Monday, September 26, 2016

What is Meditating on Christ?

Bl. John Henry Newman, pray for us!

“What is meditating on Christ?  It is simply this,
thinking habitually and constantly of Him
and of His deeds and sufferings. 

“It is to have Him before our minds
as One whom we may contemplate, worship, and address
when we are at home and abroad,
when we are working, or walking, or at rest,
when we are alone, and again, when we are in company;
this is meditating.

“And by this, and nothing short of this,
will our hearts come to feel as they ought. 
We have stony hearts, hearts as hard as the highways;
the history of Christ makes no impression on them.

“And yet, if we would be saved,
we must have tender, sensitive, living hearts;
our hearts must be broken up like ground and dug,
and watered, and tended, and cultivated,
till they become as gardens, gardens of Eden, acceptable to our God,
gardens in which the Lord God may walk and dwell.”

+Blessed John Henry Newman

Monday, September 19, 2016

Looking to Jesus: The Vocation of the Family (AL, Ch. 3)

Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation on Marriage and Family

How many times does the Holy Father use the word "tenderness" throughout chapter three of The Joy of Love?  Enough to focus our attention on the interpretive lens he wants us to use when thinking about Christian teaching on marriage and the family:

"The mystery of the Christian family
can be fully understood only in light of
the Father's infinite love revealed in Christ,
who gave himself up for our sake
and who continues to dwell in our midst."
(AL, n. 59)

This Trinitarian tenderness stands at the heart of the Church's vision for marriage.  The gift of the Son continues to flow through the outpouring of the Spirit in the spousal covenant of marriage, now redeemed and restored by Jesus (nn. 62-63).

The Trinitarian roots of marriage and family also shines forth in Pope Francis' reminder that "The family is the image of God, who is a communion of persons" (n. 71). Thus, the Sacrament of Marriage draws husband and wife into communion not only with each other, but also with the Lord: 

"In accepting each other, and with Christ's grace,
the engaged couple promise each other total self-giving,
faithfulness and openness to new life...
The sacrament is not a 'thing' or a 'power,'
for in it Christ himself 'now encounters Christian spouses...
He dwells with them, gives them the strength
to take up their crosses and so follow him,
to rise after they have fallen,
to forgive one another, to bear one another's burdens'."

(n. 73)

Needless to say, Pope Francis is not some out-of touch idealist. He is painfully aware of the "imperfection" and "complexity of various situations." He responds, therefore, in the most really-real way possible--that is, by emphasizing the always-greater reality of God's grace: "Seeing things with the eyes of Christ inspires the Church's pastoral care for the faithful who are living together, or are only married civilly, or are divorced and remarried. Following this divine pedagogy, the Church...seeks the grace of conversion for them; the encourages them to do good, to take loving care of each other and to serve the community in which they live and work" (n. 78). 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Fifteen Years Later...

Everyone who is old enough remembers where they were fifteen years ago on 9/11.  For those who lost family members or friends, for those who were eyewitnesses, for those who were among the first responders...the day is literally and figuratively seared in their hearts.

With so many reflections and remembrances to ponder, perhaps our most patriotic gesture in commemorating this tragic day is to keep the survivors and the family members of victims in our prayers.


For some reason, this year's anniversary brought out a host of new questions: What if I were among those who called out sick that day and didn't go into work at the World Trade Center?  What if someone else on my team had volunteered to make a sales call in my place, or delivered the food order to help simplify my route, and so my life was spared?

What if someone had led me out of the building, and I know that I could have never done it by myself? It seems that fifteen years would feel like the blink of an eye. I would like to think that my gratitude would still be overwhelming--and that in some meaningful way I would try to honor the memory of whomever had played such a role in saving my life.

I wonder if such a thought experiment could help me grow in a deeper appreciation of Jesus' gift of self on the Cross.  If I put myself in Barabbas' place, recognizing that I was the guilty one somehow set free, might I  appreciate that Innocent One was on Calvary that day instead of me?  If I put myself in the Beloved Disciple's place, might I begin to see the Scriptures being fulfilled before my own eyes:

"...he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity.
He bore the punishment that makes us whole,
by his wounds we were healed." (Is 53:5)

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Only Adequate Response amid Political and Cultural Confusion

“Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses
than to teachers,
and if he does listen to teachers,
it is because they are witnesses.”

(Bl. Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 41)

Chas Fagan's St. Teresa of Kolkata

The witness of our newest St. Teresa is simple but provocative: It was the decision to do little things with great love--for the Lord's beloved least, those who are most undesirable and most unwanted.

The great love with which Mother Teresa rattled the world was simply a matter of willing the good of those who are most in need.  It was a matter of loving those who are most Other, those who are most despised, those who are most easily dismissed and discarded.

This is the answer in a world seemingly turned upside down and inside out.  It is the necessary and sufficient Response to increasing turmoil; it is the only way to right-size the disorders of our day. 

Indeed, the way of self-sacrificing love changes everything it touches.  It provides a piercing new perspective on those whom we may have previously feared or written off or ignored.

So, in honor of St. Teresa of Kolkata, perhaps we might consider naming those whom are the least in the world as we see it today.  Are they: 
  • immigrants and refugees?  
  • the elderly or the unborn or the incarcerated?  
  • the unemployed or the underemployed?
  • the homeless or the home-bound? 
  • those trying to survive in violent neighborhoods or in failing schools?
  • the disabled or those with special needs of any kind?
  • addicts of all kinds?
If we actually dared to identify those most in danger of being dismissed as "unclean" or "unworthy," then we would be poised to find some small thing to do on their behalf.  If we could do just one small thing with great love, we would walk the path of Mother Teresa, sharing the love of Jesus with those on the margins.

Perhaps it would be praying for our these little ones of the Lord--it's a spiritual work of mercy, after all.  Perhaps it would be finding some way to learn more about their perspective or their challenges, to find points of contact where we might make some small gesture of solidarity on their behalf.

Isn't it time to take measure of our love?  If it is to be truly Christian love, then it cannot stop with our family and friends. Indeed, to paraphrase a quote from St. Francis de Sales, one which Mother Teresa seemed to embody: "The measure of love is to will the good of the Other, without measure."

St. Teresa of Kolkata, pray for us!

P.S. Mark your calendars for Friday, 9.9.16, and join Catholics around the U.S. in a small gesture filled with great love--a National Day of Prayer for peace in our communities!