Friday, August 1, 2014

Ignoring and Forgetting

From the Hermitage

 Lord, in your great love, answer me.

Dear Friends,

Good morning.  Later this morning I will be making what might be a last visit to a young woman parishioner.  Her oncologists have concluded what treatments were possible for her brain cancer.  Now it is a matter of time ... and some are wondering about the response of the Lord to their many hours of prayer for the young lady.  As is often the case, she is very much at peace.  Now she is praying, as she has been for several months, for the moment she has been awaiting.  Very soon she will meet her God.

The psalm describes several way life has been a challenge to the people of David's time.  Each of us, for sure, could compose a psalm like Psalm 69.  Life is rarely filled with roses most of the time.

The challenge for us is for us not to forget that God does not ignore nor does He forget.  Sometimes when we don't get the instant response, we tend to try, I repeat try, to solve the problem better or sooner than God.  We have to trust.  to be patient and live with the words in red at the top of this posting.

Perhaps you might do what one pastor said to a parishioner who was not satisfied with God's delay.  He suggested to the party this exercise:  list the answers, all of them, that you have received to your petitions, your prayers to God.  Yes, you will find some not answered YET.  However, if you are like most of us, we can list more than a few divine interventions.

I would add if there are only a few answered prayers, the following:  (a) have you seriously prayed to God; (b) have you listened to God in quiet reflection (c) do you honestly believe, yourself, that what you are seeking is the best for you and at this time in your life?

Please Note:  Tomorrow morning I will be leaving the Hermitage to attend the national meeting of the Knights of Columbus.  It is a part of my new position as Maryland State Chaplain.  I will try to prepare a posting for the days that I am away from the parish which will be until Friday evening of next week.

As I have noted in prior absences, you might consider visiting the daily reflection prepared by faculty members at Jesuit Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska at the following website:

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ignatius Man

From the Hermitage

Dear Friends,

Yes, it is a special day for me even though I no longer am a Jesuit.  However, as my first superior outside the Society, the late James Cardinal Hickey, then Archbishop of Washington, said to me, "Milt, once a Jesuit, especially for 20 plus years, always a Jesuit.  If you change you way of thinking, I will be concerned."  It is my belief that there are very few men in our Church who wear the mitre who would be so genuine and respectful of my 26 years of formation as a Jesuit scholastic and priest.
Throughout the years I worked with Cardinal Hickey as my "boss," he would frequently call me aside for a genuine spiritual conversation.  Always about the Society and the way of life Jesuits live.

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) was an extraordinary man.  One of the characteristics of this saint, often overlooked by historians and commentators on his life, fail to look at the humility which marked much of his life as a Jesuit.  It is always Ignatius the soldier, Ignatius the teacher, Ignatius the man of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius the Founder of the Jesuits.  However, I have always looked at the man whose thoughts and life formed my for so many years as a powerful man because he never liked the center of the stage.  I have been blessed to have celebrated Mass a number of times in the room where this leader in the Church died.  It was in this room one day that I came to see beyond the popular ways this man of God and the Church was portrayed.

Yesterday, you may recall my mention of "Ignatian indifference."  This I believe is the source of his power that captivated so many young men during his lifetime.  Within his years as the Superior General the small band of eight venturous men and multiplied to 1,000!  Ignatius' humility springs from his personal commitment to indifference.

What did he mean by indifference?  In 1997, a Jesuit priest, Father Joseph Conwell, author of Impelling Spirit, wrote in his book these words to his brother Jesuits.  I believe these words are a part of the DNA of anyone who has had affiliation with the Jesuits, with the Society of Jesus, with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

We must set aside fear.  Have no fear of the future, fear of change.
The call is to listen, to listen to the Spirit within, 
listen to one another, listen to events outside,
listen to the sights and sounds of the times, 
listen to the needs of God's people and God's world.

Humility is not standing in the corner when others pass by.  Humility is not keeping quiet when the heart is aflame with a sense of a new mission.  Humility is making change always available to the inclinations of the Holy Spirit in one's life.  In truth Jesuits are recognized for their intelligence.  Yet, it is that very intelligence that enables Jesuits to be the power that God uses in them to bring what He has implanted in their hearts and minds.

On this day, while lauding the Jesuits, there is one group of men in the Society of Jesus who are the outstanding models of humility.  Today I remember especially the Jesuit Brothers who always shunned any spotlight.  Their mission was to be the backbone of any Jesuit community.  They were there to make the community life livable.  In my early days the Brothers were looked upon as the less educated.  Shame on us of those days for thinking that way.  Among the The Brothers there have been and always will be saints:  humble men whose mission is to support the Jesuits on the front lines.  Here were the carpenters, the cooks, the bakers, the tailors, the bookkeepers, the sacristans, the men who cared for the properties but always men who did not look for recognition in any way.  Always the men who could be found silently on their knees in our chapels throughout the day ... praying for us who were teaching, administrating or leading spiritual programs for others.

Yes, I do miss my Jesuit life and brothers but I made a decision that I felt Ignatius was asking me to lead ... becoming a diocesan priest.  I am happy that I did because God has blessed me to impact the lives of a number of priests, parishioners and programs ... yes, and even a Pope (St. John Paul II)!  Oops!  I guess there goes my humility for the day!!!!

Again, as we Jesuits, those in the Society and those who may no longer use SJ behind their names but who will always think Jesuit ways, and sign off to one another,

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Thy Kingdom Come!

From the Hermitage

Dear Friends,

Good morning.  Seems that most of our readings for the last week or so have focused on several images of the Kingdom of God several times.  Looking for and finding the pearl of great price.

Isn't that what has happened to Jeremiah in his life with his special calling by Yahweh?  After he found Yahweh's "word" to him, he was consumed by a desire to read, read and read more of what Yahweh had spoken to earlier prophets.

Then we find his sadness returns, his frustration.  Being one called by God to a special vocation is not an easy life.  Everyone of us is the same in one way:  God has given us a special vocation.  We are not just brought into this world as another human being.  We come as human but with a God given vocation or mission.

Our vocation each day is a search for the pearl.  And, of course, we have to take the time to savor what we come upon.  We may not find it spelled out on the pages of a book.  Yet, we can discover or better understand when we take the time, yes, again and again, take the time to be alone with God.

Summer schedules for most of us do leave time for God if we look upon it as the great discovery of the pearl that is the Kingdom of God for each of us.

Time, quiet and prayer.  It seems this is the recipe for understanding the great discoveries we can have when we are with the Lord in prayer.

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Missing the Meal

From the Hermitage

Dear Friends,

Remembering St. Martha in two ways today.  There are two scriptural options.  Chosen is the Lucan selection listed above.  Being one who cooks frequently for myself or guests, this part of Martha's life has meaning for me.

Entertaining friends for a meal is always a challenge.  Often a mystery is how some women especially can have a dinner prepare in rapid time without any concerns or worries.  At the same time they are able to entertain their guests without any fuss.  The meal is prepared, the guests arrive and the attention is focused not on the meal but the guests.

Seemingly Martha was not a cook of this style.  From her remarks as well as her sister's, it seems that Martha lets the meal trump having a delightfully refreshing visit with friends.

In my own experiences, there is last minute moments when my thoughts go like this:  Wouldn't it have been easier to go to a local restaurant?  I could spend more time with the guests.  What is the answer that all of the stressed dinner hosts should remember?  Martha seems to be a teacher to this question.  Her answer should be SIMPLICITY.  Whether it is a person of station or neighbor or relative:  just prepare a simple meal that does not drain either the budget or the stamina of the host.
Secondly, Martha must have thought she had to feed people who had not eaten months.  Over the years I have come to realize that we always had large meals at home -- because we were at max 8 mouths to be fed.  As we grow older, I suspect most of us cook not to size but to impression.  Some of my best meals with friends have been what my mother would say is entirely too little on the table.

Which is more important?  The dinner plate or the guest who has taken time to be with the host?

This story of Martha and my own experience can be applied to our relationship with Jesus.  Do we/I seek to impress Jesus?  Certainly if I were sensible, I would know that is impossible.  When I pray, do I attempt to amass of large number of words or prayers?  So many that even Jesus might have a hard time in understanding what we/I want or need.  The challenge to us is to let Jesus be Jesus.  Simply sit at a table with him, just as the two Emmaus disciples learned.  Jesus will speak to us if we start our "table time" with him but asking one or two simple questions about him.  Then sit back and enjoy the meal!  He will share with you more than you could imagine.

Enough from the wanna be chef!

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt

Friday, July 25, 2014

Making Discernment!!!

From the Hermitage

Dear Friends,

Ask!  Ask!  Ask!  Yes, it will be given, as David said in the words of Psalm 126 in today's responsorial psalm.  Are we like David who realized how often he asked of Yahweh?  And like David, do we utter our own psalm of thanksgiving?  How do we mix up a batch of discernment?

However, there will be those petitions that seem to go unanswered or rejected as we read in the gospel today.  The mother of James and John begged Jesus to allow her sons to be seated on each side of Jesus when he would again be with the Father.  How mother-like for her to be caring for her sons' future in the Kingdom of God!  Yet, as Jesus said to her:  this is not in the Father's plan!

Yes, yes.  There will be times of seeming rejection or being ignored by God because we only see with human eyes and are moved by a human heart.  Good ol' humanity!  But when those unanswered prayers seem to bother us, it is time to recall yesterday's gospel:  having ears but not hearing, having eyes but not seeing.  Discernment, discernment is so important.

In making my breakfast "smoothie" this morning, I was thinking about discernment while mixing, spinach, apple, tart cherry juice and cucumber.  A little of this and a little of that:  a healthy breakfast. The same with discernment:  mixing in a half a cup of prayer, a full cup of quiet, two tablespoons of thanksgiving and four cups of patience!  These are the makings of discernment in my recipe book!

For another way of reflecting on today's reading, there is a  MOVING STORY prepared by a younger Jesuit priest working at Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska.  Always a good stop in shopping for prayerful thoughts.  Thanks, Fr. Duffy.

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt