God our Creator
we are the work of your hands
Guide us in our work,
that we may do it, not for the self alone,
but for the common good.
Make us alert to injustice,
ready to stand in solidarity,
that there may be dignity for all
in labor and labor’s reward.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen
From the Book of Common Prayer
“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.
I will thank the Lord with all my heart, in the meeting of the just and the assembly. Great are the works of the Lord, to be pondered by all who delight in them
You give food to those who revere you; you are mindful of your covenant forever. You have shown mighty works to your people by giving them the heritage of nations!” Psalm 111
Thanksgiving 2020! This will be a holiday that few will ever forget! A national holiday taking place during a deadly worldwide pandemic, in the midst of political turmoil, and a worsening economy! Yet, we would do well to remember this holiday, it’s roots and how it has developed. And why we should celebrate it.
The first recorded celebration of a day of Thanksgiving was said to be by the small group of Pilgrims at Plymouth colony. We forget that they were a religious group, dissenters of the Church of England, persecuted by officials of the Crown. They came to America, not for economic reasons, but for religious freedom. They found their way to Massachusetts Bay by accident. They had to build a settlement by scratch. Their first harvests were poor, many died by starvation and illness. They had a good harvest in 1621, and declared a day of thanksgiving to God for it. Yes, there was feasting, but also prayer.
During the Civil War, shortly after the Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln declared a national day of giving thanks to God for preserving the Union. President Ulysses S. Grant signed an Act of Congress that made Thanksgiving a National Holiday.
The current pandemic is challenging us as a country; we long to be with family, yet, we need to do all we can to keep each other safe. That may mean being physically separated from each other. But whether we are able to communicate through the Web, by telephone, or by old fashion letter; we must not forget that we are united as a family.
And we must remember that we are all united in Jesus Christ. We are all tightly embraced by the Father. And He will give us the strength, the hope, and the faith to get through this. For this, we should give thanks!
“Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor. And all blessing.” The Canticle of Brother Sun – St. Francis of Assisi
To quote Thomas Paine, “These are times that try men (and women) souls.” We have experienced once again the horrors of mass shootings, in El Paso TX, and Dayton, OH. It should shake everyone’s being down to their souls. No other country, that is not at war or in civil strife, has suffered the casualties we have in the United States, from gun violence. People from around the world cannot understand how a country, so modern, like the United States, can let this bloodletting continue.
The answer is both simple and complicated. There are those in this country who feel they are losing control of it. That immigrants and of other races are taking what was once theirs; jobs, control of local governments. They see government, especially the Federal government taking away their lands, their jobs, for protection of the environment. They see gun ownership as the only means to protect what they see as their rights. This might only express some of the reasons why the country is so full of hate, so divided; and why some feel driven to pick up the gun.
But Jesus has said, “All who take the sword will die by the sword.” (MT 26:52). What is called for are laws to remove or at least control access to military style weapons. There also must be dialogue between peoples, to understand the desires, the needs, and the fears of all sides. We need a responsible government, whose goals are to preserve the general welfare, and not their own political power.
Jesus said that the primary commandment for his followers was to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. The second important commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. The challenge of these two commandments have always been before us. Never before in our society’s history, had meeting that challenge been so important!
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!
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
To our Canadian brothers and sisters, we send our prayers.
You saints of Canada, please hear us and intercede for us!
Saints Jean de Brebeuf and Issac Jogues, please pray for those who died. May they be in the Father’s embrace.
Saint Marguerite d’Youville, please pray for the injured. May they experience the healing touch of the Son.
Saint Andre Bessette, CSC, and Blessed Frederic Janssone, OFM, pray for the citizens of Toronto, and all of Canada. May they all receive comfort from the Holy Spirit.
Saints of Canada, hear us!
Outside my office building in the South Shore, the company lowered the American flag to half staff. It honors the memory Sargent Michael Chesna, a Weymouth, MA police officer, who died in the line of duty. Many of us, in the face of violence or disaster, will run for cover. Extraordinary men and women, like Sargent Chesna, with the duty of protecting us, will charge forward. Sadly, some do not return.
We remember their courage, we pray for, and support their loved ones that are left behind. And we also must remember the victims. In this incident, we pray for Vera Adams, shot in her sun room.
Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them!
Through the mercy of God, may they Rest In Peace!
This sign appeared recently on the platform of the commuter rail station I go to. I do not know if it’s appearance had been planned for a time, or is in response to the spate of celebrity suicides that have hit the news recently.
These suicides should be a wake up call that there are many persons out there, family and friends, neighbors and coworkers, and fellow citizens; who are deep pain. They are suffering from depression, hopelessness, and despair. They believe they are alone, and they feel they cannot bear the burden any more; and they see death as the only source of relief.
It is up to all of us to give support, and care to our suffering brothers and sisters. To let them know that they are not alone.
Some of us may have the gift of providing counseling. Some may be able to be the one who listens. A welcoming handshake, a hug, or a hand on the shoulder; could make all difference.
God will make visible those opportunities to help. The Holy Spirit will give us those gifts we will need. And Jesus will be walking with us. At that very least, we can pray for those who tempted to commit suicide; for the souls of those who have; and the families they have left behind. May the love of God dispel the darkness, and bring hope to those who need it.