**This reflection was originally given to the novitiate community on Christmas Day, the pastor asked me to adapt and share it with the local parish for the World Day of Peace, and it was well received so I am sharing it here**
The Christmas season gives us the image of the angels heralding “Peace on earth!” Peace is ultimately why I believe we are here. In serving the Lord and responding to His call, we are bringing some semblance of peace to our restless hearts. As we look out into the world, how will we be called to participate in this mystery of peace?
Look to the Lord made flesh in the crib. As an infant he was least among us. But as we look to His life we see that He was not just vulnerable through the fact that he was a baby, in His whole life He was vulnerable. My brother novice, Nick asked us last week to contemplate the broken or “breakable” Christ, let us pray and discern how we are called to bring peace to the broken Christ hidden among us:
We think of Christ who was homeless, who not only had no place at the inn, but had no place to lay his head when he was a man. How will we bring peace to the homeless?
We think of Christ who was naked and hungry while laying in the manger, and who thirsted on the Cross. How will we bring peace to those who lack for clothing, food, and water in the world?
We think of Christ the child and the youth, who worked his trade under the eyes of St. Joseph, and studied reading and writing in the local place of learning. How will we bring peace to the children and young people in our schools, orphanages, and universities?
We think of Christ the refugee, who though on Christmas night is safe in the crib with his mother, will soon be forced to flee because of a fearful and jealous political figure. How will we bring peace to the refugees and immigrants of the world, both documented and undocumented?
We think of Christ the infant in the womb, who threw Mary and Joseph into the drama of the world’s first recorded crisis pregnancy. How will we bring peace to young women and their unborn children who find themselves in similar crises?
We think of Christ the stranger and the weary guest, whose feet were bathed in tears and anointed by the repentant woman at a dinner party. How will we bring peace to the strangers we encounter, and the guests who come to our door?
We think of Christ as he was abandoned by His friends and those He loved most dearly. How will we bring peace to those who are depressed, seemingly friendless, and alone?
We think of Christ the tortured one. How will we bring peace to those who are persecuted and work for justice in our world?
We think of Christ the condemned criminal, the Christ of death row. How will we bring peace to those in prison and those who are condemned to death at the hands of the State?
We are here because we seek the peace of Christ. We as Church are men and women of the restless heart, called to bring about peace on earth. Let us join the angels in proclaiming, “Pacem en Terris” not with our voices, but with our very lives. Let our restless hearts bring the peace of the birth Christ to all those who have broken hearts. And may peace reign on earth!
When it is hard to be a Christian, it is easy to be a Christian.
When it is easy to be a Christian, it is hard to be a Christian."
— Pope Paul VI
Followers, I gave this reflection to the novitiate community here in Racine this evening at Vespers. Once a week one of the novices gives a reflection, and today was my first time giving it a go. Though there are a few references to the novitiate, I think what is said could be used by any Catholic or person of good will trying to grow as a person and in their faith
The beginning of fall is one of my favorite times of the year. The long summer nights of July and August have come to an end, the sun sets discernibly earlier every day. It strikes me every year at how early the sun seems to be setting now, as if by the time December comes around the sun will begin to set before it rises. Nature imitates the cosmos changing as well, the leaves begin to change to multiple hues of red, gold, and yellow; the air in the morning develops a cool and refreshing “bite”. These short weeks are truly a gift from God, because they come and go very quickly before the winter begins to set in. I think what I like about the fall is the beauty and grace with which nature prepares itself to die.
What better place to meditate upon this ballet of the cosmos and mother nature than the novitiate? This gifted time that is set aside for us, in which we are called to die to ourselves and grow in interiority with the Lord. The novitiate year, to me in a spiritual sense, is a long fall rather than the barren winter we tend to perceive novitiate as being.
Our times of fellowship, prayer, Eucharist, and solitude are designed to help us to take on the “long fall” that we must undergo in order to be faithful brothers in our Order. We may initially resist this purging and try and hold onto the illusory joys of past summers. The enticements of our lives before the novitiate are many and alluring. I encourage you not to look back. We must enter into the mystery of the fall season, which is the mystery of dying with grace.
The Church supports us as we enter into this time of graced dying. Notice how when the leaves begin to change the Church celebrates the Feast of the Archangels followed three days later by the Feast of the Guardian Angels; as creation dies we call upon the intercession of God’s highest creatures so that we too can imitate the leaves, and watch our bad habits fall to the wayside. The Church also presents to us some of our greatest saints who truly imitated the falling leaves as they died to themselves: the Little Flower, Francis of Assisi, and Teresa of Avila. In this we are reminded that we are not alone in our purgative journey. The angels support us in our battle, and the saints provide the path and example we are to follow.
Just as we take pleasure and watching the leaves change and fall, imagine our heavenly Father watching us as we change. The mystery of our graced death in imitation of creation is something we are all called to enter into. God sees the colors, so to say, of the multitude of humanity ridding itself of our false selves. This clears the way for God to bring about a springtime in each of us.
So I ask:
What are the leaves on your tree of life which must fall to the wayside in this novitiate year?
Can you imagine God smiling upon you as you change your colors?
Are you willing to imitate creation in dying to yourself, so that God may bring about a springtime in you?
— (via thethirdwaybook)
Mark Shea just linked to my blog post from a few weeks back :) an excerpt:
Having just returned from my Brazilian pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Rio, I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on my journey and the many sights, smells, and sounds I encountered along the way. I began to meditate upon the Stations of the Cross event at Copacabana beach presided by Pope Francis. Looking back at it, millions of young people were meditating on the sufferings Christ endured as He was led to his death. I started to think of the fact that we were watching Jesus being tortured, and how this should challenge all Christians today.
Stations of the Cross are always deeply challenging and moving. Here is Innocence itself wrongly pronounced guilty, purity beaten and spat upon, Goodness attacked with the vileness of the world. As we meditate on Christ on the road to Calvary, is it any wonder why we as Christians should stand against torture in all its forms? Our Lord was beaten, whipped, flogged, scourged, humiliated, mocked, and reviled; Our Lord was tortured. It must follow then that we who follow Him must enter into His sufferings and work to ensure that they are never inflicted on anyone again.
Last week I asked if my followers would be interested in a political reading list, and you all responded my requesting a Catholic summer reading list! With the help of @Nonjeneregrette here are a list of books for all sorts of readers (beginner to advanced). Please share this list so it gets seen, one of these books may be just what someone needs right now.
1) Tattoos on the Heart, Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ. This book is perfect for readers of any faith and reading level. It is especially appropriate for Latinos as there is much “spanglish” throughout the text. This book is an incredibly moving account of Fr. Greg’s ministry to the Latino gangs and at-risk youth of Los Angeles. You will cry. My parents read this book and both raved about it (and my dad hardly ever reads books), they now support Homeboy Industries when they can in LA area supermarkets.
2) Searching for God at Ground Zero, Fr. James Martin, SJ. This is a short book at ~90 pages. But it is a moving and poignant account of Fr. James’ ministry to the First Responders in the days immediately following the attack. It is very deep, and yet can easily be read in one sitting.
3) This Our Exile, Fr. James Martin, SJ. This book is the fruit of Fr. Martin’s (then Br. Martin) work with refugees in East Africa for two years. I believe it is also what began his writing career as he got sick towards the end of his time there and began writing. If you have ever thought about what it would be like to be a missionary in Africa, or the vibrant life of the Church there, this book is for you.
4) Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau, Mr Jean Bernard. Many people do not know that thousands of Catholic priests were sent to Nazi death camps by the Nazi regime for speaking out against their crimes against humanity. This memoir is told through the eyes of a priest from Luxembourg, who describes in harrowing detail the trials, humilitations, and inhumane conditions that all, but especially the priests, were forced to endure. This book is graphic and will challenge you in many ways as you encounter the great evils endured by the men of these camps.
1) My Life With the Saints, Fr. James Martin, SJ. Easily his most popular book, this is a must read for any Catholic of every reading level. Get introduced to over 20 saints in a moving and funny spiritual memoir. Everyone I have given this book to has loved it, and it was the catalyst that inspired a young mom to become Catholic.
2) The Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila. Teresa is a Doctor of the Church and this is her most influential work. This book is for advanced readers.
3) The Story of a Soul, St. Therese of Lisieux. Also a Doctor of the Church, this is the only book we have written by The Little Flower. The work only spread after her death at 23 years old, and captivated readers around the world with her account on her relationship with God and her “Little Way”. I recommend this book especially to young Catholic women.
Life of Christ, Venerable Fulton Sheen. This is my favorite book on Jesus. Fulton Sheen is the Shakespeare of Catholic literature, and I highly recommend it especially to those who studied English Lit, poetry, etc. There is a story that Bl. Mother Teresa carried this book with her at all times. It is probably the book the Fulton Sheen is most well known for.
The Future Church, John Allen Jr. In my opinion, John Allen is the best American Catholic journalist in the business today. This is his book on ten major trends that he sees in the Church today, and how they will play out in the Church generations from now. If you enjoy political or social commentary, this book is for you. It would also make a great book club book with another friend or two, discussing a chapter or two at a time.
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, Thomas Woods, Jr. This is the perfect book for any Catholic history geek. Mr. Woods details and charts the growth of Western Civilization and how it was nurtured and encouraged by the Church through monasteries, universities, and seminaries.
Hail Holy Queen, Scott Hahn. The perfect book on Mary for Catholic readers of all reading levels. This is probably my favorite book by the author. This book is great for sharing with anyone who has a devotion to Mary or wants to learn more about her.
The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God, Venerable Fulton Sheen. Sheen reports in the foreword of this book that this is his personal favorite work. Using the fullness of his literary and artistic skill, Sheen weaves a master work of love in honor of Our Blessed Mother. Reading level: moderate to advanced.
The True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, St. Louis de Montfort. For those with an intense love of Mary and devotion to the rosary, this book is probably central to most traditional Catholic devotion to Mary. I would recommend reading this under the guidance of spiritual direction.
Catholic Fiction and Other
Sinner, Lino Rulli. This is a book for the men in your life. Your boyfriend who is Catholic but not really into his faith, or your dad who’s gone to Church his whole life but has never read a Catholic book before. They will love this book. It’s all about Lino and his life trying and screwing up at being Catholic. It isn’t preachy. I led a parish group through this in a book club, and some of the women didn’t like him and others loved him. I think it’s really because he writes from a male perspective. I shared this with my Catholic roommate who fit the “dad” description above last year and he really loved it. The perfect gift for any Catholic guy in your family.
The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky. For advanced readers and lovers of literature, one of the best books on the beauty and ugliness of life. The masterwork of one of Russia’s best authors. Not “Catholic” perse but the book has multiple religious themes, especially in regards to the search for God a midst the great suffering we encounter in our lives.
When the Well Runs Dry and Drinking From a Dry Well, Thomas Green, SJ. I am adding these books here for anyone who is active in their faith but is struggling to hear God in their life. These books are written through Fr. Green’s experience as a spiritual director in a Filipino Seminary and various religious sisters and their struggles in finding God. I recommend reading it with the guidance of a spiritual director.
UPDATE: Two bishops freed by Syrian rebels.
Thank you for your prayers, I will post more on the Syria conflict later.
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Two prominent Syrian bishops, who had warned of the threat to religious tolerance and diversity from the two-year conflict in their country, were kidnapped on Monday by armed rebels
Please pray for the safety of the two bishops.
In related news, the Obama administration has promised an additional $123 million in aid to Syrian rebel forces, which are full of Al Qaeda linked extremist groups.
disgruntled-and-catholic said: What do you think is the appropriate course of action/inaction in this situation?
The exact opposite of what Obama, his State Department, and the Pentagon are doing. We should be very clear that we have no intention of war, rather than flying bombers near their border, sending Navy ships into the theatre, etc. These are moves by the US to intimidate and threaten North Korea. Imagine how we would feel if North Korea flew planes and sent ships just off our coast!
Secondly, we should make clear the absolutely, under no circumstances, would we ever send foreign aid to North Korea. To make our point clear, we would eliminate all foreign aid spending all over the world. Foreign aid has just ended up being used by dictators and warlords to amass fortunes and divide their people. Eliminating foreign aid would immediately remove any incentive for North Korea to act crazy. North Korea continues to act crazy because they know that eventually they’ll be able to get money out of us like they have in the past.
We should then immediately lift all trade and economic sanctions on North Korea. Any American or American business should be completely and totally free to trade with North Korea and travel there. Should North Korea block these overtures, that will be their problem rather than ours. History has always shown that countries that have vibrant trade relationships tend to stay at peace. Our economic sanctions are starving their people and allow their leadership to maintain power. This is always true in any country on which we have placed sanctions. Sanctions always devastate the population rather than harm the political leadership we claim to hate: see Iraq where our sanctions killed over 500,000 children in the 1990s, see Iran where simple googling will show many instances of our sanctions wrecking havoc on hospitals and the food security of the people. Sanctions are the moral equivalent of starving children because their father got a DUI. They are repugnant and should not be supported by any Christian.
Those things would be a good start.
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