St. Charles de Foucauld

From Pope Francis’ homily on the occasion of
Charles de Foucauld’s canonization by Pope Francis
on 15 May 2022 in Rome:

To serve the Gospel and our brothers and sisters,
to offer our lives without expecting anything in return,
any worldly glory: this is a secret and it is our calling.
That was how our fellow travelers canonized today
lived their holiness.
By embracing with enthusiasm their vocation
– as a priest, as a consecrated women, as a lay person –
they devoted their lives to the Gospel.
They discovered an incomparable joy
and they became brilliant reflections of the Lord of history.
For that is what a saint is: a luminous reflection of the Lord of history.
May we strive to do the same.
The path of holiness is not barred;
it is universal and it starts with Baptism.
Let us strive to follow it, for each of us is called to holiness,
to a form of holiness all our own.
Holiness is always “original”, as Blessed Carlo Cutis used to say:
it is not a photocopy, but an “original”, mine, yours, all of ours.
It is uniquely our own. Truly, the Lord has a plan of love for everyone. He has a dream for your life, for my life, for the life of each of us.
What else can I say? Pursue that dream with joy.

“Called to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity” (CCC 260)

Jesus said to his disciples
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him
and make our dwelling with him [monēn par’ auto].” – Jn. 14:23

This is tomorrow’s Gospel opening. It is hard to exaggerate how inconceivable this truth of faith is. This is the deepest mystery of salvation, and it reveals all at once the whole purpose of creation: to create a monēn “permanent dwelling” for God to live in as an infinite divine-human exchange of inconceivably intimate love that is friendship (Jn. 15:15).

The body of the human person – your body — is the end-game of creation. This is really the stunning point of the Prologue of John’s Gospel that begins its poetic narrative with the creation of the world “through the Word” (1:1-3) and then climaxes with the Word becoming flesh and “tenting among us” (1:14). God wants to make the “tent” of the human body his own place, so he can be wed in an eternal covenant union with us, his image.

St. Paul makes the same point in 1 Corinthians 6:19: to sōma hymōn naos tou en hymin Hagiou Pneumatos “the body of-you [is] a temple of the in-you Holy Spirit.” For Paul, once the Incarnation happened, and the Spirit of God came through the crucified-risen Christ at Pentecost to extend the Incarnation in us, the Temple in Jerusalem had served its preparatory purpose. The Temple was only an image of the human body assumed by Christ – our body – and now the REAL temple became the place of God’s dwelling where true worship ‘in spirit and truth’ could bring the whole of creation to its end in God.

Incidentally, the word ‘naos’ that Paul uses in the Greek sentence above refers not just to the Temple ‘in general,’ but to the inner court of the Temple, the Holy of holies, where God’s glory dwells in its most terrifyingly intimate nearness to creation.

In you, right now — if you live in the grace of friendship with God and are joined to Christ in Baptism as his Body — the Most Holy Trinity dwells in you in all Their hidden glory. They are there to seek your companionship, your friendship, your company, your love. You have the vocation, right at this moment, to allow the divine Three to extend Their love and bless the world around you. Prayer is your cosent to that happening. Now. But you are only a Temple when you join, by your love, every other body-temple around you, so that together, as one Body in Christ, humanity might become an eternal Temple — the New Creation.

So St. Paul begs us: be aware of who you are. Beware. Live in the constant awareness of who dwells in you. Allow the words of that ancient author read every Holy Saturday in the Divine Office to sink in, as he permits God to speak to you this very moment:

Now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

Realize this when you next receive the Holy Eucharist. See who you ARE, and become what you receive. It is not the Eucharistic presence of Christ itself that is the end game. Rather, the Eucharist exists to enter into the temple, the Body of Christ that you ARE, to intensify-deepen your capacity to contain the infinite God himself with a love that opens out to every creature so that, through-with-and-in you, God can become all in all. “The God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:6).

Let him in, the King of Glory, and then let him out to fill the earth with his glory. Which is cruciform love.

Deep mystery.

Oops

I hope those who read today’s blog post before 7:40 a.m. C.T. enjoyed my Freudian slip typo — yes, that would be quite a contract to sign! For those of you who emailed me to ask where they could apply, haha. For the rest of you who missed it, better that way 🙂

“The tongue is a fire” — James 3:6


Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear. Eph. 4:29

Glenn D. Rolfsen, a psychotherapist that works in corporate health service in Oslo, Norway, argues that in his many years of addressing unhealthy work environments, the unrivaled number one factor behind toxic work environments is backbiting gossip. He defines this sort of gossip as “speaking negatively about a third party when they are not present,” and says it contributes to division, mistrust and prevents people in an organization from pursuing healthier and more productive ways of dealing with issues.

Rolfson also argues that it is frequently the case that such backbiting gossip flourishes in institutional systems where the healthy channels of communication that are essential for addressing grievances or engaging in group problem solving are not functioning properly. In the absence of those open channels, people tend to find other — dysfunctional — ways of addressing those issues that, in the end, work against the healthy synergy every organization depends on for success.

In addressing this problem, Rolfson offers what he calls the ‘triple filter” test for determining whether information sharing is gossip or not. And then he encourages staffs to sign a six-month agreement to refrain from all communication that does not pass the triple filter test. The filter includes:

First, is what you are saying true? Is it based on solid evidence? Is it the whole truth or a misleading partial truth? Are you presenting it in a way that, to the best of your knowledge, will help others see a greater truth about this person or situation? Or are you distorting the information to cast a darker shadow?

Second, is it good? Does it have anything good to affirm about the person, amid the negative, that offers as charitable (though honest) a read as possible? Is the reason you are sharing it for the person’s good or for some other substantive and greater good? Do you have both a right and a duty to share the information you share? 

Third, is it useful? Does your sharing of information serve a clear and constructive goal? Is the person you are telling someone who can do something about the situation to somehow make it better? Is your decision to share information a step toward dealing with the person or situation you speak of more directly and appropriately? 

In sum: are you speaking truth in love?

Of course, as dealing with human relationships is a complex art, determining what constitutes backbiting gossip can be quite difficult at times, e.g. searching your motives or judging your tactics for effectively dealing with difficult people, situations and dysfunctional environments. I find navigating this art a constant challenge, and so it is a frequent focus in my daily examination of conscience.

Ask: Am I serving Christ’s mission to reconcile and make us ‘one family,’ which he achieved at the cost of his death? Or am I an ally of the Slanderer and Accuser whose goal is always to sow seeds of division and mistrust?

This is a prayer I wrote once after Confession to keep me from this sin:

Lord Jesus, you are the Truth
that sets us free.
Teach me to always speak the truth in love.
Give me right judgment and wisdom of heart, to know how to speak a word that will foster unity, forgiveness and build others up.
Quench in me the fires of envy, lying, malice and revenge.
Create in me a magnanimous spirit.
Forgive all my sins against your truth
and give me the courage to resist every temptation to gossip.
Spirit of Unity, make me an instrument of your peace.
Mary, Mother of Reconciliation, pray for us.
Amen.

“I was in prison and you came to me” — Mt. 25:36

On the occasion of the Second World Meeting with Families, my thoughts turn to you who are in the Frei Caneca Penitentiary. I do not hide the fact that I suffer with you for your loss of freedom. I can image what that means. I suffer even more because I am aware that many of your families cannot count on your presence as fathers and sons, sometimes the only ones who can save them from destitution. I would therefore like to assure you that the Church is beside you in this time of trial. Christ wants to be with you, supporting you with his word and the certainty of his friendship. — Pope St. John Paul II

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I think of those who are locked up in prison. Jesus has not forgotten them either. By including the act of visiting of those in prison among the works of mercy, he wanted first and foremost to invite us to judge no one. Of course, if someone is in prison it is because he has done wrong, and did not respect the law or civil harmony. Therefore, in prison, he is serving his sentence. However, whatever a detainee may have done, he remains always beloved by God. Who is able to enter the depths of [an inmate’s] conscience to understand what he is experiencing? Who can understand his suffering and remorse? It is too easy to wash our hands, declaring that he has done wrong.

You cannot talk about paying a debt to society from a jail cell without windows. There is no humane punishment without a horizon. No one can change their life if they don’t see a horizon. And so many times we are used to blocking the view of our inmates. Take this image of the windows and the horizon and ensure that in your countries the prisons always have a window and horizon; even a life sentence – which for me is questionable – even a life sentence would have to have a horizon. — Pope Francis

Litany of Peace for Ukraine, Kyiv Chamber Choir

From the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom:

Deacon: In peace, let us pray to the Lord.

People: Amen.

The people then respond with “Lord, have mercy” after each petition.

For the peace from above and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord.

For the peace of the whole world, for the stability of the holy churches of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord.

For this holy house and for those who enter it with faith, reverence, and the fear of God, let us pray to the Lord.

For pious and Orthodox Christians, let us pray to the Lord.

For our Archbishop (Name), for the honorable presbyterate, for the diaconate in Christ, and for all the clergy and the people, let us pray to the Lord.

For our country, for the president, and for all in public service, let us pray to the Lord.

For this city, and for every city and land, and for the faithful who live in them, let us pray to the Lord.

For favorable weather, for an abundance of the fruits of the earth, and for peaceful times, let us pray to the Lord.

For those who travel by land, sea, and air, for the sick, the suffering, the captives and for their salvation, let us pray to the Lord.

For our deliverance from all affliction, wrath, danger, and necessity, let us pray to the Lord.

Help us, save us, have mercy on us, and protect us, O God, by Your grace.

Deacon: Commemorating our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commend ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.

People: To You, O Lord.

Ashley and Maria, “getting there”

#mashley!

My daughter Maria, who is graduating from college, had to create a music video for her final project in an independent study class. She had to write the song and produce, direct, create and edit the video. For the last several months, she seemed to be working on it non-stop.

On Sunday it was featured in the University of New Orleans film festival and Patti and I got to see it last evening for the first time. As she explained all that went into creating it, I realized how much detail work goes into literally every frame of something like that! Like, insane attention to minute details.

As I’ve watched it over and over, I think of the words of a poem Maria had written in high school describing her view of a ‘pen’ as an instrument of her creativity:

There for my compulsions of cathartic release
A vacuum for my thoughts ‘til my mind is at peace

The greatest of listeners, absorbing every thought
Unfailingly present whenever you’re sought

Upon your exemplary performance, my success is dependent
With you in my grasp, my thoughts grow transcendent

Transporting me to where my mind is seldom sedentary
I yield to your craft, O slanderer of the ordinary

Enjoy her kaleidoscopic slandering! And try to interpret her story as she and Ashley return to performing…

The Un-Chosen

Today’s Gospel is stunning. Right after Judas’ betrayal is set in motion, Jesus immediately declares his glorification has begun. Glory is the ‘visible manifestation of the invisible character of God.’ So what Jesus is saying is that the Passion will reveal to the world what love looks like in God. Specifically, love in the face of rejection, betrayal and hatred.

The crucifixion is God’s supreme revealing event to the world — God stripped naked for us to see, with his secret depths uncovered that evidence something no human could have ever conceived of as a divine attribute: vulnerability. The “weakness of God” (1 Cor. 1:25). That is truly mind blowing.

From Latin vulnerabilis “wounding,” love is vulnerable to pain. Here, Pope Benedict sheds some light:

Today what people have in view is eliminating suffering from the world.
For the individual, that means avoiding pain and suffering in whatever way.
Yet we must also see that it is in this very way
that the world becomes very hard and very cold.
Pain is part of being human.
Anyone who really wanted to get rid of suffering
would have to get rid of love before anything else,
because there can be no love without suffering,
because it always demands an element of self-sacrifice,
because, given temperamental differences and the drama of situations,
it will always bring with it renunciation and pain.

And Jesus shows us where this kind of love is most visceral, most real, most demanding: in the communities we belong to that stand beyond our choice; our neighbors who are neigh-bor, “next door.” These neighbors we are “stuck with” are sacramentals of God’s devious Providence that ensures us limitless opportunities to glorify him. People like our family members, teachers, classmates, bosses, coworkers, neighbors, fellow inmates, choir members, pastors, parishioners, etc. People we would never have chosen to be with, to be nearby but must be with — THESE become the thinnest of spaces between heaven and earth.

Jesus made this point clear to his disciples, “you did not choose me, I chose you.” Then he commands them to love each other, thereby consecrating these unchosen relationships as privileged spaces where divine love manifests itself in its Highest, most costly and most vulnerable form. It’s easy to “love those who love you,” Jesus says, or to be a charity hero for those you don’t have to live with and deal with day in and day out. Most of my Confessions deal with sins in my various unchosen relationships which I try to un-choose in some way every day by my thoughts, words and actions.

From the Cross, Jesus loved that horrid rabble thrust on him, and did so with an everlasting and tender love. Those before whom he was wholly vulnerable, he washed from his side opened up by them. And as he died, he expired — “breathed out” — his Holy Spirit on them; the Spirit in whom are all the Treasures of this Paschal love that is God’s Most High glory.

This love-laden Spirit is given to us so we might love the same — God, help me — and give ample evidence to the world that this is what love looks like in our fallen, divided, wrecked world. This is the real mission of the Church.

In sum: among those unchosen people in our life is the highest calling God offers: to “love one another as I have loved you.”

I can’t not end with St. John of the Cross, and share this quote now for the umpteenth time. He speaks to these Religious novices of a monastery, but we can insert here any of the unchosen (and chosen!) relationships we find ourselves thrust in:

You have not come to the [monastery] for any other reason
than to be worked and tried in virtue;
you are like the stone that must be
chiseled and fashioned before being set in the building.
Thus you should understand that those who are in the [monastery]
are craftsmen placed there by God
to mortify you by working and chiseling at you.
Some will chisel with words, telling you what you would rather not hear;
others by deed, doing against you what you would rather not endure;
others by their temperament, being in their person and in their actions
a bother and annoyance to you;
and others by their thoughts, neither esteeming nor feeling love for you.
You ought to suffer these mortifications and annoyances with inner patience,
being silent for love of God and understanding that
you did not enter [the religious life] for any other reason
than for others to work you in this way,
and so you become worthy of heaven.
If this was not your reason for entering [the religious state],
you should not have done so,
but should have remained [in your own world]
to seek your comfort, honor, reputation, and ease.

Joseph and Jeffrey

I would like to share two witnesses to the beauty of incarnate love and the healing power of divine grace that offer signs of a dawning New World “coming down out of heaven from God” even now.

The ecosystem of God’s creation is more colorful and alive because of these two men’s existence in it.

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First, a (1 minute) story connected to my dear friend Fr. Dustin Feddon and his work with Joseph House in Tallahassee, Florida.

https://www.wctv.tv/video/2022/05/14/backyard-paradise-help-former-inmates-heal/

Second, a (6 minute) story connected to another dear friend, Jeff Blackwell, a man from Baton Rouge with an anointed voice and a faith-full heart.

https://www1.cbn.com/radio-personality-gets-his-voice-back

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