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Gratitude is the heart’s memory – A Thanksgiving Reflection


The celebration of Thanksgiving in Canada makes an interesting counterpoint to the holiday celebrated by our American neighbours. While Americans remember the Pilgrims settling in the New World, Canadians give thanks for a successful harvest.  At the heart of our Thanksgiving celebration is the idea of giving thanks for the goodness of the season past. And yet how often do we simply give thanks to God for who we are and what we have when things are going well in our lives?

Thankfulness is much more than saying “Thank you” because we have to. Thankfulness is a way to experience the world, a way to perceive, a way to be surprised. Thankfulness is having open eyes and a short distance between the eyes and the heart.

In the New Testament, so much of Jesus’ ministry took place at table.  So many meals punctuate the New Testament — meals with Levi and his friends, meals with Simon the Pharisee, meals with crowds on the hillsides, meals with disciples, the ideal meals described in his parables.   You can eat your way through the gospels!  It is ultimately during the final meal that Jesus leaves us with his most precious gift in the Eucharist.

What are the features and qualities of grateful people?

Remembrance is the most precious feature of the virtue of gratitude. One of the most important qualities is the ability to say “thank you” to others and to take no one and nothing for granted. Those who possess the virtue of gratitude are truly rich. They not only know they have been blessed, but they continuously remember that all good things come from God.

To acknowledge others, to say thank you, is a mark of greatness. If our colleagues and volunteers are dispirited and unmotivated, might it have something to do with the fact that we have never expressed our gratitude to them for who they are and what they do?  The courage to thank — that is, the courage to see the gifts and experiences of this world all together as a gift — changes not only the person who gains this insight. It also changes the environment, the world, and those who surround that person.

Gratitude is creative. People bound together by gratitude are always discovering and awakening abundant sources of strength. The more thankful a person is, the richer he or she is within. Thankful people store up in their grateful memory all the good experiences of the past, just as the French proverb states: “Gratitude is the heart’s memory.”


At this time of year I have often watched Babette’s Feast, one of my favourite movies about the transforming powers of a meal. It is a story of the opening of the hearts of a small, puritanical community on the coast of Norway by the generosity of a French refugee cook. The movie, directed by Gabriel Axel, received the Academy Award in 1986 for Best Foreign Film and is a faithful adaptation of Isak Dinesen’s 1958 short story.

Here is the plot. In 19th-century Denmark, two adult sisters live in an isolated village with their father, who is the honoured pastor of a small Protestant church that is almost a sect unto itself. Although they each are presented with a real opportunity to leave the village, the sisters choose to stay with their father, to serve him and their church.

After some years, a French woman refugee, Babette, arrives at their door, begs them to take her in, and commits herself to work for them as maid/housekeeper/cook. She arrived with a note from a French singer who had passed through the area some time before, fallen in love with one of the sisters, but left disappointed. The note commends Babette to these “good people” and offhandedly mentions that she can cook.

During the intervening dozen years Babette cooks the meals the sisters are used to, plain to a fault.  But in the 12th year of her service to this family, Babette wins the French lottery, a prize of 10,000 francs. At the same time, the sisters are planning a simple celebration of the 100th anniversary of their father, the founder of their small Christian sect. They expect Babette to leave with her newfound wealth but, instead, she surprises them by offering to cook a meal for the anniversary.

Although they are secretly concerned about what Babette, a Catholic and a foreigner, might do, the sisters allow her to go ahead.

Babette uses just the tiniest opening, a modest celebration, to cook up a storm and wreak havoc in the lives of the sisters, and with their community, by such outrageous generosity.

Fulfillment received

In the end, Babette’s feast has some startling effects. The community becomes reconciled. Those at table experience the transformation and transcendence of the mundane, physical, and temporal dimensions of reality through the experience of a feast. The dinner guests at Babette’s feast encounter the divine and receive fulfillment through the physical act of eating.

If you are seeking a wonderful way of digesting your Thanksgiving meal this year, I recommend that you watch Babette’s Feast. It is a masterpiece that helps us to explore divine generosity with the image of a meal and its transforming quality. You will discover that the meal is only the scenery of this feast, not the script! May it be the same at our dining room tables this weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving and bon appetit!

Fr. Thomas Rosica CSB,
CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation

How to Inherit Eternal Life

Jesus and the Rich Young Man cropped

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – October 11, 2015

Mark’s Gospel story of Jesus’ encounter with the man seeking eternal life is essentially a vocation story (Mark 10:17-30). It is the only story in Mark in which the individual called responds not by following, but by going away.

The story is narrated in all three Synoptic Gospel accounts. Matthew (19:16-22) tells us that the man was young; only Luke (18:18-23) tells us he was ruler. The three evangelists agree that the man was rich, and in Mark, this is the only description given. The rich man’s concern is to “inherit eternal life.”

Let us consider several aspects of Mark’s account of the Gospel episode. First of all, Jesus repudiates the term “good” for himself and directs it to God, the source of all goodness, who alone can grant the gift of eternal life.

Is Jesus’ directive to this man with many possessions a requirement for all who wish to inherit eternal life? Is it true that Jesus did not ask other disciples to sell their possessions (1 Tim 6:17-19)? Wasn’t Peter able to keep his house and boat for a short period of time (Mark 1:29; John 21:3)? Didn’t the women of Galilee continue to have access to their personal, material resources (Mark 15:41), just as Joseph of Arimathea did (15:43)?

It seems that in the case of this man with many possessions in Mark’s story, Jesus issued a very personal invitation for very specific reasons. Why does this young man find the teaching of Jesus so difficult to accept? In the Old Testament, wealth and material goods are considered a sign of God’s favor (Job 1:10; Psalm 128:1-2; Isaiah 3:10).

Religious Jews believed that wealth was a sign of God’s blessing. Rich people were regarded as those God had blessed, and poor people were regarded as those God had cursed.

Power of possessions

The words of Jesus in Mark 10:23-25 provoke astonishment among the disciples because of their apparent contradiction with the Old Testament concept (Mark 10:24.26). Since wealth, power, and merit generate false security, Jesus rejects them utterly as a claim to enter the kingdom. The negative outcome of the man’s choice to walk away strikes a note of realism.

It also attests the special power of possessions to hinder Christian discipleship. Jesus uses the rich man’s departure as a teaching moment to instruct his disciples about the dangerous snare that earthly possessions, success and prosperity can have. Total detachment from one’s possessions is required of every authentic disciple. Jesus saw the danger of material possessions. They can fix our heart to the world and make us think of everything in terms of price rather than value.

Jesus was trying to completely overturn what the apostles and all other good Jews had been taught. But his teaching on wealth and richness was incomprehensible to the listeners. When Jesus said, “how hard it would be for rich people to enter the Kingdom of God” the Gospel says, “They, the disciples, were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, ‘Then who can be saved?'” (v.26).

Anyone of us would naturally ask the same question! Jesus reminded them that salvation is purely a gift from God. Grace is God’s gift and only those whose arms and hands are empty of self can stretch out to receive the gift of grace. The achievement of salvation is beyond human capability and depends solely on the goodness of God who offers it as a gift (Mark 10:27).

A Christian contradiction

In many societies, wealth is a sign of God’s approval, and poverty and hardship are the signs of God’s disapproval. Every Christian is challenged by the teaching of Jesus and the values of the society, which upholds the principle that worth really does come from material wealth; for example from the number of cars we own, the size of our homes, the amount in our investment portfolios.

When capitalist systems are solely market-driven, heartless, and materialistic, they contradict the Gospel teachings of Jesus. The Gospel of Jesus challenges the “prosperity gospel mentality.” Jesus is not speaking against material wealth, but condemns being enslaved to and enchained by wealth. It becomes a blessing when it is shared with others, and it becomes an obstacle and a prison for those who do not have the wisdom to share it with others.

As Jesus looked at the rich young man, he looks at each one of us with love. He is reminding us to do “one thing more.” We have to allow his loving gaze penetrate us to the core, and unlike the young man we must open ourselves to transform our lives, upset our values and rearrange our priorities.

When, considering his language too demanding, many of his disciples left him, Jesus asked the few who had remained: “Will you also go away?”

Peter answered him: “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68).

And they chose to remain with him. They stayed because the Master had “the words of eternal life,” words that promised eternity and also gave full meaning to life here and now.

Wisdom and happiness

King Solomon, as seen in the first reading (Wisdom 7:7-11), realized that only true wisdom could bring happiness. He prayed for it and it alone, rather than power, riches, health or good looks. God gave him everything.

For us, wisdom has become a person and his name is Jesus. Wisdom was born in a manger and died on a cross, and in between said that our only shot at ever being filled up is if we follow him in the life of self-emptying love.

Looking at Jesus, we see what it means to be poor in spirit, gentle and merciful, to mourn, to care for what is right, to be pure in heart, to make peace, to be persecuted. This is why he has the right to say to each of us, “Come, follow me!”

He does not say simply, “Do what I say.” He says, “Come, follow me!”

In the end, Jesus looks intently and lovingly at each one of us and reminds us that life is to be had in its fullness not by accumulating things, honors, privileges, reputations, and prestige, but by letting go of things.

Initially, his invitation might surprise, upset, shock, and grieve us. With God’s grace, may we realize Jesus’ word is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart (Hebrews 4:12-13). Hopefully, we will not go away sad.

Ordinary life

Following today’s Gospel, I encourage you to consider three important teachings of our Catholic tradition, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Benedict XVI’s last encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate.”

1) The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches (2404-2405) that our material goods are entrusted to us by God not for our own personal advantage but for the privilege of using them for the good of others. “The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family. Goods of production — material or immaterial — such as land, factories, practical or artistic skills, oblige their possessors to employ them in ways that will benefit the greatest number. Those who hold goods for use and consumption should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for guests, for the sick and the poor.”

2) “The second truth is that … authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension. Without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing space. Enclosed within history, it runs the risk of being reduced to the mere accumulation of wealth; humanity thus loses the courage to be at the service of higher goods, at the service of the great and disinterested initiatives called forth by universal charity.

“Man does not develop through his own powers, nor can development simply be handed to him. In the course of history, it was often maintained that the creation of institutions was sufficient to guarantee the fulfillment of humanity’s right to development” (No. 11 Caritas in Veritate).

3) “While the poor of the world continue knocking on the doors of the rich, the world of affluence runs the risk of no longer hearing those knocks, on account of a conscience that can no longer distinguish what is human. God reveals man to himself; reason and faith work hand in hand to demonstrate to us what is good, provided we want to see it; the natural law, in which creative Reason shines forth, reveals our greatness, but also our wretchedness insofar as we fail to recognize the call to moral truth.” (No. 75 Caritas in Veritate).

[The readings for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time are: Wisdom 7:7-11; Hebrew 4:12-13; and Mark 10:17-30 or 10:17-27]

(Image: Jesus and the Rich Young Man by Heinrich Hofmann)

The Shadow of Peter Fell on America Last Week


As a student, teacher and university lecturer in New Testament, I have always been moved by a story told in the Acts of the Apostles 5:15 where we read that the shadow of Peter passing over the sick and disabled who had gathered in Solomon’s portico of Jerusalem’s Temple healed many people. The passage speaks of the Spirit-filled apostles who were doing many signs and wonders among the people, in a section of the Temple in Jerusalem called Solomon’s Portico. The leader in this exciting work was none other than Peter, once so afraid that he even denied knowing Christ. But now, people “carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, so that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.”

In reality, it was not Peter’s shadow but God’s power working through Peter. We also learn from that New Testament Acts story that religious authorities witnessing Jesus’ power at work in Peter became jealous of that power and authority and viewed the Apostles as a continued threat and demanded respect for themselves. We know that the Apostles weren’t demanding respect for themselves. Their goal was to bring respect and reverence to God. The Apostles had acquired the respect of the people, not because they demanded it, but because they deserved it. 

An ancient Latin expression, first used by St. Ambrose in the fourth century, came to my mind over the last two weeks, as I had the privilege of commentating on Francis’ historic papal visit to Cuba and the USA: Ubi Petrus ibi ecclesia, which translated means: Wherever Peter is, there is the Church. Peter was in Cuba and the United States over the past two weeks, and his gentle smile and obvious humanity and serenity ignited two nations that had previously been at enmity with one another.  Peter (a.k.a. Francis) ignited a roaring blaze and filled the Cuban Church, the American Church and the universal Church with hope in the midst of cynicism, despair and many who would like to hasten death for a Church that is alive and young. Only time, reflection, prayer and decisive action will reveal whether Francis’ tour de force will bear fruit for Cuba, America and the world.

One thing is certain in my mind: the shadow of Peter fell on millions of people in Cuba and America in September 2015 and continues to fall on millions around the world to this day, especially upon those who are wounded and hurting from poverty, injustice, homelessness, hunger, religious persecution and the evil actions of sexual abuse of children. In Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome, Peter is still among us.


Pope Francis’ first trip to the United States had many people concerned about the impact this elderly, Argentine pontiff would have on a rather beleaguered church in a very divided land: divided by political, social and religious, tribal lines. Many asked if Francis would be able to “connect” with people given that he had never set foot on American soil.  After all, Francis arrived in America at age 78 while John Paul was a mere 59 when he visited for the first time in 1979. Francis did more than connect. He bonded. He moved multitudes. He showed remarkable courage, wisdom and compassion, humanity and normalcy. He proved that he knew much more about us than we know about ourselves. He invited America once again to embrace a consistent ethic of life, from womb to tomb, and he asked us to rethink our stance on the death penalty and the silent death penalty of life imprisonment without any chance of rehabilitation or a new beginning.

Up until last week many people both within and outside the church in North America simply didn’t know Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and some didn’t want to know him. Some knew him through the distorted images of so called “magisterially faithful,” traditional, blogs and websites that do nothing but selectively choose and distort his words without reading his texts in depth.  Others had him all figured him out through the impoverished North American lenses of political categories which do nothing but pigeonhole people and silence them. They knew only half truths about a man wrongly labeled as a “leftist,” “socialist,” “revolutionary,” “non-intellectual,” “country pastor,” etc. etc. etc.


Then the Pope came to America

The visit included a royal White House welcome, a magnificent, historic address to a special session of the United States Congress, the opening address to the General Assembly of the United Nations and many more stops along the way. There was the profound, heart-wrenching visit to Ground Zero in New York City where the sound of the flowing cascades of water in the striking memorial to September 11 was only rivaled by rivers of tears flowing from the eyes of millions of people who watched that ceremony.

With the backdrop of Independence Hall, the Argentine Pope who knew first-hand about dirty wars, injustice and religious persecution reminded us of our own story of freedom and called us to work hard for religious liberty in our own land and in every land. When he had the pilot fly low over the Statue of Liberty in New York’s harbor, we can only imagine what was going through his mind.  Emma Lazarus’ words engraved at the foot of the statue: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free…” resounded in Francis’ own plea to the American people and the American Church as he invited us to open again our hearts and homes to so many displaced persons wandering across the face of the earth.


There were parades, cheers, throngs of people, masses, prayers and praise rightly heaped upon women religious of the United States of America. The media did not miss the deep significance of the Holy Father’s private, moving meeting with victims of sex abuse at St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia, a city and a Church that bear the scars of the abuse scandal and long for healing and reconciliation. Francis reminded us that love is always having to say we are deeply sorry for what happened. He let people know he listened and understood and he will continue to act so such a disaster would never repeat itself. Justice will be done.

The grandfatherly Pope delivered one of the best, unscripted teachings on marriage and family life before over a million people on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia while millions more watched on television.  His talk at the World Meeting of Families evoked deeply in my mind and heart the words of his saintly predecessor John Paul II: “The future of humanity passes through the family.”


The New Testament’s Acts of the Apostles tells us “that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them.” Francis reached out as a gentle, grandfatherly shepherd and blessed disabled, suffering, homeless, hungry and incarcerated people along the way while their loved ones, caregivers and guards wept nearby.

Pope Francis came to America – to Washington, New York and Philadelphia – last week to bring healing, hope and mercy. Only time, reflection and prayer will reveal if the healing of Americans and especially of U.S. Catholics begun last week, will bear fruit for the church in America.

One thing is certain: last week the shadow of Peter fell on millions of people in America and far beyond. And one more thing happened last week: Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the son of immigrants, came into his own. Though elected and installed as Pope nearly three years ago, his Papacy really began in the minds and hearts of North Americans last week when “Peter was among us.” We have all been touched by his shadow.  And many of us, including this writer and priest, have been healed.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, is CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation in Canada and serves as English language attaché to the Holy See Press Office.

Marriage and the Family: Humanity’s Future

Holy Family cropped

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – October 4, 2015

Rather than commenting in detail on each of the readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), I would like to offer some general reflections on marriage and family life that flow from today’s readings. In today’s Gospel (Mark 10:2-16) the Pharisees once again confront Jesus with the divisive issue of divorce and its legitimacy: “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”

“What did Moses command you?” Jesus asked. They replied that Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss the wife. Jesus declares that the law of Moses permitted divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1) only because of the hardness of hearts (Mark 10:4-5). In citing Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, Jesus proclaims permanence to be the divine intent from the beginning concerning human marriage (Mark 10:6-8). He reaffirms this with the declaration that what God has joined together, no human being must separate (verse 9).

Jesus wisely and prudently responds to the loaded question by appealing to God’s plan of complete unity and equality in drawing men and women together in marriage. He affirms that husband and wife are united so intimately that they actually become one and indivisible. In answering a direct question that was deliberately designed to entrap him, Jesus was speaking of the nature of marriage and of that only. His emphasis is on its holiness and covenant fidelity and not on the illegitimacy of divorce. The goal of marriage is not divorce and annulment!

Divorce, annulment and remarriage

Jesus did not condemn people who did their best and ended up divorced. He was not judging such people, throwing them out of the community of the Church, or assigning them places in hell. He was only affirming the outlook taken by couples themselves when they stand before the Church’s minister and pronounce their wedding vows.

Today Catholic annulments look to many like a simple Catholic divorce. Divorce says that the reality of marriage was there in the beginning and that now the reality is broken. Annulment is a declaration that the reality was never there. The Church declares many marriages invalid because of some impediment present at the time of the marriage.

Over the years of my pastoral ministry, I have met many divorced people who feel very alienated from the Church. For many, divorce was the last thing they ever dreamed of or wanted. In many instances, it hit them unexpectedly, forcefully and tragically. No one I met ever told me that they looked forward to a divorce. They simply didn’t see any other alternative.

Some divorced men and women have erroneously been told by well-meaning people that they are excommunicated from the Catholic Church, which is certainly not true. Their pain is often enormous; their need for understanding and acceptance is great. They need unambiguous Catholic teaching to enlighten them and lead them to Christ. They need friends, people to pray for and with them, and they need God in their lives in the midst of rupture and brokenness. They deserve our understanding and our prayerful care.

A positive teaching on annulments should be offered in every parish community. Though it may be a tedious and painful process for some people, an annulment can be an instrument of grace, healing, closure, and peace of mind and heart.

The future of humanity passes through marriage and the family

In the papal encyclicals from “Humanae Vitae” (1968) to “Evangelium Vitae” (1995) and especially the apostolic exhortation “Familiaris Consortio” (1981) and the magnificent “Letter to Families” (1994), Popes Paul VI and John Paul II have dedicated much attention to marriage and the family in today’s culture. From the first year of his pontificate, John Paul II constantly emphasized: “the family is the way of the Church.” The family is a school of communion, based on the values of the Gospel.

In 2008, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” the bishops of Canada released a very important document in which they wrote (#19):

“In short, Pope Paul Vl’s encyclical ‘Humanae Vitae’ and the subsequent ‘theology of the body’ developed by Pope John Paul II issue an immense challenge to a world that is too often occupied with protecting itself against the extraordinary life potential of sexuality. In the wake of these two prophetic Popes, the Church, ‘expert in humanity,’ issues an unexpected message: Sexuality is a friend, a gift of God. It is revealed to us by the Trinitarian God who asks us to reveal it in turn in all its grandeur and dignity to our contemporaries at this start of the third millennium. The theology of the body has been compared to a revolution that would have positive effects throughout the 21st century of Christianity. We invite the faithful to be the first to experience its liberating potential.”

Signs of hope for marriage, family life and vocations

To accept Jesus’ teaching on marriage requires the openness of children and a sense of dependence on God’s strength matching the child’s sense of dependence on parents. When love is authentic, strong, sincere and firm, it is accompanied by vision, joy and creativity, new life and a desire for holiness. When married couples allow Christ to be at the center of their project, they experience deeply the peace outpoured by God — a peace that flows forth to their children and grandchildren.

The crisis of vocations in the Western world requires that we rethink not only our manner of promoting vocations, but the terrain where seeds of vocations are sown. This fertile soil for vocations is the family, the domestic Church. This reality is brought about by the presence of Christ in the home, from the graces of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and from fidelity to the Gospel and the teachings of the Church.

There are some voices in our society and Church that don’t have much hope for the sacrament of marriage and for family life. I beg to differ with such voices of doom and despair. Each of us is responsible for fostering a true culture of marriage and family life as well as a culture of vocations to the priesthood and religious or consecrated life.

In recent years, I have witnessed some very hopeful signs for marriage and family life among young adults in various parts of the world. Several years ago I had the privilege of leading two retreats for university students — one for the John Paul II Catholic Chaplaincy of Sheffield’s Hallam University in England and the other for the Catholic Students’ Association of Victoria University in British Colombia in Canada.

The wise, ecclesial leadership of university chaplains — Sister Anne Lee, NDS in Hallam and Father Dean Henderson in Victoria — gathered together some remarkable young adults from many countries of the world. They are the young men and women of the generations of John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis, freed from the ideological strangleholds and liberated from the barren, spiritual wastelands of my generation. Their eyes are fixed on Christ and they love the Church with all of her shadows and light.

I never had more open conversations about marriage and family life than I did with those students in Hallam and Victoria these past months. Many spoke openly about their parents who were divorced and alienated or simply absent from the Church. The students said that they learned from the mistakes and losses of their parents, and wanted to pursue the path of a holy marriage and family life. They desire to have Christ, the sacramental life, and the teachings of the Church at the center of their lives.

I have also been very moved and edified by the young men and women who form the staff of the Salt and Light Television Network in Canada. Their simple and clear faith, deep joy, sterling commitment, visible love of Christ and the Church and ardent desire for evangelization is inspiring. Over the past thirteen years, I have been privileged to witness the religious professions and ordinations of several Salt and Light colleagues, and to celebrate seven marriages of my staff — several who worked with me in preparing World Youth Day 2002. And now we are into the season of baptisms! It is from this generation of children that will come forth vocations for the Church. How could there not be vocations when the terrain was so fertile and the parents so open to the Gospel and to the Church?

For reflection, discussion and prayer

We must never forget that other bonds of love and interdependency, of commitment and mutual responsibility exist in society. They may be good; they may even be recognized in law. They are clearly not the same as marriage; they are something else. No extension of terminology for legal purposes will change the observable reality that only the committed union of a man and a woman carries, not only the bond of interdependency between the two adults, but the capacity to bring forth children.

This week, let us recommit ourselves to building up the human family, to strengthening marriage, to blessing and nurturing children, and to making our homes, families and parish communities holy, welcoming places for women and men of every race, language, orientation and way of life.

In our pastoral strategies, programs and preaching, how do we welcome the sanctifying role of Jesus Christ in the marriage of a man and woman? Are we ready to offer Jesus’ teaching on marriage with the openness to children? What are some of the weaknesses and painful situations that afflict marriages today? Can these marriages be saved and the brokenness in the husband-wife relationships be healed? What is the role of faith in all of this?

Let us pray today for married people, that they may grow in this awareness of the sacramentality of marriage and its capacity to reflect the love of God to our world. Let us continue to help one another to bear the blessings, burdens and crosses that the Lord has given to us. And let us never forget those who have loved and lost, and those who have suffered the pain of separation, divorce and alienation. May they find healing in the community of the Church, and welcome from those whose marriages have borne much fruit.

(Image: Holy Trinity and Holy Family by Murillo)

50th Anniversary of “I Have a Dream” Speech


On August 28, 2013, America celebrated the 50th anniversary of the seminal address of the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. King’s message spoken that day during the March on Washington, still has a lasting and universal impact.  King was the sixteenth out of eighteen people to speak that day, according to the official program.  His address has been widely hailed as a masterpiece of rhetoric since it invokes the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the United States Constitution.

Anaphora, the repetition of a phrase at the beginning of sentences, is a rhetorical tool employed throughout the speech.  The most widely cited example of anaphora is found in the often quoted phrase “I have a dream…” which is repeated eight times as King paints a picture of an integrated and unified America for his audience. Other occasions when King used anaphora include “One hundred years later,” “We can never be satisfied,” “With this faith,” “Let freedom ring,” and “free at last.” king_crop

According to U.S. Representative John Lewis, who also spoke that day as the president of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, “Dr. King had the power, the ability, and the capacity to transform those steps on the Lincoln Memorial into a monumental area that will forever be recognized. By speaking the way he did, he educated, he inspired, he informed not just the people there, but people throughout America and unborn generations.”

The ideas in the speech reflect King’s personal experiences of the mistreatment of blacks. The rhetoric of the speech provides redemption to America for its racial sins. King describes the promises made by America as a “promissory note” on which America has defaulted. He says that “America has given the Negro people a bad check”, but that “we’ve come to cash this check” by marching in Washington, D.C.

Today let us give thanks to God for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a true prophet of our times, who taught us how to dream and how to realize those dreams.  Let us pray for all those like him, who continue to struggle for justice, equality and peace in our time.

Excerpt from the conclusion of Dr. King’s famous address:

“I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be engulfed, every hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to climb up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi and every mountainside.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”

Dorothy Day: Model of Conversion, Courage and Commitment

On the Road to Sainthood – November 13, 2012
By: Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.

On November 13, 2012 during the annual General Assembly in Baltimore the Bishops of the United States engaged in a canonical consultation regarding the cause for canonization of Dorothy Day, a pacifist and convert to Catholicism from New York City. This unprecedented canonical consultation was a procedural step in the process toward canonization. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and head of the Archdiocese of New York, was seeking the consultation of the full body of bishops. Dorothy Day already carries the title “Servant of God,” a designation awarded by the Vatican when it gave her cause a Nihil Obstat, that is, a formal declaration that the Vatican has no objection to the cause moving forward. This afternoon, the American bishops gave unanimous voice through their vote to proceed with the sainthood cause for Dorothy Day. Alleluia. Deo gratias.

Dorothy Day’s story captivated me as a young high school student and I have never forgotten her. I met her once at a rally in Rochester, New York, along with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers. She is a remarkable, prophetic woman of our times. She transmitted the good news by her life and actions, and at times by her words. Born on November 8, 1897 in Brooklyn, New York, Dorothy was neither baptized nor raised in the church. After dropping out of college in 1916, she pursued the radical causes of her day: women’s suffrage, free love, labor unions, and social revolution. But when a decade of protest and social action failed to produce changes in the values and institutions of society, Dorothy converted to the Catholic Church and the radicalism of Christian love. Her life was filled with friendships with famous artists and writers. At the same time she experienced failed love affairs, a marriage and a suicide attempt. The triggering event for Dorothy’s conversion was the birth of her daughter, Tamara in 1926. After an earlier abortion, Dorothy had desperately wanted to get pregnant. She viewed the birth of her daughter as a sign of forgiveness from God. [Read more…]

The Importance of Self-criticism and Humility

Jesus Child cropped

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – September 27, 2015

The biblical prophet is one who has received a divine call to be a messenger and interpreter of the Word of God. The word that comes to the prophet compels him to speak.

Amos asks: “The Lord has spoken, who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8). Jeremiah, despondent because of his unrelieved message of woe to the people he loved would stifle the word: “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9). Whatever the form of the message, the true Israelite prophet’s vision of God has permeated the manner of his thoughts so that he sees things from God’s point of view and is convinced that he so sees them. Fundamental to the mission of the prophet is obedience to God’s Word.

Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets!

In today’s first reading from Numbers (11:25-29), God sent the spirit of prophecy upon others who took Moses by surprise. Moses had earlier complained to God that he could not provide for Israel in the desert all by himself. To alleviate the situation, God promised to confer Moses’ prophetic spirit on 70 elders. Even though Eldad and Medad were not present in the camp when God conferred Moses’ spirit, they still received the gift and began to prophesy.

When Moses’ aide, Joshua, wished to squelch the so-called rebellion against authority, Moses replies: “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:29). Moses is pleased that the spirit of prophecy is shared with those not immediately present in the first commissioning of the elders. Joshua is upbraided for his jealousy. Spiritual authority can lead to serious abuses. It must be handled carefully, humbly and justly. The lesson is that God’s ability to share the spirit is not restricted. God is the measure.

The present worthlessness of wealth

The severe denunciation of the unjust rich in today’s second reading from the Letter of James (5:1-6) is reminiscent of the Old Testament prophets (e.g., Amos 8:4-8). It is not intended to influence the rich to whom it is rhetorically addressed, but is rather a salutary warning to the faithful of the terrible fate of those who abuse riches and perhaps also a consolation to those now oppressed by the rich (James 2:5-7). The identical mode of introduction in 5:1-6 and 4:13-17 and the use of direct address throughout indicate the parallelism of the two sections. However, the present passage is harsher in tone and does not seem to allow the chance for repentance. In 5:2-3, the perfect tense of the verbs used (rotted, moth-eaten, rusted) probably indicate the present worthlessness of wealth. Furthermore, although silver and gold do not actually rust (verse 3), the expression used for them indicates their basic worthlessness.

This reading from James does not parallel the other two readings, especially in the matter of spiritual gifts manifesting themselves outside the immediate circle of Jesus’ disciples. Nevertheless it offers hard words against the wealthy who abused their workers and withheld wages and insight into abuse of power. James is speaking explicitly of the secular realm of employment, salaries and just recompense for work. The author of James maintains that the rich have mistreated their employees. Since they withheld the wages that were due, their silver and gold will corrode and their garments will fall prey to ravaging moths. The wealthy have not realized that God is the God of the poor, and intercedes on their behalf.

Problems in Mark’s Church community

Today’s Gospel passage (Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48) is rather loosely put together and seems to reflect the problems of Mark’s Church community. First there is the exchange between John and Jesus about the foreign exorcist (9:38), followed by Jesus’ rejection of the elitism of the disciples (verses 39-40). In the second part (verse 41), anyone who gives the disciple a drink will belong to Christ; in the third part (verse 42), Jesus holds up the little ones as totally dependent on God, whom no one may lead astray.

There is a certain irony about Jesus’ explanation of the disciples’ action in trying to stop the foreign exorcist. In 9:14-29, the disciples, themselves, fail to exorcise an unclean spirit from a young boy and are sharply rebuked by Jesus. Now they want to restrain a successful exorcist simply because he is not part of their own group. The issue is clearly not whether the exorcist is acting in the name and power of Jesus, but whether he is part of their own chosen establishment. The exclusivist attitudes of the disciples are exposed for all to see. The success of the foreign exorcist is a threat to the status of the “official” disciples! Jesus answers with an inclusive word, and yet one that realistically recognizes the problem of unauthorized ministries (9:39). The disciples need to nurture the gifts of generosity and graciousness.

The need for self-criticism

In the second half of the passage, we find a miscellaneous collection of sayings that call for a stance of self-criticism. The disciples are directed to reflect on their own style of life and ministry. Do any of their words or actions serve as stumbling blocks for the children of the Church? Mark uses words of Jesus against scandal and the misuse of one’s hands, eyes and feet. Jesus does not mandate mutilation. He has a typically Semitic way of speaking — graphic, vivid, even exaggerated. Nothing, no one comes before Christ. Jesus’ command to “cut it off” is not mutilation, but rather an invitation to liberation. It liberates us to love without reservation, not trapped in the self-love where everything and perhaps everyone, even God, himself, must revolve around me. The fascinating paradox of this story is this: The more we focus on the God who lives in us, on the people God cherishes in a special way because they are more needy, and on the earth that God saw as being “very good” (Genesis 1:31), the richer will be our delight in ourselves. Human life is a matter of relationships: with God, with people, with earth.

Despite its disjointedness, today’s Gospel passage provides a strong antidote to the ever-present temptation to overestimate one’s own position as the chosen of God. Human nature tends to be judgmental. Sometimes our inclination to judge results in elitism, concluding that others are not worthy of our company. We make difficulties, not thinking of others but blindly plunging ahead with feet, hands and eyes. We ignore God’s consecration of our hands to work, of our eyes to perceive, and of our feet to walk God’s special ways. We reject others as outsiders, foreign to our own ranks and status in life. Instead of questioning the validity of other active, and perhaps successful groups, we are reminded in graphic fashion of the importance of self-criticism and humility.

A final thought on humility

Jesus said, “Learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls” (Matthew 11:29). Most of the saints prayed for and manifested humility in their lives. Many of us live in societies and cultures that value self-promotion of worth, assertiveness, competitiveness, communicating our accomplishments if we wish to get anywhere and make a difference.

The virtue of humility is a quality by which a person considering his or her own defects has a lowly opinion of himself and willingly submits himself or herself to God and to others for God’s sake. How can we strike a balance between being humble and meek, and assertive enough to succeed in the world today? Or do we need to sacrifice one for the other? In living just and upright lives, we can do a good job as a humble leader, but that is different from been able to succeed and being placed in greater positions of responsibility.

Mother Cabrini’s humility

When I was growing up in an Italian-American household, we often heard stories of the saints and blesseds from my grandparents and parents. Two Italians, of course, were at the top of the list: Mother Cabrini and Padre Pio. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850 – 1917) was the first American citizen to be canonized by the Church. As a child, Mother Cabrini’s prayer for humility was given to us and I have kept it ever since in my Bible. The life of Mother Cabrini and the words of this prayer embody many of the thoughts found in today’s Scripture readings.

“Lord Jesus Christ, I pray that you may fortify me with the grace of your Holy Spirit, and give your peace to my soul, that I may be free from all needless anxiety and worry. Help me to desire always that which is pleasing and acceptable to you, so that your will may be my will.

“Grant that I may be free from unholy desires, and that, for your love, I may remain obscure and unknown in this world, to be known only to you.

“Do not permit me to attribute to myself the good that you perform in me and through me, but rather, referring all honor to you, may I admit only to my infirmities, so that renouncing sincerely all vainglory which comes from the world, I may aspire to that true and lasting glory that comes from you. Amen.”

(The readings for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time are: Numbers 11:25-29; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48)


The Meaning of Christian Wisdom

Sermon on the Mount cropped

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – September 20, 2015

The picture of the righteous one in today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom is based on the fourth Servant Song [Isaiah 52:13-53:12], as well as on Isaiah 42:1 and Psalm 22:8. Though the Book of Wisdom book was not accepted into the canon by the rabbis of Palestine, nonetheless it seems to have influenced the writers of the New Testament, especially in their portrait of Jesus, the righteous one who was unjustly condemned.

The haunting description of the wicked who lie in wait for the righteous in today’s first reading (Wisdom 2:12 and 17-20) leaves the hearers shocked. The thoughts and actions of the wicked are cold and calculated: “Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture, so that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected” (2:17-20).

The righteous one is attacked because his lifestyle is a condemnation of the wicked: “He reproaches us for sins against the law” (2:12). The righteous one’s fidelity is vindicated. He does not die because he shares community with God. The righteous person is characterized by gentleness and patience, is tested, persecuted and even killed by the self-confident wicked. They resolve to persecute the righteous one because his life and words are a reproach to them (2:12-16), and they determine to test the claims of the righteous one (17-20). The wicked invite death by their evil deeds.

Who is wise among you?

The question introduced at the beginning the Letter of James 3 frames the entire discussion: “Who is wise and understanding among you?” In other words, how is wisdom perceived? James (3:13-4:3) addresses the symptoms of wisdom, both godly wisdom and another kind of wisdom, which is “earthly, unspiritual, devilish” (3:15). With 4:4, James spells out a sharp dichotomy between the wise and the unwise, characterizing the wise person as one who is an enemy of the world and the unwise as one who is “an enemy of God” (4:4). “Real wisdom is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” [3:17].

The assigning of various vices and virtues to differing wisdoms becomes more intense in 4:1-3, where the author introduces questions of internal conflict with one another. When motives and behaviors are in conflict with one another, they provide another clue that wisdom is absent. The author of James defines wisdom as being docile, lenient, and peaceful. All of these are qualities of children, yet James and the Wisdom literature of the Bible also recognize these as mature adult qualities. Without such qualities, the person turns into a monster guilty of conflicts, disputes, wars, murder, envy, quarreling and fights. Such people squander what they receive on their own pleasures. True Christian wisdom is dedicated to others; jealousy and strife are self-centered. This passage makes it clear that we should imitate wisdom rather than fame and wealth.


Today’s Gospel passage (Mark 9:30-37) is the second of the Passion predictions of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus’ announcement of his passion and death leaves the disciples without words. In the meantime, they argue who was the most important among them. We find the same pattern as in last week’s Gospel — the prediction, misunderstanding, and instruction on the nature of discipleship.

For Mark, these scenes contain all the ingredients of Christian wisdom. Like the other predictions, today’s passage is followed by a series of sayings on discipleship (9:30-37). In this brief discussion with Jesus, three features of the disciples are revealed.

First, even after failure, the disciples are singled out for special instruction. The immediate preceding incident details the inability of the disciples to help the father and his son who was troubled with an unclean spirit (9:14-29). Jesus scolds them harshly, since their failure has led to another confrontation with the scribes: “How much longer must I put up with you?” (9:19). Yet the weakness of the disciples has not diminished his zeal to prepare them for life in the Kingdom of God.

Second, the disciples find Jesus’ message baffling. This is the second time that Jesus predicts his destiny in Jerusalem, yet the disciples fail to understand and are so intimidated that they will not even ask any questions (9:32). When Jesus asks them what they are arguing about on the road, they were so embarrassed that they had nothing to say. They may not have understood much but they knew enough that their argument was completely out of order. They are baffled and humiliated. But Jesus has not given up on them yet.

The third thing that happens to the disciples is that they learn a profound lesson about what it means to be servant. When Mark uses the word “servant” in today’s Gospel, he is using the Greek word which also means deacon. This word is first used of the waiters who serve the water-made-wine at the wedding feast at Cana (John 2:5,9). Matthew uses it for the king’s servants in the parable of the marriage feast (Matthew 22:13). St. Paul describes himself as a servant of the Gospel (Colossians 1:23; Ephesians 3:7), servant of the Church (Colossians 1:25), servant of the new covenant in the Spirit (2 Corinthians 6:4). John uses it of Jesus’ adherents in general; they are his “deacons,” his servants (John 12:26).

Jesus tells us that he himself did not come on earth to be served; he came to serve [Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45]. The previous words on cross-bearing and losing one’s life (8:34-38) are given added meaning and specificity when Jesus speaks of being last of all and servant of all (9:35).

Greatness redefined

The whole notion of greatness is redefined for the disciples. New categories are established for determining success and failure, winning and losing, achievement and unfulfillment. At this point Jesus introduces the child into their midst. It is not the child’s naïveté or innocence, trustfulness or playfulness that is highlighted here, but the child’s lowly status, as one always under the authority of another and without rights. Jesus forges a new system of relationships: welcome the little child in my name and you welcome me; welcome me and you are welcoming no less than God himself. A communion of hospitality is established between the little child, Jesus, and God.

The child is an apt symbol for powerlessness and total reliance on others. Mark teaches us to welcome the powerless and the disenfranchised. Through this gesture, Jesus illustrates the qualities of the little child within each of us. Jesus possessed the child within in himself and he expects nothing less than these childlike qualities from his disciples.

The disciples become mirrors in which we see ourselves all too clearly. Their failures, their inability to understand typify the patterns of future generations of disciples like us who are also slow to understand the radical message of Jesus.

Wisdom and virtue

One of the profound, universal lessons about acquiring true wisdom was taught by Saint John Paul II during his historic address to the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City on Oct. 5, 1995. Those words still ring in my heart and mind today. Addressing the leaders of the nations of the world, the Holy Father said:

“We must overcome our fear of the future. But we will not be able to overcome it completely unless we do so together. The ‘answer’ to that fear is neither coercion nor repression, nor the imposition of one social ‘model’ on the entire world. The answer to the fear which darkens human existence at the end of the 20th century is the common effort to build the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice, and liberty. And the ‘soul’ of the civilization of love is the culture of freedom: the freedom of individuals and the freedom of nations, lived in self-giving solidarity and responsibility.

“We must not be afraid of the future. We must not be afraid of man. It is no accident that we are here. Each and every human person has been created in the ‘image and likeness’ of the One who is the origin of all that is. We have within us the capacities for wisdom and virtue. With these gifts, and with the help of God’s grace, we can build in the next century and the next millennium a civilization worthy of the human person, a true culture of freedom. We can and must do so! And in doing so, we shall see that the tears of this century have prepared the ground for a new springtime of the human spirit.”

Let us pray that the Lord will bring to harvest the seeds of righteousness, wisdom and virtue sown in human hearts. Without these gifts, the civilization of love and the culture of freedom for which we all long will not be possible.

[The readings for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time are: Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; James 3:16-4:3; and Mark 9:30-37]

(Image: “Sermon on the Mount” by Carl Bloch)

Christians in Solidarity with Jews for Jewish High Holy Days

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the Israelites thus: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts of horns. On the tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement, on which expiation is made on your behalf before the Lord your God. It shall be sabbath of complete rest for you, and you shall practise self denial, from evening to evening you shall observe this sabbath.” (Leviticus 23)

The above biblical citations refer to what have become the Jewish High Holy days, in the seventh month, known as Tishrei. The first day has been expanded over time into a two day holiday which Jews call Rosh HaShanah, the New Year. Being in the seventh month it is obviously not the Jewish New Year, for that is in the first month, Nisan, which contains the Passover freedom festival. In the seventh month Jews celebrate the world’s NewJews Praying in Syn Year, the anniversary of Creation. Often repeated throughout these days is the declaration: “Today is the birthday of the world. Today God will bring to judgement all the world’s creatures.”

Rosh Hashanah 2015 begins in the evening of Sunday, September 13 and ends in the evening of Tuesday, September 15. It begins in a festive mood. “Blessed are you, Lord, Sovereign of the universe, who has sustained and supported us and enabled us to reach this moment.” We are grateful for the gift of life during the past year. However, the mood is both happy and serious at the same time. It is the beginning of a ten day period of judgment and therefore of penitential reflection. One is encouraged to examine one’s life during the past year, express regret for sins and errors, confess before God and resolve to improve conduct during the New Year ahead. We can then ask and expect God’s forgiveness. However, if our sin was against another person, we must first secure their forgiveness before expecting that of God.

Yom Kippur 2015 begins in the evening of Tuesday, September 22 and ends in the evening of Wednesday, September 23. On Yom Kippur, the penitential mood is dominant. The prayers move around a wide range of religious emotions: awe and reverence before God’s majesty; tenderness and love as gifts of God’s love; tears of regret and noble resolve. The congregation, many dressed in white throughout the day, alternately bow and sway, cry and laugh as they move through the liturgy. The final hours are filled with intense spiritual passions and ultimate exaltation. We believe that God has indeed listened to our prayers and will forgive us. Now the New Year can begin in joy.

The prayers throughout this period are heavily dependent upon Psalms as well as other Rabbinic and medieval poetic writings. These reflect a wide range of spiritual moods and theological attitudes and may vary from community to community.

Pope Francis and the Jewish Community


On the eve of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) last year, Pope Francis met at Domus Sanctae Marthae with Jewish leaders to mark Rosh Hashana. Among those attending the event where World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, Latin American Jewish Congress President Jack Terpins, WJC Treasurer Chella Safra and a number of Jewish community heads and senior WJC officials.

We want to share with the pope our message of peace and prosperity for the New Year,” said Claudio Epelman, executive director of the LAJC and the WJC official in charge of relations with the Vatican.

As Christians, we remember over two thousand years that comprise the story of the Christian community, from it’s beginnings within the Jewish community in Jerusalem, through the dramatic evolution that occurred as the Church took root in gentile communities of other cultures, to its present situation as the largest faith community in the world. The early Church and Rabbinic Judaism both took shape at about the same time, both rooted in Biblical Judiasm. But very soon in the history of these sibling communities, negative stereotypes of Jews and Judaism dominitated the Church’s relations with the Jewish community. That led to the meaning of Jewish community. That led to the meaning of Jewish faith and the persecution of Jews, culminating in role that role that the Church’s theology played in setting the scene for the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis during World War II.

Hymn by Judah HaLevi

Judah HaLevi was one of the great poetic litugists in Jewish history. Here he captures the essence of the Yom Kippur experience, as expressing our yearning for God’s mercy, grace and help in coming closer to God and being the beneficary of God’s blessings.

Lord, today I beseech you, Hear my prayer, Lord!
Lord, reveal Your strong right hand, Show us Your power out of love, Lord!
Lord, my heart so moved, moans within me, The strength of this emotion leaves me faint, Lord!
Lord, when You think of me,Let is be for good that I am remembered, Lord!
Lord, I hope for Your salvation Your grace will comfort me, Lord!
Lord, You are my Creator, my Rock, What, but You, can help me, Lord?
Lord, Turn Your tender mercy towards me, Do not regard my sin, Lord!
Lord, You are all that I desire, My thoughts focus on Your unity, Lord!
Lord, my heart grows weak in this out pouring of emotion, My soul is in misery, Lord!
Lord, in your faithful love, hear me, Hear the urgency of my prayer, Lord!
Lord, all my thoughts are in Your hands, You know my inmost depths, Lord!
Lord, look at me with open eyes, Heal my pain, my agony, Lord!
Lord, before the gathered crowd, I praise You, Sustain me in a prayerful stance, Lord.
Lord, You know how I yearn for Your salvation, Grant my soul rest, Lord!
Lord, incline Your ear to hear my cry, You always show mercy, Lord!
Lord, my God, I hope in You, I pray that my salvation is near, Lord!
Lord, confirm me now as Your servant forever, Does it matter if my sin appears, Lord?
Lord, how long must I remain a prisoner, How long must I be entombed in sin that sears my spirit, Lord?
Lord, I sing in praise of Your unity, Still, tears of grief well up in my heart, Lord!
Lord, in my weakness, I exult You, Redeem me from my fears, Lord!
Lord, I trust in You for good things to come, Your magnificent reign is all encompassing, Lord!
Lord, be patient with me, I worship You, I seek your grace, Lord!
Lord, be attentive to my plea Respond soon to my call, Lord!
Lord, with tenderness bring me your healing, Revive my heavy heart, Lord!
Lord, my soul grows weak from my distress, Day and night I cry to you, Lord!
Lord, out of the depths raise me, reverse my captivity, Lord!


As our Jewish brothers and sisters prepare to observe a day of repentance and reconciliation this year, and come before God with fasting and prayer, we join with them in expressing our fundamental solidarity of faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  With them we recall our common trust in God’s grace and mercy, which we have inherited from the Jewish experience of God.  With them we honor the richness of Jewish prayer that is at the core of Christian prayer.  With them we confess our sins, both personal and corporate.  With them we name with sadness and shame the sins of the Christian churches towards the Jewish people, especially our contempt for their spiritual traditions. In solidarity with them we seek forgiveness and reconciliation and pray for peace among all people, cultures and religions.

September 11 and the Right and Wrong Meaning of Martyrdom


September 11 marks the 14th anniversary of the dreadful terrorist attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. As media attention turns once again to those fateful days and to the masterminds of such acts of terror and violence, plunging the world into its current state of war and fear, I offer some considerations on the meaning of martyrdom which has become such a common yet misunderstood word in our vocabulary, especially in light of what happened 14 years ago this week.

Those who carried out the terrorist attacks in 2001 claimed to do so “in the name of Allah” and claimed to be martyrs for a holy cause and entering into their glory. The point isn’t that Muslim suicide bombers really ‘are’ or ‘are not’ martyrs but rather that people revere them as martyrs… self-proclaimed or publicly, for an unholy cause.

In Islam, stories of martyrdom date back to bloodshed as the faith took root in the seventh century. It became increasingly linked to radical movements in the 20th century with calls for “martyrdom” by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and later with Palestinian militants and terrorist groups. The end of the Cold War brought Christian-Muslim tensions into sharper focus, including inter-religious clashes in Indonesia and the 1996 murder of seven French monks in Algeria by Islamic militants. While such cases are always shocking, we Christians must take great care in preventing our concepts of Christian martyrdom from evolving into a counter-attack to Islamic radicals.

A martyr [in Greek a witness] is a person who, for the Christian faith, freely and patiently suffers death at the hands of a persecutor.christianmartyr.jpg Martyrs choose to die rather than deny their faith by word or deed; they suffer patiently after the example of Christ; they do not resist their persecutors; they suffer death at the hand of ones who, though they may assign some other reason, really act through hatred of the Christian religion or of some Christian virtue. The Christian martyr does not desire death nor seek it for others. The name martyr, which in the very beginning of the Christian era meant a witness of Christ, was after a while given to those alone who suffered death for the faith.

In theologies of past decades the prophetic, the radical, and the liberationist all came in for great attention. For example, Catholic priests and nuns killed for their involvement in various social justice struggles have received a great deal of attention. However, when social justice struggles become the ideological test for the veneration of martyrs and saints, we must ask some deeper questions. We run the risk of saying that the twentieth and twenty-first century martyrology, is a canon of the politically correct: there are martyrs, and then there are “politically interesting” martyrs. In holding this view, there is a certain arrogance and condescension toward those who simply died for the proclamation and defense of the faith, without some further and redeeming political merit.

The era of Christian martyrdom is not something of the past. There is little disputing the fact that the twentieth century, above all others, was the century of Christian martyrdom. And that phenomenon has continued into our own century. Nevertheless, there is today a radicalization of what martyrdom means by some Christian groups. The western world´s struggle with radical Islam is creeping into views of religious martyrdom. Some Christians seem ready to embrace the connotations of ”victim” and ”hero” that have driven extremist Muslim declarations, with each side portraying the other faith as a persecutor.

We are living in a poisoned atmosphere or climate in which many see an Islamic siege on the entire Christian world. It is far too easy to fall into the trap of the “war of civilizations” and to misappropriate the title “martyr”, thus doing a great disservice to those who truly died for giving witness to Christ and the Christian faith.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.,
C.E.O., Salt and Light Catholic Television Network