Sunday, May 31, 2009

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for Pentecost

As some of you already know, since January I have been celebrating mass once a week in the Health Care center at the Hermitage on Thursday mornings. It’s one of those unusual situations where you have to be prepared for anything—like mass with the first and second graders at St. Ann’s parish in Nashville, TN or at the Tennessee State prison. At one recent mass a volunteer was proclaiming the first reading about the call of Abraham when this loud voice came from the back of the Health Care dining room, "Who was Abraham?" Another time Sr. Amelia was doing the first reading when an aide brought in a woman in a wheelchair. They had just gotten the woman in place when she said in a very loud voice, "Did mass start yet?" No one responded. She asked again in a louder voice. No response. Sr. Amelia continued to patiently read on. Finally the woman said, "That’s the trouble with this damn place! Nobody will give you any answers." But there are other moments too. There’s one woman who lies on this mobile bed, eyes closed, mouth open, motionless, seemingly inert to anything. I’ve passed her many times like that in the hallway. During one mass I happened to look over to where she was at the side of the room, and I noticed that her mouth was reciting perfectly the words of the "Holy, Holy, Holy" as we were all praying them. I thought to myself: "Wow! Surprised by the Spirit again."

The Holy Spirit is indeed full of surprises. There is nothing more frustrating, more maddening than for a systematic theologian or scripture scholar to try and figure out an orderly, neat categorizing of the works of the Holy Spirit attested to in the New Testament writings. It just can’t be done. Almost every kind of positive action gets attributed to the Spirit, but there isn’t anything that organizes them all. Even some scripture writers evidently gave up in frustration and said: "The Spirit blows wherever it will." (Jn 3:8) It’s impossible to know when, where or how the Spirit of God will act.

Yet there is one communality that runs through all these manifestations of the Spirit: that is, the sense, the feeling that the Power of God is acting in our world beyond any control of ours. Indeed, that perception allowed the early believers to say: "It is the Spirit of God." But only in hindsight can they say: "The Spirit of God did this." We can’t organize or manage God’s Spirit. When the Spirit does occur, it reminds us of the intimate presence of God all around. And perhaps that’s the biggest gift of the Spirit.

For the last seven Sundays we have been exploring the deep meanings of the Paschal Mystery: that the Resurrection of Jesus was a new saving act of God; that Jesus now gloriously lives in the divine Mystery; that the Resurrection was a complete vindication of the life, ministry and death of Jesus; that the Paschal Mystery calls us to be suspicious of our ordinary human ways of thinking and judging; that our human lives are intertwined with the mysteries of God’s grace, forgiveness and love; and finally, the gifts of the Spirit are our constant reminders of all of the above.

The Second Vatican Council gave us so many new and exciting ways to think about the Holy Spirit in our lives. In the Constitution on the Church it says: "The Holy Spirit distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank. Whether these charisms be very remarkable or more simple....they are to be received with thanksgiving." (LG #12) That means from the power of raising Jesus from the dead to even the mute voicings of an old semi-conscious woman. The Spirit of God is indeed surprising.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Come, Holy Spirit!

Pentecost is in a special way the Baptism of the Church which carries out her universal mission starting from the roads of Jerusalem with the miraculous preaching in humanity's different tongues. In this Baptism of the Holy Spirit the personal and community dimension, the 'I' of the disciple and the 'we' of the Church, are inseparable. The Holy Spirit consecrates the person and at the same time makes him or her a living member of the Mystical Body of Christ, sharing in the mission of witnessing to his love. And this takes place through the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism and Confirmation. (Pope Benedict XVI)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vocation Essay

How do priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters help us hear God’s call in our lives? First of all God will call us all in many different ways. It is whether we answer his call that truly matters. Some may need the help to answers God’s call. This is when a priest, deacon, or religious brother or sister steps in. They help us realize that we need God for life. We should honor God’s call and listen to what God wants us to do.

Who can be called by God to do his ministry? Well, the truth of the matter is anyone can be called by God. What matters is who answers the call. If you listen and put your full faith and trust in God anything is possible. Some people will not listen to God. Some people merely need to be talked to by another human being.

For some people this is where the priest comes in. Mainly for men this is where the priest comes in. Say you are on a stroll with a friend and he asks you to start a conversation not knowing he may be doing this out of the work and ministry of God. He asks, “How do priests help us hear God’s call in our lives.” You answer his question like this… Each priest is a person or merely a pebble in the destiny and work of God. As a priest you are in charge of making sure that each one of God’s children in your parish or even around the world receive Jesus. You must preach to them and help them understand the Bible. You must listen to their sins as if you are their close family (which you are in God’s mind) and teach them how to instead of doing wrong show them how to do right. Be an example of how God wants you to live a holier life. In the long run priest are like the leader of a line. They lead us to God and help be the example of how a follower of God lives their lives.

Deacons also play an important role in the church. They follow the corporal works of mercy by feeding the hungry…setting the example for me to do the same. Bishops help me be a faithful servant of God’s people. They help others out of the kindness of their heart.
Last, but not least, religious brothers and sisters. I am fortune enough to have a Benedictine Sister teach me religion. She teaches us to love God and serve God’s people. She helps me open doors. That other wise I would not see. For that I thank her. Meditation is just one of the ways that Sr. Nicolette helps me get closer to God.

We are all called to love God and serve God’s people. We never give them enough credit. So thank you religious brothers, sisters, deacons, and priests. God has blessed us all each day.

Jamaica H. 7th Grade

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for Ascension

We celebrate today the feast of the Ascension of Christ. Many liturgical theologians would call the Ascension one of the most underrated feasts in the Church̢۪s Liturgical Year. Because its implications are so little understood. For most people Ascension is just a necessary step to get Jesus from this world to the next, so he can send the Spirit at Pentecost. Once Jesus is in heaven it's over. The meaning of Ascension is thus completes a step on the way. Far from it! With the human bodiliness and consciousness of Jesus now a part of the Divine Mystery, the Ascension means that heaven and earth are irreversibly intertwined. God's victory has already happened and it's for all eternity. Our human lives are now entwined with the mysteries of God's grace and forgiveness. That's what the proclamation of the Gospel is all about. And it needs to be told to the whole world.

If you look at the Appearance accounts in the four gospels in a analytic fashion, that is, to compare their structures, you will see that at the center of each narrative is an appearance to the eleven disciples gathered together. Scripture scholars like to call this the "constitutive appearance" because it's the one that pulls everything else together. In that constitutive appearance Jesus commissions the disciples to go and proclaim the message to the whole world. (Mk 16:14-15; Mt 28:16-20; Lk 24:36-48; Jn 20:19-23) It is probably clearest in Matthew's gospel, but it's in the other three as well, just as you noticed its powerful presence at the center of today's gospel passage from Mark.

Scripture scholars are all pretty much in agreement that these four Resurrection appearance narratives are very late in the New Testament literary tradition. Rather than give an exact account of how things happened, they are much more concerned to bear witness what emerged as the major beliefs in that early Christian community. And one of the earliest beliefs was the necessity to go out and proclaim to the whole world this message that Jesus has been raised by God and this is for our salvation.

It's likely impossible to figure out where this belief in "proclamation to the world" came from. It didn't come from their Jewish background. In fact, there wasn't any religion of the time that had any such similar belief. The only solution to be found is that the belief in a "proclamation to the whole world" came in the very same moment that they believed that Jesus had been raised by God. If God has done this great thing, then it must be told to everyone.

I said last week that proclaiming the gospel is a second way out of suspicion. If the Paschal Mystery warns us to be suspicious of our ordinary human ways of thinking and deciding, then when the gospel is proclaimed we are always taking a step in the right direction. Why? Because proclaiming the gospel takes us out of ourselves, out of our own concerns, out of trying to hold on to what we've got. Whenever a person, or a monastery, or a parish is first and foremost concerned with keeping what it's got, then it's in serious religious trouble. The Ascension is about proclaiming to the world that our human lives are intertwined with the mysteries of God's grace, forgiveness and love. That's more than just proclaiming that "Jesus saves." It includes the assertion that "God is" and also the intrinsic value and beauty of human life. The proclamation of the gospel includes all of those beliefs. Let's share those beliefs with the many people we meet.

A Commentary for Ascension by Sr. Kathleen Yeadon, OSB

May 24, 2009
The Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ
Mark 16:15-20

Saying goodbye is never easy. Goodbyes can come from leaving a job, a friend moving, or the death of a loved one. For me, the feast of the Ascension is Jesus’ goodbye to the apostles. It is the time where Jesus says, ok, you have to put into action what I have taught you.

The Ascension says, we connect with our loved ones through living out the actions that we have learned from them. It is the great mystery of life and grace, that participation in our loved one’s actions, draws us closer to them. Thus, Jesus commands the disciples to go and preach to the entire world.

The second gift of the Ascension is the longing to be connected to our loved one energizes us for action. It is our remembering and living out the actions of Jesus that calls us to community. Thus, our desire for union with God creates the energy to live in a manner worthy of our Lord.
This all came alive for me when my dad died. I had a new desire for Heaven so I could be with him. As the years have passed, I have connected with him in the words he spoke and the actions he showed my family. I look for those words and actions in my other family members as well.
We have done this here in the monastery as well. At each wake, we have remembered the person’s words and actions. On the feast of All Souls, we remember each person’s life.
With the end of each administration, we have taken time to say what it was that we learned from the outgoing prioress and subprioress.

The Ascension gives us time to remember the center of Jesus’ teaching. Mark’s Gospel ends with the line of . . . the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs. For me the signs would include Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: . . .live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentlenesss, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. . . Ephesians 4:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

8th Grade Students' Haikus...on Ascension

Go into the World,
They will speak new languages,
He went up to heaven.
(Tyler M. 8th Grade)

Go into the world,
One day I will return here,
To God I now go.
(Wyatt B. 8th Grade)

Jesus was taken,
Taken up body and soul,
Seated at the right.
(Maddie L. 8th Grade)

Glorious is He,
To live with God in heaven,
Clothed in lumen clothes.
(Josh S. 8th Grade)

Jesus rose from them,
They were filled with His spirit,
They go forth to serve.
(Brandon S. 8th Grade)

Go into the world,
Jesus rose into heaven,
They preached everywhere.
(Megan P. 8th Grade)

Jesus rose above,
Took His seat at the right hand,
Apostles then preached.
(Chris B. 8th Grade)

Go out in the world,
Proclaim the Gospel to us,
God will come again.
(Shelby C, 8th Grade)
Proclaim the Gospel,
Whoever doesn't believe,
They will now believe.
(Pete P. 8th Grade)
Go into the world,
Who is baptized will be saved,
Nothing will harm them.
(Allie M. 8th Grade)
Jesus will ascend,
into heaven at the right,
Hand of the Father.
(Tommy B. 8th Grade)
Jesus said to them,
Go into the whole world and,
Proclaim the Gospel.
(Bobby M. 8th Grade)

Proclaim the Gospel,
To every creature to hear,
And you will be saved.
(Kyle K. 8th Grade)
Proclaim the Gospel,
These signs will accompany,
Whoever believes.
(Joseph F. 8th Grade)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Vocation Essay

How do priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters help us to hear God’s call in our lives? First and above all, they devote their whole lives to spreading the word of God. You would probably get pretty good after a whole lifetime. What exactly does each individual one do?

Let’s start with a priest. A priest does a huge amount of things for the church. They say mass, which spreads the word of God. They can administer the sacraments, which brings a person’s soul closer to God. They can also do missionary work. Priests do a lot for the church.

Deacons are sort of like assistants to priests. The word “deacon” was probably derived from a Greek word meaning servant. They could help out during mass in reading or serving. They could also assist the priest in different ways during the mass.

Now for the religious brothers and sisters, they are sort of the employees of the church. They take vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty. They can’t own anything, get married, or say no to what the church tells them to do. They can be a lot of things. My religion teacher is a nun, and the principal of another school I know is a nun. The University of Notre Dame has a lot of jobs filled by religious brothers. Religious brothers and sisters spread the word of God by filling jobs and making them centered around God.

If you think about it, these three categories are sort of like a body. The priests are the head and heart. Without them, the church could not function. The deacons are the organs. They are a service to the head and heart and they do what the head and heart tell them to. The religious brothers and sisters are the arms and legs. They extend out to grab and pull more people toward Catholicism. So those three categories are sort of like a body, in a way.
In these three jobs, these people spread the word of God. The more we hear the word of God, and the closer we are to God, the easier it is to hear His call.

Frederick D. 8th Grade

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter

In these Sundays after Easter we have been exploring the deep meanings within the Paschal Mystery. Last Sunday we reflected on how we are called to a fundamental suspicion of our ordinary ways of thinking and judging. That left us a little up in the air; being suspicious is fine, but we need some guidelines to move forward, beyond suspicion. The accounts of the Resurrection appearances, the visual narrations of the Paschal Mystery, do provide for us three tentative steps forward: becoming community, proclaiming the good news, and recognizing the Spirit. We will take the first of these today; the second on Ascension, and the third on the feast of Pentecost. All three of these steps or ways appear over and over in the appearance accounts.

How does "becoming community" lead us forward out of suspicion? Simply this way. The disciples of Jesus would not have come to their expression of faith in Jesus’ Resurrection had they not shared their own personal experiences of halting faith with each other. This is shown in the sharing activities that are recounted over and over in the appearance stories. Mary Magdalene rushes to share her experience of Jesus with the disciples; the disciples on the way to Emmaus rush back to Jerusalem to tell the others what happened to them; even Thomas’ unbelief is a sharing of doubts of faith. The appearance accounts are shot through with stories of sharing. It is through this sharing that they come to believe that "Jesus lives." They came to know that the Lord stood in their midst. But that’s not a position they can think to, but only one that can be given in the dynamic of faith.

What this means for us is this: it’s only when we can take the chance to share our lives honestly, to share our strengths and weaknesses, our hopes and discouragements, that we have the possibility of becoming a genuine community. And when we become a genuine community, we will discover the living Lord in our presence. Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, when they offered hospitality to the stranger and shared what they had and were, even their discouragement, their eyes were opened and they realized the Lord in their midst.

This "sharing our lives honestly" does not come easy. This past Friday we celebrated the feast of St. Pachomius, the founder of cenobitic (community) monasticism. One of his key insights was that the best type of asceticism is not fasting or prayer or bodily punishment, but rather "living together in community." And St. Benedict pretty much agreed with that in his Rule. There is nothing that "rubs off the sharp edges" like "the school of the Lord’s service." If you want to read just one thing about the difficulties of living in community, read Sheila Cassidy’s chapter on "Living in Unity" in her book, Sharing the Darkness. It’s just the rub of living with different personalities who have different ways of doing things that cause frustrations to build. What is classically called "personality conflicts." And when that happens, we don’t honestly share our lives. That can find that in religious communities, in marriages, in families, in parishes, wherever people live together. It’s one of our greatest human obstacles to overcome.

When and where people come together in true and sharing community is where the power of the Paschal Mystery reaches into our world. If genuine community happens, there is a way forward out of suspicion. The whole purpose of the Church is to become that kind of sharing community. The whole purpose of a religious house is to become that kind of sharing community. Let’s take a moment to pray that each of us do our part to make this happen.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Commentary for the 6th Week of Easter by Sr. Susan Marie Lindstrom, OSB

Last Sunday, Jesus gave us a goal toward which to strive:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in Me will bear much fruit.”

This Sunday, Jesus reveals the way to reach that goal:
“Remain in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will remain in my love.”

It is easy to see a commandment or rule as confining, burdensome or restrictive. It is easy to observe them as external guides for behavior, and to feel guilty when we fail to obey them. Jesus, however, tells his listeners that he gives them commandments as a sign of friendship. The Jewish Scriptures often speak of delighting in God’s law. For them, to keep the commandments was to keep the covenant, to be the people God had called them to be. For us, to keep God’s commandments is to be obedient, to truly listen with the ear of our heart. Loving obedience is the hallmark of a true Christian because it was the example set by Christ Himself.
“I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”

It seems odd that Jesus, knowing that He was on the verge of His passion and death, would speak of joy. Obviously, this is not the joy that comes from material possessions, or from having a ministry or community that one enjoys. It is not a joy that is based on what’s in it for the individual. Jesus’ joy comes from walking with God, listening to God, responding to God’s call, putting God’s will before His own. The joy of which Jesus speaks comes from self-sacrificing love. Jesus’ joy comes from laying down His life for His friends.

Jesus gives a simple yet challenging command:

“Love one another as I have loved you.”

THIS is how we are called to lay down our lives… to put ourselves aside and to put the needs of others first… to let go of our own agendas and tend to those who are poor, marginalized, lonely, ill.

Self-serving actions and intentions lead us away from God. It is when we are sensitive to the needs of others, when we respond with no thought of ourselves, no expectation of recognition or reward that we are carrying out the commandment of love that Jesus gives us in today’s gospel.
Each day, as we live, pray and work together, we are presented with opportunities to remain in God’s love through our actions, reactions and interactions. When we are patient with those we find bothersome, when we respond to them gently rather than brushing them off or being abrupt, we are laying down our lives. When we are not merely tolerant but accepting of each other’s weaknesses in character, mind or body, appreciating the uniqueness of each sister, we are laying down our lives. When we spend time really listening to each other and being present to each other, even when it means that we will not complete our to do list for the day, we are laying down our lives. When we graciously and cheerfully cover jobs and assignments for one another, we are laying down our lives.

Benedict knew that the place where we would work out our salvation was within the monastery itself. He knew that his monks would know true joy as they studied daily in the school of the Lord’s service. He challenged his monks and challenges us to live by God’s commandments every day, to find in them freedom and life.

Do we trust enough to believe Jesus when He says that true happiness can be found in self-sacrifice? Then, let us run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Vocation Essay

Priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters help me to answer God’s call in many ways. One way is that they teach us to “Serve and witness to the God that calls each of us by name. “- Fr. Eric Johnson. One other way is my religion teacher, she is a vocation director. Nuns teach us the most depending on what area they are teaching us in.

The first way they teach us to listen. The way they teach us to listen is by taking us to Adoration to talk only to God. This can help you to only talk to God and in this way He might give you your vocation, if you ask Him. God talks to us each time we go to Adoration and we deepen our relationship with Jesus. Sisters also teach us to listen by opening our hearts to God so He can tell us what He wants us to do. We have to be open to anything that God has given us to love and serve His people and accept that that’s what He wants us to do in our life.

I have to love and serve God’s people with the gifts and talents He has given me. That is the number one thing on God’s list for me. My religion teacher tells me that everyday, and that reminds me to do that. My priest does the same. When we are informed on something over and over it helps us get better at listening to God and answering His call. The person that helps me out the most with my vocation is my religion teacher. She is a vocation director at her community, she is also a nun. She has taught me so much about my calling. Every since she started teaching my class, I listen more than I ever have. Even though I have not heard what I am called to be, I still listen and hope it will come soon. I don’t think one day has gone by that she hasn’t inspired me with her love of God and vocations. She reminds me every day to answer God's call. She has a saying that she says, “ Love and serve Gods’ people.”

In conclusion, many people help me to love and serve God's people, but the most I have learned about it was in school, through Sr. Nicolette . I still pray and listen very carefully to find what I am called to do.

Shelby C. 8th Grade

Monday, May 11, 2009

St. Therese of Lisieux’s First Communion by Sr. Kathy Smolik, OSB

“Ah! How sweet was that first kiss of Jesus! It was a kiss of love; I felt that I was loved, and I said: “I love You, and I give myself to You forever!” There were no demands made, no struggles, no sacrifices; for a long time now Jesus and poor little Therese looked at and understood each other. That day, it was no longer simply a look, it was a fusion; they were no longer two, Therese had vanished as a drop of water is lost in the immensity of the ocean. Jesus alone remained; He was the Master, the King” (Story of a Soul, p. 77).

Isn’t that the most beautiful account of the experience of a First Communion? Jesus gave Himself to Therese and Therese gave herself to Jesus - forever.

Perhaps we have had our own experience of Jesus in this most profound Sacrament of Love. But, even if we haven’t felt the joy and consolation Therese experienced we can still learn something from her. What can we learn? We can trust that the Jesus that came to Therese comes to us and is waiting for us every day and every moment of our ordinary life. He is waiting, too, to give Himself to us in the Eucharist. Even if we can’t sense Him, He is there. Our faith tells us this is true. Our faith brings us back time and again to the Table of the Eucharist and feeds us on our journey.

Our faith is paramount. At the end of her life Therese, too, could not see or feel Jesus. All was dark for her. She had offered herself to Jesus…to sit in darkness with her brothers and sisters who had lost faith through the abuse of grace. She wanted to suffer this terrible darkness in order that these souls who had lost their way would return to Jesus. With love burning deep in her heart she laid down her life for others.

Weak as we are we can ask Therese for her help. Do we need to return to Jesus? Let us pray most earnestly for forgiveness. He will take us back time and time again until the end of time. Do we desire Him with all our heart? Let us thank Him for this grace.

At this moment, Sr. Meg, another nun from this monastery is teaching in Ireland. She was given the great gift of being able to visit the relics of St. Therese. Sr. Meg writes, “She left not only her life as told by others and shared in her writings, but there’s a scent in the spring air that is “as if” she is still here. I sense her presence, not as a star or a celebrity but as a profound teacher. Her “Little Way” is a gift to suffer graciously for the benefit of others” (

Therese told her sisters as she was dying that she would return. She has kept her promise! Her “Little Way” is available for souls desiring to learn the science of Love. And may the dear little children who have just received their first Communion be our teachers of childlike simplicity and happiness.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 5th Sunday in Easter

Last Sunday we explored how the Resurrection was a complete vindication of the life, ministry and death of Jesus Today’s deep meaning of the Paschal Mystery follows right from that. For if an individual---who to ordinary ways of looking at things ended as a completely shamed and failed life—if this individual was blessed and raised by God, then nothing, NOTHING could be looked at in the same way anymore. We have to always be suspicious of our ordinary human ways of looking at things. Evidently God sees things differently than we do. The Paschal Mystery calls us to be suspicious of our first and usual ways of looking at things, of looking at everything.

It’s funny when you think about it for a moment. We usually consider the realm of religion as being the realm of certainty. Our faith calls us to be absolutely sure about what we believe. The Catechism of the Catholic Church names "doubt" as the first way of sinning against the Faith (#2088). But you have to wonder if the Catechism’s simple account does justice to the Second Vatican Council’s reflection on human questioning: "...every human being remains a question to himself or herself, one that is dimly perceived and left unanswered. There are times, especially in the major events of life, when no one can altogether escape from such self-questioning. God calls us to deeper thought and more humble probing...." (G & S, #21). The Council document, I think, better captures the sense of suspicion about our ordinary judgments that the Paschal Mystery calls us to

Indeed, the early followers of Jesus began to act on that principle of suspicion very early. One of the first places it showed was in their acceptance of Gentiles into their group. That went totally against what they had learned from their Jewish background. I just love that passage from the book of Acts that we heard last Monday evening about Peter’s testimony that the Holy Spirit had come upon Gentiles in his presence. The response then of those objecting to the admission of Gentiles was this: "When they heard this, they stopped objecting and glorified God, saying ‘God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles as well.’" (Acts 11:18) The principle of suspicion had scored its first major gain. There would be many more.

I dare say that the whole world would be better off today if more faiths used that principle of suspicion in their religious judgments. More than one contemporary observer has noted how absolute religious certainty has led to so much human catastrophe, death and suffering—the radical Muslims, the Zionist Jews, the fundamentalist Christians. The list goes on and on and includes Catholics as well. There would be much better chances for world peace if those rabid believers were a little more suspicious about their certainty of God’s ways.

How do we, as individuals, use this Paschal meaning of suspicion? I think, first of all, by recognizing that while our faith in God can be certain and strong, we have to say that we are less sure about God’s ways and wants in our world. We should always be open to saying, as that quote from the Book of Acts said (to paraphrase it): "Evidently God can do what we didn’t expect or count on." OK. Let’s say we are religiously suspicious, but we still need some guidelines to move forward. And the Paschal Mystery has them. But those points must wait until next Sunday.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 4th Sunday in Easter

As we continue to explore some of the deep meanings of the Paschal Mystery, today's topic is probably one of the least considered aspects of that Mystery by most ordinary believers. It is this: that the Resurrection was a complete vindication of the life, ministry and death of Jesus. I don't think today we realize how much the public crucifixion of Jesus was such an occasion of shame and scandal for anyone associated with him, especially his family and his disciples. There is no doubt that the first disciples of Jesus were bothered greatly by that crucifixion. It was probably that worry which led to the eventual formation of the Passion accounts in the gospels. We should never lose sight of what a burden that was for those who survived Jesus.

The act of crucifixion was a particularly horrible way to die. In the ancient world it was considered the cruelest and most shameful form of execution. The Romans reserved it for slaves who had committed grave offenses. One who was crucified shamed his entire family and range of acquaintances, a shame they carried for the rest of their lives. There was an inkling of that in the news recently. April 20th was the ten year anniversary of the Columbine school massacre in Colorado. There were a lot of news pieces associated with that tragic event. One that I found particularly moving (and sad) concerned a Lutheran pastor whose ministry was basically destroyed because he tried to offer some consolation and help to the parents and family of one of the teen-age shooters. The parents of the teenager were devastated by what their son had done. Still they were treated cruelly by almost everyone else in the community. The pastor just tried to support them and the people turned on him as well. He finally had to move away from that area. In that episode we might touch a little of what the family and followers of Jesus felt after his crucifixion.

It should give us a new appreciation of the depth of faith that lay behind the words of the first reading that we heard today: "All the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarean whom you crucified, whom God raised..." What's implicit in that affirmation is that the family and disciples of Jesus had to first accept the shame and then turn it into an occasion of grace. The Resurrection vindicates the life, ministry and death of Jesus. But that could happen in the disciples' faith only if they first accepted the shame. Accepting shame is never easy It's said that every family has a black sheep or skeletons in the closet, and some people will go to great lengths to keep that quiet. Some individuals will act the same with their own life. There are some topics they just never want to bring up.

Nevertheless, one of the essential meanings of the Paschal Mystery lies in this: accepting shame can often become an occasion of grace. It seems that the early Christians did just that. It's often said that early Christianity was primarily a faith of the poor and slaves. Today we would probably say that with pride. However we often sugarcoat it in the process. Being a slave in the ancient Roman empire was a hard and humiliating life for many. Slaves, esp. female slaves, had to regularly endure some pretty shameful things. Try to imagine what those slaves must have felt hearing the words, "this Jesus, who was shamed, God raised up." Then you can better appreciate how the Resurrection was not only a vindication of the life, ministry and death of Jesus, but also a powerful healing message for those early Christians.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Vocation Essay

Hearing God's Call

How do priests, deacons, and other religious brothers and sisters help us hear God’s call in our lives? Men all over the world answer it and become priests, monks, bishops, deacons, permanent deacons, and married. Women answer it by becoming nuns, married, and sisters. They are great examples. They go to Adoration, church, and confession regularly. I know because my religion teacher is a sister and we go to Adoration during class. People need to realize that they should help more, pray more, and go to church more.

You can also help around the parish. I serve and sing in the choir at mass. All this will make God closer to you. You can find your vocation easily when you have a strong relationship with God. If you are an adult you could go on a mission retreat. When you need help with your vocation pray and ask a religious person such as a nun or a priest at your parish.

Remember the Ten Commandments are Gods rules.

1. Thou shall have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honor thy father and thy mother.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10. Thou shall not covet.

These are the rules you should also try to follow but, we are not perfect so you may break one or two of these. It is also important to remember Jesus’ New Commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you.” God will make your vocation clear in time!

Ben #1 7th Grade

Sunday, May 3, 2009

St. Therese of Lisieux: The Little Bird, by Sr. Kathy Smolik, OSB

“I look upon myself as a weak little bird, with only a light down as covering.”

St. Therese of Lisieux, declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II, called herself a “weak little bird.” I find this a great mark of her humility. Therese did not put herself down but she did understand and accept her weakness. Her personal weakness was due largely to her emotional immaturity. However, Therese’ understanding went much deeper than that. She knew herself as a child of God, a creature before the Creator. She was not God and she knew that without God she was powerless to do absolutely anything on her own, let alone exist.

“What then will become of it (the weak little bird)? Will it die of sorrow at seeing itself so weak? Oh no! The little bird will not even be troubled.” (p.198-9).

Her weakness did not concern her! She knew with St. Paul that, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). Let me give a few examples from her life.

• Because of her emotional neediness she had a great desire to get attention from her Mother Superior in the Carmel. But Therese didn’t want her heart to become more attached to a human being than to Jesus. She had to walk past Mother Marie’s door to get to her own cell, and would “walk rapidly by (her) door and to cling firmly to the banister of the staircase in order not to turn back.” Therese wanted to please her nature by getting attention from her Superior but instead she deprived herself of this attention (p. 237).
• An elderly nun, Sister St. Pierre, needed help walking from the choir to the refectory. Therese wanted to help this poor crippled nun with an act of charity. Every day she would guide the sister to the refectory all the while listening to the nun’s constant complaints. Then Therese would roll back Sister’s sleeves, cut up her meat for her, and then give Sister St. Pierre her biggest smile. This small act of love cost Therese very much she admitted, but she “gained (Sister’s) entire good graces” (p. 247-9).
• In choir, one sister who sat next to Therese would come in and begin making strange noises through their silent prayer time. Therese became soaked in sweat in her attempt to be charitable and not glare at this nun. Instead she tried to find a way to suffer this annoyance in peace (p. 249).

“O Jesus, Your little bird is happy to be weak and little. What would become of it if it were big?”

Besides all her emotional trials she also fell asleep during her thanksgiving after Communion due to exhaustion from lack of sleep. Does she feel desolate or sink into depression from her inability to stay awake at prayer? No! She offers all this up as a little flower. Each pain, each pinprick, each disappointment in herself, each raging storm, and each emotion is offered up to Jesus. Even her joys are offered up to Him.

Nothing is kept for herself. All is offered up to Jesus that souls may turn back to Him. Also, no suffering or pain is ever wasted. No matter how trifling an annoyance or how overwhelming a major crisis she experienced, she offered it all up to Jesus as a flower.

Therese’ lesson to us is: watch your emotions, watch your thoughts about these emotions and lift them up. We are not our thoughts, and we are not our emotions (Funk). If we freely offer ourselves up moment by moment, day after day, we can participate with Jesus in His redemption of souls.

And what is the key to Therese practice? Confidence in the great Mercy of God…more on this next time.


Lisieux, Therese of. Story of a Soul: the autobiography of St Therese of Lisieux. A new translation by John Clark. ICS Publications, Washington, D.C.: Third Edition Published, 1996.

Funk, Sr. Mary Margaret. Thoughts Matter for Practicing the Spiritual Life. New York: Continuum, revised edition 2005.

Funk, Sr. Mary Margaret. Tools Matter for Practicing the Spiritual Life. New York: Continuum, 2001, 102-107.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Jesus' May Message

Each month, Anne, a lay apostle, receives a message from Jesus. This is the message for May. To read more about the locutions Anne receives from Jesus and His Blessed Mother click on this link: Direction For Our Times.

How often have I called you ‘My little apostles’? Have I ever called you ‘My big apostles’? Why do you think it is that I call you ‘little’? I will tell you. It is because each apostle, by his desire to serve, becomes little. He becomes little so that God can be glorified. If a person is serving Me, that person desires only My glory. If a person is serving Me, he desires to be seen as a servant of men, not as a master of men. In the case of leaders, this desire for humility must be even more pronounced lest the leader begin to believe that he himself is leading, as opposed to My great hope which is that I, Jesus, am leading through the man. I intend to send leaders during this time. You will know them by their spirit of service. You will know them by their humility. You will know them because they will help you to think of Me and what I need from you. No man is entitled to the glory reserved for God. No man is worthy of this glory. I only speak in this way today so that each man will consider his call to service as a call to holiness. I want each man to give credit to Me for the good that I allow to come through him into the world. Do you understand, little apostles? I am reminding you that all good comes from Me so that you will not be tempted to pride by the great fruits I send through your service and your commitment to Me. It is important that every apostle examine himself for signs and symptoms of pride. I ask this of you in a serious way today. We, together, are ushering in a time of grace, and graces will be apparent, not through your power but through Mine. Little apostles, do not believe that Jesus is scolding you. I am not. I am helping you to examine yourself to prevent difficulties, both for your holiness and for My plan. I will help you in this each day if you ask Me. Ask Me to send an outpouring of the Spirit to you whenever you are afraid that pride is troubling you. I will do this for you because I love you and because pride makes you so terribly sad. Pride is the great devourer of joy. You, My beautiful apostles, are entitled to joy and I send My joy to you today. All is well. We work together to perfect your soul.