Thursday, July 7, 2011

912 - Friday

The blogger has decided that it is time for Prayer on the Hill to absent itself from the flow a the daily blogosphere ... at least until October.  There are a number of personal reasons for this decision ... all of them related to the well-being of the blogger and the quality of the postings each day.  During the hiatus, much of the time will be dedicated to priestly works and writings in preparations for a new website and the regeneration of  Prayer on the Hill.  Please do not worry that "something is out of sorts" with the blogger.  That is far from the reality of his decision to refill the ink well.  It is because he has seen within his heart and heart within his heart the whispers of the Holy Spirit that the absence will take place.  

I wish you a wonderful summer, what is left of it.  I genuinely pray that you will find time to read some of the other bloggers that I have suggested on the years.  Of course it is a risk to surrender your daily reading time to other writers ... but that is the risk one takes in listening to the whispers of the Holy Spirit.

Let us continue to pray for one another.  And, please, there is not need for anyone to be calling or writing to me about "Why?"  The answer is clearly spelled out in the paragraphs above.  So, fear not.  I will be returning in the beginning days of October.  I am covering for one of the priests who assists at the parish where I am at the moment and then when he returns at the beginning of August, I will assume the pastor's fill-in for the month and  then in September I will be moving to Tuscany for three weeks and may extend to visit a relative who lives in Nottingham, England.  You did not know that I was related to Robin Hood, did you?

Have a wonderful summer.  Oremus pro invicem!  Let us pray for one another.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

911-Tuesday  Rich Harvest Awaits

Today's gospel, Mt 9:32-38, easily could be spoken today, were Jesus travelling in the USA.  In particular I  have in mind the last verse of the "pericope." ( Biblical research word for an incident or scene)  "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest." 

The reality in the seminary/priesthood membership numbers is dramatically different today.  All of us know that there is a "shortage" of seminarians preparing for the priesthood and that there is a "shortage" of priests to serve the people of God.

Unfortunately there are many who bemoan this reality and ask what is the Church going to do about it.  For us and our Church we are fortunate that dollars will not buy vocations!  Unfortunately within the priesthood today there is not the "spirit" that existed when I was in high grammar and high school (1946-1959).  Today the joy and enthusiasm that I experienced in the witness of priests like Fr. Al Hughes, now deceased, at my home parish as well as the Discalced Carmelites and a Fr. John Madden PhD, a professor at Catholic University, who came to our parish to celebrate Masses on the weekends is sadly lacking.  The excitement that I witnessed in the enthusiasm and dedication of the Jesuit Scholastics (seminarians) and priests who taught me at Gonzaga High School is not so evident today.  This is the problem:  many priests just do not have the excitement and the pride that made these men, at least in my life, men whose lives I wanted to live in my own life.

So, is the priesthood destined to grow smaller and smaller in the years ahead.  Realistically, I suspect, it will until priests and their helpers begin to take on this problem in our Church.  There are two ways we can increase vocations:  (1) do what Jesus says in the gospel:  "ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest"; and, (2) priests and laity alike have to come alive once again with excitement for the priestly vocation.

As a priest of 39 years with 13 years of seminary training, I know that we live in difficult times in our Church.  As a priest, however, no one can convince me that the priesthood should die.  I know there will be challenging moments -- no priest will say that the life is easy, especially in our culture.  However, sometime, when you are with a priest, ask him to tell you about the great moments in his life.  After a while, you may have to tell that priest to take a break, to let you absorb all that I believe most priests can share with you about the blessings in the life of their priesthood.

Can you imagine how you would feel after sitting in a confessional for an hour each week, being truly what the priest can be: the healer, the comforter, the guide?  It is exciting, it is satisfying, it is the fulfillment of a sacrament that brings so much peace to a troubled soul.

Can you imagine what it is like to be at the bedside of a person who is dying and to know that you are in a way taking that person's hand and placing it in the hands of our loving God?  Can you imagine what it would be like to be present to comfort the loved ones who are being asked to give back to God the gift of the person He wants to be with Him in heaven?

Can you imagine how rewarding it is almost every day to help someone who is at sea with his/her life, who comes to "Father" for the embrace of the father in the gospel story of the Prodigal Son?

Were I a parent today and wanted to very best for my son, I would pray as long and as hard as I could to God that my son would seriously consider priesthood if it is in his thoughts for the future.  I do believe parents have to help the priests of today in their efforts to encourage vocations.

Indeed we priests today encounter so many who are "troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd."  Pray for us as well as for the men that God is calling to the priestly ministry.

Monday, July 4, 2011

910 - Monday     Independence Day

We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
(Declaration of Independence, second sentence)

Whenever you might read these words or hear them spoken, you might think of this:  most likely, were Jesus in Philadelphia at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence (July 2), were He invited, Jesus would have added his names to the great American statesmen who signed the document.  

How can such an affirmation be made today?  Well, consider these words of St/ Paul and Jesus.
(1) There is more happiness in giving than in receiving. (Acts 20:35)
(2) The Spirit of the Lord ... has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives. (Luke 4:18)
(3)  I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

We recognize that in our nation today Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness are realities we cherish. At the same time they are not necessarily fully "alive" in our culture.  Do we truly respect Life?  How frequent is the taking of another's life "from sea to shining sea"?  Do we recognize the right to Liberty?  How many are our sisters and brothers who are emotionally and physically "imprisoned" because of the instances of injustice:  God shed his grace on thee/Till souls wax fair as earth and air/And music-hearted sea! Do our "American ways" allow for all to pursue happiness?  How just is it that young children designated as "illegal" because their parents never registered them but who have done wonders academically and civilly should either be sent back to a country they have never known or denied the happiness of pursuing educational achievments that would strengthen this land we love?

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness:  a trinity of God-given rights to every human being on this earth?  Have we not taken on the role of God in how we allow these inalienable rights to be trampled?

My country 'tis of thee
Sweet land of liberty
of thee, I sing.
from every mountainside
let freedom ring.
God bless America!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

909-SUNDAY: 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

The reflection for the weekend is not about the Fourth of July.  Maybe Monday’s thoughts will be available.  However, today I wish to put together a theme that incorporates words that I posted on Saturday morning’s “blog,” along with a link to the gospel for today and the words of St. Paul to the Romans.
The person of the Holy Spirit is important in our lives.  Yet, because we are a people who, we might say, focus more on the concrete rather than what we might call the abstract or non-materialistic, I feel we overlook such a treasure in understanding what the Holy Spirit can do for us.  So, here let’s try to better understand the Holy Spirit.
There was a 15th century Archbishop who became the leader of the Church in Milan, Italy.  His name was Laurence Justian.  Some years after his priestly ordination he was sent by the Holy See to Milan.  In one of his sermons he wrote this sentence about Mary.  I have incorporated these words because today/yesterday we celebrated the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  The Archbishop wrote these words that captured my attention.  “How entirely blessed was the mind of the Virgin which, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, was always and in every way open to the power of the Word of God.  She was not led by her senses, nor by her own will; thus she accomplished outwardly through her body what wisdom from within gave to her faith.” If you read Saturday’s blog, you might recognize the words.
We speak of the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” many times during the year.  Do we understand what that means?  How would you present it to someone of another faith who might question you about the meaning of the phrase?  Once some young person asked me during a Confirmation prep class this question:  “Does it mean there is a small box inside my body where the Holy Spirit lives?  I don’t feel him in me.”
For me Mary understood well what this special relationship is that we share with the Holy Spirit.  According to the words of Archbishop Justian of Milan, Mary enjoyed a “blessed mind.”   She had a mind that ‘listened’ to that inner voice, we sometimes call it.  Mary’s mind was always open to the “power of the Word of God.”  She possessed great wisdom, understanding, knowledge and so on.  She did not rely upon her moods or her other senses to give her direction in her life.  She took time to separate herself from the world around her.  In moments of quiet and prayer she must have called upon the Holy Spirit for guidance.  In my own heart I suspect Mary had a great relationship with the Holy Spirit.  She would have to such an interaction with the Spirit to understand what God had given to her as her mission in life.  What was this understanding, this relationship like?  Or how can we humans best understand it?
Mary, as I noted, would find time for quiet.  She would push aside all worries, all distractions and then begin to concentrate on what she was asked to do by the All-Powerful Father.  She must have thought much on what the Holy Spirit was conveying to her through the thoughts that would come to her.  As the Archbishop wrote, Mary accomplished outwardly the wisdom, the knowledge, she would come to understand was situated deeply within her mind,  within her heart.
As St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “you are in the Spirit.”  Catch that:  Paul realized that there was something very special within us, within our mind, that enabled us to share in the wisdom and knowledge of God, the All-Powerful Creator.  How do you think the Father reveals the “things” mentioned in today’s gospel?   Jesus gives us an answer: “... for although you [Father] have hidden these things from the wise and learned, you have revealed them to little ones.”  These “things” are so many of the mysteries most do not understand.  But, to the “little one,” those who are able to separate themselves from much learning by simply sitting quietly and letting the Holy Spirit work in their minds with his power, these people have an insight into the power of the Holy Spirit.
What we need do is to take time to look at what seems so different to us.  Clear all the junk from the mind, listen quietly while asking the 
Holy Spirit to grant the great powers of the mind to you to understand how God wants you to live your life.  Imagine if Mary had not become accustomed to opening up her heart, her mind, to the Holy Spirit.  What would she have said when the angel asked her to become the mother of God’s son?  Within her mind she had come to know and understand that God is All Powerful and that she, like all of us, was created by God and as his creation, she, again like us, shared some of the understanding, the wisdom, the knowledge  (piety, counsel, fortitude) that is hers as it is ours because we have the Infinite Intelligence, the Holy Spirit, indwelling in us.
My reason for focusing our attention on these thoughts is simple:  if we do come to understand how our minds, like Mary’s, can develop the awareness of the Holy Spirit and his power within our minds, we will become a people who are at peace with ourselves because we come to learn what God wants of us.  The Holy Spirit is so much more than we ever think he is.  Let’s not let this great treasure pass us by each day.  We would lose so much if we did.
908-SATURDAY:  The Immaculate Heart of Mary

Let me share with you words from St. Laurence Justinian, the first Patriarch of Venice, a 15th century Church leader who led a noble and admirable life.  Reading the synopsis of his life might be interesting for you on this Saturday morning of the July 4th weekend.  But let me present his words about Mary from one of his sermons.

How entirely blessed was the mind of the Virgin which, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, was always and in every way open to the power of the Word of God.  She was not led by her senses, nor by her own will; thus she accomplished outwardly through her body what wisdom from within gave to her faith.

Today we probably mention the Holy Spirit a few times during the course of the day.  However, some reflection and concentration on the importance of the Holy Spirit "driving" our own minds may not be one of the ways we think about the Holy Spirit in the course of a day or week or month.

It seems to me that St. Laurence Justinian came to realize how powerful we can be in accomplish goodness.  If we realize within us is the Infinite Mind of God and we share in that because we are God's creatures.  The more we reflect upon that and come to realize how gifted we are with the mental faculty that God has given us, perhaps, just perhaps, we might better understand the extraordinary powers that Mary models for us in that wisdom that springs from the Holy Spirit within her, from which she became recognized as and titled the seat of wisdom!