Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Philippians 4:6  "Be Anxious About Nothing"

I read Philippians 4:6 this morning as I sipped my coffee.  I had already caught up on the daily news, flipping between the various offerings on television.  I was feeling a bit hopeless, not in God mind you, but in humanity.  So I decided to play a little Bible Roulette.  You know, where you hold the Bible in both hands, let it fall open to a particular page, and with eyes closed drop your finger on a verse or two.

I got Philippians. Two passages in Scripture haunt me.  One is "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."  Yikes.  The other is, "Be anxious about nothing."  The homepage of my life is anxiety, so I was not surprised that God would torture, I mean bless me with that verse for today. It beats getting that other verse again.  By the way, I typed that with a smile... 

Why am I anxious?  For me it is a psychological disposition.  I am by nature friendly, usually smiley, always looking for the humor in life, somewhat territorial and short tempered with injustice.  All this is fueled by a rather large basket of anxiety and nervous energy.  

I'd like to change.  I've tried to pray it away. I give it to Jesus nearly every morning upon arising and every evening as my head hits the pillow.  It is not a lack of faith.  I trust Jesus with every fiber of my being.  I know I am constantly protected by the prayers of the Blessed Mother and the Saints.  

I have always tended to be anxious about most things.  My mother was a terribly anxious person.  I think I got it from her. 

So.  I got this passage today.  I decided to pray over it ONCE AGAIN, and here is the meditation I got:


I have to tell you, I am anxious.  
I am anxious about nothing:
I am anxious about those souls who know nothing about God.
I am anxious about Protestants who know nothing about the True Catholic Faith.
I am anxious about children who know nothing about parental love
I am anxious about the oppressed who know nothing of freedom
I am anxious about anyone who has nothing to eat day after day
I am anxious that some people, maybe even a neighbor, may feel they have nothing to live for.

There is a great deal of nothing about which we should be anxious enough to fill with the Mercy and Love of God.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015


This "connection" came to me this morning as I was praying.  The connection is between the Jubilee Year and the Visitation.  Just as Elizabeth stood before Mary before the birth of their children, our Holy Father Pope Francis stood before the Holy Door and prayed before opening it.

How his heart must have been leaping for joy!  There would have been the immediate anticipation of the moment, couple with the hopes for the year.  He must have felt the weight of the door somehow reflected the weight of his responsibility.  He must have been aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit as the Mercy of God in Christ Jesus was being proclaimed and celebrated in this simple act of opening a door.

I know I feel like Elizabeth as I watched that historic moment on Dec. 8th.

Here is what Pope Francis had to say:

In a few moments I will have the joy
of opening the Holy Door of Mercy.
We carry out this act – as I did in Bangui –
so simple yet so highly symbolic,
in the light of the word of God
which we have just heard.
That word highlights the primacy of grace.
Again and again these readings
make us think of the words
by which the angel Gabriel
told an astonished young girl
of the mystery
which was about to enfold her:
“Hail, full of grace” (Lk 1:28).

The Virgin Mary was called to rejoice above all
because of what the Lord accomplished in her.
God’s grace enfolded her and made her worthy
of becoming the Mother of Christ.
When Gabriel entered her home,
even the most profound and impenetrable of mysteries
became for her a cause for joy, a cause for faith,
a cause for abandonment to the message revealed to her.
The fullness of grace can transform the human heart
and enable it to do something so great
as to change the course of human history.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception
expresses the grandeur of God’s love.

Not only does he forgive sin,
but in Mary he even averts the original sin
present in every man and woman
who comes into this world.
This is the love of God which precedes,
anticipates and saves.
The beginning of the history of sin
in the Garden of Eden
yields to a plan of saving love.
The words of Genesis reflect
our own daily experience:
we are constantly tempted to disobedience,
a disobedience expressed in wanting
to go about our lives
without regard for God’s will.
This is the enmity which keeps striking
at people’s lives,
setting them in opposition to God’s plan.
Yet the history of sin can only be understood
in the light of God’s love and forgiveness.
Sin can only be understood in this light.
Were sin the only thing that mattered,
we would be the most desperate of creatures.
But the promised triumph of Christ’s love
enfolds everything in the Father’s mercy.
The word of God which we have just heard
leaves no doubt about this.
The Immaculate Virgin stands before us
as a privileged witness of this promise and its fulfilment.

This Extraordinary Year is itself a gift of grace.

To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover
the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone
and goes out personally to encounter each of them.
It is he who seeks us!
It is he who comes to encounter us!
This will be a year in which
we grow ever more convinced of God’s mercy.
How much wrong we do to God and his grace
when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment
before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy
(cf. Saint Augustine, De Praedestinatione Sanctorum, 12, 24)!

But that is the truth.
We have to put mercy before judgment,
and in any event God’s judgement
will always be in the light of his mercy.
In passing through the Holy Door, then,
may we feel that we ourselves are part
of this mystery
of love,
of tenderness.
Let us set aside all fear and dread,
for these do not befit men and women who are loved.
Instead, let us experience the joy of encountering
that grace which transforms all things.

Today, here in Rome
and in all the dioceses of the world,

as we pass through the Holy Door,
we also want to remember another door,
which fifty years ago
the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council
opened to the world.
This anniversary cannot be remembered
only for the legacy of the Council’s documents,
which testify to a great advance in faith.
Before all else, the Council was an encounter.
A genuine encounter between the Church
and the men and women of our time.
An encounter marked by the power of the Spirit,
who impelled the Church to emerge from the shoals
which for years had kept her self-enclosed
so as to set out once again, with enthusiasm,
on her missionary journey.
It was the resumption of a journey
of encountering people where they live:
in their cities and homes, in their workplaces.
Wherever there are people,
the Church is called to reach out to them
and to bring the joy of the Gospel,
and the mercy and forgiveness of God.
After these decades, we again take up
this missionary drive with the same power and enthusiasm.
The Jubilee challenges us to this openness,
and demands that we not neglect
the spirit which emerged from Vatican II,
the spirit of the Samaritan,
as Blessed Paul VI expressed it
at the conclusion of the Council.
May our passing through the Holy Door today
commit us to making our own
the mercy of the Good Samaritan.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Dec. 14, 2015

Catholics throughout the world celebrate the third Sunday in Advent as Gaudete Sunday.  It is especially joyful in the context of our Jubilee Year of Mercy.  The word gaudete comes from our second reading this week from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians--"Rejoice!  Rejoice in the Lord always.” (Phil 4:4).  We are exhorted to rejoice in the reality of Christ already present to us as we prepare to celebrate His birth.  We rejoice as we await His second coming even though it seems to be long delayed.  We rejoice, faithfully, in the triumph of Jesus Christ even though we are in the midst of an intense battle for our souls.

How does anyone get away with exhorting others to rejoice? If you are feeling down, does it really help for someone to come along and say, “Cheer up”?   And yet, without pausing to assess the mood and attitude of assembled worshipers, the Church makes bold to exhort people on the Third Sunday of Advent, ready or not, to rejoice. The tradition has its reasons, and the chosen texts are far more complex and challenging than any Pollyannaish efforts to jump-start joy.

This is not cheap joy.  When St. Paul exhorted the Philippians to rejoice, he was in Roman captivity.  He was giving a personal testimony to the power of faith in Jesus which sustains believers in the most difficult of times.  John the Baptist reminds us in St. Luke’s Gospel:

“His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 
Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached the good news to the people.

On the face of it, the reference to burning with unquenchable fire did not sound like good news.But that was Luke's word for it. Preaching good news was first of all Isaiah's way of talking about the coming of God in power, when “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” The Baptist made it clear that the coming of God in the person of Jesus would mean good news to those whose lives were “fruitful” in ways that show repentance … and bad news to those whose lives did not produce such fruit. When questioned by the crowds as to what precisely “fruitful” living entailed, he replied concretely: don't cheat, don't extort, don't falsely accuse, be content with your wages, and share food and clothing.

We humans are a heap of unsifted grain and the wind of the winnowing fan represents the temptations that assail us.  When your soul is overcome by some temptation, it is not the temptation that turns you into chaff. No, you were chaff already, that is to say fickle and faithless; the temptation simply discloses the stuff you are made of.

On the other hand, when you endure temptations bravely it is not the temptation that makes you faithful and patient; temptation merely brings to light the hidden virtues of patience and fortitude that have been present in you all along.

So, enjoy the breeze!  Allow the Lord to work in your lives so that He can continue to work in our divided and violent world.  And…Rejoice!  Rejoice in the Lord always!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

I really like the IDEA of blogging...

I have not be very consistent with this blogging thing.  Maybe it is almost not really a "thing" anymore.  However, here I go with another try.

I have a few wonderful friends who are always finding what they call "connections" in their lives.  An example of a connection would be one of those serendipitous moments when a thought or action coincides with a specific Saint or Saint's day.

The conversation might be something like, "I woke up this morning with a picture of St. Wigbert in my brain.  I seldom think of him.  I really don't know much about him or have a devotion to him  So I was really surprised when I saw on the Saint of the Day website that it was his feast day."

Now...these particular friends are especially adept at finding connections.  I sometimes make lite of it.  I will say something like,  "Look, I found a one dollar bill in my wallet.  I didn't even remember that today was our Green Scapular prayer group."  Connections.

Some people may call these little signs or "signal" graces.  I may tease my friends quite a bit about this, but I do think that there are daily connections to be found between our rather mundane actions and our rather spectacular, though often overlooked, spiritual lives

In fact, I had a "connection" just this morning!

Here is how Today's Connection went:

After morning Mass I felt a need to connect with my old friend, Fr. Benedict Groeschel.  I really miss him, though I am so grateful for the gift of eternity in which he is now sharing.  I pray for his soul all the time.  And if you already "made it" to heaven, Fr. Benedict,  perhaps you could apply some of those graces and prayers to my priesthood.  I want to be a good and holy priest.  Ta Dah!

I digress...Since we just began the Jubilee Year of Mercy, I chose to listen to a talk he gave at the Institute of Catholic Culture regarding Divine Mercy.  Lovely!

During the course of this talk he mentioned his patron, St. Benedict Joseph Labre.

After the talk, I went to the Saint of the Day site.  I really didn't have a particular devotion to any of the saints whose feasts fall on Dec. 10.  I read about a few, and then decided to go a site on the net that lists Marian Feasts for each day of the year.  I was excited to see it was the Feast of Our Lady of Loreto.

I had been privileged to make a pilgrimage to the Holy House of Loreto about 10 or 12 years ago.  I LOVE the Litany of Loreto, and often pray it.

Now...if that is not enough of a connection...get this:

I decided to do a bit of research on Our Lady of Loreto and the Holy House.  I clicked on a link labeled "Saints and Loreto".  Behold, I found the following:

If one were to single out a Saint who was particularly attached to Loreto, it would seem that the pilgrim saint, Benedict Joseph Labre, would have first place. After finding out that his vocation was to be a rather exceptional one-----literally a pilgrim beggar-----Benedict left his home in France in 1770 for Rome at age twenty-two. On this first journey, he stopped on his way at Loreto and Assisi. He stayed in Rome for nine months visiting all the holy places, but was back in Loreto in September of the following year. In June 1772, he was back again at Loreto. He then extended his pilgrimages to all the famous shrines in Europe. At the end of 1776, he settled down in Rome, leaving only to make an occasional pilgrimage to his favorite shrine, the Holy House. He continued this each year until his death in 1783 at the age of 35.

I have to admit that the "connection" bells were ringing. 

So, I am going to start writing a little blog entry entitled, "Today's Connections".

It may not be daily.  I most certainly will turn out to not be daily.  I do, however, want to start recording some of those wonderful connections in my life which are moments of grace.  In recording them, I will assist my memory.  

Our Lady of Loreto, pray for us.
St. Benedict Joseph Labre, pray for us.

O Most Sacred of Jesus, have mercy on us.