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In Faith

A Reflection for Holy Saturday by Seminarian Andrew Williams

Fra Angelico, an Italian Monk and painter from the 15th century, painted the image above. In English, the title is “The Harrowing of Hell,” and it depicts what we say in the Apostles Creed, “...He descended into hell...” The point of this descent into hell (or “the dead”) was to bring to eternal life all those who had died in God's friendship, but before the time of Christ. Without getting too caught up on how time works after death, we can definitely agree that all salvation ultimately comes through Christ, and therefore even Abraham, the first of God's chosen people, must be redeemed by His sacrifice. I invite you to look at the painting.
You will surely notice Christ and His Banner, Adam & Eve, the Patriarchs, and the demons in the corner, but perhaps you didn't notice two other details. Look at the door under Jesus's feet. First, there are two nails, hinges that the door to hell was hung on, now bent and on the floor. Second, and I laughed the first time I saw it, there is a devil squashed underneath the door!
While the painting has much significance, I think that we really missed out on what happened three seconds earlier: The One through Whom all was created has come for what is His, and when the devils try to keep him out, he busts down the door! You won’t find this in a holy hour devotional, but I propose that there is room for spiritual reflection and nourishment with this very uncommon image: Jesus front-kicking down the doors of hell.
Anticipating the joy of Easter, believe it or not, I truly invite you to consider the image of Christ, eyes and muscles full of Love & Divine fire, kicking down the doors of hell and coming for his people, coming for you. You see, nothing can keep Christ from us. Jesus gently knocks at the door of your heart, but give Him permission to enter and there is nothing that can stand between you. When you feel beyond God’s love, remember this painting, remember the broken hinges and squashed demon, remember the hand reaching out to you, remember that all of Holy Thursday and Good Friday were for this one purpose of knocking down every locked door between you and God’s love. He has come for you, He is coming for you, and He will come for you.
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This touched me deeply.  No matter our faith - we should all work together to help the refugees.

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Practical steps to further our faith: http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/article/practical-strategies-of-evangelization/322/
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At the close of the Jubilee Year
So Pope Francis adds the “care of our common home” as a fundamental work of mercy to be added to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy:
As a spiritual work of mercy (emphasis added), care for our common home calls for a “grateful contemplation of God’s world” (Laudato Si’, 214) which “allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us” (Laudato Si’, 85). As a corporal work of mercy (emphasis added), care for our common home requires “simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness” and “makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world” (Laudato Si’, 230–31).
Pope Francis proclaimed the Holy Year for the Jubilee of Mercy in the hope that our awareness of the gift of mercy would increase. This gift from God calls us to act mercifully toward ourselves, others, and towards the earth and the universe. The more we act with mercy toward all of creation, the more mercy will become a grace deeply ingrained in our spiritual lives. Pope Francis’s hope is that through our actions others may witness God’s mercy, in the way we care for those on the peripheries of life and in our care for creation.
                                                          from "Moments of Mercy" at www.loyolapress.com

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And from Becky
          "A few nights ago, I sat on my couch scrolling through Facebook, perusing the newsfeed. There were shouts of joy and screams of rage, there were cries of despair and songs of hope. As I noticed this wide range of reactions to our country’s presidential election, I noticed an unsettledness rising within me as the reality of what I was reading hit me. I read of protests and vandalism. I watched a video of a man pulled out of his car and beaten because of whom he voted for. I saw words of hate and accusation. I saw hope, and I saw fear.
My heart’s prayer to God was a mother’s cry for protection as I faced the fear I felt for my children and their future. It was a cry of helplessness and of hopelessness. This reaction was not stemming from who was elected or who wasn’t, but from seeing the pain in people, the hurt, and the division in our country. It was a deep noticing of what is going on around us, the brokenness we all carry, and I felt sorrow.
The Gift of Sorrow:
It reminded me of the sorrow experienced during the First Week of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the kind of sadness that God allows us to feel when we are being awakened to a sinful tendency or a deep hurt that calls forth in us an urge to change. Noticing and naming our sorrow can be painful. It can also bring a sense of our helplessness to change anything by ourselves. In essence, it brings to light our dependency on God. Our need for God’s mercy.
As I named, yet again, my need for God, three questions that we are called to pray with during the Spiritual Exercises rose within me like a drum-beat:
What am I doing for Christ?
What have I done for Christ?
What ought I do for Christ?
I began offering these questions to God as I prayed with what I had just noticed on my Facebook feed. God turned my sorrow into a reminder of my call to be part of the transformation, as the last question began to take shape in the form of a litany of noticing and discerning:
  • What ought I do for Christ to help heal our country? To help bring people together?
  • What ought I do for Christ to help those who are marginalized?
  • What ought I do for Christ to help fight racism?
  • What ought I do for Christ to welcome strangers?
  • What ought I do for Christ to open dialogue?
  • What ought I do for Christ to help restore human dignity to those who feel theirs is being taken away?
A Framework for Prayer:
Maybe this could be your prayer right now? I offer you the following prayer experience as a way of praying through whatever you are holding right now in regards to the election.
  • Find a silent place and still yourself.
  • Ask God to help you notice and name what is happening around you and within you. Let what arises within you be an honest naming, whether it be anger, sadness, joy, or hope.
  • After naming and noticing, turn to the 3 questions St. Ignatius gave us:
    • What have I done for Christ?
    • What am I doing for Christ?
    • What ought I do for Christ?
  • Notice if any nudge to action arises within you. Make note of it. Talk to God about it.
  • If you can act on what arises now, make a commitment to do so. If it still feels unclear, continue to pray with these questions in the days ahead.
  • Close your prayer in a way that feels comfortable to you. Perhaps, offering an Our Father or other spoken prayer.
My Nudge to put Mercy into Motion:
As my prayer continued to be offered, I began re-reading the very words on this website. I chuckled to myself as I remembered that we’ve just spent an entire year dedicated to mercy, and I briefly forgot the very things we’ve been writing about all year… God can birth newness into any situation, God can heal what seems irreparable, God can reconcile what seems permanently separated. AND, we play a part in this. God’s mercy works through us. Through our prayers and through our own actions.
Rob Tasman’s words from his post near the beginning of our Mercy Matters series woke within me a calming clarity of my first action, “Compassion allows us to build communion while seeing others in their truest dignity.  That I can do. We can all do it, actually. I can show compassion and seek to see the truest dignity in the other person. Compassion allows us to see the other’s dignity, God within them.
And now that has changed my prayer to, “May God within me, meet God within you.” "

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Another by Bishop Barron - for all but particularly for teens
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Bishop Robert Barron
APOLOGISTS, CATECHISTS, THEOLOGIANS: WAKE UP!
August 31, 2016 - By Bishop Robert Barron

After perusing the latest Pew Study on why young people are leaving the active practice of Christianity, I confess that I just sighed in exasperation. I don’t doubt for a moment the sincerity of those who responded to the survey, but the reasons they offer for abandoning Christianity are just so uncompelling. That is to say, any theologian, apologist, or evangelist worth his salt should be able easily to answer them. And this led me (hence the sigh) to the conclusion that “we have met the enemy and it is us.” For the past fifty years or so, Christian thinkers have largely abandoned the art of apologetics and have failed (here I offer a j’accuse to many in the Catholic universities) to resource the riches of the Catholic intellectual tradition in order to hold off critics of the faith. I don’t blame the avatars of secularism for actively attempting to debunk Christianity; that’s their job, after all. But I do blame teachers, catechists, evangelists, and academics within the Christian churches for not doing enough to keep our young people engaged. These studies consistently demonstrate that unless we believers seriously pick up our game intellectually, we’re going to keep losing our kids. 
Let me look just briefly at some of the chief reasons offered for walking away from Christianity. Many evidently felt that modern science somehow undermines the claims of the faith. One respondent said: “rational thought makes religion go out the window,” and another complained of the “lack of any sort of scientific evidence of a creator.” Well, I’m sure it would come as an enormous surprise to St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Robert Bellarmine, Blessed John Henry Newman, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and Joseph Ratzinger—all among the most brilliant people Western culture has produced—that religion and reason are somehow incompatible. And to focus more precisely on the issue of “scientific evidence,” the sciences, ordered by their nature and method to an analysis of empirically verifiable objects and states of affairs within the universe, cannot even in principle address questions regarding God, who is not a being in the world, but rather the reason why the finite realm exists at all. There simply cannot be “scientific” evidence or argument that tells one way or the other in regard to God. Mind you, this is by no means to imply that there are no rational warrants for belief in God. Philosophers over the centuries, in fact, have articulated dozens of such demonstrations, which have, especially when considered together, enormous probative force. I have found, in my own evangelical work, that the argument from contingency gets quite a bit of traction with those who are wrestling with the issue of God’s existence. What these arguments have lacked, sad to say, are convinced and articulate defenders within the academy and in the ranks of teachers, catechists, and apologists. 
One of the young people responded to the survey using the formula made famous by Karl Marx: “religion just seems to be the opiate of the people.” Marx’s adage, of course, is an adaptation of Ludwig Feuerbach’s observation that religion amounts to a projection of our idealized self-image. Sigmund Freud, in the early twentieth century, further adapted Feuerbach, arguing that religion is like a waking dream, a wish-fulfilling fantasy. This line of thinking has been massively adopted by the so-called “new atheists” of our time. I find it regularly on my internet forums. What all of this comes down to, ultimately, is a dismissive and patronizing psychologization of religious belief. But it is altogether vulnerable to a tu quoque (you do the same thing) counter-attack. I think it is eminently credible to say that atheism amounts to a wish-fulfilling fantasy, precisely in the measure that it allows for complete freedom and self-determination: if there is no God, no ultimate moral criterion, I can do and be whatever I want. In a word, the psychologizing cuts just as effectively in the opposite direction. Hence, the two charges more or less cancel one another out—and this should compel us to return to real argument at the objective level.
A third commonly-cited reason for abandoning the Christian churches is that, as one respondent put it, “Christians seem to behave so badly.” God knows that the clergy sex abuse scandals of the last 25 years have lent considerable support to this argument, already bolstered by the usual suspects of the Inquisition, the Crusades, the persecution of Galileo, witch-hunts, etc., etc. We could, of course, enter into an examination of each of these cases, but for our purposes I am willing to concede the whole argument: yes indeed, over the centuries, lots and lots of Christians have behaved wickedly. But why, one wonders, should this tell against the integrity and rectitude of Christian belief? Many, many Americans have done horrific things, often in the name of America. One thinks of slave owners, the enforcers of Jim Crow laws, the carpet bombers of Dresden and Tokyo, the perpetrators of the My-Lai Massacre, the guards at Abu Ghraib Prison, etc. Do these outrages ipso facto prove that American ideals are less than praiseworthy, or that the American system as such is corrupt? The question answers itself. 
Relatedly, a number of young people said that they left the Christian churches because “religion is the greatest source of conflict in the world.” One hears this charge so often today—especially in the wake of September 11th—that we tend to take it as self-evident, when in point of fact, it is an invention of Enlightenment-era historiography. Voltaire, Diderot, Spinoza, and many others in the 17th and 18th centuries wanted to undermine religion, and they could find no better way to achieve this end than to score Christianity as the source of violence. Through numberless channels this view has seeped into the general consciousness, but it simply does not stand up to serious scrutiny. In their exhaustive survey of the wars of human history (The Encyclopedia of Wars), Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod demonstrate that less than 7% of wars could be credibly blamed on religion, and even the most casual reflection bears this out. 
In point of fact, the bloodiest wars in history, those of the twentieth century, which produced over 100 million dead, had practically nothing to do with religion. Indeed, a very persuasive case could be made that ideological secularism and modern nationalism are the sources of greatest bloodshed. And yet the prejudice, first fostered by the philosophes of the Enlightenment, oddly endures.

An earlier Pew Study showed that for every one person who joins the Catholic Church today, six are leaving, and that many of those who leave are the young. This most recent survey indicates that intellectual objections figure prominently when these drifters are asked why they abandoned their faith. My cri de coeur is that teachers, catechists, theologians, apologists, and evangelists might wake up to this crisis and do something about it.

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Silence and reverence

by Marina McCoy
Silence can have many different meanings in our lives. We might be silent when we are concentrating, needing to get a task accomplished that requires intense focus. Silence provides the necessary space for attention. Silence can be a way to disengage from negative conflict, for example, in holding our tongue when a colleague speaks negatively of others and we are tempted to join in and gossip, but choose not to do so.  There are negative sides to silence, too, for example, when silence is used as a means of control in "giving someone the silent treatment": typically, people who engage in this sort of silence fear conflict and have a strong need to exert control and avoid emotional complexity. Or silence in the face of social injustice when we ought to speak but remain indifferent is also a negative form of silence.
This morning, though, in the midst of a long period of silent prayer, I thought about the relationship between silence and reverence. Silence can also be a way of holding God, ourselves, and others in reverence. The philosopher Paul Woodruff has defined reverence  as "the capacity to feel awe, respect, and shame, when these are the right emotions to have." When we enter church and find silence in the period of time before worship, for example, it allows us to be internally and externally reverential of God and more deeply aware of the grace of God's presence in the community of believers. We can also hold one another reverently in prayer. As a former director of mine used to say, prayer is relationship, so when we pray for another and lovingly hold the thought of a person in God's love and light, we reverence the good of their very being. Words are not always necessary, since in reverence, we respect the mystery and good of another in ways beyond the capacity of words to capture. And so instead, we pray and allow the Spirit to intercede for us, as St Paul says, "in sighs too deep for words" (Romans 8:26).

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A Whole new way to look at the Beatitudes: Go here.

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Pope Francis' Prayer for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy

Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father, and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him. Show us your face and we will be saved. Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; made Peter weep after his betrayal, and assured Paradise to the repentant thief. Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman: "If you knew the gift of God!"

You are the visible face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy: let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified. You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.

Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing, so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord, and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind.

We ask this through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy, you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.
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October 23, 2015: the truth is that the Catholic faith is not a program or a set of rules. Catholicism is a vision of creation, a vision of the human person and the human family, a vision that is grand and transcendent. Everything in the Church — all our teachings, practices and disciplines — flows from this vision, which is given to us by God in the Scriptures...
more at: http://angelusnews.com/voices/archbishop-gomez/holy-spouses-holy-families-9239/#.ViqTz7erSM9

















My Mother’s Suscipe


elderly woman walking
My mother, Rosemary Mulligan McCann, was a brilliant woman, and it was particularly hard for us to watch as Alzheimer’s seeped her brilliance from her.
When St. Ignatius encourages us to be detached or indifferent to an outcome or a decision, he knows detachment leads to a freedom which will bring us closer to God. When I think of that kind of freeing detachment, I often think of my mother’s last years.
Over those difficult nine years, she did not complain. At first she could no longer drive a car; later she no longer chose what clothes were put on her in the mornings. Losing those abilities was not her choice, but she was not bitter about her losses.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
For all that she had to give up, she was gracious, introducing us proudly as her daughters, often several times during the same meal. After a while, she introduced us warmly as her beloved sisters.
She joined the choir at her care center because she loved to sing, but after some months she had to quit because she was unable to learn new songs.
The burden of this terrible disease was to live each day not always comprehending where she was. “Is this my room?” she would ask over and over. “Whose room is this?” she wondered, looking around.
…my memory, my understanding,
It was not her choice: she was forced to practice detachment every day, letting go of her awareness of the world around her. Her fascination with politics and her love of entertaining were gone. Her five children watched as she relinquished her family roles as grandmother and then mother because she no longer remembered who our children were. Then, she no longer remembered us.
…and my entire will,
She gave up talking with her oldest friends, unable to carry on a conversation or use the phone.
…All I have and call my own.
When I visited, she would be thrilled to see me, joyful when I walked in the room. If I left for a minute and returned, she would give the same delighted response, elated that I had come to visit her, unaware I had been with her for two days.
You have given all to me.
She had a devout faith life, and prayers kneeling at the side of her bed had been a lifelong nightly habit. When she no longer knew what year it was or what city she lived in, she still had an innate sense when Sunday morning came around, and she was determined to get to Mass. Once she slipped out of her care center and was found walking the nearest highway, looking for a church.
To you, Lord, I return it.
She was polite and grateful to those who fed her and those who came into her room to care for her. They, in turn, loved her spirit and her continuing puns, even though she could not remember their names.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
When she was in the later stages of her illness, she no longer spoke much. But we could connect with her through music and through prayers. She knew the songs of her childhood and could recognize the operas she used to listen to with her father.
I could pray the Rosary for her and sometimes prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries for her, telling her how Jesus was suffering with her and loving her. Occasionally, her mouth would move in repetition as I prayed the words.
Give me only your love and your grace,
My mother set an example for me of God’s love and care in the midst of confusion and fear. She had been unwillingly detached from her intelligence, her relationships, and so many things that had made her earlier life a vibrant one. She allowed God to hold her close, wordlessly, when she didn’t understand anything that was going on in her life.
When I look at my own life, I see a constant and unreflective need to complete my to-do list and show off my accomplishments, senselessly trying to prove my worth to the God who loves me endlessly. My need for control in my own life and my unfounded idea that I have to earn my way to salvation is so different from my mother’s example. I am beloved by God simply in being and not doing.
I have so much to learn, and it is all there in front of me, in my mother’s example of detachment.
…that is enough for me.

The prayer woven throughout this piece is the Suscipe of St. Ignatius Loyola.
- See more at: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/22256/my-mothers-suscipe#sthash.nJuvUYDV.dpuf

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I Believe...
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There Was a Time
There was a time I would reject those
who were not my faith.
But now, my heart has grown capable
of taking on all forms.
It is a pasture for gazelles,
An abbey for monks.
A table for the Torah.
Kaaba for the pilgrim.
My religion is love.
Whichever the route love’s caravan shall take,
That shall be the path of my faith.
--Ibn Arabi
For has not God blessed all with a soul which is a part of Him?
Oh Lord, cast out the demons that drive our enemies, and in us, so that we may live in peace.
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Lenten Reflection
Bishop William R. Houck
President Emeritus, Catholic Extension
 

Today in rather large numbers we will accept blessed ashes with a clear reminder: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” We will also commit ourselves to make an honest effort to live our discipleship. This involves turning away from sin and following even better the value system of Jesus Christ. His value system encompasses many aspects but for sure is based on love, truth, generosity, justice, prayer, sacrifice and self denial.
We try to emphasize more living our faith in a positive manner. To do this, however, we will give up some things in our present lifestyle. I found a few "suggestions" for beginning a 'give-up' list. 
Give up negativism; be positive. Give up complaining; be grateful.
Give up pessimism; be an optimist. Give up harsh judgments; think kindly thoughts.
Give up worry; trust divine providence. Give up discouragement; be full of hope.
Give up anger; be more patient. Give up pettiness; be more mature.
Give up gloom; enjoy the beauty around you. Give up jealousy; pray for trust.
Give up gossiping; control your thoughts. Give up sin; turn to virtue.
  
Bishop William R. Houck
President Emeritus, Catholic Extension


Thank you for your prayers and support of our mission. To make a gift during the Lenten Season, click here



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Bread for the Journey: Click here

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++Loving God, You who dwell in our hearts, make for us a cave there in which to hear your voice more distinctly, feel your care more tenderly, understand your will more clearly, and come to know your presence at every moment of our lives with new clarity and new courage, with new faith and new urgency.
++ Enable us to grow in the Holy Spirit in ways that make us compassionate co-creators of a world in process, creative keepers of the human community, loving listeners to the heartbeat of the world, caring sisters and brothers to its wounded and bringers of peace to a world in distress.
++ Let us sink into your Word, let us nourish it to life, let it lead us beyond the burdens of the day so that we may become the people you desire us to be.
Give us hearts where all may enter in, ears to hear your call, hands to do your will, voices to sing your praise and soul enough to recognize You in everything we do.
++This we ask through the intercession of all the faithful who have gone before us and through the grace of the living God.
Amen.
— Joan Chittister at www.monasteriesoftheheart.org


eblast1

CNS/CROSIERS
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,


During this season of joy, our hearts are stirred by the beauty, depth and constancy of God's love for each one of us. Truly, God so loved the world that He sent His Son as our Savior (Jn 3: 16).

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Christmas Mass, together with our family gatherings and customs, draws us together in the renewal of that comforting realization. Whether it be the words of the Christmas Gospel, the sight of a lowly manger, the sounds of a cherished carol or, above all, our receiving in Holy Communion the same Savior who was born at Bethlehem, we are deeply moved by the wonder, awe and reassurance that our good God has drawn close to us.  

In that spirit, families gather to share their joy and love for God and one another. Pope Francis reminds us that the family is a "'center of love' where the law of respect and communion reigns and ... no one is set apart"  and that  "the family continues to be a school unparalleled in humanity, an indispensible contribution to a just and supportive society." 

As we reflect on the beauty and meaning of Christmas and as the Church prepares for next Fall's Synod on the Family, the Holy Family is an inspiration and example for us. However, we cannot forget that the Holy Family knew their trials, crises, disappointments and disruptions.   From the news of an unplanned pregnancy, to Joseph's initial thought of quietly divorcing Mary, to their separation from family and friends to travel to Bethlehem, to their escape from Herod and flight into Egypt, the Holy Family faced severe challenges.  But through it all, they knew that Jesus was with them, and that, by doing God's will as best they could, all would be well.

Like Mary, we face our personal challenges.  Like the Holy Family, we face family challenges.  We too, at times, may be greatly troubled and ask, "How can this be?"  In those times, let us remember the enduring meaning of Christmas.  God is with us.  He loves us.  His grace will sustain us if we, like Mary and Joseph, strive to do God's will in our lives for "nothing is impossible for God."

May the peace of Christmas always be your blessing and may the consolation of God's presence to you be your strength in times of trial.

With every prayerful best wish I remain,

                        Sincerely yours in Christ,

                        Most Reverend Robert J. McManus
                        Bishop of Worcester

Christmas 2014 

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BLESSED THE BEGGAR: WHO ARE THE “POOR IN SPIRIT”?

A couple years back, I was downtown in a big city (that will remain unnamed) rushing to get to a weekday morning Mass. On the way up the steps of the Cathedral I passed a homeless man asking for money.
I offered to buy him breakfast, but he refused to come with me, saying he wasn't hungry. I invited him to come with me to Mass. He declined. I asked if he wanted to pray right there. He refused . . . telling me that God had abandoned him and that 'if God was really loving He would never have let so many bad things happen.'
It was a gut-wrenching conversation that I told him I'd wanted to continue over coffee or a meal after church. I asked him to wait for me, as I'd be free to talk more in about thirty minutes. He declined that invitation, too.
Upon entering the church … still thinking about the soul I'd just encountered – I found myself seated next to a smattering of different people: a nurse between shifts, some elderly couples, a young mom wrestling with her little kids, a couple of nuns, some tourists and a handful of professionals starting their work day with God's greatest act of love (which we call the Mass).
Moments after I sat, in walked another (slightly tardy) Catholic, out of breath and rushing in so as not to miss the Readings. I recognized him (as we had met on a few occasions) and motioned for him to sit next to me. He is a well-known and highly respected businessman, and a Godly husband and father. Incidentally, he's also a millionaire (which is important to the story, stick with me).

WHICH MAN WAS POOR?

Now, the man outside the church and the man sitting beside me could not be more different economically … one rich and one poor, right? The most intriguing difference between the two souls, however, was (the posture of) their souls.
Now, I am in no way judging either man … God alone is judge (2 Corinthians 5:10Matthew 7:1). Based upon the conversations I had with each, though, I'd like to draw a comparison for the purpose of this blog.
In terms of spirituality, the millionaire praying beside me was far more impoverished than the homeless man on the steps because true poverty extends well beyond the wallet.

GOD LOVES POOR PEOPLE MORE?

When our Lord gave us the Sermon on the Mount, He began with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-11) and in those Beatitudes He began with this proclamation:
'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.' (Matthew 5:3)
This is one of those Scripture passages that many people 'know' (meaning, they've heard it before) but countless people fail to understand. My own parochial school teacher taught us that it simply meant God loves poor people 'more.'
Ummm, to put it as charitably and bluntly as possible . . . no, that's not what it means.
God does not love anybody 'more' than another. God loves the prostitute as much as the Pope, the pagan as much as the priest, the atheist as much as the greatest saint. God is perfect Love (1 John 4:8). Sin destroys the relationship, it deadens our capacity to both love and receive God's love, but it does not, in any way, reduce His love.
That being said, physical poverty (material and financial) is often associated with holiness, yes. Jesus, Himself, praised the economically poor on more than one occasion (Luke 4:187:22Matthew 11:25) and He shared in physical hardship often living in a destitute way (Matthew 21:18John 4:6-7Luke 9:58). Truthfully, the Incarnation, itself, is a living example of poverty as God emptied Himself and took on flesh (2 Corinthians 8:9Philippians 2:7-8).
Jesus even teaches that loving the poor is a condition we must fulfill if we are to enter into His Kingdom (Matthew 25:31-46).

WE ARE BEGGARS.

Now, the phrase 'poor in spirit' speaks to an even deeper reality … beyond physical poverty … but to true spiritual poverty. To be poor in spirit means to acknowledge our deepest human need for God and to grow in that longing and that dependence on a daily basis. It's only when we realize how badly we need God and how we are nothing without Him that we become worthy of the Kingdom He promises us (Matthew 5:3); when we realize we are the beggars, our gratitude to the Giver (of life) becomes that much greater.
The Old Testament speaks in several places of this longing for God and His faithfulness in our spiritual poverty. Take a few minutes and pray throughPsalms 34:6Isaiah 61:1, and Zephaniah 2:3, to name a few.
The root of this teaching on spiritual poverty isn't just reserved to the Old Testament, either.
Tell me, do you remember why the Rich Young Man went away downcast (Mark 10:17-31)?
Do you recall why the widow was so praised by Jesus (Luke 21:1-4)?
Do you remember what the apostles were supposed to take with them and rely on during their missionary work (Mark 6:7-12)?

ARE YOU POOR?

That day at the Cathedral I encountered great poverty, to be sure, both outside the church and within its walls. Poverty exists everywhere in our world, on park benches and in cardboard boxes as well as within penthouse apartments and suburban homes. Don't pray for riches. Don't doubt God's love during times of great suffering, either. God's love is constant, regardless of whether it's a 'sunny or rainy' day for you on earth.
The key isn't whether you have money or have it not, but whether you have God or have Him not. As the great St. Francis de Sales put it in his “Introduction to the Devout Life” (which is a must read, by the way):
“Woe then to those who are rich in spirit, for their portion will be hell. He is rich in spirit whose heart is in his riches, and whose riches fill his heart . . . if you possess them, preserve your heart from loving them. Do not, then, complain of your poverty (if you are poor), for we complain only of that which displeases us; and if poverty displeases you, you are no longer poor in spirit, for your heart would rather be otherwise.”
So, blessed are those who realize their constant need for God over, above and beyond everything else. Blessed are those not chained to the material and passing pleasures and luxuries of this finite world. Blessed are those free from anything and everything that would interfere with an ever-growing awe of God's mercy and love. Blessed are those who recognize that no matter how their life is going in the eyes of the world, they are successful in heaven when they are faithful on earth. Blessed are those who need nothing more than God's love and want nothing more than to share that love with all they encounter.
A soul with nothing to lose on earth is a wonderfully dangerous soul, a soul that will lead many to heaven.
Truly blessed are the poor in spirit.
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This circulates through the internet - I'm glad it does:
Why go to Church?
A Church-goer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday.”I’ve gone for 30 years now,” he wrote, “and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them. So, I think I’m wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all.”
This started a real controversy in the “Letters to the Editor” column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:
“I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this. They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!” When you are DOWN to nothing….. God is UP to something! Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible and receives the impossible! Thank God for our physical AND our spiritual nourishment!
All right, now that you’re done reading, send it on!  I think everyone should read this!
“When Satan is knocking at your door, simply say, “Jesus, could you get that for me?”
                                                                                                                               Anonymous

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Apples...author unknown

A few years ago a group of salesmen went to a regional sales 
convention in Chicago .. They had assured their wives that they would be home in 
plenty of time for Friday night's dinner. In their rush to catch the plane home 
and with tickets and briefcases, one of these salesmen inadvertently
kicked over a table which held a display of apples. Apples flew 
everywhere. Without stopping or looking back, they all managed to reach the 
plane in time for their nearly-missed boarding...
 

ALL BUT ONE!!! He paused, took a deep breath, got in touch with his 
feelings and experienced a twinge of compassion for the girl whose apple stand 
had been overturned.
 

He told his buddies to go on without him, waved good-bye, told one of 
them to call his wife when they arrived at their home destination and explain 
his taking a later flight. Then he returned to the terminal where the apples 
were all over the terminal floor.
 

He was glad he did. The 16-year-old girl was totally blind! She was 
softly crying, tears running down her cheeks in frustration, and at the same 
time helplessly groping for her spilled produce as the crowd swirled about her; 
no one stopping and no one to care for her plight.
 

The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put 
them back on the table and helped organize her display. As he did this, he 
noticed that many of them had become battered and bruised; these he set aside in
another basket.
 

When he had finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, 
"Here, please take this $50 for the damage we did. Are you okay?"She nodded 
through her tears. He continued on with, "I hope we didn't spoil your day too
 badly." 

As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered blind girl 
called out to him, "Mister...." He paused and turned to look back into those 
blind eyes. She continued, "Are you Jesus?"
 

He stopped in mid-stride .... and he wondered. He gently went back 
and said, "No, I am nothing like Jesus - He is good, kind, caring, loving, and 
would never have bumped into your display in the first place.
 

"The girl gently nodded: "I only asked because I prayed for Jesus to 
help me gather the apples. He sent you to help me, Thank you for hearing Jesus,
Mister." 

Then slowly he made his way to catch the later flight with that 
question burning and bouncing about in his soul: "Are you Jesus?"
 

Do people mistake you for Jesus?
 

That's our destiny, is it not? To be so much like Jesus that people 
cannot tell the difference as we live and interact with a world that is blind to 
His love, life and grace.
 

If we claim to know Him, we should live, walk and act as He would. 
Knowing Him is more than simply quoting scripture and going to church. It's 
actually living the Word as life unfolds day to day .
 

You are the apple of His eye even though you, too, have been bruised 
by a fall. He stopped what He was doing and picked up you and me on a hill 
called Calvary and paid in full for our damaged fruit.
 

Sometimes we just take things for granted, when we really need to be 
sharing what we know....
 

The nicest 
place to be is in someone's thoughts,
the safest place to be is in someone's prayers,

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, During this season of joy, our hearts are stirred by the beauty, depth and constancy of God's love for each one of us. Truly, God so loved the world that He sent His Son as our Savior (Jn 3: 16). As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Christmas Mass, together with our family gatherings and customs, draws us together in the renewal of that comforting realization. Whether it be the words of the Christmas Gospel, the sight of a lowly manger, the sounds of a cherished carol or, above all, our receiving in Holy Communion the same Savior who was born at Bethlehem, we are deeply moved by the wonder, awe and reassurance that our good God has drawn close to us. In that spirit, families gather to share their joy and love for God and one another. Pope Francis reminds us that the family is a "'center of love' where the law of respect and communion reigns and ... no one is set apart" and that "the family continues to be a school unparalleled in humanity, an indispensible contribution to a just and supportive society." As we reflect on the beauty and meaning of Christmas and as the Church prepares for next Fall's Synod on the Family, the Holy Family is an inspiration and example for us. However, we cannot forget that the Holy Family knew their trials, crises, disappointments and disruptions. From the news of an unplanned pregnancy, to Joseph's initial thought of quietly divorcing Mary, to their separation from family and friends to travel to Bethlehem, to their escape from Herod and flight into Egypt, the Holy Family faced severe challenges. But through it all, they knew that Jesus was with them, and that, by doing God's will as best they could, all would be well. Like Mary, we face our personal challenges. Like the Holy Family, we face family challenges. We too, at times, may be greatly troubled and ask, "How can this be?" In those times, let us remember the enduring meaning of Christmas. God is with us. He loves us. His grace will sustain us if we, like Mary and Joseph, strive to do God's will in our lives for "nothing is impossible for God." May the peace of Christmas always be your blessing and may the consolation of God's presence to you be your strength in times of trial. With every prayerful best wish I remain, Sincerely yours in Christ, Most Reverend Robert J. McManus Bishop of Worcester Christmas 2014
Loving God, You who dwell in our hearts, make for us a cave there in which to hear your voice more distinctly, feel your care more tenderly, understand your will more clearly, and come to know your presence at every moment of our lives with new clarity and new courage, with new faith and new urgency. ++ Enable us to grow in the Benedictine spirit in ways that make us compassionate co-creators of a world in process, creative keepers of the human community, loving listeners to the heartbeat of the world, caring sisters and brothers to its wounded and bringers of peace to a world in distress. ++ Let us sink into your Word, let us nourish it to life, let it lead us beyond the burdens of the day so that we may become the people you desire us to be. Give us hearts where all may enter in, ears to hear your call, hands to do your will, voices to sing your praise and soul enough to recognize You in everything we do. This we ask through the intercession of all the faithful monastics who have gone before us and through the grace of the living God. Amen. — Joan Chittister at www.monasteriesoftheheart.org
and the very best place to be is .........  
in the hands of God.

Comments

Chris Forster said…
Love this! and I am going to share it.
Chris
A Nudge said…
Good, Chris - it is a great answer to why go to church.
Clare Moore said…
So true and two great stories. We are given so much and asked for so little. Bless you. Clare