Saturday, June 17, 2006

Don Marco

Pictured, the Madonna with Tobit and the Archangel Raphael and St. Francis.

Why have I pictured St. Raphael and Tobias? It is because I am reminded that sometimes Our Lord sends us a special friend to help us on our pilgrimage toward Heaven. In His blessed Providence He has given me one of His beloved to help me, His name is Don Marco, monk and priest. His wonderful spirituality has enlightened me and given me untold consolation. The meeting of the Archangel Raphael and Tobias is a signal grace and mark of true friendship. (I have often prayed for such an encounter as Tobias had, once, years ago I met a person who spoke to me in similar fashion - I never saw him again. Sometime I should tell the story.) I am so grateful to God for Don Marco's counsel. Here is a homily of his for this day, I hope he doesn't mind that I share it with you.

Homily for the Memorial of Blessed Marie-Joseph Cassant, Monk and Priest.

We celebrate today the memorial of Blessed Marie-Joseph Cassant,a Cistercian monk of the Abbey of Sainte-Marie-du-Désert beatified by PopeJohn Paul II on October 3, 2004. Father Marie-Joseph died on June 17, 1903;he was twenty-five years old. Solemnly professed for three years, he hadbeen a priest for only nine months. From childhood he wanted nothing else.³Where his treasure was, there was his heart also² (cf. Mt 6:21).

Bl. Marie-Joseph Cassant

In his last letter to his family, he wrote, ³For such a longtime we hoped against hope to be able to have the whole family together after my ordination so as to share the joy of being present and receivingCommunion together at my first Mass. The good Lord heard our deepest wishes. It now remains to us to thank him and to enter more and more deeplyinto the greatness of the priesthood. Let us never dare to equate the Sacrifice of the Mass with earthly things.²

Americans first learned of Father Marie-Joseph Cassant fromThomas Merton in The Waters of Siloe, first published in 1949. Merton wrotethat, ³On the afternoon of June 17, 1903, the body of Father Joseph Cassantwas lowered into its grave in the préau of Sainte-Marie-du-Désert. Someone had thrown into the grave a few bright handfuls of petals from the flowers that had been scattered before the Blessed Sacrament in the cloister procession that same day - for it was the octave of Corpus Christi.²

The American Trappist made a novena to Father Marie-Joseph and through his intercession received significant favours. Merton was not alone in invoking Father Marie-Joseph. Since 1903 more than 2200 persons from thirty different countries have attested to favours received through the intercession of Father Marie-Joseph. The catalogue of graces attributed to the young monk is impressive: conversions, reconciliations, cures, and comfort in uncertainties and doubts. Father Jacob and I went in pilgrimage to his tomb in 1982 and prayed that both of us might become priests.

Father Marie-Joseph¹s road to the priesthood was not an easy one. His parish priest judged him intellectually inadequate for theological studies. After tutoring him for fifteen months in French and Latin, he saw that the young Joseph was not suited for the diocesan seminary. He directed him instead to the Trappe of Sainte-Marie-du-Desert where the monks were ordained to the priesthood after a simpler course of studies, given that they had no pastoral responsibilities or outside ministry.

Joseph entered ³Le Desert² on December 5, 1894. Sister Thérèsede l¹Enfant Jésus et de la Sainte-Face, five years older than Joseph, had three years left in her Carmel of Lisieux. Their lives were in some ways similar. Although Thérèse had a stronger personality, both were led to find their strength in weakness. ³Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me² (2 Cor 12:9).

Frère Marie-Joseph was timid, fearful, and scrupulous at times,suffering from insecurities. It was by trusting obedience to his NoviceMaster, Père André Malet, that he began to grow in confidence in the Heartof Jesus. ³My grace is sufficient for you: for power is made perfect ininfirmity² (2 Cor 12:9). Confidence in the Heart of Jesus became his way.Echoing the words of the psalmist, he called the Eucharist ³his one happiness on earth.² ³What have I in heaven? And besides you what do I desire upon earth?² (Ps 72:25).

Even in the abbey, theological studies were not easy for Joseph.The monk charged with teaching him often humiliated him publicly for his stupidity, saying, ³ You are totally limited! It is useless for you to study. You will not learn any more. To ordain you would be a dishonour to the priesthood.² Father André, his gentle and patient spiritual father, was always there to encourage Father Marie-Joseph, to set him again and again on the path of confidence in the Heart of Jesus.

Father Marie-Joseph was ordained on October 12, 1902 at twenty-four and a half years of age. Already tuberculosis was ravaging his young body. His abbot sent him home to his family for seven weeks of rest,hoping that his health might improve, but it was too late for that. Upon returning to the abbey, Father Marie-Joseph was sent to the infirmary. His lungs were irreparably damaged, his breathing difficult. As infirmarian he was given none other than the theology professor who had so harshly berated him.

Father André remained close to his spiritual son, offering reassurance and comfort, helping him to trust in the love of the Heart ofJesus for him. On June 17, 1903, Father Marie-Joseph received HolyCommunion for the last time and, a few moments later, passed into the contemplation of Christ face to face. The beautiful collect composed for his liturgical memorial sums up his life: ³O Lord, Glory of the lowly, who inspired a burning love for the Eucharist in Blessed Joseph Mary, and led him into the desert through the Heart of Jesus; grant, we beseech you, that by his intercession and example we may prefer nothing to Christ, that he may bring us to life everlasting.

The memorial of Blessed Marie-Joseph Cassant, falling on this Friday in the month of the Sacred Heart, and on the day after SaintLutgarde, invites us to follow him along the path of confidence in the Heartof Jesus and burning love for the Eucharist. For Blessed Marie-Joseph
nothing equaled the Mass; the Mass became his life. At the hour of death his identification with Christ, priest and victim, was complete. Today,through Christ, with Him, and in Him, he makes priestly intercession in heaven for those who ask for it on earth.

"³In a world where there is so much noise, so much bewilderment,there is a need for silent adoration of Jesus concealed in the Host.Be assiduous in the prayer of adoration and teach it to the faithful.It is a source of comfort and light particularly to those who are suffering." -²Pope Benedict XVI, May 25, 2006

Blessed Marie-Joseph Cassant, pray for me a sinner. And thank you Don Marco for this homily - pray for me, for us.

Dysfunction at the junction...

Pictured, Rosselli's Sermon on the Mount, Sistine Chapel

When I was in high school there was a Motown song "Function at the Juntion" - so that explains this title somewhat - it rhymes.

Today's Gospel from the sermon on the Mount speaks about not taking a false oath, and that we should let our yes be yes and our no be no - no dissimulating, no lying, no passive aggressive 'round the back door behavior.

That stuff happens all too often in the work place. Many times employees lie, make false excuses, use their time deceptively, and complain about others to take the attention off of their mistakes, bad behavior, or incompetence, etc. Sometimes Management does the same things, thus enabling the offenders to continue their charade. They will look away from a problem, perhaps hoping it will go away, yet nevertheless prolonging it. They do not enforce rules, maybe because they sometimes are afraid of lawsuits, or just paying unemployment, or just unable to confront someone or something. They want to be liked and they do not like confrontation, so this 'stealth action' thing goes on. It's dysfuntional. Dysfunction always starts at the top, in a family it starts with the parents. In a business it starts with Management.

We have to "put aside lying" in all its forms. We must let "our 'yes' be 'yes' and our 'no' mean 'no'. Anything beyond that is from the evil one." - Matthew 5

Friday, June 16, 2006

Mother Teresa's rule: No fund raising.

Missionaries of Charity of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

I had an incident one day a month or so ago in the Store I work in. It made me do a lot of thinking. The Missionaries of Charity came in to see me. Every time they visit the Store I feel like I'm seeing Mother. Sometimes I even lapse and call them Mother instead of Sister. No offense to any other religious order but these nuns are exceptional examples of the religious life; they remain just as faithful to radical poverty and their original charism as when they were founded. They are women of prayer as evidenced by the rosary they carry in their hands and are actively praying as you meet them - their rosaries do not just hang on their belts.

When you encounter the sisters you cannot help but tangibly feel their charity. I love them. They had to talk to me about a mistake we made in our catalog. It concerns one of those latex wrist bands, a JPII memorial item, a piece of "I could care less merchandise" that is over-priced as well as a post-peak trend item. A seemingly insignificant item. In our catalog copy, that we took from the vendor we bought it from - I must hasten to say - it states that "a percentage of the proceeds from sales of this item go to the Missionaries of Charity." Mother Marcella, the provincial in the U.S. contacted me a few months ago that this was in error. I was totally unaware of the copy and promotion. I assured her I would look into it. I explained I had no knowledge of the connection and told her I knew very well that the Missionaries and Mother have always had a prohibition against fund raising. I knew that! I assumed everyone did. I told management and explained how important the matter is, they seemed to understand. And guess what happened? Another re-mail catalog had already gone to press and was subsequently mailed out. You can imagine the embarrassment for me and the Company when Sister came in and talked to me about the same mistake that had not been taken care of. I explained as best I could, I said I would take care of it for them and I apologized. I went immediately to the Owner of the Company and explained to him the problem. I called the Company we buy the items from and explained the situation. He explained that he had bought the business from another fellow and he was the one who promoted the item that way and he simply continued it. As I spoke to him on the phone he removed the line from his web site. I knew it was going to be taken care of. (And it was - immediately.)

The entire episode gave me pause however. The Missionaries themselves always remind me of the parable of the goats and sheep being judged at the end of time, because they are so hidden and humble and also because Mother often referenced this parable. (I shuddered because of what scripture says in regard to merchants and how they will be judged!) What struck me about this Gospel however is how the people to the right hand of our Lord, those who have done well, question Jesus saying, "When did we see you hungry and give you food? Naked and we clothed you?" and so on. They honestly did not know until Jesus told them that when they did this to the least among them that they did it to Him. The blessed were totally unaware of their good works - they were simply acting from the goodness of their hearts. They neither measured nor tallied their good works - they simply were acting and doing what was right, the right hand not knowing what the left was doing‌.

It is human nature to take an account of possessions, money, honors, etc. We deduct our charitable contributions from our taxes. (In our Store we even sell "Sacrifice Beads" a pious custom adopted from the life of Therese of Lisieux, you're supposed to count your sacrifices throughout the day by moving a bead every time you do a good work. Unless you are about five years old, as Therese was when she used it, I'd strongly recommend not using such a device. (It's for training kids - not for adults.)

We often carry this accounting practice into our spiritual lives. Many who practice prayer like to figure out what stage of prayer they are at. In my Store we carry a book called "The Stages of Prayer" written by an former Discalced Carmelite nun, it more or less 'retarded' my own progress in prayer since it focused so much on stages and levels of prayer - it isn't the best study on the practice of prayer. Teresa of Avila's famous book, "The Interior Castle"‌ documents the various stages of prayer as well. This is great for directors or to inspire a person to strive for the higher gifts, but it's a waste of time, in my opinion, to use it to try and figure out where you are at in the spiritual life. You're just measuring again. You're keeping score of your virtue - similar to what an overly solicitous parent does in regard to their kids sports activities or academic life. Jesus said not to let your right hand know what your left hand is doing and to keep your works of mercy secret. In other words forget your self and mortify your self seeking. Love and act out of love, "Love and do what you will" as St. Augustine wrote. We should neither count the cost nor the accomplishments of our charity - or prayer for that matter. We might take it a step further, maybe we should not use other people's charitable mission or accomplishments to raise funds or make a sale. If we are going to do an act of charity, we ought to do it in the name of Jesus, for Jesus, and let Him alone know we are doing it. Don't try to make a profit off the backs of the poor.

Remember the Pharisee and the Publican, the one guy recounted to God all of his merits and good deeds, he tithed, gave to the poor, he did a lot of good. (What if he was one of those who traipsed by that other guy laying on the side of the road that the Samaritan helped?) But the one who was justified was the Publican - who had nothing but his sins. At the end of her life St. Therese proclaimed she went to God "empty handed“ not unlike the Publican.

I think that is how the Missionaries of Charity think of themselves as well. Yeah, they never take account of what they do, they simply follow Jesus.

(We eventually got rid of the phrase in our catalog. The Missionaries were happy and hopefully we learned a good lesson.)