Saturday, May 26, 2012

St Philip Neri

"Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves." Phil 2:3

St Philip, a gregarious, funny, and well respected man was committed to humility as essential value for the Oratorians, the society of Apostolic life which he helped found in the sixteenth century. Begun in a church that was sharply divided by the Protestant Reformation, the Oratory invited men to come, to see, to study, reflect and pray without defensiveness about the sins of the church. Instead, the Oratorians were committed to being quiet cells of prayer and hope in a church that had lost its way and needed serious internal reformation. 

Rather than insist upon harsh physical mortification like many other new religious congregations founded after the Protestant Reformation, Philip encouraged the Oratorians to practice spiritual mortification as a way to refocus the church's energies towards God rather than social acceptance. One story about Philip in this regard says it all. After hearing one of his brother priest's give a well received homily, he ordered him to give it again six times in a row so that people would think he had only one sermon.  

Though Philip's action might seem cruel to some, many of my brother Capuchins tease one another that the best homilists among us have only three distinct sermons, and most of us have one! At the same time, we acknowledge that the one thought or one homily, rooted in God's power to save rather than our eloquence, helps people more than all our insights.

Today, pray for the gift of humor as you admit your faults.

Has anyone's humor ever helped you take the next step on your spiritual journey?

Friday, May 25, 2012

St Bede the Venerable

"I tell you most solemnly,when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go." Jn 21:17

Considered the father of English history, Bede the Venerable is even more celebrated for the way he died. Dictating instructions and encouragement to his fellow monks, he demonstrated a readiness to die and entrust his spirit to God in a marvelous way.

Listen to some of his last words, “'I have a few precious things in my cell: some pepper, some napkins, and some incense. Run quickly and call the priests of the monastery to me, so that I can give to them the few little gifts that God gave me.'” When they came he spoke to them in turn, giving advice to each one and begging him to say a Mass and pray for him; which they all willingly promised to do."

How wonderful to think of others in physical terms when one's body is struggling to breathe. Asking for prayers is a great act of humility that is often difficult, but always necessary, and a sure path to healing. Submitting ourselves to the goodness of God and those around us reminds us that we are all the body of Christ, and it is the entire body, head and members, upon which we rely for prayer.

Today, ask someone to pray for you.

Have you prayed for a happy and peaceful death?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dedication of the Basilica of St Francis

Today, Franciscans celebrate the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Francis.

"The temple of God is holy, and you are that temple." 1 Cor 3:17

Not infrequently, we hear the voice of God. Sometimes it is in the compassionate act of a another. At other times, it comes us to us in prayer, and often we know what it is that God would have us do as we attentively walk the path God has set our for us. Heeding the voice of God in all creation, listening with an open heart for God's will, and searching for signs of God's presence and desire for us are all tasks of the adult believer.

For almost 800 years pilgrims have been trekking to the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi to seek favors, to honor this great Saint and discover again God's will for them. The church itself is magnificent, a true catechetical wonder. One can walk through the upper and lower basilicas and trace the life and ministry of St Francis, but it is not until one descends to the crypt that one encounters the paradoxical power of the little poor man of Assisi, buried in stark simplicity.

It is in the crypt where one finds pilgrims kneeling, praying, and meditating, knowing that the spirit of St. Francis, surrounded by the remains of many of his first followers, is still there, crying out to the open spirited to simplify their lives and live the gospel in love and hope.

Today, do one thing to simply your life. Then listen for the voice of God

Who or what has most spoken to you of God's will for your life?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


"As you sent me into the world, so I sent them". Jn 17:19

Unconditional service of others is an essential element and mark of authentic Christianity. The willingness to care for others in need simply because they are in need is a powerful sign to the world that our cause is purely motivated. We reach out for the neediest, even our enemies, because we see Christ in every person and God's hand in all creation. This gospel challenge, however, is difficult and can seem overwhelming.

When people asked Mother Teresa how she managed to care for the thousands of people dying on the streets of Calcutta, her answer was always the same. I don't. I respond to one person at a time, and while she sometimes was criticized for not addressing the structural deficiencies that caused so much suffering and death, her witness agitated and energized people all over the world to do something about the underlying causes of poverty.

Christ continues to send us, his disciples, into a bruised and battered world, and it is our willingness to accept this mission of compassion and care for the forgotten and voiceless that demonstrates to people and nations that God's spirit is still alive within and among us.

Today, don't be afraid to help someone in need with whatever you have: a smile, a glass of water, a kind word.

What are your biggest obstacles and fears in giving yourself as a servant to others in Christ's name?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Holy Spirit (2)

"The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden, for he is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as he approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console." St Cyril of Jerusalem

Thinking of the Spirit as a true friend who saves, heals, teaches, counsels, strengthens and consoles ought to fill us with hope. We are not alone, ever, and the Spirit is our assurance that in all we do and are, God is with us in whatever role we need.

True friends are like that. No matter where we are in life, they stop, listen, reflect with us and respond for us and for our good. Knowing, experiencing and believing that the Spirit is God's way of assuring us that we have a true friend to accompany us on every step of our spiritual path is almost overwhelming in its beauty.

Those who have been blessed with a soul friend in their daily lives know this deeply. Realizing that God wants to be like that soul friend for us reminds us powerfully of the intimacy God seeks with us even when we fail to respond, but our negligence should not depress us. God waits for and upon us. God is like a vigilant and patient friend who knows us better than we know ourselves and is anxious to express his never failing love for us.

Today, ask the Spirit to be your friend in a way you can understand and celebrate.

Have you known God's spirit as soul friend? What is that like?

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Holy Spirit

"We have never even heard there is a Holy Spirit." Acts 19:2

Each year one of our friars from Australia conducts a little contest with our novices, asking them to name the the six states of his homeland. With a twinkle in his eye, he reminds the novices that he has already given them a hint, knowing full well that the majority will not know there are six states in Australia, much less be able to name them.

I always enjoy hearing about this exercise because it is true about so much of the world. How many countries in Africa? How many in Europe or South America? There is so much about the physical world we don't know. Why should we be surprised that the disciples in Ephesus tell St Paul that they have never even heard of the Holy Spirit. In truth, most Catholics know little about the Holy Spirit even today, and too many do not realize how vital the Spirit is to their daily lives.

This is all the more serious when we realize that it is the promise and gift of the Holy Spirit that sustained the earliest Christians after Jesus ascended into heaven. For the first community of believers the Holy Spirit was strong, palpable and very real. It was the Holy Spirit that allowed them to let go of their fears, proclaim the Good News and go to the ends of the earth baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

More important, it was the Holy Spirit upon whom we were encouraged to rely after the Second Vatican Council, and we should continue to live in the Spirit and call upon the Spirit each day of our journey in faith.

Today, pray to the Holy Spirit for strength to live and announce the Gospel.

Has the Holy Spirit ever been active in your life? If so, how did you respond?

Sunday, May 20, 2012


"Father, keep them in your name that you have give me, so that they may be one just as we are one." Jn 17:12

Many years ago, after a visit to Japan for what seemed like a very long month, I was anxious to return home to the United States and the cultural world within which I was raised. On my trip, traveling through Tokyo, which is a very diverse and and sophisticated city, I searched for a McDonald's, ordered a big Mac and sat on the curb to eat it. Every Japanese who passed me smiled. Whether they understood my loneliness or were amused by my straightforward behavior, I didn't know, nor did I care. I needed a break from what felt like a barrage of cultural differences, and Jesus' prayer that we be one was the furthest thing from my mind.

Unity with other believers as a sign of God's presence and love between and among us is a very tall order, especially when living in a multicultural world. So many things separate us. Race, gender, family values, language, politics and so much more. We have only to pick one of these areas to work on with others with whom we differ to realize how challenging Jesus' wish for us is.

Nevertheless, unity within the Catholic church and among churches all over the world is Jesus' prayer and we cannot ignore it. Learning to let go of aspects of our culture and tradition that only separate us and do nothing for justice in the world  is an essential goal for believers.

Today, pick one area of your life that separates you from others and work on it.

What most motivates you to break down unnecessary disunity in your life?