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Daily Spiritual Reflections

Wednesday, Dec 2

Bible Verse of the Day: The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces (Isaiah 25:9)

We don’t have to look far to see pain, suffering, despair, fear, and frustration. The prophet Isaiah assures Israel, and us that God will come with compassion, comfort and healing. Christ Jesus embodies the comfort, compassion and healing of God. To whom can you offer comfort, compassion and healing today?

Let us pray

Oh Holy One: Father, Son and Spirit,
Today I lift up those whom I love that are suffering. Gather these beloved into your loving presence and tend to their grief and pain. Help me to bring comfort and care in all I do today.
Amen.

Tuesday, Dec. 1

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Bible Verse of the Day: A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse….”(Isaiah 11:1)

God’s plan from the beginning is to offer us new life. The New life that we are offered in Christ Jesus comes from the long lineage of Jesse/ David. The image of a sprout, or shoot, coming up from a dead stump is often used as an Advent symbol. It comes from this Isaiah passage. The stump looked dead. The people of Israel felt cut off from God … but in the fullness of time – God’s time – God is at work.

Bring to mind a virtue, a relationship, or emotion that seems dead, or cut off. Seek the new life that God is spouting within you around this.

Let us pray

God of Life and Hope,

Help me today to nurture new shoots: new habits and practices that not only strengthen my faith, but shine and share that faith with others.

Amen.

Monday, Nov. 30

Monday of the First Week of Advent

Bible Verse for Today: Your Words, O Lord are Spirit and Life (John 6:63)

God’s word inspires, nourishes and sustains us. The people of Israel fed on the words of the Prophets. The Sacred Scripture feeds our heart and soul.

This passage today calls us to give thanks and praise that God’s Word: Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us. Christ Jesus is our Spirit and Life! How can I share that Spirit and Life with another today?

Let us pray

Heavenly Father,

Today I ask that you fill my heart, my lips, and my every action with your Words.

Words and actions that reconcile, heal, bring hope and life to others.

Amen.

Sunday, Nov. 29

First Sunday in Advent

Bible Verse for Today: Be watchful! Be alert! (Mt 13:33)

We echo this sentiment as a response to the Lord’s Prayer at every Mass: “We wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.”

Waiting in joyful hope calls us to be attentive. This means NOT DISTRACTED. There is so much around us to distract us: our phones, social media, commercial Christmas trappings, our own worries, burdens, and wants.

As we begin our journey of preparation for Christ’s coming, we are called to be watchful, alert – ATTENTIVE. We must take our eyes off of ourselves, off of the ads, the ‘to do’ lists, and the clutter within and around us, and consciously watch for God acting within us and within our lives.

Remember that Christ’s birth went mainly unnoticed. Only outsiders like the shepherds, foreigners like the Wise Men, and antagonists like King Herod saw what God was doing in the midst of the people.

What unexpected and new ways is Christ seeking to enter your heart? Your Home? And your Family this Advent?

Let us pray

Gracious God, As I begin this Advent journey prepare my heart to open and receive the wisdom, insight, healing and discovery that you will share with me, that I may become a more kind, loving and faithful follower of your Son Jesus.
Amen.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Saturday, Nov. 28

Back to the beginning

John said: An angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month. (Rev 22:1-2)

For believers, John speaks to us with images of our faith. The tree of life calls to mind the Garden of Eden, yes – but more importantly, the Tree of Life is the cross. The river of life – giving water is the waters of Baptism. As we start a new Church year tomorrow with the First Sunday of Advent, we prepare our hearts to be made new with the Season.

Let us pray

Heavenly Lord, as I reflect on my own Baptism, I take a few moments to renew my commitment to you. I reject hatred, bigotry, fear, mistrust, and despair. I commit myself to hope, forgiveness, mercy, patience, and compassion. I commit myself to my faith community, to daily devotion and service, and to continually seek your guidance. May I continue to grow and shine the gift of my faith to all I meet. Amen.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Friday, Nov. 27

God’s Words Remain

“God’s Words remain,

Heaven and earth will pass away,

but my words will not pass away.” (Luke 21:29)

So much has changed since this time last year. Almost every facet of our lives have ‘passed away’. The ways we celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, and the ways we will celebrate Advent and Christmas.

This is the second to last day of the Church year- even the liturgical year is passing away.

As we shift from gratitude to the anticipation of Advent, one thing is very clear: God’s Words remain. God remains within us, and among us. God’s words: Love, peace, mercy, hope, and redemption remain.

Our prayer today is that God surrounds each of us with His word. And that God’s words take root in our hearts and homes.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Thanksgiving Day

Thursday, Nov. 26

Let Us Give Thanks to The Lord

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness;

Come into His presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God.I

t is He that made us,We are His;

We are His people,

And the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving,

And His courts with praise.

Give thanks to the Lord, bless His name.

For the Lord is good;

His steadfast love endures forever,

And His faithfulness to all generations.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,

And to the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning, is now,

And ever shall be, world without end.

Amen.

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

Wednesday, Nov. 25

St. Catherine of Alexandria

As a young girl, Catherine always had her nose in a book. If she didn’t have her nose in a book, she was asking the wisest men and women of the land all sorts of questions. There were plenty of books and plenty of wise people around, because Catherine lived in the great port city of Alexandria, Egypt. It was through some of these books and wise people that Catherine first learned about Christianity. While her studies sparked her curiosity about the Christian faith, it was a vision of the Blessed Mother and the child Jesus that fanned it into a roaring, passionate fire. Catherine began to study the faith with great zeal, proclaiming it to all she met.

When the Roman emperor, Maxentius, began persecuting Christians, Catherine traveled to Rome to rebuke him for his cruelty. At first, Maxentius was merely amused by this beautiful, hot-headed girl (she was only eighteen at the time). He didn’t really want to put her in prison or kill her, so he summoned fifty of his greatest philosophers to persuade her to give up here faith. Instead, she persuaded them, one by one, until all fifty had converted to Christianity!

Now the emperor was really angry. He had the wise philosophers killed and Catherine flogged. Then he threw her into the dungeon and left on a trip. While he was gone, his wife the empress went to visit Catherine; she was curious about this wise young woman. Before long, Catherine had used her great learning to persuade the empress to follow the way of Christ—along with two hundred of the emperor’s best soldiers! When the emperor returned from his trip, he turned twenty shades of purple and had all those people, even his wife, killed as well.

Maxentius still didn’t want to kill Catherine, so he offered t o marry her and make her empress if only she would deny her faith. “No,” said Catherine. “My heart belongs only to Christ.” That was the last straw. The emperor ordered Catherine to be tied to a large wheel with sharp spikes on it. He thought this would surely silence this wise and stubborn young woman; but instead, the ropes miraculously fell off and the wheel flew apart in all directions. Finally, Maxentius had Catherine beheaded.

Catherine is the patron saint of philosophers, young maidens, and female scholars. 

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

Tuesday, Nov. 24

Saint Andrew Dũng-Lac and Companions, Martyrs

Patron Saints of Vietnam

The persecutions of the Church in Vietnam displayed characteristics that are similar to anti-Catholic attacks carried out in other Asian countries. In its first wave of missionaries, Catholicism’s arrival in Asia was seen as intriguing, beautiful, and new. Its priests were educated, heroic in their zeal, and culturally sensitive. Yet as its hold on the native population grew, Asian leaders became jealous and suspicious. They saw the Church either as foreign to their ancient culture’s long- established habits of life and thinking, or as an actual arm of a colonial power seeking to slowly subjugate an entire people for commercial benefit.

There are 117 martyrs in this group and although they died at different times, they were all canonized by Pope John Paul II on June 19, 1988. Of the group, 96 were Vietnamese, 11 were Spaniards, and 10 were French. There were 8 bishops, 50 priests and 59 lay Catholics in the group.

Vietnam’s communist government sent not a single representative to the canonization Mass for today’s martyrs in 1988, but thousands of Vietnamese faithful attended nonetheless, mostly from Vietnamese diaspora communities. Today Vietnam has over two thousand parishes and almost three thousand priests. Its population is about eight percent Catholic. The faith survived, even thrived, due to the exemplary witness of so many staunch disciples who did not bend to the powerful gusts that blew against them.

Prayer

Almighty, everlasting God, look with compassion on all those who suffer persecution for justice’ sake.

Grant them grace to carry their cross with patience in the name of Your beloved Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Let the chalice pass from them is such be Your Will:yet, in all things, may Your Will be done.

Grant to those who persecute, light to see the truth, and the grace of mercy and forgiveness, for they know not what they do.

Mary, Mother of Jesus, Comforter of the Afflicted, help your children in their time of bitter trial.

St Andrew Dung-Lac and all those who were martyred in Vietnam – Pray for us.

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

Monday, Nov. 23

She gave all she had

The widow who gives her all to support the temple reminds us of how Jesus, who went on to give all He had, his very life, for others. Although what she gave had little monetary value, her gift meant more than the larger gifts of others, because she gave all she had.

Generosity of spirit is not easy to measure. People, who seem to be doing little, may in fact be making more effort than others who seem to be doing a lot. At the end of the day, only the Lord can measure generosity because the Lord alone knows what each one is able to give. 

Whereas we can measure only what is tangible and visible, God looks deeper, into the heart. The widow’s coins would make little impression on those who saw them, but her gift so impressed Jesus that He singled her out as an example.Even when we feel we have little to offer actually giving that little is what the Lord may want of us.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous.

Teach me to serve you as you deserve,

To give and not to count the cost,

To fight and not to heed the wounds,

To toil and not to seek for rest,

To labor and not to seek reward,

Except that of knowing that I do you will.

-St. Ignatius Loyola

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

Sunday, Nov. 22

The Solemnity of Christ the King

On the last Sunday of each liturgical year, November 22, 2020, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King.

Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925 with his encyclical Quas Primas (“In the first”) to respond to growing nationalism and secularism. He recognized that these related societal ills would breed increasing hostility against the Church. His encyclical reminds the faithful that while governments and philosophies come and go, Christ reigns as king forever.

Jesus is the center of creation; and so the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words and in our works.

The kingdoms of this world at times are sustained by arrogance, rivalries and oppression; the reign of Christ is a ‘kingdom of justice, love and peace.’ For a Christian, speaking of power and strength means referring to the power of the Cross, and the strength of Jesus’ love: a love which remains steadfast and complete, even when faced with rejection, and it is shown as the fulfillment of a life expended in the total surrender of oneself for the benefit of humanity.

Pope Francis

LITANY OF PRAISE: “Praise you, Jesus”

My life, My love

The Name above all names

Emmanuel, God with us

King of Kings

King of Creation

King of Glory

King of the Universe

Lord of Lords

Christ, the King

The Way,

The Truth,

The Life,

Prince of peace

Light of the World

Our Redeemer

The Messiah

The Anointed one

The Savior of the World

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

Saturday, Nov. 21

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

How would you answer someone who asked: “Why do you pray to Mary? Why does the Church honor Mary with special feast days?”

Pope Paul VI said to us that Mary was to be honored and imitated because in her own life she fully accepted the will of God. We ask her to pray for us so that we can accept God’s will for us.

This Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrates an important truth about Mary: from the beginning of her life, she was dedicated to God, given over to God’s will for her. God chose to dwell in Mary in a special way. Mary placed her whole self at the service of God.
In Baptism, God chose to live in us through grace and the Holy Spirit. We become a temple of the living God. Mary became a temple of the living God in an even greater way, because from her childhood Mary did the will of God and was ready to become the temple of God’s Son at the time of God’s choosing. 

We too are called to do the will of the Father in heaven, so that we too can become temples of the Lord: people who carry the presence of the Lord to others. As St. Paul says: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple”?

We ask Mary to pray for us now so that we may always do the will of the Father and so become living temples of God as Mary did.

Prayer

Hail Mary, Mother of God, you have given the world its true light, Jesus, your Son – the Son of God. You abandoned yourself completely to God’s call and thus became a wellspring of the goodness which flows from Him. Show us Jesus. Lead us to Jesus. Teach us to know and love Jesus, so that we too can become capable of true love. And be fountains of living water in the midst of a thirsting world.

Amen (Benedict XVI)

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

Friday, Nov. 20

The Lord is my strength and my shield

The Book of Revelation is filled with symbols and figures of speech. It was written in a veiled style to hide its meaning from the pagans who were persecuting the Church. One result is that some of its meaning remains obscure for us today.No one is absolutely sure of the meaning of the scroll in today’s passage. One sound interpretation is to see the bitter-sweet taste of the scroll as a symbol of the Christian life. The scroll is sweet because it proclaims the great triumph of Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection, a triumph in which the whole Church shares. The scroll is bitter because the triumph of Christ was achieved through his sufferings, and the people of the Church must share in His sufferings too.

All this is a reminder to us that the ways of God are mysterious, that they are different from our own, that they represent values which are in direct contrast with those of the world. No human person would have thought that the best way to achieve the salvation of the world is through suffering and death. No human parent would want to subject their only son to anything similar to the passion of Jesus. And it is quite understandable that all of us, left to our own inclinations, would shun suffering and seek pleasure and comfort.

The great Christian message is that in God’s plan for Jesus: pain led to joy, suffering led to happiness, and death led to life. The same is true for us. We are called to live as Jesus did. We are to unite ourselves with Jesus and accept our sufferings and ultimately our death as the way to everlasting life.

Prayer

God our Father, may I not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; for you, everlasting Father, who care for me today will take care of me tomorrow and every day. Either You will shield me from suffering, or You will give me unfailing strength to bear it. May I be at peace, then. May I put aside all anxious thoughts, imaginations, and say continually:

“The Lord is my strength and my shield. My heart has trusted in the Lord and I am helped. The Lord is not only with me but in me, and I in Him.”

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector of The Grotto.

Thursday, Nov. 19

Seven Days of Holy Scriptures to guide my next week
“Taste and see … how good the Lord is!” (Ps. 34:8)

Each of the Scriptural selections for the Seven Days of this ongoing set of Reflections is taken from the Scripture Readings of the “Mass of the Day.” You can find those readings in full in any Mass companion, or by going directly to the website of the US Catholic Bishops, USCCB.org, and clicking on “Daily Readings.” 

Day 7 – Thursday, Nov. 19

RV 5:9“…for you were slain and with your Blood you purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue, people, and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests for our God, and they will reign on earth.”

Ahhhh! The Book of Revelation … AGAIN! Yesterday we looked at Chapter 4, and began with verse 11 … building that small part into a meditation upon the entire Chapter of 11, that powerful, completely awe-inspiring vision “of the seer,” describing the almost indescribable beauty of God’s Throne Room in the glorious Kingdom of Heaven.

The vision in Chapter 4 continues in Chapter 5, so it ought not to surprise at all by the ongoing offering of powerful images and dramatic scenes of God’s glory. However, in this particular verse quoted above from today’s Mass Readings (the last day, BTW, of our “Seven Days with the Scriptures” set of reflection), we have something quite important, and that is the recognition (a reminder?), of the role WE are to occupy in the vision of God’s “Kingdom to come.”


Look above, and read it again, noting that it is not the full sentence, but a part of the full sentence from verse 9. “The Lamb” I the figure “who was slain,” and the Blood of the Lamb is, in the Book of Revelation, always a deeply moving reference to the sacred blood of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, and the incarnate Second Person of the Holy Trinity … GOD. Jesus, the Christ, the “Lamb of God, shed His divine and human blood on the Cross so that we (ALL!) might be redeemed, saved, “ransomed,” by the infinite power of God’s redemptive action on our behalf. The result of that saving sacrifice was to bring ALL humanity into a new Community of Love and forgiveness, of compassion and grace. Because of Christ, the Lamb’s great sacrifice for us, we have an entirely NEW kind of life and hope, one in which we will live forever transformed into beings of light and joy.

But in addition to all that “glory and power,” what I’d invite us to contemplate today is the description of the “who” that are being saved, the “who” that come under the protection of God, the “who” that inherit the name of God’s own, very family … ”those from every tribe and tongue, people, and nation.” Friends, God means for ALL of us, the entire human family, to be seen, understood, felt, and lived as ONE! That is an enormously important fact and point of constant consideration and meditation precisely because there are SO many powers and authorities on this Earth who do NOT share that unifying, peace-filled vision of God’s Family. So many governments, and forces within governments, thrive and extend their power by dividing us from one another, and preaching various “creeds” of hatred, divisiveness, suspicion, condemnation and judgment. That is NOT God’s way, and we are called to be MORE than that. We are called, by the words of Scripture, to recognize our UNITY as God’s beloved children, ALL “purchased for God” by the Blood of the Lamb, “from every tribe and tongue, people, and nation.”

On this final day of our reflective journey, let us renew and strengthen our decision to say “YES!” to God’s vision for us and our dear world, and a resounding “NO!” to the voices of division, oppression, hatred and judgment which we hear on a daily basis from “high and low” alike. As Chapter 5 of the Book of Revelation ends, we “see” a vision again of God’s Kingdom, where we are all united, COUNTLESS in number, and all joining our voices to praise and worship God and to enjoy our innate, God-given gift of being ONE family in God’s name:

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out: “To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever.” (Rv. 5:13)

God bless all of you, dear friends, and may we all thrive in God’s love for us, and for our love for one another!

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Wednesday, Nov 18

Seven Days of Holy Scriptures to guide my next week
“Taste and see…how good the Lord is!” (Ps. 34:8)

Each of the Scriptural selections for the Seven Days of this ongoing set of Reflections is taken from the Scripture Readings of the “Mass of the Day.” You can find those readings in full in any Mass companion, or by going directly to the website of the US Catholic Bishops, USCCB.org, and clicking on “Daily Readings.” 

Day 6 – Wednesday, Nov. 18

RV 4:11 “Worthy are you, Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things; because of your will they came to be and were created.”

It’s pretty well understood that PRAYER has a “perfect form” or “format.” The following words set it all out pretty simply: Catholic prayer consists of five important components. A well-rounded, “full” prayer includes these elements or parts: 1) adoration, 2) supplication, 3) thanksgiving, 4) intercession, and 5) confession. Catholics believe that daily prayer forges a strong relationship with God and develops each individual’s sense of spirituality.

If you look at the words of the verse for today’s Scripture meditation, I think it’s pretty plain and easy to see/read the fact that it sounds like a … PRAYER, one of praise and worship; the “first element” of prayer, as defined above. The next question might reasonably be, “Where is this prayer, and is there any more of it?” We thus return to one of my favorite methods of absorbing Scripture, i.e., discovering the fuller context of any given, single verse.

Here’s something to help us today: The verse above, vs. 11 from Chapter 4 of the Book of Revelation, is the very last verse of the entire Chapter. Yes, that’s right, Chapter 4 of the Book of Revelation is only 11 verses long! And the “prayer” which we read in verse 11 appears to be an “incomplete” prayer, as it forms the END of the Chapter, and does not continue to include the other four “elements” of a (so-called) complete and “perfect” prayer. BTW: for reference, see “The Lord’s Prayer,” spoken and taught by Our Lord Jesus Christ, of course, in two of the Gospels, Matthew 6:9-13, and Luke 11:1-4. “The Lord’s Prayer,” as we commonly call it, is understood, as brief as it is, to be one of those “perfect prayers.” It includes all of the “parts” or “components” which, according to tradition, make a complete and perfectly composed prayer. Now, honestly, my friends, WHERE ELSE would we expect to find a PERFECT PRAYER but from the mouth of The Lord himself? LOL … but I digress!

To return to the original point of today’s meditation … verse 11 of Chapter 4 of The Book of Revelation does seem to be part of a prayer. But actually, it is the culmination of an amazing, shall we say “mindblowing” scene, part of a grand vision by “the seer,” the person narrating what he is observing in the Kingdom of Heaven … in the Throne Room of God, no less! The first three verses read like this:

After this I had a vision of an open door to heaven, and I heard the trumpetlike voice that had spoken to me before, saying, “Come up here and I will show you what must happen afterwards.” At once I was caught up in spirit. A throne was there in heaven, and on the throne sat one whose appearance sparkled like jasper and carnelian. Around the throne was a halo as brilliant as an emerald.

Impressive? To say the least! So, what we have in Chapter 4 of Revelation is not so much “just” a prayer of worship and adoration, but rather an incredibly complex scene imagining the Throne Room of a majestic God, with all the power, glory, honor and richness which would surround the Creator of the Universe.

The rest of the Chapter, which culminates in the single verse of worshipful praise of Almighty God, is a continuing description, pretty “fantastical,” to be sure, of the immediate surroundings of God “in glory.” May I suggest God’s GLORY as a point of our meditation for today, then?

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.” (Rv. 4:8)

Those words of utter praise of God’s glory are uttered before His throne by “the four living creatures,” representing all Creation in adoration … and more. I like them! I can say them myself, and often, even every day, to remind myself of God’s glory, and of my desire to worship God at all times. So … meditation is always something I might do in complete isolation or “quiet,” no, rather it could be just a spontaneous offering of some of the worshipful words and phrases contained almost everywhere in the Sacred Scriptures. The words given to us today, in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 4, verses 1-11 give us a clue, a help, and a good, practical reminder of how easy it is to PRAY … praising God, and making ourselves like thee 24 elders” in the passage quoted, who “throw down their crowns” before God, and call on Him for help.

May God indeed bless you ALL today!

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Tuesday, Nov. 17

Seven Days of Holy Scriptures to guide my next week
“Taste and see…how good the Lord is!” (Ps. 34:8)

Each of the Scriptural selections for the Seven Days of this ongoing set of Reflections is taken from the Scripture Readings of the “Mass of the Day.” You can find those readings in full in any Mass companion, or by going directly to the website of the US Catholic Bishops, USCCB.org, and clicking on “Daily Readings.” 

Day 5 – Tuesday, Nov. 17

RV 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” LK 19:10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

Well, once more I am using TWO scriptural excerpts from today’s Mass Readings to offer a reflection … the first from the (often mysterious and challenging) Book of Revelations, and the second from the Gospel according to St. Luke. Why two; why both? The simple answer is that the two verses just seem to “go together,” and complement nicely, i.e., the image of Christ Jesus “standing at our door,” and knocking for someone to notice and admit him, right on to the “purpose” which Jesus has in coming to our “doorways” to seek entrance in the first place! Let’s “break that open” a bit, as the Scripture scholars are fond of saying when they delve into the meaning of the Sacred Word!

Revelation is a book of, well … ”revelations,” often presented by St. John (the author of the Book) as visions, dreams and sometimes even pretty “fanciful” images. Without getting overly abstract nor academic, let me just say that there is a familiar “homeliness” to the image (or picture) of Jesus, calmly, peacefully standing at the door of my house, knocking (or pressing the doorbell) PERSISTENTLY, until I notice that someone is there, and recognize just WHO IT IS that is there! In the image from Revelations, Jesus wants to invite himself to dinner! HOW cool is that?! Who would NOT open the door for Him?

But there’s more, and that “more” in this case, is the image provided by St. Luke in the accompanying Gospel passage for our meditation today, in which Jesus announces with His characteristic sureness and authority, that He “has come to seek and to save what was lost.” Ahhhh, what a combination, and HOW could anyone “in his right mind,” resist? Jesus, the Lord, the Son of God, the Redeemer and Savior, our Divine Friend, has come knocking on MY door, asking to come in, sit down for a homey meal, and chat about … SAVING me! You can be doggone sure that I feel beaten down, defeated, “LOST” a lot … especially these days, in this terrible year of 2020 (!!!), and so the very idea, the image, the story in Sacred Scripture, which serves to remind, inform, and assure me that Jesus desires to serve ME in my deepest needs and wants, in my darkness and sense of loss and lack of direction, is something for which to be not just grateful, but relieved, over-joyed, ECSTATIC!

I often speak about (or write about) the fact that Jesus, as we find Him in the Gospels, uses the most basic, “elemental” images, to tell us of His love for us, His care, concern and good, loving intentions for us. Jesus, as I see it, “bends over backwards” to share with us the Truth of God’s love for us, but only using the most common, visible, accessible images possible … a doorway, a meal setting, a good “fireside chat.” Yes, Lord, I am RESTING already in your warmth and loving presence to me …a nd OH MY, do I ever need it! THANK-YOU, Lord! I’d counsel everyone reading this today, therefore, to try NOT to make the encounter with Jesus too difficult by introducing the most abstract, “ethereal,” or “heady” analysis of Jesus as we see and feel Him to be near … and seek, instead, only to come even closer to Him by just letting Him ENTER through the “open door” of our hearts so as to touch and embrace the most profound center of our being.

To share, to confide a simple truth about myself … as I grow older, I want to “think” less and just “feel” more. I’ve spent a major part of my life in education pursuits. That’s fine and good. But I am also coming to (or have arrived at) the conclusion that all my academic pursuits, all my book learning, though invaluable and useful in a thousand ways, has not been the “instrument” by which I have found myself closest to the Lord. No, rather, it’s been in the moments when I have merely felt myself emotionally reaching out, from my heart, not necessarily my head, to a God who seems to be as close as my most fleeting thought or stray imagining as to my most concentrated effort at deductive, analytical thinking. I guess when you’re as old as I am, it’s not totally surprising that I value finding Jesus in the dreams I have during my perfectly lovely afternoon naps! Friends, please don’t judge me harshly if I “confess” to enjoying naps and dreams as much or MORE than sitting and “thinking hard!” LOLOL …

So, today, dear sisters and brothers, look back over those two beautiful, simple and compelling images of Jesus “knocking at YOUR door,” and wanting to come in, dine with you, and talk about how He wishes more than anything to find you (when you feel lost), teach you, accompany you in the adventure and struggle of “life as we know it.”

God bless you ALL!

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Monday, Nov. 16

Seven Days of Holy Scriptures to guide my next week
“Taste and see…how good the Lord is!” (Ps. 34:8)

Each of the Scriptural selections for the Seven Days of this ongoing set of Reflections is taken from the Scripture Readings of the “Mass of the Day.” You can find those readings in full in any Mass companion, or by going directly to the website of the US Catholic Bishops, USCCB.org, and clicking on “Daily Readings.” 

Day 4

LK 18:35-42 A blind man was sitting by the roadside begging, and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!” Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “Lord, please let me see.” Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.”

This part of the passage from St. Luke’s Gospel about the blind man begging by the side of the road is from the Gospel of today’s Mass celebration. It’s a really beautiful story of courage, tenderness, and the goodness of Jesus in response to human need. We have the chance, in meditating for a brief moment on this scene, to think of ourselves in the predicament of the blind man of the Gospel … Do we CRY OUT to God in our needs, and (perhaps even more important), are we persistent, even in the face of overt discouragement and difficulty, in LOUDLY and COURAGEOUSLY defying “convention” in calling out to God? Just how deep and “clear” is our faith? Would we, perhaps (or not?) embarrass ourselves in front of others to demonstrate our faith?

Today, in the story of the blind man’s cure, we touch upon, I think, a quite sensitive subject, and one which makes me (and you?) a bit uncomfortable … why? Well, to be honest, although I feel myself to be a man of faith, I prefer to keep it a bit private and personal, rather discreetly to myself. Yes, surely in my “public role” as a priest I preach out loud in church … but would I stand on a street corner and proclaim my faith loudly to all the passers-by? Hmmmm, I probably would choose not to do that. How about you? Would you? Have you ever proclaimed your faith out loud … even when you did not have to, or when it might bring you “attention,” or … embarrassment? “That’s the rub,” isn’t it? My faith is fine as long as it does not bring me unwanted attention.

So, what then is my faith for? It was, after all, the FAITH of the blind man which saved him, according to the words of Jesus in the story. BUT, if the blind man had not had the courage to stand up, to YELL out his faith, to SHOUT it loudly from the side of the road where he was literally swallowed by the crowd, would Jesus have even heard him? The blind man even had to endure the REBUKES of the people around him telling him to “be quiet,” and then yelled all the louder, “Son of David, have pity on me!” Would I, even in desperate need, have the courage to do all that? To be perfectly honest, I don’t really know.

That is worth meditating on today … what IS my faith all about, really, and does it make any difference to anyone but me? Is my faith a public, joyful act, or is it most often hidden away, to be experienced more like a private devotion in my most private, quiet moments only? Is my faith “in my head,” or worn openly, publicly, even proudly? Would I be willing to endure the scorn and mockery of others to share my faith candidly … for all it’s worth? Those are difficult questions, and, again to be perfectly honest, they make me “squirm” a bit.

Brothers and sisters … friends in Christ Jesus … how does your faith feel, or look, or sound today? Is it on display, for any and all to see, to hear, to experience, to be shared? Or perhaps it’s just neatly hanging in your “closet” at home, waiting for another day? Hmmm?

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Sunday, Nov. 15

Seven Days of Holy Scriptures to guide my next week
“Taste and see…how good the Lord is!” (Ps. 34:8)

Each of the Scriptural selections for the Seven Days of this ongoing set of Reflections is taken from the Scripture Readings of the “Mass of the Day.” You can find those readings in full in any Mass companion, or by going directly to the website of the US Catholic Bishops, USCCB.org, and clicking on “Daily Readings.” 

Day 3 – Sunday, Nov. 15

MT 25:29 “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
Wow…just WOW! Do you have any trouble with this brief verse in the Gospel of St. Matthew? I do … it just sounds so … mean! It almost sounds like that awful saying we’ve heard so many times, “The rich get richer, while the poor get poorer.” And THAT certainly has bothered me a lot because of the obvious injustice it announces. Is Jesus saying the same thing? Is He accepting that as true … or worse … even as GOOD?

My thought here is that Jesus is NOT saying that it’s somehow “OK” for the “rich to get richer while the poor get poorer.” In fact, the meaning here is quite other than that. The important thing to remember is that one can get a very skewed view of the Sacred Scripture by merely looking at one verse standing totally apart from it’s context. Now, sometimes that’s perfectly fine, but at other times (we call it “cherrypicking”) it sends us along a poorly chosen path.

So, what DOES Jesus mean in Matthew 25:29? Well, to understand that more clearly, we’d have to read the entire passage from the Gospel of the day, MT 25:14-30.

First, we ought to notice that the “meditation passage,” the one mentioned at the beginning of the page, comes just before the end of the complete reading. The entire reading, except for the last verse or so, is actually commonly called “the Parable of the Talents.” The parable which Jesus relates tells the story of a Master who, before he departs on a trip, leaves his riches in the hands of three servants … to whom he apportions various amounts and tasks them with safeguarding everything until he should return. When the Master does return and asks for an accounting of his possessions, two of the servants report how they have stewarded well and have actually increased, through work and investment, the original amount given by the Master … and they are rewarded by the Master for their industriousness and responsibility. The third servant confesses to the Master that, out of fear, he buried the Master’s treasure and just presents it back to him as it was given … with no growth or “interest earned.” That servant is then punished and disinherited completely for his lack of attention to the expectations and demands of the Master.

So, when Jesus offers His “commentary” on the parable he has just shared with His disciples, He says, “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Therefore, there is no “meanness” here, but there IS a bit of a challenge and (let us say) a warning of sorts: That the “Master,” God, is one who is a giver of the greatest, richest, most profound gifts to us, his “servants.” But God expects “something” back from us with His gifts, like “hard work,” or “investment,” or “interest,” to use rather common human analogies of what we would do with an inheritance given to us …s o as not to waste it away, and to GROW it, and NURTURE it, and IMPLEMENT it in our lives for the good of ourselves and even the good of the world around us.

The meditation verse is not harsh, but it IS “REAL,” meaning that God’s love, while rich and diverse, does come with a bit of “cost,” insofar as God really does expect us to “sow the good seed” so that it comes back “thirty, or sixty, or a hundredfold,” to use an image Jesus uses in yet another parable which more or less explains the same thing.

Today … what have I received from God? What are the gifts given to me? What have I done with them? Have I done enough? How will I evaluate the good which is my potential? Have I shared God’s gift/s to me with others … my family, my friends, strangers, the world? I’d say we ALL have some work to do so that we are not left in the unenviable position of the third servant in the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 … trying vainly to explain to God just why we’ve done little to nothing with the riches entrusted to us by the very God who has given us Life itself.

So, my friends, sisters and brothers: LET’S GET TO WORK!

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Saturday, Nov. 14

Seven Days of Holy Scriptures to guide my next week
“Taste and see…how good the Lord is!” (Ps. 34:8)

Each of the Scriptural selections for the Seven Days of this ongoing set of Reflections is taken from the Scripture Readings of the “Mass of the Day.” You can find those readings in full in any Mass companion, or by going directly to the website of the US Catholic Bishops, USCCB.org, and clicking on “Daily Readings.” 

Day 2 – Saturday, Nov. 14

3 JN 5-6; 8: “Beloved, you are faithful in all you do for the brothers and sisters, especially for strangers;…Please help them in a way worthy of God to continue their journey…Therefore, we ought to support such persons, so that we may be co-workers in the truth.”LK 18:8: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

We’re in St. John (The Evangelist’s) THIRD Letter today … so, did you all know that there are THREE letters by St. John in the New Testament? They are well worth a more than casual perusal. We mostly emphasize, in Church (liturgical) reading, the Letters of St. Paul. But the other Letters, (John’s, Peter’s and James’s) are amazing! Take some extra Sacred Scripture “reading down time,” and enjoy “another view” from one of the other Apostles!

The lines quoted for today’s brief meditation are from the liturgy of today, and serve to emphasize a teaching of the Lord which found special pre-eminence in the Gospels, i.e., Jesus’ lifting the virtue of hospitality and “sanctuary” to a level of the sacred. Those two concept-realities were already a part of Jewish (indeed, Middle-Eastern) culture already, but they took on a new importance with Jesus’ referencing them often. It’s not at all far-fetched to see the direct connection of hospitality and sanctuary to the essential Commandment of love of neighbor.

By now it ought to be plain to any of us who regularly look at the Scriptures to understand how ALL the virtues and examples Jesus presents and explains to His followers sooner or later come back to the “basic,” or fundamental “Greatest Commandment,” the two-part “love God and love your neighbor” (“upon these the whole of the Law and the Prophets depend”). I honestly believe that the greatest strength we have as Christians is to simply follow that/those Commandment/s. And I often counsel congregations when I preach to try to imagine what the world would look like, or be like, if we but followed, put into action, the command to love … more effectively than we do; IMAGINE!

I harbor no illusion that the goal is difficult – which I also share in a lot of my homilies – and that’s why I included the second brief quotation from today’s liturgical Scriptural in this meditation, i.e., LK 18:8: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Yup, it’s difficult and challenges even the best, the most altruistic or faithful of us to “love without limit.” There are just SO many people who seem so UNdeserving of love! And the temptation to harshly judge is a tendency I think which is deeply ingrained in human experience … as a way of just feeling better about ourselves (self-righteousness). But, once more, the Gospels are adamant about it, the words of Jesus are clear … to love, protect, serve and honor God and our neighbor IS “the Christian way.”

How are you doing with that today???

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Friday, Nov. 13

Seven Days of Holy Scriptures to guide my next week

“Taste and see…how good the Lord is!” (Ps. 34:8)

Each of the Scriptural selections for the Seven Days of this ongoing set of Reflections is taken from the Scripture Readings of the “Mass of the Day.” You can find those readings in full in any Mass companion, or by going directly to the website of the US Catholic Bishops, USCCB.org, and clicking on “Daily Readings.” 

Day 1

2 JN 5-6: “But now…I ask you, not as though I were writing a new commandment but the one we have had from the beginning: let us love one another.”

St. John the Evangelist writes to his friends (which, of course, reach to us all these centuries later), and reminds us of the BASIC Commandment of Christ, and “the other side of the coin,” so to speak, of the Commandment to love God always as we love our neighbor, or, as St. John writes to us today, that we “love one another.”

St. John puts this reminder of “the Great Commandment” in the same, plain, direct, unequivocal language which Jesus used in His ministry. As I’ve noted before in such reflections as these, there are no “ifs, ands, or buts,” when Jesus instructs His disciples in the necessity to love God and to love others, our neighbor. St. John writes that we’ve heard this command of the Lord “from the beginning.” What he writes in this 2nd Letter, therefore, only repeats a familiar, although no less challenging message.

I wonder what the early Christians made of this Command to love? After all, they, like us today, reflected a remarkably diverse group of people, many of them absolutely new to the Faith. People came and went from all over the Middle East, over sea and over land … but all were, if they were to be called Christian, called to believe and LIVE the same radical, new way: to love one another with none of the usual “strings,” or conditions, or limitations which people put on human relationships. I’m of the opinion that the people of old were as challenged and perhaps even dubious (as we might be) that the ideal of Christian love was a high ideal … maybe too high?

And that question (“too high an ideal?”) brings us face-to-face with the age-old question of the viability of our Christian, Catholic faith. We KNOW it’s a good thing, but is it possible? Of course, dear friend, I’m going to say it IS … but I’m also going to say (remind?) that the ideal to “love as we have been loved” by God is a daily, repetitive, focused, disciplined, spiritual task with no “easy out.” What we must do is WORK AT IT, and not give up when we fail to achieve the ideal. In fact, I am not even convinced that we ever have to really succeed in getting to “the perfect love” of our neighbor, but rather it’s sufficient that we TRY our very best to do so. Failure is NOT as important, therefore, as the WILL to succeed, and remain hopeful that we will progress in the (high) ideal of Christian love. As the old hymn goes, “Christians, let us love one another …”

Brothers and Sisters, don’t give up, don’t lose hope, keep the faith, and just “go for it,” and “do it.” THE WORLD NEEDS YOU!!!

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Thursday, Nov. 12

The Kingdom of God is among you

To live a happy and peaceful life is everyone’s dream. And this is our common goal. The embodiment of the purpose of life can only be experienced if each person has the will and sincerity to do good and give each other love. Where there is love, there is God.

Jesus asserts that the kingdom of God is already around us and within us. Often in this life, we demand too much of God’s presence and inclusion. We want God to guide, help and accompany our duties and works. In fact, God is and always is present, and works for our lives every day. His love transcends what we think and His generosity exceeds what we ask for. It’s just that we’re less able to catch it all, maybe also because we’re less grateful and too demanding.

God’s presence is worth seeing through the eyes of faith. He is not only present when we are happy to make results, but also when we are in difficult situation or when we fail. It’s just that we’re often like Pharisees, wondering about God’s presence. He’s always there and with us. Not a second does He leave us. Therefore, let us make room to realize His presence, respond to His greetings, and feel His grace.

Prayer

God our Father, we are grateful for Your presence in our lives. Help us with Your grace. We pray that we are always able to realize Your presence in our daily lives. May we also be able to see all the good in our lives which comes from you. And may we share your goodness with our brothers and sisters around us.

Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Wednesday, Nov. 11

Give thanks to God

For many of us who have experienced or have seen ‘miracles’ in our lives, the Gospel touches us deeply. I feel like life itself is a miracle and we are grateful for it. As the terrible Covid-19 has taken so many lives, we who continue our journey in fear are encouraged to practice social distancing and follow all health protocols to ensure that this miracle, this breath that we receive from God is protected, not only our own breath, but also the breath of others around us. Have the courage, my brothers and sisters, to ask the Master of our breath to “Have pity on us.”

Whether we realize it or not, every time we ask God’s mercy, the miracle happens. God cleanses us all the time when we come to him and ask for his mercy. God doesn’t need us to pay for his mercy; he only wants us to come back and give him thanks. The question is: Can we give ourselves time to thank God? Or are we too busy celebrating our recovery?

Prayer

God, the source of our strength, keep us, we pray, as the apple of your eye and help us to understand your love for us. Thank you for all the blessings and miracles that we have received in our lives. We ask for your mercy, for without you, we are nothing. We praise you God forever and ever.

Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Tuesday, Nov. 10

St. Leo the Great

Leo was born in Rome. He embraced the sacred ministry, was made Archdeacon of the Roman Church by Saint Celestine, and under him and Sixtus III, had a large share in governing the Church. On the death of Sixtus, Leo was chosen Pope, and consecrated on Saint Michael’s day, A.D. 440, amid great joy.

It was a time of terrible trial. Vandals and Huns were wasting the provinces of the empire, and Nestorians, Pelagians and other heretics wrought more grievous havoc among souls. While Leo’s zeal made head against these perils, the new heresy of Eutyches arose, confounding the two natures of Christ. At once the vigilant pastor proclaimed the true doctrine of the Incarnation in his famous ‘tome’; but fostered by the Byzantine court, the heresy gained a strong hold amongst the Eastern monks and bishops. After three years of unceasing toil, Leo brought about its solemn condemnation by the Council of Chacedon. The Fathers all sang his tome, and exclaimed, “Peter has spoken though Leo.”

Soon after, Attila with his Huns broke into Italy, and marched through it burning cities, then headed toward Rome. Leo went out boldly to meet him, and prevailed on him to turn back. Astonished to see the terrible Attila, the “Scourge of God”, fresh from the sack of Aquileia, Milan, Pavia, with the rich price of Rome within his grasp, he turned his great host back to the Danube at the saint’s word. His chiefs asked him why he had acted so strangely. He answered that he saw two venerable personages, supposed to be Saint Peter and Saint Paul, standing behind Leo, was impressed by this vision and withdrew.

Two years later the city fell a prey to the Vandals; but even then Leo saved it from destruction. Leo died A.D. 461, having served the Church for twenty years.

Prayer

O God, you are the Church’s sure help in times of trouble, we pray that through the intercession of Pope Saint Leo the Great, the Church may be strengthened to faithfully continue her mission on earth and be protected by your mercy. May all her children be courageous witnesses to your great love, as Pope Saint Leo the great was.

Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Monday, Nov. 9

Dedication of St. John Lateran

Most Catholics think of St. Peter’s Basilica as the Pope’s main church, but that is incorrect. Saint John Lateran is the Pope’s church, the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, where the Bishop of Rome presides.

The first basilica on the site was built in the fourth century when Constantine donated land he had received from the wealthy Lateran family. The structure and its successors suffered fire, earthquake and the ravages of war, but the Lateran remained the church where popes were consecrated until the popes returned from Avignon in the 14th century to find the church and adjoining palace in ruins.

Pope Innocent X commissioned the present structure in 1646. As one of Rome’s most imposing churches, the Lateran’s towering façade is crowned with 15 colossal statues of Christ, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist and 12 doctors of the Church. Beneath its high altar rest the remains of the small wooden table on which tradition holds Saint Peter himself celebrated Mass.

Prayer

Oh God, You called your people to be your Church. Increase in your Church the grace you have bestowed that we may faithfully revere you, love you and follow you, and may be led by you to attain your promises in heaven.

Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Sunday, Nov. 8

My Sacrifice to the Lord today is …

One of my sisters video-called me last Wednesday evening and told me that one of our cousins had been missing from home since 2 a.m. He is 27 years old and is not married. Everyone in the house was worried, of course.

Morning came and they let the other villagers know about it. He came back later around 8 a.m. with an elder from the village. When he arrived, there were many people in the house who were out searching for him. Then, he told them what happened.

He woke up at 2 a.m. to go to the restroom when he saw a lady dressed like a bride; she covered her face so he couldn’t recognize her. She then led my cousin, walking through all rough turf (which felt like paved roads), to a cemetery which was about seven miles away from our village. The next thing my cousin found out was that someone woke him up in the middle of a cemetery. He slept in that cemetery for almost four hours without any jacket or blanket, yet he felt that he was fine. That person then gave my cousin water before letting him get back home. If only my cousin knew that she wasn’t the bride whom he needed to follow.

I imagine following the bridegroom in today’s Gospel as an extraordinary experience for the wise virgins. Imagine how joyful it was for them to be able to come to the wedding party with the bridegroom? It is joyful because everyone knows that the party is going to be extravagant and there is no need to worry about anything, including everyone’s safety.

But to be in this feast – to be in this party with the bridegroom – the wise virgins showed to us that there is a sacrifice needed. They bought and brought with them extra oil for their lamps. Ohhhh, there is that extra thing – that something – which would help us to be able to come to the feast.
Do you know what is that extra thing that you need to buy and bring with you to the feast of the Lord? It could be something that you need to do or say to someone which would lead you to a right relationship; it could be a small gift or a smile on your face (nowadays we recognize a smile from someone’s eyes) which would make someone’s day.

Whatever it is, however small or big it is, if you do it with your love for the Lord, may he find it worthy and let you come to the feast with all your other brothers and sisters, God’s loving children.

Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Saturday, Nov. 7

You cannot serve both God and mammon

You have heard an old saying, “You cannot buy happiness (or whatever) with money!” Today, Jesus invites us to step out of the happiness which is offered by earthly things. The word “mammon” is not only for money; it includes other things which can tie us up and make us think that we have enough for our ‘temporary’ happiness. So, Jesus explicitly offers these two for us to choose: God or mammon?

Jesus doesn’t ask us to leave money and other material things behind. If it is difficult for us to smile when we don’t have money, or when we have enough but are too busy shopping, realize that our lives may have been bound by mammon.

Jesus invites us to choose God and move according to God’s will. Only our relationship with God leads us to true happiness. In this materialistic and consumeristic world, let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us choose God and not mammon.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, free us from the bonds of earthly idols and enable us to be faithful to you and your commands in this journey of life.

Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Friday, Nov. 6

Tears of Encouragement

Could you feel Paul’s tears in his Letter to the Philippians in today’s reading? I certainly could. Like Paul, my tears were dropped from my eyes reading this letter! I am in tears because I realize that it is also addressed to me. Paul’s words touched me deeply when he said that my mind too is “occupied with earthly things.” There are far too many [earthly] things that have occupied my mind these days which make me focus my attention more into them.

But thanks to Paul, who reminds me with his tears of encouragement, to put my attention toward the heavenly things because “our citizenship is in heaven.” Imagine for a moment being a citizen in heaven! What would you expect? To be a citizen of heaven, however, we need to “conduct [ourselves] according to the model [we] have in the [Apostles].”

The Letter to the Hebrews also reminds us, “Consider the outcome of their life and imitate their faith” (Hebrew 13:7). We can do this, brothers and sisters, paso a paso.

Prayer

Loving God, who trusted us with many wonderful things in life, we are grateful for all that you have given to us.

May we never idolize anything in this world but let our hearts be filled with love for you.

Let our love for you remain strong forever.

Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Thursday, Nov. 5

Lost and Found (Luke 15:1-10)

Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep, and the woman and the lost coin, in response to questions regarding the company he keeps. “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

It brings to mind the words of St. Peter later in the Gospel ”surely you don’t mean me Lord?” Or when a Toddler sees an infant, or a child their age, or even a little older and says, ”baby”. Why do we as humans like to assume that we are different, or often ‘better than’ another human being?

At the beginning of Mass, during the penitential rite we ask forgiveness: “for what I have done, and what I have failed to do…” I am a child of God, my life is Sacred. I am also imperfect. Sometimes I intentionally hurt someone with my words or actions, often I assume I know another’s motives or situation.

Today’s Gospel asks us to focus on the fact that each one of us has been found. God rejoices in finding us. How can I show my gratitude today? How can I show God’s mercy and unrelenting love to others?

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Wednesday, Nov. 4

Saint Charles Borromeo

St. Charles Borromeo (Oct. 2, 1538 – Nov. 3, 1584) is the patron saint of bishops, catechists, cardinals, seminarians, and spiritual leaders. His faith and teaching inspired, supported and advised many on their faith journey.
Here is a wonderful quote from St. Charles to reflect upon:
“If we wish to make any progress in the service of God we must begin every day of our life with new eagerness. We must keep ourselves in the presence of God as much as possible and have no other view or end in all our actions but the divine honor.”

Let us Pray

Gracious and ever-loving God, St. Charles Borromeo was a great teacher and leader. Help me to take his words to heart.

May I start this day energized by his faithful example, and by the teachings and actions of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.

May others who encounter me today come to know you better.

Amen.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Tuesday, Nov. 3

Come and Dine (Luke 14:15-24)

When hearing this story of the Master who invited many to dinner. Those who were invited all had excuses not to attend. We must remember that we are the ones that were gathered when the Master dispatches his servants to bring in people from the highways and bi-ways. God’s invitation is indiscriminate, His love, unconditional.

Let us pray

Heavenly Father, your Son Jesus invites and welcomes all to come and dine with Him. Help me not to judge the person on either side of me, nor those in front and behind me. I know that your mercy is great because you have called and welcomed me. Take my weakness, my pre-judgement, my short-sightedness and transform my heart to see all those around me as your beloved children. Fill my heart instead with mercy, gratitude and hope. I ask all this through Jesus our Lord.
Amen.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Monday, Nov. 2

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed

The older I get, the more I understand and honor this feast day. As a young person, those who we prayed for on this day were distant relatives and parishioners whom my parents knew. Now, four of the seven members of my immediate family have died, as well as my husband’s parents and a sibling. Many friends, family, classmates have gone before me.

On this day we not only recall those who have died this past year, but all those that we remain connected to through Christ Jesus.

Each time we celebrate the Mass and are gathered at the Table of the Lord, I can close my eyes and almost see all those faithful filling the sanctuary and celebrating the Heavenly feast right along with us. Oh, what a great comfort to know that my beloved friends and family remain close to me in and through Christ Jesus.

Here is the refrain from the Song of Farewell:

May the choirs of angels come to greet you.

May they speed you to paradise.

May the Lord enfold you in his mercy.

May you find eternal life.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Sunday, Nov. 1

Beloved, we are God’s Children now

The Solemnity of All Saints is a joyous celebration. We remember and celebrate all Saints, known and unknown: Men and women who loved God and used their particular gifts, talents, and life circumstances to make God’s mercy and loving presence known to those around them.

Spending time in the Chapel of Mary, or even outside the Chapel of Mary and Visitor Center buildings, we are surrounded by images of Saints. On this feast we focus on the truth that these Saints are with us still – for they are with God – in God.

Today let us reflect on those women and men in our lives who may not be canonized but their life supported, nourished and nurtured your faith journey.

Prayer
Gracious God, I pray in thanksgiving for the women and men of faith that call to mind now _______
Their life of sacrifice, love, service and faith have help me grow in Faith, Hope and Love.
Hold each one in your loving embrace until we meet again in your heavenly kingdom.
Amen.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Saturday, Oct. 31

All Hallows Eve

I shall continue to rejoice … now as always, Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. (Philippians 1:19, 22)

On this All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints Day, I am reminded of my first Halloween working at a parish in Eastern Washington. There was a small local Church that was telling all that would listen that Halloween was an evil holiday to be avoided. Some of my religious education teachers and I sat down to prepare how we wanted to present the Catholic view of this holiday. We used the jack-o-lantern as our visual. Each person – filled with the Light of Christ at Baptism – can shine Christ’s light brightly just like the jack-o-lantern. Christ transforms us from an ordinary pumpkin to rejoice in sharing his light with the world.

Christ will be magnified in my body! Smile! Rejoice!

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Friday, Oct. 30

Partnership for the Gospel

I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the Gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:2-5)

The Body of Christ – the Church- is diverse, and worldwide. We have a treasure trove of cultures, traditions, and languages. Our daily life may look very different from someone across the street, the country or the globe. St. Paul reminds us that all of us, everywhere, are in partnership with one another for the Gospel, and the Good work that God has begun in us, through Christ Jesus, will continue until Christ comes again.

Today, let each and every one of us give thanks and praise.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Thursday, Oct. 29

“Put on the armor of God”

With this warning, St. Paul encourages us to be ready for battle. But, of course, St. Paul is not speaking of bloody conflicts motivated by political, economic, and territorial considerations. St. Paul is speaking of the conflict with sin, the ultimate cause of evil. Even Jesus himself met with this conflict: Herod was planning to kill Jesus. We cannot expect to be immune.

More is needed of us than the determinate effort to treat everyone justly and charitably. We are called to help right wrongs. The securing of justice for worker, dignity for the downtrodden, assistance to the poor are all Christian concerns. Jesus met conflict head-on by insisting on the dignity and rights of individuals. We must continue the concern which Jesus showed for the indigent and the underprivileged. 

Prayer

We pray for the Church throughout the world, that she may be a voice for those who lack even the basic necessities of life, tirelessly serving them and calling for change. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for the world’s leaders, that they may not hide behind their power or abuse it, but work for the good of all humanity, particularly the poor throughout the world. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 We pray for our local community, that we may show our love through our respect for each other and for our environment, gladly sharing what we have with those in need. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

Wednesday, Oct. 28

Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles

Scripture tells us precious little about Saints Simon and Jude. We do know that Simon was referred to as the “zealot”, which meant that he was a member of a political party in Palestine that sought the end of Roman occupation of Israel. Jude was known as the son of James. Tradition holds that they traveled to Persia, where they converted many people and were eventually martyred. Even though we don’t know much about Simon and Jude, the church honors them as saints because they responded in faith to Jesus’ invitation and were among the first eyewitnesses to God’s plan of salvation.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the church “is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles”.  The Church was built on the foundation of the teaching of apostles like Simon and Jude – people whose lives were radically transformed by the experience of the risen Christ. All members of the Church share in this apostolic mission. We are all invited to love Jesus and become vessels of grace for God’s honor. In Christ, with Christ, and through Christ, let us give glory to God and fulfill the call God has given to us.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Church “continues to be taught, sanctified and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors” – the bishops, assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Pope.

Spend time interceding for the shepherds of the Church. Ask that the Lord fill them with wisdom and compassion in leading their flock to Christ.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank you for choosing men like Simon and Jude to build your Church and for preserving their teachings for the past two thousand years. Thank you for the apostolate to which you have called us. Lord, come and make your home in us.

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM Rector of The Grotto

Tuesday, Oct. 27

What would Christ do now?

As Christians we all have one model, one hero whom we should try to imitate. Whether we are male or female, young or old, married or single, the one model for all of us is Jesus Christ.  St. Paul directs husbands to model themselves on Jesus Christ: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church.” St. Paul could have held up Christ as a model for wives in their relationship to their husbands: “Wives, love your husbands as Christ loved the Church”. The fact is that Christ is the model for all of us.
Jesus became human like us in all things but sin, so that we could see in him what it means to live as a child of God. That is our basic calling, to be children of God.

St. Vincent de Paul developed the practice of asking himself this question in any situation: “What would Christ do now?”  What the Son of God would do is the example to be followed by all the children of God. 

Prayer

Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow, and every day. Either he will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then. Put aside all anxious thoughts and say continually: “The Lord is my strength and my shield. My heart has trusted in Him and I am helped. He is not only with me but in me, and I in Him.” – St. Francis de Sales

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

Monday, Oct. 26

“…now you are light in the Lord” 

Jesus healed the woman “crippled by a spirit,…,completely incapable of standing erect”, in the posture of dignity that sets humans apart from animals. Jesus showed that He came to heal the wounded and forgive the sinner. Jesus, through the forgiveness of our sins, has lifted us up and given us the ability to stand erect. Jesus expects that we will live with the dignity He has given us. 

This is what St. Paul had in mind when he wrote: “Follow the way of love, even as Christ loved you”. Every sin is not only an offense against God but a blow against our dignity. Sin demeans us and pushes us downward toward a stooped position. In the posture, we become self-centered, incapable of looking up to God or even looking outward to our neighbors. 

Once again, St. Paul reminds us: “There was a time when you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord”. When we are caught up in darkness, we are unable to see either God or others around us. But, when we are light, we recognize God as our Creator and Savior and appreciates the worth of our fellow human beings.

Prayer

Give us faith to say with the psalmist, “Lord, you light my lamp; my God illuminates my darkness.” May your light of hope shine in the darkness for families today. Show us glimpses of your presence with us and the comfort you bring. In the busyness of today, help us to take a moment to be still and sit with you.

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

Sunday, Oct. 25

Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. 

The Shema is regarded by many Jews as the most important prayer in Judaism. This is because it reminds them of the key principle of the faith – there is only one God. This part of the Shema is taken from the Torah : Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.

Shema, (Hebrew: “Hear”), the Jewish confession of faith made up of three scriptural texts (Deuteronomy 6:4–9, 11:13–21; Numbers 15:37–41), which, together with appropriate prayers, forms an integral part of the evening and morning services.

Cover your eyes with your right hand and say:Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.Recite the following verse in an undertone:Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever.You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them thoroughly to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.

And it will be, if you will diligently obey My commandments which I enjoin upon you this day, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, I will give rain for your land at the proper time, the early rain and the late rain, and you will gather in your grain, your wine and your oil. And I will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be sated. …Therefore, place these words of Mine upon your heart and upon your soul, and bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, to speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise. And you shall inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates – so that your days and the days of your children may be prolonged on the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give to them for as long as the heavens are above the earth.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the children of Israel and tell them to make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to attach a thread of blue on the fringe of each corner. They shall be to you as tzizit, and you shall look upon them and remember all the commandments of the Lord and fulfill them, and you will not follow after your heart and after your eyes by which you go astray – so that you may remember and fulfill all My commandments and be holy to your God. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I, the Lord, am your God.

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

Saturday, Oct. 24

St. Anthony Mary Claret

Anthony Claret had been thinking for a long time about preparing priests to proclaim the Gospel and bring together a group of priests who shared his vision to accomplish work he could not do alone. Through his evangelizing missionary work in Catalonia and the Canary Islands he was convinced that people needed to be evangelized and there were not enough priests who were sufficiently prepared or zealous enough for this mission. He was a humble man who knew that his vision came from God and not through his own means. Anthony founded a congregation called the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, or “Claretians”.

“A Son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a man on fire with love, who spreads its flames wherever he goes. He desires mightily and strives by all means possible to set everyone on fire with God’s love. Nothing daunts him: he delights in privations, welcomes work, embraces sacrifices, smiles at slander, rejoices in all the torments and sorrows he suffers, and glories in the cross of Jesus Christ. His only concern is how he may follow Christ and imitate him in praying, working, enduring and striving constantly and solely for the greater glory of God and the salvation of humankind.” ̴ Saint Anthony Mary Claret (Autobiography nº. 494)

Prayer

O my God and Father!

Grant that I may know You and make You known

That I may love You and bring others to love youThat I serve You and persuade others to serve you

That I praise you and work that all your creatures praise you

Grant my father that all sinners be converted

That all the just persevere in grace.

And all of us reach eternal glory.

Amen.

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

Friday, Oct. 23

“… filled with his Holy Spirit, may (we) become one body, one spirit, in Christ.”

The Holy Spirit is personified love and, as such, is a unifying force. From all eternity, the Holy Spirit unites the Father and the Son in an unbreakable bond of love. At the appointed time, the Holy Spirit united the divine and the human in the person of the Son of God incarnate in the womb of Mary.

And in the womb of the Church, through the Sacrament of Baptism, the Holy Spirit has united us with each other through our oneness with Christ.
The Holy Spirit is at work in you and me. The Holy Spirit has formed us into the mystical body of Christ. It is especially through the Eucharist that the Holy Spirit is at work within us. To grow in that unity is one of the primary purposes for celebrating Mass together. The Spirit wishes to unite us so that we are one in mind and one in heart. As Christ excludes no one, so, by the working of the Holy Spirit, we must strive to include everyone in our affection.

Prayer

God of our Lord Jesus Christ,

the Father of glory,

may you give to all Christians,

especially to those entrusted with leadership at the Church,

the spirit of wisdom and revelation.

With the eyes of our hearts,

may we see the hope to which you have called us:

one body and spirit,

one Lord, one faith, one baptism,

one God and Father of all,

who is above and through all and in all.

This we ask through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

Who lives and reigns with you,

In the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.

Amen.

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

Thursday, Oct. 22

The Redwood Highway

In a private section of The Grotto’s property, there is an old narrow, winding, access road. It leads, generally speaking, from the Monastery where the Servite Community of Friars lives (Frs. Vidal, Ignatius, Leo, and Richard) down to a gate which will deliver one onto one of Portland’s main street arteries. It’s been called “The Redwood Highway” for a long, long time … I don’t really know how long, but the property has been part of The Grotto for just under 100 years.

The “highway” is lined on either side by tall and extremely beautiful trees … thus its name. I’d have to say that taking a stroll down the Redwood Highway, from the Monastery to the gate at the end, is one of the regular and most loved “little time-outs”, and it is definitely a favorite of the Friars who desire just such a brief respite in a busy day. It’s restful, beautiful (no matter the weather), and even awe-inspiring when you look up, up, up, only seeing the towering trees peak out at 100 feet … or more! And I was reflecting recently on my walk along that path, how its physical appearance made a good analogy for life and our “life-paths.” To further the reflection, then …

As I already wrote, our rather unassuming Redwood Highway is full of curves. Although not long in its entirety, one absolutely cannot see very far down the road at all because the curves and the trees obscure the path before you. It’s also BUMPY, just riddled with obstacles (tree roots!) lifting and shifting the old asphalt covering. It’s got tons of potholes and ruts, and it’s even slippery in places as the wetness seeps in and creates patches of bright moss, rendering steps into “slides.” In addition, on occasion, one could even be surprised by a “critter” who, as dear Mother Nature provides, lives in the thickets on either side of the highway … a raccoon, a squirrel or two, an opossum, plenty of birds (large and small, finches to horned owls), some “slithery things” (slugs and garden snakes), or even (if you’re lucky and quiet!), a COYOTE!

So, you’re no doubt wondering … WHY am I taking “y’all” on this little Grotto “tour”? Simple, really … please go back and re-read everything I wrote about the Redwood Highway. I mentioned at the beginning of this reflection, “an analogy.” The analogy is that our little, hidden “highway” is a very fine analogy for life itself. And managing to get down the redwood highway is both a bit of an adventure, and also a study in taking care not to “trip up” too often; to “watch where you step,” and “keep focused on the destination.” Our Christian lives are not “magical mystery tours,” they are to be lives well-lived, and carefully curated. They are to be reflections of God’s glory (which is also plainly evident on the Redwood Highway) but will always have to be responsive to the ordinary pitfalls of human frailty and the occasional unplanned, accidental “aggressiveness” (surprises!) of the world in which we live.

So, walking the Redwood Highway, as we Friars often do, is more than just a walk. It’s also a meditation, a thoughtful consideration of a Christian’s place in the world, and an evaluation of how we might be standing, and re-assessing how we’re going to “get there.” Which now leads me to my final point … When you walk the length of the Redwood Highway, it rather unceremoniously “dumps one out” right onto a very busy, trafficky, well used street and sidewalk; VERY much the “REAL WORLD,” unvarnished and hard-scrabble. NO more time to meditate! The world “out there” is right at your feet and filling up your senses. It’s not particularly pretty, either; more “in your face” than orderly and polite.

Good Christian! Listen up! We’re people whose hearts might be in heaven, but our feet are most definitely still on EARTH. Every day we live, we can live for the Lord, but we also live for our brothers and sisters around us … at the end of “The Redwood Highway.”

Fr. Richard Boyle

Wednesday, Oct. 21

“I see dead people”

… A dialogue line from a 20-year-old movie, in which a young, terrified boy, is describing his terror to an investigator. Who would ever believe that we would all be, today, in a deeply poignantly way, muttering the same line, reflecting on the news we see around us each day?

Dear friends everywhere, by the time you read this, there will likely be right around 225,000 deaths from Covid-19, the “coronavirus,” pandemic raging wildly in our country. What an almost incomprehensible number; how much anguish and pain. It stretches my mind and soul to evoke words which match this tragedy, this horror. And I want to shrink from it.

But I feel compelled to face it … why? Because, for all that would tend to speak against it, I maintain HOPE. As a Christian, I can do no other. I think St. Paul’s letters can guide us along this path. In his Letter to the Romans (a particular early Community of Christians who were under constant pressure, ridicule and deadly persecution!) there are a number of verses which powerfully remind us of our heritage as Christians, and also a challenge to retain and maintain HOPE even when Faith and Love may weaken.

Romans 5:2-5 goes like this:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.

And later in the same Letter, Romans 8:24-25, reads this way:

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.

And in a third bit, Paul writes these words:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Very simply, what is hope? Hope, just by basic definition, is our desire to see something happen or become true. Hope is not abstract, nor particularly difficult to grasp or understand. It’s commonly expressed in quite ordinary statements like, “She gave up hope,” or “The team hoped they’d win the game,” or “We hope that rain won’t ruin the backyard barbeque!”

It’s really challenging for us to survive without hope. Because of that, we often place our hope in objects, experiences, and people, which leads to disappointment for us when our expectations are unrealistic and therefore, mismanaged. What we should be doing is placing our hope in our God … and that’s what led me to offer those amazing, wonderful, inspiring verses from St. Paul, above.

The Apostle Paul wrote that hope doesn’t put us to shame because of God’s love that’s been poured out on us. Romans 5:5

He also wrote that the pedestrian, “earthly” hope which we can see isn’t the more “real” and theological, spiritual hope which we hear about in Romans 8:24.

And the best thing we can learn about hope is that our God authored it, and as we learn to trust in Him. God fills us with so much hope that we’re overflowing with it. Romans 1:13

Hope is an anticipation and expectation that God is working even if we can’t see it. It’s a spiritual optimism that actually leads to building our faith. We might say that faith and hope go hand in hand. While faith is the belief that God is who He says He is and that we should trust in Him, hope is the expectation that He’s there. So, when we have hope in God, it actually propels our faith.

Living our lives with hope often comes down to knowing how to navigate our thoughts. We can become overwhelmed and even feel defeated in things that have little to no eternal impact. When plans fail and we are disappointed, we can still have hope despite earthly disappointments. We choose to hold onto the hope that God has us in His mind and heart at all times, never, ever forgetting that we are His children, eternally so! Thus, when hope feels far off, it’s likely that we had only a “situational” hope, the kind of hope that we place on temporary things, and often brings despair.

So, dear friends, Brothers and Sisters, take a minute to analyze where you’ve directed your hope. If you’ve placed your hope in anything in this world, redirect that hope toward God. Our hope is secure when we’re grounded firmly in the heart of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, and are genuinely expectant about sharing in His life, “life to the full!”

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Tuesday, Oct. 20

Prayers I found on the Internet “Google Prayers”

Yes, yes, we DO spend way too much time on our computers, transfixed, our rears glued to our chairs in front of screens all day, or at least hours at a time, our eyes becoming strained and sore, vision blurry, all because “we have to,” and sometimes, yes sometimes, because we are just SO BORED! And, you ALL know that in this “Age of Covid-19” in front of a computer screen, on the internet, is where lots of us are working pretty much full-time now … what a “world” of change from the “world” of just one oh-so-fleeting year ago!

But, as always, there may just be a bright side or two to this situation, and that would be … PRAYER and inspiration; yup, I said it! If I enter the right words in “a search,” or sometimes just by accident, or maybe just because some mysterious Internet or website algorithm “found me,” I get to pray … ONLINE! All I do is read what’s right there, “popped up,” and dancing in fancy fonts, even with uplifting pictures or illustrations. It’s difficult to actually get to church these days, but it’s never too difficult to pray … all I have to do is “search, click, and take a little rest in the Lord!” Here’s a little selection of items I found recently, and I share them with you, friends, sisters, brothers…as today’s reflection/s.

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O Christ, our Morning Star, Splendor of Light Eternal, shining with the glory of the rainbow, come and waken us from the grayness of our apathy, and renew in us your gift of hope. Amen.
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Father and maker of all, you adorn all creation with splendor and beauty, and fashion human lives in your image and likeness. Awaken in every heart reverence for the work of your hands and renew among your people a readiness to nurture and sustain your precious gift of life. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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God of love and mercy, you call us to be your people, you gift us with your abundant grace. Make us a holy people, radiating the fullness of your love. Form us into a community, a people who care, expressing your compassion. Remind us day after day of our baptismal call to serve, with joy and courage. Teach us how to grow in wisdom and grace and joy in your presence. Through Jesus and in your Spirit, we make this prayer. Amen.
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Loving Father, faith in Your Word is the way to wisdom. Help me to think about Your Divine Plan that I may grow in the truth. Open my eyes to Your deeds, my ears to the sound of Your call, so that my every act may help me share in the life of Jesus. Give me the grace to live the example of the love of Jesus, which I celebrate in the Eucharist and see in the Gospel. Form in me the likeness of Your Son and deepen His Life within me. Amen.
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O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will through all things. Amen.
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Lord, I come before you today knowing that all power is in Your hand. I know that you are the Lord and that you care for your people. Right now, my friend is struggling with a difficult trial. I can see her/his strength is faltering, Lord, and know that you have all the strength that she/he needs. I pray that you will reach down and touch her/him right now wherever she/he is at this moment. Let your presence fill the room where she/he is and let her/him feel an extra portion of your strength that can help her/him to get through this day. She/he needs you now, Lord, and I thank you in advance for meeting her/him where she/he is and shoring up her/his strength during this difficult time. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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O Heavenly Father, I commend my children unto Thee. Be Thou their God and Father; and mercifully supply whatever is wanting in me through frailty or negligence. Strengthen them to overcome the corruptions of the world, to resist all solicitations to evil, whether from within or without; and deliver them from the secret snares of the enemy. Pour Thy grace into their hearts, and confirm and multiply in them the gifts of Thy Holy Spirit, that they may daily grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; and so, faithfully serving Thee here, may come to rejoice in Thy presence hereafter. Amen.
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Dear Lord! Fill our parents with Thy choicest blessings; enrich their souls with Thy holy grace; grant that they may faithfully and constantly guard that likeness to Thy union with Thy Church, which Thou didst imprint upon them on their wedding day. Fill them with Thy spirit of holy fear, which is the beginning of wisdom; inspire them to impart it to their children. May they ever walk in the way of Thy commandments, and may we their children be their joy on earth and their crown of glory in heaven. Finally, Lord God, grant that both our father and mother may attain to extreme old age and enjoy continuous health in mind and body. May they give Thee abundant thanks because Thou bast bestowed upon them the great gift of parenthood. Amen.
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Almighty and Eternal God, Give me, I beseech You, the great gift of inward peace. Command the winds and storms of my unruly passions. Subdue, by Your grace, my proneness to love 15 created things too much. Give me a love of suffering for Your sake. make me forbearing and kind to others, that I may avoid quarrels and contentions. And teach me constantly to seek after and to acquire that perfect resignation to Your Holy Will which alone brings interior peace. Amen.
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Heavenly father, I am your humble servant, I come before you today in need of hope. There are times when I feel helpless, There are times when I feel weak. I pray for hope. I need hope for a better future. I need hope for a better life. I need hope for love and kindness. Some say that the sky is at it’s darkest just before the light. I pray that this is true, for all seems dark. I need your light, Lord, in every way. I pray to be filled with your light from head to toe. To bask in your glory. To know that all is right in the world, 16 as you have planned, and as you want it to be. Help me to walk in your light, and live my life in faith and glory. In your name I pray, Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Monday, Oct. 19

Wisdom from Pope Francis

For the Reflection today I’m going to take a bit of a “short cut,” by selecting some of my favorite “bits of wisdom” from Pope Francis … from his writings, from his homilies, from other sources.

I love Pope Francis. He’s a real Shepherd and leads gently, with compassion and gentleness. I pray that God will always sustain him in his incredibly challenging ministry of service to the Body of Christ, the Church, and that our Blessed Mother will constantly accompany him with a Mother’s special love and protection.

Brothers and sisters “out there,” pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis, daily!

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“Establishing love is a work of skilled craftsmanship, the work of patient people, people who do their utmost to persuade, to listen, to bring people together. This skillful work is carried out peacefully and wonderfully by creators of love. It is the task of the mediator. A mediator is a person who, in order to bring two sides together, personally pays the price to do so. He wears himself out in the process.”
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“Whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God.”
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“The Jesus who was weak and insignificant in the eyes of politicians and the powerful of the land revolutionized the world.”
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“But what kind of a king is Jesus? Let us take a look at him: he is riding on a donkey, he is not accompanied by a court, he is not surrounded by an army as a symbol of power. He is received by humble people, simple folk who have the sense to see something more in Jesus.”
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“Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light.”
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“It’s best not to confuse optimism with hope. Optimism is a psychological attitude toward life. Hope goes further. It is an anchor that hurls one toward the future, it’s what lets you pull on the line and reach what you’re aiming for … ”
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“The Gospel is for everyone! This reaching out to the poor does not mean that we must become champions of poverty or, as it were, “spiritual tramps”! No, no, this is not what it means! It means we must reach out to the flesh of Jesus that is suffering, but also suffering is the flesh of Jesus of those who do not know it with their study, with their intelligence, with their culture. We must go there!”
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“An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral.”
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“In fidelity to the Gospel, and in response to the urgent needs of the present time, we are called to reach out to those who find themselves in the existential peripheries of our societies, and to show particular solidarity with the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters: the poor, the disabled, the unborn and the sick, migrants and refugees, the elderly and the young who lack employment.”
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“If (gay people) accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?”
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“Christians know that suffering cannot be eliminated, yet it can have meaning and become an act of love and entrustment into the hands of God who does not abandon us; in this way it can serve as a moment of growth in faith and love.”
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“Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace is everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.”
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“Let us invoke the intercession of Mary who is the Woman of the “yes.” Mary said “yes” throughout her life! She learned to recognize Jesus’ voice from the time she carried him in her womb. May Mary, our Mother, help us to know Jesus’ voice better and better and to follow it, so as to walk on the path of life!”
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Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Sunday, Oct. 18

A Gospel about Loyalties and Priorities

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”(Matthew 22:15-21)

Jesus gave an enigmatic answer to the question about paying the Roman tax. He replied “Render to Caesar what is due to Caesar and to God what is due to God.” Instead of answering the trick question about the tax, Jesus simply states a principle, without spelling out what is precisely owed to Caesar, who, for us reading this Gospel passage today, represents all secular authorities. This is a particular and peculiar challenge which affects each of us today. It’s a VERY contemporary problem insofar as the complex politics of today present us more frequently than ever, questions not merely of “legality,” but of MORALITY; is “legal” even the right thing to do”?

Our true home is in heaven, to be sure, as St. Paul tells us (Philippians 3:20), but we are also citizens of the world. Yes, we all have a basic duty to respect the government of the country in which we live, and to obey the laws which it enacts. That includes paying taxes to finance health, security, roads etc. and to promote development. BUT, while we must recognize our civic obligations, our final loyalty is to GOD. Where there’s a clash over the demands made on us from various sides, secular and civil, God’s will must always come first. In such cases it may be our duty to protest, to resist, or even disobey unjust laws, or injustice enacted by the State … even at the risk of being punished.

This is the basis of a truly Christian observance of the laws of a Nation … and no Christian is bound to obey a fundamentally flawed or unjust law despite the fact that it is “legal,” or enacted and enforced by due authority. In fact, Christians are actually bound to oppose and resist unjust laws and work for their change or abolition. Need I remind any of us of the basis for one of the deepest divisions in the history of our Country, The Civil War, and how it faced the horrific injustice of “legal,” institutional slavery. Sadly, the “ripple effect” from that dreadful war and its consequences in pervasive, long-lasting racism in our society is not at an end. We still struggle.

And Christians who hear and obey God’s Word must follow God’s Truth, not human waywardness or complicity with Evil. Once more, Jesus, in his response to his questioners, reminds us that we are all citizens of two dominions – the spiritual and the temporal. We have duties to each. Generally, these loyalties are not in conflict. However, there are nonetheless occasions when we need to speak – out of love – against neglect or inequitable behavior by our Government, especially regarding social injustice. Jesus’ life and preaching calls each of us to live in whole-hearted allegiance to God, while navigating real-life contexts that often pull at that allegiance.

Such navigation is not easy, and we would do well to seek God’s wisdom and discernment as we desire to follow Jesus in a world full of powerful people all too content with making gods of themselves instead of encouraging us to follow theOne, True God. Jesus is the source of God’s wisdom, and his wisdom shows through in his answer to this test by the Pharisees and Herodians. We must emulate the Lord, make our loyalties and our priorities truly emulate those of Jesus. The old hymn says it very well, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love; they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Saturday, Oct. 17

Does Mary Pray?

Mother of God, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church, Mother of Divine Grace, Mirror of Justice, Seat of Wisdom, Spiritual Vessel, Mystical Rose, Tower of David, House of Gold, Gate of Heaven, Morning Star, Queen of Angels, Queen of Prophets, Queen of Martyrs, Queen Assumed into Heaven … Those are just SOME of the traditional titles which we lovingly give to Our Blessed Mother, Mary, in her Litany.

Of course we pray to her!!! But today I asked myself, “Does Mary herself ever pray? Would she even need to?”

Hail, Mary, full of grace,

the Lord is with you.

Blessed are you among women

and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us sinners,

now and at the hour of our death.

Amen.

That prayer is spoken uncounted times every day, every moment of the day, from East to West, from North to South, in every corner of the Earth, in every Land and in every tongue. WHY would The Lady, Queen and Mother, need to pray at all? But that last phrase “need to pray at all?” is my point … she does not “need” to pray. I FIRMLY BELIEVE THAT MARY LOVES AND WANTS TO PRAY … CONSTANTLY; why and to whom … ?

Mary is constantly in the presence of God, Farther, Son, and Holy Spirit. She looks directly upon God, enjoys God’s eternal favor, and, as we Christians believe, PRAYS, like any other soul in heaven, along with the angels, to God, her Creator. I don’t think it too far-fetched or “stretching” theology to say that God might pay particular attention to Mary’s prayer(s) compared to, say … oh, mine, for instance!!!??? I laugh gently at myself as I say this. But, again, of course, I MUST think that Our Blessed Mother’s prayers are much, much purer, and more direct, more sincere and simple than mine.

Mary loves to pray; she wants, desires, to pray. As the “Chosen Woman,” Mother of the Divine Son and God Incarnate, she, above all human beings, understands her intimate relationship to God, her Creator and Redeemer. She is, therefore, the model for ALL human prayer to God. Yet, as perfect as I believe her prayer to be, I also believe that the “objects” of her prayer are … simply you and me. Yes, “us,” all of us, her human sisters and brothers, all humanity, from time immemorial, past, present, and future. She prays for US! And that, my friends, comforts me. Does it comfort you as well? I hope (and pray!) that it does.

Let us pray

Dearest Mary, Queen and Mother,

Pray for me today in God’s holy presence, and allow me to feel that beautiful prayer of yours resonate in my heart as the soft and vibrant string of a harp or lute, creating a melody of love and peace in my whole being.
Touch my brow, O Sweetest Mother, with the warmth and gentleness of your hand, brushing away my cares, my worries, my anxieties, my sorrows … even if for just a moment.

Be for my lips, O Most Blessed One, a cool drink of water in the heat of seemingly constant dryness of spirit and soul, refreshing and uplifting me.
Soothe my aching heart, hold me close to you, wrap me in your soft cloak, as you must have wrapped your child, Jesus, protecting me from the wind and chill of painful memories or the harsh reality of daily life.

Whisper ever so lovingly, as the dove you are, into my ear, a soft and holy “lullaby,” to remind me that no matter how old I am or become in body, that I will always be as a young child to you, your child, to be tenderly caressed and comforted.

Blessed Mary, Holy Mary, Mother Mary … thank you for praying for ME today, tomorrow, and every day. Show me the Face of your beloved son, Jesus, the Lord.

Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Friday, Oct. 16

The 3 a.m. Phone Call

Remember the political ad from some years back about “the 3 a.m. phone call”?

Now, to assure you, the subject of this brief reflection is NOT politics, but rather the general idea of a phone call which might ring in at 3 a.m. I could certainly tell you that, in MY mind (and heart), any phone call which came ringing in to me at that “dark hour” would not merely wake me, but would strike FEAR and apprehension straight into my heart, mind and soul! WHO would be ringing me at that hour? THAT cannot be good news!!! I do not want to even pick up the phone and answer! Whatever it is, I don’t want to hear it; BAD NEWS!

But this reflection is not about ME listening to my phone ring at 3 a.m. and reacting in fear and hesitation. No, it’s the opposite. It’s about ME calling OUT for someone, anyone, at 3 a.m., because I’m in a panic over … whatever. I’ve been worried, stressed, “panicked” over 100 different things, and I’m feeling totally overwhelmed. This particular 3 a.m. phone call is FROM me, and it’s about WHOM I can “call,” or depend upon to always answer that desperate phone call of MINE. Who will respond to MY need to be heard, to catch MY “lifeline,” to listen patiently, calmly, and compassionately while I scream or moan or cry out with pain and panic? WHO would that be? You all know the answer already … it’s God.

It doesn’t really matter who you are, what the situation of your life is, nor one’s status. Fear and apprehension, stress and depression, attack us all. Yes, good and decent people ARE in our lives, and they will try to help us out of the sheer goodness of their hearts. But there are many times when I do not wish to “burden” another with my problems, crises, and issues, or I know that it isn’t “the right time” to connect or cry out. What to do? Well … as I said before … THAT is precisely why our loving, compassionate, INFINITELY patient and present LORD and GOD is there; to listen, to receive, to comfort, console and heal us in “ALL our infirmities.”

God isn’t just someone we find in church, or in prayer, or in sacred space. God is the all-present, all-inclusive, all-welcoming “ONE” Person, who is ALWAYS THERE to respond to our “3 a.m. phone call” from the neediest part of soul, heart, and mind.

Friends … CALL OUT TO GOD FROM YOUR HEARTS today! God is there to listen, to embrace you with compassion, to help you begin the road to healing. DO IT! Call on God … NOW! Peace be with all of you today, dear friends, sisters and brothers everywhere!

Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Thursday, Oct. 15

St. Teresa of Avila, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada was born in Avila in 1515. Educated by Augustinian Nuns, at twenty she entered the Carmelite convent of her native city. Her writings tell of her mystical experiences and ecstatic visions. She was named a Doctor of the Church in 1970 by Pope Paul VII, the first woman so honored along with St. Catherine of Siena.

Teresa spent much of her time and energy seeking to reform herself the Carmelite, to lead them back to the full observance of the primitive Rule. She founded over a half-dozen new monasteries. She traveled, wrote, fought – always to renew, to reform. In herself, in her prayers, in her life, in her efforts to reform, in all the people she touched, she was a woman for others, a woman who inspired and gave life.

Prayer

God, you raised up St. Teresa by your Spirit so that she would manifest to the Church the way to perfection.

Nourish us with the food of heaven, and fire us with the desire for holiness and grow in loving devotion to You.

Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Wednesday, Oct. 14

St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr

Saint Callistus was born a Christian slave, the ‘property’ of a man named Carpophorus, also a Christian. Put in charge of the bank by his master, he lost the money deposited, fled and was caught. After serving time for a while, he was released to make some attempt to recover the money. Apparently he carried his zeal too far, being arrested for brawling in a Jewish Synagogue. This time, he was sentenced to hard labor in Sardinia, but was later freed and ransomed by the Christian community.

Pope Zephyrinus called him to Rome to look after the Christian cemetery near the catacombs, later known as Calistus Cemetery. Pope Zephyrinus ordained him as a deacon and made him his friend and advisor. St. Callistus later succeeded Pope Zephyrinus as he was elected a pope by a majority of vote of the clergy and laity in Rome, and thereafter was bitterly attacked by the losing candidate, St. Hyppolytus, who let himself be set up as the first antipope in the history of the Church.

St. Callistus was martyred during a local disturbance in Trastevere, Rome, in 222, and is the first Pope (except for Peter) to be commemorated as a martyr in the earliest martyrology of the Church.

He is the Patron Saint of the Cemetery Workers.

Prayer

O God, who raised up Pope Saint Callistus I to serve the Church, strengthen us, we pray, by his witness to the faith, so that rescued from the slavery of corruption, we may merit an incorruptible inheritance.
Through Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with you, and the holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever.
Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM 

Tuesday, Oct. 13

Wash your hands before the meal

Healthwise, we have been encouraged to wash our hands before the meal, not only during this pandemic, but also before we knew of Covid-19. During the pandemic, adding to washing our hands, we also use hand-sanitizers. It is a simple but a healthy activity to keep us away from the germs that we might encounter somewhere.

The Gospel today talks about Jesus who dined at a Pharisee’s house. Jesus had already started eating when the host realized that Jesus did not observe the tradition of washing hands before the meal. Jesus did not want to oppose or to remove this tradition; Jesus wanted to transform it to its fullness.

Saint Luke wanted to explain to all Christians the importance of the sanctity of hearts. Jesus invites this Pharisee and all of us to put off hypocrisy, falsehood, arrogance, lies, etc., and cleanse our hearts of the germs of life and fill it with love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness; and thus, the attitudes and behaviors we express reflect sincerity and honesty. Therefore, if our internal parts have been perfected, then external one will also be perfected.

The Eucharist is our celebration where we are challenged not only to wash our hands to worthily receive our Lord, but also to clean our hearts from our thoughts, from what we have done, what we have failed to do to our brothers and sisters. To receive the Lord, we are asked to let go of our ego – of our pride.

Let us then, brothers and sisters, clean what is inside and reflect on our motivations. As Christians, how is our inner self, is it clean? Let’s wash not only our hands but also our hearts.

Prayer

Lord Jesus,
Wash us clean inside and outside.
Help us to make your love the foundation of our lives.
May our love for you express itself in our eagerness to do good for others.
Forgive our failings, keep us in your peace and lead us in the way of salvation.
Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Monday, Oct. 12

Lord, show me the sign!

The year of 2020 has been insane, hasn’t it? And in this seemingly never-ending tragic year, perhaps we too are waiting or longing expectantly for a sign. That sign could be different for each one of us, and it could lead us to get back to our feet.

But what sign is greater than the Sacraments with which our hope and faith is nourished and strengthened? ”The Sacraments are efficacious SIGNS of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1131).

Through these Sacraments, we receive God who is love, peace, healing, forgiveness etc., through the outward signs.

The only thing we need to have is faith. Because without faith, we will not understand these outward signs. But with faith, we can be saved like Jonah. And our faith is deepened through our prayers.

Prayer

Almighty God,

We thank you for your love, peace, forgiveness and healing that we have received through your Holy Sacraments.

Continue to strengthen our faith that we can be your signs in the world.

Help us to courageously bring your love, peace, forgiveness and healing to others around us.

Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Sunday, Oct. 11

“I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”

How would you picture the house of the Lord? Have you ever been in awe when you enter a place? I picture the house of the Lord, not as a building, but as a feeling of full of love, peace, tranquility … as a place where prosperity flows so rich to everyone.

Prophet Isaiah sees this house where people get rich food and choice wines, a place where joy awaits all the time. And, St. Paul assures the Philippians and all of us that in this house, we “can do all things in [Christ] who strengthens us.”

But, to be in this house, we are invited to respond to God’s call and come to it with a right attitude, because He who calls us to his house will see us through.

Everyone of us is welcomed to the celebration in the Lord’s house. The Celebration of the Eucharist is the foretaste of the eschatological banquet in heaven. We are grateful for God’s invitation and for God’s love in this Celebration in hope that we might enjoy His fullness in the Heavenly banquet.

After each Mass, each one of us is called to be the house of the Lord. However, God gives us a choice whether to allow him to dwell in us or not. We will know that God dwells in us when all we have is love, peace and forgiveness, which we show in our words and actions.

Prayer

Come, Almighty Lord, and live in us.
Come and shine within us.
Move our hearts with your Spirit that we may bring your love and peace to others around us.
Ignite our enthusiasm to proclaim your love in our words and actions.
Teach us to forgive one another as you have forgiven our sins.
And let us live in your house forever and ever.
Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Saturday, Oct. 10

True Blessedness

In the Gospel of Luke, both Mary and Jesus were acclaimed “blessed” by two different women. When Mary visited Elizabeth, her relative, Elizabeth cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” (Luke 1:42) Mary’s humility and willingness to accept God’s creative work of salvation make her the blessed one among all God’s children.

And today, Luke highlights that humility and willingness of Mary when Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” (Luke 11:28) In doing so, Jesus agreed to the woman who called out, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.”

Mary was attentive to God’s word and observed it; for Jesus, those who listen and do God’s will are more important than those with a biological relationship to him. Are you among them?

Prayer

Oh Lord,
Help us with your Holy Spirit to listen to your Word and to act on it.
Open the eyes of our heart to listen, to understand and to do your Word in our lives.
Shine within our hearts, O Lord, with your Wisdom and Knowledge that we not only read your Word but also are able to act on it.
May your Word bring joy to the sorrowful and healing to the sick, lift the burdens of your people, strengthen our faith, and give hope to those who are hopeless.
Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Friday, Oct. 9

St. Denis, Bishop, and Companions, Martyrs

St. John Leonardi, Priest

In responding to the crowd’s reaction for driving out demons, Jesus explained to his opponents (and us) how the devil works in human’s life. The devil has power to lead us astray. The devil will not lose easily. If it loses, it will try to come back with a stronger power to destroy its target.

How can we then defeat the power of the devil? St. Paul urges us to have faith and to act on that faith, like the faith of Abraham. We will not be able to fight against the devil on our own; only when we have faith in God and in his Son that we can destroy the power of the devil. And for those who have faith, God will drive out demons with His finger, “If it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.”

To destroy the demons by His finger means that God’s power is surpassing – more powerful than the power of the devil, even when it “brings back seven other spirits.” God doesn’t have to use a huge punch to drive them out because for God the devil is a little enemy which doesn’t require an amount of energy to get rid of.

Jesus has shown us the way to drive out demons and its power. To follow Christ means to defeat the evil way of life and to walk in his path. The Saints whom we commemorate today are our examples. They gave up everything for their faith and for the love of the Church.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, be with us in our journey of life and never leave us alone.

Help us to be faithful to your commands and to serve you with everything that we have.

May your Kingdom continue to come upon all people through the good work of your faithful people.

Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM 

Thursday, Oct. 8

Ask and you will receive

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds … If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Luke 11:11 –13)

I can clearly recall hearing, I mean listening to, this verse at Mass while I was in grade school. I remember thinking “WOW, all I have to do is ask?” Many petitions came into my mind: a new bike, my own room, a puppy….

I did not hear the rest of the verse. I’m not sure I fully hear it even today. “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

I should be asking to hear you, know you. I should be seeking your will, your values and vision for the people and world around me. And I must be willing to knock – to act on your behalf.

Let us Pray

Dear Father in Heaven, so often my mind and heart are focused on myself: My loved ones, my worries, my wants and needs.

Please gift me with a spirit of selfless generosity, an open heart, and a mind that welcomes your creative movement into my thoughts and imagination.

As your precious child, help me to set my sights on YOU.

It is you, Creator, Redeemer, Inspirer – Father – Son and Spirit whom I wish to love, serve, preach and embody in my daily life.

Amen.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Wednesday, Oct. 7

Our Lady of the Rosary

Saint Pius V established this feast in 1573. The purpose was to thank God for the victory of Christians over the Turks at Lepanto – victory attributed to the praying of the rosary. Clement XI extended the feast to the universal Church in 1716.

If you have an opportunity, come to The Grotto and view the Mysteries of the Rosary: Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous. The artwork adds an emotional depth to my prayer of these Mysteries. Such a powerful prayer – to reflect on the Mystery and pray these prayers that we have known since childhood.

Reciting these prayers over and over elevates our mind and heart beyond ourselves to a place where we can rest in God.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div. 

Tuesday, Oct. 6

Attached to Jesus

Mary and Martha both Love Jesus very much. In today’s encounter, Martha is frustrated because her sister is not helping her serve the people whom are gathered to listen to Jesus. (Luke 10: 38-42)

Jesus admonishes Martha, not because she is serving, but because she wishes to hold her sister to her own standards. Martha is ‘anxious and worried abut many things’. Her way of coping with that is to keep busy. Surely Mary, too, had worries. But she chose to attach herself to Jesus, his words and his presence.

I, too, can sometimes get caught up in my own mind, worrying and fretting about situations in my life, and in the world around me.

Let us Pray

Ever-loving, ever-living God,
Help me to take more time for you today.
I can sit at your feet and listen to your word, in the silence of my heart, and in the pages of Scripture.
Slow me down to be with you, to rest in you this day.
Amen.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Monday, Oct. 5

Who is my neighbor?

It is important to remember that Jesus telling the story of the Good Samaritan was his answer to the Question: “Who is my neighbor?”

In the time of Jesus, there had already been hundreds of years of ill will between the Jews and Samaritans. The Jews saw the Samaritans as ‘half breeds’ who ‘contaminated’ the Jewish religion with outside beliefs. That Jesus answers the question from a devout Jew, “who is my neighbor”, by telling of a merciful Samaritan was meant to give the listener pause.

My neighbor could be someone I would cross the street to avoid, who I would think the most unlikely. Close your eyes for a moment and think of the individual, or groups of people that you dislike, and wish to avoid.

Now, imagine being mugged and beaten. Imagine some people see you, and yet, walk right past you. Then you see this ‘undesirable’ coming toward you. That person shows you extreme compassion, mercy and care. They transport you to urgent care and pay your medical bills.

Jesus is asking us to see all whom we encounter as our neighbor, AND he wants us to love them as we love ourselves.

Let us Pray

Gracious and merciful God,
Your Son Jesus revealed your boundless love and mercy.
His words and actions showed us how to be neighbor to all people.
Purify my heart to remove the prejudgments and assumptions that hold me back from loving others.
I humbly ask this through Christ Jesus my brother. 
Amen.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Sunday, Oct. 4

Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis is dear to the hearts of many. The Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Family taught and served in my home parish and school. I share with you today one of the prayers that St. Francis wrote. He places all things that God created on equal ground with humanity. If God created it, and it is part of our world and our human experience, then it is our brother or sister.

I encourage you to spend time with it in prayer and reflection.  O Most High, all-powerful, good Lord God,

To you belong praise, glory, honor and all blessing.

Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation, and especially for our Brother Sun, who brings us the day and the light; he is strong and shines magnificently. O Lord, we think of you when we look at him.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Moon, and for the stars which you have set shining and lovely in the heavens.

Be praised, my Lord, for our Brothers Wind and Air and every kind of weatherby which you, Lord, uphold life in all your creatures.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Water, who is very useful to us, and humble and precious and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Fire, through whom you give us light in the darkness: he is bright and lively and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Earth, our Mother, who nourishes us and sustains us, bringing forth fruits and vegetables of many kinds and flowers of many colors.

Be praised, my Lord, for those who forgive for love of you; and for those who bear sickness and weakness, in peace and patience – you will grant them a crown.

Be praised, my Lord, for our Sister Death, whom we must all face.

I praise and bless you, Lord, and I give thanks to you, and I will serve you in all humility.

Amen.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Saturday, Oct. 3

Blessed are We

“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” Luke 10:24

Holy Mother Mary,

Help me today to remember and celebrate how God has blessed me.

As I recall what you saw and heard in your life on earth, it raises up for me some of the powerful encounters that I have had with Christ Jesus – encounters at Mass, while reading Scripture, in prayer.

I, too, have seen God heal, reconcile, and shower peace.

I have been blessed with courage at times when I was sure I had no strength left, inspiration in times of turmoil.

Blessed Mother of our Lord, may I, like you, bear witness to the work of God in my life so that others too may come to know and love Christ Jesus.

Amen.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Friday, Oct. 2

Feast of Guardian Angels

There are so many ways that God tries to remind and reassure us of his closeness and care for each one of us. Today’s feast is another example. In addition to God’s eternal care, the redeeming love of Christ, and the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, each life is gifted with our own minister of divine care – Guardian Angel. Wow. God’s gracious and loving protection and presence permeates every corner of our life, our being, and our world. Natural disasters happen, illness happens, violence happens, yes – but God surrounds us and never leaves us alone to deal with all the people, events and situations that come our way.

Here is a quote from Pope Benedict on the Feast of Guardian Angels given in 2011:

“Dear friends, the Lord is ever close and active in humanity’s history and accompanies us with the unique presence of his Angels, whom today the Church venerates as “Guardian Angels”, that is, ministers of the divine care for every human being. From the beginning until the hour of death, human life is surrounded by their constant protection.” 

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Thursday, Oct. 1

Saint Therese of Liseux, Virgin and Doctor

Therese never traveled far from home. She was never awarded a medal. She never built a hospital, nor did she ever start a religious community. Yet her biography, The Story of a Soul, was translated into 35 languages and read by millions. Why is this young woman so popular?

Therese proved that we could become saints by doing ordinary things extraordinarily well. Therese explained: “I want to seek a way to heaven, a new way, very short, very straight – the way of trust and self-surrender … I am a little soul, who can offer only little things to Our Lord.”

Therese set out to be a saint by what she called the “Little Way”. This entailed having a commitment to the tasks and to the people we meet in our everyday lives. Whatever tasks or assignments in the convent were ways of manifesting her love for God and for others. Whether it was her work as a sacristan taking care of the altar and the chapel, or serving in the refectory or in the laundry room, she tried to show a love for all the nuns in the community. Her life sounds so routine and ordinary. It is called the “Little Way” precisely because it entailed great fortitude and commitment.

What does Therese teach us today with her “Little Way”? That we are called to live out our days with confidence ins God’s love for each and everyone of us. We are to realize that each day is a gift in which we can make a difference by the way we choose to live it. Therese knew the difference love makes by allowing love to be the statement she made each day of her life.

Litany to St. Therese of Lisieux

St. Therese of the Child Jesus,

pray for us.

St. Therese of the Holy Face,

pray for us.

St. Therese, child of Mary,

pray for us.

St. Therese, devoted to Joseph,

pray for us.

St. Therese, angel of innocence,

pray for us.

St. Therese, converter of hardened hearts,

pray for us.

St. Therese, healer of the diseased,

pray for us.

St. Therese, filled with love for the Blessed Sacrament,

pray for us.

St. Therese, filled with an Apostle’s zeal,

pray for us.

St. Therese, filled with a tender love for the Church,

pray for us.

St. Therese, filled with love for God and neighbor,

pray for us.

St. Therese, patient in sufferings,

pray for us.

St. Therese, consumed with love,

pray for us.

Pray for us, St. Therese.

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

Wednesday, Sept. 30

St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor

Do you think you could ever read the whole Bible? How about writing it out – no, not using a computer – with a pen? How long do you think that would take? St. Jerome did even more. He translated the whole Bible and wrote it out by hand.

Pope Damasus, having noticed Jerome’s talents, summoned him to Rome to be a papal secretary. The Pope also knew of Jerome’s love of Scripture, so he commissioned Jerome to translate the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin. Jerome was just the person to do this because he had great knowledge and self-discipline. This was a long and exhausting work. It took Jerome 30 years! His translation became the official text of the Catholic Church. Jerome’s translation was known as the Vulgate because it was written in Latin, the common language of the people.

Prayer to St. Jerome

You are responsible for translating most of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin. You wrote many essays on the faith and shaped a great deal of Christian thought. You were a spiritual director to many wealthy Roman women, writing letters to them and encouraging them in their faith. You toured all around the Holy Land, visiting many of the places where Jesus lived and taught. You spent years in the desert as an ascetic, spending your time in penance and study. You died in Bethlehem at the age of seventy-three.

St. Jerome, you are a Father, Doctor, and the most prolific writer of the Church. Pray that we may grow and develop our faith by the study of Sacred Scripture. St. Jerome, though you were a passionate defender of orthodox faith, you often came across as irascible and short-tempered. Pray for all who are zealous in their faith but prone to anger and irritability. St. Jerome, you were hard on others, but even harder on yourself. Pray that we may be gifted with the virtue of humility and patience so that our charity to others may not be hindered by self-love.

Amen.

St. Jerome, pray for us!

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

Tuesday, Sept. 29

What’s in a Name?

SAINTS MICHAEL, GABRIEL AND RAPHAEL, ARCHANGELS

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that angels are created spiritual beings with intellects and wills. “With their whole being the angels are servants and messengers of God.” (CCC, 327-336).

Michael, whose name means “Who is like God?”, is the principal fighter in the battle against Lucifer, or Satan, as related in the Book of Revelation.
Gabriel, whose name means “Strength of God”, is God’s main messenger, bringing good news to God’s people. Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth to the Savior.

Raphael, whose name means “God Heals”, is associated with healing (Tobit 12:1-22) In times of temptation, pray to Michael; to know and carry out God’s will, call on Gabriel; and travelers and those seeking healing turn to Raphael. The angels assure us that God cares for and is with us.

Prayer

Heavenly King, You have given us archangels to assist us during our pilgrimage on earth.

Saint Michael is our protector; I ask him to come to my aid, fight for all my loved ones, and protect us from danger.

Saint Gabriel is a messenger of the Good News; I ask him to help me clearly hear Your voice and to teach me the truth.

Saint Raphael is the healing angel; I ask him to take my need for healing and that of everyone I know, lift it up to You and deliver back to us the gift of recovery.

Help us, O Lord, to realize more fully the presence of archangels and their desire to serve us.

Holy Angels, pray for us.

Amen.

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

Monday, Sept. 28

Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions

Martyrs Lorenzo’s father was Chinese and his mother was Filipino. The family lived in the Chinese section of Manila, in the Philippines. Lorenzo learned Spanish from the Dominican Friars, for whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. Lorenzo married and became the father of two sons and a daughter. His life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. To avoid arrest, Lorenzo joined a missionary group of three Dominican priests, another priest and a layman. Only on the ship did Lorenzo learn that the group was headed for Japan, where Catholics were being persecuted.

In Japan, the six men were arrested. After being imprisoned for a year, they were sent to Nagasaki to be tried. When asked by the officials: “If we grant you life, will you renounce your faith?” Lorenzo replied: “That I will never do, because I am a Christian and I shall die for God, and for God I will give many thousands of lives if I had them. And so, do with me as you please”. Lorenzo and fifteen others were martyred in or near Nagasaki, Japan. They were canonized by St. Pope John Paul II in 1987. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized Filipino martyr.

Prayer

Beloved SAINT LORENZO RUIZ, confronted with death, you proclaimed your readiness to die a thousand times for your Christian faith.

Today the whole world admires your courage.

You, a family man, protect our families.

Keep them united in love.

You, who bore your sufferings with patience and resignation, intercede for those who suffer in mind or body; help them to receive the grace of God’s miraculous healing.

You, an example of Christian fortitude, sustain our faith and make it spread and grow strong all around us.

Amen

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

Sunday, Sept. 27

Saint Vincent de Paul

Have you ever heard of the St. Vincent de Paul Society? Many parishes throughout the world have organized these charitable groups to provide food, clothing and other basic material needs for the poor on a regular basis. Perhaps you are now or have been a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in your parish. Perhaps you have received assistance from the St. Vincent de Paul Society at a time when you were in need. The St. Vincent de Paul Society usually involves a few members of a parish community, but there is always opportunity for all in the parish to participate in responding to the needs of their brothers and sisters by donating food, household items, clothing, or making financial contributions.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society is one of the many projects organized by St. Vincent. Vincent also saw another kind of poverty, a spiritual poverty. Many of the people had no real understanding of their faith. So, Vincent organized priests who would go out and preach to the people. Eventually this group of priests became the Congregation of the Mission, also known as the Vincentian Fathers. Vincent helped to begin a religious congregation for women: the Daughters of Charity, opened hospitals, homes for orphans and for the aged, established training programs and retreats for seminarians, raised money for victims of war, and sent missionaries to other countries.

Prayer

Saint Vincent de Paul, beloved servant of the poor, may we follow your example and do good works among those whom society has abandoned, enslaved, or forgotten.

Inspire us to feed the hungry, to love a child, to provide comfort and medicine to the sick, to clothe those whose garments are threadbare, and to offer hope and our Lord’s words to all who need respite.

Pray for us to our beloved God that we may commit ourselves selflessly to doing the same charitable acts that you did all your life.

Amen.

Saturday, Sept. 26

Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Physicians and Martyrs

Little is known about Cosmas and Damian except that they suffered martyrdom for their faith in Syria sometime during the persecutions of Diocletian (around 303). We do know that their witness to the faith was so strong that people turned to them for prayerful help and passed their story on to others.

According to these stories, Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers, born in Arabia, who went to Syria to study and practice medicine. They were concerned about more than healing bodies. They brought their belief in Christ to those to whom they ministered. They also served people without charging fees, as a result, they have been given the name “the moneyless ones”. When Lysias, the Governor of Celicia, heard about these two brothers, he summoned them before him. When Cosmas and Damian proclaimed that they were Christians, Lysias had them tortured and finally beheaded.

Devotion to these two brothers grew and many cures were said to have been worked through their intercessions. Their lives can inspire us and encourage us to be faithful during our trials and sorrows.

Along with St. Luke the Evangelist, Saints Cosmas and Damian are the patrons of doctors, surgeons, and pharmacists. Let us ask their intercession on behalf of all medical professionals, our own personal doctors, surgeons, pharmacists. Let us pray for the many women and men, medical professionals, who are on the front line during this pandemic, risking their own lives and health for the benefit of others. St. Cosmas and Damian, pray for each of them!

Prayer

O Saints Cosmas and Damian, we honor and venerate you with all the humility and interior affection of our hearts.

We invoke you, glorious martyrs of Jesus Christ, who during life exercised the art of healing with admirable charity and sacrifice, curing the incurable and ministering to dangerous illnesses, not so much with the aid of medicine and skill, but by the invocation of the all-powerful Name of Jesus Christ.

Now that you are more powerful in heaven, graciously bestow your merciful glance upon us; and at the sight of the many ills which oppress us, the many spiritual and corporal diseases that surround us, hasten your help.

Assist us, we pray, in every distress.

We do not ask for ourselves only, but for all our relatives, families, friends, and enemies, so that, restored to health of soul and body, we can give glory to God, and honor to you, our saintly protectors.

Amen.

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector

Friday, Sept. 25

A time for everything under the heavens

We say that time heals wounds. When we are uncertain about the outcome of some event, we reluctantly admit that time will tell. Time is truly God’s gift. We often complain that we do not have enough time, but for many of us nothing would get done even if we had all the time in world. How we use the time we have is more important than how much time we have.

In our fast moving and noisy world, we need to take time for peace and quiet to pray and to think about life itself and its values. For at least some time of our life, some part of our day, we need to make time to be alone with God, to listen and hear God speaking to us and to be aware of God’s presence and action in our life.

Life is short. It would be a shame to waste it on simply meaningless activity. The book of Proverbs tells us that there is a time for everything, but time itself accomplishes nothing. It is an opportunity, nothing more. It is up to us to use our time well for what really counts in life.

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM

Rector of The Grotto

Thursday, Sept. 24

Gates and Fences

Every time I either leave The Grotto, our Monastery grounds, or anywhere in the Sanctuary, or when I return, whether it is by car or on foot, I must use a gate. And at either end of the gate, for as far as the foliage will permit me to see, there is a fence separating inside from outside. On a few occasions, and for any number of reasons, I’ve found myself on “the wrong side” of the fence, the gate keeping me isolated outside, or “trapped” inside … frustrating! Now, of course, all things considered, I was at home, and it didn’t take me long to figure out how to get in … or out. But the other day (as I was paused, waiting for a gate to automatically open) I began thinking about “gates and fences,” and what they mean or represent … perhaps in a broader sense. Maybe this question: Do I “build” gates and fences in my life, and why? What happens as a result? Does anyone notice … or care?

So, why do we have gates and fences?

Hmmm, seems pretty simple; maybe to define a boundary, to “keep in” that which is mine, and also to “keep out” whatever doesn’t “belong.” The gates? Just convenient “breaks” in the fence that are the standard, defined ways to get in or out … yes, as I just wrote, very simple. Or is it? Thus, if I happen to use the simple image of a fence or a gate as a SYMBOL of how I live my life, then it gets a bit complicated!

Here’s the problem in a nutshell: My faith instructs me to live my life openly, simply, honestly, in a hospitable fashion. YES! Just as Christ would want me to! BUT (yeah, “that” word!), what if I can’t seem to do what Christ would want me to do? I am fearful, I am hesitant, I am suspicious …”danger, danger!” Over the years, in my human weakness, I carefully build “fences and gates” to protect myself and keep others away from “me and mine.”

OK, now we’re really into it. I see and understand the ideal of living as a Christian; the Sacred Scriptures describe it well and often. But I am confronted with my own weakness and fear, and I capitulate to what seems “safe.” And in capitulating, I find myself, well, lonely and isolated. And then even more fear creeps in, a sense that I am truly, terrifyingly ALONE. Yes, I’m protected in my “cocoon of comfort,” but it’s cold and empty in there, and I cry a LOT more than I smile. What kind of a life is that??? Not much … WHAT to do?

I’m sure that anyone reading this is waiting for me to provide a magic pill, or some other “sweet nothing” to fix up everything, and to solve everyone’s problems, right? “Hey, the priest has the answers, just listen!” But, friends … the bad news is that I have NO “magic fix” at all. All I have is the benefit and result of my own experience in trying to deal with the awkward realities in my own life … and what my relationship with God (in Christ Jesus), and my filial relationship (as a Servite Friar) with Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows provides for me. I hope that is some small taste of good news, if not the complete and simple solution we all sometimes want!

The reality is that life is the art of balancing all that is good along with all that is bad … all the while doing one’s best at remaining in a steady relationship with God. Said another way, the “work” of living is getting comfortable with seeing that many of my inner barriers, psychological and spiritual “gates and fences” are not doing me much good. In a word, it’s FAITH which makes and creates the crucial difference; a dynamic, breathing, ebb-and-flow life lived as a journey, an adventure, and not lived all closed up in a “fortress of solitude.”

Jesus said many times, and in so very many ways, “Do not be afraid.” Today, let’s NOT be afraid, but rather Let us rejoice in life, in one another, and in God! … to be continued … at some later time!

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Wednesday, Sept. 23

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

The words above, so telling and compelling, clear, direct, and challenging, come from the Gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 9, vs. 13. But in order to understand the context which gives those words incredible power, we must see the other verses which immediately precede it, and are often referred to, as “The call of Matthew,” he who was, as we know, a tax collector, and therefore a “public sinner” in the eyes of a “just Jew” of the time. Here’s the entire passage:

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13)

Jesus was not merely teaching, but he was critiquing and correcting his listeners, specifically the Pharisees, the religious authorities, about the deeper nature of faith … as it relates to religious practice. That was a VERY touchy subject in the time of Jesus, and, in fact, remains so today in our Christian faith and practice. How and why?

A simple, somewhat sad fact was that in the time of Jesus, the “practices” of the religion of the Chosen People had become the heart of their faith. What was originally given by God to the Jews first and fundamentally to be an interior reality, defined in a “Covenant relationship” with God, along with various ritual ways to remind and practice that Covenant in a physical way, had become (now hundreds of years after the original Covenant had been established with Abraham and Sarah, down through Moses and the Prophets, etc.) pretty much ONLY the exterior practice of the religion, with it’s “inner spirit” almost absent. Any person (like Matthew, or others) could be judged, and judged severely, on the observation of whether the “practices,” the rituals of the religion, were being performed “perfectly,” or not.

So, in this passage we observe, hear, Jesus call Matthew, (who was a “public sinner” because of his “outlawed” profession as a tax collector, i.e., basically an employee of the hated ruling Romans) to “follow him,” and thereby giving him instant status in the “new Covenant” of Jesus’ Community of Love, his Body, that which we now know as “the CHURCH.”

But this was just the beginning. Immediately after Matthew’s call, we find Jesus gathered with Matthew and LOTS of other “sinners,” eating and drinking at a beautiful banquet … ALL forbidden by the many rules, regulations, customs, and laws of a religion defined by external conformity to many “little laws.” The Pharisees offer their judgmental opinion in the form of a question to the disciples, and Jesus reacts and responds with that definitive, corrective, and instructive verse 13, quoted and highlighted above.

What are WE to take away from that episode from so long ago? This: We must never, ever think that the mere repetition of any amount of religious ritual or practice can just completely replace the genuine, interior faith which underpins it. There is clearly a set of accepted, traditional “rules and regulations, “laws,” regarding the practice of our faith today; all good. But, if we “lull” ourselves into thinking that the rituals themselves have value outside of the personal and collective faith of “the Church,” the Body of Christ, expressed as a collection of countless faith-filled people, then we are misled. Jesus would certainly appear to take this approach on many occasions when he was confronted by the religious authorities of his day. He indeed contended with them, and clearly disagreed that it was enough to “practice” a faith without LIVING that faith, in heart, mind, soul and body TOGETHER, as one.

So, friends, sisters and brothers, do you practice “sacrifice,” or “mercy”? Is your body alone the main practitioner of your faith, or your WHOLE BEING, inside and out? Does your body alone come to Mass, or is your heart, mind, and soul IN that body when it attends and participates??? Is your priority just being awake, or being fully ALIVE? Are you merely “going through the motions” in church, or are you WORSHIPPING GOD WITH EVERY FIBER OF YOUR BEING?

May I suggest the well-known Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits) for all of us to pray today … or whenever we “slack off” in our understanding of the true practice of our faith and religion.

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will.
All I have and call my own, You have given all to me, to you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.
Amen.

Tuesday, Sept. 22

My Car is my Inspiration Today

LOLOLOL … YES, I know you’re ALL thinking I’m now “officially” crazy! And, in a way, I suppose I am, but I tend to think EVERYTHING we are (even “crazy”) can be a gift from God, or at least blessed by God, if we ALLOW it to be.

So, WHY is my car my inspiration for me today (and maybe for YOU)?
Simple: I drive a “hybrid” sort of car, one which has both a regular engine AND some electric motors. Those two parts were designed and engineered to work together seamlessly to produce certain results: efficient, high mileage, for example. The analogy here is this: I believe God created and “engineered” us to work like a “hybridtandem” car as well, that is, with BOTH our physical and spiritual “sides” or “parts,” to effectively become a single, “meshed” organism which is “programmed” or intended for a good result. Like, for example, a happy, productive, balanced, kind of life which benefits from a direct connection with God (the spiritual side), as well as a solid, positive, connection with physical creation (our bodily side).

When I read the Sacred Scriptures, and most especially the Gospels which tell the marvelous stories of Jesus, the Son of God, who “perfectly possessed” both a physical and spiritual nature united in ONE person, I am inspired to look again (and again, and again…) at my own life, in order to assess (and re-assess, and re-assess…) how I “measure up,” and how, why, or when, I might need to make adjustments to get myself closer to living the kind of life which would be more pleasing to God, and be a real contribution to life and Creation! So, in a strange and wonderful way, even getting in my car and driving to do the most mundane chore could also become a little “push” or reminder that I need a “tune-up,” or tweak in my overall “performance.” I mean, after all, even my car has all sorts of gauges and “messages” which read out to me constantly how it’s doing … or if something is wrong and needs some “extra attention.”

Isn’t life like that too, if we “stay awake” and keep focused on our daily living … and how it ought to best reflect a “life well-lived” in the Lord, and at peace with God’s creation, and especially our fellow human beings; brothers and sisters all?


Of course, I know that all the huge pressures and stresses with which we live these days make it difficult (even to breathe!), but the reward of our Christian lives remains ever achievable, provided we make the “regular operation and maintenance” of that life (just like my car!) a priority.
I don’t mean to be overly simplistic, but sometimes there is an undeniable truth in the old acronym, “KISS,” which stands for “Keep It Simple, Sweetheart.

Let’s offer this prayer together today:

Blessed Lord, Holy One, God of Life and all Creation,

Help me be constantly aware of you in my life, accompanying and inspiring me to open my eyes, my heart, my mind, to the power within me … given by you … to become a better person and a better “steward” of your Creation.

As I perform this mission of life, all in your most holy name, let my efforts be your efforts, my hopes and dreams be the result of your inspiration within me to make your Heavenly Kingdom part of daily life here on Earth.
Help and strengthen me to do good, to lift up, to include, to create community.

When I fail, forgive me, and remind me that your Love impels me to just start over … never giving up, because YOU, O Most Blessed Lord, NEVER GIVE UP ON ME!

Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Monday, Sept. 21

A Prayer for Conversion from the Racism in My Heart

Dear and Blessed Lord,
Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me.
Open the eyes of my heart! Help me to change … to grow, to HEAL;
to loosen the bonds which hold my heart and mind constricted
as if by some giant twisting serpent …
killing my soul and heart, and even my conscience
as I indulge the depths of my need to make myself
somehow better than, more than, higher than, others;
“my Sisters and Brothers in the one Family of God.”
Oh Blessed Lord and God,
Forgive the secret, prejudicial, negative, hurtful, and judgmental thoughts I harbor against:
people who do not look like me,
people who do not think like me,
people who come from other cultures, or nations,
people who speak languages foreign to mine,
people whose ancestry is different from mine,
people whose skin color differs from what I see when I gaze at the mirror;
all the people I have learned from either long ago or perhaps even just last week, to:
reject, revile, demean, denigrate, insult, ignore, or even … hate!
The people I always think of as “THEM,” “THOSE,” anything but MY Brother or Sister …
Blessed Lord of Compassion,
Teach me, please:
to measure others as you measure, with equal measure;
to lift up everyone I see or meet with your arms, arms which embrace;
to stop and listen to a brother or sister with your patience and forbearance;
to search for the dignity of every single person, the dignity you placed within them at their conception;
to cultivate awe toward the other, because every human being’s source is in you;
to manifest solemn respect for the singular humanity we ALL share as your ultimate creation;
to speak to each and every one just as you speak, with forgiveness and forbearance;
to touch all people with your touch, which is gentle, kind, and soothing;
to see all people, without any exception, with your eyes of reverence, honor, and love;
to build up each person as you build, with care, concern, and selflessness;
and finally, to love others as I myself have been loved by you …
abundantly, vibrantly, effusively, richly, and even unto death.
In Jesus’ powerful name, his holy name, his eternal name, I pray …
Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Sunday, Sept. 20

Our Lady of Sorrows

On the Solemnity of Our Lady of Sorrows, the Servite Order honors Mary as our “principal patron,” the “icon” to whom we look, as the Order singularly dedicated to her and the remembrance and celebration of her Seven Sorrows … indeed, her entire life of compassionate service.

The Solemnity, the liturgical celebration of Our Lady’s Seven Sorrows, has a bit of history attached to it … its roots date to the 12th century and the Cistercian Order, but it was especially promoted by the Servites, beginning in the 13th century, so much so that by the 14th and 15th centuries it was widely celebrated throughout the entire Church.

In 1482, the feast was added to the Roman Missal under the title of “Our Lady of Compassion.” Pope Benedict XIII added it to the Roman (liturgical) Calendar in 1727 on the Friday before Palm Sunday. In 1913, Pope Pius X changed and fixed the date on September 15th. In a number of Servite shrines and churches, the Order will also celebrate this Solemnity on the Sunday following the actual date of September 15th. Here at The Grotto, that date is TODAY!

Sacred Scripture gives us this scene as Mary and Joseph presented the baby Jesus for his dedication ceremony as a first born son: “Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his Mother, “This child is destined to be the downfall and the rise of many in Israel, a sign that will be opposed; and you yourself shall be pierced with a sword.’” (Luke 2: 34-35)

Contemplating Mary the Mother of Jesus at the foot of the cross, suffering as she watched her divine Son be killed so cruelly and mercilessly, a saint once wrote about in these beautiful, simple words:

“She stood there in awe of the love with which God loved the world, and the Son’s obedience to his Father. She marveled at her son’s strength in combating the demons, and his patience in such great suffering. She stood there filled with wonder before the mystery of human salvation, and she was model and example for the entire Church of unwavering strength in adversity. With courage she drank of the most bitter chalice, prepared for her by God. In this way she fully participated in the passion of her son.

“If Christ suffered and left us an example to follow, so, too, did Mary in her sufferings. Together with her son she has left us an example so that we might do as she did, never taking our eyes from the divine model given us on Calvary. Let us contemplate this example so that we can deliberately imitate Christ and his most holy Mother. Let us reflect again on the contradictions she suffered because of sinners so that we might not become discouraged or lax on our journey toward sanctity and salvation. May Mary remain for us a model of constant and victorious endurance and unwavering virtue and courage, so that neither tribulation nor worldly creatures may ever separate us from the love of Christ.”

The Solemnity of Our Lady of Sorrows commemorates the seven great sorrows which Mary lived in relation to Her Son, as they are recorded in the Gospels or through Tradition. Today we invite all of you to reflect on Mary’s deep suffering.

The Seven Sorrows of Mary

1. The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)

2. The flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15)

3. Loss of the Child Jesus for three days (Luke 2:41-50)

4. Mary meets Jesus on his way to Calvary (Luke 23:27-31; John 19:17)

5. Crucifixion and Death of Jesus (John 19:25-30)

6. The body of Jesus being taken from the Cross (Psalm 130; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:31-37)

7. The burial of Jesus (Isaiah 53:8; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42; Mark 15:40-47)

Prayer to Our Lady of Sorrows

Oh, Mother of Sorrows, Mother of Jesus, with strength from above you stood by the cross, sharing in the sufferings of Jesus, and with tender care you bore him in your arms, mourning and weeping.
We praise you for your faith, which accepted the life God planned for you.
We praise you for your hope, which trusted that God would do great things in you.
We praise you for your love in bearing with Jesus the sorrows of his passion.
We praise you for your compassion, which, in Jesus’ name extends to all of us, your children.
Holy Mary, may we follow your example, and stand by all your children who need comfort and love.
Oh, Most Blessed Mother of God, stand by us in our trials and care for us in our many needs.
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

Amen!

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Saturday, Sept. 19

“No ifs, ands, or buts”

Have your ever heard that phrase? It might be a bit old-fashioned, but it’s usually meant to declare that, whatever the subject, there ought not to be ANY straying from the central truth or declaration described. So, for example, if your boss at work comes to tell you of a project deadline which HAS to be respected and met, and your work is crucial for meeting the deadline, well … you will have to get that work done, with “No ifs, ands or buts” with which to object, deflect, defer, or deny.

The reason I place this before us as something upon which to reflect today is that just recently I got to thinking about the implications in a Responsorial Psalm at Mass which went like this: “If today your hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts …” And it struck me that the most important word in the response was the first little, hugely important, condition-setting word, “IF.” Because “if” I happened to NOT hear God’s voice, that would make all the difference. Right? The question then becomes, not the validity or importance of God’s voice and Word, but whether or not I even “hear” it at all!

As I think of the Scriptures and its many teachings, instructions, inspirations, and (yes!) even warnings, I can also remember the frequency of the call to not delay in putting into good, daily practice all that God has to say to us … whether through history, the voices of the prophets and holy ones, or, of course, from Jesus the Word of God, himself. It’s not really a discussion, it’s much more a reminder of the responsibilities which come from the light (and privilege) of experiencing our faith in God … Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and in the Church, the Body of Christ in our world and our lives.

Being a Christian is not as simple as “ticking a box” on a form, not just “being” a Christian, but also ACTING as a Christian as a “one-to-one” link to that of “being” one. We cannot afford to separate the two, “being” and “acting.” And, we cannot ignore the constant challenge to listen, look for, and accept God’s reality and Law which make our lives meaningful … and effective. It’s a conscious, daily, intentional CHOICE, I believe, to “hear God’s voice,” as the Psalm said, so as to make the BEING AND ACTING as a Christian something effective and REAL. Nothing less is acceptable.

In the final tally, God’s Law is simple and eternal: To love God and to love neighbor. The original Ten Commandments boil down to just those two, and those two, as Jesus said many times, are the sum and summit of what God wants of us. There are “NO IFS, ANDS, OR BUTS” in this project of faith. We will either “hear God’s voice” or we won’t. There is SO much which depends on that conditional choice we have; everything really, all creation and our future.

The reflection today is, quite simply, “Am I tuned in, am I listening, am I discerning with all my strength, and am I ready to choose and act, to receive God’s Voice in whatever moment or context, and therefore to realize my integrity, and my responsibilities as a Christian?”

“If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.” 

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Friday, Sept. 18

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Back in the late 1950’s, a wonderful Quintet, “The Platters,” came out with a hit song titled, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” That title came back to me, perhaps not unexpectedly, as all of us here on the West Coast, in California, in Oregon, and in Washington, are suffering from the actual smoke of numerous destructive wildfires “getting in our eyes.” So, when I wondered about the old song, I went back to listen to it. The song is a plaintive, beautiful, love song, and part of the lyrics went like this:

Something here inside cannot be denied,They said “someday you’ll find all who love are blind”When your heart’s on fire,You must realize, smoke gets in your eyes.

After listening to the song, it seemed to me that from the two things, the lyrics from an old song, and the actual smoke in the air these days, irritating and burning my eyes, I had something to think about in a spiritual context: that like the smoke from a fire in my eyes, (or the effects of a love relationship) … life is not always simple, easy, or carefree. There are many, many, stumbling blocks, many disappointments, many moments of desperation or disillusionment in just getting from today … to tomorrow.

From that point, and it might just be a very “low point” in life, I have a much greater appreciation for the power and healing strength which comes from a renewal of my faith in God, and a “re-purposing” of my life to get myself back on track, and ready to deal realistically with the “smoke in my eyes,” whether as a physical discomfort or a spiritual challenge or crisis. My faith in God, and in God’s eternal Love for me expressed in so many ways, WILL give me the strength to get up, get going, look forward, WITH HOPE AND NOT DESPAIR!

You all know I live and work here at The Grotto, ”The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother,” in Portland, Oregon. We who live and work here, the Servite Community of Friars, the Sisters who support our ministry, and the wonderful staff who keep us open and “going,” all know and experience this sacred place as a sacred “Sanctuary,” but which is also a “practical sanctuary.” We all hope and pray for every one of YOU out there, wherever you are reading this, that the Sanctuary of The Grotto will always be a “sanctuary” for ANYONE who needs a respite, a break, a place to breathe, a place to feel safe, accepted, whole, affirmed, and good.

The Grotto is your “medical center” for the heart and soul, offering healing, and a place to stop and deeply feel God’s love and Nature’s beauty. The Blessed Mother of God, Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows (her iconic title for the Servite Friars), is the one we also particularly invoke as a heavenly presence and guide to remind us to always “…Do whatever He (Jesus, her son) tells you.” In that directive and reminder resides our full hope and faith.

Friends, everywhere … when “smoke gets in your eyes,” please remember that despite the problems which life presents to us, there is always comfort, company, and HOPE here at The Grotto for you!

May God bless you today and always, and may Our Blessed Mother of Sorrows protect you under her mantle of compassion!

Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Thursday, Sept. 17

Your Faith has saved you; go in peace!

Both readings today talked about forgiveness and healing. Paul, who sees himself as the ‘least of the Apostles,’ received the grace of forgiveness and healing and “toiled harder than all of them.” He doesn’t want to keep this grace by himself, so he shares it to others so they believed.

Jesus forgives the sins of the woman who did what Simon the Pharisee didn’t do to Jesus. Simon’s inability to perceive the woman correctly blinds him to the true identity of Jesus, as the prophet and the true Coming One. She realizes Jesus’ healing power and pours out everything that she has, her tears and her troubled heart (her sins), and in turn, she receives forgiveness of her sinfulness.

We all are in need of Jesus’ healing power, not necessarily for our physical or bodily illness only, but also our mental and spiritual healing. We come to Mass, we go to Confession and we ask for each other’s prayers because we are in need of God’s grace.

God’s healing power and forgiveness brings us into a new life and joy. As we receive this new life and joy, let us pour out our love to God through our service to others. St. Paul and the woman in the Gospel received the grace of forgiveness and they lived out their lives in according to Christ’s love May we, too, receive God’s forgiveness and healing, and live our lives with love.

Prayer

Gracious and loving God,
We thank you for your bountiful grace and mercy.
Forgive us for all our sins.
Forgive us for all the times that we have failed to love and serve youthrough our sisters and brothers who are in need.
We ask you, O God, that as we receive your grace, may we love and serve you with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength.
Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Wednesday, Sept. 16

Saints Cornelius (Pope) & Cyprian (Bishop)

Cornelius and Cyprian lived in constant communion without ever meeting.
Cornelius was a pope, elected in 251. Opposed by dissident priests, he had the support of Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, who authoritatively defended his legitimacy.

In 2553, during the persecution ordered by the Emperor Gallus, Cornelius was exiled to Civitavecchia, where he died. Cyprian died a martyr under Valerian in 258.

Prayer

God our Father,
You gave Saints Cornelius and Cyprian the courage to suffer death for Christ.
May their prayers be a source of help for us, and may their example of courage be our inspiration.
Give us, O God, the courage to live in faithful witness to your truth, you who live and reign now and forever.
Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Tuesday, Sept. 15

Our Lady of Sorrows

Today we celebrate the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.

When you come down from the Upper Level of the Grotto, you will hear this in the elevator, “He (Fr. Ambrose Meyer, OSM) began the Shrine dedicated to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the woman of faith who stood compassionately beneath the cross of her Son.”

In both relationships between the Virgin Mary and Jesus and Fr. Ambrose and his mother, we could see a strong connection. The relationship of mother to her children is unique, and it’s not only a physical relationship, but also goes deep into their spiritual relationship.

There is a saying in our language that says, “Surga ada di telapak kaki ibu!” which literally means, “Heaven is under the feet of a mother!” This saying reminds us that a mother’s love helps her children experience heaven here and right now.

The Blessed Virgin Mary’s love and faith was, however, far beyond our understanding. She suffered a lot so that humanity can be saved. She accepted all in order to bring our Ssalvation. Her ‘fiat’ was one that leads her to a sorrowful journey. But her faith was so strong that she, at the foot of the cross of her Son, was crowned the Mother of the Church. She is our Mother and our Model in carrying out our faith.

Prayer

Lord, we rejoice in your gracious love, for looking upon the humility of the Virgin Mary, you made her the mother of your own Son and our Mother.
Knowing her sorrow at the cross, you strengthened her fidelity to the Passion of her Son and filled her with the joy of his resurrection.

Grant, O Lord, that we who reflect on the example of the Virgin Mary may learn to place our joy and hope in you.

You revealed your goodness to those who fear you, you strengthen those who believe in you, and give salvation to those who hope in you.

Give us your strength, Lord, that we who follow Our Sorrowful Mother will be courageous to “stand at the foot of those crosses where the Son of Man is still being crucified” (Servite Vigilia).

We beseech you, O Lord Jesus Christ, that the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose most holy soul was pierced in the hour of your Passion by the sword of sorrow, may intercede for us with Your mercy now and at the hour of our death.

Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Monday, Sept. 14

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

About two weeks ago, the Oregonian newspaper published a Gospel verse. It was from John 3:16. I was fascinated to see this not only because I know what John 3:16 was about, but also because the verse was written in four different languages: Japanese, Korean, Mandarin and Persian. I thought, “This is cool!”

John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
This is the essence of the entire Gospel, in whatever language we want to hear or read it from: God’s offer of eternal life through the sacrifice of Christ, the sacrifice out of love, for us. Yes, God loves you and I that he gives us the greatest gift, God’s own Son, so that we may live in His love and peace.

In response, God calls us to believe that we “might have eternal life” and to continue God’s message of love to others. Let our lives be the living witness of God’s presence and love to all those around us today and everyday.

Prayer

Dear God of love,

Thank you for your infinite love for us.

Thank you for your greatest gift, Your own Son.

May the Holy Cross of your Son be exalted high above all, and may Christ protect and deliver us all from all harm and the scourge of evil.

May the Holy Cross of Your Son heal the world, especially those who are in need of Your healing power from every kind of illnesses.

Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Sunday, Sept. 13

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Forgiveness

I remember as a boy, I used to fight with one of my two sisters. Both of us were training as martial artists. So, most of our fights were physical, not just verbal. The best thing from the sibling fight, however, is that no matter how many times we fought, we would always apologize and would continue to love each other. One time, after a fight, we were apologizing to each other when our little brother and our cousin came in the house; they heard everything and later on talked about it to our parents.

The theme of our readings this Sunday is on forgiveness. Jesus’ response to his disciples (and all of us), “not seven times but seventy-seven times” seems straightforward. Jesus wants us to forgive as many times as we should. At the end of Our Father, we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We humbly ask God to let the experience of being forgiven transform our hearts that we may likewise forgive others.

During this trying time, let us implore God for his mercy and forgiveness for all our sins, “in my thoughts, in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do” and let us ask God to give us a transformative heart, so with the help of the Holy Spirit, we too forgive those who have hurt us.

“May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins and bring us to everlasting life!”

Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Saturday, Sept. 12

The Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This day was chosen to honor the Holy Name of Mary. God the Father is glorified by the exalted role of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Thus, her name is a name of honor, a holy name, a maternal name, and a mama’d responsive to the needs of the Church (Ordo).

The feast was granted in 1513, but only in the diocese of Cuenca, Spain; it was then suppressed by Pius V and revived by Sixtus V. It was extended to the Kingdom of Naples and Milan in 1671, and became a universal feast on September 12, 1683, at the will of Pope Innocent XI, as thanks to the victory over the Turks who besieged Vienna and threatened Christianity.

The feast recalls the significance of Mary, she who is the bearer of light, light that illuminated her soul and who has become the light for many souls.

Prayer

All powerful God,
We rejoice in the protection of the Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary.We ask that, by the help of her prayers, we too may come to share the fullness of your grace and come to the joy of your peace.
Through Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Friday, Sept. 11

9/11 Prayer – We Remember

Lord, our ever-living God, how lovely is your dwelling place.(Resp. Psalm 84: 3, 4, 5-66, 12)

Today, we remember all our brothers and sisters who have gone to you, those who died in the event of 9/11.

We trust their souls, O Lord, into your loving embrace, that they may enjoy your dwelling place in heaven.

May they sing with the Angels in your eternal home.

We remember also their families and friends, who lost their loved ones in that horrible event.

May you, O Lord, be their comfort and bring your healing power into their lives.

We remember the bravery of the first responders.

We remember, O Lord, that you are their strength and their shield.

May you, O Lord, be always with them.

As we remember what happened that day, and honor our brothers and sisters lost, give us, O God, our strength, a peaceful and brave heart, to help, to heal and to carry each other in times of need, as we did on 9/11.

Amen.

Thursday, Sept. 10

Wonderful are your works

Today’s responsorial is taken from Psalm 139:

“O LORD, you have probed me and you know me … Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works.”

While in middle school at St. Paul Catholic School in Eugene, we had an opportunity to choose an elective 4-week class. Our teacher and one of the moms taught this class. As I recall, we met once a week for a 20-minute lesson. Some of us brought our projects to work on during the rainy lunch recesses. The adults were great teachers, and all of us made progress. 
The adults made it look so easy. It was like they hardly even had to pay attention while they were knitting. Their rows multiplied quickly. Mine, not so much. I had visions of making winter scarves for my whole family. I ended it up with a scarf that was about 9” long and 6” wide. A couple of weeks after the class ended, my project ended up in the bottom of a drawer somewhere.

While on retreat as a sophomore in high school, Psalm 139 was the main theme throughout the weekend. When I returned home, I dug through my drawers and rediscovered my project.

This little scarf became part of my prayer time. I examined it carefully. I reviewed the rows, and recalled the effort, the focus, and care that I had taken to create it. There were some dropped stitches. It was not perfect. But it was unique, and it was mine.

Each of us is a partial scarf , knit together in our Mother’s womb. And as the Psalmist says: “ I give you thanks that I, (and YOU) am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works.”

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Wednesday, Sept. 9

Feast of St. Peter Claver

St. Peter Claver was born in Spain. He became a Jesuit priest and served in Columbia.

Cartagena, Columbia, was one of two ports where slaves from Africa arrived to be sold in South America. Between the years 1616 and 1650, Peter Claver worked tirelessly every day to minister to the needs of the 10,000 slaves who arrived each year. He is known for this quote about ministry and preaching: “We must speak to them with our hands by giving, before we try to speak to them with our lips.”

Peter Claver is the patron saint of slaves, and the Republic of Columbia.
Today, let us too try to ‘speak’ of God’s love, mercy, compassion, and hope with our hands (actions) first.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div

Tuesday, Sept. 8

Celebrating Blessed Mary’s Birthday

On this special feast day we celebrate Mary’s birth. And yes, you can do the math: September 8 is exactly 9 months after the Feast of her Immaculate Conception. Both of these feast days help us to remember and to celebrate that God’s ideas, plans, and his workings in time and history are much broader, wider, deeper, and longer than our human understanding.

Salvation History is God’s Story – with us from the beginning of time – not just from your beginning, or my beginning.

Celebrating Mary’s birth today reminds us that each birthday – everyone’s birthday – is a celebration that one exists: Because she was conceived and born, Jesus was born to save us. 

Each person’s birthday is merely not the marking of years, it is acknowledgement of the gift that God gave us within that person. The talent, personality, hopes, dreams and potential are a unique combination in each and every wonderful person.

Prayer

Blessed Mary, As I remember and celebrate your birth today, help me to show your fidelity, your humility, your strength and compassion, as well as your unwavering faith in God.

Amen.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Monday, Sept. 7

The Dignity of Labor

“The work human beings do is nothing other than the continuation of God’s work. Human work is the vocation received from God. Work is what makes the person similar to God, because with work one is a creator, is capable of creating, of creating many things, including creating a family to keep going. And this gives dignity to the human person. The dignity that makes one resemble God. The dignity of labor.” – Pope Francis

Prayer

Lord God, Master of the Vineyard,

How wonderful that you have invited us who labor by the sweat of our brow to be workers in the vineyard and assist your work to shape the world around us.

As we seek to respond to this call, make us attentive to those who seek work but cannot find it.

Help us listen to the struggles of those who work hard to provide for their families but still have trouble making ends meet.

Open our eyes to the struggles of those exploited and help us speak for just wages and safe conditions, the freedom to organize, and time for renewal.
For work was made for humankind and not humankind for work.

Let it not be a vehicle for exploitation but a radiant expression of our human dignity.

Give all who labor listening hearts that we may pause from our work to receive your gift of rest.

Fill us with your Holy Spirit that you might work through us to let your justice reign.

Amen.

Sunday, Sept. 6

To the Virgin at the Foot of the Cross

“Near the Cross of Jesus were his mother…” Undoubtedly, this is not where Mary expected to find herself at this time in her life: at the foot of the Cross on which her Son, Jesus, hangs. But, at the same time, it is where she confidently stands, accompanying her Son as he willingly accepts death and death on the Cross in fulfillment of the Father’s will. As Mary stands there, she remembers the words prophesied by Simeon that a “sword” would pierce her heart. In her sorrow, Mary clings to her faith that this truly part of God’s plan for her and for the salvation of all of humanity.

Mary’s example at the foot of the Cross offers us hope as we too encounter afflictions and challenges in our own lives. In those moments when we feel desperate, bewildered, dreading what is happening to us or to our loved ones, Mary encourages us to confide and trust in the saving power of God who will not abandon us. We may not understand. We may be full of questions and doubts, yet Mary assures us that her Son, Jesus, is ever at our side to accompany us in our time of need and bring us peace, healing, joy.

As we experience God’s action in our lives may we reach out to those around us who are hurting and in need and, through Mary’s intercession, bring them hope, compassion, peace and joy.

Prayer

Mother of disciples inspire us to serve.Teach us to stand with you at the foot of those countless crosses where the Son of Man is still being crucified.Make us living witnesses of Christian love, welcoming everyone as brother and sister.Help us to escape our blindness to follow Christ, the light of all peoples.O Holy Virgin of Easter, and glory of the Spirit, receive the prayers of your Servants.

Amen.

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector

Saturday, Sept. 5

To the Virgin of the “Magnificat”

And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savor”.

Mary’s song of praise to the Lord is her response to God’s action in her life: “For God has looked with favor on the lowliness of his handmaid”. Mary continues: “For the One who is mighty has done great things for me”, recognizing her poverty, her lowliness, and God’s greatness.

Mary’s song of praise to the Lord gives us confidence to trust and believe that God is willing to look upon our lowliness and to do great things for us. God’s action in our lives, his response to our needs, and the pouring out of his Spirit into our hearts is not based on our own merits, but on God’s unconditional love for each and everyone one of us, for all of his creation. May we, too, burst out in song and rejoice in the God who is our Savior and our life.

Elizabeth Johnson writes: “People in need in every society hear a blessing in this canticle. The battered woman, the single parent without resources, those without food on the table or without even a table, the homeless family, the young abandoned to their own devices, the old who are discarded – all who are subjected to social contempt are encompassed in the hope Mary proclaims.” (Dangerous Memories: A Mosaic of Mary in Scripture)

Prayer

Virgin of Hope and bright promise of a new age,

join us as we sing your song of praise …

Help us create with our sisters and brothers an ever-richer communion of love in Christ.

May we too glorify the mercy of God and sing his praise for the gift of life and salvation.

Holy Virgin, Ark of the Covenant, and first born of the Church, receive the prayer of your Servants.

Amen.

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM

Friday, Sept. 4

To the Virgin of the “Fiat”

“Be it done to me according to your word” are words spoken by Mary, at the Annunciation, in response to the invitation received from God through the message of an Angel. It is Mary’s “fiat”. Mary’s “yes” to the will of God, which becomes for all of us an example of openness and willingness to accept and embrace the will of God in our own life.

How can we discover what is God’s will for our life? What do we learn from Mary’s example?

Mary is a woman of faith, immersed in the promises of God to Abraham and his descendants, living in hopeful expectation of God’s saving action in her life and in the life of her community of faith. When God speaks through the message of the angel, Mary is attentive to that word and open to the Spirit at work in her.

Mary inspires us to be people of prayer, attentive to God’s word proclaimed and preached and open to the outpouring of the Spirit, so that we can say “yes” to God’s invitation to us. May we, like Mary, make room for God in our heart and in our life. May we too become sacred bearers of the Word to those around us.

Faithful Virgin, teach us to be aware of the call of the Spirit and to know life in the hearing of the Word; the Word we hear in the profound depths of our own hearts, the Word spoken in the lives of our sisters and brothers, the Word spoken in the world around us and in the crisis of our times Attentive Virgin and woman of prayer, receive the prayer of your Servants.

Amen

Fr. Vidal Martinez, OSM, Rector

Thursday, September 3

Lord, I’m your Fool

Brothers and sisters:

Let no one deceive himself.

If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age,

let him become a fool, so as to become wise.

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.

I Corinthians 3:18-19

Gracious God, Give me your eyes to see. Help me to seek your wisdom, and not the wisdom of the world. The world says exterior proof of one’s success is measured by fame, power, money, and physical strength. Yet your Son entered the world as a helpless child, born in a stable. Jesus spent his time with the poor, the sick, the lost, the broken and disenfranchised. Jesus saw the world, and humanity, as you do. Jesus is your wisdom personified. May I seek your wisdom, and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, that I may be the most compassionate and faithful fool that I can be.

Amen.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

For information about how to contact Vinci Paterson, our Director of Community Engagement, please click here.

Wednesday, September 2

Heart and Soul

Blessed are the people the Lord has chosen to be his own,

Our soul waits for the Lord,

Who is our help and our shield,

For in him our hearts rejoice

In his holy name we trust.

(Psalm 33:20-21)

Gracious and ever-loving, ever-living God, I know that I often say that I want to be ‘all in’ in my commitment to you. When my mind races with worry and anxiety, help me remember that my heart and soul not only belong to you, but wants and needs to rest in you. I know that you are my shield and protection; help protect me from my own projections of what happens next, from my self-doubt, and my pity. Help me today to take clear steps that show you and the world that my heart and soul belong to you. May I continue to grow in faith, hope and love.

Amen.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

For information about how to contact Vinci Paterson, our Director of Community Engagement, please click here.

Tuesday, September 1

The Lord Giveth

I remember hearing this saying often as a child: “The Lord Giveth, and the Lord Taketh Away”.

As I approach 60, I do not believe that this phrase is accurate at all. My parents, grandparents, two siblings, and many dear friends and mentors have entered their Eternal reward. I do not believe that any of them were ‘taken’ by God. Their fragile, mortal bodies expired: illness, accident, old age. I believe the quote should be: The Lord Giveth, and Giveth, and Giveth, and Giveth! Through death, grief, illness, and isolation, God offers peace, wholeness, reconciliation, hope, consolation, wisdom, mercy, inspiration, and the promise that we are never alone.

It is that promise that we are not alone that allows us to journey through the dark and difficult times that challenge our faith, our heart and our hope.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div. 

Monday, August 31

Everything for God

If you are familiar with the entire grounds of the Grotto, you can probably tell your family and friends where your favorite place to spend time and listen to the voice of God is.

I want to tell you my favorite place is at the Peace Garden on the upper level. I enjoy sitting on one of the benches in the Peace Garden, the one looking toward the Via Matris. From this bench, I can see the whole creation in “thirty seconds.” However, that is not what amazes me every time I sit in this bench. What amazes me the most is looking toward the Via Matris and realizing how powerful God’s love has been for humanity, and that He gives EVERYTHING. ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING! Not only does He give us beautiful nature, but also he humbles himself to come in our history and gives up his life for our sake. That is exactly what St. Paul was saying to the people of Corinth, to know about Jesus’ love “and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

That is how Jesus lived out his mission, “to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recover sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Luke 4: 18-19).

Each one of us has the same mission through our baptism. Will it be easy? Of course not! However, at this challenging time, we are called to take care not only of our own family members and friends, but also God’s ‘little ones’ around us.

Whatever you do to help someone today, do it with love, because you do it for Jesus himself, who has loved you first. May God bless you and give you strength to carry out your own mission today.

Amen.

Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Sunday, August 30

Take up your Cross and Follow after Me

One of the stories that I remember the most about St. Augustine’s Confession is when his best friend died. They had grown up together as boys, gone to school together, and played together. As friends, they shared same superstitious, soul – destroying fallacies which brought St. Monica to tears over St. Augustine. Well, long story short, after the death of his best friend, St. Augustine grew somber with grief and wherever he looked he saw only death. That was one of his crosses that St. Augustine carried in his Spiritual journey.

My brothers and sisters, we can relate to this story to some extend. I have lost two friends over the years due to some illnesses and always wonder why were they gone so fast and so young. Perhaps, that is why Peter rebuked Jesus, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” Most of us are like Peter. We are happy to hear about the peace, love and joy that our faith bring us, but we don’t want to hear about the cross.

However, as many time as we have seen/read about it, Peter seems to have misunderstood Jesus’ mission. Many things that Jesus said were beyond Peter’s ability to comprehend. It would have been too much for us to understand, too, if we had been there.

In respond to Peter, Jesus simply gives a ’CHOICE’, “whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Well, here we are with some degree of cross on each of our shoulders. For us today, carrying the cross involves the day-to-day effort to overcome our selfishness and to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The cross is for most of us, as St. Paul says in today’s second reading, “to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, our spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1-2).

There might also be some other crosses some of us have to carry: health issues, our advanced age, financial issues, problems at work or at home, and so on. Whatever those crosses are, may we who continue to follow him, and through the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist that we receive at every Mass, be strengthened by his love, so that we can offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, our spiritual worship.

Amen.

Saturday, August 29

The Passion of St. John the Baptist

St. John the Baptist is the only saint who has two feast days, for his birth (June 24) and for his death (August 29).

Today, we celebrate St. John the Baptist. John’s life and death were a giving- over of self for God and other people. His vocation was one of selfless giving.

John’s humble way of life was one of complete detachment from earthly possessions. While in the wilderness, John’s strength came from God who nourished him, and the Holy Spirit was always settled in his heart. His relationship with God strengthened him to speak words of condemnation or repentance, of salvation.

John attracted countless people to the banks of Jordan; it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah. But, John never allowed himself the false honor of receiving these people for his own glory. He knew his calling was one of preparation: to point the way to Christ.

St. John challenges all of us to the fundamental attitude of total dependence on God and in Christ. Each of us has the calling to which we must listen. It is our mission to witness to Jesus in our daily life. Whatever we do in this world, we are called to be disciples of Christ. Be Christ to all, that others may realize that we live in the joy of knowing that Christ is Lord. We can draw strength from the vastness of Christ’s saving grace. 

Reflection provided by Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Friday, August 28

Be the Change the World Needs

It would be very convenient for us to say “poor virgins” to the five foolish women in the Gospel Reading today. However, let’s face it: we too have been foolish in times; we’re not that wise. You and I have some aspects of the foolish virgins within.

There are many things we have been wanting to change in our life. There are people in our lives that we want to forgive but oftentimes we hold back. There are people who are hurt because of our words or actions to whom we owe an apology. There are people whom we want to be in peace with, and so on. We always try to do all of these things SOME OTHER TIME. Not now, and not right here. LATER.

St. Augustine’s Mother, St. Monica, whose Feast Day we celebrated yesterday, is an example of a wise virgin we can learn from. She did not delay asking God for her son’s future. Because of her prayers, her son turned from his immoral way of life and became a saint. St. Augustine, whose Feast Day we celebrate today, inspires many people to continue to seek the “Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new!”

We too, brothers and sisters, have the aspect of wise ones within, like that of St. Monica and St. Augustine. With the Word of God that we hear and read everyday, and with the Eucharist that we receive at Mass, and with all the prayers of our brothers and sisters around us, we can light the world with our (ever new) wisdom.

As we light the world, let us continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who haven’t entered fully into a relationship with God. Whatever their circumstances, may God open their hearts to conversion and may the God of love welcome them into God’s Peace and Presence.

Reflection provided by Fr. Leo Hambur, OSM

Thursday, August 27

The Feast of St. Monica

Today is the Feast of St. Monica. She is the mother of St. Augustine. She endured a marriage scarred with infidelity and abuse. Her faith and witness brought about the conversion of her husband and mother-in-law, as well as St. Augustine’s return to the faith, and eventually to the priesthood.
She is the patron saint of wives, mothers, conversion, alcoholics and abuse victims.

A Prayer to St. Monica

St. Monica, your faithful witness drew others to Christ. May your example inspire me to be compassionate, loving, and hopeful. May what I say and do today serve as instruments of mercy and reconciliation to all those I meet.

Amen.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Vinci is The Grotto’s Director of Community Engagement. For information about how to contact her, please click here.

Wednesday, August 26

Blessed Mary

Holy Mary,

You are the first faithful disciple.

You are a loving mother.

You are a strong believer.

You are a passionate teacher.

You are a humble apostle.

Mary, blessed are you among women, blessed are you among disciples, mothers, believers, teachers and apostles.

Guide me today and every day to love, serve, teach, follow and preach through my loving words and actions.

Amen.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

To contact Vinci, please click here.

Tuesday, August 25

A Prayer of Encouragement

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.”

2 Thessalonians 2:14-17

I can close my eyes and almost see St. Paul dictating this letter to the people of Thessalonica. They are reacting to things that they are hearing and seeing around them. They are wondering if they are in the ‘end times’ and if the Lord’s Second Coming is near. The people are anxious, worried, fearful. They are disagreeing with one another.

St. Paul is absolutely right: God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ (in union with the Holy Spirit) loves us and gives us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his Grace!

Today, right now, just STOP and drink in that truth. Let us attach ourselves to Christ.

To his word: The Sacred Scripture, to his loving example, and to the Bread of Life. God’s strength is poured out over us and our good deeds and words will share this truth with the world.

Vinci Paterson, M. Div.

Vinci is The Grotto’s Director Community Engagement. To learn about Vinci and how to contact here, please click here.

Monday, August 24

Hospitality

Do you, brothers and sisters know that the word (and concept/meaning) of “hospitality” comes from the same root origin word for the word “hospital”? Now THAT has me thinking and “contemplating” a bit …

Hospitality has become almost a “sacred” topic, one which appears is all sorts of books and articles about spirituality. Hospitality, the gracious welcoming and serving of a guest (or guests) is certainly found all over the Scriptures, both in the Old Testament and in the New.

The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oak of Mamre, as he sat in the entrance of his tent, while the day was growing hot. Looking up, he saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them; and bowing to the ground, he said: “Sir, if it please you, do not go on past your servant. Let some water be brought, that you may bathe your feet, and then rest under the tree. Now that you have come to your servant, let me bring you a little food, that you may refresh yourselves; and afterward you may go on your way.” “Very well,” they replied, “do as you have said.” (Genesis 18:2-5)

OR:

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

What we see in these Scriptures of hospitable behavior is people caring for one another, seeing to their needs, going OUT OF THEIR WAY to make sure the guest/s are getting nourished, “soul and body,” refreshed, revived, renewed, welcomed, healed and loved. Hospitality, like “hospital for the soul,” is a place to go for “getting and feeling better.” When we are treated as honored guests, we leave the place of hospitality and hospitable people, actually in a better state then when we entered.

Therefore, today, as a matter of our personal spiritual development, let’s reflect on, and ACT on becoming “hospitable,” welcoming, caring, forgiving, healing and loving.

Think of the implications of becoming hospitable in the spirit of Jesus! Think of what a positive difference each one of us could eventually make to the world, or our community, our city or town, or to our family and friends if we practiced “sacred hospitality” to everyone we met … as a conscious act of faith? Creating a “welcoming space” for others is at the center of Gospel spirituality, and at the center of the “Christ-action” of inclusion and solidarity.

In a hospitable home, church or community there is no room for hatred, racism, oppression, judgment, homophobia, injustice of ANY kind. Hospitality, in the spirit of Jesus, touches the hearts and lives of all people with the gentle and loving eye and hand of God … NO substitute (or equal) to that.

Let us pray:

Holy and Hospitable Lord, teach me YOUR “way.”

I want to make my home, my life, my heart like yours … whose look was always deeper than the surface, whose look was always to “the heart of the matter,” to the core of Being.

Please let me see others with your eyes, please help me judge less and build a stronger community of respect and protections and SANCTUARY for every person who needs it.

Help me quell the FEAR that keeps people away (from me), or isolates rather than builds another “room” to welcome in the family you’ve given to me as a Christian … everyone!

All the wonderful attitudes and “gratitudes” of the Gospel are rippling through my mind now … help me “sift” for the one or another which today will make the life of another just a little bit better, a little bit safer, a little bit more healed and healthy … a place where people can “BREATHE.”

And I thank you, Lord, for walking with me and being my hospitable teacher, friend, companion, and Lord.

Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Sunday, August 23

Blessed Lady, Holy One, Filled with Sorrow, Filled with Love

We Servite Friars (more formally known as The Order of Friar-Servants of Mary) here at The Grotto have Mary, our Blessed Mother, as our “icon,” our focal point of devotion, always orienting us to Jesus, her Son … as she reminded us so simply and eloquently when she instructed the servers at the Wedding Feast at Cana long ago, “Do whatever He tells you.”

Ever since the founding of the Order, almost 800 years ago in Florence, Italy, we Friars, brothers in spirit and a common life together, have tried our best, despite human failings, to do just that, i.e, listen to Christ Jesus and follow His dual commands to all believers: Love God and love you neighbor.
Our Lady herself gave to the Order, at the very beginning, the special image of herself as Mother of Sorrows, Our Lady of Sorrows, as the particular focus she wished us to have and to present to the world, and share with all people everywhere, in every time and place.

This image has been enshrined in art as The Pietà, the image which shows Mary at the foot of the Cross, holding the body of Jesus taken down and laid in her arms before His burial.

There is perhaps, other than the crucifix itself, with our dying Lord and Savior suspended between earth and heaven, no other image so sad and evocative of our prayer as the The Pietà, joining the indescribable sorrows of the Holy Mother with the suffering and death of the Divine Son.

Everyone who comes to The Grotto for peace, for solitude, for prayer, stops by the classic statue of Michelangelo’s Pietà in The Grotto cave (or up on the Upper Gardens in the Meditation Chapel) to send up a prayer to God, through Mary … in our own sorrows and sufferings of the moment.

In those moments of prayer, I like to think of EVERYONE as a member of the Servite Order … ”in spirit.” And in that spirit of unity and community, with ALL of you who might read this today, I offer a prayer to say anytime, even daily, to honor Mary, woman of Sorrow, woman of Faith, Mother of Jesus:

O Blessed Mother, filled with sorrow and pain, my own sorrows can and do overwhelm me! They paralyze my heart, my thoughts … sometimes even my body. In desperation, and feeling alone, I come to you, Blessed Mother, my Mother, and place my heart in your hands to hold and soothe for a moment. In these times when I do not trust myself to think clearly, I ask you clarity and light to show me the way to get up and move forward in life, trusting that although I may feel alone and abandoned, I AM NOT, because you, and your Son are with me always, walking with me, companions on my life’s journey. With this renewed trust and confidence, help me, in a spirit of compassion like yours, to reach to others who are similarly suffering, and in serving them and praying for them, to find my own peace.

Praise to you Blessed Mother of Sorrows, and to your Son, Our Lord.

Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Saturday, August 22

Love your neighbor as yourself

My friends, here are four verses from the Gospel of St. Mark which will probably sound very, very familiar to you:

One of the scribes, when he came forward and … asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)

The meaning, intent, and purpose seem clear, right? But, then again, sometimes I wonder about that LAST verse, Vs. 31. Maybe it’s “just me,” but in case it isn’t all that simple, perhaps some of you have had this same thought or feeling … What I mean is this: What does it mean to “love yourself,” and if I don’t really “love myself,” very well (or much) how then will I love my neighbor “as myself”??? Just HOW does all that work, and what does it mean?

My concern, and the point at the center of this reflection today, is a response to a “question-challenge” I’ve heard now and then from various folks: “If you don’t know how to love yourself (well, properly and healthily), HOW are you going to know how to love anyone else?”… or treat them as being loved, accepted, included, forgiven, etc.? Yes! How will I fulfill the second part of “the Great Commandment” of Jesus the Lord, if I can’t (or don’t) love MYSELF first …” well, properly, and healthily”?

So, I’m looking at myself in the mirror as I pray today…maybe all of you, dear sisters and brothers “out there” who might be reading this, can try the same thing???

LORD! Holy and Blessed One! Dear Friend and Divine Companion … I’m thinking of you, Lord Jesus, trying to focus my prayer of the day, and yet I’m looking right at my own image in the mirror, and I feel, well, all KINDS of things … fear, some shame, a tad bit disgusted, a dusting of pride, a pinch of justification and rebellion, a list of excuses, “deferrals,” procrastinations and “oooops, there you go agains.” I just read your words in St. Mark’s Gospel where you tell me that I ought to “love my neighbor as myself;” it’s THE LAW! And the raw fact of the matter is that I don’t feel very loving of or about myself AT ALL … and so I also know that my “love for my neighbor” must be pretty poor too. In fact, I KNOW it is … I judge others hard and often!

Lord, here’s my very special “ask” of you today: Please help me accept myself as YOU accept me, with all my defects, shortcomings, limitations, weaknesses …sins … and then LAUGH OUT LOUD with your all-encompassing forgiveness.

Lord, help me GET OVER MYSELF! You know me just as I am (with all the aforementioned items …), and yet I feel and know your Love anyway. Help me to know that I cannot and must not do other than you yourself do, which is to love ME.

Help me to look in this mirror, and look into the eyes of that person (ME!) staring back, and say to myself: You silly soul, you’re going to be “who you are,” and that’s enough. Just keep trying to do better, try not to take yourself SO seriously, and try to smile (or even LAUGH?) at yourself more often. God loves you…now, O Self, do the same!

Lord, now that I’ve done a bit of honest soul-searching, I just think I’m going to go out and spend the rest of this day LOVING MY NEIGHBOR AS MYSELF!

AMEN and HOORAY!

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Friday, August 21

Now that I am old

I just had my 73rd birthday about a month ago. You know, dear friends, there was a time I did not think I had all that time to live. The sad fact was that a lot of my forbears did not live long lives … most died fairly young, and many well before their 73rd birthday.

So, here I am, sometimes feeling OLD, definitely more “creaky” and sore than I ever used to be, having experienced the quite off-putting reality of “things breaking” in my body, etc., (UGH!) and the huge inconvenience of not being able to do just whatever comes into my mind at “the drop of a hat.” I even looked up the definition of the word “curmudgeon,” and found it occasionally fit me pretty well, i.e., according to the dictionary, “a bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous (OLD) person.”

Well, I HAVE to laugh at all that, I guess! So … are any of you out there feeling or acting OLD? Do you HATE it? Are you “resigned”? Are you “sick and tired” of just about…everything??? Hey, I HEAR YA!

But, you know, I’m also laughing a bit, because I’ve also found that my age has brought me things I NEVER had before, and those are things I enjoy a great deal. And the more I accept and understand the gifts of being older (not merely the obvious deficits), the more I also understand, as a follower of The Lord, and a “son of the Blessed Mother” (as a Servite Friar), I also have a particular opportunity to assist others in life, and draw great JOY from that!

Here’s some of what I am enjoying now (as a “Senior”) as never before:
I have a pretty nice WHITE beard, and the little ones think I’m a “grandpa”! How sweet! Around Christmastime for the past several years, a number of children told me I “looked like Santa.” OK, I’m utterly charmed, and had the chance to say something welcoming a warm to the parents as well as the child.

I’ve experienced the opportunity to be the “elder statesman” and offer the wisdom of my fairly long experience in life … not to preach, but to counsel and give comfort.

I’ve welcomed the moments when people felt I was OK to chat with because my face looked gentle and “weathered” a little … maybe like I’d “been there and done that.”

I’ve enjoyed the freedom which comes from being older and just SMILING at perfect strangers … who cares if they think I’m a little crazy? Aren’t most of us older folks a little crazy in the best way?
I get to take more time off.

I get an occasional break in line, when someone feels a little sorry for me. I’ve had heavy front doors of stores and restaurants held open for me more than a few times … and then had the opportunity to say a gracious “thank-you, and GOD BLESS YOU FOR YOUR KINDNESS.”

There’s lots more, but I’m hoping that all my older sisters and brothers who might be reading this are getting the point of this reflection:

Enjoying and USING one’s current state of being, no matter what it is, no matter how old one may be, is still a GIFT from God to help ourselves and others find joy and fulfillment, or even just a moment of “sunshine” on an otherwise VERY dreary day.

I don’t have to run around and be active every moment, but rather just take my time, slow down, and meet the world a little more slowly, more graciously, more consciously, more charitably … and thereby rise to the constantly repeated invitation of The Lord, and his Compassionate Mother: Be gentle, be thoughtful, be wise … be OLD, and “love it” just a little more!

Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Thursday, August 20

Walking in the Garden

In Chapter 2 of the Book of Genesis, you’ll read about the Garden of Eden, although it seems more correct from the verse that the Garden is IN Eden.

“The LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and placed there the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground, the LORD God made every tree delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

From there we listen to what Scripture scholars call the “2nd story of creation.” YES! There are actually TWO separate, and quite different, accounts of the creation … and without elaboration here, I’ll just recommend to all that you read Genesis, Chapters 1 AND a few chapters after. But the point for this particular reflection is the beauty of the garden itself, and that it was a place for Adam and Eve to live and flourish.

We have lovely gardens here at The Grotto. The paths are lined with every sort of flora and fauna, and various birds and other critters appear and disappear, to the ongoing delight of eye and ear.

It’s a place to flourish in one’s soul and heart … a place we have here, for all of you who can visit, whether physically, or virtually through our website, to stay for a while and rest.

We also frequently use the word “sanctuary” to describe the entire Grotto property, and sometimes to identify The Grotto by its full, formal name, The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother. In either case, or in whatever circumstance, walking at one’s own pace through the gardens here (and also remaining aware of the wild, untended parts of The Grotto adjacent to all the tended gardens), is what God intended for the use of the original Garden in Eden. And, it is just about the same as what we intend for all our visitors … a place to know God’s peace, God’s beauty in nature, and to find a way to rest in God’s presence while walking through the beauty, basking in grace.

In today’s not just busy world, but a world literally assaulted by illness, suffering, oppression, and other chaos, we invite you to “walk in the garden,” at peace, and find the solace and security of “SANCTUARY,” a safe place for all God’s children.

Jesus, in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 11:28-29, utters these comforting words: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.”

We NEED that comfort and support from the Lord, and we are here at The Grotto to offer you a time and place and “space” to experience just that … so … let us pause and pray for a few moments … (here, please close your eyes, if you can, and “get quiet inside your mind and heart” for a few moments; clear away the “cobwebs,” and open yourself to the Lord’s loving presence.)

Pray now, intently and calmly:

Lord, Oh Blessed, loving Lord, my own Divine Friend … how I long for your peace to fill me up and fill me out; to calm me down and fire me up; to give me a warm and solid shoulder upon which to rest my weary head; to feel a supportive, strong arm around me helping me to stand; to hear your sure and steady voice in my ear, with words of hope and encouragement; to give me your own ear gently bent to my lips to listen to my complaints, my sorrows, my hurts, my disappointments, even my deepest secrets and darkest fears … all without worry about your judgment, and only to hear your complete comfort with me just as I am; to know that in every moment when I feel completely lost, that you are there to reassure me that I am truly found; to make sure that even if I despair I will not be alone, and even if faith and love fail me, hope in you will never fail; to walk with you in the Garden of Life, today, tomorrow, forever.

Thank you Blessed Lord, Savior, Friend, Companion … God.

Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Wednesday, August 19

Prayer of St. Richard

Way back in 1971 there was a brand new musical play titled, “Godspell.” Here’s a little bit about that story: The timeless tale of friendship, loyalty and love, based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew.

Godspell was the first major musical theatre offering from three-time Grammy and Academy Award winner, Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin, Children of Eden), and it took the world by storm.

Led by the international hit “Day by Day,” Godspell featured a parade of beloved songs, including “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” “Learn Your Lessons Well,” “All for the Best,” “All Good Gifts,” “Turn Back, O Man” and “By My Side.”

As mentioned in the paragraph above, probably the best know song from Godspell is the extremely simple, and hauntingly beautiful “Day by Day.”

These were the lyrics:

Day by day,Day by day,Oh Dear Lord,Three things I pray,

To see thee more clearly,Love thee more dearly,Follow thee more nearly,Day by day.

And I, like so many people, have always been uplifted by those prayerful songwords. What I did not realize for the longest time, and only rediscovered a few years ago, was the fact that the words to that song, written in 1971, were actually based on a VERY old prayer, from the 1200’s in England, and written by St. Richard of Chichester … MY OWN PATRON SAINT! … LOLOL … wow, did I ever love that accidental discovery.

So, what I wish to offer and share with all of you today is the FULL, original “Prayer of St. Richard” as the daily reflection. I pray this prayer often, as it is both simple and heartfelt, and renewing my faith in Jesus and my love for His goodness to me.

Here it is, and I PRAY that you too will find it comforting and expressive of your heart’s desire as well!

Saint Richard’s Prayer

Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.

O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, Day by day.

Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Tuesday, August 18

Bread and Wine

Have you ever noticed that Jesus never uses anything but the MOST common things of this world to make the MOST sublime points? It’s truly amazing, and just a powerful reminder to me that “complexity” does not mean wisdom or “better/best.” Often the simplest of things, the most basic examples, understandable to anyone, make for the best material for teaching and learning.

There is a story, for example, about St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the most learned, theologians in the history of the Church, who, as an old and very accomplished, famous writer about God, faith and the Church, witnessed a simple peasant, likely unable to even read or write, praying before the Blessed Sacrament on one of the great churches in Paris, France (where Thomas was a Professor of Theology). On seeing the peasant in fervent prayer, he said, “ALL of my writings are as much as straw to be burned, compared to the worth of the prayer I see being offered by this peasant.” WOW! What a stunning admission and realization.

Well, when I take the time to slow down and READ AND CONTEMPLATE the Scriptures, I see that Jesus uses much the same approach to God, faith, and good works, i.e., “keep it simple!” I don’t think that Jesus had in mind that His listeners (or us today) were too dull of mind to understand something more complex. Rather, I think the simplicity of Jesus, in his exposition and use of examples, was, in itself, the depth of the truth: GOD IS SIMPLE … GOD IS LOVE … GOD IS MERCY … GOD IS COMPASSION. Forgive and be forgiven, treat others the way you would have them treat you, pray always, feed the poor, seek out the abandoned, heal the sick; do I need to go on? So, it’s no surprise at all that, at the end of His life, in order to assure that the Apostles and other disciples would remember Him, Jesus left them with a simple prayer-blessing using BREAD AND WINE … the simplest things He had at hand during the Last Supper meal He shared just before His death … to make sure He could and would be remembered and be PRESENT to His beloved friends … and to all of us today.

The Holy Eucharist, the bread and wine we break which is the Body and Blood of Christ, is so simple that we really cannot forget it, even to the point that EVERY time I take a bite of bread, or a sip of wine, I can actually be reminded of the Eucharist … and of Jesus full presence to me, to us, to Creation. WONDERFUL!

And the many other things Jesus used to convey His truths and teachings, like water, air, flowers, wheat, sparrows, weed, light, darkness, stones, wind, rain, storms, blood, baskets, fish, animals of every kind, etc., etc., etc. … each thing we see can actually remind us of some truth about Jesus and His teachings for us: to be sure to love God and love our neighbor … not to judge, and not to hate; that God’s creation is to be cared for … we are stewards in God’s name in His garden, the world.

Let us pray

O Most Blessed Lord and God, all-holy, all-knowing … help me find the “eternal YOU” in the simplest things and moments of my daily life, in my waking, in my living, in my work and in my play, in my eating and in my fasting, in my coming and in my going, in my resting and in my sleeping … let everything lead me to YOU. As I read your Holy word daily, show me the truth in the simplest way, and when I want to share with others, let me be simple, caring, nurturing, accepting, patient and loving … always, and thereby praise you.

Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Monday, August 17

Overwhelmed

Do you, dear friends, have those moments when, out of absolutely nowhere, come feelings or memories of such power that you feel overwhelmed? The entire world, for at least some moments, stops on its axis, and you might even skip a breath … or two?

Depending on what that feeling might be, or the specific memory, I will find myself either giggling with pure joy, little sounds of laughter (or out loud guffaws) escaping my mouth. Or, quite the opposite, and I am suddenly grabbing for a towel to dry the FLOOD of tears erupting from my eyes and trying hard to stifle the sobs which accompany.

Oh, sometimes the raw experience of our humanity IS overwhelming. Usually I keep those experiences to myself … they seem so absurd, so uncontrollable, so dominating. I’ll even wonder, from time to time, after the strong feelings (and accompanying gales of laughter or flood of tears), “Am I OK?” “Is there something wrong with me?”

But here I am, sharing theses thoughts with you today, friends, because the more I think about those events and those feelings, the more I come to see myself as a pretty ordinary human being, with all the ups and downs of anyone else. In fact, it seems the more I “own” my deepest feelings (either positive or negative), the more I seem to be able to relate to someone else’s feelings and life, and world.

As a priest and counselor THAT is very helpful. But what about YOU, my friends? Aren’t ALL of us, EACH of us given the capacity, or privilege and responsibility, as followers of Christ, to be “present” to others who need to “own” their own feelings, and still feel “OK,” that even being overwhelmed from time to time is … perfectly NORMAL?

Indeed, I am fortunate enough in my life to have a few, very selected persons to whom I can confide and share with them the “laughing times and the crying times.” I think of them as my “Jesus-friend.” HEARING someone say, “It’s OK, I’m here, it’s OK,” is just about the best thing to hear.

So, with this reflection, with this meditation today, I’m asking everyone to reach out with all the talents God gives you, to be able to be “present” to others who might be feeling overwhelmed. When you send out “feelings of peace, love, acceptance and inclusion,” people are going to pick that up and respond. And in doing so (the both of you), it’s a “win-win” in which God’s WILL is done, i.e., that we “love one another,” because we are of God.

God bless ALL of you today!

Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Sunday, August 16

For whom shall I pray?

I pray for myself and my own intentions all the time … who doesn’t? But, I also remember that it’s my responsibility and privilege to pray for others … of course!

So, I wondered today, “Whom should I pray for?”

The first ones who came to my mind, perhaps not at all surprisingly, are all those who are sick with the coronavirus, Covid19. And, of course, for those who have passed away from that awful scourge of a pandemic … but where to start?

I decided to turn to “the numbers,” those rather solid things which help me (us) “get real” about “reality.” And since just the number by themselves sometimes lose significance because “I can’t count that high,” I made images, maps so to speak, to bring my prayer into a more precise focus …
Lord, I wish to offer up to you today, as my reflection on sadness and fear, in a prayer of solidarity, all the people who are sick all around the country. Lord, I looked it up, and there are over 5 million people ill right now … and I didn’t really know how to count that high … how big is that?

I looked up the number again … here’s what I found, and now I’m sadder than ever because now I know how bad it really is, and how many people I need to pray for. Five million people are ill, and that’s basically equal to the ENTIRE population of my own State Oregon, PLUS the entire State of Alaska, a little way up north from where I am. ALL THOSE PEOPLE???

Oh, Lord, how can I pray for all of them? If I tried to offer even the briefest, shortest prayer for them, one by one, it would take me weeks, months, years to get to all of them. I had NO idea how big the “job” of prayer could be. Lord, would it be OK for me to give them ALL to you, then?

Lord, I’m now beginning to understand why you are, and have to be, “infinite,” because there’s just too much, too many, here on Earth for me to handle in prayer. Lord, help me, please … I want to pray for everyone, and when I get my feet on the ground and realize just how small I really am, then I am grateful for your infinite life, heart, and love … YOU can receive my small, weak, but well-intentioned, sincere prayer for the many, and just as you multiplied food for the thousands of hungry mouths on the grassy hillsides of Judea long ago, YOU can MULTIPLY my prayer of solidarity and compassionate concern for the millions who are ill.

Lord, that’s what I ask of you today: Take my prayer, sincere and from the heart, and please make your loving presence and life known to those who are ill, who are suffering, who are alone, who are afraid, who are abandoned, who are dying this day … HELP THEM … in my name. OK?

Please?

Thank-you, Blessed Lord Jesus.

Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Saturday, August 15

Night

I must admit that there are times when the night frightens me … it’s DARK (obviously) … I cannot see everything which is or might be there.

I tend to think that what I cannot see or sense might harm me … or worse. BEWARE, therefore.

Night is the time to be at home, safe, and in a very familiar space. Tucked rather cozily in bed on a chilly winter’s night (or one of the frequent rainy ones here in Portland) is a comforting image.

But am I entirely correct in that underlying fear and hesitation about the night? Didn’t God create the night as well as the day, darkness as well as light? Is it really all that bad, or have I just learned to be fearful and hesitating rather than “creative” in thinking about what the night may bring to me which will also draw me closer to God?

So … as a bit of a story-teller, I remember the night a year or two back, when it was cold and snowing here, and deep, deep into the night I awoke and rose to just get a glass of water. I passed by a window in my room and happened to look out. There on the snowy lawn below the window, in silence, and almost in a “dance” of joy, were three coyotes romping in the snow, enjoying it, playing with one another!

Since I was above and out of their sight, I was able to watch them for several minutes before they scampered off into the woodsier part of the grounds here. Delightful … Beautiful … Graceful … Joyful!
Are those not God-feelings and experiences? And yet, in the middle of a dark and cold night.

Hmm … other stories? Yes, I have many now that I begin to think about them. I remember stories and feeling evoked when, on camping trips, away from the lights of the city and “civilization,” I could observe the uncounted millions of pin-point lights of the twinkling lights of the Milky Way galaxy, and see both single points of light as well as the blur of stars which gives us the description “milky” for our galaxy. OH, WONDER!

Or the times I was lucky enough to be by the ocean at night, listening to the mysterious crashing of waves, and see a particular phosphorescent light flash in the water of the breaking wave itself … I later learned that it was a form of algae which give off that light, so awesomely mysterious and lovely … Nature’s miracle.

Or … in the middle of the night when I can get a much better sense of what “quiet” really means … no traffic, no voices, no TV, no radio, no REST.

Yes, night really isn’t so bad after all … and Jesus often prayed in the night, through the night. Maybe I could do the same sometime.

O Blessed God of Light and DARK, of day and NIGHT, help me find you everywhere, at all hours, and in all conditions. May I find you where I even least suspect you’ll be. Surprise me with you quiet presence, your holy warmth, or your soothing cool. Refresh me as I rest, and nourish me while awake. Let me not fear, but only assure myself of your loving presence surrounding me with peace.

Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Friday, August 14

Let us pray to the Lord

There is always SO much to pray for … and Jesus told us to, “Pray always…” (cf. Luke 18:1).

Today, therefore:

• For all the people in the world who are dealing with, and suffering with, Covid-19, that they receive proper medical care, let us pray to the Lord!
• For the hundreds of thousands of persons who have died from the coronavirus all over the world, that they may rest in God’s peace forever, let us pray to the Lord!
• For my family and for my friends, that every single one of them be kept safe from every harm, every accident, every disease, let us pray to the Lord!
• For all the people who have neither family nor friends, that I and we may learn to love better and provide for the lonely, let us pray to the Lord!
• For the desperately poor, that we who are wealthier, either as individuals or as communities and Nations, may find ways to extend and share our security with them, let us pray to the Lord!
• For persons of color, for migrants, for LGBTQI people, for ethnic or religious minorities, for those enslaved in any way, that our world, beginning with ourselves, come to accept diversity as God’s gift and as an invitation to create a greater human community, let us pray to the Lord!
• For the leaders of Nations, and in a special way for the elected leaders of OUR Nation, that the morality of Jesus, to love without measure and without judgment, to value and support every person as a child of God, to address injustice and live out mercy and compassion … that ALL this replace the present conflicts, hatred, divisiveness and oppression with Jesus’ own way of living, let us pray to the Lord!
• For the ability to live with less fear, and more loving confidence, in God’s providence, let us pray to the Lord!
• For a greater concern and respect for lovely “Mother Earth,” that, as Pope Francis has instructed us, we might have better “care for our common home,” let us pray to the Lord!
• For all those working in healthcare, who, currently under so much pressure, need a good word of encouragement…let it come from me, let us pray to the Lord!
• That our land will continue to provide healthy nourishment for all, and that the goods of the land may be shared by all, equally, let us pray to the Lord!
• For anyone I might have insulted, demeaned, “profiled,” objectified, disrespected, oppressed, disregarded, treated rudely, ignored, marginalized, or treated as less than myself, I ask the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness form all, I pray to the Lord!

“So many prayers, so little time.” I’m going to pray a little MORE EVERY DAY, Lord.

Lord, help me pray.

Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Thursday, August 13

The “Little Ones”

In Chapter 18 of St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gets this question from one of the Disciples: “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” The passage continues, “He (Jesus) called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.’”

On a first reading we might easily think that Jesus, in this Gospel passage, is referring to children, and children alone, “little ones.” But look again: Jesus is speaking ABOUT children, but TO the Disciples, telling them to become LIKE children, i.e., “humble.”

As the passage continues, there is a “Part II,” as well, and Jesus attaches a further teaching mandate: Not only must we (like the children) BE humble, but we must also TREAT OTHERS as Jesus would receive and treat them.
As in many passages in the Gospels, Jesus “ups the ante,” or intensifies His teaching, by commanding us to be MORE than we are, to grow and mature in every sense, to “evolve” from the narrowness and limits of a self-centered life, and open ourselves to a “broader view,” or a “bigger world,” or a “deeper life” in His spirit and in His love.

What we often perceive as “enough” is often challenged by Jesus in the Gospels as just the beginning … Open up! Let go! Give it another try! There’s work to be done!

So, in looking around a needy and hurting world, beginning with the children everywhere, but also all the “little ones,” Jesus becomes the inspiration and impetus for every Christian’s ever-renewed focus of thought, word, and deed; remain humble, simple, honest and true, and SERVE others, every hurting person, no matter who they are or where you find them, in such a way that would honor their dignity and integrity as God’s own child.

It’s yet another expression, in action and life, of Jesus’ constant reminder that there are only TWO COMMANDMENTS: to love God with all our being, and to love (serve) our neighbor with all our strength.

Friends, let us re-dedicate ourselves again to this Mission.

Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Wednesday, August 12

Acceptance

I like “accepting,” but “acceptance” can be quite another matter.
Accepting is what I think of or remember when I accepted a gift, or a word of encouragement, congratulations, or praise. It just feels good, plain and simple.

But “acceptance”? Well, that makes me think of the times when life was (or is!) difficult … when things just have NOT gone my way, or when I was countered and opposed and I had to give in, or give up, or just “accept it.” “It is what it is.” I might have to accept that … but I sure don’t like it!

Today I’m going to pray that I “accept acceptance,” not as a strange sort of penance, but more as a discipline of life and of spiritual growth and opportunity.

Jesus can and will be my MODEL for it. Jesus, Lord, God, Friend, Companion … He knew how to accept suffering and turmoil with dignity, with focus … because God his Father was always with Him. That’s what I want to learn … or re-learn today: to accept life with courage, with dignity, with a sense that I am valued and loved; lovable just because “God made me that way.”

So I can pray:

Lord, when I want to shrink away and down, when I want to make myself small, or even invisible, when I don’t want to face the day ahead, or the hour or even the minute … Give me YOUR presence, YOUR dignity, YOUR courage, YOUR sense of blessing and worth, because of my heritage with you as an intimate part of God’s loving plan for all creation. Help me to rise UP, O blessed Lord, from my bent-over life, and look straight at You, and therefore knowing my true worth as a child of God. Thank You, Lord, for helping me to understand that acceptance isn’t always a burden, but a way of knowing Your trust in ME.

Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Tuesday, August 11

Compassion … Just what is it?

Commiseration? Feelings? Sympathy? Condolence? Empathy? Or … much, much more?

The Bible is filled with stories of compassion. Many compassionate Bible characters inhabit the pages of the Old Testament, and examples of the compassion of Jesus Christ are plentiful in the Gospels. These examples of compassion are a call and challenge to the followers of Jesus. They speak of a God who has compassion for Israel. They tell of a Savior who suffers for the world, and they ask us to live and act compassionately.

I will tell of the kindness of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us — yes, the many good things he has done for Israel, according to his compassion and many kindness. (Isaiah 63:7)

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:13-14)

Compassion, therefore, as the prophets of the Old Testament demonstrated, as the Apostles understood it, as Mary the Mother of the Lord showed it, and as Jesus Himself lived it … was nothing less than identifying with the lives of others in all their complexity, and reaching out to others with a HEALING WORD AND TOUCH. Compassion is not only a thought, nor merely a word, but A DEED … Love made concrete, Love made real, “Love Incarnate.” Jesus is “The Compassion of God”!

Let us pray

Lord and God, Jesus, Companion of my heart and life … show me your compassion today and always. And that I might remember what your compassion truly is, remind me to SHOW COMPASSION to everyone I meet … with my thoughts, my words, MY DEEDS. When I love others as YOU loved me, I know what peace, joy, and fulfillment truly is. Let me SERVE, in your most Holy Name, and share with You in the healing of the world.
Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Monday, August 10

A New Day

I didn’t have an alarm set for today. I decided I could, and therefore I DID, “sleep in” a bit. I wanted to wake naturally, and a bit slowly, just opening my eyes when, somewhere deep inside my body and mind, Nature’s own alarm-clock (of sorts) decided I had had enough “snooze,” and I was rested sufficiently to “meet the world.”

When I woke it was still, utterly quiet and peaceful, outside the wide open window right next to the bed … the window which I literally NEVER close except on the most freezing of winter nights. And in the stillness, in the slow waking of my body, sense by sense … sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing … one beautiful birdsong, clarion bright and crisp, rang out from the nearby trees. And with that lovely and pure “invitation,” I woke up fully, and rose to begin the day.

God is like that … a clarion, bright call to my listening heart at the break of day, inviting me to rise and greet all Creation as experienced in my small corner of the world and existence. What God manages to give me today, like the early bird’s bright song, is a “signal” point from which to start, and also a particular purity and sweetness to remember to focus upon off and on, throughout the day, however it goes.

I know I can’t predict of force every moment, thing, or person to “do it my way,” but the good and gracious Lord of All will be by my side, and as my Divine Friend, will make sure there is, as the writer once wrote, a “still point in the turning world.” And I’m grateful for that, for the Lord … Friend, Companion.

Today is a new day, and tomorrow will be another new day, and the day after that … on and on. With God, my Lord, at my side, and also “inside,” I can make something of this day which will be worth far more than my own small efforts could produce on their own.

Peace, calm … now, my soul: BREATHE!

Amen.

Fr. Richard Boyle, OSM

Sunday, August 9

A Tiny Whispering Wind 

Today’s first reading from the First Book of Kings is a favorite. Elijah is told to go up to the Mountain and wait for God to speak to him. First, there is heavy wind and rain, and then falling rocks. Later, there was an earthquake and a fire. God was not found in any of these loud, flashy, mighty “expected” ways. Instead, God came in a tiny whispering sound.

Ahh … quiet … tiny … whisper.

It is most often in the quiet that we can hear God speaking most clearly. Beyond the noise of physical sound there is the rumble of worry, the fire of anger and jealousy, the rain of sorrow and winds, and other emotions that can clutter up the quiet of our mind and heart.

Today I encourage you to make space for quiet so that you can hear God speaking to you:

God of all light and life, I come to you today wanting to be still, quiet, and open to you. May I listen with my heart, and remove expectations so you may come to me in your own time, and in your own way.

Amen.

Saturday, August 8

The Feast of St. Dominic 

St. Dominic is the founder of the Dominicans. The initials after their name are O.P., standing for Order of Preachers. The Dominicans are a world-wide order. Much of their focus is on preaching, teaching.

A Prayer for Today

Gracious God, you raise up faithful women and men to challenge and inspire us to live consistently as a faith-filled follower of your Son, Jesus. Bless the women and men who are members of Dominican religious communities. With the help of your grace, may I grow in compassion, in the comprehension of my faith, and charity of heart.

Amen.

Friday, August 7

Take up your cross and follow me

My Grandmother used to say “everyone has a cross.” Until I was an adult, I did not understand what she meant.

Jesus speaks to each of us today: “Take up your Cross and follow me”.
Jesus knows us, and the cross that we must carry. No one else can tell us what our cross is, or how to carry it. For some it may be a chronic illness. For others it may be a struggle with addiction, or a trying relationship with a loved one. Yes, everyone has a cross.

The good news is that Jesus carried his cross first, and he carried it for each of us. So, as we struggle with the pain and burden of our cross, we must remember that we do not carry our cross alone – EVER – Jesus is ahead of us, along side us, and behind us with constant words of love and encouragement.

Thursday, August 6

Transfiguration

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration. Here is the definition of the word: a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.

Jesus took James and John away with him to pray. In the midst of praying, Moses and Elijah joined Jesus. Moses represented the Law, and Elijah, the prophets – the past, present and future of Israel together in one place. And in that moment, James and John caught a glimpse of the fullness of who Jesus really is. I am sure this experience made little sense until after the resurrection.

Let us pray

Ever-loving, ever-living God, I pray that my attachment to you through prayer, reading of the Scriptures, and belonging to a community of faith will transfigure/transform me. In my daily living may I somehow allow others a glimpse of your life and love. I long to be a beautiful reflection of you.

Amen.

Wednesday, August 5

A Hope-filled Vision

“At that time, says the LORD, I will be the God of all the tribes of Israel, and they shall be my people … With age-old love I have loved you, and kept my mercy toward you. Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt … you shall go forth dancing with the merrymakers. Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; those who plant them shall enjoy the fruits.” (Jeremiah 31: 1,5-6)

Today the prophet Jeremiah describes a vivid image of joy and hope for the people of Israel – and us.

What a beautiful line: “With an age-old love I have loved you, and kept my mercy toward you.”

God loves us, is committed to us. God’s love heals, restores, reconciles, cultivates joy, and bares fruit through us.

Let us pray

Gracious God, help me to live my commitment to you as fervently as you live your commitment to me and all your people.

May my efforts today promote healing, hope and joy.

Amen.

Tuesday, August 4

Feast of St. John Vianney

St. John Vianney was a French priest. Although he struggled with studies, especially Latin, his desire to serve God as a priest was very strong. He persevered with the help of a tutor, and became a parish priest. He was known for his love of the Eucharist, his dedication to Mary, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He is the patron saint of priests.
Below find two of his famous quotes on prayer. May they enrich your faithful reflection today:

“My little children, your hearts are small, but prayer stretches them and makes them capable of loving God. Through prayer we receive a foretaste of heaven and something of paradise comes down upon us. Prayer never leaves us without sweetness. It is honey that flows into the souls and makes all things sweet. When we pray properly, sorrows disappear like snow before the sun.”

“Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself.”

Monday, August 3

Take courage, it is I

I find comfort and humor in the fact that the intimate followers of Jesus often misunderstood his words, or actions. Sometimes they even let pride, or fear take over their hearts and minds.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus was alone praying on the shore when the storm rose up. He then approached the boat walking on water. His disciples were so afraid that they did not even recognize Jesus!
I have seen first-hand how suddenly storms can come up on a body of water. As in daily life, events and issues can come out of nowhere. We feel surrounded by a storm and distant from Jesus. Fear is an antagonist of, and barrier to faith.

Let Us Pray
Gracious God, and Lord of Love, help me to focus myself on you – to trust you completely. Dissolve the fear, worry and anxiety that I often let navigate my efforts. Help me to be an instrument of hope, and faith, and love.
Amen.

Sunday, August 2

The Hand of the Lord Feeds Us 

Today’s Responsorial Psalm is definitely food for thought. “The Hand of the Lord feeds us; He answers all our needs”.

I enjoy cooking and baking. I enjoy it most when I am preparing food for others. I love this image of the Lord’s hand feeding us. When our son was learning to eat solid foods, and even as he progressed to utensils, my husband or my hands were right there directing, encouraging, and cutting up foods to be eaten.

I am happy to repeat the response to the psalm a few times to let it sink in: “The Hand of the Lord feeds us; He answers all our needs”. The beauty of this phrase is that we do not just stop with the fact that the Lord feeds us. It does not say: The Lord feeds us whatever we wish. It says that God answers all our needs. Often I know that I am hungry, but I do not know what I am hungry for. God knows our wants, our hopes, and our needs. What I want may be out of convenience, or pride, or even envy.
God hears all of those things – but he hones in our what we truly need. Not what I think I need, or someone else thinks I need, but what God knows and lovingly provides for each of us.

I encourage you to shift your thinking here regarding hunger. Move it beyond food. What are you hungry for? Peace, health, hope, justice, mercy? God extends his hand to you with your answer.

Saturday, August 1

St. Alphonsus Ligouri

St. Alphonsus Ligouri is the founder of the Redemptorist Order of priests and brothers. Today is his Feast Day.

He is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote in the field of spiritual theology. His “Glories of Mary ” is one of the great works on that subject, and his book “Visits to the Blessed Sacrament” went through 40 editions in his lifetime.

St. Alphonsus was a very practical man. He simplified preaching to be a practical breaking open of the Scriptures so that the people of God could be nourished and inspired to live more faithfully. Also, with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, he focused on encouraging true repentance by changing one’s actions rather than just the repetition of penitential prayers and actions.

Let Us Pray

St. Alphonsus, you challenged believers to allow God to change their minds and hearts.

Help me to be open to the many ways that God is asking me to change and grow to more truly reflect the image of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Amen.

Friday, July 31

St. Ignatius

Today, along with the Jesuits, we celebrate the Feast Day of St. Ignatius. Pope Pius XI declared him the patron saint of all spiritual retreats. He is also the patron saint of soldiers and the Jesuit Order.

St. Ignatius and his prayer practices have enriched the life of the Church. He encouraged his Jesuit brothers, and the many lay people that sought his direction, to involve their whole self in their prayer. He encouraged people to imagine themselves within the Gospel stories they read – maybe in the crowd listening to Jesus teach, or as the man born blind.

Another practice is called Lexio Divina. With this practice, one slowly reads a Bible passage two or three times, with a few minutes of silence in between each reading. After the third reading of the scripture, the reader discovers which word or image resonates in their heart? Whatever that word or image is, it what they ponder the rest of the day.

Let us pray

St. Ignatius,
Your missionary work, your educational efforts, and your many works of charity inspire me to dedicate myself wholeheartedly to Christ
Help me, this day, discover simple ways that I can reach out to others, teach the faith through my actions, and grow in charity. 
Amen.

Thursday, July 30

You are the potter, I am the clay

Today’s reading from the prophet Jeremiah gives us another great image – God as an artist.

In high school and college, I took a couple of ceramics classes. I could not wait to begin working with clay on the potter’s wheel. My teacher made it look so easy. 

It takes many hours of practice to even begin to ‘work the clay’. First, it has to become centered on the wheel. It must have proper moisture while working with it. The artist must have some intent, or idea of what they wish to create. The artist must be strong to move the clay, The artist must be focused, purposeful, and willing to get messy to create a masterpiece.

There were many times when I was working on the wheel that nothing useful came from my efforts. The Good News is that God is focused, God is purposeful, God is intimately close to the inner-workings of our lives. My prayer is not to be the largest or most beautiful of God’s creations, but to be continually made and remade into something useful to God and in the service of His Kingdom.

Wednesday, July 29

A Prayer for Today

Blessed St. Martha,

You did not hesitate to share your worries, questions, and burdens with the Lord Jesus. Help me to openly share my anxieties and troubles with Jesus.

In turn, the Lord reminded you to remain attached to Him and not get caught up in ’doing’ for the sake of keeping busy. Help me today and every day to proclaim like you, “ Jesus is my Lord and Savior”.

Help me proclaim this by growing as a person of faith, a person of hope and a person of charity.

Amen.

Tuesday, July 28

Reality Check

The prophet Jeremiah was overwhelmed by the destruction and evil around him. But in the midst of all of it, the one thing he knew for sure was that God was with him and God would not abandon him.

Wow, lately with news of violence, bigotry, health and safety concerns, today’s readings help us pull the focus away from ourselves and back to God. God accompanies all of us – especially in our weakness, our sadness, our frustration.

In our prayers today, let us ask God to use our words, our actions, and our life as a vivid reminder to those around us that they are surrounded by God’s loving presence.

Monday, July 27

Hidden Potential

The parables of the mustard seed and the yeast are two of my favorites. The smallest seed can grow a large tree; a couple of grains of yeast can leaven a whole lot of dough.

These very practical and vivid images remind us that God can grow and multiply even the smallest good in us.

During this pandemic time there are days that I feel I have only a thimble-full of patience, hope, or mercy. So in my morning prayer I ask God to take the little I have and multiply it.

As we seek to do God’s will by embodying His love and compassion, we become leaven to the people and situations around us. God the Father creates and sustains us; Jesus His Son redeems and heals us; and the Holy Spirit inspires and empowers us.

Let us pray

Gracious and eternal God, I humbly ask that you transform those parts of my mind, heart, and actions that do not reflect your saving love. I ask you to grow in me the virtuous actions that show the world around my that you are the Lord of my Life.

Amen.

Sunday, July 26

An Understanding Heart

God tells King Solomon to ask for whatever he wants. Solomon answers: “Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.”

Wow, I’m sure that this would not be my first request if God asked me what I wanted. King Solomon was a good leader because of his humility and the gift of an understanding heart that he requested from God.

Let us pray today for our leaders – local, national, and international. Let us pray for those who direct medical staff and first responders, and those who lead work teams, families and churches:

Gracious and loving God, I pray that you bless all leaders with an understanding heart. An understanding heart that listens, respects, forgives, hopes and loves.

Lord help me also grow in understanding of those who are different than I, my neighbors, family members and strangers.

May my words and actions reflect your generosity, fidelity and love.
Amen.

Saturday, July 25

A Pilgrim’s Patron

Today is the feast of St. James. He is the patron saint of pilgrims.

“What is a pilgrim?” you might ask. Here is the definition: a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons.

We consider all who visit The Grotto a pilgrim whether they identify themselves as such or not. But, in a wonderful way. each of us is a pilgrim. We are on a journey toward a sacred place (heaven) and for religious reasons we live our lives in a certain way – with specific beliefs and practices to help witness to a gracious and infinitely-loving God.

May the enthusiasm and dedication of St. James serve as a model for each of us.

Friday, July 24

Soil and Seeds

The parable of the sower and the seeds is so great because most of us can walk outside to a planter box, or flower bed, or even the easement between the road and the sidewalk, and see the visual laid out before us … rocky soil, weeds, shallow ground and rich soil.

Think of our life like a flower bed or garden. It is a mixture of all of those examples: there are weeds, some parts of us are shallow, other parts are rocky, and yes, there is some rich soil, too.

Anyone who has worked in a garden knows that the ground must be cultivated: turned over, fertilized, weeded, and tended. So too with us: work, family, relationships, conversations, free time, goals, all of it must be tended to.

Thank the Good Lord that he is a patient gardener. Nourish your mind and heart with prayer, fellowship, and scripture.

Thursday, July 23

The Fountain of Life

Well, the summer weather has arrived. These warm days draw us to water … an ice cold glass of water, kids in the sprinkler, a walk around The Grotto ponds. Water is life.

In today’s responsorial Psalm we are reminded that it is God who satisfies our thirst; who refreshes our soul; with whom we can recreate.

I encourage you today to take a few minutes with water. While watering your plants, drinking a glass of water, washing your hands, or looking over a pond, lake, river, or stream. God, like that water, is full of life. God cleanses us. Take time to soak in God’s wisdom, mercy and peace.

Let Us Pray

God, thank you for the gift of my life – especially your life within me.
Today I offer mercy, refreshment and peace to those around me.
Amen.

Wednesday, July 22

A New Creation

Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene. The words from St. Paul’s reading today rang true in her heart, and was reflected throughout the rest of her life: “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation,the old things have passed away;behold, new things have come.”

In our daily life, conversion more often is a gradual turning rather than an about face. What of my old ways must I let pass away? What habits must I change?

Let us pray

Lord, I want my life to be a reflection of you.
Please take my burdens my bad habits and my stubbornness and make them new.
Make me new so that those who encounter me see that I am attached to Christ Jesus.
Amen.

Tuesday, July 21

St. Martha is the patron saint of butlers, cooks, domestic servants, homemakers, hotel keepers, housemaids, laundry workers, and servers.

Martha was the “busy” sister, anxious and tending to everyone’s needs. Jesus reminded her that her sister Mary had “chosen the better part”.

As followers of Jesus we know that there is much to be done, and tending to the needs of others is important. Jesus reminds us that being busy, and “doing” cannot overshadow our attachment to his words, his teachings and his presence. We attach ourselves to Jesus through our prayer, in the reading of the Gospels, and our connection to a faith community.

Our prayer today is for the balance of prayer and action, God and neighbor:

Lord, I ask you to take my desire to serve you along with my brothers and sisters and help me balance with my needed time with you.

I know that spending time with you in prayer and reading the Gospel will ensure that my ego or personal wants don’t overshadow my efforts.

Amen.

Monday, July 20

What do you want from me?

There were a number of times when our son was younger that he began doing extra chores without being told, or doing his daily chores regularly … my parental wisdom would ask “what does he want?”

In today’s first reading, the prophet Micah poses this question on behalf of the people of Israel: With what shall I come before the Lord? (Lord, what do you want from me/us?)

We often seek a complicated and elaborate answer, but the answer is simple:

“You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you. Only to do right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Act Justly, Love Tenderly, and Walk Humbly with your God. Living these words daily is our challenge.

Let us Pray

Gracious God,

Your Son Jesus showed us through his words and actions how to be just, loving and humble.

Infuse my words, thoughts and actions with your presence that I may serve you and you alone.

Amen.

Sunday, July 19

“And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind” (Wis 12:19).

The wise sage of the Book of Wisdom praises God for the clemency, justice and care with which God governs humanity. Having the power and right to judge and punish people for not adhering to the covenant, instead God chooses love and justice in caring for His people.

God’s justice is expressed in kindness. God’s kindness is experienced in the abundant mercy and unconditional love that He freely showers upon us. An act of kindness honors the dignity of the other. It is the willingness to invest a bit of oneself for the good of another.

Acts of kindness, whether small or great, can give peace a chance to have a better foothold in the world. God’s actions towards us teaches that kindness is the virtue that births justice and gives peace a chance.

Today, thank God for his kindness by being kind to someone close to you.

Saturday, July 18

“Many people followed him” (Mt 12:15).

Why did people follow Jesus? The Gospels tell of various moments when the crowds listening to Jesus moved from one place to another when He did. Why? Were they amazed at the miracles he accomplished? Were they captivated by Christ’s sermons? Did they hope for a healing from Him or to receive His blessing? Did they follow Jesus because they believed Him to be the Messiah, the Holy One of God? There was something about Jesus that made the people want to follow Him.

Faith is a powerful force. It moves us to want God and to be in God’s presence. Like the crowds of Jesus’ day, we too follow where He leads. Why?

There are many reasons, but the only one that suffices, that makes sense, is that we need a Savior. We need one who loves us beyond ourselves to shepherd us to a place of peace where we can experience God’s unconditional love. God’s love is the constant reality we need in an uneasy and ever-changing world.

I follow Jesus because His love makes sense. Why do you follow Jesus?

Friday, July 17

“The sabbath” (Mt. 12:8).

The sabbath was God’s moment to look upon all He made and celebrate its goodness. As God rested from creating, He smiled with joy. Creation, including humanity, was a part of Him.

Creation took its life from God. It still does. Stop and think about all that surrounds you: grass, sky, sun, ocean, mountains, pets and loved ones. God made all there is with His love. God created to favor with His blessing.

The Lord invites us to take sabbath time each day to enjoy creation and to celebrate our goodness. As we do, we rest in the knowledge that God is close and favors us as we are the best of what He created.

Thursday, July 16

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).

One of the greatest blessings in life is having that one friend, or group of friends who know us well. They know what to say when we are struggling, and they know how to care for us when we are ill or feeling down. They support us, love us and nurture us. They are always honest with us.

Often life can feel labored and burdensome. We turn to our friends for assistance and support. Today, the Lord reminds us that in His friendship with us we can always turn to Him when we feel labored and burdened. Our friend’s support gives us joy. The Lord’s support brings peace to our tired souls.

Let Us Pray:
Lord, thank you for being a part of my day.
Give me rest when I have labored and comfort when my burdens weigh heavily.
You are my hope.
In your love I can rest today.
Amen.

Wednesday, July 15

“Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will”

The gracious will of the Father is to share His love with all who will receive it.

God offers many opportunities for us to understand Him more deeply. A colorful sunset is a glimpse into the peace God offers a troubled soul. The majesty of the ocean reminds that God is great, and we live in the shadow of that greatness. The love received from a spouse or dear friend is a reminder that God loves us immensely.

God’s gracious will is that we be surrounded by His presence and feel secure in His love. We have a place in God’s heart. Receiving God’s love is to know God’s will and to bask in the blessings that God showers abundantly.

Tuesday, July 14

Prayer of a Sick Person

O Jesus Savior, who in your crucified body bore the sorrows of the world, I come to you, with my sick body and my tormented soul.

I come to you just as Saint Peregrine dragging his wounded leg came to your feet.

With him and like him I implore you: “Jesus, Son of David, who healed the leper and gave sight to the blind, have mercy on me.”

You know my need, you see my suffering, but I say to you with faith: “Lord, if you wish, you can heal me.”

Extend your hand over me just as you stretched it over Saint Peregrine, so that my weak and sick body might be well and strong again.

Jesus, healer of souls and bodies, with the grace of healing, make me a part of your victory over sin and death; so that well again, I may be a witness of your merciful love, a sign of your saving power, and like Saint Peregrine, I may live every day in service to you and the Church.

To you, Jesus, crucified and risen, every glory and honor forever and ever.

Amen.

Monday, July 13

“make justice your aim” (Isa 1:17)

‘If God really cares for the world and for us, why does He not give us peace?’ I often get this question and similar from people. Well, He has given us peace.

Remember Genesis 1? Out of the chaos God lovingly created everything, including you and me.

Remember Genesis 3? There was harmony and peace throughout and within creation, but we made a mess of this by disobeying God.

Remember Jesus, the Son of God? He was the face of God’s love and mercy in human history. His Gospel teaches us to love God and love others as we are loved.

In recent weeks our nation and world have struggled with the coronavirus, age-old societal sins, and poverty. Maybe we need to stop blaming God and do what Jesus God instructs us in Isaiah 1, to “make justice your aim”.

We have to the tools needed to bring justice to the world: minds that are informed about ways to heal and make positive changes; consciences that know right from wrong; hearts moved to compassion; and souls touched by the unconditional love of God.

Let’s stop blaming God and live as He has taught; loving others and making justice our aim. Peace is possible. It takes us wanting peace enough to work for justice. And God is with us in this work.

Sunday, July 12

“seeds” (Mt 13:1-23)

Seeds are the potential of life. A little seed contains all the necessary elements for new life to begin and flourish.

For the new life to grow and thrive, a seed needs good soil, plenty of water and lots of sunlight. When these are available the tallest and largest of plants are produced giving food to nourish the living and beauty to the world.

In telling the parable of the sower of seeds, Jesus is proclaiming the potential of life that resides in each of us. Jesus, as the sower, lovingly sows seeds of new life in our souls. The new life produced by these seeds is the potential to remain hopeful and peaceful in tough times; the ability grow past our weaknesses, sins and hurts into better and more confident versions of ourselves; and to form a relationship with God where love and kindness are always available.

For this seed to grow we need to let our lives be formed by the Gospel and have the willingness to be led by the Lord. The seed of new life has been panted in our hearts. To grow and flourish the seeds await our faithful trust in the Lord’s love.

Saturday, July 11

“I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple” (Isa 6:1).

There are many ideas of what heaven is like. It seems that as many Christians there are, that’s how many ideas of what heaven is like.
Scripture gives us some clues as well. Jesus says that “in my Father’s house there are many dwelling places” (Jn 14:2). The prophet Isaiah shares with us what he saw in prayer. While we do not know exactly what heaven will look like, we do know that heaven is most importantly the experience of total union with God in perfect love.

The catechism teaches that heaven is “this perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity – this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed – is called “heaven.” Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness” (1024).

Faith is necessary to get to the union with God in heaven. We express this desire of faith by the way we live the Gospel of Jesus here on earth. Our faith expressed in good works here announces our hope of sharing eternal life with God in heaven.
May we let this hope give us courage to build a better world on earth like the one we will live in heaven.

Friday, July 10

“I am sending you” (Mt 10:16).

A person once said to me ‘Father, I wish I could do some ministry, but presently I am unable to do so.’ Knowing that this person prayed the rosary for the intentions of many people, I encouraged her to say a rosary weekly for those who minister in the Church. She smiled because not only could she do this task, but she felt a part of the Church’s ministry.

Like the Apostles, Jesus sends us out to minister to the needs of others. One does not need to be a professed consecrated religious sister or brother, or a priest or deacon, to do ministry in the Church. What is necessary for ministry is love for the Lord and a willingness to share the faith with others through good deeds.

What kind of ministry should one do? Start by praying Matthew 25:31-40. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and courage. Then contact your local parish to see what ministries it has that you might be able to assist with. If you are unable to help, then pray for the ministry of the Church.
Ministry is living the faith as we help others. Whether one helps fill food boxes for the poor or prays for others, ministry is letting Jesus send us to share His love with others.

Thursday, July 9

“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know” (Psalm 139:13-14).

During a retreat many years ago, the spiritual director leading me through the retreat asked me what my favorite scripture passage was. At first, I had a difficult time choosing from the many sacred passages that I found helpful and uplifting. After some thought I quoted verses 13 and 14 of Psalm 139. I have always found these verses a gift from the Lord because these holy words remind where I stand with the Lord. No matter what is happening in life, Psalm 139 reminds me that the Lord and I are always good with each other.

Because I am created by God, I am a part of His wonderful creation. I am always on God’s mind. This gives me hope and confidence in all moments of life. What is your favorite scripture passage? Memorize it, and let the sacred words by your guide, your hope and your joy today.

Wednesday, July 8

“The names of the Twelve Apostles are these…” (Mt 10:2).

Being chosen for a team is exciting. Being chosen is an affirmation of our talents, gifts and abilities. Jesus chose the 12 Apostles because they possessed the most important quality, faith. Each of the 12 had faith in Jesus and each wanted to believe more deeply.

Being a follower of Jesus does not mean that one’s faith has to be perfect. The desire to grow deeper in faith is necessary to follow Jesus. Like other aspects of life, faith develops and grows when given a good environment (a welcoming heart), proper nourishment (quality prayer), and wholesome rest (trust in the Lord).

When the Apostles let their faith develop, they became fearless preachers of Jesus. As we let our faith develop, we begin to find hope and peace in the midst of life’s challenges. We know the unconditional love of God at all moments. Jesus chooses us because we have faith. He chooses us because our faith is precious to Him.

Tuesday, July 7

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Mt 9:38).

Throughout the many months of this pandemic we have heard the profound stories of the heroics of those on the frontlines. Medical professionals, EMTs, police and fire personnel, and so many others who have given time and talents to care for those suffering from COVID-19. Likewise, our hearts have warmed with the stories of neighbors using creative methods to care for each other.

Today, as we read Jesus’ words to pray for more laborers needed for the harvest, let us remember another group of heroes: the chaplains, lay ministers, and pastoral care persons who continue to serve the suffering. Whether lending a listening ear, celebrating the sacraments or praying with and for the ill and their families, the clergy and all pastoral care persons offer a necessary service to lift the spirits of all who feel the many burdens of fighting the coronavirus.

The cruelty of the virus has moved us all to greater kindness and compassion for each other. Today, offer a prayer for all who serve the ill and their families. Also, thank a medical person, EMT or clergy person today for their service. Let us be grateful for the service of so many heroes who labor for a healthy harvest.

Monday, July 6

“I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy; I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the LORD” (Hosea 2:21-22).

In these uncertain times how can a person find joy? Our joy is found in the fact that God has chosen us to receive the blessing of His love. Always close to us, God involves Himself in our lives bringing love and mercy in abundance.

To know God’s presence is to experience His faithfulness in all moments of life. Our joy is that God has chosen us and He will always choose us no matter what.

Sunday, July 5

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. (Mt 11:28).

One of the greatest blessings in life is having that one friend, or group of friends who know us well. They know what to say when we are struggling, and they know how to care for us when we are ill or feeling down. They support us, love us and nurture us. They are always honest with us.

Often life can feel labored and burdensome. We turn to our friends for assistance and support. Today, the Lord reminds us that in His friendship with us we can always turn to Him when we feel labored and burdened.

Our friend’s support gives us joy. The Lord’s support brings peace to our tired souls.

Saturday, July 4

A Prayer for Our Nation

Lord, our nation is blessed by your providence.
Bless those who govern and all citizens.
Grant us the wisdom to work for the common good that all living in this land may experience the joy of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
May we thirst so deeply for peace that we passionately and diligently work for equal justice for all.
Give us the resolve to uphold the dignity of all that we see each other as friends and neighbors, teachers and mentors, forever learning that we are more similar than different.
Father, bless our land.
Amen.

Friday, July 3

Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Jn 20:29

The Apostle Thomas could only believe if he saw the marks of Jesus’s passion. When he did, Thomas believed. Thomas now saw life with a different perspective.

Faith does this. It changes our perspective. We are able to see the good in others. We find strength in illness. We have hope in challenging times. We become compassionate to the needs of others.

The perspective that faith gives is the ability to experience the faithful presence of God accompanying us in all of life’s moments. We may not be able to physically see Jesus, but we feel Him near: holding us, loving us and empowering us to share His love with others. In Jesus we walk by faith and not by sight. 

Thursday, July 2

And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” (Mt 9:2).

Mom, Rose and Fr. Bob. These three people, among many, taught me a great deal about how to live my faith in God. Often, these three prayerfully carried me to Jesus.

Our lives are filled with people whose faith in God inspires our relationship with the Lord. How blessed was the paralytic to have friends who brought him to Jesus. Displaying great love for their friend and faith in the Lord, they bring their sick friend to Jesus. We are not sure of the faith of the paralytic person, but the faith of his friends moved Jesus to forgive his sins and heal him.

Today, think of the people whose faith has inspired you. Think of the people who are praying for you. Maybe telephone or message them expressing your gratitude that their faith in Jesus and their love for you blesses your life. 

Wednesday, July 1

A Prayer for Today

Lord, today many things, temporal and spiritual, wage war against me.
Be my defender, my confidant and my peace.

Let me not get lost in the struggle, but let me learn that because you are with me I will move through this struggle to peace with you at my side.
Lord, strengthen my faith, for you are my hope.

Amen.

Tuesday, June 30

“Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but he (Jesus) was asleep” (Mt 8:24).

What perfect confidence Jesus has! The storm rages, tossing the boat around and he sleeps. Did He not care about His safety and that of His disciples? Was He too tired to care to help? Of course not! Jesus always cares for the welfare of those He loves. He just knew that no storm, large or small could harm them. Jesus was confident that because He, the Lord of all, was in the boat, all would be well. The storm could not shake His inmost calm.

This profound confidence of Jesus is what He shows in our lives as well. Our hope is that when the storms rage Jesus is present, riding out the storm with us. His presence in the midst of the storm reminds us that nothing can ever separate us from Him. Nothing can ever able shake our inmost calm. Jesus is our hope because He calms the storms of life and brings us safely to the harbor of His love.

Monday, June 29

“But who do you say that I am” (Mt 16:15).

There comes a time in our lives when we have that “moment of truth”. When we stand upon our convictions with confidence and order our lives upon these convictions.

That moment came for St. Peter. Peter had been in Jesus’ company for some time. He listened to Jesus’ instructions, witnessed Jesus’ miracles and listened as people professed their faith in Jesus as the Chosen One of God. Now, it’s Peter’s turn. Jesus asked Peter and the disciples who they believed Him to be. Peter had come to that moment of truth. Was Jesus the Messiah or not? Could Peter risk putting his faith in Jesus? Would following Jesus bring Peter all that he hoped for? With faith and conviction Peter professes that Jesus is the Messiah. While Peter’s faith in Jesus is still developing, he knows that Jesus will bless this faith.

We are all like Peter. We believe in Jesus, but our faith continues to develop. Sometimes our faith in Jesus is strong. Other times we struggle to believe. Jesus simply asks us to believe in Him. He helps us to believe by unfolding His love into our lives at every moment.

Believing in Jesus does not have to be perfect. God works in our lives no matter what. Like Peter, we need to profess faith in Jesus and let our faith develop as we grow in relationship with the Lord. Today is our moment of truth. Will we have faith in Jesus? 

Sunday, June 28

Who inspires you? Whose words and actions inspire the way you live?

As Christians, Jesus must be our first inspiration. His words shape the understanding of ourselves and the world around us. His actions show us how to positively relate to others so that compassion and peace can flood the world.

Jesus reminds us that He is always close to us. Jesus and our relationship with Him must come first so that learning from Him how to love and live, we in turn do so with others, especially those close to us. Jesus must be our inspiration because His way is the means to an exciting and peaceful life. His way is the means to caring well for ourselves and for others.

We need the inspiration of others to teach and motivate us in living well. Our first inspiration needs to be Jesus because His way is always the means to a fuller and complete life here and in the hereafter. Jesus is our most important inspiration.

Saturday, June 27

Prayer to Our Lady

Most Holy Mother, I love you.
I thank Jesus for gifting me with you as my Mother
Mary, you found joy and hope in your life because you trusted that God would always be faithful to you.
Mother, pray that I may always find the strength to praise God in every moment of my life for I know that He is faithful in my life as well.
Mary, pray for me, for my family and for peace in the world.
Amen.

Tuesday, June 23

Do to others whatever you would have them do to you” (Mt 7:12).

How timely are these words from the Lord?

The world is fearful, tired, angry and seeming to lose hope. So many people are facing illness, loss of employment, and pondering how to move our society forward where peace and equal justice flourishes for all people.
Maybe we need to relearn the importance of the Golden Rule. Caring for others is not an extra-curricular activity of being human. It is a divine duty. Respecting the goodness of each other is not a suggestion, but a command from our God who treats all of us equally with respect, love, mercy and great kindness.

To care and respect others is to see that we are only as strong of a people as when we accept our differences as a means to greater understanding. That beneath the differences we are so very similar because we are all lovingly and carefully created by the same God who is Father of us all.

Today, let us resolve to live the Golden Rule as best as we can, for doing so can positively change our minds, hearts and world for the better.

Monday, June 22

A Servite Prayer to Mary

Holy Mary, mother and guide we come in prayer before you.
Virgin of the Annunciation, woman of the new Covenant: help young people to discover and to carry out God’s plan for them; support everyone in their commitment to always do God’s will.

Queen of mercy, protect families under your mantle, raise up the oppressed, console the afflicted, and bring comfort to those in need.

Mother and disciple of the Crucified Lord, our sister on the journey of faith: support your children in the trials of life, comfort them in their sickness and suffering, and be near to them at the hour of death.

Virgin assumed into heaven, first fruit of salvation: accompany us on our daily journey toward the new heaven and the new earth, where God, everlasting source of peace and joy, will be all in all, forever and ever.

Amen.

Sunday, June 21

A Prayer of Blessing for Fathers

God our Father,
in your wisdom and love you made all things.
Bless our Fathers,
that they may be strengthened as Christian fathers.
Let the example of their faith and love shine forth.
Grant that we, their sons and daughters,
may honor them always
with a spirit of profound respect.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Adapted from the Book of Blessings.

Saturday, June 20

“and his mother kept all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51).

No person knows us better than our mothers. The relationship between a mother and a child goes beyond the fact that one gave birth to the other. There is a deep emotional and spiritual connection as well. A mother can feel what her child is experiencing thousands of miles away.

Because of the bond between mother and child, mothers play many roles in their children’s lives: teacher, physician, counselor, confessor, theologian, and cheerleader. A mother’s heart remembers not only the memories of the events of their children’s lives but feels these as well.

Mothers ponder the lives of their children, seeking ways to love and support then. Mothers ponder the lives of their children to prayerfully remember them before God. A mother’s heart is full of love for her children. We look to our mothers because they know us best.

In celebrating the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary today, we celebrate both Mary’s motherhood of Jesus and of us. On the Cross, just before He died, Jesus gave us Mary as our mother. In this role she teaches us how to trust God and how to live well in relationship with the Lord. She
reminds us to do what the Lord tell us that we may find hope and peace in life.

Mary’s heart is full of love for us, because like our earthly mothers, she wants what is best for us. She keeps us in her heart that she may bring us closer to Jesus that His love may always bless our lives.

Friday, June 19

For thousands of years humanity has believed the heart to be the keeper of emotions and memories. We speak of a kind person as having a “good heart”. Medical professionals remind us to be “heart-healthy” with our eating and exercise habits. When significant relationships fail, we experience a “broken heart”.

We understand the heart to be more than the muscle that keeps us alive. It is the keeper of our emotions and memories.

Today we celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This ancient image of Christ reminds us that God’s love is directed towards us. Our good, well-being and joy is what God desires for us. God’s heart beats for us because He is in love with us. The memories He has of us are not of our sins and failings, but that we are His greatest creation.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus lovingly beats for us. Celebrate today that YOU are God’s greatest love. His heart beats for you.

Thursday, June 18

One of the profound joys in life is having great friends who love us as we are. One of the great blessings in a day is having a conversation with a great friend.These conversations nurture and affirm us.

Daily prayer is meant to a conversation with our great friend, God. This conversation gives us a chance to hear the Lord remind us of how loved we are by Him. Likewise, prayer is our time to speak to God what we need to bless our lives.

Prayer is not about listing all the things that we want from God, but the moment to hear what God wants to do for us. When Jesus instructs us not to babble in prayer, He is inviting us to trust that God will bless us as He knows is best.

Faith assures us that God knows what we need. Faith invites us to trust God because God knows what we need to move through life in hope. Prayer is to be a conversation where God and we speak and listen to each other. The key to fruitful prayer is not to babble about what we need but to listen to the Lord tell us “I love you, I bless you, I hold you in the palm of my hand, do not worry.”

Like any great friend, God loves us and nurtures us, but we need to listen to Him to know this.

Wednesday, June 17

“When you give alms…When you pray…When you fast…”

Wait! Didn’t we read this Gospel passage on Ash Wednesday? Yes, we did.
Is it Lent in June, like Christmas in July? No, but rereading this text a second time in four months reiterates the place that these three spiritual practices are to have in our lives.

Almsgiving, prayer and fasting are meant to draw us closer to God (prayer), to love others (almsgiving), as we love ourselves (fasting). When practiced regularly these three disciplines help us to realize that in living the two commandments of Jesus, to love God and love others, we are the best version of ourselves.

We are social beings by nature. We were created to be in relationship. The primary relationship is with God whose love and blessings fill our lives. The secondary relationship is with others, building unity in the human family by caring for others, helping others to live well. Lastly, we honor ourselves and shine when we tackle our inner issues and concerns. Doing so we experience healing and a positive sense of self which shines brightly giving clarity to our goodness and our life’s purpose.

When almsgiving, prayer and fasting are regularly practiced we allow God’s to illumine the most important aspect of our lives: that by God’s grace we are always good and when we care for others we experience a joy that only divine love can provide.

Tuesday, June 16

A Prayer for Today

Father,
I am grateful for your love and kindness to me.
Lord, please heal the world of all that ails it.
Heal those who are ill.
Heal hearts that hurt from hatred and injustice.
May I see others as you do: good, loved and worthy of respect.
May I have the courage to do what I can to build a world where the dignity of all people of is reverenced and creation is honored as the reflection of your beauty.
Lord, change my heart to love as you do.
Amen.

Monday, June 15

“Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Mt 5:38).

St. Gregory of Nyssa teaches “the goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.”We know God to be merciful, loving and compassionate. Jesus taught us this. Being a disciple of Jesus is to train ourselves to offer compassionate responses to difficult and hurtful situations. We are not to look for ways to get even with someone but find responses to diffuse uneasy situations that can achieve peace: understanding, forgiveness, kindness and love.

It is never easy to be wronged, but if we choose to answer insult with injury, we choose not to give peace a chance to flourish. Our heavenly Father forgives our sins. The Lord Jesus forgave His executioners. We can learn to forgive and “turn the other cheek” in pursuit of our living more like Jesus and giving peace in the world a real chance,

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, put it well: ‘that old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.
To be a disciple of Jesus is to do the right thing, which is to become like God by living justly and responding to all situations in ways that give peace a real chance.

Sunday, June 14

The Eucharist is the real presence of Christ come to nourish us. The Eucharist defines us as the blessed and favored children of God. The Eucharist is our mission to build unity in the human family born from the Father’s love. The Eucharist is the experience of taking God into our lives
that He may deeply love us past our sins to redemption and holiness.

Holy Communion is the moment of bowing before God and taking God into our lives that Christ’s flesh becomes ours and His blood flows through the veins of our lives. The Eucharist is God coming to us with the desire to be one with us. To believe in the Eucharist as the real presence of Jesus is to believe that we are only as good as when we let God inhabit our lives through the Eucharist we partake with Him. Why would any Catholic not want God so close as when receiving Him in the Eucharist at Holy Communion? It is like trying to make bread without flour, water and yeast.

Today, as we celebrate the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus, the Lord calls us to deep and life-giving communion with him. Our response is easy and simple if we want to believe, if we hunger for life and peace in abundance. The Eucharist is God’s greatest gift to us. May we receive Him often with reverence and love.

Saturday, June 13

Today, the church remembers St. Anthony of Padua, a Franciscan friar of the 13th century. St. Anthony was both learned in theology and a man of great faith. Popularly St. Anthony is known as the patron saint of lost items. It is thought that this aspect of the saint’s life was due to a book of psalms that was taken from Anthony by another friar. The saint prayed for the book to be returned and it was by the one who took it. The little phrase associated with St. Anthony and lost articles is “St. Anthony, please look around; something is lost and must be found.” Many a devout and not so devout Catholic call upon St. Anthony for assistance in finding a lost article.

Many of us lose things each day. Are we also aware of the important things that can be lost or neglected? Things like joy, hope and faith? Many events, people and ideas challenge us often throughout the day. It can be easy to give into feeling sad, despair and doubt when we are feeling challenged with trying to navigate small and great things. But we are reminded that in
God’s closeness to us we have an ally who wants to help us in such moments. St. Anthony always preached that hope and help in all of life’s trials was God’s closeness to us.

Today, as we feel the burdens of many things, many challenges, many tasks, let’s be hopeful and ask for God’s help. He will help us see our way through these moments to experience peace when we feel lost.

Friday, June 12

You are welcome here … here to this holy, quiet place where God’s love is reflected in the beauty of His creation, in the smiles of our staff and in the prayers of the Friars and Sisters.

You are welcome here to celebrate your blessings and to pray for your needs.

You are welcome here to find hope for your troubled heart and rest from your labors.

You are welcome here to worship God or to find Him in your questions.

You are welcome here to learn about love from Mary, Jesus’ mother, whose life was surrounded in the love of the Father.

You are welcome here to laugh and to cry; to ponder and to marvel.

You are welcome here to just be, and we pray the you will always how loved you are as God’s favored child.

You are welcome here.

Thursday, June 11

A Message from Fr. Don Siple, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

We live a world that is tired, frightened, angry and unsettled. Many situations concern us and weigh heavily upon our thoughts and hearts. Our concerns can easily overwhelm us. The need for peace in the world and peace in our hearts is more necessary now than before.

The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother-The Grotto exists to be a place of peace, the peace that only God can give. We believe that God is ever close to us and wishes peace for our troubled hearts. The religious shrines, artwork and the gardens of the Grotto offer a place that one’s full heart can find peace and the overwhelmed mind, tired from many things, can rest surrounded by the beauty of God’s carefully crafted creation.

Making time to be at a place like the Grotto is a gift to oneself to unwind and think clearly for a moment. It is a place to find hope to move through the troubles of the world and the troubles of the heart with clarity, hope and peace. God provides all of this to the believer.

To encounter this peace and hope one needs to make time to rest the mind and heart, even for a moment. When the Servite Friars founded the Grotto in 1924 it was their belief that the world, tired of war and strife, needed places of quiet and peace to refresh one’s soul and spirit. The Friars hold this same belief today.

There are many wonderful charities and social organizations asking for your assistance at this time to keep them in fulfilling their mission. We ask you to consider us as well in your giving. We need your prayerful and financial support to keep The Grotto operating, so it can remain a place of peace and refreshment for the tired and the overwhelmed.

Your support will assist the Grotto in being the place of encounter with God, the Prince of Peace. Thank you.

To Donate Now: please click here

Wednesday, June 10

Prayer to Overcome Racism

Mary, friend and mother to all, through your Son, God has found a way to unite himself to every human being, called to be one people, sisters and brothers to each other.

We ask for your help in calling on your Son, seeking forgiveness for the times when we have failed to love and respect one another.

We ask for your help in obtaining from your Son the grace we need to overcome the evil of racism and to build a just society.

We ask for your help in following your Son, so that prejudice and animosity will no longer infect our minds or hearts but will be replaced with a love that respects the dignity of each person.

Mother of the Church, the Spirit of your Son Jesus warms our hearts: pray for us.

Amen.

Copyright © 2018, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC.

Tuesday, June 9

“You are the light of the world” (Mt. 5:14).

These last eleven weeks of “stay home, stay safe” has helped to keep so many safe and healthy as the pandemic spread. We learned new methods of living, learning, working and being Church.

This time has given many the opportunity to slow life’s pace a bit and look into one’s heart. The heart is the keeper of many things: God’s love; joys and blessings; wounds and hurts, sadness and doubts; healings and joys; sin and forgiveness.

In each moment that we acknowledge the depth of our lives, the opportunities for healing and new life can take place. Among all the many things that fill our hearts and among the memories it keeps, there is the light of goodness. Our goodness is the reflection of God that shines more brightly than numerous suns. This light shines over all that fills the heart to remind us that we are not the sum of our weaknesses and shortcomings. We are the sum of God’s love.

When Jesus tells that we are the light of the world He is reminding us that our light is His light. His light always brings with it the promise of love, mercy, forgiveness and healing. When we allow God’s light to do all of this for us, we begin to see that we can rise from what ails us to the freedom to live as we were created to be: confident, hopeful, courageous and abundantly blessed. When we live from the newness that God’s light brings to our lives then we easily shine hope to the world around us. The light of our life’s story blessed by God can help others to find their hope in God also.

Monday, June 8

“Discipleship involves education and performance; it is the choice of a life “according to the Spirit” – a surrender to the trustworthy God of Jesus Christ. Discipleship involves listening to, believing in, living for and loving Him. It is a great act of understanding and hope in a God who is not only omnipotent but is supremely good, the source of indiscriminate love.

In their Letter to Those Seeking God, the Italian Bishops wrote: “Faith is surrender, submission, welcoming and abandonment to the God who first sought us and gave himself to us. It is not any human possession, guarantee or assurance. Believing does not avoid scandal, fly from risk or move forward in the serene light of day. One believes in spite of scandal and risk; one is challenged in and by them. “Believing means standing on the edge of a dark abyss and hearing a voice cry ‘Leap, I will catch you in my arms.’ (Søren Kierkegaard). – 213 General Chapter of the Servite Friars.

Prayer

Holy Mary, Disciple of Jesus, pray that I may nurture a stronger relationship with your Son. Your life teaches me that faith is trust that God is always faithful.

Pray that I may see the signs of God’s presence in my life today. Pray that I will seek God’s counsel and blessing in all that happens.

Mother, pray that my faith in God may bring me peace and joy as your faith did.

Mother, be my guide and intercessor as I work to be a more perfect and faithful disciple of Jesus.

Amen.

Sunday, June 7

Today we celebrate the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity: Three persons, one God. God is love.

The three persons of the Trinity are constantly giving and receiving love among themselves. Throughout history and today, the Trinity shares this love with us. At baptism we were initiated into the love of the Trinity.
So how can we practically understand the mystery of Trinity? By loving others as we are loved.

First, we need to accept that we are loved by God; strengths, wrinkles, weaknesses and all. The Trinity loves us, and we grasp the depth of being loved by God when we repent and work to make ourselves better than we are.

Second, we grasp the love of the Trinity when we love and care for others. St. Paul gives us practical advice in how to love others. He instructs us to “mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor 13:11).

Knowing the Trinity is easy when we love self and others with the depth and joy with which God loves us. In love there is peace. 

Saturday, June 6

Friends, under more normal circumstances we would have celebrated our monthly healing Mass in honor of St. Peregrine today. Please join the Servite Community in praying to St. Peregrine for all who need healing.

Prayer to St. Peregrine

Saint Peregrine, we turn to you with confidence and ask that you intercede for us in our need for healing.

When you yourself were sick, you found comfort in prayer before the image of Christ crucified.

Now you live forever blessed in everlasting light.

Intercede for us with the risen Lord that he might extend his healing hand and cure the illnesses that afflict us.

Faithful servant of the Blessed Virgin, intercede with the Lord of glory that he might free us from our suffering and show once more the power of his saving love.

O good friar, sleepless in supplication, intercede with the Lord of life that he might remove the shadow of illness and restore us to joy in the light of recovered health, rendering thanks to Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Saint Peregrine, unite your voice to our prayer: Intercede for us and for all who are sick, as did the Centurion for his servant, Martha and Mary for their brother Lazarus, and the Virgin Mary for the spouses at Cana, so that we, too, may experience your powerful protection over the poor and the sick.

To God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, whose holiness you reflect, O Saint Peregrine, be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.

Friday, June 5

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (1 Tm3:16-17).

One of the greatest blessings of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), was that it strongly encouraged the study, praying, and living of the Sacred Scriptures by all in the Church: laity, consecrated religious and clergy. The Scriptures fill the liturgy and prayer of the Church. Our faith-life, spirituality, doctrines and worship are founded in and on Scripture. The Scriptures introduce us to God, reveal the movement of God in life and form us into true disciples of Jesus.

Reading and praying the Scriptures is a must for growing in our life with Jesus. The Council Fathers of Vatican II teach us that “in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them” (Dei Verbum, 21). St. Jerome, the great Scripture translator and commentator said it well: “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” For the faithful and serious disciple of Jesus, reading and praying Scripture is both a necessity and a welcome task. It is having a conversation with God, our best friend.

Reading the Bible can be a bit intimidating because it contains many lessons. But there are many good Catholic aids to assist in the both the study and praying of the Scriptures. An internet search will point one to these aids.

St. Paul’s instruction that Scripture is useful reminds us that the Lord gave us Scripture for one reason, that we can know Him. The Bible reminds us that in God’s love we will know abundant mercy and kindness, and we will grow in union with God.

Today, spend time reading that Bible and hear God speak His love to you. It will be the best conversation of the day.

Thursday, June 4

“Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths, Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior” (Psalm 25:4-5).

My first-grade teacher was a wonderful person and great teacher. She was a master in instructing first graders. She was an incredibly kind and accepting person. For those of us who struggled a bit, she made us feel at ease that we could tackle the struggle to learn with confidence. The next lesson that Mrs. McShane taught us was to see life’s events as opportunities to learn and the people in our lives as potential teachers.

In our relationship with the Lord, we know that there are many lessons to learn. We need to learn how to relate more honestly and authentically with ourselves, others, and with God. Walking the path of God is a journey of new lessons and new beginnings. The way of God leads us into His heart where we experience love and mercy that reveals our goodness and our potential. The path then leads us from this experience into the lives of those around us.

Our encounters with those on the same path are our opportunity to teach them what we have learned. Our faith in the Lord is the invitation to keep learning how to walk closer to God and how to embrace others with love. The greatest lesson that God teaches us in that we are good, that we can heal and change for the better, and that to love others brings great joy and builds peace in the world.

Maybe this is the lesson we all need to keep learning in these uneasy and challenging days. 

Wednesday, June 3

St. Paul gives his friend Timothy some great advice about faith. He tells Timothy “I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have” (2 Timothy 1:6).

The gift is faith in God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines faith as “a personal act – the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself” (166). The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of faith as “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (11:1).

St. Paul made Timothy bishop of the church in Ephesus, in modern day Turkey. Timothy was a young man and a somewhat new Christian. To be the shepherd of a local church must have been a daunting task. But Paul reminds his friend of the great gift he received, his faith in Jesus. To stir in flame the gift of faith was to practice the faith and to engage God through faith in prayer. It was to see where God was revealing His presence in Timothy’s life. The more Timothy lived Jesus’ commandment of love, studied the scriptures and prayed devoutly, his faith in Jesus grew stronger and deeper. It gave Timothy the courage to minister to God’s people in the Ephesian church.

Faith in God is not magic. It is our response to God who reveals his love in our lives in great and small ways. Faith is our response to God who calls us into a relationship with him. Like any relationship, ours with God must be tended to and nurtured.

We experience God in many ways. Understanding the movement of God and responding to God in faith takes some work. Prayer, reading scripture, being charitable and going to Church nurtures our faith, perfects our spiritual eyesight to see the Lord moving in life and gives us courage to always respond in faith when the Lord calls us.

It is never too late to stir into flame our faith. When our faith is vibrant and strong we have the courage to endure all things, because faith reminds us that God is always holding us close. 

Tuesday, June 2

A Prayer for Today

Father, you created all things in your image and likeness and pronounced these to be good. In you “all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Somehow we have let pride create divisions, walls and barriers where you had none when you created us. Father, what ails us now is the cause of our shortsightedness. We see what we want to see. We believe what we want to believe. We live as we want to live. Doing so has caused a mess of the beauty and harmony that you established as the norm for all creation from its beginning.

Grant us the humility to see what you see, neither male or female, black or white, poor or rich, but just your children, united in the common family of humanity with you as our Father. Lord, restore our senses to be kind and loving, caring and compassionate, forgiving, helpful and respectful to each other. Give us the wisdom to restore your equal justice to all that the reverence and upholding of each person’s dignity is our life’s work.

Lord, give us your eyes to see the goodness in each other. Give us your heart to love as we are loved. Give us your creative Spirit to build up each other that unity may be humanity’s greatest and lasting achievement.

Father, bring us deep and abiding peace in Him, your Son, the Prince of Peace. Amen.

Monday, June 1

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother…” John 19:25

In Jesus’ ministry Mary witnessed God’s love in His sermons and miracles. At the Cross, Mary witnessed the depth of God’s love for humanity in Jesus’ suffering and death. Mary’s presence at the Cross gave Jesus hope that he was not alone in his suffering. Because Mary continually pondered the activity of God in her life, she knew that God’s love story for humanity would not end in death. The death of Jesus was the beginning of a new chapter of divine love for us.

Like Mary, we are called to stand at Jesus’ cross. There we experience hope and love. In hope we stay vigilant to where Jesus is presently crucified in the sufferings of his sisters and brothers. At these present day crosses we compassionately stand to witness the love of God.

Mary’s silent presence at the Cross of Jesus inspires us to be courageous in being compassionate to those who are facing a difficult moment: loneliness, hopelessness, fear, suffering, hatred, and injustice. Our presence at these crosses is an invitation to continue writing God’s love story through offering compassionate hope to all who search for God’s love in the difficult moments of life.

Today, what/whose cross are you standing at? Pray to be strong in faith, love and hope. A caring word or action to another is writing God’s love story in their lives and in ours. It offers them hope in midst of their suffering. It is a way to bring peace to another and to the world.

Sunday, May 31

On this Pentecost Sunday the Lord blesses his disciples with the words “peace be with you”.

He blesses us with the same words. But where is peace today? The COVID-19 virus rages throughout the world claiming more victims. Our nation once again grapples with the age-old sin of racism. Millions are displaced from their homes because of wars they never started. The land of Abraham, Jesus and Mohammed yearns for peace. Men and women sleep on our streets.

Where is the peace that Jesus blessed us with? It resides in our hearts that are moved to pray for those who suffer; in the meal we provide for an elderly neighbor; in the money we send to support international relief agencies; in the letters we write to elected officials that express our support for legislation that brings justice to the suffering.

Every time we choose to right injustice with prayers, words, and actions of love we let the Lord’s blessing of peace explode through our lives into the world. Being a disciple of Jesus means to be an active participant in making peace real and not letting it be a pious theory.

Pope St. Paul VI understood that the disciple of Jesus can only have peace when they work for justice for all people. His words in 1972 are so true today, “If you want peace, work for Justice”. May the Holy Spirit guide us in living peace by bringing Jesus’s love to others.

Saturday, May 30

“You follow me.” (John 21:22). Three words that will change a life forever.

The Apostles Peter, Andrew, James and John heard these words from Jesus and left everything to follow him. It was not the words, but the love behind the words that gave the four the courage to follow Jesus. They asked no questions or wanted time to put their affairs in order. He called and they immediately followed.

They never knew love like this. Jesus’ love went past the questions of their minds, through the doubts of their hearts and past the sin on their souls to the deep place where their faith resided. Here Jesus loved them deeply to see the potential of their lives which they could not see. In following Jesus, they wanted what He could give though it would take Jesus’s death and resurrection for them to see in themselves what Jesus saw. When they saw what Jesus saw, their lives were never the same.

Don’t we all yearn for the same experience of love? A love that reaches deeply into our lives that we can see and believe the potential which lies there? Following Jesus is the adventure of growing into the best version of ourselves. When we follow Jesus through our questions, giving him our doubts and repenting of our sins then our best self can brightly shine.

The journey which Jesus takes with us is on the road of love which reminds us that our goodness lies in God in whose image and likeness we are created. The potential of Jesus’s love resides deep within our lives. Today he says to us “you follow me”. He calls us to a journey of love that renews, empowers and strengths us in the Holy Spirit.

Will you follow Jesus with the intensity of faith with which He loves you?

Friday, May 29

“He (Jesus) said to him the third time,“Simon, son of John, do you love me? Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17).

Having the opportunity to have a “do over”, a second chance is the wish of anyone who has made a mistake. When mistakes are made, we desire to make it right.

Peter must have deeply felt this desire. On the night of Jesus’ arrest, Peter denied knowing Jesus when questioned by a stranger. Instead of acknowledging Jesus and showing him support during his trial, Peter, scared, denied Jesus. The pain and grief of his action must have weighed heavily on Peter’s mind and soul. Yet, Jesus kept loving Peter and being his friend. The Lord knew Peter’s soul was good. He would give Peter a “do over”. The do over was not so much an opportunity to reverse the denial of Jesus, but the opportunity to let Peter’s true self shine. Peter would tend the early Christian community with the love that he had for Jesus.

As we walk through life we do make mistakes. When given the chance for a do over we seize the moment to make things right. Making our wrongs right is letting our best selves shine. Second chances are moments of grace. In such moments God can be found because God guides us in doing what is right. God delights when we let our best selves shine.

Thursday, May 28

I learned to pray from my Mom. She trusted the Lord with a great and deep faith. No matter what was happening or what she was feeling, Mom knew that the Lord was close to her. Like the Psalmist, Mom often prayed “keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.” Faith assured her that God was deeply interested in her and that was her hope.

Mom’s teacher in prayer was the Blessed Virgin Mary. My mom had a great devotion to Mary. Every morning, even before the first cup of coffee, my mom prayed her rosary. When Mom prayed the rosary, she was praying to a woman who guided her, a teacher in living the faith and a fellow mother who knew what it was like to raise a child and care for a husband. When my mom prayed to Mary it was two mothers talking together. In praying her rosary, my mom encountered the peace, love, and mercy of God through Our Lady’s prayers. I know that my dad, my four siblings and I and a whole host of people were prayerfully spoken of when Mary and Mom got together every morning.

Sadly, I think many in the Church have forgotten the joy of praying for each other. Faith gives us the privilege of spiritually standing before God. In the sweetness of the divine presence our heavenly Father welcomes us to listen to what is on our heart. To pray for another is to lovingly present them to our God who is always ready to love and heal. To pray for another is to love them in the deepest way possible, in the Spirit, who dwells within us.

In today’s Gospel (John 17:20-26) Jesus stands before the Father praying for his disciples. He does the same for us every day. Faith can move mountains. Faith is our love language with the Father. When words or actions escape us in our efforts to help another, faith calls us to pray and stand with them
before God. In the presence of God, faith gives birth to love that heals in way that we can never imagine.

Today, make a list of your loved ones who need prayer and with Our Lady and the Psalmist cry out in faith for them “keep them safe, O God; be their hope as you are my hope.”

Wednesday, May 27

A Prayer for Healing

Father,

You sent Jesus to be our peace.

In Him we find our hope and healing.

Lord, I bring to you members of my family and friends who are finding these days tough, tiresome and unbearable.

Give healing to the sick, hope to the despairing, and peace to the brokenhearted.

Lord, help those who have lost jobs to find sustainable and meaningful employment.

To those who feel alone, hug them close to your heart that they may feel safe.

Lord, keep us healthily, hopeful and forever full of faith in your goodness.

I make this pray in the name Jesus.

Amen.

Tuesday, May 26

There are moments when our souls seem to joyfully sing because of the blessings that flood our lives. There are moments when our souls feel tired from all that concerns us.

In the ups and downs of life, the Psalmist prayed “blessed be the Lord day by day, God, our salvation, who carries us.” He knew that what renews the soul is the fact that the believer is never alone. The Lord is our companion walking beside us and caring for us at every step of the way.

Often the Lord carries us especially in the tough and tiresome moments. Like the Psalmist, we can praise God for the support the Lord gives. We are surrounded by the mystery of God which blesses us with divine love as a Father and as Friend. St. Hildegard of Bingen said it best, “God hugs you. You are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God.”

Whether we are joyful or sad, hopeful or worrisome, tired or rested, the hug of God upon our lives reminds us that God feels what we feel and carries us in love.

Monday, May 25

A wonderful Memorial Day childhood memory I have was watching my dad hang the American flag on the front my family’s house. Every Memorial Day dad arose early, hung the flag and would share memories of his military service at breakfast. My dad was a proud veteran of the United States Army’s 1st Infantry Division.

I loved to hear dad’s stories of his service. Dad was proud to have served his country and proud of his country. He was very aware that the freedom we enjoy in the present was founded on the heroic sacrifice of the men and women of our country’s armed forces who offered their lives on the altar of freedom. My dad’s patriotism was deep. It impressed me to be grateful for the blessing of freedom that is enjoyed as a citizen of our nation.

Today our nation remembers the sacrifices of so many that we can speak our opinions openly, participate in our government and worship freely. In the midst of cookouts and moments with family today, let us remember those who gave their lives in service to our country. Their sacrifice is our freedom. Let us forever be grateful.

Sunday, May 24

Go. A small word with great potential. We are often on the go, aren’t we? We go to work. We go to the store for groceries. We go to the physician’s office for a remedy for what ails us. We go to a child’s football game to be supportive. We go to Church to experience the Lord in the Eucharist. It seems that we are constantly on the go.

Being in motion is a function of our life. It is also an important function in our relationship with the Lord. Prior to ascending back to His Father, Jesus instructs the disciples to go and bring the good news of God’s love to all people. Jesus has loved them into the gift of faith, instructed them on this faith and now sends them forth to give to others what He gave them. Their mission was not to ponder the faith but to live it and share it with others.

Jesus tells us to “Go” today. He loves us, abundantly blesses us and tells us to share this faith with others, even in a pandemic. Maybe we cannot physically go because we are home staying safe, but we can go in other ways. We can share the faith by writing an e-mail to someone we have not seen for a while. We can text the words “I am praying for you” to someone we care about. We can share with our children why having faith in God brings purpose and hope to our lives.

To be on the “go” in faith is to realize that what we know of God, others need to know to help them through tough times like the present. To go is to acknowledge just how blessed we are by a caring God who desires that our friends, coworkers and families know that they are blessed as well, by the same loving God.

Jesus did not give us the faith to keep it to ourselves, but to grow so deeply in love with Him that we cannot help but share our faith with others. Today, go and do for someone else what God does for you.

Saturday, May 23

Possibly, there are no more beautiful words in the scriptures than these of Jesus in today’s gospel reading, “for the Father himself loves you.”

We desire to be loved. To be loved is a gift. In being loved by another we are accepted, valued, reverenced and noticed for who we are. In being loved our self-confidence grows stronger and happiness fills our lives more easily.

In telling His disciples that the Father loves them, Jesus is reassuring his friends that the courage for their life and mission is found in being loved by God. God’s love is the assurance that God values them and is present in their lives. The Father is never far from them.

Every day Jesus whispers to our souls this same assurance “the Father himself loves you”. What a joy to have the Father notice us! What a blessing that the Father notices us and holds us close. The Father’s love upon our lives is the promise that whether we are saints or sinners, confident or doubtful, hopeful or despairing we are loved all the same. The Father’s love covers our lives with the blessing of abundant providence all because God favors us.

The best way to celebrate the Fathers’ love is to share it with another. As God does for us, today, let is do for another that they may know the Love of God as we do.

Friday, May 22

Prayer to the Mary, Pilgrim Mother of Jesus

Rejoice, Mary, full of grace!

Mother of Jesus you saw your Son grow in wisdom and strength.

After a three-day search in Jerusalem you found your twelve-year old Son in the midst of the doctors of the Temple who were amazed at his intelligence and answers.

You heard him read in the synagogue and preach with authority.
Teach us how to dance when your Son plays the music of the Gospel in our hearts.

Teach us to guide the growth and education of the young people in our lives, and to share with them the Gospel values that inspire us.

Mary, ask your son to bless and protect our children and young people.

Mary, pray for us.

Amen.

Thursday, May 21

Many of us played “hide and seek” when we were kids. It was a fun challenge to discover the best place to hide so as not to be found. Likewise, it was a great feeling of accomplishment to find someone hiding using one’s own sleuthing skills. Playing hide and seek could go on for hours turning a boring day into one of great adventure.

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus seems to indicate a game of hide and seek with his disciples. He tells them “a little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me” (John 16:16). Yet, in what seems to be a confusing statement, is actually an invitation to a great adventure. Shortly, Jesus will die and rise to bring salvation to humanity. The disciples have been chosen to be witnesses of this. Yet, their confusion lies in not fully understanding the adventure. Jesus’s death while bringing the disciples great sadness will become their joy and that of humanity. Their experience of Jesus’ life, passion, death and resurrection will become the adventure of their lives as they share Jesus’ story with others. Their grief at Jesus’ death will become joy as others come to know Jesus as they do. Jesus’ leaving the disciples in death only to return as the risen Lord is the reason for Jesus calling them to the adventure of being his disciples.

Over 2000 years later, you and I live this adventure as we live our faith. Daily we are confronted with challenges to believing in God and that He loves us. Yet, when we see Jesus’ story as part of our story, our faith comes alive because Jesus lives in our living of the faith. We are not called to a game of “hide and seek” with Jesus, but missioned to live the adventure of faith finding Jesus in every event, person and moment of life.

Jesus’ death is our life. Jesus’s resurrection is our victory. Is there any greater adventure that brings hope, purpose and joy as the one we undertake by living in faith with Jesus?

Wednesday, May 20

“Jesus said to his disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth” (John 16:12-13).

We are blessed with the means to receive information from a variety of sources. In an instant we receive reports on the events of the day, learn a new idea or concept and obtain an opinion on current events. It is easy to become informed and stay so on any given topic or event. Easily also, one can become overwhelmed by too much information. There needs to be a balance between too little and too much information. The goal is to know what it necessary to stay informed or learn something new to enhance the life experience.

Jesus realized this in the case of His disciples. He is sharing a lot of important information with them. This information will bless their lives and prepare them for the upcoming events of His passion and death. He knows that they are on information overload. Jesus lovingly tells them that the Holy Spirit will come to guide their life and mission.

As we live our faith, we learn new ways to seek God and to understand God’s activity in our lives. At times though we can become overwhelmed by trying to live our faith and what we know of God while facing the demands of very busy lives. We want to practice the faith better. We want to pray more deeply. But life gets full and busy. The Holy Spirit reminds us that in life’s busyness God is present. When we can’t pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us. When we can’t practice the faith as deeply as we desire, the Holy Spirit guides us to find a way to connect with God that satisfies this desire even in our busyness. The Holy Spirit shares with us the most important information: God is present in our busyness and He loves us deeply. This information is the most important news for our lives.

Tuesday, May 19

“About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God…” (Acts 16:25).

Paul and Silas were thrown into prison for their ministry in the name of Jesus. The prison most likely was a dark, damp, windowless series of rooms. In such a place most people would pass the night feeling fearful. Maybe they prayed to be released. But Paul and Silas spend the night praying and singing hymns. They made the choice to pray and sing hymns instead of passing the night in fear. Fully conscious of the seemingly dismal prospect of their current situation, they chose to trust God. They chose to live in faith. Their faith in God was their joy.

Today as we face another day of staying safe in this pandemic we choose to live in faith and carry our worries and concerns to the Lord. Choosing to live in faith is to make the best our situation trusting that the Lord is caring for us all the time. We can praise God and sing hymns in this moment because “if God is for us who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31-39)

Monday, May 18

“Mary was able to turn a stable into a home for Jesus, with poor swaddling clothes and an abundance of love. She is the handmaid of the Father who sings his praises. She is the friend who is ever concerned that wine not be lacking in our lives. She is the woman whose heart was pierced by a sword and who understands all our pain. As mother of all, she is a sign of hope for peoples suffering the birth pangs of justice. She is the missionary who draws near to us and accompanies us throughout life, opening our hearts to faith by her maternal love. As a true mother, she walks at our side, she shares our struggles and she constantly surrounds us with God’s love.”

Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 286.

Holy Mary,

You are my example of faithfully living in Christ.

At the birth of Jesus your praised God for the gift of your son.

When your friend’s wedding wine ran short you trusted God’s providence.

At the death of Jesus, you lived through your pain and grief with hope in God’s Love.

Mary, pray for me and my family.

Pray that in all that we are experiencing in this uneasy moment we will deepen our trust in God’s blessing upon us.

Be our companion through this time sharing our struggles, surrounding us with the Father’s love and reminding us to praise God for His blessings.

Amen.

Sunday, May 17

Father, today is a day of blessing.

I am surrounded by your love in the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate.

Bless me with strong faith, good health, and the hope that because you are with me, I will get through this moment.

Father, watch over my family and friends, protect them and bless them.

Keep us all safe and bring peace to our world.

Amen.

Saturday, May 16

Have you ever counted how many words are spoken to you in one day?

So many words about so many things. Words that express ideas, emotions and relationship status must be sorted through that we may comprehend what is being expressed to us. Words can be helpful or confusing, sometimes in the same sentence.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is continuing to prepare the disciples for what will shortly take place: His death, resurrection and the persecution of their community. In the confusion that the disciples must have been feeling listening to all that Jesus was telling them, the Lord reminds them to “remember the word I spoke to you” (John 15:20). He was reassuring them that in all that people would say to them and about them, to remember His words first Jesus says the same to us.

We are not to get lost in the words of others, but first remember His words. These are the words He speaks to us: “remain in me”; “I call you friends”, “do not be afraid”; “do not worry”; “peace, be still”; “I am with you always”. In a time when so many words are spoken about so many different things Jesus reminds us that His words bring light and life, hope and peace. His words are our good news today and always.

Friday, May 15

Prayer to the Sorrowful Mother of The Grotto

Mary, Mother and Disciple of the Lord Jesus, your example of faith inspires me to follow Jesus in hope of His mercy.

In the joyful moments of your life you celebrated God’s faithfulness
In the sorrowful moments of your life you trusted God’s faithfulness
Mary be with me in this difficult moment.

As I stand with you at Jesus’ cross may the compassion and mercy of God inspire me to greater faith in the Lord and encourage me not to fear.
Pray that I and my loved ones will be safe and healthy.

Help me to remember that I am not alone in this uneasy time, but that Jesus is with me, loving me to peace of mind and heart.

Mary, pray for me.

Amen.

Thursday, May 14

What tender words Jesus speaks to his disciples “I have called you friends” (John 15:15).

These words are meant for us as well. We are Jesus’ friends because we keep his command to love.

Maybe we are not always perfect in living this command, but Jesus never said that to be His friend we had to perfectly keep the command. Each time we try our best to love others as we are loved we strengthen our faith, and our relationship with Jesus grows stronger. When times are tough and we need to find courage to hope, Jesus our friend invites us to tell Him what troubles us. In fact, this can be a great prayer moment.

Take some quiet time alone and picture Jesus sitting opposite you. As He smiles at you, tell Him what you need. He will listen and love you. He will tell you the words we all need to hear from Jesus “I call you my friend and I love you.”

What better words can we hear that will lift our spirits and fill us with jo

Blessings on your day.

Wednesday, May 13

“I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5).

This past Fall members of my family and I spent a day visiting a wine growing area of the state. During our visits to some wineries and tasting some of their vintages we learned how the taste of the wine was affected by the composition of the soil, the climate, and the care taken to nurture the vines on which the grapes grew. I was amazed that the vine was key to the grape. The healthier the vine and better tasting the grape.

Isn’t this true in our relationship with Jesus? The more we pray, the less worried we are. The more we read sacred scripture the less confused about life we become. The more we live in the Lord’s love the better we feel about ourselves. The more we lovingly care for others the more joy we feel
A healthy relationship with Jesus the vine makes us the grapes all that better. This is our good news today.

Tuesday, May 12

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you’ (John 14:27).

In the last few weeks, as we have lived through “stay at home” orders for our safety, I wonder how much peace many of us are experiencing.
People are necessarily worried about their livelihoods and having the means to provide for themselves and their families. Many are feeling frustrated at not being able to live life before the COVID-19 virus changed everything. Even watching Mass on the computer has become tiresome.

The Apostles were feeling much of what we are feeling today. Jesus is preparing them for life and ministry without him. They are worried about how to accomplish Jesus’s work and still provide for their families. Some of them are feeling frustrated because they can’t quite figure out what Jesus is telling them.

They might be wondering if their lives can ever return to what they were before Jesus called them. Jesus knows their fears, doubts, frustrations and concerns. He knows ours as well. In gifting His peace to them, Jesus is reassuring the Apostles that they can accomplish what He is asking. They can go through whatever will happen in the mission.

Life for the apostles was never the same after Jesus entered. But they found renewed joy and vigor for life because Jesus’ peace was experienced in their resolve to accomplish His work the best they could. I believe that this is what Jesus is saying to us. Yes, life has changed and with the change has come new experiences that make us worry, feel frustrated or make us afraid. But as we find ways to adapt to the changes, we find a new resolve to live as best as possible.

When we are able to learn a new way of living life well it doesn’t feel as scary as it did before. Here, I believe is the peace of Jesus upon our lives.

Monday, May 11

“Mary did for her Child what every mother does for her own child. She performed those very human, natural acts, such as clothing and feeding. She also performed the religious acts common to all the mothers in Israel, such as presenting the newborn in the Temple. But in the view of the gospels these deeds of the Blessed Virgin are not actions that pertain only to the private sphere; they always have a universal and perennial symbolic character that is valid for all times and for all of the Lord’s disciples.” – SERVANTS OF THE MAGNIFICAT, no. 20 – 210th Servite Friars’ General Chapter

Prayer

Most Holy Mary,
our glorious and blessed Lady
as mother of Jesus you cared for him,
taught Him life lessons
and modeled faith in God for him.
Teach me to care well for the people I love,
and those who depend upon me.
Pray that I have patience to listen.
energy to serve
and hope to love.
Mary, pray with me
that those I love will be protected from all harm,
find peace in their searching
and faith in Jesus’ love.
Mary, be my example of loving service.
Amen.

Sunday, May 10

Rainy June Saturdays were tough on us kids. It was summer and we wanted to be outside playing with our friends. Summer Midwest thunderstorms can quickly damper a child’s plans. On such days, Mom would make our favorite lunch, the sunshine-on-a-rainy-day meal, grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. To bored, disappointed youngsters this simple meal was the cure for our ills. It was Mom’s way of saying “it’s going to be okay.” And it was.

In today’s gospel (John 14:1-6) Jesus is helping His disciples to find peace in their doubts, questions and hopes. He is sharing supper with His disciples. It would be Jesus’ last with them. He continues to instruct them that their faith in Him, and the Father may be strong for the coming events of His crucifixion and resurrection. The disciple’s hearts are filled with love for Jesus, but their minds cannot fully grasp all that He is telling them. With love Jesus tells his friends “do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me” (John 14:1). He is telling them that He understands what they are feeling and that if they trust Him all will be well. His love keeps Him close to them.

In these uncertain days, Jesus’ love reassures us that we will be okay. In our doubts, feats and concerns Jesus speaks to our hearts the words of loving reassurance “do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.

If we need further proof of the Lord’s love for us, we need to look no further than our mothers whose unconditional love is a reflection of God’s love. To our moms, thank you for being God’s love in our lives. Thanks for always assuring us that we will be okay. Happy Mother’s Day.

Saturday, May 9

An ancient Chinese proverb states: “it’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

Throughout our lives we are inspired by the stories of personages such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Philip Benizi and St. Mother Theresa. Their life stories are filled with instances when they brought the light of love to people through acts of charity and service. They fed the poor, counseled those doubting and brought hope to the weary.

Their strength was the love of Christ which shone as a candle in the lives. They knew that the holy light given them was not to be selfishly kept, but to be selflessly shared with others. The works they did were not their own, but Jesus’ whose love shone in the works of the saints.

You and I have the same potential to bring light to the darkness of another’s life.

In today’s Gospel (John 14:7-14) Jesus says, “whoever believes in me will do the works that I do”. To believe in Jesus is to do His work.

Jesus’ work is not difficult for us. One small candle can light an entire room. One smile can brighten a sad face. One text can make a connection with someone feeling lonely. One act of kindness can bring joy to a weary person
We are good people who are highly favored and divinely blessed by a great God. As He is our love, He asks us to be so for others. The work of Jesus is easy for us. All we need to do is to see the candle of Jesus’ love lighting in our lives and then give to another from what we have been given.

Friday, May 8

Today, the Servite Order celebrates the feast of Mary, Mother and Mediatrix of Grace.

Join us in prayer today:

Holy Mary, mother and guide, pray for me today.

Attentive Virgin of the Annunciation help me to discover the plan of God for my life.

Queen of mercy, woman of great compassion protect my family, lift up the oppressed, console the afflicted, and assist the needy.
Mother and disciple of the crucified Christ sustain me in the trials of life, comfort me in my suffering and sickness, be close to me in the last hour.

Glorious Virgin assumed into heaven, first fruit of salvation accompany me in my daily journey to a new heaven and a new earth, where there will be no more weeping, pain or tiredness, but eternal peace and joy with our heavenly Father.

Amen.

Thursday, May 7

“I will sing of your mercy forever, LORD, proclaim your faithfulness through all ages.” Psalm 89:2

Many people engage in “Throwback Thursday” on social media by sharing a photograph or a memory of something good from the past. I suspect that such reflection brings happiness to the one posting. So today, can you remember something wonderful that God did for you? What was it? Did it bring happiness to your life? Why not share this with someone?

When the Psalmist wrote that he “will sing of your mercy forever” he was remembering something wonderful that the Lord did in his life. It was a life-changing blessing that proclaimed God’s faithfulness in his life. Remembering the event caused him to burst out in praise “I will sing of your mercy forever”

You know that God has been faithful in your life. He has seen you through many moments of pain and darkness, like this pandemic. He has gotten over to the Promised Land of hope and blessing. His blessings upon your life are renewed today and every day. Why not shout out praise to God. Praise helps us realize just how blessed we are by our faithful God. Today is your throwback Thursday of faith. Give praise and enjoy the blessing! 

Wednesday, May 6

“I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.” John 12:46

The pandemic can feel like a darkness over our lives. Missing the many aspects of life prior to the pandemic, we feel confined to a prison of restriction because of nothing we did wrong. We can feel scared, angry and hopeless. We may even wonder if God is present.

Uncontrollable events in life cause us to feel helpless and the darkness of uncertainty can weigh heavy upon our minds and hearts. Yet, our hope is that God’s loving presence is the light in our darkness.

God has proven this fact. During the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised land, God provided a pillar of fire by night to reassure them that He, their God, was ever close.

Faith is our ability to see the Lord’s light in our darkness. Jesus promises that our faith in Him will always produce the ability to see and feel the warmth of His light. The question of faith is, ‘do I want to see the Lord’s light?’

Today the pillar of fire that is the Lord’s light fills our lives. It may be in the love of a spouse, in the care of a neighbor or in the sunrise of the morning. Jesus promises that we will not remain in darkness. His light fills our lives today. All we have to do is look for it. Our search for His light will not take long. 

Tuesday, May 5

Meekness is a gift from the Holy Spirit and rises from humility and love. St. Peregrine learned it through his continual contemplation of the crucified Christ, who died loving and forgiving his persecutors.

In his youth, the saint admired the meekness of St. Philip Benizi, a humble and gentle friar of the Servite Order, who when beaten, answered offenses by praying and rejection by welcoming. St. Peregrine was welcomed into the Servite Order by St. Philip Benizi, the very one who had been rejected, and was forgiven by the one who had been offended. That experience deeply impressed the saint.

In St. Peregrine we recognize his gentleness above all by his ability to find patience in his adversities and the many illnesses which afflicted him during his long life. Likewise, St. Peregrine had a kind attitude that was expressed in understanding and hospitality which he lived in his vocation as a Friar Servant of Mary.

Prayer
Lord, give me patience and strength in this moment of trial.

Console me in my afflictions and free me from despair and hopelessness.

Heal the wounds of my heart, in my mind and of my spirit.

By the intercession of St. Peregrine, bless me with hope because you are ever with me.

Amen.

Monday, May 4

The Feast of St. Peregrine

Patron Saint of Cancer Patients and the Sick

Prayer

St. Peregrine,

kindly listen to my supplication.

You who were patient and strong in infirmity,

help our infirm brothers and sisters

to carry the cross of their infirmity with gentleness.

You who were miraculously healed

by the hand of the crucified Christ,

pray to the Lord for the sick:

so that their infirm and weak bodies

may recover health and vigor,

and their uncertain and afflicted souls

may find again peace, serenity and confidence.

And above all, St. Peregrine,

grant like Christ and the Virgin Mary, we may all say:

“Father, thy will be done”.

St. Peregrine,

pray for me that I may know healing in body, mind and soul.

Amen.

Sunday, May 3

A Triduum of Prayer for the Feast of St. Peregrine

Patron Saint of Cancer Patients and the Sick

Day Three: St. Peregrine Healed by the Crucified Christ

The Gospel shows us Jesus full of compassion for the sick. In St. Luke’s Gospel we read: “All those who had friends suffering from diseases of one kind or another brought them to him, and laying his hands on each he cured them” (Lk 4:40).

St. Peregrine, when sick, went to Jesus to be healed. By his faith he was graciously heard. Today, let us remember that marvelous healing, praying for our sick brothers and sisters.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, look on our sick brothers and sisters who rely on you with confidence.
If you want, you can heal them, like you healed the leper; like you cured St. Peregrine, who, with confidence, relied on you, crucified for our salvation.
Lord, heal me that I may do your work and in peace, praise you forever.
You who live and reign for ever and ever.
Amen.

Saturday, May 2

A Triduum of Prayer for the Feast of St. Peregrine

Patron Saint of Cancer Patients and the Sick

Day Two: St. Peregrine, Gentle Disciple of Jesus

Today we remember the goodness of God who gave us life in Jesus. St. Peregrine was a faithful disciple of Jesus and became, like his Master, gentle and humble in heart.

Prayer
In your goodness, Lord,

and through the intercession of St. Peregrine,

grant me a gentle heart, the fruit of the Spirit,

so that, like Jesus,who was insulted but did not retaliate with insults,

I may overcome evil by doing good offense by forgiving

and fear with faith.

He who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen.

Friday, May 1

A Triduum of Prayer for the Feast of St. Peregrine

Patron Saint of Cancer Patients and the Sick

Day One: St. Peregrine Converted Rebel and Friar Servant of Mary

Jesus said “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous ones who have no need of repentance.” (Lk 15:7)

Today we remember the conversion of St. Peregrine. It was a great gift of God to him, to the Servite Order, to the Church. Today, let us commit to be faithful to our journey of conversion to the Gospel of Christ.

Prayer

In your mercy, Lord, and through the intercession of St. Peregrine, convert my heart and guide me on the way of salvation, so that, having left the darkness of sin, I may walk in the light of the Gospel of Christ. He who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Amen. 

Thursday, April 30

In today’s Gospel Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah when he says “it is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’”

What does our faith in God teach us? It teaches us to be grateful because God is faithful.

These last six weeks have caused us to stop what we considered a normal life. Our work places and habits have changed. Many of us desire a haircut. We need to wear masks when going to the store. We are spending more time with family. Much has changed. But, what has not changed is that God remains the constant of our lives. His love surrounded us in great and small and consistent ways. While mostly confined to our homes when can still get food, medicine and communicate with our loved ones.

The former pace of our lives has slowed allowing us to experience life and family in a refreshed way. Maybe all of this is actually making us more compassionate, kinder and loving to others. Maybe we are caring for ourselves a better. These six weeks have been tough in many ways. Yet, in many ways we have experienced blessings. Maybe in the midst of these uneasy days we are returning to the better version of ourselves. This is something to be grateful for.

Wednesday, April 29

Lord, you are the bread of life.

You provide the food that nourishes my body, the love that blesses my relationships with family and friends, and the Word that enlightens my soul with joy.

In the uncertainty of these days, you fill my life with the signs of love that remind me that you are ever close.

In my hunger for a normal life and my thirst to be close to loved ones keep me focused on you who promises to be my hope in all things.

You are my light and salvation.

Amen.

Tuesday, April 28

To the crowds asking for a sign Jesus tells them “for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Bread is a staple food for many cultures. For many, bread symbolizes the abundance of God’s blessings. This is what the crowds questioning Jesus were missing. They were to trust God not because they were fed when Jesus multiplied the five loaves of bread and two fish. There were to trust God not because they witnessed a miracle. Jesus was calling them to trust God because He is faithful in abundantly blessing us with what we need.

Bread fills the stomach. It can be part of a larger meal or eaten by itself. The blessings of God are the same. These can be as large as being healed after surgery or a simple as a good cup of coffee enjoyed first thing in the morning. God is always blessing. How we receive the blessing is an act of faith. If we always want God to do the fantastical, spectacular parting-of-the-Red-Sea miracle then he is simply a wizard of sorts to us. If we see the small, consistent miracles of love, having food on our tables and a place to live because of God’s faithful love then He is our Savior. The One who accompanies us on life’s journey.

Not sure about you, but I prefer God as faithful companion instead of the Wizard of Oz. Today let the bread you eat remind you that God is consistent in loving and blessing you. He is giving you life in abundance.

Monday, April 27

Lord,

You are my light and my help.

Today, Father, let your light illumine the darkness of the fear I feel as this virus rages through the world.

Remind me today that your kindness and mercy are never exhausted, but renewed every morning.

Renew my hope that better days are coming.

Strengthen my faith that you are with me and I have nothing to fear.

Let your love guide my actions and words today that I can brighten another’s day as You brighten mine.

Today Lord, let me be the ambassador of your light and love that hope can once again fill my corner of the world.

Amen.

Sunday, April 26

What a walk can do. Studies have shown that walking can have positive benefits for one’s life. From supporting good physical health to maintaining positive mental health, a walk can do wonders. A walk affords the opportunity to get some exercise. It allows us time to enjoy the company of others and to revel in the beauty of the world around us. It can be a time for recollecting the day and for prayer. A walk can do wonders for us.

Cleopas and his companion never realized what their walk to Emmaus would do for them. It was the first day of the week and their group had received some astounding news. Their Master and Lord, Jesus, had risen from the dead. The grief at Jesus’ death and now this incredible news was just too much to bear. They needed to get out of Jerusalem. They walk to Emmaus, a familiar place where they can sort through all they believed and hoped for in Jesus. As they walk, they converse between themselves and with a stranger, about the happenings of the last three days and what faith in Jesus meant. As they talked, their hearts burned with hope. They never doubted Jesus, they just needed to make sense of what it meant to have faith in him. Over a simple meal, they realize Jesus was with them then, before, and always. They realized that faith always holds us close to God no matter what we are experiencing.

Our faith always keeps the Lord close to us. Maybe we need to take more walks with Jesus, letting our prayer be the means of connecting with the Lord who is always near. Such an exercise will help bring clarity to our faith and provide the experience of God wrapping us in His love. Cleopas and his companion never knew that their walk would be the means to see Jesus. A walk with the Lord can do the same for us. In prayer we will feel the Lord close, ministering love and peace to us in these challenging times. A walk with Jesus todays can do wonders for us now and eternally.

Saturday, April 25

Anyone who has ever been employed knows the importance of a job description. This document establishes the relationship of the employee to the workplace. It outlines the expectations for employee and employer. A job description helps one know how to fulfill their job.

In today’s gospel Jesus gives His disciples their job description. The Eleven are to go into the world and proclaim that in Jesus, God’s loving mercy is available to all who desire it. The proof of accomplishing their job were the powerful signs manifested in a believer’s life.

As followers of Jesus our job description has not changed from that given to the Eleven. We are called to proclaim God’s love by words and deeds that bring peace and hope to others. The signs that accompany our work is a world brightened by caring actions, a hopeful attitude and loving words that encourage. To fulfill our job description is easy. We simply love as God does.

Friday, April 24

Growing up in a house of seven, two adults and five children, evening suppers were always labor intensive. Preparing and cooking the meal, setting the table and the clean-up after the meal. Lots went into the meal even when times were economically lean.

My Mom had a large pot she often used the cook supper. That pot seemed to endlessly provide food to feed my large, hungry family. No matter the amount or type of ingredients, that pot, Mom’s culinary abilities, and her love for us, always provided meals that were tasty and abundant. We were always more than satisfied.

The Lord took five barley loaves and two fish, mixed it with faith and love and fed thousands. Those fed were more than satisfied. The reality of life is that we don’t need much to be satisfied. Faith in God provides hope in any situation. The love of family and friends provides the courage needed to live with confidence because we are never alone.

When we have faith, hope and love our lives are abundant with the ingredients for a life that is full and abundant. Today whatever you need, give your desire to the Lord and from His heart he will endlessly serve you with the blessings you need. You will be more than satisfied.

Thursday, April 23

Lord, today bless all who are caring for the world.
Keep them safe and healthy.
Bless them with strength, knowledge, compassion and hope.
Let them know that they are appreciated and loved.
Lord, please bless them today with an extra dose of your love and protection.
Amen.

Wednesday, April 22

Father God,

Today I am grateful for the life you give me in your risen Son.

Thank you for my family and friends whose love reminds me of your love.

Thank you that I am alive and well as this virus rages through the world.

Lord, keep me hopeful when I feel fearful.

Keep me joyful when I feel scared.

Keep me focused when I feel scattered.

Lord, please take care of those I love and care for.

Keep us connected, keep us well and keep us hopeful.

Lord, with you near me I feel safe.

Thank you, Lord.

Amen.

Tuesday, April 21

The early community of believers were of “one mind and one heart” as they lived together their faith in the Lord. This does not mean that there were not tensions among them. What it does mean is that they found a way to live together by respecting themselves and each other.

Every person is endowed by Almighty God with an intellect, emotions and a personality. By these we gain the knowledge to understand ourselves, interact with others and to enjoy all of creation. By gaining knowledge, we learn to respect the giftedness of others and the blessing of creation. We learn that respect, expressed in friendship and appreciation of another’s goodness, is the way to forge healthy and meaningful relationships.

God’s relationship with us is expressed in this same manner. We are called to do for ourselves and others as He does with us. Today, give thanks for the gift of your life, your loved ones and the beauty around you. Thank God for all that is good in your life. Express this gratitude in the way you lovingly care for your family and friends. Being of one mind and one heart is easy if we simply live with others that way that God lives with us.

Love, respect and appreciation is the key to a joyfully harmonious life. The Lord is our example and teacher in this. 

Monday, April 20

During this period of confinement many people have taken to learning new skills in cooking, crafting, home improvement, work productivity and communicating, to name a few. When the need arises, and time is ample we gift ourselves with new skills to become more complete and productive persons.

In today’s Gospel, Nicodemus is feeling the need to acquire a new skill. The skill Nicodemus yearns for is a deeper, more meaningful faith in God. In his encounter with Jesus, Nicodemus is invited be born anew which is the skill to encounter the Living God as a Father who guides us in kind mercy.

Today, the Lord invites us to learn the skill of quality prayer by which we can deepen our contact with Him. Learning a new skill in prayerfully encountering God will help us in navigating well these uneasy and challenging times. Where God is found there is peace and love.

Why not let yourself and your family be born anew by learning a new skill in actively encountering the Lord today? Schedule time to watch a Mass that is live streamed. View one of the many great Catholic websites to learn to pray in a different way. Gather your family to listen to the day’s Mass readings or to pray the rosary. Learning the skill of prayer and worship will fill your heart and your home with joy, peace and God’s presence. What a great skill to learn.

Sunday, April 19

We go through our educational career being told to prove our arithmetic work or to write well enough to prove our reasoning for a hypothesis we put forth in a paper. At times we are asked to prove our point to an idea we introduce into a conversation. We have to show proof of age to enjoy an early bird special at a favorite eatery or to produce proof of purchase when returning an item at a department store.

Proving ourselves does not mean that there is something wrong with us or the way we live. Proving ourselves is a part of life. So, then, why should the Apostle Thomas be given grief for doubting that his master, Christ had risen? Thomas placed his hope and faith in Jesus only to see Him nailed to a cross. St. Thomas loved his Lord and had to navigate incredible grief as did the other apostles. Putting so much hope and faith, now mixed with grief, in Jesus, Thomas needed proof himself that Jesus was risen.

Jesus never disappoints. Jesus’ encounter with Thomas is not one of scorn, but of love. Thomas’ faith and the faith of the other Apostles was part of the strength Jesus found to endure the passion and death to bring resurrection victory into their lives and the lives of us all. Thomas’ need for proof that Jesus was resurrected was not fueled by doubt, but by loving faith. Jesus did not disappoint.

Jesus still shows us his love when we experience His presence in prayer, through the care of a loved one and when we witness the grandeur of creation and realize that we are part of something great. Like St. Thomas, we don’t doubt Christ as much as we just want to see and feel Our Lord in all the episodes of our life. We place our loving faith in Jesus because we know that He loves us always and forever. This is hope. It was St. Thomas’ hope as well.

Saturday, April 18

Lord, on this Easter day I am encouraged by the witness of the Holy Apostles as they boldly proclaim your Gospel. Their faith was fearless in spite of the threats of imprisonment and persecution. The victory of Your resurrection renewed their faith. Jesus, in this uncertain time renew my faith that in the light of so much which is beyond my control I will find joyful hope in your love and care for me. Amen.

Friday, April 17

There is something very comforting about the scene in today’s Gospel reading. In the days after Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples were trying to understand the “new normal” of life in the shadow of this momentous event. Their Lord who was dead a few days ago is now alive. Today they go fishing maybe to simply pass the time as they reflect on Jesus’ new part in their life. Feeling, confused and alone they fish.

On the shore though, their Lord stands watch. He is ever near whether they are aware of His presence or not. They fish, realize that Jesus stands on the shore and share breakfast with their Lord. Having Him close, they feel empowered to navigate the new life He invites them to.

Today, in the midst of all that fills your day, make some time to sit on the shore with Jesus and sharing a meal of love, tell the Lord what you need. He will always give you the food of faith to birth hope in your day.

Thursday, April 16

An Easter Thursday Prayer

Lord,in the days after your Resurrection your disciples and friends remained behind locked doors as they were frightened without you. You came into their midst and spoke the reassuring words “peace be with you.” Your presence and words gave them joy and hope. Lord, in these days when I feel behind the locked doors of many types, I feel afraid, alone and concerned. I know that you are with me. Speak the words “peace be with you” to my weary soul that in faith I may find joy today. Amen.

Wednesday, April 15

“Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” Acts 3:6

Earlier this week I learned that one of our Servite parishes has a group of parishioners making face masks for those that need them. I have viewed stories of families reaching out to elderly neighbors with offers of a home cooked meal. Priests are creating “make-shift” confessions in tool sheds. People are creating colorful chalk art to bring some beauty to their neighborhoods. Tired healthcare workers offer smiles and kind words to the ill. Families sharing the evening supper and playing boards games together.

All of us are no doubt feeling the weight of staying home. Our homes have become our church, our school and our workplace. In the midst of praying, learning and working we wonder what can we do to ward off the potential for boredom? The answer is easy. Find a way to safely reach out to others. Make a voice or video call to someone whom you have not spoken with in some time. Write a letter or card of encouragement to your healthcare provider or a first responder acknowledging their hard work these days. Call your priest and thank him for praying for you.

There are many ways that we can bring hope, joy and healing to others in these challenging days. It just takes the willingness to give what we have to another. This what Peter did. He shared the gift of his faith and the crippled man walked. We have the same gift of faith.

We can share it in many ways to bring healing to fearful and troubled souls. A smile and a kind word, an act of charity and the promise of prayer can lift tired souls. Like Peter, use your gift of faith. It will feel so good and bring you as well.

Tuesday, April 14

Lord,as I celebrate your Resurrection, grant me the the courage to be hopeful when I feel afraid,calm when I am worried, joyful when sad. Speak loudly in my heart the words that you spoke to your disciples, “Do not be afraid” and “I am with you always.” Remind me frequently that your mercies are never exhausted, but renewed every morning. My Risen Lord, you are my hope. Amen.

Monday, April 13

“fearful, yet overjoyed.” Matthew 20:8

The normalcy of life for the disciples of Jesus was turned up side down with Jesus’ death. They remembered the days spent listening to Jesus preach. Their memories were full of Jesus’ miracles which they witnessed. Their hearts longed for sharing one more meal with Him. He was their Lord and Master.

Living with Jesus and ministering with Him strengthened their faith and gave them hope. His death was shocking, unfair and almost too difficult to bear. Now, some of their number have seen Him risen and alive. Jesus told them this would happen, but their grief clouded the ability to believe. In seeing the Risen Jesus they were fearful because no one had risen from the dead and they had to find a way to believe. But, they were also overjoyed because Jesus, their life was alive! Life could be a bit more normal once again.

In these challenging days, many of us have had to redefine what a normal life is. Sometimes we feel fearful for our safety and that of our loved ones. As the corona virus spreads we redefine the way we live, work and even worship. But, we cannot stay fearful. We need to find hope. Hope comes in the love we share with family and friends. Hope is found in connecting with friends via video chat. Hope is found in our collective means to keep each other safe.

We can be overjoyed that hope is alive as we make our way safely through this moment to the time we can return to our lives before the virus. Our memories of good days past and the longing for better days will keep us being safe as we hope for a normal life once again.

Hope and faith in Jesus brought the disciples through the experience of His death to the joy of His resurrection. Our hope and faith can move us safely through these challenging days to a return to a new normal life. Our hope in this journey is the Lord, who turned fearful hearts into joyful ones. As the Risen Lord, what Jesus did He continues to do, if we trust Him.

Easter Sunday

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

These ancient words of the Church’s tradition announce the joy of the Lord’s resurrection. They celebrate the victory of Christ over death.
Christ’s victory is our victory. Our lives are busy and full of many things. Easily we become overwhelmed with all the busyness and demands of life. Sometimes we are scared.

The message of Easter reminds us that hope is always abundant as we trustingly have faith in God’s promise that grace fills our lives. Easter invites us to step back from the busyness of life and present worries to enjoy the eternal promise of hope which our Risen Christ brings.
May the joy of the Easter promise fill you with the hope that nothing, not even the Covid-19 virus, can separate you from God’s love and presence.

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!

Happy Easter.

Fr. Don Siple, OSM, Rector of The Grotto

Holy Saturday, April 11

From an Ancient Homily on Holy Saturday

“Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.”

Prayer

Holy Mary, today creation echoes the silence of God. In the most intense silence the Word was made flesh. In the silence of the grave the love of the Father and the life of the Son came together and a new creation was born. Holy Mother, virgin of silence and peaceful mystery, sorrowful, strong, faithful, you stand at the tomb where the Word is silent and the Holy One of God lies. Today, we keep watch with you. With you we believe that from darkness comes light and from the earth, life. We wait for the dawn of that endless day when a new humanity is born. We wait to see in your Risen Son the new face of humanity redeemed. We wait to hear the new greeting of peace and to sing the new song of glory. Mary, Virgin of the Spirit, image of the Church, pray that we may have your faith in the Word your hope in the Kingdom, and your love for God and humanity which is stronger than death.

Amen. 

Good Friday, April 10

A Prayer for Good Friday

Lord, on the cross you show me how loved I am. You willingly gave your life that I may live. You forgive my sins, take away my shame, heal my wounded heart and hear my cries for peace. Your cross is my sign of hope. As I look upon the cross I am reminded that I am wonderfully made in your image. As I stand near the cross, I hear you say, “be not afraid”. Lord, your cross: is the compass that points me to new life; is the bridge that gets me to You and the Father; is the boat of safety upon the troubled waters of my life; is the life-preserver when I am sinking in my fears and doubts; is the pledge of your eternal friendship with me which is my salvation. Lord, the cross is crowded with many like me who need to be close to you, who need to be forgiven, loved and saved. The Good News of the Cross is that no matter how crowded it is, there is always a place for me. Standing at the Cross with your Holy Mother, I praise you Lord for the salvation and love you give me. May I stand here always for this is where I am most alive.

Amen.

April 9

Holy Thursday of the Lord’s Supper

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted…” 

Masses and devotions live-streamed over the internet.  Drive-up and drive-thru Confessions.  Spiritual direction, pastoral counseling and parish staff meetings via video conferencing.  Prayer requests received by e-mail and social media. Church ministry has certainly changed in  this challenging moment. 

Our social media feeds and the internet are full of the creative ways that priests are bringing the glad tidings of the Gospel to the faithful. Priests are finding creative ways to meet the desire of God’s people to feel connected to Christ in the Church when public Masses are cancelled. 

As anointed servants of the Lord priests desire to minister to the faithful even while observing social distancing.  Like so many separated from friends to stay healthy,  priests feel separated from those they spiritually care for.  They are missing their congregations.  They miss sharing and exchanging faith with their parishioners.

While Mass and Church may not be deemed as essential by some in this present crisis, to people of faith Mass and Church are necessary in our lives .  Priests are doing their best to minister to their parishioners.  They daily pray for us.

On this Holy Thursday as we celebrate both the institution of the Priesthood and the Eucharist, let us pray for our priests as we pray for first responders and healthcare workers.  Our priests bring the remedy of faith to us in easy times and challenging ones as well.  

Wednesday, April 8

“On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?”” Matthew 26:17

The phrase ‘life goes on’ has taken on a new meaning these days. Faced with the reality of the COVID-19 corona virus, our means of working and interacting with others has changed to ensure the safety of all. More people are working from home. Teachers are conducting classes with their pupils via video conferencing. Families are finding healthy ways to spend time together as they stay at home and practice social distancing for safety sake.

In the midst of staying safe and healthy in this unprecedented moment, life goes on, albeit, in a new, redefined way. We acknowledge that adapting our lives to the present situation is embracing the big picture of a healthy world.

Jesus knew that the hour of his passion was quickly approaching. The culmination of His ministry is three days away. Jesus embraced the large picture of what His suffering and death meant. Jesus’ suffering and death brings forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life for believers.

As we adapt our lives to stay safe and well, life goes on. As people of faith we know that life is full because God is with us. Remember to pray always, watch Mass live-streamed, read the daily scriptures and keep safe. Life goes on albeit different, and because God is with us we can see our way through this moment to the joyful victory of the Resurrection.

Stay safe, be well and be blessed.

Tuesday, April 7

“Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, Yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God.”  Isaiah 49:4 

Judas has decided to assist the authorities in apprehending Jesus. Aware of Judas’ plot Jesus does nothing to either stop Judas nor go into hiding to avoid arrest.

In spite of Judas’ plot Jesus stays the course of his mission to bring salvation to humanity.  Jesus is resolute in giving humanity the experience of the Father’s mercy through the passion and death He will soon endure.

While humanity would always struggle to understand, accept and live God’s love, Jesus stayed focused on His mission. Even if only one person accepted the Father’s love through Jesus’ efforts, the mission would be successful.

As we journey through the events of Holy Week, let us keep in mind that we are the focus of Jesus’ mission.  His love for us is a call to see and love ourselves as God does.  God’s love is a call act justly with others and “to walk humbly” with God.  How blessed we are to be the focus of Jesus.   

Monday, April 6

“Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” John 12:1-3

Jesus is happy. He is sharing a meal with three people very dear to Him. Lazarus, Martha and Mary were dear friends of Jesus. Their friendship strengthened, renewed and supported Jesus. At this particular meal each of the three friends offered Jesus something special. Lazarus conversed with Jesus, probably thanking Jesus for the gift of new life. Martha, an excellent cook, made Jesus a special meal Mary, always attentive to Jesus’ word, anointed Jesus in a ritual of welcome and hospitality. With Lazarus, Martha and Mary, Jesus probably felt that He could be himself.

Friendship is one’s of life’s greatest blessings. Friends are people who love, support, nurture and positively challenge us. Our friends listen to us, encourage and are present to us in all moments of life. Like anyone of us, Jesus needed friends to support Him and His mission.

As we move through these challenging days, keeping safe and healthy in our homes, we are reaching out to our friends. Their presence gives us hope and joy. Today, give thanks for your friends. Give thanks to God for His friendship that makes life blessed.

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

“The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them.” Matthew 21:6

A number of years ago a television commercial asked the viewer “what would you do” to obtain a certain ice cream bar? The commercial showed people doing various humorous and silly things to obtain the ice cream bar. The viewer was left with the idea that obtaining the ice cream bar was indeed worth undertaking humorous and silly actions.

Often, we are willing to fulfill specific requirements to obtain what we need and what we like. Today we enter the most sacred week of the year. The events of Holy Week reveal the depth of the length that God is willing to go to have a place in our lives.

This week Christ our God will be betrayed by a friend, falsely accused, unjustly condemned to death, suffer severe punishment and endure a torturous death because of us. Yes, the Lord of heaven and earth, the King of kings and Lord of Lords, the All Holy and Immortal One will suffer for us. Why? Because the thought of loving us through our pain, fear, shame, suffering and illness to healing, hope and peace is powerfully overwhelming to God.

The hope of having a place in our lives drove Christ to suffer for us. It’s what drives Him to love us always. In God’s heart we are worth His pain that we may know His love. This is what God is willing to do for you us. What are we willing to do for Him?

Have a blessed Holy Week.

Saturday, April 4

“My dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Ezekiel 37:27

From the moment The Lord finished creating the heavens and the earth and giving life to humanity He has dwelt upon us. God has never stopped dwelling among us. What has happened is that pride has caused humanity to stop recognizing the Divine Presence inhabiting our lives and world.

One way to increase the awareness of God’s presence is to surround ourselves with holy images and to pray. Our Catholic tradition uses sacred images of Christ, Our Lady and the Saints to remind us the God is near to us and that the call to holiness is possible. The saints found a way to be holy so can we.

An old custom is to create a prayer altar in the home. Such a place can be created by placing an image of Christ, Our Lady and one’s patron saint on a small table. On the same table place the Bible, rosary beads and prayer book. This space becomes both a place to pray and a physical reminder of recalling that God dwells among us and is always close.

As we practice social distancing to keep safe let’s also practice divine closeness to keep ourselves spiritually awake to God’s presence in our hearts, homes and world. In these challenges times keeping close to God will give us hope that we are truly never alone.

Friday, April 3

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother…” John 19:25

In Jesus’ ministry Mary witnessed God’s love in His sermons and miracles. At the Cross, Mary witnessed the depth of God’s love for humanity in Jesus’ suffering and death. Mary’s presence at the Cross gave Jesus hope that he was not alone in his suffering. Because Mary continually pondered the activity of God in her life, she knew that God’s love story for humanity would not end in death. The death of Jesus was the beginning of a new chapter of divine love for us.

Like Mary we are called to stand at Jesus’ cross. There we experience hope and love. In hope we stay vigilant to where Jesus is presently crucified in the sufferings of his sisters and brothers. At these present day crosses we compassionately stand to witness the love of God. Mary’s silent presence at the Cross of Jesus inspires us to be courageous in being compassionate to those who are facing a difficult moment: loneliness, hopelessness, fear or suffering. Our presence at these crosses is an invitation to continue writing God’s love story through offering compassionate hope to all who search for God’s love in the difficult moments of life. Today, reach out to someone who is finding life tough and offer them hope by a caring word or action. A caring word or action to another is writing God’s love story in their lives and in ours.

Thursday, April 2

“Recall the wondrous deeds that he has wrought…”. See Psalm 105

Our souls are the treasure chest of the memories of God’s presence in our lives. It is the keeper of the memories of faith. These are the moments of hope when prayers have been answered. These memories conjure the moments when the Lord has seen us through the valleys of pain, doubt and concern to the plains of renewed faith and hope. The memories that our souls keep remind us that God is forever faithful in walking life’s journey by our sides.

The soul remembers the joy we felt after receiving communion and the deep love felt when we left the confessional forgiven of our sins. The soul is our treasure chest of the sacred memories of God’s relationship with us. Fasting, almsgiving, prayer, acts of charity and the celebration of the sacraments keep a clear view of these holy memories in our souls.

When moments of pain, hurt, doubt and fear arise, we need to open this treasure chest and remember that God always keeps His promise to be faithful so that we can once again trust Him in the present situation. Jesus found strength in the memory of His Father’s loving presence at all times. The warmth of the Father’s love gave Jesus the courage to move through the passion to the cross. Doing so would give you and me great and holy memories of the Father’s love as well.

Wednesday, April 1

Nebuchadnezzar replied, “I see four men unfettered and unhurt, walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God.” See Daniel 3

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were sentenced to death because they were defiant of the king’s order to worship a god not their own. In their exile, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego remained faithful to God as they felt God’s presence all throughout their lives. They experienced God as always faithful. No hardship or royal order would deter the three from their relationship with God.

We should not be surprised that God sent His angel to accompany and protect the three men. This is what God does with us as well. Yet, in these challenging days of social confinement, homeschooling and work from home, it might be a bit difficult to feel God close as we reorder our lives to stay safe in the present health crisis. Lack of normal routine and boredom can affect our spiritual life as well.

As we attempt to create normal in this irregular time don’t forget the give yourself the gift of time with God each day. Creating a small moment in the day for prayer can let us realize that God is sharing the present experience with us.

As we feel the fire of concern in many areas of life given our present reality, spending time with God will give us the insight that “a son of God” walks with us. His name is Jesus. Nothing will stop Him from loving us and being with us for God is faithful.

Tuesday, March 31

“The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.” John 8:29

In one week’s time Judas will begin looking for a way to hand Jesus over to the authorities. Jesus knows that His moment of suffering and death for humanity’s salvation is quickly approaching. His attempts to convert people to a deeper understanding of faith in God has brought some to a more profound experience of God’s love. Not so for others.

In spite of this Jesus is at peace that the Father is with Him. Jesus’ relationship with the Father colors Jesus’ experience of the world, informs His mission and creates a bond on love between them. Nothing and no one will separate Jesus from the Father. They are one.

In Christ, we are offered the same relationship. The Most Holy Trinity never leaves us alone. Their desire is to be close to us that their love can give us strength, hope and joy. As we face another week of “stay at home” and live life a bit different than normal ask ‘do I feel God close today?’ Be watchful for God is closer than we think. Ask God to show you how He is living with you and loving you today.

Monday, March 30

“Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle…Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” See John 8:1-11

The woman caught in adultery sinned. What she did was wrong and it hurt many people including herself. But, what she did was not who she was. In the eyes of God she is His child even when she sinned. The Pharisees were not interested in this fact of faith. They wanted to use her situation to find something with which to charge Jesus as a criminal. Jesus is aware of their motives, but her personhood and her soul was far more important. The Pharisees will indeed arrest Jesus soon, but this moment called for mercy and forgiveness. He forgives the adulterous woman.

Sometimes the greatest difficulty we face in life is forgiving ourselves and others. To forgive ourselves for things we have done in the past is to live free in the present. Freedom from anxiety and fear gives way to hope and peace. To forgive another, as difficult as it can be, is to give power to our desire to live in control of how we love ourselves in the present. We all make mistakes, make poor choices and we sin. When we do these things we need to make amends, repent and learn from these situations how to live right and just lives. But our mistakes and sins are not who we are. Saint Pope John Paul II taught us that “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.” Forgiveness of self lets us live from our potential not our shortcomings. Forgiving others lets us live in hope and not in anger, fear or hatred which corrodes the soul. We are the sum of the Father’s love who easily forgives us without condition. He challenges us to do the same. Today Jesus speaks “neither do I condemn you” to us. So, will you believe Him or not? Will you live loved by God’s forgiveness or hold on to your mistakes, poor choice and sin and be miserable? The Lord has forgiven you. The choice to live forgiven is yours. How will you live today?

Sunday, March 29

A Prayer for Today

Father God,

Your love and compassion for me knows no limits.

In your kindness you bless me.

With compassion you love me.

In mercy you forgive me.

I am always close to your heart.

As I remember the raising of Lazarus in today’s Gospel,

I pray for the courage to let you call me from my self created tomb

of fear and sin into the new life of hope and healing in your love.

Father, bless me, my loved ones and all who need your grace.

Protect us today and always.

In Christ’s name I pray.

Amen.

Saturday, March 28

“Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said, “This is truly the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But others said, “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he? John 7:40-41

Being misunderstood is a difficult experience for most of us. Knowing who we are is key to our self-understanding and to how we interact with others. When we are misunderstood by another we go to great lengths to educate others in understanding who we are, what we believe and the place we see ourselves having within the human family. We want others to know us as we know ourselves.

Jesus experienced being misunderstood. He came as “God among us”, bringing mercy and love for the salvation of the world. His words, actions and miracles reflected who He was and what He came to accomplish. Yet, the very people He came to save misunderstood who He was and what His mission was about. In spite of being misunderstood, Jesus stayed focused.

Today, many of us misunderstand Jesus. Many want Jesus to be a “wizard of Oz” granting favors instead of a Lord who saves and imparts grace that strengthens our lives. Many want God on their terms and relate to God only when they need Him for something, forgetting that God wants to accompany them through all moments of life.

God wants a relationship with us where His presence brings hope, comfort and blessing. The good news is that in spite of who we understand Jesus to be never stops Him from loving us. For us though, correctly understanding who Jesus is lets Jesus be whom we need Him to be: Messiah, Lord and God. When we let Him be God our blessings are abundant and eternal. The wizard of Oz cannot do this, only God can.

Today, God invites us to understand Him as He knows himself “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and rich in kindness.” Now this is the God we really need to know and love.

Friday, March 27

“I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” John 7

When we are employed in a job where we are able to use our talents and education we feel a sense of purpose in life. We feel that we contribute to the good of the human family. We leave a positive mark in life. Jesus felt the same way. He was sent for one job, to be the face of God in human history. His life and words marked humanity with unconditional love and everlasting mercy. He gave his life that we can life now and forever. Jesus felt deep sorrow when people either choose to misunderstand his mission and work or outright reject His and the Father’s love. Yet, being misunderstood and rejected did not stop our Savior from fulfilling His mission. His purpose, to love and save humanity, would not be deterred. As Christians we are invited into a relationship with God. This relationship must define who we are and how we live just as Christ’s relationship with the Father defined His life. This means that the love and mercy which Jesus lived becomes our manner of life as well. Our on-going conversion is the work of life. Living in faith the love we are given by God is our purpose. As we continue our Lenten practices may we honestly reflect on how our life mirror’s Christ’s and courageously live as He did. For us Christians the purpose of our life is found in how Jesus’ life is found in ours.

Thursday, March 26

“Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.”

This refrain to today’s responsorial psalm is a great Lenten prayer.  It speaks of hope that our Father remembers us and favors us with His love even in our sinfulness. Lent is about stepping back from the ordinary of our lives to deeply reflect on the strength and vitality of our relationship with God.  Our increased and hopefully intense prayer, fasting and almsgiving during Lent is meant to call us into honest reflection on our lives.

Is God first in my life as He should be or have I created other gods, “golden calfs” which I worship more than God? Are there places in my heart, events, or persons I am choosing not to forgive? Am I lovingly caring for others as the Savior commands? Am I allowing myself to feel loved and forgiven by God or am I choosing to hold on to hurts, shame and sin.

The good news is that no matter where on life’s journey we are loved by the Father beyond our wildest imagination.  God always remembers and favors us. Today, the Lord invites us to let Him into the center of our lives that He can love us with mercy that forgives sin, purges vices and brings peace in abundance.  All we need to do is repent and believe that Jesus is Lord over all the areas of our lives. 

Spiritual Communion Prayer from Pope Francis

As more Catholics around the world find themselves unable to receive the Eucharist due to the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis provided an example of a spiritual communion prayer that can be said from home

“My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart … I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You,”

Wednesday, March 25

Prayer

Father,

On this day when we remember the Annunciation of the Lord to Mary, we joyfully celebrate the beginning of our salvation.  In the mystery of the Incarnation, you wed yourself to us in a covenant of love that is unconditional and everlasting.

Lord, bathed in your love may we find hope at all times.  May our joy be to serve you as Mary did trusting that you are with us always.

Amen.

Tuesday, March 24

“Do you want to be well?”

This is the question Jesus asks the man was who had been ill for thirty-eight years. “Do you want to be well?”

It seems like a strange question to a person who has probably spent most of his life suffering his illness. I think, ‘well of course I want to be well!’

But, do we really want to be healed? Healing means not only being physically well, but spiritually as well. Wanting healing is wanting to be whole which means that I need to realize that another has an interest in my life, the Lord Jesus.

His interest in my life is to bring me peace and hope. To be healed I need to surrender what I want and what I believe that I is important to a new way of living and thinking. Physical healing is provided by God, but often the greater healing comes in forgiving to oneself and others so that freedom from fear and doubt can give way to joy and hope.

Yes, Lord I want to be healed, but heal me in the way that you know I need to be healed. I trust you.

Monday, March 23

Scripture: Isaiah 65:17-21

In today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah, the Lord declares “lo I am about to create new heavens and a new earth”. There is excitement in the Lord’s words, the same excitement the Lord felt when He first created the heavens and the earth. The words in Isaiah come after a long period of God’s people experiencing exile from their homeland. They are weary, but they trust God’s faithfulness. The new heavens and the new earth are a renewal of harmony where all live in peace with each other and with creation. Ultimately, God’s call is a renewal of the human spirit to once again find joy through hope.

These days as we take the necessary measures to stay healthy and safe in the present health crisis, God invites us to take our part in the new creation. As we socially distance and limit our movement outside of our homes to keep safe what ways can we create something new? Something that renews another’s spirit? Maybe we use our social media accounts to post lovely pictures or stories and poems that speak of hope and joy. Maybe we telephone or video call a friend or coworker to check-in on them. Maybe we take time to pray for those who are ill and the caregivers/healthcare workers caring for the ill. By safely caring for each other in faith we can assist in God’s work of renewal by safely reaching out to others to renew their spirit with joy through hope.

Sunday, March 22

Scripture: John 9:1-41

We have all had the experience of walking into a dark room and feeling a bit uneasy. The thought of not having the ability to see is scary. Yet, those who are blind never seem to be afraid, but trust that they they can navigate the world by other means, especially using the other senses and the assistance of loved ones. Maybe the lesson for all of us is to learn to navigate life, and especially those thing which frighten us, with trust in our ability to make sense of where we are and how we can get through what we experience by trusting what we know, what have learned and the goodness of those we love. The scary things which brings darkness to our lives can give way to light if we trust that we truly never walk alone. Our loved ones walk with us as does our good God who tells us that He is our light.

Prayer

Lord, the darkness of the present health crisis and my sin scares me.  Be my light and my hope this day and always.