Tuesday, May 31, 2011

TUESDAY:  The Visitation

These thoughts are written in the first person.  They are my own thoughts but I write them in the first person so that you might think about yourself as your read them.

In the Marian feasts that we celebrate during the course of the year there is an underlying theme we might recall today.  It is the theme of "gratitude."  This theme is also important because, when I think about it, this is one word that is the foundation stone of my spiritual life.  Each morning when I put my legs over the side of my bed, I look down at the two feet and ten toes.  I wiggle the toes with a specific purpose.  As they wiggle, these are the words I say aloud to myself (and, hopefully, the Guardian angel God has put in my life for me) "Well, thank you God.  I made it through another day yesterday and through the night.  They are wiggling.  It is a sign I have so much to be thankful for.  I know you will bless my day with many blessings ... I hope I am awake and realize them."

This is the grace that I think Mary reflects to me and hopefully to you each day.  Gratitude.  At those times when you feel out of sorts with yourself or your God, take out a piece of paper and begin to think about the many gifts you have received from God throughout your lifetime.  You will need more than a small Post-It note!

The awareness of my need to be thankful leads me to this thought:  look at all I have been given.  I have encountered many successes in my life.  It is important that I realize that those successes came to me from the goodness of God.  My priesthood, my academic journey, my thoughts I share with you on this blog -- they are not because I was so this or so that.  None of what I have or have accomplished would have been possible without the gifts of God.  If you ever feel forgotten by God or others, just make that list.  Reading it a few times will show you something about yourself ... what God wants from my life.  Remember Cardinal Newman:  God has a purpose for me; I have a mission.  Do I know it?  What this gratitude awareness leads to is humility.   Yes, humility.  Look at what I have done.  All of this was possible because God blessed me.

And God gave me those gifts for a purpose, I know.  What purpose:  first and foremost for him to bring my gifts to the service of others who just might have the emptiness that something from my life might fill.  That's humility:  realizing God is using my gifts to further his kingdom.

Mary realized all of this in her life.  That is why we have today "Mary's Prayer."  "My soul magnifies the Lord!"  Self, remember this: I have the same opportunity as Mary, to write or say my own prayer that speaks my heart to the Creator God who made me who I am and with the gifts that I have.   Father, I pray that I will never lose my awareness of your goodness to me.

So, now mindful of so many blessings, "Sing a happy song!"

Monday, May 30, 2011


Cheltenham Veterans Cemetery
Cheltenham, Maryland

In the gospel reading for today, we encounter what truly is a moment of the Good News:  Jesus will send to us the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth.  He says this same spirit "will testify to me" (Jn 15:26).  As well, Jesus say to his disciples "you will be called upon to testify."  So, it seems, we also will be called at some time and in some manner to give testimony about Jesus' place in our lives.  This is a mark of the true follower of Jesus regardless of our place in life or of the way God has blessed us in our lives.  St. John Henry (Cardinal) Newman, England's most recently canonized son, wrote a prayer that might serve all of us well ... and not only today!

"God has created me to do him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another.  I have my mission --  I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.  I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond between persons." 

We can be certain that everyday we breathe there will be at least one moment when we will be called upon to give testimony of God's love and care for another person; perhaps even for ourselves.  Where?  Only God know where and when he will call upon you to make his love a reality in someone's life.

And is this not what we are called to testify to on this Memorial Day  --  to remember our sisters and brothers who have made the ultimate and supreme sacrifice for each of us who enjoys our American freedom?  Are we not, each of us, "a link in a chain, a bond between persons" especially our fallen sisters or brothers?

"God, our Father, you have given us so much.  We give thanks to you for those men and women who gave their lives for our nation, for us.  Father, "shed thy grace" on our country today as well as those men and women serving our nation in the armed forces and diplomatic corps in so many different places."

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Once again we hear the words that signify what we might rephrase as "mission accomplish":  "Father, the hour has come." (John 17: 1-11a)  Again it would not be a loss to reread these 11 verses.  Remember it is Jesus' final words to the world but especially to those who bear the name "Christian."  Recall this thought from a recent blog:  the "world" is where the powers of evil struggle, especially through the modern weapon of "addiction" to separate Christians from their namesake.  In this farewell Jesus is brutally honest and leaves no doubt:  "I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours.

For a few moments, visualize yourself standing near enough to Jesus that you can talk with him.  Surely were he actually to appear before you, there could be no doubt that you would not tell him about a spoken sentence or two or an action he performed.  Do that today and especially next Sunday when we celebrate the Ascension in our churches.  Even on Thursday, the 40th day after Easter, the actual time frame day when Jesus returned to his Father, would it hurt to take a moment or two to stand there before him again?  For one reason or another, known or unknown, that sentence or phrase captured your heart.  It obviously has meaning for you.  Why?

Likewise, as you read these words, did you notice that Jesus does not speak sadly about his impending Ascension.  I suggest that his words hint at his joy in returning to the Father and, of course, the Holy Spirit.  This little exercise may well make the official celebration of the feast next Sunday more meaningful for you.

This weekend we celebrate a few days when we recall the sacrifices so many men and women have made for their "fellow Americans" over the years.  Tomorrow, Monday, especially, set aside a time when you will go before the Lord to pray words of gratitude from your heart to your God.  In prayer lift up to God every man or woman who ever donned the uniform of a branch of the USA Armed Forces.  Pray for those who departed our shores and as well as for their families and friends  -- the men and women who never returned alive to the land that they loved so strongly.

Memorial Day Weekend

On a weekend of many celebrations
may the Lord bless you and your loved ones
as we
the men and women
who have marched to the barks
of the Sergeant Majors
our nation
here at home
as well as
on foreign soils.
Enjoy all your cookouts!

Friday, May 27, 2011


Read the words of today's first reading slowly and carefully, especially the letter contained within the reading.  There is a treasure in the communication from the Apostles and presbyters as recorded by St. Luke.  Do not overlook the belief that these words in Scripture -- all not some -- are inspired by the Holy Spirit.  I suspect I have your attention now!  What they are saying might well be summed up in the words of the picture to your left.  

How many times have you encountered Bishops, priests or other Roman Catholic men and/or women who insist on the practices that are more their preferences than the teachings or mandates of our Church?  It is not unusual!  Sadly!

We have encountered those who wish to impose on others their own likings or personal piety.  Some insist that Holy Communion not be received in one's hand.  There are also those who try to make others believe they are on the road to Hell if they do not abstain from meat on Fridays!  There are, as we know, other "preferences" some try to "enforce" upon the community of believers supposedly for their own welfare and spiritual advancement.

It is the misuse and abuse of personal freedoms that provoked the Apostles and presbyters to send the letter quoted in the first reading.  Some "holier than thou" individuals had taken upon themselves to be the judge.  They were determining which parts of the Jewish book of laws, the Torah, were to be observed by the converts to Christianity.  The letter, however, makes clear the mindset of the leaders of the young Church.

We can easily damage a person's faith, especially recent converts as well as our young people, when we feel free to assume the Chair of Peter.  There is only one Pope!  Those who believe they have the right to dictate their own expectations upon others do damage to their relationships and to the Church.  Surely this first reading sends out an important message ... particularly in times when there is division or disruption or scandal.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


The two readings for today's liturgy draw attention to the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic laws that strictly governed the life of the devout Jewish person.  It was these latter commandments that created difficulties for the Apostles' post-Resurrection preaching and proselytizing.  What is in these words for us today, people who are "formed" in words and notions like "freedom, personal rights" and so forth?  Listening to Luke's account of Peter's presentation to the assembled Apostles and presbyters (those exercising teaching, preaching and administrating in the early Church), it is evident that there was some tensions in the early Church as it sought to grow in the decades following Jesus' death.  Here Peter is addressing the "immigration issue" -- the Gentiles being brought into the Christian community.  Some issues seemingly never die!  It is interesting to read and reread what Luke recorded as Peter's words about the Gentiles being accepted --- by some.

"He [Jesus] made no distinction between us and them,
for by their faith he purified their hearts."

"Why?" Peter is asking, is it necessary to burden the hearts of the new converts with laws that cannot easily or possibly be endured.  Remember Jesus' words in the gospel: "Follow my commandments and you will remain in my love."  It is that grace-filled love:  "As the Father loves me, so I also love you."  It is his way of teaching that God's commandments are not for repressing but to be instruments for understanding his bountiful love for us.

My questions:  What do these words stir up in your heart?  I am sure there are two sides to the coin in this instance just as it was for the Apostles.  Secondly, how do you look upon the "my commandments" Jesus mentions as the key to open his love for you?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


The words of verse one of today's readings and the following verses can initiate a discussion about faith and good works ... a frequent topic for Catholic-Luthern dialogs.  Since it does concern a central issue in our faith, let's take thoughtful look at the matter.

Benedictine Father Wilfred Theisen, OSB, cited the following words from Martin Luther's The Freedom of a Christian:  Faith is truly active through works, that is, it finds expression in works of the freest service.  We are named after Christ not because he is absent from us, but because he dwells in us, that is because we believe in him and are Christs one to another.  So what is this faith and works debate.  What are we supposed to think, to believe, to practice.  We are dealing with the matter of salvation, aren't we?  The first verse of the reading speaks about salvation.  What do we think?  This question is important because it is the one question that brought about the Protestant Reformation ... great divisions.  Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works?  Am I saved by just believing in Jesus, or do I have to believe in Jesus and do certain things? (GotQuestions.org)

Some will cite that St. Paul (For we hold that one is justified by faith papart from works of the law.  Rom 3:28) seems to maintain that salvation comes from faith alone while St. James (You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone) says faith has to be accompanied by good works.  What underlies Pauline theology is the belief that when we accept the faith we become a new creation and, as such, our very nature calls us to do good works.  St. James is not saying that it is a 1 PLUS 1 situation:  faith PLUS works equals salvation.  He, too, sees faith as an inner source of change, or power that will bring a Christian to be a good person, a doer of good works.

So, what do you pray about today?  The conclusion with both Paul and James is that a person who follows Jesus but whose faith does not lead to doing good is in trouble!!!

Monday, May 23, 2011


Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
John 14: 27

Did you ever stop to consider how many times Jesus spoke to the disciples with words such as these?  It is surprising how many times he comes to them with these words.  Especially during the post-Resurrection appearance, was it fear or fright that he must have perceived in their hearts?

Were you to open your front door and find Jesus standing there or if you were in your office or place of work and he came up to you what would your reaction be.  Take a few moments of closed eyes and quiet and try to imagine what your thought might be ... especially as he says to you the same words he said to the disciples.  "Hello, I am Jesus Christ.  Peace be with you."  What would your thoughts be after you get over the disbelief?  

Would his words signify that he sees something in your heart or soul that is at unrest?  Suddenly the thought might come:  Do I really believe all the I have heard about him seeing through me to the real me and all that I am?

Perhaps after a few moments and additional words from him, your heart begins to settle.  Then you begin to feel the extraordinary gift that he has come to give you:  PEACE!   When "things" are not going as well as you would like, does his repeated greetings to the disciples have any meaning for you?

These Jesus-words and their message are an opportunity for you to pray to him.  Yes, simply ask in all simplicity and humility to have a sense of the peace that he can bring to those who follow him, who believe in him.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


At the outset, an error correction:  yesterday's blog's initial scripture citation was not from the gospel of the day but from the second reading, the Letter from St. Peter.  Sorry for the misdirection!

Today's first reading reminds us of the events in the life of Paul and Barnabas.  They were confronted by locals but Jewish people and Gentiles who attacked them with stones.  Obviously their teaching of what Jesus had taught them of God's will was too much.

What I propose for your consideration is this:  try to realize what these men were enduring yet they did not stop spreading the news, the Good News.  They simply left the areas where there was a hardness of heart, moving onto other towns and places where individuals were anxious to hear the Word of God.

What we witness is how genuine conviction can produce such strong determination and dedication to a mission in the hearts of true believers.  Consider this for a time and then consider your own "genuine conviction" to your baptismal calling and to the empowerment given to you each time you receive the Holy Eucharist.  How strong is it?  Are there or have there been moments when the strength to continue proclaiming the Good News has become too burdensome?  Are there times when expectations are too heavy or even perhaps too imposing?

We cannot forget the words of today's gospel:  "The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name --- he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you."

Saturday, May 21, 2011


"... called out of darkness into his wonderful light."

These words are the final verse of today's gospel reading.  As Christians, true followers of Jesus the Christ, we should be signs to others of the three most important virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity.  For the moment let us call it LOVE.   Then consider that LOVE is truly reflected out to others from our very being by another word for CHARITY, the word SERVICE.  This is the theme that is easily found in the three readings today.

Now let's put those thoughts aside for a moment.  So often in the non-spiritual world we are concerned with SUCCESS --- accomplishments that result in power, prestige, possessions, and achievements.  For us this SUCCESS concern begins when we are very young, so young that we can neither walk nor talk.  From those diaper days adults, especially parents, want us to walk ASAP!  Right?  They try every day to "educate" so that we can become "the greatest" little two-years old.

Here's the question: do we experience a similar concern about our spiritual life?  The answer may be yes.  However, I suspect the contrary to be the case for most.  Why?  Because we don't speak about being successful spiritual beings.  Let me repeat this thought:  for most Christians SUCCESS and SPIRITUALITY are minimally connected.  What do we ask young people?  "How are you doing in school?"  What we are asking is this:  "How are you 'doing,' how are you achieving in your studies?"  "How's your Math?  How's your language class?"  The questions are not about the teachers at this point.  It's about SUCCESS, isn't it?

Now let me take you back in time a few decades, to 1923 to be precise.  At that time a man whose name gets little if any recognition in today's world, wrote a SUCCESS genre book titled Dynamic Thought.  It is a classic about how we think.  Henry Thomas Hamblin endeavored to teach his readers about a simple reality:  we become what thought we incorporate in our thinking!  We become our thoughts to some degree.  Kinda scary, isn't it?  One of his most powerful thoughts is this: you "grow into the likeness of that which you meditate upon."  Think about that for a moment.

Now back to the virtues mentioned earlier:  FAITH, HOPE and CHARITY=LOVE=SERVICE.  The good professor Hamblin also wrote these words:  Every successful [person] is a [person] of faith, every successful [person] is a [person] who cultivates hope.  If you know a successful man or woman in whatever work or lifestyle you most like see a person whose life has be "animated by hope and sustained by faith."  We can easily nod our heads when we read "Nothing on our earth has ever been accomplished without the inspiration of hope and the tenacity of faith."  Again, words from the mind and heart of Henry Hamblin.

Now with this in mind, let us stop for a moment and consider this question:  How are you doing in your SPIRITUAL LIFE?"  Imagine someone asking you this at the Giant or Safeway store or at the beauty salon or at the bar of a local restaurant!  What a shocker!  Surely we have reason to think about this.

So, back to the theme that is in the readings - SERVICE - which by the way is the enfleshment of the virtue of LOVE.  Through an animated hope and a sustained faith the virtue of charity or love or service becomes a success story.

Our calling out of darkness is to bring the effort for SUCCESS into the SPIRITUAL LIFE.  Will it be difficult.  Not at all!  For sure it will be much easier that we estimate if we but remember these words that are also a part of the last verse of the gospel today:

"... whoever believes [has faith] in me will do the works I do,
and will do greater ones than these
because I am going to the Father."


Friday, May 20, 2011


In the gospel reading for today's liturgy, according to St. John, Jesus said "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places" (verse 2).  How have you understood these words?  For me, when much, much younger and being the son of a cabinet maker, I would hear these words and imagine rooms in a huge mansion.  I knew somehow that this imagination was most likely far from reality.  But, then, who had come back from heaven to tell us what it was like there, up there in that blue sky?  No doubt I thought of these dwelling places as someplace particular for Roman Catholics only.  We were the "only" real Church, as I recall what we were learning in those formative years.  But my neighbors on the right went to the Methodist church and next door was a family that went to the Episcopal church, etc, etc as you walked down our block.  The wall was very high in those days ... that wall of separation.  And God help us if we ever crossed the threshold of one of those churches!  There was a sense of loss for me:  these were my friends and I thought they were missing the boat.  Why would God keep them from those "dwelling places"?

Here is something that may surprise you:  words from John Paul II  in words from his Encyclical Ut Unum Sint (That They May Be One)  that you most likely have not heard.  They show that one man was lowering the wall.  "It is a source of joy to note that Catholic ministers are able, in certain particular cases, to administer the sacraments of the Eucharist, Penance and Anointing of the Sick to Christians" outside the Catholic flock."  This how my friends would get through those pearly gates would have been my understanding had those words been written in those early years.

"I did not know that!"  I can hear you saying that.  So, how do you interpret John's words?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

If you have been reading the Acts of the Apostles (again) presented during the Easter season daily liturgical readings, I trust you are gaining a deeper awareness of God's presence in the lives of the early Church leaders.  The last few selections make clear how God was working through the determination and excitement of Jesus' disciples and those who joined them.  

What does this awareness bring to us?  First, we have to remind ourselves that these readings are not new.  The Church regularly presents them to us for our post-Easter reflection and prayer.  But there is change:  not in the texts but in ourselves.  You and I, the readers and hearers of these events recorded by St. Luke, are the treasury of change.  Most of us know that we are different today when compared to who we were last year, or the year before, or event the year before that year.  Hopefully we have grown.  Hopefully we are more aware of our personal need to strengthen our own sanctity or to amend our life's journey to God's will if that is needed.

In times of need God has helped his people.  Today's reading is a short account of God's actions in the lives of the chosen people.  He was faithful to his promises expressed in the writings of prophets, the psalmist and the teachings of his Son, Jesus.  As we review the Evangelists account of some major interventions in history, today I encourage you to look backwards at your life.  Can you recall moments when you have recognized something good has occurred in your life?  How numerous have been the times you you said or thought "Wow!  I am truly a lucky person"?  A serious question should be asked:  "How often has God blessed me?"  Just think over the last month of your life.  Were there moments when goodness come into your life?  How many moments do you ascribe to "happenstance"?  Stop and consider: "God has stepped into my life again.  How blessed I am ... because I know God does take care of me."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


One of the few times in Scriptures where we directly encounter the Holy Spirit "speaking" occurs in today's first reading: "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'"  Obviously this was in the early days of our Church.  One may question  whether or not the Holy Spirit continues this work among the people of God today.  Indeed you might consider if the Holy Spirit continues His special concern for the Church, our communities and even each one of us -- especially you who might be reading this today.  Through your Baptism, Confirmation and the time you receive Holy Communion, you are graced with spiritual potential to participate with the Divine Wisdom that God gives the world.

In quiet reflection I know that I have the opportunity to make potential a genuine reality.  You can as well.  In prayer we can learn the potential that the Holy Spirit  has for each of us.  In our time with the Lord we learn not only about our God but what God expects of us.  Surely we should come to know the special mission that God has entrusted to each of us  that is not entrusted to anyone else.  This is an awesome reality if we afford the Holy Spirit the space in our day to make know what divine expectation has been or is being put before us each day.

I include the NASA Endeavor's blast off picture for one reason:  because some men and women realized the mission that was entrusted to them this unique moment has taken place.  The Holy Spirit is entrusting to you a mission.  Have you listened?  Have you prayed to know what it is?  Do you believe God continues to fine tune that mission with you each day?

PHOTO:  NASA TV Coverage or recent Endeavor lift off

Monday, May 16, 2011


Today my blog will be a little different.  Why?  Because this evening I was privileged to be invited to a preview showing of a powerful movie.  It is a movie I wish to encourage you to attend.  Here in Washington, DC the movie will begin showing "THE FIRST GRADER" in one or two of our movie theaters.  I encourage your attending this movie because it is a genuine spiritual experience.  Remember the words from yesterday's gospel that was cited -- Jn 10:16.  There are those who are outside the perimeter of the usual.  Usually these are "martyrs."  They sacrifice their reputation even perhaps their lives because they believe in the dignity of another human being.  The First Grader is the story of one man's desire to learn to read even at the age of 80+ and the challenges presented to him by what are simply put the presence of evil in our world whether it is in an American city or in the Kenyan village.

While I am writing my reaction before you have seen the movie, I suggest for your prayer be simply this:  praying for those who seem to be outside the fold and not likely to be welcomed into the fold because they champion a mission that may make us feel uncomfortable.  There are people like that around all of us.  You know who they might be.  Pray for them.

In the first reading for today's liturgy we have the opportunity to stand as witnesses to an event of major significance during the early days of our Church follow the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus the Christ.  Peter, the great leader of the apostles, while "on the road" proclaiming the Good News, adopts a new practice that changed long-standing traditions in the Jewish heritage.  All of this took place following a "vision."  As a result of this particular moment in his life, Peter changes "the rules" regarding table fellowship.  "Table fellowship is but the ultimate affront to Mosaic sensibilities given by one who becomes a Gentile's houseguest" (The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 44:65-67).

For St. Luke, author of The Acts of the Apostles, this event is the definitive moment of a significant change:  a contradiction of Mosaic tradition.  For many in the Jewish community who wanted to follow Jesus and the Christian community this change was a genuine challenge.

I put this forward for your consideration this morning for consideration and prayer because we live in a  Church when division is brought about by not just one issue.  We are members of a religion profession that changes or is challenged by the reality of individuals' perceived right to freedom.  Birth control, abortion, homosexuality, same-sex unions, divorces, remarriage, and celibacy are but a few of the "hot buttons" that have cause some to seek a different religious profession, some to step away from any religious practice or belief and some to remain but protesting and challenging the hierarchical leadership of the Church.

CHanges have occurred the Roman Catholic Church since its beginning days ... not fast enough, however, for some.  The practice of prayer and reflection is critically important for us when confronting issues that challenge either the individual or the Church itself.  This applies to every member of our CHurch from the person in the pew to the person elected to be the Supreme Pontiff.

The words of St. John's gospel, also in today's liturgical readings, are, I believe, the voice of God speaking to all of us.  These are the sentiments that must be incorporated into any prayer and reflection seeking discernment of the Holy Spirit's direction before the modern day challenges that confront us and our Church.

I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.
(John 10:16)

When we read these words, we must seriously read and reread what the Evangelist has written.  We, all of us, must be mindful that these are not the Evangelist's words.  They are, as he stated clearly, the words of Jesus:  "Jesus said ...."  And our Church has through the last two centuries accepted them as such, as true.  Let us pray with these words whenever we confront division, asking for understanding and conviction.  We must work however we can that " ... there will be one flock, one shepherd."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

SUNDAY -  Good Shepherd Sunday

For me the description in today's gospel that caught me attention was something that many may not recall often or may now know:  sheep do follow a shepherd but if several "herds" are mixed together in a holding situation, they know the voice of their shepherd.  They ignore the other shepherds.  Their shepherd's voice is not just a call to move out of the mixed group, it is a signal to follow the leader who cares and nourishes them.

Today's gospel reminds us that each one of us has a shepherd who calls us to follow him especially at difficult times.  Jesus, our shepherd is our guide who care for and nourishes us, the sheep of his flock.  The wonderful gift of this image of the Good Shepherd is this:  understanding this reality does not demand a PhD or years of theological study.  All we need is a heart and a soul mixed together with a little understanding.

What is before us is both extraordinarily easy to understand and extraordinarily easy to overlook or bypass.  It is easy to understand when we hear words like these spoken to us by our Good Shepherd: (1)  there is nothing you shall want; (2) I am with you at all times; (3) I am your bread of life; and (4) if you are lost, I will not give up trying to find you.  It is easy to overlook or bypass when we confront challenges and have these thoughts in our minds:  (1) I cannot turn from a certain temptation; (2) I don't need God right now; (3) I cannot believe God really cares when I relatives or friends dying a slow death from illnesses, especially young ones; and (4) I cannot believe all that Jesus said about caring for me -- I have not been able to get a job for two years.  And it could go on and on.

Even to us who regularly gather around the altar to pray and receive the Eucharist , immunity from temptations has not been given.  We know, or at least we should know and remember, that Original Sin is as much a part of our lives as is breathing.  Regardless of the level of personal holiness --and most of us are truly holy to some degree-- the Evil Spirit is like a wolf that will pursue the lamb that breaks away from the flock.  BUT, BUT, BUT our grace-filled gift is that we have the Sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation, Eucharist and Confirmation that God has given to us to provide the strength, the grace-filled  powers, especially the Eucharist, to stand up against the temptations that Satan puts before us.

So today, look at the image of the Good Shepherd.  Talk to him.  Pray to him.  Let him know the challenges that seem to cause you difficulties in your spiritual life.  Ask for the reinforcements you need to be as strong as possible.  Let him lift you up on his shoulder, just as a shepherd does for the lamb that broke away from the fold.  He will carry you but only on one condition:  you have to allow him to do so!

Photo:  Dreamstime

Friday, May 13, 2011


Sorry for late delivery.  Google Blogger was down for at least two days and has lost the last two postings for this blog.  Go technology!!!

Wouldn’t conversions be easy if we could experience a needed metanoia (change) as quickly as the Christian persecutor lived through as described by St. Luke in today’s first reading.  I’d like to beat the habits that have been a part of my life as quickly as Paul surpassed his harmful dislike of the Jesus followers.  Wouldn’t you?
What we learn from the life of Jesus as well as the teaching of the prophets isn’t too difficult to understand but believing might be somewhat challenging at times:  God will always walk with us.
How many are the years each of us have proclaimed that Jesus the Christ is risen!  Yet have the consequences of that faith-profession helped us shed those blinding scales from our eyes?  Does our proclaimed conviction bring us to genuine conversion?  Surely our proclaimed conviction bring us to genuine conversion?  Surely we could toss in the towel.  Yes.  However, to quote Psalm 117: “... the fidelity of the Lord endures forever.”
We must recall how many ways or signs God gives us even each day that will help us remove the scales from our eyes.  The most powerful sign God gives us is when we hear the words “The Body of Christ” and that Eucharistic gift is placed into our care.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

St. Joseph Church, Pomfret, MD

Imagine yourself sitting in the first pew of this church without anyone but yourself before the tabernacled Lord Jesus.  Read slowly the five verses of Psalm 66.  Perhaps two or three times; even aloud ... Jesus won't mind.

Bless, O peoples, our God, and make heard the sound of His praise ...
Who has kept us in life, and not let our foot stumble. (vv 8-9)
Come listen and let me recount,  all you who fear God, what He did for me.
To Him with my mouth I could out, exultation upon my tongue. (vv 16-17)
Blessed is God, who has not turned away from my prayer nor His kindness from me. (v 20) 

My heart and soul were caught by the sentiment in verse 16.  I read it several times.  "David, what you wrote speaks to me.  Why?  Where is the Spirit leading?  Where?"  Almost 52 years of numerous challenges and moves (living in 17 very different cities in two different nations):  what a life story I could recount!  What a story of numerous moments of abundance and unending redemption!  Further I asked King David "What meaning do you intend for the word 'fear'"?  Is it 'fright' or is it the oft' used biblical meaning "awe."  To those who stand before God, heart locked by fright, what from my life would unlock the fear?  For those who stand in awe before God, what is there that is in my history that would further deepen their sense of awe?

We, all of us, possess a remarkable power when we recognize the ways that God has used our talents to assist him, to strengthen others, to help then know the Risen Christ Jesus, to open their hearts.  

The most potent fact that anyone can attain is the knowledge and the belief that God has not turned away from me or my prayer regardless of the times  the words "I have sinned" have to be said.  This Psalm 66, especially the five verses presented above,  is a calm reminder of God's goodness to you.

Should we not ask:  "God, how many are the times when I forgot to remember the great moments of my life, no matter where I was, did not come about solely because of me.  Let me never forget to say, 'Blessed be God.'"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wednesday Prayer

But God did hear and listen to my voice in prayer.
Blessed be God, who did not refuse me the kindness I sought in prayer.
Psalm 66

... whoever come to me will not hunger....
... I will not reject anyone who comes to me.
John 35 and 37

These two sets of words seem to indicate that Jesus spoke in words so close to those that King David had included in Psalm 66.  While today's gospel reading focuses on the Eucharist, "I am the bread of life" as the source of so much of the power and strength we are given by God, the words of the Evangelist John speak as did David about the goodness of God.  He is a loving God that cares about each of us.  When we come to God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit in our prayer, we are asking for graces, for blessings, for healings, for solutions more often than not.

In reading the full text of the psalm in the bible version used by the Bishops' Conference, there was a word added at the end of each small paragraph: Selah.  The word appears frequently in the Psalms.   It is thought to be a liturgical or musical directive either to life one's voice or to pause.  However, in using Google to search the meaning of the word, far from being a liturgical or musical director, I came across a selection of music that helped me in my dialog with God.  Let me share it with you.   Click on  to hear a a sung version by the artist Selah!

Press On
When the valley is deep
When the mountain is steep
When the body is weary
When we stumble and fall ...

When the choices are hard 
When we're battered and scarred
When we've spent our resources
When we've given our all

In Jesus' name, we press on
In Jesus' name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize
Clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on

In Jesus' name, we press on
In Jesus' name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize
Clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on
To press on

And where do we "find the strength to press on"?  Think a little and the Holy Spirit should be answering with thoughts about the Eucharist.  It is the "Bread of Life" that provides those who partake of the Eucharist with the abundance of graces to meet the challenges that we seek to meet or overcome in our lives.

The bread of life.  Jesus the Christ said that he was and will be forever the bread of life for those who follow him.  It is the gift each of us receives when we accept the Eucharist.  But there is a question that surfaces:  after receiving Holy Communion on any given day, what impact does that gift have?   Last Thursday I completed a five-day retreat.  It was one of the more powerful experiences in my retreat history.  Since that day, the impact has made itself felt throughout the course of each day thus far.  This is a tremendous gift, a reminder that the Holy Spirit is present each day.  When you receive the Eucharist on a daily basis, frequently or at Mass on a Saturday evening or Sunday morning, what is the impact of that experience?  Do you think about that gift any time later in the same day?  In the same week?  The gift of the Bread of Life, Jesus the Christ, should be more meaningful than anything.  To receive the gift of the Body and Blood of Jesus:  can there be any greater gift?  If this gift is not remembered for more than two or three minutes, what does that reveal about me, the individual?  Each Communion is a gift from Jesus himself, hand extended to the individual each time Communion is received.  Ask whether this gift truly means something very special?  The amount of time you recall the time in conversation with the Lord after receiving the Eucharist might be a sign to you of how significant this gift is to you!

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Quiet Place to See Yourself In Prayer or Reflection

In the readings for today's liturgy we come upon the longest psalm in the Book of Psalms.  King David incorporated 176 verses in this particular "prayer."  Perhaps you might need a bench like the one in the picture so that you can sit and read this psalm in its entirety.  In the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, the author points out that we need to know how David and many biblical writers used the word "understanding."  Of course there is the intellectual sense of the word.  However, David's use of the word, the biblical sense of the word, is to be understood as the "ability to see how all things in God's creation work together, and specifically how his commandments bring 'life,' the goal of all human striving."

Throughout the 176 verses, David's desire is to bring his hearers to know their relationship to God and his decrees, that we are to follow those commandments "with all [our] heart" to use the command issued in the Book of Deuteronomy.  He attempts to show that neither age, nor level of education, nor social status is the source of true wisdom.  Rather that gift comes from adherence to the divine commandments.

As you read through Psalm 119, you should realize at the outset that there is much to be understood in this lengthy prayer.  While it is not necessary to read the entire psalm, surely there is a taste of victory when it has been read!

This thought comes to mind:  today who would proclaim about God "how great Thou art," and, at the same time, have in mind the understanding that God's decrees for us are a part of his greatness?  We do live in an historical time when decrees by our Church and our civil governments are so often challenged.  Freedom of expression so often means freedom for everything.  David challenges his hearers and us who read his writings, especially this psalm, to "fear" the Lord, that is, not to "dread" him as a hostile being but rather to stand in "awe" before God and his decrees.

Once you have read the psalm in its entirety or just several of the verses, prayer time might be spent in speaking with God, and listening, too, about how Church decrees and the Commandments impact your life?  "God, you have given so much to me that I truly stand before in great awe.  How do I react or deal with the 10 Commandments or the teachings of our Church that are more like laws than not?  How does my inborn sense of freedom deal with this?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

You will show me the path to life
abounding joy in your presence.

These words of the psalmist, King David, are woven directly or obliquely into the three readings for today's sacred liturgy of the Eucharist.  As you see, if you read the first reading, Luke incorporates a part of David's psalm into the Acts of the Apostles.  He is trying to help the early Church capture the fullness of the Resurrection ... especially for those who may not have been alive when that event occurred.  For us today, let us pray that this Risen Lord will bless us with the wisdom to know the meaning for us in our world, our lives all these many years since Luke wrote.

In the gospel today, we once again embark upon the walk with two of the disciples who were running from Jerusalem. Fear of the enemy and disappointment.  Two emotions that could drive anyone away from an accepted purpose.  These two disciples were enduring a test of their belief?  Might you ask them in your own prayer how they felt?  How important was their faith to them?  Did they feel embarrassed when they realized that it was Jesus walking and talking with them?  Do you think the others were going to believe them when they returned with their "news"?  Would you believe them?

David's words of the verse should be read over slowly three or four times.  Notice the surety with which he speaks to God:  "You will show [me] the path to life."  There is no doubt in his mind and gives God no wiggle room.  "Your WILL show [me] the path to life."  Are you strong enough in your faith and personal relationship with Jesus that you can say those same words to him in your prayer?  Hmm.  A true test for us today.  Furthermore, Luke's words "the path TO life can help us talk more directly with the Lord.  David is not speaking about being shown the path OF life.  God is not giving the entire picture of life.  "Here's the path.  What are YOU going to do?"  Jesus might well be saying this to all of us in our own time.  Jesus WILL point out where the path begins.  Do you know where it has begun in your life?  Do you need to find the set out point again?

David gives his hearers and readers encouragement.  Realize that this path to life will ultimately bring you to a life  that is abundant with joy, on the one hand, and secondly in the very presence of God.  David gives such strong encouragement because he feels that only a foolish person would prefer something different to being in the presence of God.  Yet, most of us know how difficult it can be, this living the life of the gospels.  This is why Jesus so often told his disciples not to fear and why so often in the post-resurrection days emphasized peace, "Peace be with you."

David and others who accepted Jesus' invitation to follow him realized perhaps better than we do today that the Resurrection day, Easter Sunday, is the most important day in the year of the Church, in the life of our Church.  Christmas has a good purpose:  Jesus had to be brought into this world.  Good Friday had a reason:  to guarantee the forgiveness of sins.  Easter Sunday validates the promises Jesus made to all of us sinners who have come to seek his mercy, his forgiveness.  So, another question:  what does the Resurrection really mean to you?  Do you realize that without the Resurrection, all of the sacrifice of Good Friday would mean very little?

Jesus comes to the disciples ... "walking on the water."  You might ask  the writer of the account, John the Evangelist:  "What are your feelings as this happens?"  Were I John, I know my heart and my mind would be reeling.  "What can I do?  Where is our friend when you need him?  Will this storm do us in?"  Then, suddenly it seems, they hear "It is I.  Do not be afraid."  Because of Blessed John Paul II, we have become attuned to that second sentence:  Do not be afraid.  It was one of his frequent reminders to us about our safety in Jesus the Christ.

No doubt, someone or two of the disciples must have invited, called to or pleaded with Jesus:  "Come on, get in our boat."  Why not?  They had witnessed Jesus miracles before this.  We do not know  that Jesus came aboard.  But John gives us words of assurance that Jesus did something miraculous:  "... but the boat immediately arrived at the shore where they were heading."  How did this happen?  Lots of questions.  Maybe in your prayer or reflection you might ask Jesus something like "What was it you did?  Was it really 'immediately'?  What is it that you are teaching us?"

"Jesus, when I feel inundated, overwhelmed and asea, do I turn to you in honesty and simplicity?  Do I put out before you what is happening in my life?"   Aren't there the moments when I wonder if "I am always with you" is just another biblical saying?  Oh, perhaps I have forgotten:  did I ask you to come into my 'tossed about boat'? Do a talk and then LISTEN to you about my unsettledness? "

Are not moments like these true tests of my faith, my belief in what we have learned Jesus taught his disciples?  Am I asking simply to feel better?  Do I think to enter the conversation with Jesus, the Father or the Holy Spirit or a favorite Saint or Blessed with an openness of heart?  Does a quick "I believe you know" keep me from opening up what is in my heart and talking with him about it and THEN do I STOP to LISTEN ... just let my mind enjoy a relaxing freedom, enjoying a few moments with your guest in your "tossed about boat"?  Oops!  Sometimes I forget that part of the conversation:  I need to LISTEN, to hear what ideas come into my mind and heart.  Do I believe he will calm the waters ... perhaps not in the instantaneous manner as described in the gospel of John?  Do I trust him and realize he will ride out any storm with me?  Finally, do I realize I have to row my little boat, to work at understanding what it is I really need?  He will tell you.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

To get into the particular "gospel moment," imagine you are walking with St. John, the gospel writer, during the climbing of a hillside along with Jesus and other disciples.  Try to hear what Jesus and the others might be saying, especially when the realized a large part of the Passover crowd that was gather had started to follow after Jesus.  Why?  The news of miraculous "sign" or miracles for the sick would naturally draw all kinds of curiosity seekers.  Surely one or more of the disciples might have said what most of us today would say:  "Give the man a break."  Nevertheless after climbing the hillside, Jesus sat down with the disciples probably to take a break.  But the crowd pressed on.

Aware of the time of day and the crowd, Jesus knew they must have been hungry.  Surely they did not pack a picnic lunch/dinner for the occasion.  Jesus was more concerned about their hunger than being tired or the time of the day.  He did not grouse.  Rather he was concerned about giving them something to ease the pangs of their hunger.  Do you have a real, genuine confidence that Jesus  will answer your "hunger" when you feel the pangs?  Did you ever ask?  Did you take the time not to complain about the problem, the issue, but to simply ask "I need your help.  I have a particular hunger and I'm not succeeding in getting it to go away."  Have you been strong enough to admit your weakness?

You know the rest of the story in the "gospel moment."  With "five barley loaves and two fish" Jesus responded to the obvious needs that the disciples seemed to have missed.  Could we say that there have been times when we did not see the need, the hunger in others' lives?  Would we be like the disciples in the blindness, their seeming lack of concern?

In the responsorial psalm, Psalm 27, King David expresses his trust, his hope in God (vv.13-14):  "I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living."  He means the here and now not at some time after death.  Further he says "Wait for the Lord with courage.  Let your heart be firm and bold, and hope for the Lord."  We might not get instantaneous fulfillment.  But the King, clearly relating his own experiences, tells us "Be firm, be stouthearted at those times when your huger needs more than "five barley loaves and two fish."

Don't simply read these thoughts.  Hopefully they will help you speak to Jesus, speak with God the Father, speak with St. John who was there.  He is your risen Savior.  He is your God.  He came to save you from whatever "hunger" you might be experiencing.  Let him answer your hunger.  But you have to ask!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

St John's gospel, chapter 3, verse 16:  The Evangelist writes "God so loved the world ...."  Now I would ask you to remove the word "world" and in its place insert the word "me."  Now read the sentence aloud ... if you can:  God so loved me ....  You might wish to repeat the words several times.  Let it sink in.  Then ask yourself this question:  What is there about ME that God finds me so lovable?  So lovable toward me that he would give "his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life."  His love is so strong that he wants to save you.  Yes, he does but FROM WHAT? we might ask ourselves.

So there are two questions:  Why are you so lovable in God's mind and heart? and What is he saving me from?  Now, if you don't feel you can answer those two questions with any ease, stop you mental wandering around and ask him:  "Jesus, what is there in me that is so lovable?"  and then, if you cannot answer the second question, ask him again:  "Jesus, what is it you will save me from?"

You may recall someone saying to you "You are a caring person."  Thinking you might say to yourself, "Well, not so often."  Again, someone might say "You are a light-hearted person."  Again, you might say to yourself, "Well, if you only knew what was in this heart of mine."  And there are many such examples ... all as different as each one of us is from another person.

And do not forget John 3: 21: But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.  Here is the sentence of genuine reconciliation.  Ask God to see "the truth" and bring it to your vision, your light, so that you can see it as healing "done in God."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The feast day liturgy yesterday, Tuesday, presented portions of Psalm 19 for the Responsorial Psalm. The link is to the entire psalm which may be helpful.    Look a verse 1:  King David announces that the heavens tell us of God's glory.  The firmament put for his handiwork. So what does that mean to you?  Is it often that we think about this universe and ask "What is God telling us?"  Why did God make a day and a night?  What are these realities for you, for me?  Did you ever think that it is in the daylight that most speaking occurs and that in the darkness of night the mind and heart have an opportunity to think about what was said earlier in the day?  To me it is interesting that King David describes how God's handiwork keeps the universe in order and then turns to the ways God gives humankind what we could call his handiwork to humanity.  The moon, the stars, the sun, the oceans and rivers, etc. all play a significant role in the day-to-day "running of God's world."  At the same time, note what David writes about very real "structures" that keep humanity running:  the law of the Lord, the testimony of the Lord, the precepts of the Lord, the commandment of the Lord,  the ordinances of the Lord.  I suspect that at first reflection perfect law does not link to reviving the soul; the Lord's testimony making the simple wise, the hearts rejoicing because of the precepts of the Lord, the commandment opening up the human eye etc.  All of these King David writes are "more to be desired than gold, even much fine gold."  All of these divine creations both those that regulate the earth and those that guide humanity are around us 24/7 but do we even take five minutes to realize their importance and their giftedness to us each day?

Let's consider "the commandment" David mentions.  It is the first and greatest commandment.  You know that one, don't you?  "I am the Lord, your God ...."  The line stopped there purposefully.  Why?  What is to be garnered here is this:  It is to be understood as God saying to you and me, "I work for you."  Sound strange?  How often in Old and New Testament does God remind us  "I am here for you."  "I will walk with you."  We seem to forget that connection, don't we ... until someone asks us what that first and greatest commandment is and what its meaning is.
At the end of the psalm the King moves from praise of God's craftsmanship (!!!) to words petitioning God to not only take care of the universe and humanity, he asks that God take care of you personally.  Yes, direct care for you.  "Clear me from hidden faults....Keep presumptuous sins away for us, preventing their dominion over us.  And, lastly, let whatever I say or whatever my prayer might be that both will be what is acceptable in his sight.  And why all of this?  David sees in this great creative God a firm foundation rock and a redeemer.  Could you ask for anything better?

Ask the Lord for what you want, for what you need.  King David is asking God to be freed from whatever willful faults might damage our hearts and our lives.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Nicodemus Moment

Our retreat director has said over and over "notice what you are feeling as you read or reflect on the words of sacred scripture because they are God's words and how you react to them can be significant for yourself."  Nicodemus meets Jesus and asks a few questions.  Imagine that you are standing there, listening to the conversation.  www.usccb.org/nab will link you to John's gospel, chapter 3, verses 1-8 if you wish to read the entire text.  Nicodemus responds to Jesus' words "Unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God":  "How am I born again?"  How do you  react to what Jesus said to the man?  Does it seem impossible to you?  We men do not know how painful delivering a newborn is but all of us have heard either a wife, a sister, a mother or a friend speak of the sometimes too lengthy time the newest family member takes to come into the world ... at Mom's expense.  

So often we find ourselves at a point where we have been several times before.  Why is it that other realities  and emotions so easily take over our lives.  Why is it the rebirth is so hard for us?  What is it that frightens a person who is afraid to allow Jesus to take over his/her life?  There is usually a struggle to avoid what would damage our relationship with God but at other times there is no desire to change. "God just leave me be."  Living our Christian vocation to the fullest is fearful if we are honest with ourselves.  Being born again can be psychologically just as painful as Mom's hours of prenatal delivery.
What is lacking in moments such as these is conviction ... I am convinced that I want to live my life as God calls me to it.  In the spiritual life it is reading scripture, prayer and devotional practices that will constitute a successful spirituality.  

There are times when penitents will say to me and every other priest "I just feel so perturbed within.  I am just at an uneasy place."  When that happens, it is almost 100% for sure that the person has let his/her life be taken over by the evil spirits in the world.  There is a genuine need for being born again.  What we have to remember is that we might sin over and over despite efforts on our part not to do so.  Yet we are reminded that there was a one-time-for-all healing offered to each of us.  We just celebrated that reality during Holy Week which was validated on Easter Sunday morning by the Resurrection.

Live life to its fullest in and through Jesus Christ.  As Blessed John Paul II often said, "Do not be afraid.  Open the doors to Jesus Christ."  It is the call to open our hearts to our Savior.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Open the Door!

Look again at the gospel for Divine Mercy Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter Season (Jn 20:19-31).  Perhaps yesterday the focus was more directed to St. Peter's Square and the beatification of a Pope who touched the lives of so many people in so many different ways, a Pope who encouraged us time and again not to fear but to open our the doors of our hearts.

Look at the scene John recounts.  Consider this observation:  the opening scene may easily be understood as the experience of many people desiring to be what God wants of them.  It is a genuine expression of the human condition that confronts so many:  me?  you?  Don't many lock themselves in the room of fear?  Are not hearts often times unable to see what and where peace is and how we to live with it?  The disciples feared the Jewish authorities.  Consider this:  what each of us might fear is that Jesus will get into our my "inner sanctum,' that room  that protects private thoughts, desires and, yes, even failures.  Perhaps Jesus Jesus will use the same entry technique to gain access to our privacy if there is the slightest inkling that he will be allowed in.  If we allow entrance - a power that God has entrusted to us - he might say the same words and they would challenge:  "Peace be with you."
Before charging his followers he wishes to establish an atmosphere, a venue, that opens the heart.  Simple and to the point:  trust him, be at peace!  If peace is not the mood or reality in the heart, how can his command ever be fulfilled?  "As the Father has sent me, so I send you?"  What?  Send me?  Come on, I'm not one with all the necessary training.  Let's be real.

If we truly are willing to open our hearts to the Lord Jesus, only then will his peace be the wind that opens our sails so that we can go about our daily lives charged with the strength of the Holy Spirit just being the person that God wants of me and you.
This evening I have started a five day walk with the Lord on a silent retreat with ten other priests. In your prayers, please say one Hail Mary and one Our Father --sounds like a penance, doesn't it? -- for us that each of us will not be afraid to open his heart to the Lord's seeking to lead us where the Father desires we walk.

Divine Mercy Sunday: John Paul II Beatification

This picture is the man as I knew him ... older, saintly, truly carrying the cross of Jesus in his own illness and age.  The words that follow are from the Sermon of Pope Benedict earlier today as he celebrated the liturgy during which he proclaimed his predecessor, Pope John Paul II among the ranks of the Blessed in our Church.  No better words for our reflection.  EWTN will replay the Mass at 8 PM EST today.

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter, which Blessed John Paul II entitled Divine Mercy Sunday. The date was chosen for today’s celebration because, in God’s providence, my predecessor died on the vigil of this feast. Today is also the first day of May, Mary’s month, and the liturgical memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker. All these elements serve to enrich our prayer, they help us in our pilgrimage through time and space; but in heaven a very different celebration is taking place among the angels and saints! Even so, God is but one, and one too is Christ the Lord, who like a bridge joins earth to heaven. At this moment we feel closer than ever, sharing as it were in the liturgy of heaven.

Dear brothers and sisters, today our eyes behold, in the full spiritual light of the risen Christ, the beloved and revered figure of John Paul II. Today his name is added to the host of those whom he proclaimed saints and blesseds during the almost twenty-seven years of his pontificate, thereby forcefully emphasizing the universal vocation to the heights of the Christian life, to holiness, taught by the conciliar Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium. All of us, as members of the people of God – bishops, priests, deacons, laity, men and women religious – are making our pilgrim way to the heavenly homeland where the Virgin Mary has preceded us, associated as she was in a unique and perfect way to the mystery of Christ and the Church. [Pope John Paul] was fully aware that the Council’s decision to devote the last chapter of its Constitution on the Church to Mary meant that the Mother of the Redeemer is held up as an image and model of holiness for every Christian and for the entire Church. This was the theological vision which Blessed John Paul II discovered as a young man and subsequently maintained and deepened throughout his life. A vision which is expressed in the scriptural image of the crucified Christ with Mary, his Mother, at his side. 

Finally, on a more personal note, I would like to thank God for the gift of having worked for many years with Blessed Pope John Paul II. I had known him earlier and had esteemed him, but for twenty-three years, beginning in 1982 after he called me to Rome to be Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I was at his side and came to revere him all the more. My own service was sustained by his spiritual depth and by the richness of his insights. His example of prayer continually impressed and edified me: he remained deeply united to God even amid the many demands of his ministry. Then too, there was his witness in suffering: the Lord gradually stripped him of everything, yet he remained ever a “rock”, as Christ desired. His profound humility, grounded in close union with Christ, enabled him to continue to lead the Church and to give to the world a message which became all the more eloquent as his physical strength declined. In this way he lived out in an extraordinary way the vocation of every priest and bishop to become completely one with Jesus, whom he daily receives and offers in the Eucharist.
Blessed are you, beloved Pope John Paul II, because you believed! Continue, we implore you, to sustain from heaven the faith of God’s people. Amen.

My own personal note:  yesterday, as I posted a reflection and request for prayers, my friend, Jim Peck, was brought home to his God.  Your prayers surely helped him in the final moments of his life and helped open the heavenly gates for his great reward.