Running the race of life: December 2005

Running the race of life

Friday, December 23, 2005

Today's Gospel in Art

In today's Gospel, we hear of the birth of the Prophet who will speak recklessly for Jesus. All are shocked to hear his name- "John". Zechariah is able to speak.

Prayer Request

Please continue to pray for my younger sister Janine. The story is complicated but its fair to say that she's suffering in different ways.

In talking with my parents we've all had a deep sense of praying God's protection around her. Thanks for joining us in this. This is beyond us. We need answers, we need resources and all of these are only possible through the Lord.

Prayer and Blogging

I've been remiss in posting the past few days for a reason. Ever since we went on retreat last weekend I've been convicted of the reality that I was spending more time on the computer than with the Lord.

For a bit, I even thought about discontinuing the blog. Mixed on this. While its a blessing getting to know people in a unique way, there's always the temptation of giving it more of a priority than its worth.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Zechariah's struggle for Faith

A Deeper Understanding of Prayer

We were blessed to have a retreat this past weekend at the friary. I was doubly blessed because my Spiritual Director happened to be leading us in prayer and reflection.

One thing that really stuck with me was how he compared prayer with our encounters with one another.

Now, I've heard it said many times that prayer is conversation with God. But what is new for me is envisioning prayer as a personal encounter much like any face to face encounter.

Our retreat leader spoke about the Power of our Eyes and how we can receive people through the simple willingness of looking them in the eyes and being able to be totally present to them. This is a tough one for me! I sometimes struggle to look people in the eyes or to stay with them and be really present to them.

It made me think about everyday encounters we have with others. We have to have the vulnerability to initiate that encounter with the person. To continue to be vulnerable we are invited to look the person in the eyes and really look at them. We can speak but we must listen just as much.

It seems to be the same for our encounter with the Lord. We have to come before our God in vulnerability and be willing to make eye contact. And here's the wonder of it all: God's eyes are looking at us with love!

Our God is so vulnerable to us. Isn't that what we'll celebrate in a few days?!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Making the poor a priority

Lately the Lord has really convicted me that I must take active steps to reach out to the poor.

I am not sure what this means exactly. As a Franciscan this is certainly an essential part of our charism and yet it can take so many forms.

What I do know is that when the Lord puts something in your heart, you usually receive a push towards practical action as well if your eyes are open.

Poverty seems so complex. It seems to me that we must approach Poverty spiritually, systemically and individually. We have to see that our faith calls us to reach out to all who are impoverished physically, emotionally and spiritually. We are brothers and sisters with all because of our common dignity as creations of God. In some sense we have to look at our system and how it promotes poverty. And in all this we must remember the individual who we bump into day to day and how the Lord might be calling us to reach out to them.

There's not much just wisdom here, but thoughts to consider.
Any thoughts from fellow bloggers?

Interestingly enough, the first reading from today's office from Isaiah speaks of the evil (strong word) of letting others needs go unmet:

For the fool speaks foolishly, planning evil in his heart: How to do wickedness, to speak perversely against the Lord, To let the hungry go empty and the thirsty be without drink.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Newest Evangelization of Blogging

There's an interesting article on the phenomenon of blogging in Catholic circles in the current issue of Church magazine called, "The Newest Evangelization: Life at St. Blog's". (Winter 2005).

The author, Phyllis Zagano, gives examples of numerous Catholic bloggers pointing out the diversity of spiritual ideologies expressed through blogs. Zagano claims that blogs "tend to lean to the right or to the left, although more 'conservative' than 'liberal' Catholic blogs populate the Web, and bloggers usually either claim or accrue particular expertise through their own writing."

I'm new to blogging but its one of the first references to it I've seen in Catholic periodicals. Is blogging still off the radar screen of most theologians, or is it out there and I'm simply not aware of it?

Laughing with them or laughing at them?

There's an interesting new movie soon to be in theatres called, "The Ringer".
I have to admit that I'm not quite sure what to make of it.

Its a comedy about two guys who decide to rig the Special Olympics to pay off a debt by having one of them, Steve (Johnny Knoxville), pose as a contestant in the games, hoping to dethrone reigning champion, Jimmy.

When I first heard about it, I thought it was the most indecent thing I'd heard in a while. It seemed like the plot of the movie could not avoid stereotyping images of persons with disabilities. But what really shocked me was to hear that the organization of Special Olympics is supporting it and has been fully engaged in the production of the movie.

Interesting. "Special Olympics" organization reps have said that they see this movie as an opportunity to humanize persons with disabilities. The goal is for people to be laughing with them instead of laughing at them.

But I'm still skeptical. Can Hollywood handle a challenge like this? The collaboration between advocates of the disabled and moviemakers seems admirable, but will it work out?

My younger sister is a Special Olympian and I've been incredibly blessed to work with persons with developmental disabilities. I'm certainly sensitive to how we as a society communicate the needs of our brothers and sisters with disabilities.

I plan on seeing "The Ringer" but I'm a little concerned about what I'll see.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Humility is knowing what we're Not

I was talking with one of the other friars about John the Baptist and it dawned on me that this was a man who had great clarity about who he was and who he wasn't.

To the Pharisees curiousity, John says, "I am not the Christ". And later, "I am not a Prophet".

And I love the next way the Pharisees ask the question, "So, What are you then?" Its kind of funny to hear them getting so annoyed they lose their patience.

John has a singular role and he accepts it, but he can only live it as he lets go of the temptation to take on the role others desire for him.

This is good for me to hear because I sometimes want to be the "Savior" (for good intentions, of course!) or I want to do more than I'm called to do.

We have a Savior, we are his heralds, Rejoice!

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Poem- "Advent" by Jessica Powers

I was looking through an old book last night and discovered this poem by one of my favorite contemporary poets, Jessica Powers:

I live my Advent in the womb of Mary.
And on one night when a great star swings free
from its high mooring and walks down the sky
to be the dot above the Christus i,
I shall be born of her by blessed grace.
I wait in Mary-darkness, faith's walled place,
with hope's expectance of nativity.
I knew for long she carried me and fed me,
guarded and loved me, though I could not see.
But only now, with inward jubilee,
I come upon earth's most amazing knowledge:
someone is hidden in this dark with me.

Continued Prayer Request

I would ask that you continue to pray for my younger sister Janine who is going through a very difficult time physically and psychologically. She will be undergoing some tests this week that will hopefully give us more of an idea of whats going on.

This has been an ordeal for my parents and they are emotionally drained. I truly do believe that prayer is sustaining and its needed at this time. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Happy Birthday Naomi Sharon St.Andre!

Today is the 1st Birthday of my niece Naomi Sharon! Here' s a picture of the smiling beauty with her "dadoo", my brother Michael!

A year ago today I remember hearing about Naomi entering the world and being so thrilled I left my office and announced it to everyone! What a gift, a child!

Its hard to believe its been a year and Naomi is growing up! Happy Birthday Naomi!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Scripture Reflection for Tuesday

Here is a reflection I shared with the friars at Mass this morning:

"Come Home"
There is a common theme that runs throughout our celebration today and its summed up in two words:
"Come Home!"
Come home to where you belong- in communion with your God who created you and intimately loves you

This theme of Homecoming is vividly real in the words of the Prophet Isaiah
The passage takes on a whole new significance when we understand that the figurative language is describing Israel’s homecoming as they return from exile in Babylon
“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and tell her that her exile is at an end. A voice cries out in the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”
After years of being away, God was calling his people home- he was calling them back to Jerusalem but also back to covenant with him

The measure of God’s desire to bring us to himself is evident in the Gospel
Here, Jesus speaks to his disciples and asks their opinion-
“Should the Shepherd leave the 99 sheep to bring the lost 1 home?
I have to admit that I’ve sometimes been tempted to say no
There’s part of me that figures that it might be better to lose the one than risk the safety of the 99
Plus, 99 out of 100 is close to perfect Mathematically
I’d take a 99 out of 100 on a test, or 99 out of 100 foul shots
But 99 isn’t enough for our God! He is relentless in wanting to claim all who he loves!
“It is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost!”

Come home, come home to where you belong, to the Father’s love!

My brothers, as we celebrate this Eucharist today, we are strengthened by the Good Shepherd through these Words and the Word become flesh
And as we worship at this table, our spiritual home as friars of this fraternity, let us consider the home of the Church as well
“How is the Lord calling you to come home?”
“Who is the lost sheep the Lord may call home through you?”
Is it a relative? Is it a friend? Is it a friar who’s broken and alienated? Is it someone you minister to?
Perhaps your role is prayer or service or more.
Let us pray for the 99… plus the 1 today!
Let us all come home to the Father.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Stress and Snow

I have to admit that I'm feeling stressed. Do you know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when it seems you have more work than the ability or time to get it done? Pardon, the venting. Someone reminded me today that perhaps its better to look at the small picture and work hard at one thing at a time then being overwhelmed by the big picture. Sounds good, but its difficult.

To all out there in the jungle of papers and finals, may you have the Lord's peace and grace to make it through intact (that includes professors)!

Some good distracting news: We may get our first snow here in the Nation's Capital. After an incredibly warm fall, its welcome. There's something about snow that still (especially that first snow) that captures my imagination. Perhaps its the snow football games growing up! How do these Florida people live without it?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Is Interfaith prayer possible?

I'm in the midst of writing a paper on Interfaith prayer for my "World Religions" class. I have to say that I'm fascinated by the whole discussion.

The whole question of Interfaith prayer certainly raises strong responses. The springboard for my paper is the Assisi Prayer Gathering of Religious leaders in 1986. If you remember, John Paul II had invited various leaders of the World's religions to gather and pray for peace. The reaction to this event was explosive- some hailed it as a step in the right direction while others considered it an idolatrous abomination.

I don't expect to add anything novel to the discussion but I do look forward to delving into some of the theological questions and especially seeking a Catholic understanding of such prayer:
"Do we pray to the same God?" "What is the Christological issue involved?" "What does it mean to pray in another's sacred space?"

If you have any thoughts or good resources, I'd love to hear it. It is such a pivotal issue in this day and age and something we all have to grapple with.

Janine returns home

Thanks again to all who have been praying for Janine. She returned from the hospital last night and this seems to be a good sign. We are still struggling to get at the root issues since there are so many things going on. I will continue to provide updates of her progress.

Desire for the vision of God

"Teach me to seek you, and when I seek you show yourself to me, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, nor can I find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in desiring you and desire you in seeking you, find you in loving you and love you in finding you".

(From the Proslogion by Saint Anselm- Office of Readings for Friday of 1st week of Advent)

This passage from today's Office really hit me today. I realized lately how easy it is to become frustrated in what seems to be a lack of progress in prayer. Sometimes it seems there are connection problems and I wonder if I ever learned to pray at all.

But Anselm's words are encouraging and perhaps even more importantly the spirit of the words is encouraging. He reminds us that the very desire to seek God is gift and that all the spiritual perfectionism in the world is remiss without a dependence upon the Lord.

How often might the Lord speak to us if we simply said, "Show yourself to me Lord, for on my own my vision is lacking!"