Browsing News Entries

Aug. 19, 2018 20th Sunday B

Aug. 19, 2018 20th Sunday B

About a month ago, Pope Francis gave prophetic words for the Church during the solemn mass of Sts. Peter and Paul, "In Jesus, glory and the cross go together; they are inseparable. Once we turn our back on the cross, even though we may attain the heights of glory, we will be fooling ourselves, since it will not be God's glory, but the snare of the enemy." (Pope Francis, 6/29/18) In the Gospel reading from that day, Peter declares that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” While Jesus applauds Peter for this recognition, very quickly, he chastises Peter for swearing that he will not allow the crucifixion to happen to Jesus. In doing so, Peter became a stumbling block in the Lord’s path and thus Jesus calls him, “Satan.” Pope said, “Like Peter, we as a Church will always be tempted to hear those ‘whisperings’ of the evil One, which will become a stumbling stone for the mission.”

This is the fourth week we’ve heard the discourse on the Bread of Life from Our Lord. The first week, we heard about the miraculous feeding of more than five thousand hungry people. The second week, people seek after Jesus hungry for more physical signs and bread. Last week, Jesus taught the followers to focus on spiritual food that will give eternal life and not on transitory food of this earth. This week, Our Lord explains that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. Throughout this discourse on the Bread of Life, Our Lord is redirecting our hunger for earthly food--earthly fame, glory, power, riches--to hunger for relationship with him. Through this discourse he is awakening within his hearers the thirst and hunger for relationship with Heavenly Father. Without this relationship, we often settle for a poor imitation of his love--lust, pride, gluttony, anger, envy, sloth, and greed. How does the recent news and this Gospel connect together?

With the scandal of former cardinal McCarrick and the grand jury reports on the Pennsylvania dioceses, the past couple of weeks have been a painful reminder to our bishops and priests that we have become stumbling blocks to Heavenly Father’s plan by giving into the temptations of the evil One--lust, careerism, cover-ups, cultures of dishonesty and manipulation. Our Lord has asked his apostles, successors of apostles, and priests to protect, feed, and guide His flock. As a priest and a disciple of Jesus Christ, I’m truly sorry for any harm that was done by my brother priests and church leadership. The abusive acts were criminal and morally reprehensible that betrayed trust and robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. Those who commit such abominable sins certainly turned their back on the Cross and sought after earthly pursuits.

Since the news of the grand jury report, many tried to put in words their reaction. One Catholic journalist wrote, “This is the church I love. The church I was raised in. The church in which I had my child baptized. The church I want to raise her in. The church I look to for guidance. The church I turn to for comfort. The church I’ve worked for. The church I’ve lived for. The church, I hope, I’d have the strength to die for. But I’ve found myself not only becoming frustrated, disgruntled and angry but also sad, heartbroken and remarkably let down by this church...There is a deep, bleeding wound within this church—a wound caused by cover-ups and lies, rampant dishonesty, sickening selfishness and pride, sexual abuse and impropriety and perhaps worst of all, an attitude of ‘let’s quickly dismiss it as something that happened long ago’ as many seem to be going on the defensive to prevent further bleeding.”

Someone asked a priest if it was okay to be upset and angry about this latest scandal. He answered, “Yes! Absolutely!” If we look at history -- from the time of the old testament through today, we will find many times when God was displeased with his shepherds! In the Old Testament, the Lord spoke strong words through the Prophet Ezekiel: “To the shepherds, thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds pasture the flock?...Look! I am coming against these shepherds. I will take my sheep out of their hand and put a stop to their shepherding my flock, so that these shepherds will no longer pasture them. I will deliver my flock from their mouths so it will not become their food.” (Ezkiel 34:2-10) During the 4th century when the church suffered under bad leadership, St. John Chrysostom said, “The road to hell is paved with the skulls of erring priests, with bishops as their signposts.” In those difficult times, the community of faithful took consolation in God’s promise that God himself will provide shepherds after his own heart (cf. Jeremiah 3:15) The 13th century Church and its clergy were also suffering from financial scandal, corruption, and moral laxity when Jesus called a young man named Francis of Assisi, “Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.’ Francis exhorted his brothers and faithful to embrace Jesus in the Eucharist as the source and sustenance for their spiritual life. In spite of the sinfulness of priests and bishops, it is through the work of the Holy Spirit that we still receive the Eucharist to fill our spiritual hunger. The Eucharist that we receive today is the same Bread of Life that apostles received from the Last Supper. Throughout the history of the Church, Jesus has provided for us the same flesh and blood which is himself to nourish our hunger.

Our Lord himself tells us in the gospel, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” Jesus gives himself as the food of eternal life from the Heavenly Father. The Eucharist is life giving because it draws us closer to Jesus; he draws us to the Cross so that so that we may abide with him there along with Blessed Mother, Mary Magdalene, and John. Jesus is our life and is the means to the life for which we hunger. When we eat Christ’s flesh and drink his blood, Jesus lives in us and we live in him. We consume his life in hope and faith that he might consume and change ours. We eat and digest his life, his love, his mercy, his forgiveness, his way of being and seeing, his compassion, his presence, and his relationship with the Father.

We must pray each day for the grace to die to self and seek the good of others. And as we receive Eucharist today, let us remember to pray for abuse victims and their families. We especially call upon St. Francis of Assisi to intercede in rebuilding our Church.

Aug. 15, 2018: Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary

Aug. 15, 2018 Assumption of Mary

A few days ago, Deacon Tim and I went to visit a parishioner who was gravely ill. As we stood by her bedside, her grown children were gathered around her and I administered  the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.  She had already lost her husband a year ago, and she had been heart broken ever since. I prayed the prayer of the dying in these words, “I commend you, my dear sister, to almighty God, and entrust you to your Creator. May you return to him who formed you from the dust of the earth. May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints come to meet you as you go forth from this life. May Christ who was crucified for you bring you freedom and peace...May you see your Redeemer face to face, and enjoy the vision of God for ever.” The room was filled with great sadness and sorrow because it pained her children at the thought of losing their mother. Through their faith, they knew that their mother would live on in a different way after her bodily death. However, the sadness perhaps was from the fear that they would not see and feel their mother’s love as before. They longed to be loved by their mom forever for her love made all the difference in forming them into caring and faith-filled persons. As we sang together the hymn, “Immaculate Mary,” we sensed the presence of Heavenly Mother who came to comfort the dying mother and her children. 

This family’s experience as they gathered around their dying mother helps us imagine what it was like for the disciples of Jesus as they gathered around Blessed Mother during her last days of earthly life. Blessed Mother was, for the disciples, the face and the presence of her Jesus among them after he ascended into heaven. Perhaps her physical resemblance was close to her Son’s; even more, her gentle and loving way mirrored her Son’s. She was for the disciples a living reminder of Jesus and a constant source of consolation. Her love was the sign of God’s mercy and tenderness. 

For the disciples, Blessed Mother witnessed to them her complete trust in the Father and the Son, perseverance in times of difficulties, and hope against hope. She suffered at the death of her Son at Calvary and then separated again from him when he ascended into heaven.  Yet she tirelessly modeled for them how to be a disciple of Jesus. She shared with them the mystery of her Annunciation, the Nativity, and the suffering and death of her Son on Calvary. She reminded them about her Son’s teachings by living it out with her care and compassion for others. In moments when darkness and persecution were overwhelming, she encouraged them with her presence and her faith. 

St. Padre Pio captured Blessed Mother’s Assumption in this way:
After the Ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven, Mary was continually on fire with a most intense desire to be reunited to Him...Those years in which she had to be separated from Him were for her a most slow and painful martyrdom, a martyrdom of love that consumed her little by little...The apostles, upon hearing that Mary would soon leave them, reacted like children who stood to become orphans, and they burst forth in sorrowful lamentations. She took steps to console them, assuring them that she would not completely abandon them, but would continue to assist and help them from Heaven. 

The Church teaches that at the end of her earthly life, Blessed Mother, by a special privilege, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory at the end of her earthly life. St. John Paul II explained, "The Assumption is the culmination of the struggle which involved Mary's generous love in the redemption of humanity and is the fruit of her unique sharing in the victory of the Cross." Now from heaven, this Queen of the angels and saints, does not cease to console, assure, intercede, and guide her children on earth. Her maternal love for us remains the same as it ever was during her life on earth. As the Mother of the Church, she cooperates in the birth and development of her sons and daughters on earth. In the difficult moments of our earthly life, we should not act as though we are abandoned children feeling alone and dejected. We are closer than ever to our Heavenly Mother whose maternal presence and voice calls out to us each day, “Dear children, pray, pray, pray! Open your heart to my Son’s love. Love and forgive your neighbors.”

Aug. 14, 2018: Saint Maximilian Kolbe

Aug. 14, 2018: Saint Maximilian Kolbe

Saint Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish Franciscan priest, missionary and martyr, is celebrated throughout the Church today, August 14.

The saint died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz, during World War II, and is remembered as a “martyr of charity” for dying in place of another prisoner who had a wife and children. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982.

St. Maximilian is also celebrated for his missionary work, his evangelistic use of modern means of communication, and for his lifelong devotion to the Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception.

All these aspects of St. Maximilian's life converged in his founding of the Militia Immaculata. The worldwide organization continues St. Maximilian Kolbe's mission of bringing individuals and societies into the Catholic Church, through dedication to the Virgin Mary.

St. Maximilian, according to several biographies, was personally called by the Virgin Mary, both to his holy life and to his eventual martyrdom. As an impulsive and badly-behaved child, he prayed to her for guidance, and later described how she miraculously appeared to him holding two crowns: one was white, representing purity, the other red, for martyrdom.

When he was asked to choose between these two destinies, the troublesome child and future saint said he wanted both. Radically changed by the incident, he entered the minor seminary of the Conventual Franciscans at age 13, in 1907.

At age 20 he made his solemn vows as a Franciscan, earning a doctorate in philosophy the next year. Soon after, however, he developed chronic tuberculosis, which eventually destroyed one of his lungs and weakened the other.

On October 16, 1917, in response to anti-Catholic demonstrations by Italian Freemasons, Friar Maximilian led six other Franciscans in Rome to form the association they called the Militia Immaculata. The group's founding coincided almost exactly with the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, and the Marian apparitions at Fatima, Portugal.

As a Franciscan priest, Fr. Maximilian returned to work in Poland during the 1920s. There, he promoted the Catholic faith through newspapers and magazines which eventually reached an extraordinary circulation, published from a monastery so large it was called the “City of the Immaculata.”

In 1930 he moved to Japan, and had established a Japanese Catholic press by 1936, along with a similarly ambitious monastery.

That year, however, he returned to Poland for the last time. In 1939, Germany invaded Poland, and Fr. Kolbe was arrested. Briefly freed during 1940, he published one last issue of the Knight of the Immaculata before his final arrest and transportation to Auschwitz in 1941.

At the beginning of August that year, 10 prisoners were sentenced to death by starvation in punishment for another inmate's escape. Moved by one man's lamentation for his wife and children, Fr. Kolbe volunteered to die in his place.

Survivors of the camp testified that the starving prisoners could be heard praying and singing hymns, led by the priest who had volunteered for an agonizing death. After two weeks, on the night before the Church's feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the camp officials decided to hasten Fr. Kolbe's death, injecting him with carbolic acid.

St. Maximilian Kolbe's body was cremated by the camp officials on the feast of the Assumption. He had stated years earlier: “I would like to be reduced to ashes for the cause of the Immaculata, and may this dust be carried over the whole world, so that nothing would remain.”

Aug. 12, 2018: 19th Sunday in Ordinary B

8-12-18 19th Sunday B
Are you eating the right food? The doctor usually asks that question when we go for a checkup. What happens when we don’t eat right? I encountered a man a few weeks ago at our church office seeking a little assistance. He had been hitchhiking across the country for some time. While speaking with him, I noticed that his teeth were eroded eroded and he appeared to be in poor health. During the conversation, he revealed that he loved to drink Dr. Pepper. When I asked how much he consumed everyday, he responded “two 20 oz. for breakfast to wake me up, two 20 oz. for lunch, and two 20 oz. at dinner to help me sleep.” He drinks 120 oz. or a bottle and half of two liter size Dr. Pepper every day. We know intellectually what’s good for us to eat and what to avoid, but that hasn’t kept us from eating junk food, right? Someone told me that when she was preparing for an exam at school, she would binge-eat Doritos chips and a large bag of M&M chocolates. I think a lot of students do something similar; however, mamas and grandmas would never allow them to eat that much junk food -- they love us enough to feed us food that is good for us.

Speaking of nourishing….how are we nourishing our soul? Are we eating the right kind and enough of spiritual nourishment? Just as our body needs the right food groups and water to nourish and sustain a healthy body, we also also need the right nourishment to sustain our soul. But where can we find the right kind of spiritual sustenance for our soul?

Prophet Elijah in our First Reading demonstrated that God himself will provide the necessary nourishment. Elijah was on the run from assassins sent by Queen Jezebel to kill him. He fled into the desert, away from his executioners. He was mortally afraid, tired, and famished from fleeing and asked God to take his life. Instead, God loved and cared for Elijah by sending angels to bring food and drink to sustain him. This heavenly food sustained Elijah to be able to trek across the desert for forty days and forty nights. Imagine if we could have access to such food brought to us from heaven by angels; would we also be sustained through difficult experiences throughout our earthly life--suffering, illness, anxiety, or a loss of a loved one? Out of His great care and love for us God sends us His Son as our nourishment for our journey through earthly life.

Jesus proclaimed, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Those who heard his words, however, doubted him; how could a mere human being claim that he came down from heaven? Even though they have seen Jesus miraculously multiply bread and fish to feed five thousand persons, they would not believe that Jesus was divine. Similar doubt persists in our modern generation, doubting whether Jesus is real, whether he is even God, and whether this bread he gives is truly himself. Therefore, many do not get true spiritual nourishment and thus experience spiritual dryness. Feeling that gnawing spiritual hunger within, some search out for spiritual gurus and Eastern spiritual exercises to fill the void within. In my younger days, I pursued New Age philosophy and practices hoping that I would experience spiritual enlightenment and fullness. I received temporary relief, only to seek out something new and more esoteric. It was like eating junk food; it tasted good at the beginning, but left me even more empty and hungry.

Faith in God is a precious gift, and we must never take it for granted. Our Lord said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him...Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me...whoever believes has eternal life.” We the disciples of Jesus have been given nourishment that truly fills and satisfies us--Sacred Scriptures, teachings of the Church, encounter with Heavenly Father through prayer, and intimate communion with Jesus through the Eucharist. Are we grateful for this banquet of true nourishment? St. Ignatius of Antioch put well how our desires and attitude should be, “I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible”

When we reflect on our life, are we getting the right nourishment? Are we faithful to our prayer life, our charity in action for others, Sacrament of Reconciliation, and Eucharist? Just as God provided for Prophet Elijah’s long and arduous journey into desert, God gives us bread from heaven, His Son in the Eucharist, so that we might have eternal life.

Aug. 9, 2018: St. Edith Stein

Aug. 9, 2018: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross “Edith Stein”

Getting to know Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) 

To Edith Stein, a woman who is in full control of herself is free to live for others. True strength lies in sacrificial love that holds up the weaknesses of others. In a world where power, wealth, and attention seem to gather all the applause, this is a good reminder that a woman actually finds joy and contentment by making her soul beautiful first.

“Each woman who lives in the light of eternity can fulfill her vocation, no matter if it is in marriage, in a religious order, or in a worldly profession.” - Edith Stein (Spirituality of the Christian Woman)

We all have different callings in life. Not every woman needs to be a mother, or a nun, or president of a Fortune 500 company, but whatever a woman is called to be, she will best fulfill it by understanding what she is on this earth to do, and how it will contribute to her lasting happiness. She believes that whatever your vocation, you should let God be a part of it.

“Woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal, and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth is her natural, maternal yearning. “ -Edith Stein (The Ethos of Women’s Professions)

All of us are flawed, yes, and we’re all probably embarrassed about mistakes we’ve made in the past. Edith insists that women can approach these feelings almost the way a mother would, by seeing flaws not as a single trait to be relentlessly criticized or as a way of defining an entire life, but instead to follow a better way and see people as a whole, as works-in-progress, and capable of being nurtured into greatness.

“[Women] comprehend not merely with the intellect but also with the heart.” -Edith Stein  (Problems of Women’s Education)

The intellect is valuable for insights into basic truths and skills, but when we truly know a person or thing, our knowledge helps us to also love them. The goal of knowledge is to love those beautiful and wonderful truths we uncover. This means that the heart, when combined with the mind, is necessary to knowing the world around us. The gaze of the lover sees most clearly, which means that whatever we love best, we can also know best. In a world where science and technology dominate, let us not neglect the valuable knowledge that comes from the heart.

Edith Stein Biography
Edith Stein was born in Breslau on 12 October 1891, the youngest of 11, as her family were celebrating Yom Kippur, that most important Jewish festival, the Feast of Atonement. “More than anything else, this helped make the youngest child very precious to her mother.” Being born on this day was like a foreshadowing to Edith, a future Carmelite nun.

Edith’s father, who ran a timber business, died when she had only just turned two. Her mother, a very devout, hard-working, strong-willed and truly wonderful woman, now had to fend for herself and to look after the family and their large business. However, she did not succeed in keeping up a living faith in her children. Edith lost her faith in God. “I consciously decided, of my own volition, to give up praying,” she said.

In 1911 she passed her school-leaving exam with flying colours and enrolled at the University of Breslau to study German and history, though this was a mere “bread-and-butter” choice. Her real interest was in philosophy and in women’s issues. She became a member of the Prussian Society for Women’s Franchise. “When I was at school and during my first years at university,” she wrote later, “I was a radical suffragette. Then I lost interest in the whole issue. Now I am looking for purely pragmatic solutions.”

In 1913, Edith Stein transferred to Göttingen University, to study under the mentorship of Edmund Husserl. She became his pupil and teaching assistant, and he later tutored her for a doctorate. At the time, anyone who was interested in philosophy was fascinated by Husserl’s new view of reality, whereby the world as we perceive it does not merely exist in a Kantian way, in our subjective perception. His pupils saw his philosophy as a return to objects: “back to things”. Husserl’s phenomenology unwittingly led many of his pupils to the Christian faith. In Göttingen Edith Stein also met the philosopher Max Scheler, who directed her attention to Roman Catholicism. Nevertheless, she did not neglect her “bread-and-butter” studies and passed her degree with distinction in January 1915, though she did not follow it up with teacher training.

“I no longer have a life of my own,” she wrote at the beginning of the First World War, having done a nursing course and gone to serve in an Austrian field hospital. This was a hard time for her, during which she looked after the sick in the typhus ward, worked in an operating theatre, and saw young people die. When the hospital was dissolved, in 1916, she followed Husserl as his assistant to the German city of Freiburg, where she passed her doctorate summa cum laude (with the utmost distinction) in 1917, after writing a thesis on “The Problem of Empathy.”
During this period she went to Frankfurt Cathedral and saw a woman with a shopping basket going in to kneel for a brief prayer. “This was something totally new to me. In the synagogues and Protestant churches I had visited people simply went to the services. Here, however, I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, as if she was going to have an intimate conversation. It was something I never forgot. “Towards the end of her dissertation she wrote: “There have been people who believed that a sudden change had occurred within them and that this was a result of God’s grace.” How could she come to such a conclusion?
Edith Stein had been good friends with Husserl’s Göttingen assistant, Adolf Reinach, and his wife.

When Reinach fell in Flanders in November 1917, Edith went to Göttingen to visit his widow. The Reinachs had converted to Protestantism. Edith felt uneasy about meeting the young widow at first, but was surprised when she actually met with a woman of faith. “This was my first encounter with the Cross and the divine power it imparts to those who bear it … it was the moment when my unbelief collapsed and Christ began to shine his light on me – Christ in the mystery of the Cross.”

Aug. 6, 2018: Transfiguration

Aug. 6, 2018: Transfiguration

By Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio, Ph.D.

One of the Bible’s names for the God is “El Shaddai” or “God of the Mountains.” And from the very beginning of salvation history, we see that mountains are a special place to communicate with Heaven. Abraham ascends Mount Moriah to sacrifice his son (Gen 22). God reveals his name and to Moses on Mount Sinai (Ex 3). Moses later receives the 10 Commandments on that very spot (Ex 31:18). Elijah returns to the same mountain, also known as Horeb, to hear what God’s “still, small voice” has to say (I Kg 19:8).

So it is no surprise that Jesus brings his three “pillars” (Gal 2:9) with him up a high mountain to experience a special moment of communion with the Most High.
It is this event that is commemorated by the Church each year on August 6. As tradition has it, Mount Tabor is the place. Rising from the plain of Jezreel, its summit provides a spectacular view of all of Galilee. But what Jesus intends for Peter, James, and John to see is not the countryside. He wishes to provide them a glimpse of who He really is.

Jesus is a carpenter from Nazareth, true. He must have looked much like any other Jewish craftsman of that time and place. That much could be seen by the naked eye. But this exterior appearance of his ordinary humanity was a veil hiding something more extraordinary–his glorious divinity. So on Tabor, God pulls back the veil. Moses and Elijah appear. These heroes of old had long since passed out of this world and gone to God. So what does it say about Jesus’ identity that they appear on his right and his left?

Jesus’ clothes suddenly appear dazzlingly white, “whiter,” notes Mark, “than the work of any bleacher could make them.” The first reading for the Feast of the Transfiguration tells us the significance of this. Daniel sees a vision of the “Ancient One.” How does he appear? With clothing that is snow white. Then one like “a Son of Man” comes on the clouds to receive dominion, glory and kingship from the Ancient One.

On Tabor, a cloud comes and overshadows Jesus and a Voice from the Cloud proclaims that this particular Son of Man happens to be the beloved Son of God.
What we have here is what is called a “theophany,” a manifestation of God. It is revelation, first of all, of the divinity of Christ. What the creed says about him could be viewed as a commentary on this very episode: “God from God, light from light, true God from true God.” But it is also a manifestation of the entire Trinity. The cloud that overshadows the apostles is the same one that overshadowed Mary. It is the glorious cloud of the Holy Spirit out of which the Father’s voice resounds. Father, Son, Holy Spirit, one God in three persons, prefigured in Daniel’s vision, revealed in the Transfiguration.

Suddenly, after a brief prostration, they get up and see only Jesus, looking the way he had always looked. The veil was now back in place.

The five senses are wonderful gifts from God. But they are limited nonetheless. Often we make the mistake of thinking that reality is nothing more than what our senses perceive it to be. So God gives us occasional mountaintop experiences, glimpses into realities that our senses can’t normally detect. Jesus is always divine, regardless of his everyday human appearance. Jesus is always accompanied by saints and angels even when he appears to be alone. It was the entire Trinity who opened the eyes of the man born blind, even though it was only Jesus’ hand we could see touching the man’s eyes.

Even though it’s much easier to forget such things and live according to what everybody can see, faith is remembering such moments of revelation and building our lives upon them.

Copyright 2017 Marcellino D’Ambrosio, Ph.D.

Aug. 5, 2018: 18th Sunday B

Aug. 5, 2018: 18th Sunday B

The other day, on Facebook, there was a video post that simply read, “Do you know this person?” It was a home security camera footage of someone wandering and rummaging through a carport. At the end, the stranger in the video disappears off the camera clutching expensive equipment and tools. The person posting the video was rightfully angry and frustrated that someone stole their personal possessions for which they worked so hard. It is frustrating that the very things we value can disappear without our consent. Something similar happened to a couple living in Redding, California one night last week, when they evacuated their home with little more than their medication, photo albums, and a set of clothes. The next day they returned, only to find a heap of ashes where their house once stood. How is it that the very things we worked so hard for can disappear before our eyes?

The Book of Ecclesiastes echoes this sentiment, “I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind” (Eccl 1:14) The author of Ecclesiastes is trying to tell us that everything that we chase after that is not of God is empty, futile and absurd. Things that we hope would be permanent are subject to change, qualification, and loss. Ultimately, everything we have worked so hard to accumulate comes to an abrupt end with our death. Imagine the crowd of people chasing Jesus after they’ve been fed miraculously from two fish and five loaves of bread. They were hungry for more; however, instead of asking for something that truly lasts, they were searching for temporary fulfillment, such as filling their belly and their curiosity for miraculous wonders. Jesus cautioned the crowd, “Do not work for food that perishes but for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6:27) Then as is now, their tendency was to gratify the senses and not the soul. What they needed (as do we) was sustenance that not only filled their belly but also their soul.

Jesus directed the crowd to believe in him, for God the Father gives the true bread from heaven which gives life to the world. Jesus told them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst." It’s an answer which was received with incredulity by the crowd. And here we are 2000 years later, and we still don’t grasp what he meant when he said, “I am the Bread of Life.” We hear what he said, we know it intellectually, but in practice we live as though we can’t trust God to provide what we need. We want to connect with Jesus through prayer and Sacraments, yet we also want a steady diet of the things of this world.

Here is a simple question to test whether we have prioritized the Kingdom of God over perishable things of this earth. When we wake up in the morning, what is the first thing on our mind? Is it preoccupied with thoughts of work, the responsibilities of the day, or the anxieties that we carried over from yesterday? Is our mind so wrapped up in the things of earth—bigger homes, better vacation, creature comforts—that the thought of God has no place in it? I don’t just mean praying the prayer book, but being the hands and feet of Jesus; in other words, being the bread of life for someone else. Jesus gave us an amazing example of loving by becoming “bread” to enter into everyone’s lives—by making himself edible, he became food and nourishment for others. His life became a sacrificial love for others. Can we also be bold enough to become nourishment for others? Can we love in such a way to make others feel nourished by our love? Can others be comforted, uplifted, and understood by our patience, gentle guidance, and empathy?

Aug. 4, 2018: St. John Vianney "Cure of Ars"

Aug. 4, 2018: St. Jean Vianney "Cure of Ars"

“Without the Holy Eucharist there would be no happiness in this world; life would be insupportable. When we receive Holy Communion, we receive our joy and our happiness. The good God, wishing to give Himself to us in the Sacrament of His Love, gave us a vast and great desire, which He alone can satisfy. In the presence of this beautiful Sacrament, we are like a person dying of thirst by the side of a river — he would only need to bend his head; like a person still remaining poor, close to a great treasure — he need only stretch out his hand. He who communicates loses himself in God like a drop of water in the ocean. They can no more be separated,” -St. Jean Vianney

Below is n excerpt from a homily by St. Jean Vianney on Lukewarmness. The spiritual life is a battle, a struggle – if we love, we want to be better. This is how we are meant to approach Confession, our examination of conscience, our prayer, and our fasting. We should never say, “I won’t go to hell for that.” We should say, “how can I run towards heaven?”

Lukewarmness and Confession
A lukewarm soul will go to Confession regularly, and even quite frequently. But what kind of Confessions are they? No preparation, no desire to correct faults, or, at the least, a desire so feeble and so small that the slightest difficulty will put a stop to it altogether. The Confessions of such a person are merely repetitions of old ones, which would be a happy state of affairs indeed if there were nothing to add to them. Twenty years ago he was accusing himself of the same things he confesses today, and if he goes to Confession for the next twenty years, he will say the same things. A lukewarm soul will not, if you like, commit the big sins. But some slander or back-biting, a lie, a feeling of hatred, of dislike, of jealousy, a slight touch of deceit or double-dealing — these count for nothing with it. …

Lukewarmness and Work
In the morning it is not God who occupies his thoughts, nor the salvation of his poor soul; he is quite taken up with thoughts of work. His mind is so wrapped up in the things of earth that the thought of God has no place in it. He is thinking about what he is going to be doing during the day, where he will be sending his children and his various employees, in what way he will expedite his own work. To say his prayers, he gets down on his knees, undoubtedly, but he does not know what he wants to ask God, nor what he needs, nor even before whom he is kneeling. His careless demeanor shows this very clearly. It is a poor man indeed who, however miserable he is, wants nothing at all and loves his poverty. It is surely a desperately sick person who scorns doctors and remedies and clings to his infirmities.

Prayer of St. Jean Vianney
I love You, O my God, and my only desire is to love You until the last breath of my life.
I love You, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving You, than live without loving You.
I love You, Lord and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally...
My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath.

July 31, 2018: St. Ignatius of Loyola

July 31, 2018: St. Ignatius of Loyola 

First Principle and Foundation of St. Ignatius of Loyola 
“Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.
And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created.

From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it.

For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.”

Purpose in this Moment: Reflection on the First Principle and Foundation
By Lisa Kelly

So often in our lives we want that big picture, the clear road map, the understanding of the infinite, whether it is to know what the future will bring, what life’s purpose is, or even where this Ignatian Adventure might lead. But skipping to the end of the book would miss the point. Being human means we can’t know the whole picture. No human in history has clearly seen his or her complete road map, so it isn’t going to start with me.

Faith means taking the journey even though we don’t know how it will end. All I truly have is the present moment, and each and every moment holds a purpose. In each moment I get to make a choice to keep my feet firmly planted in the enormous love of God for me or to let my disordered attachments pull me into actions and worldviews that take me away from reflecting that love.

St. Ignatius recognized in his Principle and Foundation that we can easily be preoccupied with what our lives will be down the road—will I be rich or poor? Will I be sick or healthy? Will I live a long life or a short one? And in that preoccupation we miss the presence of the Spirit in the current moment. How can I “praise, reverence, and serve God” right now? In this moment? In this one little action or gesture? The choices we make within each moment will bring us one step closer or farther from our heart’s desire. Our purpose in life need be no bigger than our purpose in this very moment. What’s yours?

July 29, 2018: 17th Sunday Ordinary B

July 29, 2018: 17th Sunday Ordinary B
Today’s gospel passage of the multiplication of five loaves and two fish is powerful miracle for us to ponder throughout our lives. If you could ask God to multiply one thing you have presently, what would that be? Would you ask for the crawfish étouffée in your freezer to multiply? Or would you ask for the multiplication of your intelligence, money, friendships, successes, health, or years of life? Of many things we could ask God to multiply, how many of those requests would be related to our fears--fear that we will run out of something, fear that we will fail, or fear that we will die? Even if we feel at the present moment that we have life all together, that nothing is lacking, and that we have everything in abundance, our life has a way of reminding us that we lack something. When we feel that “lack” in something, we crave for it to be multiplied --whether it be wealth, security, or health. When we feel unable to multiply what we desire - whether significant or insignificant, we call upon God to do it for us — often times through our prayers. Without a doubt, the feeling of helplessness is an unpleasant experience.

Picture yourself then in the disciples shoes as they behold a crowd of five thousand persons. Upon being asked by Jesus to feed this massive crowd, the disciples felt helpless with no money or provision to accomplish this feat. All they could find was a little boy who had five loaves and two fish. The bread and fish seemed to be useless before a hungry crowd of thousands, yet Jesus offered to the Heavenly Father the meager gifts and then  it multiplied. This miracle was a reminder of how Moses fed the hungry and grumbling Israelites wandering in the desert with manna from heaven. The ability to be able to feed so many was also a foreshadowing of how Jesus the Bread of Life was going to feed us with His very self in the Eucharist. This miracle foreshadows that there is no limit to what Jesus would do to fulfill our greatest need. He knows of our material and physical need; yet, multiplying them will not fulfill us. Rather, our greatest need to is to love and serve God. What Jesus desires to multiply is our gifts and talents to love and serve Him through our family, friends, and people placed on our path.

In other words, what Jesus needs from us is our willingness to serve and trust of His judgment and not ours. St. Therese of Lisieux said, “What God likes to see is the way I love my littleness and my poverty...God rejoices more in what He can do in a soul humbly resigned to its poverty than in the creation of millions of suns and the vast stretch of the heavens.” We may be embarrassed that we have nothing more to bring to His service than our limited gifts and talents. What we bring may seem insignificant, but Jesus needs what we willingly offer in order to build the Kingdom of God. The little that we have can always be multiplied in the hands of Jesus.

We are called to offer our gifts lovingly to do Lord’s work. Yet if we are offering our gifts and talents to receive accolades in this life, we may need to look within ourselves and reflect upon our baptismal promises. We may never see the fruit of our work. As certain as I know that the sun will rise tomorrow, I know that everything we offer in this life must be for the greater glory of God.