Thursday, May 31, 2012

I am with you always...

This week we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  But how can we understand this paradox of our faith?  One way to think about it is to understand that the Trinity is all about the relationship that we have been invited into, in the context of the Church:  our relationship with God, with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit, and, by extension, with our church community and with our world.

This Sunday’s readings all focus on that relationship.  Moses’ motivational speech in Deuteronomy encourages the Israelites to embrace the intimate relationship God is seeking with them:  This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God… and that there is no other.  To know God is to be in intimate relationship with God, and to follow his commandments in thanksgiving for the infinite Love God offers us.

Jesus’ understanding of relationship is just as direct as Moses’:  I am with you always, until the end of the age.  At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, the disciples worship Jesus, but they doubt – even they have trouble entering into relationship, and Jesus is right there with them!  But he reassures them:  God’s Love is not only infinite, but eternally present, not only to them, but to us today.

Now, we can talk about being in relationship, but it doesn’t mean anything unless we live it, unless we participate actively in the relationship with God and with all of God’s creation.  In Romans, Paul helps us to understand the nature of this relationship:  we are adopted by God, we are God’s children.  But we have to walk in this relationship, to die with Jesus in order to rise with him, to be in right relationship:  if only we suffer with him, so that we may be glorified with him.  In other words, we must love past the hurts inflicted on us, love past the sin and the brokenness we encounter in the everyday, even though it causes us to suffer.  Only by living in Love, shared, can we one day be glorified with Jesus.  

(The above reflection is based on notes from Fr. Pat's Thursday night Scripture class.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The May Magnificat

The May Magnificat
(by Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., 1844-1889)
MAY is Mary’s month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
    Her feasts follow reason,
    Dated due to season—
Candlemas, Lady Day;      
But the Lady Month, May,
    Why fasten that upon her,
    With a feasting in her honour?
Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?        
    Is it opportunest
    And flowers finds soonest?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

St. Hildegard von Bingen

12th-century Benedictine abbess Hildegard of Bingen was canonized on May 10, 2012.  Philosopher and mystic, she founded the monasteries of Rupertsberg and Eibingen and wrote extensively on topics as wide-ranging as botany and theology.  She is perhaps best known, however, for her stunning musical compositions; her works constitute one of the largest repertoires among medieval composers.  You can hear one of her compositions, O vis aeternitatis, by clicking on the video above.

St. Hildegard’s life was dramatized by Margarethe von Trotta in the film Vision in 2009.

Monday, May 28, 2012

I believe in the Holy Spirit...


“The Holy Spirit, we are told, is the spirit of Wisdom, of the feminine Sophia, in the Church.  Each of us, we argue theologically, has a piece of that Wisdom, the Spirit working in us to build the people of God, the reign of God, the assembly of God on earth…  This Spirit, this living Wisdom that is God, lifts us above ourselves, tunes us to the voice of the Creator around us and within us, comes upon us with gentle force or terrible consciousness, and cares for life, day in, day out, unrelenting in its urge for wholeness.  The Spirit prods us, proves us, brings life in us to creative fullness.  The Spirit is God with us, in us, around us, breathing us to life.”

Practice:  Pray St. Augustine’s Prayer to the Holy Spirit daily this week:  “Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.”

Quotations from Benedictine sister Joan Chittister’s book In Search of Belief, which explores the Apostles’ Creed phrase by phrase, demonstrating how the Creed is not a static set of rules or statements, but a living document that speaks to the deepest meaning of our existence and serves as a life guide, calling all of us to engage more deeply in relationship with God and with each other.  Sr. Chittister’s thoughts challenge us to live the Creed more fully as Christians; her writing is thought-provoking and inspirational.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

May 27th 2012: Sunday Gospel Reflection

Jesus promised that He would send a helper and advocate to be with the Apostles after He ascended into Heaven. Today we celebrate when Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to be with His Apostles at Pentecost (which literally means, on the fiftieth day after the Resurrection) and the Holy Spirit continues to be the way that God comes to us today. The world Spirit in Greek “pneuma” means breath, for God’s Spirit is closer to us than even our own breath! Yet God does not force His way into our hearts, He calls to us to be open to Him so that we might breathe deeply and let the Spirit’s healing love dwell with us and strengthen us.

Oftentimes the presence of the Holy Spirit is most easily recognized through our conscience, leading us to making the right decision, and helping us when we are in need of guidance (or when we don’t think we need guidance!). Jesus also promised that when we gather as a community that He is there in our midst. God’s Spirit is most fully present to us when we gather as a community to celebrate the Sacraments, those outward signs instituted by Jesus to make Him present to us (grace). The Holy Spirit is what makes the Sacraments transformative and makes broken hearts healed, unites two persons into one flesh, and transforms bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus.

We can see this transformation in action distinctly at Mass at a moment called the epiclesis (pronounced like EpiPen…’epi’….cleesis), where the priest extends his hands over the gifts and calls down the power of the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine praying Lord let your Spirit come upon these gifts that they might become for us the Body and Blood of Christ. Through the Holy Spirit simple bread and wine become food for our hearts and souls, uniting the Body of Christ to our own bodies. We are called to live in a continuous state of Epiclesis, calling the Holy Spirit into our lives to transform us. As we have received the Spirit of God we too are called to be agents of transformation, carrying that transforming Spirit to our homes, schools, workplace and to share it with everyone we meet so that we might become co-creators with God to transform the world so that thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lord, send out your spirit, and renew the face of the earth...

We most often associate the Holy Spirit with the Spirit’s descent upon the disciples in the form of tongues as of fire in the Acts of the Apostles, a stunning event that signals the birth of the Christian Church and its mission to go forth and spread the Good News. 

But in fact, as we learn in the panoply of readings for the Pentecost Vigil and Mass During the Day, the spirit of God has made its presence felt throughout salvation history, from God’s breath giving life to Creation (Psalm 104) to the reanimation of the dry bones in Ezekiel to God’s pouring out [God’s] spirit on all humankind in Joel.  

So we should not be at all surprised when Paul, in his letters to the Romans, Corinthians and Galatians, reminds us that we too bear the mark of the Holy Spirit:  To each individual the mark of the Holy Spirit is given for some benefit (1 Corinthians).  While we wait for fullness of union with God, we are sustained by the Spirit who intercedes for us (Romans) as Advocate (John), helping us to communicate with God and to connect with one another.  It’s up to us to remain open to the manifold ways of the working of the Spirit in our own lives, allowing the gifts the Spirit bestows on each of us to be of service to all in our community.  This is the Spirit of Truth (John) of which Jesus speaks in the Gospel – the Spirit that brings peace and fosters joy, the Spirit that offers us the gifts of patience, generosity, kindness, and gentleness (Galatians) so that we may reach out to others from the fullness of God’s love.  

May we all be filled with the Love that is the Spirit of God today and every day!

(The above reflection is based on notes from Fr. Pat's Thursday night Scripture class.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

He shall come again to judge the living and the dead...


“To say ‘I believe… that Jesus will come again in glory’ is to say that hope is alive and well and feeding on faith in God’s presence and love for God’s life in the world.”

“The segment of the Creed that calls us to remember judgment… is not a call to fear, it is a call to growth, to rightmindedness, to fidelity of direction.  It is a call to the human community and a reminder to the individual. We are reminded by the thought of judgment that we must make hope real.  We have not been created only to come to glory but to bring with us to Judgment Day our own portion of the reign of God.  We are expected, the Creed implies, to prove our accountability, both personal and communal, to God’s hopes for mankind.”

Practice:  We are called to help the Kingdom of God to grow; we are accountable to God for our participation in the Kingdom:  “thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven.”  The Catechism of the Catholic Church relates this to our “duty to put into action in this world the energies and means received from the Creator to serve justice and peace.”  Find a concrete way to “serve justice and peace” this week.  Volunteer at the Thrift Store or Hot Lunch Program, either on site Tuesday mornings, or by offering to deliver a vegetable dish.  Or identify another cause you can bring passion to, and volunteer!

Quotations from Benedictine sister Joan Chittister’s book In Search of Belief, which explores the Apostles’ Creed phrase by phrase, demonstrating how the Creed is not a static set of rules or statements, but a living document that speaks to the deepest meaning of our existence and serves as a life guide, calling all of us to engage more deeply in relationship with God and with each other.  Sr. Chittister’s thoughts challenge us to live the Creed more fully as Christians; her writing is thought-provoking and inspirational.

Monday, May 21, 2012

He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God...


“To say, ‘I believe in Jesus Christ… who ascended into heaven’ is to say ‘I believe in the mystical dimension of life…’  [T]he entire world is sacramental.  Everything speaks of God.  Everything unveils God to us… In the end, out of the dregs of the worst the world has to offer, the Creed lifts our eyes and our souls to the vision that transcends the pedestrian.  The Creed brings us face to face with the mystical and reminds us to abide there all the while we walk the streets of the world.”

Practice:  Ignatian spirituality offers us “five surprising places we might find God” (an acknowledgement that the world is indeed sacramental), and thus spiritual growth.  Pick one per day and see if you can find God to the “vision that transcends the pedestrian” in that space:

1.  At Work.  
The relationships you have, the results you achieve, the quality and mindfulness with which you do your work can all be the stuff of holiness.
2.  In Difficult Relationships. 
It’s easy to love other people when everything’s going well. But when there are hurt feelings, mistrust, or clashing wills, relationships don’t feel very much as though they are of God. Yet it is at just those times, that we can witness the movement of God in our lives, leading us to healing, trust, and cooperation. These can be opportunities to let go of character defects and to exercise virtues.
3.  In Our Failings. 
When we hit our limits or even when we sin, we can turn to God for acceptance, mercy, and the strength to make amends and sin no more. In that turning to God and in our opening ourselves up to God’s grace and forgiveness, we become better people.
4.  In Loneliness
.  Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O God. Rather than trying to fill the emptiness with mindless entertainment or indulging our cravings, sit still and find God in the emptiness. It takes patience and courage and humility, but you will hear the “still small voice” of God even in the midst of your emptiness responding to your loneliness and restlessness with the only love that fully satisfies.
5.  In Pleasure.  
Many people seem to think that if something’s fun, it must be at least partially wrong. Yet God gives us the world to live in and enjoy. Pleasure is a place to meet God, whether it be the pleasure of nature, of playing, of loving one another, of beauty, or of the occasional overwhelming conviction that we are loved by God.

Quotations from Benedictine sister Joan Chittister’s book In Search of Belief, which explores the Apostles’ Creed phrase by phrase, demonstrating how the Creed is not a static set of rules or statements, but a living document that speaks to the deepest meaning of our existence and serves as a life guide, calling all of us to engage more deeply in relationship with God and with each other.  Sr. Chittister’s thoughts challenge us to live the Creed more fully as Christians; her writing is thought-provoking and inspirational.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Harrowing of Hell

Paul's letter to the Ephesians tells us the Jesus descended into the lower regions of the earth.  Scholars have proposed many interpretations of this passage, one of which has come to be known as the "harrowing" of Hell, the descent of Christ into the netherworld between the time of his Crucifixion and Resurrection, to free Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, and all the patriarchs.  Artistic representations of this event most often show Jesus standing on the doors to hell, with keys scattered around him on the ground.  Why?  Because the only key that would work was the one Jesus himself embodied:  Love.  

Jesus himself delved into the deepest, darkest regions of human existence so that he might gather all, save all, take all with him into union with God.  His action is that of gathering us all together, as one body -- an action that we participate in, when we love.

The image above is an Anatolian church fresco.  When the Christian population of Caesarea (modern Kayseri in central Anatolia-Turkey, the capital of ancient Cappadocia) was forced to migrate to the west at the time of the Turkish invasions in the beginning of the 7th century AD, they carved homes and churches in the rocks.  Many churches were built by carving the soft blocks of rocks formed of volcanic lava. Magnificent frescoes depicting mainly Jesus Christ and some well-known scenes from the Bible, including the one above, adorn the walls of those churches (source).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why are you standing there looking at the sky?

Just imagine the state of the disciples as Jesus was lifted up and a cloud took him from their sight.  They can't possibly want him to go.  Yet, after forty days on earth after the Resurrection, Jesus leaves his disciples with a legacy:  to embody his presence here on earth, in the flesh, and to be his witnesses... to the ends of the earth.

Mark’s gospel describes Jesus sending his disciples forth to proclaim with conviction that Love, the Love that is God, is real, a reality they themselves are living.  We, the heirs of that legacy, are called to live that love fully, for if we enter deeply enough into Love, nothing – not serpents, or deadly poison, or illness, or death – will frighten us.  The only thing that opens us up, that coaxes us out of our fear, out of our darkness, drawing us to union, is Love.  This is the Good News, the Gospel Jesus instructs the disciples to proclaim.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is grounded in his understanding of this Good News.  In this letter, to know God is to be in intimate relationship with God, a relationship from which we gain understanding.  Knowledge of God pulls us from darkness, from our spiritual blindness, such that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened.  This is possible because we know the hope that belongs to his call, which is God’s love for us.  Insofar as we are capable of grounding ourselves in this Love, we are asked to do something radical:  to live in community, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love…. one body and one Spirit.

It is no longer time to stand there looking at the sky – Jesus is risen, he has ascended, and we are now called to go forth, to build up the body of Christ as we, too, proclaim the Good News!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Christ Has No Body

Christ Has No Body
Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

Yours are the eyes, you are his body.

Christ has no body now but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks 
compassion on this world.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

St. Theresa of Avila

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Human Heart's Desire for Love

The Human Heart's Desire for Love

There is hope for real wholeness only in the human heart’s desire for Love in the present moment.  The experience is utterly simple.  It exists before any words or symbols are applied to it, and it is who we are. In one silent breath, the love-force in us gives us our identity and draws us toward our home and destiny.  We are created by Love, to live in Love, for the sake of Love. 

It is not easy to own and claim Love as our true identity and deepest dignity.  We cannot describe it in words.  We cannot grasp it or treat it as an object.  It is not something we can do, a process to go through, or even a specific way to be.  It transcends psychological categorization, philosophical comprehension, and even moral judgment.  The only way to own and claim Love as our identity is to fall in love with Love itself, to feel affection for our longing, to value our yearning, treasure our wanting, embrace our incompleteness, be overwhelmed by the beauty of our need.

In other words, the invitation of Love is to be consciously, energetically alive and involved in Love. 

(Source:  Gerald May, The Awakened Heart)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day from Our Lady of Mount Carmel!
Mother Mary, be our spiritual mother and the inspiration and helper of all mothers celebrated today!

Click in for more Mother's Day poetry from Loyola Press

Sacraments 101: Confirmation

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sunday Gospel Reflection: May 13th 2012

Congratulations to all of our Mount Carmel Confirmation Candidates who will be confirmed Sunday at the 10:15am Mass!

Derek Austin~Mattie Callahan~Ellery Carbone~Madeleine Denebeim~Griffin Diecks
Claire Donohue~Nicole Gamboa~Kendall Hiti~Makena House~Bennett Keane
Olivia Martin~Sheridan Miller~Michael Praszker~Jessie Scarsella~Tommy Searle
Olivia Stahl~William Stock~Marlen Valencia~Kate Vangelos

In last Sunday’s Gospel we reflected on the analogy of the Vine and the Branches. Jesus is the Vine that gives us nourishment and life if we stay connected to Him and grow out of His life, like branches on a vine. It was fitting that in our parish community last Sunday we celebrated 1st Eucharist, for Jesus gave his Apostles the Eucharist so that He might always be with us to nourish us, for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.

In this Sunday’s Gospel we read the continuation of this passage where Jesus directs us to how we stay connected to the Vine: imitating the love of Jesus. This love is not simply a feeling of fondness but a decision to love radically, till it hurts; no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Jesus is our model of perfect love that we are called to respond to and imitate. Each of us has been set apart, chosen by God for it was not you who chose me, but I who chose you. As the beloved sons and daughters of God we are called to greatness by accepting the invitation of Jesus to be His followers and to love radically as Jesus did.

In the Sacrament of Confirmation this Sunday we celebrate these 19 teenagers in our parish community who, with the support of this community and their sponsors, are responding to God’s personal call. They are dedicating themselves to the love of God by completing their Christian initiation and receiving the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to help them live out the unique mission that God has set out for them. Let us pray for them and for ourselves, that their commitment to God may encourage us and that we might support them through our own faithfulness and witness to God’s radical love. When we say ‘yes’ to what God asks of us it helps others to say ‘yes’ as well. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Veni Sancte Spiritus

If you have a moment over the next week or two, stop into the Seager Gray Gallery (23 Sunnyside Avenue, Mill Valley), and check out a fascinating exhibition called, The Art of the Book 2012.  Way in the back of the gallery, there is a small red box on a shelf -- a work inspired by artist Steph Rue's experience at a Taizé service much like the ones Jonathan and Emmanuel led at Our Lady of Mount Carmel during Lent. 

And don't just look at the outside of the box! Ask for gloves at the reception desk, and you will be able to touch the art on exhibit and see what's inside as well.  If you attended the Lenten Taizé service, I believe that what you find there will resonate... and if you didn't, you are in for a treat, perhaps one that will call you to participate in the next Taizé opportunity!

(The rest of the exhibit is fascinating as well!  It closes May 31, 2012, so don't delay.)

Photo credit

(By the way, if you don't have time or don't mind a spoiler, you can see one image of the piece here.)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Love one another...

Jesus says:  Love one another…
Model your love on the Love I’ve shown you,
a Love that defies death, a Love that has no limits.

Jesus says:  Love one another…
Imagine being able to say,
My love for Other is as great as Jesus’ Love for me. 
Then live it.

Jesus says:  Love one another… 
By living the Love I have shown you,
you nurture the bond that makes you my Body.
You become the Body of Christ in the world.

Contemporary culture fosters space and distance; Jesus’ commandment compels connectedness.  The challenge of his statement – Love one another –  is to transform the culture in which we exist, through love; loving all is the mission of all.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dressing a Priest

Dressing a Priest
What are the various parts of the priest’s outfit?

Julianne Wallace Answers:

Ordinarily in the Mass, the priest wears three types of sacred vestments:
Alb: This garment is common to both ordained and instituted members of the Church. The Alb is a long white garment that is worn over ordinary clothing. Often, acincture is used around the waist so that the alb can fit properly.
Chasuble: This is a vestment that comes in many colors and the priest wears the particular color of the liturgical season. The Chasuble is worn over the alb and stole.
Stole: The stole is worn by the priest around his neck. It is a long, narrow rectangular vestment that will also bear the color of the liturgical season. (Please note: a stole is also worn by the deacon, but he wears it across his chest.)
For more information on the different vestments, see Chapter IV of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.
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