Friday, September 28, 2007

Reasons for hope

Today's first reading is about the Israelites rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem after they return from exile. The prophet Haggai asks, "Who among you has seen this house in its former glory?" Now all they have to look at is a pile of rubble.

But God has the last word. He will step in and not only help them rebuild it as it was before, but in an even greater way.

Sometimes in life it can happen that our life seems to be in ruins. It may be from an alcohol or drug addiction, a betrayal, a struggle with a habit of sin we can't seem to shake. But it is precisely at those moments, when we are at our lowest, that God is most powerful. Because then and only then do we allow God to act in us. When things are going well, it is easy to maintain the illusion that we are adequate of ourselves. That we can be virtuous on our own. But we can't. We absolutely need God's grace. And the good news is that God is never lacking with his grace.

The prophets Zechariah and Haggai said to the people, "Do not fear. God is with you." He is still with us today.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Choose God, not the works of God

Those are the words of Cardinal Francis Xavier Van Thuan, the now deceased cardinal from Vietnam who spent 13 years in communist prisons. 9 of those years were in solitary confinement.

At one point he had gotten discouraged, thinking of all the works he had to leave behind in his diocese. In prison, he could not do anything directly for his people and this weighed on his heart.

But one night he had an illumination from God. A voice spoke in the depth of his heart, "Why do you torment yourself? You must learn to distinguish between God and the works of God. Everything you have done and desire to continue doing--the formation of seminarians, men and women religious, laity and youth, pastoral visits, building schools....--all of these are excellent works. They are God's works, but they are not God! If God wants you to leave all of these works, place them in God's hands immediately and have confidence in him. God will accomplish things infinitely better than you.... You have chosen God alone, not his works!"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mary in space

Last week one evening I went to a talk held at the Dexter School across the street from us. They had two astronauts speak who had flown on the international space station within the past year. The talk was fascinating as they told us about what it's like to live without gravity, etc.

They showed many pictures and I happened to notice that in a part of the space station (which I think was the Russian part) there was a Byzantine-looking crucifix on the wall. Not far above it was an icon of the Blessed Mother! They showed that section of the craft several times so I got a fairly good look at it. It was great to think that Mary's image is orbiting the earth, looking down on all of us as she travels around the globe!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Triumph of the cross

From Pope Benedict:

"What looks down to us from the Cross is a goodness that enables a new beginning in the midst of life’s horror. The goodness of God himself looks on us, God who surrenders himself into our hands, delivers himself to us, forcing us to look at the dangerousness of man and all his heinous deeds and at the same time makes us look upon God, who is stronger in his weakness, and upon the fact that we are loved by God. It is in this sense a sign of forgiveness and hope…God is crucified and says to us that this God who is apparently so weak is the God who uncomprehensively forgives us.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What's in a name?

Today is the feast of the Holy Name of Mary. It's a feast that wasn't on the calendar anymore since Vatican II, but was added again a few years ago. Until the new translation of the sacramentary is approved, however, we don't have the official prayers for it.

In any case, it gives us an opportunity to think about what names mean. In the Bible, names are very special. They indicate who the person is. When God revealed his name to Moses at the burning bush -- I Am Who Am -- it was a very special revelation. By revealing his name, God was bringing Moses into a deep relationship with him.

Mary's name is Mary, of course, but she has another name. It's her special name of grace, the one that the Angel Gabriel gave her. Gabriel said to her, "Kaire, kecharitomene" (the Greek from the Gospel). "Kaire" means "rejoice!" "Kecharitomene" was her name of grace. It's a hard word to translate. "Full of grace" says something but doesn't really capture the full meaning.

Fr Ignace de la Potterie explains that the Greek grammatical form means two things:

1) Mary receives the gift of grace from God (the root verb ends in a double O, which is causative; it indicates that a change that takes place)

2) this grace has already transformed her (it's a past perfect participial form that means the change has already happened).

The root verb (charitoo) is used only one other time in the New Testament, in 1:6, which speaks about how we are graced in Christ.

So Mary's name means that God has already graced her. Sophronius of Jerusalem sings to Mary, "No one has been fully sanctified as you... no one has been purified in advance as you."

Rejoice Mary, you who have been graced by God!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remembering 911

It's hard to believe it's already been six years since 911. This year it falls on a Tuesday, the same day of the week as the attack.

I just heard about this website which is attempting to turn the remembrance of 911 into something positive for good. The idea is to do some good deed that will help on a small scale to promote peace and reconciliation. It's a secular site, but as Catholics we can do something that also comes from our faith.

A few ideas: reach out to someone who may be a little isolated or lonely, forgive an old hurt, pray a rosary for peace, be kinder to the people closest to you. Other ideas?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Being in nature

This weekend I had the opportunity to spend Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday at the seashore. It was a very welcome change and brief time of renewal. I went walking with a couple other sisters on a wooded area nearby the shore, attached to a farm open to the public.

It felt so refreshing just to be closer to nature, around the cows, horses, sheep and goats on the farm. People who live on farms are really fortunate to be able to live closer to God's creation. I actually felt a peacefulness and restfulness coming over me from being in nature. I would have loved to live on a farm but it's not something my vocation entails.

Back in the city now, at least there are trees and parks nearby that we can enjoy here. Sometimes I get so busy with work that I don't go outside as much as I would like to. Being in touch with nature brings me closer to God, who created it.

If you live in a city, how do you find ways to enjoy creation?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Bishop Montrose on the occult

Bishop Donald Montrose has written a pastoral letter detailing the dangers of the occult and other New Age types of practices.

It's a good reminder of a somber reality, and that as Catholics we should steer clear of anything at all related to the occult.