Snowstorms, power-outages, and lots of downed tree limbs to remind us to be grateful for the spring.
A few weeks ago I spent a great day with my friend Joe, his son Patrick, Mrs. Howley (Joe’s Mom), and Bailey- the everpresent- family labrador.
As we gathered the broken limbs into two large piles for burning– I thought about the upcoming celebration of Pentecost.
How Jesus— before He ascended to the Father– promised He would send the Holy Spirit to remind us of God’s prensence in our lives and teach us what we need to know to make it to Heaven.
Now approximately 2,000 years later there we were– three generations of Catholic Christians– each with different things on our minds: school, soccer, work, married life and priesthood, family and friends, and a new beginning: in moving for Mrs. Howley.
Each of us working together: helping, encouraging, telling stories, clearing and making sure the fires were stoked and doing their job.
And, as we finished there was a sense of satisfaction and the warmth of family and friendship that had deepened.
There is no doubt that God was there–in the building of a fire that cleared the yard…so that family and friends can come together.
God was there–speaking to each of us–just as He was on that first Pentecost–where tongues of fire appeared and the Holy Spirit descended and brought people together who before had appeared to be separate…now clearly all God’s children.
Through baptism we’ve received the Holy Spirit–through hearing the Word of God and all of the Sacraments we receive and are strengthened in the Spirit’s presence.
May we thank God for and pray that the fire of the Spirit may burn strongly in our hearts and minds…reminding and guiding us of God’s presence and love for each of us…and thanks to the Howley’s for making me remember and to be strengthened by the Spirit.
Every year after the feast of the Ascension there is a sadness as if Jesus really left us. I know the Holy Spirit is coming but sadness is not always relieved by hope. A friend of mine just called. She is struggling so and that struggle has been going on for months. I feel very sad for her and would love to help in any way I could to reduce her pain. We keep praying and there is nothing else for me to do. It will just take time.
It’s important that we remember how new life comes. When a seed is planted it resides in darkness within the earth; pressure all around it. It is being nourished but all it can look forward to, if it will live is to break open. How could this be a “good” thing? But one cannot remain stagnant and there is nothing to do but stretch out. It is not a pleasant experience. The plant has to make room for its growth through the darkness, ever moved from within, pushing through the soil. If it were to cry out to God to take away its pain could He or would He want to do it? The only way the process can stop is through death. Instead, God continues calling the life forth, through the darkness and into the light. Finally in the light comes the realization that all the yearning, pushing, stretching in the darkness was worth it.
It wouldn’t help for me to remind my friend about this in her pain, but when my dark days come, because we each have them, I hope I can remember.
But, this week with the beauty of spring unfolding as we prepare to honor our Mother’s this weekend– two facebook messages touched my heart.
Each from a friend whose Mom has gone home to God.
One several years ago and another just recently… both deeply loved.
The public post of my friend John brought people’s support as well as sharing of their own experiences.
The other was a private message from my friend David. Each reminded me that there’s no doubt about it: God knew what He was doing in asking Mary to be the Mother of Jesus and each of our earthly Mom’s to give birth to us.
And, likewise Jesus knew that we would need Mary–His Mother–to be our Spritual Mother— to help us love our Mother’s during this life– and one day please God to be with them again in Heaven.
As He hung upon the Cross for each of us–Jesus lovingly said to the Blessed Mary: “Woman, behold your son…and to beloved disciple: ”…behold your mother.”
With that Mary became our source of strength–our guide–Our Spiritual Mother to whom we can always turn; especially when we are separated from the physical presence of our earthly Mom’s.
I thank God each day for the incredible gift my Mom continues to be in my life.
I pray for a joyous and blessed Mother’s Day for all you Mom’s out there and for the spiritual presence and consolation to all those whose Mom’s have gone home to God–may you know the love of God and Mary’s care for all her children
It was a beautiful sunny day in Southern California, and 35 Catholic schools boarded buses to arrive at Cantwell Sacred Heart Football Stadium to be part of a youthful, enthusiastic, fun and faith-filled Rosary Rally!
The musical prayer, offered by the St. Monica’s choir, was lively and lyrical, and drew everyone into an excited but prayerful mood. Jaime Linares, a Junior at Cantwell and a beautiful and talented young woman, shared from the heart about the many problems and setbacks which the previous years had placed in her path. Having to move from her house and change schools and going through the death of her grandfather were obstacles indeed, but the Holy Spirit helped her to see the grace and blessings even in these unwanted experiences!
Archbishop Gomez spoke eloquently about the need for personal and communal prayer. The youngsters prayed and sang. The Rosary was prayed with youth dressed in colorful graduation gowns as the beads of the Rosary. Joe Melendrez, a rapper, had everyone on their feet swaying to the rap rhythm! He was leading the youth in rap prayer, believe it or not!
After bag lunches were enjoyed in the shade, Justin Fatica, founder of Hard as Nails Ministry, then gave a strong, positive, encouraging and affirmative witness talk. His message made all feel wanted, significant and people of value whom God needs to reach others in our weary culture. This is the present Church and the future Church. We will be renewed as a Church when such youthful enthusiasts grow into responsible adulthood!
“Children are not things to be molded but people to be unfolded”
My friend Janet’s four children are truly amazing and she looks at them with wonder. She identifies their gifts, both interior and exterior without seeing them as extensions of herself. She marvels at the children, their talents, their incentives, their dreams and determination. She truly sees each one as a person separate from herself. She is a humble woman and an observant mom.
I can’t help seeing Janet in the light of Mary who “pondered all these things in her heart”. Mary knew Jesus was a power much greater than any extension of her. She suffered his pain without intrusion and she lived the joy of the resurrection, not as a mother somehow responsible for either his joy or his pain but merely as a vessel through which he came to be; a vessel once used and emptied, no longer needed and so could be put aside with other vessels, available to be used at will, demanding nothing, claiming nothing.
With Mary’s help may we be aware of the role models in our lives who lead us to prayer and move us to be better people.
I just finished a month in our Brazilian mission, once again visiting Aparecida, the National Shrine of Brazil (please read my earlier blogs), this time to participate the VII Mariological Congress, May 2-5. The Congress was very good and interesting. However, what most impressed me was to experience what we were studying “theologically” during the Congress: I could see reflected in the eyes of so many pilgrims that Mary truly is our Mother who leads us to Christ and who helps us to find our way in this world, as family, as Church.
We were a couple of hundred people gathered for the Congress, amid the hundred thousand or so visitors who visit the Shrine each weekend. It is amazing to see so many families and parish groups that have come from all over the country.
We celebrated the Eucharist in the huge basilica filled people, many whose joys and anxieties were written on their faces. I knew that message of the today’s Gospel, “If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him”, (John 14:23) has been most fulfilled in Our Mother Mary. I knew as well that she helps me to fulfill it too. I think lots of other people knew that also.
Friends, more than 2500 young people showed up for the Inner City Rosary Rally for Youth in Los Angeles. Held at Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary High School, on May 1, 2013 Holy Cross Family Ministries and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles co-sponsored this dynamic event for young people. What a splendid way to kick off Mary’s month of May!
Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez, invited the young people to become people of prayer who speak to God from the heart and to use the powerful prayer of the Rosary to go deeper into the love of God. Saint Monica’s youth Choir lifted the spirits of all with a mixture of Glory and Praise and Gregorian Chant. Rosary Rapper Joe Melendrez and Lay Evangelist Justin Fatica, both captured the imagination and spirits of the youth. A student at Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary High School, Jaime Linares, shared her personal testimony in a moving witness talk. Father John Phalen, CSC, spoke on the Presentation and related this mystery concretely to the many ways in which we present others.
Thanks to Beth Mahoney, Rocco Ambrosio, the Staff at Cantwell, Msgr. Sal Pilato, Superintendent of Catholic High Schools, and so many volunteers for a splendid day of faith to celebrate Mary’s month of May.
Forgetting your keys when you’re running late–a cell phone that loses a call–or a tangled mess of a mircophone line discovered two minutes before Mass.
Everyone of these– plus all of your own– remind us of how we’re constantly in need of God–just to cope with the simple–never mind the complicated stuff of life.
But, as I re-learned while untangling that mess–it’s also a chance to ask God for help, to re-group, and to laugh at how easily we’re derailed–no matter how complex the technology around us.
Jesus offers us His Wisdom, Love, and Peace each and every day….someday’s it takes our own stumbling– to stop and realize just how much we need Him.
So if you’ve had one of those days….think of it this way: it may have been just what you needed to untangle some bigger things in life while you wrestled with the simple.
Hoy nos reunimos, Señor,
Para descubrir tu presencia y tu amor
Que se manifiesta en el Reino
Que has soñado para nosotros.
Ayúdanos a ser constructores generosos para que, apoyados por tu Santo Espíritu
Seamos capaces de anunciar tu Buena Nueva y vivir la Gracia de tu amor
En nuestra comunidad.
“We have to find ways to help families to pray together again,” said Father Lourenço very soon into my visit with our CSC confreres working in Mauá, a city on the eastern side of the huge urban sprawl that is called São Paulo. I have spent almost two months in Brazil so far this year yet I feel like I am still just beginning as we explore new directions for our Family Rosary ministry here.
I am finding the that the social “geography” in Brazil is very complicated by violence, crime, poverty, increasing individualism and materialism. Yet once again I heard from Father Laudeni and Father Lourenço that so many problems are in a significant part due to problems in the family.
Actually, I didn’t expect that my confreres would so quickly come to focus on this issue in their pastoral service and I couldn’t help but be impressed once more by the great importance of Father Peyton’s mission and message. Family prayer means building families on Christ. That´s a solid foundation! Some may think it simplistic. We ourselves at Holy Cross Family Ministries may even at times question if we are being too repetitive and wonder if anyone is listening!
However, in this huge country of Brazil I am learning and seeing on the ground that we need to keep saying it for today, now more than ever: THE FAMILY THAT PRAYS TOGETHER STAYS TOGETHER.
The Arrival of Mr. Robin Red Breast in New England, the Opening Game at Fenway Park, the Boston Marathon, Patriots Day, Easter, the Joy on Boylston Street all came to a shocking halt in the early afternoon as two bombs exploded killing an 8 year-old boy and two young women, wounding 240 others and leading to the the assassination of a young police officer at MIT. The whole nation was transfixed as the grandeur and special celebration of ‘Boston on Patriots Day’ was suddenly marred by great tragedy. Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, summed up the mood well on Good Shepherd Sunday in Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross: “We must build a civilization of Love or there will be no civilization.” We must not let the horrific actions of two misguided young men defeat the Faith, Hope and Love of a nation, or the citizens of a great city. We pray for the dead and their families; for the victims recovering from their wounds, physical and emotional; and for the two young men, one now dead and the other wounded and incarcerated. The great Apostle Paul, once “breathed fire” and persecuted the earliest followers of Christ. But, by God’s grace, his heart turned to Christ and he became the Great Apostle to the Gentiles and was responsible for almost half of the New Testament Scriptures. Paul’s Hymn to Love in First Corinthians is among the most eloquent words ever written or spoken. So we pray for our world and ourselves. Together, let us build a ‘civilization of Love!’
So the world is taken with our new Pope. He was an unexpected choice, coming as he does from Argentina, the first Pope from the southern hemisphere. The first Pope from the American continent, the first Jesuit Pope, and the first Pope to take the name of Francis, lover of nature and the poor!
Half the world’s Catholics come from the American continent. And many folks, especially in the southern hemisphere, are poor. No wonder a Pope from that region would have special concern for nature the poor and the afflicted. Our present Pope is much like the beloved Saint whose name he took. May this Pontiff help us to appreciate nature and reach out to those in need!
When we brought this miniature schnauzer home 14 years ago RC guarded our home from squirrels, chipmunks and cats with a ferocity that drove me crazy. During apple picking time, he would chase all the fallen apples we threw for him; running, jumping and trying to catch them until we were exhausted.
I don’t remember him slowing down. His endurance for ball chasing diminished slowly, he sniffed more and ran less, and his interest in battling critters lessened. We didn’t realize until he started getting lost on hikes that it was because he wasn’t hearing us call. Stairs he once took two at a time, he now can barely manage without help.
For the longest time we felt bereft that he wasn’t the same but bit by bit we are learning who he is now.
My grandmother (who lived to be 92) and I were separated for years because of my parent’s divorce. When we reconnected I was so happy and yet disappointed because she wasn’t the same person who used to play with us when we were children. Her interests had changed too. I still wanted a relationship with her and began to appreciate this “new” grandma. As she aged, so did I and we were both content to sit and watch the ducks rather than walk the path around the lake. When she died I didn’t grieve for the grandmother of my youth but for the grandma I had found to be a friend and companion. She was a joy to me and her philosophy of life has its effect on me still.
RC won’t be with us too much longer but we’re learning to appreciate who he is now. We experience many changes with our loved ones along life’s path, and every day offers the gift of renewal. For today though, I’m grateful for all that we share.
Such a difficult word to embrace… after a weekend of reminiscing of childhood memories, all of a sudden the word “forgiveness” came to mind. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has thought about this word as there are so many of us who at some point in our lives struggle with forgiving another person. For the first time, I realized that it is time to come to peace with it… start digging and start sorting. I wanted to use Excel to sort it all out for me! But when it deals with matters of the heart, only Jesus can help.
This is the challenging part that requires us to put the word “forgiveness” into action, so I asked myself a few questions:
- Do I want to continue to hold this heavy burden?
- Will I be able to forgive those who have sin against me?
- Does the other person deserve my forgiveness?
During the process to finally come to peace with myself, I finally decided to LET GO… and no longer dwell on it! As I start to write to the person who needs my forgiveness, I said to myself, “Jesus is holding my hand, wiping away my tears, and blessing me with healing.” Through the painful process HIS face and last words came to mind “Forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” These were the last words from our father on the cross. After the letter was completed a feeling of peace flowed all over me, a humble peace within.
The Bible says that when God forgives us, He “remembers our sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). This does not mean that the all knowing God forgets because He forgives us. Rather, He chooses not to bring up our sin to Himself or others. When our former sins come to mind, we can choose to dwell upon them (with the resulting guilty feelings), or we can choose to fill our minds with thoughts of the awesome God who forgave us and thank Him for it (Philippians 4:8). Remembering our sins is only beneficial when it reminds us of the extent of God’s forgiveness and makes it easier for us to forgive others (Matthew 18:21-35).
But sometimes, the pain can be so deep that is easier to just bury it and hold on to other things to numb it. I’ve been doing just that for a long time… We need to start digging and sorting, let our spirits forgive as our father did for us, trust in HIM.
Have you been able to forgive?
Who had the brilliant idea that children needed organized sports programs that forced them to practice six days a week and even on Sundays? Even professional teams do not practice that often!
Furthermore, who decided that sports teams for young people had to have practices or games on Sunday mornings, our Sabbath time? One family drew the line when their son’s team declared a practice on Easter morning! I think it very important that we reclaim our Sundays to praise the Lord together as families at Mass! If your son or daughter is the star of the team, then if he or she refuses to give up Sunday mornings to sports then the team will be forced to re-adjust their schedule or lose their best player! Let’s draw the line here and refuse to allow coaches and league officials to infringe upon our sacred Sundays.
Let’s not make sports our god, nor fame nor money. These are false gods indeed. Our family life demands greater attention than running around town as “soccer moms and dads” as if organized sports for the young demanded our ultimate faith and loyalty. I say give to sports what belongs to sports and to God what belongs to God! Let’s return to Sunday prayer together. There is plenty to pray about!
The Easter season is my favorite time of year for all the obvious reasons regarding spring but more than that, because I love the Gospels. My favorite reading is Luke 24:13-35 where Jesus accompanies two grieving, disheartened, and disillusioned men along the road to Emmaus. What always touches me is the fact that he was with them all along but they didn’t recognize him until their hearts were open to receive in the breaking of the bread. The rest of the time they were too focused on their own loss and disappointment to be able to see Jesus for who he was.
Nowadays you hear about the deliberate process of “reframing”. This involves taking a negative thought and looking at it in a more positive light. An example of this recently happened to me rather spontaneously. After our First Friday Mass we have exposition of the Blessed Sacrament so I usually stay to pray. Invariably, regardless of where I kneel, a particular lady always comes to sit behind me. She prays in whispers which I find very annoying. Month after month I realize I’m no longer praying but being aggravated with her. This time I suddenly remembered how St. Therese of Lisieux was disturbed because another sister always splashed her while they were doing laundry. Recalling the story (found in her autobiography The Story of a Soul) I began to pay more attention to this woman, not as if I was now “offering her up” but feeling so blessed to be a witness to her faith. It humbled me and enriched my own prayer.
How many times do we call on God pleading for Him to come to help us but all the time He is here? What I pray for is the grace to realize He is always with me; I just need to look with fresh eyes.
It’s a wonderful time to be a Catholic. Our new Pope Francis keeps surprising us with gestures and acts of great beauty and grace: leaping from the Pope Mobile/Jeep in Saint Peter’s Square to kiss a disabled man on the forehead; washing the feet of young men and women in a juvenile detention center on Holy Thursday; choosing the name of the 2nd most popular saint in history, Francis of Assisi; living in the simple rooms of Casa Sanctae Marthae, preaching in simple but poignant phrases of everyday life. All these wonderful expressions of love for God and all his children.
Finally, He reminds us Christians not to be too self-referential, absorbed with internal Church politics and issues, but to go out to share Good News with all the world, especially the poor and wounded. We are at our best when, like Mary, we reflect and radiate the bright light of Our Lord Jesus Christ; just as the moon reflects the light of the sun. It is no accident that a great symbol for Mary is the Moon. She gives over her entire life to letting her Son Jesus shine upon all of God’s children and all creation. Mary, help us be like you in reflecting the glory of the Son. As we pray the Rosary alone, with family or with the community of the Church, help us come closer to the Light of Christ, the true Light that no darkness can overcome.
Have you ever witnessed an ordination to the priesthood? It’s a beautiful ceremony! The whole Church gathers in lively song. The Candidates enter as Deacons and exit as Priests. There is witnessing on the part of laity to the worthiness and effectiveness of these men in the ministry. There is the moving moment when the Church invokes the Communion of Saints in song as the candidates humbly prostrate themselves on the floor. The Bishop inspires the candidates and the congregation in his homily: “Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practice what you teach!”
The Bishop imposes hands upon the candidates and asks the Holy Spirit to come upon them. The priests present (Last Saturday at Notre Dame there were 112 of them!) come forward and impose hands as well, asking God to make good priests of these men. Hands are anointed; chalice and Scripture are presented. The Mass continues with the new priests as concelebrants, and bells ring our that the holy priesthood has grown and Christ can be all the more present to us!
Pray for Jarrod Waugh, Mark DeMott and Brian Ching of the Congregation of Holy Cross, and pray as well for all your priests, especially the newly ordained, that they serve well the community of Faith in their relationship with God!
What an exciting time to be alive as a Catholic and disciple of Christ! We have experienced the resignation of a pope for the first time in 598 years; we have welcomed a humble and good man to the see of Peter who is the first pope from the new world ever, the first Jesuit, and the first Latin American. His initial gestures as Holy Father have been gracious and humble and filled with God’s overflowing love. Everyone seems energized by Pope Francis; Catholics, Protestants and Jews. A few Agnostics and Atheists are too–but they can’t talk about it, at least in public.
All of this is happening at the holiest time of the year, Lent, Holy Week and Easter week.