01 May 2010

The Fifth Glorious Mystery

The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Lord Jesus, You died for to restore our broken relationship with the Father. You rose from the dead for our salvation. You imparted Your Holy Spirit to guide us on our way. You ascended into Your glory to be our High Priest. All this for us poor sinners. You shed the cross and exchanged Your crown of thorns for a crown of glory. Yet You did not stop there - though that would be more than we could ever dream of in this life. You go so far to share Your very crown with us. How wonderous a God you are! And our Mother, Your Mother, is the first to share in this amazing gift. By crowning her you show us that You are faithful to Your promises. Allow me, O Lord, to share in this promise of future glory. Allow me to one day receive my crown, which You have fashioned by Your blood, along with Mary. Allow me to lay my crown at Your feet and praise You with all the Blessed. Let Your grace fill my heart so that it burns with Your love.

30 April 2010

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery

The Crucifixion of Jesus

O majestic throne of Christ upon which He hung!  What is the Cross but the sum total of all the sins of every human person who has ever lived, lives, and ever will live condensed unto two beams of wood.  It is an instrument of torture and torment just as our sins rend the soul and rip the flesh.  It is the sign of the cruelty that reigns in each of our hearts.  It is as heavy as a mountain but as light as the flight of gossiping words.  And God was nailed to this thing - this reprobated wood!  His blood drained out upon its rough frame painting its ill intentions with love divine.  Pilot and the Jews believed that they had nailed this Jesus to the Cross.  Yet, they knew not the sublime truth.  The truth was that the cross was nailed to our Lord.  It was not our Lord who writhed upon the cross but the cross who writhed upon His sacred frame.  The death of God was unto life and that life was unto the death of the cross!  O sin, O cruelty, O wretched soul of demonic intentions, you have been nailed, pierced, thrust through and cast aside by the God who is sovereign over all.  O death, if you knew your fate would you have fled?  O cross of Christ would you not have rejected the nails if you knew your hour had come?  Yet, too late is the hour for your triumph.  Too late for the victory of the prince of this world.  Now is the day of the Lord's visitation.  Sin trembles, death retreats - the earth trembles and all is made anew.

The Fourth Glorious Mystery

The Assumption of Mary

Mary is the great image of the Christian.  Mary is the faithful virgin who unites her will so perfectly to the Father's will that our very redemption is made possible.  She is the immaculate one, the pure bride and model of the Church.  She gives birth to Christ in the flesh and she gives birth to each of us in the Spirit.  She is the perfect Christian.  It is no surprise that she would be taken up into heaven in such a radical way.  But is it so radical?  Is this not a foretaste of what will happen to our mortal bodies?  Does she not now receive what  we will all receive at the consummation of the world?  Yes.  Mary is the forerunner even as John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ.  In her very body Mary is the proof of the promises of Christ.  In her body she shows us what our future glory in heaven will one day be.  With our trust placed firmly on Christ we dare to hope that we will one day enter into the communion of the blessed.  Yet, more gloriously we will one day be reunited to our bodies as Mary is now united to hers.  What a wondrous gift.  How good is our Lord that He would raise up our broken and mortal flesh and infuse it with His very life.  We look to you O Mary as we travel through this troubled world.  You show us the humble way to your Son.  Guide us so that we may come to be with you in the glory of God for all eternity.  Look with mercy upon us who cry to you for we do not share your impeccable state.  We are sinners who follow you with little steps toward your most glorious Son.  Intercede for us, my Queen, and show us the way to Him.

29 April 2010

The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery

Jesus Carries the Cross

Who's Cross is this?  Surely the Cross does not belong to Jesus.  This Cross that He shoulders is my cross.  It is mine by right but it is His by choice.  I earned that cross.  It is I who ought to be stretched out upon it.  The damage that I have done in this short life by my sins can only be considered worthy of the cross.  The innocence of Jesus cannot bear its weight.  He falls, he falls, and again he falls!  He is nearly dead from the treatment that He was given before He was made a spectacle for the crowd by Pilot - and now He does this?!  He carries my cross for me?  How ungrateful I am for such an unfathomable kindness.  Can I ever repay my Lord?  No.  He does not even ask it.  All He desires is my love.  Why can't I give to Him that which He asks in return?  Am I so weak.  Yes.  When faced with His strength, when he hoists the tree upon which He will hang, as He drags my sins to Calvary, and when it is all for love of me; I cannot but realize my utter helplessness before Him.  I am conquered by His love.  I want to despair for my lack of love.  I want to hid from His searching gaze.  But, I cannot hid from it.  I cannot crawl into the shadows and die in my sorrows.  I look upon my Lord who loves me and I want to love.  I hope to love.  I yearn to love!  Lord, teach me to love, Lord teach me to die so as to live.  Lord, help me because without you I cannot take a single step.  Lord!!

28 April 2010

The Third Glorious Mystery

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

As Elisha is covered with the mantel of Elijah the Apostles are covered with the mantel of the Holy Spirit.  Elisha received a double-portion of the spirit of Elijah while the Apostles received the over-abundant plenitude of the Spirit of God.  No place is this more evident than with the Prince of the Apostles.  Peter is transformed from a stumbling, bumbling cur of a man into the Blessed Peter we see in the Acts of the Apostles and in his epistles.  So great was the grace bestowed upon Peter that people yearned to merely be touched by his shadow that they might be healed.  How abundant is God's gift to those whom He loves.  Peter received what we all might receive if we only had faith in the Lord Jesus.  Just a little faith, the faith of a mustard seed, and we too will work signs and wonders in the midst of His people.  But we must be humble and pierce the depth of the command of service.  If I invoke the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus it must be to build His Church.  This gift is not given to me for me.  Rather, this gift is given to me for others.  The Holy Spirit prays for me, preaches for me, lives in me so that it is no longer I who works but Christ who works in me.  But, Mary too was in the upper room and she wrote no great letters, preached no great sermons nor performed any great healings.  What then does this service mean?  It is not merely for actions of a practical nature.  We must never forget that the Kingdom is of the Spirit and not of the Flesh.  Thus, Mary shows us the humble way of service.  She neither speaks nor labors in the vineyard of the world.  Instead it is through her stable intercession on behalf of all her Children that she builds up the Kingdom.  This must be our first act.  We must intercede for our brothers and sisters as Mary intercedes for us.  It is only after we pray for others that we may be of corporeal service to them.  Let us not forget the Spirit!  Our age dwells on the pragmatism of the flesh and we must never succumb to the temptation of such pragmatism.  We must spread the Gospel with broad brushstrokes adding flourishes and beauty to this life.  Through our own Deification we must divinize the world.  Come O Holy Spirit ... renew the face of the earth.

The Third Sorrowful Mystery

The Mocking of Jesus

I must reflect on the culmination of this event.  Call it a Spanish affectation but I find this moment to be one of the greatest in the whole of Scripture.  This is what Scripture and Art call the Ecce Homo.  Behold the Man!  Jesus has been shackled and beat since the night before - Behold Him!  He has been scourged ruthlessly at the command of Pilot - Behold Him!  He has been beaten and ridiculed by soldiers - Behold Him!  His sacred head has been pierced with numerous thorns, tearing and rending His flesh - Behold Him!  Chained, beaten, bloody, torn, pierced, mocked, starved, imprisoned, naked, hated, scorned, defiled, shorn of His dignity, made a spectacle for the crowd, Behold our God!  Don't turn away your eyes.  It is at this moment when he is a mirror of you.  Here, as He stands for judgment in such a retched condition He most perfectly resembles our humanity.  What torments will He not endure to win your love?  And yet they look upon Him without love, without care, without any touch of humanity.  They look at Him as jackals upon a carcass.  Do not look away.  Gaze intently upon the eyes of your savior, for it is there, behind the blood and the gore marring His Blessed face, where you will see the tender love of your God.  Never look away!

The Second Glorious Mystery

The Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven

Please forgive me if I get a little distraught here but I have always had a problem with this mystery.  Why does Jesus Ascend into Heaven?  If Jesus is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity this moment in the Gospel makes no sense.  The problem is that at every single moment Christ is already in heaven in the presence of His Father.  Heaven is not a "place" in the technical sense and so there is no "place" to go to in order to get to heaven.  Upward does not equal heavenward.  In one sense it can be said that where there is Jesus, so too there is heaven.  But, where does He go and why does He go up till the Apostles can no longer see Him in the sky?  This is all very strange.  I would never be so impious to deny this action of Christ nor would I be so vile as to deny that the Scriptures are recounting a historical fact.  However, I have never been able to reconcile this doctrine in my own mind.  However, maybe I'm approaching the mystery from the wrong angle.

I would suggest (to myself as well as to the reader) that perhaps the clue is found in the Transfiguration.  As the Transfiguration is a manifestation of Christ's glory as God, so too is the Ascension.  It is a Theophany which are always directed to instruct our weak human intellect about God's true nature.  This leads me to consider its Old Testament foreshadowing.  The scene of the Ascension brings to mind the assumption of Elijah into heaven while Elisha (and presumably the rest of his prophetic band) bore witness.  The similarity is striking but the differences are stunning in what they say about Christ.  Elijah was taken in a chariot of fire, the instrument of God's power, "up" to heaven.  But Jesus ascends to heaven of His own power, naming Him God.  Elijah imparts a "double-portion" of his own power to Elisha.  Christ commissions the Apostles giving them Power over every living thing.  The sacrament of Elijah's power is the gift of his mantel but Christ will shortly gift His Holy Spirit.  Elisha continues the prophetic mission of Elijah.  The Apostles (and especially Peter in the Acts) continue the salvific mission of the Lord.  I'm sure that much more could be said about this moment in the Pasch of Christ but this should be enough foster a deeper meditation.  Lord, unveil my eyes and give me Your Holy Spirit so that I may see deeper and realize the magnificence of the Revelation of Your very Self.

27 April 2010

The Second Sorrowful Mystery

The Scourging at the Pillar

Pilot finds no fault in Jesus but yet has Him scourged.  Is this normal?  If a judge finds someone innocent does he usually punish him?  This is not justice; this is capitulation to the crowd.  What injustice comes from being a respecter of persons.  Pilot failed.  He failed in so many ways when he could have stopped this massacre.  Certainly Pilot didn't admire the Jewish leaders who called for the death of Jesus.  No.  Rather, it seems that his actions were rooted in fear.  Fear of the crowed who clamor for injustice.  But should it not be Jesus who fears? Jesus is the one to suffer the torments not Pilot.  Yet, it is Pilot who fears while Jesus stands stands fast in His vulnerability.  Pilot places his trust in the will of the people.  Jesus trusts in the will of the Father.  Jesus teaches us the meaning of courage in the face of injustice.  He teaches us, in His suffering, how to face the world - who will deride us and kill us because of His Holy Name.  He does not flinch in the face of the consequences of holding firm to the will of the Father.  Truly, Christ not only walks with us in our sufferings but also he walks before us.  Do we fear to fulfill God's will in our life - in our very flesh?  Teach us, Lord, your courage.  Teach us to be strong in our vulnerability.  Teach us to trust so that we may love as you Love.

26 April 2010

The First Glorious Mystery

The Resurrection of Our Lord

I have grown to like something a Dominican Father says about the Resurrection.  He says that if you let God into your heart then you will experience the Resurrection now.  Too often the mystery of the resurrection is something that has no concrete reality to us.  It is both shrouded by mystery and historically remote.  Because of this it is really hard to take this article of faith into prayer.  However, if we don't look at it simply as a Historical event in the Pasch of Christ or a future event in the end of time but as a spiritual reality that can happen in our life right now then I think we are on the right track.  God wants to make us holy and Christ shows us just how holy it is that He wants to make us.  But holiness is not something that happens in the future.  Holiness happens with every little decision we make for or against God.  It is in and through this daily resurrection that we may hope to enjoy the resurrection of the body when Christ offers the whole of creation to the Father.  Divinization happens today!

The First Sorrowful Mystery

The Agony of Our Lord in the Garden

Knowing His hour had come Our Lord suffered in this garden.  But, was it not His memory of the first garden that emphasized His sorrow?  What bliss, what perfection was lost by man in the original act of disobedience.  All the sins of the world through all time do not compare, equal, or surpass the singular evil of that sin.  This is only because it is as a result of the sin of our first parents that all other sins are possible but also because of its own individual radical rejection of God in such a perfect and complete way.  How could Christ not weep?  Why do I not wail at this tragedy.  How was it that He did not spill every ounce of blood as he sweat in the garden while considering just this singular sin?  What marvelous strength is found in the person of our Savior!  What sustains Him?  What comforts?  What compels our Lord to proceed from sorrow to deeper sorrow. Love.  Only the radical power of Divine Love can conquer this sorrowful abyss.  Does He also weep for Himself?  The eyes of the pious are never dry when considering the brutality with which Jesus was inflicted. How more so if the scene is viewed with the perfection of Divine eyes.  He knows and sees perfectly the violence of all sin.  Did He weep for the injustice shown to the One to whom is due unyielding worship?  Do I?  Did He weep for what this act would do to the hearts of those involved?  How did He not die from despair in that garden?  How did He even make it to the Cross?

The Fifth Joyful Mystery

The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple

Who is this mystery joyful for?  It has never made much sense to me as a Joyful Mystery.  It isn't joyful for Mary or Joseph.  Relief would be a more accurate description of their state.  It isn't joyful for Jesus.  He seems to be slightly indignant.  It isn't joyful for the teachers of the law.  They seem to express amusement more than anything else.  And as a reader I don't really experience joy at this moment because I know that this moment is a complete inversion of what is to come in about 20 years.  Why is this a joyful mystery?  Perhaps the reason comes clear when we understand that joy is what follows from the love of charity.  St. Thomas teaches us that to have perfect joy is to be united with the beloved.  Here now we begin to see why this mystery is one of joy.  Jesus is caritas incarnate.  The teachers of the law have the source of the law before them and are filled with joy.  Mary and Joseph have found the child Jesus and now, once again, rejoice in His presence.  And Jesus, residing in His Father's House finds Himself filled with the joy that only He can know as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.  If this boy where anyone but Love Incarnate then my first inclinations would be true.  Yet, as I remember that Jesus is Love I am turned from blindness to sight and my heart is made new.  Lord, allow me to never forget that you are Love and the source of all love.  Allow me to approach your Blessed person in my iniquity so that I may come to know the true Joy that is Yours to give.

From here on out I will be covering two mysteries a day so that I can accommodate the timetable for my friends charity.  Thus tomorrow I will reflect upon both the first Sorrowful Mystery and the first Glorious Mystery.

25 April 2010

The Fourth Joyful Mystery

The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple

Our Lord constantly wills to be surrounded by poverty. He impovershes Himself by becoming man. He is born in poverty adored by poor shepherds. He is born into a poor family from a poor town in a poor country. He decends from the lavish throne of heaven into the impovershed world within which we live. For sacrifice His earthly parents offer the offering of the poor on behalf of the One who owns all. He is attended by a prophet of little renown and the poor widow-prophetess announces His visitation. The is no pomp, no circumstance. There is no glory given to He who is waited on by the angelic powers. Again, God makes manifest His glory in the humility of poverty. Our God comes, robed in the majesty of poverty. Lord, give to me the grace to glorify you in humility of spirit and poverty in fact. Strip from me the pride of life and bid me to follow after your example with fervor and devotion.

24 April 2010

Something I Found

Sorry to interrupt the Rosary Meditations but I wanted to share something that I found in my little book on priestly virtue*.  I thought that it was fitting for all the news that has been in the world today about priests:

Second Week After Easter

The hireling sees the wolf coming ... and the wolf snatches and scatters the sheep. -- John 10, 12.

Sad are the scenes out Lord here envisions.  He envisions scandals -- scandals concerning the priesthood.

He foresees wolves in clerical garb.

He speaks frankly of what he sees, to warn and forearm you.

The wolves are sinful priests.

A bad priest preys on the sheep like a wolf

He snatches the from our Lord, who bought them with his precious blood.  he does it by his scandalous life.  For when the people see the clergy sinning carelessly, they invariably incline to laxity in matters of religion and morals.  "Subordinates persuade themselves that they are permitted to do what they see their pastors doing openly" (St. Gregory).  Or as St. Augustine puts it: "If a layman sees a clergyman leading a bad life, he himself will lead a bad life."

It is thus that the sinful priest ravishes and murders souls.  "Because of their sin, they not only ruin themselves, but they are responsible for other souls, whom they have seduced by their bad example" (St. Gregory). --

Hence the lament of the Good Shepherd in Ezechiel: "And my sheep are become a prey" (Ezech. 34, 8).

Hence his cry for vengeance: "Her princes in the midst of her are like wolves ravening the pry to destroy souls" (Ezech. 22, 27).

Hence his complaint through Sophonias: Judices ejus lupi (Soph. 3, 3).

Scan the pages of Church history, and you will find that these lamentations are well founded on fact.  Facts more numerous than one should expect.

Scan the pages of sacred history.  Read in particular the prophets, and begin to fear for yourself.  "Howl, thou fir tree, for the cedar is fallen, for the mighty are laid waste" (Zach. 11,2). --

The wolf scatters the sheep.  Insofar as some will side with the bad priest while others will declare themselves against him.  Insofar as he has neither the grace nor the authority to hold them together.  Our Lord says: "He who is not with me, is against me" (Luke 11, 23).

The Divine Shepherd lef nothing undone to gather his sheep, and keep them together.

Woe therefore to the priest who scatters them.  Listen to our Lord's complaint by the mouth of the prophet: "And my sheep were scattered because there was no shepherd, and they became the prey of all the beasts of the field, and were scattered" (Ezech. 34, 5).

Weigh every word you say in public, lest it cause dissension or disedification.  Keep politics out of the pulpit.

But also in private conversation great caution is needed.  An indiscreet wood, unnecessary curiosity in the confessional, an ill-timed joke in or out of the pulpit, even a look or a gesture that is too free, can prove ruinous.

Prudence dictates the policy of keeping lay people as much as possible away from clerical gatherings.

"thus saith the Lord God: Behold I myself come upon the shepherds, I will require my flock at their hand" (Ezech. 34, 10).

*. Bierbaum, OFM, Fr. Athanasius. Pusillum: A Vademeccum of Sacerdotal Virtue in Brief Meditations, 6th Edition. Chicago:  Franciscan Herald Press, 1951.

The Third Joyful Mystery

The Nativity of Our Lord

What was Joseph doing at this moment?  The Gospels are silent.  As with all things concerning the Man of Faith there is a profound silence.  There is a tradition that Satan continued to plague Joseph with doubt even in these hours of our Lord's visitation through His birth.  If this is the case then we can reflect on a profound truth about our own relation to the mystery of the Incarnation.  It is clear that Joseph didn't fully understand what what happening.  This is the case with all of us.  How many of us have pierced the mystery of the Incarnation?  How unbelievable is this mystery!  Because this mystery is so far beyond our comprehension we are often tempted to doubt.  Yet, St. Joseph provides us with the fundamental masculine attitude toward such a mystery - actually for all things.  The attitude of St. Joseph is both silent and persevering.  He is embodies in himself the virtue of perseverance.  How lacking is this virtue today in all of us but more so in men.  Perseverance is that virtue by which we remain faithful even in the face of difficulty.  It is this fidelity that is the foundation for authentic fatherhood - authentic manhood.  We must pray earnestly for this virtue so that we can be pillars in our families, in our worldly dealings, and most especially in our faith.

23 April 2010

The Second Joyful Mystery

The Visitation

There are two ways to consider the visitation.  The first and most obvious is the blessed meeting between Mary and Elizabeth.  The Virgin Mother meets the Barren Mother.  Yet, there is a more subtile visitation.  Gabriel encourages Mary to visit her cousin and thus we can consider this visitation as ordained by the very will of God.  But why?  If the meeting for Mary and Elizabeth?  Yes, indeed, on every human level this meeting if for them.  Yet, it may just be that the meeting that God ordains is the encounter between these two great mothers' children.  There is something in the voice of Mary that carries a message to the child in the womb of Elizabeth.  There is a divine chain that can be seen.  From the mouth of God to Gabriel, from the mouth of Gabriel to Mary, and from the mouth of Mary to John the Baptist.  Mary is to John the Baptist as Gabriel is to her.  It is by her voice, now enlivened by the grace Christ in her womb that sanctifies the Forerunner in Elizabeth's womb causing him to leap with joy.  Tradition holds that at this very moment John the Baptist was cleansed from Original Sin.  Thus, he becomes the second person to reap the fruits of the Cross.  In this way Christ is born of the Immaculate Mary and is proclaimed by an Immaculate Herald.  Both the Blessed Virgin Mary and John the Baptist are images and types of Christian obedience.  They hear the call and without hesitation leap to serve the Lord of all for the sake of all.

22 April 2010

The First Joyful Mystery

The Annunciation

Each time I come to the Annunciation I must admit the scene is the same.  It is my favorite mystery of the Rosary and so I have a hard time finding something "new" to uncover.  But today I was reflecting on the time of the Annunciation.  In the past I had always envisioned the event to have occurred at night.  However, today as I meditated on the mystery it came to me as a vision of the early morning.  That time when the sky is just beginning to turn blue and birds are just about to begin their calls.  At that time of the morning there is a stillness that does not compare to any other time of the day.  Today this seemed to be the most fitting time for this most wondrous moment.  It is fitting that the Archangel Gabriel would make this announcement in the calm stillness of the morning because it is always in such silence that God encounters His faithful.  Whether it is the silence of the heart or that of the whispering wind it is always without trumpet blast that the Lord makes Himself known.  Gabriel roughly means "God's power" and so it is that the first herald of the Incarnation, God's power, is made known - once again - in stillness and silence.  The image is always the same.  But now the scene is set in stillness as if the whole of creation is holding its breath.  As God's power kneels before the Virgin Mary addressing her as "the one perpetually filled with God's grace" creation waits for her response.  And the Word became flesh ... and the birds begin to sing.

21 April 2010

The Fifth Luminous Mystery

The Institution of the Most Holy Eucharist

They reclined at table.  I cannot help but consider the Road to Emmaus.  We can infer from the Gospels that this moment was not only a great banquet in the tradition of Moses but it was also something new.  Like each of the mysteries that illumine us we here find another Theophony.  It is in the breaking of the bread that they knew him.  They knew him in the breaking of the bread.  Each time ... the breaking of the bread.  This moment finds its repetition over and over again in the New Testament in both explicit and implicit ways.  It is as if this moment is just as central to the new found Christian life as that august moment of the Cross.  After this moment the Apostles no longer ask who he is.  They now possess a singular knowledge of the Logos.  God has revealed Himself and has fed them the bread that is, in fact, His very heart.  They are fed and they are filled.  What they are filled with is the bread of angles come down from heaven.  This bread fills them and sustains them in the journey that is to come.  It is the grace of this central diadem among all the Sacraments whereby they are nourished so that they will come to nourish us.  They receive on their very lips the God who sits before them.  Lord, let the scales fall from my eyes so that I may see you ever more clearly.  Through my sight fails my hearing delights in the words pronounced in all your Churches, "Hoc Est Corpus Meum."  My ears drink in these words day after day without any sign of wanting less.  Instead, each morsel enflames my soul and calls me back to your most awesome love.

20 April 2010

The Fourth Luminous Mystery

The Transfiguration

Let us not forget that we live in darkness.  Because of sin we were plunged into a place of such spiritual darkness it is as if we have never seen the light.  Our parents knew the light for they walked with God in the Garden.  Yet, after they chose themselves over God each and every child was born in the darkness - deep in the cave of their own making.  Oh to have been on Tabor!  Mt. Tabor, blessed among God's hills.  For it was on the top of your shoulders that a single ray of Light was allowed to shine through.  Beside that single sliver of Light did both Moses and Elijah appear dull.  Neither the Law nor the Prophets nor the unity of the two could compare to that one tiny sliver of Light.  On Tabor we glimpse the Glory of the Lord - in part.  Lord, in your coming you changed this world of darkness by infusing it with your Light.  We dwell here now in the dawn of a new day in a land cast about with shadows.  Lord Jesus, Transfigure me by the fullness of your Light so that I may come to my true homeland where I will begin to see the fullness of your Glory.  Mt. Tabor, you are no longer fashioned of rock and stone, earth and mud.  You have been recreated, by the Master, out of the new elements of justice and hope, faith and love.  Good and gracious God, help me to climb this mountain so that I may see your face.

18 April 2010

The Third Luminous Mystery

The Proclamation of the Kingdom and the Call to Conversion

What is it to be blessed?  What is this word we hear over and over in the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain and all over the Sacred Texts.  Grammatically it is to posses a blessing in ones very being.  But, what is a blessing?  It seems to be an affirmation that what one is doing is pleasing to he who bestows the blessing.  It is the beaming smile a father bestows on his son for a job well done.  To be blessed is to be pleasing to God.  It is His gift of grace uniting us to Him in His very inner life.  Blessed is he who keeps the commands of the Lord his God.  St. Thomas Aquinas, OP defines Sanctifying grace in this very way.  For St. Thomas sanctifying grace is "the grace that makes us pleasing to God."  It is His grace that makes us capable of keeping His command and it is following His commands that makes us pleasing to Him.  So, the Son calls us to repent of all that which keeps us from receiving this Divine Blessing and then instructs us on how to live out that very Blessing for the sake of our souls and the souls of all God's people.

17 April 2010

The Second Luminous Mystery

The Wedding Feast at Canna

He would thirst upon the Cross but He would not suffer His children to thirst.  The old wine had run dry and no longer gladdened the hearts of men.  In her clemency the Mother saw the distress of her children and interceded on their behalf to her dearly beloved Son.  So, as once he took water, that simple element that sustains and gives life, and made it new.  He took it, for it was His from all time.  The Master, the true sustainer and giver of all life, gave his blessing and it was recreated.  No longer water, not old wine in clay jars - as we once were when we lacked His pleasing grace - but new wine, robust.  These jars of clay were filled with His abundance and again, and truly for the first time, did the heart of man rejoice.  Create a clean heart in me O Lord, do not deprive me of Your Holy Spirit.

The First Luminous Mystery

The Baptism in the Jordan

On the second day of creation God separated me.  He divided me from the waters above the heavens.  I was contained by the earth and gathered into great basins.  He ordained me to nourish all living this.  By my life I gave life.  From my essence I watered the Tree of Life and all living this flourished.  But man sinned and in his sin I was called by God to execute his justice and only Noah and his family survived.  By me the Egyptians were destroyed by the hand of Moses, through the power of God.  Yet, when I felt the feet of the Master step into my heart I was revived.  He changed my very being.  I was no longer merely that by which life was given and taken.  I was made more.  As he strode through me to meet the Baptizer I was baptized.  As the Baptizer poured me upon the head of the Master I had no power over Him - he consumed me.  Now, by His grace I was to bring not death, and not mere earthly life but life eternal.  I became a spiritual tomb from which the Christian soul would spring refreshed - Divinized.  I no longer watered the Tree of Life; the true Tree brought life to me, so that all men might truly live in Him.

10 April 2010

Where Three is One and One is Eight

This is a repost from my most recent entry on the blog Deus Providebit which is the blog for the Student Brothers of the Western Dominican Province, USA.

Concerning time, St. Augustine says he knows that it is, but not what it is. The continued debates in our day recount this same difficulty. Yet, though we don't know precisely what time is, this does not mean that the Church cannot redeem it for God’s glory. To do this, the Church dedicates days, weeks, months, and years. We have a Liturgical Calendar with particular celebrations for our Lord, the Saints, and Seasons. The classical division of the day into "hours" is sanctified by each “hour” of the Divine Office. And, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, temporality is both penetrated and permeated by eternity.

In this consecration of time to the glory of God, the Church uses two special types of "days" to express the untold joy that ought to emanate from the Christian life. The Triduum is a uniting of three temporal days into one liturgical day. It is a statement that the mystery being celebrated is so tremendous that time cannot contain it. Church history has seen multiple uses of the Triduum, but in our current Liturgical Calendar it is reserved formally for the last three days of Holy Week (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday). It is as if the event of the Crucifixion of Our Lord was so traumatic to the natural order that it fused the day before and the day after together into one for all time. The Church recognizes this mystical reality in the liturgical formulas of the Easter Triduum. Liturgically, the Mass of the Lord's Supper, the Liturgy of the Presanctified, and the Easter Vigil are all considered one action. This attests to what is said in the blessing of the Easter Candle at the Vigil when the priest traces the year on it, saying, "To Christ belongs all time and all the ages." For the Master of time is Christ.

The Octave is less a statement about time and more about joy. The Easter Octave begins with Easter Sunday and ends on Quasimodo Sunday (a.k.a. the Second Sunday in Easter, among other names). Unlike the Triduum, it is not a fusing of multiple days into one, but instead is the repetition of the feast for eight days. If the Triduum is an expression of divine action, then the Octave is a statement about our response to that action. We commemorate the day of the Resurrection, the Eighth Day of Creation--where, by the Pasch of Christ and Baptism, the soul is recreated and elevated higher than the angelic powers by God’s grace--for eight days. But the Octave is not only a human response. It is also a Divine promise. It is a promise to abide in time unto the consummation of all things at the end of time. It is a symbol of Christ's promise to be with us always. And so, the light remains lit in our Sanctuaries and in our hearts for the whole of the Octave.

25 March 2010

The Central Mystery

Apart from Christmas and the Triduum it is today that is my favorite celebration in the Liturgical cycle.  The collects, prayers, antiphons and readings for the day are, in my estimation, simply the most beautifully written and most theologically profound.  If you missed it, today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation.  It is the Most Solemn Feast of the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Often times the error is made that Christmas is the feast of the Incarnation, this is not true.  Rather, it is today, nine months prior to Christmas, that the Word of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity willed to be made Incarnate in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary thus changing the course of human history for all eternity.  Today is the day that the Church was born in both the womb and person of the Immaculate Mary.  Today is the day that, my patron, the Archangel Gabriel, was given the singular honor of conveying the message of this most inconceivable mystery to a poor teenage girl nearly 2000 years ago.  On this most amazing of days I want to share with everyone a quote from Pope, Saint Leo the Great found in the Office of Readings today:
He took the nature of a servant without stain of sin, enlarging our humanity without diminishing his divinity. He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to be one of us mortal men. Yet this was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence. So he who in the nature of God had created man, became in the nature of a servant, man himself.
  Thus the Son of God enters this lowly world. He comes down from the throne of heaven, yet does not separate himself from the Father’s glory. He is born in a new condition, by a new birth.
  He was born in a new condition, for, invisible in his own nature, he became visible in ours. Beyond our grasp, he chose to come within our grasp. Existing before time began, he began to exist at a moment in time. Lord of the universe, he hid his infinite glory and took the nature of a servant. Incapable of suffering as God, he did not refuse to be a man, capable of suffering. Immortal, he chose to be subject to the laws of death.  He who is true God is also true man.
V.  Et Verbum caro factum est.
R.  Et habitavit in nobis.

In the presence of such a mystery only in tears of joy and humble silence are found an adequate human response.

20 March 2010

1 year Anniversary: Fr. Robert Stanion, CFR, RIP

It has been about one year since the death of my dear friend Fr/Br. Robert Stanion, CFR (3/23/09).  In these last few days his memory has been weighing heavily upon my mind and so I felt that other than praying for the repose of his soul I would write a little story about him so that I could share my experience of this man with others.  For those of you who do not know who he is I could never fully communicate the nature of the man.  However, in short, I think that he would like to be commemorated as a little brother who followed St. Francis as best as he could.  He was an OFM(cap) Brother until around the time he became one of the "founders" of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.  He loved to cook and he loved to sing (both of which he did to varying levels of success).  His life was lived for the sake of unity especially manifesting itself with his constant affection for the Orthodox and wayward priests.  He talked more than most, listened more than most, was impossible to live with but a delight to be near.  Eccentricity does not begin to describe the basic disposition of Fr. Robert.  Rather, holiness is the word that hits the mark most near.  Those of us who knew him well consider ourselves blessed and all around better for having been gifted with the experience.

I'll never forget the first time I met Fr. Robert.  I was in NY visiting the CFRs with my classmate from the seminary and friend Fr. Michael Kmiotek, CFR about 8 or 9 years ago.  I was in the kitchen and he was arriving through the back door of the friary and I noticed that instead of a Rosary at his side he had a chotki.  Being familiar with the Byzantine traditions I decided to greet him with the traditional seasonal greeting.  This was my first mistake.  From that point on I could not get rid of Fr. Robert.  So, each time I visited the friars I always made time to see him - or he made time for me.

That year, on account of his illnesses, he was advised to move to a warmer and dry climate.  While a temporary fix was conceived the eventual intent of his community was to find a more lasting solution.  At that time I was a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.  The twelve of us from the Archdiocese suggested to Fr. Michael the possibility of his community opening a convent in NM.  Reflecting on the situation it was providential that Fr. Michael had been sent to Holy Apostles to study that year (their usual seminary was St. Joseph's in NY) as a test case.  If he had not attended school with us that year it would have been unlikely that what is now known as San Juan Diego Friary in Albuquerque would have ever been opened.  But God's providence brought Fr. Robert to my home and to my people.  This became an epic love affair about which I will leave others to tell.  However, what I will note here is that my people loved him and he them.  He loved my home as if it were his own.  He was enchanted by the mystery that is the Tierra Encantado.  We, in turn, were enchanted by him.

In my years in and out of New Mexico I would make sure to visit Fr. Robert any chance given to me.  One morning I stopped by to have my confession heard and I caught him coming out from celebrating daily Mass wearing red Byzantine vestments.  Of course, I arched my eyebrow at him and he knew he was caught.  But, characteristically he just smiled a mischievous smile and said, "What?  Their nice!"  I just shook my head and laughed.  He was always showing me a new icon or some new weed he had found to use for cooking, treating each with equal reverence.  He decorated the friary at St. Francis Xavier Parish (at that point just a 'house') in what he was sure was authentic Southwestern style.  Of course, I hadn't the heart to tell him that what he thought was our tradition was really a contemporary fusion of non-New Mexican Southwest and California styles.  But, no matter, he went about his business getting people to make furniture and paint walls in vibrant hues.  If you got anywhere near Fr. Robert you were eventually caught up into some project of his or another.  The man lived life as a mad-genious chef with every pot on a high boil tossing everything into the soup to form a culinary masterpiece layered with the seasoning of the lives of everyone he met.  Everything and everybody went into his soup!

Everyone has different stories about Fr. Robert but I want to recount one that touched me personally.  I believe that God gave Fr. Robert many gifts.  I don't simply mean the ordinary gifts that God gives to each person at the service of His kingdom.  Rather, what I mean is that I believe that God gifted Fr. Robert with particular charismatic gifts for the sake of building up the Church.  On one occasion I personally experienced one of the most frightening of those gifts.

One summer while I was a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe I had one of those epic and not uncommon vocational crisis moments.  It just so happened that my friend Fr. Michael was in NM visiting the community that had been established there (this was when the house was at San Jose Parish).  Fr. Michael and I were discussing this problem that I was having in my car, parked in front of the parish office.  As we were discussing this issue another car drove up and in it was Fr. Robert and Fr. Terry Messer, CFR.  Fr. Terry went to the passenger side to talk to Fr. Michael and Fr. Robert came to my side to visit.  So, we chatted for a bit and in mid-sentence Fr. Robert stopped speaking, became very grave, pointed at me and said, "Stay on the path, don't deviate, this is where God wants you."  He then nearly shook himself, refocused on me and continued where he left off as if nothing had happened.  Needless to say, I was a little startled.  I don't know how long I stayed there slack-jawed but I do remember that I was convicted in my heart and confirmed in my vocation.  Things became more complicated later on in my vocational life yet I always remembered what Fr. Robert said in that prophetic utterance.  I will never forget him knowing my struggle without me telling him.  In that moment I believe that God granted him the gift of reading what was on my soul and in my heart.  It was not a comfortable experience but in the end it has brought me great comfort, consolation and a confidence in my vocation that I would otherwise doubt at least every other day.  Fr. Robert in both an ordinary and an extraordinary way was a honed tool ready to be used for the Lord's purposes.

I last saw Fr. Robert, in the flesh, the January before his death while I was staying with the CFR community during my home visit.  I remember waiving to him as he was being driven to the airport to fly for a necessary surgery that would be the cause of the complications from which he would not recover.  He gave me his blessing and I prayed for his safe travel then my friend left and I didn't see him anymore.  I think of him often and I pray both to him and for him.  When I do so I can't help thinking of my other priest friends who have died over the years and so I pay for them (and to a couple).  This last January on my home visit one of the first things that I did was to visit Fr. Robert's grave.  I have mixed emotions about his grave being in Albuquerque.  On the one hand I would like to see him (as any religious would want) buried with the rest of his brothers at their cemetery.  However, I and the others who make pilgrimage to his grave would not have that opportunity if his remains were not in New Mexico.  Perhaps one day he will be found among his brothers, but for now he is in the bosom of a land that has drunk the blood of so many Franciscan martyrs.  It is indeed a fitting and sanctified soil to mingle with the remains of a precious and holy friar.  I miss my friend dearly and this pilgrimage through this life lacks a certain explosive joy now that he has completed the procession.  Yet, I can't help but smile when I think of him enriching the recipes of San Pasquel, giving dirty looks to St. Bonaventure, singing with the Oriental Patriarchs, working for St. Anthony of Padua and resting in the Divine Mystery with his Holy Father Francis.  Yes, I believe that this man is a Saint and I pray for the day that he is elevated to the Altar because I have never met anyone more authentically human nor anyone more obviously holy.

11 March 2010

Luminous Mysteries

I don't know if this has come to mind yet.  However, today I was praying the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary that JPII gave to the Church and I decided to spend time meditating on the name itself.  I have always disliked the name because it has always sounded to Gnostic to me.  The problem of the New Age movements has pushed me to be wary against any imagery that could be used against the doctrine of the Incarnation - especially in peoples spiritual lives.  However, today I gained a greater appreciation for these mysteries and their purpose.

What hit me was that each of the Mysteries are a Theophany in ways that the other mysteries are not.  Fittingly, I became aware of this while I was praying the mystery dedicated to the Transfiguration.  This is the linking thread weaving each of the Luminous Mysteries together.  As I continue to reflect on this I am sure that I will find some insights into God's self revelation that I had not previously considered.

Each mystery exemplifies Theophany in at least the following way:

1. Baptism in the Jordan: The Revelation of the Trinity
2. The Wedding Feat at Cana: The Revelation of Jesus as God
3. The Preaching of the Kingdom and the Call to Conversion:  The Revelation of the Gospel Message
4. The Transfiguration: The Revelation of Jesus as God
5. The Institution of the Eucharist: The Revelation of the Eucharist

Each of these are different modes of Jesus as God revealing himself to us.  The first is the revelation of Jesus as the Son of the Father and a member of the Blessed Trinity.  The second is the revelation of the power Jesus has over creation harkening back to the first moment of creation.  The third is the proclamation of the Gospel, the Word which is a mode of Jesus as the Wisdom and Word of the Father.  The fourth is the Transfiguration which is the manifestation of the Glory of God in the flesh of Jesus.  His flesh is the new veil, his body is the new Temple.  The fifth is the revelation of the Eucharist as the True body and blood of Jesus himself.

Now, this is just the first rough notions that have come to mind concerning this scheme of the Luminous Mysteries but I am sure that more refinement will come with time.  It is my hope that this little insight will help people gain a deeper devotion to Christ through the mediation of this devotion.

19 February 2010

Reprint from Deus Providebit

This post is a reprint of the blog post that I recently made for the new blog designed for the Student Brothers of the Western Dominican Province.

Joy in Sorrow

After Christmas, I arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for my yearly home visit to find both my grandmother and great grandmother in the hospital. Immediately, I went to see my grandmother released and then we both went to see her mother. I then spent the next two weeks sleeping on the floor of the hospital next to my great grandmother's bed until her death--for which I was present. This was not the first family death I had experienced, but it was the first death of a family member since I became a Dominican friar. Being a consecrated religious radically changed this joyful tragedy for me. I was given the opportunity, by Christ, to be a witness to His promises simply by being present as a religious, leading prayer with and for my family.

During her convalescence the whole family and many friends came to visit my great grandmother in the hospital. Each occasion was filled with great grace. The most painful, but also the most beautiful, was when my great grandfather, her husband, was brought to visit her each day. We all shared moments of deep sorrow, but the time was mostly filled with the joy of being together. It was almost like a two-week long birthday party with great food and great company. We were so happy to be together that the nursing staff had to chastise us for our raucous behavior multiple times. Watching my family come together for this difficult moment in my great grandmother's life was its own blessing. Yet, because I was a religious, my family was not satisfied with me just "hanging out" with them. I was brought aside many times to give council on major issues and decisions. Many asked me the questions about the faith that they had always wanted to know. Some were able to get frustrations with the Church "off their chest" that they had been carrying around for years, or even decades. All this was accomplished because God had graced me with the gift of being a Dominican friar for my family--His family. For the moment, my hands were His hands and my tears were His tears.

The timing was perfect. It was God's providence this happened while I was visiting my home. It was God's mercy that my Order granted me all the time I needed with my family. It was through His abundant grace that I was a Dominican friar when this happened. And, it was an act of His infinite love that I was present to witness her last fully conscience moments and her soul's departure. This single opportunity, to be an instrument of God's love and mercy, has given my vows an unquantifiable value. On account of this I will be forever grateful to the Lord and my brother Dominicans for the grace of the Dominican life. If I accomplish nothing else in life as a Dominican, it will all have been worth this single, most sacred experience.

In your mercy remember the soul of Mary Agnes Alarid in your prayers. She had 93 earthly years. She was a wife for 78 years, an auxiliary of the Legion of Mary for 69 years, a mother of 4, grandmother, great grandmother, and great great grandmother. She died a faithful daughter of Holy Mother Church on 5 January 2010, the anniversary of the death of her first daughter, after receiving the Last Rites and the Apostolic Pardon.