Archive for December, 2010

Friday, December 31, 2010

We Are in The Last Hour

It’s almost 2011.  Remember Y2K? Seems like yesterday…but look at all that’s happened since.

We are in the last hour…Not only of a new year but of the church age. That’s what the Scripture say’s and that’s what our church teaches.

Children, it is the last hour;

and just as you heard the anti-christ was coming,

so now many antichrists have appeared

Thus we know this is the last hour.

—1 John 2:18

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that, “Since the Ascension, God’s plan has entered into it’s fulfillment.”

We are already at “the last hour. Already the final age of the world is with us

and the renewal of the world is irrevocably under way….

—CCC 670

What do you do in the last hours of a new year… in these the last hours of the church age? If you’re like most you make resolutions you can’t keep.

That’s a depressing way to wait for midnight…and for the Lord’s soon return.

The church says the renewal of the world is irrevocably under way.

It teaches us that the Lord promises to renew and strengthen us yet,

…the present time is a time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by distress

and the trial of evil which does not spare the church.

CCC 672

So, back to midnight. When the clock strikes the first second in 2011, time will begin to march in it’s unending parade… again.

Maybe it’s not so much what we determine to do in it,

…….the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.

—Mark 14: 38b

as much as who we determine to take with us into it.

If we invite Jesus into our lives this new year, then when you and I fail, He’ll still be with us. When the march becomes too difficult, He’ll carry us. When the hurt becomes too painful,

He will enable us to do,

like some trees, and perfume the ax which cuts us.

—Archbishop Fulton Sheen

The clock’s ticking, it’s the last hour.

Who’s going with you into the new year ?

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   7:21 PM  |   0 comments
Thursday, December 30, 2010

Men Have Forgotten God

On May 10 1983, on the occasion of accepting the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, Soviet dissident Alexandr Solzhenitsyn remarked,

If I were called upon to identify briefly the principle trait of the entire twentieth century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy, than to repeat once again, ‘Men have forgotton God’.

That is a profound statement, especially from a man sentenced to eight years in a Russian prison camp in 1945 for criticizing Stalin in a personal letter. He had a deep Christian faith, was an icon of freedom to the western world– But critical of it because he considered it spiritually deteriorated.

Duh.

He gave a searing speech to Harvard’s graduating class of 1978, speaking on the ‘decline of courage’ an outsider notices in the Western World. You can read it here. It’s a little long, but well worth the time.

Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard Speech

On the threshold of 2011, my prayer for us in this New Year as individuals, as a nation and a church is, Psalms 111:10,

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;

a good understanding have all those who practice it.

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   2:19 AM  |   0 comments
Wednesday, December 29, 2010

St Thomas Becket-Martyr-Patron of Feisty Saints

Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?

—Henry II

Hidden in the falling out of this friendship is a key for those of us who desire to be saints, yet struggle with a few character flaws.

As tensions boiled and fumed between the two friends and their differences foamed to the surface over issues of taxation, punishment of clerics by secular courts, and the right of appeal to Rome, it seems the character flaws that made Becket a powerful chancellor –excessive self confidence and obstinacy –were the very traits that made him a commanding archbishop.

At one point they somewhat repaired relations, but continued to have unresolved issues. When Thomas returned to England, he wrote a letter to Henry addressing his concerns, speaking of the peace he “sincerely” and “affectionately ” tried to make with him to no avail. Becket says,

the guilelessness and good faith I heard in your words were not apparant in deeds.

….It is plain that the holy church of Canterbury, the mother in Christ of the Britons, is perishing because of the hatred directed at me.

Rather than let her perish, I shall expose my head to the blows of my persecutors. I am ready not only to die for Christ, but to endure a thousand deaths and all manner of torments, if he by his grace will grant me the strength to suffer.

After another kerfuffle involving Thomas excommunicating bishops who had coronated young Henry III, disregarding his rights as Archbishop of Canterbury, it was the last straw for Henry II. Enter the famous quote above regarding being rid of “this turbulent priest.”

Four knights took Henry literally, and went to Canterbury Cathedral to murder Thomas.

Headstrong till the end, he fought off one knight but eventually submitted to their blows.

The very flaws that had denied him sanctity in life, were the ones that won him a crown in his martyrdom.

Do you have days when you don’t live like a saint? When you think your flaws are too big for God to use on your path to sainthood?

We have great examples of what it means to “work out our salvation”, from those who have gone before us in the faith.

There’s always room in our church for one more feisty saint.

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   5:57 PM  |   0 comments
Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Coventry Carol-The Holy Innocents, Martyrs

To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory?

They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ.

—St Quodvultdeus

I never listen to this haunting medieval song that my heart doesn’t melt in the beauty of it’s melody and message. What tremendous sorrow our Blessed Mother experienced.

Along with the Feast of St Stephan, December 26th, the Feast of the Holy Innocents reminds the church that the true destination of the Messiah and the cost of salvation … was His life.

Lord, protect all innocent victims, keep us from the evil designs of men of might. Establish your people in justice, charity and peace..

You are Christ the Lord who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit.    Amen

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   3:40 PM  |   0 comments
Monday, December 27, 2010

St. John, Apostle & Evangelist

St John the Evangelist from the St Thomas altarpiece

St John the Evangelist–From the St Thomas Altarpiece

This morning in his homily, my pastor reminded us of a little known jewel that tradition tells us about this apostle who enjoyed great intimacy with Christ and was the only one of the 12 to live to old age.

During the persecution of Emperor Domitian, it is said that John was taken to Rome where miraculously, he escaped execution. Exiled to Patmos, it was there he wrote the Book of Revelation. In AD 96 he returned to Ephesus where many believe he wrote his gospel.

John, who had been present at the transfiguration, the raising of the daughter of Jairus, and the agony in the garden…was the only one of the 12 to follow Jesus to the cross. The only one. At the tomb, he was the first to arrive…the first to put all the events together and believe.

Here’s the jewel. He lived until, it is said, he was too feeble to preach. John would have to be carried to the assembly at Ephesus to preach– where he was known to always say the same thing.

My little children, love one another.

Why? He was asked

Because it is the Word of the Lord and if you keep it

you do enough.

There’s a Christmas message. Even if you’re the only one…be the first to arrive wherever Christ is , the first to believe whatever He says,

the trusted one to love as the Word of the Lord instructs.

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   5:43 PM  |   0 comments
Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holy Family, Sunday in the Octave of Christmas

File:Giotto - Scrovegni - -20- - Flight into Egypt.jpg

Giotto Scrovegni –  - Flight into Egypt

Sirach 3:2-6,12-14

Colossians 3:12-21

Matthew 2:13-15,19-23

Family life is hard. It’s both a blessing and a cross. Every one of us could tell stories that would make another’s hair stand on end. That’s a reality today as much as it was in Bible times. Nothing new under the sun.

In today’s gospel, Joseph is instructed to take the child and His mother and flee to Egypt to avoid Herod’s murderous plan to destroy the child. There, they would remain in refuge until, in fulfillment of prophecy, the Lord “calls his son out of Egypt” just as the people of Israel were once called out. Beyond the fact that Joseph had a definite “word from the Lord” in his humanity, it had to be difficult to realize that divine providence was in action. What a difficult journey that must have been for the Holy Family.

Our family moved across country several times, with all the modern conveniences and luxuries to help us, and to this day we’re still apologizing for the times we succumbed to impatience and harsh words with one another. It’s one of those “remember when” moments when we occasionally revive the challenges none of us will ever forget. But, by the grace of God, we’re still together and we still love each other.

Families are under fire today all over the world. If you want a recipe for failure leave God out of your life. You’ll get a lot of affirmation for that from our modern culture, but it won’t get you through the situations in family life that humanly speaking seem impossible.

God sets a father in honor over his children;

A mother’s authority he confirms over her son.

—Sirach 3:2

God’s plan for the family is best. We can fight it, but it will only take longer to experience peace… And you may find it will take years for you to “come out of Egypt.”

Brother’s and sisters: Put on as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another…

And let the peace of Christ control your hearts.

—Colossians 3: 12, 15a

Lord Jesus Christ,
who, being made subject to Mary and Joseph,
didst consecrate domestic life
by Thine ineffable virtues;
grant that we,
with the assistance of both,
may be taught by the example
of Thy Holy Family
and may attain to its everlasting fellowship.
Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   9:53 PM  |   0 comments
Friday, December 24, 2010

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Photo Creative Commons License Wayne McLean.

Entrance to the grotto of the nativity.

While all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, thy Almighty Word leapt down from heaven, from the Royal Throne….

Into the midst of the land.

—Wisdom 18: 14-15

And if you were the only one…He would have come just for you.

Blessed Christmas

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   5:04 PM  |   0 comments
Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gregorian Chant Benedictinos

From the Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo de Silos

Take two minutes with a cup of tea and a plate of your best Christmas cookies, close your eyes and rest in the healing sound of this beautiful chant.

Qui cantat, bis orat

A person who sings, prays twice

—St. Augustine

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   1:41 AM  |   0 comments
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

We Need Some Secret Agents

St Peter Canisius  1521-1597

Feast Day December 21

I’m posting this late, but it’s been a long day.

Today I was caught off-guard. It’s Christmas week, so as I was making my rounds for visitation, I expected nothing but cheery deary smiles and hugs. But, I got broadsided with a two by four angry Catholic who resents all the scandals in the church and blames them for her children’s abandoning the faith. I’ve been ambushed before– many times–even spit on once; it’s just that I didn’t expect it from this person. It was a half an hour diatribe of every offense suffered at the hands of a religious going back over 30 years. Though I resolved to do as a good Benedictine (oblate)  should do and ‘listen’ I think my facial expression may have betrayed my irritation over the fervor of her vent. Plus– I just wasn’t in the mood.

All the way home I had my vent with the Lord:

How is the church ever going to recover?

I’m tired and I’ve only been home five years.

When I’m at whit’s end I have a few things I do for immediate spiritual CPR. Prayer and Scripture are the first part of resuscitation the other is to grab my book on saints and absorb myself in the story of the next feast day on the church’s calendar. I have a lot of hero’s lives to catch up on. I was away from the church for 20 years.

Curled up on my living room chair still recovering from my pity party, I came across the life of St. Peter Canisius. Never heard of him. The first sentence I read about him said in 1565 the Vatican was looking for a secret agent to transport the decrees from the Council of Trent to all the European bishops.

Today it would be a simple assignment, but in the 16th century, the last envoy who attempted it fielded hostile Protestants and thieves who stole the documents which weren’t conveniently stored on a thumb drive, but ‘Tridentine tombs’ each 250 pages.  Courage and unquestionable character were traits the Vatican was looking for in their messenger.

For a half century this Jesuit father had led a Catholic reformation in Austria, Bavaria and Bohemia and founded universities. He not only taught but wrote catechisms, brought lapsed Catholics home to the faith, converted Protestants all while finding time to care for the sick and dying during a plague as well as preaching retreats.

In 1555 his famous work, Summary of Christian Doctrine was a catalyst for the Catholic reformation even as Luther’s had promoted the spread of Protestantism. The 16th Century was a time of open hostility between Catholics and Protestants, yet Peter Canisius believed charity and moderation always won over harsh, heated theological debates. He believed that if you discuss things that are distinctive to Catholics like indulgences, purgatory and monastic vows all you’ll get is more division and bitterness.

Can I get an Amen, as one of my former pastors would say?

Peter was a patient insightful man despite having friends who were not as disposed to charity as he was .

No wonder he was the Vatican’s choice for a secret agent…

He suffered a stroke in 1591 that almost took his life, but recovered enough to commit 6 more years to writing until his death in 1597.

How is it that our church, which is so rich in heroic counter cultural witnesses to the faith, has so misplaced the fruits of that heritage? How could we have allowed the church to fall so far from grace?

Whatever the reasons, the renewal begins with me. Everyday. Whenever I meet with discourtesy, or anger I must meet it with the example of Christ and his saints. We must “instruct with meekness,”  Peter says, those who have been made bitter.

Thus by whole- hearted charity and good will we may win them over to us in the Lord

—St. Peter Canisius

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   2:41 AM  |   0 comments
Sunday, December 19, 2010

That Precious White Desk

I knew a little girl once who loved to write. She asked her dad for a little white desk that would fit in the alcove of her bedroom right under a window. In the solitary stillness of a winter’s night, she would slip out of bed and shuffle her pink slippers softly across the floor past her sister’s bed .. to that precious desk. There, she would slowly open the top drawer which held the steno pad and brand new pen her dad said were treasures for a real writer.

What should I write about, daddy?

Write what comes to you from the heart and write it so you wouldn’t be ashamed for anyone to read it..he would say to her.

So, she would hold the pen to the paper while, outside the window, snowflakes fell glistening on the panes like diamonds falling from heaven. When the inspirations came she wrote and whether they brought laughter or tears she recorded them all.

As the years went on and the child grew to a young woman, that first treasured white desk had to be exchanged for a new one in a new house where it didn’t snow anymore; then for a brown one set on cinder blocks in a dorm room.

There were countless desks for her over the years…but none as precious as that white one where she wrote by the light of the winter snow.

I happen to know that though this little girl is now a grown woman, she still writes from the heart… praying that her earthly father, who has gone to his eternal home, is proud of her. She thinks of him a lot at Christmas.

And misses him.

+PAX


posted by Caroline  |   2:51 PM  |   0 comments