Monthly Archives: October 2013

Daily Prayer

Pope Francis seems to be giving us a new model of the papacy. He has the common touch, to be sure, and the spontaneity of the man is refreshing.

I wonder if his spontaneity is partially explained by the investment he makes in daily prayer. He’s made the daily Mass in the chapel at St. Martha at the Vatican an important part of his day and his ministry. The daily Eucharist seems to be a “daily bread” that provides him with the spontaneous wisdom and insight he has.

I, for one, usually go each day to the Vatican Radio site on the internet to see what he’s up to and what he has to say. By the way, there’s a new app called ThePope that gives you all he’s doing and saying each day.

In his Letter to Proba, St. Augustine says that when we say “Give us this day our daily bread” everything is included. The bread we bring for the Eucharist is the bread of everything; all creation is there, but in particular we bring this day’s creation to God to be blessed through Jesus Christ, who enables us to interpret and find meaning in the world at hand.

Is Pope Francis giving us a new appreciation of the role of daily prayer? Everything is there at Mass. Besides putting us in touch with God, it puts us in touch with the world we live in.

The World to Come

There was an evangelist on TV a couple of years ago, Harold Camping, who was predicting the end the world. He calculated from the Bible that the world was going to end on May 21, 2011 at 6 PM. It was going to be an awful, terrifying event–fires, earthquakes; everything was going to be blown up and destroyed.

Harold had no use for any the churches. They were taken over by the devil, he said. Read the bible, hold on to it; it was the only thing that would save you, he said.

I remember signs on the buses and on billboards announcing judgment day. It was surprising how many people were paying attention to him. Harold not only had the date wrong; he also had God’s plan for our world wrong.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans, which we’re reading at Mass today, sees such a different picture. (Romans 8, 18-25) Paul speaks of a glory that will be revealed. The resurrection of Jesus has changed the way we look at our death and also the way we see the future of creation itself.

The destiny of the created world is linked to our destiny. It wont be destroyed. “Creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God.” It “groans in labor pains” until that day comes, when there will be a “new heaven and a new earth.”

Just as we hope to share in the resurrection of Jesus, we also hope that creation share in it. We ready ourselves now for the future we’ve been promised by a life of loving and caring, a love and care that should extend to the created world. Loving and caring for creation is so urgently needed today, when it suffers from so much human abuse.

“I look forward to the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.” Those words of the creed are so important. I look forward, not in fear but in hope. I look forward to sharing in the glory of the resurrection of Jesus. I look forward to a world to come, when the creation we know now shares in the glory we know then.

Faith Like The Mustard Seed

27th Sunday of the Year C

Like the apostles, we would like a stronger faith. “Increase our faith,” they ask Jesus. Give us faith that understands everything immediately and sees everything clearly–right away! We can hear ourselves asking for faith like that too.

In response, Jesus offers the image of a mustard seed. Look at this tiny seed, he says. With faith like this, you can accomplish the most impossible things. What does he mean?
A mustard seed is so small that you hardly can see it in the palm of your hand, Yet once in the ground it grows into a full sized tree, through cold and heat, nights and days, all kinds of weather. But it takes time.

Faith is like that. It grows, but its growth takes place over time, day by day, through the common experiences that come our way. God dwells in the ground of daily life and it’s there we meet him most of all. That’s why the psalm for today’s Mass insists: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Today in countless little things, in unassuming moments, God speaks to us. And even as the moments slip by, God’s plan unfolds. We need a daily faith, a patient faith, a faith like the mustard seed, to wait until it reaches its completion. “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint. If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.”

A daily faith that watches God’s plan unfold in the course of things.

Is Francis Speaking Now?

These days it’s hard to think of St. Francis without thinking of the one who recently took his name, Pope Francis. Like Francis of Assisi, this Francis seems bent on recalling the church to simplicity and poverty. There’s something radical in his approach and it’s winning respect from people in the church and beyond it.

Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) was born into a well-to-do family which was prepared to give him all he could possible wish for. You could say he had it all. Yet he chose to follow Jesus Christ who embraced a cross.

Recently in one of his daily homilies, the pope described similar choices we have before us. He reminded me of his namesake, Francis of Assisi.

“The Holy Father spoke of the different attitudes a Christian can take: either you follow Jesus to a certain point or you follow him to the end. The danger you run, he warned, is giving in to ‘the temptation of spiritual well-being, of thinking that we have everything already: the Church, Jesus Christ, the sacraments, Our Lady and so on– no need to search for anything. But ‘this is not enough. Spiritual well-being is fine to a certain point.’ the Pope explained.

“’What’s missing is the anointing of the cross, the anointing of humiliation. He humiliated himself unto his own death, a death on the Cross. This is the touchstone, the measure of our Christian reality. Am I a Christian of the culture of well-being or am I Christian who accompanies the Lord unto the Cross?’”

Sounds like Francis of Assisi, doesn’t it?

Here’s how the pope sounds to a group at Georgetown, Washington, DC. A wonderful roundtable with David Brooks, Mark Shields and other on Catholic Social Teaching.

St. Therese of Lisieux

St. Therese of Lisieux was born in Alencon, France in 1873, the youngest of 9 children. The year she was born the economies of Europe and the United States failed; historians call it the Long Depression; it lasted for 6 years, till 1879. France was hit the hardest.

During this time, her mother died, when Therese was 4 year’s old. Her family was never poverty stricken, but her biographers say she experienced a sense of helplessness and suffering as a child.

She had a spiritual experience on Christmas day 1886, when she was 13. She would always have a special devotion to the Child Jesus. She entered the Carmelite convent when she was 15 and for the next 7 years she lived the simple, routine life of a Carmelite nun until her death of tuberculosis on September 30, 1897. She was only 24.

She kept a notebook of her reflections on the spiritual life and after she died her two sisters who were also Carmelite nuns made the notebook public. They called it The Story of a Soul and it became a spiritual classic among Catholics. Therese called her spirituality “the little way.”

She had a great desire for God and she wanted to die for God if she could. In The Story of a Soul she recalls her envy of people who did great things for God, who built hospitals or were great theologians or who traveled as missionaries to other continents.

Emerging from its depression, France embarked on what it called a “civilizing mission” into Asia and Africa, and one way it tried to civilize places like Vietnam (French Indo-China) was to send Catholic missionaries there. In exciting times like these, Therese thought of herself, living unknown in a convent, as a nobody.

But she made a spiritual discovery:

“Since my longing for martyrdom was powerful and unsettling, I turned to the epistles of St Paul in the hope of finally finding an answer. By chance the 12th and 13th chapters of the 1st epistle to the Corinthians caught my attention, and in the first section I read that not everyone can be an apostle, prophet or teacher, that the Church is composed of a variety of members, and that the eye cannot be the hand. Even with such an answer revealed before me, I was not satisfied and did not find peace.
I persevered in the reading and did not let my mind wander until I found this encouraging theme: Set your desires on the greater gifts. And I will show you the way which surpasses all others. For the Apostle insists that the greater gifts are nothing at all without love and that this same love is surely the best path leading directly to God. At length I had found peace of mind.
When I had looked upon the mystical body of the Church, I recognised myself in none of the members which St Paul described, and what is more, I desired to distinguish myself more favourably within the whole body. Love appeared to me to be the hinge for my vocation. Indeed I knew that the Church had a body composed of various members, but in this body the necessary and more noble member was not lacking; I knew that the Church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love. I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more. I saw and realised that love sets off the bounds of all vocations, that love is everything, that this same love embraces every time and every place. In a word, that love is everlasting.
Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.”

Her love transformed all she did, however small, into a gift for God.