The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Saturday, February 25, 2012

In the desert

"Because he himself was tested through what he suffered,
he is able to help those who are being tested.
Hebrews 2:18

Path of Reflection through Scripture
First Week of Lent
Gospel for Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012: Mark 1:12-15
Read it here

The significance of the Gospel passage for this first Sunday of Lent is best considered in light of what immediately precedes it (Mark 1:9-11), and what the combined passages signify in the context of salvation history stretching back to both the Creation and the Exodus.

In Genesis, the mighty wind of God’s breath, or Spirit, moves over the dark and watery chaos to give shape and order to heaven and earth. Later, after God breathes the same life-giving spirit into the man he has formed in his own image from clay, Adam (Adama or “ground” in Hebrew), lives among the beasts in the perfectly ordered wilderness of Eden. We all know what happens shortly thereafter. Hundreds of years later, Moses leads God’s chosen people out of slavery and into the desert on a journey to the Promised Land.

In Mark 1:9-11, Jesus emerges from his baptism in the waters of the Jordan as the Holy Spirit descends upon him in the form of a dove and the Father’s voice announces him as Son of God. A new creation. In today’s Gospel, the same Spirit drives Jesus out into the desert or wilderness, where he lives among the wild beasts and is tempted by Satan. A new exodus.

In the universal desert of the human journey, Jesus—God made man, the new Adam—encounters both good and evil, struggle, and temptation. But angels also minister to him, and he faithfully emerges from the battle we all fight to proclaim the gospel of God, and ultimately, to die on a cross and then rise again to new life.

The message: We are NOT alone !!! Emmanuel (God with us) has not left us to fend for ourselves, despite all indications to the contrary. Through the Church, his Spirit continues to reveal his presence, offer us new life, and lead us through the desert to the Promised Land. Along the way, angels minister to us. Everyday details have eternal significance. The divine presence is everywhere. Every day offers a sacred way.

"The Kingdom of God IS at hand," Jesus says.

So, if you are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, where are you in this picture?

Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trial. We progress by means of trial. No one knows himself except through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptations. The one who cries from the ends of the earth is in anguish, but is not left on his own. Christ chose to foreshadow us, who are his body, by means of his body, in which he has died, risen and ascended into heaven, so that the members of his body may hope to follow where their head has gone before.

He made us one with him when he chose to be tempted by Satan. We have heard in the gospel how the Lord Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Certainly Christ was tempted by the devil. In Christ you were tempted, for Christ received his flesh from your nature, but by his power gained salvation for you.

If in Christ we have been tempted, in him we overcome the devil. See yourself as tempted in him, and see yourself as victorious in him.
-- Saint Augustine

In between

From the 2010 movie "Of Gods and Men."

Lent forcefully reminds us that life is much more than eating and sleeping, working and relaxing, handling the everyday duties of our home, neighborhood, and occupation. We live always surrounded by angels and devils and the spirits of all the departed. We are placed in between the first paradise and our final destination. We have the assurance of God's continual care within the Church to which family  we are united by Baptism; we remember the fearful warning that all this can end abruptly by our own death or by the final consummation.

--Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lenten prayer for renewal

"Let each one deny himself some food, drink, sleep,
needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward
to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing."

Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 49:7
Lord God of Mercy,

You call me during these 40 days of Lent to renew my commitment to you, my Creator and Redeemer. Help me, by your grace, to turn to you deep within the inner room of my heart, so that I may truly become an "ambassador for Christ" through your gifts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Speak tenderly to me during this time of reflection and renewal, and help me to remember how you have always led your people through trial and affliction to the Resurrection. Reveal and remove all obstacles that impede me from truly seeking and following you. Roll away the heavy stone from the tomb of my sinfulness.

Let the light of the Resurrected Christ radiate through my every word and action, so that all people may know your love that saves the world and gives eternal life. Raise me from the darkness; open my eyes to your light and my ears to your voice, so that my heart overflows with the inexpressible delight of love as I drink in the dawn of Easter glory.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Think BIG

"Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."

Sunday, February 19, 2012
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time—B

Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24b-25
2Corinthians 1:18-22
Mark 2:1-12

It must have been awfully surprising and also disappointing for all those people crowded into the house in Capernaum who had come to listen to Jesus speak in today’s Gospel. They had heard about the miracles, the healings he had performed, and were eager to experience one in person. Then, when the roof was opened above them, and a paralytic was lowered down on a mat in front of Jesus, everyone must have held their breath with anticipation. “Here it comes—watch this!” many may have whispered.

Then Jesus looks at the paralytic and says, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”

What? That’s it? Where’s the cure? We were expecting a miracle! What a disappointment! We walked all the way over here for this? No one but God can forgive sins, anyway. This guy’s a fraud!

Even the learned scribes present couldn’t see the true miracle that had occurred right in front of them. They began to scoff and condemn Jesus.

But the paralytic knew what had happened. What peace he must have experienced deep throughout his soul as he looked back at Jesus while everyone around them was caught up in their own expectations and judgments. His sins were forgiven, wiped away, removed forever!

Of course, such a miracle—a true miracle—could not be seen outwardly, but only with the eyes of faith. The forgiveness of sins by God is the “something new” foretold by Isaiah in today’s first reading. “It is I, I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses,” God says. “Your sins are forgiven.”

This is what we as human beings truly need (and truly want, at least unconsciously), but like the crowd in today’s Gospel, we sell God short. We think small, while God thinks BIG. We want physical healings, miracles, things we can see with our eyes and be amazed by. Anything we can’t see, we doubt, trapped within our own expectations. Anything we do see, we instantly judge according to those preconceived notions. Too often, we remain focused solely on the external.

This must have grieved Jesus in today’s Gospel story. He had saved a soul. However, everyone but the paralytic (and possibly his friends) expected less than what God wanted to give. They expected Jesus to heal this man’s body.

What? That’s easy! Jesus said, in so many words. “Can’t you see what I have done, what the forgiveness of sins means for this man and for all of you?” He must have sighed at the crowd’s lack of faith that was so evident to him in the paralytic’s friends. “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth, [then, turning to the forgiven paralytic] I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”

He did. And only then was the crowd astounded.

God wants to give us so much more than we expect. He did not become man to remove our physical suffering. He certainly came to console us in our trials, to share in our suffering, and to take upon himself all our burdens, even to death on a cross. But he did this primarily to forgive our sins, to heal our souls which were broken by the Fall of Humanity. He came to restore to us what we had lost—eternal union with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

And to do this, he inserted himself into a time and culture that directly associated sin with physical and mental illness and disability. He performed external healing to signify internal healing, to show us that God saves souls from sin, that he means what he says and that we should settle for nothing less.

The Hebrew form of Jesus, after all, means God saves. “See, I am doing something new,” God says. Think BIG!

As St. Paul says in the second reading, “The one who gives us security in Christ and who has anointed us is God; he has also put his seal upon us and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.” God is faithful, and when we lower ourselves before him in faith, no matter how imperfect or paralyzed by sin we may be, he says to us, “Child, your sins are forgiven. Rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Power of Love

Suffering, if we are one with Christ and so offer it in his hands to God, is the most effective of all acts of love. This is not a fanciful idea; it can be a reality. Christ is the incarnation of love itself. Love itself became flesh and blood, became our flesh and blood therefore with our suffering, with our pain and sorrow. He did not bring suffering into the world, but because we had done so and it was there, he came to wed himself to it, to make it inseparable from his redeeming love, one thing with love itself.

By making our humanity one with his, by making our suffering his own, he has literally given himself to us, made his suffering ours, so that we now have as our own his power of love. His sacrifice offered for the world is irresistible to the Father. Because it is real reparation for sin it lightens the heavy burden that is bending the back of humanity, and man can lift himself up. In it the world's healing begins.

It is this power of his own love that Christ has given to us. Because of it our personal share in the world's suffering is never useless, always potent. It is the most effective gift we have for the good of our fellow men. In Christ all humanity is contained. If we live in him we can lift up all the world's suffering in our own, and we can bear this mystery without staggering because of the miraculous economy of pity, through which in each man's suffering all suffering can be turned to love.
-- Caryll Houselander, Lift Up Your Hearts

Saturday, February 11, 2012

God's healing touch

Sunday, February 12, 2012
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time—B

Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
1Corinthians 10:31-11:1
Mark 1:40-45

I come to Jesus, just as I am.

I kneel down and beg him, “If you wish, you can make me clean.”

Moved with pity, Jesus stretches out his hand and touches me.

He says to me, “I do will it. Be made clean.”

And I am. By God's healing touch, I am made clean.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Love rules

St. Benedict’s sister, named Scholastica, was dedicated from her infancy to our Lord. Once a year she came to visit her twin brother. The man of God went to her not far from the gate of his monastery, at a place that belonged to the abbey. It was there he would entertain her. Once upon a time she came to visit according to her custom, and her venerable brother with his monks went there to meet her.

They spent the whole day in the praises of God and spiritual talk, and when it was almost night, they dined together. As they were yet sitting at the table, talking of devout matters, it began to get dark. The holy nun, his sister, entreated him to stay there all night that they might spend it in discoursing of the joys of heaven. By no persuasion, however, would he agree to that, saying that he might not by any means stay all night outside of his abbey.

At that time, the sky was so clear that no cloud was to be seen. The nun, hearing this denial of her brother, joined her hands together, laid them on the table, bowed her head on her hands, and prayed to almighty God.Lifting her head from the table, there fell suddenly such a tempest of lightning and thundering, and such abundance of rain, that neither venerable Benedict, nor his monks that were with him, could put their heads out of doors. The holy nun, having rested her head on her hands, poured forth such a flood of tears on the table, that she transformed the clear air to a watery sky.
After the end of her devotions, that storm of rain followed; her prayer and the rain so met together, that as she lifted up her head from the table, the thunder began. So it was that in one and the very same instant that she lifted up her head, she brought down the rain.

The man of God, seeing that he could not, in the midst of such thunder and lightning and great abundance of rain return to his abbey, began to be heavy and to complain to his sister, saying: “God forgive you, what have you done?” She answered him, “I desired you to stay, and you would not hear me; I have desired it of our good Lord, and he has granted my petition. Therefore if you can now depart, in God's name return to your monastery, and leave me here alone.”

But the good father, not being able to leave, tarried there against his will where before he would not have stayed willingly. By that means, they watched all night and with spiritual and heavenly talk mutually comforted one another.

Therefore, by this we see, as I said before, that he would have had one thing, but he could not effect it.  For if we know the venerable man’s mind, there is no question but that he would have had the same fair weather to have continued as it was when he left his monastery. He found, however, that a miracle prevented his desire. A miracle that—by the power of almighty God—his sister’s prayers had wrought.

Is it not a thing to be marveled at, that Scholastica, who for a long time had not seen her brother, might do more in that instance than he could? She realized, according to the saying of St. John, “God is charity” [1 John 4:8]. Therefore, as is right, she who loved more, did more.

-- St. Gregory the Great, Dialogues, Life of Saint Benedict

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Immortal diamonds

NOTE: Posted below is the homily given by Fr. Harry Hagan, O.S.B., in the Archabbey Church on Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Here, he reflects on the Mass readings Job 7:1-4, 6-7 and Mark 1:29-39. It is a message of hope amid chaos, the perennial human condition--the rough that the Risen Christ transforms into diamonds. After all, the hardness, purity, and beauty of diamonds result from extreme temperature and pressure. -- Br. Francis
Today’s first reading comes from the Book of Job—a famous book. When people learn that I teach Old Testament, they will sometimes ask about it, and I think that they do that because they know that Job is dealing with some basic absurdity of life, some basic problem that we all must face. Job has lost everything and is trying to make sense of life. As if this were not enough, Job must seek this sense amidst his so-called friends who accuse him of hidden sin. And so he says:
            Remember that my life is like the wind;
                        I shall not see happiness again. (7:7)
John of the Cross calls this struggle with absurdity the “dark night of the soul.” It is a common struggle—not always of such epic proportions, but many people, indeed most of us, struggle at moments to make sense of it all.
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) was such a person. Some of you will recognize him as a Jesuit priest and famous poet, and you may know his poem:
                        The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
                        It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.
These lines are easy compared to much of his poetry, which does not reveal itself easily because of density, hard vocabulary, unexpected turn of phrase and tight, strange craft—all used in his attempt to bring out the inwardness of things. People of his day had not seen poetry like this and thought it very odd. The Jesuit magazine The Month declined to publish what would become his great poem: “The Wreck of the Deutschland,” His literary friends, particularly Robert Bridges, a poet in his own right, realized that something important was happening in Hopkins’ poetry, but even Bridges thought that, ultimately, Hopkins failed. 
From the Poets Corner,
Westminster Abbey.
Fr. Hopkins was a good and faithful Jesuit but not a very successful one. Though in a parish for a while and good to people, he was an odd pastor. Bright and strange enough to be brilliant, they had him teach Latin and Greek, but he was not a practical teacher. Sent to Dublin to teach at the new Catholic university, he found himself at odds with the country and its politics. There, during the mid-1880s, he wrote what have come to be called “the terrible sonnets.” These poems describe Hopkins’ struggle with what we might call depression, at moments approaching madness, but the struggle was larger than that: “world-sorrow.” He struggled with what it meant to be a human being and to go on living even though despair tempted him to give up. And so we read:
            NOT, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
            Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man
            In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
            Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
Of loneliness and the night he writes:
            I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.
Then describing the bitter taste of self, he says:
            I am gall, I am heartburn. God’s most deep decree
            Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me;
How these words of Job or John of the Cross or Hopkins touch you, I do not know, but they are witness that this battle against chaos is common to the human heart and forms part of the ordinary human struggle. So if you know something of this darkness and temptation, you are only human.
Today’s Gospel takes us in a different way. Jesus, immediately on leaving the synagogue where he has driven out an unclear spirit, enters the house of Simon Peter, where they immediately tell him that Simon’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever. Our text says: “He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.” The word “helped her up” is the Greek word egeirō which can also be translated as “lift up,” “raise up.” The word appears often in Mark’s Gospel and in several places with the word “hand.”
When he brings the daughter of the synagogue chief back to life, we hear: “He took the child by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise!’”— egeire (5:41). Following the transfiguration, Jesus cast out a difficult demon out of a boy and then “took him by the hand, raised him, (ēgeren) and he stood up.” The most important use of egeirō come in 16:6 where the young man in white at the tomb said to the women:
            “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.
            He has been raised
(ēgerthē); he is not here.
            Behold the place where they laid him.”
This word egeirō is a resurrection word, and the hand of Jesus which he extends to Peter’s mother-in-law and to the young girl and little boy and others beside, represents both the power and the care of Christ.
The Gospel tells us that Peter’s mother-in-law, now raised by the hand of Jesus and freed from the fever, “waited on them.” The response is surely significant. Her rising up leads to service which stands against sickness, against worthlessness and despair.
As the Gospel tells us, this healing was only one of many, and soon the whole town was gathered at his door. But early the next morning he is up and off to pray, and when they come looking for him to say that “Everyone is looking for you,” he tells them that they must be off “to preach… For this purpose have I come.” Again, the question of purpose: Jesus clearly understands his purpose in a way that the disciples do not. He has come to preach, to preach the cross and resurrection
The Gospel then raises for us the question of purpose—“Why have I come?”
On the one hand, we could say that our purpose is the same as that of Jesus—that we have, like Christ, come to preach the Gospel—if in our own way. Surely this is true, and at the same time it is surely true that we do not always feel this. Sometime we feel like Job: “my life is like the wind; /I shall not see happiness again.” With Job, Hopkins’ “terrible sonnets” attest that at times, we feel this chaos deeply.
Hopkins feels this dilemma and deals with it in another late poem called “That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection,” There he surveys our frail humanity which he calls “mortal trash,” and then asserts:
                              In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, ‘since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd,’ patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.
Hopkins asserts that Christ, by his resurrection, by his rising up, has made us rise with him. By his resurrection he has caused “a beacon, an eternal beam” to shine on our brokenness and make us “immortal diamond”—the hardest material in the world and yet filled with fire.
For Hopkins, this is his purpose and our purpose as well: to become—in the light of Christ’s rising from the dead—“immortal diamond.”

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Word of Life

The fruit of reading holy Scripture is by no means negligible: it is the fullness of eternal happiness. For these are the books which tell us of eternal life, which were written not only that we might believe but also that we might have everlasting life. When we do live that life we shall understand fully, we shall love completely, and all our desires will be totally satisfied. Then, with all our needs fulfilled, we shall truly know the love that surpasses understanding and so be filled with the fullness of God.

The purpose of the Scriptures, which come to us from God, is to lead us to this fullness according to the truths contained in the sayings of the apostles. In order to achieve this, we must study holy Scripture carefully, and teach it and listen to it in the same way.

If we are to attain the ultimate goal of eternal happiness by the path of virtue described in the Scriptures, we have to begin at the very beginning. We must come with a pure faith to the Father of Light and acknowledge him in our hearts. We must ask him to give us, through his Son and in the Holy Spirit, a true knowledge of Jesus Christ, and along with that knowledge a love of him.

Knowing and loving him in this way, confirmed in our faith and grounded in our love, we can know the length and breadth and height and depth of his sacred Scripture. Through that knowledge we can come at last to know perfectly and love completely the most blessed Trinity, whom the saints desire to know and love and in whom all that is good and true finds its meaning and fulfillment.

-- St. Bonaventure

Saturday, February 4, 2012

True rest

Faith is the pierless bridge
supporting what we see
unto the scene that we do not--
too slender for the eye.
Emily Dickinson

Sunday, February 5, 2012
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time—B

Job 7:1-4, 6-7
1Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
Mark 1:29-39

“Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you,” St. Augustine prays in the opening lines of his Confessions. This famous quote sums up our relationship with God. Nothing but God alone satisfies the deepest longing within our hearts, a longing for reunion with our Creator. During this life, we often mistake this longing for something of much lesser value, and misplace the object of our hope. But deep down—whether we acknowledge it or not—we yearn for God, echoing the words of the Psalmist: “My soul rests in God alone, from whom comes my salvation” (Psalm 62:2).

Job’s lament in today’s first reading is the same: “I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.” He has lost everything of earthly value: his possessions, his family, and his health. Though he says he is “without hope,” his very cry to God expresses hope. A hungry infant cries expecting to be heard and satisfied. True hopelessness is deathly silent. As St. Paul writes, “Who hopes for what one sees?” (Romans 8:24)

So, we are weak and weary, but we hope in God, who comes to meet us in the person of Christ. To the weak, he becomes weak, to win over the weak—just as St. Paul followed in his steps and modeled for us. Jesus took on our human weakness to give us strength, restore our hope, and provide the rest for which we long. It is for this purpose that he came into this world and continues to dwell in it through the Body of Christ, the Church, in which God the Father breathes the Holy Spirit. Just as with Simon’s mother-in-law in today’s Gospel, Christ approaches us in Word and Sacrament, grasps us by the hand, and helps us up.

In the Gospel at Saturday’s Mass (Mark 6:30-34), Jesus invites his disciples: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” The same invitation is extended to us, as well as to others through us. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest,” he says in Matthew’s Gospel (11:28).

We may indeed lament along with Job, saying, “I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.” However, the word dawn is the key to that sentence. Dawn brings light, hope, and the promise of the resurrection—new life. The dawn is none other than Christ himself—God Among Us. It is for him that our restless hearts long. Christ is our Light. “I am the light of the world,” he tells us. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

In today’s Gospel from Mark, Jesus, rising very early before dawn, goes off to a deserted place to pray. It is the day after the traditional Sabbath—Sunday, the day of the resurrection to come. And what happens? He is pursued, and when his disciples find him, they say, “Everyone is looking for you.” Jesus responds: “Let us go to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” He offers us rest, coming to meet us on the Day of Resurrection, giving us life by giving his very self. God does this. He is our rest.

This is the same message foretold and fulfilled throughout all of Scripture. It is the same simple message repeated in various forms in every posting on this blog. It is the same because it is true, Truth itself, and nothing but the Truth matters. And when we allow ourselves to discover and truly embrace that Truth, we become its stewards--just like St. Paul. To the weak, we become weak, to win over the weak. We become all things to all, for the sake of the gospel. When our restless hearts find rest in God alone, we discover renewed strength and purpose, arising like Simon's mother-in-law to serve those around us. In gratitude for what we have received, we then seek to provide rest to others--free of charge.


My vow chart.

Lately I've had the opportunity to reflect on my vocation as a Benedictine monk, and to grow even more deeply grateful to God for it. It's always a worthwhile exercise to review one's day, week, year, or life, and to consider who you've been, who you've become, and who you still need to be in God's sight. The beginning of each year often prompts such reflection, whether you're a monk or not. For me, it has been the one-year anniversary of my solemn profession on January 25, 2011.

While this blog is not the proper forum to discuss that in-depth, I would like to express my gratitude to all those who have supported me on this journey--which, as St. Anthony once said, I begin again each day. I appreciate and am strengthened by your prayers. Many have remembered the date of my anniversary, and have sent along warm wishes via phone, letter, or email, and I ask God's blessing on each of you.

This past year--as it has for many people--has been full of incredible joy and wonder, sorrow and distress, success and failure, discovery and disappointment, struggle and serenity, and of course, sin and redemption. But most of all, it's been full of warm and abiding love in myriad and unexpected ways. I've come to understand and value more deeply my vows and what it means to sacrifice and to serve. Undoubtedly, I have much more to learn in the years to come. All is grace, and I am deeply grateful for every drop--as if I am standing beneath a waterfall of divine love.

In recent days we have celebrated the passing of death to life of two monks here. When that happens, we are each reminded of the solemn vows we've made since the symbolism is so rich and unifying in both the monastic profession and funeral liturgies: the pall draped over the casket and the newly professed, the cucullas worn by the deceased and living monks, the paschal candle present during both liturgies, the display of vow charts, the singing of the Suscipe (or profession formula), and the ringing of all six bells in the church's two towers.

On the day of my profession a little over a year ago, I received dozens of cards and notes full of well-wishes. But one really stood out, a short  note from a very learned and well-respected confrere whom no one would mistake for being sentimental. He wrote: "May the bells of this morning always ring in your heart." That short sentence really struck me, and I've carried it with me daily. And when I forget, I am reminded each day by the bells themselves.

Each day, I begin again...

[P.S. Coincidentally--or not--I recently ran across an alumni newsletter article for which I was interviewed last fall by a student of Bowling Green State University, my alma mater. After the interview, I never heard another word about it, then stumbled across it by accident online. If you'd like to read it, please click here .]

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Seeing the light

Today's feast of the Presentation of the Lord, while understated, is one of my favorites during the liturgical year. Recalling Joseph and Mary's presentation of the child Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem 40 days after his birth while pointing toward the light of the Resurrection, the Living God manifests himself to the eyes of the faithful Simeon. Likewise, Christ comes to meet his faithful today in the temple of the heart through the Holy Spirit conferred at baptism. Welcoming him in joyful prayer, praise, and perseverance, the life of Christ radiates out to all the world.

We began our celebration at Mass this morning with the blessing and lighting of candles, which we then carried as we processed into the church. The Gospel read during Mass for the feast, of course, is Luke 2:22-40, which contains the Nunc Dimittis, or Canticle of Simeon (Luke 2:29-31), which we chant every night at Compline (one of the reasons that office is probably my favorite):
Lord, now you let your servant go in peace:
your word has been fulfilled:

My own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:

a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.
One reason this feast is special to me personally is because it was on this day (six years ago) that after a long period of prayer and discernment, I worked up the courage to tell my employers at The Blade newspaper in Toledo, Ohio, that I was seriously looking at leaving and taking up the monastic way of life. It was an important step--likely moreso for me than for The Blade. On that day in 2006, commending myself to the Mother of God, I signaled in concrete form my intentions not only to my employer, but to myself. Though at that time I didn't know I was coming to Saint Meinrad and still had a house, etc., seven months later I was here.

Also, today is the feast day of our own Fr. Simeon Daly, who is quickly approaching his 90th birthday and is still very active in shining his light around here. Fr. Simeon has his own website, Finding Grace in the Moment: Stories and Other Musings of an Aged Monk, which is chock full of interesting stories and reflections (and videos!). Click here to take a peek. It's well worth your time. Ad multos annos, Fr. Simeon!

May we all be encountered and enflamed by the light of Christ!

Einsiedeln prayers

While we at Saint Meinrad are marking the passing of death to life of Fr. Donald and Fr. Eric in recent days, we have learned that two monks of our motherhouse in Switzerland have also died this past week. Einsiedeln’s Br. Stephan Rüttimann and Br. Konrad Hinder were both in their late 70s.

The latter’s passing, in particular, was quite unexpected. Br. Konrad, a very vigorous man, was the sacristan at Einsiedeln, and also served as gardener and weatherman. I remember him well from my trip to Europe in 2010. At that time, I recall that he rode his bicycle along with several younger monks all the way from Einsiedeln to Freudenfels (on Lake Constance) where several of us stayed for a week. (The rest of us went by car like normal people, a drive of a couple hours). By bicycle, that’s a four- or five-hour trip at least, through rolling terrain. When he arrived at Freudenfels, he instantly came to the door of the room where I was staying, shook my hand, and with a big smile said, “Willkommen bei Freudenfels!”

I rarely understood a word he said, but he was always very welcoming, hospitable, and helpful. May both he and Br. Stephan rest in peace.

Your continued prayers are also requested for Abbot Martin of Einsiedeln, who is recovering from a serious head injury suffered in a sporting accident a couple weeks ago. Br. Thomas Fässler of Einsiedeln, who is here studying at Saint Meinrad, has relayed to us news from home that Abbot Martin is undergoing therapy at a rehabilitation clinic in Switzerland. He is slowly making progress, particularly in terms of physical mobility, but still finds it difficult to speak or write.

And while you’re at it, please pray for more vocations at Einsiedeln. There is currently only one junior monk and no novices. Humbly ask the Lord to send more laborers for the harvest, and to protect and guide those already laboring in his vineyard at Einsiedeln.