November 20, 2014

Golden Bowls

...the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (Revelation 5:8)

This week it's my turn to offer Mass in the mornings with the Capuchin Sisters of Mother Rubatto. Today I landed on the image above to preach on, the golden bowls of the citizens of heaven, filled with the prayers of the saints.

When prayer becomes difficult, or when we feel we are losing our taste for it, when our devotion goes dry and our meditation desolate, it is good to remember that the prayers of God's holy ones are held precious in heaven.

November 6, 2014

Blessed Andrés de Palazuelo and Companions, Martyrs

This morning the brethren entered the chapel to find at their places a holy card of Blessed Andrés de Palazuelo and Companions, those Capuchins among the most recently beatified martyrs of the Spanish Civil War. I didn't make the connection that today is their feast day (it had not been previously announced on the little paper of the week's liturgical directives) and so as first acolyte I was left scrambling to find the Common of Several Martyrs so I could intone the invitatory antiphon.

These are people who were killed simply for professing the faith, and they are recent enough to be our grandparents. May our prayers be with the persecuted of our time, and may God's strength be with us when the persecution comes to us.

The holy card offered this prayer, in Spanish:

Oh Dios omnipotente y eterno que has dado a los Beatos Andrés y Compañeros mártires la gracia de unirse a la pasión de Cristo con el sacrificio de su propia vida, ven en ayuda de nuestra debilidad y concédenos, por su intercesión, la gracia de ser fuertes, como ellos, para poder también nosotros confesar sin temor alguno tu nombre. Por Nuestro Señor Jesucristo. Amén

November 5, 2014

Some Fraternal Correction from Charles Borromeo

As it does every year on his feast, there came yesterday in the Office of Readings some fraternal correction from St. Charles Borromeo:
One priest may wish to lead a good, holy life, as he knows he should. He may wish to be chaste and to reflect heavenly virtues in the way he lives. Yet he does not resolve to use suitable means, such as penance, prayer, the avoidance of evil discussions and harmful and dangerous friendships. Another priest complains that as soon as he comes into church to pray the office or to celebrate Mass, a thousand thoughts fill his mind and distract him from God. But what was he doing in the sacristy before he came out for the office or for Mass? How did he prepare? What means did he use to collect his thoughts and to remain recollected?
A spiritual life is incompatible with our tendency to compartmentalize. I can't live a spiritual life some of the time, only during the times I have piously decided to call 'prayer.' I will never learn to use well my distractions in prayer if I live distractedly the rest of the time. As Pope St. John XXIII put it, "My day must be one long prayer."

I may wish to be holy but if wishing doesn't turn into a practical willingness in the little things, then my wish is probably vainglory. What I mean is that as long as I only wish to be holy I risk admiring the holy self I imagine I want to become, and this instead of paying attention to the people and circumstances God has put in front of me on a particular day, and the graces that I'm invited to accept through them. It is surrendering to these graces that will make me holy, not just wishing to be so.

October 22, 2014

Pope St. John Paul II

Here in Rome, the Pope is our local bishop and therefore we celebrate the feast days of more beatified and canonized Popes than in other local churches.

Today we have the joy of celebrating the obligatory memorial of Pope St. John Paul II. His reading for the Office of Readings is taken from his homily at his papal inauguration, October 22, 1978, and ends with some vintage JP2:
So often today, man does not know that which is in him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you, therefore, we beg you with humility and with trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of life eternal.
Pope St. John Paul II, pray for us.

October 21, 2014

A Preaching Life

Msgr. Mongelluzzo, our dear preaching teacher, used to say that it was "a preaching life," by which I understood that preaching from the Sacred Scriptures wasn't to be just an activity of our lives but something woven into the whole fabric of our days. This was easy to understand when I was at the parish and preaching almost every day, often enough more than once. But in my current circumstances, in which I preach perhaps once a month, I sometimes wonder what Msgr.'s affirmation might mean.

Perhaps there is something like an answer in a grace that I have sometimes, of which today is a good example, when the Scriptures invite me to pray for particular people. Today's gospel:
"Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.” (Luke 12:37-38)
That used to be on my go-to gospel passages for wakes. I would preach the great reversal--the master who waits on the servants--as our hope for our dead, that they might come to the heavenly rest, cared for and nourished by the Master who makes himself Servant.

So in the pause after the homily this morning, I was invited to pray again for all those deceased and their families with whom I had once prayed and preached this gospel. It's a preaching life.

October 14, 2014

beloved in the Beloved

"In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.'" (Mark 1:9-11)

"Also the storm of persecutions beats on Christians. They will not fear, for they see the heavens open above them" (St. Cyprian in the Office of Readings for Pope St. Callistus I)

A Christian is someone baptized into the baptism of Jesus Christ. The heavens have opened above her, the Spirit has descended upon her, and the Father proclaims her beloved in the Beloved.

From embracing this knowledge comes the courage to face all the persecutions that come from the world, the flesh, and the devil, from within or without.

October 5, 2014

RIP: Fr. Benedict Groeschel

In  the quiet of the afternoon of the feast of St. Francis I got the news that Fr. Benedict Joseph Groeschel, CFR, had passed from this life.

I met Fr. Benedict a few times over the years: a couple of times at Capuchin events, once on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the CFR novitiate in Newark, and once at a celebration of Confirmation at The Children's Village in Dobbs Ferry, New York, at which Cardinal Dolan presided.

As I prayed for Fr. Benedict's eternal rest last night, a couple bits of gratefulness came to mind in particular. The first was for a television series he had on EWTN in the early 90s. If I remember rightly, it was called The Truths of Salvation. I don't remember if I was watching it while still a 'seeker' or if I was already baptized, but that show provided a lot of my early catechesis. The other thing I thought of was Fr. Benedict's book, The Courage to be Chaste, which was a great help to me at one time.

Requiescat in pace.