorite rituals of the Christmas season. There are several version of this proclamation. Fr. Felix Just, SJ, PhD presents a good summary. The following is a translation from the version used by the Vatican in 2009.

Eight days before the Kalends of January, fifteenth of the lunar month.

Innumerable ages having passed since the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created heaven and earth and formed mankind after his own image;

Many centuries after the flood, when the Most High placed his rainbow in the heavens as a sign of peace and of the covenant;

Twenty-one centuries after the going forth of Abraham, our father in faith, from Ur of the Chaldees;

Thirteen centuries from the exodus of the people of Israel out of Egypt, led by Moses;

About one thousand years from the anointing of David as King;
in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;
in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
in the year seven hundred and fifty-two from the founding of the city of Rome;
in the forty-second year of the rule of Caesar Octavian Augustus;
when the whole world was at peace:

Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, being pleased to hallow the world by His most gracious coming, having been conceived of the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed since His conception, having become Man, was born at Bethlehem in Judah of the Virgin Mary.

THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO THE FLESH.

A Digital Nativity Story

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Posted by on Aug 14, 2008

Operation Kolbe – Continuing the Witness

Operation Kolbe – Continuing the Witness

The Kidnapped Colombia

– John Angée, artist

 

In preparation for the celebration of the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Randy requested input from outside sources about Kolbe and his life. One of the responses came from a group in Colombia who offer themselves in exchange for persons kidnapped by rebels. This was their response.

 

El 14 de Agosto se recuerda y celebra la vida de Maximiliano KOLBE. Unidos a todos los secuestrados, Operación Kolbe, iniciativa de largo aliento, quiere renovar su ofrecimiento por la libertad.

 

Hemos expuesto un óleo titulado: “La Patria secuestrada” de John Angée (USA 2007) a la entrada del edificio Pedro Arrupe (Facultad de Teología) de la Pontificia Universidad Javeriana de Bogotá y seguimos alentando a Relevos, Orantes y Difusores para que se mantengan en la firme de decisión de acompañar solidariamente a tantos hombres y mujeres que siguen en cautiverio y a sus familiares y amigos.

 

No sabemos si algún día esta propuesta sea aceptada, pero sabemos, sí, que no descansaremos hasta ver en libertad al número desconocido de hermanos y hermanas que dramáticamente y en silencio nos piden no olvidarlos.

OPERACION KOLBE 2008
COLOMBIA

RESPONDER A:  operacionkolbe@hotmail.com

[On August 14 we remember and celebrate the life of Maximilian Kolbe. United with all those kidnapped, Operation Kolbe, a long term enterprise, wishes to renew its offer for liberty.

We have exhibited an oil painting titled: “The Kidnapped Colombia” by John Angée (USE 2007) at the entrance of the Pedro Arrupe building (Department of Theology) of the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (Xavier Pontifical University) in Bogotá and we continue to encourage those who serve as Relief, those who Pray and Broadcasters to remain firm in their decision to accompany in solidarity the many men and women who remain in captivity and their family and friends.

We do not know if one day this offer will be accepted, but we know that, yes, we will not rest until we see the return to freedom of the unknown number of brothers and sisters who dramatically and in silence ask us not to forget them.

Operation KOLBE 2008

We can be reached at: operacionkolbe@hotmail.com

Translation by Kathy Pozos]

Thank you for your response. We will keep you and all kidnap victims and political prisoners in our prayers.

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Posted by on Jun 19, 2008

Saint of the Day – St. Romuald, Abbot – June 19

Saint of the Day – St. Romuald, Abbot – June 19

St. Romuald the Abbot was born around 950 into a powerful, wealthy family. He entered a Benedictine monastery at the age of 20. He had lived the life of a powerful, wealthy young man until the day he had to serve as his father’s “second” in a duel with a relative over a piece of land. His father killed the opponent, but Romuald was so horrified by the experience that he turned away from the life he had been living.

Once in the monastery, he found that he was attracted by the life of a hermit, more than to the communal life of the monastery as he was experiencing it at Sant’ Apollinare in Classe. He spent most of his life moving back and forth between monastic life and the life of the hermit, traveling from monastery to monastery and leading reforms. He eventually founded a new community who combined those two forms of religious life, the Camaldolese order.

St. Romuald developed a “Brief Rule” of how to live in openness to God.

Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish.

The path you must follow is in the Psalms: never leave it. If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, then take every opportunity to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them in your mind.

And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up: hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.

Realize above all that you are in God’s presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.

Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother gives him.

St. Romuald’s rule may seem like it has no relationship whatsoever to the lives of most of us – those called to life as men and women, married and single, in the contemporary world – earning our living, raising our families, trying to do our little bit to make the world a better place for everyone. Yet there are elements of his rule that are applicable to all of our lives. We’re called both to a relationship with God and to engagement with the world.

A challenge many of us face is finding a place where we won’t be observed or disturbed by anyone. I remember the amusement of a group of my parents’ friends who discovered a Bible in the bathroom of mutual friends. It was the only place in that home where a parent could have a few minutes of privacy to read the word of God. I remember the religious magazines and books kept for reading in the same room in the homes of my grandparents and other relatives. These people knew that time for the Lord is precious and is to be snatched wherever possible.

Today, we have so many means of communication and response is expected so quickly, that even walking by the beach without having a telephone along can be seen as selfish and/or anti-social. We forget that paradise begins here when we open to the Lord. Our alone place may have to be the bathroom. It may be standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes. It may be driving home from work. The essential thing is to find a few quiet moments somewhere each day.

St. Romuald recommends praying with the Psalms. That’s really good advice and easier than it might seem. Many of the songs we use in liturgy are taken directly from the Psalms. Let the songs from Church run through your head during the day. There are songs/Psalms for all occasions. Then as now, they help turn our focus to the Lord.

“Realize above all that you are in God’s presence…” There’s not much to add to that. The trick is to remember and be open to see and experience that reality. Then all we need will be provided, just as the chick who receives food from its mother. We still have to work. But the work we do takes on a bigger, broader meaning when it is tied to God’s presence in the world and to our call to make that presence visible through our lives.

May peace and joy be yours.

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Posted by on Jan 20, 2008

“Behold the Lamb of God” — “I did not know him.”

“Behold the Lamb of God” — “I did not know him.”

flower-gift.jpg 

The “Book of Signs” in the Gospel of St. John begins with the story of John the Baptist – the Baptist’s statement of his own role in preparing the way of the Lord and his witness to the role of Jesus. John the Baptist saw Jesus coming and told his disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God …” He also admitted to them, “I did not know him … but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.'” (Jn 1: 29, 33) Based on the Baptist’s testimony, Andrew, brother of Simon Peter, and John, son of Zebedee, followed after Jesus and became his first disciples.

How truly even today we do not recognize the Lord came clearly to me about this time seventeen years ago. My husband and I had two wonderful sons, and we had been hoping to have another child. Everything seemed to point to it being the right time and I had become pregnant as we hoped. Then in mid-January, it all fell apart. The baby in my womb died. We found out the news on a Saturday, but there was no need to do anything immediately, so the decision was made to wait until Monday to arrange for further treatment.

We went ahead and took down our Christmas tree. We had the birthday party for our firstborn, with most of his classmates attending, as we had planned. And on Monday morning, as symptoms of the miscarriage appeared, we went to Kaiser and I had the procedure to complete the process.

It was a very difficult time. We had very much wanted that child. And it was not to be.

The previous year, we had received a free overnight stay at a nice hotel up in the California wine country, to be used at a time of our choice. So we decided to go there a week or so later. That evening, I went for a walk through the courtyard by myself. I was praying. It wasn’t easy to pray during those couple of weeks. I asked the Lord, “Where have you been?” And I received his response in a series of images of faces that came into my mind. The couple who had stayed into the evening after the birthday party, so we wouldn’t have to be alone with our sorrow. The nurse who did the preliminary exam and shared that she too had lost a baby, but now had a healthy child. Another nurse who held my hand and told me it was OK to cry, as the procedure began. The doctor who was so kind and gentle. My parents, who sent flowers. They had never sent flowers before that day, but they did when I needed them. The other relatives who sent cards and plant arrangements. My son’s teacher, herself a young widow, who came after school and spent a couple of hours with me, just being there.

As all of these images and memories came to me, I knew where Jesus had been. He was right there, in his body, the People of God, the Mystical Body of Christ, about whom I had learned as a child. He was with me.

Behold the Lamb of God. Like John the Baptist, I did not recognized him when he came in person through all those wonderfully kind and thoughtful people. But the Lord is kind, and, like the Baptist, I got a second chance to recognize him – in the images of their faces that came to me that night.

Where is the Lamb of God in your life today? Keep your eyes and ears open. He is here, hoping you’ll recognize him in those around you. He’s here, too, hoping you’ll be helping him today to reach those who need his touch today.

Behold the Lamb of God!

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Posted by on Jan 12, 2008

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

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The third Sunday after Christmas is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. On this day we recall that Jesus went out to the Jordan River, where his cousin John was baptizing, and himself entered into the water to be baptized. All four of the gospels tell of this event, in which the Spirit of the Lord came to rest upon Jesus, like a dove. Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us that a voice spoke from the heavens, saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” John tells us that John the Baptist told his disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

Jesus’ baptism was a life changing event for him. He went out into the desert to pray and to ponder and absorb the immensity of what had been revealed to Him as He stood in the water with John. This experience of coming to know that He is God’s Beloved Son was the foundation for His entire ministry. When He returned from the desert, He began going among the people and spreading the Good News that God cares about what happens to people here and now, that God loves even the most insignificant person, that loving actions speak louder that pious prayers, that joy and peace are signs of the presence of God.

Each of us, in our own baptisms, have been given the gift of sharing in the life and work of Jesus. This feast is a reminder to us of that great gift and of the fact that our response is to be like that of Jesus – to go out now and share the same Good News through our actions in our daily lives, with peace and joy and love.

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Posted by on Jan 4, 2008

God and Evolution – Divine Design?

God and Evolution – Divine Design?

tortoises-galapagos.jpgDarwin’s Tortoises on the Galapagos Islands

On January 3, 2008, The National Academy of Sciences issued a new publication Science, Evolution and Creationism advocating the teaching of evolution as the primary scientific understanding underlying contemporary biology. Many religious conservatives advocate the teaching of Creation Science in the public schools as an alternative to evolution. The core of the controversy for those who interpret the Bible literally is the fact that the theory of evolution contradicts the creation account in Genesis, which states that God made all of creation in six days and rested on the seventh.

Many want Creationism, or at least the theory of intelligent design, to be presented to students along with evolution.

Unfortunately, it is a false controversy. If we look at the issue from the standpoint of epistemology – the philosophical study of knowledge and truth – faith and science are looking at entirely different things. Science attempts to explain things in terms of matter and energy, based on experiments which can be repeated to produce the same results. The uses we make of science are called technology. The same methods that cause the light to turn on when we use the wall switch are the methods that indicate a very long history of planetary and biological development.

Holy Scripture is the inspired writing of believers for believers about the meaning and significance of God in our lives. Archaeologists and scripture scholars use the same methods of science that we depend on to design and operate cars, airplanes, and space ships. They use these methods to tell us how people lived at the times these documents were written and when they were probably written. These same scientific methods helps us understand the ancient languages and cultures of the time. Consequently we – as believers – understand the scriptures differently.

Much of the problem, as I see it, is the focus of Calvinism and the Anabaptist movement on “sola scriptura,” using the Scriptures as the sole authority for matters of faith and Christian living. This approach – barely 500 years old – is fairly new and radical in the history of Christianity. In order to re-create a church free of bishops, popes, and patriarchs, and to jettison many of the teachings contained in tradition, the reformers adopted a reformed version of the Bible.

It is interesting to note that from the very beginning, the fathers of the Church had two books: the collection of writings which the church assembled and approved in the fourth century and the book of nature.

I’ve had a radical thought. Why not teach philosophy in the public schools? We could teach the history and philosophy of science. Unfortunately, I give my bright idea slim odds, because many religious conservatives are wary of the liberal arts, including philosophy and theology, for the same reason many scientists are. From the standpoint of the liberal arts, the world is less certain and more open to questioning both scientific and biblical teaching.

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Posted by on Dec 25, 2007

Christmas Day – December 25 – The First Day of Christmas

Christmas Day – December 25 – The First Day of Christmas

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There are many wonderful movies and stories associated with Christmas. Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” the famous Frank Capra movie, It’s a Wonderful Life,  starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, and other stories from around the world, depict the coming of grace and peace in the darkness of poverty, hunger, disillusionment and despair. They have happy endings but are very dark.

These stories and movies are an apt testimony to the theology of Christmas in its broader context. They are reminders of hope, joy, and peace. There is also the darker side of Christmas for billions around the globe lost in starvation, oppression, and loneliness.

Generally, Christmas is a day reserved for family and close friends, but you might want to re-think that. Christmas miracles are something you can do on December 25th and other days. Remember that old acquaintance or friend with mental health problems? How about a quick call, a card, or a short letter? Do you know someone far from home? Someone in prison? In the hospital? Suffering from cancer or HIV/AIDS? How about doing something special like a card with a personal note? Mrs. Jones up the street with very few visitors probably wouldn’t mind a brief visit or a quick hello. A small celebration for international students can ease the pain of Christmas away. For non-Christian international students, it is a wonderful experience of joyous hospitality.

We have 12 special days of Christmastide to be miracle workers. As tiny Tim said “God bless us everyone.”

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Posted by on Nov 14, 2007

Italian Immigrants – Book Review: The Value of Worthless Lives

Italian Immigrants – Book Review: The Value of Worthless Lives

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In keeping with the feast day of St. Francis Cabrini – November 13 – this history of Italian immigrants in their own words gives an insight into a group of people who contributed much more to the world than their physical labor.

The Value of Worthless Lives
Writing Italian-American Immigrant Autobiographies
Ilaria Serra

Fordham University Press
244 pages
February 2007

The H-Net Discussion List on International Catholic History [H-CATHOLIC@H-NET.MSU.EDU] published a review by Anthony Riccio of the Sterling Library, Yale University here a couple of paragraphs:
Here we find captivating personal histories of miners who used their good fortunes to help immigrant schoolchildren buy books, political figures who wrote for justice, unskilled laborers who wrote with flair and expressiveness beyond their grammar-school education, a poet/laborer who memorized Webster’s dictionary, and a bricklayer who taught himself how to write and worked with quarantined immigrants at Ellis Island. One excerpt from miner Pietro Riccobaldi’s memoir captures the ethos of the Italian immigrant, the deep sense of family honor and the importance of the family name that formed the basis of a behavioral code Italian immigrants brought from Italy: “I didn’t gather big fortunes, but I have behaved well. I kept faithful to my family’s teachings–I felt a sense of pride”

In chapter 4, “The Spiritual Immigrant,” Serra illuminates another fascinating aspect of the Italian immigrant experience that resulted from the religious freedom America afforded. Serra’s work examines the transformation from the constraints of Old World Catholicism practiced in the Italian village to personal inner journeys and flights to higher spiritual awareness experienced in the New World. Serra’s autobiographies profile the lives of men whose inward pilgrimage led them to become Protestant ministers, evangelicals who returned to their native Italian villages to preach the word of God, and missionaries who converted souls to Catholicism in the American wilderness.

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