by Fr.James Barry, CP
Last summer I visited the Shrine of the American Jesuit Martyrs at Auriesville, New York. I went into the large circular Indian Chapel to pray and light a candle, only few people around.
In came a couple with their son Andrew and his grandparents who came up to the altar to pray. Andrew, a four year old child, was suffering from a serious brain disease which the doctors could not identify. He would go into seizures and flail around and cry out for help and then it would go on for a while and stop. They wanted me to pray over this child and anoint him with sacred oil of the sick, which I did, and he seemed to calm for a while but it did little to help him.
I could see on the faces of the parents and grandparents the pain they were suffering for this child; they have been to the Mayo clinic, Mass General, Johns Hopkins , Baltimore and they keep trying for a cure and spending everything they have to help this child.
In the Gospel from Mark for today the man possessed was a member of a family; very possible family members put him in chains and restraints so that he would not harm himself, but he broke the chains. A spirit spoke to Jesus. “What have you to do with me Jesus, Son of the most high God, do not torment me.”
Jesus calls out “Unclean spirit come out of the man; what is your name?” “LEGION” he says, “and there are many of us…..send us into the swine” which Jesus does and 2000 swine rush over the cliff and drown.
The healed man wants to follow Jesus, but Jesus tells him to go home and be with his family and proclaim the good news about what has happened to them. Jesus notices the man’s family and wants them to be healed as well, for they have suffered much with this man.
We’re called to pray and bless all those who come to us and are suffering, We don’t always know how. God willing, may we help someone who is suffering now.
Recently I sent the blessed oil of St. Charles Houben, a Passionist healing saint, to that family I met. I ask you to pray that the fullness of God’s healing may be upon Andrew, his mom and dad and grandparents. They are wonderful people and deserve our love.
For this weeks homily please play the video below:
I attended a beautiful Methodist funeral this week at a funeral home in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. I prayed and sang with the members of the family and their friends. Some years ago, before the Second Vatican Council, I would have been told “In no way is it permitted for the faithful to take part in any way in non-Catholic services.” (Canon 1258)
We have come a long way in our relations with other Christian churches and other religions. In the days of St. Francis de Sales in the 16th century, Christian churches were fighting each other over religion. Francis de Sales as the bishop of Geneva, Switzerland, chose to approach religious differences through dialogue and not arms. His approach anticipated the Vatican Council decrees on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratia) and Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate) which told Catholics to respect the religious beliefs of others and dialogue with them.
Dialogue means listening to the other and offering what you know in return. It’s an on-going process that ultimately, I think, has its roots in the created world we live in, which we know little by little. The word “respect”is a beautiful word, meaning “looking again,” Francis de Sales based his spirituality on respect for the variety of creation. We’re “living plants” in the garden of the world. We need to keep “looking again.”
And while we respect others, we need to “look again” at our own tradition to appreciate it and see it “ever ancient, ever new.”
We’re ending the Church Unity Octave on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the Apostle, January 25th. St Francis de Sales, St. Paul the Apostle, St. Paul of the Cross, pray for us.
As an eagle incites its nestlings forth
by hovering over its brood,
so he spread his wings to receive them
and bore them up on his pinions.
The Lord alone was their leader,
no strange god was with him. “ (Deuteronomy 32)
We had a particularly intense meeting last week of my community, the Passionists, discussing what to do in these critical times, as we age and decline in members and our church and our world becomes more fragile.
Home again, on Saturday morning we were reading the words above at morning prayer and I looked up at the great Crucifix in our chapel. “A wilderness..a wasteland in a howling desert.”
The Great Eagle still incites us forth, old yet still nestlings. Pushes us from our nests and lets us free fall, but then spreads her wings to receive us and hold us up, till we get our wings.
The Lord alone leads us.
I have to keep my eye on those great wings, spread out in the howling wilderness.