Saturday, July 31, 2010

Super-cool Jesuits

Since today is the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, I thought I would share some fond memories of learning about the Jesuit order. In my Church History class in high school, Sr. Marie Bernadette (now Mother Marie Bernadette) of the IHM sisters taught us about the true reformation (the Catholic reformation) within the Church following the council of Trent. At that time Ignatius of Loyola founded the Jesuit order to reform morals by way of Ignatius's own spiritual exercises, to engage in missionary work and to promote education and scholarship. The coolest thing that Ignatius of Loyola did was to require all of his Jesuits to take a fourth vow...a special oath of fidelity to the Holy Father.

I'm so thankful to have some of the true Jesuits still around and doing a fabulous job of living in the original spirit of the Jesuit way of life. Father Mitch Pacwa of EWTN comes to mind as one of these Jesuits. The IHM sisters were coincidentally the first to introduce me to his work. Sr. Mary Catherine's Apologetics class invited him to speak about Catholics and the New Age, his newly-published book at the time. Many times our paths have crossed since then. He taught my husband Old and New Testament scripture in his Master's program, and last year we were fortunate enough to have dinner with him at our pastor's rectory. He is always learning and teaching with a joyful wit that always keeps his company on their toes. Fr. Mitch Pacwa, thank you for being a super-cool Jesuit, just like St. Ignatius and his original followers.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Martha's anxiety

I spent the night helping out at a fundraising dinner for my children's school. It was a delightful evening with everyone pitching in and cheerfully working even though it was very warm and we were in a small space for the amount of traffic that was going through. The generous people who open their home to this fundraiser every year work so hard to make it a beautiful event so that attendance will be high from year to year. The volunteers who organize it are so dedicated to Christ and the mission of the school that their anxiety about the event is transformed into eager helpfulness. I couldn't help feeling thankful to be in the midst of such joy-filled company.

On the way home, as I was relating this experience to my husband, he reminded me that it was the feast of St. Martha. I laughed. I've always loved Martha because of her encounter with Christ in scripture. "Martha, you are anxious about many things," Christ said to her. She was doing all of the work and concerned herself with what her sister was, or, in her mind, was NOT doing. This gives me great hope, because although we get to experience service in the Christ-centered way as it should be, like the event this evening, so many times we look over at what other people are doing and concern ourselves with their business. This is what causes the anxiety that Martha had. I love to see instances in which saints demonstrate the human failures that all of us have and yet are able to overcome them in their dedication to opening themselves to the perfecting counsel of Christ. St. Martha, pray for us to be transformed by Christ's loving wisdom!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Delighting in God's will

It is such a gift to be able to reflect upon the will of God at a time of night when all the children are tucked in and the swooshing of the dishwasher is the only sound in the house. Last year, I had the opportunity to read Uniformity With God's Will by St. Alphonsus de Liguori. It is so calming to contemplate the will of God in everything. We go through life making decisions and many times the outcome is not what we expect. God's will in our lives brings us to venture outside of where we are comfortable and to become stronger in our faith than we ever thought we could be. It is our conformity with God's will that is the key to great joy in our lives.

"The essence of perfection is to embrace the will of God in all things, prosperous or adverse. In prosperity, even sinners find it easy to unite themselves to the divine will; but it takes saints to unite themselves to God's will when things go wrong and are painful to self-love. Our conduct in such instances is the measure of our love of God."

"Furthurmore, we must unite ourselves to God's will not only in things that come to us directly from his hands, such as sickness, desolation, poverty, death of relatives, but likewise in those we suffer from man-for example, contempt, injustice, loss of reputation, loss of temporal goods and all kinds of persecution. On these occasions we must remember that while God does not will the sin, he does will our humiliation, our poverty, or our mortification, as the case may be. It is certain and of faith that whatever happens, happens by the will of God."

And that is why the man is a saint. Pray for us, St. Alphonsus de Liguori, that we might embrace God's will with your same delight.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The fruits of a faithful marriage

Today, on the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, I have been reflecting upon the gifts of a faith-filled marriage. Sacramental marriage is a great gift and has always been viewed by the Church as a vocation in which a man and a woman are aided by the Holy Spirit to grow in holiness and virtue. The beauty of marriage is that both of the spouses, with their hearts firmly attached to Christ, aid each other in the spiritual growth that is necessary to perfect us for heaven.

That being said, among faithful Catholics, much attention has been given to the physical fruits of marriage...children. Thanks be to God! Openness to life is vital for a faith-filled marriage. But there are other fruits cultivated in a sacramental marriage that contribute to the good of the spouses, the good of the children and the good of society. Generosity, forgiveness, trust, compassion, empathy and sacrifice are all fruits of a Christ-centered marriage. These fruits are desperately needed in our society today, and it is up to us to cultivate good married relationships starting with our own spouses.

The mission of a married couple extends further than ourselves. So many of our priest friends are greatly edified to see married couples opening our hearts to the love of God. This is marriage as God truly intended, and it makes them grateful for their own vocation. In this current climate of hostility toward the pristhood and the Church, we need strong marriages more than ever to shine Christ's light into the world. Sts. Joachim and Anne, pray for us!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pope Benedict's solution for world peace

This is why I love Pope Benedict XVI...he takes a modern issue and meets it head-on with the timeless wisdom of Church teaching. Peace and environmental issues are often usurped by those who reject God and objective morality. Benedict reasons that protection of creation guided by God's objective morality offers the only true hope for peace.

"If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation. The quest for peace by people of good will surely would become easier if all acknowledge the indivisible relationship between God, human beings and the whole of creation. In the light of divine Revelation and in fidelity to the Church’s Tradition, Christians have their own contribution to make. They contemplate the cosmos and its marvels in light of the creative work of the Father and the redemptive work of Christ, who by his death and resurrection has reconciled with God 'all things, whether on earth or in heaven' (Col 1:20). Christ, crucified and risen, has bestowed his Spirit of holiness upon mankind, to guide the course of history in anticipation of that day when, with the glorious return of the Saviour, there will be 'new heavens and a new earth' (2 Pet 3:13), in which justice and peace will dwell for ever."

This is the information that belongs in the news...a revolutionary plan for peace. In the words of G.K. Chesterton, "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The gift of poverty

Poverty is one of those overlooked virtues these days...especially with all the emphasis on the economy, the employment rate and various budget crunches. It seems that the "health and wealth" gospel has crept into the consciousness of many faithful people of God. Wealth is viewed as a blessing, and, consequently, poverty becomes a curse. It is simply the opposite in reality. Poverty, when embraced in the spirit of humility and trust, is a great treasure. Wealth, on the other hand, often becomes a burden and a constant threat to the humility that is necessary for spiritual receptivity.

It is a great gift to realize that God provides in all situations. Poverty in spirit helps us to receive this grace, and it makes us attentive to those who need the love of Christ. Poverty empties us of ourselves so that Christ can fill us up, and if Christ is within us, we cannot help but seek out those who need Him the most. This is the reason that poverty is listed among what are called the evangelical counsels...chastity, obedience and poverty. They are Christ's net to gather His fish, and we are the blessed participants in the harvest.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Teachers and witnesses of faith

Among the many gifts that God has given us, great teachers are right at the top. St. Dominic, who founded his order in the thirteenth century, sought to defend the Church against heresy, ignorance and immorality through intense study and the embrace of poverty. Faith and reason are the bedrocks of our Catholic faith. Reason supports faith and faith gives light to reason. Thankfully, this lesson was introduced to me before I ventured into college. My parents prepared me to be receptive to holy teachers and holy teachers, fortunately, were a part of my high school faculty. This wonderful group of religious sisters, the IHM Sisters of Wichita, Kansas, has an interesting history – one that involved a choice – to follow the cultural tide of experimentation, or to hold to Church teaching with a firm conviction of faith. Their choice to be faithful to Holy Mother Church was the choice that also brought them to be my teachers.

Faithfulness brings God’s people together. I thank God every day for the gift of faith He continues to shower upon each one of us, and I pray that when God’s call to be faithful is presented to us that we will have the courage and the conviction to respond joyfully as Mary did, “Fiat!” Thy will be done.

Monday, July 19, 2010

In gratitude for faithful priests

In recently reflecting upon the great gift of the priesthood, I recalled a document that I studied last year in my Vatican II class. Presbyterorum ordinis is a decree on the ministry and life of priests. There are so many heroic priests that continue to serve God faithfully. Benedict XVI recently concluded the "Year of the Priest" in which priests were given recognition for the tremendous sacrifices they make day after day in bringing Christ to His people. It seems too short, this year that we have acknowledged them, and in an increasing climate of hostility and suspicion, we need to continue to pray for them and thank them for their willingness to take upon themselves the sufferings of Christ. I want to share a beautiful quote from this document of Vatican II that encapsulates the life of a priest:

"The purpose, therefore, which priests pursue in their ministry and by their life is to procure the glory of God the Father in Christ. That glory consists in this-that men working freely and with a grateful spirit receive the work of God made perfect in Christ and then manifest it in their whole lives. Hence, priests, while engaging in prayer and adoration, or preaching the word, or offering the Eucharistic Sacrifice and administering the other sacraments, or performing other works of the ministry for men, devote all this energy to the increase of the glory of God and to man's progress in the divine life. All of this, since it comes from the Pasch of Christ, will be crowned by the glorious coming of the same Lord, when he hands over the Kingdom to God the Father" (PO, 2).

Thank you, faithful servants of Christ. You are always in our prayers.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The correct response to scandal

Christ entrusted the leadership of His Body, the Church, to humans. With human freedom, a much greater opportunity for glorifying God is possible. The Church, made up of humans, gives great glory to Christ when all Her members are acting in a communion of holiness. Unfortunately, in order for us to freely choose, the obvious consequence is that some members of Christ's body will reject the graces that are lavished upon us. In other words, human failure is an unfortunate reality of human free will.

The most natural reaction to witnessing grave moral failings within the Church is to feel hurt or betrayal, maybe even anger. But we must ask whom is our anger directed? Are we angry at Holy Mother Church whom Christ has given to us as the way of salvation, or are we hurt and saddened by one particular person or group who has become enslaved by the snares of sin? Seeing things as Christ sees them helps us to achieve this clarity.

It is the difference between Martin Luther's revolt out of hatred and suspicion and St. Charles Borromeo's faithful implementation of the great reforms of the Council of Trent. One leaves a bloody mess, while another applies the salve of Christ.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

St. Gianna Beretta Molla

"Gianna Beretta Molla made a heroic choice, but it was something her family members and friends testified she prepared for every day of her life. Her heroic virtue, genuine holiness of life, selflessness, and quiet joy remind all of us that God entrusts us with a personal vocation. Each and every day presents us with choices that have the power to prepare us to take heroic action whenever it will be called for. We can do that, however, only if we surrender ourselves and what we desire to God and His will for us."(Excerpted from the Society of St. Gianna website)

Such great love mothers have for their children. It is a great privilege to be a mother. The power of a mother's love overwhelms us at times. There is no earthly thing like it. From the moment we hold our tiny child in our arms, we know that child is more important than any suffering we could ever endure. It is the love of Christ that we get to experience at that moment. St. Gianna lived this moment each day of her life. Through her witness, Christ's love continues to inspire us. St. Gianna, pray for us!