Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Jesus Dies on the Cross ~ The Thirteenth Station

It was now about the sixth hour and the sun's light failed, so that darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. The veil of the Sanctuary was torn right down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice saying, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. With these words he breathed his last. (Luke 23: 44-46)

From noon until three in the afternoon, it was dark over the whole land. Look at the dark thing we have done! And when Jesus died the temple curtain separating the Most Holy place from the rest, was torn. Jesus is the new sanctuary - the new place of divine encounter. His arms are stretched north and south and east and west converging in the center which is his heart - opened by the spear - a heart to which all of humankind has access.

And there is the great crying out of Jesus before his death. In Luke's Gospel, Jesus quotes Psalm 31:5 ~ Into your hands I commend my spirit. But look, Jesus has added, Father. He is the Son surrendering his life to the Father who receives him in a great embrace of love. I'd die for you, the greatest love says. A mother (or father) putting herself in harms way for the sake of the child. 

We remember too when Jesus was asked by the disciples, "How should we pray?" Jesus answered, "When you pray, say, Our Father..." (Matthew 6: 7ff)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Jesus Speaks to His Mother and the Disciple ~ The Twelfth Station

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdalen. Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, Woman, this is your son. Then to the disciple he said, This is your mother. And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27

A woman (Eve) figures prominently in the Book of Genesis story of our human fall. And in John's Gospel, as Jesus begins his work of reclamation for God, another woman plays prominently, as Mary is present at Jesus' first miracle at Cana. And here is Mary again, standing beneath the foot of the cross with the one disciple who didn't run away.

Following Jesus' instruction from the cross, Mary and the disciple take each other in as family. That's how it is with the followers of Jesus - to think of each other as family. Blood is thicker than water, the saying goes, as if blood family is the tightest and highest bond. Not so! Rather, baptism-water is the binder between us.

In the 1990's the African nation of Rwanda lost over 800,000 people to civil war and genocide. Often the weapon of choice was a machete, leaving scores more wounded and disabled. Many thousands wandered as refugees, while still thousands more died of cholera and dysentery in the country's destabilization. 

At the end of the war a new monastery of nuns was begun on a hillside that, like the rest of the landscape, was defoliated, scorched and robbed of life. The founding sisters were from Tutsi and Hutu tribes - the principle enemies of each other in the deadly conflict. 

Each sister knew the death of relatives at the hands of the other tribe. Along with friends, they greened the hillside, making the convent a place of reconciliation and hope, reaching out as new family to the orphaned, the elderly, the disoriented and abandoned. Woman, this is your son; son, this is your mother.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Jesus Promises Paradise to the Thief ~ The Eleventh Station

One of the criminals hanging there abused him. Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us as well. But the other spoke up and rebuked him. Have you no fear of God at all? he said. You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it; we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Then he said, Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom. He answered him, In truth I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23: 39-43)

We can't really know what the thief was thinking  who asked to be remembered by Jesus. Did he think Jesus was a defeated earthly king still worthy of belief? That doesn't sound  very plausible. What inexplicable insight did he have as to who Jesus is? 

First there are the words, Remember me. Perhaps he was all alone on the cross, not even a loved one to accompany him. So many people feel forgotten. It is the greatest fear of the refugee - that no help will come. Remember me, the poor fellow asks. And here we are, more than two thousand years later thinking about him - remembering him.

And then, Remember me when you come into your kingdom. Your regal glory is a better translation than just kingdom, so to avoid thinking simply in geographical terms. But the kingdom is within you, Jesus teaches. (Luke 17:20-21) God's supremacy in each of us. 

Today you are with me in paradise. Jesus is inviting the thief to follow him into something beyond this. Follow me into victory! And victory begins today. We want to call it heaven. But once we put a label on it we've made it too small, reduced it to its bare minimum for easy handling. Then we have stolen away its wonder and power.

Follow me into victory, Jesus says, and that victory is today! What might that mean for me, for you? That's not a rhetorical question. The folks in AA would know how to speak about this: just for today.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Jesus is Crucified ~ The Tenth Station

When they reached the place called The Skull, there they crucified him and the two criminals, one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, Father, forive them; they do not know what they are doing. Then they cast lots to share out his clothing. (Luke 23: 33,34)

The evangelists give almost no details, but we know that crucifixion is horrible. When we see Christians being crucified today by crazed zealots, we understand the need for the word unspeakable. Instead Luke emphasizes the deep prayer of Jesus from the cross.

Up until the end, Jesus continues to teach us. The first words he speaks from the cross are: Father, forgive. Is it possible to forgive much? Yes. A Jewish pianist whose fingers were crushed by Nazi's in the Second World War sought out the soldier who ruined her to forgive him.

The requirement to forgive is the most difficult part of Christianity. Sometimes we think it's to be sexually pure, but that's not it. Forgiving is much more exacting than sexual morality, or fasting, or prayer regimens or Mass obligations.

Forgiveness doesn't mean: Oh don't worry, no problem. Friends forever! Forgiveness means, I wish you well; I wish you everything you need for salvation. That's the opposite of I hope you burn in hell for eternity. And we hear a lot of that, don't we? And when we forgive - then we're free.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Jesus Meets the Women ~ The Ninth Station

Large numbers of people followed him, and women too, who mourned and lamented for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, weep rather for yourselves and for your children. For look, the days are surely coming when people will say, Blessed are those who are barren, the wombs that have never borne children, the breasts that have never nursed! Then they will begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us!"

The Jewish books tell us that in Jerusalem there were women who would stand along the road with sedatives to give to criminals who were being taken to execution. We know that Jesus didn't accept this offer because later on the cross, when someone put a sedative soaked sponge on a stick up to his mouth, he refused it. My goodness! What a witness to a country with an insatiable thirst for drugs.

Jesus rejecting the sedatives also gives us insight to his awake-ness: Jesus in charge, conscious self-gift, aware, fully-experienced. See the ads and commercials - a pill or gadget for every conceivable discomfort and complaint. The rule book for the Camaldolese monks says: We don't run to the medicine cabinet for every ache and pain.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Intercessions ~ Palm Sunday

In his recent visit to Naples/ Pope Francis had lunch with one hundred prison inmates,/ We pray for prisoners around the world,/ asking for their rehabilitation and conversion./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for pilgrims to the Holy Land this week./ For the movement of hearts and minds to growth in Christ./ and for those whose lives in the Holy Land are all struggle and grief./ We pray to the Lord.

The Jewish people celebrate Passover this time of year./ For their peace,/ fidelity and growth in the Covenant God has made with them./ We pray to the Lord.

We entrust our families to the God of blessings at the start of Holy Week./ For the healing of families which are toxic with hate,/ bitter memories,/ wounds and addictions./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask for the gift of a more peaceful world as Easter approaches./ For those to be blessed and encouraged who work for peace,/ justice and reconciliation./ We pray to the Lord.

For the sick and for refugees,/ those who no longer believe,/ the embittered,/ the depressed,/ and for anyone who is away from home./ We pray to the Lord.

And for all who have died/ we ask the promised gift of Easter life/ in all of its healing and joy./ We pray to the Lord.

Jesus is Helped by Simon to Carry the Cross ~ The Eighth Station

They led him out to crucify him. They enlisted a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross. (Mark 15:21)
John's Gospel tells us that Jesus carried his own cross. The other three gospels tell us Simon helped Jesus. Often cross carriers had already been so abused in prison they didn't make it to the place of execution. A helper might be commissioned along the way to be sure the guards got to do their killing job.

We don't know the extent to which Simon was forced to help Jesus. But he did, and that's how he is remembered thousands of years to today - as a helper. We don't need to complicate it.

A once vital Catholic man and his wife declined mentally and physically and their front and back lawns turned into waist high weed fields. Eventually some Protestant men got a group together from their own parish and spent the day with brush-hogger and scythes taming the place. Soon afterwards it became known that someone from the group said to a Catholic man, "You people don't even take care of your own." 

Is this always true? No. Is it sometimes true? Yes. Was it true in this case? Yes. Is it a shame? Yes.  Simon of Cyrene was a helper. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Jesus Carries His Cross ~ The Seventh Station

The Via Dolorosa ~ Jon McNaughton

And Pilate said, Here is the man. When they saw him, the chief priests and the guards shouted, Crucify him! Crucify him! Pilate said, Take him yourselves and crucify him: I find no case against him. They then took charge of Jesus, and carrying his own cross he went out to the Place of the Skull or, as it is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. (John 19: 6, 15-17)

Here is a painting of over one hundred people who have left a mark or made an impact on Christianity. Some have impacted Christianity positively, while others negatively. We might look at the painting for awhile to see who we can identify: Mother Teresa, Joan of Arc, Dr. Martin Luther King, Hitler, Stalin, Napoleon, Henry VIII, Karl Marx... The fellow in the business suit with his hand on Jesus' shoulder is modern day everyman.

Someone asked: If Jesus were alive with us today, would the world kill him? Oh, I think we would, especially where and when Jesus gets in the way of someone's power or money. 

  • Sister Dorothy Stang was murdered in 2005 when she got in the way of the Brazilian ranchers and logging companies who acted as if the Amazon Rainforest and its resources was exclusively theirs.
  • Father Jerzy Popieluszko was murdered at the end of the Soviet years having stood alongside Poland's SOLIDARITY trade union.
  • Seventeen year old Malala Yousafzai was shot repeatedly by the Taliban in Pakistan in 2012 because she was known, even as a young girl, as an advocate for education of all children - girls included! Education = power. 

Wherever someone's power or money feels threatened, Jesus would be killed today.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Jesus Scourged and Crowned With Thorns ~ The Sixth Station

Lucas Cranach ~ Christ Crowned with Thorns

Pilate then had Jesus taken away and scourged; and after this, the soldiers twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on his head and dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him and saying, Hail,king of the Jews! and slapping him in the face. (John 19: 1-3)

While ideally prisons are supposed to be  places of rehabilitation, too often they supply only punishment and revenge. The most terrible things happen in prisons.

The first thing that happens to prisoners is they are handcuffed and even shackled, rendering them dis-empowered. Jesus has entered that world of vulnerability and dis-empowerment. Anger is heaped on prisoners. A Roman cohort was six hundred soldiers and Saint John tells us that the whole cohort gathered around Jesus in the prison - perhaps a symbolic way of describing the enormity and brute power let loose on him. Luke's Gospel tells us that beyond the scourging and crowning with thorns, many other things were done.

Stripping, blindfolding, spitting, slapping, curses, whipping, mockery - it sounds like Abu Graib. Prisons are brutal places and ignorant, poorly trained, young, brute guards were and even are sometimes today, skilled in degrading cruelty. So yes, we can think the worst. The ancient world had no corner on cruelty.

Maybe someone will say, Why doesn't God do something about it? I would say rather, Why don't we do something about it? God has already. God has gone to the trouble of coming to us in Christ, to show us the most human way of kindness, mercy, justice and helpful, healing love. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Jesus is Judged by Pilate ~ The Fifth Station

First thing in the morning, the chief priests, together with the elders and scribes and the rest of the Sanhedrin, had their plan ready. They had Jesus bound and took him away and handed him over to Pilate.
Pilate put to him this question, Are you the king of the Jews? He replied, It is you who say it. And the chief priests brought many accusations against him. Pilate questioned him again, Have you no reply at all? See how many accusations they are bringing against you! But to Pilate's surprise, Jesus made no further reply.
Pilate, anxious to placate the crowd, released Barabbas for them and, after having Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified. (Mark 15: 1-5, 15)

The Jewish court, with the high priest presiding, was called the Sanhedrin. And while the Sanhedrin was powerful, the Romans reserved the right to impose the death penalty on criminals. So for the court to have Jesus executed they had to have him judged by Pilate, the governor who represented the Roman Emperor in that far end of their empire.

The Jewish court condemned Jesus for his blasphemous claim to be one with God, but they knew that would be insufficient cause for his execution. So to be sure the Romans would carry out their bidding, they trumped up charges of treason, which the Romans would care about. The first thing any institution is interested in is preserving itself - so treason matters!

The whole affair was dirty: the Sanhedrin met at night (forbidden), Jesus had no defense witnesses, a death sentence was proclaimed even before the next day's trial before Pilate. For his part, Pilate, an unhappy man, unsuccessful in handling things in his district, caved in, assented to the execution and returned Jesus to the Jewish court, distancing himself from any responsibility.

Jesus knows it can be a sad and dirty world: cowardly, lazy, self-protective, dishonest. A teen-aged boy was pressed to the floor of the prison shower room by a gang of boy-men who raped him, beat him, stole his clothes and anything else he owned, threatening even worse damage if he talked. Those in the system, who should have protected him, (Pilate-like) looked the other way and denied having seen or heard anything out of the ordinary.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Peter Denies Knowing Jesus ~ The Fourth Station

Peter Denies Christ ~ Gerard Seghers
Meanwhile Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came up to him saying, "You, too, were with Jesus the Galilean." But he denied it in front of them all. "I do not know what you are talking about," he said. When he went out to the gateway another servant-girl saw him and said to the people there, "This man was with Jesus the Nazarene." And again, with an oath, he denied it, "I do not know the man." A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "You are certainly one of them too!" Why, your accent gives you away." Then he started cursing and swearing, "I do not know the man." And at once the cock crowed, and Peter remembered what Jesus had said, "Before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times" And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:69-75)

PETER IS UNDER a lot of stress - even his cloak seems to be agitated. Two confrontational young women have asked Peter about his relationship with Jesus. Then there is a kind of gang-up as the bystanders confront Peter too. And Peter fails the test.

Some people live such a marginalized Christianity no one would ever suspect this was their faith confession. Recently we've heard it asked: When they come to arrest the Christians, will there be enough evidence to convict you? The new Coptic Martyrs, beheaded by crazed Islamic zealots, whispered the name of Jesus as they were murdered. 

Some years ago, during a period of very hot racial tension in one of New York City's boroughs, people in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood stood, even on the steps of their own church, screaming hateful, menacing threats and slogans. Apparently not even the priests were brave enough to appear, insisting this couldn't happen on Church property. We might wonder if the priests ever got up in the Sunday pulpit to condemn the incidents or to tell the congregation: If you've participated in the street-hate, you should refrain from receiving Holy Communion until you've confessed.

But there is more. What is Jesus doing as Peter denies even knowing him? He is standing in solidarity with all of those who are denied, unclaimed, nameless, un-befriended, forgotten, anonymous, disappeared... 

When Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity came to the United States they began their work by visiting nursing homes in poor neighborhoods. Mother noticed that many of the residents spent the day in the lobby and that whenever the front doors opened the heads would all go up, hoping for someone to come in who would recognize them - claim them. 

The great poverty of the First World is the loneliness of so many people, having no one. Jesus has no one in this passion scene as Peter denies their friendship.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Jesus is Condemned by the Sanhedrin ~ The Third Station

When day broke there was a meeting of the elders of the people, the chief priests and scribes. He was brought before their council, and they said to him, If you are the Christ, tell us. He replied, If I tell you , you will not believe, and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on, the Son of man will be seated at the right hand of the Power of God. They all said, So you are the Son of God then? He answered, It is you who say I am. They then said, Why do we need any evidence? We have heard it for ourselves from his own lips. (Luke 22: 66-71)

A FEW YEARS AGO I bought a small book on the papacy in a shop just outside Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. I was struck by the large number of popes who were corrupted, murderous, unfaithful. So here in this gospel trial-scene we have a window into religion that is broken at the top. 

When I was eighteen I joined an order of Franciscan Brothers and in the early training period some part of each day was given over to housekeeping. A broom was put in my hands and the brother in charge told me, "Sweep this staircase, beginning at the top and work your way down." I just followed orders not thinking of any deeper meaning until much later: any institution looking to reform itself must start at the top. Pope Francis understands this as he calls for reform of the College of Cardinals, the Roman Curia and the Vatican Bank.

Wherever there are human beings, there is sin, a wise nun said to me once. And so here is Jesus, lost in this sea of religious leaders driven to protect their institutionalized religious ideas. It's about protecting power too, isn't it: all the levels of leadership are assembled there - the big guns. Jesus seems to indicate that any idea of their understanding him is hopeless.

I may not be able to do anything to reform headquarters, whatever that may be. But I can hold close the psalm-prayer when the possibilities or opportunities for the reform of Christ's Church falls to me:

A clean heart create in me O God,
renew within me a right spirit,
do not thrust me away from your presence,
do not take away from me your spirit of holiness.

Psalm 51: 10,11

Friday, March 20, 2015

Jesus is Betrayed and Arrested ~ The Second Station

Duccio Buoninsegna ~ The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

And at once, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came up and with him a number of men armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the traitor had arranged a signal with them saying, The one I kiss, he is the man. Arrest him, and see he is well guarded when you lead him away. So when the traitor came, he went up to Jesus at once and said, Rabbi! and kissed him. The others seized him and arrested him.Then one of the bystanders drew his sword and struck out at the high priest's servant and cut off his ear. (Mark 14:43-46)

GOD HIMSELF IS WITH US. And while Jesus is in the center of the garden, stately and resigned, there is a great swirl of activity around him: a Roman cohort, fleeing apostles, Peter going after the High Priest's servant with a knife.

There is an old Jewish proverb which says, If God lived in a house on earth, all his windows would be broken. Indeed. Notice to the right of the painting above, behind the fleeing apostles, even the earth has opened up in a great yawning or a mouth from which the earth itself spits up hatred against God's presence among us.

And Jesus said it would be so. ISIS destroying the tomb of the Prophet Jonah, Syria's churches in flames, the beheading of twenty-one Coptic Christians...

So what is there to do? Pray all of Psalm 119 broken up into sections between now and Easter. Feel it. It begins, How blessed are those whose way is blameless...

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Intercessions ~ Fifth Sunday in Lent

We hear reports of terrorist violence every day now./ We pray for our troubled world/ and for the healing of angry hearts and minds,/ mindful of the sadness of Tunisia this week./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for Pope Francis/ asking the blessings of health and safety,/ and for all who lead religious communities to be agents of peace and reconciliation./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask healing for all whose lives are shaken or unstable,/ remembering the many who are stressed and damaged by war./ We pray to the Lord.

The springtime reminds us that we can change./We ask to know how we need to grow into the new mind of Christ./ We pray to the Lord.

As Easter approaches,/ so does the Jewish Passover./ We pray for the Jewish People,/ God's Chosen People/ asking for them fidelity to the Covenant God has made with them./ We pray to the Lord.

For those suffering terribly in the South Pacific Islands of Vanuatu,/ where a cyclone has brought enormous destruction./ We ask for the global help which is sorely needed./ We pray to the Lord.

And we pray for those who have died,/ to enter the place of light and life,/ where Jesus has led./ We pray to the Lord. 

Jesus Prays in the Garden of Gethsemane ~ The First Station

Christ in the Garden ~ Nickolai Ge (Gai)

Then Jesus came with them to a plot of land called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples. Stay here while I go over there to pray. He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him. And he began to feel sadness and anguish.
Then he said to them, My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Wait here and stay awake with me. And going on a little further he fell on his face and prayed, My Father, he said, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it. He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, So you had not the strength to stay awake with me for one hour? Stay awake, and pray not to be put to the test. The spirit is willing enough, but human nature is weak. (Matthew 26: 36-41)

In 1991 Pope John Paul II gave us a new set of Biblical Stations of the Cross inviting us to meditate on the gospel scenes as Jesus goes his way to Calvary. As we approach these Lenten thoughts we oughtn't skip the Gospel passage, thinking: "Oh I already know this." Saint Therese of Lisieux didn't even have a complete bible in her possession and yet reading what bits she had she said, Each time I read the gospels, God gives me new insights." 

~ ~ ~

We must remember this Gospel account of Gethsemane takes place at night. Jesus is sad and anguished and prays in that time when the most terrible things happen. Murder is concealed by the night's darkness. A baby is abandoned under a bridge at night. Domestic violence often takes place at night. Bombing raids that reduce cities to ash - at night. And there is the night time of a mind planning  evil.

The scene takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane which means oil press. Most of the scene is taken up with Jesus feeling pressed or crushed with loneliness. Mother Teresa says that the great poverty of the first world (North America and Europe) is the loneliness of persons. And in the crushing loneliness Jesus sees everything mystically: all the death, the destruction, the exploitation and injustice of the world's story. And Saint Luke tells us Jesus sweat great drops of blood. (Luke 22:44)

Perhaps our redemption occurred then, in the bleeding of Jesus - not bleeding to satisfy a god who needs a blood drink, but as a mother bleeds when giving birth. Something new is here. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Della Francesca's Magpie

DOWNTON ABBEY WATCHERS will remember Mr. Simon Bricker who in Season Five arrives as a guest of the Crawley Family. Taking a shine to Cora, Mr. Bricker invites her to view della Francesca's painting of the Nativity in the National Gallery. Here is their conversation standing before the painting of the musical angels and the Holy Family.

Bricker: Every figure shows a different kind of reverence - some eager, some contemplative, some amazed.

Cora: Even the magpie seems to have been struck dumb.

Bricker: You're very sharp. Umbria was full of magpies, so della Francesca chose a bird known for its chatter and made it silent in wonder.

Cora: How beautiful it is.

Indeed, the magpie, which belongs to the crow family, while it is considered one of the most intelligent of all animals is a vocal bird that keeps up a long stream of raucous and querulous calls. That's a kind way of saying the magpie is a noisy bird whose vocalizations sound like argument. But della Francesca silences the bird as it contemplates the wonder of God become a little child. 

Now the fun part. I'd suggest that the magpie today is technology, constantly calling us to enter its noise and argument. Google any article about the Catholic Church or  Pope Francis or Barack Obama, etc. and the comments following the article immediately devolve into noisy, negative, contentious argument. Like raucous and querulous magpies.

Maybe for the remaining days of Lent we could keep della Francesca's wonder-struck magpie in view - inviting us to be more interior, more reflective, more considered, more still. Again, my friend Father John; "Where there are many words, sin cannot be avoided." 

And Albert Einstein: "I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction, the world will have a generation of idiots." Oh my!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Fourteenth Station ~ Jesus is Buried in the Tomb

I PAUSE AT THE TOMB with the close remaining friends of Jesus. Even the creatures and the air are still. In  my life as a Christian believer, there will surely be times when Jesus seems to have left me, as if absent, even buried. But then, these holy women-friends from Galilee help me to understand what I must do.

They observed where the body of Jesus was placed. I don't need to fear that Jesus has gone from me because he doesn't answer, or because I lack consolations, or it's not the way it was when I first encountered his presence in my life. These good women don't say, "Oh, Jesus is buried, what's the use?" or "Jesus' way doesn't work after all!" Instead, they get busy preparing spices for his anointing. They continue to love him. 

As for me, when Jesus seems silent or far away I need to keep my gaze fixed on him; I need to keep him at the center of my prayer and my love. Saint Teresa of Avila says, "The fruit of prayer is good works, good works, good works." I want to be ready and have all of this to show when Jesus returns. And return he will: Easter is on the horizon!


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

Monday, March 16, 2015

Thirteenth Station ~ Jesus is Taken Down From the Cross

AT THE END of Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ, there is a tableau - a scene in which the characters freeze, holding their position. It is a kind of painting, using film as the medium. Mary sits on the ground cradling the body of Jesus which is limp in death. Faithful friends, Magdalen and John look on close by. The only thing we hear is the wind in Mary's veil. She looks down at the face of her Son and then, slowly lifting her head, she looks directly at me, at you. Holding the pose and unblinking, her gaze seems to say, "All of the things you have watched along this way were done for you. Now you love him too."


Our Father Who art in Heaven...

Hail Mary full of grace...

Glory be to the Father...

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Twelfth Station ~ Jesus Dies on the Cross

THE RED CROSS ENCOURAGES blood donations with the motto, Give the Gift of Life. The blood is given as a gift. But what makes it such a tremendous gift is that once given, I don't know where it goes or who it helps. The person who receives the blood-gift will likely be a stranger. This might be someone very unlike my self, whose values or beliefs may be even the opposite of my own. The gift might conceivably be given to someone who could be an enemy or someone I wouldn't care to know or who I might find hard to like. 

Here in this detail of Giotto's Crucifixion, there are angels flying near the dying Jesus, catching his blood in chalices as it drips out of his hands feet and side. The blood of Jesus is no ordinary blood. Maybe the angels are doing this so they can give it away to each of us, to have sins washed away! (Revelation 7:14). 

An unbelieving doctor who had begun working at a Catholic hospital found his way to the chapel one evening. As he walked around and saw the Stations of the Cross on the walls, he thought, "How ridiculous - a God who dies." Not at all! This isn't strange, and perhaps a doctor should know best of all. Jesus loves the whole world, completely giving the gift of life, even eternal life, through his blood! You don't ridicule these things, you ponder them in awe!


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

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Eleventh Station ~ Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

Gerard David ~ Christ Nailed to the Cross

ONCE AND FOR ALL, enough of this about the Jews killing Christ. Surely, the painter of this picture understands, Jesus is looking at me, not at anyone else. I have a responsibility to share. 

But how? I wasn't there. I have a responsibility to share because I refuse to give up my greed which abuses this earth-paradise God has given us. I have a responsibility to share because the world is involved in a perpetual war, and expensive war preparation is the world's first business. 

Jesus is looking at all of us because we're the killer people by our executing, aborting, euthanizing and standing by, faces in the window, witnessing a global war on children. In this moment, Jesus is silent. And biblically, silence is a sign of the presence of the all-powerful God. 

Oh Jesus, as I see this picture of you  being nailed to the cross, I find it so difficult to return your gaze for long.

Deep Silence

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

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Tenth Station ~ Jesus is Stripped of His Clothes

SOME CHRISTIANS ARE uptight about any kind of nakedness...let alone speaking of it! One Christian college prohibits expressions of nudity even in art classes. That would include paintings of Adam and Eve, the Infant of  Bethlehem, Jesus in the River Jordan, Michelangelo's David, or this Tenth Station - Jesus has his clothes taken away at Calvary. I hope we don't need to put up the TV disclaimer: For Mature Audiences Only.

We remember the gospel parable (Matthew 25:1-13) where the bridegroom is eagerly awaited in the night-time by the ten bridesmaids who have been designated to escort him to the wedding. Jesus is the bridegroom. And on his wedding night, a bridegroom is naked while loving his bride. 

And who is Christ's bride? We can say the bride is the Church - God's people being loved husband-like by Christ. But it is even more personal, as the soul, the inner man - inner woman - is spoken of in feminine terms. Saint Thomas Aquinas writes that the soul is "The inner place where Someone always speaks." That Someone of course is Christ-God, speaking to me interiorly, uniquely, in intimacy, loving me despite - or even because of - my own naked weakness and vulnerability.

Jesus has his clothes removed because on the cross he is the bridegroom loving all of humanity.

Some moments of silence

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

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sunday Intercessions ~ The Fourth Sunday in Lent

This Sunday/ we ask for spiritual sight/ which is able to detect our own failures and hard-heartedness/ leading to repentance/ which is a change of life-direction./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday is the Feast of Saint Patrick:/ that we would honor the Holy Trinity/ which Patrick taught/ and live in God's inner community/ where we discover all of humanity gathered in love./ We pray to the Lord.

On our way to Easter/ we pray for those who will be baptized soon,/ flooded with the gift of God's new life./ And for the deepening of our own baptismal life./ We pray to the Lord.

We witness new manifestations of stiff-necked, racial divisions and hatred in our country./ We ask for new hearts that recognize God's love for each of us/ and all of us./ We pray to the Lord.

Where loss,/ deprivation and loneliness/ have stolen away hope,/ we ask for the restoration of meaning and joy./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the sick,/ the hospitalized,/ those in hospice,/ prison,/ or refugee camps./ We pray for those awaiting rescue or help./ We pray to the Lord.

Finally we pray for those who have died to be welcomed into God's land of light,/ and for those whose violence undervalues or destroys life./ We pray to the Lord.

The Ninth Station ~ Jesus Falls the Third Time

JESUS FALLS UNDER the power abuse surrounding him. Power is a great temptation. At the fruit tree in the Garden of Eden, the serpent said to Eve, "God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods.. (Genesis 3:5) 

You've got the power, the commercial declares. Some people delight in the idea of our America being the world's remaining Superpower. "Let me talk to your manager," the disgruntled power connecting customer demands. Power is a favorite word used to describe a detergent or car. We often resent people who have even a little power. We search out bits of power wherever we can - in business, at home, sports, school, church, in the village, over those who are weaker or smaller, over those who we say are there to serve us. 

And while Jesus showed that he has power, he never used it against people, only against demons, death and sickness. We have to start thinking about these things and allowing our consciences to be troubled. 

Some moments of silence

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Eighth Station ~ Jesus Speaks to the Women of Jerusalem

THESE WOMEN ARE UNABLE to keep from demonstrating their affection for Jesus. Maybe they were ignored by the people around; maybe others told them to be quiet, but they refused. Either way, they cry for Jesus out of a deep inner urgency.

I can feel a sense of urgency because the law requires I wear my seat belt, otherwise I risk getting a ticket. Or urgency can flow from an inner personal need calling me to action. "My baby is crying and I must hang-up the phone and see what's going on." But these women of Jerusalem are crying because they must. They cannot do otherwise. Love compels them.

When Jesus finished washing his disciples' feet he said, "As you have seen me do, so you must do." I hear the urgency, the imperative of Jesus' words: I must love! But I must not  love Jesus because I want something from him, even forgiveness for my faults. I want to love Jesus so to console him for every offense done to him past or future. I want to love him with all the strength I can find in my heart with nothing held back. I want to be daring in my love for Jesus, loving him in the great company of Stephen and Lawrence, Francis and Clare, Peter and Paul, Perpetua and Felicity, Kateri and Teresa.

Some silent moments

Our Father Who art in heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Seventh Station ~ Jesus Falls a Second Time

Chapel of the 7th Station ~ Via Dolorosa

JESUS REMAINS SILENT while mockery and ridicule are heaped upon him. Whether in school, business, parish, village - we all take our turn being treated badly at some point or other. And this can cause a great suffering. "...but words can never harm me," isn't really true, is it? 

In humility and truth however, I acknowledge having perhaps damaged the reputation or good name of others myself. 

Silent Jesus, forgive!

Calumny is speaking untruths about people and hurting their reputations.

Detraction is without good reason, revealing the faults of others to people who knew nothing about it.

Rash judgment is assuming as true, without real foundation, the faults of another person.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy call me to bear wrongs patiently,. Jesus never escalates violence or hurt. Rather, he teaches, "Pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust." (Matthew 5: 44,45)

Some silent moments

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

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Sixth Station ~ Veronica Dries the Face of Jesus

HOW IS IT that we remember this act of kindness more than two thousand years later: Veronica consoling Jesus by drying his battered and bleeding face? "Little things, with great love. It's not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing," Mother Teresa would say, "Not how much you give, but how much love you put in the giving."

Jesus would have celebrated Veronica's little gift - her towel. Remember when he said, "Believe me, anyone who gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, just because he is my disciple will by no means lose his rewards." (Matthew 10:42) But I must begin!

A woman confided to me once: "All my husband asks of me is an ironed shirt, and I let him know what an inconvenience it is that he asks." 

To the young people who might be reading this post: before we would ever go to a far away country to help the sick and the poor, I must learn to help happily with the dinner dishes and without being asked, and to help in folding the laundry at home, and to care for my own room and even to pick up the broom just because the kitchen floor needs sweeping. Shh, it must be done secretly!

Little means a lot to Jesus.


Our Father Who art in heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Fifth Station ~ Simon Of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry The Cross

In this scene Simon has picked up the cross in all of its great weight, and Jesus is allowing himself to be helped. And as Jesus is always teaching, even on the way to his death, there is something for me to learn. Am I teachable? 

Allowing Simon to help with the cross, Jesus might be saying to me personally: 
  • "Maybe you need to learn that you're not invincible." 
  • "Perhaps you need to admit to someone else that you're having    a hard time keeping it all together." 
  • "You possibly need to hear yourself saying (or thinking) I can      do it all by myself, thank you." 
  • "Maybe you need to stop trying to be a one-man-show.' 

People who don't allow others to see them as vulnerable and needy are going to have a hard time getting close to God. On this road of sorrows, Jesus models for us our fundamental stance before God. "The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and those who are crushed in spirit he saves." (Psalm 34:19) 

Jesus isn't a weakling because he accepts help, but his is humble. And humble means: "I'm no different; I'm weak and needy, just like all the others."

A moment of silence

Our Father Who art in heaven...
Hail Mary full of grace...
Glory be to the Father...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Fourth Station ~ Jesus Meets His Mother

In Jesus Christ, God has entered our world in human flesh like our own, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the yes of the Virgin Mary. She is called Theotokos - Mother of God. 

But there is more! Mary is my mother too, bringing me to birth as a new Christ-person. On the Calvary-road Mary looked into the eyes of God's Child, whose body was being torn, burdened abused and put to death. And as Mary contemplated his suffering face she contemplated mine too, and every face distorted with tears, horror, sorrow, abuse and injustice. She sees me still in the pain I have suffered and any pain or sorrow I may have caused. 

In 1531, at Mexico City, the Virgin Mary Guadalupe said to Juan Diego:
"Am I not here who am your mother! Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else that you need? Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain."

Read Mary's words again, then, a little silence

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

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Third Station ~ Jesus Falls the First Time

Jesus is loving us as he falls hard to the ground and the nasty crowd gets hyped up. But the word love has been sentimentalized and is now shopworn. Its shock value has been lost. 

In early 5th century Rome, the monk Telemachus rushed down into the arena of the Roman Forum, where he attempted to get between the armored gladiators. The spectators were furious for ruining their entertainment and stoned him to death. It's said that when the Emperor Honorius heard of the sacrifice Telemachus had made for love and life, he had him declared a martyr and officially put an end to combatant sports. By this they will know that you are my disciples, by your love for one another." (John 13:35)

Some silent moments

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

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Intercessions ~ Third Sunday of Lent

It is the first Sunday of March/ and so we pray for those who celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries and other days of remembrance,/ asking for safety,/ peace and good health./ We pray to the Lord.

Soon it will be Spring./ We ask for the melting of resentments,/ and whatever is frozen within us,/ preventing inner freedom and the movement of God's grace./ We pray to the Lord.

Christians of the East are observing Lent now too./ We pray for them/ mindful of their poverty and great suffering./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for world leaders,/ peace-makers,/ and soldiers who are away from home,/ for the safety of travelers/ blessings for the world's children/ and for our families./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask the blessings of joy and peace for those who are preparing for Baptism at Easter./  We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the sick,/ the frail,/ the elderly-poor,/ care-providers and those who struggle with special needs and challenges./ For those whose pain is interior:/those depressed,/ anxious or who live in inner darkness./ We pray to the Lord.

For those who have lost their lives this week by accident,/ addiction or war./ For the conversion of those who take life/ and for mourners./ We pray to the Lord.

The Second Station ~ Jesus Takes Up His Cross

In Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ, Jesus is shown even to embrace the cross. One thief scowls and yells, calling Jesus a fool for hugging the cross. But by the cross Jesus reveals a love for God and us that's bigger than death and bigger than all the insults humanity expels against God. 

Jesus isn't hesitant; he doesn't negotiate, leaving options open for when things get too hard. And I? Miles of  pharmacy aisles promise to keep every pain and inconvenience away. We cut deals and corners, procrastinate and half measure, avoiding the discomfort of the day, the struggles of relationships, the illness, the weather and the work we have to do. 

Oh Jesus, I've got a cross to pick up too. Keep me from so much complaining and direct me to reliance upon you only. 


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

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The First Station ~ Jesus is Condemned by Pilate

The night before in the garden, Jesus accepted the cup of suffering. Now he is powerless in Pilate's hands. The terrible events which will lead to his being condemned, sentenced and executed begin to unfold. But I must remember, Jesus could have escaped from the garden, seeing the lantern-lit procession coming for him in the night. In his prayer that evening, Jesus had chosen Your will be done.

Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916) was a Catholic Frenchman who lived as a desert-hermit among the tribal populations of Algeria. Learning their language and sharing their struggles, Charles offered himself as a brother and hospitable friend to all, knowing that enemies could take his life at any time. Perhaps I can make his prayer my own:
Father of mine, I place myself into your hands. I give myself over to you. I trust you. Do as you like with me. Whatever you do with me, I thank you. I am ready for anything. I accept anything so long as your will is done within me and all your creatures. I desire nothing else, my God.

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

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

And yet again for Lent ~ Save A Child

  • Americans spend 4.2 bbbbillion dollars a year on perfume.
  • Americans spend 11 bbbbillion  dollars a year on their morning coffee.
  • Americans spend 34.6 bbbbillion dollars a year on gambling.
  • Americans spend 2.3 bbbbillion dollars on tattoos.
  • Americans spend 65 bbbbillion dollars on soda.
  • Amereicans spend 18 bbbbillion dollars a year on credit card   late fees.

Americans spend money. Whatever we do for Lent this year, might we do it to save a child. Here are a few organizations which keep the needs of children very much in the forefront of their work.