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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Nature's Secrets

"Consider the fig tree and all the other trees. When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near; in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near." Lk 21 29-30

Paying attention to nature is a simple path to insight and reflection.  Jesus often invites us into the mystery of God's ways in this manner.  Today it is the fig tree. Tomorrow it may be the farmer sowing his seed or the power of the sea in a storm.  Unfortunately, in a society as frantic as ours and as fascinated with technology, we often fail to appreciate the wonders of nature all around us, but we can change. For instance, we might consider intentionally shutting down our computers, cell phones, and  Ipads for half an hour a day, and take a slow walk. While it might be difficult to begin and stay faithful to a practice like this, eventually our bodies and spirits will yearn for the "breaks", the quiet times and the rest.

Life unfolds in patterned ways and cannot be rushed.  It takes nine months for a child to be born.  It often takes five years for an apple tree to produce fruit and those of us getting older know that we are very different people at 60 than we were at 20. The task for the Christian is to continue to enter life as it comes, not rushing or pushing, but accepting life on its terms, and attending to God's presence at every stage of life.

Today, wherever you are, pause for a few moments, breathe deeply and look around you.

What can help you not rush?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Persistence

"Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?" Lk 18:7

Persistence in prayer is an important Christian virtue. Jesus reminds us of this more than once, and the widow who pesters the local judge to help her attain justice is only the most dramatic example of this. In St Matthew's Gospel Jesus tells his disciples to "Watch and pray always, lest you enter into temptation," and (26:41) St Paul echoes Jesus' call to pray always in first Thessalonians. "Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances."

Praying always can seem like an impossible challenge. For most, when we try to pray, distractions fill our minds and hearts almost as soon as we begin. Even when we pray the rosary or other devotional prayers, we find ourselves thinking about everything but the prayer! Just the same, our willingness to put everything and everyone in God's hands each day is a very powerful prayer although it is often difficult to manage. Trusting God completely is something most of us aspire to, but rarely accomplish. That is why the practice of prayer is so important.

Getting in the habit of saying the Jesus prayer, Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner helps many. Others, especially those helped by 12 step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous use the serenity prayer often. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Repeating both or either of these prayers regularly will help any well-intentioned believer create a space in their lives for God to be God which is, after all is said, the purpose of all prayer.

Today, choose a simple prayer and repeat it throughout the day.

What is your favorite prayer?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

St Frances Xavier Cabrini

"Stand erect and raise your heads because you redemption is at hand." Lk 21:28

Two things marked the early life of Mother Cabrini. She was frail and sickly as a child and only four of her 10 siblings survived adolescence, but neither situation shuttered her imagination. When her father would read to his children about the great men and women who left their homelands to go around the world as missionaries, Frances dreamed of joining them. Frances' faith was bigger than her weakness.

Faithful to her parents until their death, Frances helped them on their farm and went to school, but soon after their death she began to explore a religious vocation. Rejected at first because of her poor health, Frances persevered and soon the local bishop asked her to found a new congregation of religious women. Sure that Frances' efforts would benefit the local church, the bishop was excited by Frances' new congregation, but Frances had bigger ideas. Soon after making vows, she added the name Xavier to Frances, after the famous Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier, and went to Rome to establish a convent. Soon after, still hoping to go the Orient as a missionary, Frances was asked to help Italian immigrants in the United States. Resistant, she asked the Pope Leo XIII for help in discernment, and the Pope assured her that she should go West to the United States, and from this point her life exploded with activity and zeal.

St Frances Xavier Cabrini was a brilliant organizer and administrator. She founded 68 missions and, though she hated ocean travel, crossing the Atlantic more than thirty times. Her work took her to New York, South America, Chicago and New Orleans, and all of this with failing health. A woman of our times, Frances Xavier continues to inspire women and men of the 21st century with passion and zeal.

Today, pray for the young to accept the call to discipleship.

To whom do you listen for advice and encouragement?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

St Josaphat

"First, he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation." Lk 17:25

How we respond under pressure is often the measure of our faith and courage. St Josaphat, a 17th century martyr, reminds us of this. Committed, as a bishop, to the cause of trying to heal the Great Schism, of reuniting Rome and Constantinople, he first reformed both the local church to which he was assigned and his own life. Though some thought he was too demanding that people live simple lives, his personal witness to frugality and honesty convinced many of his cause, but not all.

Josaphat was killed by a mob, certain that one of their number had been abused and imprisoned by those committed to reconciliation with Rome. After his martyrdom, he as thrown into a nearby river along with a dog that had tried to protect him, but it was the Jewish people who should be held up as faithful to the Torah in defense of Josaphat. When Josaphat and his servants were being beaten and killed, Jews rushed into the courtyard of the bishop and rescued many, and it was Jews who mourned his passing. Because they recognized his goodness before God, the Jews refused to be intimidated or drawn into a fight not of their making while many Catholics for whom Josaphat died hid in fear of their lives.

Today, stand up for someone whose name is being dragged through the mud.

What are your biggest challenges to live faith despite the cost?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

St Martin of Tours

"The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our Faith.'" Lk 17:5

Faith, though a great and free gift, is fragile. Frequently, especially when we are moving along in life confidently and without too much effort, we forget how central God and God's love for us is to our everyday life. When we remember to pray, we pray too quickly or by rote, and everything becomes more important than our spiritual lives. We rush to get things done, don't even see friends and family in need, and find ourselves focusing on others faults rather than their good qualities. Although there are dozens of reminders along the way, we fail to see them and without realizing it, our faith wavers.

While none of us wants to be tested, neither can we deny that the challenges we face strengthen us. When a parent falls ill, a friend struggles with mental illness or old friends divorce after many years of marriage, we pause and wonder. What is happening within and around us? What ought to be our faith response? When we have been walking at God's pace, attending to God's way in our lives, the responses come naturally and simply. Pray. Be with hurting friends and family as companions. Don't instruct. But when we have taken faith for granted, we find ourselves muddled, overly upset, angry and confused. What should we do? Pray. Slow down. Listen. Ask for an increase in faith.

Today, take five minutes to sit in God's presence without an agenda

What kinds of situations most test your faith?

Monday, November 9, 2015

St Leo the Great

"When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’” Lk 17:10

St Leo the Great, better known to most as the Pope whose eloquence convinced Attila the Hun not to destroy Rome, must have been deeply committed to the service about which St Luke writes. An authentic relationship with Christ can do this. When we enter the mystery of the Jesus as truly God and truly human, his power becomes ours and enables us to live as servants of all in ways we could never imagine.

The conviction that Christ acts in and through us is the foundation of our call to discipleship. When we humbly acknowledge and accept that our own gifts, no matter how many they might be, are inadequate for the work of salvation, everything changes. Not only are we freer when we rely on the Lord for the strength we need to live the Gospel in a powerful way, we are more effective. It is always astounding to meet people whose faith is so deep that they draw us into God's love by the way they speak, act and live. The challenge, of course, is to be one of those people.

St Leo's faith was such that, while on a mission to Gaul, he was elected by the people to be bishop of Rome and Pope. It was everyday people who recognized in Leo the kind of faith they knew was necessary to direct the church at a very turbulent time. Leo not only effectively moved the church to recognize the importance of Rome as the seat of church authority, he did it peacefully, an effort that effectively won for him the title Great.

Today, ask God for the strength to live your baptismal vocation with peace and power.

What believers do you think of as Great?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Dedication of the Laterna Basilica

"Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh." Ez 47:9

One of the wonderful images in the Book of Revelation is the flowing river about which Ezekiel also speaks. Watering and washing every bit of land through which it flows, the river helps every thing along its banks to grow strong. Fruit trees will produce large amounts of nourishment for all every month, and every kind of fish will grow strong and multiply in its waters.

The river, of course, is the water of life that flows to all from the restored temple and it will bring new life and hope to all who enter it, which is the point. We must enter the waters of baptism, drown and be raised up again in Christ if we hope to live the Gospel. This is not an easy journey or notion. To die to self so that Christ might live is the heart of the Gospel but is not something we do intuitively. We must learn to die from those who have gone before us in faith, especially the martyrs, and that is where the Lateran Basilica leads us.

St John Lateran is the basilica of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. First among all Rome's church's, it is dedicated to St John the Baptist who lost his head for the sake of Christ and the Gospel, and reminds us that the most fundamental work of the church is to witness to Christ crucified and raised up for the sake of all. John the Baptist never forgot that his mission was to make straight the way of the Lord. Willing to die for this privilege, John the Baptist continues to remind us of our role. When we make the way of the Lord straight people can find their way into the mystery of God's love.

Today, pray for the grace never to forget God's enduring love for all.

What do you most value about the church, the people of God?