Saturday, September 15, 2018

Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

Today, we celebrate the feast of the Blessed Mother receiving the prophecy of Simeon.

"Your own soul a sword shall pierce." (Luke 2:34-35)

As we read this, we pause for a breath. How many mothers today are experiencing a sword of sorrow piercing their hearts? I think of the mothers separated from their children at the border. I think of mothers whose children are lost in habits of various forms of addiction. I think of mothers who hold their dying or dead child in their arms--children who have incurable diseases or have been victims of violence. All of these are sorrowing mothers.

May the Blessed Mother stand with them and support them through her intercession in their hour of need.

Mother most sorrowful, hear our plea. Obtain from your Son, Jesus, the graces we need. Hold our hands as we too pray, "Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will." Amen.

Written by Sister Anne Marie Schreiner, D.C.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Exultation of the Holy Cross

This feast day in the Catholic Church commemorates three things:

  1. The public presentation of the actual wood of the cross on which Jesus died, which had been saved by his faithful followers in a secret special place
  2. The dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the tomb in which Jesus was placed after He died
  3. Christ's victory over death by His crucifixion and resurrection
To people without faith in Jesus Christ, this may seem to be a very strange commemoration, sort of like putting on public display the electrocution gurney table of a person who was electrocuted under the death penalty. But if this person were innocent, if this person had been promoting peace, justice, and mercy, if this person were the Son of God, and if this person's suffering and death had redeemed the whole world, the gurney table, upon which this person had laid before being executed, would perhaps be kept in a very special place and venerated.

In our days, recalling how Jesus died, we may be singing the hymn "Life High the Cross," in which the verses read: "O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree, as thou hast promised, draw the world to thee. So shall our song of triumph ever be: praised to the crucified for victory." It is important to remember the crucifix--with the figure of Jesus on it--urges us to recall the charity and love with which He lived and which motivated Him to do good to and for others. In order to sanctify and redeem humanity, God became human. The way that Jesus had to die, with all the suffering He endured, was all a part of the divine plan.

When Daughters of Charity profess our vows in the community, we receive a crucifix to wear as a symbol that the charity of Jesus Christ always urges us to do good. Lay women in the International Association of Charity (commonly known as the Ladies of Charity) also receive a crucifix as a sign of their consecration and motivation. Perhaps you also wear a crucifix or cross as a sign of being Christian.

To see or to wear a cross is not a romantic or sweet thing. Rather, it is a symbol of redemptive suffering, a difficult effort that tries to make hard things better. Almost every Catholic church has a crucifix displayed within. I remember being in a church in Italy and seeing a crucifix with a very different artistic expression. It was a clear glass disc about four feet in diameter with the two hemispheres of the world etched on it. Superimposed on it was a wooden figured of the crucified Christ, His arms outstretched, embracing the whole world. It was evident that this expression was trying to say that Jesus embraced the suffering of the whole world. He is part of it. He suffers with it. He knows the world, loves the world, and redeems the world by His suffering.

In your personal good works for others, some encouragement may be needed so that you might persevere through some sufferings, inconveniences, or contradictions. They are your crosses. St. Vincent de Paul had a few thoughts on our crosses:
  • "The sufferings of our Lord gave fecundity to His words and your crosses will also give it to the holy seed you plant in hearts." (Life Long Maxims, p. 77)
  • "Oh, how blessed are those who lovingly bear their cross, walking in their footsteps of such a Master." (Life Long Maxims, p. 79)
  • "The cross on which you now find yourself is the best place for you in this world." (Life Long Maxims, p. 82)
  • Our Lord deals with you as He did the saints whom He led to holiness and glory by various tribulations... May it please His divine goodness that, while He multiples your crosses, He may increase your graces to bear them courageously. I shall not fail to offer you often to God for that intention." (Life Long Maxims, p. 84)
And St. Louise de Marillac offers these words concerning the cross:
  • "The greatest honor you can receive is to follow Jesus carrying His cross." (Life Long Maxims, p. 89)
  • "When sufferings come, we must love them and carry them to the foot of the crucifix." (Life Long Maxims, p. 91)
  • "I compassionate all your pain. They are a mark of the love our Lord has for you, having chosen you to honor Him in His sufferings." (Life Long Maxims, p. 91)
  • "We should offer our sufferings for the needs of the people." (Life Long Maxims, p. 93)
So that we might benefit from our own crosses, be they easy or difficult to carry, DynamicCatholic offers "The Prayer Process." This helps us to examine our crosses in six simple steps.
  1. Begin with a short personal dialogue with God about what you are most grateful for.
  2. Visit the times in the past 24 hours where you were or were not the best version of yourself. Talk to God about these situations and what you learned from them. In other words, examine the crosses in your life and how you reacted to them.
  3. Look at significant moments, people, or events in the past 24 hours and identify something you experienced. Were your feelings positive, negative, or neutral? Explore what God might be trying to say to you in that moment, person, or event.
  4. Ask God to forgive you for any wrong you may have committed and to fill you with peace.
  5. Speak to God about how He is inviting you to change your life.
  6. Lift up to God anyone you feel called to pray for, asking God to bless and guide them. End by praying the Our Father.
May you find this reading helpful to see how the crosses in your life are redemptive for others and yourself. "Life high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim, 'til all the world proclaim His sacred name."

Written by Sister Elizabeth Racko, D.C.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

When Jesus Gets in Your Boat

I have a confession to make. I have always feared the sufferings of least when I am honest with myself. John Gabriel Peroyre, CM, is a martyr who touches that fear. His sufferings in China under the Manchurian emperor, Quisling (1840) were extraordinary. Yet I feel strangely connected to him.

On one of my many trips to our Motherhouse in Paris to lead workshops on "the new digital technology," I was assigned to a room on a corridor that I didn't know existed. It turned out to be the room St. John Gabriel Perboyre used when he served as Novice Master for Vincentians in 1832. I distinctly remember laying wide awake in a bed that could very well have been his given its age. I was filled with awe at being in the presence of one who had given his all.

In the years since then, I have often reflected on that week in his room. Recently, I discovered a gem from Bishop Robert Barron. (Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith)

"We need saints in order to come to a richer understanding of God, for each saint reflects in his or her particular manner something of God's perfection."

There are different kinds of saints. There are also different kinds of martyrdom and each reflects something different about God.

On Christmas Day 1648, St. Vincent said: "I'm well aware, dear Sisters, that some among you, by the grace of God, love their vocation so strongly that they'd prefer to be crucified, torn apart, and hacked into a thousand pieces rather than tolerate anything contrary to it--and there are a good number of you, by the mercy of God" (CCD:IX:359).

But Vincent de Paul also applied the word "martyr" to the Daughters of Charity who had left behind their family and gave their life to God in order to serve the poor in the different places where they were sent.

"Your vocation is the greatest in the Church of God, for you are martyrs; whoever gives his or her life for God is regarded as a martyr, and it's certain that your lives are shortened by your labors; consequently, you are martyrs" (CCD:IX:361-362).

Pastor Delbert Young tied these various strands together in a sermon "When Jesus Gets In Your Boat."

"Every boat ride Jesus took was eventful. You might catch a boat load of fish or run into a storm or run into a demon, but something will happen when Jesus steps into your boat. It's not only the ride of your life. It will change your life."

We don't get to choose whether or how we will be called to be witnesses of God's love. But inviting Jesus into our lives will change our lives...and the lives of others. We are each called to manifest something of God's perfection.

Written by Father John Freund, CM (the first male contributor, our brother, who considers himself "blessed among women")

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Frederick Ozanam

Born: 1813; Died: 1853; Beatified: 1997
He was the fifth of 14 children, a husband,
a father, a lawyer, an educator (Professor
at the Sorbonne), and Founder of the
Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
In Frederick's eyes, faith without charity has no meaning. He once wrote, "The earth has become a chilly place. It is up to us as Vincentians," as Catholics, "to become a great flame again and to bring warmth back into our society." Can we remain blind and deaf and dumb in a world where human tragedy is
all around us? Where war is more common than peace? Where hatred out measures love in so many and varied ways?

We see today's issues of human trafficking and the insensitivity to those immigrants trying to find a better life for themselves and their children. We see neighbors killing neighbors in drug wars and gang violence. Guns are easily accessible to all people. Drugs are killing family members and friends. Sadly, this is the chilly place that Frederick spoke of.

If Frederick was here today, he would tell us that we need to love God so we can love our neighbors into that warmth that will change society back to what was always intended in God's eyes and the message of Jesus in the Gospels. And when we struggle to God for whatever reason, Frederick would tell us to love our neighbors, to love the strangers among us for, in doing so, we will surely see God in their faces, in their eyes, in their struggles, in their sadness, and in their lives. Frederick said this in his time and would now in ours. "My Lord and my God, You are our Master and we will be Your servants. You are, for us, the sacred image of the God that we cannot see. May we see you in those you put before us to nurture and to serve!"

Written by Sister Catherine Kelly, D.C.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

World Day of Prayer for the Care of Earth

From September 1 to October 4, Christians around the world unite to pray and care for creation. It's the "Season of Creation," and it's happening all around the world! The theme for this year's celebration is "walking together."

September 1 is the designated day for WORLD DAY OF PRAYER FOR THE CARE OF CREATION. This is a day that we can all come together in prayer to advocate for and protect our common home, live more simply, and pray for and with God's creation. What a wonderful and beautiful gift it is!

I recently took part in a webinar sponsored by the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) and they spoke of the "green time" of Pentecost. Because care of creation is a growing concern for all people, Christians around the world are coming together to pray during the Season of Creation dating September 1 - October 4. It is being considered a Liturgical season of the year for Catholics, Lutherans, Orthodox, Anglicans, and Evangelical traditions!

We can see from this that we are a global body of Christ. These ecumenical events and prayers that will be taking place across the world will be prayers expressing one call to care for creation. Let us pray in solidarity with and for our brothers and sisters and all of creation, especially those who are affected by global warming, floods, fires, and neglect of the needs of our planet. Remember, we are all "walking together" for the same purpose.

Pope Francis reminds us that "we are all connected;" that there is an interconnectedness with all of creation. He convened the first World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in 2015 to challenge us to work toward an "ecological conversion" and in the spirit of his encyclical, Laudato Si.

Let us celebrate together this great day of prayer and pray in the words of Pope Francis:

"All powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as sisters and brothers, harming no one. O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in yours eyes. Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth. Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite life. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love, and peace."

Written by Sister Regina Hlavac, D.C.