Thursday, May 31, 2018

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Thursday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings of the day: RB 7:31-33
Mass: Zp 3:14-18a or Rm 12:9-16; Resp Ps (Is 12); Lk 1:39-53
Visitation Church, Ein Kerim, Jerusalem
Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town in Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

What follows is an excerpt from this morning’s reading at Vigils. From an unpublished text by Christian de Cherg├ę, OCSO (1927-1996), one of the seven Trappist monks killed in Algeria in 1996: 

I imagine well that we are in the same situation as Mary who is going and visiting her cousin Elizabeth; she bears in her a living secret which is the one we can carry ourselves: a living good news. She received it from an angel. It is her secret and it is the secret of God, too. And she does not know really how to reveal this secret. Is she going to say something to Elizabeth? Can she say it? How to say it How to do it? Does she have to keep it hidden?
It is the same for our Church who bears in her a good news. And our Church, it is each of us, and we come a little like Mary, at first to help—it was her first ambition…but also bearing this good news. How will we tell this good news?

(Entrance Antiphon, Mass)

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Wednesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings of the day: RB 7:24-30
Mass: 1 P 1:18-25; Resp Ps 147; Mk 10:32-45

Gertrud von Helfta, Merazhofen Pfarrkirche Chorgest├╝hl

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. 
(1 Co 13:4-8, 13)

Pray the Lord himself, the supreme master, to teach you the art of love by the anointing of his Spirit, taking you up as his own disciple, so that, with him as [your] teacher, you may be exercised untiringly in the virtue of charity.
(Gertrude the Great, Spiritual Exercise, V)

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Tuesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings of the day: RB 7:19-23
Mass: 1 P 1:10-16; Resp Ps 98; Mk 10:28-31

Peter began to say to Jesus…

If we have given up everything and followed Jesus then let us gird up the loins of our minds, live soberly, and set our hopes completely on the grace to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Indeed, He who called us is holy. Therefore, may we be holy in every aspect of our conduct, for it is written, BE HOLY BECAUSE I AM HOLY.

Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age…


Monday, May 28, 2018

Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings of the day: RB 7:10-18
Mass: 1 P 1:3-9; Resp Ps 111; Mk 10:17-27

Jesus, looking at him, loved him.

Jesus is looking at you, loving you.

The Lord became my protector, He brought me out to a place of freedom;
he saved me because He delighted in me.
(Entrance Antiphon, Mass)

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Readings of the Day: RB 7:5-9
Mass: Dt 4:32-34, 39-40; Resp Ps 33; Rm 8:14-17; Mt 28:16-20

Andrei Rublev, Holy Trinity

The mystery of the Blessed Trinity invites us to live in communion with one another, in love and in sharing: certain that wherever there is love, 
there is God.
(Pope Francis, Twitter, May 27, 2018)

On this glorious solemnity, we remember the words of the Apostle: The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us (Rm 5:5). LOVE is in our hearts, not just today, but always as Jesus tells us in the Gospel:Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. Let us reflect: We need to come to the first principles of the spiritual life: the tremendous love God has for each one of us. The consciousness should not only be an inspiration and a consolation to ourselves—it should be a model of our reactions to one another (B. Hume). How will you share LOVE received with your sisters and brothers today?

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love
for one another and for all.
(1 Th 3:12)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Saturday of the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time
Saint Philip Neri (d. 1595)

Sr Godelieve, our nonagenarian, enthusiastically embraces fruit preparation for jam

Readings of the day: RB 7:1-4 The Value of Humility
Mass: Jm 5:13-20; Resp Ps 141; Mk 10:13-16

Let the children come to me; do not prevent them,
for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

While reflecting on the characteristics and qualities of children, I thought especially of two I was with a few days ago: one, a tall, slender boy of five with a glorious mop of red hair; second, his 15-month old little sister called Ruby. She was born on a Tuesday. Why is it that the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these? They have a sense a wonder and awe; are playful and energetic; they are humble; they are eager and enthusiastic; they have the capacity to laugh, even with unbounded joy; they have fresh eyes to see the beauty of creation; their hearts are open to the LOVE of God. What would you add to the list?


The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age,
which means never losing your enthusiasm.
(Aldous Huxley, 1894-1963)

When we learn to play better, we learn to love better, too. We become easier to live with, better to be around, more creative when we work, more full of joy always.
(J. Chittister The Art of Life: Monastic Wisdom for Every Day, pp. 67-68)

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday of the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time: Saint Bede the Venerable (673-735)

Friday of the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time
Saint Bede the Venerable (673-735)

Readings of the day: RB 6 Restraint of Speech
Mass: Jm 5:9-12; Resp Ps 103; Mk 10:1-12

N.B. This reflection closed a week-long retreat for a community of Benedictine monks.

Because of the hardness of your hearts.

It seems to me that Jesus is speaking to all of us here, or at least to those of us who are hard of heart for one reason or another, perhaps because of bitterness, resentment, unfulfilled expectations, disappointments, anger, jealousy, diminishment, fatigue, or simply because of the daily pinpricks and contradictions that ‘upset our apple cart’ so to speak. Put another way, we have hearts of stone rather than hearts of flesh. We fail or refuse to see God in our brothers and sisters, especially in those we find most difficult, those we don’t like, and even those we don’t even know, and we fail to see God in ourselves. We don’t recognize how much God loves us, and as a result we don’t love ourselves or our neighbour. Jesus invites us, though, to turn the corner, to recognize and embrace His commandment of Love; to go deeper, to our hearts, to be pierced by His LOVE and move to a place of healing, reconciliation, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. Jesus searches for us and is knocking at the door of our hearts; He waits patiently for us to let Him in.

There is reason that Jesus speaks of the heart. The Catechism teaches: ‘The heart is the dwelling place where I am, where I live…[it]is our hidden centre, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully.’ Furthermore, ‘The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death, the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation’ (CCC2563).

Today is the day of decision, to be open to encounter, ‘to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter us’ (EG, 3); to make our ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’ or our ‘no’ mean ‘no’. Are we ready and open to receive the immense love of God, to be healed of our hardness of heart, and share God’s love with all those we encounter? 

We are about to move to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, a time to turn the corner, to be transformed. In a recent Catechesis on the Mass, Pope Francis told those gathered in St Peter’s Square: “Every time I go to Mass, I must leave better than I entered, with more life, with more strength, with a greater desire to give Christian witness. Through the Eucharist’, says the Holy Father, ‘the Lord Jesus enters in us, in our heart and in our flesh, so that we can ‘express in life the Sacrament received in faith’” (April 4, 2018). In faith then, we receive the Sacrament of Love. We are called to open our hearts so that our hearts can be pierced by Jesus, by Love. We are not to lock Jesus into our hearts though, keeping him for ourselves, not letting him out. Rather, we are to give Christian witness and express in word, gesture, and deed the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. 

There are myriad ways we may express the Sacrament of Love received in faith. A few ideas from St Benedict come to mind: ‘Curb evil speech whereby we honour everyone; do not act in anger or nurse a grudge; do not speak ill of others; respect the elders; bear with one another in weaknesses of body and behaviour, and never do to another what we do not want done to ourselves’. Other ways to express Love received include sitting quietly with someone who is hurting, anxious, or in pain; or reaching out to an estranged member of your family or to a friend, or simply smiling at someone. Most importantly, we can pray, for all those who ask for our prayers, for those who don’t have anyone to pray for them, and also for those with whom we are at odds, as Pope Francis says: ‘We all have our likes and dislikes, and perhaps at this very moment we are angry with someone. At least let us say to the Lord: ‘Lord, I am angry with this person, with that person. I pray to you for him or her’. To pray for a person with whom I am irritated is a beautiful step forward in love, and an act of evangelization.’ Pope Francis encourages us: ‘Let us do it today! Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the ideal of fraternal love!’ (EG, 101).

If today you hear God’s voice, then harden not your hearts (Ps 95:7-8). If we are going to hear God’s voice, though, His voice can only be heard if He is listened to through every human being. In other words, we cannot be selective in hearing. For, if we believe what our faith teaches us, namely, that every single person is made in the image and likeness of God, then every single person has something to teach us about God that no one else can. 

As we run on the path of God’s commandments, then, may our hearts be pierced by and overflow with the inexpressible delight of love. Living and true God, grant us the grace to make our ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’, especially those who will renew their monastic profession; and our ‘Amen’ mean ‘Amen’ when we receive the Body and Blood of our Lord, lest we be resounding gongs and clashing symbols. And remember: ‘Jesus wants to be found by those who look for Him. But to look for Him we have to get up and go out’ (Pope Francis, Twitter, February 4, 2018). 

I am reminded of a blessing taught to me by my very Irish great Aunt Mary:

May those that love us, love us.
For those who don’t love us, may God turn their hearts.
If He doesn’t turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles so we’ll know them by their limping.

St Bede the Venerable, pray for us, and most especially this day for Fr Bede and Br Bede.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Thursday of the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time

Readings of the day: RB 5:14-19
Mass: Jm 5:1-6; Resp Ps 49; Mk 9:41-50

You have stored up treasure for the last days.
You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure;
you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.

The first thought that came to mind when reading the whole of today’s passage from the Letter of St James comes from the Book of Ecclesiastes: ‘All things are vanity!’ Questions arise: ‘What treasures, luxuries, and pleasures are impeding my search for the God who is searching for me, preventing me from doing God’s will, and keeping me from loving and serving my neighbor?

My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready.

Today we are united in prayer with our Catholic brothers and sisters in China,
on the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians of Sheshan.
(Pope Francis, Twitter, May 24, 2018)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time

Readings of the day: RB 5:1-13
Mass: Jm 4:13-17; Resp Ps 49/Mt 5:3; Mk 9:38-40

Blessed are the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!
(Resp Ps 49/Mt 5:3)

Pope Francis writes about this Beatitude and its relationship to holiness in Gaudete et Exsultate, 67-70. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, grant us purity of heart.

The Gospel invites us to peer into the depths of our heart, to see where we find our security in life. Usually the rich feel secure in their wealth, and think that, if that wealth is threatened, the whole meaning of their earthly life can collapse. Jesus himself tells us this in the parable of the rich fool: he speaks of a man who was sure of himself, yet foolish, for it did not dawn on him that he might die that very day (cf. Lk 12:16-21).

Wealth ensures nothing. Indeed, once we think we are rich, we can become so self-satisfied that we leave no room for God’s word, for the love of our brothers and sisters, or for the enjoyment of the most important things in life. In this way, we miss out on the greatest treasure of all. That is why Jesus calls blessed those who are poor in spirit, those who have a poor heart, for there the Lord can enter with his perennial newness.

This spiritual poverty is closely linked to what Saint Ignatius of Loyola calls “holy indifference”, which brings us to a radiant interior freedom: “We need to train ourselves to be indifferent in our attitude to all created things, in all that is permitted to our free will and not forbidden; so that on our part, we do not set our hearts on good health rather than bad, riches rather than poverty, honour rather than dishonour, a long life rather than a short one, and so in all the rest”.

Luke does not speak of poverty “of spirit” but simply of those who are “poor” (cf. Lk 6:20). In this way, he too invites us to live a plain and austere life. He calls us to share in the life of those most in need, the life lived by the Apostles, and ultimately to configure ourselves to Jesus who, though rich, “made himself poor” (2 Cor 8:9).

Being poor of heart: that is holiness.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

St Rita of Cascia (1377-1447), Patron of Desperate Causes

Readings of the day: RB 4:63-78
Mass: Jm 4:1-10; Resp Ps 55; Mk 9:30-37

Santa Rita, Patroness of of Abuse Victims

They had been discussing among themselves who was the greatest.

St Benedict offers two Tools for Good Works today which are a response to any of us who, for one reason or another, think we are better than others: first, ‘do not love quarreling’ or put another way, ‘avoid hostile rivalry’; second, ‘shun arrogance’ or ‘do not become full of self’. It may be a good day to use the following tools: respect the elders; love the young; pray for your enemies out of love for Christ; if you have a dispute with someone, make peace with him or her before the sun goes down.

If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.

A Christian’s life should be invested in Jesus,
and spent for others.
(Pope Francis, Twitter, May 22, 2018)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church
St Christopher Magallanes and Companions (1915-1937)

Readings of the day: RB 4:44-62
Mass: Ja 3:13-18; Resp Ps 19; Mk 9:14-29
For the Memorial, Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church: Gn 3:9-15, 20 or Ac 1:12-14; Resp Ps 87; Jn 19:25-34

O blessed mother of the Church,
you warm our hearts with the Spirit of your Son Jesus Christ.

The greatness of our Lady was in her humility. No wonder Jesus, who lived so close to her, seemed to be so anxious that we learn from him and from her but one lesson: 
to be meek and humble of heart.
(Saint Teresa of Calcutta)

We celebrate for the first time the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. All Cistercian monasteries are dedicated to Mary, Mother of God. We rejoice today and celebrate with all the faithful, Mary, Mother of Jesus, Mother of the Church; dear Mary, so meek and humble of heart; ‘the Mother standing beneath the cross (cf. Jn 19:25), accepted her Son’s testament of love and welcomed all people in the person of the beloved disciple as sons and daughters to be reborn unto life eternal. She thus became the tender Mother of the Church which Christ begot on the cross handing on the Spirit. Christ, in turn, in the beloved disciple, chose all disciples as ministers of his love towards his Mother, entrusting her to them so that they might welcome her with filial affection…This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed, the Virgin who makes her offering to God’ (Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Feb. 11, 2018).

How happy is she
who is both mother and spouse of God
the gate of heaven
the loveliness of paradise
lady of angels
queen of the universe
joy of the saints
advocate of believers
courage of those who fight
recaller of those who wander
medicine of the penitent.

O sure salvation!
Short path of life!
Sole hope of pardon
sweetness unique.

You, my Lady,
are my all.

In your hands
has been stored for me
the fulness of all good.

With you
have been hidden the unfailing treasures
of truth and grace
of peace and pity
of salvation and wisdom
of glory and honor.

You are my anchor amid the billows
my port in shipwreck
my support in tribulation
my comfort in grief.

For those who are yours
you are
aid in oppression
help in time of crisis
temperance in prosperity
joy in time of waiting
refreshment in toil.

Whatsoever I can stammer
in your praise
is less
than your praise
for you are worthy of all praise.

(Adam of Perseigne, c.1145-1221, Letter III, 25)

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pentecost Sunday

Readings of the day: RB 4:22-43
Sunday Mass: Ac 2:1-11; Resp Ps 104; 1 Co 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Ga 5:16-25; Sequence (Veni, Sancti Spiritus); Jn 20:19-23
Icon by Isaac Fanous, St Peter and St Pauls Coptic Orthodox Church

If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.

Feel the energy in the room: They were all in one place together. Suddenly, there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

We have received the same Holy Spirit. Each one of us has received different kinds of spiritual gifts, one of one kind and one of another (1 Co 7:7). We are meant to bear fruits of
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Which fruit will you share with your brothers and sisters today?

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.

Holy Spirit, you sustain the Church, come down upon us again, teach us unity, renew our hearts, and help us to love as Jesus taught us.
(Pope Francis, Twitter, May 20, 2018)

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Readings of the day: RB 4:1-21 The Tools for Good Works
Mass: Ac 28:16-20, 30-31; Resp Ps 11; Jn 21:20-25

Andrei Rublev, St Paul the Apostle

Paul received all who came to him, and with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught the Lord Jesus Christ.

St Catherine of Siena has a message for us today: Imitate that dear Paul, who was so in love, and be a vessel of affection that bears and proclaims the name of Jesus. It seems to me that Paul gazed into this eye and lost himself in it. And he was granted such a great soul that he was willing and even desired to be separated from God, an outcast, for the sake of his brothers and sisters. Paul was in love with whatever God was in love with. He saw that charity is never scandalized, is never confounded.

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, grant us the grace to be so in love. May we too be vessels of affection and proclaim your holy name.
First of all, love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole soul and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Give help and support to the poor.
Clothe the naked.
Visit the sick.
Bury the dead.
Console and counsel those who suffer in time of grief.
Bring comfort to those in sorrow.
(RB 4:1-2, 14-19)