September 19, 2019

The Priesthood and Prayer

Christ is the Great High Priest -- and because of His priesthood on our behalf, our prayers are raised to heaven and heard by the Father.  The Risen Lord intercedes for us in the sanctuary not made by human hands, and He is at work in the world, fully present to our needs. This is what makes Christian prayer unique. By faith, the One who mediates the blessings of God the Father to us and who has won for us the forgiveness of our sins, also presents to the Father our sorrows and joys, hopes and fears in such a way that all of heaven becomes implicated in our plight.

What is more, the priesthood of Christ is not remote from those who are baptized. But baptism, each of the Lord's disciples actually participate in His priesthood as members of his mystical body.  He has given us everything, even allowing us to share in His intercession to the extend that we can pray for one another in His Name and by His Blood, have our prayers answered.  Yes, we need to ask with faith for those things that are in accord with His will and we need to persevere believing that He will grant what is most needed when it is most needed. Yet, our priestly dignity comes from the fact that our existence is rooted in Him and in His priesthood.

This fulfills something intrinsic to our humanity. Religion and spirituality is not accidental to our humanity -- it is at its very heart. Yet this spiritual reality of our existence is thwarted by all kinds of sin and evil. Constantly, we compromise the original priestly role we were meant to have in creation by neglecting our worship of God and by rendering worship to things that are far beneath our dignity. If the Word did not become flesh, humanity's vocation to offer the visible things of time and space to God would be lost.  Yet, the Word who orders all things to God has entered into our humanity and reordered us away from slavery to the merely material. When He rose from the dead and ascended to the Father, He opened up for us a pathway so that our capacity to worship in a manner that is right and just might be realized.  Such is the greatness of our vocation - we are called into a communion of God and man to offer true worship, pleasing to God for the sake of all of creation.

To help us realize this great vocation, Christ called from among the baptized those who would minister to the rest of us through a new sacred ministry: the ordained priesthood.  The ordained priesthood, established by the sacrament of Holy Orders, is for the building up of the whole body. These men whom Christ has chosen and who have responded to His call, through the ministry of the Church, are raised into a special participation in Christ's saving work. Joined to Him in a unique way, they collect us together in the solidarity that the Lord has called us into so that we might worship in accord with His Will.

These priests who are ordained to participate in Christ's Priesthood in a unique way empower the rest of the Mystical BodyThose who receive the sacrament of holy orders devote themselves to the study of God's Word so that we who are incorporated into the priesthood of Christ by baptism might ponder the truth of who we are and remember the great dignity to which we are called.  They are empowered to perform sacred rites and confer sacraments - visible signs of God's grace - so that the rest of the Body might behold the wonders of the Lord and exercise our gifts in worship of the Father and in service to one another.  In this way, the prayer of the priest empowers the prayer of the whole Church.

September 18, 2019

Mary, Mother of the Messiah, Protection of Families

Mary is ready to protect the heart of our homes. As would the mother of an earthly king, the Mother of the Messiah is solicitous for the kingdom of her Son - his reign in our families. Just as she kept in her heart the grace of Nazareth, Mary is the safe guard of the grace of every Christian family. Her maternal protection over these spiritual riches is why she has a very special place in the life of the family. What is more, the way she safeguards our families is through all the treasures that Christ has given her - from this inexhaustible treasury, she wants to share with us. Those beautiful memories that she ponders of Him are transformative of our whole human existence when we welcome her into our life of faith.

Just as she received every gift to raise up her son with St. Joseph, so now with St. Joseph she shares these gifts with families that turn to her. How do we turn to her? To this end, we should make time and space for the for all forms of family prayer: the Family Rosary, Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary in our homes, Family Consecration of ourselves to Jesus through Mary, reading the Scriptures, singing songs together to the Lord.

Such prayer makes concrete the new solidarity that Christ won for our families.  As we persevere with one another out of devotion to Him and love for one another, the power of family prayer helps us hold together. Christ has given everything for this purpose - even when everything seems to be falling apart.  He has even given us his own Mother as a gift to this end.

Mary's maternal love for her Son extends to each member of His whole mystical body. She shares every spiritual blessing from her Son with all those that her Son entrusts to her so that they might enjoy the strength and joy they need to serve one another and to build each other up. She desire every member of our family to know this wholesome love -- it at once humanizes and divinizes everything in life.  Bound together with us through her intercession for us, she can help our families become places of the tender mercy of God and places where sons and daughters are raised up in courage, where spouses serve one another with reverent solicitude, where parents learn the wonder of the Father's mercy.

Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer, can teach us to make our home into a place that is consecrated to God. She can also lead our families into the silent wilderness outside of our home where together we can learn a deeper vulnerability before the Lord.  Mary's silent presence can help us embrace a more profound personal discipline and fasting.  She can help us unlock the power of prayer in the domestic Church. Offering the warm light of her Son in the midst of the cold darkness of our times, our Lady walks with us on this journey to our heavenly homeland.

(This is the final part of my presentation at the SCRC in September, 2019)

September 9, 2019

The Christian Family's Unique Relationship with Christ

The Christian family, that is a family where at least one member is baptized and practicing the faith, bears unique relationship with the humiliated Christ - Christ's humiliation is the Christian family's glory,  Christ loves but He is not loved. So it is with the believer. we must learn to love when we are not loved. the more we learn such love, the closer we have drawn into the heart of the Lord. Only prayer can go to this place. By devotion that allows the heart to pour itself out to the Lord in silence, we follow in the footsteps of our crucified God even in the hidden and difficult to bear moments of marriage and family life.  The power of prayer leads us on a pathway to Christ’s humility, the deepest humility ever known.  The deeper into humility we plunge with Christ, the more invincible our love for one another and our hope becomes. Prayer takes us into this victory.

Christ’s death on the Cross with his descent into hell, with his resurrection with his ascension into heaven— all of these mysteries of redemption are the mysteries that animate the Christian family. If there are moments of defeat where nothing goes well and every plan runs amiss, an act of faith joins this sorrow to Christ's victory. Indeed, it was when Christ was most powerless and humiliated that He accomplished his greatest act of praise and won the salvation of humanity. So too when the family is most tried, faith in Christ allows the Holy Spirit to shower down blessings and beatitude in ways our natural power of reason cannot see. A family can go through hell but, by faith in Christ, there is always new reasons for hope.  

The Holy Spirit is drawn to the humble but humility is not easy to learn. We learn humility by being brought to our knees.  In many ways, the story of the family in the world today is one of the brokenness and betrayal.  Without faith, it may be easy to see this as insurmountable and meaningless. The eyes of faith, however, see new opportunities for identification with Christ - for a deeper connection with the mysteries by which He overthrew our hostility to Him.  The story of the twelve who betrayed Him and the humiliation of the Cross was prelude to a new birth for all of humanity  So the stories of our family prelude a new work that God yearns to do if we will trust in Him. This new work opens to the household of faith that John and Mary shared. Here, at the hearth of Mary's maternal love for every beloved disciple, the new family that Christ’s death has constituted is open to us. 

How do we know whether teaching is true? Christ revealed a love stronger than death and this is ours if we will believe in Him. He offers us a new communion with one another, a solidarity. This is what He prayed for when He prayed to the Father "May they be one." His prayer is infallible. If we join our prayer with His, in ways that do not conform to our imagination or narrow plans, He brings to fulfillment His deep desires for us in ways that cause all of heaven to rejoice.

The break up of families and marriages — the horrible alienation that threatens on every side, the terrible loneliness — this is not the end of the family.  With a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, it is the birth pangs of new life - God is bringing to birth a new love more beautiful than any love we have ever known. Lesser loves, impure loves, these hold back the fullness that He yearns for us to share in. He purifies us because He wants us to know the truth, and standing on the ground of the truth, He longs that we may at last discover the freedom to love with a new intensity, a fullness that we have never known before, one so rich in meaning that time cannot contain it.

(This is part of the presentation given to the SCRC on the Power of Prayer in Family Life)

September 5, 2019

You Are Invited on a Holy Land Pilgrimage - In the Company of Elijah

Join Anthony Lilles, STD and Sr. Magdalit Bolduc
along with Kris McGregor of Discerning Hearts

For More information - click here to check out Discerning Hearts Events

Day 1
Saturday, May 23 | Depart US
Departure for your overnight flights to the Holy Land.
Day 2
Sunday, May 24 | Arrive Holy Land
Arrival at Ben Gurion Airport. We’ll be met by our representative. A luxury motor coach will transfer us to the Negev, 18 miles from Beer Sheva (Gn21:25), towards Arad (Judges 1:16) our destination. We will overnight in Kfar ha Nokdim a typical and original Bedouin Style Guest Rooms in the desert. Dinner, time for settling in, late Mass. Special readings adapted to Elijah in the desert.
Day 3
Monday, May 25 | The Negev – Ein Gedi – Day of walk in the desert
After breakfast, the coach will leave us at the head of a trail for an hour walk. we’ll take a route in a magnificent rocky landscape, perfect to reflect on God the Father’s promises through his prophets and Elijah’s ministry (1kg 17). Mass in the wilderness (open air). In the afternoon, the coach will drive us on the Arava side (Ez47:8-12). Drive along the Dead sea to Ein Gedi, a beautiful oasis in the region were King David hid while fleeing Saul (1Sm24:2). Time of teaching and Scripture reading. We will meditate on Elijah and his encounter with God (1Kg 19: 1-14). Finish the day in the beauty of the desert. Dinner and overnight at Ein Gedi Hotel, few miles from Jericho.
Day 4
Tuesday, May 26 | Jordan – Jericho – Nazareth
After breakfast, we will pass in front of Qumran (Jr32:14), the site where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found and go towards Jericho to the Baptismal site (Jn1:29) on the Jordan River. We will renew our baptismal vows, feet in the water, or totally immersed. There will be the shift from ‘the Father to the Son’ in our Trinitarian journey. From the Jordan banks, drive to Jericho where Elijah ascended in a chariot of fire (2kg 2:5-15) and were Jesus healed the blind man. We will celebrate the Eucharist at Jericho’s Parish. Enjoy lunch in a beautiful restaurant nearby. After lunch, see a sycamore tree like the one of Zacchaeus the tax collector (Lk19:1-10), and continue along the Jordan Valley to Mount Carmel to our lodging. Dinner and overnight in Stella Maris. In the evening, fraternal time.
Day 5
Wednesday, May 27 | Mount Carmel – Stella Maris – Muhraka – Carmelites. Nazareth
In the morning we will visit the grotto of Elijah in Stella Maris. The emplacement (ruins) where the first monk started to live modeling their lives on Elijah. From there we will go up to Muhraka were Elijah confronted the 450 Baal of Queen Jezebel (1kg 18:20-40). Mass. Time of Lectio. Lunch. Transition with Mary: she is the one who will protect the order of Carmelite. In the afternoon, head towards Nazareth. Visit the Greek Church the Fountain of St Gabriel and the Basilica of the Annunciation which is built over the remains of the House where the Angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary to announce that she was to become the Mother of God (Lk 1:26). Dinner and overnight in Nazareth. Free evening.
Day 6
Thursday, May 28 | Tabor – Cana
In the morning, we will proceed to Mt. Tabor in the Jezreel Valley (Zc12:11), 11 miles west of the Sea of Galilee. According to Origen, St Jerome and St Cyril of Jerusalem, this is the site of the Transfiguration (Mt 17:1) where Jesus appeared in his Glory between Elijah and Moses. Also, the site in the first covenant, in the mid – 12th century BCE of the battle between Barak and Sisera, under the leadership of Deborah the Israelite Judge of that time (Jg4:5). We will ascend the Mount Tabor by foot in silence (1,886 feet). After praying and contemplating the Moso-Arab Church, a jewel of art, We will celebrate the Eucharist in this magnificent place, ponder on the person of Elijah in Judaism and his presence in the New Testament. Lunch. Descent of Mount Tabor by foot. Cana, where Christ performed his first miracle at the request of his mother is on our way to the Lake. In Cana (Jn2:1-11) we will take time to read and pray. If doable, the couples who wish too can perform the renewal of their wedding vows. After Cana, en-route for the Lake of Galilee called also the Sea of Kinnereth (Nb34:1). The next three days we will ponder on the Public life of Jesus. Dinner and overnight on the Sea shore of the Lake. Free evening.
Day 7
Friday, May 29 | Boat ride – Capharnahum – Mount of Beatitudes – Tabgha
After breakfast, we will embark for a Boat ride to Capernaum. Capernaum is now in ruins but was once a thriving town where Peter lived and hosted Jesus (Mt 4:13). In this Synagogue Jesus gave the discourse on the Bread of Life (Jn 6:35-70). Drive to the Mount of the Beatitudes. Visit the Church that commemorates where Christ taught the Eight Beatitudes to his Disciples (Mt 5). Walk down the Mount to the altar of the Beatitude grotto. Celebrate Mass in open air. Go to lunch. After lunch, the bus will drive us to the Primacy of Peter and after to Tabgha the site of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish (Mt14). Visit the Church and its famous mosaics. Afterward, we will have a time of adoration on the seashore (called Dalmanoutha). Back to the Hotel. Dinner. Free evening.
Day 8
Saturday, May 30 | Ascent to Jerusalem – Panorama – Bethlehem
After breakfast, we depart from Tiberias directly to Jerusalem. While ascending the mountains, we will shift from ‘the Son to the Holy Spirit’ in our Trinitarian journey. Make the ascent to Jerusalem while reading the Psalms of Ascent. Enter in Jerusalem and drive directly to Bethlehem. Visit the Basilica of the Nativity, built over the site of the birthplace of Jesus, born amongst the Jewish people. Visit the Cave where Christ was born and the cave of St. Jerome, who lived here for many years translating the Bible into Latin. Celebrate Mass Go to Bet Sahour for lunch. at the Shepherds field, recalling the “great throng of the heavenly hosts” that appeared to the Shepherds announcing to them of the birth of the Savior (Lk2:8). After lunch, we will have time for shopping. While driving home if time permits, stop at the panorama view of the Tayelet above the Gehenna and Kidron Valleys. Dinner and overnight at our hotel. Teaching on the Holy Sepulcher in the evening.
Day 9
Sunday, May 31 | Early Mass at the Holy Sepulcher or with the Greek Catholic Patricarcate – Temple Mount – Mt. of Olives – Gallicantu – Via Dolorosa
Start the day walking through the Old City, towards the Temple area, where Jesus used to preach (Jn7:15) and where many episodes from the Bible took place (Lk2:22). Visit the Temple Mount. Time of teaching with Father. The coach will pick us up at the Lion gate. We will drive to the Mount of Olives (Mt21). Visit the Dominus Flevit Church, where Christ wept over Jerusalem (Mt23:37). Onwards to Gethsemane reliving the descent of Mount of Olives of the Palm Sunday. We will view the ancient Olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt26:36) and visit the Church of All Nations which houses the Rock of the Agony of Christ on Holy Thursday. In this Church is a beautiful mosaic donated by the United States. The coach will drive above the Kidron Valley and bring us to the Zion Gate for Lunch in the Armenian Quarter. After lunch, we will head towards the house of the High Priest Caiaphas (Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu). This Church commemorates where Jesus was examined and eventually imprisoned before the Council in Jerusalem. It also commemorates Peter’s Denial of Christ (John 18:15 – 18). We will take a time of prayer in the cistern that served as prison. Late afternoon, the bus will drive us to the Lion Gate, for the Way of the Cross. Relive the way of the Cross. We will start at the site of the Antonia Fortress where Christ was tried and condemned to death. Proceed along the Via Dolorosa praying the Stations of the Cross – ending at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, built over the site of the Crucifixion and the Tomb of Our Lord. Return to our accommodations for dinner and then make our way to the private Garden of Gethsemane for a special Holy Hour of Adoration.
Monday, June 01 | Mt. Zion – Emmaus (pm)
The day starts driving to Mount Zion. We will ask for a renewal of the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room on Mt. Zion. The Upper Room is where Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-30), and where they were together the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell upon them. In addition, our group will visit the nearby Benedictine Church of the Dormition. Tradition tells us that this Church is where Mary, the Mother of Jesus, “fell asleep.” Drive down the mountains towards North for the celebration of the Eucharist in the Holy site of Emmaus Nicopolis where the Risen Jesus met the disciples on the road to Emmaus and was recognized through the braking of the bread (Lk 24). We will have lunch served at the Monastery of the Beatitude’s Community, the Community of Sister Magdalit. After lunch, we will have a time of fraternal sharing and visit this moving site. We will end our pilgrimage with a thanksgiving Mass in the antic outdoor ruins. You will see how Jesus came and revealed Himself to you during this pilgrimage as He walked at the side of the two disciples of Emmaus. Return to Jerusalem to pack our bags and overnight.
Tuesday, June 02 | Return home – Day of travel

September 4, 2019

The Christian Family and the Mystery of Sin

Because the Christian Family bears a unique relationship with the Holy Trinity, it also bears an adversarial relationship with the mystery of sin.  As a communion of persons that images the truth, love and life of the Divine Persons, each family of Christ's disciples must struggle against anything that would be an obstacle to this life. In this sense, family life is a battleground where character and faithfulness are proven. The family is where the battle for integrity begins and it is where self-contradictions must be faced. In familial relationships, the dignity of each member of the family becomes the project of the entire family to defend and to promote. Here, we discover the pathway to discipleship, to living the Gospel without compromise.

Catherine de Hueck Doherty reflected on the reason couples were marrying in her day. In answer to a survey, a majority explained that they wanted to marry because they wanted to be loved. The Servant of God quipped that if everyone wanted to be loved, who was going to do all the loving?  Learning to love someone is a difficult battle. It requires every once of our humanity. We are defeated even before we step into the arena if we do not realize what we are fighting for - the battle that God wants us to win.  God loves us because He knows the Love whose image and likeness we bear. In His love for us, He has chosen to do whatever it takes to save us from anything that might prevent us from responding to the greatness that He has called us to. This saving work of love cost Him death on the Cross and merely by believing in the love that He reveals by His passion and death we already begin to taste the freedom that we were created to know. He loved us to the end so that we might fight for the freedom to love in our lives -- to love with the fullness of our being, this is what is means to be fully human, fully alive. To live in any other way is not really to live at all, it is merely to exist.

Our failure to fight the battle of love - to learn to be the one who loves - is seen today. In our day, most couples do not want to marry and live together in other kind of arrangements. If they would explain why they did not want to enter into the sacrament of marriage, it is likely that many would express a fear, the fear that if they entered marriage, they might not receive the love that they need for a meaningful life. They are afraid of being unhappy.  

Baptized in a loving encounter with Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, Christian discipleship confronts this fear. When we follow the Lord who loved us to the end, we stop worrying about our own needs and begin to be concerned about the needs of those who love. The love of Christ leads us out of self-occupation an
d into the battle to live for love, by love and in love.

Such a battle requires suffering all kinds of hardships, trials, renunciations, difficulties, because (as St. Teresa of Calcutta told us) one cannot love except at one's own expense. Similarly, it is not in our successfulness in character development and family relations, but in our faithfulness to love and truth that the holiness of the Holy Trinity shines forth in our families.