Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Saint John Bosco (Don Bosco): 1815-1888, Founder of the Salesians, Canonized in 1934 by Pius XI

Readings of the day: RB 7:34
Mass: 2 Samuel 24:2, 9-17; Resp. Psalm 32; Mark 6:1-6

Saint John Bosco
Today I remember a former student, now friend and ordained priest, a delightful young man. His patron is John Bosco. It is said that John Bosco had ‘an extraordinary gift for handling difficult youths without punishment but with a gentle and effective firmness’. He used to do gymnastics while entertaining the young. The beauty is that my friend is also a gymnast—he can even do back flips! May St John Bosco intercede for all priests. 

I share two quotations I found this morning, not unrelated to today’s readings:

(Psalm 32:2)

[A saint] was once asked, while playing happily with his companions, what he would do if an angel told him that in a quarter of an hour he would die and have to appear before the judgment seat of God. The saint promptly replied that he would continue playing because I am certain these games are pleasing to God.
(St John Bosco)

(Mark 6:3)

Meekness was the method Jesus used with the apostles. He put up with their ignorance and roughness and even their infidelity. He treated sinners with a kindness and affection that caused some to be shocked, others to be scandalized, and still others to gain hope in God’s mercy. Thus he bade us to be gentle and humble of heart.
(St John Bosco)


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings of the day: RB 7:31-33
Mass: 2 Samuel 18: 9-10, 14b, 24-25a, 30-19:3; Resp. Psalm 86; Mark 5:21-43

If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.

I think about the woman who had been suffering with hemorrhages for twelve years. The NRSV paints a bleak picture: ‘She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather worse’ (Mk 5:26).  Our nameless friend, a woman spent in mind and body. What would you do if in her position? Thankfully, I’ve never been there. Would my faith be as strong. Hearing about Jesus was enough for her. She simply, albeit courageously, goes to Jesus and touches his cloak—a mere brush of the Master’s garment. Immediately, the hemorrhage stopped. She felt in her body that she was healed. 

In the body, I repeat, and through the body,
[Jesus] performed wonderful deeds with an authority that was obvious.
He proclaimed the message of salvation and endured outrage, thus clearly demonstrating that he it was whose invisible power created the world, 
whose wisdom governed it, and whose benevolence protected it.
(Bernard of Clairvaux, Song of Songs, Sermon 6, 3)


Monday, January 29, 2018

Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings of the day: RB 7:24-30
Mass: 2 Samuel 15:13-14, 30; 16:5-15; Resp. Psalm 3; Mark 5:1-20

Happy Monday! Have the waters risen to your neck?

Lord, rise up and save me.

O Lord, how many are my adversaries!
Many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“There is no salvation for him in God.’

But you, O Lord, are my shield;
my glory, you lift up my head!
When I call out to the Lord,
he answers me from his holy mountain.

When I lie down in sleep,
I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.
I fear not myriads of people
arrayed against me on every side.
(Psalm 3)

(Pope Francis, Tweet, January 29, 2018)



Sunday, January 28, 2018

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In other years: St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Readings of the day: RB 7:19-23
Mass: Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Resp. Psalm 95; 1 Cor 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28
St Thomas Aquinas
For even if it is better to enlighten than merely to shine, so
it is better to give to others the fruit of one’s contemplation than merely to contemplate.
(St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 188, art. 6)

Taking the Angelic Doctor’s words to mind and heart, how might we give to others what we contemplate this day, that is, the Lord’s Day? May the WORD enlighten you! 😊

Whoever will not listen to my words which the prophet speaks in my name,
I myself will make him answer for it.
(Dt 18:19)

If today you hear God’s voice; harden not your hearts.
(Psalm 95)

Be free of anxieties.
(1 Cor 7:32)

The people were astonished at HIS teaching.
What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
(Mark 1:22, 27)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land.
(Communion Antiphon, Mt 5:3-4)


Saturday, January 27, 2018

Saint Angela Merici, Founder of the Ursulines (1470-1540)

Blessed Virgin Mary

Readings of the day: R 7:10-18
Mass: 2 Samuel 12:1-7a 10-17; Resp. Psalm 51; Mark 4:35-41

Jesus rebuked the wind, and said to the sea,
‘Quiet! Be still!’

With Jesus’ words to the raging wind and sea, the wind ceased and there was a great calm. Slowly, Jesus rises and poses two simple questions: ‘Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?’ Very good questions for the day. Saint Angela Merici, pray for us.

Let not your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
(John 14:1)

Friday, January 26, 2018

Feast of Saints Robert, Alberic and Stephen, Founders of Citeaux

Robert Molesme (First Abbot of Cîteaux, d. 1110), Alberic (Robert’s successor, d. 1109), and Stephen Harding (Alberic's successor, d. 1134): Cistercian Abbots of Cîteaux

Readings of the day: RB 7:5-9
Mass for celebration of the Cistercian Abbots: Sirach 44:1, 10-15; Resp. Psalm 115; Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-16; Mark 10:24b-30
Mass for the Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus: 2 Timothy 1:1-8 or Titus 1:1-5; Resp. Psalm 96; Luke 10:1-9 or Mark 4:26-34 (Gospel for Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time)

Their bodies are peacefully laid away.
Their names live on and on. At gatherings their wisdom is retold,
and the assembly proclaims their praise.
(Sirach 44:14-15)

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.
(Hebrews 11:1-2)

For God all things are possible with God.
(Mark 10:27)

Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory.
(Psalm 115)

Although these passages are presented to us in the order given at Mass (for those celebrating the blessed Abbots), we could sing God’s praises in this way:

We give glory to you, God, Most High, for what is impossible for us, is possible for you. Your thoughts are not ours, nor your ways. Not relying on our strength, we pray for the grace of more faith to maintain the hope you give us. Those who have gone before us, namely, Robert, Alberic, and Stephen, hoped in a renewed monastic life lived according to the Rule of St Benedict. Sustained by grace, they gave birth to the Cistercian Order at the Abbey of Cîteaux: ‘these were godly men whose virtues have not been forgotten. Their heritage remains with their descendants’ (Sirach 44:10-11).

What about those who have gone before you whom you loved and admired? What virtues did they have that inspire you to live the Gospel? What wisdom of theirs do you share with others? May God be praised!

The first Cistercians were well-known for their distinctiveness of lifestyle and the separateness involved in living far from human habitation. Beneath this surface insistence on particular external forms, however, was a hidden pursuit of radical discipleship of Christ and fidelity to the Gospel.
(M. Casey, in Exhordium Parvum)

Thursday, January 25, 2018


Readings of the day: RB 7:1-4 Humility
Mass: Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22; Resp. Psalm 117; Mark 16:15-18

Caravaggio, Conversion of St Paul

Today we are gifted with the choice of two readings from the Acts of the Apostles, both accounts of Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus. Yet another account is presented in Acts 26:2-23. All three accounts mention a light; none of the accounts mentions a horse. Some time ago, I asked: ‘What happened at the moment of Paul’s encounter with the Risen Lord to set Paul on a new spiritual path?’

What about the light? In the three scriptural accounts of Paul’s experience, there seems to be evidence to suggest that there must have been some energy, some cosmic event that brings Paul into relationship with someone he has never met before. While on the road with his companions, Paul experienced a ‘light from the sky that suddenly flashed around him’. This was no ordinary light but a light which forces his body and the bodies of his companions to the ground. In fact, the light is so brilliant that it blinds Paul. As a result, ‘for three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.’
In all three accounts, Paul is called by his Hebrew name, not once, but twice, ‘Saul, Saul’, and then asked, ‘why are you persecuting me?’ Paul, with utmost respect, asks, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The Lord replies, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.’ In a flash, literally, Paul’s life makes a 180-degree turn. Pope St John Paul II provides insight into Jesus’ response to Paul’s question and the effect it had on Paul:

In saying this [I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting], the risen Christ identifies himself with his disciples; he identifies himself with the Church. Paul instantly understands all this. It makes a dazzling impression on his soul and becomes the source of all the inspiration that he was later to express in his letters. One could say that at that moment, he received the full light of the gospel through revelation and was converted (Rising in Christ: Meditations on Living the Resurrection, p. 38).

The person of Jesus, whom Paul met on the road to Damascus now animates all his behavior and is the inspiration for Paul’s spirituality. Paul’s mind was set on persecuting Christ when he set out for Damascus. Now Paul proclaims,
I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord…I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am foremost. But for that reason I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life (1 Tm 1:12-16).

Pope Francis offers the following:
Encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus radically transformed the life of Saint Paul. Henceforth, for him, the meaning of life would no longer consist in trusting his own ability to observe the Law strictly, but rather in cleaving with his whole being to the gracious and unmerited love of God (First Vespers, Solemnity of the Conversion of St Paul, 25 January 2017).

We are unlikely to be dazzled by a brilliant light and thrown off our horse, or out of our car even. One never knows. Still, we can be dazzled by the light of Christ if we are open to the Light that comes. We may be overwhelmed. With grace, we, like Paul, can undergo conversion; be radically transformed—in a flash even—and set out on a new spiritual path, or at least make a few turns. We can be inspired to go bear fruit that will last. St Paul, intercede for us.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wednesday of the Third Week of Ordinary Time
Saint Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church (1557-1622)

Readings of the day: RB 61, Cherishing Silence in the Monastery
Mass: 2 Samuel 7:4-17; Resp. Psalm 89; Mark 4:1-20
Vincent Van Gogh, The Sower

Whoever has ears ought to hear.

As Jesus explains today’s parable to the Twelve, I recall Pope Francis’ invitation in Apostolic Exhoration Evangelii Gaudium, 3:

I invite all Christians everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them;
I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.

With that invitation, let us consider the WORD and our response to it:


Person A: Hears the Word, then has a better idea and listens to a more attractive voice in her head, suggesting other ways of going about things. In one ear and out the other.

Person B: Hears the Word and is overwhelmed with the Good News; full of joy and fervor. The day brings a difficult encounter with another, he wavers with going the way of Jesus, and falls back into unhealthy patterns of behavior. This person prefers going from one thing to another; sitting on the fence.

Person C: Hears the Word and becomes anxious. What about the things I like to do, places I like to travel, my friends, and craving for fame and glory? The Good News is choked by personal whims and appetites.

Person D: Hears the Word. With open heart and mind, embraces the Good News, welcoming a renewed personal encounter with Jesus, the Word made Flesh who dwells among us. Pope Francis also writes: ‘Those who accept [Jesus’] offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew’ (EG, 1).


The spirit, which relies on faith, grows in courage when it is hemmed in by difficulties, for it knows well that God loves, supports, and helps those who are weak and needy,
provided they fix their hope in him.
                                  (St Francis de Sales)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tuesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Marianne Cope (d. 1918 after serving lepers in Hawaii for over 30 years)
Saint Vincent, Deacon, Martyr (c. 304)

Readings of the day: RB 5:14-19
Mass: 2 Samuel 6:12b-15; Resp. Psalm 24; Mark 3:31-35

David danced before the Lord with all his might.

The verse above is yet another one of my favorites. When I read it last night, I burst out with the song. ‘The King of Glory’, noted as a traditional Israeli folk song in Breaking Bread (OCP, 2017, #725). How can one not rise from her seat, sing with the psalmist, snap her fingers and dance with all her might: ‘

So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting,
and with sound of trumpet.

Think of David and all the house of Israel—shouting, dancing, with the sound of the trumpet, swaying arms and songs of praise to God!

Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.

It is true that if we try this in the local parish, folks might not take too kindly to our behavior (see Michal’s reaction in 2 S 6:16). Still, we might ask ourselves how we respond to the Lord’s presence, in the people with whom we live and work, in the beauty of creation, in the smile of a child, or the tender and gentle touch of one who cares, in the Eucharist.

David then distributed among all the people,
to each man and woman in the entire multitude of Israel,
a loaf of bread, a cut of roast meat, and a raisin cake.

Something to consider in any event.

Then all the people departed, each to his house.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

Readings of the day: RB 5:1-13
Mass: 2 Samuel 5:1-7, 10; Resp. Psalm 89; Mark 3:22-30
Thinker on a Rock, Barry Flanagan (British, 1941-2009)
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Whoever listens to you listens to me.
(RB 5:6/Lk 10:16)

Some years ago I attended a high school graduation ceremony in my hometown. The valedictorian said something that made me smile; something which comes to mind on occasion. The graduate proudly declared: ‘Finally, we are on our own. We don’t have to do what anyone else tells us to do anymore!’ My immediate thought was, ‘You are in for a big surprise. This is only the beginning. Life is about doing what others tell us, or ask of us.’ I have learned to call this ‘obedience’. The memory is evoked today as we begin Saint Benedict’s first chapter on ‘Obedience’, Ch. 5, the second being Ch. 71, ‘Mutual Obedience’. It is unlikely that obedience will be the topic of too many conversations around the Keurig this Monday morning, wherever you find yourself, although it may be an interesting one to bring up. There are elements of obedience in all our lives, no matter our vocations, or stage on the journey to God: children are obedient to parents, parents to children; sisters to brothers, brothers to sisters; husbands to wives, wives to husbands, employees to bosses, bosses to employees; sisters or brothers to their Abbess or Abbot. We obey the speed limit or risk getting a ticket. God willing, we pay our bills on time. We take the doctor’s recommendations, or not. We listen to our spiritual directors and take to heart what they say, or I guess find another one that suits us better. We give and receive from one another day in and day out. Often, I do things I would not necessarily prefer to do, but I must look outside of myself and see how whatever I am doing benefits or helps those with whom I live and work, and in turn helps my personal growth and development. Surely there were elements of obedience between David and his subjects. We show obedience in the respect and honor we show to others. St Benedict even tells us to ‘earnestly’ compete in obedience to one another (RB 72:6). One motto I inherited from a dear friend and mentor, God rest his soul, was, ‘Say yes, and think about it later.’ I found following this wise advice saves a lot of energy I might otherwise spend on murmuring or grumbling.

What does obedience mean for you?
How does obedience work in your family, in your work team,
with your friends, with those you socialize?
How might you be more obedient to God?
How might you be more obedient to those with whom you live and work?

(RB 5:10)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings of the day: RB 4:63-78
Mass: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Resp. Psalm 25; 1 Co 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

‘For now, or—if not now—sooner or later, all of us are called to go and face some “Nineveh” of our own. There is a claim on us, on our time, on our love,
on our courage, that we would rather avoid.’
P. Murray, A Journey with Jonah: A Spirituality of Bewilderment (Dublin 2002), p. 16

The Book of Jonah is brief—only 48 verses, yet with enough words to make us laugh now and again. Plus, there may be more to the story than meets the eye. P. Murray writes, ‘I am convinced that the Book of Jonah is the most profoundly Christian of all books in the Hebrew Bible, and the book from which we have most to learn at the beginning of this new millennium’ (p. 10).

Many of you are familiar with the story—Jonah, son of Ammitai, first runs from God and the call he receives to go to Nineveh; he flees, boards a ship, then manages to get himself thrown overboard only to be swallowed by a large fish.

There may be some of Jonah in each of us, as written by H. Melville, in the classic, Moby Dick. Father Mapple, the sailors’ chaplain, preaches: 

‘As with all sinners among men, the sin of this son of Ammitai was in his willful disobedience of the command of God—never mind now what the command was, or how conveyed—which he found a hard command. But all the things that God would have us do—remember that—and hence, he oftener commands us than endeavours to persuade. And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves wherein the hardness of obeying God consists.’

Jonah is given a second chance by the merciful God and sets off for Nineveh to prophesy destruction to the Gentiles living there. Jonah announces: ‘Forty days more and Nineveh shall be overthrown.’ The story continues in today’s first reading.

When the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

The ever-faithful God responds with mercy and compassion:

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways,
God changed his mind about the calamity that he said he would bring upon them;
and he did not do it.

How Jonah reacts to God’s response you can read on your own. In any case, there is much food for thought in what’s presented so far. What is it that we have to learn from the Book of Jonah? We are a willful people and even though our ‘yes’ to God’s call is seemingly strong and sure, we waver. ‘That’s not quite what I had in mind, dear Jesus. Could you please not demand so much of my time and energy?’ There have been times in my life when I’ve wanted to get in a car, start driving in some direction, and when the car runs out of gas, I will get out and start walking. Not much good that will do me now—I don’t even own a car! God doesn’t want part of us. He wants all of us. Like God was with Jonah and the Ninevites, HE is patient. He waits. When we are ready, he does nothing but love us. His call to do this or that, though, is not always what we had in mind. It is tough going. United with Jonah in the belly of the whale, we cry: ‘The waters closed in over me; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped around my head at the roots of the mountains!’ Saying ‘yes’ to God requires that we say ‘no’ to ourselves.  Not my will, O Lord, but yours be done. Saying ‘no’ to my whims and appetites is easier said than done. Think of Simon, Andrew, James, and John. They were fishermen, and if they were like the fishermen, and women, I know, they are quite taken with fishing, fish that is. They like it. Yet God had something else in mind for them. 



Your ways, O Lord, make known to me,
teach me your paths.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Saturday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time: Saint Fabian, Pope, (d. 250); Saint Sebastian, (d. c. 300)

Readings of the day: RB 4:44-62
Mass: 2 Samuel 1:1-4, 11-12, 19, 23-27; Resp. Psalm 80; Mark 3:20-21

Mount Rainier, Washington, USA

I like the Gospel according to Saint Mark—for its brevity. It is a perfect Gospel to take to your favorite chair on a Sunday afternoon and read from beginning to end. 

Then Jesus went home;
the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.

Imagine yourself amidst the crowd pressing in on Jesus. So much crowding the poor man can’t even eat!

When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying,
‘He is out of his mind.’

Meanwhile, Jesus’ family tires to reel him in. What on earth has happened to the little boy who used to run around Nazareth with his friends, laughing and playing? I imagine some family standing at a distance, arms folded, shaking their heads.

What do you make of all this?

Open our hearts, O Lord, to listen to the words of your Son.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Readings of the day: RB 4:22-43
Mass: 1 Samuel 24:3-21; Resp. Psalm 57; Mark 3:13-19

Jesus went up to the mountain and
summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him.

God’s work is unceasing. Therefore, as L. de Grandmaison, S.J. (d. 1927) explains: ‘Those who are associated in God’s work, whose purpose in life is to promote his kingdom within themselves and in others, never cease working either…That is why a servant of God works continually, even when he is resting, traveling, relaxing, or playing—even when he is sick or when he is asleep. All these activities are informed by apostolic spirit. They are therefore holy, consecrated to God, a means of collaborating with God here on earth.’

Jesus summons each one of us too. He wants each and every one of us; he calls us by name. What is Jesus asking you to do to promote his kingdom in yourself and in others, today? St Benedict provides a few ideas: You are not to act in anger or nurse a grudge; rid your heart of all deceit; never turn away when someone needs your love; love your enemies; do not grumble or speak ill of others; if you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself.

That they might be with Jesus and HE might send them forth.