Reflections
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CARE OF THE EARTH

We are aware that the earth was born and is borne by a delicate dynamic of forces, which converged to become the integrity of our planet. We are enchanted by the splendor of its life emergence, of which we are but a part.
Untitled-1Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvatore Dali (1904-1989), renowned painter, sculpture and eccentric visionary.
Yet at the very time we are awestruck by this wondrous disclosure, we are stunned by the cumulative significance of human insensitivity to the natural world. We are informed, as never before, that the earth is subject to possibly irreparable damage to the primordial pattern of life-sustaining processes.

The spiritual challenge of the ecological crisis draws us back to our religious traditions, to reflect on and celebrate the natural world in its most profound sense of mystery as a manifestation and experience of the sacred. We humans find not only our place but also our presence to the sacred in this phenomenal emergence.

Let us reflect on the opening words of John’s Gospel which present the cosmic Christ:

“In the beginning was the Word; The Word was in God’s presence And the Word was God. He was present to God in the beginning. Through him all things came into being, And apart from him nothing came to be” (John 1: 1-3).

Reflections from our Christian Tradition


The Eucharist is one of the most central and transformative prayers of Christianity; it presents the things of Earth through which God is made present:

“Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, Which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life” (The Roman Missal)

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Four Churchwomen of El Salvador

I don’t remember the deaths of the Churchwomen of El Salvador, but I do “remember” them. I was born in 1978, so I was only two and a half years old when Sr. Dorothy Kazel, Sr. Ita Ford, Sr. Maura Clarke, and Untitled-1Fr. Robert Niehoff, S.J., (center) with concelebrants at Commemoration Mass for the 35th anniversary of the Churchwomen murders. [SOURCE: Christians for Peace in El Salvador – CRISPAZ]Jean Donovan were violently raped and murdered on December 2, 1980.

I will never be able to say where I was, what I was doing, or my reaction to that event. However, I will forever “remember” their witness, their willingness to say “yes” to the needs of their brothers and sisters, to say “yes” to Christ’s calling. Throughout my formation as a lay Catholic—as a teacher, minister, and advocate, I have been blessed with opportunities to remember the lives and witness of these four women.

Today in El Salvador, hundreds of Salvadorans along with others from across the world have gathered to commemorate their lives. Included in this group are students from John Carroll University and Fr. Robert Niehoff, S.J., John Carroll’s president. Sr. Dorothy Kazel, a native of Cleveland, earned her graduate degree from John Carroll in 1974, and has an endowment for Latin American studies at the university named in her honor.

Fr. Niehoff and I started at John Carroll on the same day in 2005—of course, he had the role of president and I was just a campus minister. I remember walking across campus with him during his first few days. I explained that I had been tasked with leading students to the annual vigil at the gates of Ft. Benning to call attention to the role of U.S. policy and training in the deaths of people like the four Churchwomen.

Read more: Four Churchwomen of El Salvador

The Secrets of the Manger

Untitled-1The Adoration of the Shepherds by Hugo van der Goes (c. 1440-1482)
Christmas means that someone thought enough of me to come to life as a baby, to comfort me and save me. God came to earth to enter every person's life and change it. That is good news.

For some, Christmas is a time of genuine rejoicing. They sing, dance, feast, give and receive presents. It is their favorite holy day, their favorite time of year.

Read more: The Secrets of the Manger

Jubilee Year of Mercy

Editor: This is a summary version of Pope Francis’ Misericoria Vultus, explaining the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. See the full text.
Untitled-1Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him… (MV, #1). We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy… Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us… Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness (MV, #2).

 

Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy

 

…I have proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as a special time for the Church, a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective. The Holy Year will open on 8 December 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception... When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive… On that day, the Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instils hope… a similar door may be opened at any shrine frequented by large groups of pilgrims, since visits to these holy sites are so often grace-filled moments, as people discover a path to conversion… (MV, #3).

Read more: Jubilee Year of Mercy

Mary’s Magnificat

 
The Magnificat is also used exclusively as a solid Marian light which makes us vividly aware of God’s love of preference for the poor, the humble, and how this is intimately connected with the Christian meaning of freedom and liberation – of redemption. 
Untitled-1Annunciation by Fra Angelico (1395-1455)

Here again Mary has her place. She can serve as an inspiration in this aspect of the Christian mission because, as stated in the Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation published in 1986: 
 
“Mary is totally dependent upon God and completely directed towards him, and at the side of her Son she is the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and the universe” (#97). 
 
Mary helps us understand that the most radical source of true liberation of individuals and even structures is precisely this total surrender or, as she reminds us at La Salette, this submission to God and his plan for us. Without a revolution of the heart, merely political and social revolutions only lay the foundations for the next revolution in an endless chain of humanly oppressive and destructive revolts. 
 
Mary proclaims the great things that God does, but these are done for those “who fear him,” those who not only are poor and lowly, but have surrendered to him. Mary calls, in a variety of ways, to this radical revolution, which is first and foremost conversion.
 
There is much richness to draw from her Magnificat and from other truths about Mary, such as her role in the growing appreciation of the feminine aspect of the divine presence and the Church. Mary truly offers a seemingly inexhaustible source of faith reflection. And, as we begin another Liturgical Year, we are invited once again to revisit and reflect on Mary as a symbol of Advent and ongoing faith in the One born in Bethlehem of Judea.

Our Lady and the Airport Chaplain

Editor: Mindful of our own La Salette, Fr. Bob Susann, ministering at the Orlando International Airport, we share a presentation by Fr. Michael G. Zaniolo, STL, President of the National Conference of Catholic Airport Chaplains given during the XIV World Seminar for Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains on April 11, 2010.
Untitled-1Fr. Bob Susann, M.S., Chaplain for Orlando International Airport
Nazareth is a central point of reference for the Blessed Virgin Mary in the unfolding drama of our salvation in Jesus Christ. It is also, as I hope to demonstrate, an inspirational and formational resource for the mission, ministry, and life of airport chaplains and pastoral agents…

In Mary’s journey, Nazareth is a place of departure. From Nazareth, Mary goes to Elizabeth her cousin. From Nazareth, Mary goes with Joseph to Bethlehem and even to Egypt. From Nazareth, Mary goes with Jesus and Joseph to Jerusalem.

From Nazareth, Mary goes to follow her son in his public ministry. In her life story and in her journey of faith, the holy house of Nazareth is truly a point of departure. That same place is a point of arrival. She returns to Nazareth from Egypt. She returns to Nazareth from Jerusalem. Whether she departs or arrives, this holy place where the Word was made flesh becomes a center, a focal point of her journey and pilgrimage of faith…

 

Encounter and Welcome, Growth and Formation 

Read more: Our Lady and the Airport Chaplain

A Thomas Merton Christmas

“Christ always seeks the straw of the most desolate cribs to make his Bethlehem (1).”

Untitled-1Thomas Merton (1915-1968), a Trappist monk, an American Catholic writer and mystic.So begins Thomas Merton’s reflection on his first Christmas as a monk at the Gethsemane Monastery in Kentucky.

Thomas Merton is considered by many to be one of the most important spiritual writers of the 20th century. His breakthrough autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, from which this reflection is taken, outlines his profound conversion from a life of frantic paganism, to a life of Christian devotion.

His first Christmas at the monastery in Kentucky was different than any he had experienced before. He writes, “in all other Christmases of my life, I had got a lot of presents and a big dinner. This Christmas I was to get no presents, and not much of a dinner: but I would have, indeed, Christ Himself, God, the Savior of the world.”

On the one hand, Merton’s Christmas experience was challenging, because the idols of his heart had to be confronted. The time he used to spend in shops in restaurants was now spent in prayer and silence. Merton explains that Advent was a time where he emptied his life of the things that were distracting him from God. He notes that, “an emptiness had opened out within me.”

Read more: A Thomas Merton Christmas

Syrian Refugees and We Catholics

Washington, DC – National Catholic social justice organizations delivered a letter to Congress on Untitled-1Syrian refugees receive assistance from volunteers in Vienna earlier this fall. [Source: Josh Zakary | via Flickr / Creative Commons]November 19, calling on legislators to “open our hearts and our homes to Syrian refugees of all faiths.” This request comes amid statements by Congress members, governors, presidential candidates, and other political leaders, calling for the U.S. to discontinue refugee re-settlement of Syrian refugees.

The letter, distributed to members of both the U.S. Senate and House, was endorsed by 13 national Catholic organizations including the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States and the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

“Our federal legislators, governors, and local officials need to know that as people of faith, we cannot be deterred by fear in welcoming Syrian refugees fleeing war and violence,” said Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

The statement notes the extensive process that an individual goes through to obtain refugee status citing, “biometric checks, forensic testing, medical screenings and in-person interviews.” Late this week the White House published an infographic detailing the full process to provide clarity for the public and elected officials.

Read more: Syrian Refugees and We Catholics

Advent Love and Penance

Untitled-1Advent is a good time for penance. But Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord into my life. It is a time to prepare myself for the "advent" of the One I love, Who is a priority in my life – a priority above and beyond all priorities.

Why speak about repentance or penance at all? Penance reminds me of purple and black, abstinence from sweets during the old-time Lent, of statues covered with purple cloth; of purple vestments and purple everything. Everything, in fact, had a strict, monastic, becowled discipline about Advent and Lent.

 

Why do we need Penance?

 

But then, you ask why? The reason for penance is simply that there can be no love without it? "Say that again, slowly", I hear people ask. All of us, at this point in our lives, know what love is. Not infatuation. Not "engouement (infatuation)" as the French would say colorfully. But real, genuine, tested, affection for another human being.

There can be absolutely none of that without penance. If someone cannot do without, he or she cannot love. Cultivating a relationship with another person, maintaining friendly rapports with that person always involves awesome self-denial. The investment in time alone involves much sacrifice and renunciation. People you love make insistent demands upon you, sometimes without realizing it.

 

The Challenge of Love

 

Father Andrew M. Greeley, referring to a sociological survey he had conducted with parents and family writes:

Read more: Advent Love and Penance

Conclusion of Synod on the Family

…As I followed the labors of the Synod, I asked myself: What will it mean for the Church to conclude this Synod devoted to the family?

Untitled-1Certainly, the Synod was not about settling all the issues having to do with the family, but rather attempting to see them in the light of the Gospel and the Church’s tradition and two-thousand-year history, bringing the joy of hope without falling into a facile repetition of what is obvious or has already been said.

Surely it was not about finding exhaustive solutions for all the difficulties and uncertainties which challenge and threaten the family, but rather about seeing these difficulties and uncertainties in the light of the Faith, carefully studying them and confronting them fearlessly, without burying our heads in the sand.

 

It was about urging everyone to appreciate the importance of the institution of the family and of marriage between a man and a woman, based on unity and indissolubility, and valuing it as the fundamental basis of society and human life.
It was about listening to and making heard the voices of the families and the Church’s pastors…
It was about showing the vitality of the Catholic Church, which is not afraid to stir dulled consciences or to soil her hands with lively and frank discussions about the family.
It was about trying to view and interpret realities, today’s realities, through God’s eyes…
It was about bearing witness to everyone that, for the Church, the Gospel continues to be a vital source of eternal newness…
It was about making clear that the Church is a Church of the poor in spirit and of sinners seeking forgiveness…
It was about trying to open up broader horizons, rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints, so as to defend and spread the freedom of the children of God, and to transmit the beauty of Christian Newness, at times encrusted in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible.

Read more: Conclusion of Synod on the Family

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La Salette Missionaries, Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas

Our Community: The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are deeply rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette which occurred near the hamlet of La Salette in southeastern France on Sept. 19, 1846. The Missionaries were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries.

Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.

Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”

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