Stay Awake! Be Prepared!

IMG_0057The First Sunday of Advent / November 27, 2022

Dear Friends,

Sunday, November 27th, begins the Advent season for the liturgical Christian churches.  Funny enough, we begin at the end — thinking about THE END – the end of the world.  The early Christians believed Jesus was coming “soon and very soon.” The early generation of Christians thought the end would come soon.  Jerusalem fell in 70 CE but Jesus didn’t come.

Paul admonishes us in Romans today:

“Now is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

And Jesus also admonishes us in today’s gospel (Mt. 24:37-44).

” Stay awake !

For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. . . . .

You must be prepared,

for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”  

Our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay tells us that no one knows the timing of the Second Coming, not the angels or even Jesus himself, but only God, and will come upon humankind with the suddenness of a rainstorm out of a blue sky.  Thus, speculation regarding the time  of the Second Coming, Barclay suggests, “is nothing short of blasphemy, for the man who so speculates is seeking to wrest from God which belong to God alone.  

He tells us these verses are a warning never to become so immersed in time or worldly affairs, however necessary, to completely distract us from God, and our life should be in his hands, and whenever his call comes, at morning, noon or night, it will find us ready.  

And these verses tell us that the coming of Christ will be a time of judgment, when he will gather to himself those who are his own.  ~ Barclay: The Gospel of Matthew ~ Volume 2, pp. 315-6.

Now here’s my reflection:

Jesus wants us to be prepared ~ watchful ~ alert ~ aware ~ awake

knowing what’s happening

. . .  but so many of us are asleep, Lord.

We tend to not recognize the signs of the times.

We often dull our senses ~ stay in our own little worlds.

Choosing not to care.   We become complacent.

Many of us don’t want to be bothered thinking about or praying about the real issues

And thus, we go like lemmings over the cliff.

So tribulations loom. We become fearful. Threats . . .

. . . of losing our job ~ having a lump in our breast

losing health insurance because we lost our job

global warming

corruption on Wall Street and government

a new Congress

uncertainty

Stand erect!   Face your fears with courage.

Be strong!

Do not fear the terror of the night! (Psalm 91.)

This is what Advent faith is all about . . .

Being vigilant.  Being prepared for anything life throws at us.

Standing proudly humble or humbly proud no matter what.

That’s the kind of faith in life — in You, my God that I seek.

I want it. I ask you for it.

Today I consent to it.  May we all consent to it too, as Mary did.

Amen.  So be it.

Now here’s a song to get you in an Advent mood ~ an interesting take on the old hymn Soon and Very Soon             by a young lady by the name of Brooke Fraser.  Click here. Turn up your speakers since she has a soft voice.

Here are all of today’s Mass readings. https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112722.cfm

As I do every Advent – Christmas, I will be publishing a new blog almost every day.  So be sure to look for them and make a retreat for yourself to counter the commercialism of this hectic season.

+ + + + 

Have a wonderful Advent!

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2 ~ Revised Edition                                                 The Westminster Press, Philadelphia 1975

Stay Awake! Be Prepared!

IMG_0057

The First Sunday of Advent / November 27, 2022

Dear Friends,

On Sunday, December 1st we begin the Advent season for the liturgical Christian churches. Interestingly enough, we begin at the end — thinking about THE END – the end of the world.  The early Christians believed Jesus was coming “soon and very soon.” The early generation of Christians thought the end would come soon.  Jerusalem fell in 70 CE but Jesus didn’t come.

Paul admonishes us in Romans today:

“Now is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

And Jesus also admonishes us in today’s gospel (Mt. 24:37-44).

” Stay awake !

For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. . . . .

You must be prepared,

for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”  

Our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay lays it out for us: No one knows the timing of the Second Coming, not the angels or even Jesus himself, but only God; it will come upon humankind with the suddenness of a rainstorm out of a blue sky.  Thus, speculation regarding the time  of the Second Coming, Barclay suggests, “is nothing short of blasphemy, for the man who so speculates is seeking to wrest from God that which belong to God alone.  

He tells us these verses are a warning that we must never become so immersed in time that we forget about eternity or worldly affairs, however necessary, as to completely distract us from God. If our life is in his hands, whenever his call comes, at morning, noon or night, it will find us ready.  

And these verses tell us that the coming of Christ will be a time of judgment, when he will gather to himself those who are his own.  ~ Barclay:                                                                                                                     The Gospel of Matthew ~ Volume 2, pp. 315-6.

Now here’s my reflection:

Jesus wants us to be prepared ~ to be watchful ~ alert ~ aware ~ awake

He wants us to know what’s happening

. . .  but so many of us are asleep, Lord

We tend to not recognize the signs of the times.

We often dull our senses ~ stay in our own little worlds,

choosing not to care.   We become complacent.

Many of us don’t want to be bothered thinking about or praying about the real issues swirling around us.

And thus, we go like lemmings over a cliff.

So tribulations loom: Fear.

Threats . . . of losing our job ~ having a lump in our breast

losing health insurance because we lost our job

global warming

corruption on Wall Street and government

Fears about the upcoming election or the possible impeachment ot the president

uncertainties of all kinds.

Stand erect!   Face your fears with courage.

Be strong!

Do not fear the terror of the night (Psalm 91.)

This is what Advent faith is all about . . .

Being vigilant.  Being prepared for anything life throws at us.

Standing proudly humble or humbly proud no matter what.

That’s the kind of faith in life — in You, my God that I seek.

I want it. I ask you for it.

Today I consent to it.

Amen.  So be it.

Now here’s a song to get you in an Advent mood  “Come. Lord, Maranatha.” Click here.

For all of today’s Mass readings. Click here.

As I do every Advent – Christmas, I will be publishing a new blog almost every day.  So be sure to look for them and make a retreat for yourself to counter the commercialism of this hectic season.

+ + + + +

Have a wonderful Advent!

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2 ~ Revised Edition                                                 The Westminster Press, Philadelphia 1975

Giving Thanks in trying times ~ How will you give thanks this year?

New blog post for Thanksgiving Day 2022

Will we take time out on Thanksgiving Day to make it truly a day of Thanksgiving this year? What do you have to be thankful for?

Let’s start with this: President James Madison in 1815 was the one who created the tradition of setting aside a day for the people of the United States to Give Thanks to the Creator for the goodness of our land. It would be good for us to reflect on what the original intent this day was to be as, with so many things in our country we have forgotten who and what we are.

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

The Senate and House of Representatives of the United States have by a joint resolution signified their desire that a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity as a day of thanksgiving and of devout acknowledgments to Almighty God for His great goodness manifested in restoring to them the blessing of peace.

No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events and of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United States. His kind providence originally conducted them to one of the best portions of the dwelling place allotted for the great family of the human race. He protected and cherished them under all the difficulties and trials to which they were exposed in their early days. Under His fostering care their habits, their sentiments, and their pursuits prepared them for a transition in due time to a state of independence and self-government. [ . . . ] And to the same Divine Author of Every Good and Perfect Gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.

It is for blessings such as these, and more especially for the restoration of the blessing of peace, that I now recommend that the second Thursday in April next be set apart as a day on which the people of every religious denomination may in their solemn assemblies unite their hearts and their voices in a freewill offering to their Heavenly Benefactor of their homage of thanksgiving and of their songs of praise.

Given at the city of Washington on the 4th day of March, A. D. 1815, and of the Independence of the United States the thirty-ninth.

JAMES MADISON.

Two items come to mind as I approach this Thanksgiving Day. First, how did we get so far from a President encouraging us to go to our churches to pray on Thanksgiving Day to our secular society declaring it anathema for any kind of mention of God in public speech at all.

Then there’s this: How many families turn off the football games for a moment and actually pause at the Thanksgiving table to have family members reflect on what they’re thankful for and to offer thanks for them?

How ‘bout your family? What are your traditions around the Thanksgiving table? Do you pray? (If you don’t have a ritual of sorts, perhaps you can start one. Take a few minutes and ask folks to write one thing they’re thankful for; then mix them up and have others share them before your apple pie and ice cream. (At the bottom of this post I’ve added an article by a guest columnist in the New York Times entitled “Five ways to exercise your thankfulness muscles.”)

How many of us are really thoughtful about what we have to be thankful for this year as we approach the day. Especially about where our country is this year. We’ve all been through several years of suffering and worry and–near hell actually–dealing with the Pandemic and its continued variants, Some of us have been very sick. Some of us have watched a loved one die of Covid. Yet still others have been in denial and and have refused to take the vaccine and have protested others taking it.

As I look over the past year, I see suffering across our country and throughout the world. I have a sensitive heart, I’m thinking of all those folks particularly.

We’ve been through major hurricanes, as well as, winter storms, and devastating wild fires in the California. And on top of that, we’re dealing with climate deniers who are making it more difficult for those particularly for us to do what must be done to prepare for the future. As Pope Francis has pointed out, the poor are the ones who are hurt the most by Climate Change. And we’ve seen that dramatically in the sufferings of the poor in these natural disasters.

And my heart aches for so many migrants and refugees throughout the world—some of whom are stateless. Then there’s the senseless and insane issue of gun violence.

Are we at prayer as we approach Thanksgiving Day?

Are we truly thankful for what we have in this country?

+ Freedom of Speech. Some don’t want others to have that these days.

+ Freedom of the Press. + Freedom of Assembly. For the right to protest / the right to organize / the right for unions to meet. And some governors are trying to make it a crime to protest.

+ The possibility of work. But not all have it or enough of it or at a living wage.

+ The possibility of a decent education. But again, not all are able to afford it.

+ The possibility of decent health care. Again, who can get it and who cannot?

Is America the bright beacon of a hill it once was? Do other countries look up to us as they once did? As I think about these questions a day before Thanksgiving 2022, I wonder if I feel as proud to be an American as I used to be. I want to be, but it’s hard. I know I have to do my part as a citizen and I try. I feel rather embarrassed for us at times.

These days seem to me more like ancient Israel when they had lost their way and were unfaithful to God.  But we have much for which to be thankful this November after the midterm elections. For example . . . .

  • We can be grateful to voters, who for the third consecutive election, showed there is a majority — even if a narrow one — that rejects authoritarianism, crude appeals to racism and xenophobia, and downright nutty and mean candidates.

  • We can be grateful younger voters are developing a habit of voting in midterms.

  • We can be grateful to the thousands of election officials, workers and volunteers who pulled off another exceptionally efficient and peaceful exercise in democracy.

  • We can be grateful to the lawyers who litigated in defense of voting access and impartial election administration.

  • We can be grateful voters are becoming accustomed to early voting and voting by mail.

  • We can be grateful covid-19 is far less of a threat to people’s lives these days, and that it is no longer a barrier to gathering with friends and family for Thanksgiving.

  •  We can be grateful our sober commander in chief has not escalated tensions with Russia, vastly reducing the chances of a hot war between Russia and NATO.

  • We can be grateful for heroic Ukrainians who remind us of the price of freedom and the need to resist authoritarianism.

  • We can be grateful juries continue to convict and judges continue to sentence participants in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

  • We can be grateful federal, district and circuit courts have generally upheld the rule of law, preventing election subversion.

  • We can be grateful for a phalanx of lawyers, former prosecutors and legal scholars have helped provide the public with lively and profoundly helpful education in constitutional law.

  • We can be grateful to all the candidates who challenged election deniers and MAGA extremists in primaries and general election races, whether they won or lost.

  • We can be grateful Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is on the Supreme Court and that she has held tutorials on honest originalism.

  • We can be grateful to the men and women in the armed services and national security agencies, without whom our democracy would not survive.

  • And we can be grateful that the weary diplomats at COP27 who signed the final documents and will offer some relief to poorer countries suffering the most from Climate Change.

  • And we can be grateful that President Biden met with Xi Jinping to lower the temperature between China and the United States.

(This is an adaptation  of Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin Nov. 20, 2022)

All through my own life’s struggles, I’ve learned to continue to pick myself up and sing: “I’ll go on and praise Him; I’ll go on . . . “

And so, dear friends, so will we! If. . . If we thank God for the gifts He gives us day in and day out, day in and day out. And Praise Him—No. . . Matter . . .  What!

Dear God,

We are living in difficult times.

We do not know what lies ahead of us.

Some of us look forward with confidence;

others are fraught with fear.

But let us remember that if we look to you, O God,

You will be our Strength and even our Joy.

Please be with us in our land today

and bless us.

Bless our President and elected officials

that they would serve all of the people of this land. 

And so, we give you thanks this day for all of the blessings

You have showered upon our country and each of us.

Please bless us most of all with peace among nations

and peace here at home.b To You be all Glory and Honor and Thanksgiving. Amen!  

And now, before you go, here’s the great hymn “Now thank we all our God,” Click here. It’ll give you goosebumps.  Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. And please pray along with the lyrics as you listen! 

And here’s the link to the New York Times article, “Five ways to exercise your thankfulness muscles.” Click here.”


The Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe

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                The Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ-King of the Universe                                                         Sunday November 20, 2022

Today’s feast is Good News for most of us who are weary (and fed up?) with all that’s gone down with the election and it’s aftermath and the Pandemic too.   I just did a bit of research in the liturgical archives: this feast has gotten an upgrade! Before it was just “The Feast of Christ the King.” Now it’s the Feast (we give it the fancy name of Solemnity) of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe.  That offers us a lot more richness for our spirituality and even our politics as you’ll see in a few moment.

*  *  *  *

Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

And as we look forward to Thanksgiving and Advent and Christmas—the New Year this feast brings us, not just a sigh of relief from all we’ve been through this past year, for me at least, but an explosion of new hope and wonder as we realize the implications of living in Jesus’ kin-dom here and now!

I was blown away by the insights of famed Franciscan author Father Richard Rohr’s recent book The Universal Christ from which I unabashedly quote extensively here.

I am making the whole of creation new . . .    It will come true . . . It is already done!             I am the Alpha and the Omega, both the Beginning and the End.                                            ~ Revelations 21:5-6

Jesus didn’t normally walk around Judea making “I AM” statements; if he did, he very soon would have ended up being stoned to death. He didn’t normally talk that way. But when we look at the phrase we all love, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” we see a very fair statement that should not offend or threaten anyone. He’s describing the “Way” by which all humans and all religions must allow matter and Spirit to operate as one.

Once we see that the Eternal Christ is the one talking in these passages, Jesus’ words about the nature of God—and those created in the image of God—seem full of deep hope and a broad vision for all of creation.

The leap of faith that the orthodox Christians made from the early period was that the eternal Christ presence was truly speaking through the person of Jesus. Divinity and humanity were somehow able to speak as one, for if the union of God and humankind is “true” in Jesus, there is hope that it might be true in all of us too. That is the big takeaway from having Jesus speak as the Eternal Christ.

He is indeed “the pioneer and perfector of our faith,” as Hebrew puts it (12:2).

As the “Father of Orthodoxy,” St. Athanasius (296—375) wrote when the church had a more social, historical and revolutionary sense of itself: “God was consistent in working through man to reveal himself everywhere, as well as through the other parts of creation, so that nothing was left devoid of his Divinity and self-knowledge . . . so that the whole universe was filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters fill the sea”.

~ Athanasius De Incarnatione Verbe 45           

I have a note in the margin or Rohr’s book at that quote: WOW!!!

Athanasius was writing in the Fourth Century! Think about that when today we’ve seen images of  our blue planet taken from the moon; when scientists are discovering black holes and other solar systems beyond our own.  And mystics like Athanasius are still with us too!   And yet for a Christian—Catholic or otherwise—who clings only to Jesus as their personal savior in a “Jesus and me” kind of faith is much too myopic and narrow-minded, and therefore missing the real depth of their faith.

As a counterpoint, he says, the Eastern church, has a sacred word for this process, which in the West we call “incarnation” or “salvation”.  They call it “divinization (theosis).  If that sounds provocative, Rohr suggests, know that they are building on 2 Peter 1:4 where the author says, “He has given us something very great and wonderful  . . . . you are able to share the divine nature!

Most Catholics and Protestants still think of the incarnation as a one-time and one-person event having to do only with the person of Jesus of Nazareth, instead of a cosmic event that has soaked all of history in the Divine Presence from the very beginning.  Therefore, this implies . . .

+     That God is not an old man on a throne. God is Relationship itself, a dynamism of Infinite Love between Divine Diversity, as the doctrine of the Trinity demonstrates.    

+     That God’s infinite love has always included all that God created from the very beginning (Ephesians 1:3-14). The Torah  (first five books of the Hebrew bible) calls it “covenant love,” an unconditional agreement, both offered and consummated on God’s side (even if we don’t reciprocate)      

+     That the Divine “DNA” of the Creator is therefore held in all creatures.  What we call the “soul” of every creature could easily be seen as the self-knowledge of God in that creature!  It knows who it is and grows into its identity, just like as seed and egg.

Faith at its essential core is accepting that you are accepted! We cannot deeply know ourselves without knowing the One who made us, and cannot fully accept ourselves without accepting God’s radical acceptance of every part of ourselves. And God’s impossible acceptance of ourselves is easier to grasp if we first recognize the perfect unity of the human Jesus with the divine Christ. Start with Jesus, continue with yourself, and finally expand to everything else. As John says, “From the fullness (pleroma) we have all received grace upon grace “(1:16).

And for my concluding prayer this day, I rely on the wisdom of St. Paul who himself realized the awesome dimensions of Jesus’ reign  .   .  . 

Brothers and sisters:
Let us give thanks to the Father,
who has made you fit to share
in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.
He delivered us from the power of darkness
and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.
For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;
all things were created through him and for him.
He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the blood of his cross
through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

(Colossians 1: 12-20)

I will offer my Mass on Sunday for all of you, my readers—for yours and your families’ needs and intentions, Blessings to you this day!

Now before you go, I’m offering you a choice of music.

The first is “Crown Him with Many Crowns with about 3,000 voices. Click here,

The second is “Worthy is the Lamb” by the Australian young people’s group Hilsong.  Clickhere,

And here are the Mass readings for today’s Feast, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

Acknowledgements  . . . .
Richard Rohr The Universal Christ / Convergent Books New York 2019 /pp. 26-29.

Magnificat / November 2022 edition cover art / Odessa Art Museum / Ukraine 

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

 

 

 

 

 

Of Ghouls and Goblins, All Saints and All Souls and me and you too!

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Halloween falls on Monday, October 31st, this year, but it’s probably will be celebrated the weekend before (as I’m publishing this blog early to anticipate that). The two days that follow it on our Catholic liturgical calendar–the Feast of All Saints occur on the following day, Tuesday, November 1st, and the Commemoration of All Souls on November, 2nd–the day many Catholics and others visit the graves of their loved ones at their cemeteries and place flowers on their grave stones.

The word Halloween means the “Eve of All Hallows”—a medieval word for saint.  All Hallow’s Eve or All Saint’s Eve is a celebration observed in many countries on October 31st, and ushers in the time of the liturgical year (the month of November) dedicated to remembering the dead—all the faithful departed, especially those close to us. 

Some suggest that many Halloween traditions originated from ancient Celtic harvest festival, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, which may have had pagan roots and that Samhain itself was Christianized as Halloween by the early Church.

Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, attending costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, divination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted houses, telling scary stories, as well as watching horror movies.

In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observance of All Hallow’s Eve, included attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead.

It has been suggested that the carved jack-o’-lantern, now a popular symbol of Halloween, originally represented the souls of the dead. In medieval Europe, fires served a duel purpose, being lit to guide returning souls to the homes of their families, as well as to deflect demons from haunting any Christian folk. Many Christians in mainland Europe, especially in France, believed “that once a year, on Halloween, the dead of the churchyards rose for one wild, hideous carnival” known as the danse macabre, which was often depicted in church decorations.

In parts of Britain, these customs came under attack during the Reformation as some Protestants berated purgatory as a “popish” doctrine incompatible with their notion of predestination, that denotes that all events are pre-ordained by God.

In the United States the Anglican colonists in the southern states and the Catholic ones in Maryland recognized All Hallow’s Eve, although the Puritans of New England maintained strong opposition to the holiday, as well as to Christmas. It wasn’t until the Irish and Scottish immigrants of the 19th century that Halloween became a major American holiday and was gradually assimilated into the mainstream of American society and was celebrated from coast to coast by people of all social, racial and religious backgrounds by the first decade of the 20th century.

In Cajun areas,  like Louisiana or Haiti, a nocturnal Mass was said in cemeteries on Halloween night. Candles that had been blessed were placed on graves, and families sometimes spent the entire night at the graveside”  All Hallow’s Eve is followed by All Saint’s Day—that falls on a Tuesday this year.

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS56a0da93abee42a2d3df606756c214ac

The Gospel for this Feast Day is from the Sermon on the Mount and the eight beatitudes   . . . .

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. 
He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. 
He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will  God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”

I’m choosing a few of these and comment on them using our Presbyterian scripture scholar William Barclay as our source.

First he comments on the word “blessed.” The word blessed is a very special word, he says.  In Greek the word  is Makarios. It describes that joy which has is a secret within itself–that joy which is serene and untouchable, and completely independent of all  opportunities and changes of life. The Christian blessedness is completely untouchable and unassailable “No one,” says Jesus, ‘will take my joy from you” (John 16:22). The beatitudes speak of that joy which penetrates our pain, that joy which sorrow and loss, and pain and grief, are powerless to touch, which nothing in life or death can take away.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In Hebrew the word for poor was used to describe the humble and the helpless person who put their whole trust in God.

Therefore, Blessed in the poor in spirit means . . .

Blessed is the one who has realized one’s utter helplessness and has put his whole trust in God.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness sake.

So few of us know what true hunger or what true thirst is about. In these Pandemic times and so many millions out of work, many families have had to line up at food banks. But what about poor countries?   What about those that don’t have safe drinking water? So the hunger this beatitude speaks of is no genteel hunger but the hunger of a person starving for food.

If this is so, this beatitude is a challenge: How much do you want goodness? Most people have an instinct for goodness. But how much?

So the correct translation of this beatitude is . . .

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for the whole of righteousness, for complete righteousness.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

We pray in the Lord’s Prayer “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” but there’s even more to this beatitude than that. The Hebrew word for mercy, chesedh, means the ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we can see things with their eyes, think things with their mind and feel things with their feelings. This is much more than a gesture of our pity.

The word sympathy is derived from two Greek words syn which means together with and paschein which means to experience or to suffer. Sympathy means experiencing things together with the other person, literally going through what that person is going through. So the translation of this fifth beatitude might read . . .

O the happiness of the person who gets right inside other people until he can see with their eyes, think with their thoughts, feel with their feelings, for the person who does will find others do the same for him and know what God in Jesus Christ has done!

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.

This beatitude demands that every person should stop and think and examine himself.

The Greek word for pure is katharos. It has a variety of meanings, but basically means unmixed, unalloyed, unadulterated.

Is our work done from motives of service or for pay? This beatitude requires self-examination. So then the sixth beatitude might read . . .

O happy is the person whose motives are most pure for one day he will see God!

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.” Their Roman neighbors asked a libation to their god before dinner. They couldn’t do that. Then Caesar declared himself a god and required obeisance by law. They couldn’t do that and faced torture and martyrdom.         Barclay vol I pp 88- 111.

Hebrew 12; 1 speaks of a great “Cloud of Witnesses”

Here are some of the amazing folk down through the twenty one centuries of the church of many gifts and talents who have drawn people the Western Catholicism into relationship with our God and with one another

Here are some of our great ones . . . .

Saint Mary, Mother of God,

Saint Michael, Archangel and mighty protector against the Evil One

Saint Gabriel, Archangel

Saint Joseph, husband of Mary, taught Jesus his trade on carpentry

Saint John the Baptist, one of my patrons (my middle name is John)

Saint Peter, the Rock on whom Jesus built his Church

Saint Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles

Saint Mary Magdalene, the apostle to the Apostles

St. Martha offered hospitality to Jesus in her home

St. Monica prayed for her son, Augustine’s conversion

St. Augustine, the early church writer and doctor

St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom, Eastern Church fathers and doctors

St. Leo the Great, early church pope and great achiever

St. Benedict, the father of western monasticism

St. Anselm, apostle to the English

St. Patrick, apostle to the Irish

St. Robert of Molesme, one of two founders of the Cistercians and one of my patrons

St. Bernard, early founder of the Cistercians, doctor and church reformer

St. Francis of Assisi (y’all know who he is, right?)

St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers

St. Anthony of Padua Master General of the Dominicans—not just the finder of lost objects!

St. Clare, followed Francis and founded the Poor Clares

St. Thomas of Aquinas, the great medieval theologian at the end of his life said God was unknowable

St. Catherine of Siena a 33-year-old Dominican third order lay woman, counselor to popes who obtained peace between warring factions and stigmatist

St. Joan of Arc who led France successfully in war against the English and was burned at the stake as a heretic because of it

St. Thomas More, Chancellor to King Henry VIII and lawyer who would not abide Henry’s divorce

St. Ignatius of Loyola, Founder of the Jesuits and his motto To the Honor and Glory of God (AMDG) (I remember putting that at the top of all my high school and college papers)

St. Francis Xavier, the great missionary to the orient

St. Teresa of Avila, the joyful reformer of the Carmelite order

St. John of the Cross, Teresa’s cofounder and poet

St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Jesuit youth who died serving the sick during the black plague

St. Peter Claver, Spanish Jesuit priest who served the slaves in Columbia

St. Vincent de Paul who served the poor and reformed seminary education

St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk maiden, converted by Jesuit missionaries in the New York region

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus 

St. Francis de Sales promoted sanctity for everyone in all walks of life

St. Paul of the Cross founded the Passionists

St. Alphonsus Ligouri founded the Redemptorists

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, wife, mother and founder of religious order of sisters who have founded schools of all levels up to the university level across the US and beyond.

St. John Vianney, a simple French parish priest recognized as the patron of all priests.

St. John Bosco, the founder of the Salesians

St. Damien de Veuster, who spent his life helping those with Hanson’s disease on Molokai, Hawaii

St. John Henry Newman, Anglican scholar, who converted to Catholicism and founded the Oratory

St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, who became a doctor of the church at age 24

St. Maximilian Kolbe, who gave his life in place of another who had a family at Auschwitz

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) Jewish scholar, college professor, convert to Catholicism, Carmelite nun, imprisoned and sentenced to death also at Auschwitz

St. Pius of Pietrelcina, (Padre Pio) suffered joyfully from the Stigmata (wounds of Christ) for most of his life, spent many of his days hearing confessions of hundreds of penitents

St. Paul VI / St. John XXIII / St. John Paul II Popes

St. Teresa of Calcutta. (Mother Teresa) Founder of the Missionaries of Charity, received the Nobel Peace prize,

St. Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador.  

And now before you go, here’s the rousing hymn, “For all the Saints”. The songs lyrics are a meditation; I suggest singing along and paying attention to the words. Be sure ton turn up your speakers and an enter full screen. Click here.

And here are the All Saints’ Day Mass readings: Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US! ~ a reflection on our elections!

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This is an old post from 2011 that is just as relevant today.  So here goes .  . .

I was reflecting on and praying about this difficult election season yesterday,  and how upsetting it has been for many of us, and I thought back to another time similar to this — the midterm elections in 2010!  I had written a piece about it at the time that I’ll share with you here (2011) and (2022).

We need a little humor in all this mess of infighting in election season, don’t cha think?  Maybe this will grant you a chuckle or two.

A year ago this October (2010), I visited my good friend Father Dan Coughlin, who was  Chaplain to the U. S. House of Representatives at the time. (We’ve known each other from our work together with the National Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions in the Seventies.) We met in his office down in the catacombs of the img_0806House and then made our way up to dining room. The House was in recess (much to my relief) so we had the hallowed dining room to ourselves. I had a wonderful poached salmon with a dill and butter sauce. And spinach salad.

We didn’t talk about politics at all (which I always find quite painful, and I’m sure many of you do as well). We just talked about old times. Dan gave the invocation each day and was available for counsel for the members. (He must have had the patience of a saint!)

Visiting the Capitol made me proud to be an American–but I wonder what I would think and feel or be praying about if I wandered through those once-hallowed, but now desecrated halls, once again.

I wrote in 201l,  in the these midterm elections, there’s just too much anger, too much mudslinging. Too many lies. Too much hatred. Too much incivility for our own good.   Too much rage that could be ignited at any moment. It almost was, by a gunman in California who was “inspired” by the “teaching” of one Glenn Beck a week ago (2011).  On the same topic of guns, Governor DeSantis, this year, blocked state funding for a Tampa Bay Rays baseball facility after the team donated to a gun violence prevention program after the Uvalde, Texas, mass shooting.

The problem I have with all of this:  Shouldn’t we be teaching our children  to respect authority?   Isn’t the President due a certain amount of respect simply because he is the president?   Don’t we teach our children to respect their teachers?

When we get into crisis situations we look for other people to blame; we look for a scapegoat. The DEMOCRATS are the problem! Throw the bums out! The REPUBLICANS are the problem! Throw the . . .   Or the illegals. Or the gays. Or the Muslims. Or the (um) Tea Partiers (way back then!)  Now it’s the Never Trumpers! Or the Forever Trumpers!

Or in 2022–The “Woke” folks! (And ya know–after hearing that word bandied about for over a year now–I still haven’t the foggiest (steamiest?) idea what “those people” who use that word are meaning or intending to get across to me or any of us, except (perhaps) (maybe) to confuse us?

WAIT A MINUTE! Let’s stop! Let’s realize that we all have some share of responsibility for the problems we are carrying! And so, since I the humble begins of this blog in March 2006— I have been pleading with you, my dearest readers, to pray with me for the transformation of our country by entering into personal transformation.

Think about this:

As Jesus approached Jerusalem for Passover, and saw the city, he wept over it, and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 13:39-41).  

Perhaps January 6, 2021, was a warning for us. The Jewish people forty years after Jesus’ warning did not heed.  Will we?

 Let’s let Pogo’s illustrious creator, Walt Kelly, who did speak the Queen’s English with great eloquence

have our (almost) last words on the subject.

, and would expostulate in the midst of all–our rage  (You may have to read this–um–erudite comic book illustrator who was prevalent in the Queen’s English, thrice, as I did the first time I read it. I said, “Huh? Let me read this again, “This is amazing!!” He would, laugh and say. “’Twas ever thus . . .”

“Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly. It is just unfortunate that in the clumsy hands of a cartoonist all traits become ridiculous, leading to a certain amount of self-conscious expostulation and the desire to join battle. There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blast on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us. 

We need a little of Pogo and Walt Kelly’s arse-kickin’, very subtle humor. (He’s kickin you and me very firmly in the lower regions of our posteriors!)  Take that, Donald Trump! Hillary Clinton! And in 2022–a whole lot of Repooblicans and Demo-crats, and  You! and Me too!

There are a lot of us running around with overstuffed egos and not there are not many humble enough to admit their own mistakes.   To admit they don’t have all the answers.

Let’s stop and have a laugh or two about our mutual insanities!

Some of this stuff on the Internet (again in 2010 midterms) is pretty darn funny:

“I’m tea-baggin’ 4 Jesus!”

  “Americans help us boycott Mexico — Respect Are Country — Speak English”

ReFudiate Obama – November 2” 

No Pubic option — no socialism

 Make English America’s offical language

 We have no idea what we’re talking about.

All voting is loco.

Lately, political anger has become all the rage.

Republican Party

Democratic Party

Pizza Party

Let’s face it. Underneath our anger and rage is fear. There’s a lot of it. Very legitimate fears. And we could use a little comfort, and a good dose of laughter. Let’s take Walt Kelly’s wisdom to heart.

On November 8th, it will be time for some prayer and calm instead. Time to stand down.  It will be time to unite. Let’s hope and pray it happens.  

(An excerpt of Psalm 122. . .  .)

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem

(Pray for the peace of the United States ofAmerica)

May those who love you prosper!

May peace be within your borders,

     prosperity within your buildings,

Because of my brothers and friends,  

     I will say, “Peace within you!”

Because of the house of the Lord, our God,

     I will pray for your good.  

And now, before you go, here’s the perfect song by Sissel and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir: “Slow Down”. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speaker and enter full screen.

AND IF YOU HAVEN’T DONE SO ALREADY, BE SURE TO GET OUT AND VOTE!!

St. Teresa of Ávila ~ Woman Mystic for our times!

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My first introduction to the great St. Teresa (beyond the mention she receives in the Divine Office on October 15th each year) was fifteen years ago when I was living in the Baltimore area.

With the Vatican II renewal some Carmelites have moved out from behind the grille, drawing those who join them from the outside to connect with them on the inside at their services. In the last few years as well, they’ve added Zoom meetings on some Saturday afternoons for “Lectio Divina” in which they’d have a scripture scholar offer notes on the (Sunday’s) Gospel and then we would break into smaller discussion groups for the rest of the hour. The sisters would show us a glimpse of their own rooms—as we ourselves would from our own homes.

The Baltimore Carmel includes women who joyfully observe the traditional ways, with the traditional habit and others who connect with the ways of contemporary women and who wear ordinary clothes.  

I would sometimes celebrate a weekday Eucharist in the mornings. It was wonderful to just sit back and listen to their soprano and alto voices as they sing the psalms. They are most always into their prayer! I was sometimes uplifted that I found myself singing in harmony.

Baltimore’s Carmel was founded in 1790 at Port Tobacco in southern Maryland by women from some of the oldest Catholic families in colonial Maryland, so they were celebrating their 225th year in the United States, alongside St. Teresa’s 500th in 2014 (when this story was written.)  They remained there tilling a farm, until 1831 when they moved to Baltimore City. The Carmelite sisters, today as ever, dedicate themselves to the contemplative life. They say, “we have been trying to unveil the mystical prayer tradition of Carmel for ourselves and our people. We want people to understand the thirst for God within them.”

I was invited to a special celebration in October 2000.  Sister Patricia Josephine of the Cross is   an example of the vibrant connection this monastery of nuns have with the world. At age 49 she was to make her solemn profession on the feast of St. Teresa of Avila. Pat, as she introduced herself, was the nun who first invited me to the monastery.

Her vocation story is unusual and, I’d say, amazing.  Originally from Pittsburgh, Pat got a degree in engineering from Carnegie-Mellon and a degree in finance from Loyola College in Baltimore. She worked for Baltimore Gas and Electric for 21 years in engineering and management. Some six years ago she left her well-established position. and came to Carmel to live. With such a successful secular career, her vocation to the contemplative life is all the more wonderful.

And what a celebration! The Liturgy of Solemn Profession exemplified her community’s understanding of the call to holiness, the call to a rich contemplative life.

 Before the Mass, the chapel was bursting with adults and children and babies and priests and a bishop. Sister Leah danced the most beautiful prayer, contemplation in visual form.

The homilist spoke of the Gospel reading that was one of St. Teresa’s favorites—the story of the woman at the well. (“Lord, give me this water.”) Carmelites understand this Scripture as Christ’s invitation to drink deeply of the contemplative life. The homilist also spoke of the Cross, which Pat took as part of her new name. Being joined to the Cross is an essential part of her personal spirituality.

 Pat spoke to us after the homily. She said  . . .

“When I give my life to God today, do I really know what that means? Do any of us know what we are getting into? But the examples of fidelity that surround us are profound manifestations of what it means to be faithful. How many here have over 50 years? 40? 30? Mother Celine (so much the center of the life and reverence of the community) has been 74 years a Carmelite. There are nearly 5000 years of committed living represented at this celebration.”

After the homily and during the great Litany of the Saints, Pat lay prostrate on the floor. Then followed the solemn blessing, proclaimed by Sister Colette, the Prioress of the community.

Sister Patricia Josephine of the Cross so easily said Yes to her solemn vows. She said Yes to her order’s invitation to give herself without reservation to God and the church.

It was amazing! Years ago, I could not have spoken my fidelity with such ease and grace; indeed, mine has been a real struggle at times over the years. What an example she has given to me and to us in her enthusiastic response to God!

These women are holy, as so many of us are holy without naming it as such. Unlike those in a cloister, which have their own unique call to holiness from behind the grille, they draw us in! We are brought close to the circle of their community life. As they love and care for each other and are joined together in prayer, the goodness—the grace—of their common life spills over on us. It is clear that we are invited to the circle, but the circle itself is reserved for the community.

They have given me an opportunity to connect with women of our age and time and an opportunity for me to reflect through the eyes of dedicated women on how Christ is responding to the needs of people today, giving me a more comfortable entre into the women’s movement. It is my understanding that they have been true to their holy mother Teresa, a woman of her times, too, and a visionary of how to live a community life. They embrace both the new in the old and the old in the new.

Here are some themes to ponder in this visit to Carmel:

(1) The joy of commitment unto death and fidelity to that commitment.

(2) The role of women in the church, of women who accept the reality and limitations of women’s roles in the church today and find plenty of room to minister.

 (3) The universal call to holiness; that each of us is called to be holy in our own vocation.

(4) The great gift of contemplative prayer in the church and society; that contemplative life is a joyful and blessed and powerful life.

(5) The ability to celebrate our relationship with God, unabashedly, without reservation and with joyful abandon.

(6) And the invitation to young people to hear and respond to God’s call to them to live a life of service in the church and for the world

I close this reflection with a saying of St. Teresa that Sister Patricia Josephine of the Cross had printed on her holy card:

  “Fix your eyes on the Crucified

     and everything will become

 small for you.” — St. Teresa of Avila

So, let’s turn now to look at this wonderful woman who has called so many others to holiness.

A Brief Biography St. Teresa of Avila

By Tejvan Pettinger (biographyonline)

Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) – Spanish mystic, writer and reformer of the Carmelite order. St Teresa of Avila was an influential and pivotal figure of her generation.

St Teresa (Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada) was born in Avila, Spain on March 28,1515. Her parents were both pious Catholics and in some ways inspired their daughter to take up a life of prayer. As a young child Teresa showed signs of a deeply religious nature; she would often retreat into silence for prayer and would enjoy giving alms to the poor. She was close to her mother, who provided a warm counterbalance, to the strictness of her father. Teresa’s mother passed away, when she was a teenager. The young St Teresa tells of her despair and how she turned instinctively to the Virgin Mary for comfort.

I threw myself down in despair before an image of the Mother of God. With many tears, I implored the Holy Virgin to become my mother now. Uttered with the simplicity of a child, this prayer was heard. From that hour on, I never prayed to the Virgin in vain.” (1)

During her later teen years Teresa lost some of her early piety and religious zeal. She recounted how she became interested in worldly matters and enjoyed the company of a wide circle of friends. She had a natural charm and found it easy to make friends. In return she enjoyed the compliments and friendships of others.

However, she was not at peace, considering herself to be a miserable sinner; later she would look back in guilt at her early life. This sense of being a “miserable sinner” was probably the result of a harsh self-judgment, encouraged by her father’s exacting religious standards. When she was 16, her father decided to send Teresa to a convent. This re-ignited in Teresa an interest in following a spiritual life and after some deliberation she resolved to become a nun of the Carmelite Order.  At the time the convent rules were not very strict; it was probably more relaxed than living with her father. At the time the convent accepted many people into the order, often for financial reasons. The convent became overcrowded and people were often judged not on the basis of spiritual intensity but on material possessions. In this climate, Teresa struggled to find time for quiet reflection; although she did start teaching people on the virtues of mental prayer.

Shortly after becoming a nun, Avila experienced a severe illness (malaria), which left her in great pain for a long period. At one point it was feared that her illness was so severe that she would not be able to recover. However, during this period of intense physical pain, she began to increasingly experience divine visions and an inner sense of peace. These inner experiences of joy and peace seemed to transcend the intense physical pain of the body.  She describes in her own words her state of mind during these trials and tribulations.

“I bore these sufferings with great composure, in fact with joy, except at first when the pain was too severe. What followed seemed to hurt less. I was completely surrendered to the will of God even if he intended to burden me like this forever . . . . The other sisters wondered at my God-given patience. Without him I truly could not have borne so much with so much joy.” (2)

When she was a little better, she resumed her prayers with renewed vigor. However, after telling others of her visions and spiritual experiences, she was dissuaded from pursuing them. Certain clergy felt they were just delusions of the devil. As a result, for many years Teresa lost the confidence to pursue her prayers and her spiritual life was almost put on hold. Yet, when Teresa was 41, she met a priest who convinced her to go back to her prayers and implore God to come to her.  Initially, she had some difficulty sitting through prayers. However, in the course of time, she became absorbed in deep contemplation in which she felt an ever-growing sense of oneness with God. At times she felt overwhelmed with divine love.. She was so filled with divine contemplation it is said at times her body would spontaneously levitate. Teresa, however, was not keen on these public displays of “miracles.”             When she felt it happening she would ask other nuns to sit on her to prevent her floating away.

(The Ecstasy of St. Teresa /Bernini / Rome)    Note the arrow in the angel’s hand.)

Teresa was not a just a quiet, placid saint. She had endearing, natural quality; her life energy attracted and inspired many who were close. They admired her for both her outer charm and inner serenity. But at the same time her ecstasies also caused jealousy and suspicion. Unfortunately, she lived at the time  of the Spanish inquisition, and any deviation from orthodox religious experience came under strict observation and scrutiny.

On one occasion Teresa complained to God about her mistreatment from so many different people. God replied to her saying “That is how I always treat my friends” with good humor St Teresa replied, “That must be why you have so few friends”. St Teresa struggled because there were few who could understand or appreciate her inner ecstasies. However, on the one hand, she felt these experiences to be more real.

At the age of 43, St Teresa decided she wanted to found a new order recommitting to the values of poverty and simplicity. She wanted to move away from her present convent which made a life of prayer more difficult. Initially her aims were greeted with widespread opposition from within the town of Avila. Yet, with the support of some priests, the opposition waned and she was allowed to set up her first convent. Teresa proved to be an influential leader and founder. She guided the nuns not just through strict disciplines, but also through the power of love and common sense. Her way was not the way of rigid asceticism and self-denial. Although she underwent many tribulations herself, to others she stressed the importance of experiencing God’s love. As she herself says:

You know, I no longer govern in the way I used to. Love does everything. I am not sure if that is because no one gives me cause to reprove her, or because I have discovered that things go better in that way.”       [p.657] (3)

“The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything.” (1)

Teresa devoted much of the rest of her life to traveling around Spain setting up new convents based according to the ancient monastic traditions.  Her travels and work were not always greeted with enthusiasm; many resented her reforms and the implied criticism of existing religious orders. She often met with criticism including the papal nuncio who used the rather descriptive phrase “a restless disobedient gadabout who has gone about teaching as though she were a professor.”

Teresa also frequently contended with difficult living conditions and her frail health. She never let these obstacles dissuade her from her life’s task. She eventually died on October 4, 1582 at the age of 67.

 (This ends the Pettinger bio.)

Her final illness overtook her on one of her journeys from Burgos to Alba de Tormes. She died in 1582, just as Catholic nations were making the transition from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar which required the removal of the dates October 5–14 from the calendar. She died either before midnight of October4 or early in the morning of October 15, which is celebrated as her feast day. Her last words were:

 “My Lord, it is time to move on. Well then, may your will be done. O my Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another.(Wikipedia)

HER MYSTICISM

Showing results for her mysticism, in 1622, forty years after her death she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV. The papal honor of Doctor of the Church was bestowed upon her and St. Catherine of Siena by Pope Paul VI in 1970 making them the first women to be awarded the distinction. Teresa is revered as the Doctor of Prayer. The mysticism in her works exerted a formative influence upon many theologians of the following centuries, including St. Francis of Sales.   

The kernel of Teresa’s mystical thought throughout all her writings is the ascent of the soul to God in four stages.

The first, or “mental prayer”, is that of devout contemplation or concentration, the withdrawal of the soul from ordinary thoughts and especially the devout observance of the passion of Christ and penitence (Autobiography 11.20).

The second is the “prayer of quiet”. (Autobiography 14.1).

The “devotion of union” is not only a supernatural, but an essentially ecstatic state.

The fourth is the “devotion of ecstasy or rapture.”

Sense activity ceases; memory and imagination are also absorbed in God or intoxicated. Body and spirit are in the throes of a sweet, happy pain, alternating between a fearful fiery glow, sometimes by such an ecstatic flight that the body is literally lifted into space. The subject awakens from this in tears; it is the climax of mystical experience, producing a trance.  Indeed, she was noted having been observed levitating during Mass on more than one occasion. (Wikipedia)

Teresa is one of the foremost writers on mental prayer and her position among writers on mystical theology is unique. In all her writings on this subject she deals with her personal experiences. Her deep insight and analytical gifts helped her to explain them clearly. Her definition was used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church  . . . .

“Contemplative prayer in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.

It was Teresa’s superiors who commanded her to write. But she insisted that she had no learning and who wrote her great work on prayer and the mystical life only because she was directed to do so. In fact, when faced with the immensity of God she called herself “stupid.”

And yet, one day, on the eve of Trinity Sunday, Teresa was granted a magnificent vision.  She had been longing to be shown the beauty of a soul in grace; and she had been asked to write a treatise on prayer by the priests who knew that she was far advance in that knowledge than they themselves. A biographer and friend said, God, “showed her a most beautiful crystal globe, made in the shape of a castle and containing seven mansions, in the seventh innermost of which was the King of Glory, in the greatest splendor, illuminating and beautifying them all.” (Anthony Esolen / Magnificat / Oct.15, 2015. p.209.)

ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS

We must not end our notes on our beloved Teresa’s life without mentioning St. John of the Cross (1542- 1591). As part of her original patent, Teresa was given permission to set up two houses for men who wished to adopt the reforms; she convinced John of the Cross and Anthony of Jesus to help with this. They founded the first convent of Discalced Carmelite Brethren in November 1568.

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John of the Cross was also  a reformer of the Carmelite Order and is considered, along with Teresa of Avila as a founder of the Discalced Carmelites (The word “discalced means barefoot or sandaled”). He is also known for his writings. Both his poetry and his studies on the growth of the soul are considered the summit of mystical Spanish literature and one of the peaks of all Spanish literature.

On a late December night, 1577, a group of Carmelites opposed to reform broke into John’s dwelling in Ávila and took him prisoner. John had received an order from some of his superiors, opposed to reform, ordering him to leave Ávila and return to his original house, but John had refused on the basis that his reform work had been approved by the Spanish nuncio, a higher authority than these superiors. The Carmelites therefore took John captive. He was taken from Ávila to the Carmelite monastery in Toledo where he was brought before a court of friars, accused of disobeying the ordinances of Piacenza. He received a punishment of imprisonment and was jailed in the monastery, where he was kept under a brutal regimen that included public lashing before the community at least weekly, and severe isolation in a tiny stifling cell measuring ten by six feet, barely large enough for his body. Except when rarely permitted an oil lamp, he had to stand on a bench to read his breviary by the light through the hole into the adjoining room. He had no change of clothing and a penitential diet of water, bread and scraps of salt fish. During this imprisonment, he composed a great part of his most famous poem, the Spiritual Canticle, as well as a few shorter poems. The friar who guarded his cell would smuggle in the paper he needed. He managed to escape nine months later, on August 15, 1578, through a small window in a room adjoining his cell. (He had managed to pry the cell door off its hinges earlier that day.)

After being nursed back to health, first with Teresa’s nuns in Toledo, and then during six weeks at the Hospital of Santa Cruz, John continued with reform. (Wikipedia)

One evening before Christmas in 2004, I sat in the darkened chapel of the Baltimore Carmelite Monastery where I mentioned, I loved to go. Some of my seventeen sisters were coming in for Mass. The darkness enveloped us like a navy-blue blanket. It was the first time I had been alone in the darkness there. Actually, I had been thinking all day of darkness and light as I wanted to write my Advent/Christmas Arise on “coping with darkness.” The darkened chapel prompted a question—even today—how do we cope with the darkness we are experiencing in our world, our nation and our church in 2015 –and today in October 2022—with the violence we experience in our cities and our politics and our world? 

I went into the monastery sacristy to vest for Mass. (Their stoles match a gorgeous wall-hanging and are full of light — metallic colors and textures of wool and silk, satin and corduroy; I love to wear them. (Many priests take pride in the vestments they wear.) When I came out for Mass the sacred space around the altar, with the choir chairs arranged permanently in a circle, was no longer dark but brilliantly illumined. The lesson the chapel reminded me of was that darkness is sometimes pierced by light. And sometimes light is overshadowed by sinister and sometimes evil darkness. Darkness does not remain in this sacred space nor in our hearts if Jesus resides there.

And, now before you go, here’s the a virtual choir of discalced Carmelite nuns from all over the world celebrating their 500 anniversary of their beloved founder Teresa. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

Works of St. Teresa of Avila

WORKS OF ST. TERESA OF AVILA

In 1566 she wrote Camino de perfeccion (Way of Perfection) in about 1566, to tell the nuns how to reach their goal.

In 1580 she wrote what is considered her greatest work; the Castillo interior/ Las moradas (Interior castle /The mansions) this involved describing the various stages of spiritual evolution leading to full prayer; she wrote Las Fundaciones (Foundations) from 1573 to 1582, so they would remember the early history of their order.

 Poetry of St. Teresa Avila

Teresa wrote several volumes of poetry her most popular (4)  [p.33] “God is enough.” > >

Let nothing

  upset you,

let nothing

   startle you.

All things pass;

God does not

   change.

Patience wins

All it seeks.

Whoever has God

lacks nothing:

God alone

   is enough.

 God alone

  is enough!

OO

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_1977-3.jpg

With love,

Bob Traupman 2015 

With Love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Mr. Pettinger’s notes.

Mr. Pettinger is a young economist living in Great Britain who has hundreds of brief biographies on his website of people he believes have changed the world. Check it out!

(1) St Teresa Avila

(2) Our Garden of Carmel – on St Teresa Avila

(3) The letters of Saint Teresa of Jesus; translated and edited by E. Allison Peers from the critical edition of P. Silverio de Santa Teresa. London, Burns, Oates & Washbourne [1950] (2 v.: xii, 1006 p.)

(4) The complete poetry of St. Teresa of Avila: a bilingual edition / Eric W.Vogt; foreword by Jaime L. Sin. New\

On one occasion Teresa complained to God about her mistreatment from so many different people. God replied to her saying “That is how I always treat my friends” with good humor St Teresa replied, “That must be why you have so few friends”. St Teresa struggled because there were few who could understand or appreciate her inner ecstasies. However, on the one hand, she felt these experiences to be more real than ordinary.n one occasion Teresa complained to God about her mistreatment from so many different people. God replied to her saying “That is how I always treat my friends” with good humor St Teresa replied, “That must be why you have so few friends”. St Teresa struggled because there were few who could understand or appreciate her inner ecstasies. However, on the one hand, she felt these experiences to be more real than ordinary.n onOn one occasion Teresa complained to God about her mistreatment from so many different people. God replied to her saying “That is how I always treat my friends” with good humor St Teresa replied, “That must be why you have so few friends”. St Teresa struggled because there were few who could understand or appreciate her inner ecstasies. However, on the one hand, she felt these experiences to be more real than ordinary.e occasion Teresa complained to God about her mistreatment from so many different people. God replied to her saying “That is how I always treat my friends” with good humor St Teresa replied, “That must be why you have so few friends”. St Teresa struggled because there were few who could understand or appreciate her inner ecstasies. However, on the one hand, she felt these experiences to be more real than ordinary.

On one occasion Teresa complained to God about her mistreatment from so many different people. God replied to her saying “That is how I always treat my friends”, and with good humor St Teresa replied, “That must be why you have so few friends”. S struggled because there were few who could understand or appreciate her inner estasi.

On one occasion Teresa complained to God about her mistreatment from so many different people. God replied to her saying “That is how I always treat my friends” with good humor St Teresa replied, “That must be why you have so few friends”. St Teresa struggled because there were few who could understand or appreciate her inner ecstasies. However, on the one hand, she felt these experiences to be more real than ordinary.At the age of 43, St Teresa decided she wanted to found a new section of her order recommitting to the values of poverty and simplicity. She wanted to move away from her present convent which made a life of prayer more difficult. Teresa proved to be an influential leader and founder. She guided the nuns not just through strict disciplines, but also through the power of love and common sense. Her way was not the way of rigid aseticism and self-denial. Although she underwent many tribulations here, hrs se stressed the importance of experiencing God’s love. As she herself says



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 Let nothing

upset you,

let nothing

   startle you.

All things pass;

God does not

   change.

Patience wins

All it seeks.

Whoever has God

lacks nothing:

God alone

   is enough.

Mr. Pettinger is a young economist living in Great Britain who has hundreds of brief biographies on his website of people he believes have changed the world. Check it out!

Footnotes for Pettinger bio:

(1) St Teresa Avila

(2) Our Garden of Carmel – on St Teresa Avila

(3) The letters of Saint Teresa of Jesus; translated and edited by E. Allison Peers from the critical edition of P. Silverio de Santa Teresa. London, Burns, Oates & Washbourne [1950] (2 v.: xii, 1006 p.)

(4) The complete poetry of St. Teresa of Avila: a bilingual edition / Eric W.Vogt; foreword by Jaime L. Sin. New

And, now before you go, here’s the a virtual choir of discalced Carmelite nuns from all over the world

With love,

Bob Traupman 2015 

Contemplative Writer

“I bore these sufferings with great composure, in fact with joy, except at first when the pain was too severe. What followed seemed to hurt less. I was completely surrendered to the will of God even if he intended to burden me like this forever . . . . The other sisters wondered at my God-given patience. Without him I truly could not have borne so much with so much joy.” (2)

The Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael

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The Feast of the Archangel

Michael, Gabriel and  Raphael

Thursday September 29, 2022

Nearly everyone is fascinated by angels, whether they are into religion or not. You may recall the popular TV series Touched by an Angel, starring Della Reese, Roma Downey, Toby Keith that ran from 1994- 2003.

Angels have an important role in the Bible and in our history because they’re God’s Pony Express–or in our day–“Break News” and extra beeps on your text messages, saying, “Listen up! Get this! This will change your life.  They are taught as part of our Catholic teaching tradition.

The witness of Scripture is as also clear as it was handed down to us ( tradition). For Jews have always  known  angels in their tradition, both as they lived it and in their Scriptures.. The Old Testament makes numerous references to them. Witness the angel that led Israel’s camp and protected them from Pharaoh.

The same is especially true of Christians. In addition to what is given to us in the Old Testament, almost every book of the New Testament shows us that the angels are a real and active force in our lives. And since in the life of Jesus as man and his eternal existence as God consists of numerous encounters with the angels, you cannot believe in Jesus as Christ without encountering angels.

So what are angels?

St. Augustine says: “‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are, ‘spirit’, from what they do, ‘angel.'” With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they “always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” they are the “mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word”.

As purely spiritual creatures, angels have superior intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness. (CAC, no, 330)

 The more powerful Messenger- Angels can appear in human form and interact with us, but those bodies are only temporary mirages and pass away when their interaction with certain humans ends. As purely spiritual beings, angels  don’t have DNA and those bodies may feel like ordinary bodies to us,  but are not part of the angelic nature and thus vanish after the encounter because they have no use for physical bodies as we do.

The purpose of all of the angels is to serve, and praise God, worship, and pray to God. In the process of serving God, they also protect us, pray for us, inspire us, encourage us, and guide us during our journey on Earth. Some early Christian traditions indicate that even after our death, the angels continue to guide us in our journey to our final place, whether it is to Heaven or to Hell. It is speculative that those who have to go through the final state of purification on the way to Heaven known as Purgatory might also have their guardian angels (Psalm 91:9-12; Matthew 18:1-4,10) with them during their time of purification of sin.

Angels also pray for us. We see in Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8 that the angels continue to sing and pray to God, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts!” We also see in Tobit 12:12 and Revelation 5:8 and 8:3 that along with the Saints who are in Heaven, the angels serve as intercessors for us in prayer to God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:10 not to despise or bring harm to children, “for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.

And yes, everyone has a guardian angel.

Our Guardian Angels love us and do everything within God’s Will to protect us from harm. Sometimes though we reject God’s protection, and by consequence their protection too, we have to deal with the consequences of our sins when we don’t ask forgiveness and change our ways. (CAC, no. 336) Their Feast Day for our guardian angels is October 2nd. I’ll post a blog that day (God willin’) and share about them some more.

Angels also pray for us. We see in Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8 that the angels continue to sing and pray to God, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts!” We also see in Tobit 12:12 and Revelation 5:8 and 8:3 that along with the Saints who are in Heaven, the angels serve as intercessors for us in prayer to God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:10 not to despise or bring harm to children, “for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

St. Gregory the Great notes that angels do not have names unless and until they are given a mission from God to announce a message. There are untold millions of angels in heaven, all created as pure spirits, in continual praise and adoration of our God.  Scripture also makes clear that at great events of salvation history, God sends an “archangel” to proclaim a message.

The three Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are three of the seven archangels named in Sacred Scripture and all three have important roles in the history of salvation.

05cd0050104859dcf6be25f90472fa6dSaint Michael is the “Prince of the Heavenly Host,” the leader of all the angels. His name is Hebrew for “Who is like God?” and was the battle cry of the good angels against Lucifer and his followers when they rebelled against God. He is mentioned four times in the Bible, in Daniel 10 and 12, in the letter of Jude, and in Revelation.

Michael, whose forces cast down Lucifer and the evil spirits into Hell, is invoked for protection against Satan and all evil. Pope Leo XIII, in 1899, having had a prophetic vision of the evil that would be inflicted upon the Church and the world in the 20th century, instituted a prayer asking for Saint Michael’s protection to be said at the end of every Mass. (I’ll include that prayer at the bottom of this blog, though it was suppressed with the Vatican II changes in the liturgy.)

Christian tradition recognizes four offices of Saint Michael: (i) to fight against Satan (ii) to guard or rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death. (iii) to be the champion of God’s people, (iv) to call us away from earth and bring men’s souls to judgment. Gabriel is, he who stand before God.” (Luke 1, 19)ea2612aacb0509ab059235e2c081cc6d

Saint Gabriel, whose name means “God’s strength,” is mentioned four times in the Bible. Most significant are Gabriel’s two appearances in the New Testament: to announce the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias, and at Incarnation of the Word when he announces to Mary that she will be the Mother of the Most High . He again appeared to Joseph in a dream and guided them on their way to Egypt to flee from Herod’s clutches.

Christian tradition suggests that it is he who appeared to the shepherds, and also that it was he who “strengthened” Jesus during his agony in the garden of Gethsemane.

“I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord” (Tobit 12:15)

Saint Raphael, whose name means “God has healed” because of his healing of Tobias’ blindness in the Book of Tobit.  Tobit is the only book in which he is mentioned. His office is generally accepted by tradition to be that of healing and acts of mercy.

cf76990d65f22b418bdf4f6d98239d9bRaphael is also identified with the angel in John 5:1-4 who descended upon the pond and bestowed healing powers upon it so that the first to enter it after it moved would be healed of whatever infirmity he was suffering.

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The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross ~ Can You “exalt” the crosses You carry?

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:24.)

Jesus had said this to his disciples shortly after his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

I’m thinking about the issue of Dying to Self these September days because we’re celebrating a favorite feast day of mine.  It’s the Exaltation of the Holy Cross; it’s special to me because as my long-time readers know, I had close affinity to Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia that’s nestled upon the western shore of the Shenandoah River and against the edge of the first mountain of the Blue Ridge chain until the two Abbots I knew well have now gone to the Lord.

Many of us might shudder and quake in our sneakers at the thought of Dying to Self. 

“My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection.” And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For when I am powerless, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

It goes against everything our American culture often tells us we should do—Look Out For No. 1.  There had been talk about the “Me Generation” since the Seventies and a Time magazine had an issue in May 2013, “The ME ME ME Generation: Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents: Why they will save us all.”

Patricia Greenfield, a psychological scientist at the University of California in Los Angeles, used the Google Ngram Viewer to scan more than 1 million books. Her findings, which were published in Psychological Science, showed that there has been a distinct rise in more individualistic words such as “choose,” “get,” “feel,” “unique,” “individual” and “self” and a decrease in community-focused words such as “obliged,” “give,” “act,” “obedience,” “authority,” “pray” and “belong.”

No sign of Dying to Self here, it seems.  Let alone the Cross. 

I wonder what will happen to young people when they hit on hard times? If their climb toward success begins to crumble?

This is the Paschal Mystery.  The Pasch / Passover / Passage / Transition / Transformation / Change. The Dying and Rising of Jesus in our lives as it is celebrated throughout the liturgical year and in every Mass.  Think about how you have experienced—and continue to experience the Paschal Mystery in your own life.

If the girl that they’ve fallen head-over-heals in love with cruelly rejects them? Or as I just read in The Writer magazine, after five years of marriage, the successful screen-writer Brendan had grown tired of arguing with his wife, also a writer–insecure and jealous of her success, told her he’s moving out?

What happens to any of us when life does not turn out as we planned?  When we suddenly lose our job? Or are diagnosed with cancer?  

Now here you have three koans to mull over, dear friends, and to try to grasp:

Think about or name the trauma(s) that have altered your life over the years . . . How did you deal with them? How did they affect you?

And what about Dying to Self–For others?

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:24.)

Does this make sense to you?  For you?

In another place, Jesus says to his disciples . . . .

 If any wants to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?         (Luke 9:24-26 ~ NRSV)

Obviously, this is not the wisdom of the world with its emphasis on Power Prestige and Possessions.

A dear priest friend sent me a Christmas card a couple of years ago that I framed and placed on my dining room table —a quote of St. Paul’s:

“My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection.” And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For when I am powerless, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

Now here you have three koans to mull over, dear friends, and to try to grasp:

I / Unless a grain of wheat dies, it will not bear fruit.

II / Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

III / When I am powerless, then I am strong.

What is a koan, you might ask?

A koan is a Zen saying often used by Buddhist monks to teach their novices:

To meditate on a koan is to engage in an active process, like that we engage in when we try to solve a mathematical problem. As in mathematics, the solution will often come suddenly

So, rather than giving all your energy to the three P’s of the world–power, prestige and possessions–why not write these three Christian Scriptures on index cards and pull them out when you’re idly waiting for something else to happen? Try it! You just might be enlightened, as I sometimes have been!

In December 2010, the Arise issue I wrote was about Philippians 2:6-11, known as “The kenosis passage.”  Kenosismeaning here Jesus’ self-emptying . . .

And so, dear friends, I will bring this missive to a close by returning to the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and conclude with the wonderful words of the hymn Lift High the Cross.I remember when I first heard it. Trumpets and timpani sent shivers down my spine and goose bumps all over!

 Lift high the cross 
The love of Christ proclaim, 
Till all the world 
Adore His sacred name

Led on their way 
By this triumphant sign, The hosts of God 
In conquering ranks combine. 
Refrain: 

Each newborn servant 
Of the Crucified 
Bears on the brow 
The seal of Him who died. 
Refrain: 

O Lord, once lifted 
On the glorious tree, 
As Thou hast promised 
Draw the world to Thee. Refrain.
So shall our song 
Of triumph ever be: 
Praise to the Crucified 
For victory. 
Refrain: 

If you’d like to listen to a great YouTube version, copy this link into your browser . . .

This is my alma mater–Theological College of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

*  *  * *  *

Bob Traupman, 2014

904-315-526

arise7@me.com

www.spirit7.com

blog http://www.bobtraupman.com

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Blessed is She who trusted and we who trust! ~ The Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Blessed is She who trusted and we who trust!

IMG_0495
        Our lady breast feeding Jesus ~ Shrine of our Lady of La Leche ~ St. Augustine, Florida                                                               (Image taken in March 2006 by Bob Traupman)

I ‘ve had a filial devotion to Mary all of my life, though it has gone through various stages. In my youth, devotion to Mary was more real for me than Jesus. I had a Marian altar in my room, often with fresh flowers. In the seminary, the image of a young knight devoted to his queen helped me relate to her in a charming way. It still does.

A few years into my priesthood, my relationship with our Lord Jesus developed; today, he is my elder Brother and my intimate companion. But Mary’s still there because she’s my best friend’s mother.  I celebrate Eucharist on the Marian feast days.  I have an icon of our Lady high upon my wall in my room, (the famous Vladimir icon) with fresh flowers and a votive candle.

As I reflect on the life of Mary from my present level of faith and theological understanding, Mary stands out as a model of discernment. 

(To discern is to judge well, to seek, for clarity and understand.)   Discernment is a method, a process by which we try to figure out whether or not we are moving towards a future which is in union with God’s will or plan for us.)  

I’d like to share with you my reflection on St. Luke’s story of the Annunciation (1:2-46) that uncovered for me some astonishing insights about Mary’s process of discernment.  It has profoundly influenced my life.

The story begins with the greeting of the angel: ‘Rejoice, 0 highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.” Tradition has it that Mary was a young girl when she discovered her awesome vocation.

We might well ask how a teenager would receive such a message. Luke then tells us “She was deeply troubled by these words and wondered what his greeting meant.”

Put yourself in her place for a moment.  Think her thoughts and feel her feelings.  Consider what you might think or feel if you thought an angel was appearing to you! Surely you would be bewildered. Confused. Scared.  “Is this really happening?” you would ask. “Am I imagining this?”  “Am I crazy?” 

The fact that the angel appeared to Mary was probably not initially consoling to her. On the contrary, it brought on some weighty problems!  To be highly favored by the Lord does not mean that one is to be treated like a princess and to have a smooth, uncomplicated life. If we reflect on how the life of Mary unfolded with many sorrows, we can see that hers was anything but an easy life. But let us stick with our story.

The angel then announced, “Do not be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God. You shall conceive and bear a son and give him the name Jesus.” Then Luke has Mary question the angel. Mary dares to question God: “How can this be since I do not know man?”

A pious spirituality would look upon daring to question God as blasphemy. Nevertheless to question even God himself is one of the rules of discernment that many of us overlook. We should never be too sure of visions or voices from within.   They do occur more frequently, I think, than we are led to believe. But every prompting should be tested. Mary is showing us that in this beloved story. In other words, the healthy thing to do is to question our sources of discernment; the unhealthy thing is to jump in and act too soon!

When I myself receive a prompting or an inspiration I delight in it for awhile, muse about it, yes, but then stuff it back down into my inner spirit to see if it surfaces again.

When it comes up a second time, I will test it to see if it is stronger than before and then I will stuff it down again—even a third or a fourth time. Those inspirations that have God as their source will be strengthened; those promptings that are not of God will be whittled away.

The story of the Annunciation tells us clearly that even for Mary, the mother of God’s only Son, discernment was not an easy thing. Every human being should exercise a certain amount of caution, doubt and distrust of one’s reasoning process. None of us has direct access to divine knowledge. This was true for Mary, as the story under consideration here suggests. It is also true for Jesus who emptied himself of his equality with God and became as human beings are(Phil: 2:6). So we cannot get away with saying “Mary is special.” Actually, she learned about God’s will for her in the same way that we do.

Confirming the message.

There is another characteristic of discernment we can learn from this story. The angel offered Mary a way to confirm the message. He suggested that she visit her cousin Elizabeth and there she would have his message verified.

So, too, with major inspirations we might have in life: We should look for confirmation. If we wait some weeks or months, oftentimes something will occur that confirms and reinforces the message we received. All this suggests that we need to be patient with the discernment process. It takes time – even years – for a prompting to unfold. In the meantime we need to be willing to live with ambiguity – to live with the questions. Back in 1980 I thought I was being called to be a writer. I had to abandon that idea for some years because of life circumstances. I only saw the confirmation of that initial prompting twelve years later in 1992.  I made a major career shift with all the risks involved to go back to school to get a Masters degree in writing.   It meant moving to Towson, Maryland and bringing my father with me.  Inspirations or promptings should be treated carefully and reverently – neither giving too much attention to them nor dismissing them outright, but keeping them in the back of our mind until they either clarify themselves or go away.

So what happens if you do confirm an inspiration or vision? What next? When the angel left Mary, she was left with a huge problem!   Though the angel also appeared to Joseph, the two of them were still left with the sticky wicket of what to tell their families.

Though God sometimes intervenes in our lives (with virginal conceptions, for example) he leaves it up to us to work out the details.

We can only imagine what it was like for Mary and Joseph during the months that intervened between her conceiving and giving birth to Jesus. We do get a glimpse of the problems that the couple had in the story of Jesus’ birth.  Mary had to make the uncomfortable journey on a donkey to Bethlehem towards the end of her pregnancy. We are told there was no room at the inn and the baby was born in a manger.  And Matthew tells us that the couple then became political refugees as they were forced to flee for their lives into Egypt.

In none of these circumstances are we told that the angel intervened directly.  They had to work out all these problems on their own. I do believe that there are ordinary promptings that do come from God. These, I’m sure were available to Mary and Joseph as well.  I’m usually prayerful and reflective about most small decisions as well as the big ones. I pray for discernment in the words I write and the topics I choose.  But there are decisions in which proper discernment may be critical.

For example, the process of selecting a doctor for major heart surgery may be very critical indeed. I recommend prayerful discernment for all major and minor decisions one has to make. Inserting prayer and reflection in our decision-making process allows God a chance to participate in our lives.  Thus, we seek God’s wisdom to help make the best decisions possible.

One step at a time. 

The point I glean from the Annunciation story is that God reveals his will to us one step at time. He does not give us a tour of the master plan. First Mary formulated her response to the angel. Then she went to visit Elizabeth.  Then she and Joseph had to figure out what to tell their families. Then they had to go to Bethlehem because of the census. God did not reveal any of these problems to them nor suggest their solutions.

And in this I find my greatest point of admiration for Mary. Luke puts it this way in the words of Elizabeth“Blest is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:45).  These beautiful words are the reason that I hold Mary in such great esteem today.  She was willing to trust.

How often am I not willing to trust!  How often am I not willing to risk. Mary took to heart the words of the angel, and when he was gone, she trusted. She trusted the words she heard him say.

How often do we fail to trust in the inspirations, the promptings, the dreams that break into our life every once in awhile?  Very often we don’t give them a chance. We don’t trust that they will come true. So, think of this young girl’s – young woman’s – courage.

Blest is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.  Blest are we who trust that the Lord’s words to us will be fulfilled.

To want to be a discerning person is to want the best for ourselves and for these whose lives touch ours. To want to be a discerning person is to trust that God still speaks to his people – to trust that God can and does speak to me. And that with my consent and cooperation, I can help God make a difference in our world. Without Mary’s trust in the words of an angel, the world would be a different place

I believe that God still gets involved with the affairs of his people. I believe he still shows glimpses of possibilities to us as he showed Mary a glimpse of what could happen when God and even one human person chooses to intertwine their wills. Remember that God could not have acted without Mary’s consent.

Blest is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled. Blest are we who trust that the Lord’s words to us will be fulfilled.

Advent is a time to Listen.  To ponder Mary’s story.  To say Yes to what we hear as she did so lovingly.  To let Jesus be born – this day – in our lives and our world.

To say with Mary:

“Yes! I am a servant of the Lord.

      Be it done unto me

            according to Your Word.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart  and try to love     the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.

And the point is to live everything. Live the questions.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

Now, before you go, here’s the “Hail Mary” set to music. Click here.

With Love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Labor Day 2022 ~ Remembering the gift of work

LABOR DAY 2022

This Labor Day, I’d like to reflect on the meaning of human work from a spiritual perspective.

Way back in the beginning of the bible you may remember that as God cast out Adam and Eve from the Paradise of the Garden of Eden, he told them . . .

“The ground is cursed because of you.

All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it

It grows thorns and thistles for you,

though you will eat of its grains,

By the sweat of your brow

until you return to the ground

from which you were made.

For you were made from dust,

and to dust you will return.”

Then Israel spent 400 years in hard toil in the flesh pots of Egypt in slavery to the Egyptians until the day came when God had Moses deliver them..

Then came Jesus who was raised in a home at Nazareth at the side of his father Joseph, a carpenter, a skilled tradesman, and Jesus learned that trade and stayed in that home until his adulthood.

St. Paul was also a tradesman, a tentmaker, and prided himself on making his own way as he travelled all over the coasts the Mediterranean.

Fast-forward now to American industry in the late Nineteenth Century. The steelmakers, meet packing, electrical, auto and food industries just gearing up. American workers were, however, not being treated justly or fairly. Events connected with the Industrial Revolution profoundly changed centuries-old societal structures, raising serious problems of justice and posing the first great social question — the labor question — prompted by the conflict between capital and labor. In this context, the Church felt the need to become involved and intervene in a new way . . . .

The Catholic Church’s American bishops had been on their side since so many of them immigrated to the U. S. decades before. Enter Pope Leo XIII and his encyclical Rerum Novarum—(Concerning New Things) on May 15, 1891 –the very first of many Catholic social encyclicals.

(An encyclical is an apostolic letter or document.)

Rerum Novarum lists errors that give rise to social ills, excludes socialism as a remedy and expounds with precision and in contemporary terms “the Catholic doctrine on work, the right to own property, the principle of collaboration instead of class struggle as the fundamental means for social change, the rights of the weak, the dignity of the poor and the obligations of the rich, the perfecting of justice through charity, on the right to form professional associations”. (By the way, listening to President Biden speak this evening as I’m writing this (Thursday, September 1st, 2022, about “the battle for the soul of the nation” in his address in Philadelphia at Independence Hall, well-read Catholic that he is, he pretty much reiterated the message or Rerum Novarum.

Following the Stock Market crash in 1929, Pope Pius XI again addressed the issue. At the beginning of the 1930s, following the grave economic crisis of 1929, Pope Pius XI published the Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, commemorating the fortieth anniversary of Rerum Novarum. The Pope reread the past in the light of the economic and social situation in which the expansion of the influence of financial groups, both nationally and internationally, was added to the effects of industrialization. It was the post-war period, during which totalitarian regimes were being imposed in Europe even as the class struggle was becoming more bitter. The Encyclical warns about the failure to respect the freedom to form associations and stresses the principles of solidarity and cooperation. The relationships between capital and labor must be characterized by cooperation.

Quadragesimo Anno confirms the principle that salaries should be proportional not only to the needs of the worker but also to those of the worker’s family. The State, in its relations with the private sector, should apply the principle of subsidiarity, a principle that will become a permanent element of the Church’s social doctrine.

The Magisterium recognizes the fundamental role played by labor unions, whose existence is connected with the right to form associations or unions to defend the vital interests of workers employed in the various professions.” Unions “grew up from the struggle of the workers — workers in general but especially the industrial workers — to protect their just rights vis-à-vis the entrepreneurs and the owners of the means of production”.[667] Such organizations, while pursuing their specific purpose with regard to the common good, are a positive influence for social order and solidarity, and are therefore an indispensable element of social life.”

The Church’s social doctrine recognizes the legitimacy of striking “when it cannot be avoided, or at least when it is necessary to obtain a proportionate benefit”,[663] when every other method for the resolution of disputes has been ineffectual.

That relationship between the Church and labor has been ongoing in America today. Richard Trunka the head of the AFL/CIO until his untimely death last year was a devout Catholic.

As we pause this weekend for the last holiday of the summer, may we reflect on the gift of work.

But we do so, conscious of all those suffering the loss of not only their jobs, their paychecks, but also their homes and almost everything dear to them as the result of this pandemic, and the natural disasters that have plagued our country in recent years–some as a result of climate change.

We pray in solidarity with them and reach out to them with love and with whatever support we can offer as we consider our own gift of work. And so, I invite you to pray with me . . . .

Good and gracious God,

the teachers who form our children’s minds.

We thank you, Lord, for the gifts and talents you have given us

We are interdependent in our  laboring, Lord.

We depend on the migrant workers who pick our lettuce and our strawberries,

you told us from the very beginning that we would earn our bread by the sweat of our brow.

the nurses’ aids who take our blood pressure,

that allow us to earn a living and contribute something positive to our world.

We pray, dear Lord, for those who are without work.

Sustain them — us — in your love.

Help us to realize that we have worth as human beings.

But that’s hard to get, Lord.

 Our society preaches to us that our worth comes from success,

of being better than the Jones’.

But our worth comes because You made us.  We are Your children, no matter what,

job or no job.

You love us and you call us to love and support each other.

We pray, Lord, for those who do the dirty work in our lives, Lord,

those who break their backs for us, those who are cheated out of even a minimum wage,

those who don’t have access to health care,

those who cannot afford to send their kids to college.

Help us to bind together, Lord, as a community, as a nation

because we depend on one another — the garbage men,

the police, the folks who stock our grocery stores,

the UPS driver, the airline pilot, the 7/11 clerk, the ticket-taker on the turnpike, 

the plumbers, the accountants, the bank tellers, the landscapers, the lifeguards,

those who clean our houses, the cooks, the waiters, the steel workers, the carpenters,

the scientists, , our doctors and nurses and yes, we, the writers.

Help us to realize this weekend how dependent we are on one another, Lord.

We are ONE!  We are family!  We need each other.

May we give thanks for each other this Labor Day weekend, Lord.

Help us to celebrate and give thanks for each other and appreciate the value, the dignity, the contribution

that each one makes to keep  our country, our cities, our lives going.

And in tough times, help us remember the words of Jesus. . . .

Come to me all you who labor

and are heavily burdened

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you . . .

for my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

(Matthew 11:28)

And, finally, this prayer of Cardinal Newman:

O Lord, support us all the day long

until the shadows  lengthen and the evening comes,

and the busy world is hushed,

and the fever of life is over,

and our work is done.

Then, Lord, in thy mercy,

grant us a safe lodging,

a holy rest, and peace at the last.

AMEN!

Finally, may I suggest this weekend that you might think about the people who’s work makes your life go better.

The next time you talk with them, tell them you appreciate them!

Two words have great power:  THANK YOU!

If only we would use them often, we would ease each other’s burden and energize each other.

and we would make trying times just a little bit easier for us all.

We call that: Love!

And before you go, here’s a spirited version of the great Celtic hymn “Lord of all Hopefulness” about the blessing of our work. Click here.Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

  Enjoy.  Have a great weekend! And please be safe!

With Love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Mary as Queen of the Universe

The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary–Monday, August 22nd, 2022

He asks why the first fourteen hundred years of Christianity fell so deeply in love with such an ordinary woman. We gave her names like Theotokos,Mother of God,, Queen of Heaven, Queen of the Universe (here in Orlando), Notre Dame, La Virgen of this or that. Unere Liebe Frau, Nuestra Senora, Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of just about just about every village or shrine in Europe.

I’m taking this material about Our Lady from Richard Rohr’s outstanding book The Universal Christ and a chapter entitled, “The Feminine Incarnation.” (pp.121-129.)   (I trust he wouldn’t mind me quoting liberally from his book as I don’t have time to ask permission by tomorrow morning.)

A week ago, on the Feast of Mary’s Assumption, at the end of my blog, I mentioned that sometimes I take Mary shopping with me. She found my condo for me in Lauderdale Lakes fifteen years ago, and I signed the papers for it on her feast day. Last week, I said I needed a new car and asked for prayers to help me find the right one. I was searching for a hybrid with all the new safety features that would help prevent an accident—not an easy find on my priest’s pension, as hybrids are selling right now like ice cream at in mid-summer carnival.

Well, the search on several online sites was found on cars.com and led me to the Hyundai store in downtown Orlando. It’s a 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid and it’s spotless inside and out. The color is a dark red with grey leather seats and all the safety features. I am incredibly thankful, which is leading to this follow-up blog on our Lady. I had it blessed after Mass today—Sunday.

And my favorite nearby in St. Augustine, Florida in small chapelOur Lady of La Leche (Our Lady of the Milk—it’s a small statue of Our Lady breastfeeding her child, on the grounds of the Mission of Nombre de Dios on the shore of the  Matanzas River. I lived in St. Augustine for two years and I would go there often to pray—sometimes to cry, imagining she was my mom and comforting me on her lap—other times to stand in the back as her priest asking her guidance. The chapel was recently honored as a National Shrine.

The Madonna is still the most painted and sculptured image in Western art (and I think in Eastern art as well.)  Thus, Mary is an archetype*of Sophia or Holy wisdom (see Proverbs 8:1ff:

Carl Jung, whom I quoted in the Assumption blog last week, believed that humans produce in art the inner images the soul needs in order to see itself and to allow its own transformation.

The LORD formed me from the beginning,

before he created anything else.

I was appointed in ages past,

at the very first, before the earth began.

And Wisdom 7:7ff

Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.

{ . . . }

10 I loved her more than health and beauty,
and I chose to have her rather than light,

And again, in the book of Revelation (12:1-17) in the cosmic symbol of the woman clothed with the sun and standing on the moon.

There are countless images the world-over of a beautifully dressed Lady offering for your admiration or adoration—and hers—a usually naked baby boy.

She is offering us Jesus, God incarnated into invulnerability and nakedness.

Feminine receptivity handing over her Yes.

And inviting us to offer our own yes.

We liked her because she’s one of us and not God.

Much of the human race can more easily imagine unconditional love coming from the feminine and the maternal more than from a man, especially if you are a Protestant or a Republican. (Please excuse my dig—but is there not some truth here? See footnote.**)

Humans like, need and trust our mothers to give us gifts, to nurture us, and always forgive us, which is what we want from God. (Not my Mom; I found it difficult to love her. She was tough and rough as sandpaper. My image of her as a baby was being washed on a cold kitchen countertop and my head scrubbed with her knuckles. I received my nurturing from my aunt—her sister, instead.) And my relationship with my mother, has caused me to struggle at times with my relationship with Mary, though, outwardly, I have been devoted to her since childhood, always having fresh flowers for her every day, as at the Vladimir icon I have of her high across from my computer desk at this moment.

Father Rohr continues that what humans want and need and like from their mothers is to give us  gifts, to nurture us, and always to forgive us. His years working with men’s groups have convinced him of it. He said he once counted eleven images of Mary in one Catholic Church in Texas—cowboy country.

In the same way, Mary gives women a dominant feminine image “to balance all the males parading around up front.”

Also note. Rohr says, that it’s always Our Lady, Our Father, Our Lord—never my Lady, my Father, my Jesus, my Lord. Liturgical prayer is always communal, lifting up everyone, at least in the historic churches.

And this is hugely important as was mentioned by Carl Jung in last week’s blog who said that the definition by the Church of the doctrine that Mary’s body was taken up into heaven “was the most significant theological development of the twentieth century.

Why? What does this mean for you and me? It means that not only souls go to heaven but our bodies as well! Your body and mine along with Mary’s!

Rohr: The Mary symbol brought together the two disparate worlds of matter and spirit, feminine mother and masculine child, earth and heaven. The unconscious got it. Consciously, many fought it, because much of the world sees Christianity as hopelessly patriarchal, both Catholics and Protestants and most everyone in government in almost every country—some more dictatorial than others. Contrast Russia’s Vladimir Putin with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky, for instance. Or Pope Francis and Pope John Paul II. Or former President Trump and now President Biden.

Father Rohr continues to the main point about the relevance of Mary. We like her because she is not God. She hasn’t done anything heroic. Her “big thing” is that she said YES! to God, and has become the model for us to also say yes! to God.

In our world today, we have been searching for “the mature feminine at every level of society. In politics, in business, in our own psyche, on the Internet, our disparate cultures, our patterns of leadership, our theologies.  Rohr says we have become terribly unbalanced and I absolutely agree and have written about this in the past. We have become increasingly violent with mass-shootings, threats of violence around elections, guns carried in churches, school children having nightmares about all this. What’s happening to us?

Here are some of the woman-influencers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (not in any particular order). . .

Malala Yousafzai

Angela Merkel

Jane Goodall

Oprah Winfrey

Christine Lagarde

Sheryl Sandberg

Maria Shriver

Judi Dench

Meghan Markle

Queen Elizabeth II

Ellen Degeneres. ..

Serena Williams

JK Rowling

Michelle Obama

Rachel Maddow

Melinda Gates

Janet Yellen

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Mary Barra

Mother Teresa

Florence Nightingale

Eleanor Roosevelt.

Katharine Hepburn    

Marie Curie

Princess Diana

To sum up, then, “Mary is the Great Yes that humanity forever needs for Christ to be born into the world,” says our author. If Christ and Jesus are the archetype of what God is doing. Mary is the archetype of how to receive what God is doing and hand it on to others.

In Mary, humanity has said our eternal yes to God.

A yes that cannot be undone.

A corporate yes that overrides our many noes.

________

Footnotes:

*Archetypes are universal, inborn models of people, behaviors, and personalities that play a role in influencing human behavior.

** After the sixteenth century when Westerners became more rational and literate, most of us stopped symbolically and allegorically. In doing so, we lost something important in our spiritual, intuitive and nonrational understanding of God and ourselves. We lessened the likelihood of inner religious experience. The Bible became an excuse for Not how literature “works.” Catholics were on symbolic overload; Protestants reacted and became symbolically starved.

Now before you go, here’s a nice hymn to Our Lady. Click Here.

And here are the readings for today’s Mass, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

Richard Rohr The Universal Christ /Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK)

Great Britain 2019 / Copyright Center for Action and Contemplation, Inc. 2019

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer


 

 

 

The Feast of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven ~ The Exaltation of Womanhood

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THE FEAST OF ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

AUGUST 15th, 2022

I rejoice heartily in the Lord,

In my God is the joy of my soul;

for he has clothed me with the robe of salvation,

like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,

  like a bride bedecked with her jewels. (Canticle of Isaiah) 

Through the power of his Resurrection,

Christ has adorned Mary with the robe of his own glory and majesty.

In years past, the image I’ve chosen for Mary on this post was a strong one following her title from Revelations, ” A Woman Clothed with the Sun”, but this year, I’ve selected a softer one that connotes the Eastern Rites’ emphasis on the “Dormition” of our Lady or her “falling asleep”, and then being taken up into heaven.

Here’s a bit about this Feast (or Solemnity, as we call it in the liturgy.)

First of all, it’s a celebration of the body and an exaltation of womanhood.

In 1950 Pope Pius XII declared as a dogma of the church something that we Catholics have believed throughout the church’s history ~ that Mary was taken up into heaven, body and soul,  to sit at her Son’s side for all eternity.

The Blessed Virgin Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven makes clear to us that there is room for our humanity in heaven. Mary’s Assumption assures us that what Jesus accomplished in rising from the dead was not limited to his own Person—even though we are not divine, we too are meant to be in heaven with the Incarnate Son, in his home with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Blessed Mother’s birth into heaven generates in us “ an ever new capacity to await God’s future.” (Saint John Paul II). Just as grace does not destroy but perfects our nature, so the glory of heaven will include our whole humanity, body and soul! “That transformation of our mortal bodies to which we look forward one day has been accomplished—we know it for certain—in her” (Msgr. Ronald Knox).  ~ From the Magnificat liturgical magazine / August 2019 – p. 202.

Everyone was quite startled when the distinguished psychiatrist Carl Jung, who was not a Catholic,  said that this declaration about Mary was “the greatest religious event since the reformation.”  And by the way, Martin Luther believed in the Assumption of the Virgin.

Here’s the entire text of what he had to say.  You ought to read this; what he says is truly amazing coming from a psychiatrist and a non-Catholic!

The promulgation of the new dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary could, in itself, have been sufficient reason for examining the psychological background. It is interesting to note that, among the many articles published in the Catholic and Protestant press on the declaration of the dogma, there was not one, so far as I could see, which laid anything like proper emphasis on what was undoubtedly the most powerful motive: namely the popular movement and  the psychological need behind it. Essentially, the writers of the articles were satisfied with learned considerations, dogmatic and historical, which have no bearing on the living religious process. But anyone who has followed with attention the visions of Mary which have been increasing in number over the last few decades, and has taken their psychological significance into account, might have known what was brewing. The fact, especially, that it was largely children who had the visions might have given pause for thought, for in such cases, the collective unconscious is always at work …One could have known for a long time that there was a deep longing in the masses for an intercessor and mediatrix who would at last take her place alongside the Holy Trinity and be received as the ‘Queen of heaven and Bride at the heavenly court.’ For more than a thousand years it has been taken for granted that the Mother of God dwelt there.

The dogmatizing of the Assumption does not, however, according to the dogmatic view, mean that Mary has attained the status of goddess, although, as mistress of heaven and mediatrix, she is functionally on a par with Christ, the king and mediator. At any rate her position satisfies a renewed hope for the fulfillment of that yearning for peace which stirs deep down in the soul, and for a resolution of the threatening tension between opposites. Everyone shares this tension and everyone experiences it in his individual form of unrest, the more so the less he sees any possibility of getting rid of it by rational means. It is no wonder, therefore, that the hope, indeed the expectation of divine intervention arises in the collective unconscious and at the same time in the masses. The papal declaration has given comforting expression to that yearning. How could Protestantism so completely miss the point?

I was amazed and thrilled when I discovered this text and again when I’ve just now re-read it.

And I’ve always loved to pray and sing these words from the preface of the Mass of the day:

Today the virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven

as the beginning  and the image

of your Church’s coming to perfection

and a sign of sure of hope and comfort for your people

on their pilgrim way.

Mary is the first disciple of her Son.

She is the one who said Yes!  “Be it done unto me according to Your word.”

Each of us who bear witness to Christ give birth to him in our own way.

May we honor Mary on this wonderful feast day and enjoy this late summer day and exalt the women in our life as well!

On August 22nd, the octave of the Assumption we celebrate a minor feast ~ the Queenship of Mary.  I honor her as my queen.  Now this may sound a bit odd, my friends, but I take her shopping with me.  Right now, I need to find a new car because my beloved shiny red mustang went “caput” and I want to get a Hybrid to help the environment and save gas. And you know what? I’m finding they’re hard to find right now; folks are buying them like hot cakes.  You might say a “Hail Mary” that I find one on my priests’ pension, if you wouldn’t mind.

Now, from ~ and in honor of ~Notre Dame de Paris ~ (may she rise again from her ashes,) here is a the Magnificat sung led by a choir boy with congregation responding.  Click here. And be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative writer

St. John Vianney, simple parish priest, yet patron of all priests.

image

Today is the feast day of St. John Vianney. I’ve always had an affection for him because I grew up in St. John’s Parish in St. Pete Beach, Florida, though I didn’t know much about him until I entered the seminary and we often gathered together for some summer fun around his feast day. We only called the parish “St. John’s” back then—only recently do they call it by the Saint’s full name.

Fr. Vianney is known as the patron of all priests, so this day is also the feast day of all priests.  When I went searching for an image for him on Pinterest.com (a site that creative people go to find images and artwork for almost anything and anyone under the sun), I discovered images of him with many interesting words of wisdom. His story can inspire folks who don’t have much education as he didn’t gain his wisdom from book-learning; he struggled in the seminary and almost wasn’t ordained because of it.

He was born at Dardilly, near Lyons, Frances on May 8th,1786, and was baptized the same day. His parents, Matthieu Vianney and his wife Marie (Belize) had six children, of whom John was the fourth. The Vianneys were devout Catholics who helped the poor. By 1790, the anticlerical Terror phase of the French Revolution forced many loyal priests into hiding from the regime in order to carry out the sacraments in their parish. Even under these dangerous circumstances,  the Vianneys traveled to distant farms to attend Masses celebrated on the run. Realizing that such priests risked their lives day by day, John began to look upon them as heroes.

He received it in a neighbor’s kitchen during a Mass at the age of 13, the windows were covered so that the light of the candles could not be seen from outside.

The Catholic Church was re-established in France in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, resulting in religious peace throughout the country, culminating in a Concordat.  By this time, Vianney was thinking about his future vocation and longed for an education. He was 20 when his father allowed him to leave the farm to be taught at a “presbytery-school” in the neighboring village of Ecully, conducted by the Abbe Balley. The school taught arithmetic, history, geography and Latin. Vianney struggled with school, especially with Latin, since his past education had been interrupted by the French Revolution. Only because of Vianney’s deepest desire to be a priest—and Balley’s patience—did he persevere.

John’s studies were interrupted in 1809 when he was drafted into Napoleon’s armies. He would have been exempt, as an ecclesiastical student, but Napoleon had withdrawn the exemption in certain dioceses because of his need for soldiers in his fight against Spain s.

One day, he went into a church to pray, and when he came out he found that his unit had already departed. A young man offered to help him catch up with his unit, but instead led him to a group of deserters. He wasn’t able to rejoin his group and remained with the deserters for fourteen months during which time he opened a school for village children until an imperial decree granted amnesty for all deserters the following year. He was then legally free to go back to Écully and resum his studies. He was tonsured (a ceremony of cutting of hair signifying one’s entry into the clerical state) in 1811, and in 1812 he went to the minor seminary. In autumn of 1813, he was sent to the major seminary at Lyons.

Considered too slow, he was returned to Balley. However, Balley persuaded the vicar general that Vianney’s piety was great enough to compensate for his ignorance, and the seminarian received minor orders and was subsequently ordained a deacon in June 1815, and ordained priest on August 12, 1815. He said his first Mass the next day, and was appointed the assistant to Balley in Écully. He was 29-years-old when he was ordained. (I was 26.) It seems his schooling from 1810-1815 was six years—at best; today’s seminarians get four years of college and four years of post-college, usually with a Masters’ degree.

In 1818, after the death of Abbe Balley, Father Vianney was made the parish priest of Ars, a village not far from Lyons. It was in exercising the functions of a parish priest in this remote French hamlet that as the “curé d’Ars” he became known throughout France and the Christian world. A few years after he went to Ars, he founded a sort of orphanage for destitute girls. other countries. As early as 1835, his bishops forbade him to attend the annual retreats of the diocesan clergy because of “the souls awaiting him yonder”.

During the last ten years of his life, he spent from sixteen to eighteen hours a day in the confessional. His advice was sought by bishops, priests, religious, young men and women in doubt as to their vocation, sinners, persons in all sorts of difficulties and the sick. In 1855, the number of pilgrims had reached twenty thousand a year. Quite distinguished persons visited Ars for the purpose of seeing the holy pastor and hearing his daily instruction. His direction was characterized by common sense, remarkable insight, and supernatural knowledge. He would sometimes divine sins withheld in an imperfect confession. He used simple language in his instructions, filling them with imagery drawn from daily life and country scenes. He especially breathed his faith  and his love of God and  his own life principle which he infused as much by his manner and appearance as by his words, for, at the last, his voice was almost inaudible.

In his article “How does the Church Respond to Suicide?” Shaun McAfee references an incident described in the book Cure of Ars:

“…a woman…told….Vianney that she was devastated because her husband had committed suicide. She wanted to approach the great priest but his line often lasted for hours and she could not reach him. She was ready to give up and in a moment of mystical insight that only a great saint can receive,…Vianney exclaimed through the crowd, “He is saved!” The woman was incredulous so the saint repeated, stressing each word, “I tell you he is saved. He is in Purgatory, and you must pray for him. Between the parapet of the bridge and the water he had time to make an act of contrition.[15]

Vianney had a great devotion to St. Philomena. Vianney regarded her as his guardian and erected a chapel and shrine in honor of the saint. During May1843, Fr. Vianney fell so ill he thought that his life was coming to its end. Vianney attributed his cure to her intercession.

A couple of other loose facts: Vianney yearned for the contemplative life of a monk, and four times ran away from Ars, the last time in 1853. He was also a champion of the poor as a Franciscan tertiary (associate Franciscan) and he was a recipient of the coveted French Legion of Honor.

On August 4, 1859, Vianney died at the age of 73. The bishop presided over his funeral with 300 priests and more than 6,000 people in attendance. Before he was buried, Vianney’s body was fitted with a wax mask.

On 3 October 1874 Pope Pius IX 4 proclaimed him “venerable”; on January 8, 1905, Pope Piux X declared him Blessed and proposed him as a model to the parochial clergy. In 1925 John Mary Vianney was canonized by Pope Pius XI, who in 1929 made him patron saint of parish priests. His feast day is (now) August 4th.

The testimony of his life makes it clear that he always remained devoted to his prayers and that not even the duty of hearing confessions or any other pastoral office could cause him to neglect them. “Even in the midst of tremendous labors, he never let up on his conversation with God.”

Father Vianney composed a simple prayer that reflects his deep religious feelings, which were praised by Pope John XXIII: “The thing that keeps us priests from gaining sanctity”—the Cure of Ars used to say— “is thoughtlessness. It annoys us to turn our minds away from external affairs; we don’t know what we really ought to do. What we need is deep reflection, together with prayer and an intimate union with God. “

The prayer is quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  

Here are the words of the prayer

I love You, O my God, and my only desire is to love You until the last breath of my life.

I love You, O my infinitely lovable God,

and I would rather die loving You, than live without loving You.

I love You, Lord and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally…

My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You,

I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath.

As I have spent the day and evening researching and writing this story about this simple yet great priest, I have two thoughts to share.

The first is that I have struggled at times with my studies—especially math. I often joke “I have two masters degrees but can’t add the tip right on my Denny’s check. And I’ve had six years of Latin and four years of Spanish and can hardly remember any of either. So, I feel a bit consoled by Father Vianney’s life and story.

But the point is: You should too! Whatever your skills; how mediocre your faith, it’s Okay. Just think about what he says in the image at the top of this post.

And now, I bring you back to my parish in St. Pete Beach. My father, who’s name is also John was maintenance superintendent for this large parish plant for 25 years who taught himself English by reading the Sunday funnies, could do just about anything electrical, mechanical. Who went to school to learn how to take care of the parish’s extensive air conditioning and supervised all the cleaning of the church, auditorium, cafeteria and school. A very simple man.

So, dear brothers and sisters, and dear brother priests, let’s all do the best we can.

And brother priests: HAPPY FEAST DAY, too! And now, before you go, here’s a song I think Father Vianney would’ve liked if he were with us today–“I have loved you with an everlasting love.”. Click here

Credits: I relied on two sites for my research: Wikipidia.com and the Catholic Encyclopedia, now known as New Advent.com

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

St. John Vianney

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Saint John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, composed his prayer to Jesus in the 19th century. The prayer reflects Vianney’s deep religious feelings, which were praised by Pope John XXIII: “The thing that keeps us priests from gaining sanctity”—the Cure of Ars used to say— “is thoughtlessness. It annoys us to turn our minds away from external affairs; we don’t know what we really ought to do. What we need is deep reflection, together with prayer and an intimate union with God. ” The testimony of his life makes it clear that he always remained devoted to his prayers and that not even the duty of hearing confessions or any other pastoral office could cause  him to neglect them. “Even in the midst of tremendous labors, he never let up on his conversation with God.”

The prayer is quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  

Here are the words of the prayer

I love You, O my God, and my only desire is to love You until the last breath of my life.

I love You, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving You, than live without loving You.

I love You, Lord and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally…

My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath.

St. Mary Magdalen ~ Apostle to the Apostle ~ Saint for all of us!

July 22nd has always been her “Memorial Day”, but our dear Pope Francis honored her by elevating this day liturgically to a “Feast Day.” In the introduction to the Mass in my Magnificat prayer magazine the author included a poem written by Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit, o.c.d. (Jessica Powers):

 “One can surmise she went to Calvary

distraught and weeping, and with loud lament

 clung to the cross and beat upon its wood 

till Christ’s torn veins spread a soft covering 

over her hair and face and colored gown. 

She took her First Communion in his Blood.”

Magdalene’s love enabled her to remain faithful to the very end. And so with the Blessed Virgin she courageously stood at the foot of the cross. Her love for her Lord gave her the strength to remain there that she might witness how great a price was paid for her sins and how unfathomable is God’s love for all of us. She was privileged to accompany the body of the Redeemer to the tomb, and she remained there until all the others had gone. The inconsolable love of Mary Magdalene would not permit her to leave; she remained outside the tomb, weeping. Turning away, she saw someone standing nearby. But distraught with grief and blinded by her tears, she did not recognize him even when he said: Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for? Mary answered: Sir, if you have removed him, tell me where you have laid him and I will take him away. For an answer she heard only one word: Mary! The love with which it was uttered pierced like lightning the dense fog of her grief. Recognizing him, she flung herself in transports of joy at his feet: Rabboni! Master! The risen Savior charged her to go to the apostles and tell them what she had seen. Thus he made her the first official witness to his Resurrection. She became the Apostle to the Apostles–and Saint for all of us!

She heard only one word: Mary! The love with which it was uttered pierced like lightning the dense fog of her (Lk 8:2), Mary Magdalene became one of the greatest saints in the history of the Church. Indeed, excepting the Blessed Virgin, there has been no saint of the Christian Church who for twenty centuries has made so profound an impression on literature, art, and morality as she has done. To those of us who are tempted to discouragement because of our repeated falls, how eloquently does Mary Magdalene speak of the loving-kindness of the Savior; of God’s mercy that is without limits; of the astounding power of divine grace.

Father William R. Bonniwell, o.p.

Father Bonniwell († 1984) was a Dominican priest and a highly regarded preacher and historian.

July 2022 Magnificat pp. 324-5. Used by permission

For my prayer for this Feast Day I offer part of the Preface of the Mass . . . .

He appeared in the garden and revealed himself to Mary Magdalene, who had loved him in life,

witnessed him dying on the Cross, sought him as he lay in the tomb,

and was the first to adore him, newly risen from the dead.

He honored her with the office of being an apostle to the Apostles,

so that the good news of new life might reach the ends of the earth!

Therefore, overcome with paschal joy, every land, every people exults in your praise
and even the heavenly Powers, with the angelic hosts, sing together the unending hymn of your glory, as they acclaim: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Host! Heaven and earth are filled with your glory!

Now, before you go, here’s the glorious hymn “For All the Saints” Click here.

And here are the readings for the Feast

Wikipedia has much more on Mary Magdalen that’s very fascinating.

You can check it out here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Magdalene

With Love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Reimagining Rockwell’s Four Freedoms for our day

This Fourth of July, I’d like to reflect on the Norman Rockwell paintings “The Four Freedoms that were inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt eleven months before Pearl Harbor.

On January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addresses Congress in an effort to move the nation away from a policy of neutrality. The president had watched with increasing anxiety as European nations struggled and fell to Hitler’s fascist regime and was intent on rallying public support for the United States to take a stronger interventionist role. In his address to the 77th Congress, Roosevelt stated that the need of the moment is that our actions and our policy should be devoted primarily–almost exclusively–to meeting the foreign peril. For all our domestic problems are now a part of the great emergency.

Roosevelt insisted that people in all nations of the world shared Americans’ entitlement to four freedoms: the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in his own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

After Roosevelt’s death and the end of World War II, his widow Eleanor often referred to the four freedoms when advocating for passage of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mrs. Roosevelt participated in the drafting of that declaration, which was adopted by the United Nations 1948. 

Article Titled: Franklin D. Roosevelt speaks of Four Freedom– November 16, 2009 by History.com Editors  

The original Freedom of Worship, the five figures on the left are all white. The people of color,” the author says. “That’s what institutional racism is, when you fail to notice things like that.”

Democracy is a fragile thing; we could easily lose it, if we do not carefully safeguard it.

Now below you see the second of the Four Freedoms–Freedom of Speech.

Melinda Beck illustrated Freedom of Speech with a strong, embellished silhouette style. “I believe in speaking truth to power. That’s why I got into this business,” says Beck. “I create a lot of political illustrations, and thanks to the freedom of speech, I can do that in this country and not be jailed.

We know that’s not quite true. Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post reporter, was killed by the Saudis; Ellsberg was imprisoned because he released the Pentagon Papers as was Chelsea Manning.

The remaining two–namely–“Freedom from Fear” and “Freedom from Want” take on a more social justice /social action role than the first two–as is also noted by the song I’ve chosen for this blog, Arlo Guththrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

Freedom from Fear is by talented graphic artist Edel Rodriguez , who brings an immigrant’s perspective to Rockwell’s classic. “This is where people come for refuge,” he says. “When you see a family at a detention center maybe you will ask, ‘Why do I have a dislike of immigrants?”

And finally, photographer Ryan Schude recreated Freedom from Want in his sister’s dining room with members of his own family. “Rockwell’s paintings were idyllic,” says Schude. “That’s his style, but it was also his time. That was the kind of image that people wanted. I took a more realistic approach. There’s a little bit of tension.”

In these last two Freedoms, we see a distinctly social justice issue. In the one above with the migrant family, the issue of fear for the parents for their children and themselves would be something they would feel in their gut and indeed in every pore of their bodies constantly. Only people with strong faith and hope would survive such conditions.

And finally, here’s a little piece I clipped from the weekend edition of the 1440 blog I enjoy most mornings.

Happy Birthday (Eve Eve), America
Congratulations, America—Monday marks the 246th commemoration of the day the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. The Congress actually voted to separate from Great Britain two days earlier, and possibly didn’t sign the document until August. Some argue the US didn’t really become a country until we began operating under the Constitution in 1789.  Still, since then, the country has grown from 13 colonies with about 2.5 million people to 50 states and 14 territories with a population of more than 330 million. The economy has swelled to roughly $24T. Advances in public health—public sanitation, the germ theory of disease, and more—have cut the child mortality rate from more than 45% to under 1%, and our citizens live 35 years longer on average.  We’ve built almost 4 million miles of paved roads and more than 5,000 public airports. More than 2.7 million miles of power lines electrify the country, with about 85% of households having access to broadband internet and 92% having at least one computer. In 1800, 95% of the population lived in rural areas, and now about 83% live in urban areas. The US has also been responsible for more than 800 human visits to space—the most of any other country with a space agency. While there will always be challenges to face and improvements to make, we’ve come a long way since the beginning. So grab a hot dog and your drink of choice—here’s to the next 246 years.  
From 1440 .com published on Saturday, July 3, 2022

And so we come to the song, Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land, that had become one of the great protest songs for the Sixties and Seventies. He wrote two verses that were left out of the recorded versions that were too controversial. Here’s the song. sung by Bruce Springsteen Click here

And the lyrics of the entire song:

This land is your land, and this land is my land
From the California to the Staten New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters,
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

As I went walking that ribbon of highway
And saw above me that endless skyway,
And saw below me the golden valley, I said:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

I roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,
And all around me, a voice was sounding:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing —
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
In wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling;
The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
By the Relief Office I saw my people —
As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]

According to Joe Klein,[6] after Guthrie composed it “he completely forgot about the song, and didn’t do anything with it for another five years.” (Since there is a March 1944 recording of the song, Klein should have said “four years”.)

Original 1944 lyrics[edit]

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.

I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

Note that this version drops the two verses that are critical of America from the original: Verse four, about private property, and verse six, about hunger. In 1940, Guthrie was in the anti-war phase he entered after the 1939 Hitler-Stalin Pact, during which he wrote songs praising the Soviet invasion of Poland, attacking President Roosevelt’s loans to Finland in defense against the Soviets, and ridiculing lend-lease aid to the United Kingdom. By 1944, after Germany had invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Guthrie returned to vigorous support for U.S. involvement in Europe and a more nationalist tone.[7]

Confirmation of two other verses[edit]

After we built the Coolee Dam we had to sell the people out there a lot of bonds to get the money to buy the copper wire and high lines and pay a whole big bunch of people at work and I don’t know what all. We called them Public Utility Bonds, just about like a War Bond, same thing. (And a lot of politicians told the folks not to buy them but we sold them anyhow). The main idea about this song is, you think about these Eight words all the rest of your life and they’ll come a bubbling up into Eighty Jillion all Union. Try it and see. THIS LAND IS MADE FOR YOU AND ME.

– Woody Guthrie, from 10 Songs of Woody Guthrie, 1945

A March 1944 recording in the possession of the Smithsonian, the earliest known recording of the song, has the “private property” verse included. This version was recorded the same day as 75 other songs. This was confirmed by several archivists for Smithsonian who were interviewed as part of the History Channel program Save Our History – Save our Sounds. The 1944 recording with this fourth verse can be found on Woody Guthrie: This Land is Your Land: The Asch Recordings Volume 1, where it is track 14.

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing;
This land was made for you and me.[8]

Woodyguthrie.org has a variant:[9]

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

It also has a verse:[9]

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

With Love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

The Courage of the Signers ~ where is our courage?

Dear Friends,

On  July 4, 1776, the men portrayed in the painting above, and their families supporting them published the sacred document, the Declaration of Independence,
that created this country.  At its conclusion, they said:

FOR THE SUPPORT OF THIS DECLARATION
WITH A FIRM RELIANCE ON THE PROTECTION OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE
WE MUTUALLY PLEDGE OUR LIVES, OUR FORTUNES AND OUR SACRED HONOR.

Imagine the risks they undertook and the courage that they needed to bring the ideal of freedom and equality that existed in their minds and hearts into external reality.
They had to be willing to sacrifice everything dear to them — their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.  Their signatures, bound to their lives, fortunes and honor, created the United States of America.

We need to return again and again to that moment.
We need to re-birth America in our hearts in this time and place.

We honor the sacrifices of the women and men and their families who have served in Iraq and in Afghanistan  in the service of our country and those who serve now throughout the world.
Many of these men and women had to sacrifice their physical and emotional lives and those of their families.

But the rest of us American people have been asked to sacrifice very little.  We need to ask the same courage and leadership in our President and in our Congress and vote for leaders who show it.  Consider the brave people of Ukraine who are now fighting their war for independence and freedom. They are teaching us–if we have hearts and souls to grasp and heed–what the price of freedom really is: We might easily lose what we have in this country if we are not vigilant.

I received an email some time ago from a friend that showed what happened to many of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence:

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or the hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. What kind of men were they?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well-educated, but they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge, and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife; she died shortly thereafter.

John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished.

We go on with our complacent lives, untouched by the swirl of politics.

May we not take for granted what we have here in America for we could lose what we have. 

May we not let some try to divide us for we are one people under one flag and a God who respects all people.

May this Fourth of July be a time for us to take stock of ourselves.

John Kennedy said:

“Ask not what our country can do for you;                                                                                                              Ask what you can do for your country.”

I have pleaded for years that we need to be willing to enter a path of personal transformation for the sake of transformation of our country.

And so again today, I invite us to pray for God’s help in that transformation.

Good and gracious God of our understanding, we thank You for the courage and vision of our founding fathers and mothers.


May each of us be willing to transform
our hate to respect for all people, our reliance on material things to reliance on You, our greed and selfishness to self-giving and compassion


May we always be willing to respond to the grace You give us
to transform our lives and our country to serve the good of all.
Let the lessons of hardship that many of us have been experiencing
bring us to You, God of our understanding, for You, are the Source of all that is good in our lives.
May all our actions show Your wisdom and love.     

For we declare that we are:                                                                                                                                   “ONE NATION, INDIVISIBLE, WITH FREEDOM AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.”                                                                   
Amen.

Now, before you go, here’s the Star Spangled Banner like you’ve never heard it before. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers,  Click here.

And if you’d like, here’s Celine Dion singing God Bless America with a wonderful slide show that just might give you some goosebumps! Click here.  And again, be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With love,

Bob Traupman,

contemplative writer

A Prayer for the Fourth of July 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This is an actual image of one of the four panels of the words of Thomas Jefferson emblazoned upon the walls of perhaps America’s most sacred shrine, the Jefferson Memorial.
The image was taken in October 2007 on my first pilgrimage to pray for our country’s transformation.

As I offer my thoughts, I invite you to observe this Fourth of July by a deeper, interior observance of the heart–as I have done for many years.
Take time to make these words, of the Declaration of Independence, your own.
Realize, especially those of you who are young people, that these words conceived, founded and established our country.
What existed only in the minds and hearts of our founding fathers and mothers became the United States of America.
But, very sadly, it is my sense that we have wandered far away from this vision.
We don’t realize that we must constantly re-birth America — for good or for ill.

It is my sense that at this critical point of American history that we — each and every American — ought to revisit that moment of our founding.  And imagine what it was like.

Imagine their vision of what did not yet exist in the external world.
Imagine the courage they had.
Next to the Word of God, there are no words that are more sacred to me than these.
They are sacred because they reflected divine reality.
God blessed these words of Thomas Jefferson.   And our country was born on the Fourth of July 1776.

When I lived in Washington in the summer of 1979 when I was 36 years old, I would go often and sit in the rotunda of this sacred shrine and ponder the vision of these sacred words.

I’d like to share with you, once again, what was going on in my head and my heart 42 years ago and today in America in which we are so in much in need of unity and healing–in a country very much divided against itself.

They are faith-based thoughts.
I just share them because they lead me to a very positive view of our country and our world, a view that resists the profound hatred and violence and self-indulgence of our comatose society.

As you ponder my thoughts ask yourself what vision of America, what vision of the world and our future do you yourself have?
What do you want for you, for your children, for our country, for our world, for our planet?

Dearest God,

I believe your Holy Spirit inspired these words:

WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT
THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL
AND ARE ENDOWED WITH CERTAIN INALIENABLE RIGHTS.
AMONG THESE ARE THE RIGHT TO LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.

As a Christian among other God-fearing women and men.
I address You and love You as my God.
You are my God.
But this means that You are not just my God, but the God of all those you have created.

It is my belief that You care about every person on this planet who has ever lived or who ever will;
Therefore, we are all equal in your sight.  We are all persons.
You conceived and created each human being from the very beginning in Your mind and heart with a unique identity, a body and soul, and you sustain each one of us today and for all eternity.

I have come to recognize that ALL of us are in Your family, dear God.
And that makes us sisters and brothers.
Help me to embrace Your children on this planet in my heart.
Help me to want for every one what you have so generously provided for me –
a little place to call home,
simple food to nourish my body,
a decent education
and decent health care.

Help me, God, to recognize and support the right of every human person to life, liberty and the pursuit of other people’s happiness as well as my own.
Help me not to be only concerned about my own needs, my own family’s needs,
but to realize that We Are All One Family.

Yet we are torn apart by hatred and violence and bigotry and brother still kills brother.  Help us export love not hate, peace and development for all people, not war and destruction.

This is my daily prayer, heavenly Father, for the world in which I live.
I pray that you would allow me the grace in some small way to help bring that about.
To you, dear God,
all honor and praise and thanksgiving,
now and forever.
Amen!

IMG_0256

The Jefferson Memorial

This, dear friends, is my prayer for the world in which I live.
It has ever been such since my lazy summer  of ’79 in Washington and always will be.
I do not expect you to use my words as you pray.
I just invite you to make your own prayer.
Make this Fourth of July a re-dedication to our ideals.
We need God in our world today as we face the effects of covid 19 that continues to plague us and as we face the vagaries of the Supreme Court decisions and the mid-term elections,

And then there’s the double plague of racism that we also have to look into ourselves and see how each of us is infected by this virus that has been with us for so a long time. And it’s about time we faced up to it.

But we rely on ourselves and not on God.  Capitalism, by definition, can create that illusion.
I urge you to rebirth the vision of our founding fathers and mothers in your own heart this Fourth of July 2022.
We need to renew that vision, that commitment every year, indeed, very often from the mightiest to the lowest of our land.
And I warn you (me too), if we don’t constantly attend to our renewal,
we will lose what we have and are.
Great civilizations before us have collapsed because of their complacency.

Nevertheless, it is my sense that God will transform us if we pray and bind together!

Before the hotdogs and the baby back ribs and the fireworks, let’s be at prayer and reflection, this Fourth of July.

Ask God for guidance.  Ask forgiveness for taking all of this for granted.
We need God to bring us through these critical times.

And now, before you go, here’s a powerful song with Reba McEntire “Back to God” that completes my prayer perfectly. Click here

Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.  Enjoy your celebration for we still have a beautiful land.

  (There will be several more posts to reflect on following this one.)

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus ~ What wondrous love is this?

THE FEAST OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS ~ Friday, June 19, 2020

This is a Feast for our present moment when we are harried and frustrated and hurting from the fallout of Covid 19 upon all of us,  and all of what has been going on the past few weeks with the racial tension in our country. 

Reflecting on the Love that flows continually from the heart of Jesus has been a devotion of mine since childhood. I had an altar in my bedroom with flowers that I picked from our garden. In May, the backdrop was blue for Our Lady and in June, it was red for Our Lord.

I wrote the article below in 1981 at a difficult time in my life and then preached these words as a Good Friday homily in 1992.

I hope you enjoy it; I think it can have some practical value for you in managing the suffering in your own life ~ and in America and our whole world today.

* * * * * *

The Heart of Jesus

(Jesus the Tremendous Lover)

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this, O my soul?

Jesus is the one who is our tremendous Lover.
He came to live among us to reveal to us, his sisters and brothers, that we have a Father/God who loves us with a Love that is once a passionate, unconditional love and yet gentle, always inviting, never coercing.  Jesus came among us to be our Love, to show the human race how to use the supreme power which God could give us:  the intimate, infinite Love which is ours, if only we would claim it and model our lives after Jesus, who is Love itself.

Jesus was to be for us the model of Love because he was willing to experience in his heart the depths of human emotion.  He risked time and again to embrace the sorrow, the agony, the unfreedom, the need of those who came  to him to be healed.  He risked being burdened by the needs of others.  He risked being disheartened by those who would take from him and not even say thanks.  He risked being misunderstood and rejected  by the authorities of the day and even his neighbors in his home town.  He risked the pain of realizing that even his closest disciples and friends had narrow vision and missed the main point of his message.

He risked all, and realized that, in spite of the pain and sorrow, in his heart, the soft Voice of the Father within him was asking him to keep going, to risk even more.  To go deeper into his heart and to carve out still more and more places for those he would touch and heal, until one day there would be room in his heart for the whole world.

I doubt that Jesus ever forgot a single individual that he encountered, not even those who oppressed him.  He kept them all in his great heart, remembering them, praying for them, hoping that they would open their hearts to the One who Loved them with a passionate Love — the Father/God of all.  He must have realized how important it was to see and feel the tragedy of the corruption he witnessed among the religious and political leaders of the day, to keep even these things in his heart.   As painful as it was, he hoped that by keeping them there some of the great evil he saw would be disarmed and tamed.

That’s all he could do, after all — absorb the tragedy, the struggle, the sin, the failures in Love of the human race in his great, great heart.  Yes, he healed a few sick and gave the gift of sight to some, but most of all he Loved:  He let people into his heart (that’s the definition of Love, after all:  to let someone into one’s heart)  there to be comforted, if just for a moment. For one brief moment in the heart of the Lord Jesus is enough for any of us.

He had room for young John and impetuous Peter.  And for Judas.  He had room for the outcasts of his day, Zacchaeus and Matthew and Mary Magdalen.  And he sat at the table of outcasts who invited him to their table.  He had room for beggars and lepers and blind people.  And he had room for the Pharisees who broke his heart by their refusal to see and understand.

We remember that he was capable of deep emotion.  He wept profoundly when he saw in prophecy what would happen to Jerusalem because of the hardness of the people’s hearts.  And yet, even the gift of his tears and the greatness of his Love would not stop the destruction that would come because of Israel’s hardness of heart and lack of vigilance.

In the end, he wept in the garden.  I like to believe that his agony was not focused on the trauma he personally was about to endure but because the Father permitted him, in that moment, to experience to the depths the reality of evil and tragedy in the world.  He must have experienced some of the pain and loss that many of us feel when we ourselves encounter hardness of heart and misunderstanding.

Jesus embodied the compassion of God — the mercy, the tenderness, the Hesed of God  (to use the wonderful Hebrew word).  God wanted to be known as the Merciful One.  And we, likewise, are instructed to “Be compassionate as our heavenly Father is compassionate.”

Jesus became for us the “Man of Sorrows”, familiar with suffering”  — the suffering Servant of Yahweh.  He bore the weight of the world’s refusal to Love and even worse its refusal to be Loved by the God of Love.  He allowed that evil, that senseless tragedy of the human race, to be absorbed, and thereby redeemed and purified, with his own blood.  In his own bloodstream the cosmic battle between the forces of Love and Hate was waged.  And “his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.”   In him the great cosmic battle was focused.  Our great compassionate God sent his Son to bear within his soul the brunt of that cosmic storm.

We are filled with awe at such overwhelming Love.  And so we honor today his great, great heart.  But most importantly we should realize that he has become for us Love itself so that we will also might become Love.

The one essential ingredient of the Christian religion is to Love as Jesus has Loved us.  We are to become compassionate as Jesus is compassionate.  We, like Jesus, are called not to be afraid to embrace the suffering, the tragedy, the sin of the world, so that in Love we will join our hearts to his and, as St. Paul says, “to make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.”

Perhaps we can say, therefore, that there are two kinds of people in the world — those who are willing to accept their own share of suffering in the world (and a bit more for Jesus’ sake) and those who cannot or will not bear even the suffering caused by their own failures and sins.  The compassionate ones do what they do out of Love, a seemingly foolish Love.  Some Love because they have been opened up to a mystical awareness that they, like Jesus, are making their own soul and body available as an arena for the cosmic drama of interaction between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.

I do not pity those who suffer.  I rather pity those who are afraid to suffer.  Out of suffering comes understanding — a larger perspective of the world and with it a practical wisdom that tempers Law and Life with Mercy.  Out of suffering comes the ability to see the face of Christ in even a hardened criminal or a seemingly pitiful alcoholic.

The ability to see, to understand, the inner workings of people’s lives is a gift far greater than the suffering one must endure to attain it.  To-suffer-unto-understanding (a definition of compassion) is to be able to look upon the world as Jesus does and as he invites us to do in the Beatitudes.3 (Of course, a person can suffer without  understanding — especially when we are angry about  and refuse to accept our lot of suffering.  But if we pray faithfully while we suffer, God will most assuredly gift us with  his own very special kind of understanding.)

Understanding is the goal of suffering for those who have eyes to see.  Understanding which sees through the eyes of Jesus.  Understanding allows us the courage to be with Jesus hanging on the Cross and to see what he saw from that perspective.  Understanding allows us the courage to go with Jesus into the bowels of the earth and descend into hell and to see what Jesus saw.  Then, too, understanding allows us to feel what Jesus felt when he was lifted from the grave.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have always had an inner sense that the fastest, most efficient way to handle a crisis was to face it head on — not to avoid it.  And so, I invite you to “go with” the suffering.  Explore it.  Allow yourself to experience the feelings, as painful and confused and frightening as they may be.  The more you fight it, the more you will suffer.  Ask Jesus the Light to lead you through the darkness.  Then have faith and confidence that he will.  (After all, the worst you will experience is what Jesus experienced, as long as you follow the will of God.  (Other persons have suffered more cruel deaths than crucifixion.)  And if you truly want  to follow the will of God and are praying daily, then be assured that God is  leading you.  Take his hand in the darkness and follow — even if you can barely see the ground in front of you!

The pain may feel unbearable for a while, and the temptation is to avoid it as long as we can, and, of course, to worry about it.  (I have always found worry most bothersome, like walking around with a pebble in my shoe.  Far easier to bend down and take it out than to walk around with it for years!)  So, too, with suffering.  Even in one of my earlier bouts with emotional and mental suffering, I somehow found myself diving into it to seek its cause.

From what I can see there is always a cause of suffering.  Discovering the cause can often lead to alleviating the suffering.  In fact, the pain oftentimes will be transformed the moment the cause is recognized and diagnosed, so it is to the person’s advantage to stay with it and find out who or what the “bugger” is.  (Perhaps there is an analogy to the oyster who “suffers” an irritation that will eventually through which it may become a pearl of great price.)  If we see the larger picture of reality, seen through the eyes of Christ, some joy and satisfaction and relief will enter our soul.  We will thus be on our way to recovery and new life.

The easiest way through suffering is to stretch out our arms and allow ourselves to be nailed to our cross.  Don’t fight it.  Surrender to the will of God.  Jesus in his agony on Thursday night saw through the nails in his hands and the crown of thorns on his head to the Resurrection.  He didn’t ignore the Cross; he saw it and the horizon beyond it.

Jesus didn’t focus on the pain.  The pain of the Cross was only a brief moment (which he knew he had the strength to endure) in the history of his lordship presiding over the business of the universe.  So you, too, should not focus on the painful aspects of our life.  Look instead for the cause of the pain.  Look for the reality — the truth!  And remember that Jesus said “the truth shall make you free!”   See as Jesus sees; that is, see and accept the truth.  And leap from your cross as a butterfly leaps from the cocoon and as Jesus leapt from the grave.

“Impossible!” you may say, especially if you have been suffering for years.

“Not so!” says Jesus and the whole company of prophets and martyrs and confessors and virgins.

Ask for strength and you will receive strength.

Ask for guidance and you will be led through the darkness to a point you will recognize.

Ask to understand and Jesus will let you see yourself through his eyes.

But remember! Don’t focus on the pain.  All those gory pictures of Jesus in agony and bloody crucifixes of the past generation, hopefully, are, hopefully, gone for good.

The Cross is the focal point in that we realize the great Love which Jesus has for us and what he personally has done for us.  But one must not forget to look at the horizon beyond the Cross.  The sky on that first Good Friday afternoon undoubtedly was an awesome sight to behold.  The cross, the pain that is our lot in life to endure, is there only to be transformed and transcended.  The cross is but a moment.

Suffering in life is only a means to greater life.   It is not our final lot.  Resurrection is.  Glory is.  Triumph is.  Though the paradox is that we must accept our cross totally to be through with it.  We are invited to surrender to our Father in complete abandonment as Jesus did, as if we were to leap off a cliff and know that we will land in the Loving arms of our great God.

A further delusion of spirituality of the past generation is that our reward will not come until the next life.  What is delusional about that is that we fail to realize the kingdom is already inaugurated by Jesus in history by his triumph on the Cross.  Our lives are already illumined  by the light of the resurrection.  And there is no reason that we cannot triumph here and now — if we accept our cross.  And, in fact, I am convinced that it will be Christians bold enough to take up in their hand and in their minds the Cross of Jesus who will lead us in XXI and XXII Centuries, just as this has been true in every age of the Church.

And so, the question that we ponder this feast day is, once again:

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this, O my soul?

And the answer is:  “The great, great Love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who Loved us so much that he stretched out his arms in the most loving, indeed, the most-nonviolent act, the world has ever seen.  He stretched out his arms in the face of his enemies and said from his Cross:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Come, then adore the Lord who wants to be for us all our Beloved.  Come, then, adore the Lord, the tremendous Lover.  Renew your Love for him and know even more than ever before that it is by his holy Cross that we have been redeemed.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this?

And now, before you go, here’s that wonderful hymn, What wondrous love is this? Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Feast of Corpus Christi ~ Body broken ~ Blood poured out for you and me!

The Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christ)

Sunday, June 19,  2022

Dear Friends,

Today is our Roman Catholic Feast of Corpus Christi in which pause to appreciate and give thanks for the wonderful gift of the holy Eucharist.

I’d like to reflect for a moment on what we Catholics believe this wonderful sacrament.

We believe in the Real Presence of Jesus ~that the bread and wine are transformed into his Body and Blood. Thus, for us communion is a sharing in divine life, not just as symbol.

It is stumbling block for many – not only for many Protestants but many a Catholic who never really gets it because they don’t let it transform their life into common-union or a deeper union with Christ.

And, um, I know some priests who don’t get it or live it either.

The Eucharistic story included for today is the charming one in which Jesus feeds five thousand (men) on the hillside. Our Scripture Scholar-friend William Barclay tells us that this the only miracle that all the four gospels include. Luke’s,  account (the one proclaimed at Mass today) begins with the folksy story about the Twelve coming back from their initial attempts to spread the word. And Jesus needed the time to be alone with them; so he took them to the neighborhood of Bethsaida, a village on the far side of the Jordan to the north of the Sea of Galilee. When the people discovered where he had gone “they followed him in hordes” says Barclay –”and he welcomed them.”

There’s all the divine compassion here. Most people would’ve resented the invasion of their hard-won privacy. How would we feel if we sought out a lonely place to be with our most intimate friends and suddenly a clamorous throng of people show up (with paparazzi in tow perhaps) with their insistent demands? Sometimes we’re too busy and too tired to be disturbed, but to Jesus, human need took precedence over everything.

The evening came, home was far away, and the people were tired and hungry. Jesus, ordered his disciples to give them a meal.  Now, there are two ways we can look at this miracle. First, we can simply look at it simply as a miracle in which Jesus created food for this vast multitude. Second, some people think that  everyone had something but the Twelve laid before them the little they had and the others were moved to produce their shares and in the end there was more than enough for everyone.

Before Jesus distributed the food he blessed it; he said grace. Jesus would not eat without giving thanks to the giver of all gifts.

This story tells us many things, Barclay says.

First, Jesus was concerned that people were hungry.

Second, Jesus, help was generous. There was enough and more than enough

Third, in Jesus, all our needs are supplied. There is a hunger of the soul There is a longing in each of us in which we can invest our lives. Our hearts are restless until they rest in him (Luke 9 :10 -17)

Now to add a theological dimension to this, Bishop Robert Barron whom you may have seen me quote earlier in this blog has this to offer.  I enjoyed his article in the Magnificat Liturgical magazine that I use for my daily prayer . . . .

“How strange and wonderful is the Catholic faith! The Buddha offers wise teaching to his followers. Muhammad presents to his devotees a revelation that was once given to him. Confucius passes on to his adepts in an intricate moral system that he has developed. Moses comes down the mountain bearing a Law he received from on high.

But Jesus presents, offers, bears, and passes on . . . his very self. On the night before he suffered at the Passover table, he gathered with his Twelve Apostles. Taking bread in his hands, he said, This is my body, and lifting up the cup, said, This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.

He gave them, not a teaching, a discipline, or a spiritual insight, but his substance—his very own flesh and blood. And this is why the Christian Faith is not a matter of learning or walking a religious path, but of eating and drinking Jesus’ Body and Blood.

From this Eucharistic fact, the Church Fathers derived the splendid teaching of theiosos or deification. We disciples do not just follow Jesus, we become Jesus; we become adopted sons and daughters of the Father in the Son.  And this is the object of our bedazzled contemplation on the Feast of the Lord’s Body and Blood.

That is what Jesus did, and he allied this dramatic action with the ancient feast of his people so that it would be the more imprinted on the minds of his men. He said, “Look! Just as this bread is broken my body is broken for you! Just as this cup of red wine is poured out my blood is shed for you.”

For me, the Eucharistic words have sustained me as I experienced my sinfulness, my woundedness, my brokenness and also profound joy and at times, a deep affection for my Jesus.

When I receive our Lord in holy communion I pray:

Lord Jesus, You became — You are still — bread-broken

and blood-poured out for the sake of the world.

As I receive the precious gift of the Eucharist

may I become Your body

and Your body become mine.

May Your blood course through my own blood stream.

I want to be transformed by my communion with you, Lord.

Transformed from my self-centered lusts and angers and petty jealousies

into common-union.

Let me become Your Body-broken

and Your Blood-poured-out

into a world that needs You

now more than ever.

To You, Jesus, be honor and glory and praise

this day and forever!

So be it!  Amen!

And now. before you go, here is the Eucharistic hymn “Adoro Te Devote sung in procession. On this day throughout the world, it is the custom to have  public with the Blessed Sacrament  such as the one in this video. Click here.  Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are today’s Mass readings with the Ancient “Sequence” or Eucharistic poem included before the gospel. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / the Gospel of Luke / The John Knox Press / Louisville. KY 2001 pp. 139-42.

The Sequence written by St. Thomas Aquinas

The Feast of the Holy Trinity-Follow a turtle (on the edge of mystery)

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THE FEAST OF THE HOLY TRINITY– June 12, 2022

This coming Sunday is Trinity Sunday when we give praise to God as we Christians understand and know God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

For me, it’s all about being caught up in–getting lost in–finding my true self in the awesome dynamic relationship with our God as we come to know that God is love.

My first assignment as  a priest was to Holy Name of Jesus Parish across the street from the Atlantic Ocean.  I have fond memories of that place, not only of  the whole parish but also of its geographical and ecological setting.   Today I see it as one of the finest parishes in the continental United States in the wonderful ways in that hundreds of parishioners are involved in 85 ministries.

And so, I have a story to tell.  I have told it on Trinity Sunday almost every year of my priesthood.  It’s about some sea turtles.  You’ll probably be wondering as you read what turtles have to do with the Trinity.  But I’ll save that for the end.  It is a powerful connection.

Indialantic, Florida, Summer 1969.  I had just arrived in the parish and was meeting my new parishioners.  Several asked, “Have you seen the turtles yet?”  I assumed they were talking about turtles who came to our beach but I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was.  So I accepted Tony’s invitation, a teen from the youth group I had just met:  “Meet me on the beach at 9:00 tonight; bring a small flashlight.”

I was a little early, so I sat on the steps watching the 2-foot waves lap the shore.  I soon learned what a joy it was to live across the street from the ocean.  I lived there the first three years of my priesthood.  That night was a quiet, dark night; there was no moon.  I took off my shoes and put them beside a small-sized dune.  I could see the light of flashlights bouncing across the sand towards the south  but the beach  was dark to the north.  Apparently, prize turtle-watching happened on the south stretch of beach.  Indeed, the most active area for loggerhead turtle nesting is south of Cape Kennedy.

Tony came along and we walked south and the waves washed further up the shore.  He quietly explained that loggerhead turtles grew to about 38 inches and had huge loggerhead_emily_mannionheads with short necks and powerful beaks that can break open mollusk shells.  He said they weigh from 200 – 350 pounds.

We were silent for a while.  I noticed that the flashlights were all turned off; apparently the sea creatures are spooked by light.  A dark night is best.

“What will we see?” I asked.

“The huge creature will lumber slowly up the beach to reach an area above the high water line. The tracks she makes resemble caterpillar or loggerhead-turtle-4331tank tracks.  She will then turn around facing the ocean and use her rear flippers to dig a hole. Sometimes she will not leave any eggs and fill in the hole again to fool us turtle-watchers.  There are sometimes egg poachers around. But if she does lay eggs there will be about 100-126 white-colored eggs about 2 inches in diameter.”

We soon saw some turtle tracks, leading out of the surf up the beach.  None of us used our flashlights, keeping some distance and, interestingly, even the children kept silent,  as if there were a spell over us.

That was my first experience of turtle watching.  I had many more.  But there was one night I will long remember.  It is that night that I have told in my Trinity Sunday homilies  very often.

I was alone that night — no companion, no other turtle-watchers. The moment opened up for me to be a profound mystical awareness, a moment I still remember vividly.  I watched the giant turtle lay her eggs and slowly make her way back toward the surf.    I moved  a little closer as she came to the edge of the water.  It was really dark.

I felt drawn to her by some compelling or impelling force.  I wanted to follow the turtle! As it disappeared beneath the waves, I was drawn to follow her, to enter  the unknown world beneath the sea.

But I hesitated.  I pulled back.

I was on the edge of mystery.

The turtle has its own mystery; the turtle is at home in two worlds — land and sea.  We also live in two worlds — the physical and the spiritual, the seen and the unseen.  For a brief  moment, I was drawn to follow the turtle down beneath the waves. But actually  I was drawn into the mystery of the life of God which the feast of the Holy Trinity celebrates for us.  And there, too, I hesitate.  I pull  back.  I prefer to get close, but not too close.  I prefer to stand upon the shore, to walk along with my toes only in the water, not to plunge in.

The shoreline is  highly symbolic.  It is the liminal space (the margin) between land and sea.  As such, it is a powerful space, a place of mystery in its own right,  as any liminal space can be.  I have stood on several of the shores of the world and it’s always a powerful experience.  Perhaps the shoreline runs down the middle of my soul.

So, what do we make of this feast of the Holy Trinity?  In having this feast the church is telling us we live on the edge of mystery.  We live on the edge of God’s wonderful life — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This is not to be solved like a Perry Mason or Agatha Christie mystery.  In religious experience, a mystery is to be lived and to be unfolded as we uncover its multifaceted dimensions, as we allow it to envelop  and sometimes enrapture us.

The immensity of God’s love is a mystery for us, for sure.  But we should not be afraid of mystery.  We should not be afraid to immerse ourselves in the mystery of God as the turtle immersed herself in the mystery of the ocean.

The day will come, sooner or later, for me and for you to let go of our hesitancy and fear and to fall into the ocean of God’s love.  To no longer live on the edge of mystery but to be immersed fully in  the mystery of God’s love — Father,  Son and Holy Spirit.

I had the experience last year when I got off the shore and onto a dive boat. After three years, I finally got my Scuba certification, and like the turtles went below the surface of the Atlantic ocean for the first time and entered a brand new astonishingly beautiful, silent world!

There’s a similar story told about the great St. Augustine who lived in the Fourth Century. The story or legend goes that he was walking on the beach contemplating the mystery of the Trinity when he saw a boy in front of him who had dug a hole in the sand and was going out to the sea again and again and bringing some water to pour into the hole. St. Augustine asked him, “What are you doing?” “I’m going to pour the entire ocean into this hole.” “That is impossible, the whole ocean will not fit in the hole you have made” said St. Augustine. The boy replied, “And you cannot fit the Trinity in your tiny little brain.” The saint was instantly confronted with the mystery of God.

And so, dear friends . . . .

Follow a turtle!

IMG_0533 Before we quit, let’s ask, what of the baby turtles?

They hatch in sixty days and are completely on their own.  The hundreds of condominiums on the Florida shoreline are in themselves a threat to the newborn because the little ones are drawn to the light and away from the ocean where they should be.  There is a law that only a few lights are to be on the sea-side and these are to be covered.  Like so many other little babies they are endangered.  May we protect them all!

Now, before you go, here’s a cute music video about “Caretta, the Sea Turtle.” Click Here.  Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full Screen.

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click Here.

P. S. Please pray for my friend Tony who passed away on  this past May 9th; we were friends for 53 years.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Pentecost Sunday ~ Let God’s Spirit empower you and give you many gifts!

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The Great and Glorious Feast of Pentecost 

Sunday June 5, 2022   

In our last blog, we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension.

After Jesus left the disciples and ascended into heaven, they had gathered again behind locked doors,

despondent, worried, fearful, bewildered, devastated.

“[Then] suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind,

and it filled the entire house in which they were. 

Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire which parted

and came to rest on each one of them. 

And they were all filled with the holy Spirit

and began to speak in different tongues, 

as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim (Acts 2:1-21.)

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.”

“When the day of Pentecost came it found the brethren gathered in one place.  Suddenly from up in the sky there was a noise like a strong driving wind.”

The Holy Spirit is associated with that wind.  The wind that blows where it wills. The wind that stirs things up and gets them moving.

The word for “wind” in Hebrew is “Ruah” — the same as the word for “breath.”

Often at night, sitting in my chair, I would just pay attention to my breathing for a while. I imagine that the Holy Spirit is the breath entering me, and when I exhale, I’m breathing out the Holy Spirit as well.

What a wonderful image is breath.  Breath is life itself.  No breath, no life in the body.

The mighty wind of Pentecost stirred things up. And the church was born!  The apostles and the others who were part of their company,  and the women who were present, were given enthusiasm.  No longer afraid, they courageously preached the message that Jesus established a new order for people’s lives. They began gathering the church.  The Acts of the Apostles is in so many ways the gospel of the Holy Spirit.

In the beginning of scripture, there is a story about the tower of Babel, that tries to explain why there’s so many different languages on the earth that we cannot understand each other; why there’s so much discord, so much disharmony.

The story has God confusing the languages of the people at Babel  (Gen. 11: 1-9) and from that day onward they were scattered.

On the day of Pentecost the opposite happened.  People were gathered together.   Parthians and Medes and Elamites; people from Cappodacia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia and Egypt  — all heard the apostles speaking to them in their own languages.

On the day of my ordination, I was filled with enthusiasm.  It was day before Pentecost, May 24, 1969.

I was reminded of this prophecy of Joel:

I will pour out my spirit upon all humankind.

Your sons and daughters shall prophesy,

your old men shall dream dreams,

your young men shall see visions.

Even upon the servants and handmaids,

in those days, I will pour out my spirit.” Joel 2:28, 29)

Those were the days immediately following the Second Vatican Council.  There was a lot of enthusiasm all over the Church.  Those of us who were young, had wonderful opportunities to serve.

The enthusiasm that poured onto me and into me lasted the first full three years of my priesthood.  The Spirit really touched my ministry, as he did with another priest who was ordained the same day with me.

Nine years later, the opposite happened.  My life crashed in upon me. And I was reminded of still another scripture about the Spirit — the prophecy of the dry bones.

“Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord:  “See I will bring spirit into you that you may come to life again.   Breathe into these slain, O Spirit, that they may come to life.” (Ezekiel 37: 1)

That’s what Pope Francis is trying to do. Breathe new life into the Church that the Holy Spirit will draw the church together in a new way.

There is still something else to note from the Pentecost story.  A tongue of fire rested individually on the heads of each person.  The Spirit of God has a special relationship with each of us, just as the Father and the Son do.  The Spirit will enliven us according to the gifts and talents of each one of us.

So this Holy Spirit does wondrous things for us!

The Spirit is the source of inspiration for all who would design and create.

No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.

As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.  (I Cor. 12:3b-7, 12-13)

But I must realize that there were also times in my priesthood when I experienced a great deal of powerlessness.  I felt like Samson who had lost his strength.  My soul had become like the valley of dry bones. I didn’t like my own mediocrity.

It is clear that I needed to bring the Holy Spirit to the foreground of my life again and again.  I would like to have a vibrant and vital relationship with the Holy Spirit from moment to moment.  In each moment of my life I hope that I will discern and follow the Spirit’s lead.

And so, an important role of the Holy  Spirit is to encourage gifts. To invite risk. To reach out beyond safe boundaries, as Pope Francis is encouraging his priests to do. To make connections. To unite. To celebrate diversity. The story of Pentecost states that the Spirit of God is uncontrollable – by us. It comes as a “strong driving wind’ and “tongues [on] fire! Or in “Trekkie” language, to go “where no one has gone before.”

The greatest saints did just that! Catherine of Siena (a very young woman religious!) chastised the pope. Francis Xavier undauntedly stepped off the boat in Japan into a culture very foreign to him. A peasant girl named Joan rallied the French army to victory and was burned at the stake because of it. Katharine Drexel stepped beyond boundaries to revere Blacks and Native Americans as persons. And a supposed “care-taker pope” John XXIII shocked everyone by calling a solemn Council of the Church.

They improvised! They pushed the boundaries of the established ways of doing things! They were not afraid to do things differently. They were bold and convicted in the confidence they received from the Spirit of God – just like at Pentecost. They were the innovators, the Reformers. The ones who led and changed the Church. They listened to the Holy Spirit who prompted / disturbed / prodded  / inspired them / led them, and who became their “Defense Attorney” or Advocate, i.e. “Paraclete.” They simply learned to trust that they were tuned into God from moment to moment and discovered God would guide them in what to say and do at the appropriate time.

Our world, our our country,  desperately needs people with that kind of enthusiasm and conviction today. I pray that as I may still have some of that enthusiasm and joy and conviction to serve God’s holy people in this, now beginning the fifty-third year of my priesthood. As my anniversary of ordination was just this past May 24th, there’s still a lot of joy and and eagerness within me to serve!

And may we celebrate today the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in the Church, in our world and in, indeed, all of creation!

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful,

and enkindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.

and You shall renew the face of the earth.

May it be so.  May it be so.

Now, here’s the ancient Sequence for the Feast ~ or if you will, a poem that occurs within the Pentecost Mass . . .

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.
Amen. Alleluia.

And before you go, (A little different than “Come Holy Ghost” for a change.) Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here.

And here are all of today’s Mass readings. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman,

Contemplative Writer

The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord ~ You are my witnesses to the ends of the earth!

The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord

May 29, 2022

The feast of the Ascension of our Lord is part of the Easter mystery.  First is the Resurrection in which Jesus conquers death for us and reveals that life for us will never end.

Then there is the Ascension in which Jesus is taken up into heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand.

And finally Pentecost in which God pours forth his Spirit upon the church and all humankind.

All three experiences are intertwined; they reveal different aspects or facets of the same reality.  The Scriptures separate them over 50 days to afford us the opportunity to reflect on each aspect of the one Easter mystery.

Now, let’s look at today’s feast, the Ascension.

At the very beginning of the Acts of the Apostle (the first reading ~ Acts 1:1-11), written by the same author as Luke’s gospel, describes the experience . . . .

Then Jesus told them not to depart from Jerusalem but to “wait for the promise of the Father of which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water but in a few days you  will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 

He, of course, was referring to Pentecost.

. . . Then he said,

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you

AND YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES in Jerusalem, and to the ends of the earth.”

Then Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.

They stood there, awestruck, spellbound .

Then two men dressed in white garments stood beside them and said,

“Men of Galilee, why are standing there looking at the sky? 

This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

This feast is about heaven, but also about earth.

Jesus is taken into heaven; that is, he returns to his Father where he sits at the Father’s right hand.

And the second reading from Ephesians states that. . . .

God the Father “put all things beneath Christ’s feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” (Ephesians 1:23)

Thus, there is a cosmic dimension to Christology.  The great mystic and theologian Father Teilhard de Chardin  talked about “Christogenesis” – the entire universe evolving by the power of Christ’s all-embracing love.  When Chardin was far away from bread or wine and could not celebrate Mass, he talked fervently and passionately about the  “Mass on the world” – that the whole planet was the body of Christ.

So we think about Jesus as Lord of the Universe,  and we pray that people on earth would somehow find ways to stop the violence and inhumanity toward each other.

And so the feast of Ascension is also about earth.

The angels ask the disciples — Why are you standing there looking up in the sky?  Brothers and Sisters, you and I have work to do!

YOU MUST BE MY WITNESSES in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

A witness is one who knows with one’s own eyes and ears what has taken place.

A witness is one who has filtered through one’s own senses what one’s own account of the truth is.

I consider myself a witness to the resurrection.  I have had enough experiences of risen life–even of mystical experience–that I am convinced that Jesus is real; that he lives and reigns today in our world, that he empowers us through his Spirit. Throughout my life I have found myself immersed in the mystery of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I know this also, because Jesus has allowed me the ability to share his life with others, and they with me.  Many others have deepened and enriched their faith as the Holy Spirit worked through me.

So Jesus, gone to heaven, gives authority to his apostles and disciples on earth.

Brothers and sisters, we have work to do.  We are put on notice in the scriptures of today’s feast.

Next Sunday we will attend to the third aspect of the Easter mystery–Pentecost–the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon all humankind.

During the coming week may we pray that the Holy Spirit would renew each of us individually, the whole Church of God and indeed the whole world!

But before we go, it is well to be aware that we tend to be misled by the metaphors in the poetic images we use for heaven such as clouds and sky and cute pink cherubs flying around that are meant to signal how heaven transcends our world.

Yet heaven isn’t a geographical place or space far away.  The Risen and ascended Jesus acts as Lord of the church, our world  and the cosmos, right here, right now. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “it would be a mistake to interpret the Ascension as a ‘the temporary absence of Christ from the world.” Rather, “we go to heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and “enter into him.”  Heaven is a person.  Jesus himself is what we call heaven,” wrote the pope emeritus.

Now, before you go, here’s the Psalm for the day “God mounts his throne,”  And be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

 As this is Memorial Day weekend, I will remember in my Sunday and Monday Masses all those who have– and are serving our country.  Enjoy your weekend and  Stay Safe!

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

The Sixth Sunday of Easter ~ Intimacy with God

THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER ~ MAY 22, 2022

Today’s gospel reading is another section of Jesus’ Last Discourse at the Last Supper, as recorded in John’s Gospel.  And, as Jesus was talking with his own disciples, it helps us to think about our own relationship with the Lord.

Are we close to him? Do we allow him to get close to us? Or do we keep him at arm’s length?

Some of us don’t want to deal with the Lord as a friend. For some, he is more of an impersonal “boss,” a Ruler who compels us to impersonally obey – “from a distance,” as Bette Midler once sang.

For others of us, he is our “best friend,” our dear brother,” “our shepherd.”

I’d like to invite you, right now, to think about your relationship with the Lord.

In the church before the Second Vatican Council, our Lord seemed to be distant from us, unapproachable. He was someone to be feared. He seemed to be someone who would send us to hell if we ate more than a quarter of a hotdog on Friday or if we “had bad thoughts.” And so we returned the favor; we kept Jesus outside of us, not close enough for us to invite him into our thoughts or minds or souls. Many of us kept him out of sight and out of mind. And in the old church, some folks would put off dealing with Christ or the Church until one’s deathbed.

After Vatican II for a while there were some renewal movements that brought people close to Jesus.   I made a Cursillo (Little course in Christianity) back in 1971, just two years after my ordination. It had a significant impact on my life in that it helped me bring others to Christ.

Four years later, I encountered the Lord up close and personal in a meditation I experienced on a retreat. That moment changed my life. From that day in February 1976, Jesus has been close to me, even though I have wandered away at times.

Jesus is now my best friend. I let him into my soul. I don’t exclude him from areas of my soul that are still in disarray. I let him “listen in” on my thoughts that he would not quite approve of. I am not afraid to let him know me – as I am, for I know he accepts me as I am. I don’t have to hide things from him. I feel his love, a love that embraces all of me – just as I am–warts and all. When we allow ourselves to get close to Jesus, we get to know ourselves better too. We don’t hide things from ourselves so much.

Some people, on the other hand, keep Jesus on the periphery of their lives because they know that if they let him in close, they’ll have to change and they’re not ready to change, so they keep the Lord at bay. Sometimes Jesus comes knocking at the door of our soul and we turn him away. What indignities we put the Lord through!

What I’ve found, however, that Jesus will be for us, as he was for the woman caught in adultery. He accepted the woman as she was and allowed her to change because she realized his love.

To know the personal love of the Lord is a wonderful, exhilarating experience. It’s an experience that you too can have – perhaps on your own with the Spirit’s help, or with the help of a friend and guide.

Then you’ll want to live your whole life in friendship with the Lord. You don’t have to wait until you die to live fully reconciled with Christ. You don’t have to wait until you die to experience holiness and wholeness. Jesus offers his very own life and love to you right here, right now!

Now let us take a closer look at today’s gospel. There are three sections that are appropriate for our discussion. As I said, it’s still part of the Last Supper discourse.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and make our dwelling with him.

Our own soul becomes the dwelling place for God and God will abide with us forever.

St. Thomas Aquinas says that three things are necessary for a person who wants to see God: we must take a step to draw near to God; and we must lift our eyes in order to see God; and we must take time to look, for spiritual things cannot be seen if we are absorbed by earthly things. Where do you look? In the Scriptures. In nature. In your own family. In the people you meet every day. In the slightest little thing. In the present moment.

Accepting the reality of God’s dwelling with us and within us is the heart of the gospel.

It’s an invitation we should not decline lightly.

And 2)

I have told you this while I am with you.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.

The Spirit consoles us in our sadness over our past sins. He leads us to the Son. He makes us sharers in divine wisdom and knowers of the truth. In a hidden way he aids our remembrance because, being love, he excites us.  He teaches us the hidden ways of God. He inspires us. He is the source of all creativity and the bestower of manifold gifts.

Even more intimate than Jesus’ abiding with us is the Holy Spirit who is as close to us as our own breath. Let us prepare ourselves to celebrate once again the feast of Pentecost in which we celebrate the Spirit’s work in us and among us.

And 3)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.

Not as the world gives do I give it to you

Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

A true and abiding relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit brings an abiding peace. Even though all the issues of our life may not be totally resolved, we will be at peace with ourselves, we will be at peace with God. In the Bible the word for peace, shalom, never means simply the absence of trouble. It means everything that makes for our highest good. The peace Jesus offers us is the peace of conquest. No experience of life can take it from us and no sorrow, no danger, no suffering can make it less.

In another Easter gospel, Jesus says,

I am the Vine and we are the branches.

Live on in me, as I do in you.

No more than a branch can bear fruit

of itself apart from the vine,

can you bear fruit apart from me.

I am the vine, you are the branches,

The one who lives in me and in him

Will produce abundantly,

For apart from me you can do nothing.

There you have it. We are called to a real intimacy with Jesus. He can be a part of us and we, a part of him.

Let him into your life.

Talk to him about matters of your heart.

Let him in on your most secret thoughts.

Let Jesus be your friend – all the days of your life.

To bring others to Jesus and to bring Jesus to others has been at the heart of my priestly ministry, as I celebrate the fifty-three years since my ordination this next week. There has been no greater work for me than this.

Jesus,

I pray as you prayed that night with your friends. 

I thank you for your love and friendship all these years;

 I pray for all the people I’ve served through the years,

bless them, Lord, wherever they are.  

And I thank you for wonderful inspiration of the Holy Spirit                                                                      that has informed my life in so many ways.  

I ask you, Jesus, to draw someone who’s reading this blog to yourself.  

Let them know your love; touch them and draw them to yourself.

And send down your Spirit upon us once again; renew your Church,

and splash the Spirit all over our country and our world, for we surely need a good dose of it as on the first Pentecost!

To You, Jesus, be all Glory and Honor and Praise! Amen. 

Now, before you go, here’s a beautiful song  with a slide show to accompany our theme of Intimacy with God. Click here, Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full-screen.

And here are today’s Mass readings.  Click here.

Acknowledgment: Magnificat Liturgical Magazine / May 2016 / Lectio Divina notes for the Sixth Sunday of Easter / p. 21. 

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer

The Fifth Sunday of Easter ~ Love one another as I have loved you!

Dali_-_The_Sacrament_of_the_Last_Supper_-_lowres

The Fifth Sunday of Easter–May 16, 2022

“I give you a new commandment—Love one another as I have loved you.”

The scene is the Last Supper . . . .

When Judas had left them, Jesus said,

“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him . . . .

Our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay will unpack these rather mystifying words of Jesus for us.

The glory of God has come and that glory is the Cross. The tension has gone out of the room because Judas has left; any doubts that remained have finally been removed. Judas has gone out and the Cross is now a certainty. The greatest glory in life is the glory that comes from sacrifice.

In Jesus, God has been glorified. It was the obedience of Jesus that brought glory to God. And God will glorify Jesus. The Cross was the glory of Jesus; but there was more to follow—the Resurrection, the Ascension and the full triumph of Christ in his Second Coming. The vindication of Christ must follow his crucifixion; the crown of thorns must change into the crown of glory.

This passage begins Jesus’ Farewell Discourse to his disciples as recorded in the gospel of John . . . .

My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.” 

It is not an insult to be called my children by the Lord Jesus, but a privilege (1 Jn. 3:1) Jesus is a father to us because receiving everything from the Father (Jn 16:15) he generates within us the new life of grace. We delight in being called children, freed from the burden of having to be independent or self-sufficient. In Matthew 18:1-5, Jesus teaches his disciples that becoming the true way to greatness is through spiritual childhood, of being shamelessly dependent on him–according to Magnificat–Lectio Divina on the Gospel of this day.)

Jesus was laying out his farewell commandment to his disciples. The time was short; if they were to hear his voice they must hear it now, Scripture scholar William Barclay dramatizes. He was going on a journey on which they could not accompany him; he was taking a road that he had to walk alone. He gave them the commandment that they must love one another as he loved them.

What does that mean for us, and for our relationships with others? How did Jesus love his disciples?

Barclay says he loved them selflessly. Even in the noblest human love there remains some element of self. We think of the happiness we will receive, along with what we give. But Jesus never thought of himself. His only thought was to give himself and all he had for those he loved.

Jesus loved his disciples sacrificially. There was no limit to what his love would give or to where it would lead. If loved meant the Cross, Jesus was prepared to go there . . . .

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Jesus loved his disciples understandingly. He knew his disciples intimately. We never know people until we have lived with them. Sometimes we say that love is blind. Real love is open-eyed. It loves, not what it imagines a person to be, but what that person really is. Jesus’ heart is big enough to love us as we are.

Jesus loved his disciples forgivingly. The Apostle’s leader would deny him. They were all to forsake him in his hour of need. They never, in his days in the flesh, understood him. They were blind and insensitive, slow to learn and lacking in understanding. In the end, they were cowards. But Jesus held nothing against them; there was no failure that he could not forgive.

The love that has not learned to forgive cannot do anything else but shrivel up and die. Barclay concludes by suggesting that we are poor creatures and there is a kind fate in things that makes us hurt those who love us best. For that very reason all enduring love is built on forgiveness, for without forgiveness, love is bound to die.

I had written seven letters to friends asking for reconciliation and forgiveness. Two were returned for insufficient address; the others did not responded–except one who wrote that he forgave me, but still holds a grudge fifteen years later.  I continue to pray for them and hold out hope for reconciliation and if not, that they have accepted my best wishes.

Jesus, You have given us a New Commandment,

To Love one another as You have loved us.

That’s a tall order.

And I know I fall short all the time.

I have hurt people and have tried to make amends to some.

If we would just rely on your strength and grace, Jesus,

we would do better in our loving.

For they say—

They will know we are Christians by our love.

They did in the early Church.

Allow us—allow me—the grace to do so in the Church

and in our world today.

To You, Jesus, be all Glory and Honor and Praise

forever!

Amen. 

And now, before you go, here’s one of the first “guitar Mass” songs from the Sixties! “They will know we are Christians by our love.” Click here.

And here’s another song from our Mormon friends that brought tears to my eyes when I first heard by the lovely soprano Sissel Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

Acknowledgments:  The Image: Salvador Dali’s The Sacrament of the Last Supper

William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John – Volume 2 – Revised Edition / The Westminster Press: Philadelphia 1975  (pp. 147-9)

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

 

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Shepherd me, O God ~ Do you really want God to shepherd you?

The Fourth Sunday of Easter ~ May 8th, 2022

Good Shepherd Sunday

Have you ever thought about how shepherds handle their sheep? In many places even today they follow their shepherd, who walks in front of them. They’re not goaded like cattle. Cowboys herd cattle from behind, pushing them forward. Not so with sheep.

Muse a bit about  Jesus as the Good Shepherd – Jesus walking ahead of us along the way. He shows us the way. He’s been there ahead of us. In Mark 10:32, we are told that the disciples were going up to Jerusalem “and Jesus was leading the way.” And of course, along the way, he was teaching and forming them. And that’s how it can be with you and me!

Apparently, it is the voice of the shepherd that controls the sheep. “My sheep hear my voice,”says Jesus. The sheep pick out the voice of their one only shepherd from that of others. They only follow the one whose voice they recognize.

In another place in the text, Jesus distinguishes between true and false shepherds. The false ones are hired hands that won’t go out of their way to help the sheep. The good shepherd is the one dedicated to his sheep and his care.

The concept of the Messiah as the Good Shepherd appeared frequently in the Old Testament, notably in the prophet Ezekiel. All of Chapter 34 is dedicated to the good shepherd. Ezekiel warns of the peril of following false shepherds who lead their flocks astray.  He admonishes to seek the good shepherd: “The Lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal. . . . Thus shall they know that I the Lord, am their God, and they are my people.”

And, of course David was the Shepherd King of Israel, having written our beloved Psalm 23 ~ “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

The words  of Ezekiel were as familiar to the Jews in the time of Jesus as they can be to us in our own difficult times: the lost, the injured, the sick, the war-torn and those who are struggling to care for them.  The Jews, too, recognized the difference between a good shepherd and a hireling, who was more interested in his pay than the welfare of the flock. (And isn’t that the same in our time, with politicians who don’t seem to care.)

While we love the image of the Good Shepherd, most of us lack firsthand acquaintance with either a shepherd or with sheep. But picture this  as shown to us by Professor Barclay . . .

The life of a shepherd in Palestine was very hard. He was never off duty. The sheep were bound to wander, and had to be constantly watched.  On the narrow plateau the ground dipped sharply down to the craggy deserts below and the sheep were liable to stray away and get lost. The shepherd’s task was not only constant but dangerous, for he not only had to guard the flock but to protect them from wild animals and thieves and robbers. He was out there with them in all kinds of weather, day and night.

As Barclay writes, quoting Sir George Adam Smith, who travelled in Palestine, “On some high moor, at night hyenas howl, when you meet him, sleepless, far-sighted, weather-beaten, leaning on his staff, and looking over his scattered sheep, everyone of them on his heart, you understand why the shepherd of Judaea sprang to the front in his people’s history; why the Jews gave his name to their king, and made him the symbol of Providence; why Christ took him as the type of self-sacrifice.”  Constant vigilance, fearless, courage, patient love for his flock, were the necessary characteristics of the shepherd.

And so listen for the Voice of your Shepherd. What greater blessing could there be than this: The shepherd knows your voice and you know his. You will have instantaneous, constant communication as you seek to become one with this Good Shepherd. The closer, the more intimate that relationship, the better you will comprehend the words of our Shepherd: “No one can take them out of my hand.”

In another place, Jesus says he is not only the shepherd, but he is the sheep-gate. The sheep go in and out of the pasture and are safe.  

When the sheep came into the enclosure, the shepherd would lie down at the entrance, thus, literally becoming the Gate, or the Door!

Jesus is the Gate to the spiritual world. Because he claims us as his own, we are safe.

There’s another meaning here, too, I think. A lot of people experiment with other matters in the spiritual world that are not so safe. Like hallucinogenic drugs or seances and tarot cards  or fortune-telling, or calling on the spirits.  These are not protected and can be dangerous. Only through Jesus are we truly safe.

William Barclay has this to add about this passage . . . .

~ Jesus promised eternal life. If someone became a member of his flock, all the bitterness of life would be gone and they would know the splendor and magnificence of the life with God.

~ He promised a life that would know no end. Death would not be the end but the beginning; they would know the glory of the indestructible life.

~ He promised a life that was secure. Nothing could snatch them from his hand. Not that it would save them from sorrow or suffering. Even in a world crashing to disaster they would know the serenity of God.

Jesus says it was the Father who gave the sheep to him. And thus Jesus received his confidence from the Father. He was secure, not in his own power, but in God’s. And the Gospel passage ends with the words,“The Father and I are one, which calls to mind his intense prayer at the end of the Last Supper, according to John, “Holy Father, keep them in your name which you have given me that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11)

But let’s look at another side of this. The Good Shepherd seems to be doing all the giving, all the caring, all the protecting. The sheep just receive.

Now isn’t that the relationship we strive for with our God? We have received everything from God; should we not give all in return? Our love, too, should be unconditional, our loyalty without compromise, our thoughts, words and deeds in accord with the will of God.

And so ask yourself this question: Am I not, in turn, a good shepherd?

If you have children or others under your care, ask yourself: Do I shepherd well those who are under my care? Do I shepherd by leading? Or by goading? How can I adapt my leadership style to Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

Then, and only then, will we be able to say, I know my Shepherd, and my Shepherd knows me.”

Christ is Risen!

Now, before you go, here’s a version of our beloved Psalm 23, “Shepherd Me, O God,” that has the flavor of Jesuit spirituality as well. Click here.

And a great song I found on the Internet a day ago: “You Raised Me Up.” Click here.   

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

William Barclay / the Daily Study Bible Series – revised edition / the Gospel of John: Volume 2 / The Westminster Press Philadelphia – 1975 / pp. 55-60.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Third Sunday of Easter ~ Lord, You know that I Love You

rhpas0822The Third Sunday of Easter ~ May 1, 2022

This is the third Resurrection appearance in the Gospel of John and it’s a charming story.

The guys had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. Heard this story before? This is a replay of their very first meeting in Galilee. Jesus suggests they cast their nets to the starboard side. (They don’t recognize him quite yet.) When they do as he says, they haul in a great number of fish.

And John says, “The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’”

Then good ol’ impetuous Peter hastily throws on a tunic and jumps into the water dragging the net full of fish.

John, who uses symbolism all through his writing, notes that there were 153 large fish and the net was not broken. (We’ll discuss this a bit later.)

Then John writes, “Jesus said, ‘Come and have some breakfast.’ And he took bread and gave it to them, and gave them fish in the same way.” And he adds, “ This was the third time Jesus showed himself to the disciples after he had been raised from the dead.

Barclay notes that the catch is not described as a miracle as it frequently happens on a lake.  A person standing on the shore can often see a shoal of fish more clearly than those in the water. And it may have been because of the grey dark that they didn’t recognize him. But the eyes of the youngest disciple John were sharp.

Now to the meaning of the 153 fishes. In the Fourth Gospel, everything has meaning. Barclay gives lists of “many ingenious suggestions for this symbolism.” But I will choose only the one that makes the most sense as given by St. Jerome.

He said that in the sea there were 153 kinds of different fishes; and the catch is one which includes one of every kind of fish; and therefore the number suggests that some day all men of all nations will be gathered together in Jesus Christ.

We may note further that all these fish were gathered in this net and it wasn’t broken. The net stands for the Church; and there is room for all people of all nations in the Church–or as an alternative prayer recently has it–“in the kingdom”.

Here John is telling us in his own vivid yet subtle way  of the universality of the Church. There is no kind of exclusivity in her, no kind of color bar or selectiveness. The Church–or the kingdom–is  as universal as the love of God in Jesus Christ.

But there is more.

“ When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
Jesus said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

First, we must note the question Jesus asked Peter, “Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me more than these?”   As far as the language goes, it could mean two things equally well.

It may be that Jesus swept his hand around the boat and its nets and equipment and the catch of fishes and said to Peter, “Simon, do you love me more than these?”

Are you prepared to give up a steady job and reasonable comfort in order to give yourself forever to my people and my work? This may have been a final decision to give all his life to the preaching of the gospel and the caring for Christ’s flock.

Or it may be that Jesus looked at the rest of the little group of the disciples and said to Peter, “Simon, do you love me more than your fellow disciples do? It may be that Jesus was looking back to the night when Peter said, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” It may be that he was reminding Peter how once he thought he alone could be true and how his courage had failed. It is more likely that the second meaning is the right one, because Peter does not make comparisons anymore; he is content to say, “You know that I love you.

Jesus asks the question three times—as Peter denied the Lord three times.

Jesus is gracious in his forgiveness. He gave Peter the chance to affirm his love and to wipe out the memory of the threefold denial by a threefold declaration of love.

Thus, we must note what love brought Peter.

~ It brought him a task. “If you love me,” Jesus said, ”then give your life to shepherding the sheep and lambs of my flock.”

We can prove that we love Jesus only by loving others. Love is the greatest privilege in the world, but it brings great responsibility.

~ It brought Peter the cross. Jesus said to him . . . .

Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

The day came when, in Rome, that Peter did give his life for his Lord; he, too, was nailed to the Cross, and he asked to be nailed upside down, for he said he was not worthy to die as his Lord had died.

Love brought Peter a task, and it brought him the cross.

Love always involves responsibility, and it always involves sacrifice. We don’t really love Christ unless we are prepared to face the task he has prepared for us and the Cross he has given us.

Lord Jesus, you know that I love You.

As your priest, I have tried to bring spiritual nourishment to the people I’ve served as best I could.

Sometimes, I have failed, as Peter did.

You have given me crosses to carry throughout my life.

Sometimes, I was petulant and didn’t carry them graciously.

I have tried to love, Lord.

Increase my capacity to love and to serve, even as I grow older.

This evening, Lord—as always, Lord Jesus,

I just want you to know that I love You.

Please be with those who do not know Your love.  

And now, before you go, here’s the beloved Latin American song about the  Jesus on the seashore ~ Pescadores de Hobres.  Click here.

Or “Worthy is the Lamb” from Revelations taken from today’s second reading that truly honors our Risen Lord. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

William Barclay /The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John / Volume 2 revised edition / The Westminster Press / Philadelphia / 1975 -pp. 284-6.

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer

 

 

The Second Sunday of Easter ~ Peace be with You!

The Second Sunday of Easter –April24th, 2022–“Peace be with You!”

Here we are continuing to celebrate the Easter for the fifty days of the Easter Season that ends on Pentecost Sunday, June 5th.  We’re still dealing with the effects of the coronavirus that has impacted all of us for the past two years and now we are worried and anxious about the impact on the war in Ukraine may have on us and the whole world.

Today is also Divine Mercy Sunday in which we are especially invited to unite our prayers for those suffering in Ukraine. (More on that devotion later.) lFor now, let’ see if we can learn from the experience of the Apostles today as we continue to cope with this ongoing stress that’s invading and infecting all our lives.

These issues were so strong in them that they could not believe the message that the Women brought to them that Jesus had been raised. They were not at peace.

They were distressed and fearful, huddled together in the Upper Room behind locked doors. They were depressed and distraught that the One they had come to love had been murdered. They were afraid that the religious leaders would come after them as well.

William Barclay, the Scripture scholar says that “they met in something like terror.” They knew the envenomed bitterness of the Jewish leaders who had plotted his execution and feared they would be next.

They really needed some peace.  So the first thing Jesus says when he appears to them is “Peace be with you. What do you do when you really need peace? Place yourself in the shoes of this mother and child in the midst as they view their devastated neighborhood and city. Have you been in such a position? How would you cope? Would you reach out to Jesus–as Pope Francis implored all of us to do in his Easter message?imrs-2

Thus, peace is an Easter gift. It’s a gift that we can claim and pray for too.

I’m not talking about peace between Israelis and Palestinians or Republicans and Democrats. It means more than “May you be saved from times of trouble or conflict.” It means much more than that. It means, “May God give you everything good–or every good thing.”

Jesus said when he appeared to them in the locked room, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.”

There’s a parallel between the sending out of the Church by Jesus and his being sent by the Father. John’s Gospel makes clear that the relationship between Jesus and God shows Jesus’ perfect obedience and perfect love. Jesus could be God’s messenger only because he rendered to God that perfect obedience and perfect love. It follows that the Church is fit to be a messenger and an instrument of Christ only when it perfectly loves him and perfectly obeys him. The Church must never be out to propagate man-made policies. The Church fails whenever it tries to solve some problems in its own wisdom and strength and leaves out of account the guidance of Christ.

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit . . . .”

Barclay suggests that when John spoke in this way, he was thinking back to the story of the creation of humankind. “And the Lord God formed man out of dust from the soil and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

And we can compare this to the story of the valley of the dry bones in Ezekiel when he heard God say to the wind, “ Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live.”

The coming of the Holy Spirit is like the awakening of life from the dead.

 . . . . Until Jesus appeared to them. They no longer had to rely on faith, which was lacking for all of them, not just Thomas. They had to experience the Risen One for themselves.

Then enter Thomas. He is not at peace. He says that unless he puts his finger in the nail-marks and his hand into his side, he will not believe.”

Thomas is honest.

Thomas needed to be convinced. He simply refused to say that he understood what he did not understand or to say he believed what he did not believe. There was an uncompromising honesty about him.

But when he was sure, he went all the way, My Lord and My God,” he proclaimed!

At this point, Thomas is overwhelmed. A week earlier he had said he would not believe. The truth of it all came home to him: so different from other men, he is the same one they used to be together with, who was put to death a short time ago. And Thomas surrendered. “You are my Lord and my God!” Thomas believed.

But then Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

These words are really extraordinary, according to Bread and Wine author Romano Guardini. Thomas believed because he had been allowed to “see.,” to see the hands and the side and to touch the blessed wounds, yet he was not blessed.

Blessed indeed are those whose who have yet learned to believe!” Those who ask for no miracles, demand nothing out of the ordinary, but find God’s message in every day life. Those who require no compelling proofs, but remain in a certain ultimate suspense, so that faith may never cease to require daring.

And those are called blessed who make the effort to remain openhearted. Who seek to cleanse their hearts of self-righteousness, obstinacy, presumption, and the inclination to “know better-than-others.”. Who are quick to listen, and are humble and free-spirited. Who are able to find God’s message in the gospel of he day, or even from the sermons of preachers with no message in particular, or in phrases from the Law they’ve heard a thousand times, phrases with no charismatic power about them, or in the happenings of every day life that always end up the same way: work and rest, anxiety—and then again some kind of success, some joy, and an encounter, and a sorrow.

Blessed are those who can see the Lord in all those things!

~ Romano Guardini / Bread and Wine Believing is Seeing” pp.. 119- 123,

There’s a message for us in what Father Guardini  says here for all of us. A message of patience and love.

As for me, I consider myself a Witness to the Resurrection. I KNOW my Redeemer lives.  I KNOW his love for me in the present moment. He is sometimes as close to me as my very own heartbeat. Not that I’m always aware of him. No, I am a sinful man who has made many mistakes in the  (next month) fifty-three years of my priesthood. But I know that I love him and I know at the bottom of my heart that Jesus loves me.

And, with all my heart and soul, I want you, my dear readers, to know in the bottom of your own hearts the deep, deep love and affection that Jesus has for YOU, too!

I praise and thank God and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord for the gift of peace he has given me.

AND MAY THE PEACE OF THE LORD BE WITH YOU AS WELL!

And now before you go, a couple of things, first, today is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday.

Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. It is originally based on the Devotion to the Divine Mercy that Saint Faustina Kowalska reported as part of her encounter with Jesus, and is associated with special promises from Jesus and indulgences issued by the Church. Jesus associated with this devotion. A simple prayer associated with this devotion is “Jesus, I trust in you.” A simple act of abandonment is enough to overcome the barriers of darkness and sorrow  and desperation. The rays of God’s divine mercy will restore hope. Hope to those who feel overwhelmed by any burden, especially the burden of sin.

And now,  here is a powerful song to pull all of this together ~ Click here.  

Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen, and there’s another song just behind it.

And here are the Mass readings, if you’d care to reflect on them. Click here.

William Barclay The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John – Volume 2                                Revised Edition / Westminster Press – Philadelphia – 1975/ pp. 272-4.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Pope Francis’ 2022 Easter message to Rome and to the World

EASTER 2022

URBI ET ORBI MESSAGE
OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Jesus, the Crucified One, is risen! He stands in the midst of those who mourned him, locked behind closed doors and full of fear and anguish. He comes to them and says: “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19). He shows the wounds in his hands and feet, and the wound in his side. He is no ghost; it is truly Jesus, the same Jesus who died on the cross and was laid in the tomb. Before the incredulous eyes of the disciples, he repeats: “Peace be with you!” (v. 21)


No, it is not an illusion! Today, more than ever, we hear echoing the Easter proclamation so dear to the Christian East: “Christ is risen! He is truly risen!” Today, more than ever, we need him, at the end of a Lent that has seemed endless. We emerged from two years of pandemic, which took a heavy toll. It was time to come out of the tunnel together, hand in hand, pooling our strengths and resources… Instead, we are showing that we do not yet have within us the spirit of Jesus but the spirit of Cain, who saw Abel not as a brother, but as a rival, and thought about how to eliminate him. We need the crucified and risen Lord so that we can believe in the victory of love, and hope for reconciliation. Today, more than ever, we need him to stand in our midst and repeat to us: “Peace be with you!”

Only he can do it. Today, he alone has the right to speak to us of peace. Jesus alone, for he bears wounds… our wounds. His wounds are indeed ours, for two reasons. They are ours because we inflicted them upon him by our sins, by our hardness of heart, by our fratricidal hatred. They are also ours because he bore them for our sake; he did not cancel them from his glorified body; he chose to keep them forever. They are the indelible seal of his love for us, a perennial act of intercession, so that the heavenly Father, in seeing them, will have mercy upon us and upon the whole world. The wounds on the body of the risen Jesus are the sign of the battle he fought and won for us, won with the weapons of love, so that we might have peace and remain in peace.

May there be peace for war-torn Ukraine, so sorely tried by the violence and destruction of the cruel and senseless war into which it was dragged. In this terrible night of suffering and death, may a new dawn of hope soon appear! Let there be a decision for peace. May there be an end to the flexing of muscles while people are suffering. Please, please, let us not get used to war! Let us all commit ourselves to imploring peace, from our balconies and in our streets! Peace! May the leaders of nations hear people’s plea for peace. May they listen to that troubling question posed by scientists almost seventy years ago: “Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war?” (Russell-Einstein Manifesto, 9 July 1955).

Brothers and sisters, let us allow the peace of Christ to enter our lives, our homes, our countries!

I hold in my heart all the many Ukrainian victims, the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, the divided families, the elderly left to themselves, the lives broken and the cities razed to the ground. I see the faces of the orphaned children fleeing from the war. As we look at them, we cannot help but hear their cry of pain, along with that of all those other children who suffer throughout our world: those dying of hunger or lack of medical care, those who are victims of abuse and violence, and those denied the right to be born.

Amid the pain of the war, there are also encouraging signs, such as the open doors of all those families and communities that are welcoming migrants and refugees throughout Europe. May these numerous acts of charity become a blessing for our societies, at times debased by selfishness and individualism, and help to make them welcoming to all.

May the conflict in Europe also make us more concerned about other situations of conflict, suffering and sorrow, situations that affect all too many areas of our world, situations that we cannot overlook and do not want to forget.

May there be peace for the Middle East, racked by years of conflict and division. On this glorious day, let us ask for peace upon Jerusalem and peace upon all those who love her (cf. Ps 121 [122]), Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. May Israelis, Palestinians and all who dwell in the Holy City, together with the pilgrims, experience the beauty of peace, dwell in fraternity and enjoy free access to the Holy Places in mutual respect for the rights of each.

May there be peace and reconciliation for the peoples of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, and in particular for all the Christian communities of the Middle East.

May there be peace also for Libya, so that it may find stability after years of tensions, and for Yemen, which suffers from a conflict forgotten by all, with continuous victims: may the truce signed in recent days restore hope to its people.

We ask the risen Lord for the gift of reconciliation for Myanmar, where a dramatic scenario of hatred and violence persists, and for Afghanistan, where dangerous social tensions are not easing and a tragic humanitarian crisis is bringing great suffering to its people.

May there be peace for the entire African continent, so that the exploitation it suffers and the hemorrhaging caused by terrorist attacks – particularly in the Sahel region – may cease, and that it may find concrete support in the fraternity of the peoples. May the path of dialogue and reconciliation be undertaken anew in Ethiopia, affected by a serious humanitarian crisis, and may there be an end to violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. May prayer and solidarity not be lacking for the people in the eastern part of South Africa, struck by devastating floods.

May the risen Christ accompany and assist the people of Latin America, who in some cases have seen their social conditions worsen in these difficult times of pandemic, exacerbated as well by instances of crime, violence, corruption and drug trafficking.

Let us ask the risen Lord to accompany the journey of reconciliation that the Catholic Church in Canada is making with the indigenous peoples. May the Spirit of the risen Christ heal the wounds of the past and dispose hearts to seek truth and fraternity.

Dear brothers and sisters, every war brings in its wake consequences that affect the entire human family: from grief and mourning to the drama of refugees, and to the economic and food crisis, the signs of which we are already seeing. Faced with the continuing signs of war, as well as the many painful setbacks to life, Jesus Christ, the victor over sin, fear and death, exhorts us not to surrender to evil and violence. Brothers and sisters, may we be won over by the peace of Christ! Peace is possible; peace is a duty; peace is everyone’s primary responsibility!

Copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Now, before you go, here’s a lovely hymn from Ukraine on Easter Sunday organized by a Protestant mission there. Click here. And turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With Love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Jesus, the Crucified One, is risen! He stands in the midst of those who mourned him, locked behind closed doors and full of fear and anguish. He comes to them and says: “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19). He shows the wounds in his hands and feet, and the wound in his side. He is no ghost; it is truly Jesus, the same Jesus who died on the cross and was laid in the tomb. Before the incredulous eyes of thisciles, he repeats: “Peace be with you!” (v. 2Our eyes, too, are incredulous on this Easter of war. We have seen all too much blood, all much violence. Our hearts, too, have been filled with fear and anguish, as so many of our brothers and sisters have had to lock themselves away in order to be safe from bombing. We struggle to believe that Jesus is truly risen, that he has truly triumphed over death. Could it be an illusion? A figment of our imaginaAs we contemplate those glorious wounds, our incredulous eyes open wide; our hardened hearts break open and we welcome the Easter message: “Peace be with you!”

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord ~ Christ is Risen! Go tell it!

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord 

April 17th, 2022

Christ is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Over the past  few years, I’ve only shared an Easter poem of mine, but here’s a more nourishing reflection; maybe it’ll stretch you a bit, but I hope it inspires you and brings you joy to celebrate the feast with renewed faith and hope.

I’ve culled together excerpts of several of the great articles in the Lenten book Bread and Wine similar to the Jurgen Moltmann I quoted in the Good Friday blog . . . .

Our first article by Brennan Manning states that over a hundred years ago in the Deep South, a phrase common in our Christian culture today the term “born again” was seldom used. Rather, the words used to describe the breakthrough into personal relationship with Jesus Christ were:

“I was seized by the power of a great affection!”

It was a profoundly moving way to indicate both the initiative of the almighty God and the explosion(!) within the human heart that occurs when Jesus becomes Lord. (B&W p. 224)

Now that, dear friends, is an amazing description of what should take place in the soul of our catechumens baptized at the Easter Vigils in churches all over the world and anyone who wishes to “become a convert”—as we used to say.

To continue the same theme in our second article, E. Stanley Jones brings out a theme that I’ve always stressed “The Christ of Experience.”  The early disciples had little ritual but a mighty realization. They went out–not remembering Christ–but experiencing him. He was a living, redemptive, actual presence–then and there. They went out with the joyous and grateful cry:

“Christ lives in me!”

The Jesus of history had become the Christ of experience. Some have suggested that the early Christians out-thought, out-lived and out-died the pagans. But that was not enough; they “out-experienced” them.

We cannot merely talk about Christ—we must bring him. We must be a living vital reality –closer than breathing and nearer than hands and feet. We must be “God-bearers.” (B&W pp.346-9)  We must “Go tell it!

As a priest—and in my younger days when I taught young people and adults, I would use the phrase: “Experience precedes understanding.”  The point I wanted tto get across was the same as Rev. Jones—the only true experience of our faith is to have Jesus in one’s heart. To now him, not just know about him. When I was growing up, all that was required was to regurgitate Catechism answers.

And in the 1980’s, when I first went to study about how the ancients conducted their Catechumenate—what we now call the “RCIA—or Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, I was amazed to find out that they did not teach initiants about the sacraments until what we call the Mystagoia Period which is after they received the sacraments after Easter!

Again, the point is that experience precedes understanding. You see, in the early Church, they guarded their experience of the Holy—the Eucharist. In fact, the catechumens today are still supposed to be dismissed from the assembly after the Liturgy of the Word and at that time they are taught about the Word and only at the Easter Vigil do they come into the presence of our sacraments. But I’m not going to win that argument. Oftentimes priests settle for the minimum and, sadly many “converts” are not converted at all. They are not “seized by the power of great affection.” They do not experience the Lord Jesus in their heart and become “God-bearers.”

Now here’s more on the same theme by N. T Wright . . . . Listen to what St. Paul says taking the brutal facts of the cross and turning it inside out:

“God cancelled the bond that stood against us, with its legal demands: he set it aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Col 2:14)

That is to say: The world, and the rulers of the world, had you in their grip. But Jesus took that bondage upon himself: it is all there in the charge that was nailed over the cross and in Pilate’s cynical us of his authority: “What I have written, I have written.” ~ INRI  Jesus took it on himself: and, being the one person who had never submitted to the rulers of this world, who had lived as a free human being, obedient to God, he beat them at their own game. He made a public example of them; God, in Christ, celebrate his triumph over the prince(s) of the world.

The cross is not a defeat but a victory. It’s the dramatic reassertion that God’s love is sovereign, that the rulers of the world don’t have the last word, that the kingdom of God has defeated the kingdom of Satan, that the kingdoms of the world, now become, in principle, the kingdom of our God, and of his Messiah and he shall reign for ever and ever and ever!  (B&W pp. 388-90)  

Now here’s the poem I wrote to celebrate this great feast . .  .

First day of the week now come

The dawn, now dawning

Women rushing with their spices

Quaking earth trembling, trembled

An angel dazzling, dazzled

Rolling back the stone

Do not be afraid! he said,

Do not be afraid! he said,

He has been raised!

He has been raised!

Go quickly!!

Tell it!

JESUS IS RISEN!

What did he say?

Do not be afraid?

Who me? Not be afraid?

People struggling with this Pandemic.

Immigrants afraid of being deported?

Others trying to pay their rent or find a job.

And this year cities destroyed in Ukraine. 

Senseless killings of civilians–even children.

Go quickly! 

Tell it!

Don’t Be Afraid!   

Yeah! Tell it!

To your neighbors, to America, and all the world!

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

JESUS IS RISEN!

Before you go, here’s an artful Easter Sunday processional from the Princeton University chapel. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and be sure to enter full screen.

 Now here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Bread and Wine / Plough Publishing House / Walder NY 2003

 

 

Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord ~ Jesus saving us still

 

Good Friday April 15, 2022

Like a sapling he grew in front of us,
Like a root in arid ground…
a thing despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering ….
And yet ours were the sufferings he bore,
ours the sorrows he carried.
But we thought of him as someone punished,
struck by God, and brought low.
Yet he was pierced through for our faults,
crushed for our sins.
On him lies a punishment that brings in peace
and through his wound we were healed
–excerpts from Isaiah 53.

Our Jewish neighbors celebrate their Passover this year on Good Friday, and our Muslim friends are observing Ramadan this month–what a convergence! May Jesus bring  peace and harmony among all of us and impact an end to this awful war in Ukraine! 

In article from my favorite Lent / Easter spiritual reading companion Bread and Wine that now has a broken spine in need of a chiropractor. It’s an article entitled Naked Pride by the Rev. John Stott, a distinguished Anglican priest and theologian. . .

The essence of sin is human beings substituting themselves for God while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for us all. Humans claim prerogatives that belong to God alone while God accepts penalties that God should not have to endure—only humans.

As we gaze upon the cross this Good Friday— either one in our home or the one at the end of our rosary or just the one printed in this blog if you have no other—we can gain a clear view both of God and ourselves. Instead of inflicting on us the judgment we deserved, God in Christ endured that sentence in our place. Hell is the only alternative. This is the “scandal”; i.e. the stumbling block of the cross.

For our proud hearts rebel against it. We cannot bear to acknowledge either the seriousness of our sin or our utter indebtedness to the cross. Surely there must be something we can do to make amends? If not, we give the impression we’d rather suffer our own punishment rather than of seeing God through Christ bear it in our place.

Our author tells the story of a play by George Bernard Shaw entitled Major Barbara (1905) about an incident at the alleged West Ham shelter in which Bill Walker, “a rough customer” arrives one cold January morning drunk. He gets himself into trouble there and seizes a girl by the hair and strikes her, cutting her lip. He’s mocked by the other residents because he didn’t have the courage to take on the “bloke” that he’s jealous about. Bill’s conscience and pride nag him until he can no longer bear the insult. He decides, in a kinda cockney accent, to spit in the guy’s eye, or if not, “git me aown fice beshed.” (Get my own face beaten.)

But his opponent refuses to cooperate, so Bill returns shamefaced. He comes back to the group and lies, telling everybody, he spit in his eye to which one of the girls calls out, ‘Glory Allelloolier!”

The girl who was injured tells Bill that she’s sorry and he didn’t really hurt her, which makes him angrier still. “Aw down’t want to be forgiven by you or by anybody. Wot I did Aw’ll pay for.

He tries another ruse. He offers to pay a fine that one of his mates just incurred and produces a sovereign.

“Eahs the manney. Take it; and let’s ev no more o your forgivin and pryin (prayin) and your Mijor jawrin me. Let wot Aw dan be dan and pid for; and let there be and end of it. This bloomin forgivin and neggin and jawrin mike a menn thet sore that iz lawf’s a burden to im. Aw won’t ev it. Aw tell yer. Avve offered to py. Aw can do more. Tike it or leave it. There it is.”—and he throws the sovereign down.

And so, our author sums up . . .

The proud human heart is thus revealed. We insist on paying for what we’ve done. We cannot stand the humiliation of acknowledging our bankruptcy and allowing somebody else to pay for us. The notion that that somebody else should be God himself is just too much to take for some people.

We would rather perish than repent, rather lose ourselves than humble ourselves.

Rev. Stott, an Anglican priest, and renowned theologian, states that only the gospel demands such a self-humbling on our part. No other religion or philosophy deals with the problem of guilt apart from the intervention of God, and therefore, they come to a “cheap” conclusion. In them, you and I would be spared the final humiliation of knowing that the Mediator has borne the punishment instead of us! We would not have to be stripped absolutely naked.

But . . . but we cannot escape the embarrassment of standing absolutely naked before God.

Think about that for a moment. You and I will have to take off our shoes and socks. Our shirts and pants or our dresses.

Our undershirts or our bra.

Our skivvies. And stand absolutely naked with your private parts and all.

Rev. Stott continues: It’s no use trying to cover up like Adam and Eve in the garden. Our attempts at self-justification are as ineffectual as their fig-leaves. We have to acknowledge our nakedness and gaze on the Lord wearing our filthy rags in spite of us.

And then . . . and then allow him to clothe us with his own righteousness and light.

Nobody has ever put it better than Augustus Toplady in his immortal hymn Rock of Ages . . . .

Nothing in my hand I bring

Simply to your Cross I cling

Naked, come to for dress

Helpless, look to you for grace

Fool, I to the fountain fly

Wash, Savior, or I die.

 

And now here’s my prayer . . . .

Dear God, We give you thanks for sending your Son to us.

He has lived among us–become one with us–borne our griefs.

He became obedient unto death to bear our sins and pay our debts.

Yet we were ungrateful and turned our backs to goodness and love.

Forgive us, Lord for the hardness of our hearts.

Turn us back to you to your love and forgiveness.

And please help us bring an end to this terrible war in Ukraine.

Be especially with those who are sick

and those who courageously care for them.

And let us once again share in the joy of your Risen Life!

We ask this as we ask all things through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Amen!

And now, before you go, here’s the hymn from Bach’s Passion “O Sacred Head Sore Wounded” ~ Click here Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And now here are today’s readings. Click here.

 

 

With love, 

Bob Traupman

John Stott Naked Pride In Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter Plough Publishing co. pp. 217-221. From “The Cross of Christ” by John R. W. Stott Copyright 1986 John R.W. Stott. Interunivarsity Press P. O. Box 1400 Downers Grove, IL 60515

 

  1. 217-221.

 

From “The Cross of Christ” by John R. W. Stott Copyright 1986 John R.W. Stott. Interunivarsity Press P. O. Box 1400 Downers Grove, IL 60515

 

 

 

 

The Sorrowful Mothers of the World

The Sorrowful Mother (The Pieta) – Michelangelo –

In the millennial year of 1500 when he was 24 years old

HOLY WEEK 2022

This Blog is dedicated to the mothers of war-torn Ukraine and their children as they grieve for their children.

I was on my retreat the first week of Lent 2009,  one of my prayer assignments was to sit before a statue of the sorrowful mother.  I have always had a devotion to Mary, the mother of the Lord,  and on that balmy afternoon against the background of the cypress swamp I reflected on all the mothers I have tried to console throughout the forty years of my priesthood.  I record for you now  the prayer which was my journal note for Father Don the next day.  Several of those women mentioned in the prayer are still in my life today.  I dedicate this blog as I remember them with love.

Be sure to read the commentary about the 24-year-old Michelangelo and his first sculpture which follows.  He chiseled his understanding of human grief, tap by tap,  for two years.  It is a magnificent meditation.  Ponder it yourself.  And unite your own prayer to our Lady to his this Holy Week.  There is also a very different image of grief below that I photographed from a book.

Dearest Lady,
mother of Jesus, whose tender love
brought Love Itself into our world,
may those who have never known
the tender embrace
of their own mother’s love
receive the same tender care and  love you wish for each of them. . .
for each of us . . .
as you offered the stern, yet tender love of a Jewish mother upon
Jesus, the Son of God
who was nourished at your tender breasts,
cradled in your arms,
bounced upon your knee;
whose booboo was kissed by your lovely mouth,
whose dead body you received come down from the Cross:
You were the one from whom
Jesus learned the joys of human love.

Dearest Lady,
Simeon said, holding your little Child in his arms,
that a sword would pierce your soul.

Did you have any idea what he meant?
Did you follow Jesus throughout his ministry?
Where you among the women who took care of him
and the others?
If so, where did you stay?
Or did you stay at home in Nazareth?
Did you go out to visit him when you could?
To listen to him preach?

Were you in the midst of the crowds
who pressed around him?
Did you have a chance to be alone with him for a while?
Did you give him any motherly advice?
Did you wash his clothes,
fix his favorite meal when he was on the road?

Did you gain a sense of foreboding as you listened
to the murmurings of hostility beginning to grow toward him?
What did you do with that concern?

I think perhaps you knew.                                                                                                                                                               You could see  where this was going to end,
because you kept all those foreboding things Simeon told you
in your heart.
Sorrow and sadness must have entered your heart
long before that fateful Friday.
But probably not much worry or anxiety because
I think you must have said over and over:
Be it done unto me according to Your word.
Be it done.
Thy will be done.

A mother can never be prepared to lose her son.

Fran, whose son Jimmy died at the hands of a drunk driver;

Chris who loved two children within her belly.

Dearest Lady, I think of  mothers I have known

who’ve watched their children die.

My cousin, Lynda, whose beautiful child Robbie
who bore her father’s and my name
died in a fire at age three.
I don’t think his mother ever got over that sadness.
I think of Marie whose paralyzed son was in prison
who couldn’t find a priest to console her after his wrongful death.

I think, dear Lady, that you unite yourself with other mothers who suffer at the bedside of a sick child.

I think of Monica whose son Andrew died of AIDS;
Rosemarie, whose very popular high school senior John died of a brain tumor,                                                                                                         and wrote a book to work out her grief;
Florence, the mother of my best priest-buddy Phil who died suddenly at age 47.
“What a dirty trick!” she wailed at God;
the woman whose name I have long forgot whose surfer-son drowned in a storm in my first week of priestly ministry;                                                                                                                                                    mothers I’ve known whose sons who couldn’t escape from addiction;                                                                                               Monique whose son despaired and ended his life, leaving his children.

How can any of us really know what a mother must feel
who must outlive her child?

What of all the mothers of the kids shot at Marjory Stoneman High School?

Or the darling little children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut before that? Or at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado twenty years ago next month?

Or the mothers of many black men  who are violated by police like Stephon Clark in Sacramento shot 20 times in his own back yard with only a cell phone in his hand, 

And I think of all the mothers of the world who are condemned to watch their children die of malnutrition.

And the mothers who are being deported by the Trump administration, leaving behind their American-born children.

And terrified mothers try to comfort their children  caught in war-torn countries, especially in Ukraine and Syria and Afghanistan.

Dearest Lady,

I have loved you since my boyhood.
I brought you flowers in springtime
to express my devotion.  Still do.
Today, I contemplated the sorrowful image
a sculptor captured in white marble.
When I gazed into the eyes of that chiseled image
for just a moment, I knew what you must have felt,
what my friends must have felt,                                                                                                                                                        what these other mothers must be feeling even now.                                                                                                                 And that moment was gift.
A gift I will always remember.

Dearest Lady,
as you yourself shared in Jesus’ passion,
I ask you to be with all those whose hearts are
broken in sorrow.

Receive today

all of Jesus’ brothers and sisters

on this planet,
born and unborn.
Draw us all into that one great mystery of divine~human love
which is the glory of our Christian faith:
the birth, suffering, death and resurrection
of the son of a young beautiful woman,
Son of God,
our Brother,
our Redeemer.
Our Friend,
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

+ + + + + + +
From: ‘Guide to Saint Peter’s Basilica ‘
This is probably the world’s most famous sculpture of a religious subject.

Michelangelo carved it when he was 24 years old, and it is the only one he ever signed. The beauty of its lines and expression leaves a lasting impression on everyone.

With this magnificent statue Michelangelo has given us a highly spiritual and Christian view of human suffering. Artists before and after Michelangelo always depicted the Virgin with the dead Christ in her arms as grief-stricken, almost on the verge of desperation. Michelangelo, on the other hand, created a highly supernatural feeling.

As she holds Jesus’ lifeless body on her lap, the Virgin’s face emanates sweetness, serenity and a majestic acceptance of this immense sorrow, combined with her faith in the Redeemer. It seems almost as if Jesus is about to reawaken from a tranquil sleep and that after so much suffering and thorns, the rose of resurrection is about to bloom. As we contemplate the Pieta which conveys peace and tranquility, we can feel that the great sufferings of life and its pain can be mitigated.

Here, many Christians recall the price of their redemption and pray in silence. The words may be those of the “Salve Regina” or “Sub tuum presidium” or another prayer. After Peter’s Tomb, the Pieta Chapel is the most frequently visited and silent place in the entire basilica.

It is said that Michelangelo had been criticized for having portrayed the Virgin Mary as too young since she actually must have been around 45-50 years old when Jesus died. He answered that he did so deliberately because the effects of time could not mar the virginal features of this, the most blessed of women. He also said that he was thinking of his own mother’s face, he was only five when she died: the mother’s face is a symbol of eternal youth.

Before you go, here’s the Stabat Mater,  the traditional mourning song to Our Lady. Click Here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. The translation of some of the verses follows.

At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.

O how sad and sore distressed
was that Mother, highly blest,
of the sole-begotten One.

Christ above in torment hangs,
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,
whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain
from partaking in her pain,
in that Mother’s pain untold?

For the sins of His own nation,
She saw Jesus wracked with torment,
All with scourges rent:

She beheld her tender Child,
Saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.

O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
make my heart with thine accord:

Make me feel as thou hast felt;
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ my Lord. 

With Love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Monday of Holy Week ~ Love’s extravagance

MONDAY OF HOLY WEEK ~ April 11, 2022

“Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. “~ John 12:1-3

Yesterday we found Jesus mobbed but probably exhilarated by the crowds as he made his entry into the great holy city of Jerusalem to the shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

This day, Monday, weary from all the excitement and eager once again to be welcomed by his beloved friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus, he makes the short trip to Bethany with his disciples.

Apparently he was expected; a dinner party had been arranged and Jesus was to have quite an intimate surprise ~ right there in front of God and everybody. Martha and Mary were sisters; Martha was the practical one; she was always busy in the kitchen preparing the meals. Mary loved Jesus in a special way; she was often at his feet listening to his wonderful words.

This day, in front of the guests, she got down, washed Jesus’ dusty, tired, bare feet and massaged them–all the while, soothing them and caressing them.

Suddenly she got up, went to a nearby shelf and got a beautiful alabaster bottle filled with the finest aromatic spikenard.   She broke it open! and the whole house was instantly transformed by its wonderful aroma!

She poured it liberally over the Master’s feet. (And as we know Judas objected strenuously ~ but let’s not go there for the moment.

(Permit me this Ignatian-style reflection ~ a bit R-rated.)

A sensual woman caresses a 33-year old man with perfumed oil. The oil squishes down between his toes; it soothes his weary feet. She rubs it in circular motions around the ankles.

Then Mary teases him dripping some, drop ~ drop ~ drop on his shins, watching the glistening oil slither down to his feet.

She leans back on her haunches and waits to get his reaction.

He grins, and raises his eyeballs.

Then she pounces on him and rubs his feet firmly and furiously and backs away again, then looks at him and smiles. He returns the gaze, obviously, very pleased, very delighted, very relaxed.

Then she massages his feet, rubbing the oil deep within the feet of this man who had trodden all over Judea preaching about the reign of God and healing the sick the everywhere.

Then she leans forward and begins to dry his feet with her hair!

This process takes a long time.

Oil takes a long time to come out, just being dried by hair, as lovely as Mary’s is.

Now, dear friends, you can’t get more sensuous than that!

I wonder.

I wonder what the Lord of the universe might have been thinking and feeling during this most intimate of male / female encounters? Would this most unusual, very creative experience be as intimate–as soul-connecting–as intercourse itself?

I wouldn’t even dare to imagine. Take a moment of silence right now and ponder those thoughts and let Jesus have his own thoughts and feelings in your own mind and heart.  (That is what Ignatian imaginative Scriptural prayer is: You reflect on the Scripture in your imagination and see how the Lord speaks to you; try reading this passage again and see what turns up for you.)

The sacred text doesn’t say, but we can intimate from what we already know that Jesus is already very comfortable with Mary who used to sit gaga-eyed at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:38-42.)

Was it sexual? No. But it sure as h- was sensual!

Did he enjoy the experience?

You bet he did!

Jesus was a whole, integrated man.

Was he embarrassed to have that happen in front of the others? Quite sure not.

He was with people he could “let his hair down” with, although Mary probably got a good talkin’ to by her sister in the bedroom later! Jesus, unlike many of us, was not afraid to be himself, in every circumstance.

That Monday of that of Holy Week two Millennia ago was a day of relaxation for our Lord. He seemed to have the ability to be able to make the present moment a sacrament as he put aside concern about the events that lie ahead.

In William Barclay’s commentary on this passage, he has a series of little character sketches.

First, Martha. She loved Jesus, but she was a practical woman and the only way she could show her love was by working with her hands by cooking and serving. She always gave what she could.

Then there’s Mary.  We see three things about her love in this story. We see love’s extravagance. She took the most precious thing she possessed and spent it all on Jesus. We see love’s humility.It was a sign of honor to anoint someone’s head, but she anointed Jesus’ feet.  And then we see love’s unselfconsciousness.  Mary wiped his feet with her hair. In Palestine no woman would appear in public with her hair unbound.  That was a sign of an immoral woman.Mary never even thought of that. Mary loved Jesus so much that it was nothing to her what the guests might have thought.

But there’s something else here. The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.  Many Fathers of the Church have seen a double meaning here. That the whole Church was filled with the sweet memory of Mary’s action.

Then there’s the character of Judas. We see Jesus’ trust in Judas. As early as John 6:70, John shows us Jesus was well aware that there was a traitor within the ranks.  It may be that he tried to touch Judas’ heart by making him treasurer.   And here, in the house of Jesus’ friends, he had just seen an action of surpassing loveliness and he called it extravagant waste. Judas was an embittered man and took the embittered view of things.

And the scene ends with the mob coming to see Lazarus and the chief priests plotting to kill Jesus.

But Barclay doesn’t end here. He tells us that there’s one great truth about life here. Some things we can do almost any time, but some things we will never do, unless we grasp the chance when it comes. We are seized with something that seems important to do, but if we put it off, we say, Oh I’ll do it tomorrow and it never gets done.

This Holy Week resolve to do something that you have put off doing for someone~ an act of kindness or forgiveness, or asking for forgiveness.

Lord Jesus,

help us, too, to live in the present moment as Jesus did

~ not thinking about what comes next.  

Help us to fully give ourselves to the moment we are in,

embracing it, with eyes and ears wide open to it,

putting all other concerns aside.  

For that moment is where life happens;

we may not get another!

And now before you go, here’s the song “Said Judas to Mary. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings: Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

William Barclay / the Daily Study Bible Series / The Gospel of John – Volume 2  Revised Edition / Westminster Press / Philadelphia Pa 1975 / pp. 108-112.

You might like to know that the sourceof spikenard is Nardostachys jatamansi, a flowering plant of the Valerian family that grows in the Himalayas. It is a source of a type of intensely aromatic amber-colored essential oil, spikenard.

Palm Sunday of the Passion of Jesus ~ He emptied himself becoming utterly poor for us

Palm Sunday of the Passion of Jesus ~ April 10, 2022

Dear Friends,

All is ready now for the final days of our Lenten journey with Jesus.   The drama of the Paschal Mystery will  be re-enacted  once again in  parishes throughout the world.  I have loved the liturgy of Holy Week since I was a boy and in this blog I hope I can share that love with you.    We’ll go deep here.  Please take time to reflect.  Come with me now, won’t you?

Jesus entered the holy city Jerusalem on a humble beast of burden ~ himself burdened with the sins of the world–our sins today especially this horrible war in Ukraine. Here’s the gospel story that opens today’s liturgy . . . .

Jesus proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.
As he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany
at the place called the Mount of Olives,
he sent two of his disciples.
He said, “Go into the village opposite you,
and as you enter it you will find a colt tethered
on which no one has ever sat.
Untie it and bring it here.
And if anyone should ask you,
‘Why are you untying it?’
you will answer,
‘The Master has need of it.’”
So those who had been sent went off
and found everything just as he had told them.
And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them,
“Why are you untying this colt?”
They answered,
“The Master has need of it.”
So they brought it to Jesus,
threw their cloaks over the colt,
and helped Jesus to mount.
As he rode along,
the people were spreading their cloaks on the road;
and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives,
the whole multitude of his disciples
began to praise God aloud with joy
for all the mighty deeds they had seen.
They proclaimed:
“Blessed is the king who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Peace in heaven
and glory in the highest.”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him,
“Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”
He said in reply,
“I tell you, if they keep silent,
the stones will cry out!” (Lk 19:28-40)  

As William Barclay, the great Presbyterian scripture scholar, notes, what Jesus was about to do was a deliberate, planned action on his part, this would begin the last act in the drama of his life.  The whole city of Jerusalem was awash with visitors  in preparation for the Passover.  Barclay also notes that thirty years later a Roman governor had taken a census of the number of lambs slain for Passover and noted that number to be about a quarter of a million. Now, Passover regulation stated that a party of a minimum of ten are required for each lamb which meant that there were about two and a half million people in Jerusalem at the time Jesus entered the holy city!lambtop

The crowd received Jesus like a king.  They spread their cloaks in front of him.  They cut down and waved palm branches (and that is why we bless and distribute palms and this day is known universally as Palm Sunday.)

They greeted him as they would a pilgrim, Barclay notes: “Blessed be he who enters in the name of the Lord.” 

They  shouted, “Hosanna!”  The word means, “Save now!”  and that was a cry that a people addressed to their king or their god.   (Interesting–I didn’t know that!)

So, we see that Jesus action here was deliberately planned, similar to those of the prophets of old who would put their message into a dramatic act  that people could not fail  to see or understand.  Jesus action here was clearly a Messianic claim, or at least when a few days later he would be the cleanser of the Temple, an even more dramatic act in which he was to rid the Temple of the abuses that defiled it and its worship.

To conclude, then, Barclay had made three points about this story . . .

+  It shows Jesus’ courage.  He knew he was entering a hostile city.  All through his last days, in his every action is there is a “magnificent and sublime defiance”–“a flinging down the gauntlet .”   

+  It shows us his claim to be God’s Messiah, God’s Anointed One. And the cleanser of the temple.  

+  It shows us his appeal–not a kingship of the throne, but a kingship of the heart.

In today’s liturgy, when the procession reaches the altar inside the church, and the people settle into the pews, the mood of the liturgy radically changes . It becomes somber as the ministers at the altar and the congregation prepare for the solemn reading of the long reading of the Passion–this year from the Gospel of Luke, that’s usually proclaimed with several voices.  

But I’d like to reflect a moment on the New Testament reading from Philippians 2:1-11 that precedes it:

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Johannes Metz wrote a little book Poverty of  Spirit, in which he says . . . 

Have we really understood the impoverishment that Christ endured?

Everything was taken from him during the passion, even the love that drove him to the cross . . .

His heart gave out and a feeling of utter helplessness came over him. Truly he emptied himself . . . He became utterly poor. [Thus] he accepted our humanity, he took on and endured our lot, he stepped down from his divinity.

He came to us where we really are–with all our broken dreams and lost hopes, with the meaning of existence slipping through our fingers. He came and stood with us, struggling with his whole heart to have us say ‘yes’ to our innate poverty. [God’s faithfulness] to us is what gives us the courage to be true to ourselves. And the legacy of God’s total commitment to humankind, the proof of God’s fidelity to our poverty, is the Cross.

[The Cross is the sacrament, the sign] that one human being remained true to his own humanity, that he accepted it in full obedience.”

Thus each of us has the opportunity to embrace our poverty, or as I have been saying in Arise for the past two years we have the opportunity to accept whatever brokenness shows up in our own lives and find the treasure buried within. But this goes against the grain for us in American life. We are told to keep up with the Joneses. And so we strive for power, prestige, possessions.

“Poverty of spirit is the meeting point of heaven and earth,                                                 the mysterious place where God and humanity encounter each other,                           the point where infinite mystery meets concrete existence.”

Lord Jesus, here we are at the beginning of Holy Week once again.

We raise our palms,

Once again, singing our Hosannas!

We listen to the story of your sacred passion and death.

And now we learn that You really meant it!  

You weren’t just pretending to be human;

You immersed Yourself in our misery,

You got down in the muck with us

~ accepting it all, even death on a cross.  

Jesus, help us to embrace our humility,

our poverty, our brokenness, our share in Your cross.  

And we ask you especially to be with the people of Ukraine                                          who are experiencing their own passion and death at this moment.

May this Holy Week truly be holy for us

so that we too will rise again with You to new life

and receive anew the gift of the Spirit. 

To You, Lord Jesus, be glory and honor forever! Amen.

 

Before you go, dear friends, as we think of the Passion of our LORD, we also think of the passion of the Ukrainian people. Searching for an appropriate hymn, I found this hymn of praise sung by Ukrainian young folk in the midst of their passion today. It is utterly beautiful Click here. Be sure to enter full screen. 

Here are the today’s Mass readings. Click here. To get back to this page, go to the top left corner of your computer screen, click on  the  < back arrow, and you’ll be right back here. I encourage you to prayerfully read the entire passion story according to Luke.  I have also provided you a commentary on this gospel , if you’d like to reflect on it further. Click here.

Have a fruitful Holy Week.  I will publish again throughout the week. 

Acknowledgements  Johannes Baptist Metz Poverty of Spirit / Translated by John Drury / Paulist Press / New York / Mahwah, NJ / 1968, 1998

William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Matthew / The Westminster Press Philadelphia 1975

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

IMG_2148

The Fifth Sunday of Lent ~ See, I am doing something new! It’s Mercy! It’s Forgiveness!

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The Fifth Sunday of Lent ~ April 3, 2022

“See, I am doing something new!” says Isaiah.

What is this “new thing” that is promised?

It is mercy. It is compassion. It is forgiveness.

It is Jesus our Lord!

We saw this in the wondrous story of the Prodigal Son proclaimed last week. That story was meant to show us that our God wants to be regarded as a gentle, loving Father who’s always on the lookout for his wayward children. A Father who treats us as “nobility” ready to place a ring on our finger, shoes on our muddy worn-out feet, a fine robe about us and who then throws a party in our honor.

That story, too, was  aimed to confront the Pharisees. They were compared to the elder son who muttered and sputtered about all the attention that the younger brother was getting.

In today’s story, the scribes and Pharisees led a woman caught in adultery in front of Jesus. Their intention was to set a trap for him so they could have some charge to accuse him.

It was a terrible crime for a Jew to commit adultery. It was punishable by death by stoning. They planned a trap for him. The Mosaic law said she was to be stoned, but Roman Law forbade Jews to put anyone to death. There was no middle ground. No matter what he chose, Jesus would be breaking a law.

Let’s look at their concept of authority for a moment.  The scribes and Pharisees, according to Scripture scholar William Barclay, were the legal experts of the day. To them authority was intended to censure and condemn.  That authority should be based on sympathy, that it should be to reclaim the criminal and the sinner never entered their heads~ similar too much of our American justice and prison system today is meant to punish rather than rehabilitate. The scribes thought they had the right to stand over others and watch for every mistake and every deviation from the law with savage and unforgiving punishment.

Moreover, they were not looking at this woman as a person; they were looking at her as a thing, whereby they could formulate a charge against Jesus. This incident, Barclay suggests, shows vividly and cruelly the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees toward people. They were using her only as a man might use a tool, for their own purposes.

Picture the scene: the crowd wondering how—or if—Jesus was going to escape from this dilemma; the woman, fearful of her fate; the Pharisees, tasting victory. Jesus knew exactly what they were doing, and without a single word, exposed their hypocrisy, leaving them dumbfounded.

How? By writing something on the ground with his finger. What did he write? We don’t know. Check out these suggestions and then decide for yourself.

Maybe Jesus was just “doodling,” as we might do sitting at a boring meeting. It could have been his way of showing disdain for the entire procedure, of curbing his anger.

Maybe, as Barclay suggests, Jesus seized by an intolerable sense of shame, he couldn’t meet the eyes of the crowd or of the accusers or perhaps of the woman . . .  and in his embarrassment he stooped down so as to hide his face, and began writing on the ground with his finger.

Maybe, without naming names, he wrote a list of sins, sins that many in the group would have to claim but were unknown to anyone else there.

Or consider this. No one commits adultery alone, anymore than a prostitute acts alone. Could Jesus have indicated, in some roundabout way, who were the partner – or partners – of this woman? Why should the woman be accused and convicted when her willing partners walk away with their reputations in tact? In Leviticus 20 we read: “. . . the man who commits adultery .. . will be put to death, he and the woman.”

In the comment section following the blog, why don’t you offer your own opinion?

Barclay tells us that the normal Greek word for to write  is graphein; but here the word is used is katagraphein, which  can mean to write down a record against someone.

Jesus knew exactly the right balance between justice and mercy, something most of us have a hard time achieving. After he had finished writing whatever it was he wrote, he stood up, looked directly at the crowd, and extended the invitation: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Not a single stone was thrown; nor would there have been if all of us had been in that crowd. Can anyone of us claim to be without sin? Did Jesus condone adultery? No, he did not. But he read the hearts of every person there, and the message he delivered applied to each and every one.

He told them – and is telling us – that we are not to judge. Both Luke and Matthew proclaim: “Judge not and you shall not be judged”(Mt.7:1).  

He told her that he did not condemn her; that she should Go and from now on sin no more.” Thus, he was not condoning adultery; he was giving her a second chance. She would have to take the opportunity to make her life brand new.

God through this story and that of the Prodigal Son make it very clear that God is doing something brand new.

No one else can read hearts. We see deeds and misdeeds. God sees the whole self.

That is why he said to the woman and now to us: “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and avoid this sin.” Alone with Jesus she had everything she needed.

Are we content to having “only Jesus?”

We may not think about it often, but every day we may ask that we may come to treat others as Jesus did in this gospel. How often have we prayed: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?”

Do we think about what we are saying? It could be a little scary, if we did.

I’d like to be like this Jesus we see in the gospel today. I’d like to have that large of a heart. And I’ve prayed for compassion all the years of my ministry because there have been times my arrogance has taken hold. I was told that at times I was arrogant and not compassionate towards my brother priests. And so I thank God for the moments in which God has given me the gift to be compassionate.

These days I am very much aware of Jesus’ mercy for me. In my almost 79 years, I have had my share of serious sins. And I am glad God is a merciful God. And I pray that I’ve put down the stones I sometimes have clutched in my fist.

You see, a really terrible sin is to throw stones at people whose sins we ourselves could have committed.

Gossiping is a grave sin. It is a sin because it can seriously harm the reputations of the persons we are talking about–even re-telling something true about someone else is gossip. Gossip can ruin lives.

Instead, let us be known for being merciful.   And compassionate. And forgiving, when we pray: “Our Father.”

See, God makes all things new.

Mercy is a brand new thing that is part and parcel with the New Testament. Mercy is what Jesus is all about.   And, therefore, mercy is what we should be all about.

And Pope Francis talks about the mercy of God all the time and in 2016 declared a Holy Year of Mercy.

Close your eyes for a moment.

Think about one sin you are glad for which God has forgiven you.

Now, when you next celebrate the holy Eucharist, you really have something for which you can praise and thank your God.

Jesus, my Lord, my God, my All,

I praise and thank you this day for all of your love and mercy and forgiveness

that you have shown me all of my life.

Many times you’ve done brand new things in my life,

and as my 79th birthday is coming up and the 53rd anniversary of my priestly ordination, perhaps you will once again fold the newness that is your love,

and send forth your Spirit into me and lift me up to continue to serve you as best I can.

To You be praise and honor and glory, forever. Amen.

And now, before you go, here’s the beautiful hymn appropriate for our theme, Click here

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

William Barclay /  The Daily Study Bible Series /The Gospel of John / Volume 2 / The Westminster Press / Philadelphia 1975 pp.1-9.

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer

The Fourth Sunday of Lent ~ Lost in the Wonder of God’s Love ~ the story of the prodigal son

The Fourth Sunday of Lent ~ Laetare Sunday ~

The Sunday of joy halfway through Lent.  the color of the vestments is rose rather than violet–a little more festive.

Today’s Gospel is the Story of the Prodigal Son. It’s been called the greatest short story in the world.

By way of introduction to the story of the Prodigal son, our scripture scholar William Barclay tells us it was an offense to the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus associated with men and women who the orthodox Jews labeled as sinners. The Pharisees  called the people who didn’t keep the law  the People of the Land, and they kept a solid barrier between the Pharisees and ‘those’ people.

The regulations they observed were: Entrust no money to these people, take no testimony, trust no secret to them, don’t appoint them a guardian of an orphan, don’t accompany them on a journey. A Pharisee was forbidden to be a guest at such a person’s house or have them as a guest. A Pharisee was forbidden so far as possible to do business with such people. It was their deliberate aim to avoid every contact with such people who were not only outsiders but sinners. Contact with them would necessarily defile. The strict Jew said not, “There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents,”, but “There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who is obliterated before God. They looked forward not to the saving but to the destruction of the sinner. (Think of the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11.).  (We’ll see how this applies in the in the second part of the story.)

Under Jewish law a father was not free to bequeath his property as he liked. The elder son must get two-thirds and the younger one-third (Dt. 21:17). It was unusual for a father to distribute his estate before he died.  And there’s a kind of heartless callousness in the request of the younger son. He said in effect, “Gimme my part of the estate; I’ll get it anyway when you’re dead, and get outta here.”

The father didn’t argue. He knew his son had to learn from the hard knocks of life, and he granted the request. Without delay, the son collected his share of the property and left home.

He soon ran through the money; and he wound up feeding pigs, a task forbidden to a Jew because the law said, “Cursed is he who feeds swine.”

So the son decided to come home and plead to be taken back not as a son but in the lowest rank of the slaves, the hired servants, the men who were day laborers.

He came home, and his father never gave him a chance to ask to be a servant. He broke in before that and gave him a robe that stands for honor and a ring for authority. If a man gave his signet ring to another it was the same as giving him power of attorney. And shoes for a son as opposed to a slave, for children of a family wore shoes but slaves did not.(The slaves dream in the words of the spiritual—when ‘all God’s chillun got shoes’, for shoes were a sign of freedom.)

Barclay makes several points about Jesus’ famous parable . . . .

(1) It should never have been called the parable of the prodigal son, for the son is not the hero. It should be called “the parable of the loving father,” for it tells us more about the father’s love, than a son’s sin.

(2) It tells us a great deal about the forgiveness of God. The father must have been watching and waiting for the son to come home as he saw him a long way off. When he came, he forgave him, with no recriminations.

When forgiveness is as a favor—that’s not real forgiveness. It’s even worse when someone is forgiven but always by hint or word or threat the sin is held over the person.

Once Abraham Lincoln was asked how he would treat the rebellious southerners when they were defeated and finally returned to the Union. His answer: “I will treat them as if they had never had been away.”

But this isn’t the end of the story.

Then enters the elder son who was actually sorry that his brother had come. He stands for the self-righteous Pharisees who would rather see a sinner destroyed than saved.

Barclay points out . . . .

(1) His attitude shows that his years of obedience to his father had been years of grim duty and not loving service.

(2) He has absolutely no sympathy for his brother. He refers to one returned home not as my brother, but as your son. He was the kind of self-righteous character who would gleefully have kicked him farther into the gutter.

(3) He had a nasty mind. There’s no mention of harlots until he mentions them. He probably suspected his brother of the sins he would have liked to have committed.

Barclay concludes with this . . . .

“Once again we have the amazing truth that it is easier to confess to God than to another person; that God is more merciful in his judgments than many orthodox people, that God’s love is far broader than human love; and that God can forgive when we refuse to forgive. 

In the face of a love like that we cannot be but lost in wonder, love and praise!”

So, as you can see our Lenten journey fills us with the joy of God’s love for us. Pope Francis is fond of saying “mercy upon mercy upon mercy.”Yet, there is no story of Jesus ~ none in the entire Bible more poignant, more revealing of God’s love, God’s mercy towards us than the story of–not the Prodigal son, but the Prodigal Father!

Do you know what the word prodigal means?  It means, according to my trusty “Synonym Finder” ~ wasteful, squandering, extravagant, excessive, generous, open-handed, abundant, plentiful, bounteous, lavish, exuberant, measureless, bottomless, limitless, overflowing. 

That, dear friends, is what Jesus was trying to tell us in his most famous parable about who his Father wants to be for YOU and ME! 

This morning in prayer, I  caught myself realizing that my relationship with the Father fell short. I wasn’t even sure I loved him! Then I got to thinking that my relationship with my own father was always obscure too. And I felt really sad for a while. I know. I know I love God. And I know he loves me. But I had that moment of obscurity. But there’s still the wonder and the love.

Now, before you go, here’s a beautiful hymn with a slide show to fit our theme, There’s a wideness in God’s Mercy. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. (I invite you to listen to it a second time; the words are amazing. Get Lost in the Wonder of God’s Mercy and Love!

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

Acknowledgement: William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Luke /John Knox Press / Louisville KY 1975 – 2001 – pp. 236-7; 242-5.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Third Sunday of Lent ~ the Warning of the Fig Tree

The Third Sunday of Lent ( Year C) ~ The Warning of the Fig Tree

Before we begin, there are two liturgical texts for this and the following two Sundays.  An alternate set from Year A is often used when Catechumens are present.  But these are the prescribed texts for the day from the Gospel of St. Luke.

I must say that I found the first part of today’s gospel obscure–as did our scripture scholar, William Barclay. However, we can salvage this much: There’s a line in the first section about two catastrophes–incidents that are unknown to us, but then Jesus goes on to warn his hearers that if they did not repent they too would perish. What did he mean?

Jesus was warning them of what he foresaw and foretold: the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened in AD 70 (cf. Lk. 21:21-24). He knew, sadly, that if they went on with their intrigues, their rebellions, their plottings, and their political ambitions, they were going to commit national suicide. He knew Rome would obliterate the nation, and that is what happened.

And there is a warning for us today. For years I’ve been imploring my readers to pray personal transformation for the sake of the transformation of our nation. And in the present atmosphere of our country, looking ahead to the next election, again such prayer, and Jesus’ warning is quite apropos, as is the second part of today’s gospel—the parable of the fig tree . . . .

Barclay offers us several things to learn about this famous parable that I hadn’t realized before.

First, the fig tree occupied a specially favored position. It was not unusual to see fig trees, thorn trees and apple trees in the same vineyards. The soil was so shallow and poor that trees were grown wherever there was soil to grow them but the fig tree had its chance, and had not proved worthy of it.

Very often, Jesus reminded people, and by implication in this parable, that they would be judged according to the opportunities they had.

Second, the parable teaches that uselessness invites disaster. The whole process of evolution in this world is to produce useful things, and what is useful will go on, while what is useless will be eliminated. The most searching question any of us can ask is—“Of what use were we in this world?”

During this Lent, it might be well to take stock of the opportunities that we’ve had in life and how we responded to them. Now that I’ve returned to my Diocese of Orlando this spring, that’s kinda what I’ve been doing.

Third, the parable teaches that nothing that only takes, survives. The fig tree was drawing strength and sustenance from the soil; and in return was producing nothing. That, Barclay says, was precisely its sin. There are two kinds of people in the world—those who take out more than they put in, and those who put in more than they take out. We’ve inherited a Christian civilization and the great freedoms of this land. It’s our responsibility to hand them on to the generations to come, perhaps better than we found them. As for me, I am grateful for the opportunities for education my parents and my bishops have provided me, and the gifts God has given me to serve him and his people.

Fourth, the parable tells us of the gospel of the second chance. A fig tree, our scripture scholar tells us from his research, normally takes three years to reach maturity. If it doesn’t bear fruit by that time, it’s not likely to bear fruit at all. But this fig tree was given a second chance. In our sinfulness, it’s hard for us to realize the true depth and nature of our sin. This Lent is a good time to make a thoughtful review of our life and create a clean heart. Won’t you make a good confession before Easter?

It’s Jesus’ way to give us chance after chance after chance. Peter and Paul would gladly witness to that. God is forever kind to those who fall and rise again.

And that perhaps is the most important meaning for us to receive from this parable today, God never gives up on us! He will never give up on you! Ever! Ever, Ever! God doesn’t abandon us; it is we who abandon him. And that perhaps may be our sin. That we think that we aren’t any good. That we’re not worth it. But that’s really a sin of pride, isn’t it?

Fifth, the gospel makes it quite clear there’s a final chance. If we refuse chance after chance, if God’s appeal and challenge come again and again without us even turning towards him, the day finally comes, not when God has shut us out, but we by deliberate choice we refuse his grace and turn our back on him definitively.

But even in that, there may be something psychological that is operative in that person that would diminish that person’s guilt, and save him in spite of himself.

Awake, O sleeper, rise from death,

And Christ will give you light,

So learn his love ~ his length and breadth

It’s fullness, depth and height 

For he descended here to bring

From sin and fears release

To give the Spirit’s unity

Which is the bond of peace. 

For us Christ lived, for us he died

And conquered in the strife. 

Awake, arise, go forth in faith,

      And Christ shall give you life!  

And now here’s a Lenten hymn for you, “Beyond the Days of Hope and Mystery.” Click here

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

William Barclay the New Daily Study Bible the Gospel of Luke / Westminster John Knox Press / Louisville, KY  1975-pp. 204-9.

Have you been to the mountain?

ac41068bbc62b251c480536bf778d8c4The Second Sunday of Lent ~ March 13, 2022

Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a mountaintop and there they have–well–a “peak” experience extraordinaire. 

It’s a great story.  It contrasts with last week’s story of Jesus in the desert being tempted by the devil.  Today Jesus is receiving a wonderful affirmation.

According to our Scripture-scholar friend William Barclay, this story is another of the great hinges in Jesus’ life on earth—and we’ll see why. He was just about to set out for Jerusalem, setting his face toward the cross.

In Luke, when prayer happens, something significant usually follows. (Magnificat)

He took his favorite disciples, Peter, James and John up on the mountain to pray, On the mountain top, Moses and Elijah appeared to him. Moses was the great lawgiver of the people of Israel; Elijah was the greatest of the prophets. It was as if the princes of Israel’s life and thought and religion were affirming Jesus to go on. (Barclay)

There’s a vivid sentence here about the three apostles . . . .

            “When they were fully awake they saw his glory.”

 In life we miss so much because our minds are often asleep.

~ There are many of us who are so clamped in our own ideas that our minds are shut. “Someone may be knockin’ at the door” but we are often like sleepers who will not awaken.

~ There are others of us who refuse to think about anything. “The unexamined life, said Socrates, “is not worth living.” How many of us have thought things out and thought them through?

~ We can drug ourselves mentally against any disturbing thought until we are sound asleep and “Big Brother” can taken over. Ever seen the “Matrix?”

But life is full of things designed to awaken us.

~ There is sorrow. Often sorrow can rudely awaken us, but in a moment, through the tears, we will see the glory.

~ There is love. Barclay references a poem by Robert Browning telling of two people who fell in love: She looked at him; he looked at her—“and suddenly life awoke.” 

I remember a similar experience in reading Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain for the second time several years ago. When I finished it I found myself immersed in joyous tears for weeks on end—filled with love for Jesus that this young monk and elicited in me. This Lent, I’m trying to re-enable that experience–true!

~ There is a sense of need. It’s easy enough to live the routine life half asleep; then all of a sudden there comes some completely insoluble problem, some unanswerable question, some overwhelming temptation, some summons to an effort that we feel is beyond our strength. And that sense of need can awaken us to God.

We would do well to pray, “Lord, keep me always awake to you.” 

Source: William Barclay /Gospel of Luke pages 147,8.

But here’s a couple of other observations from the February 2016 issue of the Magnificat liturgical magazine:

After the disciples witnessed Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah, this appears in the text . . . .

While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them,
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.(Luke 9:34)

The overshadowing of the divine Spirit does not darken, according to Saint Ambrose, but reveals secret things to the hearts of people. It is the luminous cloud the soaks us from the dew that sprinkles the minds of people with faith sent by the voice of the almighty God.

He’s talking about mystical experience that arise from deep prayer or centering prayer sometimes or even just experiencing an amazing sunset or an exhilarating conversation with a friend.

Anyway, what a gorgeous sentence that is “a luminous cloud that soaks us / from the dew that sprinkles the minds of people with faith . . .  Wow!  Think on that one.

Immediately following, we here from the cloud a voice that said,

       “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

It is a call to heed Jesus’ teaching about his Passion and our need to take up our cross and follow him: Jesus is he Messiah who suffers.

       “After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent” . . . . 

Their silence was a mark of awe. As it was on the last day of Jesus’ life, when he said, “It is finished.”

You may never have had a mountain top experience like Peter, James and John have had.  Yet even ONE mountain top experience  — one “peak experience” as Abraham Maslow likes to call them can be life-changing.

Any close encounter with God can be life-changing.

As I conclude, I encourage you to make the intention to be open to joyous experience of your own when such moments come.  When they come, embrace  them.  Try not to resist or deny them as many of us do.  Surrender to the moment and experience it as deeply and richly as you can.

And now before you go, here is the Eucharistic hymn sung by the boy choir at King’s College in Great Britain Ave Verum Corpus. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass Readings.  Click here.

Acknowledgements: William Barclay / The New l Study Bible / The Gospel of Luke                                                                                     Westminster John Knox Press / Louisville, KY / 1975, 2001

Magnificat.com / Yonkers, NY

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

The First Sunday of Lent: The Fidelity of Jesus ~ May we learn to be faithful too!

 

First Sunday of Lent ~The Fidelity of Jesus 

March 6, 2022

This is a story about fidelity in the face of temptation.

This is a story about the Jesus I know and love.

Before I get into my own thoughts on this important opening story in the life of our Lord, I’d like to share some notes from our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay.

He says that the word to tempt in Greek peirazein has a different emphasis than its English counterpart. We always think of tempting as something bad. But peirazein has a different emphasis; it means ‘to test.’

One of the great Old Testament stories makes this clear. Remember how Abraham narrowly escaped sacrificing his only son Isaac?  God was testing him, not tempting him!

So, with Jesus, this whole incident was not so much a tempting as the testing of Jesus.

We have to note further where this test took place. The inhabited part of Judea stood on a central plateau that was the backbone of southern Palestine.  Between it and the Dead Sea stretched a terrible wilderness, fifteen miles by thirty-five miles .  It was called Jeshimmon, which means ‘the Devastation.’  The hills were like dust-heaps; the limestones looked blistered and peeling; the rocks bare and jagged, with heat like a vast furnace and ran out to the precipices. 1,200 feet high, that plunged down to the Dead Sea. It was in that awesome devastation that Jesus was tempted or rather the Father was shaping him–testing his mettle–for his mission.

Then there are these other points to take note .  .  .  .

First, all three gospel writers seem to stress the immediacy with which the temptations follow the baptism.  As St. Luke describes it: “Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days to be tempted by the devil.”  Barclay suggests to us that we would do well to be on guard when life brings us to the heights since that’s when we’re in the gravest danger of a fall.

Second, we should not regard this experience of Jesus as an outward experience. It was a struggle that went on in his own heart and mind and soul.  The proof is that there is no possible mountain from which all the mountains of the earth could be seen. This is an inner struggle.

It is through our inmost thoughts and desires that the tempter comes to us. His attack can be so real that we almost see the devil.

(Pope Francis in a meditation in the Magnificat liturgical magazine was saying that Christian life is a battle. And then cautioned when someone said “you’re so old-fashioned; the devil doesn’t exist, ‘Watch out! The devil exists. We must learn how to battle him in the 21st Century. And must not be naïve. We must learn from the Gospel how to battle him.’)

Third, Barclay goes on, we must not think that Jesus conquered the tempter and that the tempter never came to him again.  Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. In Christian warfare, says Barclay as well as Pope Francis, there is no release.  Some people think they should get beyond that stage; Jesus himself never did, even in his last hour in Gethsemane.

Forth, one thing stands out about this story—these temptations could only come to a person who had special powers and knew he had them.  We are always tempted through our gifts.  We can use our gifts for selfish purposes or we can use them in the service of others. (A word to some of today’s political leaders perhaps?)

Fifth, the source must have been Jesus himself. He was alone in the wilderness.  No one was with him in his struggle, so he must have told his men about it.

We must always approach this story with unique and utmost reverence, for it is lay lay laying bare his inmost heart and soul.

The story of Jesus moving into the desert this year, this year, is from the Gospel of Luke.

Here’s what Barclay has to say . . . .

No sooner than Jesus has been immersed in his own baptism by John in the Jordan River and basks for a moment in that glory, the battle of temptations begins.

Luke tells us that  the Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness for his testing time. The very Spirit that came upon him during his baptism.

In this life it’s impossible to escape the assault of temptations; but they’re not sent to make us fail. They’re sent to strengthen the nerve and our sinews of the mind and heart and soul. They’re not meant for our ruin, but for our good.

The Lord once found his people in a wilderness, a wasteland of howling desert (Dt 32:10) That’s where we first find Jesus and that’s where he first finds us—in a wasteland of sorrow, confusion, suffering, sin. Magnificat

Barclay gives the example of a football player who is showing signs of real promise. The manager isn’t going to put on the third team where he’ll hardly break a sweat, but on the first team where he’ll be tested and have a chance to prove himself.

That’s what temptation is meant to do—to enable us to prove our strength of character and to emerge stronger for the fight.

From this episode, our first lesson should be that human life on earth is a life of warfare and the first thing Christians must expect is to be tempted by the devil. Reading in the Gospel that Jesus was tempted right after he was baptized, they will not grow fainthearted and fearful if they experience keener temptations from the temptations from the devil after their conversion or baptism than before—even if persecution should be their lot. Magnificat

And then there’s this: Forty days is not to be taken literally. It’s the regular Hebrew phrase for a considerable period of time. Moses was said to be on the mountain with God for forty days.

And it was Satan that tempted Jesus.. The word Satan in Hebrew means adversary.

The other title for Satan is the Devil: the word comes from the Greek diabolos, which literally means a slanderer. It’s a small step from the thought of one who searches for everything that can be said against a man (adversary) to the thought of one who maliciously and deliberately slanders man in the presence of God.

In the New Testament, we learn that it is the Devil or Satan who causes human disease and suffering. It is the devil who seduces Judas. It is the devil who is destined for the final destruction.

And I wrote this many years ago. . . .

This is a story about earth-shaking silence that bore the sound of deafening harsh voices and one soft and gentle voice Who sent Jesus among us so we could know we had a father/God who loves us with an everlasting love.

First, a harsh voice prompted Jesus to turn stones into bread as a way of manipulating others to get them to follow him.  Jesus could have made people dependent on him; instead, he shared with them what he realized: Our common dependence on the Father of all, who gives us our daily bread.

Another harsh voice tempted him to throw himself down from the parapet of the temple, a 450 ft. drop,  and have his angels come and raise him up.  He could put together a traveling road show of clever signs and wonders.  Things would be easier that way.  People would easily follow a clever magician.  But this would draw people away from the Father, not toward him.

The soft voice was simply asking Jesus to reveal the real order of the Father’s kingdom.

Jesus realized  his mission in life was to reveal Abba’s love as Father of all.   Jesus was to let the world know that there was a soft voice within us all, who is there to affirm and to love, to test and to guide.

A third harsh voice promised Jesus the whole world, saying: “You’ve got the power to gain the whole world.  You can be king of this world.

And Jesus sadly realized that many of his followers, even in the Church, would succumb to greed of every form.  They would kill in Crusades and Inquisitions in the name of love.

As he was tempted, he was led into a soul-embracing love of the One he was to reveal.  In the desert, Jesus must have knelt down and promised in all simplicity to seek and to do the will of the Father from moment to moment.  And in that act of fidelity, in that decision, the new covenant surely was sealed in Jesus’ heart.

In the desert and its temptations, the whole of humanity was drawn into the possibility of intimate experience of the divine.  Because one person was willing to be led into the holy of holies, we all can go with him.  We can go–provided that we–like Jesus, are willing to be tested and cleansed, strengthened and purified.

In this story, at the beginning of Jesus’ mission, is the answer to the question: Why did Jesus have to die?

The answer was:

To surrender himself into the hands of evil people was the only way Jesus could be faithful.  God could have intervened on behalf of his own Son.  But that was out of the question.

The world could not accept God as a gentle Father.  They found his message of love much too demanding.  And since the authorities could not and would not accept him and his message, the only recourse left to him was simply to give witness to that message–even to the end.

He chose to be faithful to the soft Voice of the Father, not compromise the message, even if it led to his death.

Jesus had to suffer and die because, because tragically, that was the only way the world would allow him to be faithful to the Word he heard ~ and preached.

The Father was more pleased with the fidelity of one son than he would have been with the spread of a message that did not reveal his love.

This is a powerful lesson  for those among us who would COERCE others into being good.

The false voices which Jesus tamed and quieted ~the voices of greed or accolade or power–we must tame and quiet, relying on his power as elder Son.

The soft voice of the Father to whom he was so devoted, the voice that was the source and object of all his fidelity, each one of us should train ourselves to hear.

And then learn . . . day after day after day to love . . . more deeply . . . more intimately . . . more really–the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the Jesus I know and love.

And I ask him to teach me the gentle ways of the Father.  Through Jesus, may we be faithful too.

Luke ends today’s Gospel passage by saying: “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him . . . for a time.”  Words that we should prayerfully consider and take heed.

And before you go, here’s a scene from the movie Godspell   when Jesus’ ‘disciples’ realize something is about to happen and they sing “Where are you going? / By my side”, ending with the prophecy of Judas’ betrayal. Be there with them; it seems quite faith-filled and what the real disciples might have felt. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you would like to reflect on them. Click here.

 

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Jesus I know and Love ~ and I want You to know Him too!

Thursday after Ash Wednesday, March 3, 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

In the first reading, Moses says:

“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. 

Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).

One often hears the words Choose Life as a Pro-Life message.  That’s important, but we’re invited to choose life again and again, every day.  This Lent is an acceptable time to choose the life that affirms and nourishes us and to deliver ourselves from the dysfunctional communication and game-playing within our own home that damages the souls of our spouses and our children.

Let’s choose Life this day in the way we speak to and about the folks we meet today.

Choice is an act of the will, the highest power of the human person.  We need to choose our words carefully.  To preside over ~ take responsibility for what comes out of our mouths.  To realize our words to create life or death.

And then in today’s gospel, Jesus says,

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must take up his cross daily and follow me. 

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?  (Luke 9: 22-25)

Jesus gives us a koan here. That’s a Zen word  for a riddle given to a student to mull over until the the student gets the insight.

Try to get into it this great saying of Jesus this Lent. Ponder its meaning for you right now. Copy it on a card and repeat it often until you get it.

Jesus’ message is so counter-cultural In our society people do anything to avoid the smallest bit of pain. There are even numbing pads so that you don’t feel it when you prick your finger for the Accu-check  for diabetes.  And we avoid emotional pain by not thinking through our problems. Some folks do this by getting a hasty divorce to run away from their problems or by dumping a girlfriend who no longer suits them via way of a cruel text message.

Lent places before us the Cross of Jesus and his loving embrace of it as our Savior, but also as a model for us. He willingly stretched out his arms to be nailed. Jesus knew he would have to face a lot of suffering on his journey.  He knew  he would make people angry by proclaiming the truth he saw in his heart.  He knew that it would lead him to death, but he never strayed from the road to Jerusalem.

The issue is Acceptance of whatever life calls us to. Jesus  accepted the Cross because he chose to be faithful to his mission.

He was a person of absolute integrity.  No one was going to dissuade him from being who he was.

This is the Jesus I know and love:  The one who has the strength to love, no matter what.   He’s my Lord, my Savior–my mentor, if you will.  I would like very much to be like Him–if he would grant me that grace.  How ’bout you?

Tomorrow we begin to reflect on Jesus forty-day retreat into the desert’ (the Mass text for this coming Sunday) to prepare for his mission.

Now before you go, here’s  the old hymn “Jesus walked the lonesome valley” Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings if you would like to reflect on them.  Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

Ashes to Ashes ~ Dust to Dust ~ Can we rise again?

Dear Friends,

Ash Wednesday is upon us once again. Easter is late this year ~ Sunday April 17th.

So, you may ask ~ what are ashes all about?

We Catholics like symbols.  (So does Harry Potter.)

What can they tell us about life? And death?  And reality?

When the priest smears ashes on the penitent’s forehead he says one of two poignant phrases:

REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE DUST AND UNTO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN,

or  REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL.

So, it’s a sign of humility, a sign that we are part of the earth, that we are dust.

Are we to reflect and ask ~ Are we just dust?

Have made an ash-heap of our life?

Are we sitting in an ash-heap?

Is there nothing but ruin, smoldering embers around us?

If so, do we despair?

Or can we dream of re-building?

Whether or not, the answers to these questions apply to us literally, it is important to humble ourselves before our God.

That’s what the ashes signify. And Ash Wednesday is a day of fast and abstinence from meat to remind us that we should begin this penitential season well.

Here’s an article that explains the theological significance of the season of Lent.

Consisting of forty days, in commemoration of the time the Lord Jesus spent in the desert before starting his public ministry, Lent is a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in which we believers prepare ourselves for the joyful celebration of the Paschal Mystery.

While the phrase “paschal mystery” is fundamentally Christian and should be a term readily known by every Christian disciple, most believers are unaware of its meaning and miss its significance.

With this observation in mind, let’s ask: What is the Paschal Mystery? Why does it require a penitential season to prepare for its celebration?

The Paschal Mystery is nothing more or less than the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the fulfillment of ancient prophecies, the purpose of his messianic mission in destroying sin and death, and the unfolding expression of his immense love for us. The Paschal Mystery is the source of our belief in eternal life and the foundation of the hope we have of dwelling forever in heaven.

Anyone who claims the title of “Christian,” therefore, must realize what the Paschal Mystery is and what its role is in our desire for redemption.

It is for this reason that we believers needs Lent. The mystery of the Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection requires constant reflection and re-living in the lives of believers in order for the mystery to be fully assimilated in our hearts and appreciated in our everyday lives. With the pace of life and the multiple distractions presented by our world, it’s too easy for a Christian to miss the mystery. And so, Lent comes and commands a pause. It orders us – through various penances, some universal to all believers, while others of a more personal choosing – to slow down and see the mystery, feel the love, and desire heaven above all things.

And so, Lent is not a season about self-help or self-improvement for their own sake. It’s not just about giving up caffeine or chocolate (although these could be good penances) or about eating right or being more punctual (although it could be good to improve these habits). No, above all these things, Lent is about the believer deepening in her knowledge and experience of the Suffering, Crucified, and Resurrected God who loves her and seeks to be with her. It’s about grasping – and being grasped by – the radical and self-emptying love of Jesus Christ.

A good Lent, therefore, is reflected in a devout and attentive celebration of Holy Week and Easter. The rejoicing that’s a part of these holiest days should not occur because the believer sees it as a reprieve from a dislikable and contested time of penance but because the believer has been purified even more from darkness and is able to more profoundly understand and share in the Lord’s Paschal Mystery.

The purpose of Lent, therefore, is a microcosm of the life and worldview of the Christian believer. Knowing ourselves to be the sons and daughters of the Resurrection, everything we think, feel, and do is placed in the light and hope of eternity. This gives the disciple of Jesus Christ the strength to forgive an enemy, control their sexual passions, suffer patiently, and selflessly serve others. When the Resurrection is lived and heaven is seen as a real possibility for the righteous, then everything is worth it and everything becomes ordered to it.

It doesn’t do a Catholic much good who show up on Ash Wednesday, get a smudge of ashes on their forehead without the slightest intention of doing what they symbolize:  CHANGE.

And so, dear friend, don’t just give up something  for Lent. Get at the root of your life where you need to look at the real stuff.

I invite you to go deeper into the practice of your faith.

Make the sign Mean Something!

Let it transform you from inside out.

The question is:  Do we ~ you and I ~ have the COURAGE TO CHANGE?

So, let’s do Lent well ~ together.

During Lent, be ready to walk with Jesus to Jerusalem.

Find out who this Jesus is ~ for you.

And what wisdom he has to offer us that will help us to change and enrich our lives for the better.

Whether you are  Catholic or not, perhaps you will find some wisdom,

some meaning for your life in these pages.  Join us as we walk the journey together

as Jesus did ~ through suffering to death to new and risen life these six weeks of Lent 2019.

God of  pardon and of love,

Mercy past all measure,

You alone can grant us peace,

You, our holy treasure.   

Now before you go, here’s a short hymn about an offering of ashes. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love,  

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer  

Thursday~ The Jesus I know and Love

About Presidents and security and . . . You never know . . .

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Next Monday is Presidents’ Day.  It’s always celebrated on the third Monday of February, but it originally was meant to mark George Washington’s birthday on the 22nd. It’s come to honor all presidents, past and present.

We’ve had some great ones, and some turkeys too, as some of us of various political persuasion will argue over several beers into the wee hours.

But our present times are difficult ones, with Covid 19 and trying to build back the economy.  We’re in the second year of Joe Biden’s presidency and also in an election year when every member of the House of Representatives is nervously trying to get reelected or retiring as well as half the Senate. So, that in itself, causes a great deal of insecurity, doesn’t it?  So, I’m going basically reprise what I wrote last year because I still sense there’s a lot of insecurity swirling around.

Some of us find some a level of security in the midst of insecurity. Some of us roll with the punches better than others. We plod along not sure what will happen next. The ones who will be OK are those who are prepared. Who are always ready for life to change on a dime.

“To be at ease is to be unsafe.”

             ~ John Henry Cardinal Newman

Back in the fall of 2008, I had gotten to know some homeless people. I admire and respect the ones I have met because they look out for each other.   My whole perspective on my own worries had completely changed as a result. It has led me to profound gratitude and real compassion. I thought long and hard what it would be like to be homeless. And then I realized there are going to be many more.

 Our economy is based on the premise that we should buy, buy, buy – sell, sell, sell. It is not a godly economy.   In my opinion, our present American society is not a healthy one. In order for our economy to work we are constantly prodded to buy stuff. And the more we buy, the deeper in debt we get.  It’s foolish. Insane, actually. But this pandemic has taught many of us a different way. In the first year, we had to stay home and find our entertainments in simpler ways.

It could be a great grace; some will find God and turn to the one only God and away from the false idols of a material way and turn to a more spiritual way of life. They will have the opportunity perhaps for the first time to find meaning and love and authentic relationships. They will come to understand what life is for. Many will find Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life.   Hopefully the uncertainty we’ve been through this past year will bring us and our nation to our senses.

What will happen next? To you? To your job? To your family?

We need to look for certainty and security on a deeper level.

It would seem that having a sense of the presence of God in our life will give us a foundation that is not so easily shaken by uncertainty. The scriptures present Jesus as the one who can quiet the storms of life (Matthew 8:23-27); He can be the Rock, the foundation on which our life is built.

Failing to accept life on life’s terms can cause anxiety and depression whereas hope takes the bite out of uncertainty. Through many years of learning to cope with manic-depressive disorder I have learned to keep going–no matter what. I call you, my reader, to the same faith and hope and love in every moment of your life. Only God can provide the security we need in uncertain times.

Jesus taught his disciples to accept uncertainty as something valuable. He told them “Take nothing on your journey but a walking stick — no food, no traveling bag, not a coin in purse” (Mark 6: 8-9). He wants his disciples to not place ultimate security in things (a warm tunic or some coins in your purse) but to find security in a well-lived, lifelong, open and trusting relationship with God.

For years now I have been calling us to repent of our sins of complacency and greed and idolatry and lust for power and preoccupation with hate and fear and violence that permeates our society. So often, I pray that God restore our beloved country to shining beacon on a hill we once was. My friend, Msgr. Ron Jameson, Rector of the Cathedral of St. Matthew on Washington, D.C. in his Christmas note shared a prayer from his friend Fr. Mike Ryan “from his heart” . . . 

May our prayer help bring our nation,

so deeply divided and wounded,

to a belief and a conviction

that the great gifts of our Founders are not spent or forgotten:

that the American Dream is still alive

and we are the ones who can make that dream come true.

I would only add . . ..

Please bless President Biden and all elected and government officials

that they would have the best interests of all of the people in mind and heart.

Let there be peace at home and peace throughout the world.  

For Yours, O God, is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.  

Amen!  

And now, before you go, here’s Pete Seeger and a Chorus singing “This Land is Your Land on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

True love transforms us ~in God’s love

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Flagler Beach Florida sunrise / bob traupman.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, EVERYONE!

We’ve been reflecting on St. Paul’s eloquent words about love from I Corinthians 13. And this is my final post on the subject.

Love is not pompous, it is not inflated, it does not seek its own interests,                                                                        it is not quick-tempered,                                                                                                                                                                   it does not brood over injury,                                                                                                                                                           it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

Romantic love wears off in a few months.  True love requires fidelity.  I often remember people I met briefly twenty or thirty years ago and I still have a place in my heart for them, even those who were adversaries.  And when I think of them I  believe my prayer is able to touch them even now, either living or dead.

We think often think we know all about love but Love is  an Art and a Discipline to be learned and acquired by trial and error.  Or perhaps unlearn what we have learned in abusive homes  or families and find people who can teach us well.  I am profoundly grateful for the people who allowed my soul to unfold and blossom because of their love.

When I taught high school seniors (51 years ago!) I had them read two books,  Erich Fromm’s Art of Loving and Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.  I still would recommend both books to anyone who wants to become a whole and healed human person.

Many of us keep focusing on finding the right object of our love.  Fromm–and Jesus– tell us that being a person who is capable of loving the stranger in the checkout line at the 7-11 or your sibling whose guts you can’t stand is the way we will learn to love.

Love is being free to love the one you’re with so you can be with the one you love.

It is just not possible to love some and hate others.  St. John says, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.”

Love is being able to see and respond to the loving energy of the universe and spread it around instead of trying to possess it for oneself.

Love is faithfully loving whomever God puts in our life at every turn of our life’s journey. A hard task sometimes. I know.

 St. Paul’s Ode to Love (1 Corinthians 13) is about the awesome love that transforms.

But many of us don’t know how to love in a way that transforms because we’re more interested in getting love than giving it.

So, let’s think about that for a moment.

Many young folks in our society have not experienced the love that transforms, even from their own parents or their spouses. Very often, their relationships center on their own needs, even when they’re “giving” to their significant other.

But in order to love in a transforming way, we have to be loved in a way that frees us.

So I ask you ~

Who are the people in your life who were able to recognize the YOU inside you? 

       Who-knew-who-you-were behind the mask you present to the world each day?

Who are the people who recognized-your-gifts and called-them-forth-from-the-deep-within-you?

       Who-drew-forth-the-goodness-they-saw-in-you when what you were presenting to the world you a self thought wasn’t very good at all?

That’s love that transforms! That heals.  That gets us going again.  That moves us down the road a bit.

At this moment I want to name one such person who has had an enormous influence on my life.  He is Father Eugene Walsh–God rest him.  We used to call him Gino. He was the rector of my seminary the year I was preparing for ordination. He was a Father-figure for me and a mentor; I learned most of what I know about the sacred liturgy from him.

I had the good fortunate to get on his short list to have him as my spiritual director.  He had a way of listening deeply below the level of my words.

I remember one night in his study.  We were sitting across from each  other in two easy chairs.  I was always intrigued that the wall behind him was bright orange with a large abstract painting on it.  I was struggling that night about whether I would proceed toward ordination.

Of a sudden, he  came over to me, hugged me and whispered in my ear my name ~ Bob ~ and I heard it resonate for the longest time His voice found me ~ some place deep within and called me forth.

I can still hear him calling me–as I write.  At that moment, his deep, resonating love ~ transformed me.  Affirmed me, confirmed me.  (I hope to write one day about my priesthood and my bipolar journey and tell the story of this wonderful man and the many others who influenced and shaped my life over the years; there are many; and I am grateful to each and every one.)

But more than any other person, there is Jesus; I try to be like him.  He was so human.  He teaches me how to be a human being, above all.  To be a simple, decent, human being.  And to be human, most of all, is to be capable of loving and receiving love.  The same was true of Father Walsh.

And that’s what I’ve always taught:  Sin is the refusal Of love, the refusal Tlove, the refusal to grow and the refusal to give thanks.

So ask yourself:  Who are the people who really knew who you were on the inside, accepted you as you are–the good and the bad–and called you forth to be the best person you could be?

Why don’t you reflect on this  through the day — while you’re driving, sitting on the john  or doing the dishes.  Give thanks for them.  And maybe give them a call.  Not an email; a phone call.

And finally, I’m thinking of a married couple  who celebrated 67 Valentine’s Days together and I  still talk with her years after her husband passed and she cared for him with years of Alzheimer’s disease. And maybe you, this day, are thinking of someone close to you, perhaps your own spouse, whom you have lost and still preciously remember this Valentine’s day.

Beloved,

let us love one another because love is of God;

everyone who is begotten of God has knowledge of God.  

No one has ever seen God.

Yet if we love one another

God dwells in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.  (1 Jn 4:7, 12)

Dear Friends, see if you can make this prayer er your own ~

Good and gracious God,

You are the One most of all who has loved me into wholeness,

who is calling me forth to be the best person I can be,

calling me not so much to want to be loved as to love.

I thank you for sending people into my life who, even for a brief moment,

have touched me deep within and helped to transform me into a more deeply loving person.

Help me always to be a person who is capable of transforming love.

And now, before you go, here’s a hymn based on St. Paul’s Ode to Love: Click Here.  It’s soft and lovely, so be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.  And if you’d like to know a bit about St. Valentine (who was bumped from the new liturgical calendar) . . .

St. Valentine, (died 3rd century, Rome; feast day February 14), name of one or two legendary Christian martyrs whose lives seem to be historically based. Although the Roman Catholic Church continues to recognize St. Valentine as a saint of the church, he was removed from the General Roman Calendar in 1969 because of the lack of reliable information about him. He is the patron saint of lovers, epileptics, and beekeepers.

By some accounts, St. Valentine was a Roman priest and physician who suffered martyrdom during the persecution of Christians by the emperor Claudius II Gothicus about 270. He was buried on the Via Flaminia, and Pope Julius I reportedly built a basilica over his grave. Other narratives identify him as the bishop of TerniItaly, who was martyred, apparently also in Rome, and whose relics were later taken to Terni. It is possible these are different versions of the same original account and refer to only one person.

According to legend, St. Valentine signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended and healed from blindness. Another common legend states that he defied the emperor’s orders and secretly married couples to spare the husbands from war.

Valentine’s Day as a lovers’ festival dates at least from the 14th century. Encycopaedia Britannica

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer  

And here is the entire text of St. Paul’s Ode to Love (I Cor. 13)  Savor each line and see how you measure up. . . .

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;

if I have all faith so as to move mountains

but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast

but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous,

Love is not pompous, it is not inflated,

it is not rude,

it does not seek its own interests,

it is not quick-tempered,

it does not brood over injury,

it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

It bears all things,

believes all things,

hopes all things,

endures all things.

Love never fails.

So faith, hope, love remain, these three;

but the greatest of these is love.

     I Corinthians 13

What is Love? (or the Man from Tennessee)

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Dear Friends and Lovers everywhere,

I had a delightful conversation with these two good people from Tennessee a few summers ago while I was living in St. Augustine.  They were sitting on the curb behind the Village Inn Restaurant.  The conversation began with a polite reprimand to the dude for throwing a cigarette butt on the ground. (Actually, I don’t think you call a young man from Tennessee a dude, do you?)  I care for the planet that supports my every step and I try my best to show respect and reverence to her and gently persuade others to do the same.

As a writer, I am interested in people’s stories.  And the conversation became quite up close and personal quite quickly.  They told me a bit of each of their stories.  About their work and school and families.  The young lady was still in high school.  They were thinking about getting married.  I was quite impressed with these young folks.  Salt of the earth folks. 

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow.  So, what is LOVE?  I’m interweaving two threads into today’s blog –  the themes What is Love? and What is Life? The two provide the tapestry of a life well-lived.  If we seek life and love every day – if we choose to turn away from hateful words and thoughts and the cruel deeds that spouses and jilted lovers throw at each other in cruel text messaging, we will find both.  Love and Life.

There’s all kinds of love, you know.  There’s romance that is the kind that pervades the soaps, People and InTouch magazines.  There’s erotic love.  There’s brotherly (or sisterly) love, the love of friends, neighborly love.  And there’s sacrificial love. That’s the kind that Jesus has for us and those who serve others. There’s conditional and unconditional love.  There’s love that isn’t love at all.  

Remember Erich Fromm whom I referenced his little book The Art of Loving last week? Here are a couple of quotes of his that you might find interesting . . . .

Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’                                                                                          Mature love says ‘I need you because I love you.’

In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.

Only the person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to others.

And so, I offer you a practical suggestion so that make your own meaning.

At day’s end, reflect on the positive things — even the tiny little things in a chaotic, insane day.  Where was the LOVE?  Where was the LIFE?  

Take a moment.  Reflect on your day.  Pick two incidents, however fleeting, however small that you might have missed at the time.  Savor them for a moment as you get ready for bed. 

Those are the moments in which God is speaking to you!  

Be ready to receive into your life and your heart the little moments of LIFE and LOVE that do happen even in on the craziest or most depressing day. 

It is not the destination that is important; life and love happen on the way!

And . . . God bless you, my two young friends from Tennessee. It was an honor and a joy to talk with you.   Maybe you’re married now ~ to each other or to somebody else.  But I hope you finished high school.  Have a wonderful life — both of you and each of you. 

Before you go , if you’ve got a ramblin’ boy in your life or in your soul,  here’s Dave Loggin’s famous song about the Man from Tennessee  ~“Please Come to Boston”~ with beautiful images to carry your soul away, if just for a moment on love’s nostalgia and grace.  Have a great day!

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Jilted lovers ~ or Joyous love?

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mesa verde national park of southern colorado / march 2008 / bob traupman. 

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Our society finds it quite acceptable for people to hop into one relationship after another or just satisfy their needs by”hooking up”.

How many times have young people thought that this was the person of their dreams and been dumped by a rude text message–or done the dumping themselves?

How many marriages have ended when one spouse showed up in the kitchen and announced, “I want a divorce!”  No discussion.  No attempt to work out problems.  No mercy.  No forgiveness.   It’s over.  Done.

And what happens is that we may add one unsuccessful relationship on top of another.  As a result, our heart can become more and more wounded. And less and less trusting, less and less capable of loving .  . . unless we somehow find a way to believe again, to hope again.

So, let’s take a deeper look at the truth and the transforming power of St. Paul’s words in I Cor. 13 we’re reflecting on in this series “What is Love?”

LOVE . . .

. . .  it is not rude,                                                                                                                                                                                  

it does not seek its own interests,

it is not quick-tempered,                                                                                                                                                        

 it  does not brood over injury,

it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

it bears all things.                                                                                                                                                

believes all things,                                                                                                                                          

hopes all things.                                                                                                                                                  

endures all things.

Love never fails.

We just have to learn to love anyway.

At least, that’s what St. Paul is getting at “Love does not brood over injuries.”

In the Art of Loving, psychoanalyst Erich Fromm’s classic book written in 1956, consider his statement that will blow most of us out of the water:

“Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person:  it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not toward one “object” of love.  If a person loves only one person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment  or an enlarged egotism . . . If I truly love one person I love all persons, I love the world; I love life.  If I can say to somebody else, “I love you,” I must be able to say”I love in you everybody.   I love through you the world, I love in you also myself”~ p. 39.)

This is, of course, the heart of Jesus’ message, but many, if not most of us who say we’re his followers still don’t get it.

 As tech opportunities for “communication” proliferate the less we truly communicate.  We communicate more and more on a superficial level.  You can’t really know someone through texting or on Facebook or in an email.  A person can present a false persona. The only real way to communicate with someone is to be in their presence using all our senses.

We need to learn, once again how to come to true intimacy–the coming together of two or more persons who have the courage to open themselves to the transformative power of love.

If you are one who seeks that, I’m with you.   That’s what my writing is about.

Good and gracious God,

we ask you to heal the hearts that are broken.

Help us to see even in the midst of our brokenness the depth of Your Love for us.

Give us the courage and strength to stop destructive patterns that lead only to more pain.

May we take the risk to open our hearts once more.

Give us hope, Lord.

Instead of seeking to find our true love,

let us simply become persons who love —

. . . whomever we’re with,

. . . to grow in our capacity to love

so that we can reach out to the whole world

as You do at every moment,

in every time and place.

To You, God of our understanding,

we give You praise, now and forever.

AMEN!

Now I suggest you take a second look at that tree weathering the mountaintop at 8000 feet.  It has been jilted by the weather.  But it still stands nobly and proudly — broken, gnarled and twisted; it’s a fine lesson for us of the meaning of life.

And here is the entire text of St. Paul’s Ode to Love (I Corinthians 13) once again.   Savor each phrase and see how you measure up. . . .

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.   And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains  but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous. Love is not pompous, it is not inflated,it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered,  does not brood over injury,it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.  So faith, hope love remain, these, but the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13

Now before you go, here’s a music video for you. Click Here.

With Love, 

Bob Traupman 

Contemplative Writer

St. Paul’s Ode to Love ~ How do we measure up?

Many of us are thinking of our Valentine’s these days — our lovers,  intend-eds, spouses, classmates, mothers and also spouses remembering their deceased loved ones, even ~ or maybe especially during this pandemic. And maybe because of it, we won’t be able to visit them!

Hallmark would encourage us to “send the very best.”   And marketeers would like to get their greedy fingers on our credit cards for this one-day holiday, wouldn’t they? I don’t have a TV but I was in a doctor’s office some time ago and saw a commercial for edible ‘floral’ arrangements’ that looked awfully tempting.

And later I stopped by the Post Office and as I was standing in line, I noticed this young black dude posting dozens of what looked like small pink cards and dropping them one by one in the mail bin. I went over to him and teased, “Are you sending those to all of your Valentines?” He turned around toward me and grinned, “I wish! he said.

But let’s go a little deeper here. What is true love, really?

I’ve officiated at the marriages of many young couples during my years as a priest who have chosen  St. Paul’s Ode to Love for their wedding Mass.

It has  to be one of the most glorious pieces of prose of all time.

Take the time to take it in and see how you measure up. In I Corinthians 13 the great apostle writes to us . . . .

. . . . If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love,

I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;

if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient,

love is kind.

It is not jealous,

Love is not pompous,

it is not inflated,

it is not rude,

it does not seek its own interests,

it is not quick-tempered,

it does not brood over injury,

it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

It bears all things,

believes all things,

hopes all things,

endures all things.

Love never fails.

So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is Love.

~ I Corinthians 13

Dearest God,

You are Love itself.

We give you thanks for the people in our lives who have loved-us-into-the-Persons-we-have-become.

We rejoice in them and remember them in love.

But so many of us are wounded because we have not experienced the parental love that would allow us to know how to love.

Help us take your apostle Paul’s words to heart that we may truly know the true meaning of love.

May we have a heart open to all persons, all of life, all of the universe.

To You Lord, be glory and praise, now and forever.

Amen!

Before  you go, take a moment to listen to Bette Midler’s “The Rose”. Click here. It’s a song  I’ve always favored ~ one of my generation. I think it sets the tone for what I want to say here.   Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen and have a great day!  It’s a song I’ve always attributed to Our Lady.

 I’ll be publishing three more Valentine’s blogs trying to unpack the meaning of St. Paul’s Ode to Love next week until Valentine’s Day Monday, the 14 of February.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

A Light for the Nations ~ and me and you too!

IMG_1605The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple ~ February 2, 2022

I’ve always loved this feast day.  It marks the old conclusion of the Christmas season—forty days after Christmas.  The second reason is that it also marked the anniversary of my AA sobriety.

So, today the Church celebrates the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which occurs forty days after the birth of Jesus and is also known as Candlemas day, since the blessing and procession of candles is included in today’s liturgy. This is known as a “Christmas feast” since it points back to the Solemnity of Christmas. Some Catholics practice the tradition of keeping out the Nativity crèche or other Christmas decorations until this feast.

If possible, the liturgy begins with a procession, or at least, the priest goes to the entrance of the church as he does on Palm Sunday, and address the congregation with these words:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Forty days have passed since the joyful feast of the Nativity of the Lord.

Today is the blessed day when Jesus was presented in the Temple by Mary and Joseph.

Outwardly, he was coming to fulfill the Law,

but in reality he was coming to meet his believing people.

Prompted by the Holy Spirit,

Simeon and Anna came to the Temple.

Enlightened by the same Spirit,

They recognized the Lord

and confessed him with exultation.

And then the priest blesses the candles to be used at the altar for the coming year and the ones the people will carry in procession with these words:

O God, true light, who create light eternal,

Spreading far and wide,

pour into the hearts of your faithful

the brilliance of perpetual light,

so that all who are brightened in your holy temple

by the splendor of these candles

may happily reach the light of your glory.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

And then the people follow the priest into the church carrying their lighted candles.

The Readings
Today’s first reading gives us an important insight to understand the mystery of the Lord’s Presentation in the Temple by Mary and Joseph, according to the Mosaic Law. The text, taken from the Prophet Malachi says, ‘I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord who you seek’ (Mal 3:1). From all the Gospels, we know that it is the Precursor, St John the Baptist who was born six months before Jesus, that God sent him to prepare His way. Putting these evangelical facts together, we can better understand the words of the prophet Malachi. The Lord God promised that He would send a Precursor to prepare His way. Since there is only six months between the birth of St John the Baptist and Jesus it’s  clear that the prophecy meant that suddenly after the Precursor, the Lord Himself will come. So, soon after the Baptist’s birth, God entered His temple. Jesus’ presentation signifies God’s entrance to His temple. The God-made-man entered His temple, presenting Himself to those who were really searching for Him.

Then there are these words from Malachi that struck me because of my AA recovery:

For he is like the refiner’s fire,
or like the fuller’s lye.
He will sit refining and purifying silver,
and he will purify the sons of Levi,
Refining them like gold or like silver.

It also reminds me of Jesus’ later purification of the Temple itself, driving out the money changers with whips and cords.

Today’s Gospel introduces us to different people and events that in themselves provide other lessons and themes for further reflection. First of all, Mary and Joseph respect the Mosaic Law by offering the sacrifice prescribed for the poor: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

Simeon and Anna were two venerable elderly people dedicated to prayer and fasting and so their strong religious spirit rendered them able to recognize the Messiah.  Those who pray and offer penance, like Simeon and Anna, are open to the breath of the Spirit. They know how to recognize the Lord in the circumstances in which He manifests Himself because they possess an ample interior vision, and they have learned how to love with the heart of the One whose very name is Charity.

At the end of the Gospel Simeon’s prophecy of Mary’s sufferings is emphasized. Saint Pope John Paul II taught that, ‘Simeon’s words seem like a second Annunciation to Mary, for they tell her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely, in misunderstanding and sorrow.’

The old man Simeon was—and is—a wonderful model as man of devotion for his time and ours. I’m going to let the Gospel text speak for itself:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. 
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go 
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
—and you yourself a sword will pierce—
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

And now my prayer . . .

Dearest Lady,

Mother of Jesus,

You and Joseph took Jesus back home and raised him

with all the love in your hearts.

But you must have pondered Simeon’s prophecy,

or did you just keep on trusting?

Dearest Mary, Mother of us all,

there are so, so many mothers today who have swords of sorrow

that have pierced their hearts.

Children dying from famine,

Refugee mothers fleeing from war-torn countries,

Single mothers trying to make ends meet,

Women caught in sweat shops or prostitution rings,

Pregnant women not knowing what to do,

and so many other desperate situations.

Mary, we come to you on this Feast Day as always

Asking for your intercession for our troubled world.

We ask this as always in your Son’s name.

Amen.

The prayer of Simeon’s is sung or recited at in the church’s Night Prayer throughout the world.

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go 
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”

Quit fitting, don’t you think?

And here’s the Canticle of Simeon in song. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are the Mass Readings for today. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

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St. Paul: A Vessel of Love filled with fire ~ What fills You with fire?

January 25th, 2022 ~ The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle

Paul was an amazing man. He was small of stature; he refused to depend on charity–thus, he worked as a tentmaker wherever he went.  After he was severely beaten, he was in constant pain, but went on and on and on, because, as I tried–and would still like to learn– from him . . . .

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

~ Philippians 4:13

Paul before his conversion was known as Saul of Tarsus, and as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles he says, “I persecuted this Way to death (i.e. Christians), binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.” And then he tells the story of his conversion on the way to Damascus, that a great light blinded him and he heard a voice asking, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (You can read the rest of the story in Acts 22: 1:16.) Or the alternative version given in the Mass readings below (Acts 9:1-22).

I enjoyed what St. John Chrysostom, a Bishop and Doctor of the Church in the early church, says about Paul in the divine office for today . . . .

Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what man really is, and in what our nobility consists and in what virtue this particular animal is capable.  Each day he aimed even higher; each day he rose up with even greater ardor and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him.  He summed up his attitude in his words: “I forget what lies behind me and I push on to what lies ahead.”  (There’s a lesson for us here, isn’t there?)

I never paid much attention to Paul until my later years.  And suddenly, I fell in love with him; thus, I’m writing this blog in his honor, despite the passages that show his Hebraic attitudes toward women and the misuse of his words about gay people. Here’s the reason . . . .

Chrysostom goes on to say that the most important point of all is . . . .

St. Paul knew himself to be loved by Christ.  Enjoying this love, he considers himself happier than anyone else . . . . He preferred to be thus loved and yet the least of all, or even among the damned, than to be without that love than be among the great and honored.  So too, in being loved by Christ he thought himself as possessing life, the world, the angels, the present and the future, the kingdom, the promise and countless blessings. Apart from that love nothing saddened or delighted him; for nothing earthly did he regard as bitter or sweet. (Another lesson for us, isn’t there, especially during this pandemic when we’re worried about the economy.)

A few years ago, a priest-friend sent me a Christmas card with a favorite quote from St. Paul on the cover that I framed and remained on my dining room table for years that I often glanced at.  As I have had my own cup of suffering from long years of manic-depressive disorder  it meant a great deal to me . . . .

My grace is sufficient for you,

for in weakness power reaches perfection.”  

And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead,

that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  

For when I am powerless, it is then I am strong.  

              (2 Cor. 12:9-10) 

You see, Paul has helped me love my Lord ~ or rather to realize in tears of joy that Jesus loves me deeply and richly–as I am–weak and sinful.  He has raised me up and heals me, granting me the wonderful grace to share his love as best I can at the tip of my cursor ~ if in no other way.

And so, dear friends, know that you, too, are loved, whether you have realized it or not.  Our God is love!  Know that–despite whatever else you’ve been taught, despite how guilty you may feel or how unworthy you think you are.  YOU ARE LOVED!  THIS IS A MEANINGFUL UNIVERSE!

We’ll let St. Catherine of Siena have the last word that really grabbed me, Paul “became a vessel of love filled with fire to carry and preach God’s Word.   Amen.  Amen!  

And now, before you go, here are the St. Louis Jesuits singing the Prayer of their Founder, “Take, Lord, and Receive.”  It’s a beautiful prayer and a beautiful song. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen for the slide show that accompanies it.

And here are all of today’s mass readings for today’s Feast, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Day of prayer for the legal protection for unborn children

This Saturday the forty-ninth anniversary of Roe v Wade.

When it began in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade in 1973. the March for Life turned the nation’s conscience toward the particular horror of abortion and the taking of human life that it entails. The four decades since have seen millions of deaths from abortion in the United States alone.

In each of those deaths, the world lost a unique and irreplaceable person. (Planned Parenthood and others insists in calling it a fetus, not an unborn child or a person.)

My bishop, John Noonan of the Diocese of Orlando began his letter to his people this week by saying: Pope St. John Paul II pleas with us, “A great prayer for life is urgently needed, a prayer which will rise up throughout the world. Through special initiatives and in daily prayer, may an impassioned plea rise to God, the Creator and lover of life, from every Christian community, from every group and association, from every family and from the heart of every believer” (Evangelium Vitae, 100).

And I’ve said for years we live in a world that does not recognize that and sacredness of every person’s life on this planet is sacred and inviolate.  It doesn’t understand this concept. In fact, it doesn’t understand the word ‘concept’ for the most part. (Many of us would do so for our pets, but not the unborn.)

But let’s stand down, stop the condemning and judging and seek light and understanding, forgiveness and wholeness, kindness and compassion  for young women in desperate situations who have no one to turn to and who may themselves be abandoned. (That certainly seems to be needed in Texas right now!)

My sense is that the sin of those who are quick to condemn others is as great as those who bring violence and bloodshed into their very own bodies.

We ALL have much for which to ask forgiveness.  We ALL need to ask God to increase our capacity to love and turn away from condemnation. 

The ones Jesus loves the most are the lost sheep of this world.  He would reach out to those who have had abortions!

The enemies of Jesus are those who justify themselves, the self-righteous, the hypocrites, the ones who know nothing of compassion, those who would not think of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes but would lash out with their tongue ~ sometimes by those who minister the Body of Christ at the altar!

St. John has said no one is without sin!  He also said that  “Anyone who hates his brother or sister is oneself a murderer.” (1 John 3:15) 

Are Christians only concerned with abortion? Do we champion the cause of life only until it’s born?

With an assault on people with terminal illnesses, special needs, the poor, migrants and refugees, minorities, and others, the call of the Christian to defend and advocate for life is real. Questions about capital punishment, euthanasia, war, torture, climate change, and other life issues are pressing and need clear answers.

President Trump was hailed for placing three pro-life judges on the Supreme Court but at the same time conducting filthy squalid, over-crowded camps for immigrant children and not being able to find their parents.  And Mr. Trump for some unknown reason revived the death penalty! Why?

And at the same time, even our Catholic bishops are knocking President Biden for his stand on abortion that is not extreme at all. We are seeing Democrats becoming pro-life now.

In an attempt to provide an answer to these questions, some have promoted a “consistent life ethic,” a type of seamless garment theory that was once taught by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Contemporary versions of the theory, therefore, have retrieved the rich doctrine of solidarity from the Catholic tradition.

In answer to the question about the Christian’s specific mission to serve and advocate for life, subsidiarity shows us the obvious: Before we can advocate about any other life issues, we must have life itself. The first and fundamental right that must be argued and defended, therefore, is the beginning of life.

And so, we must oppose abortion without confusion or uncertainty. It stands as the primary and perennial issue for the person who cherishes and respects life.

Then a solidarity compels us to care for the poor, the migrant and refugee, the person with special needs, and others who are helped by our attention and service. Such a solidarity urges us to work for peace, champion the rights of minorities, oppose capital punishment, and seek social harmony however we are able.

None of these issues, however, are equal to abortion but all of them are connected to the dignity that abortion offends and they call for our intervention and action.

The above explanation can help the Christian who wants to be a true brother or sister to other people, or who wants to accompany and serve those who suffer, without being entrapped in only one issue.

And now I begin my prayer as I always do , , , , 

Heavenly Father,

I praise you and thank you for the gift of life

and of love that you share with me ~ with us.

On this Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children,

please allows us not to judge anyone who has had an abortion,

but to reach out with compassion to all with love and understanding.

And now, before you go, here’s the penitential hymn “Remember Your Love”  Click Here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are the Mass readings for today, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With Love

Bob Traupman

 contemplative writer

And P.S.  Don’t worry about the aborted children;  the innocent ones will shine like the stars in God’s kingdom.

The tragedy is that they will never set foot on this beautiful planet.

 

The Legacy of a martyr ~ what are you willing to give your life for?

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

On this coming Monday, January, 17, 2022, we will honor a great American ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was 39 when he was martyred on April 4, 1968.

On that fateful day, Dr. King took an assassin’s bullet that he knew was waiting for him at any time. It came while he was leading a strike for sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.   He inspired and led the Civil Rights movement that acquired great change in our land.  This man is one of my mentors.  I was in his presence only once in 1963 when I was in the seminary in Baltimore.  Our Rector arranged for some of us to hear him speak when he came to Baltimore. 

He was a man who committed himself to nonviolence like Mohandas Gandhi, and also Jesus my Lord who died on the Cross for us, that Dr. King and I believe is the only way that justice and peace can be achieved.  Dr. King inspired ordinary folks, black and white, to stand up for their rights and to sit down and accept the vicious blows of police and others in their racial hatred. His organizers trained them to have the courage to go to jail for what they believed.

On, the day after his assassination on April 4, 1968, I formally entered the service of the Roman Catholic Church as an ordained deacon.  I was a seminary student at the Theological College of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

The shrill sound of sirens all over the city mingled with the ancient chant melody of the Litany of the Saints as I lay prostrate on the floor of our chapel with my brothers to be ordained. As I looked up to this man and his ideals of justice and peace and freedom, I also wanted to absorb them into my body and soul, I sucked in a deep breath and pledged my life to Christ.

Today, in this land of America, the freedoms and ideals  that  Thomas Jefferson told us all men are created equal and have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness are seriously in danger of  slipping  away from us. We witnessed the desecration of our Capitol instigated astonishingly by the President of the United States. Mobs of people broke into the Capitol and into the House of Representatives and the Senate chambers and threatened their members and ransacked some of their offices. Their insistence was the election was stolen from President Trump.

Racism that was covert for centuries before it reared its ugly head and been condoned when it should have been severely condemned  in Charlottesville, Virginia, the very home of Jefferson’s great University of Virginia, in the bombings of Jewish Synagogues, in Muslim Mosques and violence in El Paso deliberately against brown people, and the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing.

The number of race-based killings  and other incidents in our country in the last two years has been astounding — some by officers of the law. It has taken our young people to lead the way to and advocate for real change against gun violence led by the courageous leaders from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

O God of Justice,
raise up men and women in our day who will inspire us
and restore us to the original ideals of our nation.
Enable us to wake up from our slumber and see what we have lost, and safeguard our freedoms.
Give us the strength and courage to pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to win this spiritual revolution of justice, peace and love that now lies before us in 2022.       
.                                    

We also ask you bless President Joe Biden and his administration and our whole country that we may heal, come together and start anew in this new year of 2022.
We pray to you, God,  for You are the God who cries for justice for your children and who still hears the cries of those who know and realize they are poor without You.
We pray ~ for only You can can restore us to the ideal of freedom and justice FOR ALL.                                                             

To You Glory and Honor and Power, now and forever. Amen!                                                                                      

May we call each other more than a generation later to the principles of Nonviolence Dr. King instilled in his followers.

They were trained to sit down on the ground and take blows of the police because they knew that Nonviolence was a more powerful weapon than guns and bombs.

Dr. King held no public office.  He persuaded us by the power of his words and the depth of his conviction.

And his willingness to give his life for what he believed in ~ no matter what.

Is there anything you are willing to give your life for?

I continually ask myself the same question and pray the answer is Yes!  (Or at least I hope so.)

It has been a generation since Dr. King delivered his most powerful and eloquent speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 that led subsequently to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act into law on June 2, 1964, I offer this video reflection from the History Channel on Dr. King’s “I have a Dream speech at the Lincoln Memorial, followed by some powerful excerpts from that speech. Click here. 

Then follow with this excerpt from his speech. Click here.  Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer