Monday, March 28, 2016

How to Share the Joy of Easter

The Lord is risen as He said, Alleluia!

Have you heard Pope Francis' observation that "There are some Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter" (EG, n. 6)?  Here's a simple simple strategy for avoiding such a fate, from Fr. Michael Gaitley's practical guide to mercy in action, You Did It To Me (pp. 42-44)

The Apostolate of Smiling

     Cheers your heart
     Keeps you in good humor
     Preserves peace in your heart
     Promotes your health
     Beautifies your face
     Induces kindly thoughts
     Inspires kindly deeds.

     Until you notice that your constant
     seriousness or even severity has vanished.

     Until you have warmed your own heart with
     the sunshine of your cheery countenance.
     Then...go out--and radiate your smile.

     Has work to do--work to do for God.

You are an apostle now,
and your smile is your instrument for winning souls.

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Merciful Gaze Up On the Cross

What our Savior Saw from the Cross, J. Tissot

"And many a sad hour later
He climbed a tree at last,
And there, his great heart breaking,
He hung, a poor outcast."

"His love was still unfailing
His arms he opened wide,
And there in love he suffered
And there in love he died."

The Poems of St. John of the Cross—Songs of the Soul,
trans. Kathleen Jones (London, 1993), p. 65

For a more contemporary yet similarly powerful meditation on Good Friday,
check out these masterpieces from the
Six Accounts Leading up to Christ's Death on the Cross

Monday, March 14, 2016

"Unless you turn and become like children..."

Hypothetically speaking, of course, is it wrong for a grown man to celebrate his birthday with child-like glee?  Even as the numbers get bigger and rounder?

Sure, it may sound distasteful.  But is it wrong?!  Or, to put it more positively, under what circumstances might it be acceptable? 

Before I offer a brief apologia in defense of what may seem defenseless, allow me to acknowledge that this path is risky.  No one wants to see those who should be "grown up" acting in a childish fashion, or reverting to pathetic quasi-adolescent behavior.  There are certainly enough wild egotists running rampant these days; no need to encourage them.

But for those who might look to expand their birthday festivities into a week or octave--or perhaps a fabulous fortnight--here are four rationales or motivations for actually enjoying one's birthday as the years fly by:
  • Don't dig me, dig Him(!): It would be better for needy middle-aged folk to avoid marking their birthdays all together if it devolves into a sad celebration of self.  But what if the aging and graying among us are actually grateful to the One Who Is, for sharing the gift of Existence itself?  Wouldn't it be it a good and holy thing to revel in Life and to give glory to the Giver?

  • Gratitude with an Attitude: Sure, humility is still one of the fundamental Christian virtues, so the ageing and graying who want to light up the birthday cake better beware. However, don't children specialize in humility?  Isn't it possible to be so filled with thanksgiving for all that one has been given that a certain over-exuberance wells up from one's heart? (Without a fifteen yard penalty for excessive celebration, of course...)

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Merciful Father and our Innner "Older Brother"

At various points in our lives, the Good Shepherd throws us on his shoulders and carries us home.  Like the Prodigal Son, we receive a lavish welcome back--the grace of a new beginning.
However, once we've returned, we often run the risk of becoming the "older brother." We find ourselves called to be merciful like the Father, but often feel that it is easier to ask for mercy than to show it.

In point of fact, Jesus' most powerful parable about the Merciful Father is directed to the Pharisees and Scribes of his day--the consummate "older brother" crowd.  These seemingly committed "insiders" provide the immediate context for the parable by complaining about both the content and the methods of Jesus' teaching: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Lk 15:2).

In response, Jesus essentially throws a medley of mercy at them, culminating in the parable most commonly known as the Prodigal Son.  Yet what if those of us who hear the story today are supposed to consider the Merciful Father not just from the perspective of the lost son, but also from the perspective of the haunting "older brother"?


The best of the Pharisees and Scribes must have heard the start of the parable about the lost son with a dawning sense of familiarity:  Yes, good Teacher, you are reminding me of my own wayward days as a youth. I recall how demanding I was of my father, how I rejoiced in and abused my freedom, how the life of dissipation seemed to come so naturally. 

Such Pharisees and Scribes might have even remembered their own bottom out moments—starving to death while tending the unclean swine!  They may have fondly recalled their process of conversion, their commitment to apologize, and their journey home.

Jesus’ relentless feasting with sinners could have open their eyes to the fact that their turn from the path of sin was never primarily about their change of heart.  It was about the merciful heart of the Father--the prevenient grace of the Lord--drawing them ineluctably home.  It was the presupposed conviction that mercy awaited them, even if it ended up exceeding all their expectations.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Special Update: 24 Hours of Reconciliation

GOT MERCY?  Catholic dioceses around the world will mark Friday, March 4th and Saturday, March 5th, as part of Pope Francis' "24 Hours for the Lord" initiative--making the Sacrament of Reconciliation as widely available as possible.

GET MERCY!  Below is the list of Confession times at regional churches in the Diocese of Joliet; for other dioceses around the country, just google "Diocese of X, Reconciliation on March 4th."