Christ is Alive!
The Easter season has recently begun. The celebration of Easter is not just Easter Sunday but a period of 50 days from the celebration of the Easter Vigil until the solemnity of Pentecost. This is a joyful time for all of us to celebrate the reality of the Lord’s Resurrection.
Mary before us in Holy Week
During Holy Week we encounter the Lord as he stands before us in a personal manner as the one who came to redeem us by giving His life, unjustly condemned as a criminal, upon the cross. As the Lord encounters us this week in this most intimate manner, it is well for us to consider carefully our response to him. During Holy Week, many are before us in the Gospels who encounter Jesus and respond to him in the most extreme manners. From his disciples and apostles to Pontius Pilate, the crowd and the soldiers who crucify him, the Lord’s response is always one of love and mercy.
‘Unplanned’ movie offers message of love, conversion
A new movie is to appear in certain theaters March 29, which is most fitting for the season of Lent. The movie is a very personal and moving story of the powerful deception of evil and the more powerful reality of love, conversion, forgiveness, outreach to those in difficult times, the meaning of life and the promise of eternal life. All those elements, so much a part of the Lenten season, are reflected in the movie, “Unplanned,” a true account of a woman who made a complete reversal in regard to her acceptance and facilitation of abortion.
God speaks within us
We just sprang ahead by moving the clock forward one hour. While we have slowly been enjoying evenings of more daylight, the springing ahead one hour made the extra daylight even more obvious. In a certain sense we can say that, by our pushing the clock ahead, the longer days come about by two actions, nature’s and our own. Of course, our part in this change is not only minimal, but also artificial. Nature will continue to make the increasing daylight even more dramatic as spring officially begins on March 20.
God is young, God is old, God is now because God is love
Lent will soon be upon us. We are blessed with a period of 40 days to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter. We do this by looking deeply within ourselves and in a particular way, letting ourselves be turned more to God’s presence in our lives each day. As we prepare to take up certain practices of prayer, penance or almsgiving, we do so that they may help us meet the Lord and grow more in knowing His love. Lent is indeed, as the liturgy proclaims, a joyful time.
The Heart of February–The Heart of it all
February is, in many ways, a transitional month. The holidays are now part of the past and we naturally look to something to engage us. We are blessed in southern Florida with very comfortable weather during the winter months and do not experience the doldrums that the cold and wintry weather can bring to other parts of our country. Furthermore, we look forward to something that helps us appreciate the many gifts and joys of life. Sometimes, the month of February brings with it Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent but that is not the case this year. What always fills February with a change of pace is Valentine’s Day. In fact, Valentine’s Day has been anticipated, through promotions and advertising, almost immediately after Christmas. We can say that Valentine’s Day is truly at the heart of February.
He appointed twelve to be with him
The beginning of this new year, 2019, was a very special time for the bishops of the United States. We gathered together at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, Illinois, outside of Chicago, for a rather focused retreat. While the bishops of the country gather for a retreat in the springtime every three years, this retreat was suggested by Pope Francis in view of the many issues regarding sexual abuse, which are facing the Church. The pope thought that a period of intense prayer and reflection would be a support to the bishops in regard to their role as successors of the apostles at this present time.
Pope Francis’ birthday cake
We have just entered the new year of 2019. A new year brings a great deal of hope for renewed outlook on life which includes resolutions we sometimes make. As we begin the year and undertake our resolutions, we may liken the occasion of the new year to that of a birthday. Pope Francis recently celebrated his 82nd birthday Dec. 17. He once said that birthdays are the occasion to “remember all that God has done for us,” emphasizing that “memory is an aspect of life,” and that it is “a great misfortune to lose the memory of all that God has done for us.”
The music and art of Christmas
During the Christmas season we hear a great deal of music from popular Christmas songs to beautiful Christmas hymns and moving classical pieces such as Handel’s Messiah. The sounds of Christmas many times move us to happy memories as well as emotional responses, such as the tears that sometimes accompany hearing Silent Night. Music has the ability to touch our hearts and souls and to bring us out of ourselves and sometimes into the presence of God. A few weeks ago, at the conclusion of November, Pope Francis met with church choirs from around the world and reflected that music has the ability to make a deep impression on moments in people’s lives which mark their existence. He expressed that music witnesses “to the profoundness of the Word of God that touches the hearts of people.” He reflected that sacred music points to the beauty of paradise.
A beautiful life
On Dec. 8, we celebrate the patronal feast of our country, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The feast is a most important one for us as it points to the prominent role that Mary has in our lives of faith. Last year on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis reflected that Mary “lived a beautiful life” because she lived a virtuous life. The pope explained that, “the Word of God was her secret: close to her heart, it then took flesh within her womb. Remaining with God, dialoging with him in every circumstance, Mary made her life beautiful. Mary’s beauty is not found in her outstanding appearance, but in the total freedom from sin.” Indeed, understanding Mary’s Immaculate Conception will assist us more in finding the beauty of our lives.
The ‘apostolate of the ear’
The season of Advent is upon us. Advent affords us the opportunity to prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas. It brings to us time to listen to the Lord as he speaks to us each and every day in our lives. There is a certain quietness that is appropriate for the Advent season. However, with so many things to take care of in preparation for Christmas, we can sometimes become overinvolved in activity that leads to unrest and disquiet. We are so busy sending cards, attending parties, shopping for gifts and decorating that it becomes very easy to lose sight of why we are doing all of these things. In addition, we have our daily lives and occupations to take care of as well as the many other matters that may come our way. At this time, right after Thanksgiving, we have a good opportunity to plan a season of Advent that will bring us into a deeper relationship with the Lord as we celebrate his birth with our families at Christmas. It is critical to have time for silence during the Advent season.
A month of remembrance and thanksgiving
We are already into the month of November. While we do not have the changing of foliage nor the cooler days in our weather, we know that November is here as the daylight hours continue to become shorter. Even though many had anticipated that we would remain on daylight savings time, approval by Congress was not given and so we just turned our clocks one hour back. We also know that November is upon us as so many of the winter residents have returned to Florida and we offer a warm greeting to them. Many of them will not miss the cooler weather they are leaving and may appreciate more the clocks being in sync with their homes in the north.
The ‘Hamlet Pope’
On Oct. 14, Pope Francis canonized one of the great Churchmen of the 20th century — Pope Paul VI. This is the third pope that Francis has declared a saint. St. Paul VI was an extraordinary shepherd of the Church during the years 1963 through 1987, in what were extremely turbulent times in the world and also in the Church. This was the time of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council and the period in which its reforms were implemented. Pope Francis has described St. Paul VI as one who “experienced in the full the Church’s travail after the Second Vatican Council: the lights, the hopes, the tensions. He loved the Church and expended himself to her, holding nothing back.” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has likewise acknowledged the difficult time during which St. Paul VI shepherded the Church and has referred to him as “super human.” St. Paul VI prophetically stood at the helm of the Church in one of its greatest storms.
Prayer listens to the truth
Recently, Pope Francis has been emphasizing the importance of prayer and silence during his homilies at morning Masses and in his public addresses. He has stressed that in the face of controversy and division, silence and prayer are an appropriate response. Such a response is the manner in which Jesus many times faced disruption and anger. The pope used the example of Jesus quietly passing through the crowd when the people were outraged at his words and drove him out of town to the brow of the hill in order to cast him over. He also used the ultimate example of the silence of the Lord on Good Friday when the crowd shouted for him to be crucified.
‘Every Life — Cherished, Chosen, Sent’
Each year October is used to inaugurate the Respect Life Program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and is designated as Respect Life Month. Since we are already in the fall season, even in southern Florida we are reminded of the seasons of nature which reflect the seasons of life. We are graced with life from the moment of conception in our mother’s womb and our lives experience growth until our passing from this world. As Cardinal John Henry Newman so wisely stated, “Growth is the only evidence of life.” Life is a gift from God and is sacred at every moment and stage of its existence.