Spirituality Matters 2018: October 4th - October 10th

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(October 4, 2018: Francis of Assisi)
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Today we celebrate the life and legacy of St. Francis of Assisi. In his book entitled This Saint’s for You, Thomas J. Craughwell wrote:

“It is the rare Christian who does not get all syrupy about St. Francis of Assisi’s love or animals. Blame it on all those garden statues of Francis with a bunny curled up at his feet and little birds chirping on his shoulder. In real life, Francis’ view of animals was theological rather than sentimental. Animals form part of God’s creation, and, as the Book of Genesis tells us, everything in creation is good. No doubt Francis loved bunnies and birds, but he also loved spiders and snakes – and that is the challenge. Francis saw the world as an immense God-ordered system in which everything plays the role assigned to it by the Creator, and therefore every creature, whether it’s cute and cuddly or not, has value.” ( This Saint’s for You, p. 31)

“One story in particular spotlights Francis’ belief in restoring the balance between man and beast. The town of Gubbio was plagued by a ferocious wolf that had carried off lambs, calve and other livestock – it have even killed small children. Afraid that the wolf would attack them, the people refused to travel outside the city walls. Declaring he was not afraid, Francis went outside the town in search of the wolf and hadn’t gone very far when he found the creature. ‘Brother Wolf,’ said Francis, ‘you have been stealing livestock that does not belong to you and frightening your neighbors. In the name of the Lord of Heaven, I command you to stop.’ The wolf drooped its head and lay on the ground at Francis’ feet. The Saint then turned to the townspeople, saying, ‘Brother Wolf will not trouble you or your animals, but in return you must feed him every day.’ The people of Gubbio agreed, and every day the wolf came to town for a meal. He became the town’s unofficial pet, and when he died the heartbroken townspeople had a sculpture of him carved and placed over the door of one of the town’s churches, where it remains to this day.” (This Saint’s for You, pp. 31-32)

In the case of Francis of Assisi, Jesus sent him out - literally - as a lamb to confront a wolf. In all our lives there are many things in life with which we must deal - some of them “cute and cuddly,” others life-threatening. Jesus gave him the power he needed to deal with any number of challenges, both ordinary and extraordinary.

And so we pray: God, help us to follow the example of Francis of Assisi (for whom St. Francis de Sales was named). Give us the power to combat things we experience as fearsome or ferocious with confidence, patience, gentleness and love.

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(October 5, 2018: Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, Priest and Missionary)
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“I am of little account; what can I answer you?”

When you really think about it, it is somewhat presumptuous to speak to God, to ask God questions, to seek God’s favor or to suggest to God that there might be betters ways of doing things. After all, as the reading from the Book of Job reminds us, who has a greater resume than God?

So, what is our takeaway from today’s selection from the Book of Job? Perhaps, many a day the essence of our prayer should be less about how to speak to God and more about listening to God, specifically, how deeply God loves us and desires that we love one another. If we should need to answer God, consider using these words: “Thank you”.

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(October 6, 2018: Blessed Marie Rose Durocher, Religious/Founder)
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“I give you praise, Father, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike…”

In Catholic Online, we read:

“Eulalie Durocher was born on October 6, 1811, at St. Antoine in Quebec, Canada. She was the youngest of ten children. After her education at the hands of the Sisters of Notre Dame, she helped her brother, a parish priest, and in the process established the first Canadian parish Sodality for young women. In 1843, she was invited by Bishop Bourget to found a new congregation of women dedicated to Christian education. Accordingly she founded the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary and took the religious name of Marie Rose. Under her saintly and able leadership, her community flourished in spite of all kinds of obstacles - including great poverty and ongoing criticism – as she remained unswerving in her concern for the poor and uneducated. Worn out by her many labors, Marie Rose died on October 6, 1849, at the age of thirty-eight. She was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II on May 23, 1982.”( http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=402 )

While Mary Rose Durocher may not have been very wise or very learned, she was clearly smart enough to accept the graces and gifts that God offered to her. In addition, she was courageous enough to accept God’s invitation to share with others – especially the poor and marginalized – what she herself had received from God.

Mary Rose Durocher is living proof that you don’t have to be a genius to be smart: you simply need to accept what it is – and who it is – that God offers to you.

Each and every day.

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(October 7, 2018: Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time)
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“It is not good for man to be alone.”

Today’s readings remind us of our need to have profound respect for one another. Today’s readings speak of the reverence we should have for every human being. Today’s readings speak of the care and concern that we should have for all creation.

More importantly, the readings speak of a deeper truth – ab out the God in whose image and likeness we are created and we are not meant to live alone.

Francis de Sales wrote:

“God has signified to us in so many ways and by so many means that God wills all of us to be saved that no one can be ignorant of this fact. For this purpose, through Creation God made us in his own image and likeness; by the Incarnation, God has made himself in our image and likeness…God’s goodness moves God to communicate liberally to us the help of divine grace so that we may come to the joy of his glory…” ( Treatise on the Love of God, Book VIII, Chapter 4)

Just as God communicates with us, we are meant to live in communion with one another.

In his Conferences, Francis spells out how being ourselves leads us to be in relationships with others.

“The sweet and loving bond of holy love will be continually drawn tighter and closer as we advance farther and farther along the road of our own perfection. As we become more and more capable of union with God, we shall unite ourselves closer and closer to one another…At each communion, which we make, our union will be rendered more perfect, for, uniting ourselves with Our Lord, we shall remain always more closely united together, and therefore this is why the holy reception of this celestial Bread and of this most adorable Sacrament is called Communion: that is to say, common union.” (Conference VI, On Hope)

Fundamentally, Francis de Sales tells us that we are born to love – God and one another. We are made for relationship. Much of who we are – much more of who we could be – can only become reality through the relationships we establish and nurture with others.

To be sure, we need to be ourselves. We need to grow in self-knowledge and self-acceptance. We need to embrace our strengths and our weaknesses. We need to consider what we can do on our own. We need to accept what we cannot do on our own. But none of these action happen in a vacuum: the fullness of whom God calls us to be is found precisely in our relationships with one another.

Not only is it not good for man to be alone. We can only be fully human when we live in communion with God…and with one another.

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(October 8, 2018: Monday, Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time )
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“What is written in the law? How do you read it?”

Jesus raises a great question in today’s Gospel. And the person to whom he directs it – a “scholar of the law” – would appreciate the power of the question. Any student of the law – and in particular, anyone who practices law – knows that it isn’t enough just to know the letter of the law, but it’s also important to know how to “read” – that is, to interpret – the law so as to know how best to apply it.

This dilemma brings us to the best – albeit, if not the most concise – answer to that question - the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Talk about a study in contrast! Two so-called experts in the letter of the law – the priest and the Levite - failed miserably because they did not offer any assistance to the man who fell victim to robbers. And the other hand, the Samaritan – a man who may have known very little if any law – followed the law of compassion and common sense by tending to the needs of this unfortunate stranger by being a good neighbor.

Of course, the most important law for those who follow Jesus is the Gospel, that is, the Law of Love, a love so clearly embodied by Jesus as well as by his mother, Mary. It’s important for us to have a working knowledge of that Law; it’s important for us to know how to read or interpret that Law. More important, however, than knowing or interpreting it is our willingness to put the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the Law of Love – into practice.

Today, in what ways can we be Good Samaritans - that is, good, just and compassionate neighbors?

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(October 9, 2018: John Leonardi, Priest and Founder)
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“You are anxious and worried about many things…”

In his Introduction to a Devout Life, Francis de Sales wrote:

“Anxiety is not a simple temptation but a source from which and by which many temptations arise. With the single exception of sin, anxiety is the greatest evil that can happen to a soul. Just as sedition and internal disorders bring total ruin on a State and leave it helpless to resist a foreign invader, so also, if our heart is inwardly troubled and disturbed it loses both the strength necessary to maintain the virtues it had acquired and the means to resist the temptations of the enemy. He then uses his utmost efforts to fish, as they say, in troubled waters.” …” ( IDL, Part IV, Chapter 11, pp. 251-252)

Martha was obviously overwhelmed by her desire to do right by Jesus, when it came to the practice of hospitality. Apparently more obvious to Jesus, however, was the fact that Martha was “anxious and worried about many things.” This issue of wanting to be the perfect host and whining about needing help with the serving seems to have been the tip of the iceberg.

We should want to put our best foot forward when entertaining guests. We should want to give worthwhile things our best effort. We should want to do things well. We should want to get it right the first time.

And when we don’t? Then deal with it! Learn from it and move beyond it without being all worked up and anxious about it. Anxiety not only ruins good things, but it also makes bad things even worse.

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(October 10, 2018: Wednesday, Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time)
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Lord, teach us to pray

In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray. Of course, a more fundamental question might have been, “Teach us why we should pray.”

In a letter written to a young woman who was – you guessed it – experiencing difficulty when praying, Francis de Sales wrote:

“First, we pray to give God the honor and homage we owe Him. This can be done without His speaking to us or we to Him, for this duty is paid by remembering that He is God and we are His creatures and by remaining prostrate in spirit before him, awaiting His commands.

“Second, we pray in order to speak with God and to hear Him speak to us by inspirations and movements in the interior of our soul. Generally this is done with a very delicious pleasure, because it is a great good for us to speak to so great a Lord. When He answers He spreads abroad a thousand precious balms and unguents which give great sweetness to the soul.”

“So, one of these two goods can never fail you in prayer. If we speak to our Lord, let us speak, let us praise Him, beseech Him and listen to Him. If we cannot use our voice, still let us stay in the room and do reverence to Him. He will see us there. He will accept our patience and will favor our silence. At other times we shall be quite amazed to be taken by the hand and he will converse with us, and will make a hundred turns with us in the walks of His garden of prayer. And if He should never do these things, let us be content with our duty of being in His suite and with the great grace and too great honor He does us in accepting our presence…” ( Thy Will be Done, pp. 26-27)

So, why should we pray? Well, either (1) to remind ourselves of whom God is in our lives, or (2) to remind ourselves of whom God wants us to be in relationship with Him and each other. Regardless of how many, how few or if any words we may use in the process of praying, may God give us the grace to (1) do what we pray and (2) pray what we do.

Today and every day!