30 March 2009

Forsake and Follow

"Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for My sake and the gospel's (for the kingdom of God)," Jesus said, "shall receive a hundredfold in this present time, and in the age to come inherit eternal life." (Matt 19:29, Mark 10:29-30, Luke 18:30 paraphrase)

Last week ended with lamenting for all the loss I went through in the past year. Like Job, everything I had was taken away. Yet, I recognized that having nothing made it easier to follow Christ. Rather than a curse I saw it as liberation.

"The forsaking was done for the purpose of following," writes St. John Chrysostom, "and the following was rendered easier by the forsaking." (Homily LXIV)

I wonder if St. Peter was remembering the words of Jesus about forsaking and following when he wrote: "Therefore, let those who suffer according to God's will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you." (1 Peter 4:19 & 5:10)

Those who suffer for a while will be restored, established, and strengthened. Those who forsake all to follow Christ will benefit both in this life and gain eternal life.

29 March 2009

Last Sunday of Lent

Eastern Catholics remember St. Mary of Egypt on the fifth Sunday of Lent:

One of the most striking examples of penance ever witnessed, is this day proposed for our consideration: Mary, the Sinner and Penitent of Egypt, comes to animate us to persevere in our Lenten exercises; Like Magdalene and Margaret of Cortona, she had sinned grievously; like them, she repented, atoned for her guilt, and is now the associate of Angels.

Let us adore the omnipotence of our God, who thus changed a vessel of dishonour into one of honour; let us lovingly contemplate the riches of his mercy, and hope for our own participation in them. At the same time, let us remember, that pardon is not granted, save where there is repentance; and that repentance is not genuine, unless it produce an abiding spirit and deeds of penance.

Mary of Egypt had the misfortune to lead a life of sin for seventeen years; but her penance lasted forty: and what kind of penance must not hers have been, living alone in a desert, under a scorching sun, without the slightest human consolation, and amidst every sort of privation!

The pledge of pardon--the receiving Holy Communion--which we received so soon after our sins, was not granted to Mary, till she had done penance for nearly half a century. Yes, that pledge of Jesus' forgiveness, which he has given us in the Sacrament of his Love, and which was communicated to us so promptly, was withheld from this admirable Penitent, so that her second time for receiving it was at the moment when death was on the point of separating her soul from her body which was worn out by austerities !

Let us humble ourselves at such a comparison; let us think with fear on this great truth--that God's justice will require an exact account of all the graces he has heaped upon us; and with this thought, let us rouse ourselves to a determination to merit, by the sincerity of our repentance, a place near the humble Penitent of the desert.

The Liturgical Year: Lent (1870) by Dom Prosper Gueranger

27 March 2009

Sabbath at the Carpenter's House

It's Friday,
just before sundown.
Mother is lighting
the Sabbath candles.

After kindling the fire
she waives her hands
over the flames three times
then covers her eyes.

She chants:
"Blessed art Thou,
O Lord, King of the Universe,
who commands us to
observe the holy act of
lighting the Shabbat candles."

As a devout Jewish mother,
the Blessed Virgin Mary
performed this ritual each week.

I'm sure that to her
it wasn't just an empty custom.
She knew that she brought the
True light into the world,
the Lord of the Sabbath,
her little Yeshua.

Did the words of Holy Simeon
echo in her soul:
"A light for revelation
to the Gentiles, and for glory
to Your people Israel."

25 March 2009

The Incarnation of Mercy

In this way, in Christ and through Christ, God also becomes especially visible in His mercy; that is to say, there is emphasized that attribute of the divinity which the Old Testament, using various concepts and terms, already defined as "mercy." Christ confers on the whole of the Old Testament tradition about God's mercy a definitive meaning. Not only does He speak of it and explain it by the use of comparisons and parables, but above all He Himself makes it incarnate and personifies it. He Himself, in a certain sense, is mercy. To the person who sees it in Him - and finds it in Him - God becomes "visible" in a particular way as the Father who is rich in mercy. (Eph 2:4)
~ John Paul the Great, Dives in Misericordia

Hoec ilia solemnis dies (hymn for Evensong)
This is the day, the solemn day,

Which God appointed to convey

Such news as made our sorrows cease,

Glad news of mercy and of peace.

Our parents' guilt, our parents' fall,
To certain death consigned us all:

From certain death mankind to save,

His only Son Jehovah gave.

Yes! He who was th' Eternal's Son,

E'er time had yet its course begun,
Our life of pain and weakness bore,

Nor did the Virgin's womb abhor.

He took on him our mortal state,

That he might bear the sinner's fate,

That so his blood, in ransom given,

Might take away the wrath of heaven.

Yes! He, the infinite great God,

In human flesh awhile abode:

That we might high in glory dwell,

He came as our Immanuel.

Redeemer of the world, to thee

All praise and glory rendered be:

And to the Father, King of heaven,

And Holy Ghost, all praise be given.

~Translated by John Chandler,
Hymns of the Primitive Church

23 March 2009

I am Learning

* to love
* to be loved
* to slow down
* to be patient
* to think before acting
* to think before talking
* to question assumptions
* to accept contradictions
* to admit frailty
* to pray
* to meditate
* to contemplate
* to soak in God's presence
* to bring life before the Lord
* to ask questions
* to wait for answers
* to discover what's really necessary
* to simplify
* to pay attention
* to imagine
* to focus on now
* to embrace the present moment
* to manage time
* to prioritize
* to flee anything that steals my joy
* to hope
* to let go of what isn't mine
* to give people space
* to set boundaries
* to be silent
* to breathe

22 March 2009

4th Sunday of Lent - Climbing the Ladder

"Ascend, ascend, Brethren."

Today in the Eastern Catholic tradition we are reminded of the "Soul-saving and Heavenward Ladder" described by St. John Climacus in the seventh century.

The ladder reminds us that union with God -- theosis, or sanctification -- is a process. No one can climb the ladder in one stride, St. John reminds us, the virtues lead from one to the other. Since the work was originally written for monastics it should be read carefully under spiritual direction.

Meanwhile, over in Rome....

Today's Collect:

Father of peace, we are joyful in your Word, your Son Jesus Christ, who reconciles us to you. Let us hasten to our Easter with the eagerness of faith and love. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Many Roman priests wear rose vestments today. The fourth Sunday of Lent is traditionally called "Laetare Sunday", a day of hope and rejoicing that Easter is almost here.

20 March 2009

God's Tent

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on Your holy mountain?

Psalm 15 gives us some clues:

* walk blamelessly and do what is right
* speak truth from your heart
* do not slander with your tongue
* do no evil to your friends
* take no reproach against your neighbor
* hold the godless in disdain
* honor those who fear the Lord
* keep your pledges
* don't collect interest when you loan
* don't take bribes

Micah 6:8 tells us what the Lord requires of us:
* to do justice
* to love mercy
* to walk humbly with your God

James 1:27 reveals pure and undefiled religion:
* to visit orphans and widows in their affliction
* to keep oneself unstained from the world.

18 March 2009

Mercy Endures

Your merciful hand guides me through darkness. Your merciful light shines on me through the day. In the fog Your voice calls to me.

Why should I despair?

No trouble has befallen me that was not resolved. No sickness that was not cured. No wound that was not healed. No wandering that was not restored to the path. No hunger that was not fed. No thirst that was not quenched.

I have no doubt...

All confusion will be clarified. All loss will be restored. All patience will find its desire. All hope will see expectation fulfilled.

How long does your Mercy endure?


17 March 2009

St. Patrick's Day with Veggies & Byzantines

Troparion (Tone 1)

Today Armagh rejoices
with Antrim and Mayo,
and all Ireland praises
the illustrious apostle Patrick.
On all he met,
he made a deep and lasting impression,
for the grace of God
overflowed his noble and tender nature.
With Christ the Lord as his breastplate
and the Spirit's lamp in his hand,
he went forth to make the Irish
children of the Font,
baptizing them into Christ,
the lover of us all.

16 March 2009

Free Gifts to Form Your Conscience!

[The] Word of God is the light for our path; we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord's Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1785)

Why settle for second-rate faith?

The Lord wants you to grow and mature.

As a Catholic Christian you can access valuable resources to assist you as you journey to God:

* The Bible properly interpreted
* The Cross of Christ
* The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
* Spiritual Direction
* 2000 years of Holy Spirit inspired Teaching

Why limp through life when you can RACE TO THE FINISH LINE!

If your faith seems flat, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

**Not all resources are available at every parish, but all can be found somewhere in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

12 March 2009

The Blind Fiddler

When I walk with the blind fiddler,
I sometimes close my eyes,
pretending to be without sight,
allowing him to lead me.

Mama told me not to go near the fiddler.
His breath reeks of whiskey,
he curses and wears rags,
sleeps God knows where.

Mama says the fiddler
plays the devil's music--
it sounds like a baby crying,
or two roosters fighting.

When the blind fiddler plays,
I hear honey-bees buzzing,
the neighbor cat singing,
or Mama and Papa in bed at night.

The fiddler needs me
to help him down the street.
I hold my hat out for coins,
dance barefoot with my eyes closed.

~David Samuel Thomas

I googled myself today and found that this poem I wrote back in 1996 is floating around cyberspace. Originally, I think it appeared in an online poetry journal. I have a recording of my son Andrew reading that showed up on some German guy's podcast.

Listen to the recording or download the MP3 HERE

10 March 2009

Fearless Warrior

A warrior who is constantly in battle is not terrified by the roar of the cannon. Far from being frightened, it listens to determine from which side the enemy is launching his attack, in order to defeat him. It does nothing blindly, but examines and ponders everything deeply and, not counting on itself, it prays fervently and asks advice of other warriors who are experienced and wise. When the soul acts in this way, it nearly always wins.

There are attacks when a soul has no time to think or seek advice; then it must enter into a life-or-death struggle. Sometimes it is good to flee for cover in the wound of the Heart of Jesus, without answering a single word. By this very act the enemy is already defeated.

~St. Faustina Kowalska, Diary 145

07 March 2009

Ashes or Dust?

"I would rather be ashes than dust!" ~Jack London

Here we are coming into the second Sunday of Lent and I'm talking about ashes again.

But I know that some of you might still be struggling to get your Lenten journey started. You might still have the instructions, "Repent and believe the Good News" ringing in your ears, but you stand there asking, "How do I do that?"

I have a few suggestions, but first...

ASHES come from contact with fire. Scripture tells us that our God is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24, Hebrews 12:29). Our faith will be tested with fire according to St. Peter (1 Peter 1:7). Jesus Himself said that He came to cast fire upon the earth (Luke 12:49). We are perfected and purified by fire.

DUST on the other hand comes from rotting and death. "To dust you will return," is another truth we are reminded of on Ash Wednesday. Decay comes from lack of movenment or malnutrition.

How does this help you on your Lenten journey? You must decide if you will be ashes or dust then decide to be transformed by the light and heat of Divine Love, or stagnate.

The refiner's fire is burning, and you can be made into pure gold through all the opportunities available through Holy Mother Church:

* Increase your prayer time
* Read Scripture daily
* Attend Mass on a week day
* Confession
* Add a devotion: Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Novenas
* Spend time in Eucharistic Adoration
* Attend a retreat
*Read a spiritual book

It's not too late to get started.


03 March 2009

Ufać (Trust)

The size of your bucket determines how much water you can draw from the well. The following words were spoken by our Lord to St. Maria Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament:

"The graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is -- trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive." (Diary 1578)

As we trust, Jesus fills us with His mercy, even to overflowing. What can we do but pass it on to others.

"When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls." (Diary 1074)

02 March 2009

Lenten Objective

What do you hope to accomplish during Lent? How will you do it? I heard this passage from Isaiah on Fat Tuesday while at evening prayer. Then it was the first reading last Friday. I found myself meditating on it and decided to share it with you.

"Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?

"Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

"Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am." ~Isaiah 58:5-9

What is the purpose of fasting? Well, one is to humble ourselves. Some others include to loose the bonds of wickedness, undo heavy burdens, to let the captive go free, and to break every yoke.

What do we do? Usually bowing down your head and wearing sackcloth and ashes is a good start. But what pleases God? Through the Prophet Isaiah the Lord tells us what pleases Him more than punishing ourselves: share your bread with the hungry, bring the homeless poor into your house, clothe the naked.

Sure the sackcloth and ashes part results in humility, but what happens when we do it God's way? Our light breaks forth, healing springs up, righteousness proceeds us, and the glory of the Lord protects us. And best of all, when we cry out to the Lord He answers.

So I ask again: what do you want from Lent and how will you get it?

01 March 2009

March 2009

Sanctus Ioseph, Ora Pro Nobis

March is dedicated to St. Joseph, the chaste spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and "Earth Dad" to our Lord Jesus Christ. His feast day is on March 19. St. Joseph is the patron saint of the Universal Church, Carpenters, Doubters, Travelers, House Hunters, and of a Happy Death.

GUARDIAN of virgins, and holy father Joseph, to whose faithful custody Christ Jesus, Innocence itself, and Mary, Virgin of virgins, were committed; I pray and beseech thee, by these dear pledges, Jesus and Mary, that, being preserved from all uncleanness, I may with spotless mind, pure heart, and chaste body, ever serve Jesus and Mary most chastely all the days of my life. Amen

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for March

* Dignity of Women. That all nations of our world may grow in appreciation of the dignity and value of women and their roles in society.

* Church Unity in China. That all the bishops, priests, consecrated persons, and laity of the Catholic Church in China may strive to be instruments of unity, communion, and peace, as enjoined by the letter sent to them by Pope Benedict XVI.

Feast Days

St. David of Wales (March 1)
St. Katherine Drexel (March 3)
40 Martyrs of Sebaste (March 9 Byzantine)
St. Benedict of Nursia (March 14 Byzantine)
St. Patrick of Ireland (March 17)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (March 18)
Annunciation of the Theotokos (March 25)

*Lent continues throughout the month


Well, here we are on the first Sunday of Lent. In the Byzantine tradition it commemorates the restoration of icons at the Seventh Ecumenical Council in Nicaea (AD 787). In 754 the "robber council" of Hieria banned icons. This led to "iconoclasm", the destruction of icons and the persecution and murder of those who adored them. During iconoclasm many icons from the East were taken to West (Our Lady of Grace, Perpetual Help to name two).

Icons are not simply a devotional preference, but an integral part of Byzantine Catholic faith and devotion. They remind us of the incarnation of the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, in Christ. They make present to the believer the person or event depicted on them.

To celebrate victory over heresy, St. Theodore of the Studium composed a canon which is sung during Matins. The following is from an interpretation of it by English hymn writer John Mason Neale.

Awake, O Church, and triumph
Exult, each realm and land!
And open let the houses,
The ascetic houses stand!
And let the holy virgins
With joy and song take in
Their relics and their Icons,
Who died this day to win!

Assemble ye together
So joyous and so bold,
The ascetic troops, and pen them
Once more within the fold!
If strength again he gather,
Again the foe shall fall:
If counsel he shall counsel,
Our GOD shall scatter all.

The LORD, the LORD hath triumphed:
Let all the world rejoice!
Hushed is the turmoil, silent
His servants’ tearful voice:
And the One Faith, the True Faith,
Goes forth from East to West,
Enfolding, in its beauty,
The earth as with a vest.

They rise, the sleepless watchmen
Upon the Church’s wall;
With yearning supplication
On GOD the LORD they call:
And He, though long time silent,
Bowed down a gracious ear,
His people’s earnest crying
And long complaint to hear.