Feast of All Saints Meditation

Feast of All Saints Meditation

When Jesus first walked among the crowds speaking the Beatitudes, the promises he made must have seemed astonishing. But Christians throughout history have recorded their own astonishment at the amazing fulfillment of what must have at first seemed utterly outlandish.

While many people are struck dumb by the gifts they have received, others are inarticulate. They may feel the amazement, but putting it in words is the work of the poets. So Raymond Carver, who died at fifty, marveled that the last ten years of his life were “gravy.” Because of his alcoholism, he had received a terminal diagnosis at age forty. The love of poet Tess Gallagher, with her encouragement to stop drinking, bought him years he never thought he’d see.

C.S. Lewis explains the thinking behind the Beatitudes:

“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Metaphorically, then do we settle for living in a dark, damp basement when we could be enjoying the five star resort?

Catholic Update, October 2014 by Kathy Coffey

Saintly Sinners: Flawed but Faithful, Models of Holiness

The saints inspire us on our own paths toward God. They show us that everyday holiness is within our grasp. But what do we know about those saints we call upon in prayer? If we think of them as remote and out of touch, we do them and ourselves a great disservice. Knowing even a little of their stories humanizes them and draws them closer. Author Kathy Coffey helps readers appreciate the saints as models of everyday holiness—people who persevered in faith in spite of their flaws and limitations. Catholic Update Newsletter – See more at: http://www.liguori.org/saintly-sinners.html#sthash.1bVNa1Pd.dpuf

Three Sisters Hold up Half the Sky: Sisters of Loretto in Pakistan

Editor’s note: A new article by Kathy Coffey about the Sisters of Loretto and their work in Pakistan running the St. Albert’s School in Pakistan.

….Yet the sisters, who visited the Loretto Spirituality Center outside of Denver recently, seem to accomplish the work of legions.

Since 2011 they have run St. Albert’s School in a slum in Pakistan’s third largest city, Faisalabad, where most people live on $1 a day and the size of houses is about 12-foot square. They ask the families of their 350 students, kindergarten through grade 10, to pay minimal tuition (about 50 cents a month) to encourage self-respect.

To read the rest of the article, click here: Three sisters hold up half the sky

Do the Math

Gospel for 9/21/14: Mt. 20:1-16

This weekend’s gospel is a good one to read when we get snippy about how much we’ve done for others, overlooking how much God has done for us. Before we get our hackles up over the rampant injustice of paying the Johnny-Come-Latelys the same as those who sweated in the sun all day, let’s reconsider.

While we may think we’ve done great things for God, we may need a little remedial arithmetic too. How could we put a price on our health, our faith, the simple accidents of our birth? Even those who may not have had ideal circumstances can still point to other blessings: a safe and beautiful world, a caring teacher or social worker, friends, inborn gifts. What about God’s continued care, a steady stream of goodness even in the worst situation? As we reflect on our blessings we may find ourselves in the position of someone who paid out $100, but who inherited billions. What’s the right response? Gratitude.

Book Review of A Shimmer of Something

A Shimmer of Something  by Brian Doyle (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2014).

Roostery. Brian Doyle uses this perfect word to describe the swagger of adolescent males. His new collection of “box poems” or “proems” delights with the play, the reach, the spasm and splurge of language. His lines are graceful, lean and surprising–as if he were the G. M. Hopkins of our time. At first I rationed, thinking I couldn’t possibly appreciate more than a couple a day. (And the style IS a bit in-your-face.)

But now and then, I binged—well, it’s too early to turn on the laptop during a flight, so what else? And then I’d start noticing, as Doyle does, the little gems we so often miss. The man in the orange vest, loading luggage, waves goodbye to the flight attendant closing the plane’s door. Does he do that every day? Every flight? What a lovely farewell when this must his stultifying routine. Doyle would do justice to the odd moment.

It’s hard to name favorites, but “Father Man” is high on the list because my grand-daughter is close in age to the tiny, blustering force in the poem. And “The Thirty,” a tribute to good priests, echoes the powerful film “Calvary.” “As I Ever Saw” praises the courage of a little boy in hospital with a terrible disease, who rallies to please the therapist, does her art project, then sinks back in exhaustion. “What a Father Thinks While Driving His Daughter, Age 17, to Rehab” could never have been written by a bishop.

Doyle explores the crazy quagmire of parenting, probes the sensitive areas in friendship which we never speak aloud, roars at basketball, chortles at fun, remembers key detail, and weaves fascinating stories. He wonders why “the very best thing is the one thing that hurts the worst.” How Catholic of him, in the best sense of the word, to see the world saturated by grace, with the divine always lurking around the next bend. Recognizing that mysterious presence, he praises it, not with the mind-deadening prose of encyclicals, but with the verve and arc and joy of the fast ball.

Faith as Glue in an Unraveling World, Part 2

Beautifying

What lifts peoples’ spirits now is what always has: the arts. The people of the Middle Ages walked through squalid streets and lived in miserable poverty. But they could lift their sights to the spires of Chartres Cathedral or see Bible stories in its luminous stained glass. Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky knew the horrors of prison camp. But he wrote, “the world will be saved by beauty.” Franciscan missions throughout California were built around an inner garden, lavish with bougainvillea and roses, and often a sparkling fountain. These are only three examples of a long history. For over 2000 years, the church has offered beauty at critical times for the human family.

When depression threatens or anger overwhelms, the arts move us outside ourselves and into a realm beyond the economy. They remind us we were born not only for work, but also for joy, praise, appreciation.

If we have spent time appreciating the arts, we have strengthened the imagination. It then suggests new possibilities for a new era, new ways to live and different ways to cope. Jim Wallis says that the problems we face now are as formidable as mountains. It takes faith to change them, and fortunately Christians are in the mountain-moving business. Our times call for heroic responses. This is our moment; “now is the time of salvation.”


Some of this material appeared originally in
Everyday Catholic.

Faith as Glue in an Unraveling World

Crisis in the Ukraine, in Gaza, on the southern U.S. border. What does faith have to say in such desperate circumstances? Christians believe that we can bring the lens of faith to bear on every issue, no matter how painful. The challenge today is avoiding pious platitudes that help no one, instead finding insights to support and strengthen people enduring difficult times. The ancient Latin “adsum” means “I am here.” These are the times we are called to; this is our moment. God’s pattern placed us in 2014, not 947 or 2078. Why? Two brief possibilities:

Companioning

The church has always been a powerful voice for immigrants, and must continue to speak for 50,000 undocumented children crossing the borders. The Christian community speaks the concerns of the voiceless who might otherwise be crushed by politics, greed and irresponsibility. Faith often comes alive in times of crisis, and this era is no exception.

While Congress dithers over immigration law, the nuns are on the ground in El Paso, working. Three Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, fluent in Spanish because they’ve worked in Peru, offer food, showers and safe sleeping quarters. The children respond with large embraces, perhaps recognizing the first kindness they’ve encountered in a long, arduous journey.

To be continued…