Archive for the ‘holiness’ Category

Celebrating 25 years at the Table of the Lord

Monday, June 11th, 2012

On June 10, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Fr. Steven LaBaire celebrated a mass of Thanksgiving. It was the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. There was standing room only in the historic and elegant stone cathedral.

This mass was the closest taste of heaven I have ever experienced. I wondered if I’d even be able to find the words to describe it.

Fr. Steve’s parish, St. Mary’s, is located in Uxbridge, MA, a small mill town. He had been the associate pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist for 15 years prior to this assignment. St. Luke’s is my home parish.

There is no priest who celebrates the liturgy more beautifully than Fr, Steve. He has devoted his priestly life (and heart) to the rigorous study of the minutest rituals (known as rubrics) of the mass, and every single one of them as a result, is pregnant with meaning.

Often such adherence to ritual can be empty, even legalistic. Not so with Fr. Steve. He is an artist and a lover. Every touch, every hand gesture, every prayer is offered with profound love and reverence. The liturgy ebbs and flows in one uninterrupted motion; there is a sense of stillness, of silence even as the readings are proclaimed, the hymns sung, the prayers said. It is the Living Water, pouring from the temple (as cited in Ezekiel 47) into our souls.

The music, provided by a small choir and student orchestra (St. Mary’s is fortunate to have a school), was simple and graceful. It neither competed with nor distracted from the liturgy but complemented it in every respect. Musical choices ranged from standard hymns, to chant, to a haunting French folk hymn known as “J’irai La Voir Un Jour” (see below for a video). Fr. Steve’s family hails from Quebec and he speaks beautiful, fluent French. The voices of the congregation rose in song, filling the cathedral.

The homily was quintessential Fr. Steve: mentions of his grandmother, and the sacredness of the family meal, filled with good food and lively conversation. Fr. Steve often uses the family meal as a means of understanding the great meal of the Eucharist. In this case, he demonstrated how sacrificial love feeds us as much as the food when he describes seeing his grandmother sitting in the kitchen after one such meal, surrounded by a pile of dirty dishes. The exhausted look on her face showed the then ten-year-old boy what went into that meal. It was the beginning of the call that would lead him to the Eucharistic table.

Fr. Steve used the homily to thank His Lord, his family and friends, and his congregation. At the end of the homily, the congregation thanked him for his service with their applause.

The liturgy is the number one priority for Fr. Steve and as a result of his devotion, contemplation and deep love, his celebration of the mass transcends this earthly life. Judging from the enthusiastic participation of his parishioners, it is obvious what his priority has done for this parish.

It was the most perfect union of what makes life meaningful: love, service, sacrifice and the Meal.

Recalling the song, “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me, I think of the following lyrics:

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine

After yesterday’s mass, I know now. All words would leave me and the tears would freely flow.

Here is a beautiful rendition of “J’irai La Voir Un Jour”, performed by the brother-sister group, L’Angelus. The English translation of the first verse and refrain is:

I will see her one day
In heaven, in my garden
Yes, I will see Mary
My joy and my love

In the sky, in the sky, in the sky I will see her one day
In the sky, in the sky, in the sky I will see her there one day

Perhaps Fr. John Corapi is still teaching us

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Today I saw a wonderful article regarding the Fr. John Corapi saga. I liked this article because it was firm yet reasonable, strong yet loving. It was free of hyperbole and written by someone who had greatly admired Corapi.

Here is the link to the article:

Father Corapi — Still Teaching

July 14th, 2011 by Patti Maguire Armstrong

I particularly loved a section of the article which quoted a blog from Father Dwight Longenecker regarding true saintliness:

“Where shall we find a holy person? Where shall we find a saint? It is difficult because the real saint is hidden and humble and holy. Instead of looking for the hidden holy ones we fall for the celebrity ‘saint.’ We want the big dramatic conversion story. We want the dynamic, uncompromising speaker. We like the one who speaks out on sin and rails against the devil…

“…Stop and consider that the real saints are hidden. They follow the little way. If you were to tell them they were saints they would laugh and tell you to keep searching. If you even had the sense and discernment to see the saint next to you–the ordinary person who perseveres–the little person who serves others–the plain Jane who takes life easily and simply loves people–then you would learn again what true holiness really is. If we only had eyes to see the simplicity of the saints, the extraordinary ordinariness of holiness, the practical good humor and humility of the truly grace filled ones…

“It is the little way that leads to salvation. Not the way of pride and pleasure and power. Not the way of wealth and the world. Not the way of ego and ambition.

“Only the way of the cross. When are we going to learn this?”

I hope that all of you know of someone in your life who fits this description. I am honor to know two and feel greatly honored that God has given me these people in my life. Truly He has lavished his blessings on me and I hope I am a constant blessing to them.

Who do you know in your life that teaches you holiness? Please leave a comment and share with us.

I am grateful to the author of this piece on Fr. Corapi, Patti Maguire Amstrong. She reminds me that prayer is certainly the best path to holiness, and to remember Fr. Corapi in our prayers will help us in our journey.

Lay down your burden

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I just loved the homily given on Sunday by our pastor, Monsignor Mike Foley. He shared a true and compelling story of how he applied the above verses from the gospel reading to his own life.

Several years ago, Monsignor Mike was pastor to the largest parish in our diocese, St. Ann’s in Milford, MA. With approximately 3500+ families in the parish, St. Ann’s at one time had 5 priests to serve. Back in the early 2000′s, the death of a pastor caused the bishop to effectively “shuffle the deck”, redistributing pastors and promoting an associate to pastor to fill the various needs of the diocese. Monsignor was at the bottom of the deck. In the end, he was left alone at St. Ann’s without even the help of a deacon because the deacon was sick. He would not be able to get extra help for at least 3 months. On top of everything else, it was during the height of the sexual abuse scandal which rocked Boston and surrounding communities.

Monsignor knew he was in trouble. He described the various ways he could have reacted:

  • Get angry with the bishop
  • Work himself to death
  • Or turn to the Lord in prayer

He decided to turn the Lord in prayer. At at time when one would think more hours would need to be devoted to work, Monsignor Mike took 2 extra hours (together) out of his day to spend time with the Lord in prayer. He confessed his need and allowed the Lord to give him rest. He took the will of God (His yoke) on his shoulders, surrendering his own will for what he thought ought to be done, and surrendering the will and expectations of others.

In the end,  God showed him how to prioritize his work, helping Monsignor in his decision making, and ultimately, remaking the vision of the parish.

Monsignor Mike really shared from his heart. At one point, standing in front of the altar, he pointed back to the gospel book stating, ” I know that it works to allow God to carry your burden. I’ve lived it!”

All the while I’m marveling at the fact that this holy priest would spend 2 solid hours in prayer. As always, he, in essence, fertilized the desire already in me to deepen my prayer. It’s so helpful when God sets before you such wonderful examples like Monsignor Mike. We at St. Luke the Evangelist in Westboro, MA are so fortunate!

Being with beautiful Godly women in Henniker, NH – half day retreat highlights

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Ann and I had the wonderful privilege of leading a half day retreat for some 65-70 women at St. Theresa’s Parish in Henniker, NH on Saturday, June 11. The theme was Becoming a Beautiful Catholic Women, organized by the Women’s Ministry of St. Theresa’s (and especially Eileen Murray), the day started with a beautiful mass celebrated by a brand new priest (he’s the tall one in the picture)!

We were then entertained by a humorous skit depicting women preparing for the day by making themselves beautiful. The first half showed 2 women frantically getting prepared, putting on make-up, getting dressed, etc. The second half showed 2 women who took time to be with the Lord before getting dressed. You can see some great pictures of the skit, along with other pictures from the retreat, on the slide show at the end of this post.

I then gave the keynote address, using Mary as the model to follow for becoming a beautiful Catholic woman. You can hear the address here, plus some music I played:

 

You can also read my blog posts about this topic.

Ann then led a beautiful scripture-filled prayer service highlighting faith-filled women of the Bible. We all prayed a response after hearing each reading which was read by women attending the retreat. There’s a picture of Ann with the readers in the slide show.

She concluded the morning with a terrific craft project where women made bracelets with beads depicting different pious women of the Bible. It was a wonderful keepsake for each participant to take home, to remember the retreat. In the picture you can see what the bracelet looks like and some of the readings that accompanied it.

Here’s a slide show showing highlights from the retreat, accompanied by “How Beautiful,” sung by Annie Karto and Donna Cori Gibson, from Annie’s “Perfect Sacrifice” CD.

 

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Throughout this series I have shared with you ideas that I had about becoming beautiful as God means for us to be. This has been a deeply personal journey as I have literally lived with this topic for the last 3 months, reading a little bit each day, outlining the chapters in  The Prayer of Mary by Keith Fournier and The Authentic Catholic Woman by Genevieve Kineke. As we know from gardening, a downpour is not going to be particularly beneficial to the flowers – it might beat them down and surely the bulk of the water will run off. It’s those gentle rains, even drizzle, that persist from day to day that bring the real benefit to the garden. This reading, bit by bit, day by day, has acted as a gentle rain on the garden of my soul. Where total surrender to God was once a lofty thought is now something I have embraced, and my journey has just begun in living it.

I find that I am more at peace with my life and can take the longer view down the road while still remaining in the present. Recently my husband, who is a contract worker, was between jobs and was becoming concerned that he would not find a new assignment soon enough to continue with the contracting company which gives him a salary and our health plan. He knew I was praying daily for the unemployed and asked me to remember him which I gladly did. As I prayed, I thought to myself that no matter what happened, even if he lost his job and we lost our health benefits, that everything in the long run would work out for our best. My trust in God was deeper because of this journey of surrender which I had embarked upon.

My love for Mary, our Mother, has truly grown. She truly is the most beautiful woman the world has ever known, and will ever know. She lays out a simple path to follow (simple to understand but not necessarily easy to follow), speaking it plainly at the Wedding at Cana when she instructs the servers, “Do whatever He tells you.” She knew from the many deep experiences of her life that following the Lord wherever He led was the only way to lead an authentic life. She came to understand in the course of her life that this way was not free of pain or suffering; in fact it probably was more intense because she chose a more radical way of living. Her “yes”, however, transformed all of history, helping to open the road to Heaven to every human being going back to Adam and Eve, and going forward to the end of time. She held God incarnate in her arms – caressing and kissing, listening to and consoling Him, and laughing with Him. She witnessed Him risen, saw Him ascend to Heaven, and experienced the Holy Spirit coming upon her at Pentecost. Every moment of her life was a “yes” and every “yes” opened the door wider to God’s grace and mercy.

No wonder she was the most beautiful woman the world has ever known!

I earnestly pray, beg, that God’s light, His image, like those of the beautiful icons, will glow within me and will not be blocked by any shadow. I pray, I beg, that God will help me continue to remove the wall that blocks Him from me, stone by stone and eventually, boulder by boulder as I become stronger in Him.

I deeply desire to become a beautiful Godly woman that will be evident for all to see. I desire that people will look at me and see not me, but the Lord. I want to be that bold, that transparent. I want to be like those women I admire so much in my own life who to me epitomize holiness – my Noni, the master teacher of hospitality, the realtor in my office who positively glows with God’s light, and my dear spiritual mother whose mastery of sacrificial love in spite of her illness inspires me daily.

Dear Lord, make me like those women! Make me beautiful like Your Mother. Mary, mother to us all and my mother, pray for me.

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Thank you for following this series on becoming a beautiful Godly woman. Here are links to the other 10 posts in case you missed any:

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

Here are links to 2 other companion posts:

Praying in new places, in new ways – an example of a creative routine for daily prayer and scripture reading

Why does love chase away fear? – Total surrender to God chased away fear, allowing us to face anything in our lives

 

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

In the last post I talked about holiness and how it creates an inner light. Mary was holy and she had that inner light. She must have been so beautiful to behold. That inner light, that holiness, made it possible for her to accept God’s will without question. Yet there must have been some preparation in her life for that moment. A farmer doesn’t just drop seed on the ground – it wouldn’t grow. The ground has to be prepared, tilled, aerated, watered . . . so that the seed can germinate and grow. How did Mary prepare? How can we prepare?

Tradition has it that Mary was raised in the temple. Certainly in the temple she was trained in prayer and scripture. She likely had a thorough knowledge of the prophesies regarding the Messiah and was obviously grounded in prayer. Notice that the angel Gabriel did not need to explain much to her for her to understand the implications:

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

Mary only asked one question – how would it happen? She understood the rest. The lifelong cultivation of her spiritual life through consistent prayer and study of scripture had prepared her to hear the words of Gabriel and accept them. Her eyes didn’t need to be opened by any explanation – they were already open.

Keith Fournier in his book, The Prayer of Mary, (chapter 2, The Way of Beauty, pages 9-14) maintains that Mary was beautiful because she grounded herself in this lifestyle. The angel declared that she was “full of grace” and Fournier says that makes Mary “beautiful.” She radiated a deeper, spiritual beauty flowing from her relationship with God (remember my example of our new real estate in the last post?). This inner glow was her beauty.

Fournier gives the example of Blessed Mother Teresa, a woman who was not physically beautiful by any means but who radiated joy and love in such a way that she became known internationally for her spiritual beauty. Grace does not change our physical appearance as much as it changes us from the inside out.

Fournier then goes on to explain specific ways that Mary was beautiful:

  • Her ears, because they were open and attentive, allowing her to hear a message so profound that it would change the world.
  • Her heart, because she emptied herself and allowed it to fill up with God’s grace. She also allowed it to be broken so that God’s ultimate will of saving of us all could come to pass (consider Michaelangelo’s famous Pieta statue)
  • Her feet, because she brought the glad tidings of her pregnancy to her cousin Elizabeth immediately after she heard (see Isaiah 52:7).
  • Her arms and hands, because they caressed the Christ. Imagine for a moment holding the dear baby in your arms, knowing that you are holding the Son of God . . .
  • Her face, because she saw God face to face.  Remember how Moses, after his encounter with God, had to wear a veil because the glow was so intense. 2 Corinthians 4:6 states the the Glory of God was revealed in the face of Christ, a face that Mary saw daily for 33 years! Imagine how her face must have reflected that glory.

If you see paintings and icons of Mary from different cultures, you will see that she is depicted in many races and many forms. Why is this? Because Mary’s beauty transcends every cultural definition – her beauty is reflecting God who transcends all.

How do you suppose Mary’s beauty played out in daily life? In my next post, I will consider portions of Genevieve Kineke’s book, The Authentic Catholic Woman, where she gives numerous examples. Here’s a tease – it involves leading a sacramental life . . .

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Links to all posts in this 11 part series

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

 

 

Part 3: what makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Continuing with my study of Keith Fournier’s book, The Prayer of Mary, and Genevieve Kineke’s book, The Authentic Catholic Woman, I look at the issue of holiness, briefly touched upon in my last post.

In Chapter One of Fournier’s book, “A Way of Holiness,” he states that Mary’s “yes” signified that she was totally open and receptive to God. This is holiness, a total act of selflessness. The fiat, or “yes” opens the way to conversion and authentic spirituality because we grow closer to God and touch Him. When we lose ourselves to God, we find ourselves again, the true selves that were lost because of the Fall of Adam and Eve (pages 4 and 5, The Prayer of Mary).

This total surrender is not easy! Mary’s yes changed her life significantly and exposed to her to danger, both physical and emotional. She would have to totally trust God in order to be that open. She must have had the heart of a child, for young children trust their parents so instinctively, reaching out to them for love and protection.

The spiritual life is not about power but powerlessness; not about increasing but decreasing; not about becoming greater, but becoming smaller. John the Baptist said it to Jesus: “I must decrease so you can increase.” I think of a song by Fr. David Hemann called Climbing Down to Greatness-Magnificat (Humility) (click on the link to listen) where he sings, “Climbing down to greatness, the smaller you are, the higher you soar.”

True beauty lies here, and it must show somehow. Have you ever met someone who seemed to glow with goodness? A new real estate agent has joined our office and instantly I thought she glowed with goodness. She is caring, consoling, gentle and very open. She shares her faith, so well integrated into her life, as easily as she breathes. She’s someone I want to be with. She is beautiful. I imagine Mary was like that too.

It is said that the light one sees in icons is not natural light falling on the image but a supernatural light emulating from the image. You will notice on icons that there are no shadows, and that they seem to glow with gold color. The face especially is bathed in light, coming from within. Icons are written in a specific way using an ancient method of prayer, scripture, special techniques and materials. The light is purposely shown to come from within. The icon becomes a compelling message of spiritual truth. I feel like I can see the soul of the person being depicted, and I hear God’s voice speaking to me. Icons are beautiful.

We are icons too, created in the image of the living God. Do we allow the light of God to shine through us the way it shines through an icon, through a friend, through the Blessed Mother?

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Links to all posts in this 11 part series

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

 

“Loving God . . . Loving Neighbor: A Lenten Transformation” Retreat Wrap-up

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

This past weekend (March 11-13), my partner Ann Wagstaff and I had the privilege of presenting to a group of extraordinary women at the Vita Nova Women’s retreat at the Barbara C. Harris Center in Greenfield, NH. The weekend exceeded our wildest expectations! The spirit of fraternity, affection and fellowship coupled with a real move of the Holy Spirit made it a weekend we all will remember for a long time to come.

Here are pictures from the weekend, and below the pictures, a description of what went on (including one of the talks that you can download).

Prayers for Detachment; time for reconciliation

After settling in on Friday, Ann and I led a prayer to help the women detach from their cares and focus solely on God. Music, prayers, candles and sweet scents lifted hearts to Heaven. Each woman wrote down their cares on a piece of paper – all the papers were put in a bag that was attached to mylar balloons that would lift the bag up to the ceiling!

After the prayer, everyone went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation with 3 wonderful priests, setting the tone for a Spirit-filled weekend.

Prayer

Prayer was a central part of the retreat – the Sung Rosary was done throughout the day using a Power Point presentation with images, scripture and the music of the Sung Rosary. Here’s a sample:

Loving God . . .

On Saturday morning, the presentations began. The theme of the retreat was the Two Great Commandments, based on Mark 12:28-34 – loving God, and loving neighbor.  A strong emphasis was placed upon priorities – how important it is to love God first and allowing that growing relationship to spill over into loving your neighbor. I shared teaching  on why loving God first was so important in my talk on Martha and Mary (read the text of the talk here), and Ann proceeded to share from her life about her struggles to balance between being a Martha and a Mary, and how she is becoming a “contemplative in action.”

I then spoke about how service happens through an outpouring of grace resulting from loving God, and how that grace can equip us for difficult service (in my case, helping to care for my dying mother).

The morning session concluded with an Emmaus walk, where the women, after hearing the scripture about the disciples’ encounter with Jesus at Emmaus, were instructed to take their own individual walk around the grounds as the disciples did, conversing and listening to Jesus.

Time of  Fellowship

Mealtimes at the dining hall were a highpoint as the food was so well prepared, and everyone was so warm and friendly. There was an extraordinary move of the Spirit through all the women which created a wonderful atmosphere of fellowship. It was a taste of Heaven.

Loving Neighbor . . .

The afternoon session focused on loving our neighbor by discovering and developing our natural talents and gifts, and then becoming aware of and praying for the spiritual gifts (based on scripture from 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12 and Ephesians 4) . Ann and I gave a talk tracing our time lines to see what talents and gifts kept appearing throughout our lifetimes as a way of identifying what we do well (I also traced my husband’s interesting time line which led to his vocation as a deacon). I also spoke on what I termed “hidden gifts”  – those things such as being hospitable, being a good listener, or being a good caregiver – talents our society does not value but God does.  Each woman took a written survey to dig deeper into their own gifts and talents, and small group discussion followed sharing what they found out.

The scripture on the parable of the talents from Matthew 25:14-30 set the stage for a talk on the responsibilities we have to use our gifts to serve others. Blessed Mother Teresa was held up as the best modern example of a woman who used her immense gifts to help the poorest of the poor and that her ‘secret’ to her success what that it was all for Jesus. She had a unique talent for seeing Christ in every person she saw. I shared my song about Mother Teresa, “Teach Me to Love” (click here to listen).

Afterwards, the women gathered in small groups where they read sayings from Mother Teresa about service and applied them to their lives. The work they did produced some wonderful ideas – I took pictures of all the work they did so you can see for yourself and perhaps apply them to your life:

A beautiful meditation of the Stations of the Cross (a Power Point presentation with narration) was presented in the evening.

Blessing of the Hands

Sunday morning we were treated to a beautiful mass by Father Benedict of the Franciscans of the Primitive Order out of Lawrence, MA. Afterwards, we gathered back in the gym for our sending forth ceremony known as the Blessing of the Hands. Father blessed the water and the bowl was passed around from woman to woman; each woman dipped a finger in the water and did a sign of the cross in the hand of the woman next to her as a litany was read.  Eventually the litany was opened up and women shared their own blessings. It was a very moving ceremony with many tears shed. The ceremony strongly demonstrated the spirit of love and fellowship that bound together these new friends.

More information on Vita Nova

Ann and I were delighted and honored to have been a part of this event. The Vita Nova team (all volunteer), led by Rose Marie Cussom and Shannon Best were extraordinary in their efforts; their support made it possible for Ann and I to focus solely on the content and presentation of the material. I can’t rave about the team enough! Vita Nova is holding other events – be sure and check out their website for more information.

Contemporary Example of True Shepherds

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Reflections on the readings for February, 22, 2011
1 Peter 5:1-4; Psalm 23:1-6; Matthew 16:13-19

Yesterday I saw the most wonderful article in the Boston Globe about the archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley. He was sent to Ireland to represent the  Church and offer sincere apologies with regards to the sex abuse scandal there. The Church in Ireland has been deeply wounded by this scandal, even as we have felt it here in America and especially in the Boston area where the story broke and was extensively covered by the Boston Globe.

Therefore it was especially welcome to see coverage of this story in said Boston Globe, and on the front cover too, above the fold. It is the perfect reflection of what a true shepherd in Church ought to be as pointed out in today’s first reading from 1Peter:

Beloved:
I exhort the presbyters among you,
as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ
and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.
Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

The article by Lisa Wangness begins as such:

DUBLIN — Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin lay prostrate before a bare altar as the packed cathedral watched in silence.

They listened as lectors read long sections of government reports detailing horrific abuse of children in Dublin parishes and church-run industrial schools.

Then O’Malley and Martin washed the feet of eight abuse victims. Several wept as Martin poured water from a large pitcher and O’Malley knelt and dried them with a white terry cloth towel.

Anyone familiar with the story of the Washing of the Feet, read on Holy Thursday liturgy, knows that Jesus was teaching his disciples true service and humility. He was putting the disciples in positions of authority and wanted to make sure they understood that being in authority meant to serve. Washing someone’s dirty feet (and in ancient times, they were especially dirty!), normally a slave’s job, was the perfect example of true service and humility.

Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Martin understood that. They knew that if the Church in Ireland, and around the world, was to begin to heal, that they would need to show the ultimate sign of humility towards the sex abuse victims. Thanks be to God that they were open to the Holy Spirit enough to show this sign.

This is what St. Peter meant in his writing to the Church; he knew firsthand because the Lord had shown him, even though he initially resisted.

May more shepherds be like these two men – not just clergy, but all shepherds, for we all tend our little flocks.

Here is a link to the entire story.

I’ve already received what I want for Christmas

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Lately two dear friends have been on my mind. They both love God passionately and serve Him earnestly through their service of others. Yet their methods of service couldn’t be more opposite, and it shows the beauty and diversity of our God, and how His light shines brightly in so many different ways.

One friend serves the youth of our parish. She coordinates service projects, retreats, social outings . . . every week in the bulletin I see yet another opportunity for young people to engage with God in our parish. Her heart is as big as Texas, so warm and caring, and the kids see that. They also see (as I and many others do) this lady’s tireless efforts on behalf of Haiti. She has been involved with relief efforts in Haiti for years, spearheading fund raising for a new hospital, sending food and necessities to orphans, and even visiting Haiti on several occasions on mission trips. This year her entire family will join her on such a trip, on December 23. I am dumbfounded at her energy and commitment, especially as the needs in Haiti are so dire that just contemplating them for a moment totally overwhelms me. How brightly the light of Christ shines through her!

My other dear friend is home bound with a debilitating illness. Her love of God is equally strong and her light equally bright. Her service is in the form of prayer, meditating on God throughout the day and into the night, and praying for family and friends. She is a front line prayer warrior. She suffers in silence from her disease. But in the spirit of St. Therese The Little Flower and Mother Teresa, my friend works hard to put on a smile and a brave face, keeping her complaints to a minimum, and loving her friends with a sacrificial love that astounds me. Her sacrifices may seem small when in fact they are huge – going out to lunch with friends even though she feels ill enough to stay in bed all day; going on trips in the car with her companion even though riding in a car aggravates her condition; writing letters and Christmas cards even though her head is spinning. Her top priority is to treat people with kindness and focus on their needs even though she could so easily become self absorbed in her own.

The friend who serves the young people of our parish and the poor in Haiti challenged me to ask God for direction as to how I should serve. I felt like I needed to be ‘out there’ more, like my friend, putting myself out on the line. So far His answer has been to remember her, to bolster her in prayer as often as I could, and to remain alert and awake for opportunities. The home bound friend reminds me that kindness to even one person is what Jesus commanded us to do, for the image of God is in all of us. Kindness can be expressed in large ways, such as the service of my Haiti friend, or it can take a very small, humble, nearly invisible form, such as with my home bound friend.

Both forms of service are equally powerful, shining the light of Christ into our dark world, and both examples teach me so much about Christ and the spiritual life.

I don’t need any other presents this Christmas. Having these two special friends in my life gives me spiritual presents that could fill my house to overflowing. I only hope that I can begin to give to them what they have given to me.