In the times we are in currently, all Christians need to read this. Those that do, may not agree, may even strongly disagree with Mr. Wallis; but his words may cause serious thought. Some of the serious questions it raised for me was, how closely do we ally ourselves to a particular government, a particular party? And will that alliance water down the Gospel message? We are challenged to reconsider what it means to be a practicing Christian in today’s world. I have doubts about my own strength, knowledge and faith! It calls for deep reflection and above all prayer.
“Praise be you, O my Lord, for our Brother Wind, and for air and cloud, calms and all weather by whom you uphold life in all creatures.” Canticle of the Creatures – Francis of Assisi
My wife and I are on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We are at my mother in laws home, for a gathering of the clan. I am sitting on a deck, a copy of Henry Thoreau’s Walden in my hand.
I am looking up into blue sky, with wispy clouds being blown across. And I spot seagulls circling above, held up by winds coming off the ocean. It is a quiet time, it is a holy time. St. Francis wanted his followers to live in simple huts, mostly as a commitment to poverty. But I would speculate that he hoped his community would be outside experiencing the beauty of God’s creation. As I was for a glorious moment. And in that moment, my soul felt renewed.
“Most high, almighty, good Lord God, to you belong all praise, glory, honor, and blessing!”
Last Friday, I was coming home from work, going down a walkway from the train platform. I just happened to look down and saw on the ground, two sticks in the form of a cross. I do not know if someone put those sticks together to form a cross; or if the sticks fell together that way. What I can tell you is that the sight stopped me in my tracks.
I must confess that my spiritual life has felt a little dull lately. Practices I have done; have fallen by the wayside. Books I have looked to for spiritual nourishment in the past, have remained unopened. Only at Sunday Mass, do I feel the spark ignite! Yet, at the sight of that little cross, I was inspired to begin to pray. It was only for moment, it was a wonderful moment!
I left the cross as it was; I have no idea if it is still there. I hope it is there for someone else to find.
The following prayer is from St. Francis of Assisi; that he is to have prayed before the San Damiano Cross:
Most high, most glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart. Grant me a right and a perfect charity, feeling, and understanding of you, so that I may be able to accomplish your holy and just commands. Amen!
“Hear, O Lord, the sound of my call; have pity on me, and answer me. Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.
Your presence, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me; do not in anger repel your servant. You are my helper: cast me not off.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27
We have experienced many tragedies in our world, in our country, in our community, and in our Church. Our world has been shaken by the massacre of innocent Muslims in New Zealand. Our country continues to experience natural disasters. Communities in my home State have witnessed shocking violent crimes. And the Church still struggles with the effects of the clergy sexual abuse scandal.
And we speak out, where is God in all this? We seek the Lord to come to our aid; to give us comfort. The truth is that he is always with us. He is present in ones who give us help and comfort. He speaks through those who speak up for the poor and forgotten. And we feel his Presence, when we are still, and listen for his voice.
“Behold, the fiery sun is rising; may blindness at last depart-let us speak nothing underhanded, let us consider nothing dark. To God the Father be glory, and to his only Son, with the Spirit, the Paraclete, for everlasting ages. Amen!” *
*The Little Book of Hours”, Paraclete Press.
An unexpected surprise awaited me when I took my seat on the morning train! This sticker was on the windowsill of my seat. Needless to say, it brought a smile to my face.
Sometimes, God scatters unexpected surprises for us to stumble upon. Whether we encounter them in the world, or deep within our soul; we should be open to them in the moment, and rejoice!
The story goes, that when I was born, my father put forward an unusual name for me. He had been a recent graduate of Boston College, an institution founded by the Society of Jesus; also known as the Jesuits. He had been impressed by these priests and brothers; so much so, that he wanted to name his first born after their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola! My mother, being of strong willed Irish-Italian stock, basically said: “No way!”
A compromise was struck, my baptismal name was given as “Francis,” after St. Francis Xavier, SJ, one of the original members of the Society. My connection with the Jesuits was renewed, when as part of my Deacon formation, I and my classmates attended annual retreats at Campion Hall in Weston MA. It is a Jesuit run retreat center, as well as a retirement home for their members. So I began to learn more about the saint, whose name I almost inherited.
St. Ignatius was born in the Basque country of northern Spain. He originally was raised to be a soldier of Spain. At age 30, he was seriously wounded in a battle defending a town against an invading Spanish army. One of his legs was broken by a cannon ball, and he was brought back to the family home. During his recovery, he read the only books available to him; a life of Jesus Christ, and stories about the saints. Reflecting on what he read, he had a conversion experience. He dedicated his life, body and soul to Christ. The path that he took to reach this point, he would eventually create The Spiritual Exercises. It is a blueprint, a process to help a spiritual director guide a person into a closer, more intimate relationship with God; developing an attentiveness, an openness, and responsiveness to God.
When he was studying at the University of Paris to become a priest, he was also guiding some of his classmates through the Spiritual Exercises. Inspired by what they experienced, six of them, along with Ignatius, decided to form a company, a society, dedicated to serving the Church, under the direction of the Pope. Thus was the Society of Jesus formed. Since that time, Jesuits have traveled the world; as missionaries, educators, writers, parish priests and spiritual directors. One of St. Ignatius’ spiritual sons would be elected as head of the Catholic Church, our current Pontiff, Pope Francis.
St. Ignatius, has been recognized as more of a founder and organizer of a powerful religious community; and not so much as a mystic, except perhaps within the Jesuit communities themselves. That has been changing, more diocesan priests, religious, and laypersons have taken the Spiritual Exercises, and it has enriched their spiritual lives.
Prayer for Generosity
Eternal Word, only begotten Son of God,
Teach me true generosity.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve.
To give without counting the cost,
To fight heedless of wounds,
To labor without seeking rest,
To sacrifice myself without thought of any reward
Save the knowledge that I have done your will.
St. Ignatius of Loyola
Amos 7: 12-15
Ephesians 1: 3-14
Mark 6: 7-13
“Jesus summoned the Twelve, and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.” (Mark 6: 7)
So began a different role for the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. He sent them out to proclaim that a new day was dawning. They went throughout the countryside, calling people to repent, to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God. And they healed the sick, and freed many from the demons that possessed them; signs that the power of God was at work in the land.
In today’s Church, we need to recognize that Jesus Christ is calling us to likewise be proclaimers of the Good News. By our words, by our actions, by the example of our very lives; we reveal the love of God at work in our world. When we share how God has healed us, comforted us, guided us along the right path; we proclaim his goodness. When others witness how we care for friend and stranger alike; they see the love of God at work in the world.
This requires that we be continually open to the love of God ourselves. We must continually seek his guidance, his help, especially during times we falter. We are at our best as evangelizers, when we show our struggles, as well as our successes.
So we go forward, as spreaders of the Good News of Jesus Christ. May we bring back a bountiful harvest.
On July 11th, the Catholic Church; and other Western Christian Churches, remembered and celebrated the life and work of St. Benedict of Nursia. It is believed that he was born around 480 AD. Not much is known about his life. The only biography we have, was written 50 years after his death. Born into a wealthy family, he decided to seek a deeper relationship with God. He became a hermit, loosely attached to a monastic community, in the Italian mountains. Later, as his reputation for holiness grew, he would establish many monastic communities. He is most well known for his monastic Rule.
Many early Christian monasteries were being guided and governed by a rule of life. But, there was something about the Rule of St. Benedict that appealed to those seeking to live a holy life in Christ. Benedict sought to create a balanced life of prayer and work; solitude and community for his followers. It was structured, yet open to the promptings of the Spirit. Benedict goal was to create a community, where the monks could encounter the Christ, the Son of God. Because of this, many communities of monks and nuns were founded throughout Europe; governed by this Rule. St. Benedict is considered the founder of Western Christian Monasticism.
His words continue to inspire and guide religious and laypersons, who wish to draw closer to God.
“Listen, O my son, to the precepts of thy master, and incline the ear of thy heart, and cheerfully receive and faithfully execute the admonitions of thy loving Father, that by the toil of obedience thou mayest return to Him from whom by the sloth of disobedience thou hast gone away.
To thee, therefore, my speech is now directed, who, giving up thine own will, takest up the strong and most excellent arms of obedience, to do battle for Christ the Lord, the true King.
In the first place, beg of Him by most earnest prayer, that He perfect whatever good thou dost begin, in order that He who hath been pleased to count us in the number of His children, need never be grieved at our evil deeds. For we ought at all times so to serve Him with the good things which He hath given us, that He may not, like an angry father, disinherit his children, nor, like a dread lord, enraged at our evil deeds, hand us over to everlasting punishment as most wicked servants, who would not follow Him to glory.
Let us then rise at length, since the Scripture arouseth us, saying: “It is now the hour for us to rise from sleep” (Rom 13:11); and having opened our eyes to the deifying light, let us hear with awestruck ears what the divine voice, crying out daily, doth admonish us, saying: “Today, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Ps 94:8). And again: “He that hath ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches” (Rev 2:7). And what doth He say? — “Come, children, hearken unto me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Ps 33:12). “Run whilst you have the light of life, that the darkness of death overtake you not” (Jn 12:35).
And the Lord seeking His workman in the multitude of the people, to whom He proclaimeth these words, saith again: “Who is the man that desireth life and loveth to see good days” (Ps 33:13)? If hearing this thou answerest, “I am he,” God saith to thee: “If thou wilt have true and everlasting life, keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile; turn away from evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue it” (Ps 33:14-15). And when you shall have done these things, my eyes shall be upon you, and my ears unto your prayers. And before you shall call upon me I will say: “Behold, I am here” (Is 58:9).
What, dearest brethren, can be sweeter to us than this voice of the Lord inviting us? See, in His loving kindness, the Lord showeth us the way of life. Therefore, having our loins girt with faith and the performance of good works, let us walk His ways under the guidance of the Gospel, that we may be found worthy of seeing Him who hath called us to His kingdom (cf 1 Thes 2:12).
Preamble of the Rule of St. Benedict
Isaiah 49: 1-6
Acts 13: 22-26
Luke 1: 57-66, 80
“In those days, Paul said:
‘John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’
‘My brothers, children of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent.'” (Acts 13)
On this day, Catholics, and Eastern Rite Christians celebrate the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. We remember the birth of St. John, we remember what his role in salvation history was. There are theologians who describe him as the bridge between the Old Testament times and the New Testament times. He is considered the last prophet of the Prophetic Age of Israel.
We do not much of his history; we can suspect that he spent time in the desert, fasting and in prayer. Some scholars theorize that John may have had contact with the Essenes a Jewish ascetic community. At some point, the Holy Spirit called him from the desert to the Jordan River, where he began to proclaim the coming of the Messiah, and the Kingdom of God. He called the people to a life of repentance, symbolized by them receiving baptism in the waters of the river. It was on the Jordan River, that he encountered the promised Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. And though he felt unworthy, he baptized Jesus, so that all things would be fulfilled. After this meeting, John continued preaching and baptizing. He would call out Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee, about his lifestyle, and especially his marriage to his brother’s former wife, which violated Jewish law. St. John would pay with his life for being so outspoken.
When we were baptized, we became members of the Body of Christ; as such, we share in his life as priest, prophet, and king. Focusing on our prophetic role; we are called to proclaim the Good News, either by our words or actions. As prophets, we are to speak up for the poor, the persecuted, and the refugee; and speak truth to power. As St. John the Baptist was moved by the Holy Spirit, so we also be open to the promptings of the Spirit, and be true prophets to our world.