Staying Awake

Dear Friends,

In light of the strongest recommendations from our local health department and the head of the regional Coronavirus Task force, Dr. Garza, we will continue to Worship daily, including Friday Devotions, but we will not have any other gatherings in our meeting spaces.

As this year comes to a close and we enter the Season of Advent, our desire to begin again is palpable. The ongoing spread of the Coronavirus and Covid-19, together with the unrest in communities throughout the world, leave us in a time of exile. This is what Isaiah is praying about in the first reading on the First Sunday of Advent. I am attaching a beautiful reflection from Fr. Ron Rollheiser; it names what we are experiencing and lifts our eyes to hope.

I encourage all of us to be mindful of one another in prayer. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

 

Staying Awake

In his autobiography, Report to Greco, Nikos Kazantzakis recounts a conversation he once had with an old monk. Kazantzakis, a young man at the time, was visiting a monastery and was very taken by a famed ascetic, Father Makarios, who lived there. But a series of visits with the old monk left him with some ambivalent feelings as well. The monk’s austere lifestyle stirred a certain religious romanticism in Kazantzakis, but it repelled him too; he wanted the romanticism, but in a more-palatable way. Here’s their conversation as Kazantzakis records it:

Yours is a hard life, Father. I too want to be saved. Is there no other way?”

More agreeable?” asked the ascetic, smiling compassionately.

More human, Father.”

One, only one.”

What is that?”

Ascent. To climb a series of steps. From the full stomach to hunger, from the slaked throat to thirst, from joy to suffering. God sits at the summit of hunger, thirst, and suffering; the devil sits at the summit of the comfortable life. Choose.”

I am still young. The world is nice.  I have time to choose.”

 Reaching out, the old monk touched my knee and said:

Wake up, my child. Wake up before death wakes you up.”

 I shuddered and said:

I am still young.”

Death loves the young,” the old man replied. “The inferno loves the young. Life is like a lighted candle, easily extinguished. Take care—wake up!”

We are very much asleep, both to God and to our own lives.

Wake up! Wake up before death wakes you up. In a less dramatic expression that’s a virtual leitmotif in the Gospels. Jesus is always telling us to wake up, to stay awake, to be vigilant, to be more alert to a deeper reality. What’s meant by that? How are we asleep to depth? How are we to wake up and stay awake?

How are we asleep? All of us know how difficult it is for us to be inside the present moment, to not be asleep to the real riches inside our own lives. The distractions and worries of daily life tend to so consume us that we habitually take for granted what’s most precious to us, our health, the miracle of our senses, the love and friendships that surround us, and the gift of life itself. We go through our daily lives not only with a lack of reflectiveness and lack of gratitude but with a habitual touch of resentment as well, a chronic, grey depression, Robert Moore calls it. We are very much asleep, both to God and to our own lives.

How do we wake up? Today there’s a rich literature that offers us all kinds of advice on how to get into the present moment so as to be awake to the deep riches inside our own lives. While much of this literature is good, little of it is very effective. It invites us to live each day of our lives as if was our last day, but we simply can’t do that. It’s impossible to sustain that kind of intentionality and awareness over a long period of time. An awareness of our mortality does wake us up, as does a stroke, a heart attack, or cancer; but that heightened-awareness is easier to sustain for a short season of our lives than it is for twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty years. Nobody can sustain that kind of awareness all the time. None of us can live seventy or eighty years as if each day was his or her last day. Or can we?

Spiritual wisdom offers a nuanced answer here: We can and we can’t!  On the one hand, the distractions, cares, and pressures of everyday life will invariably have their way with us and we will, in effect, fall asleep to what’s deeper and more important inside of life. But it’s for this reason that every major spiritual tradition has daily rituals designed precisely to wake us from spiritual sleep, akin to an alarm clock waking us from physical sleep.

It’s for this reason we need to begin each day with prayer. What happens if we don’t pray on a given morning is not that we incur God’s wrath, but rather that we tend to miss the morning, spending the hours until noon trapped inside a certain dullness of heart.

The same can be said about praying before meals. We don’t displease God by not first centering ourselves in gratitude before eating, but we miss out on the richness of what we’re doing. Liturgical prayer and the Eucharist have the same intent, among their other intentions. They’re meant to, regularly, call us out of a certain sleep.

None of us lives each day of our lives as if it was his or her last day. Our heartaches, headaches, distractions, and busyness invariably lull us to sleep. That’s forgivable; it’s what it means to be human. So we should ensure that we have regular spiritual rituals, spiritual alarm clocks, to jolt us back awake—so that it doesn’t take a heart attack, a stroke, cancer, or death to
wake us up.

Ron Rolheiser

 

Priorities at the Polls

As Catholics approach the polls, we are asked to weigh many important issues. The U.S. bishops have reaffirmed that “the threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed.” While they did warn us not to “dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty, and the death penalty,” they did give priority to upholding and defending our brothers’ and sisters’ most basic right—to live.

Abortion tragically ends someone’s life when he or she is most vulnerable and most in need of loving protection. Abortion is an intrinsic evil, meaning that it is never permitted or morally justified, regardless of individual circumstances or intentions. The personal and societal consequences of attacks against human life, whether at its earliest stages or at its final stages, are all the more serious because most often they are “carried out in the very heart of and with the complicity of the family—the family which by its nature is called to be the ‘sanctuary of life.’” This is the place where a person should be most loved, cherished, and protected.

Catholics are called to defend human life wherever it is threatened and stand up for human dignity wherever it is violated. The enormous number of human lives destroyed by abortion is one factor that elevates its importance. The most recent available data indicates over 2,000 children per day die from abortion in the United States. Since abortion was legalized in 1973, over 61 million children have been killed—and untold numbers of women and men suffer in the aftermath.

The tragedy of abortion is also distinct in that it is currently legal to directly and intentionally take the life of an innocent human being. Current laws in our country fail to protect the lives of unborn children. Our highest Court does not recognize children in their mothers’ wombs as persons and claims that abortion is a constitutional right. Further, many political leaders work actively to increase access to abortion. Some falsely describe it as health care and even as a basic human right.

People of good will must boldly stand up against this intrinsic evil, especially when it is occurring on a massive scale, implemented in law and funded, in some instances, by the government. As believers and citizens inspired by the Gospel and guided by the shepherds of our Church, we must do what we can to end violence in the womb, to ensure that unborn children are fully recognized and protected by our laws, and to support mothers and fathers in embracing life.

Fall Blood Drive: Sunday, October 18, 2020

Our Fall blood drive will take place on Sunday, October 18, in the Parish Center from 7:45 am – till 12:00 noon.  Bring a photo ID and eat a good breakfast prior to donation. Donors receive either a special t-shirt or a $5 gift certificate.  Due to social distancing standards, appointments are required. To schedule, go to www.bloodcenter.org or contact Parish Nurse Diane Huck, 353-1255, Ext. 106.

Please consider giving this special gift of life which is needed more than ever during this time of the coronavirus. 

Don’t Be Distracted from the Path of Love

Dear Friends,

As we look out upon the world we are like Jesus looking out over Jerusalem (Mt 23:37); the sadness and the pain are so deep within us and all around us, we cannot imagine what to do. Jesus’ tears become a call to us to follow him; his next steps are into the city he loves, where he will be arrested, scourged, ridiculed and crucified. Jesus pours out his life, revealing the only way to bring about true peace. We must follow him in the way of self-surrendering love. We cannot let fear, nor anger, nor misunderstanding, distract us from the path of love. We know darkness will yield to light, violence to peace, death to life.

We will gather on the evening of Wednesday, September 9, to pray for peace. And even now, please set your hearts on Christ, who shows us the way, for He is the way, the truth and the life.

In Wake of Kenosha Violence, U.S. Bishops’ Chairman for Committee Against Racism Urges Day of Prayer and Fasting

AUGUST 27, 2020 BY PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE

WASHINGTON – This Friday, August 28 marks the 57th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington where Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech. In this historic address, he proclaimed that when the builders of our nation wrote the words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, “they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism offered a reflection on Dr. King’s iconic words on the anniversary:

“That promissory note must be satisfied. On this Friday’s anniversary, in the midst of our country’s ongoing racial unrest, we restate our commitment to peacefully seeking racial justice. We stand in solidarity with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee, which serves the City of Kenosha, who earlier this week said, ‘Violence can never be the means to attain peace and justice. The Church stands as a beacon of hope. The sins of violence, injustice, racism, and hatred must be purged from our communities with acts of mercy, with the protection and care for the dignity of every human person, with respect for the common good, and with an unwavering pursuit of equality and peace.’

“We reiterate the value of those whose human life and dignity in this country are marginalized through racism and our need to fight for them including the unborn. Considering the violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and in other cities across the nation, we urge all people of faith to observe August 28 or the Feast of St. Peter Claver on September 9 as a day of fasting and prayer. We urge Catholics to consider attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and offer your participation in reparation for sins of racism to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We invite the faithful to also consider praying the rosary, the USCCB’s Prayer Service for Racial Healing, and for the intercession of the saints who have fought for racial equality such as St. Katharine Drexel and St. Peter Claver. We must continue to engage the battle against the current evils of our society and in the words of Dr. King, refuse to believe ‘that the bank of justice is bankrupt.’ Dr. King’s dream, as he himself said, is deeply rooted in the American Dream. Let us not forget the price that he and so many courageous witnesses of all faiths and creeds paid to bring us to this moment.”

Let Our Hearts Break

Today is the Feast of St. Bonaventure, a 13 Century Franciscan, mystic and Doctor of the Church.  I share with you his beautiful reflection inviting us to gaze upon Christ Crucified.  I am also sharing a poem from a more recent Jesuit, Michael Moynahan, which invites us to reflect on the Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat in Sunday’s Gospel.

I pray these two reflections might encourage us to “let our hearts break.”  We are in such strange times these days; it is altogether too much….for us, but never for God.  While the Covid-19 pandemic continues to literally plague us, we are asked to enter into dialogue around race, indeed to confront the cultural plague of racism, to heal an unhealed wound the depth of which seems impossible to measure.  And all the while, naturally enough, there are extreme voices on every side of every issue, seemingly hundreds of voices, which would rather ruin us than seek the communion which God has promised in the very midst of our suffering.  

My heart breaks when you tell me you cannot receive visitors in your home, or even leave your room for fresh air.  My heart breaks when my brother priest is ridiculed for praying on Art Hill.  My heart breaks when a friend sends me a diatribe about “the real truth” which resonates in me as exactly contrary to the Gospel.  My heart breaks when another priest dies from Covid-19.  My heart breaks when I count the number of close African American friends I have in my life…zero.  

And when I feel my heart breaking I so wish I could run and hide somewhere to prevent the breaking; yet it must break; I must be broken, just as Jesus is broken.  I must carry my breaking heart into relationship with my brothers and sisters.  From my brokenness I need to share my story and listen to all the stories of my brothers and sisters.  It is only in our vulnerability, our surrender as Bonaventure says, that we find our way through to resurrection life.  This is what it means to be born again and again and again; to suffer, die, spend three days in the tomb and awaken to newness of life.

Please remember, too, my friends: The victory has been won.  Our love for one another is eternal and the Kingdom of God is at hand.  Let us pray for eyes to see and ears to hear God’s glory all around us, and for the courage to make it so.  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

 

From The Journey of the Mind to God by St. Bonaventure

Mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit

Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages. A man should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ a pasch, that is, a passing-over. Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulchre, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: Today you will be with me in paradise.

For this passover to be perfect, we must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul. Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.

If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervour and glowing love. The fire is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardour of his loving passion. Only he understood this who said: My soul chose hanging and my bones death. Anyone who cherishes this kind of death can see God, for it is certainly true that: No man can look upon me and live.

Let us die, then, and enter into the darkness, silencing our anxieties, our passions and all the fantasies of our imagination. Let us pass over with the crucified Christ from this world to the Father, so that, when the Father has shown himself to us, we can say with Philip: It is enough. We may hear with Paul: My grace is sufficient for you; and we can rejoice with David, saying: My flesh and my heart fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and my heritage for ever. Blessed be the Lord for ever, and let all the people say: Amen. Amen!

 

Litany of Contradictory Things, by Michael Moynahan, SJ (adapted)

Wheat and weeds:
let them grow together.

Arabs and Jews in Palestine:
let them grow together.

Greeks and Turks of the Balkans:
let them grow together.

Catholics and Protestants:
let them grow together.

Documented and undocumented aliens:
let them grow together.

Immigrants and Native Americans:
let them grow together.

Blacks and Whites:
let them grow together.

Sikhs and Hindus of India:
let them grow together.

Revolutionaries and reactionaries:
let them grow together.

Russians and Americans:
let them grow together.

Religious leaders who lay and and lighten burdens:
let them grow together.

Disciples prone to boasts and betrayals:
let them grow together.

People of God who wound and heal:
let them grow together.

Rich and poor, humble and haughty:
let them grow together.

Those whose thinking is similar and contrary:
let them grow together.

Fasting for Healing and Peace, Declaring for Unity and Freedom

Perhaps you have heard via Catholic Radio this week an encouragement to fast during this three day holiday weekend.  I wholeheartedly support the effort: whether through abstaining from meat, abstaining from snacks, reducing the number of meals or through a true bread and water fast from sundown Friday until sundown Sunday.  Fasting is the first form of prayer, a ritual surrender of mind, body, heart, spirit and soul to God’s will, letting God’s Word be our sustenance for the journey.  Inevitably the emptiness which occurs during fasting leaves us ever more vulnerable to God’s grace.

I trust our fasting and our prayer will open us to the true meaning of our Declaration of Independence, first uttered 244 years ago.  Might we understand the Declaration of our independence from England in 1776 as a vision of a much more profound freedom for all God’s children.  Just like the prophet Zechariah in Sunday’s first reading, might our authors of this sacred document might be prophets of a future not even they could have imagined?  There are four clear references to God and the sacred; how can we sustain honest dialogue among all in our community regarding the ultimate purpose of our lives as “children of God?”  

Our experience has already taught us that the authors did not have a grasp of the full import of their words.  When they proclaimed the self-evident truth that “all men are created equal,” they meant all white property owners in the 13 colonies/states.  And we are slowly, but surely, learning that ALL means ALL, including women, Blacks, Native Americans and immigrants from every corner of the earth.  

The people who first heard Zechariah’s prophecy near the end of the sixth century before Christ could not have possibly understood the deeper meaning.  They were returning to Jerusalem after eighty years of exile in Babylon; returning to a holy city which had been destroyed at the beginning of the exile.  When Zechariah says, “Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!  See, your king shall come to you, a just savior is he…” the people longed for a return to the time of David, when Israel was a united, and very strong, nation, devouring its neighbors and place other nations at their service through taxes and forced labor.  They wanted a return to earthly power as a sign of God’s blessings.  Come to find out that was NEVER going to happen.  The second part of the prophecy turns out to be most important: “meek and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.  He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.  His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

While Zechariah is offering hope in the short term he is declaring a vision of God’s Kingdom which is actually beyond their imagination in that moment.  When Christ offers his life on the Cross, beginning with his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, “riding on the foal of an ass,” and ending with his victory over death by the power of love to bring about resurrection life, we are all invited into a brand new way of living, perhaps a WAY which is yet beyond our imagination because we have not trusted God’s promise to us in Christ.

Let us embrace the vision of the Declaration of Independence and the vision of Zechariah’s Declaration of Freedom in Christ Jesus.  I believe we can let go of earthly visions of Kings riding in triumph on horses and continue the journey of descent.  William Stafford, a great holder of our vision in the twentieth century teaches us in “Spirit of Place: Great Blue Heron;”

If you keep faith I will exist at the edge, where your vision joins the sunlight and the rain; heads in the light, feet that go down in the mud where the truth is.

We must first trust God’s vision revealed through Zechariah and fully revealed in Jesus Christ.  Then we will know that our life, even now, is eternal.  We will know that truth in the light vanquishes all darkness.  We will know that love is, indeed, more powerful than death.  Then we can turn our hearts to the Declaration of Independence which is, in its own way, a reflection of God’s vision for us, His children. The beautiful vision of freedom for all the citizens of this new nation, still new after 244 years, is yet emerging.  Do we have the courage to pick up the song?  Can we craft a beautiful rendition in our day?  Knowing that our God is with us, trusting that our destiny is secure, let us risk enough to love until “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done.”  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  

What Do We Declare?

My dear Friends,

Please find attached our Declaration of Independence.  As we prepare to celebrate our “Independence Day,” let us reflect more deeply on this hallowed document.  Perhaps it can be seen as prophetic on its own terms, much more profound than the authors imagined.  Please pray with it, and for our country, in these turbulent times.  God bless you.

Fr. Mitch

https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript

Instructions from the Voice of the Poor Committee on Voting by Mail

Dear Fellow Vincentian,
Due to the risk of exposure to COVID-19, the Missouri legislature approved new vote by mail options for 2020. Click here to find the eligibility requirements for absentee and mail-in voting.
Your application for a ballot must be received by your election authority (Board of Elections or county clerk) by July 22 at 5:00 p.m. for the August 4 election. The actual ballot must be received by the election authority at or before 7:00 p.m. on Election Day. Click here for a list of election authorities for all Missouri counties in the St. Louis area.
Even though your individual election authority will have its own application, you can use the attached application (which was obtained from the Secretary of State’s website) to request an absentee or mail-in ballot. If your ballot must be notarized, you can call your financial institution, your election authority or the League of Women Voters for help in finding a notary.
If you are not comfortable voting in-person, the VOP Committee urges you to vote for Medicaid Expansion by mail. Please pass this information along to family, friends, and fellow Vincentians that do not have access to email.
The Voice of the Poor (VOP) Committee urges you to vote YES on Amendment 2. Click here for a fact sheet listing 6 reasons Medicaid Expansion benefits Missouri. 
If you have any questions, please call me at 314-302-0595.
Sincerely,
Dianne Marshak
Voice of the Poor Committee Chairperson

A Voice Is Born

Blessed Feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist!  I look forward to celebrating this feast with all of you this Sunday.  We are called to follow in the footsteps of St. John the Baptist; from the moment of his miraculous conception the womb of his mother, Elizabeth, John proclaims with every ounce of his being: “Salvation is come!”  His Father, Zechariah, spoke his mission to him at his birth: “You, my child shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, giving his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins.” And so he did.  And so do we.  We have come to know our salvation, to trust God’s love for us, to let God’s mercy flow through us and from us to the ends of the earth.

Let this Feast of the anniversary of the Baptist’s birth be a new beginning of the Baptist’s cry in us.  We are now the voice carrying the Word which is Christ.  The voice is vital and necessary, yet the voice is not what is heard; it is the Word which is heard.  If we hold fast to this purpose of ours, we too will become prophets to the nations.  The spirit of St. John the Baptist lives in our bones; his reckless and courageous proclamation reveals joy in the depths of our soul.  We, like all the prophets before us, grow weary holding it in; we will announce God’s saving power at work in us, in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We congratulate Julian McClellan and Mareli CuCue who are receiving their First Holy Communion on Saturday; and we congratulate Kaitlin Flores and Lazaro Navarro who will be confirmed, also on Saturday.  Becasue of these special sacraments, we will live-stream our 4:00 PM Mass on Saturday instead of the 10:00 on Sunday.

We will continue our procession with the blessed Sacrament this Friday at 6:00 PM, processing south on Adkins, west on Schiller, south on Morgan Ford, west on Bates, north on Gravois, east on Gertrude, north on Morgan Ford and east on Delor back to the Grotto.  God bless you all.

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.