Meditation is an ideal way to pray. Using God's word (Lectio Divina) allows me to hear, listen and reflect on what the Lord wants to say to me - to one of his disciples - just like He did two thousand years ago.
The best time to reflect is at the beginning of the day and for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
Prior to going to sleep, read the Mass readings for the next day and then, in the morning, reflect on the Meditation offered on this website.
I hope these daily meditations allow you to know, love and imitate the Lord in a more meaningful way.
God bless you!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Lk 4:16-30 Leave Your Valuables Behind

Monday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)


Rolling up the scroll,
he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And all spoke highly of him
and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
They also asked, “Is this not the son of Joseph?”
He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb,
‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place
the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’”
And he said,
“Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.
But he passed through the midst of them and went away.

Why is no prophet accepted in his native place? I think the roots of this problem run deep—and not just for ancient Jews.For some reason, in our minds, we’ve drawn a dichotomybetween what is familiar to us and what is spiritual. We have church and God and the saints cornered off in one section of our minds, and we cannot fathom that God participates in the grittier parts of our daily life. This is simply untrue.

When I traveled to Costa Rica this summer, my roommates took me to see the national basilica in Cartago. The basilica is named for Nuestra Senora de los Angeles (or, Our Lady of the Angels), who is the patroness of Costa Rica. Every summer, practically the entire country of Costa Rica walks on foot to the basilica in a massive pilgrimage for her feast day, August 2nd. It takes the government (which, interestingly enough, is still officially Catholic) months to prepare for the volume of people who travel in. Meals are provided for every pilgrim, and if memory serves me right, people even sleep in tents in various places along the pilgrimage route. When I visited the Basilica, the first few people had begun to arrive to Cartago to pray in preparation for the feast day. There were trucks full of food in the street and people were starting to set up enormous medical tents in the town square. And then came the hundreds of people who wanted to get into the cathedral. There were men (bouncers, you may say)outside the cathedral doors who lined people up in a not-so-gentle way so that everybody who wanted to go inside could process through (on their knees!) to ask a favor of Mary. I was assumed to be a Protestant for my fair skin, so I was directed to a special side entrance and observed the spectacle from afar. It seemed so interesting, but even so, something about the huge hordes of people and the general bustle didn’t sit right with me. It seemed so not-spiritual. It seemed like a football game, almost.

Below the sanctuary, the Cathedral has been converted into a museum of sorts, where the faithful can come and leave items in a box in front of the icon of Nuestra Senora de los Angeles. Usually, people leave things of value to them to give thanks for answered prayers or to ask for intercession. A popular devotion is to buy a little silver charm of your child or whatever else you need prayers for and place it in the box. Every month, the items are taken from the box and displayed in glass cases so that others can see them and also join in prayer for whoever left the items. At first, that was so weird to me—there were about five-hundred charms of little babies, and a good thousand charms of various deformed limbs. The Costa Rican national soccer team had even left one of their championship medals. Again, it felt weird to me. It seemed so worldly.
My skepticism went off even more when I saw the natural spring coming out of the side of the building, which was reported to have sprung in a period of drought during the Basilica’s construction. Everybody processed down to the spring with whatever containers they could find (some had pots and pans, some plastic water bottles) to collect the water for blessingtheir homes. Again, something about it didn’t sit right with me. I didn’t like that everything was so material. I didn’t like that everything was so tangible, so in-your-face. But then I realized my error. I didn’t like that everything was so human.
I think a lot of us have this fundamental misunderstanding about the faith. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we think that things of God must be other-worldly and clean and pristine, completely disassociated from the things of this world.That’s simply not true. In his book Letters to a Young Catholic(which I conveniently read on a Costa Rican beach the day after my Cartago adventure), George Weigel writes a whole chapter on the “grittiness” of Catholicism—in other words, the tangible and human aspects of our faith. So what, there’s a giant truck of food and an enormous red tent full of noisy people blocking the fa├žade of the Cathedral? So what, there’s a church bouncer at the door? So what, people are bringing their cast iron skillets to collect holy water? That’s humanity. God loves humanity in all its grittiness. Here’s what Weigel said about this chapter in an interview with the Ethics and Public Policy Center:

Catholicism, I try to suggest, is a very gritty business: it’s about things we can touch and taste and feel and smell, just as much as it’s about ideas and arguments. Going to intensely Catholic places reminds us of that. And by “intensely Catholic places,” I don’t mean just churches, cathedrals, and shrines. I mean pubs and bedrooms, graveyards and libraries, monastic cells and concert halls – places that are “borders” between the ordinary and the extraordinary, between what calls itself “the real world” and the really real world of transcendent truth and love… Modern culture teaches us that stuff doesn’t count, that everything is plastic and manipulable. Catholicism teaches us that the world is sacramental – that it’s through the gritty stuff of this world that we meet God’s saving grace.

If we believe that our faith is reality—that the entire world and everything that happens is one big drama of sin, redemption, and salvation—then every place is the dwelling place of God. That’s not to say that we should abandon our churches or trash our cathedrals, or stop going to Mass simply because God is present everywhere. That’s not the point at all. The point is, we shouldn’t be afraid to let our faith be a little “gritty.” Grit is reality, and Jesus Christ lived in the gritty world just like you and me—that is the Gospel truth.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

4 Thes 1-2 To Whom Much Has Been Given

Sunday of the twenty-first week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)


Brothers and sisters,
we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that,
as you received from us
how you should conduct yourselves to please God– 
and as you are conducting yourselves– 
you do so even more.
For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

It’s Friday night in Nashville, Tennessee, and I can’t believe how lucky I am.

I’m standing in a small chapel in the upper room of the college Catholic house, praying the Compline with two other members of the University Catholic group on campus. I can hear the cars passing in the distance as the older girl sings the Salve Regina and the peace of Jesus being there is almost tangible.

Across the street and beyond, my classmates and fellow college students are having a “fun night.” Much of this fun will lead to hangovers in the morning and regret, and I can only feel sorry for those who are not feeling the peace I am at the moment.

Seven days ago I was in a hotel room in Nashville still reflecting on the many videos and blog posts I had read about what college was really like. I didn’t imagine anything specifically, but I was still scared. I was scared of missing my grandparents too much, not being able to be a good older sister for my younger sisters, not being able to make friends, not fitting in with the rest of my classmates.

But every time I think of the little worries, I say to myself, rather sternly, “God put you here for a reason, Sophie.” So much of my college search was choices, and God pointed the arrow towards the choice which I attend today. He pointed very clearly and directly, gave me an awesome roommate and great potential close friends, a challenging courseload, and said “to whom much has been given, much will be expected.”

It’s only a week into college (three days of classes), and already I know that God has blessed me so much.Even though I went through an incredible amount of anxiety in the college search, God really does eventually lead you into the light. In the past week, I’ve met about six other strong Catholics in my freshman class and talked to my mum more than I did when I was at home. I’ve discovered that I friends quickly and started to meet many of the people in the University Catholic group. My classes are incredibly interesting and the science of the world grows more complex every day.

In the Reading, Jesus exhorts us to “conduct yourselves to please God.” This is great advice for college. Even when other classmates are making decisions they may regret, I will still love them. I’ll still try to spark up conversation in the stair well and in a particularly long line. I’m still going to pray for the welfare of my class. And I’m going to try to start attending daily mass next week, at least once a week, so that I can see Jesus more often in the Eucharist. Because I have been given “instructions…through the Lord Jesus” and I’m not going to let Him down.  

Saturday, August 29, 2015

1 Thes 4:9-11 A Change of Mentality

Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist
(Click Here for Readings)

Brothers and sisters: On the subject of fraternal charity you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another. Indeed, you do this for all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Nevertheless we urge you, brothers and sisters, to progress even more, and to aspire to live a tranquil life, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your own hands, as we instructed you.
 Today is the Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist.  Most of us are very familiar with the story of John the Baptist's beheading. We read it over and over again throughout the liturgical cycle.  However, we can still harvest new meaning with every read.
Saint Paul speaks to the Thessalonians about aspiring to live a tranquil life, minding our own affairs. It is way too easy for us to blame others when life is messy and chaotic. We may meddle in other people's business in order to compensate for our own inadequacies.  A tranquil life is free from resentment and anger; gossip and meddling; envy and jealousy.  A tranquil life flourishes when we trust in the Lord and follow his teachings.  Sculpt and mold ourselves into better Christians through compassion and charity - not apathy and laziness.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote the following as presented in Magnificat's"Meditation of the Day:"
"The task set before the Baptist as he lay in prison was to become blessed by this unquestioning acceptance of God's obscure will; to reach the point of asking no further for external, visible, unequivocal clarity, but, instead, of discovering God precisely in the darkness of this world and of his own life, and thus becoming profoundly blessed.  John even in his prison cell had to respond once again and anew to his own call for metanoia or a change of mentality, in order that he might recognize his God in the night in which all things earthly exist."

What struck me about this quote is the call for metanoia - a change of mentality.  Saint John the Baptist experienced a transformation as he accepted God's will despite thedifficult situation he was in.  In the darkness of the world, light shines through as we accept life's uncharted courses.

Many times we go through our routines as if on automatic pilot.  We work 8+ hours a day.  We spend the weekends attending sporting events with the kids. We surround our lives with a bunch of activity, but do we make time for God?  Do we make it a priority to pray every day and to attend Mass every Sunday?  Are we catechizing our children in the Catholic faith?  Are we setting aside time away from all of "fun" stuff in order to thank the Lord for his abundant blessings? I think it's time for each one of us to go through a mental "check" in terms of our spiritual health.  If our faith is out-of-balance; our beliefs off center; or our trust in God in decline it's time for real change. Just think if everyone adopted the "change of mentality" challenge maybe we'd see more people in the pews, less shootings on the television, less rates of divorce, a decrease in addictions, and a greater respect for all human life.  
Saint John the Baptist, Pray for Us!

This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin.  Please visit her blog:  Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

1 Thes 2:1-8 How Not to Start a Church

Wednesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
By Benedict Augustine

“Nor, indeed, did we ever appear with flattering speech, as you know,
or with a pretext for greed–God is witness–
nor did we seek praise from men,
either from you or from others,
although we were able to impose our weight as Apostles of Christ.”

After the Resurrection of Jesus, the apostles have a difficult task: they must go and convert hostile people to Christ. Not only this, but they cannot coerce people with empty promises, business connections, or some influence with the Roman emperor. They must essentially start from scratch: they have no money or any formal establishments, no famous converts, or any academic reputation—Paul is as close as they come to a legitimate scholar.

In such a situation, any reasonable person hoping to “win friends and influence people” would resort to smooth tactics of sincere flattery and non-confrontation—good old fashion religious salesmanship. He would “seek common ground” with those who disagreed, accommodate different tastes, and above all, avoid argument. As Dale Carnegie says, “The best way to win an argument is not to have one.” Instead of arguments, the reasonable proselytizer shares “his story” and talks about a common vision in which all men can aspire. He would compliment other religions and lifestyles, “celebrating” their “courage,” or their “honesty.” With nothing to lose, and whole church of desperate vain people to gain, the smooth talkers would have seduced the whole Roman populace in a short amount of time.

In addition to promoting a positive message in a positive style, they should have directed to their message the powerful, not the poor. By ingratiating themselves with the Sanhedrin, the Imperial Court, or at least some prominent barbarians tribal chiefs, they could have cut through centuries of tireless preaching. After a useful series “dialogues,” Peter and Paul could have come to a compromise with Emperor Claudius—maybe by promising a place in heaven, or performing a miracle for his benefit, or granting him a religious title equivalent with one of the Persons of the Trinity—and save themselves the persecutions of Nero, Decius, Diocletian, and other bored emperors.

If this happened to be unfeasible because of the brutal nature of Romans conditioned by a brutal religion and a brutal government, the apostles could have invented an enemy to bring people to their cause. It worked for the Jews, and it would work well six centuries later for the Muslims. They could have formed ethnic/nationalistic identity unto themselves and formed an “us vs. them” movement. Angry Romans would find their frustrations expressed by the Christians who would scapegoat barbarians, the emperor, tax collectors, the military, the law, the schools, and dishonest merchants; and then promise a fairer system for all, ordained by God Himself—though they would have keep the details of such a plan hazy.

Unfortunately, Christ does not allow His disciples to weasel their way into unsuspecting people’s hearts. He does not let loose a pack of Christian lobbyists into Rome, or Christian demagogues in the countryside or public forums to ignite a populist movement. Despite having the option on multiple occasions, Jesus Himself does not take control of an army, like Mohammed, or seize the culture, like Pharisees or the French Enlightenment’s literati. Spurning such earthly, predictable, courses to power, He relinquishes these options, and tells His disciples to do the same.

In flat contradiction to prescribed methods, the disciples do not make friends, but enemies. They do not avoid argument, but argue quite bitterly, even with sympathetic audiences. They do not compliment or flatter, but condemn all wrongdoing in the plainest language. For the most part, they seem utterly unimpressed with the officials and emperors, not even noticing them so much as to insult them; Paul, and arguably Jesus too, advise their audiences to keep their heads down and simply stay out of politics. Finally, instead of finding a convenient scapegoat, they become the scapegoat.

For any student of history, the spread of Christianity makes no sense, and indeed, Paul’s letters make no sense. Neither he nor his readers have anything to gain from this. They could have spared themselves the indignity of acting as a “nursing mother” to addicts, perverts, paupers, hypocrites, and idiots.  They could have “played the game” like any other ambitious person.

That is, unless the Gospel of God were true. Only truth, nothing less, could lead such a group of men to such insanity (or extreme sanity, depending on how one sees it).  

Politics will inevitably corrupt the false religion, however noble its origins or ideals. It will assume the character of populism, cronyism, nationalism, utopianism, and even nihilism. When the Church and her members cling to the truth, with all their body, mind, and soul, they may thwart these human patterns and retain their heavenly destiny.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ru 2:1-3, 8-11; 4:13-17 The Beauty of Sisterhood

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Click Here for Readings)

Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter! Do not go to glean in anyone else’s field; you are not to leave here. Stay here with my women servants. Watch to see which field is to be harvested, and follow them; I have commanded the young men to do you no harm. When you are thirsty, you may go and drink from the vessels the young men have filled.” Casting herself prostrate upon the ground, Ruth said to him, “Why should I, a foreigner, be favored with your notice?” Boaz answered her: “I have had a complete account of what you have done for your mother-in-law after your husband’s death; you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know previously.”

While meditating on today's first reading from Book of Ruth, images of sisterhood come to mind.  Nuns pray the Divine Office in choir; sorority sisters dress up in identical t-shirts while engaged in community outreach; biological sisters enjoy a cup of coffee as they reminisce about childhood; women of faith gather together in prayer and fellowship....  

Sisterhood is all about connection and formation of relationships centered aroundcommon interests, traditions, passions, and even misfortunes. 

Deep in our psyches humans desire to live in community.  God did not create us to remain alone in isolation.  We are meant to bond and unite in ways that nourish and build up the Kingdom of God.   In our technological world, we remain "connected" 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Sadly, we now lack many one-on-one physical connections.  It's easier to text than pick up the phone and have a lengthy conversation.  It's quicker to look at a photo on Facebook than to meet an old friend for a meal and see how they look in person.  I think about all of my fellow "sisters" who I regularly follow on social media.  Some I have not seen in person in 2 or 3 years.  They even live in the same city.  

Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth are the perfect example of the beauty of sisterhood.  Even though not blood related, they share the grief associated with widowhood, losing the caretakers in their lives (husbands and sons).  Both women decide to travel together away from famine in order to start a better life.  They remain bonded together as they adapt to the new vocation of widowhood, gleaning for food and relying on the generosity of neighbors.  Naomi accepts her daughter-in-law even though she is a "foreigner."  The acceptance is reciprocated by Ruth.  They love one another like biological mother and daughter!  A shared faith in the Lord gives them the strength to persevere despite all of the tragedy they've endured.  Incredibly, Ruth could have decided to cut ties with Naomi after her husband's death, yet she loved her mother-in-law so much that she remained committed to her care. I wonder how many Naomis & Ruths exist in our modern day society.  We so often complain about annoying and frustrating "in laws."  Maybe we should step back and reflect on the relationship between Naomi and Ruth.  Perhaps we can "glean" inspiration from their story and improve our own personal relationships.

Naomi plays match-maker as she introduces Boaz to Ruth. Of course, as all good love stories end, the couple gets married.  They give birth to a son they name Obed.  (Naomi is one proud grandma!) We know from biblical tradition that Ruth's son is an ancestor to Our Lord Jesus.  Wow, who ever thought the bond of sisterhood could become animportant contribution to salvation history?!

"Holy Mary, comfort the miserable, help the faint hearted, cheer those that weep, pray for the people, be the advocate of the clergy, intercede for all women consecrated to God; may all who celebrate your memory feel the might of your assistance. Amen." (The Sancta Maria Prayer) 

This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin.  Please visit her blog:  Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Jgs 9:6-15 Strong Leaders and Godless Dystopias

Jgs 9:6-15 Strong Leaders and Godless Dystopias
By Benedict Augustine

Then all the trees said to the buckthorn, ‘Come; you reign over us!’
But the buckthorn replied to the trees,
‘If you wish to anoint me king over you in good faith,
come and take refuge in my shadow.
Otherwise, let fire come from the buckthorn
and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’”

In times of social unrest, communities will always look for a strong leader. Unfortunately, if the community has reached a low enough state, it will often lack decent leaders to follow. This situation arises from a weak culture that has given up morality, meaning, and goodness. Indifference and despair pervade the atmosphere. Everyone claims the status of victim, pointing fingers at everyoneelseand all clamor for a leader to make the problems go away, but this only invites an even bigger problem: a tyrant, or party of tyrants, that enslave the whole population.

Good leaders rise from good cultures, ones that reinforce a moral code, a vigorous search for truth, and a reverence for beauty. In such conditions, allmen and women accept their roles with gratitude, act selflessly, and contribute to the common good—indeed, they themselves form the common good. Healthy cultures are never at a loss for leaders, for all the citizens could carry out the duties of leadership, knowing and doing what is good, what is fair, and what is required. Because accomplishing this is somewhat easy (and even fun) with such a virtuous community, the people hardly desire a strong leader, but rather a weak one that will leave everyone alone.

As Christ says, “For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” Good societies have an abundant crop of talented leaders, but do not need them; bad ones in need of good leaders have none and often sink into deeper misery. This fundamental truth suggests something important about leadershipand history: strong leaders are not the solution, or the problem, but rather the result of culture; they can act as the nasty symptom of a diseased culture, or the sweet fruits of a prosperous culture.

In nearly every community, misunderstanding this cause and effect relationship, good/bad cultures and good/bad leaders, has led to cultural decline. Leaders and citizens alike mistake their wealth and power as culture rather than the product of culture. In logical terms, they mistake the effect for the cause. When this happens, they do not simply neglect the culture that made them great, but reject it outright. When a community has money, power, and influence, the old ways of virtue, religion, and tradition threaten to overturn these goods that seem to stand on their own merits.

As history makes clear, relying on money, power, and influence, virtually ensures a culture’s immediate decline and ensuing decadence. People abandon God, one another, and even themselves, knocking down the pillars of law, compassion, and hard work. Soon enough, another younger and slightly less corrupt power will overtake it for a while before falling itself to yet another power. Thus, the cycle continues indefinitely

The book of Judges illustrates the scenario perfectly. Probably the most dystopian—and politically intriguing—of any of the books of the entire Bible, it captures the fluctuating fate of fallen humanity in all its frustrationA few centuries after Joshua leads the twelve tribes triumphantly into Israel, they stop worshiping God, stop following His laws which hitherto kept them safe, and completely lose their identity amid the pagan cultures left in the area.

Right on cue, they would cry out for a strong leader to save them from all their problems. God instead gives them judges, who are not exactly leaders, but more warriors and prophets who would ward off the pagan influence in the attempts of restoring Israel’s culture. The questionable character of most the judges, who excel at killing and not much else (like my personal favorite, Shamgar, who kills 600 Philistines with an ox goad), offers strong evidence of Israel’s inferior culture. With the help of God, they have a few good judges, yet in the absence of enduring faith, they had no good leaders. 

Nevertheless, they still hope for a strong leader, and finally had one in the tyrant Abimelech. The prophet Jotham makes clear in his parable that they have allowed their desperate search for a king blind them to the man that they actually agreed to follow. They did not pick the olive or fig tree, nor the vine, which all produced goods of value; they picked the prickly parasitic shrub, the buckthorn. Needless to say, his reign spells disaster for Israel as he ravages the land for the next few years in the hopes of aggrandizing his kingdom. 

AlthougAbimelech eventually dies in one of the captured towns at the hands of a woman, the Isrealites scarcely learn their lesson of seeking salvation from an earthly king instead of their King in Heaven. After so many centuries of turmoil and judges, God grants their wish with King Saul, which starts another cycle of varying fortunes, sadly with more buckthorn kings than olive ones, that finally end with Babylonian captivity.   

This lesson, spanning the whole Old Testament, not only makes plain the need for Jesus’ Kingship, but the need for a cultural revival. Sinful leaders cannot save a sinful people, and sinful people cannot produce anything but sinful leaders. They must be restored from within, and this can only come from Jesus. He is the Leader that causes, not the one that results, flourishing. With the judges and Israel, Catholics have the prefigurement; with Jesus and His Church, they have the reality.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a; 10ab Mary Arrayed in Gold

Solemnity of The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems. Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth.

As I prepare to sell my home, it's amazing the amount of "stuff" I've accumulated.  Some items haven't been touched since I moved in over 5 years ago. Words from Pope Francis such as "consumerism" and "throw-away culture" come to mind as I fill trash bags full of old clothing, house hold goods, and miscellaneous knick knacks.  Hopefully, St. Vincent de Paul Thrift will profit from my donations.

I find my prayer life has been set on "delayed" mode as I scramble to get the house in good sell condition.  Replace the dishwasher; install new carpet; fix the fence; paint the walls, etc. etc.  So much stress!  This is when I should be praying even harder!  

Sadly, as part of staging my home, I must remove all of my religious images including pictures of Our Blessed Mother. Her image always gives me peace in the middle of chaos, so storing her away in some old cardboard box doesn't seem right.  However, I understand that I could turn away potential buyers who may find my choice of religious art offensive.   Fortunately, once I move into my new apartment Our Blessed Mother will regain prominence.

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Assumption of Mary.  Personally, this is one of my favorite Marian feast days.  I like to imagine Mary being pulled up into heaven as if carried on an invisible elevator.  Angels play their trumpets announcing to everyone in heaven, "The Blessed Mother is coming!  Alleluia!  Our Queen is here!"  The angels drape her in clothing made out of gold as a crown of twelve stars is placed on her head.  The gold is brilliant and shiny.  Nothing like we see here on earth.  As Mary enters heaven, she is greeted by her only Son.  They warmly embrace each other as the entire universe celebrates.

Before I became Catholic, I didn't pay much attention to Mary.   Then as my love for the Catholic Church grew I finally realized Mary's importance in salvation history.  She's definitely not an idol we worship!  Her role as the mother of our Lord, and the spiritual mother of each one of us, is something we cannot ignore.  It saddens me that so many Protestants have a limited view of Our Blessed Mother.  She is so much more than Jesus' mother in a Christmas manager scene.

I encourage Catholics to display an image of Our Blessed Mother in their homes or wear a Miraculous medal around their necks.  We should pray the rosary daily and set aside time out of our day to thank Mary for saying "Yes" to life.   Maybe consider going through the 33 Days of Consecration of Jesus through Mary or consider registering for a Rosary Confraternity.  Give Our Blessed Mother the recognition she deserves.

Saint Pope John Paul II wrote:

"Today the liturgy invites us to contemplate Mary, taken up body and soul into heaven. By a special privilege, she was enriched by divine grace from the moment of her conception, and Christ, who ascended to the right hand of the Father, opened the doors of his kingdom to her, first among human creatures. Now from heaven, where the Queen of the angels and saints is crowned, the Mother of God and of the Church is close to the Christian people before whom she shines as the “new and immaculate woman (who) mediated for the guilt of the first woman.”  

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Pray for Us!

This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin.  Please visit her blog:  Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality

Friday, August 14, 2015

Matt 18:21-22 If One Could Walk Through Walls

Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time


Today, my presence in the house became nothing but 1.5 plastic boxes in the closet where the “memory” things are kept.

In these last few weeks before I leave to college, my things have slowly accumulated in my dad’s study. My bunny from my younger years, lots of colored pencils and crayons, and of course, a few school supplies have stacked up on the Guest Bedroom bed. As I walk through the house, I’ve taken to looking at the walls carefully, trying to remember exactly what they look like.

In the past few days, I’ve been feeling rather forlorn. Something in me feels that my parents are really excited to get rid of me and just dump me on my university sidewalk with all my stuff and then leave me. Of course the rational part of me knows that this isn’t true (well, not completely), but it’s going to be painful to leave my grandparents, sisters, even my parents, even if I am really excited for the challenging courses, opportunities to learn how to swing dance in the Catholic group, and to finally meet my awesome roommate. (Somehow, Snapchatting just isn’t the same).

Feeling forlorn has led me to look at the walls even more closely, trying to imagine all shouted and whispered words that they have heard. Somewhere in those walls are the apologies and the fights. Somewhere in there are the eyes that saw each time my sisters hit and hugged each other. And now I’m leaving all of that. Just like the eyes of T.J. Eckleberg, the eyes in those walls have seen everything. Or at least, all the things that matter.

If I were to go into these partly metaphorical walls, I think I would see all the fights stacked up higher than the stack of accumulate apologies. But somehow, I think that the apology stack would be thicker, more stable. They would matter more. Because no matter what the walls have seen, the apologies are always the most powerful. It’s much harder to shake someone’s hand after a fight than to hit them.
In the Veggie Tales, one episode focuses on the phrase “seventy-seven times.” (This is usually taken as seventy, added to itself seven times). But all the vegetables are confused, because once they reach 490 apologies, aren’t they done? Isn’t that it? With arguments as frequent as mine and my sisters’, I’m sure we’ve reached 490 apologies already and are well beyond that. But Jesus meant infinitely apologizing, just as he infinitely forgives us. And if he can infinitely forgive us for our murders, wars, examples of aggression, and arguments, then we can forgive anyone else, anyone at all.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Mt 18:15-20 Confronting Evil

Wednesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

By Benedict Augustine

(Disclaimer: This post discusses abortion and includes disturbing details that might be upsettingfor those unfamiliar with this issue.)

“If he refuses to listen even to the Church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”

In wake of the shocking revelations that Planned Parenthood (PP) not only performed late-term abortions, but also harvested the organs of those unborn children, the people of PP and their defenders made the simple claim that all his was entirely legal. In fact, for many, this was hardly news, and the videos offended good taste more than anything. Jonathon Swift’s “Modest Proposal” to kill children and use their bodies as commodities had played out in earnest, and these educated adults simply yawned and expressed mild irritation.

Fortunately, some people found this abominable and pushed beyond the objection of legality. They bypassed the media outlets that refused to treat this as news and saw the videos themselves. They clamored to their representatives, who hopefully had a sensitive enough conscience to recognize the immorality of infanticide and desecrating a dead body for profit, and some of them acted. In some states, lawmakers initiated an investigation of PP clinics, and in the Senate they held a vote to defund PP, which has received over half a billion dollars in public funding each year.

With the threats of a veto from Obama, and only amarginal majority versus a substantial one that would equal two-thirds of the vote, the measure did not pass and PP continues to receive tax dollars. The state investigations will proceed, but seeing the vastextent PP’s influence and power coupled with the very aggressive effort to bury this crime from the popular conscience, it’s difficult to think that anything might actually result.

A similar incident involving abortion and media indifference occurred only a few years ago with the trial of Kermit Gosnell. This “doctor” performed late-term and partial-birth abortions, and actively killed babies who survived these procedures. He dismembered their body parts and placed them in jars (for unknown reasons) and left the bodies of dead (and some still living) babies in trashcans. When the story of Gosnell became known, other people came forward to report that this type of thing happened in other parts of the country as well.

Oddly, many of the pro-choice people crowed not about the disgusting horror brought about by abortion, but bemoaned the fact that women had no choice but to go to these back-alley establishments since the law prohibited late-term abortions. Apparently, the bloody reality of what these procedures entail, the harm to the mother, and the death of a living breathing human being did not justify, in their eyes, the need for the law to prevent them.

The complete absence of morality is astounding.They see doctors haggling over the price of baby’s body parts, and they talk about laws. They hear of men killing living children with scissors, and they talk about cleaner facilities. They learn of the obvious signs of personhood manifesting themselves at the earliest stages of pregnancy, and they talk about a clump of cells. They see death, death that has consumed millions of lives and eviscerated whole communities, and they talk about choice. As onesuch commentator says without any hint of irony: “I don’t see death in these videos. I see hope.”

Obviously, the difference between those who hold life sacred and those who do not is a difference of kind, not one of degree. The former take great pains to prove that children in the womb are persons from conception, and killing them amounts to murder; the latter hardly bothers to listen to these arguments and their horrible implications, either from stubbornness or indifference, or both. To them, these babies may be persons, but they have no autonomy or the ability to reason. In other words, they have no power, so their life has no value.

When life ceases to have value, a huge and terrifyingshift in moral outlook results. In the absence of human dignity, ‘use’ replaces life in giving a person value. When a person cannot be used, like the babies in the womb or the elderly, they do merit the life they have. Consequently, this utilitarian ethic, which has spread far and wide in the modern world, currently condones abortion and assisted suicide, as well as prostitution, body desecration, and slavery. These problems grow continually worse since idea of usefulness is determined by easy feelings of pleasure and pain, not the hard work of logic: if it feels good at that moment, it is useful; if not, it can go. Allowing nature to take its course, a baby can grow into an adult who will serve society in many useful ways, but because he does not do this yet he can go.

The utilitarian ethic is utterly selfish and destructive, and accounts for most evils in the world today. It dehumanizes the people who adopt and practice it. It destroys morality, reason, and finally life itself. It turns subjects with souls and free will into objects quantitatively evaluated. In the utilitarian mind, Truth, Beauty, and Goodness succumb to Convenient Falsehood, Fashion, and Pleasure.

Recently, a staunch utilitarian atheist friend of mine finally pushed me away. I confronted him multiple times about the evils of abortion and thought the news of organ harvesting would change his mind. Rather, it emboldened him to support abortion even more since it can now be claimed that it helps almighty Science—a fact which, considering the overwhelming success of adult stem cells, has little to no basis. He wanted me to agree, and I pleaded with as much eloquence I could muster that he should drop this insanity.

As I thought about it, I finally realized that this thinking had already led to so many problems in his life: his addictions, his insecurities, and the stagnation (or sometimes regression) in his maturity.I also realized that I could no longer be his friend. Following Jesus’ words, I confronted him; then others confronted him; and finally, I gave him every argument from the Catholic Church as well as Natural Law; he rejected it all, but felt quite pleased that I would go to such lengths to save his soul, and with himself for being so tolerant. I simply felt used. At this point, I could tell he preferred the ways of a gentile and tax collector. If I shared his company any further, it would jeopardize my soul. For now, I can pray for him at a distance and hope a miracle happens.

Jesus foresaw this conflict playing out in society as well as friendships. He never recommends begging a nonbeliever to join the Church, or even seriously accommodating their beliefs. He never overlooks the false teachings of gentiles or the Pharisees in the hopes of brining them to His side. He urges His disciples to follow truth, condemn falsehood, and respect the differences that arise, even if this leads to serious divisions between loved ones and communities—“I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Painful as this sounds, doing otherwise and accepting people’s faults, even their most grievous faults, will bring about much more violence and depravity. Nearly every human atrocity, both personal and societal, can be traced to a good person refusing to combat an incipient evilFor this reason, it is the duty of every Christian to confront evil even if it hurts to do so. This is our cross, and we must bear it.

After all, if we don’t do it, who will?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

DT 6:4-13 Share God with a Friend

Memorial of Saint Dominic, Priest

Moses said to the people: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest. Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates."

One afternoon while in the check-out line at Target, I noticed a clever marketing campaign.  A small cardboard tower displayed bottles of Coke Zero.  Written on the label of each bottle were the words "Share a Coke with [A Name]."  I like personalized stuff, so I sorted through the bottles looking for the name Jennifer.  Sadly, I came up bottle empty! Either nobody wants to share a Coke with me or Jennifer just so happens to be one of the most popular girl names in the English language! My disappointment didn't last long when I discovered an even cooler name: Share a Coke Zero with Dominic.  Since I am a new Lay member of the Dominican family, the name "Dominic" is quite special.  I took a photo with my smartphone and posted it on our group's Facebook page.  Several "likes" followed. 

Today is the Feast Day of Saint Dominic de Guzman, founder of the Order of Preachers.  He was known for his good nature, joy, wisdom, piety, and miracles.  In the 13th century, Saint Dominic recognized the urgent need to combat the Albigensian heresy rampant in France and Italy. He educated and reformed several communities of religious women as one of his first apostolic works. Because most priests and monks lived in monasteries, the idea of the itinerant (traveling preacher) caused quite a bit of controversy. Along with the preaching, Dominic encouraged the friars to pray the Divine Office and undergo rigorous study in doctrine and scripture as part of formation.  As a result, Dominicans became known as an intellectual order, often associated with universities.  The Truth (Veritas) was best proclaimed armed with knowledge.

In modern day, Saint Dominic would be considered quite an eccentric.  He walked from town to town, carrying with him the Book of Matthew and the Letters of Saint Paul.  He preferred to walk on bare feet as a form of penance.  Those who traveled with Dominic recalled how he sang hymns while on the road.  At night he spent many hours in prayerand slept everywhere in the church except in his own bed.  As for meals, he refused to eat meat and fasted regularly.  Saint Dominic is best known for his Nine Ways of Prayer and the early devotion to the most Holy Rosary.

I can write on and on about Saint Dominic, however, for sake of brevity, I encourage blog followers to read further about his life.  Much of what is known about him comes from interviews taken during his canonization process.  Unfortunately, Dominic left very few written records.  He was too busy preaching, walking and praying!

The Order of Preachers will be celebrating their 800 year Jubilee beginning in November 2015 through the early part of 2017.  It's an exciting time for the Dominican family with lots of events planned.  In fact, I will be traveling to Rome in February 2016 to see some of the sites related to Saint Dominic.  I'll be staying at one of the very first convents Saint Dominic reformed. I plan to blog about my pilgrimage.  Stay tuned.

We can share a Coke with a friend.  However, it's much better to share God with a friend. Who needs a bunch of empty calories and artificial sweeteners when we can nourish our bodies with the divine sweetness of Jesus Christ!  Saint Dominic loved to preach the Word of God and spread the good news.  We can do the same thing if we put our hearts, minds, and strength to the task!

"A man who governs his passions is master of his world.  We must either command them or be enslaved by them.  It is better to be a hammer than an anvil" - Saint Dominic

This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin.  Please visit her blog:  Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Mt 15:21-28 Having the Faith of Children, Not Dogs

Mt 15: 21-28 Having the Faith of Children, Not Dogs
By Benedict Augustine

“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”

Many kind-hearted people wince at this episode where Jesus challenges a woman in need of His help. Unlike other instances where Jesus gladly cures and forgives others, He holds back for this particular woman, not because she is rude or sinful, but because she isn’t a Jew. He first states that the scope of His mission only concerns the House of Israel, not those who reside outside that house. When she pleads further, He then compares her to a dog, probably one of the most severe terms of abuse recorded in the gospel.

Some might feel relieved that Jesus relents and heals her daughter, yet one might still wonder why Jesus said those things in the first place if He intended to heal the woman anyway. It seems like he’s making fun of her and even desires to humiliate her before doing anything. If that’s the case, Jesus is being far from magnanimous; he’s being rather petty.

The key to understanding this event are Jesus’ final words, “O Woman, great is your faith!” As with many of His miracles, He hopes to use this one to teach a lesson; in this case, the lesson is the true nature of faith. Notice that He does not reward the woman for her wit in taking His analogy and working it in her favor—even if many Christians afterward will chuckle at her chutzpah—but for her persistence and humility. He questions her rather sharply, and sheresponds with proportionate trust in Him. 

Faith means more than mere belief. It signifies a deep trust, making it much more complex idea.Trust is active: one does not simply trust another person only to ignore them later; they usually trusthim to do something. Trust also implies dependence since one who trusts depends on the fact that the other is true and that he cares. Consequently, the active dependence brought about by faith humbles the person who has it. A person who has real faith in Jesus must admit: I trust that You are the Son of God. I trust that You will help me. I trust in Your love, and I know that I am not enough without it.

Imagine if that woman approached Jesus with the typical sense of entitlement felt by people today. In a good skeptical fashion, she could have demanded, “Prove to me that you are who you say you are. Cure my daughter!” Or, she could have retorted to Jesus’ words about feeding the children, not the dogs: “How dare you! I deserve more respect than that. I will go consult the oracles at Delphi. At least they won’t compare me to a dog.” In either of these scenarios, the woman does not have faith, but contempt, and only wants to use Jesus—and by extension, use her daughter as a means of testingHim. Additionally, she remains proud and unchanged, and her daughter would remain possessed.

Rather than enabling His people, God wants their faith, their trust. He has something immensely important to give, His love, and He will not force them to take it, nor will he let them snatch it ungratefully like dogs or pigs. If people complain to God, either doubting His love or feeling entitled to it, they rightly incur His punishment. Gratitude, humility, faith, and love are the ways to respond, like the Samaritan woman and not like the craven Israelites who fear the men more than they fear God Who had saved (and punished) them so many times.

God’s unhappiness with people’s faithlessness offers another lesson, a lesson that’s constantly overlooked by people of faith: Don’t feed people’s egos by coddling their lack of faith. Many people, believers and nonbelievers alike, bring their complaints to the Church, often calling for change in everything but themselves. They callously blame God, the Church, and Christians for all their ills, and then demand respect and welcome in return.

In their misguided attempts to share the gospel, many Christians are completely willing to agree and comply with these angry people, hoping to open “dialogues” and “adapt with the times.” They refrain from criticism, praise their “honesty,” and foolishly invite these people to church with them on Sunday. These people might support abortion and organ harvesting, might equate Christianity with bigotry, and might care more about one unfortunate lion illegally hunted than thousands of innocenthuman beings being crucified and sold into slavery.

Is that what Jesus would do, or His Father? The former would denounce such hypocrisy and make sure no one follows their false teachings, and the latter would send a host of horrible things (plague, pillagers, earthquakes, or, as shown in the readings yesterday, sudden leprosy). They would save those who desired saving, and wait for the rest to repent.

Disciples must approach Christ and His Church as children, not dogs. He does not want blind faith or complacent doubting. He wants virtuous obedience and love. When He says that the children must be fed, that means tending to the faithful first.

As Mother Teresa says, “Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do…but how much love we put into that action.” Instead reaching out to those outside the Church, those who spurn our invitations, we should nourish those inside the Church who seriously need it. Only then will others start changing their attitude and approach the Church, Christ’s Body, as the Canaanite woman approached Jesus with her daughter.