Let Go of Fear, Journey of Faith

Let Go of Fear, Journey of Faith

Once again today we hear Jesus proclaiming that his disciples should not surrender to fear as they carry out their mission.  He even tells his followers that they are worth more than an entire flock of sparrows and that every hair on their head has been counted.  Jesus assures us that God’s loving, fatherly care accompanies us in all of life’s diverse situations.

Historical Note.  “Be not afraid,” “Non abbiate paura” were the encouraging words that the newly elected Pope John Paul II spoke to the crowd assembled in Saint Peter’s Square in October of 1978.  These bold words came from the lips of a man who knew hardship and danger; he had lived through the Second World War, endured the Nazi regime, and suffered under Communist rule in his native Poland.  The new pope was also speaking to a world that experiences a panorama of fears: terrorism, hunger, drugs, corruption, infidelity, and war—and the temptation to lapse into pessimism or cynicism.

Crossing the Threshold of Hope, John Paul II’s book on the first fifteen years of his pontificate (1978-1993), contains an entire chapter entitled: “Be Not Afraid.”  The pope reflects: “When, on October 22, 1978, I said the words ‘Be not afraid!’ in Saint Peter’s Square, I could not fully know how far they would take me and the entire Church….  The exhortation ‘Be not afraid!’ should be interpreted as having a very broad meaning.  In a certain sense it was an exhortation addressed to all people, an exhortation to conquer fear in the present world situation.”

John Paul II continues.  Why should we have no fear?  Because man has been redeemed by God….  In the Redemption we find the most profound basis for the words ‘Be not afraid!’: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son’ (cf. Jn 3:16)….  The power of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection is greater than any evil which man could or should fear.

With obvious conviction, the pope states: “At the end of the second millennium, we need, perhaps more than ever, the words of the Risen Christ: ‘Be not afraid!’…  Peoples and nations of the entire world need to hear these words.  Their conscience needs to grow in the certainty that Someone exists who holds in His hands the destiny of this passing world….  And this Someone is Love (cf. I Jn 4:8, 16)—Love that became human, Love crucified and risen, Love unceasingly present among men.  It is Eucharistic Love.  It is the infinite source of communion.  He alone can give the ultimate assurance when He says ‘Be not afraid!’”

Conclusion.  During his lengthy pontificate (1978-2005), Saint Pope John Paul II (canonized by Pope Francis on April 27, 2014) has frequently repeated Jesus’ injunction “Be not afraid”; it is like a recurring theme of a grand symphony.  The pope who began his papacy with the words “Be not afraid!” asks each of us to once again personally hear those words today.

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

Mission / Father’s Day

Fill my heart with your love, Lord Jesus,

the kind that drives out all fear,

the kind that forgives all things,

the kind that hopes for the best,

the kind that transforms my wounds

into fountains of grace to sanctify

my life and my world.

Drive from my memories, Lord,

the darker shadows of the past

that blind me to the good in others.

Free me from resentments and grudges

that keep me from living life to the full.

Into your hands, my Lord and my God,

I place all my dreams and fears,

my hopes and disappointments,

my regrets and my joys,

all for the glory of your name

and the sake of your kingdom.

Amen.

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

Saints and Popes Speak on Mission, Journey of Faith

Saints and Popes Speak on Mission, Journey of Faith

Saints and Popes Speak on Mission

Our Gospel reading today presents the beginning of the famous “mission discourse” by the Evangelist Matthew; it covers all of chapter ten of Matthew’s Gospel.  Since our Catholic Church is missionary by her very nature and identity, much has been written about missionary evangelization over the centuries.  To enhance your meditation and reflection, this presentation simply provides a series of quotes from various sources to enrich your missionary journey of faith.

“The task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church….  Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity.  She exists in order to evangelize.” Saint Pope Paul VI (EN 14).  “The Mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion….  This mission is still only beginning … we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service.” Saint Pope John Paul II (RM 1).

“An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral.” Pope Francis (EG 10).  “Go forth and set the world on fire.” Saint Ignatius of Loyola.  “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” Pope Benedict XVI (DCE 1).  “It is no use walking somewhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” Saint Francis of Assisi.

“Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams.  Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential.  Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what is still possible for you to do.” Saint Pope John XXIII.  ► “Intense love does not measure, it just gives.” Saint Teresa of Calcutta.  “Modern people listen more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if they listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” Saint Pope Paul VI (EN 41).  “Speak to them of the great mercy of God.” Saint Francis Xavier.

“Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God.  Do all that you do with love.” Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.  ► “We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.” Saint Francis of Assisi.  ► “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.” Pope Francis (EG 3).

“I would be a missionary, not for a few years only, but from the beginning of creation until the consummation.” Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.  ► “My vocation is love, in the heart of the Church, my mother; I will be love and then I will be all things.” Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.  ► “Proclaim Christ to all peoples.” Saint Pope John Paul II (RM 3).

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

 

Mission / Father’s Day

Send me, Lord, out into the world

that begins at my front door.

May my every word flow from your heart

and my actions be of love and peace

that everything I do or say

reflects your great mercy to all.

Help me witness to your truth

no less in my silence than in my words

and show me, Lord, the way I should go.

Help me to see that my solemn duty

to spread your gospel to everyone

in the world is second only to their right

to hear and respond to it.

Open my eyes to your presence in others

and my ears to recognize your voice

especially in the poor and oppressed.

Unworthy as I am, I dare to come

before you, my Lord, in answer to your call

to spread your love and mercy to all.

Grant that I have the wisdom

to get out of your way so that whatever

good I do or hardship I endure

will redound to your glory.

Amen.

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

Feeding on Living Bread Journey of Faith

Feeding on Living Bread Journey of Faith

Corpus Christi

Our feast today is Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ; more formally, it is termed: The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  Today’s Gospel is drawn from chapter six of John’s Gospel, often termed the “bread of life” chapter.  Here Jesus declares: “I am the bread of life….  I am the bread that came down from heaven….  My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”  Hearing Jesus’ words, many of his ordinary followers abandoned him.  The Twelve stayed with Jesus; Peter declared: “Lord to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”

Saintly Insights.  Since this year is the 150th anniversary of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-2023), we can draw much inspirational insight from her writings on the Eucharist.  Each of these quotes provides us with rich material for reflection.  She wrote: “The guest of our soul knows our misery; He comes to find an empty tent within us—that is all He asks.”  “Receive Communion often, very often….  There you have the sole remedy, if you want to be cured.  Jesus has not put this attraction in your heart for nothing.”

Thérèse continues: “By our little acts of charity practiced in the shade we convert souls far away, we help missionaries, we win for them abundant alms; and by that means build actual dwellings spiritual and material for our Eucharistic Lord.”  “It is not to remain in a golden ciborium that He comes down each day from heaven, but to find another heaven, the heaven of our soul in which He takes delight.”

Additional Wisdom.  The “Little Flower” Saint instructs us.  “Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you—for you alone?  He burns with the desire to come into your heart….  Don’t listen to the demon, laugh at him, and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love.”  “You must open a little, or rather raise on high your corolla so that the Bread of Angels may come as divine dew to strengthen you, and to give you all that is wanting to you.”

“O Jesus, on this day you have filled all my desires.  From now on, near the Eucharist, I shall be able to sacrifice myself in silence, to wait for Heaven in peace.  Keeping myself open to the rays of the Divine Host, in this furnace of love, I shall be consumed.  And, like a seraphim, Lord, I shall love you.” 

Our Response.  As we admire the insights of this small Thérése, let us remember that her childlike joy at being in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord is something to strive for.  In addition, we recall that our United States bishops conference has inaugurated the National Eucharistic Revival.  The goal of this endeavor is: “To renew the Church by enkindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.”  Blessings to you and your loved ones on this feast of Corpus Christi.

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

 

Trinity Sunday

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

I bow before the sublime mystery

of one God in three divine persons

confessing I do not fully comprehend

a truth far beyond human understanding.

You, in whose image all people were made,

nevertheless reveal yourself as

creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier,

thus inviting us to experience

the fullness of your Being though

it remains outside our poor ability

to fully comprehend.

God, by becoming one of us

and filling us with the Holy Spirit

you nonetheless invite us to enter fully

into a mystery we will never understand

until that Day when by your grace

we stand totally alive in you.

Amen.

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

Feeding on Living Bread Journey of Faith

Living into God’s Mystery, Journey of Faith

Today is Trinity Sunday; it comes just one week after the beautiful feast of Pentecost that celebrates the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in the entire world.  Our “Trinitarian” Christian faith asserts that there is one God who is three distinct persons existing as a community of self-giving and loving relationships with each other.  Yes, God is love (1 Jn 4:8); each person (Father, Son, and Spirit) is fundamentally a fountain of overflowing love!

Describing the Mystery.  You may recall from your early catechesis that various images were used to express how three elements form one reality.  The one shamrock is really a three-leafed clover.  The equilateral triangle has three sides of equal length.  An egg has the shell, the white, and the yoke.  Water exists as liquid, ice, and steam.  These images are only meant to assist us in imagining how three aspects can be integrated into one reality.  Certainly, the Trinity is a much more profound mystery!

Trinity in Scripture.  God’s oneness is clearly affirmed in the Bible.  Jesus echoes the words of Deuteronomy 6:4 when he says: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord…” (Mk 12:29-30).  The Bible clearly reveals God is the Father (Eph 4:6; 1 Jn 3:1); God is the Son, the Word (Jn 1:1; Jn 3:16; Col 1:15); God is the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:10; Eph 4:30).  We are baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19).

We see the various persons of the Trinity relating and interacting with each other.  The Father sends the Son into the world (Jn 3:16).  Jesus frequently talks about his Father (Jn 5:19; Jn 17:5) and prays to Him (Mt 11:25-26; Jn 12:27-28; Jn 17:20-26).  During his baptism the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus as a dove (Lk 3:22).  Jesus promises to send this same Spirit from the Father to his disciples (Jn 15:26).  Friends, consider reading these scripture passages to deepen your Trinitarian faith.

Reflections from Pope Francis.  Our pope asks us to “pause to celebrate this mystery.”  He notes that “there is the Father to whom I pray with the Our Father; there is the Son who gave me redemption, justification; there is the Holy Spirit who abides in us and inhabits the Church.  And this speaks to our heart because we find it encompassed in that expression of Saint John which summarizes all of Revelation: ‘God is love’ (1 Jn 4:8-16)….  It is not easy to understand, but we can live this mystery, all of us.”

Pope Francis turns to Mary to conclude his reflection: “Mary Most Holy, in her simplicity and humility, reflects the Beauty of the Triune God, because she fully welcomed Jesus into her life.  May she sustain our faith; may she make us worshippers of God and servants of our brothers and sisters.”  “May Our Lady, daughter of the Father, mother of the Son, and spouse of the Spirit, help us to welcome and bear witness in life to the mystery of God-Love.”   

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

 

Trinity Sunday

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

I bow before the sublime mystery

of one God in three divine persons

confessing I do not fully comprehend

a truth far beyond human understanding.

You, in whose image all people were made,

nevertheless reveal yourself as

creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier,

thus inviting us to experience

the fullness of your Being though

it remains outside our poor ability

to fully comprehend.

God, by becoming one of us

and filling us with the Holy Spirit

you nonetheless invite us to enter fully

into a mystery we will never understand

until that Day when by your grace

we stand totally alive in you.

Amen.

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

Pentecost Continues Today, Journey of Faith

Pentecost Continues Today, Journey of Faith

On this beautiful feast of Pentecost, we affirm that the Holy Spirit is alive in the Church.  Diverse Spirit-given gifts flourish in Christian communities across the globe.  Today we Catholics are privileged to live in a renewed Church, in a unique age of “a new Pentecost”!  Recall that just last year the Church rejoiced as she observed the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council by Pope John XXIII in 1962.  Vatican II was only the 21st ecumenical council in the Church’s entire history.

A Spirit-inspired Pope.  Pope John XXIII, canonized a saint by Pope Francis on April 27, 2014, composed a prayer that the Council might be “a new Pentecost.”  His intentions for Vatican II became clear: spiritual renewal of the Church, pastoral updating (aggiornamento), and the promotion of Christian unity.  Many people were surprised that this “caretaker” pope (he was already 77 years old) would undertake such an enormous project. 

Vatican II extended through four sessions (1962-1965), bringing together some 2,500 bishops (12 Maryknoll bishops participated).  The Council produced 16 documents which capture its message of renewal for both the Church and the world.  Pope Francis continually promotes the Second Vatican Council and its dynamic vision of the Church.

Invoking Heavenly Assistance.  On Pentecost 1959 John XXIII established a preparatory commission; then on Pentecost 1960 he announced the structure of the preparatory period.  The Council formally opened on October 11, 1962, but exactly one week earlier on the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi (October 4), the pope observed a “day of prayer for the Council.”  He also made a pilgrimage to Loreto and Assisi to implore Mary, “the first star of the Council,” and Saint Francis to intercede for this “great ecumenical meeting awaited by all.”

In Assisi John XXIII compared Vatican II with Pentecost; he prayed that the bishops would enter “the Council hall of Saint Peter’s Basilica as the Apostles and the first disciples of Jesus entered into the Cenacle [Upper Room].” 

  Implementing the Council.  When the first session of the Council concluded (December 8, 1962), Pope John spoke of his desire that “the acts of the Ecumenical Council meet with the generous and loyal response of the faithful.”  Indeed, the acceptance and continual implementation of Vatican II by everyone—clergy and lay faithful alike—remain urgent tasks today—60+ years after Saint John XXIII announced his launch of “a new Pentecost.”

According to the Spirit-inspired vision of John XXIII, when ordinary Catholics—you and I—fully accept the renewal of Vatican II, then and only then “will dawn that new Pentecost which is the object of our yearning—a Pentecost that will increase the Church’s wealth of spiritual strength and extend her maternal influence and saving power to every sphere of human endeavor.”  The words of today’s Gospel remain alive and urgent for us: “Receive the Holy Spirit….  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  We continually pray: “Come, Holy Spirit.”  Veni, Sancte Spiritus.

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

 

Pentecost Sunday

Spirit of the living God

Who hovered above

the waters of Creation

and who descended on the Virgin Mary

making her the Ark of the New Covenant,

and who descended on the Apostles

thus birthing the Church,

and who transforms bread and wine

into the Body and Blood of Christ

at every Eucharist every day,

fall afresh on us who gather

in Christ’s name and at his command.

Renew our hearts and minds that we

might in turn renew your Church

all the better to bring the gospel

of Jesus Christ to every person on earth.

Purge every stain of sin from us

that nothing might mar the image and

likeness of God in which every person

was made.

Lead us, O Spirit of the living God,

where you would have us go

to those most in need of your truth,

grace and peace.

Help us remain true to the laws of Christ

and heal the wounds of division that separate

all the Christian Churches from one another that together

we might enter God’s kingdom here and in the world to come.

Amen.

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

Mission: Keeping Jesus’ Memory Alive, Journey of Faith

Mission: Keeping Jesus’ Memory Alive, Journey of Faith

As we celebrate the feast of the Ascension today, we are reminded that the task of Christians is to preserve the dynamic, enriching, and salvific memory of Jesus.  Mission permeates the entire New Testament; some important mission texts are simply listed here: Matthew 28:16-20 (today’s Gospel); Mark 16:1-20; Luke 24:45-48, 10:1-16; John 20:19-23, 13:12-15; Acts 1:8; 2 Timothy 4:2-5.  All these passages contain Jesus’ “mission commands.”

Jesus’ Ten Mission Commandments.  Mission is for all of Jesus’ disciples—all baptized Christians.  Jesus gives us clear and specific instructions: (1) Missionary evangelization begins with God’s initiative, with Jesus’ choice.  Recall Jesus’ words: “You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last” (Jn 15:16).  (2) Mission is not a personal or individual project.  Jesus sends his messengers out in pairs.  We understand that mission is a community endeavor of the Church; as followers of Jesus “we’re in this together” for a more effective witnessing.  (3) Recall that “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”  This was true in Jesus’ time and remains true today.  We turn to the Lord in prayer, asking for additional harvesters.

(4) Next, Jesus gives a brief, yet direct instruction: “Be on your way.”  Do not delay!  Don’t wait to start until all the details are in place and the perfect mission plan has been formulated.  Go, and go now!  (5) Remember that you will face many challenges; you will be like lambs in the midst of wolves.  Recognize that some people will welcome your message, while others will reject both you and your very mission.  Persecution for the faith is nothing new in Christianity.  (6) Jesus advises his missionaries to “travel light.”  Don’t let material “stuff” weigh you down and get in the way of your ministry of preaching Jesus’ Good News.

(7) The missioner is to extend Christ’s “mercy and compassion” to all (theme of Pope Francis’ 2015 visit to the Philippines).  Find like-minded people of peace; work closely with them.  (8) Be humble and accept what is offered in terms of food and accommodations.  Be content with the hospitality extended to you.  (9) Reach out to the sick and needy you encounter.  Recall Pope Francis’ advice to go to the margins, the peripheries, to the excluded in society.  (10) Make the announcement of Jesus’ Kingdom message your central emphasis; proclaim that “the reign of God near.”

Concluding Reflection.  As Christians we carry on the mission ministry that Jesus gave us.  We can be inspired by the well-known saying of Saint Teresa of Avila: “Christ has no body on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours.  Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ looks out to the world.  Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.  Yours are the hands with which he is to bless others now.”

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

 

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Ascension Sunday

Glory to Your resurrection, Lord Jesus,

that calls us to rise to new life in you.

Like the Apostles who stared up

into the sky when you ascended,

help us to wait patiently for your return

by doing good works of mercy

and forgiveness here on Earth.

We stand on your word, Lord Jesus Christ,

risen and ascended into heaven,

that you will not leave us orphaned here

but will remain with us in Spirit and in the

breaking of Bread in Your Name.

Until you return in glory, Lord,

may we never turn to other gods

to fill our now empty hearts

that long for your presence in our world,

but may we seek and find you in each tabernacle

no less than each person.

Amen.

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

A Truly Special Anniversary, Journey of Faith

A Truly Special Anniversary, Journey of Faith

Today’s Scripture readings all speak of God’s continuing and abiding presence with us.  The first reading narrates how God remains with the people of Samaria as they receive the Holy Spirit.  Next, the Apostle Peter speaks of Christ’s presence in people’s hearts.  In the Gospel Jesus promises the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, assuring his followers: “I will not leave you orphans” (Jn 14:18).  God’s loving presence has been shown to us in numerous ways.  Personally, since today is Mother’s Day, I think of how we have experienced genuine love from our dear parents.

Two Saintly Parents.  Since this year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-2023), I recall how her parents filled her with overflowing love.  Saints Louis and Zélie Martin were the first married couple canonized together in the history of the Church.  This took place on October 19, 2015, which is the same date that their daughter Thérèse was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II on October 19, 1997.

There are many interesting facts about the lives of Saints Louis and Zélie.  Originally, both attempted to enter religious life, but both were rejected.  Louis became a watchmaker and Zélie learned the trade of lacemaking.  They would eventually meet and be married on July 13, 1858 in Alenḉon, France.  They would have nine children, four of whom died as infants or small children.  The five who survived to adulthood would all enter religious life.

Numerous Challenges.  At the age of 45, when Thérèse was only four years old, Zélie died from breast cancer.  The family then moved to Lisieux, France to be near Zélie’s family.  After suffering from strokes and cerebral arteriosclerosis, Louis was placed in a mental hospital for three years.  When he was able to return home, his daughter Céline (the only one to have not yet entered the convent) cared for him until he died at the age of 70.

Wonderful Lessons.  These saints have much to teach us.  First, God is to have priority of place in all things.  Both Sunday and frequent daily Mass, as well as other religious practices, were essential parts of the Martin household.  Louis and Zélie shared these religious values with their daughters; they put God first and chose to rely on God’s loving providence.

Secondly, this married couple exemplified that trusting in God and patiently enduring tragedies are not mutually exclusive.  As mentioned earlier, four of their nine children died very young.  Yet, they did not lose their profound faith.  Thirdly, Saints Louis and Zélie created a home environment that was open to vocation, whether marriage, religious life, or priesthood.  They lived their faith together as husband and wife and shared it with their children.

Our Prayer.  Lord, on this Mother’s Day we pray for all mothers, fathers, and families.  Thank you for our own families and your love and presence we have experienced through them.  Saints Louis and Zélie, pray for us!

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

 

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Mother’s Day

Bless our families with your Presence,

Lord God, source of all grace and good.

You, who call all Christians to be

living witnesses to your love,

may our children find in our homes

sanctuaries of peace, happiness and love.

Through the intercession of Saints

Louis and Zélie Martin, parents of

St. Therese of Lisieux, let our families

nurture our children to answer

Your call to prayer and holiness.

Help parents to be examples of mercy,

children to be seekers of truth,

Brothers and sisters to find in each other

a source of help and mutual respect

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.

A Truly Special Anniversary, Journey of Faith

A Truly Special Anniversary, Journey of Faith

In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus saying: “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10).  Reflecting on this passage about the “fullness of life,” I am reminded of a special anniversary the Church is celebrating this year: the 150th anniversary of the birth of Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-2023).  This “little flower” has helped many appreciate what “fullness of life” can mean.

Brief Life.  Marie Franҫoise Thérèse Martin was born in Alenҫon, France on January 2, 1873.  When she was fifteen years old and too young to enter the Carmelite Monastery, she pleaded her case before Pope Leo XIII; eventually permission was granted.  Two of her sisters had preceded her in Carmel.  Her exemplary parents Zélie and Louis Martin, the first couple ever canonized together in the Church’s history, were declared saints by Pope Francis on Mission Sunday, October 18, 2015.  The final years of Thérèse’s short life were spent within the cloister of an obscure convent.  She died of tuberculosis on September 30, 1897, at the tender age of twenty-four.

Inspiring Autobiography.  Thérèse would have probably attracted little notice, except for her posthumously published autobiographical manuscript, The Story of a Soul.  This work, written out of obedience to her superior, describes her experience and deep insights into the spiritual life.  Essentially, the work is about the path to holiness in everyday life, to true “fullness of life.”  Thérèse was canonized on May 17, 1925, only twenty-eight years after her death.  On December 14, 1927, Pope Pius XI proclaimed her the principal patroness, equal to Saint Francis Xavier, of all mission endeavors. 

Saint Thérèse did not found a religious order and never went to the missions.  However, she understood that what is important in the Christian life is great love and not great deeds. Thérèse, the saint of the “little way,” developed a spirituality of ordinariness, in which one offers each moment and every deed simply and lovingly to God.  Her famous title, the “Little Flower,” derives from her self-image as only one among millions of ordinary, little flowers on the hillside, each giving its all in joy and praise to God.  Thérèse is a source of deep hope to millions; they find in Thérèse their own spirituality, their “doable” and “livable” pathway of daily sanctification. 

Inspiring Wisdom.  We listen to brief excerpts from Thérèse’s profound insights.  “We can never have too much hope in God.  He gives in the measure we ask.”  “I love my littleness and my poverty; it is my blind hope in His mercy; this is my only treasure.”  “Merit is not to be found in doing much or in giving much, but rather in receiving and in loving much.”  “I have always wanted to become a saint….  In spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint.”  Indeed, Thérèse’s “little way” is a pathway for all of us desiring the “fullness of life.”

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

 

St. Therese of Lisieux

Lord, through the example, inspiration and

intercession of St. Therese of Lisieux

show me the Little Way that leads to

holiness, simplicity, heaven and you.

Help me rejoice in the everyday and 

ordinary events of life, knowing your love and grace

meet me here and everywhere.

You, who fashioned distant galaxies

as well as lilies and hummingbirds,

open my eyes to appreciate your

power and handiwork all around me.

Help me to pray in silence and sound,

in thoughts, prayers and even in nothingness.

Raise my mind to heavenly realms

even as my feet are firmly on the ground

that your reign spread over all the earth.

May each breath I draw me ever

closer to you by drawing me ever closer

to my friends, family and all people

who seek to walk in your ways and

live your love and truth .

Amen.

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M

 

Photo: Maryknoll Sisters at Selma, March 7, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Maryknoll Mission Archives)

Our Journey to Emmaus, Journey of Faith

Our Journey to Emmaus, Journey of Faith

The narrative from Luke’s Gospel of the journey of two disciples to Emmaus is well known and loved (Lk 24:13-35).  We can imagine the scene: two men are walking; they are dejected, sad, and overwhelmed by recent events.  Jesus, their dear friend and presumed messiah, met with a terrible end: an ignoble death by crucifixion on Calvary.  There is nothing else to do: leave Jerusalem; return home to Emmaus; begin life all over again.  That chapter of life has been permanently closed!

As the two dejected pilgrims walk in sadness, a stranger joins them and asks the subject of their conversation.  They are in disbelief, and Cleophas wonders how the man could not possibly know about recent events in Jerusalem, in particular, the death of Jesus.  The disciples express their profound disappointment, noting that they had hoped that Jesus would liberate Israel.  Yes, they had hoped, but all such messianic expectations are now a thing of the past, gone forever.

Jesus’ “Pastoral” Approach.  We observe that Jesus seeks out his grieving disciples; he walks with them, listening to their story.  Then, he assists them by shedding light on their experience, drawing on the insights of Scripture—from Moses and all the prophets.  Although they had heard these biblical narratives frequently, they were still slow to believe.  Jesus even upbraids them, calling them “foolish men” who are “so slow to believe the full message of the prophets.”

By now they have reached Emmaus.  When Jesus shows his intention of going on further, the disciples press him to stay with them for the night.  Then, at the evening meal Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and shares it with them.   Finally, their eyes are opened; they recognize that this friendly stranger is none other than Jesus himself!  What a stupendous discovery!

Reactions of the Disciples.  Their “blind” eyes are opened.  They admit to each other that their hearts were on fire as they listened to Jesus on the road.  They knew it was Jesus though the Eucharistic action of taking, blessing, breaking, and sharing.  Surprisingly, they retrace their steps and return to Jerusalem to share their “Jesus-alive” experience.  Significantly, they undertake this perilous seven-mile journey in the dead of night!  Two difficult Jerusalem-Emmaus journeys on the same day!  No waiting until the next day to share this astounding news!

Sharing the Emmaus Experience.  Admittedly, we often seem to blindly walk without hope, burdened by our problems and disappointments, failing to recognize that Jesus is actually journeying with us.  We need the proclamation of Scripture and the celebration of the Eucharist (the two parts of the Mass) to open our eyes to recognize Jesus’ presence!  This “Jesus-experience” will lead us to proclaim Him to others—even in the night darkness of our contemporary world.  We seek to enflame others’ hearts with the good news that Jesus lives! 

Succinctly stated, the disciples’ Emmaus experience is truly our own experience as missionary disciples!

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

 

Emmaus

Forgive us for fleeing, Lord Jesus,

when your death on the cross robbed

our souls of hope, our minds of peace.

We had so wanted to believe you were

the one to restore God’s reign in

our sad and broken world.

Forgive our blindness, Lord Jesus,

when we refused to recognize you

in the fellow pilgrim on the way.

Yet oh, how our hearts burned within us

when our mysterious companion

opened the scriptures to us and showed

it was not all some terrible, tragic mistake.

As darkness descended and evening fell,

we invited you to abide with us.

And then at table you blessed and

broke the bread and opened our eyes

to the earth-shattering truth:

Jesus Christ Crucified and buried

is risen from the dead as he said.

Overflowing with irrepressible joy

and heedless of the danger

we run back to our friends still fearful

announcing the Dawn of a new day.

Alleluia! Amen!

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M

 

Photo: Maryknoll Sisters at Selma, March 7, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Maryknoll Mission Archives)

An “Easter Candle” Story, Journey of Faith

An “Easter Candle” Story, Journey of Faith

With deep faith and courageous hope, Saint Maximilian Kolbe endured the extreme horrors of Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi concentration camp in Poland.  He proved that self-giving love and compassion can thrive even in extreme darkness and cruelty.  His heroic life inspired other prisoners, giving them hope that kindness and self-sacrifice were possible—even in Auschwitz.  This “factory of death” functioned from 1940 until 1945; studies demonstrate that between 1.1 and 1.5 million people perished there.

Heroic Love of Neighbor.  Maximilian’s final act of Christian service came on July 30, 1941.  Auschwitz had the rule that if anyone escaped from a cell-block, ten men would be consigned to an underground bunker and starved to death.  One man from Kolbe’s Cell-block 14A went missing (later it was discovered that he had drowned).  The commandant selected ten men to die.  One of them, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out: “My poor wife and children!  I will never see them again.”  Father Kolbe volunteered to take his place.  The commandant asked who he was.  Kolbe replied: “I am a Catholic priest.”  Kolbe’s offer was accepted. 

All ten were thrown into the starvation bunker.  To console them and ease their suffering, Kolbe led songs and prayers each day.  After two weeks four remained alive.  Needing the cell for more victims, the four were put to death by an injection of carbolic acid on August 14, 1941.  Franciszek Gajowniczek survived and returned to his wife; he lived to be 95 years old, though his children had perished during the war.  Pope John Paul II canonized Kolbe on October 10, 1982 in Saint Peter’s Square.  Along with other Auschwitz survivors, Franciszek Gajowniczek, wearing his striped prison uniform, was present at the moving ceremony (as was this writer who was in Rome for studies).    

Bearing Paschal Witness.  Today, when one visits the Auschwitz concentration camp and goes to the underground starvation bunker, one sees the paschal candle prominently displayed in the middle of the cell.  What a moving sight!  The Easter candle, symbol of Christ’s own death and resurrection, touches the core of Christian faith—your faith, my faith, the faith of Father Kolbe.  To pray (as did this writer in 2007) at the very site of the death chamber of Cell 18 where Kolbe manifested such profound self-giving inspires deep hope.  The “Saint of Auschwitz” genuinely lived the Gospel: “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).    

As already noted, the scene at the Auschwitz concentration camp places the paschal candle at the heart of life—with all its ugliness and yet with all its heroic Christian witness.  Jesus’ missionary-disciples place the crucified-risen Jesus at the center of life—with all its joys and sorrows.  Today on “Divine Mercy Sunday” and always, be a “paschal candle,” radiating the light of the risen Christ!  Serve the needy poor and those in distress, giving without counting the cost.      

James H. Kroeger, M.M.

 

Mercy Sunday

Burn brightly in the darkest corners

of my heart, O Pascal Candle of new life!

shine with the glow and glory of sacrifice

that transforms wounds into healing,

sorrow into heavenly joy and

death into eternal peace and mercy!

O happy fault! O necessary sin of Adam

that drew down from highest heaven

so great a savior, redeemer and friend!

God grant me the courage to offer myself

for the happiness, healing and faith of all,

that the name of Jesus be praised and

the holy Gospel proclaimed in every

land by every tongue.

O Lord, enkindle in my repentant heart

the flame of devotion to your Reign

that the gates of hell collapse before

Your Word and peace and justice

Spring up where once evil, sin and darkness

ruled and ruined many souls.

May your mercy draw all the world

to your Sacred Heart now and evermore.

Amen.

Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M

 

Photo: Maryknoll Sisters at Selma, March 7, 1965. (Photo courtesy of Maryknoll Mission Archives)

ABOUT MARYKNOLL

We are a Catholic Society of priests and brothers based in the United States. We are dedicated to missionary work overseas in over 20 countries. Additionally, we animate Catholics in the United States to follow their own baptismal call to share God’s compassion and love with the poor, the sick, and all those in need.

OUR GENERAL COUNCIL

L-R Tom O'Brien, Ray Finch, Joe Everson, Russ Feldmeier

(Fr. Lance P. Nadeau, Fr. James M. Lynch, Fr. Timothy O. Kilkelly, Fr. Juan Montes Zúñiga)

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers is overseen by our General Council, led by Superior General Rev. Lance P. Nadeau, M.M.

OUR FOUNDERS

L-R Tom O'Brien, Ray Finch, Joe Everson, Russ Feldmeier

(Our Co-Founders Father Price and Father Walsh)

PLACES WE SERVE

EVANGELIZATION, PARISHES, AND PROJECTS

USA

STORIES OF MISSION

(Africa) Education and Formation of African Clergy

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Africa Region will provide tuition assistance to African clergy, male and female religious at institutes of higher education or specialized training. Read More

Stories of Our Global Mission

The calling of a lifetime

The life of a Maryknoll missioner is challenging, fulfilling, and deeply rewarding. Follow your baptismal call to mission by sharing God’s compassion with the poor, the sick, and people most in need.

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