Sunday, November 11, 2018

A Military Heart

A military heart is unique, it must be true,
The blood that pulses deep within is red, white, and blue
Its love is like a fire that grows when it is shared,
For complete and total strangers, they have truly cared.
All heroes past and present, at war and at peace,
My admiration for you all will never ever cease.
Veterans who went by choice or those who had been drafted,
I feel that God took extra care with certain hearts He crafted.
He had to make them strong and brave, but tender all the same,
He knit them in their mother’s womb and knew them each by name.
It would take a special heart to leave loved ones behind,
To kiss and hug good-bye with Old Glory on their mind.
The countless sacrifice they made for freedoms we enjoy,
For every man, every woman, every girl, and every boy.
For those who have such passion for our great U.S. of A,
Who’ll stand for life and liberty, so we can speak and pray.
If you see a warrior, please give them all our love,
For the heart that beats within them is a gift from God above.
We’re thankful, oh so thankful, for that heart we have admired,
For giving so unselfishly, although it may be tired.
We’d never know of its fatigue - it’s hidden way inside,
For that heart is full of love, as deep as it is wide.
On Veterans Day and all the days that come before and after,
We thank you for allowing us a life of hope and laughter.
To wake each day knowing what you must have seen and heard,
It’s hard to find the thoughts to share - there isn’t just one word.
What can we say? What should we say?
A debt we just cannot repay.
I think I’ll just say thank you from the bottom of my heart,
I’ll pray for you - thank God for you. That’s certainly a start.
I’ll do my best to wake each day full of gratitude,
I’ll make a daily effort with a thankful attitude.
I’ll live to nurture peace – I’ll try to do my part,
And I’ll thank the Lord everyday…for your military heart.

Heather Spears Kallus

God Speaks

There are two ways, and both are hard to travel.
There is the way of the river, but there is also the way of the bridge that I have built to cross that river.

How strange it is that so many still prefer to walk through the water,
even though I have built a bridge for them, a bridge that offers delight,
where all that is bitter becomes sweet, and every burden light.

Those who cross the waters of life by taking the way of the bridge
see light even though they are still in the darkness of their body.
Though mortal, they taste immortality,
Though weary, they receive the refreshment they need
when they need it, in my name.

There are no words adequate to describe
the delight experienced by those who choose the way of the bridge.
While still in this life they taste and participate
in that good which has been prepared for them in the next.

You would be a fool, indeed, to reject such a great good
and choose instead to walk by the lower road
with its great toil, and without refreshment or advantage.

From: Set Aside Every Fear – love and trust in the
Spirituality of Catherine of Siena.
By John Kirvan

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Feast Day of St. Leo the Great

With apparent strong conviction of the importance of the Bishop of Rome in the Church, and of the Church as the ongoing sign of Christ’s presence in the world, Leo the Great displayed endless dedication as pope. Elected in 440, he worked tirelessly as "Peter’s successor," guiding his fellow bishops as "equals in the episcopacy and infirmities."

Leo is known as one of the best administrative popes of the ancient Church. His work branched into four main areas, indicative of his notion of the pope’s total responsibility for the flock of Christ. He worked at length to control the heresies of Pelagianism, Manichaeism and others, placing demands on their followers so as to secure true Christian beliefs. A second major area of his concern was doctrinal controversy in the Church in the East, to which he responded with a classic letter setting down the Church’s teaching on the two natures of Christ. With strong faith, he also led the defense of Rome against barbarian attack, taking the role of peacemaker.

In these three areas, Leo’s work has been highly regarded. His growth to sainthood has its basis in the spiritual depth with which he approached the pastoral care of his people, which was the fourth focus of his work. He is known for his spiritually profound sermons. An instrument of the call to holiness, well-versed in Scripture and ecclesiastical awareness, Leo had the ability to reach the everyday needs and interests of his people. One of his sermons is used in the Office of Readings on Christmas.

It is said of Leo that his true significance rests in his doctrinal insistence on the mysteries of Christ and the Church and in the supernatural charisms of the spiritual life given to humanity in Christ and in his Body, the Church. Thus Leo held firmly that everything he did and said as pope for the administration of the Church represented Christ, the head of the Mystical Body, and St. Peter, in whose place Leo acted.

At a time when there is widespread criticism of Church structures, we also hear criticism that bishops and priests—indeed, all of us—are too preoccupied with administration of temporal matters. Pope Leo is an example of a great administrator who used his talents in areas where spirit and structure are inseparably combined: doctrine, peace and pastoral care. He avoided an "angelism" that tries to live without the body, as well as the "practicality" that deals only in externals.

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Temple of Stones is a Symbol of the Living Church

Today the liturgy celebrates the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, called “mother and head of all the churches of the city and the world.” In fact, this basilica was the first to be built after Emperor Constantine’s edict, in 313, granted Christians freedom to practice their religion.

The emperor himself gave Pope Miltiades the ancient palace of the Laterani family, and the basilica, the baptistery, and the patriarchate, that is, the Bishop of Rome’s residence — where the Popes lived until the Avignon period — were all built there. The basilica’s dedication was celebrated by Pope Sylvester around 324 and was named Most Holy Savior; only after the 6th century were the names of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist added, and now is typically denominated by these latter.

Initially the observance of this feast was confined to the city of Rome; then, beginning in 1565, it was extended to all the Churches of the Roman rite. The honoring of this sacred edifice was a way of expressing love and veneration for the Roman Church, which, as St. Ignatius of Antioch says, “presides in charity” over the whole Catholic communion (Letter to the Romans, 1:1).

On this solemnity the Word of God recalls an essential truth: the temple of stones is a symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, which in their letters the Apostles Peter and Paul already understood as a “spiritual edifice,” built by God with “living stones,” namely, Christians themselves, upon the one foundation of Jesus Christ, who is called the “cornerstone” (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17; 1 Peter 2:4-8; Ephesians 2:20-22). “Brothers, you are God’s building,” St. Paul wrote, and added: “holy is God’s temple, which you are” (1 Corinthians 3:9c, 17).

The beauty and harmony of the churches, destined to give praise to God, also draws us human beings, limited and sinful, to convert to form a “cosmos,” a well-ordered structure, in intimate communion with Jesus, who is the true Saint of saints. This happens in a culminating way in the Eucharistic liturgy, in which the “ecclesia,” that is, the community of the baptized, come together in a unified way to listen to the Word of God and nourish themselves with the Body and Blood of Christ. From these two tables the Church of living stones is built up in truth and charity and is internally formed by the Holy Spirit transforming herself into what she receives, conforming herself more and more to the Lord Jesus Christ. She herself, if she lives in sincere and fraternal unity, in this way becomes the spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God.

Dear friends, today’s feast celebrates a mystery that is always relevant: God’s desire to build a spiritual temple in the world, a community that worships him in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23-24). But this observance also reminds us of the importance of the material buildings in which the community gathers to celebrate the praises of God. Every community therefore has the duty to take special care of its own sacred buildings, which are a precious religious and historical patrimony. For this we call upon the intercession of Mary Most Holy, that she help us to become, like her, the “house of God,” living temple of his love.

— Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, November 9, 2008

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Heaven and Hell

A very old man knew that he was going to die very soon. Before he died, he wanted to know what heaven and hell were like, so he visited the wise man in his village.

“Can you please tell me what heaven and hell are like?” he asked the wise man.

“Come with me and I will show you,” the wise man replied.

The two men walked down a long path until they came to a large house. The wise man took the old man inside, and there they found a large dining room with an enormous table covered with every kind of food imaginable. Around the table were many people all thin and hungry, who were holding 12-foot chopsticks. Every time they tried to feed themselves, the food fell off the chopsticks.

The old man said to the wise man, “Surely this must be hell. Will you now show me heaven?” The wise man said, “Yes, come with me.”

The two men left the house and walked further down the path until they reached another large house. Again they found a large dining room and in it a table filled with all kinds of delicious foods. The people there were happy and appeared well fed, but they also held 12-foot chopsticks.”

“How can this be? Said the old man. “These people have 12-foot chopsticks and yet they are happy and well fed.”

The wise man replied, “In heaven the people feed each other.”

Morris and His New Car

The story is told of Morris, a Russian man, who saved his rubles for twenty years to buy a new car. After choosing the model and options he wants, he's not the least bit surprised or even concerned to learn that it will take two years for the new car to be delivered. He thanks the salesman and starts to leave, but as he reaches the door he pauses and turns back to the salesman. "Do you know which week two years from now the new car will arrive?"

The salesman checks his notes and tells the man that it will be two years to the exact week. The man thanks the salesman and starts out again, but upon reaching the door, he turns back again.

"Could you possibly tell me what day of the week two years from now the car will arrive?"

The salesman, mildly annoyed, checks his notes again and says that it will be exactly two years from this week, on Thursday.

Morris thanks the salesman and once again starts to leave. Halfway through the door, he hesitates, turns back, and walks up to the salesman.

"I'm sorry to be so much trouble, but do you know if that will be two years from now on Thursday in the morning, or in the afternoon?"

Visibly irritated, the salesman flips through his papers yet another time and says sharply that it will be in the afternoon, two years from now on Thursday.

"That's a relief!" says Morris. "The plumber is coming that morning!"

We often have to make plans far in advance so as to avoid any conflicts. Before making any commitments -- you know the routine -- we have to pull out the date book (or the iPhone). "The kids have got a soccer game that night at 7:00, but the next night is free." Planning ahead isn't wrong; in fact, it's a scriptural principle. What makes it wrong, though, is planning ahead without any thought of God.

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.' " (James 4:13-15)

Go ahead! Make your plans! Fill in that date book!

Just make sure that God hasn't been left out.

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

In our first reading and gospel today we hear about two widows, both nameless and both very generous.  The widow in our first reading, called the widow of Zarephath, had the good fortune to run into Elijah the prophet just as she was gathering sticks to make a small fire and prepare a final meal for herself and her son.  She believed that they both would starve to death.  God, however, had different plans for the widow.  God sent Elijah to her saying "Move on to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there.  I have designated a widow there to provide for you" (1 Kings 17:9).  So, when Elijah encounters the widow he asks for some water and food.  What Elijah did not know was that God sent him to a very poor, almost starving widow. But Elijah had faith in God and the widow clearly believed Elijah when he told her "the LORD, the God of Israel, says, 'The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth'" (1 Kings 17:14).  She took all the food she had and gave it to Elijah and because of her generosity "She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the LORD had foretold through Elijah" (1 Kings 17:15-16).  This is a good story with a happy ending. 

The story of the widow St. Mark presents in today's gospel, Mark 12:38-44, is a study in contrast.  While sitting outside the temple treasury in Jerusalem, Jesus observes many rich people putting in large sums.  He then sees this widow putting two small coins in the treasury.  Calling his disciples "to himself," he points her out to them saying, "Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood." Unlike the widow of  Zarephath, this widow gave everything she had without the assurance of better things to come.  Her humble offering came unsolicited. It came from her heart and was inspired by her total dependence on God. She held on to nothing for herself.  She trusted that God would take care of her and all her needs.

We do not know how this story ends.  We do not know what happened to the poor widow.  What we have is her remarkable example of faith, trust and generosity of spirit.  She was a role model for the disciples and she is a role model for all of us today. 

Today is Veteran’s Day in the USA and Remembrance Day in Commonwealth countries and parts of Europe.  Veteran’s Day was formally known as Armistice Day and it marks the end of hostilities between the Allied  nations and Germany in World War I.  The fighting ceased on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. Although the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, the end of WWI is considered to be November 11, 1918. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 Armistice Day in November 1919 and Congress approved the day as a legal holiday in 1938.  In 1954 Congress amended the Act of 1938, changing Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day, to honor American veterans of all wars.  Memorial Day honors U.S. service people who died in action.

My maternal grandfather was killed in the Battle of the Somme in 1916; he was only nineteen years old.  So, November 11 has special significance for my family and me.  As you go about your day, pause at 11am and remember the price paid for freedom.  And say a prayer of thanksgiving for all the people in the military who were and are willing to sacrifice their lives to defend and preserve our freedom.    

O God,
protector of the widow and orphan,
giver of justice for the oppressed,
you uphold the poor who hope in you
and you sustain those who place their trust in your love.
Strengthen our faith,
that with simplicity of heart
we may come to trust in you alone
and hold back nothing in serving you.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.