Friday, October 28, 2011

Trick or Treat

Here I am in New Jersey – Monday is Halloween. And tomorrow the weather folks are calling for snow. It’s getting awful strange.

I remember as a child my excited anticipation of Halloween. Living in a city, I knew that Halloween would bring lots of candy! In the suburbs, there is only so much candy to be had. But in the city, we had apartment houses! Just one apartment house would be a Mother Lode. Dressed up as clowns, ghouls – even Dick Tracy –my friends and I would hit one apartment house after another. When our bags were full, we would go home, dump all the booty on the bed, then off to the next house. I guess you could say that we were greedy. But that is just the way it was back then. Our families did not have much, so when opportunity knocked, we answered!

Today, as a Catholic deacon, I realize that some emphasis should have been placed on Saints, not candy and ghouls. Yet, I believe the mystery of Halloween experienced in my youth prepared my mind and heart to experience the more important mysteries – the Mysteries that truly count.

Enjoy your Trick or Treat day.

God bless !

* above watercolor "Mischief Night", by Andrew Wyeth

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Monk's Perspective

A Monk's Perspective by Brother Paul Rowe

A monk of Our Lady of Guadalupe - Trappist Abbey

Here I will say something about my own understanding and experience of prayer, while laying no claim to “expertise.” I will focus on personal prayer, leaving aside the consideration of liturgical prayer which, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist, is the “source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium 11; Sacosantum Concilium 10), and which in some sense makes possible all Christian prayer.

In my own walk with God, the metaphor of “gazing” seems especially fitting. At a certain point in my life, I became increasingly aware that I was always in God’s sight, and I believed that he held me in a loving gaze. Yet it struck me that I returned his gaze all too rarely, distracted as I was by so many concerns, by objects and interests clamoring for my attention. And I came to the conclusion that I would find no rest, no peace of soul, unless I acknowledged God’s love by trying to respond to his love more fully, to meet his gaze more habitually. This in turn meant, among other things, living a life of prayer. But since I could not find a means of praying attentively and constantly (cf. 1 Thess. 5:17) in a context of noise, busy-ness and chatter, I found myself drawn instead to the life lived here at Guadalupe.

So here, in this place of prayer, how do I try to meet God’s constant gaze? Oftentimes, in order to focus my wandering mind on the God revealed to us in the Old and New Testaments, I spend time ruminating on some passage from Scripture, especially from the gospel, where we see God in the face of Jesus Christ. Sitting in church and taking some time to reflect on a particular psalm, or on a scene from Jesus’ life, can help me to enter into the quiet of God’s presence and to abide there. This mediation on the inspired Word of God presupposes a prayerful encounter with that Word, both as proclaimed in the liturgy (the Mass and the Divine Office) and in the slow, reverent reading of the Bible known as lectio divina. This process begins with reading, continues with meditation on what is read, which then gives rise to prayer, and may—it is to be hoped—finally bear fruit in the grace of contemplation. The medieval Carthusian monk, Guigo II, offered the following explanation of this quintessentially monastic approach to prayer:

Reading is the careful study of the Scriptures, concentrating all one’s powers on it. Meditation is the busy application of the mind to seek with the help of one’s own reason for knowledge of hidden truth. Prayer is the heart’s devoted turning to God to drive away evil and obtain what is good. Contemplation is when the mind is in some sort lifted up to God and held above itself, so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness.
(The Ladder of Monks, II)

It may happen, however, that during some hours of prayer, and perhaps even during whole periods of one’s life, that discursive and imaginative meditation proves unhelpful or even impossible. At such times, I simply try to “practice the presence of God” (as recommended by Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection in a book thus entitled), wanting him and awaiting him, fending off distractions by repeating a word from Scripture or, more often, the name of Jesus. With solid biblical warrant (cf. John 14:14; 16:23-24; Acts 4:12), Eastern Christianity has given pride of place to the Jesus Prayer, wherein the Name is continually remembered and repeated as a lifelong mantra. Though I am not so faithful as that, I try to bring the Name to mind as often as I can.
Also, in keeping with the teaching of the 14th century author of The Cloud of Unknowing, I practice what is now called “centering prayer” in our beautiful and serene meditation hall. This prayer consists in sitting still in God’s presence and summing up all the intentions of one’s prayer in a single predetermined word (“God,” “Jesus,” “Love,” “Help!” etc.), spoken softly within the heart. This is a prayer of letting go of one’s own controlling grip in order to open up to God’s transformative activity in the soul.
In order to cultivate my relationship and devotion to Mary, Mother of God and our Lady, I say the rosary daily. The rosary, along with other forms of Marian piety, is a commonplace in Cistercian monasteries such as ours, though never forced upon anyone. Marian devotion springs up spontaneously within this Order that has enjoyed Mary’s patronage from its inception, all our houses being dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.
Finally, lest I give a false impression, I should mention that the monk does not restrict his prayer to specially allocated time-slots. Throughout the day, the monk makes use of the pervasive quiet to recollect himself and call on the name of the Lord, to offer brief interior prayers of petition and intercession, or to invoke the help of Mary or of the other saints. Indeed, the monk seeks to arrive at the point of praying without cease, that his entire life may be spent in the awareness of God’s presence, an offering of the heart poured out continually for the glory of God and the salvation of the world.
The monk who has become a living prayer is the fullest embodiment of the contemplative life, having been so transformed and divinized by the grace of God that, in the words of the 12th century Cistercian Father, William of St. Thierry: “In a manner which exceeds description and thought, the man of God is found worthy to become not God but what God is, that is to say man becomes through grace what God is by nature” (The Golden Epistle, XVI). Such a monk enjoys that vision of God in everything and every circumstance of life that belongs to the pure of heart (Matt. 5:8). And those who meet him find in him the very likeness of Christ, in all the gentleness of his bearing and the warmth of his love.

+ Br Paul

Thursday, October 20, 2011


O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

By Robert Frost

The Mighty Macs

Do you remember when all of your teachers were nuns? this movie is a good reminder...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Wild Swans

I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over.
And what did I see I had not seen before?
Only a question less or a question more;
Nothing to match the flight of wild birds flying.
Tiresome heart, forever living and dying,
House without air, I leave you and lock your door.
Wild swans, come over the town, come over
The town again, trailing your legs and crying!

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Photo from Mepkin Abbey

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


A few evenings ago there was a special presentation on PBS about the Jewish people. While watching a few minutes of the program, I heard the commentator use the words "before the Common Era." This showcases the problem we are having here in the USA and in Europe - the exclusion of Christianity in our culture. Let's do what we can to preach Jesus to who we know, and to who we do not know - that Jesus is the Lord of History.

This article is out of CNA;

Vatican daily criticizes BBC for 'erasing Christ from history'

The Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano has criticized a decision by the BBC television network to drop its usage of the designations “A.D.” and “B.C.”

The network plans to adopt the terms “C.E.” (Common Era) and “BCE” (Before the Common Era) when referring to historical dates, to avoid “offending” non-believers.

L’Osservatore Romano called the decision “senseless historical hypocrisy.” Numerous BBC hosts, as well as politicians such as the mayor of London, Boris Johnshon, have also denounced the plan as absurd.

In an Oct. 5 article that will be published by the Vatican newspaper, reporter Luceta Scaraffia pointed out that numerous non-Christian spokespersons have stated that they “did not feel offended in any way by the traditional dating system.”

“It is clear that respect for other religions is a mere pretext, because what they want is to wipe out any trace of Christianity from western culture.”

Scaraffia noted that this is not the first time an attempt has been made to change the historical designations. The anti-Christian French Revolution of 1789 and the 1917 Leninist revolution in Russia both included efforts to reformulate the traditional calendar to start over again in their respective years.

She called those efforts “horrible precedents” and said the current proposed change is a hypocritical move on the part of those who “seem to not know why the years are counted starting from a certain date.”

“To deny the historically revolutionary role of the coming of Christ on earth, accepted even by those who do not recognize him as the Son of God, is a complete folly. And from a historical point of view, both Jews and Muslims know it.”

She pointed out that with the coming of Christ, mankind learned that all human beings have the same dignity, and this truth forms the basis “for all human rights, by which nations and leaders are judged.

“Until that time no one had held this principle, and Christian tradition is based upon it.”

The world changed after Christ, Scaraffia continued, and knowing the God who transcends nature, “made it possible for the peoples of Europe to discover the world and for scientists to begin the experimental study of nature, which led to the birth of modern science.”

“Why deny, then, civilization’s cultural debt to Christianity? There is nothing more anti-historical and senseless, as Jews and Muslims have clearly understood. It’s a matter of reason, not of faith.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Saint Francis of Assisi

Saint Francis of Assisi (born Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone; 1181/1182 – October 3, 1226) was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher. He founded the men's Franciscan Order, the women’s Order of St. Clare, and the lay Third Order of Saint Francis. St. Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history.

Francis was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant in Assisi, and he lived the high-spirited life typical of a wealthy young man, even fighting as a soldier for Assisi. While going off to war in 1204, Francis had a vision that directed him back to Assisi, where he lost his taste for his worldly life. On a pilgrimage to Rome, Francis begged with the beggars at St. Peter's. The experience moved him to live in poverty. Francis returned home, began preaching on the streets, and soon amassed a following. His order was endorsed by Pope Innocent III in 1210. He then founded the Order of Poor Clares, which was an enclosed order for women, as well as the Third Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance. In 1219, he went to Egypt where crusaders were besieging Damietta, hoping to find martyrdom at the hands of the Muslims. By this point, the Franciscan Order had grown to such an extent that its primitive organizational structure was no longer sufficient. He returned to Italy to organize the order. Once his organization was endorsed by the Pope, he withdrew increasingly from external affairs. In 1223, Francis arranged for the first Christmas manger scene. In 1224, he received the stigmata, making him the first person to bear the wounds of Christ's Passion. He died in 1226 while singing Psalm 141.

On July 16, 1228, he was pronounced a saint by Pope Gregory IX. He is known as the patron saint of animals, the environment and one of the two patrons of Italy (with Catherine of Siena), his feast day is on 4 October.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen