Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Saint Irenaeus




Irenaeus was a highly influential writer, bishop, and theologian of the early Church. Born in Asia Minor, he was a student of St. Polycarp, who had known some of the apostles. This link with apostolic tradition became important in his later work. Irenaeus traveled to Gaul and was ordained a priest in Lyon. He later became bishop there and around 180 wrote an important work, Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies.) The Church in Gaul had been troubled by the false teachings of the Gnostics, who were confusing people. They claimed to have secret knowledge and rejected Christian teachings. In his 5-volume book, Irenaeus detailed where the Gnostics went wrong. He explained Christian teachings in light of Scripture and the apostolic tradition, underlining that the true teaching was passed on through the bishops in the Church. Except for another book called Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, his other writings have been lost.
Irenaeus is also an important figure in Marian teaching, being one of the first theologians to develop the parallel between Eve and Mary. He saw Mary’s role as the New Eve, undoing the damage from the original sin and cooperating in the redemptive work of Christ.

Reflection
The name Irenaeus means “man of peace,” and although he was involved in controversies, Irenaeus was a peacemaker. He persuaded Pope Victor I to lift a ban of excommunication that had been imposed on some Eastern Christians who didn’t accept the Western date for Easter. The pope agreed and this matter was resolved amicably.

Prayer
St. Irenaeus, intercede for us that we too may be peacemakers and seek unity. Pray that those who turn to violence to achieve their goals may be converted to the way of love, and follow Jesus who taught us to love one another.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Seven: Faithfulness (Thur.)

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . faithfulness" (Gal 5:22)

The word Paul uses here (pistis) can be translated as faith or faithfulness. But in the context of Galatians, in which Paul speaks about how faith in Christ justifies us, it can probably be best seen as a trust founded on God's own faithfulness (that's from Matera's commentary.)

This kind of faithfulness leads us to trust that God will always be with us no matter what trials we are going through. This makes me think of an incident from the life of St. Thomas. As a young man he decided he wanted to join a new order called the Dominicans. They were mendicants--traveling preachers who depended on people to help them with food and other necessities.
Thomas was from a noble family in Italy. They wouldn't have minded if he had wanted to become a Benedictine. Since he had studied at the Abbey of Monte Cassino, they thought he could enter there and eventually become the Abbot. But the idea of him going around begging for food horrified them. His mother in particular adamantly opposed Thomas on this.

But Thomas had other ideas. He wanted to follow the poor Christ, without a position of power (in those days abbots sometimes had a good deal of power and influence). So when he entered the Dominicans and they sent him on a journey to Paris, his family intervened. His brothers went after him and took him against his will back to the family castle in Aquino.
There they kept him under a sort of house arrest. They thought he wouldn't last too long and would eventually give in. But he resisted all their pressure to make him change his mind. Finally, after about a year, they realized he wasn't going to follow their plans. Instead, Thomas was faithful to the plans that he believed God had for him. That was faithfulness in action.


Is there some area in my life where I can be more faithful to what God is asking of me right now?

Prayer to the Holy Spirit for the Gift of Courage (public domain):

Come, O Holy Spirit of Courage, uphold my soul in time of trouble and adversity, sustain my efforts after holiness, strengthen my weakness, give me courage in the trials of life, that I may never be overcome and separated from you, my God and greatest Good. Amen.

Below is another version of the Taize chant of the Veni Sancte Spiritus.












Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day Six Goodness (Wed.)

"The fruit of the Spirit is ... goodness." Gal 5:22


 In high school I had a wonderful teacher who was a mentor for me. She would often say, "Be good." Even though it sounds so simple, it sums up the essence of the Christian life. By being good we can act  with goodness toward others. The way we act reveals what is in our hearts. And by good acts, we become better persons. That was the main idea St John Paul wanted to get across in his book Person and Act. The opposite is also true; if we do evil things our heart changes and is drawn more to evil. But the power of good is greater; whatever little good we do can turn our hearts more and more to God, who is Goodness itself.
St. Paul often encouraged his Christians to be good: "I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness..." (Rom 15:14).
The Holy Spirit is the source of our goodness, for the Spirit is Love. When we open ourselves more fully to the Spirit, we can expect to be filled with an abundance of grace and spiritual gifts.

How can I show goodness to others today?



Prayer for Holiness of Life
 By St. Augustine

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
that I may love only what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
that I may defend all that is holy.
Guard me, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy.

And here is the traditional Come, Holy Ghost:

 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day Five Kindness (Tuesday)

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . kindness." (Gal 5:22)

Some years ago when I was dealing with a difficult situation that had lasted a while, I was praying in our chapel one day. A sister who was visiting from Italy -- who knew nothing of the difficulty -- came up to me and expressed genuine appreciation for some of my good qualities. When people do that I tend to disregard it, but in this case it was such perfect timing and so completely affirming that I thought it had to be the Holy Spirit who inspired her. It wasn't flattery but I felt almost like she had a window into my soul. And she didn't say any negative things like I may have feared, but instead she spoke of the good she saw in me. And that makes it easier to live out of those good things. It took me completely by surprise but it was a wonderful act of kindness. To this day whenever I think of that, I still recall how good I felt.

Kindness can make such a big difference to another person, and it often costs us so little. To look at someone and see their good points instead of their flaws is an act of kindness. And only kind people will do that. We reveal who we ourselves are by the way we treat others.

How can I show greater kindness to others today?


 Prayer to the Holy Spirit by St John Paul II

Come, Holy Spirit.  Come.  Enter deep into the hearts of those who belong to you.  May each be given the manifestation of you for the common good.  So that God may be all in all.
Lord, give me a spirit of faith and knowledge.  Give me a spirit of kindness and generosity.  Give me a spirit of love and unity.  The fruit of the spirit is love, patience, and generosity.  It is peace.


 When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. -- Abraham Joshua Heschel



The Veni Creator Spiritus 




Sunday, May 28, 2017

Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Four: Patience (Monday)


"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . patience" (Gal 5:22)

The patience that St Paul refers to here is more like forbearance.
In relation to God, it's the way that God never tires of us, always has patience, and tries to draw us to conversion.
For us, this kind of patience helps us to control our anger, especially in situations when it threatens to overwhelm us. Just about all of us, at one time or another, have gotten angry to the point it was hard to control our thoughts and words. When that happens we usually say something we later regret.

Patience helps us to control ourselves at those moments. It helps us to see things from another's point of view. If we can do that, even if we don't agree with the person, we can at least understand where he or she may be coming from.

The New Testament has two words for patience. One is hupomonē, which refers more to bearing a burden patiently. It's more like long-suffering, holding up under trials. But here in Galatians Paul uses the word makrothumia. It's a compound word and the two parts give us the meaning: makros or "long" and thumia or "passion" or "temper." So it has more of the sense of being long-tempered, able to take a lot of stress without losing one's temper. If we can practice this, we can become more like God who is so patient with us. That's why it's a fruit of the Spirit, since it depends more on grace than our own efforts.

How can I be more patient today in the events of my life and with the people I am with?

This prayer is directed to St. Paul:


For Patience

Glorious Saint Paul, from a persecutor of Christianity you became an ardent apostle and evangelizer. Throughout your life you even suffered imprisonment, scourging, stoning, and shipwreck; you endured persecutions of every kind for the sake of the Gospel. Your sole desire was to make the Savior Jesus Christ known to the farthest bounds of the world, and to that end you shed your blood to the last drop.
Obtain for me the grace to accept the hardships of ill health and the daily struggles of this present life as opportunities to grow in love for Jesus Christ and share in his sufferings. May the unexpected difficulties that come my way help me to be a more patient, compassionate, and loving person who seeks to assist others in their needs. And, amid the pressures and demands of everyday life, grant me enduring strength to be a faithful and fervent follower of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Blessed James Alberione 

"Have patience with all things but first with yourself." --St Francis de Sales

Below is another version of the Taize chant of the Veni Sancte Spiritus.












Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Three (Sun.) Peace


"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . peace" (Gal 5:22)

Nine years ago I had the opportunity to make an Ignatian 30-day retreat at a retreat house in Gloucester. I loved walking along the water to pray and reflect. The retreat is structured so that the person first meditates and prays about God's great love for us, and only after that come the meditations on sin. We can't truly confront our sin without a secure knowledge of God's love, knowing that no matter what we've done, God's mercy is greater. At that point I made my confession. Afterward, walking along the water, the words of Micah 7:19 came to mind, "You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins." It left me with an incredible feeling of peace.

Before the retreat I had invited people to leave their prayer intentions that I took with me. When I got back, I found a message: "Sister, the prayer I left with you was answered, and today I was able to receive Communion for the first time in more than twenty years." I still treasure that message and it's so beautiful to think of how God answers our prayers for each other. I don't know who that person was, but I'm sure that he or she had a deep experience of this fruit of the Spirit: peace.

Above all else, peace comes first in our relationship with God. When that is set aright, we can more easily live at peace with others. When we allow the Holy Spirit into our hearts, the grace we receive enables us to look at others in a new way. Then it is easier to love them too.

"Let nothing perturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything.”--St Teresa of Avila

 Prayer for Peace by St. John Paul II (slightly adapted)

Holy Spirit, hear my voice, for it is the voice of the victims of all wars and violence among individuals and nations.

Holy Spirit, hear my voice, for it is the voice of all children who suffer and will suffer when people put their faith in weapons and war.

Holy Spirit, hear my voice when I beg You to instill into the hearts of all human beings the wisdom of peace, the strength of justice, and the joy of fellowship.

Holy Spirit, hear my voice, for I speak for the multitudes in every country and in every period of history who do not want war and are ready to walk the road of peace.

Holy Spirit, hear my voice and grant insight and strength so that we may always respond to hatred with love, to injustice with total dedication to justice, to need with the sharing of self, to war with peace.

Holy Spirit, hear my voice and grant unto the world Your everlasting peace.



This is the beautiful Taize chant.






Saturday, May 27, 2017

Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day Two (Sat.) Joy


"Joy . . . is the gigantic secret of the Christian."  G.K. Chesterton

                                                  

Joy is the second fruit of the Spirit mentioned by St. Paul in Galatians.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, we can't help but be joyful. St. Paul himself gave an example of this kind of joy. When he and Silas were preaching the Word of God in Philippi, some people in the town opposed them and stirred up opposition. The apostles were dragged before the town magistrates, who punished them. They were severely beaten with rods and locked up in the town jail (see Acts 16: 19ff.)

But Paul and Silas didn't get discouraged. Instead, they talked to the other prisoners and praised God with prayers and hymns. They were joyful even while undergoing such trials. Shortly after, an earthquake struck the prison and Paul and Silas were freed from their chains. But instead of escaping they talked to the jailer and converted him and his family, who were then baptized. Acts says of them: "He and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God." The Good News that Paul preached brought joy to those who heard it.

In the New Testament, joy isn't primarily just a happy feeling. Instead, it refers to the intense, deep-seated realization that God wants to bring us to salvation through Jesus Christ. This kind of joy can even exist in times of suffering. In fact, sometimes trials themselves can bring a spiritual joy in the sense that we know God is at work through them to bring us closer to him.

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:4-7).

Today how can I radiate the joy of the Holy Spirit to those I meet?



Prayer for Holiness of Life


Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
that I may love only what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
that I may defend all that is holy.
Guard me, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy.
St. Augustine





"A heart filled with joy is more easily made perfect than one that is sad."  -- St. Philip Neri

Optional Scripture reading:
Philippians chapter 2, the epistle of joy

Friday, May 26, 2017

Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day One (Friday) Love

The novena for Pentecost starts today, May 26, 2017. I'm reposting this. Please feel free to add your intentions if you wish. But whether they are written or unspoken, I will include your intentions in my novena prayers too. We can all pray for each other!
The novena focuses on the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit as St Paul speaks of them in Galatians 5:22-23.


                                                  



On January 13, 1982, a plane taking off in Washington DC crashed into the Potomac River. Camera crews filmed the scene as a helicopter rushed in to throw down a rescue line to lift passengers to safety. As we watched the news that night in our community, Sr Susan Helen said, “Look at that man in the water! He keeps on handing the line to other people so they can be rescued first.” We were all amazed to see a man helping other people before himself. The passenger’s name was Arland D. Williams. He helped save five other people before he himself drowned in the icy water. As we saw him go under and not come up, we were all deeply moved. That heroic image was burned into my memory, a graphic example of Jesus’ words: “Greater love than this no one has, than to lay down one’s life for a friend” (Jn 15:13).

Mr. Williams certainly had agapē—the kind of love Paul speaks about as the first fruit of the Spirit. While I don’t know anything about Williams except his last heroic act, he must have practiced love in countless ordinary ways in his life. People tend to act true to their character in emergency situations.

Greek has several words for love. Agapē is a special kind of love marked by a true gift of one’s self. It has no self-interest about it. It is the kind of love that moves a parent to stay up with a sick child, or a teacher to never give up on a struggling student.

St. Paul uses agapē often in his letters. For him its primary meaning is God’s love for us. For example, Romans 5:8 says: “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

Knowing and experiencing God’s love for us enables us to then love others. As Paul said earlier in Galatians, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” (5:14) In this letter, Paul clarified the role of the Mosaic law. As Christians we are no longer bound to observe that law, for we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. But Paul goes on to explain that this doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want. We are still bound by the law of love, which Jesus taught us in the Gospel.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Love itself. On this first day of the novena for Pentecost, we can ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with an even greater love for God and for others. That is the basis for living a good Christian life.

Today how can I show greater love to those with whom I live and work?


Prayer to the Spirit of Love

Come, Holy Spirit.
Come, Mighty Spirit.
Spirit of love and wisdom.
Spirit of light and power.
You help us in our weakness.
Come, fill our inmost being.
Come, Holy Spirit, come to us.
Transform us so that our hearts may be
a new creation of your love.
Guide us with your wisdom and love,
and let the radiance of your light
renew the face of the earth. Amen.
Carlo Recalcati, SSP



"In the evening of life we will be judged on love."  -- St John of the Cross

Optional Scripture reading:
1 Corinthians 13:1-13—the hymn to love

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Mary, our Advent Model of Faith


Faith is like a ship that carries us through treacherous waters. When storms come to shake our faith, our little ship may bob up and down on the waves that threaten to capsize us. In such times, we can call on Mary, the Star of the Sea, who had an exceptional faith. When St. John Paul II wrote his encyclical on Mary (Mother of the Redeemer), he presented Mary as our model of faith. He said that faith is the key that unlocks the mystery of Mary.
God called her to exercise faith in two moments in particular. The first was when he invited her to be the Mother of his Son. She accepted, not knowing how she would explain this to Joseph. She trusted that God would lead her through any trial that would come. And her greatest moment of faith came on Calvary, when Mary stood at the foot of the cross and saw Jesus die a cruel and bloody death. But even then she did not waver. She trusted that God knew what he was doing, and that good would come from it. She even offered her own sufferings in union with those of Jesus. When the apostles fled and everyone abandoned Jesus, Mary kept the light of her faith burning brightly through the Sabbath day that followed. That is why we especially honor her on Saturdays. And her faith was rewarded when she saw the risen Christ.
St. John Paul explores all this and much more in his Marian encyclical. Pauline Books & Media has published a special edition with commentary by a Marian scholar, Sr. Jean Frisk. The Pope explains Mary’s role in the mystery of Christ and of the Church. This important document is well worth reading anytime, but especially in Advent. Mary goes before us and will help us through whatever difficulties life may throw at us. And when the storms come, we can, as St. Bernard said so beautifully, “Look to the Star! Call on Mary!”

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