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Conquering by the Sign of the Cross

Happy Feast of the Exultation of the Cross. The instrument of the curse of Adam has been flipped right side up on its head and is now the means of the blessing bestowed by Christ. By the cross, Jesus destroyed the power of sin and death and uprooted the tree of death – – in its place stands only the tree of life. The poison transformed into the antidote…

It may seem strange to say so but I really do believe and know that this disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, backing my body and crippling my limbs, is actually a great blessing and not a curse. I used to think it was very much a curse, for years. Especially when I considered how it limited me from living like everyone else.

It’s true that sickness and suffering and death originally came into the world as a curse. But these things have been flipped on their heads when Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, freely embraced suffering and death. He destroyed their power and turned them into means of strength and life. The poisonous venom of the serpent was transformed into the antidote and serum of life-giving grace. Christ uprooted the cursed tree and now there is only the tree of life, the bloodsoaked branches shine in brilliant splendor. The curse is now the means of blessing – – suffering brings good into the world and death is the doorway to life.

For me, today’s Feast of the Exaltation Of the Cross, is my own personal feast day. My perspective was totally changed when I learned that suffering is redemptive if it is united to the suffering of Christ on the cross and offered for the sake of the good of others. It gave me a lot of peace and joy to know that my life, even my suffering, had a purpose. Suffering is not a curse, it is a blessing – – and I’ve seen countless blessings come forth from it (even when I don’t see it, I know blessings flow from it).

Suffering allows for closer conformity with Jesus Christ Crucified. It is thus a means of union with God. I mean, I am not always conscious of these things when someone annoys me or I can’t go out, but even poorly accepted suffering is redemptive. The cross of muscular dystrophy is my secret weapon even though I don’t always wield it very well.

that brings me to one more point, the cross is victory, not defeat. How is being nailed to a instrument of torture and death reserved for criminals, even close to being a victory in any sense of the word? The answer is love, stronger than death. The power of Divine Love completely devastated the evil that was being inflicted. It was never about the suffering itself but the love with which Jesus was loving from the cross. “Father, they know not what they do.”

“By this sign, you shall conquer.”

Those were words that the Emperor Constantine saw before he went into battle… They were inscribed on a cross. After having it placed on the shields of the soldiers, he defeated the co-Emperor and became sole Emperor. While he didn’t fully convert until later (questionable about how much he did convert before that), he issued the Edict of Milan tolerating Christianity and promoted several Christian ideals throughout the Empire. Constantine’s mother St. Helena, wanting to help make up for some of the sins of her son, went to Jerusalem looking for the Holy Cross – – long story short, she found it by having a ill woman touched to several crosses that were uncovered: the true cross must be the one by which the woman was completely healed, and so it was. Later, another Emperor went there to do penance and the feast day was subsequently instituted.

It is so true that, “by this sign [of the Cross], you shall conquer.” That is why Jesus tells his followers to pick up their cross and follow him. By doing so, we not only share in his suffering and death but also in his life and resurrection. I believe that, because I suffered, I will all the more appreciate having a glorified body and being able to walk, and run – – and yes, even fly. All things work together for good including suffering and death!

“We adore you O Christ and we praise you because By Your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world!”

– St. Francis of Assisi

Calling on the Holy Name of Mary and Learning to Imitate Her

Ave Maria! Today is the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary. I never tire of contemplating her name. The Holy Name of Mary is powerful and makes demons tremble. Her name makes the clouds of fear and doubt dissipate so that the Divine rays of the Sun of Justice, Jesus Christ, her Son, may shine so brightly in our hearts. The many times I called upon the name of Mary, I was filled with so much peace and joy. Anyone who cries out  “Mary” will never be forsaken. You don’t even have to add, “help me,” or “pray for me,” but just “Mary” because she knows and loves each of her children personally, anticipating every need.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is totally transformed into Christ and completely conformed to him. In a real sense, when one sees Mary, one sees Jesus. Mary only wants what Jesus wants. And Jesus wants us to call upon Mary; he gave her to us to be our own mother in the order of grace. When we ask her to pray for us, her prayers are completely dependent on her Son, the One Mediator between God and man. Every Christian’s prayer rests on Christ – – when we pray for someone, it is Christ who prays for that person because Christ lives in us. In the case of Mary, she can truly say with all of her being that she no longer lives but Christ lives in her. And indeed he does, to such an preeminent and perfect degree.

We should strive to be Mary and learn from her. To imitate her virtues. At any given moment, we can ask, “What would Mary do? How would she imitate Jesus in this particular situation?” On her part, she helps us to imitate her as she imitates Jesus perfectly. Incidentally, if St. Paul could say, “be imitators of me as I imitate Christ,” how much more can the  and Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God say it? Through the graces received through her hands, Mary helps us to as she loves – – and no one loves Jesus as she loves him. A good practice is to to take that passage in 1st Corinthians 13, “love is kind,” and replace “love” with “Mary,” so to know how to imitate her in loving. This is how we ought to contemplate the Holy Name of Mary:

Mary is patient, Mary is kind.

Mary is not jealous, Mary is not pompous,

Mary is not inflated, Mary is not rude,

Mary does not seek Her own interests,

Mary is not quick-tempered, Mary does not brood over injury,

Mary does not rejoice over wrongdoing

Mary rejoices with the truth.

Mary bears all things, Mary believes all things,

Mary hopes all things, Mary endures all things.

What is joy to think of Mary and call upon her name!

Thanks be to God our loving Father that he has been so generous and merciful to us to give us so wonderful a mother!

St. Martha: Work, Prayer, Anxiety, Trust, and Love

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; 42 one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38–42 (RSVCE)

Does God look favorably on prayer but not on work? It might seem that way at first glance on today’s Gospel reading for the Feast of St. Martha. But that would be a simplistic reading that fails to make proper distinctions. From the reading, we can consider the following about Martha’s working, as opposed to her failure to listen like her sister Mary: 1. Work itself. 2. Work at that moment. 3. Work done for its own sake versus work done out of love. Then we can look at the positive change in Martha.

Work is a good thing.

Work itself is a good thing. God commanded Adam to keep and till the Garden, and that was before the Fall. Also, Jesus was a worker, from a family of workers. He was a craftsman who fashioned things out of earth, wood, metal, etc. Interestingly, I heard it mentioned that ancient Greek craftsman were considered to be the artists. So maybe it’s not a stretch to think of Jesus as an artist! As an artist, I like to think so.

From the above we should conclude that work is a good thing. And of course, many of the Popes and Saints have talked about the dignity of work. The dignity of workers and their rights are one of Catholic social teachings of the Church. So, Jesus wouldn’t have anything against work itself.

Don’t be anxious.

What is Jesus gently rebuking Martha about? For her being anxious and troubled about many things. Anxiety and worry are not good things, as I mentioned before, simply because Jesus tells us not to worry or be anxious about anything. He beautifully tells us not to be afraid; the Father knows what needs and lovingly provides for us. (Sermon on the Mount discourse, Matthew 6). Maybe Martha wasn’t there when Jesus spoke these words to the crowd. Busy cooking maybe? 🙂

It’s easy for us to get caught up with many things and find ourselves in an intricate spiderweb of our own weaving. There are so many good things that we need to do, and to do them as best as we can. Work is, again, a good thing. Hospitality and service is an act of love (see Abraham at Mamre; Genesis 18, Hebrews 13:2).

When Jesus came to visit, Mary was listening at the feet of Jesus while Martha was busy with the preparations. Mary was being present to Jesus. Martha was not present to Jesus but rather was preoccupied with the serving.

Being present to God in every circumstance.

Martha could have tried her best to be present to Jesus while she did what was necessary. Perhaps, she could have actually done a lot of the preparations before Jesus arrived. Then, she would be able to listen to Jesus. It seems that this could have been what Jesus wanted from her, to be hospitable to him by being present to him. There is a time for everything, and this could have been a time for her to be still. Or simply, because she did not have the preparations out of the way before hand, Jesus just wanted her to listen as much as she could and not get worked up about the serving.

Not that work is a substitution for prayer, especially silent meditation or mental prayer, but it is possible to work and pray. To work well, with the awareness that what I do, I do for the love of God. St. Paul says, “[…]whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17).

“In the name of Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through him.” This is the disposition we should have when working. We will be doing our work for Jesus, with gratitude to the Father, if we do everything in love – – empowered by the grace of the Spirit of love. Many other Saints have said similar things about work and prayer from St. Benedict to St. Francis De Sales to St. Therese to St. Josémaria, etc.

Love is the one thing necessary.

Love seems to be the missing component in the whole picture. Indeed, Martha seems to be blaming her sister for not helping her. Andin her impatience, she wonders why Jesus is not telling Mary to help. It seems to me that Martha could have been bit jealous that her sister got to be attentive to Jesus while she had to be stuck working. But again, service is an act of love. For the neighbor, and for God in the neighbor. In this case, it’s one and the same Person! To some extent, Jesus does want Martha to serve. Someone has to do it. And because he is truly Incarnate before her, he has to eat because he has a human stomach.

Jesus wants Martha to do it all out of love and attentiveness. Jesus does not want our work to become an occasion of anger and frustration.

There is only one thing necessary, Jesus says. Mary has chosen the better part, she has chosen to be present to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She receives his heart. There is one thing necessary, there is one thing that Jesus wants: our heart.

St. Martha, Dragon slayer.

We can’t just leave Martha hanging. Fast forward to death and burial of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha. Martha went out to meet Jesus and speaks to him from her heart, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” This is the beginning of her conversation, or prayer – – for prayer is conversation with God – – with Jesus. While Martha is in the presence of Jesus, Mary is at home. I think we can say that this time Martha has chosen the better part. It is on this occasion that she processes her faith in Jesus who has the power to raise the dead to life:

Here, Martha is on the way to becoming St. Martha. Her worry and anxiety has given way to courageous and expectant trust. Anxiety is a symptom of fear. Fear that comes with perfectionism, feeling that whatever one is doing is inadequate, that they will never measure up. I can say that I know what that is like. That’s why I really appreciate this medieval legend of St. Martha killing a dragon.

St Martha tramples the dragon.jpg
By Pietro de Lignishttps://twitter.com/bxknits/status/680858953509634048, Public Domain, Link

It’s believed that Martha, Mary, and Lazarus went to Cyprus and France to bring the Gospel there, after Pentecost. In a town in France, as the legend has it, a dragon -like creature was threatening the people there, but that’s until St. Martha showed up and faced down the dragon, defeating it by making the sign of the cross and or piercing it through with a cross! What a great illustration of faith and courage! She has come a long way. St. Martha shows us how we can overcome our anxiety and fear through making time for prayer, which increases faith.

I think that the more she increased in faith, the better her meals must have been. How memorable must have been her generosity and hospitality in the dinners she held, because of the love she put into it.With that in mind, the best way to close would be with words from the Collect from the Mass on the feast day of St. Martha:

Almighty ever-living God,
whose Son was pleased to be welcomed
in Saint Martha’s house as a guest,
grant, we pray,
that through her intercession,
serving Christ faithfully in our brothers and sisters,
we may merit to be received by you
in the halls of heaven.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

St. Mary Magdalene in the 1st episodes of The Chosen

“I was one way… and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened in between… was Him.” 

With just those lines, Mary Magdalene testifies to the transformation that comes with encountering Jesus. This is what is true evangelist or evangelizer does, giving an answer, to everyone who asks, the reason for your hope (1st Peter 3:15 NIV). “Christ has come into the world, come and see what he has done for me–– for I was one way and now I am completely different”

The Gospels inform us that St. Mary Magdalene had 7 demons expelled from. Interestingly, they don’t explicitly say anything about her being a prostitute. That comes about with equating her with the woman caught in adultery, and/or with the repentant woman who wiped the feet of Jesus with her tears (and with that detail, some believe that she may have been Mary of Bethany who is also recorded to have done the same). Whatever the case, it seems to me that it’s not unreasonable to suggest that she may have been a prostitute. The 7 demons can be spiritually symbolic of the 7 deadly sins as well. Each of them may have been a of one of those sins, including lust. Also, it may be asked how not just one, but seven demons came to afflict her. It seems to me that they may have been invited by her actions. Exorcists talk about how mortal sins open the door to demonic influences. So, if demons attach to sinful activity and persons who engage in it, it’s possible that Mary Magdalene was possessed sevenfold because of her being a prostitute. But that was before she met Jesus.

In the new, wonderfully produced and beautifully acted multi-season show on the life of Jesus (what a genius idea), The Chosen, we are introduced to Mary Magdalene in the 1st episode. People like Peter, his wife, and his brother Andrew, as well as the pesky taxman, Matthew, as well as Nicodemus and his wife along with a few other characters show up in subplots of the 1st episode, but really, it’s Mary Magdalene’s episode. 

The show starts off kind of slow and the viewer may be wondering, where is Jesus? He does eventually show up in episode 1, but in the meantime we learn the back stories of several characters, including most especially, St. Mary Magdalene. She is a frightened young girl whose father reassures her with a verse from Isaiah: “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

We see her later, and for most of the episode, in her brokenness and in the throes of demonic possession. The verse gives her comfort but only for so long, until she starts losing hope because her situation is not getting any better.

In one scene, Nicodemus, the Pharisees, visiting from Jerusalem, is called upon to exorcise the demons from Mary who is known as Lilith at that point of her life. He is unsuccessful and flees from the site in terror. The exorcism scenes are not spectacularly frightening, but they give you an idea of what it must have been like. No one can really help the poor woman, and Nicodemus acknowledges that only God himself can cast out the demons from her…

“Mary!” Jesus calls her one evening, foreshadowing how he will call her on the morning of the resurrection. She is completely astonished that someone would call her by that name—- no one would know it at that point except, just maybe, her Creator. It’s such a beautiful scene when Jesus speaks those very words from Isaiah 43. He comes for his lost sheep, and to heal the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

St. Mary Magdalene would never forget that Pictureencounter with her Redeemer. She is completely new person. Subsequently, in episode 2, Nicodemus sees her somewhere, nearly unrecognizable and completely restored and asks her what happened. Her answer is the scene above. She gives witness to the fact that the King of Israel has come into the world and the kingdom of God is at hand. He has come to heal and restore his people. I can’t help but think how powerful it must have been for people to have known her before Jesus and after Jesus.

What I especially love about St. Mary Magdalene is her great love for Christ Jesus as attested to by the readings selected for her feast day. Can it be that it was because of her great love that Jesus chose to appear to her and send her off to be the “apostle to the Apostles,” to witness to his resurrection? How much more beautiful if she was actually a prostitute. Whoever has been forgiven much, loves much, as Jesus says of the woman in Luke 7:45. I don’t think it is kind of disservice to her by saying that she had a sinful past. It seems probable to me to think so. I think it makes her even more of a great Saint and more relatable, a good example for all of us sinners, redeemed. Indeed, there is hope for everyone. After All, In the Words Attributed to St. Augustine,”Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” (Words put on the lips of a character in an Oscar Wilde play – I was curious).

St. Mary Magdalene, help us to be witnesses of the great love we have been shown: the love of the Resurrected Jesus, stronger than death. Pray for us that we may love as you do and be transformed into living images of him. And that we might boldly testify that “”I was one way… and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened in between… was Him.” In the name of The God of Jacob, Our Redeemer who calls us by name.

Seeking Wisdom Above All Else

The Scripture Readings on Sunday (17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A) were all about wisdom:

1st Kings 3:5, 7-12

Romans 8:28-30

Matthew 13:44-52

Below are my thoughts and reflections on how the readings encourage us to seek wisdom above all else.

(Before I continue, I can’t help but make the sad observation that the weekend of these readings is the very weekend that the Church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia, founded in 537) in Istanbul (Constantinople) will be used as a mosque as it was after the Ottomans took Byzantium.)

God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said that he would give him whatever he would ask. As pretty much everyone knows, young Solomon asks for wisdom. It seems to me that he was given an imparting of wisdom so that he might be inspired to ask for wisdom. The Holy Spirit teaches us to pray, he helps us to know what we should ask for.

Why did Solomon ask for wisdom? So that he might know how to act and serve the people he has been entrusted to rule. He wants to know what God wants him to do, for it is God who made him king to rule over God’s own people. And so, King Solomon, with the disposition of humility, acknowledges his inexperience (“I am a mere youth”) and inability (“not knowing at all how to act”) and makes his request:

“Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart
to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.
For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”

His request for wisdom is at the service of God. He is not asking for his own sake, to gratify disordered desire. He’s asking for wisdom for the common good as well as for his own higher good.

God is pleased to give King Solomon what he wants because he is not asked for a long life for himself, nor riches, nor the life of his enemies. And the Lord is so good and generous that not only will he give Solomon wisdom, he goes so far as to say that “I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like up to you, and after you they will come no one to equal you.”

That is wisdom through the roof!

In the 2nd reading from the masterful work of St. Paul called the Letter to the Romans, Paul reminds his audience (the people of Rome he hasn’t met yet), that “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Wisdom helps us to see and understand how things can work together for good. Everything we do works together for the good, even our sins (because of the repentance, contrition, and reliance on Divine Mercy they bring about), but especially the willed good that we do in cooperation with God’s grace. It is wisdom that equips us to discern what the right thing to do, at any given moment, is.

With wisdom, Solomon could know what to do with a long life for himself, with riches, and how to handle his enemies. This is why he asks for wisdom. If you have wisdom, everything else falls into place. You’ll know what to do in every circumstance, you will know what to do with every blessing, and you will know how all things might tend to the greatest good possible. The one who has wisdom has everything; he has the principal prerequisite for living life well, fully, and at service of God.

Only one who values and cherishes wisdom can truly say with the Psalmist, that “I love your command more than gold, however fine. For in all your precepts I go forward; every false way I hate.” (Psalm 119:127).

How ought wisdom be desired and transferred? Like the person in the parable of Jesus (Matthew 13) who finds a treasure buried in a field and sells all he has to buy the field. The person who desires wisdom is like the merchant who finds a pearl of great price and sells everything he has in order to buy it. What would I do to possess wisdom?

“Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ”

– Philippians 3:8

Ultimately, Jesus Christ is Wisdom Incarnate. He is Logos, the Reason through whom the whole universe was created. Wisdom mightily orders all things from from end to end (Wisdom 8:1). Therefore, if you have Jesus, you have everything. And if you have Jesus, he lives inside you and the more you let his Power work in you the more you will be rightly ordered in yourself and in your actions. We are conformed to his image through Wisdom living in and through us.

True wisdom is Jesus Christ and to desire him above all else, doing whatever it takes to possess him. Everything is refuse apart from him. If we have him, we have everything. Seeking wisdom is carrying the cross, Suffering for the sake of Christ, saying no in order to say yes more deeply. To many, this pursuit is foolishness because Christ crucified is folly to them. But one who has wisdom understands that Jesus is the power and wisdom of God, “for the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the righteousness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:20-25.)

There is a famous encounter that St. Thomas Aquinas had that was similar to the one Solomon had. Jesus spoke to him from the crucifix and said, “Thomas, you have written well of me. What would you have in return?” Thomas replied, “I would have nothing other than you, Lord.” That is wisdom.

“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”

– Proverbs 4:7

If I have Jesus, True Wisdom, in abundance, then I have everything. I will know to do with everything. As for my part, I must seek and hold on to the priceless treasure no matter what, no matter the cost: this involves choosing to reject enticing allurements that pale in comparison, such as the thirst for power which King Solomon succumbed to at one point, becoming a fool who exchanged the glory of God with the worship of shiny trinkets.

Superman: Red Son

What if Superman crash landed in the Soviet Union instead of the USA? That’s the premise of the graphic novel, “Superman: Red Son,” by Mark Millar. It’s a very Interesting story with really awesome artwork. I read it recently thanks to Hoopla Digital’s wide selection of comics available through my public library.

Because he lands in the USSR, Superman (his adopted name is a State secret) is raised on a commune farm; adopted by Joseph Stalin (Man of Steel, get it?); and is a superhero who wears red and blue and a crest with a sickle and hammer on his chest – – of course!

Superman in Red Son.png

By “R E D S O N” at Superman Through the Ages!. Retrieved August 28, 2005., Fair use, Link

Superman is still a nice guy who wants to do the right thing but may be misled in his approach. Who wouldn’t want to eradicate disease, poverty, and crime? Who doesn’t want the world to be better? It would be nice to have a nice guy like Superman to be absolute dictator to ensure that the world is as it was meant to. Although, it might take some convincing (reprogramming) and some strict enforcement of this harmony and order if that is what it takes. Superman doesn’t want to invade other countries like Stalin, but if really is absolutely necessary he may be willing to do so, reluctantly at 1st but having the understanding to see it through.

There are a lot of familiar characters, such as Superman’s archenemy, Lex Luthor (a capitalist who spends crazy amounts of time and money to figure out how to destroy Superman). Early in the story, his ego tripping is hilarious. Batman (terrorist? freedom fighter?) also makes an appearance with a Russian hat on his head because he has to keep that brain warm. Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Brainiac, are also it. Oh, did I mention that in this alternate universe, Lois Lane is married to Lex Luthor. Dang. Oh, and he also blew his chances with WW (because of some uncharacteristic callousness on his part). Too bad.

While it is visually engaging story, it contains lessons for those who can pick up on them. Eventually, Superman learns something… Yes, much of the world is a sterile utopia through the force of Superman’s will on the people, but at what cost? This is a graphic novel and so it is not a thorough treatment of communism, capitalism, free will, etc., even though it discusses these things – – it’s just a kind of primer. Anyway, it was interesting to read because it does not shy away from philosophical , social, and moral issues , dealing with the rights of human beings and the common good. And as an artist, I think the art is really dope, just check out the image of the cover, below. A beautiful Art Deco tribute to those 1930s Superman cartoons.

(Have not seen the recent animated movie of it yet. I might update this post after watching it.)

Supermanredson.jpg
By Source, Fair use, Link

The beautiful simplicity of St. Kateri

(Sketch I drew in about 2002, when I still had the physical motor capabilities to draw with traditional materials)

I am really not sure what drew me to St. Kateri Tekawitha (Feast day, July 14). Maybe it was because, as a kid, I thought it was pretty cool and interesting that there was a Native American Saint. Or maybe it was because she had brown skin like me. I had read about her in that popular children’s book of Saints (by Father Lawrence Lovasik). Anyway, whatever the case, as I grew in my faith I also grew in my appreciation for the friends of God, the Saints. In a sense, I rediscovered them… Some of them actually found me. St. Kateri was one of those who befriended me.

Eventually, I learned about just what makes St. Kateri great, the deeper reason for being drawn to her. I learned of her heroic faith, as someone who was ridiculed for her faith in Christ but persevered in her love to the end. She did not see it as a foreign faith imposed from outside upon the Native Americans of upstate New York. It was simply the truth, and the truth is for all people. The Jesuit missionaries, “the black robes,” wanted to share Jesus with the people they encountered, not to destroy their culture and life but rather to enrich it. St. Kateri retained the good of her culture while embracing the Gospel. St. Pope John Paul II, who canonized her in 1980, observed that, “Even when she dedicated herself fully to Jesus Christ, to the point of taking the prophetic step of making a vow of perpetual virginity, she always remained what she was, a true daughter of her people, following her tribe in the hunting seasons and continuing her devotions in the environment most suited to her way of life, before a rough cross carved by herself in the forest.”

After St. Kateri embraced Christ and converted to Catholicism at age 19, she subsequently took a vow of chastity because she only wanted to belong to Jesus, which was something unknown and unpopular because it was expected for young women at her age to marry instead. She received the name “Kateri,” which means “Catherine,” in the Mohawk language, in honor of St. Catherine of Siena. Eventually she had to travel to a Christian native community in modern-day Canada. She continued to pray for the conversion of her fellow Mohawks. St. Kateri had a great love for the Cross, for the Holy Virgin Mary, and the Blessed Sacrament. She was very devout. Because of a smallpox epidemic when she was younger (of which her parents died and why she was raised by her uncle), she had scars on her face, and could not see well – – they called her, “Tekawitha”, which means, “she who bumps into things.” But when she died on April 17, 1680, the scars went away. Her last words were, “Jesus, I love you.” By her intercession, may we also be fully restored and made new unto everlasting life.

St. Kateri, pray for us.

The words of Pope Benedict XVI, who canonized her: “We entrust to you the renewal of the faith in the First Nations and in all of North America! May God bless the First Nations!”

Mother of the Church

It’s really simple actually, if Mary is the mother of Jesus, she is also the mother of all those who bear his name as Christians. Mother of Christ = mother of Christians. All those who were baptized into Christ have become his brothers and sisters. If that’s the case, we have the same spiritual mother, Mary.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God becomes our Father just as he is the Father for the Son. That is why Jesus tells his Apostles that they should no longer ask him to pray to the Father because they themselves can ask him. In other words, our relationship to the Father is, by grace, the same relationship that Jesus has with him by nature. So too, his mother has become our mother. We are rooted in Christ, one with him.

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at the Upper Room gathered together with Mary. He overshadowed them, just as he overshadowed her. Christ was conceived at the Annunciation, and he was conceived in his Members at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit equips and sends us forth as Jesus into the world. It can be understood then, that we are Jesus.

At the Cross, Jesus gave his mother to his beloved disciples. At the Cross, the side of Christ was opened and blood and water flowed out, symbolizing the Church emanating out of the side of Christ the new Adam, just as Eve came forth from the side of Adam.

Christ and his Church are united as one, as a bridegroom with his bride form one flesh. All people are called to this fellowship, to be incorporated into the Church, beloved by God. The One Church of Jesus Christ is Universal, made up of people from around the world.

With all that in mind, here is an image I want to share today on the Feast of Mary, Mother of the Church. It’s called Our Lady of Wisdom, painted by a Christian Indian artist. I’ve had it for years but I found it recently and am looking for a place to put it in my room.

The image, while not the typical image of Mater Ecclesia, Mother of the Church, think, the mosaic at the Vatican, does have some connections to the feast day, I think:

Lotus flowers are symbolic of purity and wisdom. Not only do they symbolize the Immaculata, in addition to the crescent moon symbolizing her, they also symbolize wisdom. Jesus is Wisdom Incarnate, the Logos, the Reason who orders the Universe. Mary is the mother of Jesus, the mother of Wisdom.

Through the powerful intercession of the Mother of God, we can receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in abundance. We desperately need the Holy Spirit right now, with his Sevenfold Gifts, especially Wisdom, in order to be Jesus for a hurting society and world starved for him.

Buried and Raised

This life has the sense of being buried with Christ… We experience all the limitations of our mortality and have yet to experience resurrection with Christ.

Even in the midst of the Easter Season in which we rejoice for the victory of Jesus Christ over death, in the anticipation of our own sharing in that victory on the last day, in many ways it still feels like Holy Saturday. The feeling is even more pronounced because of continuation of the coronavirus plague.

So, here we are in the tomb of this life, with Jesus. Sealed, as it were, in the cold stone tomb. But it’s not bad to be aware of it. The idea of being “in the tomb,” understood in this way, is good for silence. God speaks in the silence. His voice can be better heard now. That’s one of the reasons why I think that great good will come out this present situation in time, and why God may be allowing this. We can already see it at work. Isaiah 43:19. Back in the middle of March, it occurred to me that it was in the silence that the prodigal son, “came to his senses.” (Luke 15:17).

When I heard the words that we hear every Ash Wednesday reminding us that “thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return,” I had no clue how real and tangible these words would become. We are constantly confronted with the fragility of life, the realization that we are just dust and will return to dust.

Just a few days after that Wednesday,, I was faced with a reminder ofHow fleeting life can be. A newNurse was working with me one morning. When changing my T-shirt, a small valve opening on the front of the tracheostomy got snagged and opened. Air began to escape and a sense of panic came over me as I thought that this nurse would not be able to detect because of the problem. To my dread, I was correct – – he had no idea what was wrong. The opening was so small and the shirt, still on me, obscured it. He couldn’t see it. To make things worse, it wasn’t a total leak of air and so the alarm didn’t go off. my being able to speak, I mouthed the words, “call mom.” Thankfully he understood but he didn’t really make much effort to do this. Suddenly the guy decides that I need to be suctioned. I know that if this is attempted – – if an increase of air is not given, if the loss of air increases, I will surely pass out. So as the nurse holds the suction catheter and gets close, I’m thinking, “this is it. It’s all over for me.” Seconds before he is about to disconnect my tracheostomy tube to suction me, my eyes are watering and everything is starting to get hazy. I looked up at the picture of Jesus the Divine Mercy and asked him, “is this how it ends?” Right then, my mom opened the door and walked in. Almost immediately, she detected the problem and closed the valve and I could breathe easy, literally. Needless to say this particular nurse will not be working for me again.

I almost had a similarly life threatening situation again . Secretions of mucus blocked my airway and I couldn’t speak. The nurse Y was working, filling in for W (who, wouldn’t you know it, was exposed to someone who has had potential contact with somebody with coronavirus), paused after suctioning me once. I couldn’t speak to tell her to quickly suction again to clear the plug. After making efforts of nodding my head to indicate to go in again, she suctioned out the plug which was thick and yellow-green (sorry).

Anyway, these near brushes with death are nothing new.

Easter 2020

“Now on the first day of the week Mary Mag′dalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.”

– John 20:1

Even though it may be dark outside, Jesus has truly risen from the dead. It was in the darkness that he rose. They thought that his grave was robbed – – and the grave actually was robbed, but he was the robber! When a grave was robbed, the burial clothes were taken and the body left in the tomb but now the body was gone and the burial clothes were left behind. The soldiers guarding the tomb fell like dead men and the dead man was raised to life (Mt. 24:8). St. Mary Magdalene mistook Jesus for the gardener but he really was the gardener (Jn. 20:15). He’s the one that planted the garden of Eden and did what Adam failed to do. He’s the new Adam who makes all things new. He’s the strong one who plundered the devil and tied him up (Mk 3:27). Anyone who lives in him is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

So even though it may look dark outside and sin, suffering, and death are all around they are all a bunch of shadows without any real power. Christ entered into all of it, all the way to the depths, entering into jaws of death itself breaking its teeth. It’s already a done deal – – all the stupid plagues and illnesses, all the brokenness, it’s all been defeated. Anyway, there is hope because once he was dead and is now alive.

That’s pretty much all I want to say right now. Happy Easter everybody! It’s not about pastel colors and fluffy rabbits who lay chocolate eggs.

Originally posted to Facebook.