Blog posts

SAINTS: John Vianney — Ministering God’s Forgiveness, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Daniel 9:4b-10; Psalm 79:8-9, 11, 13; Luke 6:36-38 Confession of sin is the theme of our First Reading today, as the people of God confess their disobedience to the Lord and seek God’s forgiveness.  Conversion and confession remain a powerful Lenten theme.  Parishes celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation in communal liturgies during this season, and our Lenten practices are meant to inspire us in our ongoing conversion. The saint best known for his ministry in the sacrament of reconciliation is John Vianney, who was ordained in 1815 in France, after years of study that were interrupted by seminary officials who thought him inadequate for the priesthood as well as by political upheaval.  The French [...]

ART: Window Four — Second Sunday In Lent, by Michael Sullivan

From: Windows Into the Light O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ, your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer) God of refuge and comfort: you are always graciously present with me, even in moments of despair and loneliness; show me the presence of your life in all that I say and do, that through times of trouble and challenge, I might find my cross in your hands, and my life in your life. Amen. Mark 8:31-38 (The Son of Man is to suffer; take up your cross and [...]

SAINTS: Abraham — A Legacy Of Faith, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 33:4-5, 18-20, 22; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Matthew 17:1-9 In Lent we read stories about Abraham – the description of God’s covenant with him and the story of his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac, for example.  These stories have undergone a long process of telling and retelling.  Many hands have worked over these stories, for theological purposes. Nevertheless, the stories communicate the common understanding we share about Abraham; that is, his strong faith in God.  We marvel at this man’s willingness to trust in God so much that he would undertake a long, difficult journey to seek a land and a heritage promised by God.  Though separated by millennia and by different [...]

LENTEN STORY: How Donkeys Got The Spirit Of Contradiction, by André Trocmé

From: Angels and Donkeys A Story About Saving Children, and the Courage It Takes to Go Against Social Conventions and Expectations Until the birth of Jesus, donkeys were like anyone else; that is, just like human beings.  I mean just like grown-up human beings, not like children.  Children have always had the Spirit of Contradiction.  But donkeys used to be docile, just like grown-ups today. Here is how things changed. In Bethlehem at the entrance of the town lived a Samaritan.  He was a good man.  He tried as much as possible to help people forget he was a Samaritan.  He thought, spoke, and dressed just like anyone else.  He was a conformist. Everyone respects social conventions.  Each of us likes to welcome our guests into a [...]

SAINTS: Pio Of Pietrelcina (Padres Pio) — Signed With Christ’s Love, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Deuteronomy 26:16-19; Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8; Matthew 5:43-48 Padre Pio was spiritual inspiration for the older Italian members of my family.  He was for that generation what Mother Teresa is to mine.  I recall reading stories and seeing photos of Padre Pio in the Italian religious magazines my Nonna received, and hearing from my cousin in Italy of a visit to the saint’s shrine after his canonization. Francesco Forgione entered the Capuchin Franciscans as a teenager.  He received the name Pio and was ordained in 1910.  In 1918, praying after Mass, Father Pio saw Jesus in a vision and afterward saw that he had received the wounds of Christ – the stigmata – in his hands, feet, and side. His [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Station 3 — Jesus Falls The First Time, by Joan Chittister

From: The Way of the Cross The Experience Somehow or other, a kind of “bread and circuses” approach to life has begun to permeate modern society.  Everything we do is about winning something or measuring one person against another or garnering goods in great quantity, not because we need them but in order that others can’t have them.  We make life one great competition, a win-lose situation, a measuring stick by which we parade our value to others and, saddest of all, use those same things to convince ourselves of our own value.  As if what we get outside of ourselves is any measure whatsoever, any indicator at all of what is at the soul of us internally. We dedicate our lives to collecting things that have little or [...]

POETRY: Jung’s Shadow And Matthew 4:16, by Marci Rae Johnson

Even in winter there was sun living in the green shoulders of the waves. I’d walk the beach alone with shadows: gulls in formation on the ground. Once the bones. Once a poem that wrote itself behind my eyes. When I’d come home he wouldn’t say how much he feared the way I’d carry words to the clouds and let them go. Everyone carries a shadow. Everyone breathes out fog in the cold. Even the living sun can’t melt the ice shelf that pushes up the sand, makes of this familiar scape a wild shape— a place that can’t be known. I walk the dunes above, misplace the old theologies. I suppose a light has dawned. The sun pushed high as it will get, tapping the tops of pines, my own shadow long among the others [...]

SAINTS: Cornelius And Cyprian — Reconcilers In The Ancient Church, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Ezekiel 18:21-28; Psalm 130:1-8; Matthew 5:20-26 The church has always been in need of reconciliation.  Our human nature means that there will always be a need to forgive each other.  Today’s Gospel offers us Jesus’s guidelines for forgiveness in the community.  Matthew’s “parish,” the communities for whom he wrote, must have needed those guidelines – no surprise there.  We’re fortunate to have Jesus’s instructions on how to be a reconciling community. Saints Cornelius and Cyprian faced one of the early church’s thorniest problems.  In the third century they wrestled with the problem of how to deal with Christians who had renounced their faith and sacrificed [...]

LENT: Discipleship And The Cross, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

From: Meditations On The Cross Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.  He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter.  “Out of my sight, Satan!” he said.  “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:31-34) Suffering and rejection are the summary expression [...]

POETRY: Lent, by George Herbert

Welcome dear feast of Lent: who loves not thee, He loves not Temperance, or Authority, But is composed of passion. The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church says, now: Give to your Mother, what you would allow To every Corporation. It ‘s true, we cannot reach Christ’s fortieth day; Yet to go part of that religious way, Is better than to rest: We cannot reach our Savior’s purity; Yet are bid, Be holy ev’n as he. In both let’s do our best. Who goes in the way which Christ has gone, Is much more sure to meet with him, than one Who travels the by-ways: Perhaps my God, though he be far before, May turn, and take me by the hand, and more May strengthen my decays. Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast By starving sin [...]

SAINTS: Queen Esther — A Royal Request, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25; Psalm 138:1-3, 7c-8; Matthew 7:7-12 The tale of Queen Esther has all the elements of a great story.  We can imagine her, the beautiful bride of a pagan king, ruler of Persia, reigning in a lavish Middle Eastern court.  Into this scene of elegance and splendor comes a threat of Esther’s kin – the Jewish people who are exiled in her land. The drama, essential to any good story, develops as the king’s advisor, Haman, is angered by the refusal of Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, to bow down to Haman in the court.  In revenge, Haman plots to destroy all the Jews in the land. When Esther learns of the plot, she risks her life to go to the king, her husband, and plead on behalf [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Station 2 — Jesus Takes Up His Cross, by Joan Chittister

From: The Way of the Cross The Experience Who does not understand this second station of the cross?  Who is it that cannot feel the depth of the emotional anguish that goes with it?  In fact, who has not lived through it themselves in some way, somehow in life?  After all, the unpredictable burdens of life are part and parcel of being alive.  Difficulties are everywhere and at every level of existence: The relationship ends, the friends go, the success goes to someone else, the illness comes on quickly and fells us without warning. Clearly, there are some things we simply cannot avoid.  These things disappoint us, of course.  They bear down on our lives in very real ways.  They change us, sometimes for life.  They try us to the [...]

POETRY: E Tenebris, by Oscar Wilde

Come down, O Christ, and help me! reach thy hand, For I am drowning in a stormier sea Than Simon on thy lake of Galilee: The wine of life is spilt upon the sand, My heart is as some famine-murdered land, Whence all good things have perished utterly, And well I know my soul in Hell must lie If I this night before God’s throne should stand. “He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase, Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name From morn to noon on Carmel’s smitten height.” Nay, peace, I shall behold before the night, The feet of brass, the robe more white than flame, The wounded hands, the weary human [...]

SAINTS: Jonah — The Sign Of God’s Mercy, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Jonah 3:1-10; Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19; Luke 11:29-32 Most of us know the story of Jonah and the whale.  But today’s readings give us the rest of the story. Jonah’s mission as a prophet was to deliver a warning from God to the pagan city of Nineveh; his watery adventure was part of his wish to escape that mission.  God ensures that Jonah does deliver the message, and when he does the results are overwhelmingly positive.  Sadly, Jonah cannot accept the mercy God shows in the face of the surprising repentance of a whole city – including the livestock.  (Jonah’s disappointment is related in another part of the Biblical book not given in today’s selection.) The point of this delightful [...]

LENT: I Hope You Find, by Ita Ford

From: “Here I Am, Lord”: The Letters and Writings of Ita Ford (Ita Ford, MM, was a Maryknoll missionary in Bolivia, Chile, and El Salvador.  She worked with the poor and war refugees.  On December 2, 1980, she was murdered in El Salvador along with fellow missionaries Sister Maura Clarke, MM; Jean Donovan; and Dorothy Kazel, OSU, by a death squad of the right-wing Salvadoran military-led government.) Dear Jennifer, The odds that this note will arrive for your birthday are poor, but know I’m with you in spirit as you celebrate sixteen big ones.  I hope it’s a special day for you. I want to say something to you and wish I were there to talk to you, because sometimes letters don’t get across all the meaning [...]

POETRY: Seventeens — Acoustics, by Amit Majmudar

A hand must pass the strings for them to sound. The absence of the touch is what resounds. Axon for axon, we are strung, we are A kind of neurological guitar A star has strummed to music. Our musician Has touched us once, gone quiet now to listen— Is this mind flat or sharp? How well’s it tuned? The absence of his hand is opportune, His famous silence proof we have his ear. Reverberation needs the aisles clear, And rumination needs some room to roam. If he were here, these rhymes would stay at home, And all that’s hard and hardest-won in us Be obviated by the obvious. Have your hosannah, I prefer the hush. Check the acoustics in this empty hall. Not the faintest echo when you [...]

SAINTS: Isidore The Farmer — Prayer In The Midst Of Our Labors, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 34:4-7, 16-19; Matthew 6:7-15 An old joke defines a farmer as someone “outstanding in his field.”  Saint Isidore the Farmer not only stood out for his work in tilling the soil but was also a deeply prayerful man. Today’s First Reading uses images familiar to farmers.  Isaiah describes the fertility of the word of God, comparing its power to that of the rain and snow in watering the Earth, allowing it to bear fruit, producing seed for the sower and bread for the hungry. Isidore lived from 1070 to 1130 in the vicinity of Madrid, Spain, where he worked on the estate of a wealthy landowner.  He was generous to the poor, helping to feed them, and sensitive to the care of [...]

LENT: My Messy House, by Kathleen Norris

From: Amazing Grace When I’m working as an artist-in-residence at parochial schools, I like to read the psalms out loud to inspire the students, who are usually not aware that the snippets they sing at Mass are among the greatest poems in the world.  But I have found that when I have asked children to write their own psalms, their poems often have an emotional directness that is similar to that of the Biblical Psalter.  They know what it’s like to be small in a world designed for big people, to feel lost and abandoned.  Children are frequently astonished to discover that the psalmists so freely express the more unacceptable emotions, sadness and even anger, even anger at God, and all of this is in the Bible that they hear [...]

POETRY: New Mexico, 1992, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

We learned to make the sign of the cross, Dipping earth stained hands in Catholic Waters. We’ve filled the desert with our altars We prayed our rosaries, played them, Rubbed them, clutched them– rattles in the wind Swaying back and forth—our Playground swings, we rode them toward God, Now hang them on walls or rear view Mirrors of fixed-up ’57 trucks. Comenzamos el Padre Nuestro en espanol but we finish the prayer in a North American tongue. De vez en cuando we gather ourselves together to baptize a child in the name of the Father, the Son, and our ancestors who command us from the grave. We have made our way in the world, worked hard, worked hard. Now, we toss money at the feet of my parent’s grandchildren like [...]

SAINTS: Frances of Rome — When You Did For The Least Ones, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18; Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 15; Matthew 25:31-46 The first days of Lent feature scriptural selections that emphasize the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Today Moses articulates the love of neighbor as part of God’s law.  The people’s conduct is motivated by the holiness of the God they worship.  Jesus makes that motivation even more personal, in the famous Matthew 25 passage, in which he identifies himself with the poor and needy to whom we should minister in the world. Frances of Rome, in the fourteenth century, can easily be patron of our Lenten almsgiving, as we seek the face of Jesus in hungry, naked, homeless, ill, or imprisoned people.  Married to a [...]

ART: Window Three — First Sunday In Lent, by Michael Sullivan

From: Windows Into the Light Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer) Loving God, you formed us from the dust of the Earth and filled us with your life-giving spirit: let us find beauty in our creation, and trusting in your never-failing love, help us to see all our days as opportunities for the freedom you give; through Jesus the Christ, who stooped so low as to know dust himself, and who with the Holy [...]

SAINTS: Noah — A Creation Covenant, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Psalm 51:3-6, 12-23, 17; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11 Author’s Note: The Old Testament readings for the Lenten Sundays present the history of salvation, one of the teaching themes of Lent.  I’ve chosen a figure from the Old Testament for several of these Sundays to assist you in your Lenten prayer. We can’t help but look at Noah through the lens of our modern sense of what’s acceptable behavior.  Building an ark in your neighborhood is probably not calculated to win the approval of your neighbors.  Comedian Bill Cosby, as well as the film, Evan Almighty, saw the potential for humor in the story of Noah. In reality, though, Noah’s response to God’s [...]

EASTER STORY: The White Lily, by Jane Tyson Clement

Once long ago, near a village far away, there lived an old peasant known as Ivan.  He had a little hut, a small garden, a dog named Rubles, and a six-year-old nephew, Peter, who was an orphan.  Ivan was not a bad man, as he did not murder, did not steal, told no lies, and did not meddle in other people’s business.  But on the other hand he couldn’t be called a good man either.  He was cross and dirty.  He seldom spoke, and then only grudgingly and unpleasantly.  He paid no attention to his neighbors, never showed them kindness, and refused any small courtesy or friendliness they offered him.  Eventually they paid no attention to him either and let him go his own way.  As for Rubles the dog, he was afraid of his master [...]

SAINTS: Levi (Matthew) The Tax Collector — Sinners Are Welcome, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Isaiah 58:9b-14; Psalm 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6; Luke 5:27-32 Luke – and Mark – tell us the story of Levi, a tax collector whom Jesus calls as a follower in today’s Gospel passage.  Levi promptly throws a party for Jesus.  More tax collectors and others show up as well, prompting criticism from the Pharisees and scribes.  Their disapproval draws one of Jesus’s most important responses: Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance. Why did Levi not get numbered among the disciples of Jesus whose stories are told in the Gospel, such as Peter, Andrew, James, and John?  We don’t know.  In Matthew’s [...]

LENT: Why I’m Committed To Lent, by Mallory McDuff

In Fairhope, Alabama, I grew up in a family of six where giving up something for Lent was an expectation, not a choice.  A few days before Ash Wednesday, the dinner conversation revolved around one question: What are you giving up for Lent? As children, we sacrificed the usual suspects of chocolate, chips, ice cream, and TV.  When my brother Laurence gave up TV one year, he walked backwards through the living room with his hands over his ears to avoid confronting the television screen with its Saturday night lineup of Love Boat and Fantasy Island. My parents gave up indulgences like alcohol and meat, and then several years later, they became tee-totalers and vegetarians.  I just feel better without a headache after a party, explained my [...]

POETRY: Blood In The Snow, by Gregory Spencer

I have yet to see a crimson cardinal, though Virginia boasts he’s there waiting on some blossomed branch whistling. Perhaps a blood-red bird will soon appear against this winter-white ash that floats down graceful from God’s chimney. Our children have fallen—we all have— and bear hot bruises from these ice slips. Undeterred, they surf the slopes this March, calculating pace and angles for success. I sent them out today in striped shirts to crunch and slide near the Holocaust museum. Just yesterday a man was murdered there. I remember the news said he did nothing wrong; but I let the children go anyway, to walk that path where winter’s white ash falls from God’s chimney and I’ve yet to see a [...]

SAINTS: Sharbel Makhluf — Fasting With A Purpose, by Greg Friedman

From Lent With The Saints Isaiah 58:1-9a; Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 18-19; Matthew 9:14-15 Fasting is one of the three traditional ways to observe Lent (prayer and almsgiving are the other two), based on Jesus’s description of them in our Ash Wednesday Gospel. Today the scripture readings focus on fasting.  The prophet Isaiah chides the people for their behavior on fast days, pursuing evil and not God’s ways.  The Lord wants works of justice and compassion connected with fast days.  In the Gospel, Jesus explains to the followers of John the Baptist that while he (Jesus) is with his disciples, they will not fast; only after he has left them will they fast. Sharbel Makhluf was known for both his fasting and his care for those who [...]

SACRIFICE: The Raven’s Fate

And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made: And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole Earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark. And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the [...]

POETRY: A Prayer, by Thomas More

Grant I thee pray such heat into mine heart, That to this love of thine may be equal; God grant me from Satan’s service to astart, With whom me rueth so long to have be thrall; Grant me good Lord and creator of all, The flame to quench of all sinful desire, And in thy love set all mine heart afire. That when the journey of this deadly life My silly ghost hath finished, and thence Departed must without his fleshly wife;* Alone into his lord’s high presence, He may thee find: O well of indulgence, In thy lordship not as a lord: but rather As a very tender, loving father. Amen. [*silly ghost: the soul; fleshly wife: the [...]

SAINTS: Thomas More — What Does It Profit Us?, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 1:1-2, 3-4, 6; Luke 9:22-25 In the movie (based on the play by Robert Bolt), A Man For All Seasons, Sir Thomas More is on trial on trumped-up charges, having angered King Henry VIII, who had set himself up in place of the pope as head of the Church of England. A young protégé of More, Richard Rich, supports the king and commits perjury to give evidence that condemns More to death.   Rich’s reward for his treachery is appointment as attorney general for Wales.  More looks at Rich and asks, Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world.  But for Wales?  In today’s Gospel, Luke gives the source of the line More is quoting, as Jesus [...]