Monthly Archives: November 2020

Words of Spirit and Life

Plaque with the Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew, England, ca. 1160-80, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Feast of Saint Andrew

Romans 10:9-18; Matthew 4:18-22 

Brothers and sisters: If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).

Not by our own strength alone can one confess the risen Christ, for no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). 

In an age of mass media and globalization, Christ is drowned out in the cacophonous marketplace of ideas. Yet the lone voice of Isaiah proclaims on the first Monday of Advent, 

In days to come,
The mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it (Isaiah 2:2).

The mountain is Christ, write St. Augustine and St. Gregory the Great.1 The mountain that was plunged into the depths of hell and emerged victorious over sin and death—to this summit all nations and peoples aspire. 

An indistinct desire for the good has proliferated in multifarious meandering paths, religions  and philosophies from the dawn of conscious wonder. Christ, the Light of the world and desire of all nations, appeared without pomp or fanfare in swaddling clothes, yet drew the adoration of both shepherds and wise men from the East. Jews and Gentiles knelt before the vulnerable Divine Infant in silent awe. There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him (Romans 10:12).

The ocean of the world teemed with fish of all colors, shapes and sizes made for the ocean of infinite love and mercy beyond death and destruction. 

But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10:14-15a) 

The Word made flesh called ordinary fishermen to be his mouthpiece: Their voice has gone forth to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world (Romans 10:18; Psalm 19:4-5). 

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). St. Andrew, whom we celebrate today, and his companions dropped their nets and perishable bait to cast the words of eternal life into the ocean of tears.

Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life (Psalm response from John 6:63).

-GMC

1 St. Augustine, Sermon 62A.3 and St. Gregory the Great, Forty Gospel Homilies 33.

Retreat with St. Paul of the Cross- Day 8

On November 30th,1720 Paul Daneo writes: “St. Andrew Apostle. During prayer I was dry and distracted; at holy Communion I was recollected and afterwards I shed many tears. I remember that I kept praying to my Jesus to grant me the greatest degree of humility. I wanted to be the least of mankind, the very scum of the earth, and I kept praying to the Blessed Virgin with many tears to obtain this grace for me. I remember that I asked my Jesus to teach me what degree of humility is most pleasing to Him, and I heard this answer in my heart: When you cast yourself in spirit under the feet of all creatures, even beneath the feet of devils, that is what pleases me most. I had already understood that when one goes lower than hell, beneath the feet of devils, then God raises one to paradise. Because, just as the devil desires the highest place in paradise and for his pride was cast into the very depths of hell so, on the contrary, the soul which humbles itself below hell makes the devil tremble and overcomes him and the Sovereign Good exults it to paradise. I know that all this is from God: to Him be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.   

 Berta’s entry:  Dear Jesus, on that particular day Paul Daneo was praying to You, my Lord Jesus, to grant him the greatest degree of humility. He asked You to teach him what degree of humility was most pleasing to You, and this is what he heard as an answer from You: “When you cast yourself in spirit under the feet of all creatures, even beneath the feet of devils, that is what pleases me the most.”      Wow, Lord Jesus, I would say that that would be a form of dying to self. To be humbled to that magnitude would be just like what You faced during Your Passion– no concern for self, no attention to pain and mistreatment, no concern about what others see or say to You, only love, Your eyes on the Supreme Good, Your Father, to whom You chose to be obedient, Who loves You and has asked this of You. And of course there is Your compassion, which leads You to think of the good of others rather than for Yourself.     I have to admit that right now I’m not quite ready for that, but I’ll try, my God, to get as close as I can to the example of humility You taught us with Your Passion. Help me! I do love You and want to prove it!    

 Orlando’s entry: Disturbing day, pulling me away from prayer. The new cable installations came (with the danger of catching COVID) and took a big chunk of the day. There were so many complications. The day was dark and dreary, but Berta my love and I forced ourselves into our readings and sharing-prayer for the 40-day retreat… today’s theme.. humility. Paolo wants to feel like he is the least of creation, even below devils. Upon looking at myself I realize that the once glorious angels turned into devils were certainly above little-old me, who is potentially as wicked as them! But HE the Beloved put Himself even lower than that in His Passion, so, like a Divine Atlas, He could lift up the whole mess into the arms of the all-loving God! Thank You, thank You, thank You Beloved Savior… Prince of Peace!  

Saint Andrew, the brother of Peter

Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_036

November 30th is the Feast of St. Andrew. On the lakeshore in Galilee Jesus called him along with his brother Simon Peter to follow him. We only know a few details about Andrew. What are they?

He’s a fisherman, of course. Andrew is a Greek name. Why would a Jew have a Greek name? The area around the Sea of Galilee was then multi-cultural, and Andrew’s family  came originally from Bethsaida, a trading town in the upper part of the Sea of Galilee with a substantial Greek population. Would that explain it? Wouldn’t they also have spoken some Greek?   Afterwards they located in Capernaum, another trading town along the sea.

If that’s all so, it could explain why later in John’s gospel, Andrew and Philip bring some Greek pilgrims to Jesus before his death in Jerusalem. Jesus rejoices, seeing them as signs that his passion and glorification will draw all nations to him. One can see why the Greek church has Andrew as its chief patron: he introduced them to Jesus.

Bethsaida has been recently excavated.

Bethsaida 393

Bethsaida: Winegrowers house

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Bethsaida: Ruins

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Bethsaida: Ruins

Can we also see Andrew as someone interested in religious questions? He’s described as a disciple of John the Baptist, and John pointed Jesus out to him. Jesus then invited Andrew and another disciple to stay for a day with him. “Come and see.” Afterwards, Andrew “found his brother Simon and said to him ‘We have found the Messiah.’” (John 1,35-41)

For the Greek Church  Andrew is the first of the apostles because he’s the first to follow Jesus; then he calls his brother. Western and eastern Christian churches together celebrate his feast on November 30th.

The letter to the Romans, the first reading for his feast in the Roman Catholic liturgy, stresses there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, and praises messengers who bring God’s word to others. Tradition says Andrews brought the gospel to Greek speaking people. It also claims that Andrew was crucified on the beach at Patras in Greece. Besides Greece, Andrew’s also the patron of Russia and Scotland.

We ask you, O Lord,
that, just as the blessed Apostle Andrew
was for your Church a preacher and pastor,
so he may be for us a constant intercessor before you.

Troparion (Tone 4) (Greek Orthodox)

Andrew, first-called of the Apostles
and brother of the foremost disciple,
entreat the Master of all
to grant peace to the world
and to our souls great mercy.
Kontakion (Tone 2)

Let us praise Andrew, the herald of God,
the namesake of courage,
the first-called of the Savior’s disciples
and the brother of Peter.
As he once called to his brother, he now cries out to us:

“Come, for we have found the One whom the world desires!”

Retreat with St. Paul of the Cross- Day 7


     On November 29,1720 Pau Daneo wrote: “….. I engaged in prayer and went to holy Communion with dryness, and during prayer I was distracted. I want to explain what happens to me in distractions….. the soul remains more or less in peace with God, despite the fact that it is disturbed by the thoughts which trouble me. ….. However, through the knowledge that God gives me, and I am aware of it, I know that the soul always remains fixed in God in His peace but it rests there more unmoved and withdrawn. …..    “In my opinion, it is like an infant with its mouth at its mother’s breast as it takes its milk. Although it struggles with its hands and feet, fidgets, turns its head and so forth, it continues all the time to draw nourishment because it never takes its mouth away from its mother’s breast. Certainly it would do much better for itself if it stayed quiet instead of acting as I have just described; nevertheless that milk goes down its throat because it never takes its mouth away from its mother’s breast. So it is with the soul. The will is the mouth which never fails to imbibe the milk of holy Love although the faculties, memory and understanding, wander away from it. Certainly it [the soul] gains more assistance if they [the faculties] remain quiet and united with it.”  

   Orlando’s entry: The gift of constant prayer. I tried the same prayer of elevation as yesterday without anywhere near the same luminous result. But, thanks to St Paolo,  I reveled I’m my distractions, I even laughed. I imagined My Heavenly Papa holding me in His arms feeding me with His grace and love no matter how clumsy my attempts were at prayer. I had a happy day, in spite of all its complications, knowing that my God was with me, feeding me with that holy joy.      

Berta’s entry: Dear Jesus, it’s great to realize that I’m not the only one that gets distracted in prayer. St. Paul of the Cross wrote, at 26 years of age in his diary, that he would become distracted in prayer, but even through these distractions he knew his soul was at peace with God. That is something I have learned to understand about myself. No matter how distracted I am  or how busy I am with chores or worries I seem to know that God is not far away from me. Sometimes in the middle of something I will stop and ask for God’s blessing and advice. Other times I ask for Him to take over and lead me where He thinks I should go. I believe that all this is the work of my soul connecting to the Divine. A touch of the Divine (my soul) is connecting or reaching out to my Creator, my Father, my Teacher, my Love. It’s a Love affair! It is hard work! It’s sacrifice! It’s salvation! It’s eternity!      Lord Jesus, without You I can no longer feel alive! Thank You for feeding me like a baby. Your grace is what keeps me going. Your mercy, compassion, and love strengthen  and change my soul’s understanding. May I continue to grow in You and through You, my Lord God! My Triune God, I love You !!!

Advent Weekday Readings: 1st Week

The Prophet Isaiah

Listen carefully to the scripture readings from our lectionary for Advent. They’re  chosen to help us enter this beautiful season leading to the Birth of Jesus Christ. Don’t miss the readings from the Prophet Isaiah, the spokesman in this first week of Advent for the generations before Jesus who awaited his coming.

Usually the Advent readings open, either on Sunday or Monday, with Isaiah’s message that all nations will stream to God’s mountain and listen for God’s instruction. “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” Wars are over; the fragmentation destroying humanity comes to an end . It’s a message of universal salvation.  Not only are we as individuals called, but all nations, all creatures, all creation is called. (  Isaiah 2:1-5 )

For Isaiah, the mountain of the Lord–the site of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem– is the symbolic place God’s promises are fulfilled.  All nations will come to banquet on that mountain   (Wednesday), there the poor will triumph (Thursday), the blind will see (Friday); it’s the rock where people dwell in safety, where children play around the cobra’s den, and the lion and the lamb lie down together (Tuesday). The prophet’s poetic imagery in the readings for the 1st week of Advent embracing all creation is strikingly beautiful. 

Because we’re celebrating the Feast of St. Andrew, November 30, on Monday this year we won’t hear this important reading at Mass, yet it will be read every Monday at morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours during Advent.

We need to hear Isaiah, especially now, as an antidote for our present fears. We wonder today about the future of our world, so weak and fragmented. We need to listen to God’s promise from Isaiah. We are so concerned with ourselves, our future, our personal security. We share in the promise God makes to all.  

The Gospels read in this first week in the 1st week point to the fulfillment of  Isaiah’s prophecies in Jesus Christ. The Roman centurion humbly approaching Jesus in Capernaum (Monday) represents all the nations that will come to him. Jesus feeds a multitude on the mountain. He gives sight to blind men, he affirms that his kingdom will be built on rock. He praises the childlike, who will enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew’s gospel is source of many of our Advent readings; it portrays Jesus teaching on a mountain (Isaiah’s favorite symbol) and working great miracles there that benefit all who come.  He is the new temple, the new Presence of God, Emmanuel, God with us.

Retreat with St. Paul of the Cross- Day 6


     On November 28,1720 Paolo Daneo writes: “At prayer I was dry and a little distracted. At holy Communion I was recollected. Afterwards, that is during thanksgiving and prayer, I was very tenderly affected even to tears, especially in praying to the Sovereign Good for the happy issue of the holy inspiration which, by His infinite goodness He has given me and continues to give me.      “ ‘I remember that I kept praying to the Blessed Virgin, and to all the angels and saints, especially the holy founders. Suddenly I seemed in spirit to see them prostrate before the most holy Majesty of God praying for this. That happened to me in a second, like a flash of lightning, in sweetness mingled with tears. The way in which I saw them was not in bodily form; it was therefore in the mind, with understanding in the soul which I do not know how to explain, and almost at once it vanished.’ “


     Orlando’s entry: Had to begin our prayers late. A dear friend simply HAD to visit us and bring us our Christmas gift: a lovely, battery-operated lantern with a nativity scene inside. Unfortunately it was wrongly packaged; it turned out to be a group of Christmas carolers in the snow. Perfect, people praying together! My friend, her lovely twenty-something daughter, Berta and I sat in front of our house social-distancing and so happy to be with each other. YOU, LOVE, were in our midsts.     Later in the day it was rather difficult to get back to our retreat discipline. But, at prayer, what a surprise! I experienced, thanks to Your Loving Kindness, the ineffable (beyond understanding or description) sense, joy, wonder, mystery of Your Presence, Your Spirit possessing me: lights, shapes, elevating sensations, powerful emotions, mystery, comfort, care, peace, — Your Love, Your Love, Your Love!


     Berta”s entry: Dear Jesus , as we read St. Paul of the Cross’ entry in his diary this day, he talked about seeing for just a second all the angels and saints joining him in prayer. They were all in front of the most holy Majesty of God praying for Paul’s intentions.      Sometimes, Jesus, I have “seen” a similar vision while at prayer with The Cloud of Glory Prayer Group in the Passionist Monastery Chapel. It almost looks like a stadium full of people, all joining us in praise and worship to You, my Lord Jesus and Your Holy Spirit and Our Father— all in One, sitting in Majestic Splendor!     Even the other day I felt it in my parish, American Martyrs, as they sang the Litany of the Saints. As their names were called they would all join us! What joy it brought, my God! I love You!It’s because of You and through You that I experience eternity for a few seconds, like St. Paul of the Cross did. Thank You!