Saturday, February 20, 2016

Fr. Jacques Philippe - When I am Weak, I am Strong

One week ago yesterday, I attended a talk by Fr. Jacques Philippe offered at the St. Thomas Aquinas Forum through the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. The topic Father worked with was the paradox "When I am Weak, I am Strong" and he used several examples from Scripture along with examples from the lives of St. Therese of Lisieux and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. He spoke in French as his interpreter beautifully relayed his message in English.

I found it no consequence that on the following Sunday, the meditation in the Magnificat reinforced Fr. Philippe's message. The Scripture reading Sunday centered around temptation and the meditation by Fr. Peter Semenenko read:

"In our present condition, virtue cannot take root without the help of temptation...

Faith, hope, charity, chastity, patience, and every virtue must be tried. Otherwise there would be no virtue, a reasonable, considered act, freely willed and directed toward good. Growth in virtue is conditioned by temptation...

Therefore we can distinguish...two reasons or purposes for temptation: [one is] to become more perfect, for strength is made perfect in weakness, so that virtue becomes something that is definitely ours... "

This French priest from 2016 and this Polish priest from 1886...together in thought, pertinent for today, all about virtue, gift of the Holy Spirit.

Think of how often this happens in our lives! Godincidence. What's yours?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

On Thursday, February 11, 1858, 14 year old Bernadette Soubirous was out gathering firewood with her sister and a friend at the Grotto of Massabielle outside Lourdes, when she reportedly had the first of 18 visions.

When Bernadette asked, the beautiful Lady responded, "I am the Immaculate Conception".
The Lady told Bernadette: "Go, tell the priests to come here in procession
and to build a chapel here."
In the Summer of 1999, I was 7 months pregnant with my 5th child. I journeyed with my mom, two sisters, niece and sister-in-law to this place, where we washed in the water and we prayed the rosary as hundreds processed in honor of our Lady. It is a place of healing. It is a place of forgiveness. It is a place of prayer.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday

"Today, on Ash Wednesday, the pope leads a penitential procession from the Monastery of St. Anselm to the Basilica of Santa Sabina. Ashes are sprinkled on his head before he turns to distribute ashes to those in the community.

We too are marked with the Sign of the Cross in ashes as an acknowledgement of our sins. We do not have to put on sackcloth and sit in ashes or wear a hair shirt to show our sorrow and our need for forgiveness. As we wear those ashes on our foreheads in our everyday lives, we are recognized as people in repentance for our sins. We are recognized as Christians beginning a long forty days of prayer and fasting. No matter how far we have strayed, no matter how bad our sins, Jesus is always there, accepting us back into his life, reminding us to pray and to repent. 

Lord, we begin each Lenten season with the mark of ashes upon our foreheads. This mark reminds us of our sinfulness, of our mortality, and of our need for repentance. May we witness this reminder to come to you throughout the year. May we remember this cross of ashes.

Thank you for guiding us in the right direction. Thank you for bringing us to our knees for others and for ourselves. Thank you for always welcoming us back when we have strayed.

Today, we pray for our world. Father, in your great mercy, forgive us."

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Heading to the Desert? How Will We Prepare?

Seems we no sooner finish celebrating the Birth of Jesus and we are asked to pack our baggage and head to the desert. As we move toward the beginning of our 40 days of Lent, our 40 days with the Lord, our 40 days of quiet contemplation (well interior quiet I hope), maybe we should take a few days to prepare for the journey this year. So many times in the past, we may have made promises to sacrifice with good intentions and those promises may have fallen short because they were not well planned. Like any good journey, any pilgrimage, we must think seriously about what we want to take with us, what will help these 40 days to be successful, to enrich our lives of faith, to draw us closer to our Savior. The terrain will be sandy and at times rocky. The atmosphere will be dry and hot. At times we will feel alone, hungry, thirsting for something more, for something that satisfies. 
Let's start by choosing a few general books to read. There are so many good titles right now that I'm sure we can find something to replace our typical "have a seat in front of the TV at night until we fall asleep" end of the day routine. 
And we can choose some "good to start and end our day" Lenten devotionals. A good practice could also be to go a little out of our way to support the local or online Catholic Bookstores. They also will have more suggestions in the way of new books and good Lenten titles.
Let's also keep in mind that when we are hot and sweaty and tired, we tend to give in to life's whisper that we are being too strict, that allowing ourselves to cheat once in a while will not matter. This is precisely why we need the proper rest and the proper amount of water to sustain the change, to handle the shock to our daily routine. For weeks he has been calling each of us to "follow him". Now he is going to the desert to fast and to pray and to contemplate the will of his Father and we are preparing to go with him.
What will you do to prepare for the journey? What will you take to sustain yourself for 40 days? Jesus will be beside us, out there. Can we remain with him?