Sunday, September 13, 2020

September, 2020 - Sr. Thea Bowman: A Bridge over Troubled Waters

Currently, there are some African-American holy people who are being considered for canonization in the Catholic Church. This is a formal process during which their lives are examined very closely.  


There are four major steps: (1) Usually, at least 5 years after the person's death, unless the Pope makes an exception, a request for canonization is made to the Bishop of the Diocese in which the person died. The request contains examples of the person's living a holy life, and lists reasons for considering canonization. The person is now named a “Servant of God.” Sr. Thea Bowman is one of the African-American holy people at this stage right now.

(2) During the second stage, the Bishop sends a formal report and request to Rome where nine theologians read the material and determine whether or not to go forward with the process by the study of the person’s writings and other aspects of his or her life to make sure the person was faithful to the teachings and practices of the Church. There is even one person called, a “devil’s advocate,” who is charged with asking questions which may reveal a reason the candidate is not qualified to be considered a saint. If the candidate is approved by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, he or she is declared “Venerable.”

(3) The third stage is beatification. If a person was a martyr, he or she may be beatified and called “Blessed.” Otherwise, a miracle must be attributed to the intercession of the candidate.  Once a person is named “Blessed,” he or she may be venerated or honored.

(4) The fourth stage is canonization. This requires a second miracle attributed to the intercession of the candidate. The Prefect of the Congregation then sends the request for canonization to the Pope who makes the final decision. When the person is canonized, he or she is officially declared a “Saint” and the Pope offers a special Mass in honor of the newly canonized "Saint."

The reason the Church chooses to formally canonize certain people is to provide spiritual  heroes and heroines for us to imitate in our own circumstances and times.

We all either personally know some saintly people, or at least have learned about about them. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia is a current example. After a life dedicated to family, the Civil Rights Movement, and more than three decades in the House of Representatives, he recently lost his battle with cancer. When announcing this death, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who knew him personally, gave him honor with the words: "Today, America mourns the loss of one of the greatest heroes of American history: Congressman John Lewis, the Conscience of the Congress."

While I taught and served as campus minister at Xavier University of Louisiana, the only historically Black Catholic University in the United States, I attended the Black Catholic Institute one summer. Sr. Thea  Bowman had helped to establish the Institute which provided classes on topics of interest and usefulness for Black people and others who worked among people of color.

Sr. Thea, who was a gifted, dynamic preacher, sometimes taught classes on preaching at Xavier. The summer I was there, one of the professors became ill and Sr. Thea was the substitute. I vividly recall one class. We had assembled in the chapel and were chatting among ourselves. I, and probably others, had not noticed that on one side of the chapel were seated black students and on the other were mostly white students. When Sr. Thea arrived, she looked out on the class and noticed the situation. Before she began the class, we had to get up and mix with one another This was typical of Sr. Thea. She always tried to bridge the gaps between peoples of different races.  

While I taught and served as campus minister at Xavier University of Louisiana, the only historically Black Catholic University in the United States, I attended the Black Catholic Institute one summer.  Sr. Thea  had helped to establish the Institute which provided classes on topics of interest and usefulness for black people and others who worked among people of color.

Sr. Thea, who was a gifted, dynamic preacher, sometimes taught classes on preaching at Xavier. The summer I was there, one of the professors became ill and Sr. Thea was the substitute. I vividly recall one class. 

 We had assembled in the chapel and were chatting among ourselves.  I and probably others had not noticed that on one side of the chapel were seated black students and on the other were white and brown students.  When Sr. Thea arrived, she looked out on the class and noticed the situation. Before she began the class, we had to get up and mix with one another. This was typical of Sr. Thea. She always tried to bridge the gaps between peoples of different races.  

In 1937, Sr. Thea was born, Bertha Bowman, in Yazoo City, Mississippi. Her grandfather had been born into slavery. Nevertheless, her father became a doctor and her mother a teacher.  Raised in a Methodist home, she attended a Catholic School run by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration from La Crosse, Wisconsin. At nine years old, with her parents' permission, she converted to the Catholic faith and later join the Congregation of her teachers.

As the only Black member in her all white Community,  Sr. Thea shared the beauty of her own culture through the years. Also, in her educational ministries from elementary school to university level she inspired people with her deep spirituality which was evident from her inspirational talks and black sacred song. In 1987, Sr. Thea became instrumental in publishing a new Catholic hymnal Lead Me,Guide Me: The African American Catholic Hymnal.

After sixteen years in education, Sr. Thea was invited by the Bishop of Jackson, Mississippi to become a consultant for intercultural awareness for his diocese. At this point, Sr. Thea was able to focus more on her mission to help people to appreciate their differences and maintain their cultural identities. With respect for her own traditions and those of others, Sr. Thea created a sense of fellowship among people of different races and religions.

When Sr. Thea was stricken with breast cancer, she continued to be an inspiration to others. As long as she could, she continued to give inspirational talks from a wheelchair, with a bare head and the assistance of a Sister friend. She had determined that she would live life fully until she died.

When bedridden, she counseled children whose parents were suffering with cancer that it was good to talk to their loved ones about what was going on. Sister was an inspiration at all times. When asked what she would like to be written on her gravestone, she simply said to put "I tried."

Shortly before she died, she spoke to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bishops, deeply touched by her talk, loudly applauded her. Led by Sr. Thea, they then stood linking arms and singing the spiritual: "We shall Overcome."

In an interview with Mike Wallace on a 60-minutes show, Sr. Thea said: "I think the difference between me and some people is that I'm content to do my little bit. Sometimes people think they have to do big things in order to make change. But if each one would light a candle we'd have a tremendous light."

Let us strive like Sr. Thea to be bridges between all peoples in the troubled waters of our time.


Comments:

Stephanie Morris, ASBS, Ph.D. Historian C.A.emerita

Sr. Thea Bowman said that she was willing to "do my little bit." Each of us can say that. Not all of us are famous or wealthy enough to be recognized as generous benefactors, but each of us can do our "little bit" to expand God's kingdom on earth. Mother Katharine prayed that she would "learn to know [Jesus] in the sanctifying prose of daily duties." Yes, even the mundane duties such as washing dishes or making a bed can be sanctifying if we offer our activities in a "Morning Offering," offering all we do to the the glory of God.

The Christophers used to say: "It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." We don't have to light the world but we can brighten up our little corner of it. We can do this by letting the light of God's love shine through our words and actions.

 

Pat Chiaffa, ASBS

Wow, Sr. Annette, you certainly gave us a bang for our buck with today’s blog! Thank you for outlining the steps involved in the Canonization process as well as giving us such touching insight into the life of Sr. Thea Bowman. It will be exciting to follow the progression of Sr. Bowman’s cause.

The “devil’s advocate” will be at a loss to find anything that would halt Sr. Thea’s proceeding through the “Servant of God” stage. I found it remarkable that she converted to Catholicism at only nine years of age. Indeed, she was a very special child, chosen and gifted with talents that God wanted her to share.

Sr. Bowman undoubtedly inspired countless individuals during her sixteen years as an educator. In her position of Consultant for Intercultural Awareness she was able to impact an even greater community. I admire how she emphasized appreciation of cultural differences and respect of cultural traditions. This positive approach surely contributed to the successful creation of fellowship between people of different races and religions.

Her determination to “Live until she died” is very uplifting. Reactions to diagnoses of terminal illness are unique to individuals. Many people chose to retreat from the world to concentrate on getting affairs in order, on resting for maximum comfort, on surrendering to the twilight of the final season.  Sr. Bowman’s choice to continue her life passion of addressing issues of social justice and inspiring others to follow the teachings of the church was a courageous response that certainly led many people to commit to living a more intentional life.

Additionally, the counsel she gave, while bedridden, to the children of parents suffering with cancer to have the dialogue that would bring closure to their family life was invaluable. She planted seeds of peace in the grieving hearts of those who followed her bedside advice.

It is easy to see how Sr. Thea inspired so many people. Her love of God and fellow man is so apparent. Her humility shines through in her comment, “I tried,” as the desired engraving on her gravestone.

I sincerely believe that we will one day celebrate the canonization of St. Thea Bowman, and that her life story will one day appear in the pages of Modern Day Saints. 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

St. Monica and St. Augustine of Hippo


This month we celebrate the feasts of St. Monica and her son, St. Augustine. We will begin our reflections on St. Monica. Born in North Africa in 332 a.d. She was a devout Christian who married a non-Christian named Patricius. They had three children. Their son Augustine exhibited exceptional intelligence, so they sent him away to be well educated, eventually studying in Carthage, the great city on the northern coast of Africa. Because of her prayers and example, her husband became a Christian himself.

St. Augustine was also born in North Africa and became a source of concern for his parents as a young  adult. Forsaking his Christian Faith, he became a follower of Mani, a Persian prophet. Ambitious to advance his career, Augustine left Africa to seek a career in Rome in 383 a.d. He eventually became a professor  of rhetoric in Milan. 

While in Milan, Augustine was impressed with the preaching of the Bishop, St. Ambrose and eventually was baptized by him, returning to his Christian Faith. After 16 years of praying for her son, St. Monica had the joy of seeing her son embrace the Christian faith as an adult. She traveled to Milan to see him and died on the way home to Africa, saying that all her hopes had been fulfilled.
 
In the meantime, Augustine had fathered a son by a long-term lover, who left the baby with him. The young father named his son Adeodatus and moved back to his native town in Tagaste to raise his son, care for family property, and spend time writing.

When his son died as a teenager, Augustine sold the property and became a clergyman in the coastal city of Hippo, north of Tagaste in North Africa. After his conversion and with his gift for preaching in a way to appeal to all peoples, Augustine was eventually called to be the Bishop of Hippo.

With Augustine's talent for writing about religious topics and his ability to preach in such a way as to sway the intellectual community, as well the ordinary people, he became involved in defending the Faith. While he was a prolific writer, many of his works were lost. However, there are some which have survived to this day. Two poplar books which survive are The City of God and the Confessions of St. Augustine.

St. Monica has long been an advocate for wives and mothers who pray for their spouses and children.  She is a source of hope for devout Christians who are concerned about family members and others who have lost their way. Let us invoke her assistance whose example and prayers led her husband to embrace the Faith and her wayward son to end up as a holy Saint.

Augustine reminds us of God's mercy and that He is always willing to give us a second chance to return to Him and be loved unconditionally. He or she might even be given the graces to become a Saint.  

Praise the Lord!!!   

Comments:


Stephanie Morris, Ph.D. Historian, certified Archivist, ASBS emerita

St. Katharine urged the Sisters to “Pray, whether you feel like it or not …. We never lose by making an effort.”

Sixteen years is a long time to pray for a special intention; St. Monica may have felt weary at times, saying the same prayer over and over again. But God heard every prayer and every heart-felt wish. St. Monica lived to see her prayers answered when St. Augustine returned to the practice of the Christian faith.

When I say a “Hail Mary” to Our Lady, Queen of Peace, I don’t see any result. But I hope that maybe a breeze of cool air will comfort a soldier in a hot, dry climate. Thinking that, I continue to pray for peace and trust that Our Lady and Our Lord hear.


 Pat Chiafa, ASBS emerita

Every evening at 8:00pm I pray the Relevant Radio Family Rosary across America facilitated by Fr. Francis Hoffman, aka “Father Rocky.” Nightly, there are several requests from mothers asking for prayers that their children will return to the faith. Father Rocky has stated multiple times that this is the most requested prayer received. I include my own sons in this petition as well. St. Monica has been a source of inspiration and hope for me throughout the years.

There is no greater moment in life than when a mother cuddles her new born infant. She sees the face of God in that precious baby and her heart is overwhelmed and warmed by its innocence and purity. My tears of joy that flowed at the birth of my children were motivated by the sheer marvel at having co-created with God to bring forth such love. In that moment God is so real and the awareness of His Presence in this tiny being is rooted in the depth of our being. That experience is etched on our heart and it remains forever. We have such dreams for our children. While I did not entertain any specific outcome for their life, I assumed that my boys would embrace the values that were sacred to me. To that end, they attended 12 years of Catholic school as well as Catholic college. I am deeply saddened that each one has chosen not to actively practice the faith.

It is natural that adult children set out on their own path and seek adventure and fulfillment. You noted St. Augustine left his homeland seeking to advance his career. As mothers we are concerned that distractions may pull them into harmful directions. Henri Nouwen articulates my burden when he writes, “I suspect that we too often have lost contact with the source of our own existence and have become strangers in our own house. We tend to run around trying to solve the problems of our world while anxiously avoiding confrontation with that reality wherein our problems find their deepest roots: our own selves.”

St. Monica is a wonderful reminder that it is with faithful trust that God will hear our prayers for our children and give them the opportunity to return to his open arms where He will welcome them home.

Monday, June 8, 2020

June 14, 2020 Feast of Corpus Christi


Reading I: Deut. 8:2-3,14b-16a

Psalm 147

Reading II: 1 Cor 10:16-17

Gospel: John 6:51-68

 

This year during the month of June, we celebrate the Feasts of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary all in the same week. The next Sunday we celebrate Father’s Day. As I tried to pull together the commonalities, the word “Love” stood out.

 

Jesus summarized his whole message in that way also when he responded to a question: "What is the greatest of the Commandments?” He said that you must love God, your neighbor and yourself. Throughout history, different laws have been emphasized according to the needs of the people. For example, the Jewish people were forbidden to eat pork. At the time, there was no refrigeration and there was an organism which developed in pork which would make the people very sick if they ate it. The law was given to protect the people’s health.

 

Many years ago, a college student of mine invited me out to eat with her Jewish boyfriend. He ordered pork as part of his meal. He then explained that there are different branches of the Jewish faith: Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformed. I believe there are more now. The Orthodox still will not eat pork because they believe that is still God’s will. Some other branches tend to believe it was only meant for the time when eating pork was unsafe.

 

There is no question about the importance of Love. It is found frequently in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures (Old and New Testaments and in other religious scriptures).

 

The following references of love struck me:

Nehemiah 9:17

“You are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.”

 

Isaiah 54:10

“ ‘For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

 

Nahum 1:7

“The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows those who take refuge in Him.”


Jesus also speaks of love many times in the New Testament -

John 13:1

"It was now the day before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. He had always loved those in the world who were his own, and he loved them to the very end."


John 13:24-25

"And not I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples."


John 14:23

"During his discourse at the Last Supper, Jesus said 'Whoever loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and my Father and I will come to him and live with him."


John 17:20-21

"At the end of the meal, Jesus prayer to his Father for the disciples and all of us: 'I pray not only for them, but also for those who believe in me because of their message. I pray that they all may be one. Father! May they be in us just as you are in me and I am in you.' "

Also, in William Johnston’s book, The Inner Eye of Love, he notes that “love” is the essence of most religions.

The Feast of Corpus Christi celebrates the Lord’s sacrifice of himself for our salvation and his giving us his Body and Blood under the appearance of bread and wine to express his love and to strengthen us on our Journeys. 

On the Feast of the Sacred Heart, we celebrate a devotion requested by Jesus. He appeared to St. Margaret Mary to emphasize his love by revealing his heart. Shortly, after that devotion became popular, the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary followed, emphasizing her maternal love for all her children.

More recently, when Jesus appeared to St. Faustina, he again asked that a devotion be spread with his heart exposed, emphasizing his love and mercy. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is a very appropriate prayer for our times.

The Chaplet of the Divine Mercy is said on the rosary beads. 

  1. The Sign of the Cross
  2. The Our Father
  3. The Hail Mary
  4. The Apostle’s Creed 
  5. On single large beads: Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
  6. On the 10 small beads: For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
  7. After the 5 decades are prayed,three times pray: Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
  8. The Sign of the Cross

The Chaplet is prayed on EWTN at 3 p.m. est

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It is important to thank Jesus for sharing his Father with us when he taught us to pray: ”Our Father.”

We are also celebrating our earthly Fathers whose most valuable gift to their children is love.

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers, grandfathers, and those who provide fatherly love for others!

Monday, April 27, 2020

May 3, 2020 The Fourth Week of Easter

May- Month to Remember Mothers
Reading IActs 2:14a,36-41
Psalm 23
Reading II: 1 Peter 2:20b-25
Gospel: John 10:1-10

In today's Gospel and in Psalm 23, Jesus refers to himself as the “Good Shepherd.” This beloved Psalm brings comfort to people both during the ups and downs of life and when facing their death. I can remember when I was in the fifth grade, I had a devout public school teacher who at the beginning of the day would have us salute the flag and then recite together Psalm 23. What a wonderful start for our day!

Throughout my life the image of the Good Shepherd has had a special place in my heart. During my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I had the blessing of participating at Mass in a small church dedicated to the Good Shepherd located in a field where sheep grazed. The Franciscan priest leading the pilgrimage preached a beautiful sermon on the Good Shepherd.

Later, while ministering on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, I had the opportunity to observe shepherdess's tending their sheep on the grounds of the Desert House of Prayer. What a delight that was! 

Also, while on the Reservation, I was the contact for the Associates of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. One of the Associates happened to be a shepherdess herself. I recall her concern for the sheep, especially as she became older and less able. She searched diligently among her younger relatives to find just the right caring person to put in charge of the sheep when she would no longer be able to care for them.

In the May 2020 issue of Living with Christ, there is an excellent article by Pope Francis entitled: "Attending to God's Word."  Pope Francis provides a practical method for praying the Scriptures:
After calling upon the Holy Spirit for assistance, aware that you are in the presence of God, ask the Lord:
        1. What does this text say to me ?
        2. What is it about my life that you want to change by this text?
        3. What troubles me about this text? Or perhaps: What do I find Pleasant 
            in this text? What is it that moves me? What attracts me? Why?

When we make an effort to listen to the Lord, temptations usually arise. One of them is simply to feel troubled or burdened, and to turn away. Another common temptation is to think about what the text means for other people, and so avoid applying it to our own life. It can also happen that we look for excuses to water down the clear meaning of the text. Or we can wonder if God is demanding too much of us, asking for a decision which we are not yet prepared to make.

This leads many people to stop taking pleasure in encounter with God's word; but this would mean forgetting that no one is more patient than God our Father, that no one is more understanding and willing to wait. God always invites us to take a step forward, but does not demand a full response if we are not yet ready. God simply asks that we sincerely look at our life and present ourselves honestly before God, and that we be willing to continue to grow, asking from God what we ourselves cannot as yet achieve.

This reflection is adapted from Pope Francis' The Joy of the Gospel.

You might like to apply Pope Francs' method of praying the Scriptures to Psalm 23 or another passage.


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Jesus has given us many precious gifts, including sharing his Father when he taught us the "Our Father Prayer," his sending us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, and placing us under the protection of his own mother Mary.

Through the centuries, our Blessed Mother has appeared at difficult times to be a comfort to those who are suffering. During an especially painful time in 1531, our Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec convert to Christianity, on Tepeyac Hill now in a suburb of Mexico City. She asked that a shrine in her honor be built there.

However, when Juan Diego brought her message to the bishop, he doubted the reality of the apparition. Therefore, he demanded a sign before he would build a church there. When Mother Mary appeared again, Juan Diego was all upset because he could not convince the Bishop of the reality of his vision. Gently, she spoke these endearing words: "Hear me and understand well, my little son, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed .... Am I not here who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection?" [Juan Diego was a grown man, the diminutive 'my little son' was an expression of affection].

Our Lady then instructed Juan Diego to pick some roses on the top of the Hill and bring them as a sign to the bishop. [It was December when that type of rose would not normally bloom.]  Juan Diego carried them to the Bishop in his tilma, [poncho].  When he opened the tilma, the roses fell to the ground. Printed on the tilma was a picture of Our Lady as she had appeared to Juan Diego. 

The bishop fell to his knees and ordered the construction of the Shrine which is visited daily even now and contains the tilma with the imprint of the picture of Our Blessed Mother.  

Our Lady of Guadalupe is credited with the ending of a deadly epidemic of hemorrhagic fever which ravaged Mexico City from 1736-37. Pope John Paul II canonized Juan Diego and declared Our Lady of Guadalupe the patroness of the Americas. 

Might she not help us in the deadly pandemic which we are experiencing now? Let us pray to her who is our Mother too.

                       
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Blessings on Mother's Day and Thank You, Mothers, Grandmothers, adoptive mothers, And all who serve others in a motherly way! 
May those who have passed on enjoy the peace and joy of their heavenly rewards!




Comments

Pat Chiaffa, ASBS
As I entered the kitchen, I heard what sounded like the juggling of the storm door lock on my back door. Terror struck me immediately as I realized I had not shut and locked the back door for the night. Cautiously descending the steps leading down to the basement in the darkness, I caught sight of the would-be invader. The intensity of my scream startled him just enough for him to lose his grip on the handle. In that split second I was able to put the security latch on the storm door and shut and lock the inside door. Trembling as I dialed 911 on my cell phone, I ran to the front door to make sure it too was locked. My heart raced and I felt as though I couldn’t breathe. It was at that point that I awakened from my nightmare in a panicked state. My heart was pounding. I did not think that I’d regain my breath nor slow down my heart rate. “Lord help me,” I prayed. Then I remembered Psalm 23 and started meditating on its calming words, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” I visualized the verdant pastures and the restful waters. Falling into the arms of the Shepherd, my breathing and heart rate slowly normalized. My mantra for the following day was, “only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life.” Your blog, and Psalm 23, were the last words I read before I went to bed. Both turned out to be a life line.

My unsettling dream, I believe, was symbolic of a recurring trust issue. Ego versus soul, or as you put it in your blog, I encountered head-on the temptation that arises when we endeavor to listen to the wisdom of Spirit. I am extremely guilty of making excuses to water down the clear meaning of Scripture texts. I have done it far too long and too often. Like a sheep wandering from the fold in search of greener pastures, my first instinct when I realized I was in dangerous territory was to call out to the One who eagerly awaits my return. I can’t ignore the blaring message that I am being called to surrender to the Shepherd. I overcame the thief; the conflict was life-threatening. Jesus, who is the gate, assures that the robber will not pass through. I know Jesus’ promise is trust worthy for He willingly died for His flock so they can settle in eternal pastures. Lord, free me from the unfounded fears and inaction that currently prevent me from entering through your gate.

As we enter the month of May, I ask the Blessed Mother to intercede for me to overcome my resistance to total surrender to her Son that I may become a faithful, dedicated disciple in imitation of her life and contribution to the Christian community. Mary’s powerful intercession before God is widely recognized and deeply sought. Prelates from the United States and Canada will be reconsecrating their countries to the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 1 under the title of Mary, Mother of the Church. Prayers to Mary are fervently offered daily by the faithful for an end to the corona virus pandemic and for the well-being of all those impacted by the virus. May these prayers strengthen our faith in God’s plan, support us throughout these days of physical distancing and teach us the unique lessons we are meant to realize through this global crisis.

Lastly, as we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day, let us express our gratitude to / for all those special people in our life who nurtured us and contributed to our physical, emotional and spiritual growth.


Stephanie Morris, ASBS, Ph.D Historian, Certified Archivist, Emerita The readings focus on shepherds leading their flocks. We refer to priests as “shepherds” of their “flocks” – the parishioners. Our Lord is our “Good Shepherd;” we are His “flock.” Shepherds were the first to reverence the Infant Jesus and His Mother on that first Christmas. Shepherds were not the “elite” in Jesus’ time. They worked every day, even on the Sabbath, to protect their flocks. St. Katharine quotes St. Matthew’s Gospel where he describes people as being “like sheep without a shepherd” (9:36). The Lord said that laborers were scarce. Young St. Katharine wrote an essay, “Wanted Gardeners,” in which she described a desolate garden. The flowers “ran wild and uncared for …. Where are the laborers?” She could have asked, where are the shepherds? How can we be shepherds? Few of us are called to a religious vocation in which we can act as Shepherds of God’s People but there are other ways. Like the shepherds at Jesus’ birth, we can reverence
Jesus and His Mother by prayer. We can pray for more vocations to the priesthood. We can honor Mary, His Mother, in a special way this May. We are beset with the dangers of a pandemic; we can pray to the Good Shepherd to protect us from these dangers if possible. We can rely on His strength and patience in suffering to help us through the darkest days.

Monday, March 30, 2020

April 5, 2020 Holy Week - Easter

Reading I: Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Psalm 118
Reading II: Colossians 3:1-4
Gospel: Luke 24:13-35


We are Easter people and "Alleluia" is our Song. Let us sing "Alleluia" 
here and now in this life, even though we are oppressed by various 
worries, so that we may sing it one day in the world to come, 
when we are set free from all anxiety.
-St. Augustine of Hippo



(On Easter Sunday, there are choices given to the priests regarding the Scriptures to be read. Therefore, if you have heard a different Gospel from the one I have chosen, realize that it is just a different choice. I chose it since it seems to include what is contained in the others.)

In today's Gospel from Luke, we find the risen Jesus joining two of his disciples on their way to Emmaus. When Jesus asked them what they were conversing about, they where talking about the recent crucifixion and death of Jesus. They were confused and troubled because they knew Jesus' body was no longer in the tomb. Had some people removed it? They had witnessed Jesus' miracles. Why had he not saved himself? 


Jesus responded: "Oh how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" Jesus then interpreted the prophets for them.


As evening approached, the disciples invited Jesus to stay with them. As they sat down for an evening meal, Jesus said a blessing and took bread, broke it and gave it to them. They then recognized Jesus and exclaimed,"Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?" 


They returned to Jerusalem where they found the eleven and others who exclaimed that Jesus had appeared to Simon. Together they proclaimed that Jesus had risen. It was the appearances of Jesus in his risen body that had assured them that promise of a Savior had been fulfilled.


There are two parts of the Easter Liturgies which are special to them.


1. An ancient hymn called a "sequence" used to be sung to add to the ceremony of the gospel procession. Today it can be sung or recited at the Easter Masses. Let us take time to reflect on the beautiful words:


Praise the Pascal Victim

Christian, to the Pascal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
A Lamb the sheep redeems;  
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciles sinners to the Father
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous: 
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.

Speak, Mary, declaring what you saw, wayfaring.
The tomb of Christ who is living,
The glory of Jesus' resurrection;
Bright angels attesting, the shroud and napkin resting.

Yes, Christ my hope is arisen; 
To Galilee he goes before you.
Christ indeed from death is risen,
our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen, Alleluia.

2. It is important to meditate on Renewal of Baptismal Promises so that they become more meaningful. Usually, this happens after the reading of the Gospel.

The Celebrant will say:
Dear brothers and sisters, through the Paschal Mystery we have been buried with Christ in Baptism, so that we may walk with him in newness of life.
And so, now that our Lenten observance is concluded, let us renew the promises of Holy Baptism, by which we once renounced Satan and his works and promised to serve God in the holy Catholic Church. And so I ask you.


1. Do you renounce Satan? I do.
And all his works? I do.
And all his empty show? I do. 

2. Do you renounce sin, so as to live in the freedom of the children of God? I do.
Do you renounce the lure of evil, so that sin may have no mastery over you? I do.
Do you renounce Satan, the author and prince of sin? I do.

Since we are weak human beings, we need to ask the Lord's help to keep our promises. With his grace, we can be faithful.



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Let us pray for those who are sick from the Coronavirus-19, their families, care takers, all our government leaders, health-care providers,  and scientists who are searching for cures.

May you and your loved ones have a blessed, happy, and healthy Easter! 




Spanish Translation

(El domingo de Pascua, se dan opciones a los sacerdotes con respecto a las Escrituras para ser leídas. Por lo tanto, si ha escuchado un Evangelio diferente al que yo he elegido, tenga en cuenta que es solo una elección diferente. Lo elegí porque parece incluir lo que está 
contenido en los demás.)

En el Evangelio de hoy de Lucas, encontramos al Jesús resucitado uniéndose a dos de sus discípulos en su camino a Emaús. Cuando Jesús les preguntó de qué estaban conversando, ellos hablaron sobre la reciente crucifixión y muerte de Jesús. Estaban confundidos y preocupados porque sabían que el cuerpo de Jesús ya no estaba en la tumba. ¿Algunas personas lo habían eliminado? Habían presenciado los milagros de Jesús. ¿Por qué no se había salvado a sí mismo?

Jesús respondió: "¡Oh, qué tonto eres! ¡Cuán lento de corazón para creer todo lo que los profetas hablaron! ¿No era necesario que el Cristo sufriera estas cosas y entrara en su gloria?" Entonces Jesús interpretó a los profetas por ellos.

A medida que se acercaba la noche, los discípulos invitaron a Jesús a quedarse con ellos. Mientras se sentaban a cenar, Jesús dijo una bendición y tomó pan, lo partió y se lo dio. Entonces reconocieron a Jesús y exclamaron: "¿No ardían nuestros corazones dentro de nosotros mientras nos hablaba en el camino y nos abría las Escrituras?"

Regresaron a Jerusalén donde encontraron a los once y otros que exclamaron que Jesús se había aparecido a Simón. Juntos proclamaron que Jesús había resucitado. Fue la aparición de Jesús en su cuerpo resucitado lo que les aseguró que se había cumplido la promesa de un Salvador.

Hay dos partes de las liturgias de Pascua que son especiales para ellos:

1. Un antiguo himno llamado "secuencia" solía cantarse para agregar a la ceremonia de la procesión del evangelio. Hoy se puede cantar o recitar en las misas de Pascua

2. Es importante meditar en la Renovación de las Promesas Bautismales para que sean más significativas. Por lo general, esto sucede después de la lectura del Evangelio.

Como somos seres humanos débiles, debemos pedir la ayuda del Señor para cumplir nuestras promesas. Con su gracia, podemos ser fieles.
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Oremos por aquellos que están enfermos por el Coronavirus-19, sus familias, cuidadores, todos nuestros líderes gubernamentales, proveedores de atención médica y científicos que están buscando curas.

¡Que usted y sus seres queridos tengan una Pascua bendecida, feliz y saludable!


Comments:

Pat Chiaffa, ASBS
This past November I took a mini vacation to Savannah, Georgia. The trip was my first real get-away in forty years, so needless to say I was very excited. Savannah was no exception to the extreme weather conditions that most cities along the east coast were experiencing. I departed Philadelphia in blustery rain only to find it cold and stormy in Savannah. It poured three out of the four days I visited. Sunday, however, was a glorious day and I spent every daylight hour exploring the city. I was greeted by a resident who was walking her dog in one of the town’s historic squares. She quickly assessed that I was a tourist because I was taking pictures of everything. She commented that the one photo I must absolutely take was of the “Resurrection” trees lining the path. She went on to tell me that if these trees are deprived of water for just a few days, their lush green draping foliage turns brown and dries out. If I had visited the prior week, I would be observing dead looking trees. Thus, the blustery cold rain that dampened my sightseeing and lead to turbulent flights “resurrected” these trees to vibrant life. 

Naturally, I was thinking spiritually principles as this hometown lady related the nature of the trees. After all, we go through a similar transformation with every dark period we experience. If we invite Jesus to tread with us through the rainy days of life, we too will emerge renewed like the unique trees of Savannah.

Lent is a time dedicated to reflection and prayerfulness. Acknowledging my sinfulness, I petition God for mercy and strength. During these “examination of conscious” moments I recognize patterns of behavior that deplete my spirit, deadening it to my soul’s needs. When in this withered state, I am incapable of noticing the needs of others. Worse, I am apathetic to the suffering of others.

Unless I refresh myself with “Living Water,” my soul remains parched. This life giving water, of course, is Jesus. I look to the cross and see there the greatest love of all time. Total gift of Self, given that I will have life. We are showered with abundant grace when we meditate upon Christ’s passion and death. Such contemplation puts things in perspective, opens the heart to forgiveness, and reignites within us the desire to move forward as a dedicated disciple of Jesus.

Raised from the depths of my self-imposed separateness from God, self and others, I am restored to life. My “resurrected” self reflects the light, love and oneness of Christ radiating in and through me.

Once again, I celebrate the joy of my belovedness. It is Easter!

Stephanie Morris, ASBS, Ph.D Historian, Certified Archivist, Emerita 
Only one disciple on the road to Emmaus – Cleopas – is named; you might be the other. Does your heart burn when reading on listening to the Word of God? Does your soul sing “Alleluia” when you receive the Body and Blood of your Savior? How can you deepen your response to God’s Presence? A few quiet moments spent in gratitude, contrition, praise and petition might help to quiet our restless spirit and allow us to rest calmly in God’s loving embrace.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Mar 1 - The First Sunday of Lent & The Feast of St. Katharine Drexel



Reading I: Genesis 2: 7-9
Psalm 51
Reading II: Romans 5:12-19
Gospel: Matthew 4:1-11

There are many meanings of the word "Lent" in the English language, but the one we are focusing on is "springtime." When I think of spring, I think of growth, renewal, and resurrection.

First, I think of an awakening of the vegetation as it makes a path through the soil, pushes obstacles out of its way, and seeks nourishment for growth. All this enables it to provide food and beauty for our world.

That is what "lent" is about. We take time to examine our relationships with God, our brothers, and sisters. We ask the Lord to help us to discern what needs to happen to allow our spirits to grow. We seek to know the obstacles in our path and how to remove them. We also look to ways of nourishing our souls for greater growth.

What are obstacles in my path? 1) Am I unwilling to forgive? Ask the Lord and/or a spiritual friend for help. 2) Am I spending too much time watching TV or with social media, or something else so that I do not pray enough? What can I give up in order to spend more time with the Lord? 3) Do I enrich the soil by studying the Bible, doing spiritual reading, listening to spiritual songs or sermons, or engaging in faith-sharing circles, etc.? Ask the Lord what he wants of you.

In the spring, we also see renewal. Trees,which seemed to be dead in the winter, begin to bud forth and gift us with their beauty and welcomed shade. It may be that the Lord simply wants me to renew a holy practice which I have let go because of busyness or other reasons.

All this is in preparation for the new life which we will celebrate at the Easter Vigil and Masses with Alleluias and renewal of our Baptismal Vows. Then, we will be able to bring the light of Christ to our world in such need of hope and love.

The Feast of St. Katharine Drexel - March 3

St. Katharine Drexel, was the first canonized Saint to be born a United States citizen. She was a daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia banker, Francis Anthony Drexel. She and her whole family became philanthropists because they believed that their wealth was a gift to be shared with the needy.

As a child, Katharine helped her stepmother, Emma Bouvier, to distribute food, clothing, and rent assistance to needy. especially to the recently emancipated African Americans. Her sisters Elizabeth and Louise also helped. They were aware that these former slaves, although very capable, lacked the education to find good jobs.

From this experience, Katharine recognized the need for a good education to enable people to improve their lives. Later, when she became a Religious Sister and founded her a new Community, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, she stressed education as a way of improving the lives of the oppressed, especially, but not exclusively, among the Native Americans and African Americans.

Today, St. Katharine Drexel is the patroness of Philanthropists and Racial Justice. The following information is taken from an article by Brook Gregory found in EpicPew.com.

Five Times St. Katharine Drexel Won Against Racism 

1) When construction began for the convent St. Katharine was building for her new Community in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, people began to make threats. A stick of dynamite was found at the construction site of the Motherhouse. One of her first schools was destroyed by arson. These incidents did not deter St. Katharine from her work.

2) Needless to say, St. Katharine was not popular in the South during the early 1900's. Officials in Macon, Georgia, tried to prevent the Sisters from teaching at one of her schools. They simply did not want white women teaching and interacting with black students and their families. St. Katharine fought the law, won, and the school is still open.

3) Then, St. Katharine purchased a building with the intention of opening a Catholic Institution of Higher Education in New Orleans, Louisiana. When her plans became public knowledge, vandals broke in and smashed all the windows. St. Katharine made little of it and pursued her dream. Today, Xavier, a historically Black Catholic University, is still thriving and providing many professionals for the area and beyond.

4) A prayer response to a threat from the KKK of the Beaumont, Texas Chapter, is striking. On the door of a parish church, connected with one of her schools, a note was nailed which read, "We want an end to services here. Suppress it in one week or flogging with tar and feathers will follow." A few days late, nature responded in the form of a tornado that completely destroyed the Klan headquarters and killed two of its members. The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Beaumont were never bothered again.

5) St. Katharine outsmarted racist laws by designing the churches she built in the South in a special way. The people had to be segregated if a service was to be held legally. St. Katharine didn't like the idea that the Black people were roped off and relegated to the back of the church. Since St. Katherine couldn't change the laws, she changed the arrangement of the pews. St. Katharine had two front to back rows of pews in her churches. The law couldn't attack her or the people. The pews were still technically segregated, but the people of color were not forced to sit behind the white people. They were seated side by side.

St. Katharine advanced the legal protection of Native Americans and people of color through persistent letter-writing campaigns. Also, she was a vocal advocate of early civil rights legislation.

St. Katharine died at age 96 in 1955 on the eve of the Civil Rights Movement that she helped to advance long before its existence was even considered. The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, their Associates, Partners, Alumni, and friends carry on her Mission today. She left us much needed words of wisdom for today.


"Have a cordial respect for others in heart and mind; 
if there is any prejudice in the mind, we must uproot it, 
or it will tear us down."

Reflection Question: Ask the Lord to help you to know in what area/s he wants you to grow during this Lenten Season.



Comments:

Pat Chiaffa, ASBS
I was truly enlightened by your blog this week. Your description of the spiritual processes of growth, renewal and resurrection, using the example of how nature removes obstacles in its path as it seeks nourishment for sustenance is so relate-able. We can use this illustration, along with your questions that help us identify some of the obstacles that stand between us and our relationship to God, to offer others an understandable explanation of the importance of Lent in our spiritual development. 

Additionally, the information you shared on Saint Katharine Drexel was really interesting. St. Katharine Drexel’s courage and steadfast faith in the face of so many obstacles encountered in her mission is inspiring. She is a wonderful model of loving God and serving our brothers and sisters in Christ. I particularly enjoyed reading of Mother Katharine’s brilliant creativity in rearranging the pews in her churches to get around the racist law. Those of us fortunate enough to know any of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament get to witness her spirit in the activities, prayers and stories of these dedicated women.

Sadly, racism continues to plague our society and demoralize our youth. An article in The New York Times, by Amy Horman, on January 20, 2020, told of the experiences of 101 black teenagers in Washington, DC over a two-week period. Their stories were tracked by researchers who reported that the teens encountered more than 5600 instances of racial discrimination, averaging more than 5 instances per day for each teen.

The researchers reported that the magnitude of the discrimination faced by black adolescents affects how they feel, noting symptoms of depression, difficulty sleeping, loneliness and anxiety. Violence continues to escalate in our cities claiming precious lives and breaking the hearts of families. Recently in Philadelphia, police officers were fired for posting derogatory racist remarks on social media. St. Katharine’s words, “if there is any prejudice in the mind, we must uproot it, or it will tear us down,” are as true today as when she penned them.

In his book, Life of the Beloved Henri Nouwen writes that we are the ”Beloved” (of God). Not only are we the Beloved, we also “have to become the Beloved.” “Becoming the Beloved means letting the truth of our “Belovedness” become enfleshed in everything we think, say, or do…As long as ‘being the Beloved’ is little more than a beautiful thought…nothing really changes. What is required is to become the Beloved in the commonplaces of daily existence and, bit by bit, to close the gap that exists between what I know myself to be and the countless specific realities of everyday life.”

It is my intention to create time during the Lenten Season for meeting daily with God to let this “Belovedness” take root; to try to “become more fully who I already am.” If I were to fully accept this truth I would live differently – much more in alignment with the teachings of Jesus. I would forgive more and judge less, love more and fear less, give more and take less. It is only in claiming the gift of our own Belovedness that we can give to others the gift of their own Belovedness. That is a gift I would absolutely love to offer to another.


Stephanie Morris, ASBS, Ph.D Historian, Certified Archivist, Emerita
We often have great plans for big improvements. But to get to big changes, it is sometimes best to start with little ones. Mother Katharine noted that there is nothing small in God’s service. We can start to renew ourselves this Lent with small steps; maybe these will grow into big improvements. Can you find 5 minutes a day to sit quietly with God? Maybe read a Psalm, maybe sing/read/listen to a favorite hymn. Is there a line or refrain that jumps out, that asks you to re-read it, to think about it? God may be speaking to you in those words today. As you practice this, you may find yourself comfortably sitting with God for 10 minutes, or longer. Lots of medical experts have recently discovered the healing power of meditation. We have been blessed with this healing power for a long time.