Eros for our Savior

March 27, 2011

Fr Cantalamessa’s first Lenten sermon to the Pope and his household this year was a lengthy discussion of eros love.  Approaching the conclusion, he summarizes:

What does all this mean for the love of God? That the primary object of our eros, of our search, desire, attraction, passion must be Christ.

He clarifies as he continues:

This does not mean to reduce the horizon of Christian love from God to Christ; it means to love God in the way He wishes to be loved. “The Father himself loves you, because you have loved me” (John 16:27). It is not a question of a mediated love, almost by proxy, by which whoever loves Jesus “is as if” he loved the Father. No, Jesus is an immediate mediator, loving him one loves, ipso facto, also the Father. “He who sees me, sees the Father,” who loves me loves the Father.

It is true that not even Christ is seen, but he exists; he is risen, he is alive, he is close to us, more truly than the most enamored husband is close to his wife. Here is the crucial point: to think of Christ not as a person of the past, but as the risen and living Lord, with whom I can speak, whom I can even kiss if I so wish, certain that my kiss does not end on the paper or on the wood of a crucifix, but on a face and on the lips of living flesh (even though spiritualized), happy to receive my kiss.

Wow!  These are insights that can really help deepen my personal relationship with Jesus, if I can keep them in mind, and not allow them to disappear amid my myriads of distractions.  They reveal the intimate closeness to Jesus that is not only possible, but is desired by Jesus himself.

Fr Cantalamessa concludes this sermon with an examen and a prayer:

I tried to imagine, venerable fathers and brothers, what the Risen Jesus would say now if, as he did in his earthly life when he entered on the Sabbath into a synagogue, he came to sit here in my place and explained to us in person what the love is that he desires from us. I want to share with you, with simplicity, what I think he would say to us; it will serve to make our examination of conscience on love:

Ardent love:

Is to put Me always in the first place;
Is to seek to please Me at every moment;
Is to live before Me as friend, confidant, spouse and to be happy;

Is to be troubled if you think you are far from Me;
Is to be full of happiness when I am with you;
Is to be willing to undergo great sacrifices so as not to lose Me;

Is to prefer to live poor and unknown with Me, rather than rich and famous without Me;
Is to speak to Me as your dearest friend in every possible moment;
Is to entrust yourself to Me in regard to your future;
Is to desire to lose yourself in Me as the end of your existence.

If it seems to you, as it does to me, that you are very far from this aim, we must not be discouraged. We have one who can help us reach it if we ask him. Let us repeat with faith to the Holy Spirit: “Veni, Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium et tui amoris in eis ignem accende” (Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love).

St Francis de Sales on the love/praise cycle

March 27, 2011

In his “Treatise on the Love of God,” St Francis de Sales shows how our love for God can grow as we earnestly contemplate the Face of Christ:

Now still more to magnify this sovereign well-beloved, the soul goes ever seeking his face: that is, with an attention more and more careful and fervent, she keeps noting every particular of the beauties and perfections which are in him, making a continual progress in this sweet searching out of motives, which may perpetually urge her to a greater complacency in the incomprehensible goodness which she loves. So David in many of his heavenly psalms recites one by one the works and wonders of God, and the sacred spouse ranges, in her divine canticles, as a well-ranked army, all the perfections of her beloved, one after another, to provoke her soul to most holy complacency, thereby more highly to magnify his excellence, and also to subject all other spirits to the love of her beloved so dear.

The Saint then describes how our deeper love of God will increase within us the desire to praise him:

…this desire of praising God which holy benevolence excites in our hearts is insatiable, for the soul that is touched with it would wish to have infinite praises to bestow upon her well-beloved, because she finds his perfections more than infinite: so that, finding herself to fall far short of being able to satisfy her desire, she makes extreme efforts of affection to praise at least in some measure this goodness all worthy of praise, and these efforts of benevolence are marvellously augmented by complacency: for in proportion as the soul finds God good, relishing more and more his sweetness, and taking complacency in his infinite goodness, she would also raise higher the benedictions and praises she gives him. And again, as the soul grows warm in praising the incomprehensible sweetness of God, she enlarges and dilates the complacency she takes in him, and by this enlargement she more strongly excites herself to his praise. So that the affection of complacency and that of praise, by these reciprocal movements and mutual inclinations, advance one another with great and continual increase.

Spiritual progress in Plymouth

March 23, 2011

The Lenten “Life in the Spirit” program which our Community is helping to present at All Saints Parish in Plymouth is in its second week.  All participants seem to be enthusiastic about their experience thus far.  We are grateful for our faithful intercessors who gather at the Holy Family Center chapel each Tuesday evening to pray for all aspects of the program.

Rapt in attention

Sonny Cesarini teaches on "Salvation"

Post-session conviviality

New Scripture blog

March 23, 2011

Speaking of Scripture is a fairly new Catholic blog offering insights into God’s written word.  One of the contributors is Dr Mary Healy, who previously served as Coordinator of the Mother of God Community, now a member community of the Catholic Fraternity.  Lately, Dr Healy has been living in the Detroit area while she teaches at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.  I look forward to being inspired by Dr Healy and the other contributors to this new Catholic blog.

A better understanding of the Annunciation

March 23, 2011

Mary had already made a vow of virginity (together with St. Joseph), even before the Annunciation.

Yes, this is Catholic teaching, and is explained briefly but well here.

CFNA reps to Colloquium

March 16, 2011

An International Colloquium on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is being held in Rome March 17th-20th.  Representatives from several of the CFNA Communities are participating in it.  Your prayers are requested!

Update 01 Apr 2011:  Zenit summary.

The journey

March 14, 2011

In his Ash Wednesday General Audience address this past week, our Holy Father described Lent as follows:

Lent is a journey; it is to accompany Jesus who goes up to Jerusalem, the place of the fulfillment of the mystery of his passion, death and resurrection; it reminds us that the Christian life is a “journey” to undertake, which consists not so much in a law to be observed but in the very person of Christ, who we must encounter, receive and follow.

We should see life in covenant community in much the same way:  a journey that leads us to a continually deepening encounter with “the very person of Christ.”  Sometimes we give disordered importance to our statutes and agreements as “a law to be observed.”  Perhaps we have a lower opinion of those who fail to fulfill that ‘law’.  Our own relationship with Jesus should lead us to love our brethren, to be merciful to them (as our Heavenly Father is merciful), to pray for them.  In this way, we will all experience a deeper encounter with the very person of Christ.


Freezing for Jesus

March 10, 2011

Today the Church (unofficially) remembers the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste.

For a fruitful Lent

March 9, 2011

As promised yesterday, here’s more elucidative teaching on the observance of Lent by Dom Mark KirbyThis time, Dom Mark focuses on the Lenten disciplines:


Ash Wednesday addresses the heart. Ashes are sprinkled on our heads, but Lent is lived in the heart. God wants pierced hearts. God looks for the broken heart. “Even now,” says the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments” (Joel 2:12-13). Paradoxically, in order to give God one’s whole heart, it must first be pierced and broken. This is what we mean when we speak of compunction and contrition.

The traditional Lenten disciplines — fasting and abstinence, almsgiving, silence, keeping vigil, and increasing the time devoted to lectio divina each day — are not ends in themselves. They are the tried and true means by which one arrives at having a pierced and broken heart, at some measure of compunction and contrition.

Joyful Fasting

1. Fasting and abstinence help to crack the heart’s stony shell; hunger makes one vulnerable. But here is the catch: Our Lord would have us fast as if we were feasting. One of the fruits of fasting is spiritual joy. Fasting cleanses and refines the palate of the soul, making it possible to “taste and see that the Lord is sweet” (Ps 33:9). “When you fast do not look dismal . . . anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt 6:16-17). The fasting pleasing to Our Lord makes the face cheerful and lifts up the heart.

Fasting (going without eating) and abstinence (not eating certain foods) need not be enormous feats of ascetical prowess. One’s fasting and abstinence should always be proportionate to one’s health and state in life. The value of fasting and abstinence is that they allow us to feel a certain emptiness. They put us in touch with our real hunger: the hunger that only God can satisfy.

Ultimately all fasting and abstinence have a Eucharistic finality. “He who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (Jn 6:35), says the Lord. Fasting is doing what it is supposed to do when it sends us hungering and thirsting to the Word of God and to the Holy Mysteries of the Altar.

Gladsome Giving

2. Almsgiving opens the heart to the other and, in so doing, opens the heart to Christ. Again, the fruit of almsgiving is spiritual joy. There is joy in giving something away. There is joy in going without what is superfluous so that another may have what is necessary. Lenten almsgiving invites each of us to ask some hard questions. Do I have the use of two or three or four of anything when I could easily make do with one?

Saint Basil says that the one who accumulates things, storing them up in closets and hiding them away in trunks, is robbing from the poor of Christ. Almsgiving is a liberation from the hoarding instinct. The compulsion to squirrel things away, apart from being neurotic, is a lack of trust in the Providence of God. Almsgiving frees our hands to receive what God desires to give us. “He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away”(Lk 1:53).

Be Silent

3. Silence is integral to a holy Lent. The monastic tradition values silence for two reasons. “In much talk thou shalt not escape sin” (Pr 10:19). Avoiding sin is by itself an excellent reason to be silent. But there is more. Silence allows the heart to hear the Word and to be pierced by it, “for the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). God speaks to us even now as he spoke to the prophet Elijah, “in a still small voice” (1 K 19:12). If you would hear the voice of God, be silent.

The Sacrifice of Time

4. Keeping vigil is a traditional practice that, like fasting and abstinence, must be adapted with prudence and discretion to the real possibilities of each one. Poor Clares and Carthusians arise in the middle of the night to keep watch in prayer. Trappists are in their choir stalls well before the rising of the sun. Carmelites stay up late, chanting their Vigils while most of us are turning down the bedcovers.

What then does keeping vigil mean for us? It has to do with making time for God alone, with the sacrifice of time for God alone. We are possessive of our time. Demands on our time can make us resentful and anxious. We fret over time, fearing that we will not have enough of it to carry out our tasks. We forget that he who multiplied the loaves and fishes for the multitude, is no less the Lord of hours and minutes too.

Time given to God alone makes all else possible. Knowing that there is nothing more precious than our time, God asks us to sacrifice it for him, that is, to give it over to him that he might fill it with his presence and make it holy. The sacrifice of time for God alone is an offering of pure nard poured out and “filling the house with its fragrance” (Jn 12:3).

Day and Night, the Word of the Lord

5. Lectio divina is the fifth and final Lenten discipline. Today’s Communion Antiphon focuses on lectio divina: “He that shall meditate day and night on the law of the Lord, shall bring forth his fruit in due season” (Ps 1: 2-3). Without lectio divina, fasting makes us cranky, almsgiving makes us feel deprived, silence makes us feel alienated, and keeping vigil is boring. Our Lenten lectio divina can be prolonged in making the Way of the Cross; in communion with the sorrowful compassion of the Mother of Jesus; in gazing wordlessly on the suffering Face of Christ; in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Lectio divina is the ground of every other form of prayer.

Toward the Pierced and Broken Heart

The five Lenten disciplines that tradition gives us — fasting and abstinence, almsgiving, silence, keeping vigil, and lectio divina — dispose the heart to being pierced and broken, even as the Heart of Jesus was pierced and broken for our sakes. Practice them wisely, practice them generously and, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, you will, after forty days, arrive full of joy at the glory of the Cross and Resurrection.

On Lent’s doorstep

March 8, 2011

Some of the most inspiring and challenging material that I’ve ever read about Lent has been on Dom Mark Kirby’s “Vultus Christi” blog.  This post of Dom Mark’s invites us to examine our attitude toward Lent:

Lent is supposed to be unsettling. Lent is supposed to disrupt our routines. Lent is about entering into another rhythm of life, a rhythm different from the one by which we ordinarily organize our lives. The unwillingness to be disturbed, to make a change, even a very little one, in what has become customary reveals an underlying resistance to the grace of conversion. Newman speaks of indolence. Indolence is a state of sluggishness; it is the habit of seeking to avoid exertion. The indolent person says, “I am quite comfortable with things as they are, thank you. I have neither the desire nor the need to change my routines, to displace myself, or to do anything differently from the way I have always done it.” Indolence is incompatible with Lent.

The opposite of indolence is alacrity — a very Benedictine virtue — an eager willingness to get up and get moving. The dictionary defines alacrity as a “cheerful readiness, promptness, or willingness.” When Saint Benedict treats of Lenten penances in Chapter Forty-Nine of the Rule, he says that they are to be offered “spontaneously in the joy of the Holy Spirit.” There is in this something of the quickfooted and swift obedience of Chapter Five, an obedience that brooks no delays.

I’ll post another tomorrow.

The New Testament on the new testament

March 6, 2011

In the interest of authentic ecumenism, we should encourage all of our Protestant friends to listen to Scott Hahn’s 15-minute discussion of the New Testament during his appearance on “EWTN Live” this past Wednesday (02-March-2011)[Note:  Time-sensitive!!  EWTN will be updating this link to the next program after it airs on 09-March-2011]

The subject for the program was Pope Benedict XVI’s recent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini.  In discussing the middle section of the Pope’s document, Verbum in ecclesia (the Word and the Church), Dr Hahn was revealing how Pope Benedict teaches that the Bible belongs to the Church; that the Bible is a part of the Church’s liturgy; that the Bible is a Sacramental document.

The professor reminded us that the collection of books/documents that we know as the New Testament never calls itself the “New Testament,” but refers to itself as a Sacrament!

Reminding us that the words “testament” and “covenant” mean the same thing in Scripture, Hahn illustrates his point by first citing Luke 22:19-20

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood

Note that Jesus doesn’t say “write this in memory of me” or “read this in memory of me.”  He instructs his Apostles to “DO THIS in memory of me”!!  The “this” to which Jesus refers is the Eucharist.  Thus, the Eucharist is the new testament, according to the New Testament!  The New Testament speaks of the new testament as a Sacrament, first and foremost.

Dr Hahn confirms this by citing the fact that St Paul’s New Testament teaching on the new testament (covenant) in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 uses the same words as St Luke

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

When someone uses the phrase New Testament, they are usually referring to the ‘document,’ to the portion of the Bible known by that name.  But when we actually study that ‘document,’ we discover that the document is pointing beyond itself to something that existed long before the ‘document’ – the Eucharist!

The first books of the New Testament were written decades after the new testament was instituted by Jesus.  The final book of the New Testament (Revelation) was not even completed until near the end of the first century.  It’s a historical fact that the collection of books/documents that we now know as the New Testament was not even referred to as the “New Testament” until the second half of the second century.

This stands in stark contrast to the fact that it is the Eucharist that was being called the new testament (covenant) by the first-century writers.

That begs the question:  Why did this collection of books/documents ever become known as the New Testament?  Precisely because of their liturgical proximity to the Eucharist!  These are the books/documents that the Church brought out for the Lord’s Day to be read in the liturgical assembly – what we would now call the Mass – what they called the Eucharist.  They would never have been referred to as such if they did not have these connections to the Eucharist.

This summary is no substitute for hearing Scott Hahn himself present this material with his usual ardor.  Click here to listen to the program.  The beef of this discussion begins around the 9:00-minute mark of the program and continues for about 15 minutes. [Note:  Time-sensitive!!  EWTN will be updating this link to the next program after it airs on 09-March-2011]

New life in Plymouth

March 6, 2011

The past two days (Friday evening and all day Saturday) were spent presenting a condensed Life in the Spirit Seminar to the Parish Core Team at All Saints Parish in Plymouth.  This was done to prepare them to better facilitate the Lenten weekly Life in the Spirit sessions that will be sponsored by the parish in the upcoming weeks.

Father Bob Kelleher, Deacon Joe DiVizia, and the Parish Core Team were welcoming and very hospitable.  The program was conducted in the Chapel below the church.  They heard teaching on life in the Spirit mixed with personal testimony of conversion and living out the life in the Spirit.  All seemed to enjoy the variety of songs that accompanied the program.

Jim teaches on "God's Love"

On Saturday afternoon, with the music ministry playing in the background, Fr Bob, Deacon Joe and his wife, Maria, and the members of the Parish Core Team (Elaine, George, Joe, Lucille, Rosemary, Cindy, Tina, Shirley, and Claudia) were each prayed with to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Jim leads us in song as Bob prepares to speak

Bob teaches on being baptized in the Holy Spirit

Please continue to pray for them and their parish as they strive to grow deeper in their relationship with God, live the life in the Spirit, and share their faith with others.

“Live, then, in the present moment.”

March 2, 2011

Please don’t miss this tremendous meditation that Dom Mark posted a few days ago.  I’ve already added it to my prayer arsenal.

Pursuing genuine communication

March 1, 2011

As I sat in a meeting several days ago, gazing at those assembled, contemplating the face of Christ in the face of each of the participants, I recalled one of the most profound insights I’ve ever heard, which came from Fr Franco Lever:

…genuine communication [is] measured not by the efficacy with which one interlocutor can influence another but by the richness of the encounter.

The richness of the encounter…

We should judge our many meetings by this criteria, rather than determining their efficacy by accomplishment, productivity, task-generation, or the level of acceptance of our contribution.  The truly humble person will listen intently during meetings without simultaneously calculating a judgment or response.  It often is — but should not be — uncomfortable when there are brief periods of silence while the group takes time to consider what has been shared.  Meetings should include a reasonable amount of verbal affirmation, but often don’t.  People should be allowed to contribute, not be rushed because of an agenda.

Can you think of other elements that would enrich our meeting encounters, and contribute to “genuine communication?”


CCR events in March

March 1, 2011

Here are this month’s events being sponsored by the Scranton CCR:

Mar 2 (Wed)
Men’s “Pizza Night” at Colarusso’s in Jessup.  Open to all.  Contact Jim Conway 346-3828.

Mar 5 (Sat)
Prayer Breakfast at the After Five Supper Club on Main Ave in Dickson City from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.  Enjoy songs of praise, testimony, teaching, and a buffet breakfast.  $8.00 per person.  If possible, please call by March 2nd if you’ll be attending:  Karen McLain 842-2503, or Jack McQuade 639-0952.  Or email to mcmoo [at] verizon [dot] net

Mar 20 (Sun)
Mass followed by prayers for healing at St Mary’s Church in Avoca.  Rosary at 6:30 p.m., followed by Mass at 7:00 p.m.