29 December 2008

Spiritual Blindness

Just as the darkness of night can make it difficult for us to see where we are going on an unlit road, so the spiritual darkness of hatred, anger or jealousy can blind us to the places where the Lord wishes to lead our hearts. In today's first reading, St. John tells us that "whoever hates his brother is in darkness." Harboring feelings of hate, revisiting memories which provoke us to feel angry or enviously resenting the good fortune of others are all recipes for a spiritual fender-bender -- or worse! Negative energy blinds us to the presence of the Lord in our hearts. It turns our thoughts and concerns in on ourselves and, as a result, we become insensitive to the needs of those around us. Today's Gospel gives us an example of what can happen when we resist the temptation toward negativity. We learn that it had been revealed to Simeon "by the Holy Spirit" that he would not die before he saw the Messiah. Only one who is not caught in the snares of spiritual blindness can be poised to receive such good news from the Holy Spirit.

Certainly we are not in the same position as Simeon, awaiting the birth of Israel's Messiah. But we, too, must keep ourselves open to the Lord's message in our lives. The Lord continues to speak to the hearts of those who seek Him. In the little everyday matters which might tempt us to cultivate negative thoughts, let us ask the Lord for the grace to put aside all that is negative and all that will impede our ability to be open to the Lord's voice in our hearts.

"If I am beset with pride or anger, I must above all else strive to cultivate humility and gentleness, and I must turn all my religious exercises,—prayer, sacraments, prudence, constancy, moderation, to the same object."
St. Francis de Sales

25 December 2008

Christmas AD 2008

We cheated. We sang Christmas Carols during the third week of Advent; but we couldn't resist! The Young-Lum family came to visit and we had a sing-a-long complete with signs for all the days in the "12 Day of Christmas." The audio (well sung, but poorly recorded on a digital camera) is from our sing-a-long last Friday.

Also captured in our two minute video are shots from our "troublesome tree." The tree in our Assembly room fell over and the angel went flying across the room. It appears she injured herself on a nearby bookcase. Sister Mary de Sales rushed her to the infirmary for some super-glue surgery on her broken wings. Although we do not have any post-op shots of the angel, we do have a picture of a small giraffe ornament who managed to survive the crash and remain upright. Amazing! Some other important preparations include the ordinary tasks of cooking, cleaning, walking the dog and answering the phone. Do enjoy a two-minute Christmas visit.

A happy and holy Christmas to all our readers!

21 December 2008

The Rising Sun!

With this fourth Sunday of Advent, we come to the fifth of the Great O Antiphons and we reach back over 350 posts and share a piece from our archives, posted on this day in 2005.

As the calendar is currently arranged, this antiphon is sung on the shortest day of the year. The rising sun, the Oriens, from the Latin verb orior is translated as the "Branch" in the book of Zechariah, which the angel of the Lord announces (3:12). The title Oriens as well as the two which follow, everlasting light and Sun of justice, all link Christ, present with God at the beginning of the world, to the sun which came to be on the fourth day of creation. This same light is experienced as the fulfillment of what Yahweh promised to the people of Israel; for Zechariah, father of St. John the Baptist, announces that God, "from on high will bring the rising Sun to visit us, to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death" (Lk1:78-9).

Nature's brightest star is but a mere indication of the brightness of the light of Christ. To the people of Israel, the Branch, the one who rises from the stump of Jesse, is the longed-for-Messiah; to those preparing to celebrate the Incarnation of the second person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Branch is the Messiah who has come and who comes again each year, in the hearts of Christians.

As we prepare our hearts to welcome the Lord, let us clothe ourselves in the light which flows from the Sun of justice. Let us seek justice in all our relationships. Justice is what we owe to one another; some relationships are equal -- marriage, siblings, peers, co-workers, etc.; in other relationships it is proper that it be "unequal" -- parents and children, teachers and students, employer and employees, etc. When we examine our relationships, we may find that we "owe" a little more to some people than we ordinarily give. Advent is a wonderful time to ask for the grace to be more generous in our relationships with one another. Let us thank the Lord for the different relationships in our lives and let us strive to be true sons and daughters of the Sun of justice. Come, Lord Jesus.

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae et sol iustitiae: Veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris et umbra mortis.
O Rising brightness of everlasting light and Sun of justice: come and enlighten those sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death.

17 December 2008


Although the "Lion of Judah" didn't make it into the titles used by the Church in the O Antiphons which begin today, we hear in today's readings how the house of Judah is the privileged family from which will come the "Flower of Jesse's Stem" and the "Key of David."

As we begin this sacred octave which prepares our hearts for the coming of the Messiah, we are given seven titles of our Lord upon which to reflect. It is significant to note that each of these Antiphons, divided into two parts: first the title, addressing the Messiah to come and then the second part which begins, in Latin, with the imperative "Veni." Come! We invite the Messiah to come to us each day. We beg him to to set us free, to show us the way, to break our chains, to come quickly!

This is a wonderful pattern for us to consider in our prayers. After addressing the Lord and describing some attribute of his greatness, these antiphons petition Him to come among us. How very much this is needed today. Let us invite the Lord into our lives, our hearts, our world, our families, our relationships. Come, Lord Jesus, come!

O Wisdom, you who proceed forth from the mouth of the Most High, stretching from end to end, ordering all things strongly and sweetly:
Come to teach us the way of prudence.

13 December 2008

Dreams Come True

Dreams, that is, for the people whom this hero is helping. Several weeks ago we encouraged shameless voting for our alumna and, "community crusader" Liz McCartney who was nominated as one of CNN's top 10 heroes of the year. Having earned more votes than her nine fellow activists, Liz' St. Bernard Project received the $100,000 award from CNN. Below is Liz' very gracious 40-second acceptance speech.

If you'd like to read more about Liz' work visit the write-up on our school's website and check out the snappy new look on the St. Bernard Project's own website. If you'd like to help the SBP ... or you're just looking for a good deed to do during this Advent season, you can visit the SBP wishlist where wishes can come true for as little as $25 for faucets, $50 for plumbing tools and bigger gifts of $12,000 can rebuild an entire house. Kudos to Liz and her 8,000 volunteers: olive branches of hope to the flood victims of New Orleans!

09 December 2008

To Love Like God Loves

In today's Gospel we have the familiar parable of the lost sheep. It may not speak to the experience of those of us whose daily lives do not involve the agrarian chores of shepherding and care of animals but surely it speaks to our sense of the practical. It makes no sense to leave behind 99 sheep to seek out one lone lost animal. In fact, one might be tempted to wonder about the quality of the lost sheep if he couldn't manage to stick with the flock in the first place. This, however, is probably not our Lord's intention in telling us this parable. It is the unreasonableness of God's love that He wishes to show us. God loves us so much that he would leave behind the flock to go in tender search of any single lost soul. The parable does not suggest neglect for the rest of the flock; it suggests lavish -- and perhaps even undeserved -- love for each single member of the flock.

This coming Thursday in the Office of Readings we will hear a selection from St. Peter Chrysologus which speaks of a longing to see God: "Hinc est quod amor qui cupit videre Deum, et si non habet judicium habet tamen studium pietatis." The Breviary renders it loosely: "A love that desires to see God may not have reasonableness on its side, but it is the evidence of filial love." One could fill a page with translations and interpretations of "pietatis" but that ancient Roman sense of "responsibility to the God(s)" carried with it a sense of loyalty, tenderness and kindness. And so, if we desire to see God, to imitate that love with which He loves us, let us put aside the temptation to measure our love for one another by what seems reasonable to us. Let us show our love and our kindness to one another by being unreasonably tender as the Lord was when he went in search of the lost sheep. Imagine how different our families, workplaces, parishes, etc., could be if each person felt as loved and as cared-for as the lost sheep in the parable. Together, ewe and we can change the world, one lost sheep at a time!

05 December 2008

Wait ... an Advent Thought!

On Wednesday evening we were treated to a wonderful Advent hour of reflection. Our Sister Archivist dusted off the Advent Sermons of St. Francis de Sales, combined it with a touch of some more contemporary authors and wove it together with her own rich style of reflecting on our Salesian heritage. Her theme: the art of waiting. We share an excerpt from sister's stellar presentation. Among other words of wisdom, Sister suggested that "waiting" is not a very popular activity today:

"Since we are uncomfortable waiting, our impulse is to fill in the time with cell phones and iPods. We have to stay, but we want to get out of the place where we are waiting -- most of all, by doing something . . . . It is important to note that all the figures appearing on the first pages of Luke's Gospel are waiting. Zechariah and Elizabeth are waiting. Mary is waiting. Anna and Simeon have been waiting in the temple for years! The whole opening scene of the Good News is filled with people patiently waiting. . . . And these to whom promises have been made are waiting actively. They aren't just sitting on their hands, awaiting THE moment. They know that what they are waiting for is growing from roots in the ground on which they are standing. The secret of waiting is the faith that the seed has been planted, that something has begun. St. Francis de Sales encourages us to live fully in the present moment. Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Anna and Simeon are all ACTIVELY waiting, fully present to the moment, fully confident that something is happening within them."

01 December 2008

Come, Lord Jesus!

As we begin this most sacred season of Advent, we might stop to consider what a rich invitation it is for us to examine our own journey. We who seek Christ are all pilgrims on this side of eternity. During this season of preparation, our journey takes us to Bethlehem where we shall marvel at how the Lord comes among us as a child.
Those of us who live in monasteries do not travel a great deal, but when we do, we are struck (sometimes in more ways than one) by the rules and regulations that have been added at airports: shoe removal, food and liquid prohibitions, baggage limits, etc. Recently applied airline regulations may give us some insight into this journey of ours during the season of Advent.

Moses took off his shoes after the Lord appeared to him in the burning bush. He was standing on holy ground. Airports may not be holy ground, but our heart's journey to the manger where the Holy Family is gathered is a journey which can help us to grow in holiness. When we prepare ourselves for the Lord of Lords to be born anew in our hearts, we lay aside all that is unworthy of so great a visitor. Our hearts, if they are ready for the coming of Christ, will be made holy by Him whom we welcome.

Fortunately for us, we do not need to carry large bags when we travel: our wardrobe is simple and our needs are few. One cannot help but to notice, however, that the number and size of bags one may now carry on board an airplane continues to grow smaller. This, too, provides an insight into our pilgrimage to the manger in Bethlehem. When we journey toward Christ we cannot carry extra baggage. Such "baggage" might be: resentment, fear, anger, jealousy, discouragement, etc., and they are all roadblocks along our way. The more baggage we have, the more difficult it can be to stay on the road that will take us to Bethlehem. When we are not weighed down with baggage, we are also free to help others along the way. Let us set out, this Advent season, to throw down our baggage (or at least check it at the curb) and hurry for God is with us and He awaits us at the manger.