St. Paul of the Cross

Today, Passionists throughout the world remember the feast of their Father and Founder, St. Paul of the Cross – that is everywhere except in the United States where the feast is celebrated on October 20.  The American Church remembers the Jesuit North American Martyrs today.  However, since I am going to be travelling today and will be on the road for the next week, I want to send you my homily for the feast.

Readings for the Feast:  1 Corinthians 1:18-25 and Matthew 16:24-27.

Today, we celebrate the feast of Saint Paul of the Cross, (1694-1775, Founder of the Passionist Congregation of priests and brothers; Founder of the contemplative Passionist Nuns.

Paul Francis Danei was his given name.  He was born in the town of Ovada in northern Italy into a relatively prosperous and very religious family.  He was destined to marry and follow his father’s footsteps but that was not to be his vocation.  He was a seeker and was influenced in early life by the local Capuchins.  Today’s readings give us insight into the heart of Paul’s spiritual journey.

In our Gospel reading, Jesus says to His disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  Paul took this quest seriously.  By the time he was 26 years old, Paul had had a series of prayer experiences which made it clear to him that God was inviting him into an intimate love relationship with His Crucified Son.  He was not to live alone but rather in a community that he would found.  In an interior vision, he saw himself clothed in the habit he and his companions would wear:  a long, black tunic on the front of which was a heart surrounded by a white cross, and in the heart was written , the Passion of Jesus Christ.”  Paul wrote the Rule for his yet unfounded community in 1720 committing himself and his future followers to remembering the Passion of Jesus.  This was not meant to be merely a historical remembrance but a lived experience.

In our reading from Corinthians, Saint Paul the Apostle, cries out, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ Crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” In Paul’s vision, Passionists were not only to lead an intense life of contemplative prayer probing the mystery of the cross, but they were also to preach about God’s incredible love as seen in the Passion of Jesus – God’s great act of redeeming love.  Passionists were to reach out to the crucified of the world.  In Paul’s own words, “The love of God is very ingenious and is proved, not so much by words, but by the deeds and actions of the lovers.” Thus the motto of every Passionist:  We preach Christ and Him Crucified!

Posted in Christian Faith, General Interests, Passionist Interests, Reflections on Scripture, Saints, Spirituality, The mystery of suffering | 1 Comment

do not be afraid – words from Pope Francis

For over twenty-five years, Pope St. John Paul II constantly exhorted us:  Do not be afraid – God is with us!

Pope Benedict XVI followed in his footsteps with the same exhortation:  Do not be afraid – God is with us!

And now we hear the same faith-filled words from Pope Francis:

Do not be afraid!  We are frail and we know it, but He is stronger! – from a recent Wednesday address.

As we look around, there is much to be afraid of in the wider world in which we live and in our own personal lives.  Our consolation is Emmanuel – God is with us! And the God who is with us is the God who brought us into being and who holds us tenderly in the palms of His Hands.  God is with us and God loves us and no matter what happens this day, God will see us through.

Posted in Addictive behavior, Aging, Bereavement, Christian Faith, General Interests, Spirituality, The mystery of suffering | 1 Comment

from Pope Francis’ sermon at the Easter Vigil, 2013

Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life?  We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do.  Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us … Dear brothers and sisters, we are afraid of God’s surprises!  He always surprises us! The Lord is like that.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives! … Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up:  there are no situations which God cannot change, there is no sin which He cannot forgive if only we open ourselves to Him.

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Saint Teresa of Avila

Today we remember one of the great saints of the Church, Saint Teresa of Avila, known in religious life as Teresa of Jesus.  She was born March 28, 1515 in Avila, Spain, of a Catholic Jewish family.  She was a woman who stood on her own two feet in an age dominated by men; a contemplative who wrote several masterpieces on the spiritual life, and  an active reformer of Carmelite religious life as well as the Church in general.  For this Pope Paul VI proclaimed her a doctor of the Church in 1970.  She was also a woman filled with joy.  In a letter to the Bishop of Avila commemorating her feast day and also the beginnings of celebration for the 500th anniversary of her birth, Pope Francis writes:

“Teresa of Jesus invited her nuns to ‘go serving joyfully.’  True holiness is joy because ‘a sad saint is a sorry saint.’ … the Pope quotes Teresa. Teresa exhorted her nuns, ‘do not cease to be joyful.’

Joy is not a passing feeling.  Joy is a state of being.  True joy is rooted in a firm conviction that God is with us – all the time – no matter what.  Joy develops deep within us as we cultivate a relationship with the person of Jesus. According to Teresa, joy … “conquers pessimism and generates good initiatives.”

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there are hard times in life

Back in 1988, a spiritual writer exclaimed:

“Dark times condition us for God!”

We are blessed with periods of sunshine in our lives where we “feel” the presence of God and all seems to be well in our little corner of the world.  We thank God for those times.  You and I know; however, that those times are often few and far between.  There are “dark times” when God seems absent or at least at a distance and all does not seem well in our world.   The truth is that God is with us in the “dark times.”  God is there giving us the courage that we need to move forward.  God is there carrying us when we can no longer carry ourselves.  The “dark times” force us to let go of all the props that sustain us and rely completely on Him. Ultimately, it is God and God alone, who will bring us through the “dark times” and into the Light.

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