Christianity

SAINTS: Gianna Beretta Molla — A Mother’s Total Offering, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Isaiah 49:8-15; Psalm 145:8-9, 13cd-14, 17-18; John 5:17-30 One of the most affectionate lines in all of scripture occurs in our First Reading today: Can a mother forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb?  Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. The beautiful comparison of God’s love to that of a mother for her child is captured in the life of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla.  Born in northern Italy in 1925, she pursued a career in medicine and became a physician and surgeon. Gianna and her husband Peter had three children.  While pregnant with her fourth child, Gianna was told she had a uterine tumor.  Among the options offered by her doctors was a complete [...]

JESUS: To Think In Christ, by Hubert van Zeller

Saint Paul exhorts us to “have the mind of Christ.”  He knows that if we think as Jesus thinks we shall be living in charity, and he will be living in us.  It must follow that our works, values, decisions, and prayers will carry the seal of his spirit.  There are three things which characterize a Christian, says Saint Gregory of Nyssa in his Christian Perfection, namely action, speech, thought.  The origin of every word is thought.  After thinking comes speech, which reveals in words the idea which has been conceived in the mind.  After thought and speech comes action, which realizes the thoughts in deeds.  Later in the same treatise Saint Gregory elaborates as follows: That which is pure of every inclination to passion [...]

POETRY: The Doubter’s Prayer, by Anne Brontë

Eternal Power, of earth and air! Unseen, yet seen in all around, Remote, but dwelling everywhere, Though silent, heard in every sound. If e’er thine ear in mercy bent, When wretched mortals cried to Thee, And if, indeed, Thy Son was sent, To save lost sinners such as me: Then hear me now, while, kneeling here, I lift to thee my heart and eye, And all my soul ascends in prayer, Oh, give me—give me Faith! I cry. Without some glimmering in my heart, I could not raise this fervent prayer; But, oh! a stronger light impart, And in Thy mercy fix it there. While Faith is with me, I am blest; It turns my darkest night to day; But while I clasp it to my breast, I often feel it slide away. Then, cold and dark, my spirit sinks, To see my light [...]

SAINTS: Ezekiel — Prophet Of Liturgy And Rebirth, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12; Psalm 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9; John 5:1-3a, 5-16 When there are people to be baptized in my parish during Lent, the whole season takes on a different character.  Everything leads to the waters of the font. The conclusion of the catechumens’ journey through the Lenten season focuses their final preparation for the Easter sacraments.  We hear the scriptures at Mass through the filter of those entering the church.  We celebrate rituals – large and small – with the Sunday community and in the circle of candidates and sponsors. But in the end, we come to the waters of the font.  To help us in “sighting” our destination, today’s liturgy offers us a beautiful reading from the [...]

LENT: They Took My Lord Away, by John Donne

From: The Showing Forth of Christ They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.  This was one strain of Mary Magdalene’s lamentation, when she found not her Savior in the monument.  It is a lamentable case to be fain to cry so, They have taken; other men have taken away Christ, by a dark and corrupt education.  But when the casting away of God which is so often complained of by God in the prophets is pronounced against you, when you have had Christ offered to you by the motions of his grace and sealed to you by his sacraments, and yet will cast him so far from you that you know not where to find him; when you have poured out at your eyes in profane and counterfeit tears which should be your soul’s [...]

SAINTS: John The Evangelist — Jesus’s Identity And Mission, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Isaiah 65:17-21; Psalm 30:2, 4-6, 11-12a, 13b; John 4:43-54 Today begins a semi-continuous reading of the Gospel of John.  The organizers of the Roman Catholic Lectionary for Mass wanted to present a healthy portion of the fourth Gospel, to help us appreciate its richness.  The sequence of texts also helps us focus on the person of Jesus and his mission. John’s Gospel is at once profound and elegantly simple.  From its opening words announcing the Word Made Flesh, to the accounts of the signs of Jesus (such as today’s cure of a royal official’s son), to the three great scrutiny gospels used in the rite of adult initiation, to the majestic Passion narrative, the fourth Gospel offers us a [...]

ART: Window Six — Fourth Sunday In Lent, by Michael Sullivan

From: Windows Into the Light Gracious Father, whose blessed Son, Jesus Christ, came down from Heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer) You are always welcoming me back to the feast, God, no matter how far I stray, no matter what I do, or what I say.  Let me see that you have always loved me and that you are always welcoming me home with a feast of new life. Amen. John 6:4-15 (The feeding of the five thousand) Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.  When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, [...]

SAINTS: Paul — Helping To Shape Our Christian Identity, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints 1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13; Psalm 23:1-6; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41 Old Testament readings take priority in Lent.  Most of the First Readings on weekdays are from the Hebrew scriptures; the First Reading each Sunday is chosen to recall the story of salvation.  The writings of Saint Paul, however, also appear on the Sundays of Lent.  As I was trying to find a place in this book for the Apostle to the Gentiles, a friend reminded me of how Paul bridges the Old and New Testaments.  His theology helps to shape much of our Christian identity. Paul bookends Lent with his themes.  On Ash Wednesday, we read Paul quoting Isaiah, At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Station 7 — Jesus Falls The Second Time, by Joan Chittister

From: The Way of the Cross The Experience The problem with life is that it never really gets resolved.  What’s more, the same issue that tested our mettle the first time we attempted it leaves us in doubt that we should ever attempt it again.  The things that confuse us the first time we deal with them are just as likely to make us wonder about them the second time around as well.  Certainty is a chimera.  All we really know for sure is that what we did last time in dealing with a problem either did or didn’t work.  Will the same thing work again?  Who knows? This station touches the deepest part of that truth.  Faced with something that bested us the last time we met it, the whole thought of dealing with it again can [...]

JESUS: To Pray In Christ, by Hubert van Zeller

When the church concludes its official prayers with the words, Through Christ our Lord, it is not just repeating a formula or letting the faithful know that the prayer has come to an end.  The church means it – theologically.  Whether we state it explicitly or not, all our prayers are made through Christ and in him and with him.  If they are not, they are abstract prayers, and not Christian prayers at all.  Christian prayer assumes the communication between the Son and the Father, and, implicitly, at least, moves into the relationship.  Christian prayer does not tie itself down to the consideration of episodes in our Lord’s life and to the mysteries of the gospel.  Christian prayer may even, in the act of contemplation for [...]

SAINTS: Martin de Porres — The Humble Exalted, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Hosea 6:1-6; Psalm 51:3-4, 18-19, 20-21ab; Luke 18:9-14 Picture the simple Dominican brother Martin de Porres moving humbly among the sick and poor of Lima, Peru, in the seventeenth century.  His work was long and arduous as he cared for orphans, slaves, and poor children.  His hours of prayer and penance strengthened this ministry.  At first only a lay helper in this community, thinking himself unworthy to be a vowed religious, Martin was eventually invited into full membership.  His life of prayer and witness moved the Dominican community to receive him as a lay brother. Like the tax collector in today’s Gospel, Martin himself was someone whom society rejected.  As the illegitimate son of a Spanish [...]

POETRY: Calcutta To Cannon Beach, by Nathaniel Lee Hansen

I have His darkness—I have His pain—I have the terrible longing for God. (Mother Teresa) That at times this future saint could not sense her Lord while sweating words with pen read as a revelation to me, disclosed that she was human, too. God’s omnipresence still too far—boils, sores, and scars too near, so faith meant treading the waters of theology’s raw mystery, their paradox: belief is doubt that we can know with certainty. And so I cup the ocean with my hands, though fingers leak, dry, then crack. Yet for a moment, I can clutch the ocean with my makeshift bowl, taste the salt my everyday eyes cannot [...]

SAINTS: Teresa Of Calcutta — Longing For God With Our Whole Being, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Hosea 14:2-10; Psalm 8:6c-11ab, 14, 17; Romans 5:12-19; Mark 12:28b-34 No list of Lenten saints would be complete without Saint Teresa of Calcutta.  I was fortunate enough to see her in person in June 1981.  I didn’t get to meet her personally but felt blessed just to be in her presence. Little did we know that this saintly woman had, for many years, walked a path of inner darkness.  Several years ago, Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, promoting her cause for sainthood, edited a book called Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light.  He recalled the years she endured dark nights of the soul, despite her great love for God and certainty that God had called her to special work with the poor. Father Kolodiejchuk says that, [...]

POETRY: And A Good Friday Was Had By All, by Bruce Dawe

You men there, keep those women back and God Almighty he laid down on the crossed timber and Old Silenus my offsider looked at me as if to say nice work for soldiers, your mind’s not your own once you sign that dotted line Ave Caesar and all that malarkey Imperator Rex well this Nazarene didn’t make it any easier really—not like the ones who kick up a fuss so you can do your block and take it out on them Silenus held the spikes steady and I let fly with the sledge-hammer, not looking on the downswing trying hard not to hear over the women’s wailing the bones give way the iron shocking the dumb wood. Orders is orders, I said after it was over nothing personal you understand—we had a drill-sergeant once thought he was [...]

SAINTS: Patrick — The Struggle Against Evil, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Jeremiah 7:23-28; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9; Luke 11:14-23 The popular book, The Rite, which was later made into a movie, tells the story of a young priest who learns how to fight against the very real manifestation of the devil’s power.  Through prayer and the power of God mediated through the church’s ritual of exorcism, people throughout the centuries have been delivered from the grip of evil. Today’s Gospel, from Luke, gives one of many episodes in the story of Jesus where he drives out a devil and brings relief to a person who has been possessed.  In the process, Jesus describes the intensity of the struggle against evil.  It was a struggle Saint Patrick knew well.  As the “apostle to [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Station 6 — Veronica Wipes The Face Of Jesus, by Joan Chittister

From: The Way of the Cross The Experience The story of Veronica, whose act of compassion left the wounded face of Jesus imprinted on the veil with which she wiped his bleeding face, is a mixture of tradition, legend, and devotions that developed over the centuries from one end of Europe to another. There is no ascertainable historical accuracy attached to any of the tellings, let alone to any of the “veils” themselves, but there is a great deal of spiritual truth to be recognized here.  The truth is that nothing we do for the suffering other ever goes unnoticed or unnoted.  The kindness we bring to great moments of pain and grief marks us and lasts forever not only in the heart of the person whose pain we assuage but in our [...]

JESUS: To Love In Christ, by Hubert van Zeller

It follows logically from the foregoing that if we live Christ’s life we love with Christ’s love.  His life is all love; his spirit is all love.  It is not so much that his love “rubs off” on us but that it actually animates us and “informs” our every activity.  We breathe his spirit, and since his spirit is love we love with his love.  Our love such as it is, is nothing without grace, nothing without his spirit.  We have not invented what love there is in us; we cannot fashion charity as we can fashion a rose garden or an omelette.  The most we can do is direct it from him within us to him outside us.  Our love for others, provided it is in charity and not in worldly desire, is the response of [...]

SAINTS: Francis de Sales — From Lawyer To Spiritual Guide, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9; Psalm 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20; Matthew 5:17-19 When we think of Moses, we often think of the Ten Commandments, the laws that God gave to Israel.  Today’s First Reading offers an address by Moses to the people, in which he encourages them to observe the Law and thus witness to the nations of the greatness of their God. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is portrayed as the “new Moses,” as he teaches the Torah, the Law of Moses, in the Sermon on the Mount but expands it in light of the kingdom.  Jesus offers ways in which the Law is to be enfleshed in love and mercy, even beyond what Moses taught. Saint Francis de Sales was marked by his family for a legal career, following [...]

LENT: Flaw, by Joe Hoover

From: The Jesuit Post If you have ever thrown an elbow or slid cleats high. If you have ever snapped back or punched first. If you have ever quietly stolen inconsequential things, small pieces of candy from a store, a magazine from a waiting room. If you have wiped your mouth on a dishtowel and hung it back up. If you have argued from authority. If you don’t wash your hands, not much. If you decided somewhere along the way – without even realizing it – that you would not have a relationship with the plaintive, pith-helmeted mail carrier.  Instead you two would walk by each other day after day like creatures from a sad divorce eons ago who had forgotten they ever knew each other. If you fail to give waitstaff irresistible small [...]

POETRY: Catechism, by Brett Foster

What sort of belief would you say is yours? Porous. Calibrated to the times. The week. In what ways has superflux affected you? Too much esteem. Tuned finely to the body’s work. What do you fear has not been delivered? The disease of courage. Will it be required? No questions, please. Can you see yourself tested? I have never suffered for anything. In how many dimensions is your faith? One thin one, at least. [Aside] Was that a trick question? What is the single thing that sustains you? Abiding hope that being here’s made good. Care to clarify? Care to offer last words? I offer essentially nothing, but [...]

SAINTS: Alphonsus Liguori — Gentle Moral Teacher, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Daniel 3:25, 34-43; Psalm 25:4bc-5ab, 6, 7bc, 8-9; Matthew 18:21-35 In today’s gospel, Peter asks Jesus a question: How often should we forgive a brother who offends us?  Peter suggests that perhaps seven times would be a generous offer.  Scripture scholar Father Raymond Brown notes that, at this point, we who know Jesus’s answer are inclined to criticize Peter.  How stingy!  We know Jesus is going to respond with a whopping seventy-seven times, suggesting forgiveness without limit. But, Brown comments, who among us, realistically, might squeeze out a second, or, just maybe, a third act of forgiveness?  After that, wouldn’t we say, Enough!?  At that point, Brown says, Peter is looking [...]

LENT: Keeping Watch, by Philip Berrigan

From: Disciples and Dissidents May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to all: “Watch!” (Mark 13:36-37) I am pondering the passage at Mark 13:36, and my thoughts return to the winter of 1943, to a nineteen-year-old draftee at Camp Gordon, now Fort Gordon, Georgia.  The old Springfield rifle is heavy, the Georgia winters are damp and cold and dark and – Lord, Gawd! – I’ve gotta walk guard for four hours. And do I ever watch!  I watch for the officer of the guard.  If he hears a weak challenge (Halt!  Who goes there?) or finds me forgetful of the password (Geronimo) or hiding or smoking, it’s weekend KP for a month.  The minutes and hours drag agonizingly by.  I’m [...]

JESUS: To Live In Christ, by Hubert van Zeller

To live in Christ is, in the widest sense, to live in a state of grace.  It is a gift but a gift which God does not deny to anyone.  What we are more particularly considering in these pages is the development of the gift.  All are invited to develop the life of Christ in the soul, and those who set themselves to do so are actively and progressively on the way to identification: identification with the divine person so far as is possible in this life, leading to the fullest identification to be enjoyed eternally in Heaven.  Christ incorporates us into his life at baptism, offers his life to us in countless ways as we mature in our religious formation, and finally crowns us with the grace of divine union. Though baptism and religious [...]

SAINTS: Damien Joseph de Veuster of Molokai — A Mission Among The Lepers, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints 2 Kings 5:1-15a; Psalm 42:2-3, 43:3-4; Luke 4:24-30 Leprosy is a disease that gets a lot of attention in the Bible.  Jesus, who himself healed lepers, cites the story of the cure of the Syrian leper, Naaman, in today’s gospel, as he challenges his hometown audience with the rejection of prophets in their native place, while foreigners like Naaman receive God’s favor. In modern times leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, is treatable, but at the time of Saint Damien of Molokai it was still feared.  Those suffering from the disease were kept as far as possible from others, as on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, on a remote, inaccessible peninsula.  It was there that the Belgian missionary Damien came, [...]

ART: Window Five — Third Sunday In Lent, by Michael Sullivan

From: Windows Into the Light Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer) God, my soul both awaits and celebrates your presence.  At times I drive you away, replacing your love for me with objects of my own desire.  On other days, I welcome you  with wild abandon, preparing a feast for all to enjoy.  Help me to find the places between, the places where I can be [...]

SAINTS: Moses — Knowing We Are God’s People, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42 The character of Moses is forever burned into the consciousness of a generation of moviegoers by Charlton Heston’s portrayal of him in The Ten Commandments.  Moses strides through the film, leading his people out of Egypt, stretching his staff over a divided Red Sea, and bringing the tablets of the Law down from his encounter with God on the mountain. We hear about many different dimensions of Moses in Lenten readings drawn from the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy.  In describing the ritual for offering first fruits from the harvest of the Promised Land, Moses says that the people must describe themselves thusly: A wandering Aramean was my [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Station 5 — Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross, by Joan Chittister

From: The Way of the Cross The Experience The fifth station confronts a rigidly stratified world with the great crossover moments of life.  What are we supposed to do when we find ourselves face to face with something no one wants to get involved in but what we also know must be done?  It’s more common a problem than we like to think. You and I, for instance, come to realize that two children in our block are living with their homeless mother in a car.  What do we do: Forget about it and hope some agency will come along and deal with the problem?  Call the police?  Find a tiny efficiency apartment and pay the rent for a year?  Join an organization that concentrates on finding shelter for homeless people?  Obviously it [...]

SAINTS: Augustine — The Grace Of Conversion, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Micah 7:14-15; Psalm 103:1-4, 9-12; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 The story of the Prodigal Son in Luke’s gospel personifies the mercy of God.  Many commentators and homilists suggest the story is mistitled and think it should be called, The Father Who Couldn’t Forget.  The father, who is spurned by a selfish, insensitive son who squanders his share of the family fortune, suffers not only personal shame but public embarrassment as his close-knit community watches him wait daily for his son’s return. The story of Saint Augustine is, in part, the story of a mother who couldn’t forget. A talented and scholarly young man, Augustine immersed himself in all the shallow pursuits of his pagan society.  [...]

POETRY: The Ballad Of Mary’s Son, by Langston Hughes

It was in the Spring The Passover had come. There was feasting in the streets and joy. But an awful thing Happened in the Spring— Men who knew not what they did Killed Mary’s Boy. And the Son of God was He— Sent to bring the whole world joy. There were some who could not hear, And some were filled with fear— So they built a cross For Mary’s [...]

SAINTS: The Patriarch Joseph — A Story Of A Dreamer, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a; ; Psalm 105:16-21; Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46 Two Biblical characters are the subject of Broadway musicals by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, and both are featured in today’s readings.  They are Joseph, the son of Israel (Jacob) in Genesis, and Jesus, the “superstar” of Matthew’s gospel!  Webber seized on the detail of Joseph’s coat (here simply a “long tunic”) as the launch point for one musical.  But there’s much in the Joseph story to entertain. Joseph the dreamer is the victim of violence at the hands of his jealous brothers.  He goes on to have interesting adventures in Egypt and rises to become Pharaoh’s adviser in a time [...]