November 30, 2019

Fire from Above and the Son of Man

"What we utter is God's wisdom: a mysterious, a hidden wisdom... Yet God has revealed this wisdom to us through the Spirit" 1 Cor. 2:7 and 10.

In Daniel 7:2-14, though overwhelming forces blow and surge through the world, the radiant King of the Universe is enthroned above the fray, undeterred by the winds and waves of the age. This is the Holy Trinity - the surging of an uncreated love from which everything good and noble proceeds. People of faith are not limited by a vision that only sees the passing intrigues of injustice. Their eyes are lifted up to the One who is their help.  He is the great artist whose primal art cannot be defaced even when threatened by gross injustice. The Almighty God has created a world so beautiful that it can make the heart ache with a fullness of meaning - for those who glimpse this glory, joy and sorrow crescendo into a grateful stillness. That benevolent silence is enclosed in the mystery of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Only within this primordial cloister, only in this secret garden accessed by faith, only in this hidden mountain that obedience to God can find, in this place, the truth about the world is unveiled.

The Uncreated Love eternally engendered by the Father and the Son is enthroned on wheels, streams and flames of Fire. Unheeded by the world, myriads upon myriads attend and minister to this great Furnace of Love. Who can resist this burning heat and what can hide from such shining radiance?  Yet, none of the rulers of this age knew the mystery; if they knew it, the would never have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8).

Notwithstanding the tumult of the times, Love's eternal purpose holds. In the face of arrogant powers, Love's final judgment is rendered. Unquenchable Love decides for the humble and lowly. Jealous Love casts down every dehumanizing monstrosity and abusive abomination. Tender Love establishes order and peace so that all that is good, noble and true in our life might thrive in pure intensity.

Above all violence and oppression, the Living God recognizes the sovereignty of the Son of Man. The Savior reveals the liberty of love entirely freed from self, completely surrendered in love. The powerful of this world grasp for absolute authority over the lives of others and become enslaved to the monsters of their own making. Though He was in the form of God, Son though He was, Jesus did not grasp at Divine Power but rather emptied Himself, humbly taking the form of a slave to set us free.

If wisdom in this world below avoids humiliation and defends from threats, wisdom from above acts in the opposite way. The Suffering Servant entered into every humiliation man has every suffered out of love, so that no matter the humiliation that comes our way, we might know the immensity of the Father's goodness. Though humiliated by us unto death, he yearned to become like us in all things but sin, so that we might not suffer alone, not even death itself. This is a wisdom from above. It can suffer death because it comes from a love that is stronger than death and that no power can over come.

With divine dignity and integrity, the Good Shepherd sacrificed everything to restore our humanity to the glory for which it was made, and no matter how lost we become, He never tires in his search to take us home. At the sound of His voice, the darkness of fear and shame draw back. Touched by truth, we suddenly realize that we are not far from the pathway home. Carried on His shoulders, no matter the dark valley, we find our rest.

He is the Man of Sorrows who bore our afflictions with divine love and by whose stripes in his human flesh we are healed. No matter how diseased or wounded our hearts, the Son of Mary has power to heal so that we might make a new beginning.  When He comes on the clouds of heaven, the Word of the Father is presented in the power of the Holy Spirit and presents us so that we might know the immensity of the Father's mercy as He Himself has known it before the foundation of the world. All He desires is that we might become who He created us to be - creatures of an Uncommon Love, capable of making that Love known wherever and whenever that Love is needed. He yearns to raise us up so that through our lives His dominion might be revealed to those whom He has entrusted to us, to both friend and foe, to all those who most need a word of hope.

November 24, 2019

The Personal Presence of Christ the King

The personal presence of Jesus Christ the King reigns over the world even in its present turmoil. No one and nothing can thwart His plan.  The glory that He desires us to know in Him is ours, if we will believe in Him.

This King has taken His stand with all that is good, noble and true. Those who stand against Him oppose the glory and greatness of their own humanity. They have allied themselves with self-contradiction and already have chosen for themselves their own punishment. Yet, whoever would stand for virtue, nobility and kindness will find in the King of Glory the dearest friend. His reign is a mystery that contains and is contained by anyone who believes He is Lord and Savior.  Those who choose to enter into His reign find peace, a peace the world cannot give.

Indeed, the Lord Jesus, the Word of the Father, establishes peace in all things because He contains all things in Himself. He is before the whole cosmos in power and presence: there is no moment of time, no distance or space, nothing visible or invisible, no force of good or evil, no intelligence or ordering principle material or immaterial that comes before Him. Every creature comes from Him. They are, in wondrous ways, patterned after Him. In their very multiplicity, they are ordered to Him and express His immensity. His mysterious benevolence sustains the existence of everything that is - even the human person and the wonderful gift of freedom with which each member of humanity is endowed. Because He is the source who makes exists and directs all things, even the those things entrusted to the liberty of men and women, the peace that He brings allows all things to thrive, and this is particular true of mankind.

When it comes to the human person, Jesus Christ, our Just Judge, has also chosen to make Himself present to be known and loved in a personal way. The Word of God does this by not only containing our existence and making the use of our own freewill possible but also by freely allowing Himself to be contained by our hearts. He suffers with us all the threats to our integrity so that we do not suffer alone, and He preserves the most precious truth about who we are and where we belong, even when we believe that we have thrown it all away. Our own free willed acts of devotion are endowed with eternal meaning in His eyes - because He is the One who makes them possible for our sake. This makes Him an intimate player and principle actor in the drama of good and evil that unfolds in our hearts. When it comes to the battle for our own integrity, He has taken our side.

With great hope in the goodness by which we were made, the One who is just and true speaks to us so that we might realize the victory of good over evil in our own conscience. Each time this Eternal Word communicates in the passing silence of our hearts, He gives Himself with the desire to hold nothing back, including the secret judgments of His own heart. Those who quickly confess their sins and seek His pardon know this to be true. He wants to share with us the deep things of God, truth hidden in the abyss of divine wisdom, that the judgment of our own hearts might stand unveiled and become vulnerable to His love.

He has won the right to do this by giving Himself on the Cross, and we grant Him permission to do this when we approach that Cross with gratitude, ready to take up our own. Every time we renounce our selfishness, He cultivates His own selflessness in us. Here, we anticipate that final judgment that will be rendered about our lives at the end of time. Before His judgment seat, if we are open, He pours out his fullness into our lives in exchange for our own poverty -- and He longs for us to entrust Him with our very misery so that He might make known to us His invincible mercy.

He does this, first of all, because He knows and loves each of us in a very particular and unrepeatable way. We are actually dear to Him - worthy of every inconvenience and sacrifice, He cannot rest until He finds us and leads us to our true homeland. Indeed, He has cast in His lot with us in the great cosmic conflict with evil. Entering into our plight, He has accomplished, once and for all, the definitive victory against every principality and power that would threaten human dignity or seek to diminish its most high calling.

He did this by entering into our humanity, to embrace and  sanctify the whole of human experience, from womb to tomb. Whatever is ignoble and self-contradictory, he destroyed by His death on the Cross. Such evils only hold sway to the extent that we will not surrender them to Him. Whatever is true and good in our humanity, He saved and raised on high. In His resurrection, He trail blazed a new frontier for humanity, a horizon that stretches even further than death, to a fullness of life completely beyond our powers to grasp or estimate.  This is the way that is open to us if we will accept His reign over our lives.

In the Kingdom of Christ, He rules through and with Mystical Body. Whether by the blood of the martyrs, the contemplation of the ascetics, or generous work of His servants, the loving obedience of His mystical Body constantly expresses His reign in the most concrete and existential ways. Not in mere ideas or intentions, not in mere feelings and fantasies, but in those hard won actions of faith and love, the good and beautiful work of the Lord is manifest. The reign of God is not about unaided human industry, but rather surrendered obedience to the love of the Father. This is the rule of the Lamb who was slain. In all its sublimity, it is found not first of all in great feats, but in those hidden and patient gestures of every day life: a cup of cold water, a smile, a soft answer, an understanding glance.

What would seem pure weakness to the world and an inconvenience is nothing short of a mystical new birth in the reign of Christ. He is ready to act in every contrite acceptance of responsibility, every sincere effort to be reconciled, any attempt to relieve the suffering of my neighbor. No matter how feeble, sacrificing one's own pride and comfort matures into amendment of life, restitution of wrongs thought to be impossible to heal, penance so loving that Christ is able to take delight in its gratitude and sincerity.

This opens into a whole wilderness of new actions of life and love waiting to be explored by the human heart -always together with and for Him. Each here and now, nitty gritty sacrifices made for the love of God and for those who are entrusted to us gives this reign the space to draw us into Him even more -- building up His whole Body with such splendors as no one in this world has ever seen before.

If through His mystical Body, His reign contains and is contained by each one of us through our faith in Him, a certain new unity is established among all of us - in and through Him. Righteous and True, He is already closer to us than we are to ourselves - even if we are indifferent to or doubtful of His presence. In this Kingdom, the closer we draw to Him, the closer we are to one another. He implicates us in one another's plight until we are able to bear each other's sufferings and uphold each other's dignity. If not even death can separate us from the love of Christ and we are all bound together in this love, then this unity is not something that the futility of this world can diminish. Instead, all the limitations of our present life are, by faith in Him and the unity of his Mystical Body, already being transformed into new moments of eternal life. 

November 19, 2019

Light, Glory and Judgment

These days, as we approach the mystery of Advent, the Church invites us to think of  the End of Time. The world looks upon this mystery with avoidant fear. The powerful see inevitable destruction. The rich certain misfortune. The comfortable, catastrophic hardship. The secure insurmountable insecurity. Christians look upon this same reality with hope.

In this final mystery, Divine Justice is at last unveiled. Not only will what's wrong with me be set straight, but what's wrong with the whole world will be too. Mysteries not yet known come to light. Things hidden shown forth. Those who fear the Lord will know His sheer goodness. The children of God will be made like Him, for they shall see Him as He is.

The beatitude that haunts the heart of every man will show forth in sudden splendor. The dumb will proclaim what renders the eloquent speechless. The tears of the oppressed will wiped away. Liberty given captives. The blind sight. The deaf hearing. The lame dancing. The hungry filled with plenty. The poor flooded in abundance. Every form of injustice overthrown. The proud  humbled while the humble raised up. All will fully realize the definitive victory of good over evil won for us on the Cross of Christ. There will be peace.

Christians do not see this Day of Judgment as a remote future event, a "some day" that can be calculated. By faith we know that this inevitable moment comes crashing into human history even now, impregnating time with seeds of eternity. Each instant of this present life both points to and anticipates the consummation that awaits us.  Every heartbeat and every breath relentlessly converges up to vanishing point that faith sees dimly as in a mirror.  This is the point of ultimate encounter in which humanity stands unveiled before the Righteous One in all His glory.

The Just Judge who comes for humanity is the Lamb that was slain. He intends salvation but this gift can be rejected by neglect no less than malice. He yearns for all that makes known the tenderness and wonder of humanity should be raised up on high while all that threatens its dignity and diminishes its glory should be destroyed. Those who seek out this Crucified God and who humbly ask for His mercy find it in astonishing superabundance. Savior of those who cry out to Him in faith, He confirms their every good work and brings it to completion.  In Him, nothing that is good, noble or true is ever lost. Every self-contradiction and threat to one's own integrity is born away and consumed by His inexhaustible love.

In the Sacrament of Penance, this final end of humanity is made present in the most saving way. His mercy fills the voids our failures in justice have caused our neighbors. Indeed, He gladly pays this price for us if we will only begin our journey home. Here, our penance is nothing more than a token thank you for a that healing goodness that flows forth from His Judgment Seat. For our homecoming and the final judgment are meant to coincide: at last, wrapped in new robes, rings on our fingers, in the embrace of our Father, and in our brother's realization that we must celebrate, we who were once dead are being now, and will be forever, brought back to life.

November 14, 2019


Where night is merely a memory
and stars a faded story
the moon eclipsed by fire light
dark shadows too have died
another world, a new earth
radically begotten from an uncreated spark
fresh secret, single key opening every door
the bright alpha and omega forever
living within us.

            Scott Eagan
                November 8, 2019

November 12, 2019

A Meditation on Renewing Formation

The Lamb’s love lavishing
Unrecognized Gifts of Priestly Calling
And myriads more too beautiful to name —
Amid  those sinking vestiges of Christendom
Amid that drifting emptiness of aimless progress
Amid jetsam of broken families, broken wombs and broken hearts,
So many broken shards of the Bride’s radiance
To be found, to be gathered, to be made whole:
New living unities of Office, Teaching and Holiness
Forged in the Divine Furnace
for the salvation of the world

A disciple does not take or make,
but receives identity from his Master:
Integrity is not given but by battle,
Intensity untapped but by the loss of all things,
Truth not suffered but by humiliation,
Beatitude not possessed but in that poverty,
unmasked with careful kindness
In the difficult questions and puzzles of the heart
Proposed by the Son of the Father.

Availing oneself of that silent fullness
that contains and is contained in the Word’s Real Presence
Is never safe, never comfortable, never convenient:
Fire can burn
flaming forth with mysteries
of Love, Death and the Bearing Away of Sin.

All this joining on those relentless waves
of faith’s obedience, humility, and mercy
        Islands of humanity prostrate before
That threshold of the Cross,
That pouring forth of blood and water,
That ocean of deep currents and infinite horizons
in the heart of the Father.

November 3, 2019

Silence, Judgment and Freedom

Contemplative prayer flows from and leads to worship of the Living God, and somewhere in this great moment, we learn to live. Christian prayer, when offered in this context, is never an escape from the voice of our conscience but a coming to terms, a necessary change of heart, a surrender to the power of God. This unfolds in Revelations 8:1 when silence is observed in heaven:

"When the Lamb broke open the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about a half an hour" (NAB).

This celestial silence is alway before us, and it would be reductionistic to presume that it is only a mystery of the future. We are meant to anticipate its mystery now. Contemplative prayer lives in the thanksgiving and adoration of the Eucharist. After receiving Holy Communion, we should keep a brief a period of silence that is open to this heavenly silence. We should also allow the silence of Eucharistic Adoration to take us into this same great stillness. If someone discovers this silence after pondering the Bible, it is because the Word of God is the pathway that leads into it. The holiness of the saints is filled with this same silence for the silence of heaven searches out and finds the Lamb who was slain only to humble itself before what He reveals.

The silence of St. John is occasioned by the opening of the seventh seal. The Seventh Seal, as did the seventh day of creation, represents the final seal of God's plan. Before the coming of Christ, we could not know the ultimate destiny of the heavens and the earth. The Lamb who offered Himself for us reveals the definitive judgment of God. His wounds concern the world and sin, humanity and its integrity, man and woman before God, the Blood from above that falls on all that is below, and the failure of what is below to respond to what has come from above.

The silence of heaven is not empty or meaningless. It is receptive and responsive, and this receptivity to the Word overthrows all the powers of hostility to God in the world below, turning them upside down, purifying the world of them for the sake of new life. Trumpet blast after trumpet blast fills the silence in St. John's Apocalypse. The seventh seal is followed by seven angels blowing seven trumpets: an image of the Eternal Sabbath, a culmination of God's plan, a judgment, a blessing, and the definitive decision in which lives the completion of His saving work. In the end, as it is now, it will be on earth as it is in heaven. This should make us tremble: for what ought to be already is whether we are aware of it or not. We live as if this were not so unto our own peril.

The great silence and the sound of trumpet are not a remote realities to be avoided by cleverness or luck. They are to be sought, longed for, hoped for. Whether by the Rosary or Lectio Divina, spiritual exercises or a sudden grace that seizes our hearts, contemplative prayer takes us into this moment, and the liturgy of the Church teaches us to remain there.

The worship of the Church takes us out of the work-a-day world, out of the exigencies of the moment, out of the limits of time and into the solemn moment where heaven adores the Lamb. We may not be aware of it but that stillness that haunts every moment of our lives and serves as the forgotten backdrop of our existence. There is great jubilation and thanksgiving before the Lamb because His risen humanity surrounded by the saints is a sign that our sinfulness does not get the last word about where we stand with the Father.

Liturgy, our service for the Church and the world, makes that joy known on earth. This great work of prayer enters into the sanctuary not made by hands because it lives in the Body of Christ. The Risen Lord stands before the Father on our behalf because He has loved us to the end and this is why only He can unseal the final judgment on our existence. To enter into the throng of heaven is a super moment of supreme love, a completely humbling instance of eternity in which the truth of our hearts is laid bare as the heart of Love Himself definitively bares Himself to us. The proper response to this definitive moment of God's work is reverence and awe in adoration, bowed and prostrate.

Let the lips quiver and the tears flow, for until now we have not yet lived. We have avoided life in a sea of contradictions, afraid of the truth, fearful of who God is and who we are in His presence. His judgment is ever before us, and we, until this moment indifferent, have not let it into our hearts as we know we should. So, let it in! Open wide the doors to Christ ... there is nothing to lose and everything to gain. Fear is useless ... only trust and confidence in Him can save us. Now is the time to repent and to reconcile, for the silence in which we find ourselves, that very silence into which lead every humble prayer and hopeful cry of petition, is a silence that resounds with truth telling, soul saving and peace establishing trumpet blasts from heaven. And before this fullness of love and life, nothing is ever the same again.

Yet to have this so close but to continue on as if nothing were to change, as if everything would continue on as it always has, this is to cling to a perilous illusion, a dehumanizing myth. It will not stand. In the vigilant humble silence that angelic trumpet blasts fill, all illusion is unmasked and the sense of security into which we lulled ourselves is dispelled.

Here, we find ourselves deciding on our role in the great drama of life, the true story that the heavens tell, the primal story from which all stories worth telling are taken: God's saving plan. Cain or Abel? Abraham or Lot? Moses or Pharaoh? Myth, magic thinking and resistance to the voice of God mark the storyline of Pharaoh. Faith, obedience and holiness open the path of Moses and the Prophets. Myths of men appeal to the imagination and stir hubris, but cannot bear the weight of our existence. Faith in God challenges the heart and offers the only firm ground on which freedom is found.

We hear His voice for the Word became flesh and dwells among us. Our created silence rings with His great uncreated canticle and this changes everything, even the doubts and questions we face. His fire blazes and the bush of creation is not consumed: will we take off our shoes and listen to His voice? In that silence, not to be changed, to be indifferent to the call of truth, this is already to be plagued with scorching hail, burning sea, torched rivers, and darkened skies. Yet relief is swift if we contritely confess our sins and offer acts of penance in thanksgiving for the mercy of God.

The image of Revelations 8 unveil the crisis and hope of our lives: prayers and petitions rise up to heaven while a hot censer of coals is hurled to earth. Thundering angelic trumpet blasts over earth fill the silence of heaven. Catastrophe and salvation together in invincible movement, unavoidable certainty, that final reckoning, that eternal setting things straight. Injustice shall not continue as it has: we may be saved from it or perish with it. Grace makes this great self-defining act possible, even if our choice is not to choose, and we live or die with the consequences of our free decision because our liberty before God is taken serious by all of heaven. How I hope that you and I will always choose God, and find each other in Him!

Whatever we decide, the heaven sent plagues that liberated the People of God from Egypt will liberate the Church from the arrogant. Christ is the New Adam, the New Moses: pillars of fire on land and sea will open a way forward now as they did for Moses - no demonic undercurrent, no earthly power, not even heaven can stop Him. Enslavement, oppression and manipulation will be confronted by the justice of the Most High until the Children of God, safe from every abuse and self-contradiction, are free at last to worship Him and to live life to the full. 

October 27, 2019

The Battle for Integrity and the Gift of the Holy Spirit

Often, the lack of peace in our relationships with others is a symptom of the contention we carry in our hearts. Something is wrong with the world first of all because something is wrong inside me. My conscience convicts me of sin. The sin is never anything I really wanted, but there are forces at work in me that oppose one another - movements of passion that oppose who I want to be in relation to Christ and how I truly desire to act. These passions result in self-contraction whenever I allow them to sway. And they do sway as long as I also allow a host of inordinate attachments dissipate the inner resources required to live a life worthy of the call that I have received. Something deep inside me groans over this -- and that groan is one particular instance of a groan that rises in all creation. Something is out of order in the world, in my relationships with others, and, most of all, in me. What should I do?

St. Paul gives us a little secret when he declares, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ" (Romans 7:25). Rather than leave the field of battle or surrender to our enemies, he finds reason to thank the Lord.  This state of affairs does not stop the love of God or frustrate the Divine Plan. For St. Paul, God's plan unfolds precisely here, in this difficult paradox of conflicting desires, good and evil, within us. God knows our very integrity is on the line, and we can be grateful to Him that He has not abandoned us but found a way to accompany us in the midst of our plight. He leads us to victory, to true peace, if we will persevere in trusting and giving thanks to Him.

But how? This is where the Gift of the Holy Spirit comes in.  The Holy Spirit is the Gift that Jesus won for us through His passion and death. He ascended into heaven so that this very Breath of God that He shares with the Father might also breathe in our own hearts. A Fire from Heaven, this Furnace of Love is meant to give new light and new warmth to this earthly life. If we let it, our whole existence can suddenly be ablaze with this Living Flame of Love.

The Holy Spirit does not make the winds of self-contradiction vanish all at once. He blows through and in them, purifying them, transforming them from dispositions of sin into moments of conversion. In this way, the Spirit of God suffers our human spirit with us, in all its brokenness, and moans with us over our desire for integrity and wholeness. Foretastes of something beautiful are found, even in the midst of failure, and a new beginning awaits even when everything ends poorly. Indeed, we are not meant for a frustrated existence, dissipated and turned in on itself, but in the Divine Image and Likeness, we live our short and frail lives
to make known that eternal peace born in love and truth, the source of all that is, the happy ending for which all things were made.

The Lord and Giver of Life who dwells in us longs for us to know the peace that reigns with the Father and the Son -- and the cry of the Holy Spirit takes up our own cry and the cries of the whole world into one great hymn of praise, a canticle so magnificent that it moves the very depths of God Himself. This Gift from Above brings into harmony all the misery of our lives with the passion of our Risen Lord -- and with desires to beautiful for words,  the Word cries with us in the same Spirit to the Father. And, in the great silence of Divine Love, the Father blesses this great sacrifice of praise with His tender mercy until the pathway to conversion and peace opens before us. 

October 19, 2019

Fighting Against Lethargy

There are periods of prayer that must endure "storms of destruction" (Psalm 57:1). These storms can be exterior events - whether meteorological or else political, sometimes familial.  Currently, it seems we are in the midst of an ecclesial storm. There are also internal storms. There are tempests of temptation that, if you ever timed them, you would find last about 30 minutes - less than fifteen minutes of which are really intense (if resolutely resisted). Sometimes, an external storm and internal storm converge with demonic force. What does a person of prayer do against such fierce threats to interior peace?

Failure to take the right steps can end in disaster.  What can happen if we are not careful is that we can lose ourselves in thundering torrents of anger or sudden chills of self-pity or in flooding escapism. A dark lethargy soon follows. We lose our heart to continue on and, thus, discouraged, lose our way.

If presumption is to be avoided in the face of a storm, how should we instead proceed?  Anxiety does not help either. Too often we permit anxiety to add to the storms that we have been given to endure. Similar to presumption's anger, self-pity and escapism, unholy forms of unchecked anxiety rob a disciple of the heart needed to follow our Crucified Master.

Devotion stands against the distaste for spiritual things that sometimes seizes us. In fact, the movements of presumption and anxiety are not far apart at all if discerned against devotion. They are both movements away from it. Without the holy oil of devotion how can we rouse up desire for holy things, rejoice in a way that gives strength to others, or stand firm though the whole world falls down around us? Such oil is wasted in the lethargy of anxiety and presumption.

There is a holy anxiety that love knows, and it gives birth to that mysterious prayer that under night and olive sweats blood. There is nothing more powerful in the world than a prayer offered in such close solidarity to the Man of Sorrows. For, He is the One who is praying in such a soul.

Holy agony in prayer rises on wings of love and obedience. This prayer is animated with the unvanquished hope of the Lamb who was slain. The triumph of this prayer goes high above the bog of fear and insecurity into which the worrisome mind often slips.

Holy anxiety, however, is not the starting point, even for the repentant sinner. Rather, Christ's saving agony is born when all other anxiety is surrendered through humble repentance and grateful tears. How do we rouse ourselves from lethargy, avoid presumption and sanctify the agony that we face? Trust and confidence in the One who has gone before us.

Rather than presumption and anxiety, only trust in the Lord can endure a storm of destruction.  Trust is the pathway to devotion - its safeguard, its source. Trust in the Lord, keeping our confidence in His power and mercy, this is what it means to hide "under the shadow" of the Lords "wing" (Psalm 57:1). As we "cling" to the Lord, He "holds fast" to us (Psalm 63:8).  This is true even when the storm is our own emotional baggage and rash judgments. Devotion grows and matures the more our trust in God takes us through these trials. Trust in Him and all else passes away. For the soul that will wait with vigilant trust, the truth, in solemn stillness, remains, and with silent majesty, the Word resounds.

October 13, 2019

Newman: Disciplined pursuit of the Truth, Doorway to Friendship

The newly canonized St. John Henry Newman invites us to a discipline pursuit of the truth that builds up the world. His Idea of a University rings with this invitation. It is an invitation that we need to hear again today just as much as when it was first written.

Too often, we direct students to what is functional and useful, but we fail to set them free to engage a meaningful social life, one that blesses the whole community in which they live. We want them to get a degree, so that they can get a job, so that they can support themselves, so that ...  But we do not always help them ask the deeper questions about existence or help them cultivate hunger for the truth.  For Newman, the Catholic University has a much higher utility than simply career placement -- he wants lay faithful who are ready to engage the world, build society, live meaningful lives and witness their faith in Christ in a compelling way.

I was exposed to a genuine liberal education, the kind of Saint John Henry Newman writes about, during my years as an undergraduate at Franciscan University of Steubenville. In the mid-80's, I felt the frustration of many in that generation. We were born into economic good times. If we were a little suspicious regarding the free-love idealism of the 1970's, we were nostalgic and naive for its hedonism. Others saw us as cynical, reluctant to sacrifice for the common good. Enchanted with Star Wars, we had not learned to wonder over the real world before us and would rather escape than apply ourselves to engaging it. Laced with nihilism, this was the conventional attitude of the day, and I was locked in its drab narrow-mindedness even while I hoped for something more.

I believed in the Lord and loved Him. There were retreats and prayer meetings and courses on the Bible before I went to college. But the conviction that His plan would lead to real happiness or that the real sacrifice it required was worth it, I was not ready for this. Behind my lethargy, I was haunted by a desire to make a real, concrete, flesh and blood decision to step out in faith. I intellectually assented to this, but I was too lukewarm to put it into practice. It is in this social context that I had heard about this small Catholic school in Ohio and half-heartedly applied late in July. A month later, a group of upper class-men greeting me at the Pittsburg Airport and we shuffled off into a van speeding through West Virginian country roads, singing not John Denver tunes, but charismatic praise songs instead.

Something clicked in my first year.  One of my professors asked me what I wanted to do. Now, I profoundly admired this priest, Fr. Francis Martin. When he taught, I felt a deep desire for the truth burn in me and sometimes, this desire caused me to actually apply myself to my studies. To flatter him, I said I wanted to teach theology, like him. He asked about my grades and when I told him, he smiled. If I wanted to teach, he explained, I would need to apply myself much more and that this would require setting some new priorities in life. This was a lighting strike. His challenging words revealed to me a desire in my heart. Up to that moment, education had been a game, and not a real engagement with life. To actually teach, I needed to actually learn.

There was a gradual shift. Instead of studying because of a function that I wanted to perform in the future, I began to study because of the truth that I was confronting in the here and now. The motivation of becoming a teacher was eclipsed by something beautiful that I was discovering through study. Although I was blessed with many very good professors, in a particular way, Alan Schreck, James Harold, Mark Miravalle, and, most of all, Fr. Giles Dimock baptized my mind in wonder. Suddenly, I was no longer simply going through the motions, fulfilling minimal obligations. Instead, a fire was set and shadows of truth's splendor began to challenge how I lived and judgments that I had made about God, about others, about myself and about life.

What I discovered in St. John Henry's writings helped me understand all that happened at Franciscan University and to better appreciate the privileged opportunity that God provided in my life. In my senior year at Steubenville, I had the honor of sitting next to David Warner. He would be the future president of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom in Barry's Bay, Canada. At the time, he was not yet Catholic but, unknown to me, thinking about it.  David also was on fire for the truth, and because of our Central California roots, a friendship was born. Years later, after he and his family entered the Church, we collaborated together in Denver.  He was writing his dissertation of Cardinal Newman's understanding of Catholic Education. While on my own, I was never quite drawn to these writings, Dr. Warner challenged me to begin reading, and after David's difficult struggle with cancer and death, engaging Newman's ideas often reminds me of our friendship and some of our discussions.

Genuine Catholic Education is a privileged opportunity that can open to great friendships and the discovery of one's own mission from God. As the Academic Dean of St. Patrick's Seminary, I have come to see that Newman is right: desire for the truth demands excellent teachers, intense reading beautiful literature, clear focused thinking about difficult to grasp connections, and decent writing about the whole human experience, from its ancient roots to its most contemporary applications. This is a journey from a little knowledge about many things to a profound understanding of the most important things. Left to ourselves, we will never see those deep and meaningful connections that purify and advance society or even one's own private life. Yet, in a community bound together in pursuit of what is genuinely good, noble and true, men and women learn those arts of companionship and right judgment that help those with whom they interact flourish. This is as true for future priests as it is for the lay faithful.

Though I do not have extensive experience with the broader education of the laity, please allow me to end with a note about why St. John Henry's vision of Catholic Education is so important for the faithful today, so necessary for Catholic institutions to strive for.  We live at a time when the lay faithful are at the frontlines of the mission of the Church. The secular character of their vocation puts them in direct contact with those who would never hear the Gospel of Christ without their particular witness.  This witness belongs to the marketplace of ideas and the public square, the water cooler and the Board Room, on the field and in the stands, on the job sight and around the dinner table.

Some might object that the kind of education that Cardinal Newman advocates is not practical for an actual job and, therefore, a waste of time and resources.  Others question whether such an education really prepares men and woman for the real world. I can recall some who were dissatisfied with the Catholic education that they received at Franciscan. My heart is saddened also by some whose lives fell apart and did not meet with success. Yet success or failure in life is not the ultimate criteria. Many who fail are all the happier for having tried. As I consider my Steubenville friends, the ones who even in the face of difficult illness and reversal of fortune persevered in their faith, there is a deep gratitude for their beautiful families, their contributions to society, their lives of faith ... I am not sure that any other kind of education could have prepared them as well or better for the life that the Lord gave them to live.

October 11, 2019

Peace and Prayer

While contention in the media and among bishops marks the life of the Church today, it is easy to get caught up in all the battles and to forget to turn to prayer. Shrill accusation, vitriol and provocation beat at the doors of our hearts like barbarians before the gates, and we forget the Guest who has made His home within us.  Perhaps this mirrors state of our households and parishes. Perhaps, our struggle to pray signifies even deeper discord that we suffer in our own souls.

Prayer is more powerful than ecclesial politics, theological rancor or personal failure. Big personalities cannot stop the mind attentive to God and the political gymnastics of the powerful are lost in a humble petition's shadow. The wings of a heart that relies on God rise above familial conflict and tense marital arguments. Pleading before the Lord baptizes humiliation in hope. 

No abyss of pain can yawn between two hearts any further than the prayer of faith still can cross. With fasting and sacrifice, not even the powers of Hell can hold back that surge of heart that Christ joins to His own. A cry to the Lord can still even the restlessness and lack of interior peace that we suffer because of sin - our own and of those who Christ has given us to bear for His Body, the Church. 

In fact, reverently repeating the name of Jesus is enough to bring us back to our senses. His Name helps our knees find the holy ground on which they were created kneel and our head the only glory before which it should bow. This is the only Name that ever brings unity to the Church or restoration to families. If divisions seem insurmountable, invincible floodgates of mercy are unleashed by the power of the Name of the Lord. No other name can heal one's own integrity or restore one's own dignity as can the invocation of Jesus. 

October 8, 2019

The Rosary and the Silence of the Word

The Rosary is a pathway of prayer that follows the mysteries of the life of Christ. It challenges us to ponder in our own hearts what Mary pondered in her heart. Sometimes our personal reflections on these can be a little sentimental. Sometimes they can be a little too cerebral. This happens in human conversation too.  Yet if a conversation with a friend never goes deeper than platonic ideas or emotive outbursts, a genuine communion of hearts alludes us. Thus, in praying the Rosary, it is not enough to attempt to move our affections or entertain ourselves with new insights. We ponder the mysteries that live in the heart of Mary so that we can love Jesus the way that she knows and loves Him.

To go deeper than thoughts and movements of emotion, we must allow the Word of the Father to draw us into the silence that He knew in the womb of Mary. Long before He knew this fruitful silence in her body, He had already delighted in it -- for it sprung first from the depths of her heart. Pure, there was nothing in this fruitfulness that would impede His self-disclosure. So, without her understanding or feeling or even intuiting, He gave Himself in the power of the Holy Spirit. The words of the Angel Gabriel reveal not only a definitive moment in the communication of the Word, but also a reality that had already in some sense begun without her knowing. His self-gift began as a hidden reality of the heart before it was embodied and revealed to the visible world.

Similarly, when we pray the Rosary, the most fruitful moments are the silences between our insights and the stillness between the movements of our heart. In that silence and stillness, He is at work accomplishing far more than our own human industry could ever achieve. Our posture becomes one of wonder, surrender, and joy filled thanksgiving -- those attitudes of Mary and the only attitudes that adequately respond to the destination that the Rosary directs us to. 

October 1, 2019

Wisdom and Spiritual Childhood

St. Therese of Lisieux is the champion of spiritual childhood in the Church. This kind of childhood has a heroic note -- the note of confidence in the Lord's Merciful Love.  This kind of confidence trusts that through persevering in love of God and one another, no matter what happens, the Lord will be victorious - the more we trust in Him, the more His victory is realized, even in our failures and weaknesses. Before her illness and the spiritual trials that she endured at the end of her life, she entrusted herself to the merciful love of God, consecrating herself as a "victim of merciful love."  Her self-offering contains this same radical confidence in the love of God -- if I will allow Him to do with me what He will, it will cost me everything, but such a price is worth it because of the immensity of His love. Those who make this same surrender enter into God's perspective of this life -- the purpose of which is to learn to love the way that He loves.  This surrender challenges us to see our brothers and sisters with the resurrected eyes of Christ, eyes that always contemplate a reason for the hope that we have inside.

This kind of hope, the hope that comes when we surrender everything to Christ, even our own dreams about the kind of happiness that we think we want, gives God space in the world to accomplish beautiful things in the lives of others. By choosing this surrender, we allow ourselves to be pierced by the plight suffered in the hearts of those Christ entrusts to us.  We feel in ourselves the desire not to allow our brothers and sisters to suffer alone just as God desired when He sent His Son for our sake.  We are convinced about the dignity of our neighbor and willing to do whatever we can to protect his integrity no matter the cost just as Christ desired when He spread Himself on the Cross as a victim for our sake.  Most of all, we feel gratitude for what the Lord has done for us and we know that whatever we do in return is nothing in comparison, yet we do it anyway because we love Him who loved us.  When all our efforts end up in disaster and it seems that nothing we have taken up has made any difference at all, we have finally embraced the Cross on which Christ sanctifies everything and makes all things new.  This is no wisdom of this world, but wisdom from above.

September 26, 2019

When Nothing Makes Sense and All Seems Useless - Pray

"In this world, you will have trouble" John 16:33. There are trials so severe that they seem to render prayer impossible. A soul might want to pray and may even try to pray, but the ability to actually pray seems frustrated -- drowning in discouragement and exhaustion. It would seem far fetched to such a person if one were to attempt to explain the greatness of the gift being offered in the midst of such a difficult crisis.  The gift is not seized in some great sensational feet.  Instead, by the frailest act of surrender to love, for love and by love one offers to the Lord the trial that besets and in this humble offering, in what seems of so little worth, that unfamiliar inflow of love untold springs forth. A naked, vulnerable act of faith makes space in time and space for the glory of God.  The threshold of this mystery is the foot of the Cross, and those who suffer are invited to cross over this threshold into a new kind of fruitfulness. 

To offer up one's own suffering to God seems useless. After all, it does not produce anything tangible. It does not lessen the suffering itself or shorten the length of the affliction to be endured.  No one, except God, ever knows whether the offering was accepted. It is never really known how God uses this difficult to give gift.  Yet it is our teaching that the suffering of the faithful is meant to participate in the redemptive work of Christ. Somehow, what seems utterly useless in the eyes of the world the Lord renders useful. He seems to love to endow what is meaningless with inexhaustible riches. What else is Christian death but our last offering of that which we have tried to offer all our lives? Yet, even the death of His beloved is precious in the eyes of God, and He counts it a no small gift when the faithful offer their afflictions in intercession for the salvation of the world. 

Dear Reader, if you have such a sacrifice to offer the Lord, please offer this oblation now on behalf of the Pope, the bishops and our priests. Offer it for those who are discouraged by scandal and who are confused by failures of leadership in the Church.  Offer it for those who attack the Church and her teaching authority. Offer it for families who are trying to hold together and for others that have fallen apart and need healing.  Offer it for the prodigal who has forgotten the way home and for the prideful whose indignation has driven them from their home. Offer it for all those beat up by bandits and passed by on the road of life. We need your prayers.

We need the glory of God that comes through your heroic effort to pray even when prayer seems not to come.  Entrust to Him all your struggles and failures, your hardships and renunciations, feelings of abandonment and loneliness, of fear and powerlessness, your humiliations, all the little sacrifices of love that you have made for others- even if not very successfully in your own eyes. Give all of this to Him in humble surrender -- this is our human poverty, and it is the only thing we really have to offer that is truly our own. Ask Him to join these sufferings to His sufferings so that His life and love flow through them even when your own love falls short. A great mystery is manifest in this - for when we implicate ourselves in Christ's work of redemption in this hidden and humble way, the hope of God for humanity is made manifest anew in ways that no one can contain. 

September 24, 2019

To Attend to the Reading and Be Absorbed by It

"Attend to the reading, the exhortation, the teaching" (1 Timothy 4:13). Reading - Lectio - is the basis of the Church's exhortation and the teaching. Paul commands Timothy to read and by this command, every minister of the Gospel is likewise obliged to ponder the Scriptures in ways that will build up the whole Church. Through reading the words of the inerrant and inspired Scriptures, we encounter the Word of the Father. To read, in this sense, is to plant one's whole mind, not merely in the words of a text, but in the truth that those words convey, the Truth that biblical teaching bears.

The Holy Bible, though inerrant and inspired by the Holy Spirit, is safeguarded and rightly used only through the most prayerful reading, a reading that is "absorbed" and "diligent" (1 Timothy 4:15). To truly read the Bible is to prostrate one's whole being in adoration. This is because the mysteries conveyed in the inspired text helps one find a reference point that is higher and more noble than one's own judgments.

Not only does this kind of reading demand total concentration with the entire strength of one's mind, it also requires prayer, prayer that suffers deep silences. It is in the difficult to enter silences of heart that the Word has chosen to dwell. He makes our home in human poverty where one lives only by reliance on God, and this includes in the poverty of a mind that has emptied itself of all other unworthy occupations.  This is where the reading of ministers of the Gospel must take them - whether one is a bishop or a parent, a priest or a catechist, a deacon or a teacher.

To say that we meet the Word made flesh in such a reading is to affirm that the words of Sacred Scripture convey more than the limits of created human cognition can grasp. Since inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Truth Biblical teachings bear is greater than any created language can ever convey.  Since committed to writing by men chosen by God, the words of this sacred teaching can seize us with holy fear. Since inerrant, these Spirit breathing words silence the cacophony of disordered judgments that have drowned out the sweet harmony of all that is most tender and good about life. Sin is revealed, a desire for conversion is conceived, and hoped filled contrition is born. There are even moments when a passage from the Bible suddenly baptizes the heart in mysteries that surpass every longing one has ever known.

If ministers do not allow themselves to be taken up into the Sacred Scriptures through their own devoted reading, they lack the wisdom that they need to exhort and teach righteousness. Through the Bible, those powerful stories, teachings and songs, God manifests where we stand in relation to Him, His unimaginable kindness to us, and the response that we owe to Him. This rallying point is set higher than the affairs of the work-a-day world because we are meant for something higher than our own affairs. The Sacred Scriptures make known the affairs of God in our midst, and these Divine concerns are the measuring stick for our own concerns. It is this rallying point to which every exhortation calls believers.  Only such a reference point lays bare the righteousness of God needed to instruct the members of Christ's Body.

Those who diligently suffer being absorbed by the Word gain a wisdom that the whole Church needs today more than ever. A minister absorbed in the Word has a confidence that solicits the confidence of others. Although this directive to "attend" and "be absorbed" is particularly addressed to Timothy, he has come to represent all those who received the "imposition of hands from the presbyterate." Every deacon, priest and bishop should be "diligent" and "absorbed" in reading, preaching and teaching. Ordered to God's holiness by Holy Orders, the mystery that they have received is irreplaceable for the transmission of the Gospel.

This is not an optional effort: the communion of the Church is at stake.  Even in today's myriads of podcasts and blogs, and no matter how big the personalities involved, the preaching of those whom Christ has set apart by His Holy Mysteries can not be duplicated. This means that members of the lay faithful, such as myself, teach only in collaboration with the ministries of those God has chosen and raised up by Holy Orders. Sometimes our collaborative role is to encourage and to remind those whose first duty is this task. Privately, it even can be to correct. Whatever else, we support and we submit ourselves to the authority of the Church with which these men have been entrusted, and we never usurp their role, but defend it and help them embrace it.

To act otherwise begets confusion in the communion of the faithful. If it is shameful to be ambiguously silent when the clarity is needed, it is likewise disordered to spew noisy rancor when the power of silence is demanded. Only the Word can give this clarity. Only He evokes the silence truth demands. To speak the truth into the difficult hardships that men and women face today protects the unity of the Church and the unity of a family. If many ministers fail to offer such a word, perhaps this is because one cannot utter it without being vulnerable to difficult hardship and rejection. Fear comes by nature ... by grace audacity. And grace comes by prayer. Yet, what a poverty when our courage fails and we neglect the duty that love imposes.

Conversely, when a minister summons the fortitude to speak the truth with love, no matter the cost, something good always results, even if cloaked in rejection and hostility. Such a man embraces that suffering by which alone one soul can call another "father." Lay teachers of the faith have every reason to rejoice whenever their imperfect efforts help a preacher of the Word find this courage. When one minister regains heart, he helps thousands take heart too. On this note, St. Hildegard of Bingen describes the preaching of the ordained as the radiance of the Bride of Christ -- so that through her, the Lord draws those in need of salvation to Himself.

We are bound together by the Holy Spirit -- the baptized and the ordained.  As the Holy Spirit empowers their devotion to teach us, He inspires us to receive those words and enflesh them in human affairs.  We cannot do this on our own. To ween us off self-reliance and to help us learn obedience of heart, God has chosen to work through others in our life. Because this is a time that calls for bold courage, we need those to whom God has given the power and authority to teach His Word for our sake with boldness and courage.  It is through these Divinely imbued servants of the Word that we are able to receive the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit.  

September 21, 2019

The Holy Spirit and the Holy Bible

Since "all scripture is inspired by God" (2 Timothy 3:16) and "no prophecy of scripture is a matter of personal interpretation" (2 Peter 1:20), we need the manifold ways that the Holy Spirit works in the Church to enter deep into the truth of the Holy Bible. He who inspired men to write these words of the Word is the very One who can help us penetrate their deepest meanings when we allow those who He has chosen to minister to us. Yet this demands from us humble surrender, not to human authority, but to the Divine Authority exercised in the Church.  Such an obedient surrender can only be learned in the school of prayer, fasting and sacrifice.  Only insofar as we, the hearers of the Word, are surrendered to the Holy Spirit can the words of Sacred Scripture be "useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). Only then, do we become "doers of the Word" (James 1:22).

If Christians are to be "competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:17), ministers are charged to help them engage the Word of God not only with their heads, but with their hearts. In ways that go beyond human understanding, God empowers a minister to lead disciples beyond all that is familiar, comfortable and convenient.  With not only eloquently spoken words but also silence sobered with holy joy, a minister who has contemplated those writings inspired by God can render a heart ready to encounter the Risen Lord.

If "no prophecy ever came through human will" (2 Peter 1:21) then the response to the prophetic message demands more than the white knuckled efforts of unaided human will. The conversion that the Bible calls for is not the product of our own determination, though we must be more determined about this than anything else in life.  It is not the product of self-generated desire, though the greatest desires are demanded. It is not a matter of assent to ideas, but of total conversion, a whole new way of life.

If "men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God" (2 Peter 1:21), then it is by the movement of the Holy Spirit within the Church that the heart learns to respond to God rightly. What is the right response? It is a humble, simple loving movement to the Lord - one that gathers speed as it roles through the history of one's life.  It is a life lived by love for the sake of love. Each instant of such a life opens to a new opportunity to receive that mysterious love that the Crucified Word of the Father unveils. At the very moment of reception, there is also a new opportunity to offer, to sacrifice, to give -- always in the form of a feeble response before the astounding generosity of God.

If the inerrant and inspired Word of God reveals a mystery of love so far beyond the limits of human industry, one cannot, on his own, summon the gratitude that is owed but feels compelled all the same. Thus, the form of the Christian life - that life revealed in the Bible - is Eucharistic, a thanksgiving.  Only with the aid of God who is Love can anyone offer that solemn "thank you" to love that God inspired the Holy Bible to witness to us through the words of a preacher.   Such total surrender requires Divine Assistance -- a sheer gift above and beyond anything anyone ever deserves, yet by the words of a preacher, that gift is ours. 

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