Bakhita came to know a totally different kind of "master"—in Venetian dialect, which she was now learning, she used the name "paron" for the living God, the God of Jesus Christ. Up to that time she had known only masters who despised and maltreated her, or at best considered her a useful slave. Now, however, she heard that there is a "paron" above all masters, the Lord of all lords, and that this Lord is good, goodness in person. She came to know that this Lord even knew her, that he had created her—that he actually loved her. She too was loved, and by none other than the supreme "Paron", before whom all other masters are themselves no more than lowly servants. She was known and loved and she was awaited. What is more, this master had himself accepted the destiny of being flogged and now he was waiting for her "at the Father's right hand". Now she had "hope" —no longer simply the modest hope of finding masters who would be less cruel, but the great hope: "I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me—I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good." Through the knowledge of this hope she was "redeemed", no longer a slave, but a free child of God.
St. Bakhita, you traveled a path of freedom
Found in the cooling waters of Baptism.
Please pray for me to the "Good Master".
I too am a slave, chained to my addiction,
My mind longs for freedom, my past has broken this child.
I surrender to His Love, may His Will be mine,
Take my hand, quiet serene Bakhita, intercede on my behalf.
Serenity is my longing, peace my final goal.
The chains are more than I can bear,
In His Hope I can be redeemed,
Help me to trust His Love and to find comfort in His arms.
Ask the Mother of us all, to hold me in her mantle,
And guide me through the storms.
The soft shore of Love is near at hand.
Oh, universal sister, my sister too, pray for me.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Today on Sept. 11, many of us will remember the cross that hung so heavy over New York City, so many families that still carry a cross of remembrance and loneliness, having lost a loved one. I recall the "Cross of 9/11", made from metal beams recovered and mounted by the firemen.
I am looking ahead to my own cross, Sept. 14th, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. This day is the anniversary of the death of my mother when I was 15 and she was just 54. What I remember most are the many crosses she bore throughout her life. Her father died when she 12, leaving a mother who supported her family on a policeman's pension during the great depression. My mother worked hard and became a teacher. She loved children and taught for ten years, suddenly she had a seizure in the classroom. She was diagnosed with epilepsy, and her teaching license was revoked. She managed to get a clerical job for the government and married at 36. She had two children my brother, John and myself. When he was five years old, he came down with leukemia. In 1960 there was no chemotherapy, so he died in a few short months. In her life she had known loss at a young age, poverty and the humiliation suffered from it, the loss of her health, her career, and then her child. But through all this I remember her joy, her trust in Our Blessed Mother, and Hope in the promises of our Lord. She never strayed from God's love or at least I never saw it. She died a peaceful death with my father at her side. She was a third order Servite. They have a great devotion to our Lady of Sorrows, so it was fitting she should pass to God on the eve of Our Lady of Sorrows on Sept. 15th.
It seemed to me that her greatest gift was one of acceptance, "God's in His Heaven, all is right with the world", these were her words when things got difficult. To carry what God gives us without regret, but with gratitude. To be able to see the Cross as part of His plan for her and her sanctity, and to assist Him in the sanctification of others through her acceptance of His Divine Will. This is what I learned from watching her life. Eleanor Westermeyer was a woman of dignity and conviction. She believed, therefore she trusted, and in that trust sprung eternal hope.
She discovered that the Cross is the sign of life, renewal, affirmation and joy, not of death, repression, negation and the refusal of life. She realized that contained within the pierced Heart of Jesus was all the Love of the Father, and His Mercy was poured out on all. She could bring the deep hurts within her to the Crucifix. May we all be able to do the same.
September 11, 2009
Lay Canossian Annual Retreat
I just spent the past weekend with lay Canossians at Christ the King retreat center, in the Sacramento area. The lay Canossians from San Francisco drive in for the three days, at least as many that can. The Sacramento group consists of six areas. Since the Parishes are spread out, the monthly meetings occur in smaller groups for convenience of the members, but this is the time for all to gather together.
It was a wonderful three days, meeting new people and seeing familiar faces that I met last August when I made my first Promises at the same retreat center.
This year there were seven new vocations that made first Promises, three men and four women. And what are the Promises you may ask, to live our baptismal consecration for the glory of the Father, and to proclaim the love of Jesus Crucified to those most in need, following the example of St. Magdalene of Canossa.
Since I am the only one from Oregon, it gives me a deep sense of belonging, something akin to a family reunion.
Saturday evening Sr. Margaret gave a wonderful talk about the Blessed Mother, in honor of the Queenship of Mary, it was followed by a living rosary. All of us in a circle, each representing a bead on the rosary, as we went around reciting our part we lit a candle that each was given. The lights were out except for one small spotlight on a statue of Mary in the center. At the end we were a living glow of her love for each one of us, as we sang Ave Maria.
Sunday, during Mass, we renew our Promises as a group, and the first Promises are made individually, where they receive the Mother of Sorrows Crucifix on a chain placed around their neck, also our Mother of Sorrows rosary and the statutes. There are a few tears of joy shed at this time, with congratulations from everyone at the end of Mass.
Afterwards we all go our separate ways, but with a deepening awareness of Christ's Love in our hearts that has been placed there by our Canossian sisters and brothers. "For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt 19:20). And this is never more palpable then at a Canossian gathering.
Now, we are sent, so we go forth, all for the Glory of God.
May Jesus bless you and keep you.
September 10, 2009
I received a newsletter from the 12-step review that included a book recommendation, that I want to pass on.
Addiction and Grace, love and spirituality in the healing of addiction written by Gerald May M.D.
It details the various addictions from which we suffer---not only to alcohol and drugs, but also to work sex, performance, responsibility, and intimacy. As an experienced psychiatrist working with the chemically dependent, Dr. Mary offers a critical yet hopeful guide to a place of freedom based on contmplative spirituality. He defines addiction as"a state of compulsion, obsession, or preoccupation that enslaves a person's will and desire"(p.14). While addictions to alcohol and drugs are obvious and tragic, everything--- ideas, work, relationships, power, moods, fantasies, etc., holds the potential to become an object of addiction. For this reason, Dr. May states that "no addiction is good;no attachment is beneficial. To be sure, some are more destructive thatn others...[but they all have this in common, they] impede human freedom and diminish the human spirit"(p.39). Unable to think rightly about our addictions, and because of the strength of self-will, the first step to healing is to admit one's addictions, and to see them in the light of faith as "doorways through which the power of grace can enter our lives" (p.31).
This book can be ordered through "The Twelve Step Review"--see links of hope.
Another book that I finished reading in two days because I could not put it down :
Chosen by a Horse by Susan Richards,
A very powerful book about self-knowledge and overcoming a difficult past through finding trust, first within ourselves and then in others.
I picked it up at the airport book store. It has been out awhile so it was on the sale table.
A simple easy to read book, that had me crying and laughing.
They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength Isaiah 40-31August 19, 2009
St. Magdalen of Canossa
Magdalen of Canosssa is a saint. On 2nd of October 1988, the Pope acknowledged her sanctity and in so doing reconfirmed the validity of the charism which she has passed on to her Sons and Daughters.
Every charism is destined to become announcement and service, to be handed on and to be steeped in the reality of lay people like the yeast of the Gospels, thereby enriching the very vitality of the Church.
It is this which inspires us to get to know Magdalen of Canossa and even more to understand the path she followed: a path on which she was guided by God alone and influenced by Christ Crucified's burning love to give her life to the poor and become a saint.
Magdalen is her woman's name. Full of gospel meaning, it is a name which puts her beside Mary Magdalen at the foot of the Cross whilst she experiences great grief. But she is also reaching out in love, ready to redeem herself and let the new woman, apostle and witness to Christ be born.
Right from the moment of her birth she must have experienced a certain sense of rejection: we know how important it was to be male in a noble family. Her father died when she was five and her mother abandoned her when she was seven. The young Magdalen showed a tendency to turn inwards on herself and to suffer from a sense of guilt and insecurity. At the age of fifteen, Magdalen fell seriously ill. At that point she understood that her vocation was to live for God alone. The sense of a path leading from pain to love was only awakened in Magdalen with the passage of time and by the Word of God. Faith, like some living force, was to transform her sorrow-ravaged face into a well-spring of love. This is the sad reality with which she begins her life and it leaves a deep mark on her. From that moment onwards, her life will be an uphill struggle, lived in the effort of recovering herself, finding her identity, and with it her feminity.
With her Institute of the Daughters of Charity and her "Rule", she paves the way for a feminine manner of carrying out an apostolate. Taking her inspiration from Christ Crucified, Magdalen bears witness to a mission style which seems to me to be typical of the woman-bride and which favours communication and communion in relationships. It is, rather, the style of a "servant" like Mary who stays beside Christ, Servant on the Cross.
The central point of this spirituality is the "quest for God alone" so that every apostolate is carried out with the sole purpose of "doing Him glory". (Fr. Gianluigi Andolfo)
In order to understand and love the poor in imitation of Christ, Magdalene had to change her way of thinking and her lifestyle in the sense of not just giving to the poor but giving herself to the poor. She had to love not with the heart of a rich woman but as a poor woman:"Christ Jesus 'state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself...". The change was easy for her. Magdalen's life transformation was substantial: from Marchioness to servant of the poor. Magdalen became noble as she served.
Our Foundress didn't just give a part of her possessions to the poor, but her very life. She confronted herself with the Word, contemplated the Exemplar and nourished herself with the Eucharist so that her transformation might be complete and that Christ could grow and she diminish.
Our Mother, Magdalen, met Christ in that highly decisive verse, "Inspice et fac secundum Exemplar". We can say that this biblical phrase contains Christ's "Come and follow me" to Magdalene: "Look, contemplate and then go and announce through your life God's love for the poor and for sinners that you have discovered in the man-God who was crucified out of love." With regard to the word "Inspice", Magdalene has the same experience as the apostle Thomas: she touches the hands of Christ Crucified and sees the signs of the Passion lived for all who are needy. Magdalene too finds the meeting difficult because her Christ was very demanding, but it was also a captivating and transforming meeting which gave a new lease to her life, opened her heart and gave her woman's love a new name: "servant of the poor". (Fr. Adolfo Antonelli)
Magdalen had always loved Our Lady but she began to think of Her as Our Lady of Sorrows. "She is the Virgin Mary of Sorrows become Mother of Charity at the foot of the Cross." Magdalen was praying to Our Lady as she died. She put her life in the hands of the humble and obedient servant who, from Nazareth to Calvary, had known how to accept the Father's will in its entirety. Together with the love of Our Lady, the two Institutes inherited from Magdalen that "great heart" which drove them to spread the knowledge of Christ throughout the world. In fact the Foundress used to say, "Christ is not loved because He is not known". (Fr. Gianluigi Andolfo)
July 25, 2009
A Remarkable Young Man...
A remarkable young Jesuit, Father David Brown, 28, from New Orleans. Brown, who has his Ph.D. in astronomy from Oxford, was about to head out to China for an astronomical meeting in Shanghai.
But as we talked, what I realized was that Brown had traveled on another, interior journey, which had taken him farther than his journey to Shanghai — farther even than his investigations of far galaxies.
I asked him why he had become a priest, and a Jesuit.
"The end of life, the goal of life, is a deep union with God," Brown told me. "That is our great destiny: that we were created by love, by an act of love, to have life in love, with God."
"But how did you come to this belief?" I asked. "So many young people today take a different path..."
"It was the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius," he said. "I wanted to know who I was, and what I wanted out of life — what I really, truly wanted — and I entered into the 30-day retreat with that purpose.
"And within a day and a half, I was digging down from my surface to my interior, from my superficial to my profound desires. And that went on, and on, and on, for 30 days. And I was changed..."
"What happened?" I asked.
"I came to understand what I really wanted. And what I really wanted was deep union with God, and to give glory to God, as best I can, in all that I say and do."
And I was suddenly struck by the nobility, the audacity, the heroism, of this young man's search, and it seemed to me that if a few more would undertake this same journey, here and there, that the Jesuit order might be renewed — that the Church might be renewed — that the world might be renewed.
So, those of you who feel called to do so, consider making an Ignatian retreat. It's a journey that may change you forever.
And this young Jesuit's spirituality has a deeply Marian dimension.
"The model for our humility, for breaking with the pride which keeps us from our true happiness, is Mary." Brown said. "Mary was united with God. She bore God's son. You cannot have a union that is deeper than that.
"Our belief, in the end, is that Mary was created the way we were all intended to be, the way every human being was meant to be. Mary was conceived without sin. This is not a statement about her divinity. Her sinlessness was not through any merit of her own. She was the first person redeemed by Christ. She who would conceive him needed to be a fitting vessel. And so, God prepared her to be that vessel..."
July 21, 2009
What do we do?
"What is the essence of that?" I asked. "What can people do when they feel isolated, and lonely, and depressed, about themselves, and about the state of the Church, and the world?"
"You've got to fall in love with Jesus," the monsignor said. "And adoration is a wonderful way to fall in love with Jesus. The origin is hidden, like a seed that sprouts beneath the surface of the soil. But then it grows, and flourishes, into joy, and sacrifice, and humility, and virtue, and courage. And this type of individual devotion turns outward, into love for one's neighbor, and the Church is reborn, and the kingdom of God is built up in this fallen world. People's lives change. When you love Jesus, you don't want to offend him. And so people begin to live lives of heroic virtue, precisely because they're totally in love with the Lord."
In a conversation with a Vatican monsignor by Robert Moynihan
July 21, 2009
Mary, my Mother
Mary, my Mother, in your heart is Love.
As your two hearts beat as one,
So I too long for the heartbeat of my child.
In the past gone by I was afraid,
I was right and you were wrong.
My child was torn from within,
And now the pain is more than I can bear.
The healing waters of your Love,
Can heal my torn soul.
In Jesus I put my trust, His Love will never fail.
You hold my child in angel's wings,
Forgiveness is the cry.
Peace, joy, serenity is mine,
As you await me homeward bound. Amen