Spirituality Matters 2016: November 17th - November 23rd

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(November 17, 2016: Elizabeth of Hungary)
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“If this day you only knew what makes for peace…”

St. Francis de Sales cited St. Elizabeth’s heroic virtue in his Introduction to the Devout Life, drawing a direct line between her practice of charity and Jesus’ challenge to live a life of Beatitude:

“St. Elizabeth, daughter of the king of Hungary, often visited the poor. O God how poor was this princess in the midst of all her riches and how rich was her poverty! ‘Blessed are they who are poor in this manner, for to them belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was cold and you clothed me; come possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ He who is the King of the poor and of the rich alike will say this at the great judgment.” (IDL, Part III, Chapter 15, p. 166)

The surest path to peace is to pursue a life of justice. Elizabeth of Hungary pursued justice by sharing her good fortune with others.

Today, how might we imitate her example by sharing our good fortune with others?

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(November 18, 2016: Rose Philippine Duchesne, Religious)
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“You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues….”

“Rose Philippine Duchesne was the daughter of Pierre-Francois Duchesne, an eminent lawyer, and her mother, Rose Euphrosine Perier, who was a member of the well-known Perier family. She was educated by the sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary; at the age of 19 she (without her family’s approval) subsequently joined the community. Rose witnessed the Visitation’s dispersion in 1792 during the French Revolution's Reign of Terror. She attempted to re-establish of the convent of Ste-Marie-d'en-Haut, near Grenoble without success, and in 1804, she accepted the offer of Mother Barat to receive her Visitation community into the Society of the Sacred Heart. In 1815, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne established a Sacred Heart community in Paris.”

“In 1818, Rose Philippine Duchesne sailed for America with several other members of the Society. They arrived in New Orleans and traveled the Louisiana territory via the Mississippi River, ending up in St. Charles, Missouri, near St Louis, where she established the first house of the Society ever built outside of France in a log cabin. By the year 1828, six houses had been added in America including a foundation serving the Potawatomi tribe in a portion of the Louisiana Territory that would eventually become (in 1861) the state of Kansas. In time the Native Americans referred to her as the “Woman Who Prays Always.”

“Inspired by the stories of Belgian Father Pierre De Smet, S.J., Duchesne was determined to expand the Society into the Rocky Mountains, but illness forced her to return to St. Charles, where she spent the last ten years of her life, dying at the age of 83. She was canonized on July 3, 1988 by Pope John Paul II.” (http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=377)

The Lord helped Rose Philippine Duchesne to see that the end of her local Visitation community in the land of her birth did not mean the end of her having a purpose in life; in fact, it was a new beginning in the New World. Her initial misfortune paved the way for a long and fruitful ministry in places and with people that could only have happened if she had a reason to leave Grenoble. No doubt that Rose eventually came to see that in closing one door in her life God subsequently opened a window - and a pretty big window at that!

Today, when a misfortune, disappointment or setback comes our way, do we – like Rose Philippine Duchesne - have the courage to see them through the eyes of faith?

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(November 19, 2016: Saturday, Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time)
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“He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

In his commentary on today’s passage from Luke’s Gospel, William Barclay observed:

“Jesus gave the Sadducees an answer that has a permanently valid truth to it. He said that we must not think of heaven in terms of this earth. Life there will be quite different because we will be quite different. It would save a mass of misdirected ingenuity – and no small amount of heartache – if we ceased to speculate on what heaven is like and left such things to the love of God.” (pp. 250-251)

But there is also another takeaway from today’s Gospel, according to Barclay:

“Out of this arid passage emerges a great truth for anyone who teaches or who wishes to commend Christianity to one’s fellows . Jesus used arguments that the people he was arguing with could understand. Jesus talked to them in their own language; he met them on their own ground; and that is precisely why the common people heard him gladly.” (251)

William Barclay’s insight here is very much in keeping with Fr. Brisson’s understanding of one of the fundamental qualities of Salesian spirituality – if you want to speak to the hearts of people, you (1) need to meet them where they are and (2) use words that they can understand.

How might we “Live + Jesus” just this day by meeting others where they are…and speaking to them in ways that they can understand?

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(November 20, 2016: Jesus Christ, King of the Universe)
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“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

St. Francis de Sales tells us in the Introduction to the Devout Life:

“Consider the eternal love that God has borne you. Before our Lord Jesus Christ as man suffered on the Cross for you, His Divine Majesty by His Sovereign Goodness already foresaw your existence and loved you exceedingly.” (Introduction, Part V, Chapter 14)

Tempted as he was by the voices around him to use his kingly power for his own relief or benefit, Jesus spent his last moments –– his few remaining breaths –– for the good of others. It was with love that he promised Paradise to the Good Thief who spoke words of humility and contrition.

On this feast of the Kingship of Christ, the Church presents us with two images: David, the shepherd-warrior, anointed by his people to be their king and Jesus, the only true king, rejected by the people, crucified and ridiculed. In David the kingship of Israel was established so that from it could come the Redeemer of all people. But how did Jesus live out his call to be king? According to St. Francis de Sales it was by “the perfect abandonment into the hands of the heavenly Father and this perfect indifference in whatever is his divine will.” (St. Francis de Sales Sermons for Lent, Good Friday, 1622)

To Jesus, being king meant being one with his Father. He lived in perfect union with God. As Paul tells us in the letter to the Colossians, “He is the image of the invisible God.” To Jesus, being king meant giving all for others. He gave his all to each person at every moment. We see this giving in his words to the repentant criminal on the Cross: Jesus spoke only of mercy and acceptance.

We are called to do the same. As Christians our first care must be union with our God: “Lord, it is good for me to be with you, whether you be upon the Cross or in your glory.” (Introduction, Part IV, Chapter XIII) St. Francis de Sales tells us in the Treatise on the Love of God: “Mount Calvary is the mount of lovers.” (Book XII, Chapter XIII) After the example of our King, we must speak words of mercy and acceptance. Like Jesus, we are not called to condemn or reject but only to love.

St. Leonie Aviat, OSFS lived the humble, self-giving life portrayed in today’s Scriptures. She recognized and experienced the meaning of authentic royalty and of royal power: spending one’s life with God for others. As a young founder of a religious community, the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales, Mother Aviat pledged to “forget myself entirely” and to “work for the happiness of others.” This call to follow Christ resounded in her every word and act, as she worked to give people here on earth a foretaste of the Paradise that Christ promises to all those who remember him.

Perhaps that’s the point. What better way to ask God to remember us when he comes into his kingdom than by reminding ourselves of the presence of God in each day, hour and moment here and now? What better way to join Christ in Paradise than by remembering to reach out to others here on earth?

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(November 21, 2016: Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
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“She has offered her whole livelihood…”

In a conference to the Sisters of the Visitation, Francis de Sales observed:

“The esteem in which humility holds all good gifts, namely, faith hope and charity, is the foundation of generosity of spirit. Take notice that the first gifts of which we spoke belong to the exercise of humility and the others to generosity. Humility believes that it can do nothing, considering its poverty and weakness as far as depends on ourselves. On the contrary, generosity makes us say with St. Paul, ‘I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.’ Humility makes us distrust ourselves, whereas generosity makes us trust in God. You see, then that humility and generosity are so closely joined and united to one another that they are and never can be separated.” (Conferences, “On Generosity” pp. 75-76)

We see this humility and generosity on display in today’s Gospel. Whereas some wealthy people who contributed to the temple treasury were relying more on themselves for their welfare (they made sure that they had plenty for themselves in reserve) before giving to others, the poor widow – we are told – gave to the treasury without squirreling something away for herself first, suggesting that she was relying more on God for her welfare. The wealthy contributed with conditions; the widow contributed without conditions.

Today, whether we have a lot or a little, what steps can we take to store up riches less for ourselves and more for others?

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(November 22, 2016: Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr)
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“When you hear of wars and insurrections do not be terrified…”

In this age of 24-7 news cycles, one could be forgiven for being “terrified” from time to time. After all, we never seem to get a break. Whether around the corner or around the world, we are constantly exposed to a never-ending dose of unsettling news reports: stories of violence, accounts of revenge and descriptions of disasters. One could make the argument that you would have to be crazy to be unconcerned or unaffected by reports of economic, social, political and/or military turmoil!

In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales observed:

“With the single exception of sin, anxiety is the greatest evil than can happen to a soul. Just as sedition and internal disorders bring total ruin to a state and leave it helpless to resist a foreign invader, so also if our hearts are inwardly troubled and disturbed they lose both the strength necessary to maintain the virtues they had acquired and the means to resist the temptations of the enemy. He then uses his utmost to fish – as they say – in troubled waters.” (IDL, Part IV, Chapter 11, pp. 251-252)

Francis de Sales believed that people should be informed. We should be aware – and where applicable, concerned – about the things that are happening around us. More importantly, however, is the need to know what is happening inside of us. We need to know the state of our mind and heart. After all, sometimes the effects of the “wars and insurrections” that may surround us are nothing in comparison with the “wars and insurrections” that rage within us!

Trouble is a part of life. Don’t make it worse by allowing it to trouble you on the inside to the point where you can’t manage it on the outside - for your own sake, as well as for the sake of those who depend on you.

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(November 23, 2016: Miguel Augustin Pro, Priest and Martyr)
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“They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.”

Today the Chruch celebrates the life, legacy and ultimate sacrifice made by Blessed Miguel Pro

“Born on January 13, 1891 in Guadalupe, Mexico, Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez was, from an early age, both remarkably spiritual and equally mischievousness, frequently exasperating his family with humor and practical jokes. Miguel was particularly close to his older sister and after she entered a cloistered convent, he eventually recognized his own vocation to the priesthood. Although he was popular with the senoritas and had prospects of a lucrative career managing his father's thriving business concerns, Miguel the Jesuit novitiate in El Llano, Michoacan in 1911.

“He studied in Mexico until 1914, when tsunami of anti-Catholicism swept through Mexico, forcing the novitiate to disband. Miguel and his brother seminarians trekked through Texas and New Mexico before arriving at the Jesuit house in Los Gatos, California. In 1915, Miguel was sent to a seminary in Spain; in 1924, he went to Belgium where he was ordained a priest in 1925. Miguel suffered from a severe stomach problem and after three operations, when his health did not improve, his superiors, in 1926, allowed him to return to Mexico in spite of the grave religious persecution in that country.”

“Back in his native land, churches were closed and priests went into hiding. Miguel spent the rest of his life in an attempt to sturdy and strengthen Mexican Catholics. In addition to fulfilling their spiritual needs, he also carried out works of mercy by trying to meet the temporal needs of the poor in Mexico City. To protect his real identity he used a number of disguises while carrying out his clandestine ministry. He would arrive in the middle of the night dressed as a beggar to baptize infants, bless marriages and celebrate Mass. He would appear in jail dressed as a police officer to bring Holy Viaticum to condemned Catholics. When going to fashionable neighborhoods to procure money food and other resources for the poor, he would show up at the doorstep dressed as a fashionable businessman with a fresh flower on his lapel. Falsely accused in the attempted assassination of a former Mexican president, Miguel became a hunted man. Betrayed to the police by an informer, he was sentenced to death without the benefit of any legal process. On the day of his execution (which the Mexican president personally ordered to have photographed and filmed), Fr. Pro forgave his executioners, prayed, refused the blindfold and died proclaiming, ‘Viva Cristo Rey.’” (http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=86)

Miguel Pro was courageous in the face of persecution, arrest, imprisonment and execution.

How might we imitate his courage just this day by serving the needs of others…in the name of Christ the King?

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