Nourishment Of Prayer

Peace to you!

In the last few days the subject of prayer has been a theme that keeps rising to the surface through scripture passages and while visiting with people.

For St. Therese of Lisieux, prayer is described as “a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy” (CCC #2558). To hear St. Therese’s description of prayer makes it seem like prayer is very natural and easy. It may give us the idea that for the Saints, prayer came as easy as breathing and they never had to think about it or work at it. The truth of the matter is that all the Saints, including Therese, had to keep working to develop their prayer life.

One of the great challenges to prayer for many of us today is that we lead extremely busy lives. When our minds are occupied with the details of family life and we are constantly on the move to meet the different interests and activities we enjoy, prayer can be far from the heart and mind. If we become too pragmatic in our thinking, it may seem that prayer is a waste of time because we are not accomplishing anything concrete.

One day as I was in the produce section at the grocery store picking out some tomatoes and avocados for salad, a young produce clerk there wished me a good weekend. It was Friday afternoon. I responded in kind then he mentioned he had four days off and was planning to do a road trip with friends and visit San Francisco. As he relayed the details of his plans, it became clear that it would be a hurried and hectic time. I wished him good luck getting all of it into a four day weekend. He responded—yeah, you only go around once so you have to get it all in! I smiled and nodded while I thought about how “getting it all in” is a challenge for all of us.

Our American culture places a high value on practicality and the accomplishment of goals and tasks. As a result, we can focus solely on exterior things to the detriment of keeping a healthy, grounded foundation within that allows us to keep things together. The young clerk and his friends were stuffing two weeks’ worth of activities into four days time and that means racing from one thing to the next. That kind of frenetic activity leaves no time to savor and appreciate the experiences as they happen. When life gets like that, things are a blur and we are off balance, peace is illusive and difficulties arise!

Like many of you, and the Saints, I have had to work to develop a discipline of prayer. Prayer is what keeps our inner compass pointed in the right direction. Prayer is what gives the soul peace and confident trust that God will fill in the gaps and cover details that I can’t get to. Prayer seems easy and enjoyable at times and difficult at other times. But through each day’s challenges and changes, we can discover that prayer becomes to the soul as natural as breathing is to the body and we live in the presence of God, who is the source of our energy, our joy and our peace. Begin your day with the nourishment of prayer and notice the difference! Don’t forget to breathe! God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Hospitality and Prayer

Peace to you!

The readings this weekend revolve around two important themes at the heart of Christian life and pertain to part of our action as a community in the Liturgy: Hospitality and Prayer.

In the Gospel story, Jesus said that Mary had chosen the better part so it seems best to begin with a word about prayer. In the prologue of the holy Rule of St. Benedict everyone is instructed that “Whenever you begin any good work you should first of all make a most pressing appeal to Christ our Lord to bring it to perfection.”

Most of us already have the habit of opening our hearts to God at the beginning of the day. The first movement of the heart is one of praise of God’s greatness and gratitude to be aware of God’s presence. From there it seems natural for more thanksgiving of blessings received. Then we move to the hopes we have for the coming day in which we ask for God’s favor and blessing to be with us so that we will recognize him in the events and people around us and that we may carry out his holy and true command. In this too we include our petition for blessings on the works of our hands that they may be fruitful and bring prosperity and blessing into our lives and the world.

I like to think it was prayer that prepared Abraham for the ministry of hospitality that he exemplifies in today’s scripture. The holy Rule of St. Benedict refers to this passage as the primary example of how important hospitality is. St. Benedict points out that Abraham was not aware that he was actually serving the Holy Trinity and so in our hospitality we are actually serving Christ as he appears in human form!

Obviously, the ministry of hospitality is extremely important everywhere and in all aspects of life. Those who do it well can make others feel the warmth and welcome of Christ. For this reason, it is important to pray and ask God to bless us in our efforts. I thought a few practical notes on Hospitality should be included today.

The ministry of Greeters and Ushers begins well ahead of Mass time with prayer and preparation so that they may be ready at heart to serve the Lord and truly radiate genuine warmth with their smile and graciousness of bearing. They need to arrive early and unlock the doors and check the worship space for cleanliness and comfortable temperature. They need to be aware of the Liturgy of the day so they may assist as needs require, especially on Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. The Ministers watch for those who may need assistance in and out of Church as well as those who need a place to be seated. This is especially true for guests and those who arrive late. Sometimes they must quickly bring extra chairs for oversize crowds. They are also ready to respond to emergencies, special needs, and they must keep an eye out for ”strangers” —it can get quite exciting at times! But they act in such a way as to not draw attention to themselves, they are visibly invisible and discreet in word and action.

They are responsible to take up the regular Sunday collection and the special collection through the year in an unhurried, dignified and respectful fashion. They are responsible for selecting people to bring forth the gifts of Bread and Wine with regard to the diversity of the community; different ages, families and ethnic cultures. The Ministers hand out worship aids before Mass if candles or special articles are used and they hand out bulletins after Mass. After Mass, they review the pews and worship space to be sure it is neat and orderly for the next use. They turn out all the lights and lock the doors. They do all this in a quiet humble way, usually unnoticed and without adulations. But they do receive a secret gift in their hearts from God who is very pleased with their efforts!

The ministry of Hospitality is not limited to Greeters and Ushers. It is the part of everyday that says “you are welcome in my life.” Thank one of our Ushers and Greeters this weekend who go out of their way to serve others! God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter

Turn To God’s Love!

Peace to you!

This weekend we are called to reflect on love. We are reminded through the book of Deuteronomy that the source of all love is God and that when we love God before, beyond and above all things our lives are ordered according to God’s love. For this reason, Moses exhorts the people to turn to God with all their heart and soul and listen to God’s commandments because they are based in love and lead to love.

In the Gospel story, a scholar of the law asks Jesus about the greatest commandment of the law. Jesus teaches that we must love God above all things and he includes loving our neighbor as ourselves. When the scholar asks who his neighbor is, he implies that he can excuse himself from an obligation to love some people. Jesus’ response is a stinging surprise to the scholar and those who are like minded!

Why? After the sons of Solomon divided the nations of Israel, two kingdoms resulted: Israel in the North and Judah in the South with the capitol of Jerusalem. The Northern kingdom was invaded by the Assyrian Empire and the Israelites were reduced to slavery. Over time, they began to intermarry and blend with the Assyrians. The Jewish people regarded this blending of blood as a permanent loss of purity of race. In addition to the great calamity of being forever unclean, the Israelites were part of the Assyrian forces who invaded portions of Judah—killing members of their own race (family). So, in the eyes of the Pharisees, Samaritans were unclean by reason of impure blood and the sin of fratricide and any Jew who spoke with or touched a Samaritan would carry the same label. They deserved to be hated!

Jesus came to save all people and he extended himself toward the last, the lowest, the least, the leper, the sinner, the tax collector and the prostitute—no one is excluded. He was not hindered by prejudices of any kind and he ministered to the people of a Samaritan town. Jesus uses a Samaritan enemy in the parable story as a hero to puncture any pride in us that we might use to withhold love from someone we don’t like. Jesus, as God, loves all people and all creation. He calls us to join him and fulfill God’s law of love.

We know that we need to serve and protect the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the addict, the refugee and those who are suffering. These people and issues are around us in our places of work, school, and parishes but they are also in our own homes. It seems like it is much easier for us to care for them when they are strangers than when they are members of our own families. When we find ourselves drawing back or turning away from serving those close to us, we need to turn to God in love and ask for the love of Christ to dwell within us. God’s love gives us strength and courage to confront the things that need conversion in ourselves and others. God’s law of love brings healing and peace. Today we are reminded that “It is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.” May God bless you with the strength of his faithful love! +++ Fr. Peter

Pray For Vocations!

Peace to you and your house!

For the past couple of weeks the readings have called us to reflect upon the theme of vocation. Although I have not emphasized vocations to the priesthood and religious life in my homilies or articles, the readings certainly invite those who have not yet decided on a vocation to seriously search within and ask God for help in making a decision on which vocation to choose.

This weekend the Lord speaks on vocations to the priesthood and religious life when he says “ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” When we hear these words, we understand that we are to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. It is also very important for us to speak of these vocations frequently and in a positive manner to our sons and daughters and young people encouraging them to seriously consider this amazing call to serve God in a special way.

When Jesus sends the seventy two disciples, he expects them to work together by using their particular gifts and talents for the sake of one goal: establishing faith in the Gospel and forming lifestyles that manifest God’s presence and wisdom in the world. He sent them out empty handed so that they, like him, would grow in trust and confidence in God. They did not carry anything with them except what people desire the most, the peace of the kingdom and they blessed the people and homes they encountered with the gift of peace. When the disciples returned to Jesus they expressed amazement at the wonders that God worked through them.

For all those who have followed God’s call to the priesthood or religious life, these readings only begin to express how amazing it is to have such a wonderful life! For God is always active in accomplishing wonderful, mighty deeds in our world through his special servants. Just take a moment and think about the Eucharist and the whole dynamic around this event in our lives. There is no comparison for the wonder and power we receive and share through the Eucharist! Yet, if young men do not respond to God’s call, we won’t have it! If families do not encourage the priesthood and religious life, we suffer a form of poverty that is hard to estimate. Right now, St. Edward shares one priest where there were two. This 1 priest serves 3 communities. While St. Edward is fortunate enough to have Mass several times a week, the other 2 communities go hungry.

Please pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life and please encourage young people to do something truly special and amazing by letting go of everything else and following God. Thank you for your prayers and support! May God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter