“O Lord and Master of my life, grant me not a spirit of sloth, meddling, love of power and idle talk. But give to me, your servant, a spirit of sober-mindedness, humility, patience, and love. Yes, Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother, since you are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen.”
Saint Ephrem, a Syriac Christian, was born around 306 AD, in ancient Mesopotamia. Baptized as a young man, he also was ordained a Deacon. He acquired fame as teacher of the Faith, and as an author of hymns. His hymns were written again to promote and defend the Christian faith, as well to give praise to God. With his fellow Christians, he was forced to flee his homeland for ancient Edessa. He died in 373. He was proclaimed a “Doctor of the Church” by Pope Benedict XV, in 1920.
Feathered parishioners waiting for the 4:00 PM Mass to begin last Saturday at St. Peter’s Church in Plymouth, MA!
“All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.
Each little flower that opens, each little bird that sings, God made their glowing colors, and made their tiny wings.
All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.
All Things Bright and Beautiful, Text by Cecil Frances Alexander
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