Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Intercessions ~ Third Sunday of Easter

At the start of May we remember those who keep birthdays,/ anniversaries,/ or other days of remembrance./ For the blessings of gratitude and comfort./ We pray to the Lord.

May is Mary's month./ We pray for human hearts to revel in the atmosphere of peace,/ humility,/ warmth and love she creates around her Son./ We pray to the Lord.

The world so often fails its children./ We boldly ask for every child to be welcomed,/ safeguarded,/ blessed and nurtured well./ We pray to the Lord.

In the Easter time around the world,/ children will receive their First Holy Communion./ Sharing their joy/ we pray for them to grow in friendship with Jesus/ and ask the blessings of peace and stability for their homes./ We pray to the Lord.

Oxygen increases in the world this time of year as the forests of our hemisphere leaf out and green./ We ask as well for peace to increase and grow in every corner of the world./ For an end to the waste,/ fear and death of wars./ We pray to the Lord.

We stand in a prayerful solidarity with the countries of Czech Republic,/ Denmark,/ Djbouti,/ Dominica,/ Dominican Republic and East Timor,/ entrusting to God's kind mercy those who govern and those who are frail,/ poor or vulnerable./ We pray to the Lord.

We remember the many people entrusted to our own prayer,/ remembering at Mass our relatives,/ friends,/ neighbors and colleagues who carry burdens and concerns./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Blue Angels in the Easter Season

AN ONLINE NEWS SERVICE indicated that 218,000 people packed Jones Beach to capacity to witness the 2012 Bethpage Air Show featuring the Navy fighter planes called the Blue Angels. A basic model Blue Angel costs 21 million dollars. Enhanced with weapons equipment, the cost bumps to 56 million. It annually costs 40 million dollars to maintain the squadron of six planes. The fuel bill for one show costs 21 million or  112 million for the show season. It costs 86 million dollars in fuel to train a squadron. 

The machine is dubbed the best fighter plane in the world. Americans love to talk that way, "We have the best health care in the world, " "We have the best education in the world." "We have the best military in the world." "We have the best cars in the world." "We have the best system of government in the world."  That's empire talk and Jesus knew all about empire. Jesus only talks about the Kingdom of God (the rule of God) and the need to establish, promote and extend it.

When I read about the Blue Angels I thought that's not cool ~ an angel is a messenger from heaven. Angels come to tell us about the things of God. Angels are the entourage of Jesus at his Conception and Birth, in his desert-fasting, in the Garden of Gethsemane, on Easter morning at the empty tomb, as he ascended into heaven. A Blue Angel screams a terrifying and deafening scream. Blue Angels are killing machines doubling as acrobatic entertainment.

Some of us will remember that during the Soviet years, huge parades formed in Moscow on May 1 as a display for the world of Soviet military might. And as Americans we poked fun at it - making caricatures of the Soviet leaders in their medals and hats reviewing the parade of power from atop Lenin's tomb. But isn't the Bethpage Air show, with is flashy theatrics in the sky, an American version of the same thing? Oh, in this sad world of struggle what else could we do with all that tax money? Maybe eradicate childhood polio which is making a resurgence in vulnerable parts of the world. Let's use imagination to answer that question.

The online news article came with some video of Long Islanders declaring their wonder and awe at the Blue Angel show. Some of the interview-ees were young children. I thought of the shepherds of Christmas night looking up wide-eyed, at God's Christmas display in the sky, announcing the Birth of the Prince of Peace - Jesus of Bethlehem.

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
all seated on the ground;
the angel of the Lord came down,
and glory shone around,
and glory shone around.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Young Peoples Rosary ~ As May Approaches

A YOUNG FRIEND wrote from Long Island asking if now and again the posts could be directed to young people. Of course! And so beginning this Thursday, May 1, the start of the month dedicated to the Virgin Mary, there will be a set of rosary meditations posted each day, written to help young people pray.

We'll begin with the traditional Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries and finally, if there is an indication that the meditations are helpful, Luminous Mysteries will follow.

Spread the word then: to parents, grandparents, religious education teachers, friends with the care of children...

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mary Magdalene ~ in the Easter Time

HERE REMBRANT SHOWS US MARY MAGDALEN sitting by the empty tomb on Easter morning. She sees Jesus, but thinks he is the gardener. But she recognizes the sound of his voice when he calls her by name. "For real" kids say ~ Jesus knows and speaks my name too. 

This is a lovely place for an Easter Meditation. But lots of people say they can't meditate. That's simply not true. We're meditating all the time. Whenever you fix your mind, you're meditating: focusing on a grocery list, watching an eight year old play baseball, preparing a meal from scratch, analyzing a train schedule, studying a road map, arranging flowers, planting a row of lettuce seeds.

And so to fix my mind - and with inner eyes to consider myself with Mary Magdalene that Easter morning. Consider each image slowly and gently:

  • It is still dark ~ but just before dawn.
  • We expect the tomb to be sealed as it had been left on Friday.
  • But the great stone has been rolled away.
  • We run to tell the friends of Jesus that his body has been stolen away.
  • Peter and John run to the tomb to see for themselves.
  • Mary and I catch up and stand outside the tomb crying for our loss.
  • Then the  men disciples seem to leave, while Mary and I remain behind.
  • We look down into the tomb and see angels who ask about our tears.
  • We express our sadness.
  • We turn and see Jesus in person ~ he too asks about our tears.
  • We mistake him for the gardener and ask if he's moved the body of Jesus.
  • Jesus ignores the question and simply speaks my name.
  • Jesus tells me not to hold onto him ~ the relationship is new.
  • He gives us a mandate to tell others about the new life of  Resurrection.
  • Mary and I run, becoming the first missionaries to a world that needs a good word about life.
Of course you can meditate!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saturday in the Easter Octave ~ Paschal Hymn to the Mother of God

                                    The Angel cried to the Lady full of grace:
                                    Rejoice, Rejoice O Pure Virgin!
                                    Again I say: Rejoice! 
                                    Your Son is risen from His three days in the tomb!
                                    With Himself He has raised all the dead!
                                    Rejoice, Rejoice all ye people!
                                    Shine! Shine! Shine O New Jerusalem!
                                    The glory of the Lord has shone on you!
                                    Dance now and be glad, O Zion!
                                    Be radiant, O Pure Theotokos,
                                    in the Resurrection of Your Son!

There are nine exclamation points in the hymn above, indications of surprise and delight. And while there is no biblical account of Mary receiving her own personal visitation of an Easter Angel, here, out of love, the Church has created this most happy and tender scene. 

But the hymn is about the New Jerusalem too, of which Mary is a type or image in faith. That New Jerusalem (Zion) is the Church, the family of Christ born in Baptism. The angel even directs us to dancing in the joy of Christ's trampling on death. And of course, Theotokos is the Greek word for Mother of God.

As the luminous icon doesn't seem to have any name, we might call her something like, Mother of God, Rejoicing or Mother of God ~ Easter Brightness. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday in Bright Week ~ Christ Alpha and Omega

Christ yesterday and today, 
the beginning and the end, 
the alpha
and the omega,
to him belongs time
and the ages
to Him be glory and empire
throughout all the ages of eternity.

Every priest began the great vigil on Holy Saturday night with these words as he incised the Greek letters into the wax of the candle.

The central monogram here that looks like a P with an X through it or superimposed stands for the sacred name, Jesus Christ. The alpha and omega dangle from its arms. These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. But what does it mean?

In Christ, there is the love of God from start to finish.
In Christ, there is the love of God for all of troubled humanity in its
      long story. Can you feel it?
In Christ, there is the embrace of God for our individual and
      familial lives.
In Christ, there is an inclusive mercy. Is our message really
      salvation for all?
Christ, the beginning and ending of each day.
Christ, the beginning and ending of each thought.
Christ, the beginning and ending of my being called into existence. 
Christ, the beginning and ending of my questions, doubts and fears.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thursday in the Easter Octave ~ Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

THIS ANGEL IS FOUND on the facade of the Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame, Reims in France which was completed in the year 1275. Over the seven centuries he has lost a wing, the end of his nose and the better part of his right arm. Still he smiles. Indeed, the angel is simply called, The Smiling Angel.

Alleluia is the joyful Easter word. It's been said that the word itself comes from the language the angels speak. Perhaps this smiling angel is thinking thoughts we're unable to think and which cause him a deep interior joy.

Maybe the angel is thinking about the Incarnation of God at Bethlehem and the Resurrection of Easter morning. Or the angel might be contemplating our eternal destiny and his knowledge of God's love for us in Christ, despite our capacity for hatred and self-destruction. 

We were given a window into the mind of God when Jesus told us God knows when a sparrow falls to the ground. Despite endless wars which bomb medieval cathedrals and schools and heap every kind of atrocity on people - still the angel smiles. The angel knows what God knows; Alleluia is the angel-word expressing that knowledge.

Alleluia also sounds like the sounds a baby makes. We call it babbling. And Jesus tells us to be like children, that is: allow yourself to be vulnerable, be an unquestioning and grateful receiver. But also, acknowledge before the great mystery of God's mother-like, self-sacrificing love for us, perhaps the best we can do is babble. The theology, the exquisite hymns and prayers - it's all just a holy stammering before the inexpressible things of God.

Intercessions ~ Sunday in the Easter Octave ~ Mercy

In the Easter time/ we ask for consoled and joyful hearts,/ faithful and hospitable hearts,/ merciful and pure hearts./ We pray to the Lord.

In the Easter time/ we pray for families around the world/ especially those stressed by war,/ poverty,/ divorce or illness./ We pray to the Lord.

As Popes John XXIII and John Paul II are canonized saints this weekend in Rome./ We ask to live our own unique lives/ as truthfully and as beautifully as Christ lived his./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask in the Easter time/ for leaders to be made authentic and strong in their work for peace./ We pray for Christians who are troubled and persecuted for their lives lived in Christ./ We pray to the Lord.

We continue to intercede for the nations of the world,/ praying today for the people of the Cook Islands,/ Costa Rica,/ Ivory Coast,/ Croatia,/ Cuba and Cyprus./ We pray as well for the consolation of those countries where there is great sorrow these days:/ South Korea,/ Nepal,/ Ukraine,/ Sudan,/ Syria and Venezuela./ We pray to the Lord.

In the Easter time we pray for those who are sick,/ physically,/ emotionally,/ spiritually or relationally./ We ask for the particular blessings which protect children/ and for healing and new depths of faith./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally we ask for those who have died/ in receiving the full mercy of God,/ to know the joy of life lived in the Risen Christ./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wednesday of Bright Week ~ The Legend of the Dogwood

THE DOGWOOD GROWS in many parts of Europe, China and East Asia and throughout North America. Virginia and South Carolina claim it as their state flower. There is a legend about the dogwood perhaps originating in the Middle Ages when just about everything somehow pointed symbolically to the Mysteries of the Christian Faith. 

At the time of Jesus' Crucifixion the dogwood had been the size of the oak and other forest trees. So firm and strong was the tree that it was chosen as the timber for the cross. To be used this way for such a cruel purpose greatly distressed the tree.
In His gentle pity for all sorrow and suffering Jesus said to the tree: "Because of your regret and pity for my suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a cross. From now on it shall be slender and bent and twisted and its blossom shall be in the form of a cross - two long and two short petals. And in the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints, brown with rust and stained with red, and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns, and all who see it will remember."

I like that line, "...and all who see it will remember" especially in view of the mental clutter most of us suffer and the daily temptations to distraction and forgetfulness. 

It's noteworthy too that the dogwood has served medicinally as well over time. It has been used to curb the spread of malaria. Confederate soldiers made bark tea from the dogwood to cure colds and fevers and a leaf-paste to cover battle wounds. Of course, the remedy or medicine we need is a spiritual one. Praise Christ Risen in the Springtime!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday of Bright Week ~ Having Heard From The Angel

IN THIS FRESCO from a monastery wall, there are a couple of scenes conflated into one: One Easter angel points to the binding cloth or shroud of Jesus. Another angel points to the empty tomb, announcing to the confounded women that Jesus is risen and gone ahead to Galilee. The soldiers, symbolizing power and empire, are fallen. The walking stick held by each angel indicates that these are messengers in motion - alive with news. 

Having heard from the angel
the glad tidings of the Resurrection,
and that the ancient curse was done away,
the women disciples of the Lord
cried exultingly unto the apostles,
"Death is no more and Christ our God is risen,
granting to the world great mercy.

(Eastern Christian Resurrection Hymn)

This is a wonderful verse to memorize and repeat many times each day - even out loud - during the Easter time. I believe it has the power to dispel sadness, self-pity and harmful anxieties.

Monday, April 21, 2014

An Easter Sermon ~ Bright Monday ~ The Myrrh-Bearing Women

DIANE CAMERON IS A FREELANCE WRITER who had an article published a few years ago in the "Forum" section of U.S.A. Today. She recalled a time in her life described as the lowest point, a time of crushing depression when everything seemed to be loss.

I don't imagine there is anyone reading this post who can't recall his or her own lowest life-point. Maybe someone is feeling, "I'm in it right now!" Diane went on to share that she had gotten out of the habit of regular church worship and of surprisingly finding herself at an Easter morning service in the midst of all this daily confusion and inner darkness. She remembered nothing of the sermon except these words, "We live in a Good Friday world."

On Palm Sunday many Christians heard the Passion account of Saint Mark, and then on Friday, as told by Saint John. If we were attentive we'd see all the themes of the Good Friday World, which is life on the planet today (likely it is the world's story in every place and time) but also themes detected in our own personal lived experience.

The themes of the Good Friday World are these: loss, grief, mistakes, false accusation, suffering, burdens, pain, betrayal, hatred, curses, abandonment, torture, loneliness, false imprisonment, false religion, fears, tears, nakedness, shame, insults, violence, prison abuse, treachery, brutality, bribery, libel, scheming, indifference, cold calculation, the dark world of politics,  death. It's often very difficult to live in this world.

We live in a Good Friday World, - we all know a Good Friday World. And on Saturday night, if your church service started in darkness - that's what the darkness symbolized. And much of the world seems to be fine with that. "Jesus came into the world as light, but people preferred darkness to light." And when we can't stand the darkness anymore, the culture goes shopping, or gets high, or we get something else to eat, or we look for another screen in which to lose ourselves.

But Saint Augustine says, "We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song." This means we're not celebrating a past event so much as we're celebrating the thing that defines us - resurrection defines us. Resurrection was Jesus' experience surely, but it is as much OUR experience. Or it's supposed to be.
The new fire of Saturday night, and the lifting up high of the great candle, and singing to the candle as if it were personal and even alive, and our taking the light off of the candle and holding it to ourselves and feeling its glow: We're an Easter people. And this isn't just wishful thinking or trying to "buck up" in the darkness - but the light pushed back the darkness. The candles dispelled the darkness - sent it away!

The women at the tomb, called the myrrh-bearers, have something to tell us about this. These women are images of us. They are not poor women or stupid women (as misogynists like to say) but they are not able to move beyond the Good Friday World. They expect only to encounter what they knew on Good Friday. They wonder, 'Who will roll the stone away for us?" They can't or don't think of a personal world of new and other possibilities. All they expect to see again is the brutalized and dead body they had started to embalm on Friday.

They love Jesus very much and are intent on doing for him what they can, but they have yet  to comprehend what Jesus can do for them which is to call them - this time not down the dirt roads of Galilee, but to follow him into a new world of faith - into a new world which is to become a new kind of human person - transfigured and born of light.

Some years ago I was chaplain to a residential school for young people who had lost their way. And every Easter there was at least one who asked to be baptized. And so on Easter night theses young men and women would step up to the watery sepulcher with Jesus to be ritually drown - to move beyond the Good Friday World to their own personal Easter. They had started to change and they wanted to change even more - for a lifetime - all the way to heaven. And I want to change. I want to be different from last Easter.

We might print a copy of the little icon of the Myrrh-Bearers speaking with the Easter Angel of  Happy News and put it where we'll see it for Easter's Forty Days. Maybe with a simple prayer at hand like this one:

Risen Jesus, 
as I walk in this Good Friday world,
grace me, and all of the others, 
with something of your
Resurrection mind,
Resurrection life and energy,
Resurrection heart and spirit,
hope and joy.
Amen! Alleluia!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Morning ~ Before the Empty Tomb of Jesus

IT IS THE DAY OF RESURRECTION and the story begins with the women of Sunday morning who have returned to the tomb to complete the embalming of Jesus. Those burial rituals were interrupted because the sun was setting on Friday, signaling the start of the work-forbidden Sabbath. But while everyone else ran away, these women friends of Jesus continued doing the things of love in preparing for their Sunday return. 

And on that Easter morning they met angels who told them Jesus was alive. The stone which was intended to seal in death had been rolled back - not to let Jesus escape but to show that he was not there.

Let's pay attention to that rolled back stone which the angel sat upon, as if to say, "There, it's done, the great victory." But we must not just admire Jesus in his rising, but name the rolled back stone, sharing Christ's championship. 

Roll away the stone of self pity that counts all the losses.
Roll away the stone of self-defeat.
Roll away the stone of our deadly choices.
Roll away the stone of negativity and pessimism.
Roll away the stone of aggression and self-glory.

Roll away the stone of all I claim to be impossible.
Roll away the stone of rebellion and inner resistance.
Roll away the stone of indifference and laziness.
Roll away the stone of regrets and the nursing of old wounds.
Roll away the stone of alienation and entitlement.

Roll away the stone of skepticism and the  doubting of your divine
Roll away the stone of suspicion and defensiveness.
Roll away the stone of hard-heartedness, ignorance and
Roll away the stone of addiction.
Roll away the stone of blaming and lies.

Roll away the stone of lukewarmness in prayer.
Roll away the stone of anxiety and procrastination.
Roll away the stone of posturing and empty argument.
Roll away the stone of our well-armed hearts.
Roll away the stone of cold suspicion and compulsion.

Christ is Risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tomb,
Bestowing life!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Saturday and the Harrowing of Hell

IN REFLECTING UPON where did Jesus go?and what did Jesus do on Holy Saturday? as his body lay in the tomb, there is apparently some movement among Evangelicals to have the line, "He descended into hell," removed from the Apostles Creed. Those who are proponents of the elimination claim that the idea does not reflect a biblical view and that it is a mistake - "An old mistake is still a mistake," they say.

Avoiding theological contention we might consider this painting here by Pieter Huys a 16th century Flemish artist. I've tried to maximize the image so we can look carefully - we might even use a magnifying glass to get a fuller idea. We can only use pictures to search the meaning of the creedal line: He descended into hell. Hell is a spiritual realm - though the artist has given it a physical expression. 

"Hell" is the deepest place of our loss. It is the place of our deepest death, chaos, ugliness, misery, flame, horror, inflicted pain and hate. Anyone can fall into this condition as we notice that there are clergy in the midst of the horrific scene. Nothing and no one is beyond the reach of the Easter Christ. Alleluia!

Into all of this insanity, Christ suddenly has appeared in light. He is not there to punish violently or obliterate but to reclaim, restore, renew and enliven. I knew a young man whose life was ruined by drugs, rebellion, selfishness, idolatry, waste and hatred. Tapping his head he said, "Father, this is my neighborhood, and it's a dangerous neighborhood to go into." So he would understand this image - as would anyone who reflects upon his or her own personal life - a time from our youth perhaps, a time of regrets, a time when we were lost to the things born from above. A time we might call hell. Bring all of this to Easter.

But there is more. Here is an image quite different. Jesus has gone down to the depth of our death and hell, but this time everyone seems to be waiting for him - anticipating and expecting him with wide-eyed joy and gratitude. Who is there? The prophets and kings of Israel, the three magi of Bethlehem, holy Simeon and Ana, John the Baptist, Saint Joseph, all those who awaited the Messiah.

Look at Jesus in his great and gentle courtesy. It seems that he will greet each  individually. Perhaps as Jesus bends low to peer through the door to death, the crowd sings, like children in chorus, "You have found us." Of course Adam and Eve are there, but probably last as they are the parents of us all. 

Christ's greeting might have been like the scene in many churches on Holy Saturday night: the great candle symbolizing his resurrection entered the church and one by one we took the flame to ourselves until darkness and all that is symbolized by it, was pushed away. In some places then, after the taking of the Christ-light there is a procession around the outside of the church, circling three times. But the ultimate procession we make carrying the Resurrection-Light is not made while going in circles but outwardly and beyond - to heaven.

Here is an Eastern Christian hymn where the underworld of death, Hades or hell is personified with a voice, lamenting the mistake of welcoming Christ, who turns out to be the Spoiler. It's quite powerful.

Today Hades tearfully sighs - "Would that I had not received him who was born of Mary, for he came to me and destroyed my power, he broke my bronze gates, and being God, delivered the souls I had been holding captive," O Lord, glory to your cross and to your holy Resurrection.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Intercessions

On this day of Resurrection,/ we ask the Risen Christ to revitalize the Church, where it is corrupted,/ dormant,/ tired or suffering,/ We pray to the Lord.

On this day of Resurrection,/ we ask the Risen Christ to root out of our country the tendency to solve problems with death/ and to make us agents of life in this world./ We pray to the Lord.

On this day of Resurrection,/ we ask the Risen Christ to unify and revitalize our families:/ strengthening us in faith and prayer,/ healing us of addictions,/ anger and disbelief./ We ask blessings as well for those who only worship on this day./ We pray to the Lord.

On this day of Resurrection,/ we ask the Risen Christ to bless all those who are away from home/ mindful of soldiers and sailors around the world/ and all who are eager to return to loved ones./ We pray to the Lord.

On this day of Resurrection,/ we ask the Risen Christ to bless with gifts of peace and reconciliation,/ all who pray in Jerusalem today./ We pray to the Lord.

On this day of Resurrection,/ we ask the Risen Christ to give healing,/ comfort and friendship/ to those who are sick,/ lonely,/ disabled,/ fearful/ and those with special needs./ We pray to the Lord.

On this day of Resurrection,/ we ask the Risen Christ to take to himself all who have died since last Easter,/ and to console with the promise of eternal life/ those who are in mourning./ We pray to the Lord.

Jesus is Buried ~ The Fourteenth Station

Archbishop Romero 

Jesus' terrible execution is over now. A few friends stay behind to prepare and place his body in a grave that is not his own. Then since the Sabbath is beginning, and the sun is getting low in the sky, these loyal ones depart quickly. It is a sad scene that Jesus, who took so much time with people, should be buried hurriedly. 

We might say, "Finally, there is peace," as the great stone is rolled in front of the tomb and there's quiet. But Oscar Romero, the murdered archbishop of El Salvador (March 24, 1980), wrote during the time of great national anguish and death: "Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the result of violent oppression...Peace is generosity, which is a right and a duty."

Jesus has been so generous with us, with me! How can I begin to respond to his gift in some new way? What can I do?

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Intercessions ~ Holy Thursday

On Holy Thursday night we pray for the renewal of the Church throughout the world. / We pray especially for the Church where it is very poor,/ too comfortable, forgetful or lukewarm in response to Her Lord./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the renewal of the priesthood./ We pray for the priests who have cared for our families over the years./ We pray for priests who are tired,/ sick,/ newly ordained,/ elderly,/ addicted or troubled./ We pray to the Lord.

Tonight we pray for the children throughout the world who are preparing for the reception of their First Holy Communion soon after Easter./ We pray for hearts that are fervent for Jesus/ and for parents who will model for them a deep response to God in Christ./ We pray to the Lord.

The Eucharist is food/ and so we pray for those who have no food/ or only inadequate food./ We ask for grateful hearts that take nothing for granted,/ and that we would be generous in sharing with others./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who are sick,/ calling to mind family,/ friends and neighbors who are struggling with illness or aging./ We pray for those who are fearful or alone and for their comforting./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally we pray for those who have fallen asleep in Christ and for all of the departed/ that with the saints they may enjoy the place of refreshment,/ light and peace./ We pray to the Lord.

The Descent from the Cross ~ The Thirteenth Station

September 11, 2001

As the body of Jesus is placed in the arms of his Mother there is an echo of his infancy in the cave of Bethlehem. Here there is an invitation to prayer - to a deep silence - to ponder with Mary the magnitude of Jesus' self-gift.

Still, even in the face of so much given, we persist in an even mocking unbelief! Do we reject Jesus-the-Crucified because we cannot comprehend being loved so unspeakably and radically? "You don't even know me, " says the stunned receiver of a great gift, possibly thinking of his or her unworthiness. 

On September 11, 2001, rescuers ran up into the flaming towers of the World Trade Center even as the buildings collapsed. We can image that those who survive by the self-gift of others might at least feel, "Am I worth the sacrifice? 

And so I can ask Mary, "May I sit with you awhile, here beneath the cross? May I hold the body of Jesus, resting in your lap? May I speak to Jesus in intimacy now, my prayer awake, aware and deeply felt? 

But however unpopular the thought,  I must be sure to speak to him of sin too, because when Jesus loves, he loves by forgiving.

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...

Hail Mary, full of grace...

Glory be to the Father...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Crucifixion of Jesus ~ The Twelfth Station

The first words Jesus speaks from the cross are: "Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing" On the night of November 14, 1940 Nazi bombs fell on the city of Coventry, England. The next morning the surviving citizens surveyed the destruction and wept that their medieval cathedral was now burned ruins. Immediately they decided that they would build a new cathedral while leaving the shell of the old church as a reminder of the sadness of war and a place to pray about forgiveness.

Every Friday the community gathers in what was the sanctuary to pray this prayer before a cross made of burned roof timbers and adorned with medieval nails found in the rubble.

The HATRED which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class, Father forgive.

The COVETOUS desires of men and nations to possess what is not their own, Father forgive.

The GREED which exploits the labors of men, and lays waste the earth, Father forgive.

Our ENVY of the welfare and happiness of others, Father forgive.

Our INDIFFERENCE to the plight of the homeless and the refugee, Father forgive.

The LUST which uses for ignoble ends the bodies of men and women and children, Father forgive.

The PRIDE which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God, Father forgive.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Jesus is Nailed to the Cross ~ The Eleventh Station

The five men here who are nailing Jesus to cross are calm and efficient. They have done this before. Maybe they get paid a little for their work and are just going about their business. 

But this is nothing new, comfortability with evil doings: The corporate fellow who calmly credits the business account with personal expenses, the dealer who calmly sells drugs to kids who are just starting, the gossip who calmly tells the story to yet another villager (parishioner), the student who calmly downloads term papers off the Internet, the Christian  nurse who calmly prepares the doctor's office where abortions are performed, the elected official who pushes legislation that benefits only his people, the cleric or politician who calmly lies to protect his power.

Feodor Dostoevsky wrote: "Christ, you have come to disturb us."

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Clothes of Jesus Are Taken Away ~ The Tenth Station

A young American college student returning from Guatemala reported that many of the children he saw during his mission week were naked. And Jesus said, "I was naked and you clothed me...Truly, I say to you, as often as you did it to one of these least brethren, you did it to me." (Matthew 25: 36,40)

In 1883, when the Hawaiian government made an appeal for health care workers, Mother Marianne Cope, a Franciscan Sister of Syracuse, traveled 5000 miles to open a hospital and home for the daughters of leper patients on the Pacific Island of Molokai. While Marianne wore the habit of her religious congregation, she personally designed and sewed colorful and beautiful  dresses and hats for the impoverished and discarded young girls there, restoring dignity and a sense of hope and delight. 

We're a long way from providing new clothes for those who would be otherwise badly dressed or not dressed at all, but Saint Basil of Caesarea said, "If you have not used it in a year, it no longer belongs to you but to the poor."

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Jesus Falls Yet Again ~ The Ninth Station

"Ringing in our conscience...climb higher."

In every life there are choices to be made between right and wrong, good and evil. My conscience is an inner light that reveals and beckons, "No, not that way, but this." And while the rest of my self grows, so can my conscience grow and evolve. Or a conscience can stay un-evolved: ignored and unformed, weak and incapable of doing its job, leaving me helpless and prone to sad mistakes. Or I can choose to ignore my conscience, however much it tries to make itself known. 

But we grow in goodness, and along the way I mature as God's child. I will stay on my feet and choose well. At another time, while I may struggle mightily, still I'll fall, perhaps hard. I am never to be discouraged. While the falls of Jesus along the way to Calvary are not moral failures, they do re-assure me that Jesus understands weakness and sees my rising up to carry on as the only real option.

Pope John XXIII said, "We are all called to be saints. Every one of us has heard, and still hears, ringing in our conscience the command, 'climb higher'."

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem ~ The Eighth Station

When Jesus stood outside the grave of Lazarus, his friend, Saint John's Gospel tells us that he wept. Weeping is hard crying, painful crying. Weeping comes from an especially deep inner place of hurt or relief. Maybe the death of Lazarus opened up these tears in Jesus as he wept for the sorrow of the whole world. 

Jesus had the sensitivity to weep for Lazarus, for his grieving sisters, Martha and Mary and for the anguish of all who suffer. And here, these women along the road are weeping for Jesus. 

Can I feel some hope for the world in this scene - that on this brutal Good Friday, there were at least these women who returned the favor and wept for Jesus. What a shame that some people think tears are a sign of weakness. Sometimes stopping to share the sorrow of others is the only thing, but the best thing we can offer. Tears can be an indicator of strong solidarity.

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Friday, April 11, 2014

Jesus Falls Again ~ The Seventh Station

Francis drying his diseased eyes

Thomas of Celano, an early follower, tells us that Saint Francis suffered increasingly from a disease of the eyes that left him blind. All light became unbearable as the disease progressed, such that Francis eventually had to cover his face with a cloth to shield his eyes against the daylight.

For treatment he made a difficult trip to Rieti in 1225, stopping for a while at San Damiano in Assisi. There he was troubled, night and day, by hordes of mice. In this miserable condition Francis turned to God with prayer:

I thank you, Lord God, 
for all my pains;
if it pleases you, O Lord,
increase them a hundredfold.
I shall thankfully accept
whatever sorrow you give,
not sparing me;
for in the fulfillment of your will
I find my greatest solace.

Jesus, falling beneath the cross without curses or complaint. Blind Francis at prayer, troubled by mice and blindness. Me in the today's struggles, pressures and inconveniences.

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Intercessions ~ Palm Sunday

On Palm Sunday/ we pray for the Christians of the Holy Land who live difficult lives./ We pray as well for those who make pilgrimages to the shrines which mark the Lord's birth,/ life,/ death and resurrection./ We pray to the Lord.

As Jesus enters Jerusalem in humility/ we ask to go with him,/ putting away pretensions,/ self-sufficiency and power claims./ We pray to the Lord.

As we contemplate the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist this Thursday,/ we pray for communities where there is no priest./ We pray as well for those who have no bread./ We ask for renewal and growth in Christ./ We pray to the Lord.

As we gather around the Cross this Friday,/ we pray for those who suffer under their own heavy crosses./ For those who live where there is war,/ destruction,/ instability,/ abuse,/ hatred and violence./ We pray to the Lord.

As we contemplate Mary's sorrow this week,/ we pray for the mothers of the world to be able to care for their families without fear,/ but in peace,/ safety and security./ We pray to the Lord.

At Passover time we pray for the Jewish people throughout the world./ For peace in the land of Jesus and the Prophets of Israel./ And for blessings as Pope Francis prepares for a Middle East visit in May./ We pray to the Lord.

And for those who have died since last Holy Week/ and for all the departed:/ life eternal./ We pray to the Lord.

Veronica and Her Towel ~ The Sixth Station

ONLY WOMEN ARE KIND TO JESUS while he walks to his execution. What gratitude Jesus must have felt for Veronica's gift - a towel for his face. 

Spiritual living invites us to ever deepening gratitude. When I awake in the morning, even before opening my eyes, to be surprised that I have eyes for seeing. There are more than forty million people in the world who can't see. 

I have begun gratefulness once I have started to cultivate the attitude that everything is a gift, that I don't have to earn it, beg for it, buy it or score it. My being in this very moment is a gift, to read these words, to detect colors, to notice what's beautiful - this is to have begun gratefulness. 

The poor are more grateful than we are in the rich nations, because the poor expect nothing; they take nothing for granted. The poor don't tell themselves, "There is more to have than what we already have." On Good Friday, Jesus walked alone, entitled to nothing, surrounded by enemies calling for his death. And then, out of nowhere, Veronica appeared, offering the kindness of her towel.

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary, full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Simon Helps Jesus Carry The Cross ~ The Fifth Station

Aloysius Gonzaga was born in 1568 into a family of tremendous wealth and aristocratic prestige. By age seven he showed an inclination to religious life. By age nine he possessed the clarity and conscience to describe the society in which he lived as full of "fraud, dagger, poison and lust." At age twelve he was invested as a prince, but decided to transfer his superabundant inheritance to his brother, Ridolfo.

At age thirteen, Aloysius entered the Society of Jesus, against the furious and abusive protests of his family. Even priests and bishops were sent to convince Aloysius to give up the idea. But defeated by the boy's powerful perseverance, Aloysius' father relented, allowing him to go off to begin priesthood studies at Rome in 1585. 

In 1589 there was an outbreak of the plague in Rome and Aloysius asked permission to help take care of the many who were dying. Father Cepari describes the times: "It was a horrible thing to see the dying creeping to the hospitals, stinking and loathsome, and sometimes to behold them giving up their last breath in corners or falling down head first on the stairs." Within two years Aloysius became a victim of the disease himself and died. 

Father Martindale writes of Aloysius: "By nature he was a hard man; uncompromising; going through life with his teeth clenched." With the energy his family gave to warfare and family fighting, Aloysius gave himself to Christ - a new Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus to carry his cross. 

Do I ever clench my teeth for the things of Christ?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Jesus Meets His Mother ~ The Fourth Station

Fillippo Lippi ~ Edge of Mary's Mantle

"Save the best til last," the saying goes. And in the Genesis account woman was the last piece of God's creation. Then we marvel at the courage of the faithful women who followed Jesus from Galilee and his own mother on this day of his dying. 

But what has happened to women? They seem to be losing all sense of their own dignity and worth. Failed women are our nightly entertainment. The hunted woman, the spurned woman, the maniacal woman, the aggressive seductress. Showing everything, women have lost their mystery. Celebrity women in and out of jails and rehabs have their children taken away. Posing media toys set up for manipulation, the weather lady sensualized, women have become cartoons and objects of ridicule and scorn.

But woman is the same creature as Mary, who trembles before the Archangel, who cultivates strength and speaks the word that brings Life into the world, who stands in solidarity with suffering humanity. Indeed, Mary's only degradation is that she is determined to stand by her crucified Son who dies a slave, a criminal outsider.

Mother! Call her with a loud voice. She is listening to you; she sees you in danger, perhaps, and she - your holy mother Mary - offers you, along with the grace of her son, the refuge of her arms, the tenderness of her embrace...and you will find yourself with added strength for the new battle." Benedict XVI

Monday, April 7, 2014

Jesus Falls ~ The Third Station

FATHER ALEXANDER MEN was a Russian Orthodox priest murdered in 1990 towards the end of the Soviet Union. In the days of the KGB he secretly gathered little groups of believers in living rooms and kitchens to offer wonderful teachings about the Gospel of Jesus. 

Father Men taught that the original sin in the Garden of Eden wasn't sex, not impatience, not greed, not gluttony, not even disobedience, but power. He taught that human beings are tempted to power and that the will to power is the most serious impulse and the heaviest sin of humankind. 

Behind all social, political and cultural wars lies the will of power. This is why magic is so popular - because it is the will to rule over nature, as is our technological civilization. Father Men called power a lust and a thirst. We can never escape the impulse even in old age. We may be disinterested in food, in sex, in life's pleasures, "yet this power will remain the last and only thing which brings us joy and happiness." 

To follow Jesus all the way, even as he crumbles beneath the heavy weight of the cross, surrounded by imperial power - I must look deeply at my life and disavow all power claims except that claim which is the power of loving service.

Our Father Who Art in Heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Jesus Picks Up His Cross ~ The Second Station

CHRISTIANITY SAYS THAT GOD knows me; it matters to God that I exist. Here El Greco has painted Jesus holding and carrying the Cross. He carries it for me. 

In the last season of Downton Abbey there is a particularly lovely scene which takes place one evening in the nursery. Young Tom Branson (who had been married to Lady Sybil who died in childbirth) and Lady Mary (who had been married to Matthew who was killed in a car accident immediately after their son's birth) are joined by Isobel Crawley (mother of Matthew Crawley). Isobel has just wished Mary happiness as she discerns that another suitor has been coming around to visit Mary. Then this conversation ensues.

Isobel: "When I got engaged to Reginald I felt sick - sick with love literally."

Tom: "It was the same for me. I felt as if I'd gone mad or been hypnotized. For days, weeks, all I could think of was her."

Mary: "And me! I was standing outside in the snow, and I didn't have a coat, but I wasn't cold, because all I kept thinking was, 'He's going to propose, he's going to propose.'"

Isobel after a silent moment: "Well, aren't we the lucky ones!"

Many of us know what this lucky kind of love feels like - a young love; a first love. In Christ, God loves us each like this! It seems too good to be true! Oh, if only the world knew it! And in walking these stations these Lenten weeks we might pray to have that sense revived or deepened within ourselves. The love of God for us. Love for Jesus!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Jesus Before Pilate ~ The First Station

HERE IS A PAINTING (1910) titled Christ Before Pilate, by Jacek Malczewski. Pilate is a young man, diddling with something, smiling slightly. Perhaps he is pondering the warning his wife whispered to him, not to have anything to do with Jesus because of what she's learned in a dream. 

Jesus is in the foreground of the painting. His tired head! His night in jail was sleepless. He has been shamed in the prison-madhouse where bullies rule. His bound hands are unable to wipe away the sting of spit, sweat and the blood trickling down from the wild crown of thorns pressed into his head by the uncensored soldiers who have been playing Make Believe King. Perhaps the gift of tears washed his eyes. 

But the face of Jesus is always beautiful because it is the face of humility, patience and gentleness. His face is beautiful because it is the face of solidarity with all who suffer degradation and disfigurement. Saint Paul writes:

"Never forget the nearness of your Lord. Don't worry over anything whatever. Whenever you pray tell God every detail of your needs in thankful prayer, and the peace of God will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds." (Philippians 4: 5-7)

This is the way of Jesus - always aware of God's closeness, surrendering everything to God. "Your will be done." Those who live this way know deep happiness, not the world's short-lived happiness but a deep peace of soul.

In the Amazon forest there are lepers whose disfigured faces are beautiful, revealing souls at peace with God and others. When the photographer entered the room of this leprous woman who has lost her legs and fingers, he said, "Good morning, how are you today?" and she answered, "Very well, thank you!"

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Intercessions ~ The Fifth Sunday in Lent

Oldest known wooden building in Russia ~
The Raising of Lazarus

Soon it will be Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week./ The time of the Jewish Passover approaches as well./ We ask for days of peaceful reflection./ We pray to the Lord.

Lazarus,/ Martha and Mary were brother and sisters./ We pray for families around the world,/ mindful of those suffering the effects of war,/ famine,/ abuse,/ poverty,/ displacement or disaster./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask for the deepening of our prayer/ and for a revival where we have perhaps abandoned prayer,/ or where our prayer has become minimal,/ routine,/ selfish or tepid./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask for an increase of faith,/ hope and love where we are discouraged,/ tired,/ frustrated or feeling empty./ We pray to the Lord.

Again in our prayer/ we intercede for the countries of the world,/ praying now for the people and lands of Cambodia,/ Cameroon,/ Canada,/ Cape Verde,/ Cayman Islands,/ Central African Republic and Chad./ We pray to the Lord.

Millions live in refugee camps where there is the disruption of war./ We pray for them and for the sick,/ those in hospitals,/ nursing homes and hospices./ For the strengthening of caretakers/ and for anyone who is alone./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally/ we pray for those who have died to know the fullness of Jesus' love for them./ We pray to the Lord.