Tag Archives: St. Theresa



We ended our mission at Immaculate Conception Parish in Irvington on the Hudson this evening by celebrating the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Both sacraments are special moments God is present. They’re simple signs; we must  not  miss their meaning.

Tonight we told a story of Jesus healing the sick. That’s one of the most important things his disciples remembered: he healed the sick. Jesus put his hands on them, he spoke to them, he helped them get back into life, and he still does that today.

One of Jesus’ first healings was of Peter’s mother-in-law who had a fever. Mark’s gospel recalls it in a few words:

“On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.” (Mark 1,30-31)

Rembrandt’s drawing above captures one detail from Mark’s narrative. “He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.” Such a simple gesture. Jesus took her hand and raised her up.

The priest puts his hand on our head. It’s God giving us a hand. It’s a reminder, too, to give a hand to others to help them up. A simple sign, yes, but Jesus left it to us as an example.

What Jesus did, he told his disciples to do. “ He summoned the Twelve* and began to send them out two by two… They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” (Mark 6, 13-14)

We anoint with olive oil, the medicine people turned to in Jesus’ time, the oil the Samaritan put on the man who was beaten by robbers in the Lord’s parable. God’s our medicine, first of all, but the oil is also a practical reminder: Don’t forget to take your medicine.

The priest anoints our forehead with oil in the form of a cross and says: “Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

Isn’t is true that the battle against sickness and human weakness often takes place most vigorously in our minds, where we fight fear, discouragement, a sense of being alone? This anointing calls for the grace of the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen our minds and the way we think.

The priest anoints our hands with oil in the form of a cross and says: “May the Lord who frees you from sin, save you and raise you up.” Our hands are the signs of our strength. “Prosper the work of our hands,” one of our psalms says. We do so much with our hands. In the Anointing of the Sick God takes our hands to raise them up.

The anointing is not limited to this life,remember. Like all the sacraments, it promises us a share in the mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus.


Monday Night at the Mission


Last night at St. Theresa’s Church in Woodside, Queens, New York City, I spoke about the gift of prayer and the simple prayers we know, like the Sign of the Cross and the Our Father, which can be our teachers of prayer. God gives us, saint and sinner alike, the gift of prayer.

Tonight, I spoke about the saints as our teachers. What can we learn from St. Theresa of Lisieux, the patroness of this parish? A doctor of the church who was 24 years old when she died, one of three women who have that honor. St. Theresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Siena are the others.

Theresa added two titles to her name after she entered the Carmel. She was Theresa of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. I spoke about her spirituality of childhood this evening. She received a grace on Christmas night when she was 13 years old:

“Jesus, the gentle little child of one hour, changed the night of my soul into rays of light…On that night of light began the third period of my life, the most beautiful and filled with graces from heaven. What I had been unable to do in ten years, Jesus did in one instant, contenting himself with my good will, which was always there. I could say to him as his apostles did, ‘Master, I fished all night and have caught nothing. More merciful to me than he was to them, Jesus took the net himself, cast it, and drew it in filled with fish. He made me a fisher of souls. I greatly desired to work for the conversion of sinners, a desire I hadn’t experienced before. I felt love enter my heart, and the need to forget myself and pleasing others. Since then I’ve been happy.” Chapter 5, Story of a Soul.

In the gospels, Jesus told us to become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. I reflected on a definition of spiritual childhood given by St. Leo the Great. To be a child means to be free from crippling anxieties, to be forgetful of injuries, to be sociable and to live wondering before all things.




Sunday at the Mission

At our mission tonight at St. Theresa in Woodside, New York, I’ll continue reflecting on the gift of prayer.

We all have the gift of prayer. We can pray. God gives that gift to saints and sinners alike, though we may tend to think only saints and “good” people can pray. But that gift is given to all, because God is Father of saints and sinner alike. Prayer is a gift of God’s mercy.

Prayer is a gift given to all; it’s meant to be used continually. Like the gift of faith growing  like a mustard seed, the gift of prayer is meant to grow.

We’re reading all this year at Mass from Luke’s Gospel, which is called a gospel of prayer. It’s called that because the evangelist offers many examples and teachings of Jesus on prayer. Now, at this point in the  liturgical year especially, our readings at Mass seem to be devoted to prayer.

Last week, for example, we heard the desperate prayer of the ten lepers: “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” Today we heard the parable about the widow and the unjust judge. Next week, we’ll hear the humble, almost hesitant prayer of the publican: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Later on in Luke’s gospel, when Jesus dies and enters his glory, we’ll hear the cry of the thief: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” All these readings tell us God gives the gift of prayer to everyone, the sinner, the desperate, everyone.

Yet, prayer tries our patience. Like the poor widow facing the powerful unjust judge, whom we read about this Sunday, we may not see our prayers answered quickly. We can then grow weary praying. In his parable Jesus says our prayers are answered “speedily,” yet we have trouble understanding that word “speedily.” It doesn’t match our timetable or our expectations. We don’t like waiting.

We also can make prayer too small and limit it to things entirely personal. Today, some would reduce prayer and meditation to ways to gain inner balance or to bring your blood pressure down. Prayer is bigger than that. It’s asking for “God’s kingdom to come, God’s will be done.” Prayer is meant to  open us to new horizons, new undertakings, to see the world with the eyes of Christ.

Far from leading us away from the world, we are led in prayer to face a world crippled by violence and strife. Only God can help us. Please Lord, come and assist us.

I’m going to pose some questions to those here at the mission:

What prayers are you attracted to?

Are there any places that lead you to prayer?

Any trying times in your life that you found yourself praying?

Then I’m going to reflect on some of our common prayers, like the Sign of the Cross and the Our Father. After that, we will have Benediction.


29th Sunday C: Pray, Pray, Pray

To listen to today’s homily, please select the audio file below:

If I ask you what gifts you have, you might say, “Well, I can cook a good plate of pasta, or I’m a pretty good carpenter. I can fix a lot of things around the house. I think I’m a good mother or good father, good grandmother, good grandfather.” We actually have a lot of gifts; many we may not be aware of.

Now, I can tell you one gift we all have.  Unfortunately this gift is one we may not be aware of. That’s the gift of prayer. We all have the gift of prayer. We can pray. Let’s begin our reflection on today’s gospel about the widow who gets what she wants from an unjust judge with that. We all have the gift of prayer.

If you notice in the gospels, Jesus teaches his disciple how to pray, but he never says they can’t pray. He never says that to anyone: he presumes that prayer is a gift everyone has.  Prayer is a gift God gives to everyone, whether we use that gift or not. The greatest sinner as well as the greatest saint,  has the gift of prayer.

Think of the thief on the cross next to Jesus, who turned to Jesus and said  “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” We might guess that the thief hadn’t prayed in a long time, maybe his prayer is a cry of desperation. But he prays, and is prayer is answered. More than he ever expected. The gospels are  filled with that kind of prayer.

Now, what Jesus is concerned with in our parable today is that we get tired of praying. For one reason or another, we give it up. Maybe we don’t think praying is going to do any good. God isn’t listening, or we’re not good enough to speak to God.  Maybe we think we can take care of  ourselves. We don’t need the help of God. For all of these reasons we can lose our appreciation of the power of prayer; we think it’s really not necessary,  so prayer becomes an unused gift, a neglected gift.

Now, let’s look at the example in the gospel that Jesus gives. He offers the picture of “a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being.”  He’s a dishonest judge, one of “Untouchables” He doesn’t care about God or anybody else. He seems to have absolute power, or at least he thinks he has.

On the other hand, there’s a widow, who seems to have no power at all. She seems powerless, maybe someone has cheated her; someone has wronged her. She’s looking for justice, but can she get it? We could speculate further. Who caused this injustice ? Maybe it’s a friend of the judge, or the judge himself who seems to control everybody and everything.  but whoever and whatever it is, she wants what’s right, and humanly speaking,  it doesn’t seem she has any chance of getting justice.

But she keeps going, she doesn’t let up, she doesn’t lose hope. She’s persistent. The judge says, “She keeps bothering me, she wearing me down, and he finally gives in and justice is done.
What about God, Jesus asks? Compare him to the unjust judge. He’s the very opposite, He cares for the poor widow; he wants justice done.

“Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says,”Jesus says,
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them?
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.

We hear those words of Jesus and questions arise.  Justice will be done, the rights of God’s chosen ones will be secure. God will see justice done speedily. Speedily?

Speedily for us means right away, doesn’t it? And when things are not done right away, we lose faith, we wonder if God cares or can God do anything about it at all.

That’s why we have to keep the poor widow in mind. What keeps her going is faith and hope. It’s obvious she believes she has Someone more powerful that the unjust judge on her side. And so do we. But God’s way of securing our rights, God’s way of having his kingdom come, God’s time is not ours. We have to keep praying, keep knocking at the door, keep asking, keep seeking, night and day.

The biggest problems in the world, the greatest challenges we face can be met, if we like the poor widow believe in the gift of pray and pray with faith, night and days, that God’s will be done.