Sunday, January 31, 2016

Who Am I Revised

The game I made yesterday, turned out to be a disaster.  My "cloistered brothers" are just not versed enough in hagiography to enjoy the game.  They knew too little.  So instead of the participants just out of the blue guessing "Who Am I?"  We'll read the saint's life.  Then guess who he is.

  This will be read to them.

I was born in 1170. Son of Felix Guzman and Bl. Joan of Aza, he was born at Calaruega, Spain, studied at the Univ. at Palencia, was probably ordained there while pursuing his studies and was appointed canon at Osma in 1199. There he became prior superior of the chapter, which was noted for its strict adherence to the rule of St. Benedict. In 1203 he accompanied Bishop Diego de Avezedo of Osma to Languedoc where we preached against the Albigensians (heresy) and helped reform the Cistercians. I founded an institute for women at Prouille in Albigensian territory in 1206 and attached several preaching friars to it. When papal legate Peter of Castelnan was murdered by the Albigensians in 1208, Pope Innocent III launched a crusade against them headed by Count Simon IV of Montfort which was to continue for the next seven years. I followed the army and preached to the heretics but with no great success. In 1214 I with six followers founded an order devoted to the conversion of the Albigensians; the order was canonically approved by the bishop of Toulouse the following year. I failed to gain approval for his order of preachers at the fourth General Council of the Lateran in 1215 but received Pope Honorius III's approval in the following year, and the Order of Preachers was founded. 

I spent the last years of this life organizing the order, traveling all over Italy, Spain and France preaching and attracting new members and establishing new houses. The new order was phenomenally successful in conversion work as it applied to the concept of harmonizing the intellectual life with popular needs. I convoked the first general council of the order at Bologna in 1220 and died there the following year on August 6, after being forced by illness to return from a preaching tour in Hungary. I was canonized in 1234 and my  Feast day is Aug. 8.  Who am I?

Answer --  I am Saint Dominic

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Who Am I?

I'm working on creating a game for my "cloistered brothers."  The R.C.I.A. catechumen are looking at patron saints. So they will play a game with the rest of the  Bethany Community.  We're calling it, "Who Am I?"

The community will be given two facts.  For example: I am a male, born in 1182.

The catechumen will answer whatever questions the community asks--up to ten questions.
Are you a martyr?   No.
Are you a priest?     No.
Are you married?   No.
Are you a soldier?   At one time.                                                      
Are you a founder of a religious order?  Yes.
Are you known for helping the poor?  Yes.
Are you St. Vincent de Paul?  No.
Are you Spanish?  No.
Are you Italian?  No.
Are you St. Ignatius Loyola?  No.   

The answer is St. Francis of Assisi

Friday, January 29, 2016

What is the Meaning of Life?


Tom Lyman was on Boston Catholic TV, this morning.  He was talking about the New Evangelization.  Tom stressed the need to be ready to share our faith, when the opportunity presents itself.  He gave as an example an encounter with a customer in the checkout line.  He was a stranger but while waiting, the two of them shared a sigh of resignation.  (It looked like a long wait.)  The man said to Tom, "What is the meaning of life?"

Tom said he used the opportunity to share the kerygma.  I understand that Tom shared the Gospel message.  But he didn't say exactly what he told the man.

So all day, I've pondered that question (just in case I'm ever asked, "What is the meaning of life?").

The first thing I'd do is affirm the question and questioner.  This question has been asked by everybody, throughout history, at some point in their lives.  Next, I'd tell him about my experiences volunteering in prison.  Now, if anybody had a good reason to ask, "What is the meaning of life?", it would be someone serving a life sentence behind bars.  Yet, the population I deal with, see a meaning to life.

Some of them have had money, beautiful families, beautiful homes, flashy cars, big boats, great jobs, professions, and even owned businesses.  All of it is gone.  Hence, they have experienced that these things weren't enough.  You would think that having a purpose in life, would give it meaning.  It didn't satisfy.  You always want more.  The more money you have, the more you spend.

What they have found is religion.  Don't scoff.  It's the one thing that has given meaning to their lives.  It teaches that you have a purpose.  Religion offers community and that means support.  Religion teaches you to love and serve others.  You love God and He wants you to love and serve others.

In fact, religion may be a factor, in not only happiness and well-being, but health also.  Is that meaningful enough for you?  There are three locations where people live the longest: Okinawa, Japan, Sardinia, Italy, and Loma Linda, California.  What do they all have in common?  They have religion, yes, but each place has a different religion.  But each religion stresses community--love one another, love God, serve each other.

Okinawa is an island.  Most of the residents are Buddhists.  However, the residents all practice a custom called moais - love one another and serve each other.  Sounds like the Christian Golden Rule doesn't it?  Sardinians are Catholic and love God and He wants us to serve one another.  The people in Loma Linda are Seventh-Day Adventist and practice the Golden Rule.

Hence, I assert that the meaning of life is to find God.  Religion is the path to Him.  And if you don't believe me, I know as a fact, someday you will.  Try religion, what have you got to lose?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

What Will You Request of the Lord?


January 28th, is the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas.  In reading one of Aquinas' conferences I was reminded of a story about him.  It seems that during one meditation, Thomas had a vision of Jesus.  They conversed.  St. Thomas was commended by Jesus for writing so well about Him.  Then Jesus asked Aquinas what reward he wanted for all he had done and written.  The saint answered.

 "Non nisi te, Domine" -- only you, Lord. 

 This story reminded me of when the Lord asked King Solomon the same question.
"Make a request of me, and I will grant it to you."  (2 Chronicles 1: 7)

Solomon answered differently than St. Thomas Aquinas.  But God was pleased with Solomon's request.

Give me, therefore, wisdom and knowledge to lead this people...

Not only did God give Solomon wisdom and knowledge, but also riches and glory.

I compared the two requests.  St. Thomas Aquinas is well known for his wisdom and knowledge.  So he didn't have to ask for that.  He already had it.  And he was smart enough to ask for what is really important--God.

What would I ask for?  I'm not wise, so maybe I should ask what Solomon asked for--wisdom and knowledge.  But when I was given wisdom maybe then I'd see that I should have asked for what Thomas Aquinas asked.  I think I should just copy what the smart person requested.

Only you, Lord.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

You Only See the Stars in the Dark


Tonight's Lay Dominican Study Group turned into a gripe session.  We listened.  We have to stay in community.  It's one of our pillars.  So we tried to turn the discussion toward the positive.  We asked, "Who are the leaders?"  "Who will everyone listen to?"

Someone has to make the effort to cross over and shake hands, include the other and invite him.  We have to try.  The conclusion isn't certain.  But something has to be done.

Evaluation will be next week.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Wondrous

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett is a wondrous book.  My hiking friend, Mary Connor asked me if I had ever read any novels by Ann Patchett.  I said "no."   Then she said, "I think you'll like her."

She's right!  I loved State of Wonder.  What an imagination the author has!  How could she ever imagine such a story line.  The story line revolves around "searching."  First we have some of the characters searching for a fertility drug.  But one of the doctors doesn't stay in touch (it's more complicated than that.)  So one of the researchers goes to find her.  He dies, (that's complicated, too).  Another pharmacologist is sent to search, "What the hell is going on down there?"  This pharmacologist is the main character, Marina.  Communication is the problem and mail doesn't get through. Phones don't work.  So the boss, who happens to be Marina's lover, also, comes down to find her and find out "What the hell is going on?"

What's going on is that all hell is breaking loose.  I'm not giving spoilers.  As Dr. Swenson once said, "Facts sometimes aren't in the story."  And Dr. Swenson is in charge of the facts.

There are lots of surprises.  The fertility drug comes with a bonus side effect.  The doctors do a good job.  More than cures are discovered.

Best of all, I discovered a new author I like.

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Pro-Life Meditation


The homework for my Bible sharing group, this Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, includes reading Jeremiah 1: 4-5:

The word of the Lord came to me, saying:
     Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
        before you were born I dedicated you,
        a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

Since the March for Life was only a few days ago, these verses stood out, for me: "in the womb, I knew you."  These words suggest so much more than God's choosing Jeremiah as a prophet.  It means that before Jeremiah was born, he was chosen.  Ponder "...I knew you."  Wowza!  God knows Jeremiah.  A relationship had begun.  God loved Jeremiah before he was even born.

And God feels the same for each one of us.  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Snow Altar

Many people who were involved in the March for Life got caught in the blizzard.  In fact, they're stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  While waiting to be rescued, the passengers made friends with each other.  The Green Bay bus and the bus from Missouri and others emptied out and found out that one of the groups had a priest.  So the kids made an altar out of snow, and the priest celebrated Mass.





I bet the singing was heartfelt!  Why doesn't mainstream media report wonderful news like this?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Request for Palanca


What's Palanca?

Palanca is a Spanish word that means, "lever."  Just as a lever enables a person to move something, which is beyond normal strength, Palanca empowers the accomplishments of things which would not be possible without the grace of God.

Palanca involves writing letters of encouragement to people attending a Cursillo.  This is what I'm requesting, that you write letters with words of inspiration, and also offer sacrifices for the success of that person's "walk."  This particular Cursillo is special.  It is called a REC (Residents Encountering Christ).  REC is Cursillo inside a prison, South Middlesex Correctional Center for Women.  Due to the rules and exigencies of the prison environment, variations of Cursillo have to be adopted.  No names can be used.  Crosses and rosary, etc., can't be in your letter.  Here are some guidelines:

The letter should be addressed to Sister in Christ or Dear Friend.  It should include the actual palanca that you will be providing to the weekend - such as:

A gift of prayer.  Let them know that you will be praying for them.  Perhaps you will pray for the weekend everytime you have to stop at a red light, or something like that.  They should know it.  (And you should be sure to honor your commitment).

A gift of sacrifice: Perhaps you will give up sweets for the weekend, or a visit to a nursing home.

Try to include an encouraging scripture or inspirational quote.

The letter shouldn't be too long - a maximum of one typewritten page.  Handwritten letters are more meaningful.  Keep in mind that palanca is read by the candidates throughout the weekend when time permits, so letter should not by too long or comples as its meaning may be lost.

Because the weekend takes place within a prison, no gifts such as religious medals or rosaries are permitted.

Please do not use stickers of any kind.

Sign your letter with your first name only.

You may email your letter to Sister Ruth and she will make copies for all the women.  (We are expecting at least 50-60 women who will walk their journey this weekend.  bethanyosfop@aol.com

The weekend is Feb. 19, 20, and 21.  Palanca is needed by Feb. 16.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Preferential Respect


First, if I've violated copyright issues posting the funny above, please contact me and I'll take it off.  This post is for a select group of people.  They will know "what of" and "where of", I'm referencing.

It's an "open secret" among Lay Dominicans that we are supposed to get special treatment when we stand before the pearly gates.  We can even prove it to you by quoting popes and various saints.  However, we know better.  Of course!

But still.

There's a part of us that cuddles up with a nice snug smile when we're listening to a Jesuit, or a Franciscan.  But that's between our confessors and ourselves.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Kiss and Make-Up

I'm preparing my lesson plan on the Sacrament of Reconciliation and it occurred to me that it is easier to explain this sacrament to children than it is to explain it to adults.

Adults correct children.  We stop their sinning and explain that they are doing wrong.  (Like the Confessor does.)

Let's say the children are fighting.  The adult will stop the children.  Listen to the children's side, then the adult will explain and try to resolve the issue. (Like the Confessor does.)

The adult will tell the children to "kiss or shake hands--some gesture of 'making up'".  (Like the Confessors absolves.)

There may be restitution involved.  That depends on the situation.  (Listen to the Confessor's advice.)

I think children readily accept and see the connection.  We adults have too much pride; I guess.  It's more difficult for us to admit we're wrong.  Also, saying "sorry," is a big obstacle, for some.  It's too bad we grew out of "kissing and making up."  Not only would the world be a better place, but we'd be better off, because of it.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Belly Slides

Watching the kids learn to play ice hockey, I was struck by the fact that "how to get up when you fall," is a major technique.  Of course, when you think about it.  Kids just learning how to skate would fall more than they'd skate.  And isn't that a life lesson!

We do fail in life.  Too bad we don't practice "falling."  Again!  and Again!   and Again!

The instructors made it fun for the kids.  They called it "Belly Slides" and they skate fast, and faster, and then throw themselves down on their bellies and slide.  The kids love it.  It's their favorite part of the lesson.  Imagine that!  Falling is their favorite part!

But!  The lesson isn't in the falling.  It isn't just for fun.  It's to practice getting up.

"Getting up" when you fall is the most valuable lesson anyone can learn, whether skating or in life.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Esau's Generositiy

Saturday in the First Week in Ordinary Time has a letter to the Corinthians by Pope Saint Clement I.  I read:
God's blessing must be our objective, and the way to win it our study...
Jacob had the humility to leave his native land on account of his brother, and go and serve Laban.  He was given the twelve tribes
of Israel.
Really?  Clement, really?  Do you think it was humility or fear that was the impetus that drove Jacob away from his home?  Gen. 27: 41.

I have always wondered about Esau.  Scripture doesn't portray a flattering picture of him.  He's impetuous.  So?  Isn't Peter?  But God doesn't choose to favor Esau, as He does Peter.  I choose to think that Esau trusts in God.  No, scripture doesn't support my thesis, but how else to explain that a man as macho as scripture depicts Esau doesn't kill Jacob?

 Esau obviously doesn't hold grudges.  Maybe Esau's generosity is supposed to be an example for us.  Forgive those who have wronged you.

It's Esau who God wants us to emulate, not Jacob.  Esau is the lovable one, not Jacob.  It's Esau who you would want as a friend, not Jacob.  

Friday, January 15, 2016

Brilliant!

At a Christmas Yankee Swap, I received the book, My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante.  What a brilliant gift that was!  I loved the book.  Oh, I have my complaints, i.e., I wish the author didn't have so many characters, I wish they weren't so mean, why did so and so do that, etc.  That's what makes the story so real.  It's so like life.

It's not so much that I identify with the setting, because how could I?  It's exactly what the author depicts is what I always pictured.  I know an order of priests that come from Italy.  In fact, many of these priests grew up in this setting.  That's where I'm coming from.  Also, many of these priests are priests because that was the only way they could further their education--to say they had a vocation.  So it confirmed my impression to see that Rino, Lila, Stefano, Pinuccio, Alfonso, Pasquale, Carmela, Ada, Antonio, Enzo, Marcello, Michele, Gigliola, etc. did not further their education beyond elementary school.

Didn't I tell you there were too many characters?  Additionally, add to the list of characters' names, their nicknames, etc., Raffaella is Lina except to Elena, who calls her Lila, and Elena who is Lenuccia except when called Lenu.  See I don't lie.  OK, I am known to exaggerate, but that's the storyteller's prerogative.

Even so, it's all these characters that make the story so interesting.  Lila is the girlfriend I've had at various times, in my life.  She's mean; she's generous; she's a victim; she's the antagonist--she's us.  And at times, I don't get Elena.  You'll find yourself talking (yelling) at her.  The author is brilliant. She somehow puts us in her story.  You are Lila; you are Lenu.  And this novel isn't chick-lit.  I think it's a perfect picture of post war Italy in the 1950's.  Ferrante has captured the spirit of the times.

Fortunately, it's the first novel, in a series of four.  And as soon as I post this review, I'm off to my volunteer job at the library.  Guess what I'll have a couple of my four eyes, on the lookout for.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Who Was the First to Call Jesus, Lord?


In study group, tonight, one of my "cloistered brothers" was talking about attending a Protestant service.  Well, that brought up the story of Joe and the Rosary.

Joe also used to attend all the church services he could--all denominations.  At one Protestant service, a question came up.  "Who was the first person to call Jesus, Lord?"

Now, these Protestants are well versed in scripture.  But this question stumped them.  No one said anything.  Finally, Joe, the Catholic, raised his hand.  He said, "Elizabeth."  Everyone was astounded that the Catholic knew the answer.

"How did you know that, Joe?"

And he laughed and pulled a Rosary out of his pocket.  "It's in the Rosary!"

Now everyone laughed.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Olivier Messiaen


We often talk about how to give witness to Christ.  We have pocket speeches ready.  We have arguments prepared.  One just never knows when the opportunity will arise when we have to give witness of our faith.

Tonight, I was looking for inspirational models for a "cloistered brother."  I came across a beautiful story.  The man's name is Olivier Messiaen.

He was a musician and organist in France when France was fighting the Germans in World War II. He also was fiercely devout.  He was captured by the Germans and sent to a prisoner of war camp.  As a musician, he was always singing, and composing musical pieces.  A fellow prisoner, a clarinetist, joined him in his musical endeavors, such as they were, with regards to their conditions.

Luckily, their German guards were music lovers and helped them find or make instruments, here and there.  Eventually, the prison camp orchestra had a pianist, cellist, and a violinist, besides the clarinetist.  Olivier composed a piece and held a concert for the prison camp.  His inspiration was the book of Revelation.  One movement was called, "Praise to the Eternity of Jesus" and the final movements was "Praise to the Immortality of Jesus."
“And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire...and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth… And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his 
hand to heaven, and swore by him that liveth for ever and ever...that there should be time no longer: But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished.
Olivier named his opus For the End of Time. It has been called a masterpiece but not many know it because it is so difficult to play.  Not being interested in music, his music isn't what interested me.  It was the fact that the violinist, in the prison camp with Olivier, was an atheist.  But Olivier's music was so beautiful and dedicated to God, that the atheist often wished he had faith.  At least, the beauty Olivier created in his faith-filled heart, and his unwavering love of God forced the atheist to consider the possibility that maybe God existed.  It gave the atheist hope that there was a God.

I am so impressed that in a  prison, Olivier Messiaen gave glory to God in such a way, that an atheist became an agnostic.  It is our behavior that gives the best witness to our faith.


Monday, January 11, 2016

The Cost of a Valentine

The assignment is to write a Valentine story.  This is the first draft.


Every Valentine’s Day I think back to that ill-fated day, Peter gave me his high school ring.  He was a Junior in High School and I was a Freshman.  I was thrilled to have a Junior as a boyfriend.  He was pretty special.  I thought he looked like George Peppard  in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. 

For Christmas, Peter took me to Boston to go ice skating on the Frog Pond.  I thought that was a creative idea.  He didn’t have a job at the time, but he was looking.  So I never expected anything for Valentine’s Day.  I was planning to bake something for him. Boy, he really swept me off my feet when he gave me his high school ring. 

My family invited him to dinner.  We were going to babysit my little sisters.  That’s about it, for the evening.  We played Monopoly until the girls’ bedtime.  I put them to bed.  Then we settled down on the couch to eat and watch TV.  Peter had already given me a Valentine card and I thought that was it.  But he asked to go steady.  There was no chance I was going to say “no.”  Then he took off his new, high school class ring and put it on my finger. 

I couldn’t believe it.  There’s this huge, shiny, class ring on my finger!  Me! With a junior’s ring.  Wait till my friends see me now! 

Since it was too big for me, I wrapped tape around it.  The next day, I proudly showed everybody.  At the time, that was the proudest day of my life.  Everyone, o-o-o-hed and a-a-a-ahed over the ring.  They said I was so-o-o lucky.  I walked on air for a couple of days.

Nothing last forever, right?  Poor Peter  will never forget that day, either.  He had to do something very hard for a young man to do.  He was humiliated and shamed. 

It seemed that since he never had the money to buy his ring, his mother gave him the money.  Peter’s family was hard working.  Both his parents worked.  His mother worked in a paper mill.  She gave Peter the money to buy his class ring out of her hard earned money.  When she heard that he gave his ring to me, she threw a fit.  She was enraged.  She even hit him; she practically foamed at the mouth.  She demanded that he get HER ring back!  She paid for it; it was hers; he had no right to give it away.

Peter almost cried when he told me what happened.  He looked so whipped!  I was embarrassed myself.  I didn’t know what to say to lessen his humiliation.  I just felt terrible because he felt so bad.  What a bitch his mother was!  Of course, I gave him his mother’s ring back.  I didn’t know what else to do.  Everyone, sympathized with Peter. She even put her ring on and wore it proudly.  She even bragged about what she had done.

At first, I planned on taking up a collection to raise the money for the class ring.  Then I was going to throw the money in Peter’s mother’s face and say, “Here’s your frickin money!!!”   But that was just fantasizing.  I never did anything but tell everyone how mean Peter’s mother was.  The whole event affected our relationship, too.  I couldn’t picture marrying into a family like Peter’s.  Imagine having a mother-in-law like that.  Peter started acting strange, too.  It was like he couldn’t look me in the eye, anymore.  We weren’t enjoying ourselves like before.  It seemed all we did was commiserate over the class ring.  His mother had hurt more than a young man’s esteem.  

Eventually, Peter found an after school job.  I saw less and less of him.  Soon he was gone.  But not the memory of his humiliation.  To this day, I think of his water filled eyes and shaky voice telling me that his mother was mad that he gave me the ring.  His mother had paid for it and wanted it back.

I couldn’t believe it then, and I still find it hard.  How could a mother humiliate her son like that?  Yes, she spoke the truth; she paid for it.  But that’s my point.  She was only thinking of herself, not her son.  She may have won a ring, but she also
lost a son.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Perceptions and Misperceptions


Surfing Facebook this morning I came across an article 11 Hidden Castles in Massachusetts.  I knew
my high school would be among them.  Sure enough!  There it was, # 11.

Many things came to mind.  The title of the article, itself, was the first.  These castles aren't hidden.  People in the area know them.  Second, that misnomer gave me cause to reflect.  Misperceptions have a life of their own.  Most of the time, there's no rational reason for them.  There may be a slight thread of an immature impression that resulted in the misperception.  Hopefully, that misperception will be corrected by an open mind.

My early impressions of my high school were connected to the seminary next door.  St. Basil's Seminary, back in the day, decorated its building with lights, during the Christmas season.  I had always assumed that all the adjacent buildings belonged to St. Basil's.  When my parents were suggesting high schools, and Presentation of Mary Academy came up, I was surprised that it was a bona fide school on its own, not part of St. Basil's.


Remembering my high school days, I think of the fun.  We had a pond on the property.  We skated in the winter.  We had nice rolling hills that were perfect for sledding, especially tobogganing.  We had what we called a "runway."  It was a covered pedestrian bridge that connected the school to the convent.  I could tell you some funny (strange, creepy, and funny) stories.  But I won't, to protect the innocent.  The grounds were spacious and beautiful.  I was always rather proud to have gone to high school, in a castle.

Fast forward to marriage.  When I brought my husband around my hometown, I showed him where I went to high school.  His response, "You went to a prison?  Was it a reform school?"  Prison?  How insulting!

You just can't account for people's perceptions.  This one school, Presentation of Mary Academy has been perceived as:
seminary
high school
castle
prison

As for me and all PMA Alumni, it's a high school blessed to be in a castle.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Water Made Holy


In Bible Sharing, Frank asked, "Why would Jesus need to be baptized?"  We offered different reasons, but this morning I read one we never imagined.  This is from a sermon by Saint Maximus of Turin, bishop.

Christ is baptized, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by his cleansing to purify the waters which he touched.  For the consecration of Christ involves a more significant consecration of the water.  For when the Savior is washed all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages.  Christ is the first to be baptized, then so that Christians will follow after him with confidence.

We did think that Jesus was giving us an example to follow.  He always obeyed the religious rules.  But the Hebrews weren't baptizing.  Jews don't get baptized.  So, Jesus was giving us an example of new rules.  Water will change us, wash us clean, so to speak.  True, the church teaches that baptism takes away Original Sin.  It signifies that we are now on the road to Christ.  We are now Christians.  All this because of water.

Think of this when you hear this Sunday's gospel, The Baptism of the Lord.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

There Are No Accidents


First, I confused my days and thought I had a R.C.I.A. class today.  I didn't.  So since I was there, I thought I'd stop in and visit the facilitator of the novices, especially since I'm the Formation Director.  There was a class for novices going on.  It's a good thing I went because I discovered a grave error, on my part.  The Module the novices were working on, was the Rule of the Lay Fraternity of St. Dominic.  Well, novices don't have the Rule.  We've been awarding them to novices when they are advancing to Temporary Promises.  We should have been awarding them to postulants, not novices.  Here's poor Steve talking about the Rule, and these guys don't have the Rule in front of them.

Regardless, Steve did a good job.  We discussed the Rule in general.  Then he read a few things out loud, for the men.  The discussion was fruitful.

When I was leaving the building, I walked out with the minister of the Refuge Church.  When he asked how my day was going, I told him it wasn't going very well because I made a scheduling mistake and came in for R.C.I.A. and there was none.  He responded with, "There are no accidents."

He's right.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Is There Anyone We Wouldn't Love?


Sister Mary Lou Knownacki is my "go to" person for "forgiveness inspirations.  She seems to always say what I wish I could not only say, but do.  What particularly strikes me is the example of Phan Thi Kim Phuc.  Here is the famous picture of her running naked down a road with her back on fire from napalm during the Vietnam War. The young soldier, John Plummer, who organized and participated in the air strike on her village in 1972 was haunted by that Pulitzer Prize winning photo.

Kim Phuc underwent plastic surgery, married, defected to Canada and became a spokesperson for UNESCO.  She forgave him and moved on.

But John Plummer returned home racked with guilt, divorced, turned to alcohol, and then met his second wife, who led him to God and eventually to serve as a minister. Plummer said he thought about Kim Phuc every day and wanted to tell her how sorry he was but could not summon the courage to contact her.

Then in 1996, Kim Phuc was the main speaker at a special service at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. Plummer went to the observance and heard Kim Phuc say that if she met the pilot of the plane she would tell him she forgives him and that they cannot change the past but she would hope they both could work together to build the future.

Through friends, Plummer got the word to Phuc that the soldier she wanted to meet was there. "She saw my grief, my pain, my sorrow," Plummer wrote. "She held her arms to me and embraced me. All I could say was 'I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm sorry' over and over again. At the same time, she was saying 'It's all right. It's all right. I forgive. I forgive.'" Kim Phuc and Rev. Plummer met many times after that and even worked together on a few projects. Kim Phuc, who lost two brothers in that 1972 bombing raid, now considers Plummer her brother. Plummer says, "She's the closest thing to a saint I ever met."

Forgiveness is so necessary.  Otherwise, bitterness festers.  It's a wound that won't heal.  And the offender can't heal it.  Only the wounded person can heal it because the wounded person maintains it.   
Only the wounded person can free themselves from the burden of hurts.  If we're honest with ourselves we might see that maybe our side of the story isn't the only side.  Do we even remember clearly what happened?  Are we really sure it was intentional?  Mary Lou Knownack asks, "Is there anyone we wouldn't love, if we only knew their story?" Do we pray to forgive?

Monday, January 4, 2016

2016 Religious Feasts


On the Epiphany, after the Gospel, traditionally the Deacon will announce from the ambo the upcoming religious feast:

Know Dear Brethren that, as we have rejoiced at the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, so by leave of God's mercy we announce to you also the joy of his Resurrection, who is our Savior:

On the 10th day of February will fall Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of the fast of the most sacred Lenten season.

On the 27th day of March you will celebrate with joy Easter Day, the Paschal feast of our Lord Jesus Christ.

On the 5th day of May will be the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.

On the 15th day of May, the feast of Pentecost.

On the 29th day of May, the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

On the 27th day of November, the First Sunday of Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is honor and glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A.D. 20 + C + M + B + 16

A.D. 20 + C + M + B + 16, is not code.  It is a traditional house blessing.  You write on the lintel of the door above the entrance to your home.  You may live in an apartment, then write above your door.  I've also seen it written above doors in rooms.  It's the spirit of the intention, not the exact position, that is meaningful.

The story of the meaning I heard begins in Germany.  Every year around Epiphany, children play "three kings."  They dress as the Magi and go door to door.  One child would carry charcoal or chalk.  Another would have holy water.  The third would carry incense.  The head of the household would take the chalk or charcoal and put A.D. 20 + C + M + B + 16 above the door entrance.  Then the holy water would be sprinkled throughout the house.  This procession was led by the child swinging an incenser.

Note that A.D. 20 + C + M + B + 16 begins and ends with the date of the current year.  It's the year of the Lord, Anno Domino, 2016.  The letters in the middle: C, M, B, stand for the names of the three Magi: Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar.

C,M, B, could also stand for the Latin phrase: Christus Mansionem Benedicat, Christ bless this house.

When the procession was proceeding through the house, a blessing would be prayed by the head of the household.  Something to the effect of:

Lord,
we beg you to visit this house
and banish all evil.  May your holy
angels dwell here and keep us
in peace, and may your blessing be
upon us always.  Through Christ our Lord.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Visible Invisible


Granted, I'm not the sharpest tool in the box.  But I find it hard to believe that I missed a Eucharistic reference in a book I read and loved.  Bishop Robert Barron's book review of All The Light You Cannot See is impressed with the author's, (Anthony Doerr) crafted illusions to the Eucharistic miracle celebrated in the Catholic Mass.  During Mass, through the words of the ordained celebrant, a transubstantiation occurs.  It is invisible to the common human eye, but not to the spiritually attuned eye of faith.  It is extraordinarily transcendent.  As the bishop points out in Doerr's wonderfully worded supposition, "If invisible electrical impulses travel constantly along certain paths, is it so hard to believe that souls might also travel those paths?"  It shouldn't to Catholics.

And here I thought the novel was about a jewel.  I'm embarrassed.


Prayers to Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Again.

As flood-weary towns near St. Louis began to regroup from record high water, Mississippi River communities farther south braced for the peak of flooding that has already damaged hundreds of homes and businesses and killed nearly two dozen people.  Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015 the flood level was 7 1/2 feet.
 It's certainly time to pray.
Prayer for Protection against Storms and Hurricanes
Our Father in Heaven through the intercession of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, spare us during this Hurricane season from all harm.  Protect us and our homes from all disasters of nature.  Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.  
Prayer to Avert Storms and Hurricanes 
Father, all the elements of nature obey your command.  Calm the storms and hurricanes that threaten us and turn our fear of your power into praise of your goodness.  Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.



Friday, January 1, 2016

It Works Best



Handmade by a "Cloistered Brother"

The feel of my favorite rosary brings me to prayer.  Just seeing it draws me.  I like the tiny, smooth and shiny feel under my finger tips.  Feeling it under my pillow gives me comfort.  I just think pray, whenever I see or feel it.

Dominican Rosary
My fav
The same isn't true for other rosary beads.  You'd think my Dominican rosary would be my favorite.  But it's not.  It's too big and has too many added medals.  You'd think the rosary my "cloistered brother" made for me would be special.  I even have a rosary blessed by both Blessed Pere Lataste and the Master of the Dominican Order.  It's a corded rosary but is always twisted and I usually spend my time pulling on it to straighten it out, rather than remembering where I am.

No, it's this small sterling one.  I don't even remember where I purchased it.  But I love it so.