Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Dedication of the Church of St John Lateran

"Do this in memory of me." Lk 22:19

One of the most important words in the Catholic tradition is remember.  When we pause to remember the Dedication of a church, we do so, not first to admire the building, no matter how beautiful, but to offer a prayer of gratitude for all those who gathered there over the centuries. We remember the people who put brick upon brick; we remember the joy generations of people felt to be free enough to gather in faith for small and great feasts and, in the case of St. John Lateran, we remember that it is the parish of the Pope, the community to which the Holy Father belongs, the people given to him as pastor so that he might be renewed in his own faith.

Each day for many of us at the Eucharist, and at least once a week for all of us, we are called together to remember our baptism, that we are church. We gather for the celebration of the "breaking of the bread" with other believers as members of Christ's body knowing that when we are together in Christ, faith comes alive in a visual way. We gather to be re-membered, bonded to one another in hope. Some of us are hands, others feet, but all have a role and function in the living body of Christ and together we proclaim the Glory of God and the power of the Good News of Jesus Christ. That is what it means for us to be church.

Today, pray in gratitude for your parish community.

How do you understand the word "church?"

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A quiet Faith

"Increase our faith." Lk 17:5

In the first years after my ordination I often worried about my preaching. Was I making sense, I wondered? Were people able to follow me? Was I clear enough? Uncomfortable with the questions, I asked my mother what she thought. Do what other priests seemed to do, she suggested. If you are not sure of what to say next, say it louder. Though I used her advice more than once, in recent years I am more inclined to do the exact opposite, especially when I have worked hard, and done my research about the scriptural text. Rather than speak louder, I try to say nothing for a while and let God do God's work. Forcing myself to slow down and listen to God almost always results in something good, but this kind of patience demands a leap of faith that I would sometimes rather bludgeon to death!

In his classic work, The Mind’s Journey to God, St Bonaventure insists that while it is possible to uncover the “traces” of God’s work in creation using observation, logic, and reflection, eventually we must submit ourselves to the mercy of God who leads us beyond logic into the heart of the mystery itself. Only when we let go of our own powers of reason can God open us to the wonders of the gift that God gives freely, completely and gratuitously. We cannot earn the gift of faith; we can only treasure it and give it away in compassion and justice.

Today, be quiet and ask God for an increase of faith.

When is it most difficult to be quiet in the face of obstacles to your faith?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


"She (wisdom) hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed." Wis 6 12-13

Wisdom is not something one usually acquires. Rather, it comes with age, experience and the willingness to slog along muddy roads and navigate across roaring streams in company with other searchers. Wisdom is a gift who presents herself to everyone willing to listen, to move slowly, to ask for help. As the scripture says, Wisdom wants to live within us and among us, but we have to be on the alert for her each day and befriend her when she arrives. This is not always easy.

Several years ago I met an elderly, wise priest who had spent almost forty years as missionary in South America. Returning home he was troubled by the the waste he experienced in the United States, and was even more disturbed by the variety of so many simple items he saw in our supermarkets. Toothpaste especially drove him crazy. Why we needed twenty kinds of toothpaste was beyond him, but he was very slow to criticize.

Listening to this man at many priest gatherings only made me admire him more. He rarely made blanket statements about anything, and preferred to ask questions, even about toothpaste. One evening someone asked him how he was readjusting to life in the United States. Fine, he said, but I am not sure I will be able to sample all the different toothpastes before I die. Everyone began to laugh, some a little uneasily. It is a little crazy one priest admitted. It seems that way to me, the old missionary answered, but perhaps you see it differently. Listening to him, I knew I was in the presence of Wisdom.

Today, ask for the gift of not having to have to an opinion about an issue.

Who is he wisest person you know?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Risking our Lives for God

Today I am thinking about and praying in gratitude for all the people who "risked their necks for me."  They are too numerous to mention, thank God, but I cannot even begin to write without pausing in thanksgiving for everything my parents gave me, and I want to pause today especially because, if they had lived, it would have been their 78th wedding anniversary.

"Greet Prisca and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life." Rom 16:3-4

The U.N High Commission on Refugees asserts that there are more than 50 million refugees around the world, the highest figure since the Second World War. It has to be a terrible thing to be torn from one's home by violence, political unrest and war, and it is important to Christians not to turn away from the images and stories of people who have fled their homes and risked their lives crossing oceans and deserts seeking a new home. They are the face of the suffering Christ

At the same time, we need to be grateful for those countless women and men who risk their lives as caregivers and aid workers for the homeless and hungry at home around the world. Catholic Relief Services alone has more than 5000 people working in 93 countries who respond as best they can to more than 100 million people a year. Though we hear little about these heroes, they are the face of the Catholic Church who rarely seek recognition and fame, but reach out for the needy because it is the right thing to do.

Today, take a moment to be grateful for those who risked their lives for you.

Who has risked their lives for you?

Monday, November 3, 2014

St Charles Borremeo

"In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast in what pertains to God." Rom 15:17

Named Archbishop of Milan when he was 25 years old, St Charles Borremeo was hugely influential at the Council of Trent. For many years he was a church careerist, working to assure himself and his family a comfortable life, but when his elder brother died during the Council, everything changed. Aware that life was short, Charles became an avid church reformer who lived a very simple personal life and gave most of his income to the poor. More important, he insisted that everyone named bishop in his provincial council be an example to the faithful of men committed to the gospel, and be well trained in Scripture for their ministries. In fact, the education of the clergy became so important to him that he started the seminary system which continues, even today, to train priests all over the world.

St Paul’s letter to the Romans sounds like Charles could have written it. Concerned that some of his disciples and converts were taking credit for their own good works, Paul first praises them but then reminds them that without Christ nothing of ultimate value can happen. The apostle writes, “I have reason to boast in what pertains to God. For I will not dare to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me.” If anything or anyone distracts us from the works of God in Christ we must avoid them and return to the essentials of Gospel life. Both Paul and Charles remind us to live each day simply and gratefully.

Today, step back from your life and ask yourself whether others experience you as Good News.

Have you had occasion to reform your life?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

St Martin de Porres

"Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep." Lk 15:6

Sheep are interesting animals. Naturally communal, if the lead sheep does not eat from feed put out for the flock, none of the sheep will eat it. More, if one wanders off too from the flock, after a while it will lie down, stop eating and drinking, and wait to be found. No wonder sheep are such a powerful image for Jesus in the gospel. While at first it might seem strange that a shepherd would leave the ninety nine in search of the one sheep that was lost, it makes perfect sense when one realizes that without a worried shepherd searching for the lost sheep, the sheep is likely to die.

St. Martin de Porres never forgot who he was. The illegitimate child of a Spanish father and a black/native American mother, Martin thought of himself as one of the lost sheep and spent his entire life caring for the poor and slaves who he treated with great tenderness. Believing no slave was worthy of entering religious life, Martin worked alongside the Dominicans for years, until the friars, unable to ignore his dedication and love for the poor, urged him to make religious profession. For the rest of his life he waited upon the poor and the lost as if they were Christ himself.

Today, ask God for Martin's eyes so that you can see everyone around you as another Christ.

Are there people for whom you naturally avoid or reject?