Monthly Archives: September 2018

26th Week of the Year: b

 

 

 

 

September 30 TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Nm 11:25-29/Jas 5:1-6/Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 (137)

1 October Monday Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
Memorial
Jb 1:6-22/Lk 9:46-50 (455)

2 Tuesday The Holy Guardian Angels
Memorial
Jb 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23 (456)/Mt 18:1-5, 10 (650)

3 Wednesday
Jb 9:1-12, 14-16/Lk 9:57-62 (457) 37

4 Thursday Saint Francis of Assisi
Memorial
Jb 19:21-27/Lk 10:1-12 (458)

5 Friday
[USA: Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, Priest]
Jb 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5/Lk 10:13-16 (459)

6 Saturday
[Saint Bruno, Priest; USA: Blessed Marie Rose Durocher, Virgin; BVM]
Jb 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17/Lk 10:17-24 (460)

Saints like St.Thérèse of the Child Jesus and St Francis of Assisi are saints who define our church as a whole and so the universal church celebrates their feasts to learn how the Spirit forms the church. They have a universal meaning.
Saints and blesseds like Blessed Francis Seelos and Blessed Marie Rose Durocher, who are recalled this week, are important figures in the church of North America. We remember them as guides to the history of our local church.

Saint Jerome

jerome

St. Jerome, whose feast is September 30, was a scripture scholar who brought the bible to western Christians through his translations from the Greek and Hebrew.  He was born in 340 in Stridon, a small town on the eastern Adriatic coast, and received an early education in Rome. He was baptized there in 360 by Pope Liberius.

Brilliant and eager to know,  Jerome traveled extensively. In Antioch in Syria he had a dream in which he saw himself rebuked by Christ for wasting his time on worldly knowledge. Moved by the dream, Jerome withdrew into the Syrian desert. There he said he was beset by temptations and “threw himself at the feet of Jesus, watering them with prayers and acts of penance.” The picture above portrays him praying to be delivered from temptation.

For penance, Jerome began studying Hebrew under a Jewish teacher, which later helped him translate and comment on the Bible.

Ordained a priest, Je arrived in Constantinople about 380 where he studied the scriptures under St. Gregory of Nazianzen. Two years later, he returned to Rome and was   given  the monumental task of translating the bible from Greek into Latin by Pope Damasus. His translation, called the Vulgate, his learned commentaries and sermons sparked a flowering of spirituality in the western church. Jerome won a devoted following, especially among Rome’s prominent Christian women eager to understand  the bible.

Jerome’s comments on Roman society drew critics who resented his biting tongue and caustic remarks. Stung by their attacks, he left Rome in 385 for the Holy Land where he established a community at Bethlehem near the cave where Christ was born and continued studying the scriptures, utilizing the nearby Christian library at Caesarea Maritima.  Friends from Rome joined him, among them the noblewoman Paula and her daughter Eustochia, who founded a monastic community of women in Bethlehem.

St. Catharine Church, Bethlehem

St. Catharine Church, Bethlehem. Remains of Jerome’s Monastery are under the church

“Ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ,” Jerome said. Besides his scripture studies he continually engaged in the church controversies of the day, sometimes dealing harshly and  unfairly with others.

In 410 Alaric and his warriors sacked Rome and a shocked Jerome provided shelter Roman Christians fleeing to the safety of the Holy Land. “I have put aside my studies to help them,” he wrote. “Now we must translate the words of scripture into deeds, and instead of speaking holy words we must do them.”

He died in Bethlehem in 420. His remains are buried in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. A doctor and teacher of the church, he frankly recognized his need for God’s mercy. Jerome reminds us that saints are not perfect.

“Lord, show me your mercy and gladden my heart.

I am like the man going to Jericho, wounded by robbers.

Good Samaritan, come help me.

I am like a sheep gone astray.

Good Shepherd, come seek me and bring me home safe.

May I dwell in your house all my days and praise you forever.”

Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels

Michael

St.Michael, Lucca, Italy

We celebrate the feast of three archangels today, September 29th. St. Gregory the Great says of the angels: “There are many spirits in heaven, but only the spirits who deliver a message are called angels.” Archangels like Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, “are those who proclaim messages of supreme importance…

“And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.”

Their names, Gregory says, tell the service they perform. “Thus, Michael means “Who is like God”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; and Raphael is “God’s Remedy.

“Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power…

“So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle.

“Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy.”

St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists, dedicated his first foundation on Monte Argentario in Italy to St. Michael and he said the archangel preserved his community from harm. Paul was a Lombard. Historians say the Lombards believed the Saracens where stopped from invading Lombardy in the 6th century by Michael and fostered devotion to the archangel afterwards.

In a world so convinced that human power is the only power, it’s comforting to have another level of power to look towards.

“St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle…”

The Son of Man


Orlando Hernandez

Dear Brethren. Once again I find myself writing for this blog and asking myself why I do it. I think the main reason is that I love Fr. Victor and I just can’t say “no” when he invites me to share my little reflections. What helps me the most is that , even though I am painfully challenged by the readings, sooner or later they drop me softly into a state of prayer and I am touched by the delightful, mysterious Love of God. I realize that I also write this because I love you too, everyone who reads this, and hope that even a small ray of this Divine Love I feel might get past these words and touch your hearts.
In this Friday’s Gospel (Lk 9: 18-22), “ Jesus was praying in solitude and the disciples were with Him.” He asks them who do they think He is. Peter tells Him, “The Christ of God.”
I try to be there in this scene and look at Jesus, accompanied by those He loves and yet in “solitude.” Holiness is sometimes defined as “being set apart.” Jesus, of course, was and is so different from everyone of us, His brothers and sisters. Did He ever feel loneliness? Or was he in such intimate contact with His “Abba” that He never felt alone?
Last weekend I worked with my Emmaus Brothers in a retreat in Miami, FL. I live in New York and I had not seen them in half a year. I felt such joy in serving among them, whom I admire so much. But I also felt alone many times, much welcomed, but still an outsider after so many months away. And yet, I was never lonely. To my eyes, the light of God’s Holy Spirit glowed everywhere around me, in the eyes of everyone, even inside of me. Things tend to fluctuate in the spiritual life; it’s all in God’s will, but lately I feel so accompanied, so loved by my Heavenly “Papa”, held so tightly by my Divine Brother, in the splendor of Their Spirit, that sometimes I just have to sit down and shake my head, and my tears, because it is too much for me.
Friday’s Psalm (144) begins to express this feeling:
“Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
my mercy and my fortress,
my stronghold, my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I trust.
Lord, what is man, that You notice him;
the Son of Man, that You take thought of him?”
I ask Him the same question that He invites the disciples to ask: “Who are You?” Lord why do You love us so much? Why do You give us Your very Self when we reach out to You in prayer? And my mind goes back to the last part of the Gospel reading. Yes, intimate prayer can be a blissful experience, but sometimes it pierces our hearts like a spear. It is painful and scary. Would Jesus feel fear and sorrow when His Heavenly Father would tell Him that He actually was the Suffering Servant, a martyr for all of humanity? He tells the disciples who He really is: “ The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” (v 22)
Peter might have thought: “That’s not what I was imagining when I called Him ‘the Anointed One of God.’ I think I meant a mighty, victorious warrior-king, no?” The great apostle must have been very distressed. I myself, have been, many times, before the hundreds of crucifixes I have knelt in front of, asking Him, “Why did it have to be like this? I hate to see You suffer like this! Why this horrible ritual?” And so on… My Lord has been slowly curing me of this whining. I don’t completely understand, but He has led me to accept this “horrible ritual” as the source of the Power that enables me to “dare approach the Throne of Grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” (Heb 4 : 16), and not be afraid to be loved by this great Love.
There is a catch though. In this same Gospel, our Lord goes on to say: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Lk 9:23-24)
Wow! Again I am reminded of the beautiful Peter and his three denials. Am I ready to die for the One who gives me every breath of life? I certainly hope so, to strive for not just “spiritual death,” but to go out into harm’s way, up to Calvary, into the heart of suffering, carry the cross with the crucified of this world, bring some relief, some companionship, some empathy to every Child of God I meet.
Help me Lord! Give the strength to love, and die, like you!

Orlando Hernandez

St. Vincent de Paul (1581-1660)

The opening Mass prayer for St. Vincent’s feast day describes succinctly what made him a great saint:

O God, for the relief of the poor

and the formation of the clergy

you endowed the priest St.Vincent De Paul

with apostolic virtues.

grant, that afire with the same spirit

we may love what he loved

and put into practice what he taught.

God gave Vincent de Paul grace to reach out to the poor and form the clergy. Once Vincent met a Protestant, whom he invited to convert to Catholicism. The Protestant said:

“You told me, Monsieur, that the Church of Rome is led by the Holy Spirit, but I find that hard to believe because, on the one hand, we see Catholics in the countryside abandoned to pastors who are ignorant and given over to vice, with so little instruction in their duties that most of them hardly know what the Christian religion is. On the other, we see towns filled with priests and monks who are doing nothing; there are perhaps ten thousand of them in Paris, yet they leave the poor country people in this appalling state of ignorance in which they are lost. And you want to convince me that all this is being guided by the Holy Spirit! I’ll never believe it.”

That’s a picture of the French church in Vincent’s time. One reason for its sad condition was that the French crown appointed bishops and they, in turn, appointed men from important French families who supported them. Political considerations largely influenced church appointments.

As a result, the priesthood in France was badly off, priests had little education, some could hardly read or write. For financial support, they looked for benefices, usually found in the larger cities among rich families, where they could say Mass and celebrate the sacraments. As a young priest, Vincent himself was chaplain for a wealthy family in Paris.

The decision to become a priest was mostly a family’s decision, which might designate one of its sons as its “offering” to God. The priesthood became a way  to get a son some education and some social standing. Vincent’s own family, who were peasants, were influenced by motives like these. For many the priesthood was a job and not a call.

What Vincent did was to appeal to priests, religious, and even bishops, to begin to look spiritually at their roles. They were called by God to a vocation, not a job or career,  They had a  sacred mission to follow Jesus Christ. Vincent, in fact, called the community he founded the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians), because they were to go to those who were neglected. He encouraged, not only priests, but communities of women to care for the poor, without living the usual cloistered life of that time. Vincent’s network embraced laypeople too, who worked for those Jesus called “the least.”

Through the efforts of this saint communities of Sisters of Charity,  Societies of St. Vincent de Paul, are found throughout the world today.

The following reading for Vincent’s feast captures his powerful message:

Although in his passion he almost lost the appearance of a man and was considered a fool by the Gentiles and a stumbling block by the Jews, Jesus showed them that his mission was to preach to the poor: He sent me to preach the good news to the poor. We also ought to have this same spirit and imitate Christ’s actions, that is, we must take care of the poor, console them, help them, support their cause.Even though the poor are often rough and unrefined, we must not judge them from external appearances nor from the mental gifts they seem to have received. On the contrary, if you consider the poor in the light of faith, then you will observe that they are taking the place of the Son of God who chose to be poor.

Since Christ willed to be born poor, he chose for himself disciples who were poor. He made himself the servant of the poor and shared their poverty. He went so far as to say that he would consider every deed which either helps or harms the poor as done for or against himself. Since God surely loves the poor, he also loves those who love the poor. For when one person holds another dear, he also includes in his affection anyone who loves or serves the one he loves. That is why we hope that God will love us for the sake of the poor. So when we visit the poor and needy, we try to understand the poor and weak. We sympathise with them so fully that we can echo Paul’s words: I have become all things to all men. Therefore, we must try to be stirred by our neighbours’ worries and distress. We must beg God to pour into our hearts sentiments of pity and compassion and to fill them again and again with these dispositions.

It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible. If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer the deed to God as your prayer. Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of God’s works is merely interrupted so that another can be carried out. So when you leave prayer to serve some poor person, remember that this very service is performed for God. Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity. Since she is a noble mistress, we must do whatever she commands. With renewed devotion, then, we must serve the poor, especially outcasts and beggars. They have been given to us as our masters and patrons.”

More on St. Vincent de Paul

We Blessed a Mary Garden

Blessing a Mary Garden
Homily, Sunday, September 23, 2018
Immaculate Conception Church, Jamaica, New York.

When my community, the Passionists, came to Jamaica, New York, in 1924, we asked Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to guide this new foundation. That’s why signs of Mary are so prominent here. Her statue stands outside the front door of our church. She’s there at the front door of our monastery too– a mother inviting all to know her Son.

Assumption window

Window of the Immaculate Conception, Jamaica, NY

The great window in the back of our church of Mary, flanked by St. Catherine Laboure and St. Bernadette, honors the mystery of her Immaculate Conception, which is the title of our parish and monastery.

God kept Mary free from original sin.That gift of God not only helped her avoid sin, but enabled Mary to gain a wisdom and knowledge beyond any other follower of Jesus.

Unlike Peter and the other disciples whom Jesus in St. Mark’s gospel says think too much like human beings, Mary, keeping “all these things in her heart,” grew in the wisdom that comes from thinking as God does.

“All generations will call me blessed,” Mary said, and she brings blessings to all generations, down to our generation today.

Mary brought blessings of wisdom and knowledge when she appeared to St. Catherine Laboure in Paris in 1850 and St. Bernadette at Lourdes in 1858. Her appearances strengthened that generation, battered by the skepticism of the Enlightenment and weakened by an Industrial Revolution the left so many people dehumanized.

Mary’s message then was that there’s another wisdom, a greater world besides this one. God “scatters the proud and lifts up the lowly,” God makes us great. That’s what Mary said to Catherine Laboure and Bernadette and millions more.

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Lourdes Grotto, Jamaica, NY

In the 1950s a beautiful grotto was built in our garden honoring Mary’s appearance at Lourdes. The generation of the 50s and 60s was struggling with a world war and the threat of further nuclear war. We’re still struggling with threats of war and nuclear destruction. Thousands have come here to pray for peace and to be strengthened by Mary’s promise that God’s still with us.

Today next to our Lourdes grotto, we’re blessing a sign of Mary’s presence to our generation. After Mass we’re blessing our Mary Garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet me tell you what a Mary Garden is. Mary Gardens originated in Europe following the Black Death, a pandemic that caused millions to die in Europe in the 14th century. Mary gardens, begun in monasteries and churches, reminded people that God brings life, not death, from the earth.

Recalling the Garden of Eden, the Mary Garden with its flowers, medicinal herbs and edible plants recalled the beauty, life and healing we have through God’s gift of the earth. Mary stands in the midst of the garden, promising life and hope. “Make us worthy of the promises of Christ,” we ask her.

I don’t have to tell you we’re living in a world threatened by climate change. Our earth is changing. Go down to the Carolinas, Puerto Rico, the Philippine Islands, Haiti, that have been devastated by floods and hurricanes. Go to our west coast that’s been scorched by wild fires. We only have to open our window to see something is happening to our earth.

Pope Francis has been pleading with the world to hear in catastrophes like these cries of our sister, the earth, calling out to us “ because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” (LS 1)

We’re hoping our Mary Garden will help us grow in our care and love for the earth. We’re hoping that Mary will teach our generation not to be afraid, but to grow in God’s way of thinking about the gift we have in the earth.

Come and see our garden. We’re blessing  it and asking Mary to take her place among us and teach us the wisdom of God.

Victor Hoagland, CP
September 23, 2018

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