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. 

Longing for the Bread of Life

This week the Church has proclaimed Jesus’ “Bread of Life Discourse” (John 6:22-59).  Years ago, a wise parishioner shared with me his passion for this passage and his passion for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist; he reads this passage every day.  Every day.  I remember being so moved by his faith that I too began reading it everyday, for a few days.  Then I let it slip away.  This morning I received a text from a friend who is similarly moved by the profound witness of Jesus in the “Bread of Life Discourse.”  His excitement over this most beautiful gift from God ended with this wise and humorous insight: “immediately following Jesus’ ‘Bread of Life Discourse’ was the first ‘Mic Drop’ in recorded history.”  Yesterday I went for a walk in the woods and carried with me one phrase from yesterday’s portion of the passage in the Gospel, “whoever eats this bread will live forever.”  it brought me to tears, filled me with joy and so connected me to God’s desire to live eternally in communion with us that I could hardly contain myself.  And this morning, we heard the conclusion of the discourse, including these emphatic words, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.”  

God so desires your love that he sent his only son into the world that you might have life.  God so desires your love that he has offered his only begotten son on the cross for you; gathering even sin and death into himself on the cross, which is now revealed as tree of life, transforming even sin and death into God’s glory.  God so desires your love that he has invited you to become his beloved spouse, sealing the marriage bond in the wedding feast of the lamb, where sharing the very body, blood, soul and divinity of his dearly beloved son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, for the atonement of your sins and those of the whole world, God brings forth his Kingdom, the Heavenly Jerusalem, fully present in the celebration of the Eucharist.  

When we celebrate the Eucharist, we are not “going to Church.”  When we celebrate the Eucharist we participate in the coming together of heaven and earth.  We are nourished by the fruit of the Tree of Life which is medicine for the nations (Rev 22:2).  And we become the body and blood of Christ; we become healing and peace for the life of the world.  Our nourishment from the Eucharist is not in preparation for heaven when we die; when we eat his body and drink his blood, we have eternal life, NOW.

Let us continue in prayer for healing, peace, holiness and wisdom as we continue to journey through this pandemic which is a real sharing in the suffering of Christ.  Let our love grow, let our life in this world be surrendered, let our eyes be opened to the depths of God’s love, let us trust our own resurrection life, let us long for communion which we will celebrate together in the Eucharist, soon and very soon.  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. 

Gratitude

On this Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, let us ask for a sharing of her courageous spirit and seek her intercession for healing from the COVID-19 Pandemic.  

I realize we may all be living with anxiety in the midst of so many unknowns; yet through it all your faith is revealing God’s glory more and more each day.  From your outreach to one another by phone and mail, to your sacrifices for one another, to your manufacturing of facial masks, to your providing of assistance to the poor, to your ongoing prayer, you are giving witness to the Risen Christ.  I am grateful for your great faith and for your deep, abiding love.

I am particularly grateful to you for your generous support of our mission even while we are unable to celebrate publicly our communion of faith.  We have been able to continue the mission without difficulty, due to your stewardship over the years and your continued support during this season of social distancing.  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

I offer a special word of thanks, too, to Jim Boeger, our Business Manager, who worked tirelessly to submit St. John the Baptist’s application for a Payroll Protection Plan loan from the Small Business Administration.  Through his hard work and by God’s grace we have received a loan which provides needed back-up during these uncertain times so we can confidently move forward knowing our mission is secure.  Together with your ongoing support we will be well positioned to thrive as we discover together what parish Life looks like in the wake of the pandemic.  

Archbishop Carlson has extended the suspension of public Masses through May 8.  Until then, we will continue celebrating daily Mass and our regular Sunday Masses with congregations of seven.  If you have not already done so, please call the parish office to let us know how many from your household to include in a future Mass.

We will continue with our Eucharistic Procession of Fridays at 6:00 pm.  This Friday we will journey east on Delor, south on Ulena, west on Bates, south on Gravois, north on Christy and east on Delor back to the Grotto. Please step out and join us in a decade or two of the Rosary as we pass near your home. 

Hopefully, we will be able to gather together, safely, soon.  We are one body in Christ; it his spirit, the spirit of the Risen Christ, dwelling within us and holding us together.  I pray that God’s grace and mercy be yours even in this difficult time of separation.  God bless you.  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

St. Catherine of Siena

This week, on Wednesday, April 29, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena.  She is a courageous, loving and faithful mystic in the life of the Church.  She lived during the Plague of the 14th century, ministering to those who were sick.  She is recognized as a Doctor of the church.  She can be a great example for us and someone we turn to in prayer.  God bless you.

https://www.wofdigital.org/videos/catherine-hd-1080p

“Emmaus and Genesis” from Bishop Barron

In a profound new way, Bishop Barron breaks open for us “The Road to Emmaus.”  Our whole life is a return to the Garden, where, even now, we are nourished by the true fruit of the Tree of Life, Jesus’ body and blood, the Eucharist.  God walks with us, even fasts with us, as we journey together during this time of separation.

You can listen to Bishop Barron’s podcast, Emmaus and Genesis, here:

https://podcast.app/emmaus-and-genesis-e93711164/