Friday, June 13, 2008

St Columbanus, on the front lines of mission, Synod of Bishops, and WYD social networking

I am back in Colorado Springs after a successful Making Disciples in Benet Lake, Wisconsin, but Fr Mike and Sherry are still on the road doing Called and Gifted teacher training at St. Isidore’s parish in Bloomingdale, Illinois.

There were a number of things worth looking at that came through this week: 

First, the Pope touched on evangelization during his weekly audience in which he discussed the Irish monk St Columbanus. The Pope summarized his address saying: 
"St. Columbanus' message focuses on a powerful call to conversion and detachment from worldly goods, with a view to the eternal reward. With his ascetic life and his uncompromising attitude to the corruption of the powerful, he evokes the severe figure of John the Baptist. Yet his austerity ... was only a means to open himself freely to the love of God and to respond with his entire being to the gifts received from Him, reconstructing the image of God in himself, and at the same time ploughing the earth and renewing human society".

"A man of great culture and rich in gifts of grace, both as a tireless builder of monasteries and as an uncompromising penitential preacher", the Pope concluded, Columbanus "spent all his energies to nourish the Christian roots of the nascent Europe. With his spiritual strength, with his faith, with his love of God and neighbour, he became one of the Fathers of Europe, showing us today the way to those roots from which our continent may be reborn".
The complete text is here

Also, Zenit had an interesting piece up about the Order of the Sisters of Adoration, Slaves of the Blessed Sacrament and of Charity and their work with women trapped in prostitution or who are victims of other forms of trafficking and exploitation. They are not only doing some very interesting outreach and mission work on the front lines of one of our greatest social evils, but they are finding their energy for this work in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In fact, they say that "they find the same God in the Blessed Sacrament that they see in the girls with whom they work -- young women rescued from the prostitution trade." 

The full article is here

In preparation for the 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops this fall, a working document entitled "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church" has been prepared and presented by the synod secretary. The secretary said that they synod 

"should foster knowledge and love of the word of God which is living, effective and penetrating, in order to rediscover the infinite goodness of God who reveals himself to man as friend, encounters him and invites him to communion."
"Moreover," he added, "through the word of God, there is the hope of reinforcing the ecclesial community, fomenting the universal vocation to salvation, reinforcing the mission to those who are close and those far away, renewing imaginative charity, and attempting to contribute to the search for solutions to the many problems of contemporary man, who is hungry both for bread as well as for every word that comes from the mouth of God."
It will be great to see what comes out of the synod. The complete story and link to the document is at Zenit.

Finally, the folks preparing for World Youth Day in Sydney have started a social networking site along the lines of Facebook so that the energy and friendships coming out of World Youth Day can be continued in cyberspace once the festivities down under are over. I imagine this will lead to some remarkable connectivity and friendship between young Catholics from all over the world well after the lights have gone out on WYD 2008. The site is Xt3.com. By the way, there are just 32 days to go before the festivities begin. 


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Friday, July 6, 2007

God's Time


I feel a little sheepish (no pun intended) making this post. I feel that way when God gives me an insight into Scripture and suddenly things seem so much clearer. I think, "Why didn't I see that before?"

Let me explain. Yesterday evening at Mass we heard the story of the testing of Abraham by God in Genesis 22. You know the story. "God said: 'Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.'" Abraham prepares to do just that, and at the last moment, when the knife is raised above the terrified boy, the angel of the Lord stops Abraham, saying, "I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son."

This story causes problems for a lot of people, especially parents, who are better able than I am to place themselves in Abraham's position, feel his confusion and anguish, and wonder, "Just what does this reveal about God, and can I really trust such a deity?" It seems cruel to test Abraham, to seemingly ask him to kill his hope in a multitude of descendants, and it leads many people to view the greatest evils in our life as directly willed by God to test our faith.

Yesterday, however, a young woman proclaimed the passage beautifully, and I heard it again for the first time. One passage in particular brought me close to tears.

"Abraham took the wood for the holocaust and laid it on his son Isaac's shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham. 'Father!' he said. 'Yes, son,' he replied. Isaac continued, 'Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the holocaust?' 'Son,' Abraham answered, 'God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust.' Then the two continued going forward."

The image of Isaac carrying the wood for the holocaust on his shoulders struck me as a foreshadowing of Jesus, who would carry the cross - the wood of his own holocaust - on his shoulders some two millenia later. This is a beautiful example of the Catholic understanding that all of the Bible must be read in light of Jesus and the events of his life, death, resurrection and ascension. ("The Church, as early as apostolic times, and then constantly in her Tradition, has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God's works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son. Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen." Catechism of the Catholic Church #128, 129)

As soon as the image of Isaac as a "type" of Christ struck me, the response of Abraham, "God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust." took on a new significance - that of a prophetic and deeply faith-filled statement, rather than simply wishful thinking, or deception.

Indeed, God did provide a sheep for the holocaust, not just the ram caught in the thicket, but the Lamb of God, His only begotten Son of whom he could say, "You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased." (Mk 1:11)

The first Adam failed to place himself between the serpent, the most cunning ("intimidating" is another possible translation) of all the creatures, and his wife, Eve. He was not willing to possibly "lay down his life" for her, and the whole narrative thread of Scripture leads up to the second Adam who finally lays down his life for us all, fulfilling the Law in his life, and putting and end to it with his death and resurrection.

God's time, God's infinite patience and wisdom, are revealed in the Scriptures. If we are patient and observe the events of our own life with the eyes of faith, we will undoubtedly find examples of this wisdom being revealed in them as well.

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Friday, February 2, 2007

Feast of The Presentation of the Lord

A little while back, on Fr. Mike's post on memorization of Scripture, I mentioned some reflections that I drew for my own life and preparation for receiving the Eucharist from St. Luke's account of God's promise to Simeon and its fulfillment when St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother, carrying the Christ child, entered the temple for the purification ritual and the child's presentation.

Well, today, February 2nd, is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which celebrates this event. (Besides the Mass readings for the Feast, you can find also the Office of Readings for today over here.)

I was reminded of this fact when I decided to look at the entry for today in our now-Pontiff's book, "Co-Workers of the Truth". Clearly, a rich passage -- it's the fourth mystery of the rosary, after all -- I was intrigued by then-Cardinal Ratzinger's focus on how this event in the East is known as Hypapanti, or meeting. The encounter of Simeon and Christ. And Saint Sophronius, in the office of Readings, universalizes this, saying, "In honour of the divine mystery that we celebrate today, let us all hasten to meet Christ. Everyone should be eager to join the procession and to carry a light."

I'd be interested in other people's reflections on this Feast. And if you are looking for a way to enter into Scripture, besides Fr. Mike's original recommendation, consider spending some time each day with the readings that are part of the day's liturgy. It's not a bad way to start.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Spiritual Disciplines - part 4

SCRIPTURE MEMORIZATION

One of the fundamental human freedoms we have is the ability to put our minds where we want.
Every student who has daydreamed through a tedious class knows this.
Into the space made by fasting, silence and solitude we can introduce a fourth spiritual discipline, the memorization of Scripture.
St. Dominic, the founder of the Order to which I belong, was known to have carried the Gospel of Matthew and the Epistles of St. Paul with him where ever he went, and so well had he studied them, he had memorized nearly every passage.

We don't have to memorize huge swaths of chapters (though it wouldn't hurt), but what's to prevent us from memorizing simple phrases and sentences that we can keep before our mind each day?
Joshua 1:8 says that we should "meditate on the law of the Lord day and night, so that we may act in accordance with all that is written in it."
If fasting opens a space in our life for another's will to be done, then memorizing Scripture will make that Other's will more concrete.

It would seem that memorizing some passages of scripture is important, because whatever we study forms our mind, and our mind, in turn forms our life.
I'm a big college sports fan, and I have to be careful not to go overboard.
I know that's happening when I begin memorizing statistics of my favorite team (Go Ducks!).
What information do you seek out regularly? Statistics from the stock market? The latest celebrity gossip in People? How do the facts and soundbites you immerse yourself in shape you?

Our soul is re-formed as we meditate and chew over even a sentence of God's word during our day.
That meditation can become a dialogue between us and God throughout the day, and just as we grow in love as we grow in knowledge of someone, we grow in love of God as we submerge ourself in His word.
Just as we long to hear the voice of someone we love, we can begin to long to hear the voice of God in scripture.

As our projects mount, as our labors and tasks surround us, as our entertainment and doodling while away the time, we may forget the upshot of our lives.
It is to love and evoke love, no matter where we may be, from classroom to the workplace, the kitchen table, the nursing home.
It is to receive with an open heart the gift of Christ's once-and-for-all redemptive act.
Moreover, it is to refocus our lives so that Christ is at the center – for we cannot love as we are commanded by Christ without Christ's help.

If heaven is seeing God face-to-face and abiding in his presence eternally, shouldn't we seek him in this life?
If we have little or no interest in God on a daily basis, what makes us think that we're fit for heaven?
Do we think heaven is simply a reward for being good?
Could any of us ever be good enough to earn eternal happiness?
We do not earn salvation.
It's not a reward for being good, nor is it a reward for not being too bad.
The saints are those who long to see God in this life, who are channels of God's love for others, who lay down their life in acts of service to others, who make God an integral part of their daily experience.
They are consecrated; set apart by God's grace and their own free will to do what he asks of them.
When the saint dies, heaven is the fulfillment of what they lived on earth.

So what are your future plans?
What do they include?
Is heaven in your future?
It's not automatic, you know.
If we don't want to spend time with God in our lifetime, in prayer, reflection, reading of scripture, reaching out to him in the distressing disguise of the people around us, what makes us think we want to spend eternity with him?

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