Thursday, May 25, 2017





The Church allows the faithful to celebrate the Feast of the Ascension either on the traditional Thursday, or on the following Sunday in order that more of its members can participate. Here in the monastery we celebrate it today, so we’d like to share with you part of the reading we hear at Vigils. It's from a homily by St. Augustine:
Ascension, Giotto (c. 1305)
As he was about to ascend, he spoke the last words he was to utter on earth. At the moment of going up to heaven, the head commended to our care the members he was leaving on earth, and so departed. No longer will you find Christ speaking on earth; in the future he will speak from heaven. Why will he speak from heaven? Because his members are being trampled underfoot on earth. He spoke to Saul the persecutor from above, saying: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? I have ascended to heaven, but I still remain on the earth. Here at the Father’s right hand I sit, but there I still hunger and thirst and am without shelter.’
...My friends, you have Christian hearts. Think, then; if the words of one who is on the way to the grave are so sweet, so precious, so important to his heirs, what must the last words of Christ mean to his heirs as he departs, not for the grave but for heaven! When a person has lived and died his soul is borne away to another place while his body is laid in the ground. Whether his last request is carried out or not, it matters little to him now. He has other things to do or suffer. His corpse lies in the grave, feeling nothing. And yet his dying wishes are carefully obeyed! If that is so, what will be the lot of those who fail to observe the parting words of the one who is seated in heaven and who looks down to see whether they are flouted or not – the words of him who said: Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? and who reserves for the Day of Judgement all that he sees his members suffer?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Sixth Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

At the Last Supper, Jesus prepared his disciples (and that includes us) not only for his Passion and Resurrection, but also for his Ascension to the Father (Jn. 14:15-21). Yet he promised he would not leave us orphans. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him.

Pope Francis spoke about this gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, 2013:
Holy Spirit, Bernini (St. Peter's Basilica)
The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward. The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; he impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ.
The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission. The events that took place in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago are not something far removed from us; they are events which affect us and become a lived experience in each of us. The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures. The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ to his apostles, yet he wants that gift to reach everyone. As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus says: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to remain with you forever” (Jn 14:16). It is the Paraclete Spirit, the “Comforter,” who grants us the courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel!
The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ. Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission? Today let us remember these three words: newness, harmony and mission.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Fifth Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

Nine years ago, on April 20, 2008, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass at Yankee Stadium while visitng the United States. He commented on the Mass readings, drawing a parallel between the increase in numbers of the early Church recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6:1-7) to the growth of the Catholic Church in the United States. The full text is given on the Vatican website; here's a small selection of his words:
Christ Pantokrator (St. Catherine's, 6th c.)
Authority” … “obedience.” To be frank, these are not easy words to speak nowadays. Words like these represent a “stumbling stone” for many of our contemporaries, especially in a society which rightly places a high value on personal freedom. Yet, in the light of our faith in Jesus Christ – “the way and the truth and the life” – we come to see the fullest meaning, value, and indeed beauty, of those words.
The Gospel teaches us that true freedom, the freedom of the children of God, is found only in the self-surrender which is part of the mystery of love. Only by losing ourselves, the Lord tells us, do we truly find ourselves (cf. Lk 17:33). True freedom blossoms when we turn away from the burden of sin, which clouds our perceptions and weakens our resolve, and find the source of our ultimate happiness in him who is infinite love, infinite freedom, infinite life. “In his will is our peace.”
 Real freedom, then, is God’s gracious gift, the fruit of conversion to his truth, the truth which makes us free (cf. Jn 8:32). And this freedom in truth brings in its wake a new and liberating way of seeing reality. When we put on “the mind of Christ” (cf. Phil 2:5), new horizons open before us! In the light of faith, within the communion of the Church, we also find the inspiration and strength to become a leaven of the Gospel in the world. We become the light of the world, the salt of the earth (cf. Mt 5:13-14), entrusted with the “apostolate” of making our own lives, and the world in which we live, conform ever more fully to God’s saving plan.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Fourth Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

“I am the gate for the sheep,” Jesus tells his disciples (John 10:1-10). “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” This Gospel passage continues the Easter celebration of the central mystery of Christianity: Jesus saved us from our sins by giving his life for us on the Cross and rising from the dead. Here's part of a commentary from the early Church Father St. Clement, a convert from paganism and bishop of Alexandria, who lived  ca. 150-215:
In our sickness we need a savior, in our wanderings a guide, in our blindness someone to show us the light, in our thirst the fountain of living water which quenches for ever the thirst of those who drink from it. We dead people need life, we sheep need a shepherd, we children need a teacher, the whole world needs Jesus!
Pasture us children like sheep, Lord. Fill us with your own food, the food of righteousness. As our guide we pray you to lead us to your holy mountain, the Church on high, touching the heavens....
How bountiful the giver who for our sake gives his most precious possession, his own life! He is a real benefactor and friend, who desired to be our brother when he might have been our Lord, and who in his goodness even went so far as to die for us!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Third Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

In today's Gospel (Luke 24:13-35), Jesus once again reveals himself after his resurrection to his disciples, this time on the road to Emmaus. The two disciples don't recognize him, and they unburden their heavy hearts to this “stranger”: The chief priests and our rulers handed [Jesus] over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. (Luke 24:20-21). Jesus comforts them, and “breaks open” the Scriptures for them: Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:26-27). In the end, their eyes are opened and they recognize him when he breaks bread.

Here is a meaninful interpretation of this passage by a twelfth century monastic author:
Christ at Emmaus, Rembrandt (1648)
Their eyes were opened, and they knew him when he broke the bread. When bread is broken, it is in a way diminished, or “emptied.” By breaking understand the virtue of humility, by which Christ—even he who is the bread of life— broke, diminished, and emptied himself. And by emptying himself he gave us knowledge of himself. 
The hidden Wisdom of the Father, and a treasure whole and concealed—what use are they? Break your bread for the hungry, Lord, the bread that is yourself, so that human eyes may be opened, and it may not be regarded as a sin for us to long to be like you, knowing good and evil. Let him who from the beginning wished to strive after or grope for you in your undiminished state, know you through the breaking of bread.....
Break yourself, then, by the labor of obedience, by the humiliation of repentance. Bear in your body the marks of Jesus Christ by accepting the condition of a servant, not of a superior. And when you have emptied yourself, you will know the Lord through the breaking of bread.
True humility opens our eyes, “breaking” and diminishing the other virtues which might blind us with a spirit of pride, and teaching us that of ourselves we are nothing. And when we humble ourselves by self-contempt, so much the more do we grow in the knowledge of God.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Second Sunday of Eastertide, Year I

On April 30, 2000, Pope (now Saint) John Paul II canonized Sr. (now Saint!) Faustina Kowalska, the “Apostle of Divine Mercy.” That same Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter was designated as the Sunday of the Divine Mercy. The popes have given so many wonderful homilies on this feastday. This is just part of Pope Francis', given in 2016. (Here's a link to the full text; it's well worth reading and praying over.)
Sacred Heart, Charles Bosseron Chamber
In God’s mercy, all of our infirmities find healing. His mercy, in fact, does not keep a distance: it seeks to encounter all forms of poverty and to free this world of so many types of slavery. Mercy desires to reach the wounds of all, to heal them. Being apostles of mercy means touching and soothing the wounds that today afflict the bodies and souls of many of our brothers and sisters. Curing these wounds, we profess Jesus, we make him present and alive; we allow others, who touch his mercy with their own hands, to recognize him as “Lord and God” (Jn 20:28), as did the Apostle Thomas. This is the mission that he entrusts to us.
So many people ask to be listened to and to be understood. The Gospel of mercy, to be proclaimed and written in our daily lives, seeks people with patient and open hearts, “good Samaritans” who understand compassion and silence before the mystery of each brother and sister. The Gospel of mercy requires generous and joyful servants, people who love freely without expecting anything in return....
In the responsorial Psalm we heard these words: “His love endures forever” (Ps 117/118:2). Truly, God’s mercy is forever; it never ends, it never runs out, it never gives up when faced with closed doors, and it never tires. In this forever we find strength in moments of trial and weakness because we are sure that God does not abandon us. He remains with us forever. Let us give thanks for so great a love, which we find impossible to grasp. Let us ask for the grace to never grow tired of drawing from the well of the Father’s mercy and bringing it to the world: let us ask that we too may be merciful, to spread the power of the Gospel everywhere.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday, Year I

Resurrection (Noli me tangere) (ca. 1304-06), Giotto
Christ has risen! He has risen indeed! This familiar greeting reminds us of our hope for salvation: Jesus’ suffering and death, and three days in the tomb was not in vain: his victory over death is our hope for salvation, and for our own resurrection and the gift of eternal life.

Victimae paschali laudes is an 11th century sequence (an early hymnic form of Latin poetry) sung at Mass on Easter Sunday and during the octave. It captures the Christian’s joy at Christ’s resurrection. It’s generally believed to have been writen by Wipo of Burgundy, chaplain to German Emperor Conrad II, although it has also been attributed to other authors. Its dialogue between the faithful and Mary Magdalene played a part in the development of medieval mystery play. It’s sung here by the Capella Sistina, with the boys singing Mary’s parts. Here's a translation:

Let Christians offer sacrificial
praises to the passover victim.

The lamb has redeemed the sheep:
The Innocent Christ has reconciled
the sinners to the Father.

Death and life contended
in a spectacular battle:
the Prince of life, who died,
reigns alive.

Tell us, Mary, what did
you see on the road?

I saw the tomb of the living Christ
and the glory of his rising,

The angelic witnesses, the
clothes and the shroud.

Christ my hope is arisen;
into Galilee, he will go before his own.