Tag Archives: parish mission

St. Theresa of Avila

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October 15th is the feast of Theresa of Avila, one of three women “doctors of the church.” We should listen to her. On the 500th anniversary of her birth, Pope Francis described her as “primarily a teacher of prayer.” “The discovery of Christ’s humanity was central to her experience.”

The aim of prayer for Theresa was not to bring inner balance or get your blood pressure down– a goal you hear for prayer and meditation today, “ The saint opens new horizons for us, she calls us to a great undertaking, to see the world with the eyes of Christ, to seek what He seeks and to love what He loves.”

A good description of prayer. Far from taking us away from the world and retreating into ourselves, prayer calls us to new undertakings, new horizons, seeing the world with the eyes of Christ. It’s something to do every day.

I like hearing prayer described as expanding our vision of life.

Theresa knew what living day by day means. She lived that way herself. How did she do it? By daily prayer, by following Jesus Christ day by day, by looking for the daily bread God gives us, by doing God’s will.

Saint Theresa, wise woman you are, be with us on these days. Make them days of blessing!

Here’s a prayer found in her prayerbook, which she must have said everyday.

Let nothing disturb you,

nothing frighten you.

All things are passing,

God is unchanging.

Patience wins everything.

Who has God lacks nothing.

God alone suffices.

 

JESUS, THE HEALER

 

We ended our mission at Immaculate Conception Parish in Irvington on the Hudson this evening by celebrating the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Both sacraments are special moments God is present. They’re simple signs; we must  not  miss their meaning.

Tonight we told a story of Jesus healing the sick. That’s one of the most important things his disciples remembered: he healed the sick. Jesus put his hands on them, he spoke to them, he helped them get back into life, and he still does that today.

One of Jesus’ first healings was of Peter’s mother-in-law who had a fever. Mark’s gospel recalls it in a few words:

“On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.” (Mark 1,30-31)

Rembrandt’s drawing above captures one detail from Mark’s narrative. “He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.” Such a simple gesture. Jesus took her hand and raised her up.

The priest puts his hand on our head. It’s God giving us a hand. It’s a reminder, too, to give a hand to others to help them up. A simple sign, yes, but Jesus left it to us as an example.

What Jesus did, he told his disciples to do. “ He summoned the Twelve* and began to send them out two by two… They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” (Mark 6, 13-14)

We anoint with olive oil, the medicine people turned to in Jesus’ time, the oil the Samaritan put on the man who was beaten by robbers in the Lord’s parable. God’s our medicine, first of all, but the oil is also a practical reminder: Don’t forget to take your medicine.

The priest anoints our forehead with oil in the form of a cross and says: “Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

Isn’t is true that the battle against sickness and human weakness often takes place most vigorously in our minds, where we fight fear, discouragement, a sense of being alone? This anointing calls for the grace of the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen our minds and the way we think.

The priest anoints our hands with oil in the form of a cross and says: “May the Lord who frees you from sin, save you and raise you up.” Our hands are the signs of our strength. “Prosper the work of our hands,” one of our psalms says. We do so much with our hands. In the Anointing of the Sick God takes our hands to raise them up.

The anointing is not limited to this life,remember. Like all the sacraments, it promises us a share in the mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus.

 

Monday Night at the Mission

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Last night at St. Theresa’s Church in Woodside, Queens, New York City, I spoke about the gift of prayer and the simple prayers we know, like the Sign of the Cross and the Our Father, which can be our teachers of prayer. God gives us, saint and sinner alike, the gift of prayer.

Tonight, I spoke about the saints as our teachers. What can we learn from St. Theresa of Lisieux, the patroness of this parish? A doctor of the church who was 24 years old when she died, one of three women who have that honor. St. Theresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Siena are the others.

Theresa added two titles to her name after she entered the Carmel. She was Theresa of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. I spoke about her spirituality of childhood this evening. She received a grace on Christmas night when she was 13 years old:

“Jesus, the gentle little child of one hour, changed the night of my soul into rays of light…On that night of light began the third period of my life, the most beautiful and filled with graces from heaven. What I had been unable to do in ten years, Jesus did in one instant, contenting himself with my good will, which was always there. I could say to him as his apostles did, ‘Master, I fished all night and have caught nothing. More merciful to me than he was to them, Jesus took the net himself, cast it, and drew it in filled with fish. He made me a fisher of souls. I greatly desired to work for the conversion of sinners, a desire I hadn’t experienced before. I felt love enter my heart, and the need to forget myself and pleasing others. Since then I’ve been happy.” Chapter 5, Story of a Soul.

In the gospels, Jesus told us to become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. I reflected on a definition of spiritual childhood given by St. Leo the Great. To be a child means to be free from crippling anxieties, to be forgetful of injuries, to be sociable and to live wondering before all things.

 

 

 

Sunday at the Mission

At our mission tonight at St. Theresa in Woodside, New York, I’ll continue reflecting on the gift of prayer.

We all have the gift of prayer. We can pray. God gives that gift to saints and sinners alike, though we may tend to think only saints and “good” people can pray. But that gift is given to all, because God is Father of saints and sinner alike. Prayer is a gift of God’s mercy.

Prayer is a gift given to all; it’s meant to be used continually. Like the gift of faith growing  like a mustard seed, the gift of prayer is meant to grow.

We’re reading all this year at Mass from Luke’s Gospel, which is called a gospel of prayer. It’s called that because the evangelist offers many examples and teachings of Jesus on prayer. Now, at this point in the  liturgical year especially, our readings at Mass seem to be devoted to prayer.

Last week, for example, we heard the desperate prayer of the ten lepers: “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” Today we heard the parable about the widow and the unjust judge. Next week, we’ll hear the humble, almost hesitant prayer of the publican: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Later on in Luke’s gospel, when Jesus dies and enters his glory, we’ll hear the cry of the thief: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” All these readings tell us God gives the gift of prayer to everyone, the sinner, the desperate, everyone.

Yet, prayer tries our patience. Like the poor widow facing the powerful unjust judge, whom we read about this Sunday, we may not see our prayers answered quickly. We can then grow weary praying. In his parable Jesus says our prayers are answered “speedily,” yet we have trouble understanding that word “speedily.” It doesn’t match our timetable or our expectations. We don’t like waiting.

We also can make prayer too small and limit it to things entirely personal. Today, some would reduce prayer and meditation to ways to gain inner balance or to bring your blood pressure down. Prayer is bigger than that. It’s asking for “God’s kingdom to come, God’s will be done.” Prayer is meant to  open us to new horizons, new undertakings, to see the world with the eyes of Christ.

Far from leading us away from the world, we are led in prayer to face a world crippled by violence and strife. Only God can help us. Please Lord, come and assist us.

I’m going to pose some questions to those here at the mission:

What prayers are you attracted to?

Are there any places that lead you to prayer?

Any trying times in your life that you found yourself praying?

Then I’m going to reflect on some of our common prayers, like the Sign of the Cross and the Our Father. After that, we will have Benediction.

 

The Passion of Jesus

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This evening at our mission at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Raleigh, North  Carolina, I recommended reading the gospels for the rich spirituality each of them offers.

Tonight we read St Luke’s passion narrative, the focal point of his gospel. All the narratives  before it, from the infancy narrative, to the accounts of Jesus’ baptism, his initial mission in Galilee, and his journey to Jerusalem lead to his passion, death and resurrection.

Jesus does not journey alone, nor does he suffer and die and rise again alone. He does not enter paradise alone.  From Galilee to Jerusalem followers join him, interesting followers, like Zacchaeus the publican and the blind man on the Jericho road whom some might find questionable followers. Jesus embraces them.

In Luke’s gospel the mercy of Jesus seems to increase as he journeys to Calvary and his death on the Cross. He does not turn his face away from Peter who denies him. He reaches out to those who crucify him: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Calvary, a place of death, becomes a shining place of mercy. A thief who simply asks for remembrance is promised paradise. “Today, you will be with me in paradise.

The thief finds a companion in death. He does not die alone or without hope. Reading Luke’s gospel we hear this same promise made to us. The thief is sinful humanity.

Reading the Scriptures

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I began a mission at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Raleigh, NC tonight with some suggestions. First, get a good bible, like the New American Bible, Revised Edition–  a good translation, good notes and it’s the bible we read in church in our liturgies.

More and more, the bible is becoming our ordinary catechism, prayer book and spiritual reading. At the Second Vatican Council our church embraced the scriptures and the tools of modern scriptural scholarship for understanding the bible. We are becoming a more biblically based church. Some of Pope Francis’ most important reflections, for example, come from the scriptures he’s reading at daily Mass.

My second suggestion it to read the bible with the church. Follow the scripture readings read on Sundays and throughout the year. Each Sunday through the year we read one gospel consecutively. This year we’re reading from the Gospel of Luke.

The church’s lectionary is an opportunity for all of us to hear and reflect on the scriptures together. Reading the scriptures is not only for our personal enrichment, it can build up a parish community and families that hear the word of God together.

I recommend some online resources. The US Bishops’ site http://www.usccb.org/nab/y offers the New American Bible, the lectionary of readings for the year, as well as commentaries on the scriptures. The Passionists have daily reflections on the scripture readings at www.thepassionists.org. I comment mostly on the lectionary readings in this blog. vhoagland.wordpress.com

Today it’s important to learn about the bible from good sources. Not all the programs on the biblr on television from The History Channel and National Geographic and others are reliable.  Sometimes the programs are fundamentalist and simplistic, or sometimes use sensationalism to attract viewers.

Finally, don’t be afraid to meditate on the gospels. Some of the most beautiful insights into the gospels come from ordinary people praying from the scriptures. I think of Brigid of Sweden, whose reflections on the Passion of Jesus gave us the Pieta, the image of the dead body of Jesus cradled in his mother’s arms beneath the cross. The gospels say nothing of that scene, but Brigid said it had to be.

Meditation on the scriptures can also take place in a traditional prayer like the rosary. Pope John Paul II recommended this form of meditation in which we join Mary, who “treasured all these things and kept them in her heart.

If we meditate on the scriptures, we will meet Jesus, not only Jesus of the gospels or the the Risen Jesus who promise to be with us all days. It will lead us to meet the Lord in the least, the Lord in disguise, the Lord of the poor who calls us to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy

Where is your Palm today?

You took some palm home with you Palm Sunday? Where is it today?

Following Jesus isn’t a one day thing, it’s a lifelong journey. Stay at his side day by day. To enter Jerusalem, he sat on a humble beast of burden, the donkey, who carried the burdens of the poor.

Follow him on his way and make it your way too.