May the Holy Spirit make you creative in charity, persevering in your commitments, and brave in your initiatives, so that you will be able to offer your contribution to the building up of the “civilization of love”. The horizon of love is truly boundless: it is the whole world!--Pope Benedict XVI

Monday, June 27, 2011

Enriching the Good: Toward the Development of a Relational Anthropology

From the Winter, 2010 issue:
D.C. Schindler (bio). Enriching the Good: Toward the Development of a Relational Anthropology
From the text:
[W]ealth is not simply a collection of possessions (or indeed an abstract measurement of their monetary value) but more fundamentally a way of being, and specifically, being good. A response to the problem of poverty requires, before some sort of redistribution of wealth, more radically a reconception of wealth, and so an “enrichment” of the notion of the good, or it risks reinforcing the individualistic atomism at the root of poverty.

Ultimately, in order to overcome the poverty of individualism, which is a spiritual poverty at the root of material poverty, we must think of the common good in its most transcendent sense, and this entails a recovery of the Platonic understanding of goodness. (full text)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Mystery of Grace by Romano Guardini

Through your creation, O Lord, goes a voice that reminds us of something that is above everything created. The things and their ordering, earth, sun and stones, seem to be pure reality, but our heart knows that they proceed from your holy freedom, and are gifts that should always be accepted afresh. And so they point away from themselves to something higher than they are; but what they might be they do not say.

This indication is stronger in our own life. Plants and animals grow from their own nature and perfect themselves in it; not so men. Only in joining with this other does he come to himself; he gains his own being only when he gives himself to the other. But there is nothing mortal that could be the last fulfilling encounter for him, and so he is always wandering and searching.

But what he in fact seeks, he never gains through his own strength. Only grace can give it to him. On grace depends our salvation, but we have neither a right to grace nor the power to compel it. Grace must reveal itself to us, and only then will we recognize it. Grace must give itself to us, and only then will we possess it. And in it alone do we receive our own true self, which you, O God, assigned to us as you created us.

In the work of your redemption, O Lord, you started a fresh work. You yourself came and called to man. Your being, veiled from all creation, “shown out to him in the face of Jesus Christ”. You showed him how he was lost, and offered him forgiveness. Your love and holiness streamed out to him; now he can accept them and share them.

All that is your free gift, and yet the answer to our innermost need. We cannot conceive it with our own strength, but when you reveal it, we feel that it is the truth upon which we live. We must preserve it from the claim of the world and from the contradiction of our own inadequacy. But when our heart is open, the truth speaks within it and bears up our existence.

Awake within me a holy disquiet, O Lord, so that at all times I may search for you. Teach me to understand the mystery according to which you made my being: that I can only live from that which is above me, and that I lose myself as soon as I place myself within myself. Take my hand; help me to cross over to you, so that I may truly find myself in you.

Amen.

(From Prayers from Theology by Romano Guardini)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Become Humble like Mary-Mother Teresa

With deep appreciation, I thank you for you remembering me in your prayers. My gratitude will be my prayer for you that you may become humble like Mary, so as to become more and more holy like Jesus. Together, let us thank God for all his tender love and care. Continue to pray for me and my sisters that we may not spoil God’s work. Always be one heart full of love in the hearts of Jesus and Mary by loving one another with a most tender and forgiving love.--Mother Teresa

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Creation of Man-Romano Guardini

O Lord, you made all things. You gave them their being, set them in their place and gave them their measure. They are filled with your mystery, and the pious heart is moved by it.

We people, too, O Lord, were called into being and placed between you and the things. You have formed us in your own image and made us to share in your dominion. You have placed your world into our hands that it may serve us and that in it we may complete our work.  However, we must remain your subjects, and our dominion becomes rebellion and robbery if we do not bow down before you, who alone bears the eternal crown and is Lord in his own right.

Wonderful, O God, is your generosity. You did not fear for your sovereignty when you created beings who were masters of themselves and entrusted your will to their freedom. Great and truly regal are you!

You have placed the honor of your will in my hands. Each word of your revelation says that you respect and trust me, that you give me dignity and responsibility. Teach me to understand that. Give me that holy maturity that is capable of receiving the right that you grant and of assuming the responsibility that you entrust. Keep my heart awake that at all times it may be before you, and let what I do become one with the command and the obedience to which you have called me.

Amen.

(From Prayers from Theology by Romano Guardini)

Working With the Grammar of Creation: Benedict XVI, Wendell Berry, and the Unity of the Catholic Moral Vision

June 23, 2011 by Communio
From the Winter 2010 issue:
David CloutierWorking With the Grammar of Creation: Benedict XVI, Wendell Berry, and the Unity of the Catholic Moral Vision
From the text:

At the heart of Berry’s work is a conviction about the pattern of nature, a pattern he seeks to discover through the careful practice of farming. He is sometimes called an “agrarian writer,” and he notes the influence of the “Southern agrarians” on his work. Yet he worries that, for some of these writers, their agrarianism “is abstract, too purely mental . . . too often remote from the issues of practice.” Berry’s own life is “forcibly removed” from “abstraction,” and instead “must submit to the unending effort to change one’s mind and ways to fit one’s farm.” But ultimately such effort is aimed at “seeing in nature the inescapable standard and in natural processes the necessary pattern for any human use of the land.”

The patterns are discovered through ignorance and discipline.  “Ignorance” here refers to a “humbling knowledge” that is “a way of acknowledging the uniqueness of every individual creature, deserving respect, and the uniqueness of every moment, deserving wonder.” Such a way of proceeding acknowledges limits, both in oneself and in the human condition. Since we are often uncomfortable with such limits, hewing to them also requires discipline. In preferring a lack of discipline, we ordinarily end up allowing our desires to determine what we will do and how we will do it. However, “we have, in fact, no right to ask the world to conform to our desires.” . . .

[The] conflict between environmental romanticism and industrial capitalism, two oversimplified patterns, also appears in virtually the same form in our thinking about human sexuality. Indeed, Berry argues that our sexual lives are governed primarily by a “sexual romanticism,” that worships “true love,” trying to defend against the “sexual capitalism” of purely instrumental use of sex for pleasure. Sexual capitalists, he remarks, are merely disillusioned sexual romantics. As he puts it wryly, “The sexual romantic croons, ‘You be-long to me.’ The sexual capitalist believes the same thing, but has stopped crooning.” An oversimplified pattern of possessive ownership replaces the much more complex mutual belonging that is marriage.

Summarizing these oversimplified grammars in an essay on language, Berry diagnoses its “increasing unreliability” by explaining two types of language that fail to be accountable in their imprecision, and hence oversimplification. One kind of language is “diminished by subjectivity, which ends in meaninglessness . . . .” This is the language of expressivist romanticism. But then there is also “a language diminished by  objectivity, or so-called objectivity (inordinate or irresponsible ambition), which ends in confusion.” This is the language of  specialization, which Berry so often derides, a language characteristic especially of industrial science, but which also infects most areas of knowledge. Both these sorts of language, in different ways, ultimately dispense with the matter of truth, insofar as they fail to be accountable to the reality which they are trying to designate. Therefore, the languages are useful for concealing ignorance, but also for attempting supposed knowledge of things without the practices of discipline actually required. (full text.)

DAVID CLOUTIER is associate professor of theology at Mount St. Mary’s
University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

St. John Fisher-An Example for Our Time

Saint John Fisher, Bishop & Martyr
If more Catholic Bishops were like Fisher more Catholic politicians would be like St. Thomas More
June 22nd



John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester
Born at Beverly, 1469 - martyred June 22, 1535, Tower of London
Canonized (with Saint Thomas More) 1935

Saint John Fisher studied theology in Cambridge, England and became Bishop of Rochester. His friend Saint Thomas More wrote of him, "I reckon in this realm no one man, in wisdom, learning, and long approved virtue together, meet to be matched and compared with him."

Saint John Fisher and his friend Saint Thomas More gave up their lives in testimony to the unity of the Church and to the indissolubility of marriage.

Source: Daily Roman Missal, Edited by Rev. James Socías, Midwest Theological Forum, Chicago, Illinois ©2003

Born at Beverly, 1469 + June 22, 1535, Tower of London 

Reply to Bishops Stokesley, Gardiner and Tunstal, sent to the Tower by Thomas Cromwell to persuade Fisher to submit to the King: 

Methinks it had been rather our parts to stick together in repressing these violent and unlawful intrusions and injuries dayly offered to our common mother, the holy Church of Christ, than by any manner of persuasions to help or set forward the same. 

And we ought rather to seek by all means the temporal destruction of the so ravenous wolves, that daily go about worrying and devouring everlastingly, the flock that Christ committed to our charge, and the flock that Himself died for, than to suffer them thus to range abroad. 

But (alas) seeing we do it not, you see in what peril the Christian state now standeth: We are besieged on all sides, and can hardly escape the danger of our enemy. And seeing that judgment is begone at the house of God, what hope is there left (if we fall) that the rest shall stand! 

The fort is betrayed even of them that should have defended it. And therefore seeing the matter is thus begun, and so faintly resisted on our parts, I fear that we be not the men that shall see the end of the misery. 

Wherefore, seeing I am an old man and look not long to live, I mind not by the help of God to trouble my conscience in pleasing the king this way whatsoever become of me, but rather here to spend out the remnant of my old days in praying to God for him. 

On the scaffold he said to the people assembled: 

Christian people, I am come hither to die for the faith of Christ's Holy Catholic Church, and I thank God hitherto my stomach hath served me very well thereunto, so that yet I have not feared death.

Wheefore I do desire you all to help and assist me with your prayers, that at the very point and instant of death's stroke, I may in that very moment stand steadfast without fainting in any one point of the Catholic faith free from any fear; and I beseech Almighty God of His infinite goodness to save the king and this Realm, and that it may please Him to hold His holy hand over it, and send the king good Counsel. 

He then knelt, said the Te Deum, In te domine speravi, and submitted to the axe.

Of all the English bishops, only Bishop John Fisher of Rochester publicly opposed Henry VIII's mandatory Oath of Allegience, which unlawfully declared King Henry the head of the Church of England. The bishop's stand ultimately cost him his life. May his example inspire all Catholics today, especially the bishops on whose courageous leadership the Church depends.

Collect:

Father,
You confirm the true faith
with the crown of martyrdom.
May the prayers of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More
give us the courage to proclaim our faith
by the witness of our lives.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. + Amen. 


First Reading: I Peter 4:12-19
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God. For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? And "If the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious and sinner appear?" Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 10:34-39
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Creation of the World-Romano Guardini

O God, your revelation is a light for our mind, that it may understand, and a call to our heart, that it may hear and obey. So teach us properly to accept the message that you made man and with him all things.

We were born through you. We do not originate from the silent elements, but from the free power of your commanding word; not from the prime matter of the world, but from your clear truth. And all things were born through you. The world is not nature shrouded in its own mystery, but your work. You conceived it and brought it into being. From you it has reality and strength, being and purpose, and you bore witness to it, calling it “good” and “very good”.

I believe that all was created by you, O God. Teach me to understand this truth. It is the truth of existence, and if it is forgotten, then all sinks into injustice and folly. My heart has agreed to it. I do not wish to live in my own right, but in freedom through you. By my own efforts I have nothing; everything is a gift from you, and only becomes mine when I receive it from you.

Always I receive myself from your hand. So it is, and so it should be. That is my truth and my joy. Your eye is seeing me always, and I live upon your gaze, my creator and my salvation. Teach me, in the stillness of your presence, to understand the mystery that I am. And that I am through you and before you and for you.

Amen.

(From Prayers from Theology by Romano Guardini)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tracey Rowland: The Anglican Patrimony

18 06 2011
 
Professor Tracey Rowland is Dean of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage & Family in Melbourne, Australia, and gave this address at a conference for those exploring joining a Personal Ordinariate in Australia. She is also the author of the popular and excellent Ratzinger’s Faith, published by Oxford University Press.

Pope Benedict XVI has consistently held that the ecumenical process is one of acquiring unity in diversity, not structural reintegration.  For example, in his Ecumenical Address in Cologne in 2005 he remarked that ‘Ecumenism does not mean what could be called an ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history – it does not mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline’.

In this address he also spoke of dialogue as an exchange of gifts in which the Churches and Ecclesial Communities can make available their own riches.  This theme was reiterated in a parallel address in the Crypt of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, at the second World Youth Day of his pontificate.  He noted that whereas an idea aims at truth, a gift expresses love.  Both, he concluded, were essential elements of dialogue.

The announcement of the establishment of a Personal Ordinariate for Anglicans has been the most dramatic example of Pope Benedict’s attempt to put these principles into operation.  According to Cardinal Levada:

It is the hope of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, that the Anglican clergy and faithful who desire union with the Catholic Church will find in this ecumenical structure the opportunity to preserve those Anglican traditions precious to them and consistent with the Catholic faith.  Insofar as these traditions express in a distinctive way the faith that is held in common, they are a gift to be shared in the wider Church.  The unity of the Church does not require a uniformity that ignores cultural diversity, as the history of Christianity shows.

In his published commentary on Anglicanorum Coetibus Cardinal Levada noted that this proposal of a Personal Ordinariate was consistent with the earlier ecumenical efforts of Cardinal Mercier of Belgium who explored the possibility of an Anglican union with the Catholic Church under the principle of an Anglicanism ‘reunited but not absorbed’. Cardinal Levada also noted that paragraph 13 of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism recognised the special place of the Anglican Communion as a body in which Catholic traditions and institutions were to some degree retained after the Reformation.

From my personal experience I would say that for many Anglo-Catholics the barriers to full communion with the See of Peter have tended to be primarily cultural rather than doctrinal.  They have been reluctant to seek full membership of the Catholic Church because of a not unreasonable belief that they would have to abandon whole elements of their Anglican cultural heritage.  It is precisely this problem Pope Benedict hopes the creation of an Ordinariate will overcome.

Read the complete essay here.

Caritas in Veritate and Economic Theory-Nicholas J. Healy, Jr.

June 20, 2011 by Communio
From the Winter, 2010 issue: A Symposium on Caritas in veritate.
Nicholas J. Healy, Jr. (bio): Caritas in veritate and Economic Theory
From the text:
. . . Benedict is also asking us to re-conceive the meaning of economic activity and economic logic; the study of “efficient use of scarce resources” is not realistic. There is “more” to economic relations than efficiency or utility. The “economy” allows for an exchange of goods between members of the human family; market exchanges are an integral part of human life and the common good of humanity. The logic of gift is not extraneous to the logic of the market; it rather opens the door to good economic analysis. . . (full text)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Anthropological Vision of Caritas in Veritate in Light of Cultural and Economic Life in the United States

From the Winter 2010 issue:
David L. Schindler. The Anthropological Vision of Caritas in veritate in Light of Cultural and Economic Life in the United States.
From the text:

Caritas in veritate takes up the complicated question of technology in its last chapter. Benedict of course acknowledges that technology “enables us to exercise dominion over matter” and to “improve our conditions of life,” and in this way goes to “the heart of the vocation of human labor” (n. 69). The relevant point, however, is that “technology is never merely technology” (n. 69). It always invokes some sense of the order of man’s naturally given relations to God and others. Technology thus, rightly conceived, must be integrated into the call to holiness, indeed into the covenant with God, implied in this order of relations (cf. n. 69): integrated into the idea of creation as something first given to man, as gift, “not something self-generated” (n. 68) or produced by man.

Here again we see the importance of the family. It is inside the family that we first learn a “technology” that respects the dignity of the truly weak and vulnerable—the just-conceived and the terminally-ill, for example—for their own sake. It is inside the family, indeed the family as ordered to worship, that we first learn the habits of patient interiority necessary for genuine relationships: for the relations that enable us to see the truth, goodness, and beauty of others as given (and also to maintain awareness of “the human soul’s ontological depths, as probed by the saints”: n. 76). It is inside the family that we can thus learn the limits of the dominant social media of communication made available by technology, which promote surface movements of consciousness involving mostly the gathering of bits of information, and foster inattention to man in his depths and his transcendence as created by God. It is in the family that we first become open to the meaning of communication in its ultimate and deepest reality as a dia-logos of love that is fully revealed by God in the life, and thus including also the suffering, of Jesus Christ (cf. n. 4).

DAVID L. SCHINDLER (bio) is Provost and Gagnon Professor of Fundamental Theology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Birthday Prayer (for Veronica Rose Birzer)

Veronica Rose Birzer born June 11, 2011
by Stephen Masty

A Birthday Prayer
(for Veronica Rose Birzer)


Hear the tocsin as it blows,
Down the mountain as it snows,
Word across the valley goes:
Born to us, Veronica Rose.

As our days turn middling dark,
As decay around us grows,
Pray she be our Joan of Arc,
Fearsome to our craven foes;
Arm her with Thine Holy Word,
Keep her safe where ‘ ere she goes,
Strong of will and mind and sword,
Make her, Lord, Veronica Rose.

As the face of Christ was washed,
(By her namesake, bear in mind),
Keep her selfish instincts quashed;
By Our Lady, make her kind;
Let her, Lord, draw joy in store
From all Thee made and all that grows;
Guard her soul for evermore,
And keep her Thine, Veronica Rose.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A brief Reflection on Marriage: In Unity and Love

by Winston Elliott III
Lt. & Mrs. Winston Elliott IV
(Dedicated to Marti & Winston IV)

Genesis 2:18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone..."

This is the first time in Sacred Scripture that our Lord says anything in creation is "not good." The light was good. The stars and the beasts of the earth were good.  But it is not good that man should be alone. So our Creator, in perfect love, creates the human community of love. "I will make him a helper fit for him.” Not only will God give man a helper but the way he forms woman brings union to all humanity. 

Genesis 2:21 "So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man...took one of his ribs ...and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man." So this new creation of God was not to be as the beasts and the stars. Not to be separate from man. For this new creation was joined to man out of his own flesh. How did the man react to this gift from his Creator? "Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh...” Adam saw that woman was unique for she was forever a part of him. For she was created from the "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh." The woman completes the man. He is not complete without her for she has his very bone as her beginning. Man has been given life by his Creator. Woman has been given her very existence as gift out of the very substance of man. What is the appropriate response to such gifts? Gratitude. Gratitude for the life, from love, God has given to man and woman. And gratitude for the gift of one another. For God now viewed his Creation, "everything he had made, and behold, it was very good."

What does this mean to sons of Adam today?  What is man to do in relation to his life with woman? "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh."

Wedding feast at Cana
They become one flesh in the sacrament of marriage. How important is this to Jesus? Perhaps we can draw an answer to this from the wedding in Cana. Jesus lived life with a purpose. He had a mission and what he did in his earthly life tells us what we should remember about his, and our, mission. In Cana he is part of the celebration of the joining of a man and woman. There he performs his first public miracle. Is this a sign of the importance of marriage in the kingdom of God?

Even this is only the beginning of the story. Now they are joined. They are one flesh. How are they to live the life of nuptial bliss? Jesus gives an answer to this question. 

In John 17:21 Jesus prays that his disciples "...may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." With these words as a guide the family, the center of Christian life, may emulate the perfect community of love, the Blessed Trinity. Then they will play their part inspiring the whole world to believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Are we really capable of living love patterned after that perfect community? Jesus prayed that it would be so: "I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." A prayer for perfect love so that we may demonstrate to the world the Father's love. This is a mission for marriage and family life. Jesus wants this for us, his family. This is why he prays that "the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” He in us and we in him. One flesh. A union with God and with one another. Then may come forth generations to spread God's love to the world. Let it be so. Amen.

Gospel Reflection-Do You Love Me? Really?

by Winston Elliott III

John 21:15-19
15  When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you fastened your own belt and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will fasten your belt for you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Is the resurrected Lord being hard on Peter? Does he doubt the intensity of Peter's love for him? “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” This is the question asked of the disciple who was still wet from swimming to Jesus. The others in the boat were more restrained. They brought the boat in with the catch. Not Peter. He jumped in the water when he realized it was the resurrected Jesus standing on the shore. And now Jesus is asking Peter "do you love me more than these." Perhaps Jesus is thinking that Peter must speak the words out in a loud declaration for his own good. Especially after he loudly denied our Lord three times. Peter affirms: "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Now it is time for Jesus to give Peter directions. Jesus is preparing for his Ascension and he appears to give Peter singular responsibility.  Jesus asks Peter to “Feed my lambs.” Peter must feed Jesus' flock. Jesus is not finished. "Do you love me?” Didn't Peter just answer this?  Doesn't this seem to be a "really?" from Jesus? Or is he simply pushing Peter for a deeper meditation on what it means to love Jesus? So Peter again affirms “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus asks him to “Tend my sheep.” Is there a difference between tending the sheep and feeding them? Does it mean to guard them as well as teach them? Jesus does not explain.

“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” Wouldn't we be grieved if our beloved Jesus asked this three times? After all, we don't want to consider that he may doubt our love. And yet, let us think of our own lives for a moment. Have there been times when we turned away from Jesus? In our sinfulness have we denied Jesus our whole hearts? Have we placed worldly things ahead of him? Have we at times focused our lives on sex, power or money instead of our relationship with God? Are we always deeply aware of, and bold in our gratitude for, all that God has done for us? No? Then perhaps Jesus may be moved to ask us more than once "do you love me?" Maybe he is asking us this every time we turn away from him. Hundreds or thousands of times in our lives. How many times has he had to ask me "do you love me?" Perhaps, as with Peter, our Lord wished us to replace every denial, every sin, with a statement of love for him. "And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep." Jesus asks for Peter to answer the question. But Jesus clearly asks Peter not just for words, but also for action. Feed my lambs (little ones?), tend my sheep, feed my sheep. Love is fulfilled by action. Love without action is dead.

Lord we pray that with your grace we may say "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Help us to turn away from sin and turn to you in love. A love which is whole, complete, full and abiding. A love which always says Yes to you. Yes in words. Yes in our hearts. Yes in Action. Yes, Yes, a thousand times Yes. Lord, I Love YOU. Amen.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gospel Reflection-Unity in Love, The Blessed Trinity

by Winston Elliott III

John 17:20-26

Our Lady of the Atonement Chapel, San Antonio
20 “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which you have given me in your love for me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Jesus prayed for us. Jesus is praying for us. How do I know? Because his words are my guide and my hope. “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word..." The word of God, the teachings of Jesus, were spread throughout the world by his disciples. And generations of Christ's ambassadors have continued to spread the truth that is to be found in Jesus for over 2000 years. And now is our time to spread the Gospel. But first, let us remember what Jesus asked the Father for us. Jesus prayed "...that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you..." He prays for unity. Unity in Christ. Unity for all of his disciples. And not just unity. Jesus prays that we may have a share in the divine unity shared by the Father and the Son. Joined by the Spirit, the personae of the love which is shared by the Father and the Son, this divine unity is the model for our hope. For we are born in relationship. Our existence is defined by, made possible by, our relationship with our Creator. We are born in relationship with the Blessed Trinity. We have the gift of life because the Triune Community of Love breathed life into us. Stop for a minute. Meditate upon the model of perfect love and unity given to us by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This unending union of love, beauty, joy and wisdom is the reason we exist. We are made by, and made for, unity and love. What will happen if we begin to live this Trinitarian vision? Jesus says that if we do then "...they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." We will show Jesus to the world in how we love one another.

What an incredible prayer Jesus shares with his disciples in these words. And he shares them with us for he prays for all who "believe in me through their word." Jesus asks that we "that they may be one even as we are one,  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one." "Perfectly one?" Really? Amazing. Unfathomable. And yet would Jesus pray for something that is impossible? Is anything impossible for God? If we begin to live in unity with each other and the Trinity then "the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." How will Jesus help us do this? He prays that "they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which you have given me in your love for me before the foundation of the world." If we are "with" him we may behold his glory. We may behold the love shared by the Blessed Trinity "before the foundation of the world." This is overwhelming. Are we overwhelmed by this amazing glorious love? Is it our inspiration and our hope? Let us pray that it may become so more and more every day of our lives. Every every second that we breathe. For our very breath is a gift of of love from the Community of Love. In gratitude we say Yes. Yes, to the Triune God. Show us your unity and love. And with your grace we may emulate your perfection.

"O righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you; and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”Amen.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Spiritual Machine

by Stratford Caldecott

I was speaking with someone who has lost heart because going to Mass seems to do nothing for him. There is no spiritual experience involved, so that he is just going through the motions. It increasingly feels like a waste of time, if not actual hypocrisy. The answer to this problem, I think, lies in how we participate. The Mass is the greatest-ever work of "spiritual engineering". Like a suspension bridge over some huge chasm, or a giant piece of machinery, it is intended to do something. But in order for it to do its work, you need to cooperate or participate. You do have to walk over the bridge, or turn the machine on. Most of the time we don't do that: we just watch. The only way to participate is to give ourselves spiritually - that is, in our will, or intention - to the action of the Mass. The Liturgy of the Word at the beginning of Mass, with the act of contrition and the reading of Scripture, is designed to prepare us to do that. The actual giving takes place in the Offertory, when we add our hearts to the sacrifice. The first part is like a kind of "melting" of our hard hearts, which are frozen in a particular configuration, a particular shape. We are supposed to then "pour ourselves" into the Mass, just like molten metal is poured from a crucible into a mould, where it can be set into a new shape. But this is harder than it sounds. We tend to want to hold at least part of ourselves back. We are afraid of changing, or we are attached to something we don't want to let go of, which we can't give to God. That is the struggle, and it is that which makes Mass interesting. But to the extent - even if it is a limited extent - that we manage to let go and to give something of ourselves to God, he is able to do something with it, and we will immediately start to feel something very definite, something subtle but unmistakeable, which confirms to us that the process is happening.  (Here with permission by Stratford Caldecott from All Things New.)

The One and Living God-Romano Guardini

Lord, living God, you are the one and only, and there is no other but you. All divinity is yours, and that which denies itself to you is a theft from you.

In your mercy you have revealed your being to us and let us know your name. We believe in you. Keep us in disbelief, O Lord, for in it alone are we preserved, and your honor is our honor, and your rule is our salvation.

You made the world and us in it. Being and existence, life and purpose, all comes from your omnipotent and loving word. And so we bow down before you, O Lord, and pray to you.

You are that Holy One; but we are sinful and confess to it. We thank you for letting us know this, for it is truth; only truth has the power to begin again and to overcome.

You, O God, are the Lord. Lord in yourself, substantially internally, as you revealed to your messenger when you said to him: “I am who I am.” And Lord of the world, for you created it and rule it. Your rule, however, respects the freedom of created things, and gives them freedom to will and to decide. Grant that I do not forget you and do not abuse your generosity-holy and benevolent God, Lord of our existence, preserve me from that!

I pray to you, O God, for you alone “are worthy to receive blessing and honor and glory and power”.

Amen.

(From Prayers from Theology by Romano Guardini)

Gospel Reflection-A Spirit of Power and Love

by Winston Elliott III

John 17:11-19
11 And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.  Amen.

Jesus prays: "Holy Father, keep them in your name...that they may be one, even as we are one..." Jesus, in his present form, is leaving the world but his disciples will remain in the world. In love he prays that his disciples will remain steadfast in the Father.  What does this entail? Clearly that they should remain true to the Father and the teachings of Jesus which draw us nearer to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He also prays that they "may be one, even as we are one." Jesus prays for unity for the disciples and for his Church. A unity which is modeled upon the unity of the Father and the Son. A divine unity which is impossible without the grace of God. A unity which can only begin to be accomplished with God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) at the center. No unity is achievable, perhaps even desirable, without God as the unifying force which draws all creation together. A unity in diversity, yes, but with all eyes on the Creator. Jesus goes on: "While I was with them, I kept them in your name...I have guarded them...that the Scripture might be fulfilled." Jesus prepares to leave the world and says "these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves." By staying true to the Father and the Son, true to Jesus' teaching, true to the Word of God we may have the joy of Christ in us. An incredible, in many ways unfathomable, gift. Do we remember that Jesus desires for us to have his joy in us? This is worthy of remembrance and contemplation.

"I have given them your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." We have the word of God which brings great joy. But the world rejects his word and us. Why? What has led the world to reject God and his word? How have selfishness, pride, materialism and pain become prevalent when God desires us to have his joy fulfilled in us? Yes, God gave us the freedom to reject him but why do we do it? Jesus warns us in this prayer that staying true to God will not be easy. "I do not pray that you should take them out of the world..." He doesn't ask for us to leave the world but that we should be kept from "the evil one." The resistance to God is not from our sinfulness alone. There is an active opposition to God. And the "evil one" leads it. In the face of evil why does Jesus want us here? It must be for a good reason. Otherwise wouldn't he remove us from this world and remove us from the temptations of evil? "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world." Once again Jesus declares our mission. We are not here for ourselves. He wants us here so that we will, having been sanctified in truth, go out into the world! We are to take his truth to all the nations. We are to be his ambassadors. His truth is not for us hoard and keep to ourselves. He directs us to go out into the world as the Father "sent me into the world." We are to evangelize, to baptize, and to transform the world so that it reflects the love found the in the Blessed Trinity.  

Lord, we need your grace so that we may stay true to your name. Triune God please immerse us in your love so that we may grow in likeness to you. Guide us and strengthen us. Help us remember what your apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: "I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you...for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control." Amen. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gospel Reflection-"I am Praying for Them"

by Winston Elliott III

John 17:1-11a
1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee, 2 since thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. 4 I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do; 5 and now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made. 6 "I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word. 7 Now they know that everything that thou hast given me is from thee; 8 for I have given them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from thee; and they have believed that thou didst send me. 9 I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine; 10 all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee.

Lord, inspire us to read your Scriptures and to meditate upon them day and night. We beg you to give us real understanding of what we need, that we in turn may put its precepts into practice. Yet we know that understanding and good intentions are worthless, unless rooted in your graceful love. So we ask that the words of Scriptures may also be not just signs on a page, but channels of grace into our hearts.-Origen (ca. 185-254) 

And now the Priestly Prayer of Jesus (John Chapter 17) concludes the Last Supper. This is the prayer which Jesus offers the Father before going to the garden of Gethsemane where he will be betrayed and his passion begins. He asks that his Father "glorify" the Son that the "Son may glorify thee." This is the time when, through his death and resurrection, Jesus will more fully manifest his humility and his divinity. He will glorify the Father by showing the Apostles the Father and speaking of him plainly. For the Father  has given Jesus "power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him." Jesus has the power to give eternal life. Let that sink in for a moment. Through Jesus we are offered eternal life. Death has no sting for those who have eternal life. And life on earth becomes only a time of pilgrimage for this is not our final home. Please Jesus, tell us more of eternal life! "And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." To know God the Father and God the Son is eternal life. How do we know them? How do we know anyone? Spend time with them. In prayer, in scripture and in the sacraments. Be with them now, more often, more deeply, so that we may spend eternity with them in heaven. In our hearts we can be troubled by the actions of certain Church leaders and priests, we can be saddened by bad music and impious liturgies. Yet, in our hearts, we know that if we are in prayer, reading scripture and partaking of the sacraments we draw nearer to God. We must stay in relationship with Christ. We must spend time with our Friend and Teacher.

"I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word." The Father gave the Apostles to Jesus. Now the Apostles, soon to be given the Great Commission to go and make disciples throughout the world, have been taught the word of God by Jesus. "Now they know that everything that thou hast given me is from thee..." The Apostles know what Jesus needs them to know. He has taught them and now he is"praying for them, I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine..." This is troubling. Jesus he is praying for those whom the Father gave him, he is not praying for the whole world. Is this a prayer for this moment or for all time? Jesus doesn't say. I want to focus on what he does say. "And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." 

Let us pray now for all those who, wounded by their own sin, have distanced themselves from God and his Church. Lord, these lost sheep are yours and yet they have turned away from you. Please pour forth your grace upon them so that they may return to your flock. And let us pray for those who, troubled by the scandals of sin by priests and bishops of the Church are estranged from you. Lord, your Church is a pilgrim church filled with broken sinners in need of repentance, including your priests and bishops. Turn all of us from our sin. And Lord, shine your light on those scandalized by sin in the Church so that they may have their faith renewed and return fully to You and your Church. And Lord please immerse in your Beauty those who, having seen too much ugliness in your parishes, have broken hearts for they desire that you be honored and glorified in beauty and in truth. Bring us all closer to you Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Liberal Education: The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education

by Andrew Seeley

"Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old." 

Readers must frequently be tempted to throw up their hands in despair over the state of education today. How can we reinvigorate our culture with a sense of what is True, Beautiful and Good when our schools seem determined to douse the light of wonder that is natural to young people? It kills me everytime I see a bright, chatty kid I met during his little league years come out of junior high school seemingly without a spark of interest in life. The Left wants to undermine any connection of the young to our traditions; the Right wants to test them into conformity with the existing corporate and bureaucratic system. Very few place any importance on developing the hearts and minds of the young by connecting them to riches of our Western tradition.

Christopher Dawson saw the problem facing Western civilization through the loss of commitment to liberal education. Yet he also saw a great hope for change through developments in the Catholic parochial system, as he pointed out in The Crisis of Western Education.

...As education reaches a certain point of development, it opens up new and wider cultural horizons. It ceases to be a utilitarian parochial effort for the maintenance of a minimum standard of religious instruction and becomes the gateway to the wider kingdom of Catholic culture which has two thousand years of tradition behind it and is literally world-wide in its extent and scope.

The Catholic Church embraced classical education in the early Middle Ages, incorporating it into monastic, ecclesiastical and, eventually, secular life. In one form or another, from the Benedictine monasteries to the medieval universities to the Jesuit’s Ratio Studiorum, Liberal Education has traditionally been the core of Catholic education. The goals of classical education – perfecting the natural powers of the mind while embracing and developing a tradition – coalesced perfectly with the incarnational, traditional and pilgrimmatic understanding of Christian life.

Gospel Reflection-"Do you now believe?"

By Winston Elliott III

John 16: 29 - 33
29 His disciples said, "Ah, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure! 30 Now we know that you know all things, and need none to question you; by this we believe that you came from God." 31 Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe? 32 The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

Father of Christ, all-seeing, hear our prayers; Look kindly on your servant’s solemn song. He turns his footsteps down a godly path, Who knows, while living, the ingenerate God, And Christ, the king who bans all mortal ills. Once, out of pity for our hard-pressed race, Freely conforming to the Father’s will, He changed his form, taking our mortal frame. Though he was God immortal, freeing us all. From Tartarus’s bondage by his blood. Come now, refresh this soul of yours with words—Pure, godly sayings from this sacred book; Gaze here upon the servants of your Truth Proclaiming life in voices echoing heaven! St Gregory the Theologian. (Gregory of Nazianzus, 168-169)

"Now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure." Are the disciples really turning the corner? Are they finally beginning to comprehend who Jesus truly is? Are they saying this in response to Jesus saying in 16 "A little while, and you will see me no more; again a little while and you will see me"? Is this speaking plainly? I'm not convinced that they truly understand any better who Jesus is at the Last Supper than they have at anytime during their three years with Jesus. The disciples go on to say: "Now we know that you know all things...by this we believe that you came from God." And yet just moments before they exclaim in verses 17 & 18 "what is this he says to us...what does he mean." They believe. But they need help with their unbelief. Don't we all? 

At this point in the story they must be mystified. Just seconds ago they made a strong statement of faith, "we know that you know all things...by this we believe that you came from God," and Jesus responds with:"Do you now believe?" This looks like the Jesus equivalent of "really?" And then it gets worse for our role models in faith. Jesus warns the disciples that things are  going to get very ugly. He tells them that "the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave me alone." Not only will they run and hide but they will abandon Jesus. They will leave their friend, their teacher, who "came from God," behind. They will leave him alone. Do they really believe? How strong is their faith?

Thankfully Jesus does not leave the disciples, or us, in this state of unrest. First he explains that he is never alone "for the Father is with me."  Jesus has never left the community of love, the Blessed Trinity. With him in us and us in him we never have to be alone. Sometimes we, like the disciples, scatter to our homes. These homes are often full of distractions, pains, and troubles. He may be alluding to our "homes" in sin. The sins we turn to when we turn away from Jesus. But, what if we stay "home" with Jesus, in good times and bad?  Jesus answers this when he says: "I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace." He has come that we may have peace. He does not say that the world will be peaceful. He does not say you will not suffer or face trials and tribulations. No. He says: "In me you may have peace." We may have peace in him in a world that is never peaceful. Let us turn to him and find peace in a world of strife. No Jesus is not left alone. And neither are we. We are joined with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We are joined with the community of faithful believers. What is the important point to remember? "In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

Lord, we thank you for we believe that you never leave us alone. That you are with us until the end of the age. Like your disciples we believe. Help us in  our unbelief. With your grace we may grow in faith and love. With your grace we may share your love with all creation. Father, Son and Holy Spirit thank you for showing us your community of love and for letting us join with you. Teach us to love as You love. Amen.


Mary, our Hope, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us.

The Life of Faith-Romano Guardini

O God, creator and Father of life, you have given us temporal life that we may grow and perfect ourselves in it. You have placed it in our hands that we may lead it righteously, and you will in time demand an account of how we used it. But you have also given us another life, which awakens at the hour ordained by your mercy before the proof of your revelation. It comes from eternity, and is created in us by the Holy Spirit, giver of life. This life also you have placed in our hands. We may keep it intact, but we may also squander it; we may take pains to see that it grows and matures, but also neglect it and let it fall into ruin. And a time will come when you will demand an account of how we have used it.

Let me know always, O Lord, that this sacred life is within me. Let me stay aware that it is more real than all temporal life. Grant that I feel it's divine preciousness, which holds the ultimate meaning of our experience.

Give me great seriousness in all the concerns faith. Teach me to see what it needs to exist and to be faithful. Let me know its strength but also its weakness. If with the passing of time my feeling should change, and with it the human form though not the divine content of my faith, then teach me to understand this change. Grant that in the tests that it will bring I may stand firm, so that my faith may constantly gain stature and maturity, as you, O ruler of all life, have so ordained it.

Amen.
(From Prayers from Theology by Romano Guardini)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Encounter with Christ by Barbara J. Elliott

Fr. David & Fr. Bruce Noble
by Barbara J. Elliott

I had never been in a hospice before, although several people had encouraged me to go and serve there.  It just didn’t seem like my calling.  Why go to serve the dying, when I can work among the living to equip them for a better life?  It all seemed so depressing. 

There was no one more surprised than I when I found myself walking into a hospice in Houston one spring evening, laden with flowers, fresh raspberries, sushi and champagne to visit Fr. David Noble. He was succumbing after a valiant struggle against cancer. I learned that afternoon from his twin, Fr. Bruce, that shortly after arriving at the hospice, the patient had expressed a hankering for salmon.  And I knew from experience that a drop of bubbly would be welcome, having quaffed several with the Australian priests on a number of occasions. 

Instead of the dreary, weepy atmosphere I anticipated, I walked into a celebration, replete with balloons, a chocolate cake, and cheerful guests bursting out of the hospice room. The nurse had to push her way through the well-wishers to get to the patient.  And while chemotherapy and cancer had made Fr. David visibly weaker, he was the soul of wit and wisdom he had been over the decade I had known him.  This was a celebration of life, in the company of people who loved these identical priests.  Their separation from one another, or from us, was unimaginable. 

Cutting small bites of salmon and spearing them to Fr. David was a joyful task for me.  As I fed him a piece, I remembered the times he had put the Eucharistic Lord into my mouth at Mass.  I helped him lift his head to sip from the champagne flute. 

The love among these two priests and the people who had become their friends was palpable. They had served for years as hospital chaplains and leaders of Marriage Encounters all over the world. These men who had served were now being served, in an ellipse of love returning.  We ate, drank, and prayed, then two young opera singers with angelic voices gave an impromptu performance of Ave Maria to conclude the celebration.

When I returned two evenings later, Fr. David had weakened significantly. He could no longer speak or drink from a cup.  The twin priests had been scheduled to speak at a gala that evening, but Fr. Bruce had been persuaded by cooler heads to forego the grand public goodbye for his brother, leave him in bed, and go alone.  I promised to stay with Fr. David while all the others would be gone. 

In that time by his bedside, as Fr. David drifted in and out of morphine sleep, I took his hand and stroked the top of his head, where hair had been only days before. Is it wrong to be this familiar with a defenseless priest, I wondered, even if he is an old friend? I decided I would treat him like a father, since indeed, he was one.  I poured out prayer in waves of love that transcended words, interceding for the path of his soul and the strengthening of his brother who would be left behind.  Being able to adjust Fr. David’s sheets and pillow to make him comfortable was almost a relief, so great was the desire to do something, anything, to help.  I watched and waited, grateful for the silence to pray, and even more so for the joy of just being there as a presence of love.    

As people began to arrive after the benefit, the nurse posted me as the guard while she completed her work.  One parishioner had brought a rare port from Australia, along with beautiful small glasses – her best, she said, because she knew Fr. David appreciated them.  This was her flask of finest perfume, poured out for the alter Christus while he was still among us.

As the group came into the room, I was surprised at the somber mood and hushed tones.  An inexplicable joy welled up in me as I stood by the bed with a lollipop sponge, putting drops of water, then port, onto Fr. David’s tongue. As the friends came forward one by one to say a few words to him, I hugged the ones who were wiping away tears. I found myself thinking, “We know where he is going now – how can we not be joyful for him?“ but didn’t say it, because it sounds like one of the sappy things annoyingly pious people would say.  But somehow the joy and love that was welling up in me was brimming over into embraces for the others grieving.  And it seemed perfectly normal at that moment, although I had never been in that situation.   I stayed to help Fr. Bruce put sheets on the rollaway bed, so he could spend the night in the room.  We both knew that his brother was close to entering the next realm.

As I got into my car in the dark, I had a sudden jolt of turning a corner in time.  I was at the foot of the cross, touching the feet of Jesus.  As his body was taken down, I was wiping it with a cloth.  Then he was alive again. I heard his words in an interior silvery resonance:  “Whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done to me.” 

And in a split-second encounter I finally understood what Mother Teresa meant when she said she touched the body of Christ in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor.  As she washed the bodies of dying men and women, laid them in fresh sheets, and gave them a drink of water, in some mystical way she was touching the body of Christ himself.

I touched Christ’s body. I sat there stunned.

Saint Augstine on our Lord's Ascension

(Sermo de Ascensione Domini, Mai 98, 1-2: PLS 2, 494-495)

Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.

Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this when he cried out from above:Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? and when he said: I was hungry and you gave me food.

Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unites us to him? While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love.

He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven. The fact that he was in heaven even while he was on earth is borne out by his own statement: No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven.

These words are explained by our oneness with Christ, for he is our head and we are his body. No one ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ: he is the Son of Man by his union with us, and we by our union with him are the sons of God. So the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body.

Out of compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace. Thus, no one but Christ descended and no one but Christ ascended; not because there is no distinction between the head and the body, but because the body as a unity cannot be separated from the head.

On the Ascension and Presence of Jesus Christ

On the Ascension from Insight Scoop, by Carl Olson

 

First, here is a short excerpt from "The Ascension: The Beginning of a New Nearness," from Images of Hope: Meditations on Major Feasts (Ignatius, 2006):

You are surely familiar with all those precious, naïve images in which only the feet of Jesus are visible, sticking out of the cloud, at the heads of the apostles. The cloud, for its part, is a dark circle on the perimeter; on the inside, however, blazing light. It occurs to me that precisely in the apparent naïveté of this representation something very deep comes into view. All we see of Christ in the time of history are his feet and the cloud. His feet—what are they?

We are reminded, first of all, of a peculiar sentence from the Resurrection account in Matthew's Gospel, where it is said that the women held onto the feet of the Risen Lord and worshipped him. As the Risen One, he towers over earthly proportions. We can still only touch his feet; and we touch them in adoration. Here we could reflect that we come as worshippers, following his trail, close to his footsteps. Praying, we go to him; praying, we touch him, even if in this world, so to speak, always only from below, only from afar, always only on the trail of his earthly steps. At the same time it becomes clear that we do not find the footprints of Christ when we look only below, when we measure only footprints and want to subsume faith in the obvious. The Lord is movement toward above, and only in moving ourselves, in looking up and ascending, do we recognize him.

When we read the Church Fathers something important is added. The correct ascent of man occurs precisely where he learns, in humbly turning toward his neighbor, to bow very deeply, down to his feet, down to the gesture of the washing of feet. It is precisely humility, which can bow low, that carries man upward. This is the dynamic of ascent that the feast of the Ascension wants to teach us.
And this from "The Threefold Presence of Christ", from You Crown the Year With Your Goodness: Sermons Throught the Liturgical Year (Ignatius, 1989), by Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar:

[Christ's] disappearance from the world begins with his Passion and ends with his Ascension. For since he was laid in the tomb, no worldly person, no one who lacks the Spirit of Christ, has seen him anymore. His coming to us, however, starts on Easter morning, where he meets one disciple after another; it continues throughout the Forty Days and is brought to its fulfillment at Pentecost, when he pours out his Spirit over the Church and thus fills her with his own innermost being. It is not that his presence changes into his absence; what changes is the mode of his presence. ...

As Catholics we can try to view this new presence from three angles: from God's point of view, from Christ's point of view and from the Church's point of view. ...

The Lord shares in God's mode of presence, but he is not only God, he is also man for all eternity, with a human body and a human soul. Now this humanity explicitly participates in the new mode of his presence and indwelling. And this is the really astonishing and baffling thing: that this finite soul and this limited body can share in the limitless omnipresence and intimacy of God. His wisdom and love have brought this miracle about: it is called "Eucharist". It is not only a spiritual being-together in which the parties think of one another, nor is it simply the kind of presence whereby man is in God: it is an indwelling of the divine-human being of Christ, soul and body, in the whole person, body in body and soul in soul. "He who eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood abides in me and I in him." ...

[Christ] is with us not only as God, not only as the eucharistic God-man, but also, essentially, as Church. What we mean by "Church" comes into being as a result of his Eucharist, from the outpouring of his Spirit; the Church lives in the power of his being-with-us all the days, to the end of the world. ...

Love is heaven on earth. Only thus is the mystery of the Ascension complete, in which the Son comes to us so that we may be where he is. He is with God, and God is love. And if we love, says John, we are with God and in God.

Finally, from my article, "The Image of Man Has Been Raised Up: On the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord":
At the Ascension the crucified, risen Son of God returns to His Father. Having descended to dusty earth, He now returns to heavenly glory. Having conquered death, He ascends to eternal life. But He returns to the right hand of the Father not just as the Word, but as the Incarnate Word. The doors of heaven are now open and humanity can now approach the throne room of God, the way having been paved by the life, death, and resurrection of the God-man. Pentecost, finally, is the manifestation of the God-man's Church, which is both human and divine. The Church was revealed to the world on that day—fifty days after Easter—by the power of the Holy Spirit.

All of this theology is nice enough, but what does it mean for us? It means the Feast of the Ascension is a celebration of salvation won. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that "in the Eastern Church this feast was known as analepsis, the taking up, and also as the episozomene, the salvation, denoting that by ascending into His glory Christ completed the work of our redemption." The tendency is often to think of the Resurrection as the culmination of Jesus' salvific work, but it is the Ascension that places the final stamp of approval on the sacrificial and victorious work of our Savior. This is beautifully expressed in the first chapter of Paul's epistle to the Ephesians:
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might: which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens ... (Eph. 1:17-20).
Now that the Incarnate Son of God has ascended into heaven and sits in the throne room of God, mankind can follow. United to the Son through baptism and deepening communion with Him through reception of the Holy Eucharist and the other sacraments, the hope of heaven is ours.

"The ascension of Christ is our elevation," declared Leo the Great in a sermon on the Ascension, "Hope for the body is also invited where the glory of the Head preceded us. Let us exult, dearly beloved, with worthy joy and be glad with a holy thanksgiving. Today we not only are established as possessors of paradise, but we have even penetrated the heights of the heavens in Christ." Where the sin of the first Adam closed the gates of Paradise, the righteousness of the new Adam has opened them wide.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Gospel Reflection-Speaking Plainly of the Father

by Winston Elliott III

John 16:23b-28
23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. 24 Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. 25 "I have said this to you in figures; the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in figures but tell you plainly of the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name; and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from the Father. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father."

"O Lord Jesus Christ,  open the eyes of my heart, that I may hear Your word and understand and do Your will, for I am a sojourner upon the earth. Hide not Your commandments from me, but open my eyes, that I may perceive the wonders of Your law. Speak unto me the hidden and secret things of Your wisdom. On You do I set my hope, O my God, that You shall enlighten my mind and understanding with the light of Your knowledge, not only to cherish those things which are written, but to do them; that in reading the lives and sayings of the saints I may not sin, but that such may serve for my restoration, enlightenment and sanctification, for the salvation of my soul, and the inheritance of life everlasting. For You are the enlightenment of those who lie in darkness, and from You comes every good deed and every gift.  Amen." (St. John Chrysostom)

Jesus is preparing the Apostles for His death on the cross. They do not know this of course.  But now Jesus is speaking of "that day." Is "that day" a reference to the three days He will be away from His disciples before the resurrection? Is He preparing them for when He will ascend to heaven? He doesn't explain. They, as usual, don't understand what He is telling them. They love Him as a friend and teacher but they do not understand His truth and nature. Not yet. But, Jesus admits that up until this time he has been speaking to them in "figures." But, the hour is coming when He will tell them "plainly of the Father." He will  set their hearts on fire on the road to Emmaus. And again in the Upper Room. Then once more by the Sea of Tiberias when He stood on the beach and called out "...children, have you any fish?" Within moments of hauling in the fish Peter is in the water swimming to His beloved Teacher. And finally on the mountain immediately before His ascension. But was that the end of "speaking plainly of the Father?"

No, for the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit. So Jesus, in unity with the Father and the Spirit spoke to the Apostles after His ascension. And He continues to speak to us today. The Word of God speaks of the Holy Trinity to us in His word, in the Holy Spirit and in the sacraments of His Church. Why is so much effort expended on our behalf? We who are slow to listen and slow to love. According to Jesus it is because "the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from the Father." So simple. So beautiful and so mysterious. Without Divine Grace we can't begin to understand such Love. But, with it we can begin to love as God loves us. Jesus, who "came from the Father...into the world..." is "leaving the world and going to the Father." But in His love for us He never leaves us alone. We are welcome in the Holy Community of the Blessed Trinity. How amazing and how wonderful is so great a gift? Thank you Lord.  

"For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life." Dei Verbum 21 (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Clarity in Religious Practice-Romano Guardini

O God, you bear all creation over the abyss of nothingness and infuse it with your power, so that it moves and lives. You have given a spark of clarity to all things, for only from you, the Father of light, do they receive their truth and their worth.

All things are moved by your breath and filled with your mystery. Each thing guides the spirit of man beyond itself to a being higher than itself, and allows man's heart to sense a power that does not come from his own resources.

Thus, pictures and concepts of the divine originate everywhere among peoples and individuals. Frequently they hold a deep meaning that moves the heart and promises goodness, but they also may hold evil and confusion that lead to error.

And so I beseech you to open my heart to the mystery that everywhere declares itself; but guard it also from the seduction to which it may give rise. Make my conscience secure, that at all times it may call the good good and the evil evil. Enlighten my mind so that it may distinguish that which leads to you, the true Holy One, and that which leads away from you into error and deceit.

Amen.

(From Prayers from Theology by Romano Guardini)