Saturday, March 28, 2015

St. Mary's of the Pines

The Salzmann Library at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee is the home to many antique treasures including an 1882 copy of Poems written by Bernard Durward, founder of Durward's Glen Retreat and Conference Center near Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Bernard Isaac Durward, a native of Scotland, arrived in Milwaukee in 1845 with his family where he worked as an artist.  His painting included portraits of Milwaukee's founding fathers and Archbishop Henni, Milwaukee's first Archbishop.  After painting the Archbishop, Durward converted to Catholicism and became a professor of English literature at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary until 1862 when he bought the beautiful land known as Durward's Glen.  Two of his sons became priests and the property remains a destination for religious retreats and prayerful nature walks.

Portrait of Archbishop John Henni painted by Bernard Isaac Durward

The state of Wisconsin and the Catholic Church have been greatly blessed by the legacy of this artist, poet, teacher and naturalist. If you are ever given the opportunity to visit Durward's Glen, you will find a most peaceful and prayerful setting which was the home of Bernard Durward and his family. This poem of his describes it perfectly!

St. Mary's of the Pines by Bernard Durward-
Dear retreat for mortal wearied
With turmoil,
Take me to your sheltering bosom!
Soothe my brain with nature's gladness,
Pour the balm and wine and oil!
Dull routine my life has wounded
Nigh to sadness;
Give me in you wildernesses
Change of toil!

And ye springs that gush and sparkle
As your pour
From your never failing fountains,
From your dark, mysterious prison,
Swelling still the streamlet's store,
Laughing to the light of morning
Newly risen-
Let me join with your sweet murmurs
One voice more.

From the unseen came I also.
By the might
Of the Eternal Fount of Being,
Through the darksome ways of error,
Far more dismal than the night
Of your hidden stony barriers;
From that terror
By the hand of mercy lifted
Into light.

Streamlet-daughter of a thousand
Limpid springs!
On thou speedest like an angel
With a healing benediction
Folded underneath his wings;
Warbling sweetest as thou meetest
From rude stones on which the lichen
Feeds and clings-

Oh, that I could scatter blessing
Like to thee!
That my soul could mirror beauty
As thy bosom's liquid crystal!
That my songs might be as free,
Varied, lasting as thy singing!
Then should list all
Mortals to my strain-a minstrel
I should be.

Pines, that heal the air with perfume,
Towering high,
Decked with cones for jewels, pendant
In your green immortal vesture,
Though your heads are in the sky,
Yet, like mortal man beneath you,
You must rest your
Feet upon the solid fabric,
Or must die.

Lend my verse the balsam odor
Of your tears!
And the color of your needles,
And the heavenward direction
Of your stems, which rise like spears,
That my song may still point upward
From dejection
And the basis of the earthly
To the spheres!

Rocks, that Time has worn to grandeur
With his breath!
Steadfast as a righteous canon,
High above the vanished ages,
Moveless 'mid surrounding death;
How your silence and your shadows
Shame my pages!
Doomed to crumble, as the leaves
My feet beneath.

Little chapel, rude and lonely
To the eye,
How thy white cross in the sunlight
Gleams and prompts a prayer in whispers!
Shall my mouldering ashes lie
Blest and near thee, though unheeding
Song of Vespers,
Or the Kyrie Eleison's
Plaintive cry?

Gorge of beauty, sweetly nestled
'Mong the hills;
Far removed from sordid traffic,
Filled with springs forever weeping
Through the rocks in mossy rills-
Shall my lowly memory linger
In thy keeping,
When this heart which now is throbbing
Silence fills?

Yes; a little while my footsteps
May be known;
And the hearts that I have cherished
Will remember me in yonder
Sacred symbol in the stone!
They will say "His hand engraved it!"
And with fonder
Accents of affection whisper,
"He is gone!"

"Gone! above this transient vision
Of a day;
Upward springing through the azure,
Upward to the Source of Beauty,
From the strife of sin and clay,
Soared his spirit to our Savior,
As the levin
Through the clouds of storm and darkness
Cleaves its way."

A fascinating biography of Bernard Durward can be found here.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Lord's Prayer with Fr. James Kubicki, SJ

The Milwaukee Catholics United for the Faith Chapter (CUF), had their annual day of reflection with their spiritual advisor, Fr. James Kubicki, SJ, the National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer, who also happens to be one of my closest friends, so I was happy to clear my calendar and attend the talk, pen and notebook in hand.

Fr. Jim, who had just flown in from a retreat he had given in warm and sunny California to cold and snowy Wisconsin, gave a brilliant talk on The Lord's Prayer with reflections from St. Teresa of Avila and Pope Benedict XVI.  His talk was so fascinating that two hours flew quickly by as if I had only been listening for ten minutes!  
Fr. Jim said that two versions of The Lord's Prayer could be found within the bible, a longer version in Matthew as part of the Sermon on the Mount, and a shorter version in Luke, Chapter 11, right after the story of Martha and Mary in which Martha was worried and anxious about many things and Jesus rebuked her for her anxiety stating that Mary chose the better part.  Martha wasn't really worried about serving Jesus, but she was more worried about herself and how she cooked and the work she was doing.  Whenever we're worried, Fr. Jim pointed out, it's because we are thinking about ourselves.  Jesus teaches us the great prayer of trust that counters Martha's worry and anxiety.

St. Teresa tells us that The Lord's Prayer is the prayer that we should esteem the most and can apply to our own needs stating, "I marvel to see that in so few words everything about contemplation and perfection is included."  And Pope Benedict states that "When we pray the Our Father we are praying to God with words given by God."

Our Father

Beginning with the name "Father", St. Teresa tells us that "this one word alone should lead to contemplation."  Every human person is made in the image and likeness of God and is a child of God with an immortal soul.  Adopted children don't have the same DNA as their adoptive parents, but as adopted children of God, flooded with sanctifying grace at our baptisms, we are filled with His DNA. As St. John tells us, "See what love God has bestowed upon us that we may be called the children of God, and yet, so we are."

It's natural for men and women to identify themselves with their success or their appearance.  Jesus tells us not to lose our identity on something that will come and go, but to find your identity in the love of God for you.  Rejoice because your names are written in heaven!  The Lord's Prayer reveals us to ourselves and reveals the Father to us. God loves us so much that he changes us and makes us His sons and daughters.  St. Cyprian teaches us that when we call God our Father, we ought to behave and act as sons and daughters of God with humility.  

We don't say "my" Father but "our" Father.  There is no individualism here.  God loves each one of us as though we were the only child made in His image and likeness, yet God's image is not just One but Three.  We recognize that we are called to love our brothers and sisters.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that when we pray the Our Father, we leave concern for ourselves behind, oppositions and divisions have to be overcome.  The baptized cannot pray the Our Father without bringing before Him all of His beloved children and the needs of all the Church and the world.

Who Art in Heaven

This line reminds us of our ultimate goal.  We are not made just for life on this earth.  St. Teresa says that "God is sought in many places but found ultimately within yourself.  Therefore, recollection is so important.  We collect our thoughts and find God in a quiet place, the chamber of our hearts." Heaven is within.  Heaven is not a place, but a way of being. God is within the hearts of the just as in His holy temple.

The Eucharist is the closest thing to heaven.  It's heaven on earth.  We find the entire communion of saints in the Eucharist, therefore, we should receive the Eucharist as often as possible.

Hallowed Be Thy Name

There is a sense of control and power in knowing another person's name.  Teachers, for example, can more effectively discipline their students by saying their name out loud.  But calling others by their name is also a sign of care.  To know a person's name is to be in relationship with that person.

In the second commandment we are told not to take the name of the Lord your God in vain but to treat that name as a holy name.  So in keeping this commandment we commit ourselves to only speak God's name in prayer, not as a word of surprise.

When we give scandal through our actions, we also give dishonor to God's name.  When we publicly sin people ask incredulously, "And you're a Christian?"  God said that we bring dishonor to His name when we rebel against Him and act sinfully.  We are responsible for the sanctification of God's name.

Thy Kingdom Come

Pope Benedict tells us that we acknowledge first and foremost the primacy of God.  Where God is absent, nothing can be good.  This refers primarily to the final coming.  This prayer engages us, this desire commits us all the more strongly to living Kingdom values in our own lives.  We ask God to reign here in our hearts and then to extend that reign to our friends and family through us.

Thy Will Be Done

Our Father desires that all people be saved and come to knowledge of the truth.  This is good and pleasing to God who wills that everyone be saved.  Pope Benedict tells us that where God's will is done, that's heaven.  Earth becomes heaven in so far as God's will is done.  We're here to learn to love God totally.  Jesus perfectly fulfilled the will of the Father.  Union with Jesus gives us grace and power to do the will of God perfectly.  St. Teresa  states that she believes that "the only way to come to heaven is to want only what God wants.  Let us place ourselves in His hands so that His will is done in us.  We cannot err with this attitude.  Trust that God's will is the best."

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

This is the most human of all petitions.  Give us the trust of children who look to their Father for everything, in contrast to the way of the world which is all about self-sufficiency and independence.   God told the Hebrews to gather manna in the desert, but to only gather enough for one day.  We have a human tendency to hoard and to find our security in things.

Epiousios, a Greek word not found anywhere else in the Bible but here is translated as "daily". But St. Jerome translated it as "superstansiolis" meaning "superstantial".  St. Jerome pointed to the higher substance that God gives us in this passage of the prayer.  This fourth petition of The Lord's Prayer is a Eucharistic petition; we are asking to receive the Eucharist daily.  This presents a challenge.  Do we value the Eucharist enough to participate as much as possible, even attending daily Mass during the week?  St. Thomas Aquinas said that what happened at the last supper was the greatest miracle of Jesus.  If we really believe that, how can we not be at Mass and receive the Eucharist every single day?

St. Teresa tells us that unless we give our wills entirely to the Lord we will never be allowed to drink from the fount of good prayer, that is, contemplation.  We can't do it on our own.  We're too weak and self-centered.  But when we receive the Eucharist we get the strength to unite our will with Christ.  We are more able to fulfill the will of the Father as Jesus did.  St. Teresa, speaking in this passage about herself said, "I know a person with serious illnesses.  Because the wonders this Sacred Bread effects in those who receive it, the Lord had given her such living faith that when someone said that they wished they could have lived at the time of Christ, she laughed, because when they receive the Eucharist, they have Him now, and not just one last supper, but He can do that for us everyday.  This person, though she wasn't perfect, strove to live His will every day.  Spend time after Communion to be with Him and converse with Him.  Strive to close the eyes of the body and open those of the soul and look into your own heart."

If we can't receive Communion every day, we should make a spiritual communion.  Say, "Lord, I wish I could receive You now.  Come to me spiritually." Then spend time reflecting on His Eucharistic presence.  With this we grow to perfection, not so much in how we are feeling, but in how we act; how we love.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

Having received daily Bread we now have the power to forgive as Jesus did.  Pope Benedict tells us that forgiveness is a theme that pervades the whole Gospel.  It's astonishing because it makes a strict requirement of us.  When hurt or attacked our tendency is to hold on to a grudge.  But our petition will not be heard unless we have first met this strict requirement of forgiveness.  If we say we are without sin, we are liars, St. John tells us.  So with bold confidence we pray to Our Father begging Him to forgive us.  This is daunting.

Jesus often used the word "as" such as  "Be merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful."  Holiness means loving and forgiving as Jesus did.  It is not in our power to forget or not to feel hurt, but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion.  Jesus transformed his hurt into intercession.  "Father, forgive those who are doing this to me."

It takes two to be reconciled.  The only sin that is retained is the one that we don't bring to the Lord for forgiveness.

We need to pray for the conversion of sinners.  We pray for the conversion of every human soul, not for their condemnation or destruction.  Being ready to forgive our enemies means praying for them and their ultimate conversion.

St. Teresa tells us not to trust too much in prayer that isn't forgiving.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

God doesn't lead us into temptation.  But God allows temptation, the temptation that comes from the devil.  We don't know why He allows it.  It could be for our self-knowledge and humility.  It could be as a penance that we experience temptation to dampen our pride and avoid forming too high of an opinion of ourselves.  It could be so that we grow in compassion because we suffer.  When we see others who are tempted we can say, "There but for the grace of God go I."  Because Jesus was tempted he can help others who are tempted, and so we can do the same, to help others who are tempted like us.

Finally, He could allow temptation for our growth.  To make real progress on the path from superficial piety with God's will, man needs to be tried and tested.  If you can identify your temptations, then God is calling you to grow in a particular virtue.  Exercise that virtue and grow in it.  St. Teresa tells us that the foundation of life consists in not only prayer, but also in virtue.  Look for virtue, not in the corners away from the din, but right in the midst of the occasion of sin.  We grow in union with Jesus when we fight temptation.  The greatest saints had the greatest temptation.  Jesus suffered our temptations to the bitter end.

Deliver Us From Evil

This last petition is also included in Jesus' prayer, "Don't take them out of the world but away from the evil one."  It touches each one of us individually, bu it is always "we" who pray for the conversion of "all."  With this petition we need to ask for nothing more.  We've come to the end of our prayer.  The last petition brings us back to the first three.  St. Teresa tells us that evils will continue but through the Eucharist we are given the Bread that helps us to overcome the world.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Camerata Milwaukee


Camerata Milwaukee is an ensemble of professional musicians in Milwaukee who perform a repertoire of music from the Baroque Period several times each year at St. Robert's Parish in Shorewood, free of charge.  Their music is breathtakingly beautiful and is performed with such obvious love and joy that it's impossible not to be deeply moved by their performances.

As Ruth Brown, the soprano, waits to begin her solo, you can see her summoning up the music within her with all of her being, and when she begins to sing it's as if her voice comes straight from heaven. The musicians on the stringed instruments move to the sound of the strings as though they play, not just with their hands and fingers, but with their whole bodies, making their music a complete and prayerful offering of their entire selves.  I marvel over the talent and dedication of the harpsichord player, Floralba Vivas.  Her instrument adds a light and lovely dimension to the music, but the thought of carrying and setting up the harpsichord for each concert seems like it would be a chore. Yet, it's obvious through the beauty of her music and the smile upon her face, that it's not chore, but an act of love for her.

A beautiful brochure is created for each performance which includes not only the evening's musical selections, but also the Latin and English translations of the vocal choices and well-researched program notes that give a detailed background on the lives and works of the composers written by Marianne Kordas, the Director of the Music Material Center for the James White Library at Andrews University and her assistant, Timothy Arena.

The concerts that I have had the joy of attending have had a very sparse audience, which is heartbreaking considering that this is professional musicianship offered for a mere free-will offering. Following the performance, there is a social gathering with a variety of cheese, crackers, desserts and wines available with an opportunity to meet the musicians.

Camerata Milwaukee has been in existence since 2010.  Please visit their website here for more details about the musicians, their performances and several videos of recent performances.

These English lyrics below are from the performance held on February 6th and 7th, 2015.  They are a divine prayer on their own, but when sung by soprano, Ruth Brown, alto, Leigh Akin, tenor, Cameron Smith, and bass, Brett Hanisko, they were brought to soul-stirring life.

O Jesu, summa charitas 
by Johann Schmelzer (1620-1680)

O Jesus, sum of all love,
O Jesus, strongest in love,
Heart's ray, joy's wellspring,
Sweet hope of the soul.

What words,
What tongue could tell
How thou consolest those who love thee,
How thou consolest those who seek thee,
How thou consolest those who call upon thee,
How delightful thou art to them who love thee?

Wherefore, O Jesus,
We take refuge in thee in tears.
We shed our sins,
We pray for joy,
we open our innermost souls.
We who love thee call upon thee.
Hear our humble prayers.

-Translated into English by Paul Britten Austin, taken from liner notes to the recording Laudate! Music from the Duben Collection in Uppsala, Sweden PRCD 9100.

The video here and below was performed: 15 December 2012, at the St Robert Catholic Church, Shorewood-WI.
Ruth Brown, Soprano
Tony Perez & Jennifer D'Alessio, violins
JoAnn Haasler, viola --- Marie Sinco, cello
Floralba Vivas, harpsichord

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Mighty Deeds

"Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”   So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.  He was amazed at their lack of faith." ~from Mark 6:1-6

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to attend daily Mass on my lunch break.  Those thirty minutes of prayer in the midst of sharing bits and pieces of my client's lives at the clinic where I work helps me to cope with the stories I hear that are sad, stressful and difficult. And those thirty minutes of prayer allow me to deeply thank God when the stories I hear are happy, miraculous and joyful.

At a recent noon Mass, during his homily, Fr. Matt Walsh, SJ, spoke about Mark's  Gospel passage regarding the lack of welcome that Jesus received in His hometown.  He asked, "What could it possibly mean that Jesus wasn't able to perform any mighty deed apart from curing a few sick?  Wasn't curing a few sick considered a mighty deed?"   Fr. Matt explained that the mighty deeds that Jesus had wanted to perform weren't pertaining to the curing of the sick but rather to the increasing of faith in the people of his home town.  These people knew Jesus from His earliest days and they could not accept the fact that He was the Son of God.  They couldn't believe.

I reflected upon this as I prayed for the clients I had seen in my office that morning and for those that I would see in the afternoon to come.  So many of the women I see live lives of deep faith and trust, never really knowing where their next meal will come from, or waiting long hours for transportation while their restless children run and play in cold hallways, fearlessly fleeing from far-away countries for the promise of a better life in America where everything, including the language and the food, is strange to them, struggling to break free from abusive relationships and create a new life for themselves, selflessly giving their babies up for adoption, trusting that a stranger can promise a better life for the little ones that grow within their wombs.  Don't all of these situations require lives of faith and trust in a God who can bring good out of a seemingly hopeless situation?  

And how do I fit into the scenario of faith?  Perhaps I am more like those hometown residents of Jesus than I would care to admit.  Even when I am witness to stories of hope and faith through the course of my workday, when I see God performing miracles of love in lives that are extremely difficult, I fail to put my full trust in the Lord and believe that He will continue to carry me forward to a beautiful life abandoned completely to His love.  Too often I act as though all of the problems I encounter can be resolved through my own actions.  I dig my heels in and stubbornly resist God's plans for my life, rather than believing that with God all things are possible, even my own sanctity.

I do believe, Lord.  Help my unbelief.  Don't turn your back on my lack of faith but open my heart to  Your ability and desire to perform mighty deeds within my soul.  Amen.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tree of Life Sea Glass Mosaic Final Post-Mary as the Tree of Life

"Happy the soul in which Mary, the Tree of Life, is planted; happier the soul in which she has acquired growth and bloom; still happier the soul in which she yields her fruit; but most happy of all: the soul which relishes and preserves Mary's fruit until death, and for ever and ever. Amen." ~St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary

Tree of Life Mosaic with natural lighting
Christi Jentz and I completed our Tree of Life Sea Glass Mosaic this past weekend!  We began the project last June with the passage from the book of Revelation in mind, but as I prayed over this project during the past seven months, I came to feel that St. Louis de Montfort's explanation of  Mary as the True Tree of Life who bore the fruit of the tree, Jesus, to be more meaningful to my heart than the Revelation passage, although that is still very fitting and very beautiful.

I renewed my Marian Consecration on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.  While attending the noon Mass on my work lunch break on my consecration renewal day, I was pleased to hear Father speak about consecration and the need to renew the offering of our complete self, our bodies, mind and spirit to the Lord.  Father had no idea, of course, that I was thrilling from his words, feeling that this was a confirmation from God that my consecration must be pleasing to Him.

And the fact that we completed the mosaic in time for my Marian Consecration also felt like a little confirmation of my thoughts regarding the Tree of Life as a sign of Mary's self-giving for Christ.   For the past seven years as I bent down upon the shores of Lake Michigan to gather the small shards of glass, I always felt that each piece of glass I collected was a small prayer of praise to God from me, and a gift of love to me from Him.  So shaping the glass into a Tree of Life Mosaic became a meaningful prayer of completion.  It became a way that I could give the gift of sea glass back to Him, through my love for Mary and my desire to draw ever more closely to the Heart of Jesus.

What a glorious day this day of Consecration is-presenting myself to Jesus through Mary on the day that she presented Jesus to God, and then seeing that gift symbolized in this beautiful work of art, made with small, found pieces of glass arranged with love by the hands of artisan Christi Jentz, who patiently taught me as I worked beside her, just as our Lord learned his artisan craft of carpentry by working beside the ever-patient St. Joseph.  The Presentation has come full circle, hasn't it?  Mary and St. Joseph presented their Son as a gift, and I, in turn, present the offering of my life and my love for sea glass as a gift to glorify both Mary and Jesus.  How amazing this life of faith truly is and how much there is to ponder in the words of St. Louis de Montfort and his book The Secret of Mary!

Tree of Life Mosaic with white background
"Chosen soul, provided you thus carefully cultivate the Tree of Life, which has been freshly planted in your soul by the Holy Spirit, I can assure you that in a short time it will grow so tall that the birds of the air will make their home in it. It will become such a good tree that it will yield in due season the sweet and adorable Fruit of honour and grace, which is Jesus, who has always been and will always be the only fruit of Mary." ~St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary
Tree of Life mosaic with blue background
"This tree, once planted in a docile heart, requires fresh air and no human support. Being of heavenly origin, it must be uninfluenced by any creature, since a creature might hinder it from rising up towards God who created it. Hence you must not rely on your own endeavours or your natural talents or your personal standing or the guidance of men. You must resort to Mary, relying solely on her help." ~St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary
flowers in springtime details
"The person in whose soul this tree has taken root must, like a good gardener, watch over it and protect it. For this tree, having life and capable of producing the fruit of life, should be raised and tended with enduring care and attention of soul. A soul that desires to be holy will make this its chief aim and occupation." ~St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary
leafing out in summer details
"You must guard against grubs doing harm to the tree. These parasites are love of self and love of comfort, and they eat away the green foliage of the Tree and frustrate the fair hope it offered of yielding good fruit; for love of self is incompatible with love of Mary." ~St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary
autumn color details-if you look closely at the top orange triangle in this section, you will see that it is a seed, like a tiny mustard seed....
"You must offer yourself to Mary, happily lose yourself in her, only to find God in her. If the Holy Spirit has planted in your soul the true Tree of Life, which is the devotion that I have just explained, you should see carefully to its cultivation, so that it will yield its fruit in due season. This devotion is like the mustard seed of the Gospel, which is indeed the smallest of all seeds, but nevertheless it grows into a big plant, shooting up so high that the birds of the air, that is, the elect, come and make their nest in its branches. They repose there, shaded from the heat of the sun, and safely hidden from beasts of prey." ~St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary
winter ice details
"Yet you need not be alarmed when the winds blow and shake this tree, for it must happen that the storm-winds of temptation will threaten to bring it down, and snow and frost tend to smother it. By this we mean that this devotion to our Blessed Lady will surely be called into question and attacked. But as long as we continue steadfastly in tending it, we have nothing to fear." ~St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary

"You must not allow this tree to be damaged by destructive animals, that is, by sins, for they may cause its death simply by their contact. They must not be allowed even to breathe upon the Tree, because their mere breath, that is, venial sins, which are most dangerous when we do not trouble ourselves about them." ~St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary

"It is also necessary to water this Tree regularly with your Communions, Masses and other public and private prayers. Otherwise it will not continue bearing fruit." ~St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary

the last of the sea glass from seven years of collecting

the last of the sea glass from seven years of collecting

with the soon-to-be finished project in the background

our next project-Mother and Child
For more on this Tree of Life project see the initial post here, a follow-up here, another follow-up here, and Christi's blog here.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity

"Is that really Jesus?" a young boy asked his mother during the Consecration at Mass recently.  His wise mother replied, "Yes, that's Him on the altar."

“When I come to a human heart in Holy Communion, My hands are full of all sorts of graces which I want to give to the soul.”  ~Our Lord to St. Faustina


Recently, I had attended a funeral Mass where some of my non-Catholic friends were present.  They have a deep and abiding love for Jesus.   But like many non-Catholic Christians, they don't fully understand Catholicism, and it's often misunderstandings that rouse fear in the imagination, fear that can often regretfully lead to anti-Catholicism. When the time arrived to receive Holy Communion, I was sad and disheartened to see them receive Our Lord in the Eucharist even though they do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ and they most likely assumed that they were just receiving a meaningless wafer.  I know that they didn't intend to do anything hurtful or wrong, but simply did not understand the immensity of the Eucharist.

I felt a deep sorrow for Jesus at the thought of anyone receiving Him in the Eucharist without believing that He was truly present in the Host.  For a long time I wanted to say something to my friends, to try to evangelize and catechize them and to somehow help them to come around to the belief that it was truly Jesus' Body and Blood that they had ingested.  But after discussing it with a holy priest and good friend, I came to understand that it was better to remain silent, yet continue to pray for them and for all of those who don't realize the great gift of Christ coming to us Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist.

Since then it has occurred to me that perhaps Jesus wanted to come to them in the Eucharist that day.  My friends have endured a tremendous amount of suffering in recent years, more than most people could bear.  Maybe he wanted to love them in this very special way so as to bring them some peace and healing through the tremendous gift that was now residing within them without their awareness.  They might not have believed in the reality of His presence in the Host, but He believed in their love for Him, and for Jesus, perhaps that's enough.   His mysterious, mystical ways are not for us to understand, and yet we believe in faith that His goodness knows no bounds-not the bounds of denominations or lack of faith.  He loves us all and wants to be united to everyone.

I have never felt called to be an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, always feeling completely unworthy of that honor, but recently I have been asked to help in this capacity at my parish more and more often, and so I find myself standing beside the priest holding the Lord in my wretched hands and offering Him again and again to the long line of people hungry for His Love.  With each host that I place within the hands or mouth of the communicants, I try to remain aware of the grace that flows from the Host to the person standing before me awaiting the Body of the Lord.  I see the look of joy evident on the faces of those who receive and the anticipation for the future on the faces of those too young to receive.

Following Communion, the church sits in silence savoring the presence of the Lord within each person.  For those few precious moments there is a brightness emanating from so many souls now made into tabernacles containing the Body of Our Lord.  We have been Christed.  We hold Him so intimately within our bodies.  How can we not be gentle and tender and loving with ourselves and with others as we carry Him forth into the world?

Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from Christ's side, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.
From the malicious enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto Thee
That I may praise Thee with Thy saints 

and with Thy angels
Forever and ever.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Bishop Donald Hying's Installation Mass

"What a blessing it is, our Catholic faith.  What a blessing it is, Jesus Christ and his Church and His Holy Word."  ~Bishop Donald Hying

The day that the invitation arrived in the mail, I was so overcome with joy that I could hardly contain myself.  Although Bishop Hying had asked me a few weeks earlier if my husband, Paul, and I would come to his installation in Gary to which I immediately replied "YES", there was something special about receiving that beautiful invitation, holding that card in my hand,  that made me realize that this was real, and that reminded me once again how deeply blessed I am that God would bring such a special, saintly and holy man into my life.  Although we had attended his episcopal ordination a little over three years ago I was still surprised that he would include me in this historic and beautiful event.  He is so holy and saintly and his life is so amazing that I feel very insignificant in comparison, and yet, his humility would never allow him to let on to me or to anyone else that he is anything other than ordinary.

It was with great anticipation and excitement that Paul and I took advantage of the arrangements that were being made for Bishop Hying's friends from Milwaukee to ride together on Coach buses to Gary, Indiana for the luncheon and Installation Mass on January 6th, 2015.

Unlike his episcopal ordination day when the temperature in Milwaukee was 102 degrees, the day of his installation was bitter cold with wind chills well below zero.  We found the comfort of riding on the warm bus to be very welcome.  A bonus of the bus ride was the opportunity for all of the passengers to pray the rosary together for Bishop Hying and then to watch his most recent film, CRUX, by Ahava Productions.  I highly encourage purchasing this magnificent film, to enjoy, and then to share with a friend.  It's available as a download or on a dvd at the Ahava Productions website.

When we arrived at the hotel where the luncheon was held we were delighted to see Bishop Hying waiting at the door to greet us!  A quick handshake and hug, and a peek at his ring to see if he was wearing his new one yet (he wasn't-he was still wearing the ring that his family gave to him at his episcopal ordination), and we moved along to the hall for a most delicious lunch that was awaiting us.

The luncheon was over all too soon, and once again 80 excited pilgrims climbed back onto the buses for the 30 minute ride from the suburban hotel to Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary.  As we approached the Cathedral I peered through the dirty bus windows and was struck and dismayed by the extreme poverty of the neighborhood surrounding the Cathedral.  Roofs were caved in on houses, and windows were boarded up or smashed, even the windows of a hospital.  When the steel industry left Gary in the eighties, it seems that it took much of the spirit of the city away, as well. The only business that appeared to be open was a little liquor store.  And our beloved Bishop Hying will be living and working right in the midst of that, which I'm sure is right up his alley as he has a great love for the poor and suffering.  He will bring a light to that neighborhood, God's light of joy and love, a light which seems to be sorely needed in Gary.  And yet, despite the decay of the buildings, it was obvious through everyone we met in the Diocese, that there is a love and beauty in the hearts of the people of Gary, a love that will surround Bishop Hying and fill his time in Gary with joy and happiness.

an abandoned Frank Lloyd Wright home (source)
The abandoned Ambassador Hotel in Gary (source)
Holy Angels Cathedral photo courtesy of Kevin Driscoll,  Catholic Young Adult Ministry-Diocese of Gary
Finally we arrived at Holy Angels Cathedral and the beauty and immensity of it caught me by surprise, especially since I had seen pictures of it online.  It is so much more beautiful in real life and pictures just don't do it justice.  What a contrast to the neighborhood!  The Cathedral, built in 1906 and designated a cathedral in 1956 when Gary became a diocese, was beautiful and well-maintained. My eye was immediately drawn to the soaring blue of the stained glass windows.  Paul and several other men on the bus were asked to carry a few boxes of Bishop Hying's belongings into the rectory. I went into the Cathedral, planning to save a seat for Paul and wave to him when I'd see him enter.  I was quickly escorted to a seat in the front of the Cathedral on the side of the altar.  When Paul joined me, he mentioned that Bishop Hying was waiting inside the rectory in a room filled with his boxes. Always quick with a humorous comment, the bishop joked that he didn't plan to unpack any of them, but would just use them for furniture!

photo courtesy of Terry Boldin

 Bishop Hying offers a huge smile to his family as he passes them during his entrance into the Cathedral.
Photo courtesy of Darlene Hying 

And then the Mass began!  Magnificent music accompanied the 25 bishops, and I don't know, probably about 70 priests and deacons, to the altar.  I stood on tiptoe straining my neck to see everyone, wishing I could stand on top of my pew for a better view, but of course, I didn't.  Most touching was the sight of Cardinal George who has been suffering from the effects of cancer.  From my vantage point I could see him pretty clearly throughout the Mass and my heart just ached for him. When Bishop Hying raised the host during the consecration and prayed "This is my Body, broken for you" I couldn't help but feel as though Cardinal George, kneeling at a prie dieu with his head in his hands, obviously drained, was physically praying those words with his whole body.  What a beautiful witness to suffering, very much like Pope John Paul II, that his presence contributed to the Mass. Please keep him in prayer.

Cardinal George is on the right
photo courtesy of Terry Boldin

I was very much struck by the fact that Bishop Hying read his homily.  In the seven years that I have known him, he has never read his homilies, but has always delivered them from memory, using only a few notes or perhaps coming up with what he was going to say on the spur of the moment.

Near the end of his moving Epiphany homily he said, "I'll let you in on a secret.  I'm completely deaf in my right ear.  So I'm glad the angel is on the left side of the Cathedra so I'll hear what the angel is saying to me."  Beautifully touching was when Bishop Hying mentioned that Bishop Melczek, his predecessor, would always be our bishop, our father, our brother and our friend and will be remembered during the consecration prayers at Mass as Bishop-emeritus, so that the diocese will continue to pray for him.  To the priests he said, "You will always have my heart and my cell phone number."  And to the lay leaders,volunteers and lay faithful he said "How I wish I could sit down in the kitchens of every home to get to know all of you and have a chat. That will happen I hope, one person, one kitchen, and one cup of coffee at a time."
the homily

reading his text
photo courtesy of Terry Boldin

photo courtesy of Terry Boldin

The entire Mass was filled with beauty and joy, and, although it lasted a full two hours, the time just flew, and all too soon we were once again climbing aboard the bus to head home.  My heart, so overjoyed for the good fortune of my friend, Bishop Hying, and God's obvious love for him in calling him to serve the Diocese of Gary, was suddenly sorrowing.  It was all over and I didn't have a chance to give him a final hug good-bye, as the bus needed to remain timely in its departure from Gary.

I'm grateful that Gary is a short three hour drive from Milwaukee and am hopeful that I'll be able to make future visits to Bishop Hying.  I pray that his time in Gary, which he remarked during the Mass that he sincerely hopes will be at least for the next 25 years, is filled with blessings and joy. Everyone we encountered in the Diocese of Gary was warm and welcoming to the visitors from Milwaukee and I am certain that Bishop Hying feels very welcome there, as well as deeply and immediately loved by all, for LOVE NEVER FAILS.

It's worth your time to watch the entire installation Mass below or here at this link, and in particular, to listen to Bishop Hying's beautiful homily.  The commentary offered throughout is fascinating and informative.  You will need to click ahead to 1:56:03 for the beginning of the Installation Mass.

I also encourage you to read this touching good-bye tribute from Archbishop Listecki found here and this well-written and interesting interview with Bishop Hying written by Jerry Davich of the Chicago Post Tribune found here.