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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sophie's Journal - 2

The circumstances connected with the foundation at Poitiers, the experience of having to combine the roles of local superior, Mistress of Novices and Superior General, all contributed to the growth of Mother Barat's own spirituality as she sought to form others. The shy Sophie, so recently called a "perpetual trembler" by Father Varin, was now training others to trust the Heart of Jesus, to wait, to be silent, and to depend upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Are not we called to trust the Heart of Jesus, to learn to wait for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and be silent so that we can hear his voice? How am I doing this in my daily life?
Sophie wanted to live her life under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. How am I developing a relationship with the Holy Spirit? What can I do today to remember the powerful presence of the Spirit in my life?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

St. Madeleine Sophie's Journal - 1

St. Madeleine Sophie Barat 1779-1865

Before I begin sharing about St. Madeleine Sophie, you may want to read what one of our Sisters has recently written about her:

The lifetime of Madeleine Sophie Barat, has much in common with our modern time of conflict and strivings for peace. Born in Joigny, a village in the wine growing country of northern France, her early life spanned the turbulent years of the French Revolution. In 1800 with two companions she made vows in the newly formed Society of the Sacred Heart. By 1804 she was named Superior General, and the years she led the society were years of further revolution in France and throughout Europe.
Living in a period of political upheaval and suffering, Madeleine Sophie envisioned a life of both contemplation and action for the members of the Society of the Sacred Heart. The foundation of their prayer and ministry is dedication to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Devotion to the Sacred Heart places its emphasis on the humanity of Jesus, the relationship of love between Christ and his followers, and provides the impetus for bringing joy and hope to a divided world.
From its beginnings the chief ministry of the Society has remained education and ministry to those suffering poverty and privation. Convinced that the greatest need of her day was the education of women, Madeleine Sophie founded schools both for those who could pay tuition and for those who could not. Her convents were also centers of retreat work. Before she died in Paris in 1865, Madeleine Sophie saw the expansion of the Society of the Sacred Heart into the United States, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, England, and Latin America.
Such is the legacy that Madeleine Sophie’s followers carry forward today in various ministries in 45 countries of the world. As St. Madeleine Sophie said before her death:
"There is a spirit of the Society. Our first movement . . .
is the contemplative life, that is what we must do in prayer. But it is then that Jesus says to us: “Go, tell my sisters and brothers.” Mary becomes an apostle. Why can we not say to the whole universe: “Know His Heart!”?

- Martha Curry, RSCJ

The most improtant document left to the Society of the Sacred Heart by St. Madeleine Sophie before the Constitutions of 1815 was her Journal kept in Poitiers 1806-1808. It gives an account of her trip from Grenoble to Poitiers and the foundation of the first novitiate there. It is the only time the foundress kept a journal, and it reveals the interior as well as the exterior life of this saintly woman who was so simple and straightforward. The journal permits us to follow the development of her spirituality and the formation she gave to others who were also called to live in union and conformity with the Heart of Jesus.
The first time the Journal was made known in its entirety was in 1977 when Marie-Therese Virnot published a critical edition. Madeleine Sophie's original journal was lost at an early date, but Mother Virnot worked with four manuscript copies. After a comparative study it was evident that the most authentic copy was that of Henriette Girard; this copy seems to have been made before 1811. The published critical edition contains 104 pages of which the first eight describe the journey of Madeleine Sophie from Grenoble to Poitiers. The rest is concerned with the foundation at Poitiers and the training of the novices.
I find that there is much to reflect upon in this Journal and will give excerpts from it for the month leading up to Sophie's feast which is May 25. I welcome comments from my readers.

I will sometimes call St. Madeleine Sophie Barat just Sophie; at other times I will call her Mother Barat; and sometimes she will be Madeleine Sophie. She usually signed herself "Barat" but lately we have learned to call her simply Sophie.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thomas Merton's influence on a spiritual journey

Today I am sharing something that one of my students wrote on Thomas Merton. I think you will like it and it will lead you to reflect on your own prayer. This is from Dahlia Herring and is not in a letter form but could be called a Letter from Albany"

There are three things that I have found at the core of Thomas Merton’s writings that have deeply influenced my own spiritual journey:

First, Tom Merton is probably most famous for introducing the idea that you do not need to join a Trappist monastery in order to become a contemplative. What Merton means by contemplation appears to be two things. It means, of course, that wordless, imageless, silent prayer that many of us now call centering prayer. But “contemplation” also means our direct experience of God, which can happen to us at any time. It can occur during our deepest solitary prayer time, or when we are watching a sunset or when we see a homeless person and realize that we are one with him, because he, and you and I are all part of God and God is all part of us. In many ways, Tom Merton has helped us to democratize the spiritual life. He tells us over and over again, that all of us – monk, nun, housewife, nurse, corporate president - all of us are loved by God and have the same access to God.

Tom’s second great influence in my life is that he has made it OK to learn about, and experience, other faith traditions. Make no mistake - he remained a Catholic, throughout his adult life. However, he was able to see clearly how all of the world’s great faiths – Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism – have, the very same spirit moving through them. Merton’s spiritual life reminds me of a large oak tree. Its roots go both deep and wide – deeply anchored in his Christian faith, while spreading out wide to drink in the differences and the underlying commonalities among all faiths.

And finally, Merton understood that we are called to a life of prayer but also a life of service. Here is a fellow who lived most of his life apart from the world. Yet, he spent many of his later years writing in clear and prophetic language about the issues of his time. So, despite his cloistered life, Merton managed to live right in the middle of all of the world’s messiness. What was most important about Merton’s social activism is that it arises directly from his contemplative life. There is no separation. And even more than any particular writings, it is the way Tom Merton lived his life – with prayer at the root of all service to the world - that has become a living example for me.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Letters from Scotland - 6

The picture today shows the isle of Iona.

Dear Helen,
The textbook for the religion class in my second year of secondary education was called Hart’s Christian Doctrine. Each chapter began with a quote. The first chapter of our new book began with St Augustine’s: "Our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee." Discussing this in essay form was the homework set for one evening. Using all the experience of my thirteen years I put my heart and soul into conjuring up every reason why nothing in this life could satisfy and why we would find heart-rest only in eternity. The essay could easily have been entitled "No rest for the wicked except that humor did not abound in those days. At the end of it the teacher penciled VG...but was it? With that little treatise I think I somehow distanced God from me and constructed an image of God for myself as one who demands restless yearning along with the realization that this life could only be unsatisfying. Only years later would I come to know that our image of God must change and grow and this proved a challenge involving much inner work.
Your re-acquainting me with St Augustine during your course was a source of grace and growth for me. My childish essay came back to me and in one of those sudden moments of insight I realized that resting in God need not be only the end goal of life but we could rest in Him in the here and now. Perhaps for the first time the gift of resting my heart in the Heart of God became a longed for reality and some of that self constructed distance of separation and longing disappeared.
Augustine’s other famous quote "Late Have I Loved Thee" now took over as a prayer of peace in me. Late have I loved Thee, O my Lord. Late have I rested my heart in Thee.
And so with Augustine we came to the end of our first semester. You had guided us through five hundred years of Christian spirituality and I had begun the shortest and yet the longest journey of all - from head to heart.
Your Student, Jane.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Letters from Scotland - 5

Dear Helen,
Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I love words – chewing over them and exploring them. When you suggested your students make time to read John Cassian’s tenth conference I realized immediately that here was a man of antiquity who was in love with words too. He could chew them over to perfection. What a joy his sermons must have been.
The life of John Cassian (c360 – c432) took him from his probable birthplace in Dobrudja in Romania to a monastery in Bethlehem from where he gained permission to spend time learning from the monks in the monasteries of the Egyptian desert. Further journeying would lead him to Constantinople, Rome and eventually to Marseilles where he founded a monastery and a nunnery. It was in Gaul that he wrote books to explain the monastic ideal and thus became an invaluable resource for our knowledge of Egyptian Spirituality.
For me, Cassian’s conference on prayer was a delight for there he explores in extraordinary depth and with no little charm how well suited to absolutely every situation in our lives is the prayer: O God, come to my assistance: Lord make haste to help me. It seems it would serve us on every breath, in every hour, every moment. Great emphasis is placed in his work on the mastery of the psalms and conditioning ourselves by ceaseless meditation on Scripture as background to our lives, interspersed with ejaculatory prayers consisting of Scriptural texts. The Psalms we are told are the language of the Holy Spirit and a gift for our converse with God.
As I am getting ready to go on holiday and looking out my Italian phrasebook I began to wonder what John Cassian’s phrasebook would include for the beginner in this language of the Spirit, phrases that would lead to confidence and fluency. Lines from psalms which I have loved and used to lighten my days might find themselves there:
Your word is a light to my feet and a lamp for my path...
For you my soul is thirsting for You like a dry weary land without water...
When can I enter and see the face of God...
Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death you are there with your rod and staff to comfort me...
It is your face that I seek, O Lord, hide not your face...
You open wide your hand, O Lord, and give us our food in due time...
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord...
Ring out your joy to The Lord, serve Him with gladness...

Your student, Jane.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Letters from Scotland -4

Dear Helen,
One of your RSCJ Sisters I’ve known for more than forty years, a missionary like yourself, lives in the North of Ireland. I call her my one-liner friend. She came to mind when you gave your students a whistle-stop tour of the Desert Fathers and Mothers who were part of that great fourth and fifth century movement which we now know as desert spirituality. These Ammas and Abbas were famously sought out for their good counsel. “Give us a word,” the seekers would say. The life giving words that were delivered, like the ones often spoken for me, were short, pithy, insightful, seeing to the heart of situations, clearing confusion, somewhat like sunlight glancing off the still waters of a lake and then reverberating in ripples that enrich our lives, presented always with love that nurtures and leads us to see God in our lives.
Today we find these original desert sayings recorded in accessible and attractive books. Modern day authors, like Thomas Merton, Benedicta Ward and Rowan Williams, have turned to these ancients for inspiration and mined for us, with their reflection and insight, the solid gold of this rich seam of desert spirituality.
Such friends, such Ammas and Abbas, know the desert and its ways; their prayer has made them the people they are; somehow their lives lived have been distilled into wisdom. I hope we all have one-liner-wisdom friends and that when they give us a word to treasure we recognize it for the gift it is and joyfully give thanks. The Holy Spirit truly moves among us.
Your Student, Jane.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Letters from Scotland- 3

Jane is from Perth so the picture is from Perth today. This is her third letter.

Dear Helen,
One of the stories my mother loved to tell about me was of how keen I was to start school and how, to the amusement of friends and family, her five year old would solemnly tell them that now she was at school, she was a knower of things. Chance would have been a fine thing and knower of things a childish exaggeration. I remembered that story when I came to your class those five years ago. I had just got my first computer and it was still very much a mystery to me. I had no broadband connection so things were slow. The Internet seemed an alien land and my typing skills were poor. Now I was about to become – Researcher of Things. Friends and family would have laughed again at my new claim.
Unit three of your course saw a new type of exercise - looking up documents on line; no books this time round. See what you can find out about Perpetua and Felicity and about Polycarp, you said. And so I entered the realm of search engines and what I found opened up a world of excitement, interest and new found knowledge that the five year old knower turned sixty-year-old researcher could only have dreamed of. As a research tool my computer was going to prove its weight in gold.
One of the things I most appreciated about your course was the fact that you never let us be content with stories about important figures in the history of spirituality. You always made us find the primary source so we could be exposed to what the searcher for God actually left behind in writing, so we could hear how the Spirit was speaking through each of them. The Holy Spirit is in those writings, I remember you saying, and Researcher-of-Things was off on her quest. That is how I came to be touched so deeply by two young women and one very old man.
I found the account of the martyrdom of Perpetua written in her own words and completed after her death which she faced in the arena with her fellow Christian, Felicity. These third century young mothers were converts to Christianity with everything to live for and yet faith so steadfast and courage so strong they could not deny Christ. Perpetua’s father had been frantic with worry about her conversion and her persisting on her chosen course and we hear her say, pointing to a water jug, and asking him, “See that pot lying there? Can you call it by any other name than what it is?” Her father answered, “Of course not.” Perpetua responded, “Neither can I call myself by any other name than what I am — a Christian.”
In the martyrdom of Polycarp I would also find words that touched me to the core. Polycarp, disciple of John the Apostle who created him Bishop of Smyrna, was an old man when asked to deny Jesus. "Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" With those words of love and trust Polycarp sealed his fate and met his death at the stake in 155 AD.
Oh, the questions and reflections those online documents threw up for your students trying hard to make sense of the spirituality of a bygone time. As for me, I was in awe at the love and faith of these believers and left wondering about my own. These primary sources could move the heart and confirm faith across nearly two thousand years.
Your student Jane, in Scotland.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Letters from Scotland -2

Dear Helen,
Do you remember that first task you set us? It turned out to be one of the saddest but yet one of the gladdest of my life. Eager to make a start, I scanned the question. Looked easy enough – one word answer required, simple task: read straight through the Gospel of Mark and share with the group one word which sums up the person of Jesus portrayed there. I start out. Mark’s story unfolds. I feel inexplicably sad and tired; I realize Jesus is a stranger to me. The tiredness I feel is sharply contrasted with the energy of Jesus. I notice the organizational skills of Jesus, the manager of the apostles and shake my head at myself, realizing how firmly entrenched in my commercial world I am. I choose "tireless" as my word to describe him. I turn to the sharing of the rest of the class and feel challenged by the words offered by others and wonder if these are the ones I could truthfully have chosen. Their words imply relationship and I sadly realize my word is that of an observer, an outsider, not of someone in relationship with Jesus. The words hang there on the screen – loving, compassionate, kind, humble, they have written. Then one catches my eye – happy. The tears well in my eyes.
One of the prayers that I used to make over a long period in the years easily twenty to thirty years before I began the course was “Say but the word and I shall be healed.” Underlying the prayer was the desperate feeling that I was isolated from God, that I would never find him. Sometimes the prayer would take on an almost taunting tone – you could heal me if you really wanted to. One word is all it would take. One word was in fact all it did take!
In that instant when I saw that word – happy – inscribed there in front of me and, just as I was beginning to think that was the last word I would ever choose because my experience of religion did not seem exactly happy, I was suddenly stopped in my tracks and that spine tingling moment of realization was there – an epiphany if you like – I was back hearing myself saying that prayer....say but one word....and there it was right in front of me – one word – happy. God had found someone to speak it for him and I heard in it love, care, peace, joy, an invitation – and happiness. A deeply humbling moment; a heartfelt prayer was answered. I was learning to listen. You were teaching me.
For some reason a prayer of Janet Erskine Stuart’s began to sound in me. Mother Stuart writes her all-affirming prayer at the end of a long poem inspired by words of Julian of Norwich: His appearing shall be sweet.
I know that when the stress has grown too strong
Thou wilt be there
I know that when the waiting is too long
Thou hearest prayer
I know that through the crash of falling worlds
Thou holdest me
I know that life and death and all are Thine

Sweet is His appearing indeed. Like Julian, Mother Stuart captures the homeliness and courtesy of His presence to us – holding, hearing, being there - in life, in death, in all, forever.
From your student, Jane, in Scotland

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Letters from Scotland -1

Dear Helen,
Your invitation to be a guest in your blog offers me an opportunity I might not otherwise have had to reflect on the time spent as a student in your International Online Certificate Course in Spirituality Studies. Five years have gone by since I first noticed your web-advertisement class at St Thomas University and since I decided to apply for a place. How well I remember my apprehension over that application. Miami was a long way from Scotland; studying had not featured in my life for over thirty years; my spiritual experience was limited; I worked in a decidedly secular retail environment. On the other hand, deep within myself I was experiencing a longing and huge lack that felt like emptiness; from that feeling of isolation and separation came the uncertain courage to have a try at your course.
At the time of making application, all those years ago, the only feelings I could identify were negative ones – a disappointed feeling of being stuck in a rut, there was not much growth to report in my life, God felt a long way off; my prayer seemed to be: Why have you hidden Your face from me? Only now, looking back with some of the insight your course would bring me, I see I couldn’t have been more wrong about my situation: God was, in fact, as near and as close as He ever is; longing was a real prayer; the Spirit was stirring my soul, my hopes and my desires; the first tentative signs of growth were there and as for that rut – I was about to be shaken out of it big time.
How well I remember the warmth of your welcome and the reassurance that I was going to cope! Soon there were things to look forward to. Fellow students, fellow seekers, were introducing themselves. Books were arriving in the post. The programme was unveiled: how others sought and found God, the theme of the next two years, was a satisfying prospect. Mystics, monks and mendicants would be on the menu; early fathers, the wisdom of desert, and the beginnings of Christianity would bring to life the earliest days of Christianity; Ignatius, Teresa and John, de Sales and Jane Francis would meet us as great teachers; contemporary writers would complete the course. And all this would be experienced through collaborative learning, an exciting new experience for me, where there was no competition, no comparing with others, but only a pooling of learning and discovery. A happy and respectful atmosphere would prove the course a comfortable place to be.
So there I was – conscious of a distance between me and God but excited to be on the road, to have made a beginning, to have joined that vast number of those who had sought and found God through the centuries. The feelings I experienced at that outset make me wonder if they were like those of that other prodigal who had distanced himself from where he belonged. Did he feel isolated, ashamed to have lost contact, to have squandered his inheritance, to have done little to nurture himself, to have cut himself off seemingly irreparably? But did he not also feel that stirring of the Spirit sensed in trust, hope and expectancy, that would let him start afresh on the road, thus becoming one who would leave us with an incomparably poignant picture of a prodigal who sought and found God, a Father of love, forgiveness, fatted calves, new robes, fresh sandals and welcome home parties. As that oh-so- familiar story tells us, But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him....he rushed forward to greet him, embracing him and showering him with love. As the course unfolded that was my experience too; God would be waiting to give Himself – but for the moment I was still a long way off.
Your student in Scotland, Jane

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

International Online Program in Spirituality Studies

It is time to ask each to think about taking the International Online Certificate Program in Spirituality Studies. Please go to found on the St. Thomas University website under the School of Theology and Ministry for more information. I am going to be actively recruiting for the September course on the Spanish Mystics and Modern Spirituality. Maybe you know someone who is interested? If so, please contact them or e-mail me their e-mail address. Mine is and I welcome questions.
This International On-line Certificate Program has four courses covering the History of Christian Spirituality. You will read the great spiritual classics, interact with others from all over, and really understand the different ways that others have sought and found God through the ages.

I know from my former students how much this Program has meant to them and how much they have enjoyed all four courses. I am only looking for six students to join us in September so please decide now to make sure there is a place for you! Contact me at

I will begin publishing some "Letters" from Scotland from a former student and hope to have some contributions from present students, too, that I think you will enjoy. I will try to schedule ahead as I will be away from April 21 to May 9.

Reflect today on what you are doing to grow spiritually. The Program will help you immensely to grow in your own inner life.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Letters from Scotland

No, I am not in Scotland but will be leaving tomorrow for the Western part of the United States for a period of almost three weeks. While I am gone, I am going to schedule a few letters from a dear friend and former student in Scotland for your reflection; then, I have something from another student on Thomas Merton to share, and I want to start sharing with you some of the early days of the Society of the Sacred Heart when St. Madeleine Sophie kept a Journal while in Poitiers forming the novices as well as being superior of the house and Mother General. She was only 26 and it is the only Journal we have of hers and therefore very precious for all those connected with the Society of the Sacred Heart.
I want to share some excerpts for you from the fourth chapter of my dissertation which was on the Spirituality of St. Madeleine Sophie. Her Feast is May 25 and so it is fitting that we go back to her written word to prepare for her Feast. I may be putting in a few other things, too, but want you to know that some of these reflections will be a bit different, especially since I need to schedule ahead so you will have them to read while I am away. I think I have written over 700 reflections now and it is time experiment a bit with contributions of others.

Today you might like to reflect on these words of Christ to St. Faustina Kowalska:
"I am Love and Mercy itself. There is no misery that could be a match for my mercy; neither will misery exhaust it, because as it is being granted, it increases. The soul that trusts in my mercy is most fortunate, because I myself take care of it."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Divine Mercy Sunday

Benedict XVI was elected pope on this day in 2005. He wrote, "I prayed to God, 'Please don't do this to me'...Evidently, this time he didn't listen to me."

I am looking at the Little White Book which always tells me something of interest and has wonderful six minutes reflections adapted from the writings of the late Bishop Ken Untener. Today's reflection says that it is curious that Thomas wanted to see the wounds of Jesus. Why didn't he say that he wanted to hear his voice or look into his eyes? Why didn't he say he wanted to see Jesus walk on water?
"In the 11th Chapter of John's Gospel, when Jesus said he was going to Jerusalem and the disciples were afraid, Thomas was the one who stood up and said, "Let us go there and die with him."
Perhaps Thomas felt more than the others how much they had let Jesus down by abandoning him during his passion and death. When the disciples talked about having seen the Lord and having heard the Lord wish them peace and speak of forgiveness, Thomas simply said, "I'll never believe it unless I see those wounds and touch them and have him say those things to me."

Jesus comes back and tells Thomas to put his finger into his wounds and his hand into the wound in his side and believe. Thomas utters that magnificent statement of faith that many Catholics say at the elevation during the Mass, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus says for all of us, "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Jesus comes to us in every Eucharist and helps us to become like him. We need only to believe and receive him with love.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Easter Saturday

Mark's Gospel today (16:9-15) gives a short summary of Jesus' appearances to Mary Magdalene, then to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus. Mark just says that Jesus appeared to "two of them walking along on their way to the country. They returned and told the others, but they did not believe them either." But later, as the Eleven were at table, Jesus "appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised. He said to them, 'Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature."

It was hard for the Apostles to accept that Jesus is really alive; he has been raised from the dead. Jesus understands and is patient with them. He will spend time appearing to them before his public ascension into heaven. I like to think that Jesus still spends time with us during these forty days after Easter and he hopes we will recognize him as he appears in our lives. He wants to share his joy!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Easter Friday

I had a great picture of Jesus on the shore and Peter in the water swimming to him with the other six in the boat with the full net over the side - I saved it but cannot find it again and I have spent too much time looking so no picture today!

The Gospel today is one of my favorites; it is John 21:1-14. Peter decides to go fishing. Six others decide to go with him. They are named by John so we know which of the Apostles are in the boat with Peter as they set out to catch some fish. They toil all night and catch nothing. "When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore, but the disciples did not recognize that it was Jesus."
Imagine how these men must feel. They are tired, hungry, maybe also cold and irritable or at least a bit disgruntled. But they do cast the net to the right side of the boat when the one on the shore tells them to do so; they cannot pull in the net because of the great number of fish. John says, "It is the Lord." When Peter hears that, it jumps into the sea to be the first to reach Jesus. The others come in the boat and find that Jesus has prepared breakfast for them!

I love the thought of Jesus taking the time to make the fire, procure bread and fish, and then invite his friends to breakfast. Sometimes, when I finish my more formal time of prayer in the morning, I seem to hear Jesus saying to me, too, "Come, have breakfast." Actually, Jesus served the seven. John tells us that "this was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead."

I seldom go to a movie but was asked to tell my readers about this one. You can read about it at: and decide if you want to look for a Catholic review of it. It is about a liberal pastor, his conservative priest assistant, and a prostitute and the theme seems to be forgiveness. I think, if I went to movies, it might be one that would be interesting to see, but I know no more than what I have said.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Easter Thursday

The Gospel today is from Luke 24:35-48. While the two disciples are still talking about their Easter experience on the road to Emmaus and how they finally recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread, Jesus came and stood in their midst. He said to them, "Peace be with you." But "they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost."
I guess that they had not yet taken in the fact that Jesus was really alive. They also knew that they had abandoned him and fled when he was arrested. But now, Jesus offers peace. He said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." Jesus showed them his hands and his feet. Then their fear changed to joy and they are "incredulous for joy and were amazed."

In my own life, there are times when I and you have had a deep experience of the living Jesus. Let us recall those times and relive the joy we felt when Jesus touched us in some way. I think the joy we have felt helps us to enter now into his Easter joy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter Wednesday

Today's Gospel is one of my favorite and I love this picture of Jesus walking with his two disciples on the way to Emmaus. Are they a man and his wife? We do not know but they are sad and discouraged when Jesus joins them. I reflected on this Gospel on Easter Sunday so will concentrate on the feelings of all three. Jesus comes full of joy to console these two who left Jerusalem thinking their hope of having Jesus redeem Israel had been destroyed when they crucified Jesus. They knew that it was the third day and that some women said that the tomb was empty and angels had announced to them that Jesus was alive. However, they did not really believe this and so had started out for Emmaus. Jesus said to them, Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"

Does Jesus say something like this to us? I know he comes to walk with us when we are sad and discouraged. He wants to be recognized, but we need to ask him to stay with us as these disciples did. When they finally recognized him in the breaking of the bread at their simple supper, Jesus vanishes but they have new energy and share the fact that their hearts are burning within them.

They rush back to give the good news and found the Eleven and those with them saying, "The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Tuesday

The Gospel today is John 20:11-18. Mary Magdalene stays near the tomb weeping. When Jesus comes to her, she does not recognize him. He asks her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him and I will take him." Then Jesus said, "Mary." He called her by her name and she recognized him. He then sends her to tell the disciples.

How often Jesus calls us by our names; I hear him calling, but do I really recognize him and respond as Mary did? Jesus is very near; have I the faith to hear and to see? He is in me, but he is also calling me through others and through events and circumstances in my daily life. Lord, help me to be attentive today!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Monday

We are still contemplating the empty tomb, but Jesus had a busy day that first Easter. He appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden; he went walking along with the two disciples of Emmaus and explained the Scriptures to them on Easter Sunday afternoon and then went in to have supper with them. He appeared to Peter at some point and, of course, I firmly believe that he appeared to his mother first of all. Then, in the evening he comes to his apostles who are locked in the upper room. Jesus just appears and they are terrified. They had all abandoned him; he does not say a word of reproach. Instead, he gives them the power to forgive sins!

We are beginning the most joyous season in the liturgical year; it lasts 50 days. Jesus will spend 40 days on earth appearing to his disciples and consoling them; then he will ascend to his Father but will send the Holy Spirit to enlighten and strengthen them on Pentecost, fifty days after his resurrection.
"Let us rejoice and be glad for this is the day the Lord has made!" In a sense, every day is the day the Lord has made so let us rejoice and be glad!! And let us bring His joy to others!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The opening prayer is "God our Father, by raising Christ your Son you conquered the power of death and opened for us the way to eternal life. Let our celebration today raise us up and renew our lives by the Spirit that is within us. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Gospel this year for Easter Sunday morning seems to be from Luke 24: 13-35 and is the account of the two disciples who had left Jerusalem to walk to Emmaus, a village seven miles from Jerusalem. They are conversing together; Jesus draws near and walked with them. He asks them, "What are you discussing as you walk along?" Jesus stays with them; he listens to their discouragement and then chides them for not believing all that the prophets spoke. He then interprets for them what referred to him in all the scriptures. As they near the village, Jesus seems to be going on but they beg him, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over." So Jesus went in to supper with them and they recognized him when "He took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them." Jesus vanishes and they say to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us?" Then they set out once more and returned to Jerusalem to tell the eleven.

I love this story and think that Jesus often likes to approach us the same way. He comes as we are just walking along and waits for us to invite him to stay with us. He wants to know what we are thinking, and he certainly does not want us to be discouraged or go about with long faces. He is risen and wants us to share in his joy. Alleluia, alleluia!!
How will I share in the joy of Jesus today?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Saturday, a long, quiet day

This is a long, quiet day. We have stayed with Jesus as he was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb. Now we wait. We have the advantage of knowing the Jesus is risen; the apostles did not and mourned their loss and could not accept the fact that Jesus had died as a common criminal on a cross. They are demoralized and very scared. It is a long day. We wait for Jesus to begin to show himself on Easter morning. I am sure that he went first to visit his mother who had held him as he was taken down from the cross. Now she is the first to see his glorified wounds and to know that he has risen from the dead as he had said. She did not go to the tomb with the women to anoint Jesus as she knew he was risen. Still, it is a long day. We wait for the resurrection, full of hope and love and desiring to rejoice with our risen Lord.
The night vigil on Holy Saturday has four parts: the service of light with the blessing of the fire and the lighting of the Easter candle, the procession in darkness with the deacon singing "Christ our light" and all answering Deo Gratias! The singing of the Exsultet concludes this first part; the second part is the liturgy of the word where the Church meditates on all the wonderful things God has done since the beginning; the third part is that of the liturgy of baptism when new members are baptized; and the forth part is the liturgy of the Eucharist.
May we enter into the ceremonies to praise Jesus with greater joy than ever as the Preface tells us. "By dying he destroyed our death; by rising he restored our life."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

I think Jesus suffered the most in the Agony in the Garden; this was not the physical suffering of being nailed to a cross, but it was a terrible suffering of his whole being that caused him to sweat blood. He struggled in the garden to accept fully the will of his Father. Once he did that, he seems to have been strengthened and goes through the rest of his passion and death with a calmness and a control that is striking. In prayer in the garden he suffered alone; his heart was torn but being in agony he prayed longer and harder. He asked his three closest companions to watch and pray with him, but they went to sleep. He still says to us, "Can you not watch one hour with me?"

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Holy Thursday

"Jesus, knowing that his hour was come, that he should pass out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end."
The greatest proof of love is the perfect gift of self. Generosity is essentially communicative, goodness is naturally difusive. Jesus gave us himself in the Eucharist. We have so much to be grateful for, but what a gift to be able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist!

Today we have the reading from John 13:1-15 where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. And then he said to them, "Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me 'teacher' and 'master' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do."

We need to approach each other with reverence and love; we receive Jesus in the Eucharist with reverence and love. I guess we will never understand the greatness of this sacrament where Jesus gives us himself. He is really with us always. Let us adore and thank him and aske for the grace to be attentive to his presence in both the Eucharist and in others.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Spy Wednesday

Tradition has called this day "Spy Wednesday" because this is the day Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests and asked them what they would give him for handing Jesus over to them. It is the beginning of the Passion and death of Jesus, but he shows himself in the Gospel today as thinking of and planning for the Passover that he will celebrate with his disciples. He is going to give us the gift of himself.

One of my favorite hymns from school days is in my mind today. I think it is worth copying here for meditation.

O Sacred Head surrounded
By crown of piercing thorn;
O bleeding Head, so wounded,
Reviled and put to scorn;
The veil of death falls o'er you,
The light withdraws its rays,
Yet angel hosts adore you,
And tremble as they gaze.

In darkness, we betrayed you,
In mortal fear denied;
In cowardice we judged you,
In sin, we crucified;
Yet you look down in mercy
From on your cross above,
And you forgive our blindness
In your redeeming love.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"One of you will betray me"

The hymn suggested for Tuesday morning prayer seems worth copying to reflect upon:
"O thou, who through this holy week,
Didst suffer for us all;
The sick to heal, the lost to seek,
To raise up them that fall.

We cannot understand the woe
Thy love was pleased to bear;
O Lamb of God, we only know
That all our hopes are there.

thy feet the path of suff'ring trod,
Thy hand the vict'ry won;
What shall we render to our God
For all that he hath done?

To God, the blessed Three in One,
All praise and glory be;
Crown, Lord, thy servants who have won
The victory through thee."

In the Gospel (John 13: 21-35,36-38)Jesus shows himself deeply troubled and testified, "Amen, amen I say to you, on of you will betray me."
He also tells Peter that he will deny him three times.
Imagine the pain of the Heart of Christ knowing that his closest companions will betray him, deny him, and leave him alone.

How will I stay with him during this Holy Week? How can I make up to him by my love?

Monday, April 6, 2009

The anointing at Bethany

The Gospel (John 12:1-11) is the anointing at Bethany. After dinner, served by Martha, Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil and anointed the feet of Jesus. When Judas criticizes this gesture of love, Jesus told him, "Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial..." What am I giving the Lord today as a gesture of love?

Pope Benedict XVI wrote: "There is only one anointing that is strong enough to meet death and that is the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the love of God. There is, then, something that is both exemplary and lasting in Mary's anointing of Jesus at Bethany. It was above all a concern to keep Christ alive in this world and to oppose the powers that aimed to silence and kill him. It was an act of faith and love. Every such act can have the same effect."

The opening prayer for this Monday of Holy Week is: "All-powerful God, by the suffering and death of your Son, strengthen and protect us in our weakness. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever."

One other quotation that seems good to reflect on in Holy Week is from St. Thomas of Villanova. " It is necessary for us to consider not only what Christ suffered, but also who it is that suffered, and for what he suffered."

We can ask ourselves the questions St. Ignatius would have us ask as we look on Christ crucified: What have I done for Him? What am I doing for Him? What will I do for Him?"

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday

The Preface for today, Palm Sunday, reminds us that "the days of his life-giving death and glorious resurrection are approaching. This is the hour when he triumphed over Satan's pride, the time when we celebrate the great event of our redemption."

The first reading is from the Prophet Isaiah (50:4-7) and one worth reflecting on as we begin Holy Week: "The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after mourning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.
The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame."

The Lord God is my help, too. It is in my morning prayer that he opens my ear that I may hear. I wish I could say that I have not turned back, but the important thing is to keep trying to follow Jesus and know that he gives us the strength for whatever he may ask.

What scene from Mark's Passion calls me to pray over as Holy Week begins?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Miscellaneous Day - Five Priorities

Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches. It is only united to him that we bear fruit. I am thinking that this should be a miscellaneous day as I want to share some thoughts with you. Our General Chapter last summer chose five priorities for all of us to deepen. You can find more on how we are doing this by looking at our Province website listed on the right side of the page:
The five priorities are really all related and part of the charism of the Society of the Sacred Heart. They are dialogue (includes relationships, networking, etc.); contemplation; community; justice and peace and the integrity of creation; and working with Youth. That is just my summary and I have been participating in an on-line Round Table with a dozen other RSCJs to see how our on-going formation strengthens our contemplation and interior life. I am more than ever aware of the need we have to share our inner life with at least another RSCJ or with a spiritual director, or even with our community. I think the best experience I had was when I was superior of a community in the poorest region of Chile and we gathered every Sunday to share our inner lives with each other. It was a tremendous grace.
How are you sharing your inner life with another?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Jesus brought life to the whole world

In the Preface of the Passion of the Lord we pray: "Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks.
The suffering and death of your Son
brought life to the whole world,
moving our hearts to praise your glory.
The power of the cross reveals your judgment on this world
and the kingship of Christ crucified."

How am I thanking Jesus for bringing life to the whole world through his suffering and death on the cross?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Preparing for Palm Sunday

I continue to use Thursday to prepare for Sunday as the Sunday liturgies are so full. This Sunday is Palm Sunday and we begin what we call Holy Week. We will read Mark's Passion Narrative for the Gospel. Mark has eight scenes:
1. The arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethesmane.
2. Jesus on trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin.
3. The denials of Peter.
4. The trial before Pilate.
5. The mocking of Jesus by Pilate's soldiers.
6. The Way of the Cross.
7. The death of Jesus.
8. The burial of Jesus.
These are the eight scenes listed in the Little Black Book for Mark's Passion Narrative. Perhaps, as you listen to the Gospel, you will see other scenes, scenes you want to stop and reflect on during the day.

The liturgy celebrates first the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. Often the palms are blessed outside of the Church and then there is a solemn procession with the faithful carrying palm branches singing "Hosanna to the Son of David, the King of Israel. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest."

This Sunday begins Holy Week. It is the holiest week of the year, but the world does not stop. Everything goes on - income tax, TV programs, regular work schedule...if I want this to be a "holy week" what do I do? Take time to think what would be pleasing to Jesus? It is good to try to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Holy Week, if you are a Catholic. Most Churches are having special Penance Services with many priests present to hear confessions.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"The truth will set you free"

We all have a path to follow. In today's Gospel (Jn 8:31-42), Jesus said to the Jews who believed in him, "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

What is truth? We have the assurance from Jesus that the truth will set us free. The Little Black Book says that there is a freedom that is within the reach of everyone in this world. "It is a freedom that no one can take from us. It is the freedom to love my neighbor, to forgive my enemy, to receive God's forgiveness, to believe the great truths, to open myself up to God's love."
Where in my life do I feel hemmed in, not free? I need to talk to the Good Shepherd about it. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who leads me out of confinement, into the wide green pastures of freedom. With Jesus, I will walk the path that has been determined for me from all eternity.