Sunday, April 29, 2007

Back from the NCCL

I got back on Friday from the book display we had at the catechetical conference. It went quite well and we met a lot of people--many DRE's and people who work in diocesan offices for catechesis.

One funny thing. We had to rent a car to get around, and when we picked it up, the lady who helped us said, "it's a grandma key." Puzzled, I asked her, "What's a grandma key?" I thought maybe it was something like a valet key but I had no clue as to what it was. She replied, "It's like a Ford Taurus."
Then I realized what she was really saying: it was a Grand Marquis!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Away for a few days

This week I'll be at a book display at the NCCL, a conference for catechetical leaders. It will be in Columbus, Ohio.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The freedom of the gift

In his theology of the body, Pope John Paul talks about the "freedom of the gift." Today while reading about this I got a sudden flash of insight, a grace, about this important idea.
God is Gift, and we receive our life and very being from him as a gift. Everything we receive in life is a gift, and our task is to be aware of this and receive those gifts gratefully. It doesn't mean to be passive, for we can and should be active and develop ourselves. Then we can, in turn, make a gift of ourselves to others.

But sometimes we go from wanting a good thing and taking the means to be able to receive it, to "grasping" for it. I use "grasping" here in the sense of reaching out for something we think we're entitled to. This kind of grasping is the root of sin. Genesis speaks of how Adam and Eve saw the forbidden fruit was desirable, and they reached out and grasped it because they thought they were entitled to it, no matter what God had said. Stealing is probably the most obvious kind of sin we can commit by grasping for something we're not entitled to. But it can also operate in a more subtle way.

Even apart from sin, we can grasp for something that is good in itself, but perhaps not what God wants for me in my life right now. I was thinking about this in relation to the vow of obedience. A religious with this vow is certainly free to ask for things, perhaps going on a certain trip or for more education, or any number of things. If my superior agrees to the request, fine. If she doesn't, obedience calls me to accept that and see what God is telling me through it. Maybe God is asking me to probe my motives a bit more and see what I really want. Do I want this thing for some selfish reason? Or do I want it so that I can make a gift of myself? Perhaps God is asking me to make a different kind of gift than I thought I could make by getting my original request.

If I am so bound and determined to get something that I can't walk away from it even when obedience asks me to, then I'm no longer free. That thing I want, even if it's a good thing in itself, has lured me to give up my freedom. I no longer have the "freedom of the gift," as John Paul says.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"Woman, why are you weeping?"

That's what the angel asked Mary Magdalene as she stood weeping outside Jesus' tomb.
Today I was praying with this Gospel, and I tried to do what St Ignatius recommends: imagine the scene, picture the details and imagine everything that went on. Mary Magdalene is a saint of the Church, but at that moment she was a bereaved woman crying over the death of someone she dearly loved.
She became a saint because of her relationship with Jesus. She probably didn't do anything special in terms of doing anything outstanding or heroic. But she loved Jesus. She loved him with a chaste, pure love, and she let his love for her transform her heart and actions. We can do that too!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter egg hunt

That's me in the middle with the yellow bag.
Up to now I've been the undefeated champion of our annual Easter egg hunt. But this year I came in second. However, I disputed that because it was really a tie. We used plastic eggs outside because otherwise the turkeys eat them.
But they actually tried to eat the plastic eggs too, so one of the eggs I found was just a half shell. So technically I had 29 and a half eggs, whereas the winner had 30 whole eggs.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter and many blessings to all who read this blog!
I pray that you may have the fullness of our risen Savior's joy in your hearts always!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

The most solemn day of the Church's year!

Even though Christ died 2000 years ago, in the liturgy it becomes present again, in a way that we can spiritually profit from it. Good Friday isn't just a day to think about something that happened a long time ago. It's a day to connect with the passion and death of Jesus Christ so that we might be saved from sin and death.

I just read a wonderful piece quoted in the book The Week of Salvation by James Monti. He quotes an article titled "Good Friday in Venezuela" that appeared in the April 1941 issue of Catholic Digest (It must be in the public domain by now!) The author was Heywood Broun.

"Some few years ago I went on a spring cruise. The steamer touched the northern tip of South America and paused for a day at the port... When we reached Venezuela word came that Gomez, the old dictator, lay dying in the capital. And, as we went up the winding road, I noticed that all those who walked along the highway were clad in black or purple. Young and old all seemed to be hurrying to some central point. And, naturally, it was my notion that they were hurrying to the palace to learn the fate of Gomez...

"But at the door of the cathedral the driver stopped and said something to my companion. My friend translated and explained, 'The driver says this is the service to mark the three hours of agony on the cross.' And it came to me that they mourned not for Gomez, but for the Son of God. Out of bright sunlight I came into cool darkness flecked, but not wholly broken, by the light of many flickering candles. And all about the walls and statues and across the shoulders of the worshipers I saw the Holy Week badge of purple.

"I have seen church services in far and near places, and many were impressive, but here for the first time I saw a people who seemed to feel that the Passion of the Lord was actually occurring again.
"Pilate was not a famous dead procurator of Judea who washed his hands in an ancient city long ago. It was but yesterday that Jesus stood before the Romans on trial for his life and was condemned. And at the very moment the living Christ hung on the cross....
"It was as if one of their own lay dying in a room at home. And all of them lived in a world in which each year Jesus again walked the earth and Judas brought betrayal in a pleasant garden. Many stood outside upon the steps under the hot sun and peered through the doors and down the dark aisles. They waited for some word from the mourners. Almost they seemed to say, 'What is the news? How fares our Lord on Calvary?'"

Thursday, April 05, 2007


"Tenebrae" is Latin for "darkness" or "shadows." Last night I went to the Tenebrae service at the Holy Cross Cathedral here in Boston. It was a wonderful and beautiful experience.
It's a special service of morning prayer for Holy Thursday that is celebrated the evening before. A special candelabra of 15 candles is lit, and after each psalm, chant and hymn, the candles are extinguished one by one. At the same time, a light in the church is put out, until finally everything is dark except for the most essential lights.
These past few weeks have been very hectic and stress-filled for me, but during the service, the power of this liturgy was like an ocean of peace rolling over me. It's hard to explain, but the music, the use of light, the darkness, the solemnity of it all just captured me and helped me experience in some way the Paschal mystery.

One candle stays lit after all the others are put out. This one represents Christ. Toward the end of the service, it is taken out of the sanctuary, symbolizing Christ's death. At that point, the streppitus begins. The organ plays sounds to symbolize the earthquake after Christ died. It was a great effect, almost like the Phantom of the Opera. Then the candle is brought back in to show our hope in the resurrection. Finally, everyone leaves in silence and darkness.

It made me realize more how powerful the liturgy is to bring us closer to God, especially when it is well done.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Motu Proprio is coming

There is a story on Catholic News Service that the long-awaited motu proprio on the pre-Vatican II Mass is coming. The date has not been released, but it seems that Pope Benedict will issue a full explanation of what it's all about and why he's doing this.