Monthly Archives: October 2009

All Saints

I help out at a website on the Internet called Bread on the Waters;  part of it is called “Ask a Catholic.”  People email their questions and a number of us try to answer them.

One question I got the other day was ” Why don’t we call the great figures of the Old Testament “saints?” Why don’t we say “Saint Moses,” “St. Abraham” “St. Isaac.”

I answered by saying that the Old Testament, instead of speaking of individual saints, prefers to speak of a holy people. God calls all his people to be holy, not just a few.

If you look at the New Testament, St. Paul does the same thing. He begins his 1st Letter to the Corinthians, for example: “To the Church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Jesus Christ, called to be saints…”(1 Cor.1,4) Everybody in that church is called to be holy.

The title “Saint” used today in the Catholic Church usually describes those who have been formally  canonized by the Church. They’re individuals recognized for some outstanding work or virtue.

For example, the church recently canonized a French woman, Jeanne Jugan, the foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor, who take care of the elderly poor,  and a Belgian priest, Damian De Veuster. who for 16 years worked in a leper colony in Molokai in Hawaii. They were heroic figures.

From what we know about the church in Corinth from Paul’s letters, the Christians there were hardly  saints in the same heroic degree. Paul describes them as suspicious of each other, fighting among themselves, some sexually immoral, some betraying their principles to get ahead. Not a church of canonized saints at all.

But they have been made holy by the grace of Jesus Christ, Paul writes.  He is their Savior, their Shepherd who will bring them home.

Our Feast of All Saints is about saints like them and like us.

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Being Apostles

It may be a good thing that we know so little about the apostles of Jesus. The gospels say very little about them, who they were or where they went or what they did. On the other hand, knowing little about them makes us reflect more on their mission–they were apostles.

We certainly don’t know much about Simon and Jude, whose feast we celebrate today. Cyril of Alexandria, in today’s Office of Readings, speaks about the mission of the apostle which we share in, as members of an apostolic church.

The apostle follows Jesus. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Jesus says in the Gospel of John. “Once he said: I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance,” Cyril says. “And then at another time he said: I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. For God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”

Like the apostles, we are not just created to exist here on earth, we are sent. We have a mission. We are not just to take from this world, we are to give. Jesus told his apostles ” to heal those who were sick whether in body or spirit, to seek in all their dealings never to do their own will but the will of him who sent them, and as far as possible to save the world by their teaching.”

That’s what he tells us to do too, as his followers.

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Passionist Media

I’ve been involved in the  “New Media” for a number of years now, and I’ve learned a  bit. But it’s a fast moving field and not easy to keep up with.

The New Media comes from the rapid rise of the computer and the growth of the internet in the 1980s. Until then, we used print, radio and television for public communication.

Today, the New Media is found not only in web-sites, blogs, communication tools like e-mail,  Facebook and Twitter, but it’s also transforming the “Old Media” through digital television and online publications.

The New Media is changing the way we communicate.  In the crisis in Iran a few months ago, the government shut down outside television coverage, but the world learned about it anyway,  largely through the New Media.  A shift is taking place in who controls mass communication today and the means to do it. I commented on this in a previous blog.

The New Media tends to be less expensive and less dependent on professionals than the older media. Anyone with a digital camera, a computer and a little know-how can put a video on YouTube or Vimeo. A maze of blogs and websites on the Internet offers a bewildering range of opinions and subjects.

For religious communities like mine, the New Media offers a real opportunity. We are a global community to begin with, and the New Media is global in its outreach. We have a solid spiritual and pastoral tradition and the bazaar of conflicting religious ideas needs some solid religious teachers.

We are branching out from some of our old media ventures to incorporate the new. We have a good province website. The Sunday Mass has a site on the internet.  Compassion Magazine has an online edition. Many of the print publications and videos from Passionist Press can be sampled or seen online.  There are some Passionist blogs around, from the UN and for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of  Creation. A quick look at Google Search, the standard for measuring new media success, says we are still proclaiming the Passion of Jesus.

I was encouraged last Tuesday to see some proposals for our chapter this May involving the new media and the media in general,

I hope we commit ourselves to it.


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Looking Ahead with Confidence

I just returned from a pre-chapter meeting of my community. We’re getting ready to chart the course for the future–as much as we humanly can– and elect new provincial officers. Not easy today, when the future is so murky and our numbers older and fewer.

But our time is our time, and we have to live it to the full.

I like Pope Benedict’s words in “Charitas in Veritate:”

“The current crisis obliges us to re-plan our journey, to set ourselves new rules and to discover new forms of commitment, to build on positive experiences and to reject negative ones. The crisis thus becomes an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future. In this spirit, with confidence rather than resignation, it is appropriate to address the difficulties of the present time.”

The pope isn’t doing our thinking for us; he’s telling us to  discern and to plan the future ourselves, with confidence.

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Praying the Lord’s Prayer

You wont find any prayer in scripture that isn’t found in some way

in the Lord’s Prayer, St. Augustine writes to Proba, a woman looking

for advice about how to pray.

The words of prayer are teachers of prayer, a school of prayer,

and no prayer is more important than the Our Father

for leading us into union with God.

“Teach us to pray,” the disciples of Jesus ask him and gave them

this prayer as their norm.

It’s a norm, Augustine tells Proba, ” So when we pray we are

free to use different words to any extent, but we must ask the

same things: in this we have no choice.”

The saint is recommending a meditative way of praying the Our Father,

a prayer that easily becomes one we say by rote.

Sometimes it’s good to leave long prayers for a simple rest in this one.

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No Life Without Sacrifice

In this Sunday’s gospel (Mark 10,35-45) James and John, two of his disciples, want something from Jesus; they want the power and position they believe he can give them. “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”

But they want glory without any cost. Grant it and it’s ours, they say to him. They’re looking for an easy way to get something good. Jesus says they want glory “without drinking the cup,” a life without struggle, effort and suffering. But there’s no life without sacrifice.

You can’t live without sacrifice. You can’t have it all and you can’t have it easily. That applies to every level of life.

We have to sacrifice for our own good. For example, we can’t be healthy without adopting a healthy life style, something often hard to do.

We make sacrifices for others, and that’s often hard to do. Parents sacrifice for children; children for parents. Sacrifice for strangers–that’s very hard. Soldiers have  to be ready to give up their lives for their country. The ultimate sacrifice, we say.

Jesus described his own death on the Cross as a sacrifice. That sacrifice was the culmination of a life given for others.

Sacrifice has a holy dimension we may forget.  We remember that dimension at Mass, where we use the word frequently. Sacrifice comes from    two latin words that mean “doing something holy.” If  what we do is good, for ourselves, for others, for our world, we are brought  to God through it, and God blesses our efforts, our struggles and the suffering what we have done entails.

“We come to you, Father, with praise and thanksgiving, through Jesus Christ your Son,

Through him we ask you to accept and bless these gifts we offer you in sacrifice”

What are the gifts we offer to God in sacrifice? Yes, they’re the gifts  of his Son, who offered himself to his Father once on the Cross and now becomes our offering to God who blesses us through him.

But they’re our gifts too, our sacrifices, many and varied as they are, that are joined to his and they bring down God’s blessings on us and on our world.

Let’s keep our sacrifices holy.

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St. Theresa of Avila

St. Theresa of Avila, whose feast is today, sees the way to God through the humanity of Christ. But a word like “humanity,” concrete as it is, can become an abstraction. So we have look more closely at Theresa’s thoughts about the humanity of Christ.

He becomes our friend through his humanity, she says. Not a distant friend, an on-again, off-again friend, but a friend at our side.

“Unlike our friends in the world, he will never abandon us when we are troubled or distressed. Blessed is the one who truly loves him and always keeps him near.”

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