Sunday, October 22, 2017
This was supposed to be published on Sunday! It is too early!
Today's Gospel (Matthew 22:15-21) has the Pharisees plotting how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They want to know if it is lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Jesus knows what they are trying to do and asks them, "Why are you testing me, you hypocrites. Show me the coin that pays the census tax." When they do this he asks them whose inscription and whose image is on the coin. When they reply, "Caesar's" Jesus tells them: "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."
We are the ones that are stamped with God's image and we belong to God.
Saturday, October 21, 2017
Today we continue to celebrate Mater, Mother of the Invisible and the Essential.
My senior at Sacred Heart Prep who comes for an hour to visit with me each week just to establish a relationship, is conducting interviews with students, faculty, and staff, and others to hear how their faith has developed and he takes notes and has made three podcasts. On Monday, he is going to interview me about my faith journey so I am asking Mater to help me articulate it.
I learn much from my students and this boy is a real joy to be with weekly. He has a twin sister and his brothers who are now Juniors in college, are also twins.
We are working with the school to give help to those who have lost everything in the fire. I think we are helping many but we have a family with three little boys who lost everything. They have found a two bedroom apartment that is very tiny and empty so we are trying to get some immediate help in the way of clothes, food, and furnishings so they can have their own space. The baby is 18 months, then there is a four year old and a nine year old boy and they need everything. And this is just one family.
Friday, October 20, 2017
This Feast of Mater Admirabilis is dear to all alumni of the Sacred Heart. I want to share a bit from a Circular Letter written to the entire Society of the Sacred Heart by our very Reverend Mother de Lescure in July of 1949. She tells us :
"Mater Admirabilis - the jewel of the Society- has been given to us as the virginal guardian keeping watch at the threshold of this sancturary; Mater Admirabilis, treasure of calm and serenity, in activity which should spring from the only fruitful source without ever exhausting or troubling it. We love her for the light of her lowered eyes, for the peace radiating from her contenance, for her very attitude revealing her inner fullness of grace. To have spent a few moments in her presence is a grace that leaves a lasting trace in our lives, and the welcome that this dear picture gives us everywhere we go throughout the Society is one of the signs that we are indeed at home...."
Thursday, October 19, 2017
My earliest memory of Mater comes from when I was about eight years old and it was a life-size statue of Mater that was outside the study hall at the Academy of the Visitation. I went there from the time I was five until I finished sixth grade. When I was still six years old, I was promoted to the second grade and at that time we had moved back to the house in the county so I came to school with my Dad very early and had to wait for him to pick me up at 5:30 P.M. I would go to the study hall with the older girls after school but soon was tired of sitting there and would be allowed to go out to where Mater was as there would be another older girl there to answer the phone when a parent arrived below as a few others were sometimes called for after our usual dismissal time. I learned to play with whoever was out there listening for the phone. We would play hide the button and the folds of Mater's dress made great hiding places so I got to know that statue well by feeling in all the crevices and looking for hiding places or trying to find the hidden small button. I also developed a love of that statue as it was life-sized and therefore bigger than any other statue I have ever seen in our many convents all over as other countries often have a whole chapel just for Mater, but the statues are not as big. I then had the grace to be sacristan for the original Mater in Rome for five months and I loved being near to her and think she has been very near to me.
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
People are like stained glass windows: They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light within.
I think we often miss the light within others and it is one of the things I am trying to see in each of my large community here. I live with very holy people, but sometimes I may not always see the light of Christ within each unless I am looking for it.
We will be having the Feast of Mater on Friday and I am preparing for it by saying often throughout my day:
"Breathing in, breathing out;
I am calm, I am smiling;
You in me, I in You;
Present moment, wondrous moment.
Peace to the world, peace to the world...
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Her last years at St. Charles were happy ones for Philippine. She had her room near the little chapel that had been built to connect the convent to the Church and she continued to pray long hours but also was the one who went around checking the children's clothes and mending what needed to be mended. She taught catechism to a few of the french-speaking students in the little room under the front porch. She prayed long hours and she wrote letters. Her zeal for the Indians continued to the end of her life which came on November 18, 1852. She was buried in the convent cemetery beside the convent. Three years later people felt that she might be canonized so her body was exhumed. Her body was still intact so she was now moved to the octagonal little chapel that was out in front of the convent. Here her remains rested for the next 100 years. I was one who prayed at her tomb each night before closing up the little chapel that was dedicated to Our Lady.
Philippine was beatified in 1940.
Monday, October 16, 2017
Most of the year that Philippine had with the Indians had been one of physical suffering for her. She hardly mentioned that in her letters which were full of the good that was being done for the Indians. She rejoiced in this tribe that had so many devout converts. Still, she knew that others felt she should return and finally a letter came sending her to spend the last ten years of her life at St. Charles. Philippine found it hard to leave her Indians but obeyed without objecting once the decision was made. It cost her to leave, but she soon was at St. Charles and willing to do all that she could to be of help in that community.
One still feels her presence there. She was such a woman of prayer and her prayer was for others, for the Church, and for the missions.
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Jesus again is telling a parable. This time it is that the Kingdom of God may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He sent his servants to summon the guests to the feast, but they refused to come. He sent them out again to tell those invited: "Behold, I have prepared my banquet, may calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast." Some ignored the invitation; others laid hold of the servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops to destroy those murderers and burn their city. Then he sent more servants out into the main roads to invite whomever they found. So they went out and gathered all they found, good and bad alike; the hall was filled with guests when the king came in to meet them. When the king saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment, he said to him, "My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?" The man was silent. Then the king said to his attendants, "Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness."
Now this parable from Matthew 22 gives us much to think about. Are we those who are invited but do not accept the invitation to the feast? Are we too busy? Or do we mistreat the servants who were sent to invite us? Maybe I am one who was found by the wayside and invited. What is the wedding garment I need to wear to partake of the feast?
Paul tells us today in the Second Reading to the Philippians, "I can do all things in him who strengthens me."
That is a consoling thought and he continues to tell us that God will fully supply whatever we need...
Let us thank God for the care he takes of each of us.
Here in California we are suffering with all who have lost everything in the terrible fires that have caused more destruction than any other year and we have more than 20,000 evicted suddenly from their homes without time usually to pack even their important papers. Many fled with nothing. We are trying to see how to help some but how will they find places to live when so many homes have been destroyed?
Saturday, October 14, 2017
Although Philippine could do little besides pray and sit with any sick Indian woman, the Indians had great reverence for her. They brought her all manner of things- fresh corn, chickens, wild plums. Mother Mathevon wrote of Mother Duchesne: "She stayed all morning in the church, so Sister Louise would take her a cup of coffee each day, and she drank it at the door of the church. After dinner she went again for three or four hours of prayer. The Indians had the greatest admiration for her, recommended themselves to her prayers, and called her Woman-Who prays-always."
Phiippine again thought of herself as a failure yet the number of baptisms grew and many were convinced that her prayers brought many new families to be baptized every Sunday afternoon and it was Mother Duchesne who inscribed all the names in the register.
Friday, October 13, 2017
On June 29, 1841, the little band of missionaries: the four RSCJs, Fathers Verhaegen and Smedts, both Jesuits, and a diocesan priest, Father Francis J. Renaud boarded the Missouri river packer while a crowd of friends on the levee were there to see them off. Mother Duchesne walked up and down the deck during the four day journey; she had found new life. It took another four days to reach Sugar Creek because the Jesuits did not want to tire out the nuns. The Indians came out to meet them on horseback. Then, about a mile from the mission, 500 braves appeared in gala dress. They had bright plumes and feathers and their moccasins embroidered with porcupine quills. The nuns were given a huge reception and Mother Duchesne shook hands with all of them.
Unfortunately, no home had been prepared for the nuns. A good Indian let the nuns have his cabin which was close to the church; he went to live in a tent. His house was about 15 by 12 feet in size. One of the two chairs was reserved for Mother Duchesne. The first letter that Mother Duchesne wrote to Mother Barat was headed: "From the Tribe and Village of the Potawatomi". She wrote: "At last we have reached the country of our desires. ...The pastor does not think it wise at present to teach the children another language. ...The pastor has given us two fine cows and put at our service a pair of oxen, a good horse, and a charette." She goes on to say that it will be easy to plant a nice vegetable garden so they have nothing to complain about. They had brought with them a Negro man from St. Louis who is a carpenter but their baggage has not yet arrived so she had to use thick paper. She also admits that she has been ill again and finds it difficult to think. "This is a weakness I never experienced before and she says it accounts for the condition of her letter, but the facts are correct."
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Philippine continued to desire to go to the Indian missions even when she was in poor health over seventy years old. The fact that permission had been given to make the foundation was a joy for her even though she was not being included in the preparations. Then, Father Verhaegen appeared at the convent one morning to say that he wanted the nuns to go with him in July as he would be making a visit to Sugar Creek. As he talked with Mothers Gray and Mathevon, Mother Duchesne sat with them for he never called at the City House without asking for her. They were speaking about the steamship passage, what baggage to take, and the date of departure and reservations for three religious. For only three? The priest had expected four. He turned to where Mother Duchesne was sitting quietly and said: "But she must come, too. Even if she can use only one leg, she will come. Why, if we have to carry her all the way on our shoulders, she is coming with us. She may not be able to do much work, but she will assure success to the mission by praying for us. Her very presence will draw down all manner of heavenly favors on the work." (Quoted in Callan's Life of Philippine Duchesne, p. 635).
Mother Mathevon, who had been received by Philippine at Grenoble and formed by her at Florissant before being named superior at St. Charles, was to be superior of the little group. She was reluctant to have responsibility for Mother Duchesne and Philippine sensed this. She repeated often the little prayer she had made her own:
"Lord, I lean on you alone for strength.
Give me your arm to support me,
Your shoulders to carry me,
Your breast on which to lay my head,
Your cross to uphold me,
Your Eucharist to nourish me.
In You, Lord, I sleep and rest in peace."
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Philippine continued to grow in holiness through the trials and hardships she faced daily. Her humility was such that she thought herself a failure and yet she kept on mothering her community, forming the young religious to deep, interior life, and holding fast to the Constitutions of the Society of the Sacred Heart. Vocations became more numerous and by 1830 there were 45 vowed religious in America; only fourteen of these had come from Europe. The novices were twenty-three that year. Philippine continued to pray and to struggle with the language as so many now did not know French. She felt useless, yet she was the first up in the morning and the last to retire at night. She worked hard wherever she saw a need; all of her original companions would die before she did.