November Thoughts


If only we could be what we hope to be, through our great, kind God. In this life and the next, he asks so little and gives so much to those who love him.

Hoping in him and loving him, let us endure everything and give thanks for everything that befalls us, since everything can bring us to salvation.

Meanwhile, let us commend to God our own souls and the souls of those who have reached the place of rest before us, walking the same road as we do.

Lord and Creator of all, especially of our human family,
You are our God and Father,
Ruler of your children,
Lord of life and death,
guide and benefactor of our souls.

You fashion and transform all things in due time through your creative Word,
According to your deep wisdom and providence,receive those who have gone ahead in our journey from this life.

Receive us too when our time comes, after guiding us through the years, as long as it good for us.
Receive us prepared by fear of you, yet not troubled, nor shrinking back on the day of death, like those who love this world too much.

Instead, may we set out eagerly for that everlasting and blessed life which is in Christ Jesus.
To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen

Saint Gregory Nazianzen, Bishop.

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion

Thanksgiving’s Coming

Thanksgiving Day is Thursday and most of us are getting ready for a Thanksgiving meal with family and friends. Our readings at Mass this week are filled with apocalyptic readings about the end of time. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” (Luke 21,11)

Our Old Testament readings are from the Book of Daniel. Daniel, one of the early Jewish exiles deported to Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem, predicts the destruction of his kingdom to the Babylonian king. Daniel describes a world falling apart.

How can we sit down comfortably for a Thanksgiving dinner, listening to these reading? They only seem to echo the current grim headlines about terrorism all over our world. He can we feel secure?

Today we also celebrate Vietnamese martyrs killed in the 18th century, Saint Andrew Dung– Lac and 117 others were put to death in a cruel persecution of Christians. This is from a letter of Saint Paul Le-Bao-Tinh, one of the martyrs:

“I, Paul, in chains for the name of Christ, wish to relate to you the trials besetting me daily, in order that you may be inflamed with love for God and join with me in his praises. The prison here is a true image of everlasting hell: to cruel tortures of every kind – shackles, iron chains, manacles – are added hatred, vengeance, calumnies, obscene speech, quarrels, evil acts, swearing, curses, as well as anguish and grief. But the God who once freed the three children from the fiery furnace is with me always; he has delivered me from these tribulations and made them sweet, for his mercy is for ever.

In the midst of these torments, which usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone – Christ is with me.”

“I am not alone–Christ is with me.” He is our security

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion

Clay Feet

As the church year ends we read apocalyptic writings, the Book of Daniel and apocalyptic sections from the gospels.They’re about the future, the day of the Lord, when the kingdom of God finally comes and humanity and creation itself attain the goal intended by God from the beginning.

We’re like the people Jesus describes in Luke’s gospel, however, those in the days of Noah and the days of Lot who were “eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building.” (Luke 17, 26-30) We like our normal lives.

For that reason, these writings make us uneasy, because they point to a future that’s far from normal: “wars and insurrections, nation rising against nation, powerful earthquakes, famines, plagues, awesome sights and mighty signs in the sky” (Luke 21, 7-28) And there’s persecution besides. We don’t want those things in our lives.

Jesus promises in these same readings that not a hair of our head will be harmed, that we will have the strength to endure whatever happens, that we’ll be able to give testimony, that we will have the wisdom to understand it all. But still, we’re unsettled by it all.

If faith helps us into the future and the life to come, what can these readings teach us?

The Book of Daniel, which we’re also reading at Mass this week, recalls King Nebuchadnezzar training Daniel and three other young Jewish exiles in Babylon to serve as his advisors. The king has a lot on his hands to deal with, and he needs a brain trust to help him see where he’s been and where he’s going. People in charge always need advice.

Daniel gives Nebuchadnezzar a picture of the future that he wasn’t expecting. Other empires will follow him and his kingdom will come to an end, Daniel tells him. The great powers of his world have clay feet; they collapse and fall to the ground. The only kingdom that endures is God’s kingdom, a stone hewn from a mountain.

Daniel wasn’t afraid to present the king with reality. Is that what we learn from apocalyptic readings? God works through reality, they tell us, whether wars, earthquakes, famines, plagues, persecutions. Yet, the kingdom of God will come, no matter what. So don’t fear the future, whether your own or that of the world.

“When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” (Luke 21, 28)


Filed under Religion

Feast of Christ the King

Audio version here:

This Sunday for the Feast of Christ the King we’re reading from the Gospel of John. As you read John’s gospel, you notice that much of it is made up of the lengthy teachings of Jesus to his disciples and those who oppose him. At the Last Supper, for example, John gospel quotes extensively for almost five chapters what Jesus says to his disciples about who he is and what he wants them to be. “I am the vine, you are the branches…Love one another as I have loved you…Peace I leave you, my peace I give you.” John’s gospel is filled with the words of Jesus.

But then, as Jesus leaves the supper room that night and crosses over the Kidron Valley, you notice he hardly says a word. It’s not the time for words; it’s the time to act, to be who he says he is, no matter what.

You notice in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus hardly answers those who come to take him. His words are few to the leaders of the people who bring him to trial. Then he’s brought before Pontius Pilate. This is one of the great scenes of the gospel story. Jesus before Pontius Pilate. Pilate in his fine robes seated on the raised judgment seat, where powerful Roman justice was meted out. The Romans didn’t like long trials; they were masters of quick judgments and getting things done.

Jesus stands below the Roman judge tied and beaten, soon to be scourged and crowned with thorns.

You can hear the sarcasm, the disdain in Pilate’s questions: “Are you the king of the Jews? …What have you done?” You can hear quiet, unshaken conviction in Jesus’ response. “I am a king, for this was I born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth hears my voice.”

John’s gospel has a way of presenting the story with wonderful irony. Pilate seems to be all powerful, in control of everything, but his power passes away. Even his sentence of death in overturned; Jesus rose from the dead.

Jesus seems to be a condemned nobody, but he’s the stronger of the two. He knows who he is, he’s born a king, and that dignity never leaves him, whether he’s threatened, or ridiculed, or made fun of, or beaten, or put to death. He knows he’s a king. He’s knows he tells the truth, no matter what. He knows that ultimately truth wins out, because God is true.

“He suffered under Pontius Pilate,” In those words our creed summarize the whole story of his passion of Jesus. They can summarize our lives too. How hard that is to understand, but think about it. When we see Jesus, we see ourselves. We say, “I’m not a king; I’m not God made flesh.” That’s true. But we’re children of God, given life by God, made for a purpose. We have a mission in this life. Jesus himself says we have, and he is with us to accomplish that mission.

“He suffered under Pontius Pilate.” Is there a way we do that too? Well, can the powers of this world, the day by day world, the official world, the world of leisure, the world of culture–can that world intimidate us, threaten us, ridicule us, make fun of us, question our truth, frighten us to death? Sure it can. We can all suffer under Pontius Pilate.

And so we come to the Lord who did that once, and ask him to stand with us and make us strong and remind us who we are and feed us with the bread of the strong and wisdom of truth.

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion

The Presentation of Mary in the Temple

November 21

Some are uncomfortable with the story of the presentation of Mary in the temple, because it’s not found in scripture, but rather in the apocryphal gospel of James. That source indicates that Mary was born in Jerusalem; her father Joachim provided lambs for sacrifice in the temple. He and his wife Ann were childless until, at the promise of an angel, they are blessed with a daughter. When she is three years old, they present Mary in the temple where she is raised among virgins.

A tradition says that the ancient church of St. Ann in Jerusalem, almost adjacent to the temple, marks the place where Mary was born. It’s not the only tradition about her birthplace, of course, Nazareth and a city nearby, Sepphoris, also make that claim.

Our feast today comes from the church of Jerusalem, where it was celebrated from early times. If you look at the substance of the story–which I like to do– it says basically that Mary was closely connected to the temple in Jerusalem, a claim Luke’s gospel supports to some degree. He says that Mary’s cousin Elizabeth was married to Zechariah, a temple priest. So, couldn’t Mary’s family be connected there too?

Luke links Mary to the temple a number of times. She and Joseph go there “when the days were completed for their purification,” (Luke 2,22) 40 days after Jesus is born, to present him to God. It wasn’t necessary for them to go to the temple for that purpose, but they do.

Luke also says Mary and Joseph customarily brought Jesus from childhood to the temple to celebrate the feasts. I don’t think Mary saw the temple as a cloister; it must have been familiar place from the time she was a little girl. She believed God was present there, and so she brought her Child to this place. It was a place of spiritual teaching; prophets spoke in its courtyard and the world was welcome there. The old man Simeon spoke to her there and Israel’s beliefs were expressed there.

In words constantly repeated in the psalms:   

“The Lord is in his holy temple,

The Lord’s throne is in heaven.” (Psalm 11)

Later, her Son spoke of his “father’s house.” Mary first introduced him to this holy place.  He engaged its teachers and spoke about his own mission as he celebrated its feasts. He cleansed it in a dramatic, symbolic action. He celebrated the last supper nearby and died as the lambs from the temple were being sacrificed.

Jesus was the new temple.

We will be beginning the advent season soon, when we’ll hear the voices of the prophets promising the One to come as the savior of his people and calling all nations to climb the mountain of the Lord and enter his holy temple. This feast is another reminder of Mary’s part in his coming and the vital role she played.


Filed under Religion

Friday Thoughts: To All Gathered in Thought and Prayer


Jesus Christ is Real.


He is not made of wood or ink or paint. He is not a distant figure from a distant past. He is here. We gather in His name—He is here. He is as real as each one of us. He is what makes each one of us real.

The message is simple:

He is the Son of God. He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. He is Love. He is Forgiveness. He is Humility. He is Boldness and Obedience.

He is Lord. He is God. He is Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.

He is Christ Jesus, and He is Real.

I see Him now in each of you. I say to Him, I say to you: “I love You, my Lord and my God.”


Now, let us go and tell others…



Egon Schiele, “Conversion” (1912)


And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

— Matthew 28:20



(Friday Thoughts is a new series to appear every Friday, written by various members of the extended Passionist community.)

1 Comment

Filed under Religion

Dedication of the Churches of Sts. Peter and Paul


Two great apostles, Peter and Paul, are honored today in the ancient churches where their bodies are buried. The Basilica of St. Paul and the Vatican Basilica of St. Peter were built in the fourth century and are reminders of the apostles who are founders of the Roman church and are still its protectors.

The Christians of Rome marked the place where the apostles were martyred with special care. Peter, early sources say, was crucified on the Vatican Hill in 64 near the obelisk not far from the circus of emperors Caligula and Nero. He was buried in a cemetery nearby. The Emperor Constantine erected a basilica over the burial site in 326, while Sylvester was pope. Later in 1626 the present basilica replaced it. Recent excavations have uncovered Peter’s burial place under the papal altar of this church.

Paul, according to tradition, was beheaded on the Ostian Way, outside the ancient city walls, in 67. Constantine built a large church over his grave in 386. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1823 according to its original measurements. The apostle’s grave lies before the main altar of the church.

“The company of the apostles praises you…From their place in heaven they guide us still.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Passionists, Religion, Travel