Saturday, July 5, 2014

Freedom and Dependence

The 4th of July is the time that fortunate Americans reflect, celebrate, and if they are honest, thank God for the peace and prosperity that they enjoy.  It is pollyanna to think that that everyone is living free from grief, disease, tragedy, but relatively easy to think that we are the beneficiaries of God's Providence and the fruit of the sacrifice of men and women from revolutionary times forward, and left with one of the best foundations for beginning and governing a country.  I haven't seen America the movie yet, so I imagine there is more I might say.

As I was riding in on the train to work on Friday I thought about how little I've been thanking and intimately talking to God lately.  I prayed, visualizing the Presence of God, and realized my ingratitude and negligence.  I made the trek over to St. Peter's in the Loop (a.k.a. Chicago's downtown) for Confession and Mass.  St. Peter's has two Confessionals staffed most of the time.  I picked the one staffed by a Franciscan with an Italian last name.  I don't know why, I just did.

While I was waiting, the door shut on my side, I prayed for the priest, that he would truly be in persona Christi, "in the person of Christ" and that he would truly speak the words Christ, through the Holy Spirit, would give him for me.

How wonderful the Sacrament of Confession is.  Here we are receiving an individual audience with our Savior to receive His Forgiveness, to receive the healing and teaching from the Holy Spirit audible to our ears, as some of us, including me, lack the gift of hearing God speak audibly.

This isn't the first time I wrote the advice I heard in a confessional in a blog post, but when you are touched by love, healing, and light that helps with re-establishing an intimate relationship with our Lord and God, who is the great lover of our souls, it seems that advice should be shared.

"Spend some time dwelling on God's presence.  Think about the fact that any goodness or holiness in you comes from God's presence.  Any goodness, or holiness that you sense in others comes from God's presence."

Earlier on the train ride in I had read, "Since our Lord dwells in our soul, His prayer is ours." by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

John--chapter 8, have you read that recently?  Several verses have been coming up for me lately, usually from KLOVE's Encouraging Word email that I receive everyday. As I peacefully alternated between reading John chapter 8 and napping at the pool yesterday (yes a lovely way to spend the 4th, and the first summer in many years that I could do this, as even the youngest child is a good swimmer now) these verses stood out.

"I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)

"I have told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he (the Son of God)." (John 8:24)

"If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8:31b-32)

"Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever.  So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.'" (John 8:34-36)

"Why do you not understand what I say?  It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.  You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and father of lies."  (John 8:44)

That last one seemed to help me make sense of the incredible, orchestrated deceptions of those who did not view the Hobby Lobby decision as a victory for religious freedom . . .  and defeating the rising tyranny of a government imposing its beliefs on others.  If someone in good conscience believes that destroying a fertilized egg before or after implantation in the womb is immoral, they should not be forced to contribute to it.  Those vociferous and deceitful talking heads claiming otherwise are really angry that they have been given a hurdle to imposing their views.  Ironically this is their main argument  . . . that Hobby Lobby and other corporations can now impose their views on their workers.

Photo: As our country celebrates Independence Day, we invite all believers to join us in saying the following prayer from the Priests for Life:


God our Father, your Son Jesus spoke to us a message of peace and taught us to live as brothers and sisters. His message took form in the vision of our Founding Fathers, as they fashioned a nation where all people might live as one. This message lives on in our midst as a task for us today and a promise for tomorrow.

We thank you, Father, for your blessings in the past, and for all that, with your help, we must yet achieve. Bless our nation and bless each of us. As we thank you for our independence, may we extend its blessings to our youngest brothers and sisters, the children in the womb. Hasten the day when our nation will be a nation with liberty and justice, not just for some, but for all, through Christ our Lord. 

Amen.Their second argument is that the "Science" as confirmed by the FDA says these are not abortion causing drugs.  They up the anecdotal claim that fertilized eggs fall through without implanting not 60%, not 75% but 80% of the time.  That is really hard to believe without a cross-reference to a medical study (and I have looked for them), but they keep increasing it so anyone that disagrees is cast as an uneducated, uninformed, religious bigot.  It's also hard to believe from my own experience.  Armed with the science behind Natural Family Planning's sympto-thermal method, my husband and I were pregnant with our first the second month of trying, and I had one period between my 1st and 2nd pregnancy, and no period between my 2nd and 3rd pregnancy.  My sincere apologies to those who suffer from infertility and do not know this ease of conception.

Their third argument is the classic, if you don't believe in an abortion causing drug, don't take one.  In similar reasoning, in WWII Germany the SS commanders of the concentration camps and even Hitler himself had no responsibility for the millions that were gased, because only those that turned the knobs or the switch (whatever the mechanism) were the ones that were guilty of those terminated by the toxic gas.  What a feeble argument.  Our country permitted slavery, legalizing all of African origin as less than a human being.  All that approved of that line in the constitution and fought on the side to maintain that practice have some moral responsibility for the injustice done to those who were enslaved.

If you read the book of Jeremiah, you find that God didn't just punish the parents that sacrificed their children to Moloch, the entire nation was punished by famine, disease, sword, and exile.

Further, If we don't stand up against injustice and evil we do bear some responsibility when it is perpetrated.

"Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more." Luke 12:48b

If we have the gift of faith, and conscience we are required to speak and stand against the lies and murder that comes from the devil, "a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him." (John 8:44)

"He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." (John 8:47)

Therefore we should not be surprised when we hear lies, and we have an explanation for how some are able to justify killing of infants within the womb, and declare those opposed to this as "religious bigots who love the 'non-sentient' fetus more than the mother." That too is a lie.  Those of us that do go out to the clinics are not just there because we grieve the killing of the babies, but because we are viscerally aware of the long-lasting heartbreak, guilt, and regret that follow the woman as she exits the facility.  We also know that 75% - maybe 80%, who knows really (similar to the claims of fertilized eggs falling through without implantation) are coerced or otherwise arrive at the facility thinking that it is the only option for them.  The prayer and presence of the prolife people outside of the clinics is that the woman would talk to them and learn there are other options, not only to save the life of the unborn child, but to spare the woman of the deep and lasting pain that is germinated from the termination.

"Jesus said to them,  'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." (John 8:58)

Finally these words of Fr. John Bartunek from The Better Part on John 8:12-20:
Jesus himself, his person and his teachings, is the pillar of saving fire that shines throughout the entire world, leading whoever believes in him to the fullness of life itself. . . . Thoreau (wrote) . . . most men lead lives of quiet desperation, knowing that there is more to life, but unable to find it.  We walk in darkness, groping tentatively and anxiously - unless we have Jesus.  His example, his teaching, and his presence are a "lamp to our feet and a light to our path" (Psalm 119:105).  With Jesus, we know where we are going and how to get there.  Who are the people in history who have lived the most fulfilling, fulfilled, and fruitful lives if not the saints . . . ?  Only the saints (by walking the path of Christ's light) learn the secret of rejoicing in the midst of suffering; only they conquer the conundrum of how to be happy in a fallen world.
I am reading The Quiet Light, a novel about St. Thomas Aquinas.  I would like to add what St. Thomas wrote about that last highlighted part--the conundrum of how to be happy, believe and love God, seeking after him, in a fallen world, but this post is already longer than planned and longer than any but 1 or 2 will read!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Can't Steal Our Joy

In his teaching at the 21 April 2014 Regina Coeli, Pope Francis mentioned:
The dominant sentiment that shines forth from the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection is joy full of wonder, but a great wonder! Joy that comes from within! And in the Liturgy we relive the state of mind of the disciples over the news which the women had brought: Jesus is Risen! We have seen him!
Let us allow this experience which is inscribed in the Gospel also to be imprinted in our hearts and shine forth from our lives. Let us allow the joyous wonder of Easter Sunday to shine forth in our thoughts, glances, behaviour, gestures and words.... If only we were so luminous! But this is not just cosmetic! It comes from within, from a heart immersed in the source of this joy.
Jesus too talks, with joy, about what comes from within:
37On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’39Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

I was curious where the scripture said this and I found it in Isaiah:
You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me. 2Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. 3With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. 5Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. 6Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 12:1-6) 
Truly Our Lord Jesus Christ left the glory of heaven and entered our world as a naked baby like the rest of us.  He suffered, died, and was buried.  He released the prisoners from their holding area in the underworld and rose from the dead.   He rose from the dead!  Then he sent us the Holy Spirit.  We who have been baptized and confirmed in the Holy Spirit have in our midst the Holy One of Israel.  Jesus is alive in our hearts.  There too are the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Do you feel like me, that you might be on rocky ground, that there is trouble, persecution trying to steal our Easter joy? 
20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. (Matthew 12:20-21)
Like a little seedling, I am struggling to get my roots down.  Struggling against forces seen and unseen.  The challenge to my endurance, my potential to let the impact of Jesus's love, his great sacrifice that gives me the hope of heaven shine in my life is clear to me.  At the same time there in the Word of God, in Scripture, I find the path back to the Word that is Jesus, that is the Holy One of Israel.  Here in my heart, the Holy Spirit can bring forth rivers of living water.

No one, no situation, no evil spirit can steal our joy!  We can keep returning to Scripture, so we increase the confidence and intensity of our prayer time.  We will find goodness (and all good comes from God--James 1:17) in people and in events, and look to see the hand of God, his will in everything.  We can do this because He loves us and has given us the Holy Spirit, teaches us in his Word and in the Sacraments, and helps us help each other along right paths.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Treasure Found as result of Giving up FB for Lent!

Last year I gave it a little more thought - the need to give up FaceBook (FB) for Lent.  This year I just saw a friend saying she was giving it up and decided it was an excellent idea and I should too.

With FB removed from my commuting routine (I spend a couple hours on the Metra train each day), one of the books I've read is The Heroic Face of Innocence: Three Stories, by Georges Bernanos.  The first story is about St. Joan of Arc.  It pulls from the transcripts of her trial.  The middle story wasn't as good.  The third is a masterpiece, The Dialogues of the Carmelites, based on the true story of the 16 Carmelite nuns of Compiegne that were executed on one day during the Reign of Terror that followed the French Revolution.  The sisters first sang the Salve Regina and then the Veni Creator Spirtus, with the sound of their chorus having less voices as each sister in turn was beheaded.   That led me to find the opera of the same name by Poulenc.  While the play written by Georges Bernanos is fiction, it is a masterpiece of the reality of heartfelt faith testifying to not only the faith of the Carmelite sisters, but also the faith of Bernanos.  The opera also testifies to the faith of Poulenc.  
martyrs of Compiegne 2
martyrs of Compiegne 1
Poulenc's opera is also acclaimed as a masterpiece.  It was a little unfortunate the streaming video of the opera on Amazon did not have the sisters in their habits, and also that it had no subtitles, and it was sung completely in French, but the story was fresh in my mind.

Well, besides the French there are were several hymns in Latin that we don't often hear, but I am going to download to listen to more often:

That isn't correct.  We hear Ave Maria on the Marian Feasts of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption.  The Salve Regina we are familiar with as it is the Latin version of the "Hail Heavenly Queen" that we pray after the 5th decade of the rosary.  The Ave verum corpus though, how many of you know that one?

Ave verum corpus, natum
de Maria Virgine,
vere passum, immolatum
in cruce pro homine,
cuius latus perforatum
fluxit aqua et sanguine:
esto nobis praegustatum
in mortis examine.
O Iesu dulcis, O Iesu pie, O Iesu, fili Mariae.
Miserere mei. Amen.
A translation into English is:
Hail, true Body, born
of the Virgin Mary,
who having truly suffered, was sacrificed
on the cross for mankind,
whose pierced side
flowed with water and blood:
May it be for us a foretaste [of the Heavenly banquet]
in the trial of death.
O sweet Jesus, O pious Jesus, O Jesus, son of Mary,
have mercy on me. Amen.
This was sung at the elevation of the host during the consecration. It was also used frequently during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

From Wikipedia, "The hymn's title means "Hail, true body", and is based on a poem deriving from a 14th-century manuscript from the Abbey of Reichenau, Lake Constance. The poem is a meditation on the Catholic belief in Jesus's Real Presence in the sacrament of the Eucharist. . . ."

Well, I want to start praying it again, and maybe singing it too.  

It is sad how few "Catholics" believe and reverence Jesus's Real Presence in the Sacrament of the the Holy Eucharist.  I could go on my soap box about all the little things that happened over the years - losing the communion rails, receiving communion standing up, receiving communion from lay ministers, receiving communion in the hand, mass consecrations of the Eucharist, etc.  I don't like it.  It is not this way in the Byzantine church nor in churches that celebrate Latin Masses with communion rails.  But I won't go on my soap box.  I will pray for reform, and I will continue to be one of those nuisance people who insist on kneeling during the consecration, even when the priest says to stand, and to navigate to the priest's communion aisle away from the lay woman handing out communion in the fashionable top and the well practiced "Receive the Body of Christ".  Pretty sure it is simply, "The Body of Christ", but she felt led to embellish . . .  arghh!  Even she wasn't as bad as the 7th grader from my local parish that was practically giggling as she was handing out the Body of Christ.  More and more things are making me appreciate the Roman Catholic Church but this really needs reform.

We recently did a college visit to Franciscan University of Steubenville.  There are Eucharistic Ministers there, but only for the cups.  The Body of Christ is only given by the priests.  Sadly I heard an upsetting story from a girl there that attended a Catholic High School in our area.  First she said she thinks only 50% of the students believed in God, let alone were Catholic.  Secondly, she told about a football player receiving Communion in the hand and then going to the back of the church and throwing the Consecrated Host in the garbage can.  Very upsetting, but also, that doesn't happen when you receive communion in the mouth at the Communion Rail, or in the mouth by the spoon in the Byzantine rite.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Holy, Holy, Holy

Two prophets--one from the Old Testament, and one from the New;
both chosen while alive to see that which most of us will only see after death

Both the great prophet, Isaiah, and the Apostle John, capture the reality in the same words.

Isaiah 6:3

3And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Revelation 4:8

8And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing, “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.”

Jesus had this to say about Isaiah's testimony:

John 12:41

41Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him.

Good to keep in mind as we contemplate for the 99.999999% of us still living who do not get whisked into the the holiness of the reality of God's holiness and glory, charged to give an account to foster the faith, love, trust, and hope of the rest of us!

Let us pray the prayer taught by the angel to the children at Fatima:
MY GOD, I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love Thee! 
I ask pardon for for those who do not believe, 
do not adore, do not trust and do not love Thee.

Let us take encouragement from these words of our beloved Lord, Jesus the Son of God:

John 20:29

29Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’