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.”. 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 some see for 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.” We should listen to her

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..

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

Saint Theresa, wise woman you are, be with us  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.

Follow Jesus Christ, Theresa says:

Unlike our friends in the world,  Jesus will never abandon us when we are troubled or distressed. Blessed is the one who truly loves him and always keeps him near. Look at the glorious Saint Paul: it seems that no other name fell from his lips than that of Jesus, because the name of Jesus was fixed and embedded in his heart. 

Once I had come to understand this truth, I carefully considered the lives of some of the saints, the great contemplatives, and found that they took no other path: Francis, Anthony of Padua, Bernard, Catherine of Siena. A person must walk along this path in freedom, placing himself in God’s hands. If God should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares his secrets, we ought to accept this gladly.

Whenever we think of Christ we should recall the love that led him to bestow on us so many graces and favours, and also the great love God showed in giving us in Christ a pledge of his love; for love calls for love in return. Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to rouse ourselves to love him. For if at some time the Lord should grant us the grace of impressing his love on our hearts, all will become easy for us and we shall accomplish great things quickly and without effort.

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.

Resurrection Thinking

I spoke today, the final day of  our mission at Immaculate Conception Church, Melbourne Beach, Florida, about the mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus, a crucial mystery of our faith. Each of the gospels presents it in its own way. Here’s a summary from a previous blog of mine.

A recent presentation on the Resurrection by Bishop Wright, the Anglican bishop of Durham, to the Catholic bishops of Italy, is particularly interesting. I put it on my blog last month.

I began my presentation talking about Harold Camping’s prediction from last spring that the world was going to end on May 21, 2011. It didn’t, of course. But Harold’s thinking probably reflects the widespread gloom in our western world, in particular, about where the world is heading.

Our belief in the Risen Christ affects the way we see our church, ourselves and our world. We learn from this mystery to trust in the Risen Christ who King of all creation, our Way, our Truth and our Life. We need Resurrection Thinking.

Here’s a visual meditation on the Passion of Jesus from Rembrandt:

Immaculate Conception Parish: Mission–Monday

Jesus of Nazareth

Following up on the pope’s remarks about the blurred picture of Jesus we have today, here are some reflections on what we know about Jesus today. I’m offering these reflections at our parish mission:

“Tell me the landscape where you live and I’ll tell you who you are.” (Ortega y Gasset)

Thanks to recent archeological discoveries and historical studies we know more about the land where Jesus lived and the ancient texts of the bible than has been known for centuries. These new resources help us know Jesus Christ.

New editions of the bible like the New American Bible Revised Edition and the New Jerusalem Bible Revised Edition (both Catholic sponsored) make use of these resources.

We know more about Galilee, the northern part of Palestine where Jesus lived most of his life, than we knew before. He grew up and was raised by Mary and Joseph in the Galilean hill town of Nazareth, the gospels say. Extensive excavations have gone on in Nazareth, today the busy capital city of modern Galilee.

After his baptism by John in the Jordan River Jesus made his home in the Galilean town of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee–also extensively excavated in recent times. From there, he visited the small Jewish towns scattered nearby in the fertile plains and mountains, teaching in their synagogues, healing and performing extraordinary signs. New historical studies tell us much about Jewish life in these places.

In Galilee Jesus proclaimed the good news that God’s kingdom was at hand. He used images from this land, like the seed and the sower, in his preaching as well as the scriptures he knew so well. Today Galilee still offers a picture of the land as he knew it.

“After John had been arrested,

Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:

‘This is the time of fulfillment.

The kingdom of God is at hand.

Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”  Mark 1

Under the rule of Herod Antipas, Galilee during Jesus’ public ministry was dotted with important cities like Tiberias, Bethshan, Sepphoris, and the seaport of Caesarea Maritima, all with large gentile populations. Matthew’s gospel calls it the “Galilee of the gentiles.” Hardly the backwater land once thought, the region was an important provider of food for the Roman world.

The gospels suggest that Jesus avoided these important Galilean cities. Instead, he saw himself sent first to the “children of Israel,” although  he occasionally performed cures for some gentiles, like the Syro-Phoenician woman who sought him out and the Roman centurion whose servant was sick in Capernaum.

The arrest and execution of John the Baptist by Herod may have been a practical warning about the danger of places where the powerful lived.

After his baptism in the Jordan River by John, Satan told Jesus to reveal himself in a spectacular way in the temple of Jerusalem, the religious center of Judaism; some disciples urged him to go there too.  However, Jesus made Peter’s simple home in Capernaum his home and from there brought his message to Jews and some non-Jews who lived on Galilee’s farmlands and fished in the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus grew up in Nazareth and his ministry was mainly in Galilee, but he customarily celebrated Jewish feasts, like the Passover, in Jerusalem. Visiting the Holy City, he likely camped among the olive groves that surrounded Bethany, where other pilgrims from Galilee stayed.  He had friends in Bethany– Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary, and also some friends in the city itself.

His visits to the temple at Jerusalem became more significant as the years passed. Even at twelve, he began to dialogue in the temple courtyard with the rabbis who marveled at his questions and answers; he spoke of the temple as “my Father’s house.” (cf. Luke ) After his baptism in the Jordan his dialogue with the rabbis sharpened and the claims he makes about his relationship with his Father increased.

John’s gospel, which we read extensively in the last weeks of Lent, offers some of his exchanges in the temple courtyard about his relationship with his Father. The scriptures and the prophets testify to him, he says. (John 5,31-47  Thursday 4th wk) “I am from him, he sent me.”  (John 7,1-30 Friday, 5th wk) “ Just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.” ( John 5,17-30 Wednesday, 4th wk)  “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize I AM.” (John 8,21-30Tuesday, 5th wk ) His divine claims were violently opposed by the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem.

The gospels, especially Luke’s, emphasize Jesus’ love of people. He reached out to those in need; he welcomed women as well as men to his company. His acceptance of outcasts like tax collectors and sinners brought him criticism from others. When John’s disciples asked him “Are you the one who is to come?”  he replies, “Tell John what you see and hear: the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead rise, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. “

“Come to me all you who are weary and I will refresh you, for I am meek and humble of heart,” he said, and he urged his followers to also welcome the weary: the sick, the prisoner, the homeless, the naked, the hungry needing refreshment.

He taught that God should be loved above all and we should love our neighbor as ourselves. He said we should forgive those who have offended us, because God forgives our offenses. He told us to pray to God thankfully and ask for what we need.

People listened to his teaching and knew that he lived what he taught himself.

After his resurrection, he appeared on a mountain in Galilee to his disciples and told them to go out to all the nations and preach the gospel, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  From the “Galilee of the gentiles,” he sent his disciples out to farthest corners of the earth.

Become like children, he said, because those with the spirit of the child belong in the kingdom of heaven.

According to St. Leo the Great, Jesus does not ask us to return to our play pens. We can’t do that. The spiritual child is

  1. free from crippling anxieties
  2. forgetful of injuries
  3. sociable
  4. wonders at all things.

Holy Family Church, Nassau, Bahamas

Today I began a Parish Mission at Holy Family Church in Nassau, Bahamas, on Robinson Road, a few miles in from the tourist area and beaches along Bay Street.

The two lively Masses this morning were filled and the singing was especially lively to my northern ears. It’s a growing area and Archbishop Pinder is planning a large new church here. Fr. Tom Brislin, CP, an American Passionist from my province is in charge of the building.

Holy Family Church

 

 

Here are some pictures of Holy Family. I include a beautiful painting given to Fr. Tom from an Argentinian painter who is working in the area.

 

I recommended this morning to the people at Mass that they  check out this blog because I’m going to preach on the great messengers of Advent: Isaiah, John the Baptist, and Mary of Nazareth.

 

The Benedictines from Collegeville, MN and the Sisters of Charity from New York were among the Catholic communities who worked in the Bahamas. I’ll put up some pictures of the churches and schools they built. The Catholic school system has been an important factor in the growth of these islands.