Monday, July 17, 2006

Peace or division?

This morning at Mass Jesus' words in the Gospel especially struck me: "I have not come to bring peace but division." Then he goes on to say how families will be divided because of him.

It's a mystery to ponder. I think that Jesus isn't saying he wants to deliberately cause division, but that knowing the realities of human life, his message will in fact divide people. Those who want to follow it will be divided from those who don't. I recall the vocation story of one young woman who tried religious life over the violent opposition of her parents. There are many others like that.

What are your thoughts about this Gospel passage?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

Because it falls on Sunday this year, the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel isn't celebrated in the liturgy. But here is a reflection on the scapular that I wrote a couple years ago for our FSP website:

Today’s feast, commonly associated with the scapular, can help us reflect on the Biblical theme concerning garments of salvation. The German word for scapular, “Gnadenkleid,” literally means “grace-garment.” Many references to garments and clothes are scattered throughout the Bible, beginning in Genesis: “And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them” (Gen 3:21). After their sin, our first parents lost their innocence and needed to be clothed. This tender action can perhaps be seen as symbolizing the garments of grace that God would bestow through Jesus Christ.

Pure and clean garments came to symbolize grace and salvation, as the prophet Isaiah sang:

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,

my whole being shall exult in my God;

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,

he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,

and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)

This text is used in the Liturgy of the Hours for the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Garments signify the gifts of grace that God adorns us with inwardly.

The last book of the Bible, Revelation, uses the theme of white garments to express the holiness of the saints, of those who have been through great trials and held fast to their faith: “Yet you still have still a few persons in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels” (Rev 3:4–5).

Perhaps today the scapular devotion is not as popular as it once was. But Catholicism, as a sacramental religion, uses such material symbols as signs of the deeper underlying inner reality of grace. The scapular is not meant to be something superstitious, like a talisman or a good luck charm. Wearing it expresses in a silent yet eloquent way our love for Mary and our confidence in her intercession and help.


The following prayer, called Flower of Carmel, is attributed to St. Simon Stock:

O Beautiful Flower of Carmel, most fruitful vine, splendor of heaven, holy and singular, who brought forth the Son of God, still ever remaining a pure virgin, assist us in our necessity! O Star of the Sea, help and protect us! Show us that you are our Mother! Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, pray for us!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Tunnel falling down

You've probably read about the poor woman who died last Monday night when a 3 ton concrete slab fell down from the ceiling of a Big Dig tunnel in Boston. It's caused an uproar here and rightly so. It's hard to believe that a project that cost 16 billion dollars (and counting) was done so poorly.

Now the news is reporting that hundreds of loose ceiling panels have been found. Having driven through those tunnels, it's certainly not a comforting thought to hear that!

All this got me thinking about having a good work ethic and taking pride in one's work. I don't know who's to blame for the tunnel fiasco, but somewhere along the line someone didn't do the job he was paid to do and supposed to do. Pope John Paul wrote an encyclical on human work, in which he pointed out that our work has a place in God's plan. Even if I'm cleaning the kitchen or mopping a floor, it has value if I offer it to God.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Pray from where you're at

The other night I was reading Peggy Noonan's biography of Ronald Reagan, When Character Was King." She recalled an interview with his daughter Patti who talked about prayer. She said something that I liked a lot. When she prays, she doesn't think that she first has to get herself all cleaned up, so to speak, but can talk to God from whatever spot she's in, no matter how messy. I really liked that because sometimes I can think I have to get myself "all together" before I pray. But God just wants to hear from us, whether it's just after an argument with someone, or in the midst of changing dirty diapers or whatever.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Happy anniversary

Today is the 27th anniversary of my religious profession of vows. I thank God for all the graces he has given me through all of these years. Deo gratias!