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Preview: "Open wide the doors to Christ!"

Thomas for Today



"The door of faith is always open to us." Pope Benedict XVI



Updated: 2017-12-27T03:34:14.447-05:00

 



Zechariah's Doubt

2017-12-19T10:56:36.190-05:00

Today’s Gospel is the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist. The phrase jumped out at me: “your prayer has been heard.” Imagine if you had been praying for something for years and years, and suddenly you see an angel standing before you telling you that finally, after all this time, God is going to grant your prayer. Wouldn’t you be overwhelmed with joy and happiness, and maybe even jump up and down? I would!But not Zechariah. For some reason not told to us, he wouldn’t believe it and raised objections. We don’t know what was in his heart, but because he was punished, something in his heart must have gone awry. Was God just being vindictive here? No, because the punishment had a purpose. It was to teach him something. What?This gospel passage plays off the ideas of speaking and listening in a quite interesting way. First, Zechariah’s prayer was heard, so he had already spoken to God about what was in his heart. But then Zechariah couldn’t hear God’s response. So Gabriel—who obviously is a pretty tough angel—says “I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place.”In Dante’s Divine Comedy, the punishments of people always match their sin. So it is for Zechariah. Because he wouldn’t listen, he will get to know what it’s like to have people not listen to him because now he can’t speak. Perhaps God wanted to teach Zechariah—and us—that prayer is a relationship. It’s not about us making demands of God to be fulfilled in exactly the way we want. That would turn God into some kind of big vending machine in the sky. In prayer, instead, we bring our needs to God and make our requests. But then we need to hold that request before the Lord, and talk to him about it. We can even use our imagination to picture what the response to our request might be and hold that picture before God, but in a way that allows him to change it.We hear no more from Zechariah until John was born. But we do hear in this gospel from Elizabeth, who praised God, “So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.”And what of John himself? Luke later describes him, quoting Isaiah, as "the voice of one crying in the desert..." The son of a speechless father became a mighty voice to prepare the way of the Lord. As St Augustine said, "The voice is John's; the Word is Christ." Such are the ways of God.[...]



Saint Ambrose (c. 340--April 9, 397)

2017-12-07T09:50:01.103-05:00

Born into a prominent Roman family, Ambrose studied law and became a governor in northern Italy. When the bishop of Milan died, Ambrose was elected by popular acclaim. He fled because he wasn’t even baptized! But then he accepted, and was baptized and ordained bishop. Despite his lack of theological education, he studied and became an outstanding theologian.Ambrose was firm in opposing the Arian heresy. Showing great courage in upholding the truth of the faith, Ambrose did not fear to oppose even the Roman emperor Valentinian II. As a pastor, Ambrose also showed great compassion for the poor. He even melted down some of the Church’s vessels to aid the needy. His eloquent preaching impressed the young Augustine of Hippo, who converted to the Catholic faith with the help of Ambrose.In his theology, Ambrose wrote extensively about Mary. He emphasized her virginity and was also the first to speak of Mary as a certain image or symbol of the Church. He also proposed Mary as a model for those called to a life of consecrated virginity in the Church.ReflectionThe Arians denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. To counter this, Ambrose wrote about Mary and explained how she is truly the Mother of God. What the Church teaches about Mary is aimed at safeguarding what it teaches about Jesus. In other words, Mary leads us to Jesus. In my life as a disciple of Jesus, have I allowed Mary to lead me closer to her Son?PrayerSaint Ambrose, you labored tirelessly in preaching the Gospel and helping the poor. Pray for us that we too may reach out to others with the Good News of Jesus Christ with courage and zeal.Copyright 2017, Daughters of Saint Paul [...]



St Albert the Great

2017-11-15T09:53:33.128-05:00

Saint Albert the Great (c. 1193/1206-November 15, 1280)Feast: November 15Patron: students, teachers, philosophers, scientists, World Youth Day Albert was the type of person to whom people would go whenever a question came up. He knew almost everything there was to know in the medieval world. An outstanding philosopher and theologian, he also studied the natural sciences. He painstakingly observed and recorded facts about insects, birds, astronomy, and many other fields. Born in Germany, Albert entered the recently-founded order of Dominicans. His talents made him an important asset, and he became a professor in Paris and Cologne. At that time the works of Aristotle were getting better known in Europe, and Albert took part in the important movement to use the philosopher’s thought in better understanding Christian doctrine. In this Albert influenced his student, Thomas Aquinas, who went on to develop that field even more. Albert became the provincial of the Dominicans, and was appointed bishop of Regensburg in 1260. But being a bishop didn’t suit him, and he resigned after three years. He returned to scholarly work and preaching, mainly in Germany. In 1931 Pope Pius XI canonized him and named him a Doctor of the Church.Reflection Throughout his life Albert thirsted for knowledge of both human and divine things. He knew how to see the natural world in the light of God. Albert also knew himself. He realized that he was not well suited for the pastoral ministry of a bishop, and resigned from that office. All the saints showed a passion for doing the will of God. But sometimes doing the will of God can mean turning down an offer rather than accepting it. How do we know the difference? Only by prayer and careful discernment. PrayerSaint Albert the Great, pray for us that we may grow in knowledge of God and of ourselves, so as to serve God in the best way we can. © 2014 Daughters of Saint Paul[...]



Saint Bartholomew and the fig tree

2017-08-24T12:12:59.307-04:00

Bartholomew was one of the twelve apostles, usually identified with Nathanael. According to tradition he preached in India and Armenia and was martyred by being skinned alive. When Philip told him about Jesus, Nathanael at first dismissed it, saying, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” But he goes with Philip to see Jesus, who says to Nathanael, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael replies, “Where did you get to know me? And Jesus says, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (Jn 1:46-49).What does this mean? Jesus praises Nathanael as a true Israelite. Jacob had been deceitful but after struggling with God, his name was changed to Israel. The prophet Hosea spoke of Israel as being like a fig tree: “Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on the fig tree, in its first season, I saw your ancestors” (9:10). Did Jesus have that text in mind? Perhaps under the fig tree Nathanael had been struggling with God in prayer, and was changed, like Jacob, into a true Israelite. He was like the fig tree that brought forth good fruit. From this we can gather that despite his initial skepticism about Jesus, Nathanael had a pure heart open to the truth.ReflectionJohn’s Gospel opens and closes with doubting apostles: Nathanael at the beginning, and Thomas at the end. Despite their initial resistance, they both believed in Jesus and became great apostles. Their example can give us courage to keep on being disciples even if we feel inadequate.PrayerSaint Bartholomew, pray for us that like you, we may have hearts that are true and good, free of any deceit, so that we may prove to be faithful disciples of Jesus despite any difficulties.© 2017, Daughters of Saint Paul[...]



Saint Pius X

2017-08-21T12:17:36.787-04:00

Saint Pius X  (1835-1914)Feast: August 21Patron of first communicants, immigrantsThough he rose to become a bishop, cardinal, and  pope, Giuseppe Sarto always remained at heart a simple parish priest. Born into a poor family near Venice, he wrote in his last will and testament, “I was born poor, I lived poor, I die poor." As a priest his extensive pastoral work made him aware of the acute need for religious instruction. After becoming Pope in 1903,  he still taught a weekly catechism class to children. He wrote the Catechism of Saint Pius X and  worked to establish the CCD in every parish. His motto  “To restore all things in Christ” guided his papacy. He encouraged liturgical reforms, lowered the age for First Communion, and encouraged frequent Communion. Under his leadership the Code of Canon Law was codified in one volume for the first time (it was promulgated by his successor, Benedict XV). Pius reacted strongly to the rise of Modernism, which he saw as a synthesis of all heresies, and condemned its theological errors. Though he is sometimes remembered mainly for his strong anti-Modernism, his legacy includes his emphasis on pastoral work, concern for the poor, and formation of the clergy. He died on the eve of World War I, grieving over the conflict about to explode in Europe.ReflectionThe great goal of St. Pius X was to restore all things in Christ. That is why the pope put such an emphasis on Holy Communion. Personal union with Jesus through this sacrament can light a fire in our hearts, leading us to give of ourselves to others. Ultimately, love builds up the Church. And as Pius liked to say, “Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to heaven.”PrayerSt. Pius X, intercede for us that the love of Christ may always inflame our hearts and spur us to share that love with others. © 2017, Daughters of Saint Paul [...]



The Assumption of Mary into Heaven

2017-08-15T09:52:14.117-04:00

Because she is the mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is both God and man, we honor Mary as the Mother of God. In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant represented God’s presence among his people. Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant, because she carried the Lord in her womb. The first reading of today’s feast speaks of the woman clothed with the sun. She is the “great sign” in the heavens, a sign of hope for the pilgrim people of God. As Mother of God, it was fitting that Mary’s body be preserved from decay. At the end of her earthly life, God brought her to heaven, body and soul. On Calvary, Mary had stood by the cross of Jesus and shared in his sufferings. She shared in his resurrection also, anticipating the resurrection of the body that will occur at the end of the world. As Mary says in today’s gospel, “From now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me” (Lk 1:48-49). ReflectionAs Christians, we need not fear death. Jesus has forged the way for us by his resurrection from the dead, leading us to eternal life. Our bodies too will rise again to happiness forever. When  the sorrows of earthly life overwhelm us, it helps to remind ourselves that after a few short years, which pass quickly, we will enjoy the happiness of heaven forever.PrayerOur Lady of the Assumption, Mary our mother, pray for us who are still on our pilgrimage through this earthly life. Remind us of our goal, that we are called to happiness in eternal life. May that hope sustain us in difficult moments, so that we will never abandon the path to God. Amen.© 2017 Daughters of Saint Paul[...]



St. Peter Julian Eymard

2017-08-02T10:06:28.706-04:00

(February 4, 1811-August 1, 1868)  Born in La Mure, France, Peter felt God’s call from a young age. After some difficulties due to poor health, he was ordained as a diocesan priest. Peter always had a strong devotion to Mary, which led him to enter the Marists in 1837. He was also developing a strongly Eucharistic spirituality. On the feast of Corpus Christi in 1845, an intense spiritual experience gave him the idea to form a congregation of priests devoted to Jesus in the Eucharist. Leaving the Marists, Peter established the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. The difficult beginnings were lived in great poverty. Peter evangelized people in the streets and prepared them for their First Communion. He involved lay people in this work and in 1858 he began a contemplative community for women, the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament. His writings on the Eucharist are still popular today.ReflectionSaint Peter Julian Eymard’s charism joined Marian devotion with a strong emphasis on the importance of Eucharistic prayer. The Eucharist is Jesus, the source of all grace. This prayer is not closed in on itself but urges us to bring the love of Jesus to others. Peter’s example can help us to reflect on our own love for and appreciation of the wonderful gift that Jesus has given us in the Eucharist. Can I make some time in my week for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament?PrayerSaint Peter Julian Eymard, you were filled with such love for Jesus in the Eucharist that you wanted to share that with everyone. Pray for us that we too may find in the Eucharist the source of all grace and blessings, and share them with others. Amen. © 2017, Daughters of Saint Paul[...]



Saint Irenaeus

2017-06-28T15:43:58.046-04:00




Irenaeus was a highly influential writer, bishop, and theologian of the early Church. Born in Asia Minor, he was a student of St. Polycarp, who had known some of the apostles. This link with apostolic tradition became important in his later work. Irenaeus traveled to Gaul and was ordained a priest in Lyon. He later became bishop there and around 180 wrote an important work, Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies.) The Church in Gaul had been troubled by the false teachings of the Gnostics, who were confusing people. They claimed to have secret knowledge and rejected Christian teachings. In his 5-volume book, Irenaeus detailed where the Gnostics went wrong. He explained Christian teachings in light of Scripture and the apostolic tradition, underlining that the true teaching was passed on through the bishops in the Church. Except for another book called Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, his other writings have been lost.
Irenaeus is also an important figure in Marian teaching, being one of the first theologians to develop the parallel between Eve and Mary. He saw Mary’s role as the New Eve, undoing the damage from the original sin and cooperating in the redemptive work of Christ.

Reflection
The name Irenaeus means “man of peace,” and although he was involved in controversies, Irenaeus was a peacemaker. He persuaded Pope Victor I to lift a ban of excommunication that had been imposed on some Eastern Christians who didn’t accept the Western date for Easter. The pope agreed and this matter was resolved amicably.

Prayer
St. Irenaeus, intercede for us that we too may be peacemakers and seek unity. Pray that those who turn to violence to achieve their goals may be converted to the way of love, and follow Jesus who taught us to love one another.



Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Seven: Faithfulness (Thur.)

2017-06-01T16:39:25.329-04:00

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . faithfulness" (Gal 5:22)

The word Paul uses here (pistis) can be translated as faith or faithfulness. But in the context of Galatians, in which Paul speaks about how faith in Christ justifies us, it can probably be best seen as a trust founded on God's own faithfulness (that's from Matera's commentary.)

This kind of faithfulness leads us to trust that God will always be with us no matter what trials we are going through. This makes me think of an incident from the life of St. Thomas. As a young man he decided he wanted to join a new order called the Dominicans. They were mendicants--traveling preachers who depended on people to help them with food and other necessities.
Thomas was from a noble family in Italy. They wouldn't have minded if he had wanted to become a Benedictine. Since he had studied at the Abbey of Monte Cassino, they thought he could enter there and eventually become the Abbot. But the idea of him going around begging for food horrified them. His mother in particular adamantly opposed Thomas on this.

But Thomas had other ideas. He wanted to follow the poor Christ, without a position of power (in those days abbots sometimes had a good deal of power and influence). So when he entered the Dominicans and they sent him on a journey to Paris, his family intervened. His brothers went after him and took him against his will back to the family castle in Aquino.
There they kept him under a sort of house arrest. They thought he wouldn't last too long and would eventually give in. But he resisted all their pressure to make him change his mind. Finally, after about a year, they realized he wasn't going to follow their plans. Instead, Thomas was faithful to the plans that he believed God had for him. That was faithfulness in action.


Is there some area in my life where I can be more faithful to what God is asking of me right now?

Prayer to the Holy Spirit for the Gift of Courage (public domain):

Come, O Holy Spirit of Courage, uphold my soul in time of trouble and adversity, sustain my efforts after holiness, strengthen my weakness, give me courage in the trials of life, that I may never be overcome and separated from you, my God and greatest Good. Amen.

Below is another version of the Taize chant of the Veni Sancte Spiritus.

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Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day Six Goodness (Wed.)

2017-06-01T16:37:56.669-04:00

"The fruit of the Spirit is ... goodness." Gal 5:22


 In high school I had a wonderful teacher who was a mentor for me. She would often say, "Be good." Even though it sounds so simple, it sums up the essence of the Christian life. By being good we can act  with goodness toward others. The way we act reveals what is in our hearts. And by good acts, we become better persons. That was the main idea St John Paul wanted to get across in his book Person and Act. The opposite is also true; if we do evil things our heart changes and is drawn more to evil. But the power of good is greater; whatever little good we do can turn our hearts more and more to God, who is Goodness itself.
St. Paul often encouraged his Christians to be good: "I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness..." (Rom 15:14).
The Holy Spirit is the source of our goodness, for the Spirit is Love. When we open ourselves more fully to the Spirit, we can expect to be filled with an abundance of grace and spiritual gifts.

How can I show goodness to others today?



Prayer for Holiness of Life
 By St. Augustine

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
that I may love only what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
that I may defend all that is holy.
Guard me, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy.

And here is the traditional Come, Holy Ghost:

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Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day Five Kindness (Tuesday)

2017-05-30T10:44:32.409-04:00

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . kindness." (Gal 5:22)

Some years ago when I was dealing with a difficult situation that had lasted a while, I was praying in our chapel one day. A sister who was visiting from Italy -- who knew nothing of the difficulty -- came up to me and expressed genuine appreciation for some of my good qualities. When people do that I tend to disregard it, but in this case it was such perfect timing and so completely affirming that I thought it had to be the Holy Spirit who inspired her. It wasn't flattery but I felt almost like she had a window into my soul. And she didn't say any negative things like I may have feared, but instead she spoke of the good she saw in me. And that makes it easier to live out of those good things. It took me completely by surprise but it was a wonderful act of kindness. To this day whenever I think of that, I still recall how good I felt.

Kindness can make such a big difference to another person, and it often costs us so little. To look at someone and see their good points instead of their flaws is an act of kindness. And only kind people will do that. We reveal who we ourselves are by the way we treat others.

How can I show greater kindness to others today?


 Prayer to the Holy Spirit by St John Paul II

Come, Holy Spirit.  Come.  Enter deep into the hearts of those who belong to you.  May each be given the manifestation of you for the common good.  So that God may be all in all.
Lord, give me a spirit of faith and knowledge.  Give me a spirit of kindness and generosity.  Give me a spirit of love and unity.  The fruit of the spirit is love, patience, and generosity.  It is peace.


 When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. -- Abraham Joshua Heschel



The Veni Creator Spiritus 

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Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Four: Patience (Monday)

2017-05-28T20:30:32.637-04:00

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . patience" (Gal 5:22)The patience that St Paul refers to here is more like forbearance.In relation to God, it's the way that God never tires of us, always has patience, and tries to draw us to conversion.For us, this kind of patience helps us to control our anger, especially in situations when it threatens to overwhelm us. Just about all of us, at one time or another, have gotten angry to the point it was hard to control our thoughts and words. When that happens we usually say something we later regret.Patience helps us to control ourselves at those moments. It helps us to see things from another's point of view. If we can do that, even if we don't agree with the person, we can at least understand where he or she may be coming from. The New Testament has two words for patience. One is hupomonē, which refers more to bearing a burden patiently. It's more like long-suffering, holding up under trials. But here in Galatians Paul uses the word makrothumia. It's a compound word and the two parts give us the meaning: makros or "long" and thumia or "passion" or "temper." So it has more of the sense of being long-tempered, able to take a lot of stress without losing one's temper. If we can practice this, we can become more like God who is so patient with us. That's why it's a fruit of the Spirit, since it depends more on grace than our own efforts.How can I be more patient today in the events of my life and with the people I am with?This prayer is directed to St. Paul: For Patience Glorious Saint Paul, from a persecutor of Christianity you became an ardent apostle and evangelizer. Throughout your life you even suffered imprisonment, scourging, stoning, and shipwreck; you endured persecutions of every kind for the sake of the Gospel. Your sole desire was to make the Savior Jesus Christ known to the farthest bounds of the world, and to that end you shed your blood to the last drop.Obtain for me the grace to accept the hardships of ill health and the daily struggles of this present life as opportunities to grow in love for Jesus Christ and share in his sufferings. May the unexpected difficulties that come my way help me to be a more patient, compassionate, and loving person who seeks to assist others in their needs. And, amid the pressures and demands of everyday life, grant me enduring strength to be a faithful and fervent follower of Jesus Christ. Amen. Blessed James Alberione "Have patience with all things but first with yourself." --St Francis de SalesBelow is another version of the Taize chant of the Veni Sancte Spiritus. allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="https://i.ytimg.com/vi/x3YPg0KTGlY/0.jpg" frameborder="0" height="266" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/x3YPg0KTGlY?feature=player_embedded" width="320">[...]



Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Three (Sun.) Peace

2017-05-28T20:29:33.084-04:00

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . peace" (Gal 5:22)Nine years ago I had the opportunity to make an Ignatian 30-day retreat at a retreat house in Gloucester. I loved walking along the water to pray and reflect. The retreat is structured so that the person first meditates and prays about God's great love for us, and only after that come the meditations on sin. We can't truly confront our sin without a secure knowledge of God's love, knowing that no matter what we've done, God's mercy is greater. At that point I made my confession. Afterward, walking along the water, the words of Micah 7:19 came to mind, "You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins." It left me with an incredible feeling of peace.Before the retreat I had invited people to leave their prayer intentions that I took with me. When I got back, I found a message: "Sister, the prayer I left with you was answered, and today I was able to receive Communion for the first time in more than twenty years." I still treasure that message and it's so beautiful to think of how God answers our prayers for each other. I don't know who that person was, but I'm sure that he or she had a deep experience of this fruit of the Spirit: peace.Above all else, peace comes first in our relationship with God. When that is set aright, we can more easily live at peace with others. When we allow the Holy Spirit into our hearts, the grace we receive enables us to look at others in a new way. Then it is easier to love them too."Let nothing perturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything.”--St Teresa of Avila  Prayer for Peace by St. John Paul II (slightly adapted)Holy Spirit, hear my voice, for it is the voice of the victims of all wars and violence among individuals and nations.Holy Spirit, hear my voice, for it is the voice of all children who suffer and will suffer when people put their faith in weapons and war.Holy Spirit, hear my voice when I beg You to instill into the hearts of all human beings the wisdom of peace, the strength of justice, and the joy of fellowship.Holy Spirit, hear my voice, for I speak for the multitudes in every country and in every period of history who do not want war and are ready to walk the road of peace.Holy Spirit, hear my voice and grant insight and strength so that we may always respond to hatred with love, to injustice with total dedication to justice, to need with the sharing of self, to war with peace.Holy Spirit, hear my voice and grant unto the world Your everlasting peace.This is the beautiful Taize chant. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="344" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ak4a-fu-R-c" width="459">[...]



Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day Two (Sat.) Joy

2017-05-27T13:05:27.587-04:00

"Joy . . . is the gigantic secret of the Christian."  G.K. Chesterton                                                  Joy is the second fruit of the Spirit mentioned by St. Paul in Galatians.Filled with the Holy Spirit, we can't help but be joyful. St. Paul himself gave an example of this kind of joy. When he and Silas were preaching the Word of God in Philippi, some people in the town opposed them and stirred up opposition. The apostles were dragged before the town magistrates, who punished them. They were severely beaten with rods and locked up in the town jail (see Acts 16: 19ff.)But Paul and Silas didn't get discouraged. Instead, they talked to the other prisoners and praised God with prayers and hymns. They were joyful even while undergoing such trials. Shortly after, an earthquake struck the prison and Paul and Silas were freed from their chains. But instead of escaping they talked to the jailer and converted him and his family, who were then baptized. Acts says of them: "He and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God." The Good News that Paul preached brought joy to those who heard it.In the New Testament, joy isn't primarily just a happy feeling. Instead, it refers to the intense, deep-seated realization that God wants to bring us to salvation through Jesus Christ. This kind of joy can even exist in times of suffering. In fact, sometimes trials themselves can bring a spiritual joy in the sense that we know God is at work through them to bring us closer to him."Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:4-7).Today how can I radiate the joy of the Holy Spirit to those I meet? Prayer for Holiness of Life Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,that my thoughts may all be holy.Act in me, O Holy Spirit,that my work, too, may be holy.Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,that I may love only what is holy.Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,that I may defend all that is holy.Guard me, O Holy Spirit,that I always may be holy.St. Augustine allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="https://i.ytimg.com/vi/HSpbL28m4LI/0.jpg" frameborder="0" height="266" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/HSpbL28m4LI?feature=player_embedded" width="320">"A heart filled with joy is more easily made perfect than one that is sad."  -- St. Philip NeriOptional Scripture reading:Philippians chapter 2, the epistle of joy[...]



Novena to the Holy Spirit: Day One (Friday) Love

2017-05-26T09:40:29.593-04:00

The novena for Pentecost starts today, May 26, 2017. I'm reposting this. Please feel free to add your intentions if you wish. But whether they are written or unspoken, I will include your intentions in my novena prayers too. We can all pray for each other!The novena focuses on the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit as St Paul speaks of them in Galatians 5:22-23.                                                   On January 13, 1982, a plane taking off in Washington DC crashed into the Potomac River. Camera crews filmed the scene as a helicopter rushed in to throw down a rescue line to lift passengers to safety. As we watched the news that night in our community, Sr Susan Helen said, “Look at that man in the water! He keeps on handing the line to other people so they can be rescued first.” We were all amazed to see a man helping other people before himself. The passenger’s name was Arland D. Williams. He helped save five other people before he himself drowned in the icy water. As we saw him go under and not come up, we were all deeply moved. That heroic image was burned into my memory, a graphic example of Jesus’ words: “Greater love than this no one has, than to lay down one’s life for a friend” (Jn 15:13).Mr. Williams certainly had agapē—the kind of love Paul speaks about as the first fruit of the Spirit. While I don’t know anything about Williams except his last heroic act, he must have practiced love in countless ordinary ways in his life. People tend to act true to their character in emergency situations.Greek has several words for love. Agapē is a special kind of love marked by a true gift of one’s self. It has no self-interest about it. It is the kind of love that moves a parent to stay up with a sick child, or a teacher to never give up on a struggling student. St. Paul uses agapē often in his letters. For him its primary meaning is God’s love for us. For example, Romans 5:8 says: “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Knowing and experiencing God’s love for us enables us to then love others. As Paul said earlier in Galatians, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” (5:14) In this letter, Paul clarified the role of the Mosaic law. As Christians we are no longer bound to observe that law, for we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. But Paul goes on to explain that this doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want. We are still bound by the law of love, which Jesus taught us in the Gospel. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Love itself. On this first day of the novena for Pentecost, we can ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with an even greater love for God and for others. That is the basis for living a good Christian life.Today how can I show greater love to those with whom I live and work?Prayer to the Spirit of LoveCome, Holy Spirit.Come, Mighty Spirit.Spirit of love and wisdom.Spirit of light and power.You help us in our weakness.Come, fill our inmost being.Come, Holy Spirit, come to us.Transform us so that our hearts may bea new creation of your love.Guide us with your wisdom and love,and let the radiance of your lightrenew the face of the earth. Amen.Carlo Recalcati, SSP allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="https://i.ytimg.com/vi/HSpbL28m4LI/0.jpg" frameborder="0" height="266" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/HSpbL28m4LI?feature=player_embedded" width="320">"In the evening of life we will be judged on love."  -- St John of the CrossOptional S[...]



Mary, our Advent Model of Faith

2016-12-07T09:21:41.357-05:00

Faith is like a ship that carries us through treacherous waters. When storms come to shake our faith, our little ship may bob up and down on the waves that threaten to capsize us. In such times, we can call on Mary, the Star of the Sea, who had an exceptional faith. When St. John Paul II wrote his encyclical on Mary (Mother of the Redeemer), he presented Mary as our model of faith. He said that faith is the key that unlocks the mystery of Mary.God called her to exercise faith in two moments in particular. The first was when he invited her to be the Mother of his Son. She accepted, not knowing how she would explain this to Joseph. She trusted that God would lead her through any trial that would come. And her greatest moment of faith came on Calvary, when Mary stood at the foot of the cross and saw Jesus die a cruel and bloody death. But even then she did not waver. She trusted that God knew what he was doing, and that good would come from it. She even offered her own sufferings in union with those of Jesus. When the apostles fled and everyone abandoned Jesus, Mary kept the light of her faith burning brightly through the Sabbath day that followed. That is why we especially honor her on Saturdays. And her faith was rewarded when she saw the risen Christ.St. John Paul explores all this and much more in his Marian encyclical. Pauline Books & Media has published a special edition with commentary by a Marian scholar, Sr. Jean Frisk. The Pope explains Mary’s role in the mystery of Christ and of the Church. This important document is well worth reading anytime, but especially in Advent. Mary goes before us and will help us through whatever difficulties life may throw at us. And when the storms come, we can, as St. Bernard said so beautifully, “Look to the Star! Call on Mary!”[...]



Abortion Can Always Be Forgiven

2016-11-21T11:12:05.412-05:00

Update: At the end of the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has extended indefinitely the special faculties he extended to all priests about forgiving the sin of abortion. What is that all about? (This post was first published before the Year of Mercy began):After the pope's statement about forgiving abortion, some media reports have made it sound like the Catholic Church doesn't forgive abortion. People are asking,  “Why can abortion only be forgiven during the Year of Mercy?”Here’s a few facts to help clear up the confusion:1. Abortion can alwaysbe forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In fact, the Church makes every effort to encourage people involved in it to find healing and forgiveness. A wonderful example is Project Rachel. It is not the case that abortions will only be forgiven in the Year of Mercy.They can and are forgiven at any time when a person repents and confesses this. (That applies not only to women but also to men who pressure women, pay for, promote, aid and abet, or perform abortions, etc.)2. Abortion is a sin. Because it is a grave matter and the Church hopes to discourage people from them, canon law says that procuring an abortion also incurs the penalty of automatic excommunication. 3. Forgiving the sin is one thing, and remitting the penalty of excommunication is another. Usually the penalty can only be remitted by the bishop. However, in the United States the bishops have given to all priests the faculty to not only forgive the sin when it is confessed in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but also to remit the penalty. This is to encourage people to have easier access to forgiveness and healing.4. Bishops in other countries, however, may have decided to handle it differently. So in brief, the pope is saying that any priest all over the world will be able not only to forgive the sin in confession but also to remit the penalty. While the pope didn’t mention the penalty in his statement, presumably that’s what he meant. Most likely an official text will be issued to clarify the canonical aspects. Pope Francis said:For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfill this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.5. Also, the automatic penalty of excommunication for abortion doesn’t apply if:a) the person did not know about it (that would probably exclude about 99% of all Catholic women who have had abortions from incurring the penalty)b) the person was under the age of 17c) the person acted out of force or feard) the person had an imperfect use of reason(See this for more info on canonical penalties) Bottom line: when you see headlines about what the pope said, realize that the journalist writing the story probably knows very little about the Catholic faith and is not getting it right. The best thing is to go directly to the source (Vatican website) and read what the pope actually said.Finally,  God is so merciful. Jesus said, "No one who comes to me will I ever reject." (Jn 6) His heart is overflowing with love and mercy, that heart pierced on the cross from which blood and water flowed out, the source of sacramental life in the Church.[...]



Jesus, our Divine Master, and the Holy Spirit

2016-10-30T16:48:42.051-04:00

Today in the Pauline Family we celebrate the feast of Jesus, our Divine Master, our Way, Truth, and Life. Here is a reflection on how this devotion can only be lived in union with the Holy Spirit. Toward the end of his life Yves Congar, OP, wrote:  “If I were to draw but one conclusion from the whole of my work on the Holy Spirit, I would express it in these words: no Christology without pneumatology, and no pneumatology without Christology” (Word and Spirit, p. 1).Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, gave the Pauline Family a strong devotion to Jesus our Divine Master. Jesus defines himself as our Way, Truth, and Life (John 14:6). Congar’s idea made me realize that I needed to think more about how the Holy Spirit acts in relation to these three aspects of Jesus Master. This is so important because it is only through the Holy Spirit that we can live out our devotion to Jesus Master. But how?Jesus, our WayJesus is our Way to the Father. Jesus came to earth not only to open the way, to show us that way, but also to be that way. He showed us how to live and established the New Law of the Gospel.But what is that New Law? St Thomas responds to that question by saying, “The New Law is chiefly the grace itself of the Holy Spirit, which is given to those who believe in Christ.”  (Summa, I-II, q. 106, a. 1).The New Law Christ gave us, the Way to the Father, is the grace of the Holy Spirit. But what about everything written in the Gospels? Isn’t all that part of the New Law too? Yes, but in a secondary way. In fact, St Thomas goes on to make an astounding statement: “Even the letter of the Gospel kills unless the healing grace of faith is present within.” (q. 106, a. 3). What does Thomas mean? How could the letter of the Gospel kill? They’re the words of Jesus!It comes down to the “healing grace of faith” that is present within us—through the Holy Spirit. By ourselves, on our own strength, we can’t live the Gospel teaching because it is above mere human ability. But we can live it, by the healing grace of faith that the Holy Spirit gives us. We can only follow Jesus Way if we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit.Jesus, our TruthAs the Word, Jesus is Truth itself. He gave us a most sublime teaching. But to understand it we need the enlightenment that we receive from the Holy Spirit. At the Last Supper Jesus said, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (Jn 16:12-13).In The Hiding Place,Corrie ten Boom tells a wonderful story about her father. Once when traveling on a train with him, she as a little girl asked him a question about adult matters. Her father asked her to try and lift a heavy case he had. She tried but couldn’t, for it was too heavy for her. He told her that he would be a poor father if he tried to make her carry things too hard for her to bear just then.The apostles were like Corrie as a child; they couldn’t bear the things Jesus was telling them. Only later, when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, did they begin to understand and were filled with light. The Holy Spirit also enlightens us, so that we can begin to understand what Jesus Truth has taught us. We can’t think that we automatically understand it. We don’t. How often have we heard a Gospel passage read that we’ve heard countless times before, but are suddenly struck by a powerful insight? That’s the Holy Spirit who teaches us the truth.Jesus, our LifeAs our Life, Jesus pours grace into us and brings us into a deeper and deeper union with him. But again[...]



Blaming God: the essence of original sin

2016-10-15T14:56:31.648-04:00

 When God spoke to Adam after he had eaten the forbidden fruit, Adam said, "the woman whom you gave me, gave me the fruit...."Adam was blaming God. Yes, he was also blaming Eve, but first he was telling God that it was all his fault. If God had just left well enough alone and never created that pesky woman in the first place, everything would have been just fine.
When Adam had first seen Eve, he was filled with awe and exclaimed, "At last, this one is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh." But now, after the calamitous fall from grace, Adam no longer saw the woman as a gift, but a liability.

Blaming God. It's so easy to do, and we all do it. This is the essence of original sin, not just the offense they committed but shifting the blame to someone else, especially to God. In the text of Genesis, Adam and Eve never express any real repentance for their sin. They just blame each other and shrug off any responsibility. I wonder: was that the real test? Was the test not just disobeying God's command, but refusing to take responsibility? What if they had truly repented after disobeying God--would that have meant they passed the test?
I don't know. But today when we see so much blame going around--especially in our political culture but all over, really--isn't this what ails our society? The refusal to take responsibility for one's own life?



Our Lady of Sorrows

2016-09-07T20:10:48.455-04:00



September 15 is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the day after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It commemorates Mary's sharing in the passion of Jesus.
In Catholic tradition, seven sorrows are noted to highlight the major times of suffering in Mary's life. The first sorrow is the prophecy of Simeon when Jesus was presented at the Temple for his circumcision. Simeon said to Mary: “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Lk 2:34-35).

The sword that would pierce Mary's heart was not a physical one, but a sword of anguish. The word Luke uses for sword--rhomphaia--does not mean an ordinary sword but a very large one. It's almost like a javelin thrust through Mary's heart. We can only imagine how she suffered at seeing Jesus being put to death. 

This remarkable passage clearly links Mary with the future sufferings of Jesus. What do Simeon's words mean, "that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed?" I've often pondered this, which is one of the most enigmatic statements in the Gospel. It must be linked to the previous statement that Jesus will be a sign of contradiction, linked to the falling and rising of  many in Israel. When they come face to face with Jesus and his teaching, people don't stay neutral. They either accept him or they reject him. Jesus made astounding claims that call for a deep commitment if people truly accept him.
Mary's sorrow will have to do not only with the sufferings Jesus endured, but the suffering for those people who reject him. This is a pain that many parents have felt when their own children leave the Church and sometimes fall into a lifestyle far from God. Mary already felt that suffering in her heart, and she can suffers with all those who have it. She has deep compassion for them. 

Prayer
Our Lady of Sorrows, you too participated in the sufferings of Jesus. How did you feel when you saw him on Calvary? I can only imagine how terribly you grieved for him. You also grieved for those who would walk away from Jesus. Pray for us, especially for those who have lost their faith, that they might be restored to it and come to know the fullness of joy in eternal life. Amen.

Stabat mater here



Mary’s Assumption and Divine Mercy

2016-08-15T15:24:16.322-04:00

Today's Gospel recounts Mary's visit of Elizabeth. Scripture scholars point out that various elements in this text can make us think of Mary Mary as being like the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was  made of acacia wood (see Ex 25:5), which was so strong it was basically indestructible. It wouldn’t decay. That detail can give us an insight into another aspect of Mary: her Assumption. This dogma of the Church, formally declared by Pope Pius XII, means that at the end of her earthly life Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. Her body didn’t decay in the grave, but Jesus brought Mary into heaven in a fully human way, her soul united to her body.The Church has always venerated the tombs of its saints, but there is no tomb of Mary. Interestingly, the Ark of the Covenant disappeared from history. It was lost at a certain point in Israel’s history and has never been found. While this is not a proof of the dogma, still it can hint at Mary’s Assumption. What is the point of the Assumption? It was part of God’s mercy toward Mary, a gift given to her to bring to fulfillment the role God had asked her to play. Having faithfully followed Jesus on earth, she is already united to him in heavenly glory. This anticipates what we too hope to receive at the final time of fulfillment when Christ comes again in glory. We too will rise with him to new life, and experience what we profess in the Creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”Death is the great shadow that hangs over us. All of us experience the death of loved ones, and we know that our turn will come in due time. But Jesus has assured us that death is the gateway to new life, and that by his own resurrection he will bring us to eternal life with him. This is the greatest mercy of all, the gift of eternal salvation.As the Mother of Mercy, Mary is always ready to help us with her loving, tender intercession. She looks at us with love, just as she looked so tenderly at St. Juan Diego and asked him, “Do you need anything else?” Mary’s intercession is honored in the Church’s liturgy by the feast of her queenship celebrated August 22, one week after the Assumption. These two feasts are linked also in the rosary, being the fourth and the fifth glorious mysteries. When Mary was assumed into heaven, she wanted to keep on helping the members of the Church on earth. It’s similar to what St. Thérèse of Lisieux said, that she wanted to spend her heaven doing good on earth. This intercessory role of Mary and the saints is not separated from Jesus, as if the saints help us apart from him. They pray for us as members of the whole body of Christ, just as we can pray for each other on earth. Once we get to heaven, this continues in an even more intense way. Mary’s intercession for us has a special character, in that it is a maternal mediation. St. John Paul stressed this in his encyclical Mother of the Redeemer. Mary is certainly subordinate to Jesus and everything she does draws its power from him. Still, because she is his mother, she has a unique role given to no one else. At the wedding in Cana, Jesus worked his first miracle at the request of his mother, Mary. He changed water into wine, and abundantly so. Even though he seemed to rebuff her request, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?” (Jn 2:4), he did it anyway. In some mysterious way, even now Jesus is always ready to grant the requests his mother makes of him. What would I like to ask?PrayerMary my mother, I come to you with confidence and tru[...]



St Camillus, an unlikely saint

2016-07-18T10:20:05.703-04:00

Saint Camillus de Lellis (May 25, 1550 – July 14, 1614)Patron: of the sick, doctors, nurses, hospitals, health-care workersEven as a boy Camillus had a rough character. His mother died when he was twelve, and a few years later became a soldier, fighting alongside his father. They had the vices typical of a soldier’s life at that time, especially gambling. After his father died Camillus became a drifter who survived mainly by gambling. Because of a wound on his leg that wouldn’t heal, Camillus started working in a hospital in Rome. But he got into trouble on account of his bad temper and rough ways. He made some attempts to improve and even thought of becoming a friar. While doing manual labor at a Capuchin monastery his better nature started to show and he eventually made a complete conversion of life. Back at the San Giacomo hospital in Rome, he began in earnest to take care of the sick. Camillus also found a good spiritual director in Saint Philip Neri. Camillus was ordained as a priest when he was thirty-four. Against the advice of Saint Philip, he began a congregation to take care of the sick, known as the Clerics Regular, Ministers of the Sick. The work flourished and with great dedication Camillus and his men nursed the poor victims of the plague. They wore a large red cross on their habit. ReflectionAs a young man, Camillus certainly seemed like an unlikely candidate for sainthood. Yet the grace of God can do wonders with those who turn themselves over to God. What about me? What part of my life do I need to turn over to God so as to become holy? PrayerSaint Camillus, you like to say, “We want to assist the sick with the same love that a mother has for her only sick child.” Pray for us that we may have the same compassion toward those we are called to serve.© 2016 Daughters of Saint Paul[...]



St Thomas as a Teacher

2016-07-11T21:12:03.142-04:00

Recently I've started to read some of the Scriptural commentaries of Thomas. They're very fascinating. I came across an interesting parallel text between his commentary on the letter to the Hebrews, and q. 36 in the first part of the Summa.Both works come from his time teaching in Italy from 1265 to 1268. Although the two passages are dealing with different theological questions, when he talks about types of causes he uses the same examples in both of them. Perhaps he was in the habit of using similar examples in his teaching. In this case, the two texts are from about the same time, so it would make sense. Teachers often like to use their favorite comparisons in explaining something. While Thomas did dictate and write, much of his work involved teaching. He was in the classroom all the time, and this developed his theological thought. If we understand him as a teacher, I think we have an important key to his thought. The commentary on Hebrews was given as a lecture and Friar Reginald wrote down the notes.The two examples involve the bailiff and the king, and the artisan and the hammer. Here are the texts: From lecture 1, commentary on Hebrews:“For through Him the Father made the world. But it should be noted that the grammatical object of the preposition ‘by’ or ‘through’ designates the cause of an act: in one way, because it causes a making on the part of the maker. For the making is midway between the maker and the thing made. In this usage the object of ‘by’ can designate the final cause motivating the maker, as an artisan works by gain; or the formal cause, as fire warms by heat; or even the efficient cause, as a bailiff acts through the king. But the Son is not the cause making the Father act through Him in any of these ways any more than He is the cause of His proceeding from the Father. But sometimes the object of ‘by’ designates the cause of the action, taken from the viewpoint of the thing made, as an artisan acts through a hammer; for the hammer is not the cause of the artisan’s action, but it is the cause why an artifact made of iron should proceed from the artisan, i.e., why iron [which the hammer strikes] be worked on by the artisan. This is the way the Son is the cause of things made and the way the Father works through the Son.”http://dhspriory.org/thomas/SSHebrews.htm#11From the Summa, I, q. 36, a. 3“Whenever one is said to act through another, this preposition "through" points out, in what is covered by it, some cause or principle of that act. But since action is a mean between the agent and the thing done, sometimes that which is covered by the preposition "through" is the cause of the action, as proceeding from the agent; and in that case it is the cause of why the agent acts, whether it be a final cause or a formal cause, whether it be effective or motive. It is a final cause when we say, for instance, that the artisan works through love of gain. It is a formal cause when we say that he works through his art. It is a motive cause when we say that he works through the command of another. Sometimes, however, that which is covered by this preposition "through" is the cause of the action regarded as terminated in the thing done; as, for instance, when we say, the artisan acts through the mallet, for this does not mean that the mallet is the cause why the artisan acts, but that it is the cause why the thing made proceeds from the artisan, and that it has even this effect from the artisan. Thi[...]



What is devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus?

2016-06-03T10:11:30.559-04:00

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque is well known as one of the most ardent promoters of devotion to the Sacred Heart. But it did not originate with her. In fact, we could even say it began with Jesus himself when he invited us to rest in his heart. This invitation to find rest in the merciful heart of Jesus has consoled Christians throughout the centuries.Many Church writers have spoken about the love of Jesus in reference to his heart.  This devotion developed as the Church meditated on the love of Jesus and gradually came to understand it better. In the Middle Ages, saints like Bernard of Clairvaux and Albert the Great preached and wrote about the heart of Jesus. This text from the Gospel of John in particular gave them much to meditate on:So the soldiers came and they broke the legs of the first one and then of the other who had been crucified with him, but when they came to Jesus and saw that he had already died they did not break his legs, but, instead, one of the soldiers stabbed him in the side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. And the one who saw it has borne witness and his witness is true, and he knows that he is speaking the truth so you, too, may believe. For these things happened so the Scripture might be fulfilled, “Not a bone of his shall be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on him whom they have pierced” (Jn 19:32–37).In the blood and water that flowed from the heart of Jesus, Christian writers saw the symbols of Baptism and the Eucharist. The great gift of the sacraments flowed from Jesus’ heart. Saint John Chrysostom wrote, “Since the sacred mysteries derive their origin from thence, when you draw near to the awe-inspiring chalice, so approach as if you were going to drink from Christ’s own side.” In light of all this, it is clear that devotion to the Sacred Heart is deeply rooted in Scripture and Catholic tradition.It was through Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647–1690), however, that the devotion went viral, so to speak. She was a cloistered nun from the Visitation convent at Paray-le-Monial, France. Jesus appeared to her several times and revealed to her how much he loved her and all people. He spoke of his desire that people would love him in return, and for this purpose, he wanted Margaret Mary to spread devotion to his Sacred Heart.In the cloister she had little or no contact with the outside world; how was she to do what Jesus asked? The Lord himself gave her the means through a holy Jesuit, Saint Claude de la Colombière, who was her spiritual director. He realized that Margaret Mary’s charity, humility, and obedience reflected true holiness. Convinced that she was telling the truth, he asked her to write an account of her revelations. He himself began to preach about Jesus’ love for us in his Sacred Heart. Through Margaret Mary, Jesus requested that we honor his Sacred Heart by fervently receiving Holy Communion, especially on the First Friday of the month, and offering reparation for sins. Jesus also requested that a special feast day be established to honor his Sacred Heart. In 1765 the feast was officially observed in Poland, and in 1856 Pope Pius IX extended it to the universal Church.Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is more than merely a devotion; it is the essence of the Gospel: to take on the heart of Jesus and live in his love and bring it to others. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church&nbs[...]



Mary, Mercy, and the Ark of the Covenant

2016-05-31T11:38:27.232-04:00

The Gospel of Luke gives us the beautiful story of the Visitation, when Mary hastened to help her cousin Elizabeth. What does this have to do with mercy? First of all, Mary is doing a work of mercy in helping her older relative with this unexpected pregnancy. But the text has another theme, a bit hidden, that is also connected with mercy. Luke is hinting that Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant. What does this mean? First, what was the Ark? It’s first mentioned in the book of Exodus and it represented the presence of God with his people Israel. The Ark was a large wooden box gilded with gold that contained three things: 1) some manna 2) Aaron’s rod, which budded, and 3) the tablets with the Ten Commandments. Here’s where it gets interesting. The gold-plated cover of the box was called the mercy seat (kapporahin Hebrew; hilasterion in Greek). Later when the Temple was built, the ark was placed in the Holy of Holies, where the high priest would go once a year on the Day of Atonment. He would sprinkle blood on it and make an offering to God to atone for the sins of the people. The idea was that God would have mercy on the people and forgive their sins. So the Ark of the Covenant had this close connection with mercy. We also find that in the New Testament, Jesus himself is the one who offered the perfect atonement for sins by his sacrificial offering of himself on the cross. The Greek word used for the mercy seat, indicating its role as an atoning sacrifice, is used of Jesus, for example, in Romans 3:25 where Paul says, “whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.” In the Visitation, we can see an important connection between the Ark of the Covenant and Mary. How so? First, consider that the Ark represented God’s presence among the people. As she went on her journey, Mary was already carrying Jesus. And since Jesus is God, Mary is the God-bearer. Here she is bringing Jesus, who is mercy itself and the one who will offer the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Mary was like a tabernacle for Jesus.Luke’s text indicates this, as we can see by comparing it to 2 Samuel 6:1-19, where the Ark of the Covenant was transferred to a new location. 1) Dancing and joy“David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the lord with all their might….” (v. 5)“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb” (Lk 1:39)2) Humility before God’s presenceDavid said, “How can the ark of the lord come into my care?” (v. 9)Elizabeth said, “And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” (Lk 1:43). 3) Three months time span:“The ark of the lordremained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months” (v. 11)“Mary remained with her about three months” (Lk 1:56)4) Blessings from God’s presence in the Ark “And the lordblessed Obed-edom and all his household” (v. 11)Elizabeth told Mary, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (Lk 1:45)What about us?As baptized Christians we too have the presence of God in us through sanctifying grace and the sacraments, especially Communion. Like Mary, we can bring Christ to others through our words and actions. PrayerMary, you were a tabernacle for Jesus, bringing him to others. Pray for us that like you, we too may recall his presence in us through grace, and always s[...]