Be fully attentive to Jesus when you welcome him into your house.


The centurion who asked Jesus to help his paralyzed servant was a very high officer and a non-believer, still he realized that he was nothing in comparison to Jesus. He knew he was too unclean and too imperfect to welcome Jesus into his house.

Shouldn’t that be a warning for us, telling us not to be careless and unprepared for Jesus coming to us in Holy Communion?

I have always liked the way the Church leaves it up to us to receive Communion either in our mouths or in our hands. It isn’t a group activity for which we should be kept in line. No, it is a private thing in which each of us pays host to Jesus. 

Don’t you feel uncomfortable and unwanted when you have been invited somewhere, and then have been ignored by your host? Don’t be that way with Jesus. Prepare for his coming, and open your heart to him all the way.

Advent is a time for celebrating God's coming to us, but not only at Christmas

Sunday, 11/30/14

Today is the first day of Advent, a word which means “He is coming,” and it refers to the Lord coming to us. We like to restrict Advent to preparing us for the Lord’s coming to us on Christmas in 2014, but the Church does not oblige us there. No, she uses a wide range of readings at Mass during Advent to prepare us for his coming in many different ways.

He came into the world back in the year One. He will come in power and glory at the end of the world. Today’s Mass warns that he will come for each of us individually on the last day of life for each of us. 

But perhaps it is foolish of us to wonder when God will come to us. I say that because he is never away from us, we know this because St. Paul assures us that “God is not far from any of us, for in him we live and move and have out being.”  

In today's first reading John gave us a highly imaginative picture of the afterlife

Saturday, 11/29/14

The whole world now follows the Gregorian calendar, but there was a time when every country followed its own calendar, and the Church had its own. Back then, this was the last day of the year, and a new church year beginning  tomorrow with the First Sunday of the year.

The Church saw today not only as the last day of the year, but also the last day for this world. St. John, in his Book of Revelation tried putting into words the unspeakable wonders that would come to be as this world is replaced by a greater one.

In one of his letters when he was faced with the task of describing his vision of the afterlife he threw up his hands saying, “We are already God’s children, but as to what we shall be, it has not as yet been revealed.” That was the truth, but in today’s reading John came up with imagery to describe the indescribable joys he felt coming upon him.

From a time when there was no type of government other than kingship, John pictured God sitting upon a royal throne. From that time when tribesmen sought protection by having their powerful leaders name tattooed on their foreheads, John saw us protected by having the name of God tattooed on our foreheads. From two thousand years before the Internet or the first Wal-Mart, John pictured us picking what we needed right off the trees.

We might look at an alternate imaginary of the end time in “The Holy City.”

And once again the scene was changed;
New earth there seemed to be;
I saw the Holy City
Beside the tideless sea.

The light of God was on it's streets,
The gates were open wide,
And all who would might enter,
And no one was denied.

No need of moon or stars by night,
Or sun to shine by day;
It was the new Jerusalem
That would not pass away.  

We should make Bucket Lists we need to fill out good lives.

Friday, 11/28/14

Jesus said that when you see the fig tree come into bloom then you know that summer is nigh. In the same way, when you see the years flying past you, know that your life is coming to an end. You must make the best of the time left to you.

It feels like it was only last year that the movie “The Bucket List” came out, but it is going on eight years. How quickly our years slip away from us!

That movie portrayed all the adventurous activities one might cram into his or her final years. It was fun, but aren’t there less adventurous, but more important things we should cram in to our Bucket Lists?

While we are still down to earth, shouldn’t we compose lists of necessary down-to-earth activities that e need for our private Bucket Lists?

Making no suggestions, I’ll let you compose your own Bucket Lists, while I am busy composing mine. 

To thank God is to let him know you are thinking of him and of how much you are indebted to him.

Thursday, 11/27/ 14

Today we give thanks to God for all his gifts to us.

But, what does giving thanks mean? Is it simply the words, “Thank you?”

Whole industries, supporting many families, are devoted to printing and selling Thank You Cards. But what are they meant to tell the people to whom they are sent?

If you look up the word “thank” you will see that it is derived from the word “think.” So, to thank someone is to assure them you are thinking of them.

You are thinking of them, not in a vague way, but as the source of your joys. Today you think of God as the source of the love you have received from your family. You think of him as the one who devised your body and your mind. You think of him as the inventor of clouds and trees and baby faces.  You acknowledge your debt to him for all he has given to you and to the rest of us.

When you are in trouble, if you ask God for the right thing to say words will be given to you.

Wednesday, 11/26/14

Jesus told his followers that when they were handed over to judges they should not worry about what they could say, because words will be given to them.

The Latin for “will be given,” is dabitur, and that gives rise to one of the old priest jokes. Of priests who preach without making any preparation we would say that they depended on the dabitur.

 Back in the old days when priests offered Mass with their backs to the people, one old priest confessed, “When I turn around to preach I never know what I am going to say, and when I turn back to the altar I never know what I did say.”

Apart from those old jokes, there is something worthwhile that we learn from Jesus promising to give us words. He could give us his words when we are before judges only because  that channel for speaking through us was open before he used it. Since he could give you words on those dire occasions, then he can give you help  any other time when  you need it.

Take confidence in the fact that you are never alone. At every time calling for a difficult decision, just ask the Lord for the right words and they will be given to you.

St. John gave us the basic facts of life in the opening verses of this Gospel.

Tuesday, 11/25/14

I have nothing worthwhile to say about the first reading or the Gospel. Thos symbolic figures in John’s heavenly dream baffle me, and I don’t know anything about the end of the world.  So, let me cheat. What I frequently find spiritual worth in is Chapter One of the Gospel according to John. Please join me in thinking on its first four phrases: 1. In the beginning was the Word. 2. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 3. All things came to be made through him, and without him nothing was made. 4. In him was life, and the life was the light of the world.

1.     In the beginning as the Word.
 Americans, in speaking of Mother Nature are referring to an underlying plan that keeps all of creation running smoothly. The Greek's word for Mother Nature was the Logos, which we here translate as the Word. They saw the Logos as their God, immanent in nature. We go along with that, but we do not stop at that.

2.     The Word was with God, and the Word was God.
   We honor that same Logos also has a transcendent being, one God with the Creator. John describes their inner relationship as  Love.

3.     All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.
  All creation is somehow modeled after God, and brought into being by the Word.Dante in his Diving Comedy, after his sojourns in the Inferno and Purgatory, was brought to Paradise, and there he met with Beatrice, his heavenly muse. He asked her how it was that while everything in heaven was new, it was also somehow familiar. Here is how Beatrice explained creation’s likeness to God.

      All things among themselves possess an order,
       And this order is the form that makes the
       Universe like God.

It is the orderliness of music and of DNA that has them made in God's likeness. It was  only Christian or Jewish astronauts who could fly around the moon, knowing that God's order ruled there.   

4.     In him was Life, and this life was the light of the world.
The Life that is in God is an endless possession of his own being, and it is an intelligence embracing everything, What John here refers to as the “light of the world” describes the fleeting years of our existence, along with our off-and-on moments of consciousness.  On earth we are fleeting sparks struck off the Rock of Ages.

The widow's coins were so thin that instead of falling, they fluttered into the Temple coffer.

Monday, 11/24/14

The Gospels, with their giving us one highly dramatic scene after another lose their connection with plain life. You could like today’s Gospel for its reality.

Having found seats for themselves near the Temple’s collection box, the Apostles  were oohing and aahing over the great amounts  the wealthy were dropping into that Temple coffer.

I like the Korean word for such idle watching. It was googyung.

As the Apostles were sitting there googyunging, something  caught our Lord’s attention. It was a widow dropping two coins into the box. Those coins, called leptas, were so thin that instead of falling, they fluttered into the coffer.

Jesus was deeply touched by the widow who gave God all she had to live on. He was so wonderful about appreciating the hearts of others.

Pardon me for recalling an incident from when I was fifteen. Back then, before air conditioning, we often spent hot summer evenings out on the front steps. Burl, one of the guys, was from Arkansas. Anyway, we were talking about baseball when Burl suddenly stood up. He had spied a big brown Chow dog across the street, and agonizing for the Chow, he shouted, “Look at her, will you? She has nowhere for sweating but her black nose”

 Burl shared our Lord’s ability to feel what others go through.

We want to be there when the saints go maching in.

Sunday, 11/23/14

Although most religious advice that we hear sounds wonderful, it doesn’t always work for us. In today’s Gospel Jesus says, “What you did for one of the least brothers of mine you did for me.” Those words give rise to people telling us we should see Christ in unfortunate ones. I know that is very good advice, but it doesn’t work for me. I see just the individual I’m dealing with, and I can’t fit Christ into him or her. What I do see is a fellow brother or sister of our doting father, and I know it pleases him when I go out of my way to be kind to this runt of his family.

The second reading today calls Christ “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep,” and that could put you in mind of an ancient understanding of kingship. The ancients in many countries saw their king as the direct descendant of the first individual of their race to set foot on their shore. Christ, the first fruits, was the first of our race to put a foot on heaven’s shore.

For celebrating the feast of Christ the King you should find beauty in the Preface of the Mass. It conjures up an image of what Romans called an official "Triumph." It was like a tickertape parade, and it was an honor the Roman Senate voted to a general who had won great honors for Rome.  The day became a holiday for the citizens who would line the road, cheering on the great general and all in his command.

The Preface gives particular attention to the followers in his command. Christ the King “delivers to Thy sublime majesty an eternal and universal kingdom; a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.”

And, I want to be there when the saints go marching in.

Jesus nade the Sadducees see that they actually did believe in life after death.

Saturday, 11/22/14

The Sanhedrin, which was the Jewish senate, saw Jesus as a threat to their power and security. That Sanhedrin was made up of elements that didn’t always get along together. There was the family of the high priests. There were the Pharisees, and the Sadducees.

After the other two groups had tried unsuccessfully to get Jesus to say something they could use as evidence for putting him to death, it was time for the Sadducees to take a crack at it. Let me give you what bought the Sadducees into existence.

King David had promised the throne after him to his son Solomon, but when he was dying in 980 B.C. an upstart son Adonijah raised a private army, and began acting like he was king. But when Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, complained about this, David commanded his priest Zadoc to crown Solomon king. Feeling that Adonijah would kill him for it, Zadoc anointed Solomon king. Surprisingly, the whole nation rose up, shouting , “Long live King Solomon!” With that, Adonijah had to flee for his life.

From that time on it became a sacred tradition with the Jews that only a direct descendant of Zadoc could be anointed high priest. It went on that way until 154 B.C when the only available descendant of Zadoc was an imbecile. So, the nation departed from tradition, choosing Jonathan, the younger brother of Judas Maccabeus as high priest. And, different group reacted to that in different ways.

One group of traditionalist went off to live n caves over the Dead Sea. They were the Essenes, who left us the Dead Sea Scrolls. A more prominent group of traditionalists     
stayed on as a permanent group of separatists. We know the Separatists as the Pharisees.

The boyhood friends of Jonathan used his position to gain for themselves the wealth that came with managing the temple. They made a joke out of what is meant to be a descendant of Zadoc. They were saying, “Zadoc was high priest, and so is Jonathan; so by reason of sharing that office Jonathan is a descendant of Zadoc, and we friends of Jonathan are the Zadoc-ites.” That name, Zadocites, was softened to be pronounced as Sadducees.

When the Sadducees called themselves the descendants of Abraham and Jacob, Jesus used that to make them see that they actually believed in an afterlife. He made them realize that they thought of Abraham and Jacob as still being alive. In that way it proved to them that they did believe in life after death.

The Feast of the Presentation of Mary is the Feast Day for ladies named Mary.

Friday, 11/21/14

This is a day the Church sets aside for honoring Mary, the mother of Jesus. It is also the day on which ladies with the name of Mary celebrate their feast day. The feast is based on a story that told how Mary as a young girl was presented at the Temple of Jerusalem as a virgin.

The story is found in the so-called Gospel of the Apostle James, and it appeared late in the Second Century. Origen in the Third Century referred to it, saying it was not factual. There was no First Century custom of presenting virgins to the temple.

Christians in the Middle Ages were very fond of this story. Tintoretto left us a great painting of a four-foot high Mary being presented to a seven foot tall high priest.

Since this is really just a day for Christians to lovingly look up to Mary, we can honor her with a hymn.
Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing.
You reign now in heaven with Jesus our king.

Ave, Ave, Ave Maria; Ave, Ave Maria

In heaven the blessed your glory proclaim;
On earth we your children invoke your fair name. 

Ave, Ave, Ave Maria; Ave, Ave Maria

We pray for our mother, the Church upon earth;
And bless, holy Mary, the land of our birth.

Ave, Ave, Ave Maria; Ave, Ave, Maria.

Friday, 11/21/14

This is a day the Church sets aside for honoring Mary, the mother of Jesus. It is also the day on which ladies with the name of Mary celebrate their feast day. The feast is based on a story that told how Mary as a young girl was presented at the Temple of Jerusalem as a virgin.

The story is found in the so-called Gospel of the Apostle James, and it appeared late in the Second Century. Origen in the Third Century referred to it, saying it was not factual. There was no First Century custom, of presenting virgins to the temple.

Christians in the Middle Ages were very fond of this story. Tintoretto left us a great painting of a four-foot high Mary being presented to a seven foot tall high priest.

Since this is really just a day for Christians to lovingly look up to Mary, we can honor her with a hymn.
Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing.
You reign now in heaven with Jesus our king.

Ave, Ave, Ave Maria; Ave, Ave Maria

In heaven the blessed your glory proclaim;
On earth we your children invoke your fair name. 

Ave, Ave, Ave Maria; Ave, Ave Maria

We pray for our mother, the Church upon earth;
And bless, holy Mary, the land of our birth.

Ave, Ave, Ave Maria; Ave, Ave, Maria.

Friday, 11/21/14

This is a day the Church sets aside for honoring Mary, the mother of Jesus. It is also the day on which ladies with the name of Mary celebrate their feast day. The feast is based on a story that told how Mary as a young girl was presented at the Temple of Jerusalem as a virgin.

 The story is found in the so-called Gospel of the Apostle James, and it appeared late in the Second Century. Origen, in the Third Century, referred to it, saying it was not factual. There was no First Century custom, of presenting virgins to the temple.

Christians in the Middle Ages were very fond of this story. Tintoretto left us a great painting of a four-foot high Mary being presented to a seven foot tall high priest.

Since this is really just a day for Christians to lovingly look up to Mary, we can honor her with a hymn.
Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing.
You reign now in heaven with Jesus our king.

Ave, Ave, Ave Maria; Ave, Ave Maria

In heaven the blessed your glory proclaim;
On earth we your children invoke your fair name. 

Ave, Ave, Ave Maria; Ave, Ave Maria

We pray for our mother, the Church upon earth;
And bless, holy Mary, the land of our birth.

Ave, Ave, Ave Maria; Ave, Ave, Maria.

Foreseeing the complete destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70, Jesus wept.

Thursday, 11/20/14

It was Jewish terrorists who would bring about the destruction of the city in the year 70 A.D..
There had always been patriots who wanted a Jerusalem independent from Rome, but after the year 60 a group of them became brutal. Back then there were no explosives for roadside bombings, but those terrorists did the next most lethal thing.

They armed themselves with short easily-hidden daggers called sheekas, and they themselves came to be called the Sheekari.

After ambushing every Roman patrol that took to the roads, the Sheekaris returned to their hiding places in Jerusalem. With all else failing, the Roman Senate ordered General Titus to destroy Jerusalem. The soldiers cut off all the roads and water lines, and set up catapults to fling fire balls into the city.

The Pharisees, who had always been business dealers with Romans, were allowed to leave the city, and they were faced with the task of keeping their religion alive. For that they decided that to be truly Jewish people had to keep all the precepts of the Law. That turned them against the Christians who would not avoid eatiing with Gentiles.  

For each of us the gifts we were born with are the gold coin with which we much deal, earnig another ten.

Wednesday, 11/19/14

Jesus told a parable about a nobleman who went off to a distant country, coming back as king; and he based the story on Jewish history; specifically on the story of Herod who went off seeking favor with the Romans, and came back with his having been  appointed the king of the Jews.

Jesus, in basing a parable on that story, was telling us that we are to imagine  ourselves to be that nobleman’s servants. The gold coins he has entrusted to you and to me stand for all the advantages given to each of us. These advantages would include good parents, good health, good minds. Each of us is meant to work with our gifts to make as much as we can of ourselves.

Twenty years ago the bishops of America (who are meeting in Washington this week) told each American diocese to conduct a thorough examination of its Catholic schools.  Our diocese appointed a committee of us to report on what we were doing with advertising, charging, devising curricula. As well we were meant to clarify what we hoped to accomplish.  I was put on investigating that last one.

I saw that Rome has one congregation devoted to educational matters, and in checking with them I found a paper written in 1988 by the prefect of the congregation, Cardinal William Baum. He wrote that our purpose as educators was to assist each student in developing his or her personality to the fullest.     

Each of us, formed individually in the image of God, come into the world with the need to develop that likeness more and more clearly.  Each of us can turn his or her gold coin into ten by following the U.S. Army’s command that we should “be all that we can be.”

The Book of Revelation described the unsatisfactory lives of two bishop. Have you similar lapses to be corrected?

Tuesday, 11/18/14

Our first readings this week are from the Book of Revelation which consists of a variety of visions of the Apostle John. Today’s reading comes from a section that deals with the seven angels, or bishops, of Turkey’s peninsula. A series of visions has revealed to John the spiritual condition of those seven bishops.

We have no record as to whether or not those bishops took John’s warning to heart, reforming their lives. But their different spiritual conditions are put in the Bible in the hope that if we have the same faults we would reform out lives.

So, first, John warned the bishop of Sardis, telling him that although he appeared to be alive spiritually, he was nearly dead. As well, that bishop of Sardis had been involved in kinds of work that were not acceptable to God. John urged the bishop to stir up the last bit of life in his soul before death visited him like  thief in the night. If you share the failings of the bishop of Sardis, then you should stir up the last bit of life in your soul before death comes to you like a thief in the night.

Speaking to the bishop of Laodicea, John noted that the bishop was fond of saying, “I am rich, and have no need for anything.” Is that like something you might say? It does sound like me. You should wonder about how God sees your life. If it is a very comfortable blend of good and bad behavior it might be similar to that of the bishop of Laodicea. John spoke of such a life as being like a drink that one expected to be quite cold or quite hot, but which is discovered to be a blah lukewarm. God might spit out someone who was merely lukewarm. 

When Jesus cured the blind man he told him to go his way; but the blind man, whose name was Bartimaeus, didn't go his way. He became one the followers of Jesus.

Monday, 11/17/14

In the opening sentence of his Gospel St. Luke told us that he was not an eyewitness to any of the events he recorded. He said that he went to the original eyewitnesses. One of those was St. Mark, and sometimes Mark’s account tells us interesting things that Luke left out. That is the case with the story about the blind man of Jericho.

Mark told us that the blind man’s name was Bartimaeus, and since he was writing for people of the Jerusalem Christian community, he reminded them that Bartimaeus was the son of Timaeus, a man whom the people had come to know.

Also, it is of interest that Mark told us that after Jesus told Batimaeus, “Go, your way, your faith has saved you” Bartimaeus didn’t go his way. Instead, he became one of the followers of Jesus.

If and when our blindness is cured we like Barimaeus should become true followers of Christ.

We will be judged by the degree to which we have made good use of our God-given gifts.

Sunday, 11/16/14

Our Gospel today is from Chapter 25 of the Gospel according to Matthew. Through that chapter’s three quite different parables Jesus outlined the three main criteria by which God will judge each of our lives.

The first of the parables featured five virgins who had oil for their lamps. With the oil representing dying in the state of grace, they were welcomed into the wedding feast. The third parable portrayed five virgins who always tended to the needy. They too were welcomed into the feast.

In today’s parable, the second of the three parables, a master gave each of three servants a  different number of talents to work with. The first and the third servant, by working with what each had received, doubled the amount for the master. Today’s second of the three parables pictured a man who buried the talent that he had received, doing nothing with it. The master had him thrown out, where he joined others who were left to grind their teeth.

Although we have narrowed the word talent, restricting its meaning to inborn artistic abilities, in this parable it stood for all the advantages with which one may be born. It would be a good mind, a healthy body, a good family, a good education.

Please forgive me for returning to a line of thought to which I come around too often. Here it is again.

Thirty years ago a schoolgirl raised her hand, asking, “If we are all made in God’s image, how come some people are left handed?”

After I had let that question peculate in my mind for a time, I came up with a fine answer for which I have no Scriptural backing. My answer sees God as similar to a many faceted jewel, with each of us born with a potential for mirroring his or her own facet of God.

As one makes better and better use of the talents he or she was born with, that person will come to better mirror his own facet of God.  Since each of us can mirror a different segment of God’s being, if each of us became all he or she could be, we would be, when put together, like a jigsaw picture, form a picture of God.    

God is very pleased with anyone who helps old ladies who have no else to turn to.

Saturday, 11/15/14

Jesus told a story about a widow who kept coming to a judge, asking him to render a decision in her favor. He told the story as a way of encouraging us to keep praying for what is right.

However, the story turned me to thinking about older ladies who have no one to help them out of their troubles. Anyone with the time and the desire to do charitable work could do nothing more pleasing to God than for him or her to get involved with helping ladies who have no one else to help them.

Let me digress to describe a case of that sort from my family. It is concerned with my grandmother.  In 1875 my grandfather and a partner came over from Limerick City with just enough cash to open a general store in my home town. The store caught on pretty well, and Grandfather married my grandmother, a girl whose family had come over in 1840,and who had settled across the state from the general store.

Then, in 1888 my grandfather came down with tuberculosis, and my grandmother took him and their two small boys to where her parent's family could care for him. Grandfather died there, and afterwards Grandmother with the two boys and a baby girl came back, asking her husband’s former partner for her husband’s share of their store. 

After that man denied all of Grandmother's claims, she turned herself into a milliner, supporting her little family by fashioning fine hats for rich ladies. Then, after her boys were old enough to bring in a little money running errands, Grandmother started using her earnings for lawyers to sue her husband's former partner. With no success, those lawsuit went on and on until Grandmother was too old to keep up her sewing.

She and her grown daughter who cared for her lived on with my parents and the six of us kids. Grandmother died when I was twelve, leaving us nothing but her bitterness. (I did see her happy once. That was when I asked her what she remembered from the Civil War, and getting up, she jigged to the tune, singing, “We’ll hang Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree.”)

John warned us against deceivers who told us that the body of Jesus was a mirage.

Friday, 11/14/14

In is Second Letter St. John wrote about the deceivers who do not acknowledge that Jesus came in the flesh.

The first heresy to hit Christianity featured would-be-Christians who just could not picture Jesus with a need to relieve himself, or with bones that grew weary; but John, in his story of the Samaritan woman at the well, had told us that Jesus was weary, needing to rest while he sent the Apostles into town.

Six centuries before Christ, the Persian leader Zoroaster had a large segment of the Middle East believing in two creators, a good one who created our souls, and an evil one who created our bodies. Many people, without buying into that religion, went along with viewing our human bodies as not quite nice.

Those people began saying that the body of Jesus was a mirage that accompanied his great soul. With the Greek word for a mirage being a dokein, it began to be the custom to refer to such people as Docetists. Some old religious movie-makers used to picture Jesus as something like a walking spook.

The evil in Docetism is that it took away the meaning of the suffering Jesus did for us, turning it into a mirage that really didn’t hurt.

No, Jesus heroically put up with suffering such as you and I could not endure, and he did it for love of us. Like the song says, “No, no, no. You can’t take that away from him.”

Mother Cabrini was a frail lady who would not slow down in helping the needy.

Thursday, 11/13/14

Today we honor Mother Cabrini who was the first canonized American citizen. Her family lived well enough off of a cherry tree orchard in a part of northern Italy that belonged to the Austrian Empire. She was the youngest of eleven children, of whom only three others lived to adolescence.

Francesca, born two months prematurely, was not expected to live. Still, she was able to attend secondary school with the Daughters of the Sacred Heart, graduating cum laude with a teaching certificate. But when she asked for admittance with those Daughters of the Sacred Heart her frail health moved them to deny her admittance.

Turning then to a nearby orphanage, she was hired as a teacher, but soon rose to be the headmistress. She must have had a winning, pleasant, way about her; because already at age twenty she had six young ladies who were calling her mother, and who were all eagerness to follow her lead in caring for dispossessed children and adults.

In 1877, when Francesca was twenty-seven, a dying Pope Pius IX recognized her band as the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. When they asked the Holy Father for permission to become missionaries to China, he turned them instead to minister to the millions of Italian immigrants who were struggling to stay alive and well in America. By age thirty-nine she had become an American citizen, by age fifty-nine she had founded sixty-seven hospitals and orphanages in New York and Chicago.

She was sixty-seven when she died in 1917. By then, her beloved Italians were moving up in the world. I found it amusing in 1961, that when a priest friend of mine was setting up a home for Korean immigrants, I helped him haul tables from a Mother Cabrini shelter where they were no longer needed.  

Faith challenges us to open our hearts.

Wednesday, 11/12/14

In eating alone two nights ago, and looking through things I had forgotten about after copying them onto my Kindle, I came upon a sermon of Pope Francis. It was one he gave two years ago at the beginning of an official Year of Faith. In it he urged  us to open our doors to faith, he made the following comments.

Among the most striking experiences of the past few decades is that of encountering locked doors. Little by little, increasing insecurity has driven us to bolt our doors.

The bolted door of my house, which is the setting of my intimate life, of my dreams, hopes, and moments of happiness, is now locked against others. And it is not only a matter of my physical house, it is also my whole life, my heart. These locked doors guard the insecurity of life that is becoming more fragile, less open. But faith challenges us to open those doors.

Faith challenges us to discover that the sad reality around us can change.

Faith challenges us to have the hearts of children.

Faith challenges us to trust in the power of the Holy Spirit who is present in the Church and visible in the signs of the times.

Faith challenged us to join the constant movement of life, and of history; without falling into the paralyzing defeatism of believing everything in the past was better.

Faith is an urgency to think in new ways, to offer new suggestions and express a new creativity. It is urging us toward, kneading our lives with the new leaven of sincerity and truth.

Faith challenges us to forgive and to know how to bring out a smile.

Fsoith challenges us to approach every person who lives on the margin of existence and calling him or her by name.

Faith means being a church of open doors.

When we have done all things well we should still consider ourselves to be God's unprofitable servants.

Tuesday, 11/11/14

Yesterday, Paul, opening his Letter to Titus, identified himself as a slave of the Lord. I suppose he would have applied to himself something Jesus said in today’s Gospel, namely, “When you have done all things that have been commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants.”

Paul considered himself to be God’s servant. What about us? Are we God’s servants?

I have a clear memory of a Seventh Grade girl protesting against the idea. She said, “My life is my own, I can do what I want with it, and I don’t like the Bible saying I can’t.”

As Christians how can we call ourselves our own bosses, when Jesus said, “I have not come to be served, but to serve.”

Have you ever heard the expression, “The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord?” So, to start being wise, we should live in fear the Lord.

Alright, that word “fear” is a poor choice here. It evokes an image of trembling before a threat.

In his Chapter Eleven Isaiah listed the Gifts of the Holy Spirit as Wisdom. Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, and Fear of the Lord.

So, if it is not trembling before a threat, what is the Fear of the Lord that behooves us?

For me it means living in a constant awareness of living in God’s presence. I think that is what Isaiah meant by Fear of the Lord, because he said that of all of God’s gifts the one that most delights him is Fear of the Lord.

Paul told Titus to appoint priests for the towns on Crete.

Monday, 11/10/14

Our first readings for today and tomorrow are from Paul's short letter to his disciple Titus whom Paul had sent to the island of Crete to organize the church there. He instructed Titus to find a leading Christian in every town whom he might appoint as that town’s presbyter.

Since Webster’s Dictionary tells us that our word priest is a contraction of the word presbyter, we can say that Paul told Titus to appoint a priest for each town.

The word presbyter has an interesting history. The herders who moved their beasts over the south Asian plateau used the word byt for an ox. They called the lead ox a pres-byt. Following that, a priest should behave like a lead ox that is out in front pulling the load. He shouldn’t behave like the man up on the cart cracking his whip.

Our word bishop is a contraction of two Greek words epi and scopus, which meant an overseer. In mentioning the qualities required of a man to become a priest, Paul went on to say, “as an overseer he should be blameless.” However, our translation makes an abrupt change in the thought to say, “For a bishop should be blameless.”

Once when I was taking a class from Father Joseph Fitzmyer S. J. , our leading expert on Paul's Letters, I asked him if our Catholic translators had altered Paul’s line of thought for the purpose of getting the bishops into the act. He said yes, it was a terrible twisting of Paul’s meaning.

Today we recall the dedication of the first, and all subsequent Catholic churhes.

Sunday, 11/9/14

Emperor Constantine married one of Rome’s wealthiest women, and she brought him an immense dowry. Part of that dowry was one of Rome’s seven hills: the Lateran hill. Towering over Lateran Hill there stood a rectangular structure that was reserved as an  audience hall for visiting monarchs. It was called a basilica, following on basilous, the Greek word for a king. The front wall featured a semi-circle alcove where the throne waited for its rightful occupier.

When Constantine became a Christian, he gave the Lateran Basilica to Pope Silvester as his own church, and down to the present it is seen as the pope’s personal church.

People love that reading from Ezekiel in which a stream bursts out from the temple’s east side giving life to trees and fish as it descends to where it turns the ocean into fresh water. We see that that stream as a metaphor for all the grace that people take away with them from church, carrying life out to all with whom they come in contact.

Let me relate an incident that taught me the worth of our church buildings. Twenty or thirty years ago I went over to take a look at one of those new fan-shaped churches that was going up across town. Having got in the way of the workmen as I stepped over the scaffolding, I met with the young assistant pastor of the parish, and I asked him if the parish had grown too large for it to be accommodated by the old church building.

He told me, “Vatican II has taught us that the people, not the building, are the church; and since the old rectangular structure by lining the people up toward the altar, and not allowing them to be aware of one another as the church, it really couldn’t be called a church.”

Chastened, I went and slipped into St. Paul’s in Riverside.  Then, as the door swung shut behind me, I remembered how the ancient Jews had seen their temple as an exact replica of Yahweh’s own house in heaven, and I became enveloped by a like conviction. I was hushed  by the silent stars on the vaulted ceiling and by the transformed light of the stained glass windows.

I like what a little Pentecostal girl said about St. Paul’s. I had asked all the sixth graders if we should be quiet in church, and that girl answered, “We don’t have to keep quiet in the church I go to, but we have to be quiet in the Catholic church because it is God’s house.”