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.

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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.

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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 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