Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Birthday to the Augustinian Order in the Church

On December 11th, 1243 the decree, Incumbit Nobis was issued by Pope Innocent IV, and it called together a number of monastic communities in Tuscany. The Augustinians owed their formal existence to the policy of Popes Innocent IV (1241–1254) and Pope Alexander IV (1254–1261), who wished to counterbalance the influence of the powerful Franciscans and Dominicans by means of a similar order under more direct papal authority and devoted to papal interests.

The Augustinian Hermits became the last of the great mendicant orders to be formally constituted in the thirteenth century. It is historically verifiable that Innocent IV, by the bull issued 16 December 1243 united a number of small hermit societies with Augustinian rule, especially the Williamites, the John-Bonites, and the Brictinans.

Alexander IV (admonished, it was said, by an appearance of Saint Augustine) called a general assembly of the members of the new united order under the presidency of Cardinal Richard of Saint Angeli at the monastery of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome in March, 1256, when the head of the John-Bonites, Lanfranc Septala, of Milan, was chosen general prior of the united orders. Alexander's bull Licet ecclesiae catholicae, confirmed this choice. The new order was thus finally constituted with Italian, Hungarian, French, English, Belgian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swiss, Austrian and German Augustinian friars united into one international order.

The teaching and writing of Augustine, the Augustinian Rule, and the lives and experiences of Augustinians over 16 centuries help define the ethos of the order, sometimes "honored in the breach".

As well as telling his disciples to be "of one mind and heart on the way towards God" Augustine of Hippo taught that "Nothing conquers except truth and the victory of truth is love" (Victoria veritatis est caritas), and the pursuit of truth through learning is key to the Augustinian ethos, balanced by the injunction to behave with love towards one another. It does not unduly single out the exceptional, especially favor the gifted, nor exclude the poor or marginalized. Love is not earned through human merit, but received and given freely by God's free gift of grace, totally undeserved yet generously given. These same imperatives of affection and fairness have driven the order in its international missionary outreach. This balanced pursuit of love and learning has energized the various branches of the order into building communities founded on mutual affection and intellectual advancement. The Augustinian ideal is inclusive.

December 16

Incumbit Nobis

The founding of the Augustinian Order


Almighty and eternal God,

In the fullness of time,

you called together, the many Augustinians,

to become a single community,

united in faith, and in the observance of the Holy Rule.

Through the intercession of our Father, Saint Augustine,

may all who follow his rule of life,

become one in mind and heart,

intent upon the Kingdom of God.

Through our Lord.

Thanks to Fr. John, SSA for this information.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Our Lady of Consolation

As our community of AIHM celebrates its fifteen years of growing and serving, we have decided as an Order, to give thanks to God by making a special effort to teach and perpetuate Augustinian devotions this year. We have a special love for Our Lady of Consolation, whose feast was Friday, September 4.

Legend (not history) holds that Mary gave a shining leather cincture from her own tunic to Monica as a sign of her consolation with Monica's struggle to teach Augustine the Catholic faith and love of God. Upon his conversion, Monica gave it to Augustine who then gave it to his community. The above painting shows Mary giving the cincture to Monica and Augustine. Beyond the pseudo history of this, the image is important. As Augustinians we are called to share the consolation God has given us in Mary's arms with those we meet. It is a part of our call and spirit.

The Gospel for this feast reminds us of Mary at the Cross. She suffered with her son and knows the pain of loss. She also knows more than any the love and joy of God's promise. She shares this with us all, especially as Augustinians. When Augustinians gird themselves with her cincture they should remember this.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Necessary Reminder: Christ...the Alpha and Omega

Yesterday, a friend sent me a most powerful e-mail. I don't usually like those "chain" prayer e-mails, but this one was different. It didn't threaten anything, it wasn't filled with superstition, it just provided a powerful, yet gentle reminder. I offer it as a prayer to all of you who read:

You are in your car driving home. Thoughts wander to the game you want to see or meal you want to eat, when suddenly a sound unlike any you've ever heard fills the air. The sound is high above you. A trumpet? A choir? A choir of trumpets? You don't know, but you want to know. So you pull over, get out of your car, and look up. As you do, you see you aren't the only curious one. The roadside has become a parking lot. Car doors are open, and people are staring at the sky. Shoppers are racing out of the grocery store. The Little League baseball game across the street has come to a halt. Players and parents are searching the clouds. And what they see, and what you see, has never before been seen.

As if the sky were a curtain, the draperies of the atmosphere part. A brilliant light spills onto the earth. There are no shadows. None.

From every hue ever seen and a million more never seen. Riding on the flow is an endless fleet of angels. They pass through the curtains one myriad at a time, until they occupy every square inch of the sky.
North. South. East. West.
Thousands of silvery wings rise and fall in unison, and over the sound of the trumpets, you can hear the cherubim and seraphim chanting: Holy, Holy, Holy.. The final flank of angels is followed by twenty-four silver-bearded elders and a multitude of souls who join the angels in worship.

Presently the movement stops and the trumpets are silent, leaving only the triumphant triplet: Holy, Holy, Holy. Between each word is a pause. With each word, a profound reverence. You hear your voice join in the chorus. You don't know why you say the words, but you know you must.

Suddenly, the heavens are quiet. All is quiet. The angels turn, you turn, the entire world turns and there He is.

Through waves of light you see the silhouetted figure of Christ the King. He is atop a great stallion, and the stallion is atop a billowing cloud. He opens His mouth, and you are surrounded by His declaration:

I am the Alpha and the Omega.

The angels bow their heads. The elders remove their crowns. And before you is a figure so consuming that you know, instantly you know: Nothing else matters Forget stock markets and school reports, Sales meetings and football games. Nothing is newsworthy.. All that mattered, matters no more... for Christ has come.
Please let me know the exact time you read this. It is mystical--honest.

This morning when the Lord opened a window to Heaven, He saw me, and He asked: My child, what is your greatest wish for today?
I responded: 'Lord please; take care of the person who is reading this message, their family and their special friends. They deserve it and I love them very much'.

The Love of God is like the ocean, you can see its beginnings but not its end.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

June 1: Our Lady of Grace

On this oldest of Augustinian Marian feasts, I would like to acknowledge God's Grace in our Community. "Hail O highly favored one," said the angel Gabriel to Mary. Yes, Mary was most favored or full of Grace, but with Grace, or favor, also comes responsibility.

Mary was favored to be the sign or announcement that God was about to fulfill the Covenant for all time. She was graced from her conception to be the Sacred Vessel of the Incarnation of the Word. And she was graced to receive all the benefits, as the new Eve, of the New Creation and Life in the Risen Christ.

She was also responsible to that favor by submitting in trust to be God's servant. She was also responsible to be the rock of hope for the disciples at the cross and in the Upper Room. Finally, she is responsible for being the model of love in discipleship for the Church until the end of time, standing always to remind us that she is but the first of us all, our sister, to enter into the fullness of God's covenant rewards.

With the grace we have received as Augustinians of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we have the responsibility to live the spirit of the Rule and our vows in following our Gospel call. Recentlty, our postulant, Valorie, asked if we could explain the "heart" of an Augustinian and if we felt it in our living the life. I would like to share the thoughts of one of our novice sisters, Friar Lyngine Dominique-Marie.

Lyngine said:

First, my own caveat, which is that I don't think that the characteristics that make an Augustinian are necessarily one's that someone starts out with, but are characteristics that in some cases, one grows into and continues to grow into. So, it's not so much a matter of looking at a list and seeing if one matches, as it is living out being an Augustinian and seeing if it fits or not---the joys and challenges of the novitiate :). The second caveat is that one reads and understands some of this much differently after/during some time living it out than from the beginning. When I first applied to the AIHM, I did some reading from the web on what Augustinian spirituality is and I know that I read those same passages now with a very different understanding. Third caveat is that my answer is incomplete so there are more characteristics for sure.

Yes, definitely the search for Truth and things intellectual are a characteristic. With the addition that (as you'll hear Joseph say many times ), that the "head" is balanced by the "heart". So an example is reading Scripture---it's both intellectual (like Bible Study) but also prayer and mediation---each informs the other---knowledge informs and deepens faith/prayer, and faith/prayer transforms and deepens one's understanding of Scripture.

Another characteristic is being drawn to express and live out one's faith in community. JB's [Friar John Bartholomew] post on Espousal being more than just a personal relationship with God and how we are called to extend that to our neighbors really states this very well. Other Orders (Carthusians for example) emphasize finding God in personal/individual meditation and study. Those drawn to Augustinian spirituality need and create community. There's not one way to do this---some people are more outgoing, others share their gifts in quieter ways and by doing, etc.

Well, that's a start and not even close to complete. There's also interiority, a theme of integrity (living what you believe/outer expression matches inner belief), emphasis on search/love of God being primary, etc----you'll get the whole slew in novitiate ---and much better expressed in the Rule and in the other books that actually have Augustine's words, which all helps in one's understanding. More importantly, I think, is that you'll begin to live out being an Augustinian in novitiate---the characteristics being something to grow into in one's life and with one's individual expression---and that really puts a different spin on them.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Reflecting on Augustine's Conversion (Feast: April 27)

The Soliloquy of St. Augustine:

Belatedly I loved thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new, belatedly I loved thee. For see, thou wast within and I was without, and I sought thee out there. Unlovely, I rushed heedlessly among the lovely things thou hast made. Thou wast with me, but I was not with thee. These things kept me far from thee; even though they were not at all unless they were in thee. Thou didst call and cry aloud, and didst force open my deafness. Thou didst gleam and shine, and didst chase away my blindness. Thou didst breathe fragrant odors and I drew in my breath; and now I pant for thee. I tasted, and now I hunger and thirst. Thou didst touch me, and I burned for thy peace.

In today's world people are hungry for spirituality, hungry for truth, for beauty. We so often turn to the created things of this world to find them. Augustine, from his own search, tells us to look no further than in ourselves and each other for the God we seek. Learn from the created things of the world as they cry out"God made us." Learn from the human relationships around us that GOD IS LOVE and MERCY, look inside ourselves and listen to the truth, we are created in God's image with God's spirit in us and "YOU ARE VERY GOOD!"

O Lord, you have made us for thyself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you! -St. Augustine

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day: St. Augustine and Creation Spirituality

Today, Earth Day, might better be served by quoting St. Francis, no? NO! Actually, St. Augustine stands as one of the first of the Doctors and great mystics to appreciate what God created in the world as a means to understand God's creative LOVE.

As the world finally begins to wake up to the serious crisis that we have caused in mistreating the planet for selfish gain, the words of Augustine help us see the sacred beauty of what God made and why we need to care and love it back!

"But also heaven and earth and all within them, behold, they bid me on every side to love you, nor do they cease telling this to all...I asked the earth and it said: 'I am not he.' I asked the sea and the deeps and they answered: 'we are not he.'... I asked the blowing breezes and the entire air with its inhabitants said: 'we are not he, nor are we the god you seek.' And I said to these all, 'Tell me about my God, then.' And they exclaimed in a loud voice, 'HE MADE US!'
-Confessions, X, 6

Let us pray,

God, womb of holy life, in all that you create, you put the stamp of your love, most perfectly in ourselves. By your incarnation you proclaim all creation is good and humans are very good. Let us show our love for you and each other in caring for the beauties of the world. Let us listen carefully and cultivate life in every corner of creation that we may hear their praise of you, HE MADE US!

Through Christ, Thy Word, by whom all creation was made. Amen

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

From the Byzantine Liturgy, the anthem for Easter:

"Christ is risen from the dead, by death he conquered death and to those in the graves he granted life."

From the Roman Liturgy, the responsory for the Easter Octave:

"This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad, alleluia"

We are a people of Easter joy. Death has been conquered, our greatest fear removed, the Lord has done this marvel in our eyes for us, now, today! We can and should walk in bold courage under the banner of our baptism to forge God's reign of justice and peace now. In our AIHM Order and ICCC jurisdiction I rejoice that we celebrate God's life and triumph with a vision of Church where the sacraments are more about inclusion than exclusion, where community and growth in grace are more important than power and control. A Church where love and forgiveness calls out to moral change and conversion and commitment rather than fear. and condemnation.

May we all in our movement take strength in this Easter joy to reach out with greater enthusiasm to all those in spiritual need and announce that God grants us new life NOW and THIS is the day the Lord has made.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Holy Week: We are Sinners AND we are Saved

Below is part of a sermon from the Calvin Christian Reformed Church at: http://www.calvincrc.org/sermons/topics/psalms/psalm51.html. It is a reflection on Psalm 51, one of Holy Father Augustine's favorite psalms. The author is commenting on responsibility and sinfulness. It is a good reflection on our condition as we enter the days of remembering the loving cost of our redemption and the tremendous Grace God has ready to pour upon us.

A holy and special Triduum to all!

The art of self-deception is one we each know well, though few would care to admit that. In fact, the better you are at self-deception, the less you are aware of it. First we deceive ourselves and then we further deceive ourselves that we have not, after all, deceived ourselves. Mind and memory can play such fanciful tricks on us, resulting in sometimes silly consequences and sometimes dire ones.

On the silly side is something that happened to Ronald Reagan. During a 1980 campaign stop Reagan, with trembling lips and obvious conviction, told a World War II story about a pilot and his bombardier. Their plane had been hit but while the pilot could have ejected, the bombardier was too wounded, and his ejection seat too damaged, to get out of the spiraling plane. So the pilot reached over, took the man's hand and said, "Never mind, son, we'll ride it down together." It was a very moving story, until one reporter realized that if both men had died in the crash, there would have been no one to report these final words. When this was pointed out to Reagan, he was serenely unmoved.

On the more dire side of the ledger is the defense which Nazi Adolf Eichmann offered at Nuremberg. Eichmann had been in charge of the massive transportation system which efficiently moved Europe's Jews from one destination to another, ultimately winding most of them up at one of the Third Reich's many death camps. But Eichmann claimed his innocence in it all, saying that he was only in charge of transport and had no knowledge of where the Jews were going or what might happen to them once they got there.

But these examples have to do with forgetfulness about specific incidents. The larger self-deception in which we are involved has to do with issues of who we are. Most people are loathe to admit that they are just generally bent toward the bad, inclined to do it wrong. So when the Christian tradition declares to any and all, "You are a sinner," most people these days reply, "What did I do?" If sin exists at all, it is merely episodic, an occasional (and inexplicable) "lapse" from our better nature, which is at bottom "pretty good."

How foreign is the notion articulated by theologian Emil Brunner. Brunner once noted that we can, in principle, avoid any particular sin. And we often do. Few if any people give in to every dark impulse. The average person, whether or not he is particularly religious, resists many temptations that come his way on the average day. He does not slip the Snickers bar into his coat instead of paying for it, does not exceed the speed limit, does not shove the person ahead of him in line for the subway, does not grab and grope at the co-worker whose sexy dress just flat out is turning him on that day.

In principle the sinner can, and often does, avoid any particular sin, Brunner noted. But what we cannot do is avoid every sin. We cannot not be sinners. We cannot claim that we have never done it wrong. We cannot promise that we will never do another wrong thing, speak another cross word, or think another angry thought in the future. Even if the alcoholic promises never to take another drink or the adulterer vows never again to wake up in the wrong bed--and even if they keep those promises--what they cannot promise is that in addition to staying sober or chaste they will also remain just overall sinless.

Christians are often accused of being rather neurotic when it comes to sin. We leap from one wrong deed to the catastrophic conclusion that we are just generally depraved. Like the poet of Psalm 51 we claim that we've been sinful from the moment sperm met egg in our conception. And much of our world sees that and cries out, "Good grief! Aren't you taking this guilt trip just a little bit far!?" We prefer to trace the reason for any given sin not clear back to some defect with which we were born but to more immediate surroundings.

One of the world's first autobiographies was Saint Augustine's Confessions. A hallmark of that work is Augustine's willingness to confess his own sins and the perversity of heart which inclined him to commit them in the first place. Today the genre of spiritual autobiography is once again very popular, but with a difference: today people are more interested in confessing the sins of others. The way a certain author turned out was Mom and Dad's fault, or because of a non-affectionate spouse, or because the company never really gave him his due and so squashed his sense of self-worth. In a recent interview Hillary Clinton suggested that some of her husband's philandering could maybe get traced back to an alcoholic step-father.

But if your problems can get traced back to someone else, then not only have you rather nicely shifted the blame but you have also suggested a solution: you simply have to get some therapy to make peace with father, to re-build the self-esteem a careless lover stole from you, to feel better about yourself by garnering the goodies which you never got from your boss. Now I want to be very clear that I both know and value the power and worth of good therapy. But if it becomes a substitute for confession or a way to get at the darker truths of others instead of the darker recesses of our own hearts, then we have crossed a theological line which ought properly to give us pause. We are not forever and only victims.

It is in this sense that Psalm 51 can serve as a bracing tonic. Here is a showcase display window of the elements that go into a well-rounded doctrine of sin. Two elements take center stage: one is the fact that it is the psalmist himself who is the problem, and the other is the notion that not only is God our judge, he's right when he renders a harsh verdict. We properly stand before God, and God properly stands over against the shape of our lives.

The psalmist is unstinting in saying, "I am the one in need of repair! It's my heart that needs fixing. No, it needs replacing." So the psalmist begs for a new creation, for a radical re-wiring on the inside. There is in Psalm 51 virtually no hint of outward circumstances that contributed to this sin. The psalmist claims that he has been sinful since conception but he does not blame his mother or father for that, it's just the way things are. Nor does he say that since he came into the world already bent, he's just a victim of nature.

Instead he says that because he came into the world already corrupt, that is all the more reason to beg for new creation. Because he is willing to fess up in this psalm he feels the sting of God's judgment, the crushing of his bones. He really feels bad. In fact, he's downright miserable. He is very much, to borrow a contemporary phrase, "down on himself." It is unrelenting.

Nevertheless, Psalm 51 is not finally bleak. Therein lies the mystery of faith. In the alchemy of grace words that are darker than dark lead to a brightness that cannot be quelled. The psalm begins drenched with grace. The first verse could be translated literally as, "Grace me in your grace, O God!" In the original Hebrew the first line is just three words, two of which drip with divine mercy. (A really literal rendering would be something like, "Grace, God, Grace!") The last of those three words is a term I can never get enough of: the Hebrew word chesed. It's the Old Testament's favorite way of characterizing God. It is a word so redolent of good stuff, so fragrant of fresh starts, so freighted with joy, that no one has ever come up with an adequate translation. "Unfailing love," "lovingkindness," "abiding mercy" are a few of the attempts.

But what chesed is finally all about is the ineffable desire God has to forgive. Grace is the oxygen of heaven--there's always more of it than there is of sin. Psalm 51 banks on this hyper-abundant grace, but not cheaply. God is not some ineffectual figure who is too much of a wimp to generate any anger. Sometimes we see this: perhaps a father is just too tender-hearted (or maybe just too much of a moral limp noodle) ever to get very upset. So a smart-aleck son may recklessly smash up the car only to have his father say, "That's OK. We'll get it fixed and forget about it." To such a father the flippant son may reply, "Yeah, I figured you'd say that! That's why I wasn't terribly careful in the first place!" Sometimes a person's easy forgiveness becomes something others bank on in self-serving ways.

But not here. The fierce rightness of God's judgment, the utter dread with which the psalmist faces the possibility of being cast out of the light, make it clear that God's penchant for grace is not being invoked in a manipulative way. But that is because a genuine awareness of God's grace emerges only from a knowledge of sin's seriousness. Here is a central wonder of the faith: the more soberly serious we are about sin and the reality of God's judgment, the more joyfully exuberant we are about the shining splendor of grace and the way it drenches our lives with monsoons of forgiveness. We stand constantly under Jesus' cross as the most stunning reminder of just how fierce God's judgment on sin is. And yet we find joy emerging from the darkness, even because of the darkness!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

International Day of Women

Today we celebrate and highlight the role of women in our world and the real need to continue to defend their rights in many places in our societies and cultures. From an Augustinian point of view, I thought it good and worthy to clarify or set aside certain misconceptions about St. Augustine as a misogynist.

Our Holy Father Augustine lived in a time and culture that still saw women as property of their fathers or husbands, and saw marriage as simply a means to a societal ends. And from a spiritual point, often celibacy was seen as the only real good in the Christian state, and marriage as a necessary evil.

Augustine advances the dignity of women in his time in two ways. First, he advances the sacramental notion of marriage as a spiritual good, and second he advances the notion of the equality of men and women in the marital state.

Augustine said in The City of God (XIV, 22) that: "increasing, multiplying, and filling the earth in accordance with the blessing of God is a gift of marriage, which God instituted from the very beginning, prior to sin." Thus marriage is a sacred blessing instituted by God. He further warns those in the celibate state not to regard marriage as evil (De sancta virg. 12,12).

St. Augustine also defended the beauty and divine design of our sexes and gender particularly the feminine when he writes, "Risen bodies will be freed of defects, but their nature will be preserved. Female sexuality, however, is not a defect but belongs to nature." (De vic.Dei XXii,17)
Finally, Augustine holds accountable for fidelity, equally, both men and women, "both partners observe mutual fidelity and respect the sacramental union." (De sancta virg. 12,12)

Thus, on this Day of Women, let us hear Augustine's preaching of the Truth of our Faith that the dignity of men and women are untied and equal. If the dignity of one is wounded, then the dignity of both are wounded. In prayer and good works seeking truth and justice let us root out of ourselves attitudes of sexism and let us work to help women in other countries and cultures find their rightful voice and rightful place of dignity at the side of men, not at their feet.

Below are some links for action and thought for this important day:




Friday, February 22, 2008

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

Fr. Chris Tessone, AIHM, and Bishop Timothy Cravens, AIHM Obl, offer some important reflective thoughts on this feast. I encourage you to check out their blog postings. See the listing/web address links at the side.

I offer here some Augustinian thoughts on the subject for reflection:

As a cradle Roman Catholic, I must admit that this teaching on infallibility has always cause me angst. My inmost being has always felt something wrong with this teaching, yet the need to trust in something infinite is also at the core of my being.

+Timothy Cravens in his blog rightly puts into context the two polar extremes of this thinking: biblical infallibility and papal infallibility.

I do believe that the Church is infallible in the sense that she contains all of the Grace necessary for us to be reconciled to God through Christ and be redeemed and restored to our original innocence, again through Christ. Tim, again, here helped me to put into context this general, but important doctrine.

What does the Church contain? The apostolic faith of Trinity, incarnation, and paschal mystery, and the continuing effect of Jesus’ recreation and redemption through the Grace of the Sacraments.

As an Augustinian, I point to the notion of Augustine that we as humans need to know that there is something beyond us that is truth and eternal beauty. Our very being seeks this. We need not to make the mistake of seeing the created for the creator. But, we seek to anchor ourselves with that which is beyond us. We are finite, but need to know and trust in something infinite. Thus, in our inmost yearnings we sometimes make the same mistake as Adam and Eve, turning to something human for eternal be it the scripture, or a church office, or science, or magic, etc.

Human beings, the bible, even the Church are all creations of God, they are not God. What we know and can rely on is that God is infallible, God is truth, God is faithful. God will accomplish in the Church and human history all that is necessary for our re-creation to eternity and complete joy in him(her).

The Church will endure until the end of time because God has promised it and accomplishes this through the Holy Spirit, not because of what we the Body of Christ do, but because of what Christ the Head did and does in the Church and human history now and unto the end of the ages.

“Remember man that thou are dust and unto dust thou shall return+”

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday

Blessings to all on a Holy and Prayerful Great Lent. Below are two reflections given by our Bishop, Tim Cravens (see full blog from list on side) and myself to one of our confirmation candidates who asked us what Lent really meant for us. I hope they provide some reflection for any who might need.

Timothy wrote, "One thing I always do is take Ash Wednesday off from work. I try to use the day as a day of reflection. The words that are traditionally used when ashes are placed on Christians' heads are "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return", and it is a day to reflect on our mortality, and where our life is going, in the knowledge that, sooner or later, it is going to end. It is easy to become so busy that we don't take the time to stop and think about the larger picture in our life (and being clergy, it is easy for me to even become too busy with church to do this!) , and Lent in general and Ash Wednesday in particular, gives us that opportunity to do that.

Often, funerals are a time when people, in the shock of grief, and realization that since life is short, they are not necessarily living as they wish they were. It might be helpful to think of Ash Wednesday as our own "funeral", where we come face to face with our mortality, mourn it, and come to terms with how it will affect our living. Of course, baptism is our "dying with Christ so that we might rise with Christ", and Lent was traditionally the time of preparation for baptism, ending in the Three Days when we celebrate Christ's death and resurrection. So as we contemplate our deaths on Ash Wednesday, we also look forward to the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ at Easter, which is a promise of our own resurrection."

I offered the following, "
All of the outward things we do today: fasting, abstinence, prayer, ashes, are meant to help us focus on the fact that we are mortal, but God is not. Our lives and our futures are in God's hands and God has promised us greater joy and love than we can ever imagine.

Part of me hates today because I hate to think that I am not in total control. All the more reason for me to have today to discipline myself and remember from where my life comes and where it is going.

It is also a day to begin to think about ways to make peace with ourselves and others knowing all that God did to reconcile us to each other. Our gift at baptism of new life came at a great cost of love on the cross. Lent helps to remind me of that cost and how I am called to imitate it, if/when I am called to do so. Another reason I hate Lent...Italians are not good at reconciliation. We are better at getting even! Again, all the more reason I need this season!

A Holy Great Fast to all!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Lent and Vocation

As Lent approaches, early this year, I wanted to address some thoughts to all of those who are in formation either as catechumens, novices, or seminarians, and those charged with forming them. This post was originally written as a response to Fr. Chris' AIHM blog, Even the Devils Believe (see link at side).

Our first obligation to our novices and seminarians is spiritual and comes from mentoring and shared experience. A vocation is threefold: a call to being, a call to living, and a call to doing. Many secular professionals receive training in the last of these only, as it might only need to be. However, those called, and consecrated, “set apart,” for ministry or prophetic prayer, need to be formed in all three aspects of their vocation, and formed, not just trained.

They need to see who they are, where they come from, and where they are going in relation first to their baptismal initiation into the life of Grace in Jesus Christ made in God’s image. They need to explore the very movement of the spirit in their lives past, present, and future: their joys and hurts, fears and courage, successes and challenges. The need for learning to really pray is so important here.

Next they need to understand how they can best live who they are in the world. Are they called to know God’s joy as a single person, in married relationship, or in celibate prophecy? This aspect is sometimes taken for granted, especially in Churches where the choice is made for you. Celibacy and ministry are not exclusively bound together from our church’s perspective. A deeper call to spiritual direction, prayer, and meditation is where this aspect of the call can be heard.

Finally, adequate preparation then, and only then, can be given to the particular requirements of ministry: theology, counseling theory, liturgy, evangelization/preaching. A deepening of the sacramental life of Grace is a primary nourishment here along with mentored practical ministry practice.

Evident through all three of these stages is a recognition of the importance of the religious community into which we are born and live and grow. Our life of Grace is not formed in a vacuum. From catechism to religious/monastic formation, to seminary preparation, all is done in the context of community. The Holy Spirit works in us as it does in the Trinity through the bonds of loving relationship. The very life of the sacraments is about God’s revelation to us and the Church through us and the Church, and the experience of the faith communities of the Holy Scriptures.

In our small church and Order, with our limited resources, I think we do a good job of recognizing and implementing these important elements. I have been humbled and impressed at how our novices and seminarians have grown over the past year and what I have also learned from them. That is the joy of the difference between professional preparation and religious/ministerial formation, it is always a shared journey that goes both ways.

Candlemass: Our Lord and Ourselves are Presented to Our God

Candlemass is here. Christmas is over, and so is my break from blogging :-)

Today we hear the Canticle of Simeon: "O Lord your Word has been fulfilled...now I see your Salvation."

We pause to see God's salvation in our own lives, the movement of the Word made flesh in our very selves and our communities of faith and family, and we give thanks and praise.