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!!

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!

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        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