Category Archives: Passionists

Feast of The Immaculate Conception

Some question why Mary, the Mother of Jesus, has such a big place in our church. The words of the angel in Luke’s gospel, words we often repeat in prayer, are an answer: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.”

Mary is full of grace, gifted by God with unique spiritual gifts from her conception, because she was to be the mother of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.

She would be the “resting place of the Trinity,” and would give birth to, nourish, guide and accompany Jesus in his life and mission in this world. To fulfill that unique role she needed a unique gift. She would be free from original sin that clouds human understanding and slows the way we believe in God and his plan for us.

“How slow you are to believe” Jesus said to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. Jesus made that complaint repeatedly as he preached the coming of God’s kingdom. “How slow you are to believe!” “What little faith you have!” “Do you still not understand!” Human slowness to believe didn’t end in gospel times. We have it too.

Mary was freed from that slowness to believe. “Be it done to me according to your word,” she immediately says to the angel. Yet, her acceptance of God’s will does not mean she understood everything that happened to her. “How can this be?” she asks the angel about the conception of the child. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.”  But the angel’s answer seems so incomplete, so mysterious.

Surely, Mary would have liked to know more, but the angel leaves, never to return. There’s no daily message, no new briefing or renewed assurance by heavenly messengers. The years go by in Nazareth as the Child grows in wisdom and age and grace, but they’re years of silence. Like the rest of us, Mary waits and wonders and keeps these things in her heart.

That’s why we welcome her as a believer walking with us. She is an assuring presence who calls us to believe as she did, without knowing all. She does not pretend to be an expert with all the answers. She has no special secrets known to her alone. “Do whatever he tells you,” is her likely advice as we ponder the mysteries of her Son.

 

 

Do Whatever He Tells you

Monday, 2nd Week of Advent

Today’s readings from the Old and New Testament complement one another. Isaiah 35:1-10 describes a “holy way” to Jerusalem’s “holy mountain” through the wilderness. God will bring Jewish exiles from Babylon on that holy way. God calls all nations, all people to take it. The blind, the deaf, the lame, the fearful will take it, for God will strengthen them. The lame will leap “like a stag” and the “tongue of the mute will sing.”

The paralyzed man brought to Jesus in the gospel and sent away singing and dancing, (Luke 5:17-26), is a symbol of a paralyzed world that Jesus sends on its journey, fulfilling the hopes of the prophets and people of the Old Testament. Jesus also fulfills humanity’s hopes, our hopes as well. God wishes to heal our paralyzed world. Isaiah’s vision isn’t small.

Our vision should not be small either. Too often we give up on things and people and the world itself. “They’re not going anywhere.” “They’ll never change.” “The world’s never going to change.” We live in a cynical world.

Let’s not forget the men who lowered the paralyzed man from the roof down to where Jesus was. They were people of hope, willing to chance it with someone who looked like he would never move his limbs again. We need more of their kind today.

“They will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes to save you.Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame leap like a stag,then the tongue of the mute will sing… A highway will be there, called the holy way;
No one unclean may pass over it,
 nor fools go astray on it.
 No lion will be there,
  nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it.  It is for those with a journey to make,
 and on it the redeemed will walk.”

Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552)

“All nations will come to climb the mountain of the Lord,” the Prophet Isaiah says in our Advent readings. Joining Portuguese merchants, Saint Francis Xavier went to far-off Asia, not for its exotic spices and goods, but to call new followers to Jesus Christ.

For 10 years, Francis Xavier labored in India, Japan and southeast Asia to bring the gospel to the native peoples of these lands. In a letter to St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, he explains that he’s so busy teaching and baptizing he has hardly a minute to himself. “Send help,” he says.

“Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians. Again and again I have thought of going round the universities of Europe, especially Paris, and everywhere crying out like a madman, riveting the attention of those with more learning than charity: ‘What a tragedy: how many souls are being shut out of heaven and falling into hell, thanks to you!’”

He’s driven by missionary zeal. Today, unfortunately, we’re becoming more like those university people in Paris– concerned about ourselves and ready to let the rest of the world go by.

The statue of Saint Francis Xavier above is  in the beautiful church of the Sacred Heart in Springfield, MA, where Father Theodore Foley went as a boy. Was it put there after a Novena of Grace preached by some Jesuit missionaries, I wonder? How many  people, like Theodore Foley, heard the story of the fiery missionary and saw themselves called to be missionaries ?

The Prophet Isaiah’s call to the nations is not confined to his time. God’s mission to the nations is for our time too.

https://vhoagland.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/father-theodore-foley-cp/

Thursday: 1st Week of Advent

Readings:

Isaiah 26:1-6:  On the day of the Lord those who depend on God will enter God’s city.

Matthew 7: 21-24-27:  Build your house on rock.

Ancient peoples often built their cities on rocky heights  because they were the safest places to live.  With water and food and strong defenses, they were less likely to be invaded. That’s why the Jews chose Jerusalem, built high on rock. It was a safe place.

But Isaiah warns against depending on natural resources or human skills and plans alone. Don’t rely on them; they can’t always  save you. The strongest city becomes “a city of chaos” that falls apart without God.

God builds the strong city, the prophet says; he is our Rock, our strong city, and he admits into its gates “ a nation that is just; one that keeps faith.”

Build your  lives on rock, Jesus says in the gospel. Don’t rely on a token faith (Lord, Lord) to save you or be like fools who build on sand .

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them

will be like a wise person who built a house on rock.”

Questions:

A secular society like ours often sees religion as a destructive force or a brake on progress. It turns to  “human reason” alone? How can we depend on God in society today?

How do you build your personal life on rock?

“It is better to take refuge in the LORd, than to trust in man.                                                                                                    It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” 
(Psalm 118)

Saint Andrew, brother of Peter

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November 30th is the Feast of St. Andrew. On the lakeshore in Galilee Jesus called him and 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 were originally from Bethsaida, a trading town in the upper part of the Sea of Galilee with a substantial Greek population. Would that explain why they may have spoken some Greek?  Afterwards they located in Capernaum, another trading town close by.

Could that 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 sees 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

 Andrew seems to have an interest  in religious questions. He’s described as a disciple of John the Baptist, who points Jesus out to him. Jesus then invites 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)

I notice too that Andrew bring the little boy with the bread and fish to the attention of Jesus.

The Greek Church sees  Andrew as 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 the Greeks, and 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!”

Tuesday: 1st Week of Advent


A child stands atop Isaiah’s peaceable kingdom in Tuesday’s first reading at Mass:

“The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (Isaiah 11,1)

It takes a child to believe the astounding promises Isaiah makes. Adults, hardened by the experience of life, struggle with the prophet’s words. That’s why Advent invites us to become children, not physically, of course, but spiritually.

Become like little children. That’s what Jesus told his followers,  and he praised the childlike:

“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to the childlike.” Luke 10

Only the childlike believe in great promises.

What does being “childlike” mean? Here’s what St. Leo the Great said about Jesus’s teaching on spiritual childhood: To be a child means to be “free from crippling anxiety, to be forgetful of injuries, to be sociable and to keep wondering at all things.”

A little child in its mother’s arms has no worries. It’s a good place to be, free from anxieties and a mother’s voice promising all will be well. Advent brings that grace back  to us; a grace we can lose so easily.

Jesus experienced that grace in Mary’s arms. Herod’s soldiers, like Isaiah’s Assyrian armies, were on their way. It’s a poor place where he’s born, no room in the inn, but the Child in his mother’s arms has no fear. All will be well.

Injuries would come. The world can turn hostile. The promises may seem far away, but from infancy to his death, Jesus knew he was a child of God, his Father, in God’s caring hands and destined for God’s kingdom.

Look on us, O Lord, and grant us the spirit of the childlike.

Saving Santa Claus

Santa’s coming to town for Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Parade. From the parade he’ll go into the store  for Black Friday and be there for the rest of the days till Christmas.

But Santa Claus is more than a salesman, isn’t he? He’s a saint– Saint Nicholas. He reminds us Christmas is for giving rather than getting. His story of quiet giving mirrors God’s love shown in Jesus Christ.

Telling his story is one of the ways we can save Santa Claus from being captured by Macys and Walmart and all the rest. First, take a look at our version for little children. Then, you might want to go on to our  modest contribution for bigger children– like us:

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Noah

Thanksgiving is a good time to remember our blessings, starting with Creation itself . “All it takes is one good person” like Noah, Pope Francis says in “Laudatory Si’. Here’s his prayer:

All-powerful God,
you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned
and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty,
not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Blessed Grimoaldo

Blessed Grimoaldo Santamaria was born in Pontecorvo, Italy. May 4, 1883 and died in the Passionist monastery at Ceccano, Italy, on November 18, 1902. Today’s his feastday.

Like another young Passionist saint, St. Gabriel Possenti, it’s hard to discover anything spectacular about Grimoaldo. He died a Passionist student, preparing for ordination, immersed in the ordinary routine of study and prayer usual for that period of life.  He never reached that goal but died of meningitis. Dying from a sickness alone doesn’t make someone holy, does it?

The gospel reading from a few days ago may give us a clue to his holiness. It’s Luke’s account of the nobleman who goes on a journey and entrusts one of his servants with ten gold coins, another five, and finally another with one. Returning, he upbraids the servant who hides his one coin.

Why so severe with the one who chose to be safe? Is it a warning not to take small gifts for granted, not to keep out of life’s marketplace because we’re afraid we wont make a difference.

God sees small gifts as important, the ordinary tools of human love and service. If you wait for something “big” to happen, you miss out on most of living. So throw yourself bravely and generously into the life you have.

Did Grimoaldo understand that?

Dedication of the Churches of Sts. Peter and Paul

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On November 18th, we honor the great apostles, Peter and Paul, in the ancient churches where they were buried: the Vatican Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul, both built in the fourth century. The two apostles are founders and protectors of the Roman church.

Rome’s Christians marked where these apostles were martyred with special care. Peter, early sources say, was crucified on the Vatican Hill in 64 near the obelisk not far from the circus of the emperors Caligula and Nero and was buried  nearby. The Emperor Constantine erected a basilica over his burial site in 326, while Sylvester was pope. Later in 1626 the present basilica replaced it. Recent excavations have uncovered Peter’s burial place under the papal altar of this church.

Paul,  tradition says, was beheaded on the Ostian Way, outside the ancient city walls, in 67. Constantine built a large church over his grave in 386. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1823 according to its original measurements. The apostle’s grave lies before the main altar of the church.

We build churches honoring apostles and saints, often enshrining their relics, because we believe they watch over us even now. “The company of the apostles praises you…From their place in heaven they guide us still.”

Defend your Church, O Lord,

by the protection of the holy Apostles,

that, as she received from them

the beginnings of her knowledge of things divine,

so through them she may receive,

even to the end of the world,

an increase in heavenly grace.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen   (Collect for the feast)

 

St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome
St.Paul outside the wall, Rome