Saint Benedict, Happy Feast Day!

Benedict of NursiaOn 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[95]: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[34]: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[34]: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[34]: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

Nativity of St. John the Baptist – June 24th

Nativity of John the BaptistIsaiah 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.

Morning Prayer – From Psalm 143

Dawn BSU

At dawn let me hear of your kindness, for in you I trust.  Show me the path I should walk, for to you I entrust my life.

Rescue me, Lord, from my foes, for in you I hope.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.  May your kind spirit guide me on ground that is level.

For name’s sake, Lord, give me life, in your justice lead me out of distress.

(Psalm143: 8-11)

This psalm is  one of those that is recited during Morning Prayer in the Liturgy of Hours.  It is a prayer of hope, that God will be with us throughout our day, through good times, and difficult times.  It is a prayer of someone who is seeking the Lord’s guidance in one’s daily life.  No matter how mundane, how boring, how stressful our lives may be, we hope that God is guiding us.  We pray that we are open to that guidance.

A Wedding Homily – 2017

Welcome, we are all here to witness something awesome!  We have come to witness two unique individuals come forward, and with God’s grace,  become one.  We are about to witness the power of their love for each other, and the power of God’s love, made present here before us; and that should fill us all with awe!
For that is one of the objectives that a celebration of a sacrament is suppose to accomplish.  It is an opportunity to encounter the Divine; through the ordinary objects that our God has created: water, olive oil, bread and wine,..a ring.  A sacrament is also a means by which God transforms the individual or individuals who are receiving the sacrament.  Through the waters of Baptism, we are cleansed of sin, and become born again as a child of God.  Through the anointing with holy oil, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit.  When we receive consecrated bread and wine, we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and become one with Christ.  And in the exchange of rings, which symbolizes the pledge, in love, of a man and a woman to each other, to their union.  And it also symbolizes God’s pledge to you both; that He will be with you always.

For God is the source of all life, and of all love.  And through His Spirit, that love can fill your hearts, your souls, all the way down into the very depths of your being.  The power of God’s Presence within you, the power of His love; will help you experience the joyful times more intensely; will help you through the trying times with more hope.  Remember always the description of love we have just heard from the writings of St. Paul:

“It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.”                  (1 Corinthians)

Love will never fail, if we continually open our hearts, and be present to God, the Father.  A Dutch priest and author, had a personal revelation; reflecting on when God addressed Jesus, as He was coming up out of the waters of the Jordan River, as His “Beloved.”  And He also calls you, me,  all of us here, “Beloved.”  Whether we have been good or bad; whether we have ignored Him or not; whether we believe in Him or not; He still calls each one of us”Beloved.”

It is by the power of that love; by the gift of His Spirit, that you both have been drawn to this place, to this sacred moment of time.  And we have all been drawn here to witness something awesome.

Fifth Week of Lent Reflection – 2017

Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise.’  Martha said to him, ‘I I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day’  Jesus told her,

‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and in me will never die.’

I think that in many ways, the above statement by Jesus is among the most powerful in Saint John’s Gospel.  It is indeed, the “Good News” that a suffering, weary world is waiting for, yearning for.

I feel, however, that these words give more than hope for eternal life, after death.  For those of us weighed down by the life’s heavy burdens; we will rise!  For those of us threatened by persecution and discrimination; we will rise!  For those of us who are in depression and despair; we will rise!  By the love and power of Christ; we will rise!


First Sunday of Lent – 2017


Since last Wednesday, “Ash Wednesday,” the Catholic Church, along with other Christian churches, began a 40 day period of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.  This leads up to Holy Week, and the commemoration of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Today, the First Sunday of Lent, the sanctuary of our church is decorated in somber, purple; with no flowers.  We process in, not with hymns, but chanting prayers, begging for God’s mercy; and for the intercession of the saints.

The scripture readings for today, first tell of how our first parents, gave into temptation, and brought sin and death into the world.  Then  we hear the Gospel, the “Good News,” of how Jesus resisted temptation, and began the journey that would lead to our liberation.  

So how will we spend these days of Lent; will we intensify our spiritual lives? Will we “repent and believe the Good News?”  Will we be lights to a world so threatened by darkness, by hate, and violence.  Let us “prepare the way of the Lord, and be witnesses of the power of His Love!

Burn And Beat Back the Darkness

Burn

 

The tragic events of the past few weeks, give the impression of a creeping darkness enveloping our world, our country, our communities, our very lives.  And we appear to be powerless to beat it back.

The darkness of terrorism is creeping into our world; whether individual acts of terror, like in Orlando, Florida; or the organized terrorist attack at the airport of Istanbul and the restaurant in Bangladesh.  Violence is casting a pall over the world.  And it is causing another type of darkness to grow and spread; the darkness of fear and intolerance.  We have politicians painting one ethnic group, one religious group, as the breeding ground for terrorists, and calling for denying them the human rights that belong to every human being.  We see citizens attacking both immigrants and native born, all because of the faith they subscribe to.  We see fear mongering, name calling, and personal attacks becoming standard practice among our politicians; and causing a darkness to creep into our political process.  And the darkness is creeping into the hearts of all us; as we see a world plunging into chaos.  The stress of daily life, in uncertain economic times, is putting out the light of hope; leaving depression, sadness, darkness.

In times such as these I find my hope in words that, though written thousands of ago, still have the power to move my heart, to set my heart aflame:

“In the beginning, the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  From the very beginning the Word was with God.  Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him.  The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.”  (John 1: 1-5)

In Christ, when I; when any of us, encounter Him in Word and Sacrament, hope can rekindled in our hearts.  And if Christ can enflame our hearts, we in turn must share that flame of hope with others, and dispel the darkness.

There is story about a Desert Father, one who spent most his life as hermit, who was approached by a disciple for guidance.  The disciple had been fervent in prayer, diligent in fasting and meditating on the Scriptures.  He wanted to know what more he needed to do?  The Desert Father raised his hands over his head, and spread his fingers.  Each finger became a tongue of fire.  He said: “You can become flame.”  When we have an encounter with Christ, we are called to share that experience with all those we come in contact with.  We are to share the light of Christ; we are to become flame and light to the darkness around us.  Let us burn with the fire of Christ.

 

Burn

“Give Thanks to the Lord..”

Thanksgiving2015a“On that day, you will say: I give you thanks, O Lord, though you have been angry with me, your anger has abated, and you have consoled me.  God indeed is my savior.  I am confident and unafraid.  My strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my savior.

With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation, and say on that day: Give thanks to the Lord, acclaim his name; among the nations make known his deeds, proclaim how exalted is his name.  Sing praise to the Lord for his glorious achievement; let this be known throughout all the earth.” (Isaiah 12: 1-5)

 

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Feast of All Saints

“After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.  They cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”  (Revelation 7: 9-10)

All SaintsToday, the Christian world, especially the Catholic Church, celebrates the Feast of All Saints.  The Church remembers all those who are saints; those officially recognized by the Church and those who are unknown but to God.  The Church believes that when we die, our souls are in need of purification before we can enter into heaven.  This purification takes place in purgatory.  There are those, however, because of how well they lived the Gospel life, are admitted into heaven; come face to face with God, and experience perfect happiness.  These individuals are considered saints.

How does one become a saint; the Gospel reading for today’s Mass, the Beatitudes shows a starting point for one to begin the process.  So is living the two greatest commandments, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Matt 22: 37-39).  To become a saint is no easy task; it requires a radical interior change, a conversion.  Trying to do it on our own is impossible.  But we are not alone, God is with us.  If we open our hearts to him, he will give us the strength, the grace, to achieve the goal of sainthood.  Jesus Christ, coming to us in the Eucharist, gives us the food for this journey; the Holy Spirit gives us the guidance, the inspiration to continue the journey.

There is no measure that will tell us how successful we are.  We can only continue to strive to live the teachings of Jesus, to strive, through prayer, to be in a close relationship with God.  And we must accept the fact, that there will be times when we will fail.  There will days of dryness, disappointments, feelings of failure.  It is at moments like these, that the lives of saints can be a source of inspiration for us.  In particular, those biographies that reveals both the successes and failures of a saint trying to live the Gospel; because we can identify with them.  We can learn how they overcome their obstacles, and begin thinking about starting again.

I like to think of the communion of saints, something like those crowds of people gathered at the end of a race.  They have run their race; and now they are calling out to us, urging us on to the finish line.

“Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?

or who may stand in his holy place?

One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,

who desires not what is vain.

He shall receive a blessing from the Lord,

a reward from the God his savior.

Such is the race that seeks him

that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.  “(Psalm 24)

Finish Line