Monday, November 28, 2011

Merton on Advent

The certainty of Christian hope lies beyond passion and beyond knowledge. Therefore we must sometimes expect our hope to come in conflict with darkness, desperation and ignorance. Therefore, too, we must remember that Christian optimism is not a perpetual sense of euphoria, an indefectible comfort in whose presence neither anguish nor tragedy can possibly exist. We must not strive to maintain a climate of optimism by the mere suppression of tragic realities. Christian optimism lies in a hope of victory that transcends all tragedy: a victory in which we pass beyond tragedy to glory with Christ crucified and risen. Thomas Merton

* Above image "The Light Beyond" ©bjm
taken at Brookdale Park - Bloomfield, NJ

Friday, November 25, 2011

The First Thanksgiving

I found this image and this reflection on Jon Katz's "Bedlam Farm Journal." I find it insightful and full of truth. If you get a chance, check out the's quite interesting!

Simon Says: Don't Give Up On Life by Jon Katz

Yesterday was, in many ways, my first Thanksgiving. Not really, not technically, but in many ways. Thanksgiving was always a difficult holiday for me, family issues, a sense of estrangement, troubles as a kid. Lots of guilt, pressure, conflict. I never cooked a turkey before yesterday, never did Thanksgiving with anyone, never made stuffing. I was always outside of the process, outside of the kitchen, like many men. We struggle with the processes of family and emotion, and recuse ourselves walking dogs, hunting, watching football, reading our books off in our chairs.

Thanksgiving can be distancing for us, even lonely amidst our families, our friends. We are sometimes there, sometimes not. Yesterday it was different. I cooked the turkey with Maria. Made the stuffing with her. Stayed in the kitchen. Was at the center of Thanksgiving, not the edges. And today, waking up on a day I call Bright Friday, heading off to Battenkill Books to sell copies of “Going Home” and other books with Connie Brooks with Maria (she sold out of her potholders this morning), I realized that yesterday was my First Thanksgiving. I was at the center of the process with a full and open heart, not at the edges, where so many find themselves. And it was beautiful all day, in every way. And I told myself that one ought never to give up on life, at any point, at any age, because you can always find life if your mind is open and your heart is full and you understand that love is the point, love is the process, love is the reason.

Above image "Simon Says Don't Give Up On Life" by John Katz

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christ the King

Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. It is also the last Sunday of the Church year, and next week we begin the season of Advent. Let us remind ourselves that all of our celebrations are summed up in one statement: “Jesus is our King.” Jesus is the one we serve. If we do not know how to serve our King, not to worry, for today Jesus reveals to us what is necessary to secure the Kingdom of heaven.

In 1925, Pope Pius XI instituted “Christ the King” as a feast day. It was a bold move on his part. He was certainly guided by the Spirit. During this time, the world was experiencing a growing secularism and a misguided sense of nationalism. It was the year that Adolph Hitler published his biography of hatred, “Mien Kampf.” Benito Mussolini became dictator of Italy. People were moving away from a healthy reliance on God and trusting only in themselves, living only in the “here and now.” Much like today. Pope Pius said that “the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives” – “nations will be reminded, by the annual celebration of this feast, Christ the King, that not only private individuals, but also rulers and princes are bound to give PUBLIC honor and Obedience to Christ.” Now that was a strong statement. Pius was not afraid to preach the truth - the truth that is as relevant today as it was then.

If we believe that Jesus Christ is our King - What are the implications of that reality? What is our relationship to the King? Aristotle tells us, “The king ought to be to his people as a shepherd to his sheep or a father to his children.” So we are the Kings children whom he loves. Our reading today from Ezekiel says that we are a scattered people, like a flock of sheep that is lost, strayed and injured. Our benevolent King looks for us when we are lost. He carries us home and heals our infirmities. Our King is loving and kind. As a child who embraces a parent after being given a gift, how shall we respond to our King’s royal acts of love?

As Hamlet once said, “That is the question.”

The key is in the scriptures. And it isn’t hidden; it is laid out for all to see. Jesus wants it to be clear, because he loves us, he thirsts for us, and he wants to enter our hearts.
Jesus’ message today may be the most important in all of scripture.
“What you have done to the least of my brothers, you have done to me.”
We are called to recognize the presence of Jesus in others. Our recognition is manifested by our acts of love. We must recognize Jesus in our families, in the poor, in the poorest of the poor, the children dying in Somalia, the confused and rejected young mother, the unborn, the terminally ill, the immigrant, those who love us and those who despise us – and most importantly, recognizing Jesus in the Eucharist. This is the key to heaven.
Now Jesus knows that we humans find it hard to understand. In his great wisdom, he raises up saints in every age to be leaven in the world. By emulating those who have embraced the gospel message, we too can become saints.

Perhaps the foremost authority on today’s gospel is Blessed Mother Teresa who said that at the end of our lives, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we received or how much money we have made – we will be judged by “I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.”

St. Gianna Beretta Molla, a recently canonized saint, a woman of OUR time, was a physician, a working mom, and a loving wife. St. Gianna made a heroic choice when she refused an abortion when she was pregnant with her fourth child. She knew she had a cancerous tumor, and that continuing with her pregnancy would likely result in her death. Gianna was quite clear about her wishes, expressing to her family, "This time it will be a difficult delivery, and they may have to save one or the other -- I want them to save my baby.” Gianna recognized the presence of Christ her unborn child. Her child is now a Pediatrician.

There are also living saints right here in our own parish who we can emulate. They embrace the words of Jesus by their involvement in ministries that directly affect the lives of others – for example, the Shawl ministry, an inspiring movement of people who gather to pray and knit for those in need. And just last week, women who are members of the Cornerstone alumni, cooked for and fed more than 150 hungry souls in Mother Teresa’s soup kitchen in Newark. Those who work as ushers, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, those who distribute the bulletins and set up for Holy Mass - they all recognize the presence of Christ in the community, and serve each other with great acts of love.

This is all the Lord asks – that we “Love one Another.”

Pope Benedict XVI says that “Christ’s Kingship is not based on “human power” but on loving and serving others.”

On this solemnity of Christ the King, let us ask ourselves – do we see the presence of Christ in others? Do we manifest this reality by actions of Love? If our answer is no, let us begin today. For when our King comes to separate the sheep from the goats, we want to be in that line, waiting to hear the King’s words… ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Albert the Great

Albert Magnus, also known as Albert the Great and "the teacher of everything there is to know" can be characterized as a "renaissance man" even before there was such a word. He was a grand thinker, prolific writer and distinguished philosopher during the period of the Middle Ages. One of his pupils was another brilliant mind, St. Thomas Aquinas. The topics that were influenced by Magnus are incredibly diverse and include psychology, logic, metaphysics, meteorology, mineralogy and zoology.

The works of Albert Magnus are a hand cramping 31 volumes. His life's work was to translate Latin and Arabian manuscripts and notes of the great philosopher Aristotle. Most of Aristotle's teachings have been preserved to this day because of the judicious efforts of Magnus. His writings are revered because of their exact scientific knowledge.

While studying at the University of Padua, Magnus reportedly had an encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary who persuaded him to join the Holy Orders (individuals ordained for a special role or ministry). In 1254 he was named provincial of the Dominican order and 1260 the Bishop of Regensberg. In 1622 Magnus was beatified and in 1931 was canonized by Pope Pius XI and joined the illustrious rank of saint.

Albert Magnus's experiments are surprisingly accurate considering the era in which he lived. He knew a little about everything but was an expert in the works of Aristotle. His discoveries included the elements arsenic and silver nitrate (a precursor to many other silver compounds, such as those used in photography). Magnus was fan of alchemy and astrology, and there are many books to his credit on the subject. The philosopher's stone (a legendary substance that was capable of turning base metals, especially lead, into gold). It can also be thought of as a fountain of youth, as it has rejuvenating properties and can lead to eternal life.

There are several institutions of education that bear the name of Albert Magnus. One in particular is the Albert Magnus College established in 1925, and located in New Haven, CT. Also, a high school in New York, the main science building at Providence College and the Albert Magnus International Institute (a business and economic development research center) are but a few that bear the name of the prominent saint.

It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for "God is Charity" (1John 4:8) -- St. Albert the Great

See Albert the HERE

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"You do not know either the day or the hour."

Asteroid 2005 YU55. The asteroid will fly past Earth within the moon's orbit today. NASA's been tracking it since November 4, using the 230-foot-wide Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California. This image was taken yesterday at 11:45 a.m. PST, when the asteroid was approximately 860,000 miles from Earth. The Deep Space Antenna will track it for four hours today, and radar observations from the Arecibo Planetary Radar Facility in Puerto Rico will also begin today.

Everyone is excited about this asteroid. Will they be able to see it with the naked eye? will they need a telescope? Wow - it's the size of an aircraft carrier!

We all should realize that this asteroid will pass very close to Mother Earth, it will be closer to earth than the moon. If the scientists were off a bit with their math, there would be dire consequences.

Out of Digital Journal > Astronomers say if the Earth were to sustain direct impact with an asteroid the size of 2005 YU55 expected to zip past the Earth tomorrow, we would experience a massive explosion equivalent to that set off by more than 50 megaton nuclear weapon. Such explosion would cause widespread destruction covering several thousands of kilometers. The impact will excavate a crater 4 miles wide and cause an earthquake of magnitude 7 on the Richter scale.

I think we should reflect on Sunday's Gospel, Matt 25:1-13. Jesus is very clear when He says;

" So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’

Thursday, November 3, 2011

St. Martin de Porres

My friend, Dr. Frank, a friend of the Missionaries of Charity, went home to God a few years ago. Dr. Frank had a deep devotion to St. Martin de Porres. With Church permission, he was able to visit and enter the saint's home in Peru. For years, the small mission Church of St. Augustine in Newark, New Jersey displayed a beautiful statue of St. Martin. As time went by, the statue was relegated to the back of the church, practically hidden from view. The Missionaries of Charity, who have a mission beside the church, asked for permission to take the statue out of the church and display it in their soup kitchen - and there is stands today. Dr. Frank would be very happy. God bless you Dr. Frank...

St. Martin de Porres was born at Lima, Peru, in 1579. His father was a Spanish gentleman and his mother a coloured freed-woman from Panama. At fifteen, he became a lay brother at the Dominican Friary at Lima and spent his whole life there-as a barber, farm laborer, almoner, and infirmarian among other things.

Martin had a great desire to go off to some foreign mission and thus earn the palm of martyrdom. However, since this was not possible, he made a martyr out of his body, devoting himself to ceaseless and severe penances. In turn, God endowed him with many graces and wondrous gifts, such as, aerial flights and bilocation.

St. Martin's love was all-embracing, shown equally to humans and to animals, including vermin, and he maintained a cats and dogs hospital at his sister's house. He also possessed spiritual wisdom, demonstrated in his solving his sister's marriage problems, raising a dowry for his niece inside of three day's time, and resolving theological problems for the learned of his Order and for bishops. A close friend of St. Rose of Lima, this saintly man died on November 3, 1639 and was canonized on May 6, 1962. His feast day is November 3.

To you Saint Martin de Porres we prayerfully lift up our hearts filled with serene confidence and devotion. Mindful of your unbounded and helpful charity to all levels of society and also of your meekness and humility of heart, we offer our petitions to you. Pour out upon our families the precious gifts of your solicitous and generous intercession; show to the people of every race and every color the paths of unity and of justice; implore from our Father in heaven the coming of his kingdom, so that through mutual benevolence in God men may increase the fruits of grace and merit the rewards of eternal life. Amen.

* Read more about St. Martin HERE

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All Saint's Day Homily

Deacon Greg Kandra, creator of the Deacon's Bench blog, wrote this wonderful homily for All Saints Day. Enjoy!

If you find yourself in Los Angeles, in between going on tours to see the homes of the stars or dining at Spago, take a side trip to 555 Temple Street. There, in a corner of the city that’s a little off the beaten track, you’ll find a home for some other stars – the kind you might not have expected to see.

It’s the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels – a big, boxy, modernist building dedicated in 2002 that doesn’t look anything like any church you would find in New York City. Critics have complained that it resembles an airline terminal more than a temple of God. The church was actually designed specifically to withstand earthquakes. As a result, it doesn’t have the big stained glass windows with images of saints that you find in most churches.

Instead, if you are looking for the saints, you will find them depicted very differently. They are on massive tapestries lining the walls of the nave. And they are stunning. These tapestries are said to be the largest collection of its kind in the United States. Created by artist John Nava, they portray in a dramatic and contemporary way dozens of saints, all standing and facing toward the altar, hands folded in prayer. There are 25 massive tapestries depicting 135 saints and blesseds. The image they create is striking. They are in line, as if they are going to receive the Eucharist. It is, in ever sense, the communion of saints.

Above each saint is written his or her name – so you can spot St. Peter, or St. Dominic, or Mary Magdalene. But they don’t look the way you might have seen them in Renaissance paintings. Creating these images, John Nava used for his models ordinary people from around Los Angeles. He even hired a Hollywood casting agent to find people with a particular look, so they actually resemble people you would pass on the street, or people you might know.

But looking at the tapestries, you start to notice something odd. Amid all the famous saints, there are 12 figures who don’t have names above them – including children of all ages. It’s not a mistake.

These people were not popes, or martyrs, or evangelists. There are no churches named for them or universities dedicated to them. They are the saints among us whose identity is known only to God.

We realize, looking at them: they could be any of us.

And we realize, too: we could be them.

I’ve been to see those tapestries in person several times, and I never fail to come away deeply moved and inspired.

It’s been said that church windows are “sermons in glass.” The tapestries at that cathedral in Los Angeles are sermons in cloth. The lesson they teach is so simple, but so eloquent. And it is this: any one can become a saint. The communion of saints is so vast, so all-encompassing, so real. It is available to all of us.

The tapestries tell the story. And what a beautiful story it is. It includes a Native American woman cradling a baby…an African American teenager in blue jeans…small children fervently praying. The communion of saints contains anonymous men and women and children who sanctify everyday life – miracle workers like a banker in Brooklyn or a secretary on Staten Island or a homemaker and mother in Queens.

It might even, by the grace of God, include any of us.

The gospel today shows us the way to holiness — the way, as the song says, to “be in that number.”

It means to be poor in spirit. To be meek. To be merciful and pure of heart. To be a peacemaker. To suffer for the sake of Christ.

None of these is easy. But then, if being blessed were easy, everyone would be a saint.

But don’t we want to try?

This day, we look to these great models of holiness for inspiration and guidance. We ask for them to intercede on our behalf, and to walk with us. The road is hard. We may stumble, and we may fall. But we get up and we go on.

Because we know they did.

And we know we can.

John Nava has said of his tapestries that he hopes 100 years from now, people will look at them and say, “These people were seen as whole, strong humans, full of hope.”

Let us pray that their strength, their hope, and above all their holiness, might also be ours – so that one day we might be blessed to find ourselves among that great cloud of witnesses, that great communion of saints.