Saturday, February 28, 2009
The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked.
The shoes you do not wear are the shoes of one who is barefoot.
The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor.
The acts of charity you do not perform are so many injustices you commit.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
In this post Sr. Mildred shares her favorite Benedictine quote, "The love of Christ must come before all else" and how it has related to her entire Monastic life.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Sr. Kathy Smolik, OSB will periodically post teachings of St. Therese. This is her first post.
A Way of Love:
“'Here is the teacher whom I am giving you; he will teach you everything that you must do. I want to make you read in the book of life, wherein is contained the science of LOVE.’ (St. Margaret Mary) The science of Love, ah, yes, this word resounds sweetly in the ear of my soul, and I desire only this science. Having given all my riches for it, I esteem it as having given nothing as did the bride in the sacred Canticles. I understand so well that it is only love that makes us acceptable to God, that this love is the only good I ambition. Jesus deigned to show me the road that leads to this Divine Furnace, and this road is the surrender of the little child who sleeps without fear in its Father’s arms. ‘Whoever is a little one, let him come to me.’” Therese of Lisieux
These words of Therese come from “Manuscript B” of Story of a Soul, her autobiography. This manuscript is her masterpiece and gift to us as we learn her “Little Way.”
What was Therese about? What is she trying to teach us? Therese discovered that the only thing to live for and by is LOVE. Everything she teaches is for our instruction on how to love.
Start where you are. Great deeds are not necessary. Her way is a “little way.” Small acts of kindness are done with great love and attention to Jesus, our Beloved. Therese once exclaimed, “To pick up a pin with love can save a soul…what a mystery!”
Whoever you are, and whatever your circumstances in life, begin now. God’s Mercy is greater than His Judgment. He is waiting for you to return to Him by love, and Therese will teach you how to do this.
Jesus is our real Teacher on this path. However, we often need help along the way when we can’t see. Sometimes God sends people to help us. We can also pray to Therese to teach us how to be a “little child” who abandons herself to God. Pray to her, ask her for help and intercession to Jesus, and she will teach you the “little way.”
Sunday, February 22, 2009
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Feb 22, 2009
Readings: Is 43:18-25; 2 Cor 1:18-22; Mk 2:1-12
1. One of the things that has always struck me about this gospel story is the phrase, "When Jesus saw their faith." He was deliberately including at least some of the men who were lowering the paralytic through the roof. But I’ve always wondered if he was referring primarily to them; we never know the paralytic’s thoughts or feelings—he never speaks. Perhaps over time he had become a very bitter man, afflicted as he was with this debilitating condition. It does happen. But his friends didn’t give up. They were willing to make the effort to bring him to Jesus and try to save their friend. Perhaps it was mainly their faith that Jesus saw, that persuaded Jesus to work the miracle of healing on the paralytic.
2. How much that has been a part of our Catholic tradition—that we help others and pray for others. We pray for others at all times, but especially in their moments of great weakness. To me one of the most beautiful expressions of that comes in John Henry Newman’s long poem, "The Dream of Gerontius." It’s an imaginative account of what’s going through a person’s mind as they approach very closely the moment of death, indeed, what it’s like to go through the act of dying. The poem begins: "Jesu, Maria—I am near to death, and Thou art calling me; I know it now—not by the token of this faltering breath, this chill at heart, this dampness on my brow, (Jesus, have mercy! Mary, pray for me!") .... O horror! This it is, my dearest, this; So pray for me, my friends, I who have not strength to pray." (Pp. 25-26) It’s the community of prayer that we rely on in our moment of weakness. It’s one of the strongest expression of the "communion of saints" that we believe in.
3. One of the first ways that the early Christians were recognized by Roman authorities was not as a religion, but as a "burial society." They were known as a group of people who took care of the sick and the dying and the burials afterwards. And they prayed during this time of tending to the dying. It was one of the places where the sense of "community" was so strong among the early Christians. And burial societies have continued though the centuries in the Catholic tradition. We still see that so often in obituary notices today when it will say: "The Rosary will be prayed by the Christian Mothers or the Daughters of Isabella or the Holy Name Society" at such and such a time.
4. Of course, we all know that well in our monastic communities. Gathering around the dying person and praying for that individual is a regular practice of monastic houses. To announce over the PA that a sister is going to be anointed will bring an instant crowd to that sister’s room—as has happened many times in the nine years that I have been here. It amazes me how quickly people congregate. In those moments I like to think of today’s gospel, "When Jesus saw their faith," we trust that Jesus "heals" that person into heaven.
5. But we also pray for those who seem hopeless—maybe like today’s paralytic---who have given up on faith. How many of us know some member or members of our family who have fallen away from the practice of faith. We can be sorry for them, but we don’t stop praying for that person. We trust that the strength of our prayer will help our relative. We trust that Jesus, seeing our faith, might heal that person into heaven. That’s a very important part of our Catholic belief in the communion of saints. Let’s take a moment right now and each of us pray for just such a member of our own families.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
From early childhood, I dreamed about playing in a symphony orchestra, helping poor people and being like my Benedictine teachers at St. Philip School.
Upon graduating from St. Philip, I attended Academy Immaculate Conception, and then entered the Ferdinand community. My first missions were teaching music at Christ the King, St. Pius X, St. Paul, Tell City, while getting my Masters in Music at Butler University. I next taught music at Our Lady of Grace Academy and Latin School.
In 1971, I received an MA in Religious Studies at Mundelein College, Chicago, taught Religion at Immaculata HS, music at Carmel, and Guerin High Schools. Peace and Justice issues beckoned me to work during the summers with blind children in Lewistown, Pennsylvania. , Hispanic children in Los Angeles, California. and a Chicago food pantry. I was privileged to sing with the Apollo Chorus and Chicago Symphony.
In 1980, the community gave “The Sound of Music” at Beech Grove HS where I was English and Drama teacher.
In 1996, I became SSD at Hermitage Healthcare Center, caring for 52 terminally ill patients, plus music at St. Thomas Aquinas. I love working here. Our residents are treasures. Heaven will be better when they arrive. In 1997, I left St. Thomas to be Liturgy/Music coordinator at the monastery, and continued working at St. Paul Hermitage.
I am beginning my 34th year singing- first with Chicago Apollo Chorus, Liberty-Fremont Concert Choir, Evansville Philharmonic, and Indianapolis Symphonic Choir.
For Benedictine life, music, and opportunities to serve those in need, I thank God and my Benedictine Community.
Monday, February 16, 2009
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Feb 15, 2009 (OLG)
Readings: Lev 13:1-2,44-46; 1 Cor 10;31-11:1; Mk 1:40-45
1. We live in a country today that has become obsessed with health, disease and medical issues—probably more than any other country in human history. It’s almost like "staying healthy" is equal to being on the way to salvation—indeed, it IS salvation. Our whole communal mind-set is shaped by medical issues. But actually the image of "being healthy" is not just about feeling good; it’s also about looking good and being able to achieve a lot and enjoy many things. And sometimes staying healthy and seeing the doctor is just about receiving the attention we crave.
2. Recently there has been some disturbing news about "public health issues." Namely, that drug companies have spent big, big money to raise public awareness about particular diseases and the drugs needed to control them....when in fact there may not even be a disease at all. In my reading this past week I’ve learned a new phrase, "disease mongering." Disease mongering is the devious attempt to raise public awareness of some potential disease or illness precisely to encourage people to buy specific drugs that would control or alleviate that illness....when, in fact, there may not be any illness at all or that it’s not nearly as widespread as the medical companies would like people to think. Disease mongering is part of the general "medicalizing of life" that is a part of our current American culture.
3. There’s also a lot about disease, sickness and healing in the bible, but not much about the medical profession. Two of our readings today are about disease and healing. The first reading from the book of Leviticus concerns leprosy. (We should be aware that "leprosy" in the bible is not the same as the modern disease we know as leprosy. Biblical "leprosy" is a generic term that covers a wide variety of skin afflictions, many of which could be healed over time.) Our passage today is about how the priests are to determine leprosy and how the afflicted one should ritually separate himself or herself from the rest of the community. But, notice, there isn’t any judgment about one who develops leprosy; it just happens to some people. You deal with it as best you can. Period. The gospel passage shows Jesus healing a leper who asks him for a cure. And Jesus cures him. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the story is Jesus reaching out and touching the man (which technically made Jesus impure). It shows that the sick are not to be ostracized from the community, but cared for. And sometimes they are healed.
4. Perhaps the key that unites both of these texts can be found in that short second reading from 1st Corinthians where Paul asserts: "Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God." So, if you get sick, you accept it as part of God’s plan and deal with it as best you can. Don’t be making any judgments about "why" this happened. Here’s where we need a good dose of that spiritual humility that I spoke about last Sunday. No, we just give glory to God. And when someone does receive healing, the same action follows: give glory to God.
5. I think one of the most remarkable examples of that is the famous Jewish prayer, the Kaddish. This prayer is the only one you pray when someone close to you dies. I’d like to read it: "Let the glory of God be extolled, let His great name be hallowed, in the world whose creation He willed. May His Kingdom soon prevail in our own day, our own lives, and the life of all Israel. Let the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, be glorified, exalted and honored, though He is beyond all the praises, songs and adoration we can utter. For us and for all Israel, may the blessing of peace and the promise of life come true. May he who causes peace to reign in the high heavens, let peace descend on us, on all Israel, and on the whole world. And let us say: Amen." Remarkable! There is no mention that anyone has died. There is no mention of any grief or sorrow. Only the praise of God. As Paul says, "do everything for the glory of God."
Saturday, February 14, 2009
A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, "If you wish, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, "I do will it. Be made clean." The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. He said to him, "See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them." The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.
Do you know how hard it is to keep a secret? We are people who like to communicate. We like to spread the news…good or bad. There is something in us that needs to tell somebody…anybody…what we know that they might not. Is it any wonder that the leper couldn’t wait to publicize his cleansing?
What was Jesus thinking…asking him to keep secret the most marvelous thing that had ever happened to him? In Ecclesiastes, we read there “is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” Distinguishing the two can make a world of difference. Long ago, I read the autobiography of Fritz Lerner of the famous Lerner and Lowe song writing team. He was reflecting on his life and commented that his only regrets were the times he spoke when he should have kept his mouth shut. “I never got in trouble,” he said, “for what I didn’t say.”
There certainly are times when we need to speak…a word of hope and encouragement, a word of compassion, a word of praise. Most of you remember our dear Sr. Margaret. This is one of the many things I admired about her. She was full of compliments but that was never enough. She always made sure other people were within earshot when she paid one. Not only did you feel good but the bystanders also got to enter into your good fortune.
I suppose that is how the leper felt in today’s reading. He was cured. He knew who cured him. He wanted everyone to know and enter into his good fortune. I can only think he spent the rest of his life telling the story of the rabbi who took pity on him and made him clean. No secrets there just glory and praise.
As followers of Jesus who have also been redeemed, let’s not keep it a secret either.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
The 6th graders wrote Haikus for the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Enjoy!
Leprosy stains me,
Will you cleanse me oh Jesus,
Yes, you shall be cleansed.
You can make me clean,
I do will it; be made clean,
You are my Savior.
He stretched out his hand,
Touched him and said to the man,
You will be made clean.
You can make me clean,
I do will it, be made clean,
And he was made clean.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I was born in Evansville, Indiana in 1931 and we moved to Haubstadt, Indiana when I was three years old, where I spent my early childhood years and received two brothers into our family.
When I was in the second grade, I began taking piano lessons. By the fifth grade, I was playing our little “pump organ” for our church services in the summer months when the sisters returned to their convent, and have been playing organ ever since. For my high school education, I went to the Academy at Ferdinand, Indiana.
I have a BM and an MM from Butler University, and I taught elementary and high school music for 25 years, I worked in Formation here at our monastery with the young women who came to join us, and I worked in Pastoral Ministry – all of which I thoroughly loved.
At present, I’m still playing the organ and keeping our treasured liturgies well planned and flowing so they can be prayerful experiences for our sisters and our guests and the greater honor and glory of God.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Friday, February 6, 2009
1st Reading (Sirach 2:1-11)
My son, when you come to serve the LORD, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in time of adversity. Cling to him, forsake him not; thus will your future be great. Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient; for in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation. Trust God and he will help you; make straight your ways and hope in him. You who fear the LORD, wait for his mercy, turn not away lest you fall. You who fear the LORD, trust him, and your reward will not be lost. You who fear the LORD, hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy. Study the generations long past and understand; has anyone hoped in the LORD and been disappointed? Has anyone persevered in his fear and been forsaken? Has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed? Compassionate and merciful is the LORD; he forgives sins, he saves in time of trouble.
2nd Reading (Romans 8:31-35, 37-39)
What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? It is Christ (Jesus) who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Gospel (Luke 10:38-42)
As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary (who) sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
My name is Fr. Joe Feltz; I am the pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Lawrenceburg and I have been ministering with Sister Mary Cecile for almost five years. I first offer my condolences to the sisters of Our Lady of Grace Monastery and also to Sister Mary Cecile’s family. I also acknowledge many of my parishioners who have traveled from Lawrenceburg to be here at this Mass of the Resurrection.
I have other connections to this monastery including Sister Harriet and Sister Eugenia. But the most formative connection I have is with Sister Marie, my elementary school principal at St. Barnabas. Sister Marie spoke with me this past Monday about her good friend Mary Cecile. She said that she understood that I was going to preach her funeral homily. And after I acknowledged it she said, “Well say something funny about her; I don’t want it to be serious.” Being a good Catholic boy I responded, “Yes, sister.”
I want to reflect on Sister by sharing her mission ministry at St. Lawrence. I first met her at a luncheon the staff had for me soon before I began my term as pastor. She commented to me at that time, “We are thrilled to have you coming to St. Lawrence; we did not expect to get one of the young ones!”
A few weeks later Sister and I sat down to talk about her ministry and she said, “Now Father, if you don’t want me around, that’s all right I will head back to the monastery!” My first and best decision as pastor was saying that I DID want her to stay.
The first description I have of Sister Mary Cecile is a teacher. She has taught English and Music in the past, but her passion was to teach our Catholic faith. She enjoyed teaching pre-school kids in Vacation Bible School, although it was the only group that physically wore her out! She enjoyed teaching teenagers and adults. In her mind and heart our faith was a priceless treasure that everyone should know and embrace. She loved seeing the positive response from adults in the RCIA class as the faith was presented to them. Some of our most faith-filled parishioners came from that program.
On occasion she needed some help and guidance. For example she came to me frustrated because the second graders were not coming up with any sins they committed so they could confess for First Reconciliation. I told her to have the kids name the sins their brothers and sisters committed. She came to me the next day beaming and said, “Father, your advice worked. I finally had to stop them because they were coming up with too many sins!”
In an effort to communicate better with the youth in the Confirmation class, Sister had a teenager come into the office and set up an email address book with all of their email addresses. She thought this would be the most reliable method to contact them. But she was dealt a blow when she approached a girl who missed class and Sister asked her if she got her email; she responded that she does not check her email, she only “texts”.
Another way I would describe Sister Mary Cecile is as a witness of our Christian faith. She was well known in our community. She received the Dearborn County Chamber of Commerce “Woman of Distinction” award as well as the Beta Sigma Phi’s “First Lady of the Year” recognition.
Some of the first calls I got on Monday morning were from the Lutheran and Presbyterian pastors who are members of the Dearborn County Ministerial Association along with Sister and me. I was interviewed by the local paper and the Baptist chaplain at the hospital sent out an email to all the Christian churches in the community telling of the great loss.
People witnessed Sister Mary Cecile visiting women in prison, taking communion to people in the hospital and even paying her utility bill. She always paid it in person at the utility office because it saved a postage stamp.
She always enjoyed visiting the Catholic patients in the hospital every Thursday. Frequently she would return to the office with the name of a patient who wanted to see a priest. She was always excited with the prospect that her visit may result in a fallen away Catholic return to the Church that she loved. She is now able to see the number of people she influenced in that way.
Now I want to take a moment to talk about my relationship with Sister Mary Cecile. She liked to call herself a “fixture” in the parish, but she was my rock. She was a friend, confidant, but mostly she was my partner in ministry. We had great discussions on the challenges and blessings of ministry. On the rare occasion that she disagreed with a decision I made, I still could count on her unflagging support. I learned many valuable lessons ministering alongside her and I will always counts these five years as a true blessing.
Finally I would be remiss if I did not speak of Sister Mary Cecile’s contribution to our parish festival, the “Hidden Treasure” booth. Several months before the festival parishioners would do their Spring Cleaning and drop off stuff (some referred to it as trash) to Sister’s house. By the time June rolled around, Sister Marie can confirm this statement; you could hardly walk in Sister’s door. To those who would say that it was “Hidden Trash” Sister would respond, “Now remember, my Hidden Treasure booth is all profit everything is donated!” One year she was within five dollars of bettering the previous year’s total and someone gave her a five dollar bill.
I think Sister Mary Cecile’s greatest gift was she could see the Hidden Treasure in each and every person she met. They could be in prison, suffering in an abusive relationship or dealing with a broken marriage. They could be a fallen away Catholic or a recovering alcoholic. In any case she looked at them and recognized the real Hidden Treasure in them, Jesus. More importantly she would journey with them to help them see Jesus in themselves. That is the gift of her ministry and her life.
I have been examining the emotions in my heart this past week. Some of it is sadness because Sister Mary Cecile has left this life. Some of it is joy due to her entering eternal life. But I also feel some apprehension because she has set the bar quite high in regards to living a Christian life. I know none of us can reach that height on our own, but with Christ’s grace and Sister’s intercession it may be possible.
And so we turn to our Heavenly Father and thank Him for giving us such a wonderful teacher, witness, partner, friend and Christian disciple. Please dear Lord keep Sister Mary Cecile in the palm of Your hand.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
This is my favorite quote because my love for Jesus and the intimate relationship I have with him motivates me to do all the other things that Benedict, the sound Spiritual Director, counsels me to do. I am to prefer nothing to the "Work of God", which is the Liturgy of the Hours, but includes a total life of prayer. Surely, it includes at least a half hour each day in "Lectio Divina" a form of meditation where I read a Scripture passage, reflect on it, talk to God about my life as it relates to the passage and then listen intently to what God’s Spirit is saying to me in the passage. Finally I end in total silence in God's presence so I can hear what God is trying to say to me. When Benedict says, "Christ will bring us all together to everlasting life,” he tells me my Benedictine life has a strong community emphasis. Every day I pray that God will use me in any way He wishes to bring others, those I live and work with, and our whole country and world back to placing God in first place in their life and keeping God's commandments. That's why my Benedictine life is a happy life. My ministry as a Pastoral Associate /Director of Faith Formation hires me to spend my whole day praying with others or alone or ministering either one-to-one to all kinds of person; sharing in different kinds of discussion groups; teaching children, teens, or adults about God's love and plan for their life; visiting the sick and dying; or listening and supporting those who carry a heavy cross. But always reminding each that God said to them in the Epistle to the Hebrews, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you on your life-time journey to everlasting life, heaven.” And, surely another "best" for me is being taught, loved, and helped by others to everlasting life myself where I will meet face to face the One I have tried to prefer before everything else.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Readings: Deut. 18:15-20; 1 Cor 7:32-35; Mk 1:21-28
I think a lot of people today make a basic mistake when they read the Bible. It’s a mistake of method. We assume that the Scriptures, esp. the New Testament, have a supremely authoritative cast to them. That is, each text possesses one meaning, and one meaning only. Our task is to discover that meaning, learn it, and see if we live up to it. Just as in today’s gospel passage Jesus teaches "with authority," so we take the words of the New Testament as "words of authority" to us.
But I’m not sure if that’s the best or even the proper way of reading scripture. Christianity emerged out of a strongly Jewish background and incorporated many aspects of Jewish faith and culture. Perhaps the Christians incorporated a Jewish method of reading at the same time they assembled the books of the New Testament. What is that Jewish method of reading? We can see that very clearly expressed in the way the Talmud, one of their most authoritative books, is put together. The Talmud contains the discussions of rabbis on particular questions of Jewish life and faith. A particular question in raised; then various rabbis give their opinions. But no question is ever definitively answered. Why? Because the whole purpose of the discussion and the diversity of opinion is to get you, the reader, involved in the discussion. So the act of reading is not to seek an authoritative answer but to be enabled to enter a discussion as a living participant. A modern Jewish scholar describes it this way: "We tend usually to think of reading as a passive occupation, but for the Jewish tradition it was anything but that. Reading was an active and passionate grappling with God’s living word. It was an active, indeed interactive, reading of approaching the sacred text and through that reading process of finding something at once new and very old." (Barry Holtz, Back to the Sources, p. 16)
If we had that frame of mind, then we might hear and read that second reading this morning from St. Paul very differently. Instead of thinking, "Paul is giving us this authoritative opinion that celibates can be single-minded towards God and married people are always divided," rather we could enter the discussion by adding our own questions and observations. Are celibates, even those consecrated to God, always single-minded? We have lots of other things that can distract us—like health issues that can consume a person. Or, isn’t it possible for some married people to be totally committed to God through their love for one another? Let’s investigate that. The Bible invites us to an interactive reading, not a delivering of final convictions.
With that perspective we can also better appreciate Paul himself as a learner. He did not know Jesus in the flesh, so he had to go to Jerusalem and consult with Peter and the other apostles about Jesus’ life and ministry. This shows up in some quotations of Jesus that Paul occasionally includes in his letters. I’ve often wondered if Paul experienced any "Aha moments" as he’s dictating his letters. Anybody who has ever taught very much knows what I mean. You are going along on a topic and saying something. Then all of a sudden you stop and think: "Hey, that was pretty good. I wonder where that came from." It’s the musing of our subconscious mind erupting into awareness.
Let’s learn to read Scripture interactively. To do so, we do need to have a strong conviction that the Spirit of God works in and through us. Then we can realize the way St. Bernard described the process of inspiration. He said: "Inspiration occurs when the Spirit-inspired text is read by a Spirit-inspired reader."
Each month, Anne, a lay apostle, receives a message from Jesus. This is the message for February. To read more about the locutions Anne receives from Jesus and His Blessed Mother click on this link: Direction For Our Times.