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The Grotto is Open!

Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. daily.

Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 8: 9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. daily

Visiting Guidelines

Mass Information

Additional Masses Added

The Grotto is pleased to announce the addition of an 8 a.m. Sunday Mass beginning in September.

Additionally, Mass will be celebrated every Saturday at 12 noon.

Blessing with the Relic of St. Peregrine

At the conclusion of the 10 a.m. Mass, a blessing with the relic of St. Peregrine will be offered each Sunday.

For more information about St. Peregrine and the blessing, please click here.

For complete Mass schedule, please click here.

Mass Information

Meet Our New Rector

Click here to learn more about our new Servite leadership.

Daily Spiritual Reflections

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, OSMRector

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.

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 isa 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.