Did you ever catch yourself secretly wondering whether or not God really, really has our best interest at heart? It is so easy to slip into thinking that doing the will of God is automatically tantamount to a life of suffering and woe. Instead, Jesus came to bring us life – abundant life! As Pope Francis reminds us we are called to encounter and become messengers of the joy of the Gospel!
Paradoxically, however, we have to admit that the kingdom of God that Jesus preached and lived out in his own life does put us in the pathway of suffering and even conflict. Blessed are the poor, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness… (see Matthew 5:1-11)–these are not the values of the business-as-usual-world and we shouldn’t be surprised when we find opposition. In the face of this where do we find encouragement and confidence in following God’s loving plan for our lives?
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Pope Francis is giving the Church – and the whole world – the gift of the canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II. Both of these men teach us with their lives and their words that a life of holiness is a life of deep confidence in God’s love for us.
As the editor for the Classic Wisdom Collection, I was delighted when two of my colleagues volunteered to prepare a book each for this series. Sr. Donna Giaimo compiled Secret to Happiness: Wisdom from John XXIII and Sr. Lorraine Trouvé worked on Be Not Afraid: Wisdom from John Paul II. Like the other titles in this series, Secret to Happiness and Be Not Afraid are short but substantial collections of writings about the spiritual life lived out in the real world. They both address overlapping issues of confidence, humility and trust in God. Let their words and their example inspire you!
Sr. Sean Mayer, FSPRead More
Inspired by the ancient monastic way of praying with Scripture, Cinema Divina is a prayerful viewing of a movie in light of the Word of God, followed by a time of reflection on how God might be speaking to us through both the Scripture and the story.Read More
Once a year where I come from there is a huge county fair. Pumpkins piled high, baked goods, and horses, cattle, and every kind of farm animal await the visitors. More subdued yet no less attractive are displays of lovely model homes. These always feature the newest “built-in” appliances: dishwasher, freezer/refrigerator, and stove. But no matter how lovely and appealing the kitchens with the built-in luxuries appear, reality sets in at the first meal. The food in the freezer has to be defrosted; the stove can collect spills; the dishwasher has to be loaded and unloaded; the fridge has to be checked almost daily to keep things fresh.. Even a shiny kitchen has its hidden “cross” of unpleasantries.
As a teenager, I imagined my own personal cross might come fifty years later: perhaps some colossal battle with cancer or some other enormous suffering. After all I had been healthy, active—a horseback rider, a busy student. It hadn’t occurred to me that bearing the burden of the cross comes built-in with any walk of life, any age, or circumstance. I smile when I recall a clever skit put on by some of our sisters. The act opened with a room full of Styrofoam crosses. The sisters on stage were invited to pick whichever cross they felt suited them.. Some hugged tiny crosses; others lifted large crosses as though they were trophies. Each sister had a different size. Of course size did not matter, since the weight amounted to next to nothing. We laughed when the skit was over because all the participants tried to choose the crosses that suited them best.
Now way beyond my teens, I wonder no longer when the cross will come. I discovered my built-in cross: the effort it takes me to control reactions or responses to annoyances, to be pleasant when I feel cranky, to squelch a nasty remark just when it seems to be perfect timing. All these are ways of taking up my cross—even if it be only made of Styrofoam! Read more >>Read More
We’ve heard it a thousand times: “Go out to all the world and tell the good news” (Mark 16:15). But what is this “Good News” that we are supposed to be proclaiming? At the heart our Catholic Faith is all about Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, who loves us and for us was born, lived, died and is risen.
In his forthcoming bookMeeting Jesus Christ: Meditations on the Word,Monsignor J Brian Bransfield shows us how Jesus invites each of us to a personal relationship of discipleship. As we spend time with Jesus, we get to know him, and we are drawn to follow him and tell others about him.
Sr. Sean Mayer, FSP
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Mt 9:9–13, NAB)
So far, it has been an ordinary workday at the customs post and table. Over the years the shadow of many people fell over his table. They all came, young and old, healthy and sick, wealthy and poor. They had one thing in common: they always walked away poorer, while Matthew walked away richer. He dismissed their excuses and took their money. Not that Matthew ever really noticed any of them, for he had other things on his mind. People were numbers, and the numbers fit in well-defined columns. Matthew’s ledger had many columns to be filled in, debts to settle, and money to be made. And where money takes over, there is little room for anything—or anyone—else. But today, a new shadow falls over Matthew’s tax table. Another account is about to come due.
As Jesus passed on from there . . . (Mt 9:9)
Consider the contrast. Jesus is on the move while Matthew sits still. It is as if the new movement of Jesus and the old stubbornness of Matthew collide, sparking new life. Jesus is near, but the moment will not last long. The Lord moves in slow motion, the din of the crowd fades away. Time itself begins to watch. The tables are about to turn.
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. (Mt 9:9)
And in this prolonged moment, something happens. Jesus sees Matthew and says, “Follow me” (Mt 9:9). From Matthew’s immediate response—“And he got up and followed him” (Mt 9:9)—it is clear that Matthew also saw Jesus. And in this mutual seeing something occurs. Something instantaneous takes place. Matthew totters on the brink of death-life. In this moment Matthew has a personal experience of God and sees that only in Jesus can Matthew accomplish all that God asks of him. In this daily moment he sees his life in its real context. The call is the free initiative of God’s grace that illuminates Matthew’s entire and total existence. Matthew makes an act of faith in response to the word of Jesus. Saint Paul tells us, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). The act of living faith is not a narrow, robot-like automatic response as if Matthew’s freedom is overridden, replaced, or destroyed. Quite the contrary, the look of Jesus enters Matthew’s heart, past all of its history, pain, and sin, and pierces it to the core. He has “shone in our hearts” (2 Cor 4:6).
Saint Theresa Benedicta of the Cross explains that at certain moments in our life, through God’s action we perceive through supernatural light a spiritual vision that is “much sharper and far clearer than corporeal vision. It is like the sudden illumination by a bolt of lightning, that in a dark night allows things to stand out clear and distinct for a moment. Read more >>
Books by the Author:
Keep the faith!
Believe the teachings of the Faith!
At least three things seem to be communicated by these statements: trust, perseverance, and orthodox belief. And indeed, when it comes to understanding faith, this may be how most would define this virtue.
Instead, I like to imagine faith as a diamond. Have you ever held a diamond up to the light? The cut of a diamond determines its beauty and quality in part by the way the cut disperses light into the colors of the visible spectrum, seen as flashes of color. And so I love the way Pope Francis begins his study of the faith by holding it up before the reader so that he or she sees a myriad of different flashes of color when it comes to understanding faith. He shows, starting in the first part of the encyclical an understanding of faith that is biblical and reaches far back into the ancient history of the Chosen People, back all the way to the book of Genesis and the faith of the Patriarch Abraham. It is with this great Patriarch that Pope Francis begins his unfolding to the reader of the riches of “faith,” and then he takes up the figure of Moses.
Abraham. If my superior said to me, “Sr. Kathryn, I am missioning you to another house of our community somewhere in the world. I’m not telling you which one, but I’m calling you to start travelling from one to another till you arrive at the one I’ve chosen for you,” I’d leave her office thinking she was crazy. What a huge waste of time and energy! Certainly the mission demands more efficiency and organization than that! Abraham heard a message from a God who personally spoke to him and said, “Abraham, go forth to the land I will show you.” Notice God didn’t give him a city or country as a destination. He didn’t say how long it would take. In fact, Abraham kept traveling most of his life, betting everything on the promises this God made to him. He entered into God’s horizons for him. He lived on the promise of the future…you could say he constantly remembered–not the past–but the future. He kept his desire alive. When he was asked by this God to sacrifice his only son Isaac, the only guarantee Abraham had of the descendants that were supposed to be more than the sands on the seashore, he believed that God’s fidelity to his promises would extend even beyond death.
Abraham is our father in faith, and like a good father he teaches us, his children in faith, that God is always calling us to an exodus, into an unforeseen future. Pope Francis says in a lovely line, “faith ‘sees’ to the extent that it journeys, that it chooses to enter into the horizons opened up by God’s word” (LF 9). Like Abraham we can risk entrusting ourselves to the fidelity of God to us, putting ourselves into the hands of a faithful God, who will call us to do things, go places, and become persons that are outside of what we think should or could be. God asks us to trust him, even when we can’t understand. All we need to do is follow the Voice that personally calls us and trust in God’s reliability.
Moses. Here we see another journey. On this journey, however, in which the people of Israel are led out of Egypt, God leads them, as he says, carrying them as a child. He accomplishes great liberating deeds. In this process God establishes Moses as a mediator and forms his people as a community as they learn to journey together in unity. Living in a community under the guidance of a mediator calls for a special aspect of faith that is important to reflect on for us, since we also live and have faith within community. We don’t live or believe as individuals. Truth, under this aspect, then, is understood to be greater than ourselves. It takes a particular humility to be part of the vision of others. It is not a vote I cast on whether I agree with the mediator or not, it is a gift I receive in grateful wonder. Faith in this perspective thrives when we live in a constant willingness to be transformed, to seek understanding, to struggle with the issues, to clarify our motivations. Again Pope Francis makes a great point: “Here mediation is not an obstacle, but an opening: through our encounter with others, our gaze rises to a truth greater than ourselves…. Faith is God’s free gift, which calls for humility and the courage to trust and to entrust; it enables us to see the luminous path leading to the encounter of God and humanity: the history of salvation” (LF 14).
What stands out most to me regarding faith, in the light of Abraham and Moses, is that faith both takes me beyond my own horizons and deeply satisfies what most authentically responds to my core desires as a person. Faith leads me to the certainty that God intervenes in human history, that our history, my history becomes sacred and salvific because of God’s presence and love for me.
by Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP
To be continued.Read More
Yesterday, Pope Francis published his first encyclical Light of Faith. In a matter of a few weeks it will be available in English from Pauline Books and Media (for now you can check it out on the Vatican’s website). As I began reading the document I was struck by the Pope’s opening reflection on light and thought it was perfect for this first of our summer newsletters. He states at the outset that the pagan world hungered for light and developed the cult of the sun god, Sol Invictus, whom they invoked each day at sunrise. As much as the sun shed light on the world, however, “it was clearly incapable of casting its light on all of human existence.”
As you spend some days on vacation, at the beach or in your backyard, let the sun be a springboard for reflection. On a simple level we can feel its warmth, notice the way the sunshine lights up the area around us or shifts as the sun moves across the sky. Even shadows are beautiful. As wondrous as sunlight is, however, it cannot illuminate all of reality. Most importantly, Pope Francis says, “its rays cannot penetrate to the shadow of death, the place where men’s eyes are closed to the light” (no. 1). Read more >>Read More