August 29, 2016 – Reflection for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 29, 2016 – Reflection for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

In Every Age, Emmanuel– God-With-Us

This week’s psalm refrain reminds us to keep hope alive and not give up when crosses seem too much to bear. “In every age, O God, you have been our refuge.” (Ps. 90) In every age of Jewish history, with all its trauma, infidelities, and triumphs, God was their refuge. Throughout the ages of the Church, checkered with periods of light and dark, God remains our refuge. In our individual lives, from infancy to old age, if we seek God in all our life’s experiences, carrying the crosses of circumstance and even of ourselves (both burdensome and beautiful) God is our refuge, is here with us, even when we doubt it.

It is still August as I reflect on these readings, and very recent events occupy my thoughts: the Pax Christi USA conference, connecting with people striving to be peacemakers; floods ravaging Louisiana towns; Milwaukee exploding in violence where needs have been ignored; an Imam shot to death on a New York street after leaving a mosque; young Olympians using their talents, strength, and hard work to compete for medals for their home countries and perhaps make new friends from other countries; a major earthquake destroying lives and towns in central Italy. So much life and death, exuberance and grief, humanity and hate, on this planet in two short days. Before September 4th there will be more stories of suffering, of tragedies. We seek refuge in God, yes, but not refuge that merely comforts us and turns us away from the world’s pain.

Carry your cross, Jesus says in Luke’s gospel, and unite it with the suffering of others, not only people close to you but those whose stories appear in the daily news. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart,” prays the psalmist. In the wisdom of his old age, Paul pleads on behalf of Onesimus, a slave imprisoned with Paul who has become Paul’s “own heart.” The refuge offered by God comforts, strengthens, enlightens, assures, gives courage to carry the day’s crosses. And on Labor Day, let’s remember especially all underpaid workers and those seeking employment.

Suggested action: Identify individuals and communities in need of God’s refuge; pray for them.

Sr. Marie Lucey
FAN Director of Advocacy and Member Relations

Suggested Petitions:

With gratitude let us pray for the ways and times God has been our refuge, we pray…
With renewed commitment, let us shoulder our daily crosses, we pray…

Prayer: St. Augustine of Hippo

Lord, our God, we are in the shadow of your wings.
Protect us and bear us up.
You will care for us as if we were little children, even to our old age.
When you are our strength, we are strong;
but when we are our own strength, we are weak.
Our good always lives in your presence,
and we suffer when we turn our faces away from you.
We now return to you, O Lord,
that we may never turn away again.   

Amen

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK August 28 – September 3, 2016

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
FROM ST. AUGUSTINE SPIRITUALITY CENTER
August 28 – September 3, 201620130205-162904.jpg
Sister Rosemarie Goins, CSSF  Laredo, TX

Humility is the great theme of this Sunday’s readings.  In Sirach 3: 17 a blessing of humility is seen. “…conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts…”  In Luke 14: 1, 7-14 Jesus tells the Parable on Humility in which he states, “…everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted…”

So, what is this humility business all about?  It doesn’t sound very appealing and no one wants to be a door mat. When did we ever start thinking of humility as a door mat?  It’s more like a bear hug of love and generosity.  Right relationships are so hard to develop.  It is easier to think of one’s self better than everyone else.  Though at other times our self-image is so poor, we have to put other’s down to feel good about ourselves.  Neither of these attitudes will lead to healthy relationships.

If we are to be humble, we have to have a good sense of ourselves and our worth in God’s eyes.  This means we recognize the gifts that are God-given, we are thankful for these gifts and we use them to the benefit of others.  We realize that each person is gifted and recognize this blessing.  We invite others into our circle of sharing and build them up with praise and recognition.  There is no oppression of others because of their race, religion, opinions, culture, etc. Everyone will sit at the circular table in the Kingdom of God.  There is a reason why God made our earth in the shape of a ball. It reminds us that we all fit together on this “solid circle.” It is only we who set up the barriers, fences and boundaries.  Humility opens them.

On Monday we recall Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.  He was the first to recognize the presence of God in human form, while they were both in the womb.  I often wonder if they played together as children.

Unfortunately, John died a gruesome death of beheading as a young man.  Jesus bitterly mourned the loss of this holy man. Let us remember the modern martyrs in Syria and other war torn areas of the world.

St. Gregory the Great, celebrated on Saturday, is a Doctor of the Church and the most influential Pope of the Medieval Ages.  He revised the Liturgy of which many parts are used today in the Mass.  Being a monk, he was very interested in the music of the Mass and is today known as the author of Gregorian Chant. He set up Church discipline, finance, leadership and organization.  Is it any wonder, that he is called, “Great?”

Have a happy, humble week,
Sister Rosemarie Goins, CSSF

Laredo, TX

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board of Directors

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Who has the Right of Way?

Recently, while taking a routine driver’s awareness course for my community, I came across this phrase, “You only have the right of way if the other driver gives you the right of way.” I have thought of this many times when I encounter aggressive drivers on the road. One unexpected consequence of remembering this phrase is feelings of peacefulness and calm while driving.

Our readings this Sunday remind us that when we try to follow the nonviolent Jesus our world and values will be turned upside down. Power, pride and social status were just as important to people in biblical times as they are today. Self-sufficiency, ambition and egoism are values ingrained in the social structures of our culture. Advertising and our economic system thrive on greed and self-absorption. We probably can all think of a time when we may have been personally humiliated by assuming “the place of honor at the table.”

Saint Francis wanted his followers to be “minores,” to differentiate them from those who have wealth and power. Francis wanted his followers to always be aware of their total dependency on God. The good we possess is a gift from God and the good that we do is only through God. We may wince at words such as dependency or minority and may tend to avoid any situation where we may be given “the lowest seat at the table.” We can only practice humility on a daily basis with God’s help. In her book the Humility of God, Ilia Delia writes that Saint Bonaventure describes the humility of God as God “plunging in the darkness of humanity to meet us where we are, in our violence.”

Gandhi taught that “the spirit of nonviolence necessarily leads to humility.” How different would our homes, our roads, our society, our politics be if we each practiced nonviolence, attempted to respond to situations in a nonviolent manner, for even an hour each day? The Franciscan Action Network website offers suggestions on active nonviolence.

Thomas Merton wrote that when he made the decision to try to act in a nonviolent manner he began by closing doors gently. Perhaps we can begin by remembering that when driving “you only have the right of way if the other driver gives you the right of way.”

This week: Try to close doors softly and be conscious of any aggression while driving.

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board of Directors

Suggested Petitions:
May we have the humility to take the lowest seat at the table and the strength of heart to approach every situation with non-violence, we pray…

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called Children of God.” May we strive to be peacemakers and Children of God, we pray…

Collect Prayer:

God of might, giver of every good gift,

Put into our hearts the love of your name,

So that, by deepening our sense of reverence,

You may nurture in us what is good

And, by your watchful care,

Keep safe what you have nurtured.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

One God, for ever and ever.

 

Amen

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THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK August 14-20, 2016

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

FROM ST. AUGUSTINE SPIRITUALITY CENTER
Sister Rosemarie Goins, CSSF

August 14-20, 2016

Another school year has commenced at St. Augustine High School in Laredo, Texas, so we resume the “Thought for the Week from St. Augustine Spirituality Center.”

This week’s readings show us the prophet, Jeremiah, experiencing rejection by his own people, because of words they don’t want to hear. Jeremiah 38:4-6, 38-10   In our world today many people do not want to hear God’s Word either.  Many things become their gods – money, power, abortion, war, greed, lying, etc.  At times we feel helpless, like Jeremiah. Our words and values fall on deaf ears and we suffer the loss of Christina values.  However, it is important to continue to stand strong for right relationships (justice) and increase our prayer.

Hebrews 12:1-4 uses the wonderful image of running. “…persevere in running the race that lies before us, while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.” We know that exhaustion can set in very quickly in running. So, we prepare ourselves with the tools that strengthen our spiritual life – prayer, fasting (from negativism, selfishness, gossip, harsh words, the list is endless) and the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. The support system is extensive – Jesus and other like-minded runners. In this we can rejoice.

In Luke 12:49-53 Jesus came “to set the earth on fire” with his love, mercy and values.  As the Gospel explains, Jesus’ way will even divide families.  These divisions will be many and tremendous compassion, mercy, non-judgement and forgiveness will be required.  Making the first step toward reconciliation and conversion is a challenge.

Monday celebrates the Assumption of Mary. Since Mary was born immaculate, so that the devil would have no power over Jesus, it stands to reason that she was not subject to original sin.  For this reason, she was not subject to death, so when her time on this earth came to an end, she was taken to heaven body and soul by God. Some of the early Church writings claim that when they opened Mary’s tomb, her body was gone and only her clothes remained. This gives us another reason to throw a party.

Have a week full of the love and mercy of God,

Sister Rosemarie Goins, CSSF

Director

The Narrow Gate

August 21, 2016 – Reflection for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Narrow Gate

This week’s second reading spoke to me as both a parent and a child. I remember as a child being disciplined for some wrongdoing, always thinking it was unfair. Yet, when I became a parent, all those little disciplines I got from my mom and dad were suddenly justified. I could see much clearer the love out of which those corrections came. It’s very hard to explain to 5-year-olds why they are being punished. Only later, when the child has a little “wisdom of age” does she or he fully understand the reasoning: Love. It is the same with God. All the trials we endure in this life, the author explains, are due to the Lord’s love of us, his children. “For whom the Lord loves, he disciplines.” God gives us only what he knows we can handle. We are preparing for heaven by our responses to these trials.

In the Gospel, we have two seemingly contradictory statements. Jesus’ followers ask him how many will be saved. First, Jesus tells his disciples, “many will attempt to enter” into heaven, but “will not be strong enough.” Yet, by the end of the parable, we are given visions of many people from all over the world welcomed to the table of God. “People will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.” This sounds like the opposite of the warning in the beginning of the reading.

We have many ways of separating people in our society today; rich, poor, black, white, brown, gay, straight, the list goes on.  However, the Gospel assures us people from all over will be welcomed into the kingdom of God. God does not have favorite people. He doesn’t make distinctions of power, nationality, age, sex, money, etc. He loves all humanity without exception. The only requirement is Jesus. When we believe in Jesus and live by his ways, we will be united with one another and God. Jesus is the narrow gate through which we are to strive for heaven.

Janine Walsh
FAN Communications Coordinator
Suggested Petitions:

May we strive for love, harmony and understanding in our family and community lives to be able to share with others, we pray…

May we see our fellow brothers and sisters with God’s eyes, as they are as brothers and sisters in Christ, we pray…

Collect Prayer:

O God, who cause the minds of the faithful
To unite in a single purpose,
Grant your people to love what you command
And to desire what you promise,
That, amid the uncertainties of the world,
Our hearts may be fixed on that place.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever.

Amen

St. Clare of Assisi – August 11th

Felician Sisters CSSF

Patron of eye disease, goldsmiths, laundry, television

St. Clare of Assisi was born in Assisi on July 16, 1194, as Chiara Offreduccio, the beautiful eldest daughter of Favorino Sciffi, Count of Sasso-Rosso and his wife Ortolana. Tradition says her father was a wealthy representative of an ancient Roman family and her mother was a very devout woman belonging to the noble family of Fiumi.

As a young girl, Clare dedicated herself to prayer. At 18-years-old, she heard St. Francis of Assisi preach during a Lenten service in the church of San Giorgio and asked him to help her live according to the Gospel. On Palm Sunday in 1212, Clare left her father’s home and went to the chapel of the Porziuncula to meet with Francis. While there, Clare’s hair was cut off and she was given a plain robe and veil in exchange for her rich gown.

Clare joined the…

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Reflection for 20th Sunday in Ordinary TIme

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mgfredrick, cssf
August 8, 2016 | Reflection for 20th Sunday in Ordinary TIme
Setting the World on Fire

I have often found this Sunday’s Gospel reading from Luke to be one of the most disconcerting and challenging. Jesus is frequently referred to as the Prince of Peace. Yet here he is talking about setting the world on fire and setting brother against brother. That does not sound much like the “Prince of Peace” to me. I used to wonder why this particular verse was chosen to remain in the final edited version of the reading. Because I have found this verse so challenging I have spent a lot of time reflecting on it. Particularly the section: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”  Gospel literalists have interpreted that sentence to mean that Jesus literally wants to set the world on fire. Many are waiting for that event to happen. Believing that Jesus will come to destroy God’s beautiful and wondrous creation with fire and then start all over again with a new heaven.

When I was a kid I would often ask my teachers and my priest “what kind of God would be so cruel that he would destroy his own creation and causing millions upon millions to be tortured and suffer? What kind of God would promote fear over love?”  As I got older and began working in social justice, I began to look at the passage differently. I began to feel the passion for justice blaze inside of me. I wanted to set fire to the whole world. Not a literal fire but a fire of passion so that people would start to care about the poor, the marginalized and all of creation. When I saw a homeless person I would get angry and want to scream at society, how you can sit idly by while people are homeless and starving?

Luke’s Chapter 12 where this Gospel comes from starts with the sentence: “Beware of the leaven—that is, the hypocrisy—of the Pharisees.” Who are the Pharisees today? In Matthew 15 Jesus says, “Hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy about you when he said:

‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.’”

How true are the words of Isaiah today. We have politicians, running for the office of president on down, who claim to be Christian, claim to honor God with their words yet they preach a message of hate and fear. Because we spend time honoring God with our words, not our actions we are a house divided. We can live in our comfort zone and never transform. As it says in the second reading, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.”

Peace and All Good,
Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Suggested Petitions:

May all Christians reflect the Gospel and honor God with our actions and not just our words, we pray…

Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may the Lord grant us peace and mercy, we pray…

Collect Prayer:

O God, who have prepared for those who love you
Good things which no eye can see,
Fill our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love,
So that, loving you in all things and above all things,
We may attain your promises,
Which surpass every human desire.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever.

Amen