Spirituality Matters 2018: May 17th - May 23rd

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(May 17, 2018: Thursday, Seventh Week of Easter)
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“Take courage…”

In a letter to Soeur de Soulfour, Francis de Sales offered this advice:

“Be like a little child who, while it knows that its mother is holding its sleeve, walks boldly and runs all around without being distressed at a stumble or fall; after all, it is as yet unsteady on its legs. In the same way, as long as you realize that God is holding on to you by your will and resolution to serve him go on boldly and do not be upset by your setbacks and falls. Continue on joyfully and with your heart as open and widely trustful as possible. If you cannot always be joyful, at least be brave and confident.” (Stopp, Selected Letters, pp. 45-46)

Be brave; be confident; be courageous.

Being courageous is not about being foolhardy. Being courageous (as we learn from the Italian word, coragio) is about being a person of heart. We all have issues in life; we all have difficulties in life; we all have setbacks in life; we all have heartaches in life. Often times what distinguishes triumph from tragedy in our attempts to deal with life’s challenges is whether we end up encouraged or discouraged, that is, whether we manage to maintain our hearts or whether we lose our hearts.

Today, consider the stumbles and falls that you have experienced in life. How have they left you? Encouraged or discouraged? Are you managing to keep your heart or are you losing it?

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(May 18, 2018: John I, Pope and Martyr)
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“Do you love me…?”

In a sermon preached at the Visitation monastery at Annecy on the seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost in 1618, Francis de Sales observed:

“God wants our love for Him to be a love of choice. He wants us to love Him with a love that chooses Him out from all others. He wants the love which we have for others to be just a faint reflection of the supreme love which we have for Him and to allow His love to reign supreme in our hearts.”

“Some foolish people claim that such a commandment to be impossible in this life. Such people make a big mistake! Our Lord would never have given this commandment without also giving us the power to set about doing it. Other people will say that we cannot love God with our whole heart, soul mind and strength; we must share some of our love with our families and friends. Had our Lord commanded us to love Him as the blessed do in heaven, there might be some point to their objection insofar as the love of the angels and the saints never changes; it is never interrupted. As for us, there are many things vying for our time and attention. Yet for all that, our love for God can be strong and unchanging even though we cannot always be actively showing it.” (Pulpit and Pew, pp. 222 - 223)

Francis de Sales concludes his sermon by asking this question: “How can you be sure that you love God?” He lists three “infallible signs:”

  1. “If you love God, you will seek His presence; you will yearn to be close to Him. You will seek Him, not for your own pleasure, but to please Him.”

  2. “The love of too many things dissipates our love and lessens its perfection. We are to love other things besides God, but always put Him first. Be forever ready to forego whomever and/or whatever else we may love as God’s pleasure may require.”

  3. “You are to love one another with a love similar to the love that God has for us – a love that is loyal and unchanging; a love that does not rely on outward appearances; a love that is not impatient of faults and imperfections; a love that is ever ready to lend a helping hand to further our neighbor’s good…all the ways in which God, in his goodness, shows his love for us.”
Do you love God? Jesus told Peter how he should show it!

Today how will you demonstrate your love for God?

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(May 19, 2018: Saturday, Seventh Week of Easter)
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“Who is the one who will betray you…?”

Well, the obvious answer is Judas. We know that he betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Later he regretted his betrayal and hanged himself.

Then again, Peter betrayed Jesus by denying that he even knew him - not once, not twice but three times. He regretted it almost immediately and went on to become “the rock” on which Jesus would build his Church. How about James and John? Didn’t they betray Jesus – in a way – by asking for places of honor at his left and at his right? In subsequent years they gave their lives for their faith.

It might make a great deal more sense – and require a lot less time – to ask this question: who is the one who has not betrayed Jesus? The answer would produce a much shorter list. After all, each of us betrays Jesus when we are focused upon our own benefit at the expense of others. Each of us betrays Jesus when we turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to the needs of others. Each of us betrays Jesus when we decide that we are not up to the challenges that come with being his disciples.

Each of us betrays Jesus when we sin.

Thanks be to God that Jesus doesn’t hold grudges. Thanks be to God that Jesus doesn’t settle old scores. Thanks be to God that Jesus doesn’t hold on to old hurts or betrayals. Imperfect as we are, Jesus continues to say to us, day in and day out: “Follow me”.

Thanks be to God!

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(May 20, 2018: Pentecost Sunday)
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“Each of us hears them speaking in our own tongue about the marvels that God has accomplished.”

Despite the fact that they were speaking to many people from many languages and many cultures, the apostles were understood by all of their listeners as they proclaimed the marvels that God had accomplished.

How was this possible?

Inflamed by the power of the Holy Spirit, the apostles were speaking the language of the heart. They were speaking with enthusiasm. They were speaking with gratitude. They were speaking with praise and thanksgiving. They were speaking from their core. They were speaking from their soul. In short, they were speaking the universal language – the language of the heart.

We are most human - we are also most divine - when we speak the language of the heart, when we speak the language of love, when we speak and listen from the soul and when we are grounded in the Word Made Flesh.

Communicating is often easier said than done. We misunderstand one another. We presume to know what others are thinking or feeling. We use the same words for which we have different meanings. We have different ways of saying the same thing. We hear, but we fail to listen. We are always talking, but we so seldom share something of the soul.

St. Francis de Sales tells us that the Holy Spirit comes to inflame the hearts of believers. When we speak and listen from hearts inflamed with joy, truth and gratitude, conflict gives way to understanding, confusion gives way to clarity, estrangement gives way to intimacy, hurt gives way to healing, frustration gives way to forgiveness, violence gives way to peace and sin gives way to salvation.

Today, be it through speaking or hearing, how might we become more fluent in the language of love?

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(May 21, 2018: Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Companions, Martyrs)
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“The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace…”

“Saint Cristóbal Magallanes Jara, also known as Christopher Magallanes (July 30, 1869 – May 25, 1927), is a martyr and saint venerated in the Catholic Church who was killed without trial on the way to say Mass during the Cristero War after the trumped-up charge of inciting rebellion.”

“He was born in Totatiche, Jalisco, Mexico on July 30, 1869. He was son of Rafael Magallanes Romero and Clara Jara Sanchez, who were farmers. He worked as a shepherd in his youth and enrolled in the Conciliar Seminary of San José in Guadalajara at the age of 19.”

“He was ordained at the age of 30 at the Santa Teresa Temple in Guadalajara in 1899 and served as chaplain of the School of Arts and Works of the Holy Spirit in Guadalajara. He was then designated as the parish priest for his home town of Totatiche, where he helped found schools and carpentry shops and assisted in planning for hydrological works, including the dam of La Candelaria. He took special interest in the evangelization of the local indigenous Huichol people and was instrumental in the foundation of the mission in the indigenous town of Azqueltán. When government decrees closed the seminary in Guadalajara in 1914, Magallanes offered to open a seminary in his parish. In July 1915, he opened the Auxiliary Seminary of Totatiche, which achieved a student body of 17 students by the following year and was recognized by the Archbishop of Guadalajara, José Francisco Orozco y Jiménez, who appointed a precept and two professors to the seminary.”

“Magallanes wrote and preached against armed rebellion, but was falsely accused of promoting the Cristero Rebellion in the area. Arrested on May 21, 1927, while en route to celebrate Mass at a farm, he gave away his few remaining possessions to his executioners, gave them absolution, and without a trial, he was killed four days later with Saint Agustín Caloca in Colotlán, Jalisco. His last words to his executioners were "I die innocent, and ask God that my blood may serve to unite my Mexican brethren." He was succeeded as parish priest of Totatiche by Fr. José Pilar Quezada Valdés, who went on to become the first bishop of the Archdiocese of Acapulco.” ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crist%C3%B3bal_Magallanes_Jara )

As in the case of many a martyr, a man who preached peace came to a violent end. How high a price are we willing to pay in our attempt to be sources of peace in the lives of others?


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(May 22, 2018: Rita of Cascia, Religious)
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“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

“From an early age Rita desired to become a nun, but her parents insisted that she marry at the age of twelve. Rita did so in obedience to them. Adding to her disappointment, the man her parents arranged for her to marry was cruel and harsh, and she spent 18 years in a very difficult marriage. Her husband eventually became physically abusive, yet she met his cruelty with kindness and patience. Two sons were born to her whom she loved deeply. After many years she eventually won her husband over to greater civility and kindness.”

“In the 14th century Italy was rampant with warring families caught in a vicious circle of assassinations and bloody vendettas (think Romeo and Juliet). Rita’s family was caught up in this strife that was so entrenched in society at that time. Her husband was murdered as a result of the infamous rivalry between the aristocratic families of the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. Rita mourned her husband’s death and interceded for his soul with great earnest.”

“Rita’s two young sons, in keeping with the vice of the day, talked of avenging their father’s death. She did all she could to guide her children into forgiveness, but was unable to dissuade them from their evil intentions. Prayer was her only hope. She pleaded with God that he would prevent the evil swelling up in the hearts of her sons, or allow them to die before they had the chance to commit a mortal sin. Both of her sons fell sick and died within a year.”

“After the death of her husband and her sons, Rita was all alone in the world and sought again to enter the convent, as had been her desire from childhood. She was turned away because of her family’s association with the civil strife; some of the sisters living in the convent were family relations of the men who were responsible for killing her husband. To maintain peace in the convent, she was denied entry. Facing crushing disappointment and yet another impossible situation, Rita had recourse to prayer and the intercession of the saints. Her sincerity and spirit of charity and forgiveness prevailed, and she was eventually granted entry into the convent. She became known as a holy and prayerful woman, often meditating on the sufferings of the crucified Christ.”

“St. Rita certainly had a difficult life, but her heartbreaking circumstances drove her to prayer and helped her to become a holy woman. She began her work of intercession for sinners while she lived, starting with those closest to her heart. Through her love and prayers she won the grace of conversion for her husband and both of her sons. Canonized in 1900, St. Rita is the patron of impossible causes, sterility, abuse victims, loneliness, marriage difficulties, parenthood, widows, the sick, and bodily ills and wounds.” ( https://www.catholiccompany.com/getfed/st-rita-of-cascia-patron-saint-of-the-impossible/ )

Throughout all the difficulties that she experienced in life, St. Rita consistently drew close – and kept close – to God. In the midst of our trials and tribulations, do we do the same?

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(May 23, 2018: Wednesday, Seventh Week in Ordinary Time)
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“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit’– you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow.

In this selection from the letter of James, we hear in one of Jesus’ disciples wisdom from the Master himself. In the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 6: 28 – 36), Jesus observed:

“Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

Let’s be clear – it’s prudent to have a plan. It’s prudent to prepare for tomorrow. It

is only natural to anticipate what the future may bring. But, as our own lived experience repeatedly reminds us, the only time we actually have at our disposal is today: now, this hour and this moment. We can hope for tomorrow, but we can’t always count on tomorrow.

Of course, Jesus’ insight was clearly not lost on Francis de Sales. In a letter of spiritual direction, Francis wrote:

“Do not look forward to what might happen tomorrow. The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.”

With an eye to tomorrow, let us do our level best to pursue that which is within our power – to live TODAY well!