Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Homily for Wednesday, Week 2 of Ordinary Time

Homily for Wednesday, Week 2
of Ordinary Time
Year II
Jan. 17, 2018
1 Sam 17: 32-33, 37, 40-51

In yesterday's 1st reading (1 Sam 16:1-13) we heard of the Lord's selection of David to replace Saul as king of Israel after Saul proved unfaithful to God and was rejected (Monday's reading, 1 Sam 15:16-23).  Today we hear the familiar story of David's battle against Goliath.

God chose David for a very special purpose, to be the true shepherd of his people Israel.  That role for the kings of Israel is highlighted by David's life as a shepherd boy, his being called, literally, from the pasture to be anointed king, and today by his recollection of how the Lord helped him defend the flock against predators and his use of a shepherd's gear in his battle.

Victorious David with Goliath's Head
(Antiveduto Grammatica)
God calls every one of us for some purpose, large or small.  Our success in life and our happiness will follow from our discovering that purpose and following it, in service to God and to our fellow human beings (who remain God's flock).

David fulfilled his purpose by relying totally on God.  From a human perspective, he had no chance of victory over the veteran giant warrior champion of the Philistines.  That didn't matter with God on his side.

In our way thru life we encounter powerful enemies, most especially God's archenemy, the Devil.  Given our moral frailty, we have no hope of victory--except that God is with us, and if we trust him and do our best to be faithful, then God will bring us to victory.

Within that framework of trust, David used the tools he had at hand, specifically his sling and the stones he'd chosen (using his experience about which ones would serve best).  And having struck the giant down, he used another tool at hand, Goliath's own sword, to dispatch him.

God has given us tools--talents, spiritual guides, the Scriptures, the sacraments, etc.--to assist us in fulfilling our mission, our purpose in life.  We use them under his leadership and guidance to do what we need to do.

Goliath, on the other hand, relied upon himself--his brute strength, his warrior's skills, his weapons--and upon lies and falsehoods (his false gods).  That didn't work out so well for him.

We know from experience that relying on ourselves to be virtuous and to be successful in following Christ doesn't work too well.  Any form of falsehood (self-deception or deceiving others), any form of idolatry (trusting in anything that is not God) undoes us.  So, again, we need to do as David did and put our trust in the Lord, find our strength in him.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Life is fragile, precious, unpredictable"

“Life is fragile, precious, unpredictable”

an ANS Editorial, January 15, 2018

Holly Butcher Photo by Facebook

We are in the first weeks of a new year, which means a blank page wherein to write a new chapter in our lives. With the new year, one makes resolutions and looks at the calendar thinking about commitments to be made and forthcoming holidays to enjoy. Surely none of us would stop for a moment to think about the possibility of not reaching the end of the year.

“It’s a strange thing to realize and accept that you’re going to die at 26,” wrote Holly Butcher, a 27-year-old Australian girl who died of a tumor a few days ago, in a message to all those lucky enough to be alive. Once Holly learned of the severity of her illness and the short time she still had to live, she began to appreciate the small details of her life more and stopped worrying about the insignificant aspects of her life. She put aside ridiculous things like, “sleeping badly because your beautiful children kept you awake,” “having cellulite,” and so on.

“Use your money to live experiences,” “listen to music, really listen to it,” “hug your dog,” “talk to your friends,” “eat your cake without feeling guilty,” and “say ‘no’ to the things you really don’t want to do” – these are some of the suggestions of this young Australian woman.

To those dependent or hooked on social networks, remember that life is meant to be lived and not just to be shared on a screen. “Everything is SO insignificant when looking at life as a whole, in its entirety. I’m seeing my body losing itself right here in front of me, and I can’t do anything about it. All I want for now is to be able to have one more birthday or Christmas with my family, or just another day with my boyfriend and my dog. Just one more.”

“Give, give, give. It is true that one is happy doing things for others rather than for oneself. I wish I had done more. It’s strange to have money to spend at the end – when you’re dying. If you can share with those who are next to you, buy them a plant, a candle, a small gift, and tell them that you love them.

“Use your money for experiences.... Or at least do not miss out on experiences because you spent all your money on superfluous things.

“Try hard to make that day trip to the sea you’ve been postponing. Immerse your feet in the water and dig into the sand with your toes. Wet your face with salt water.

“Tell your loved ones that you love them whenever you have the opportunity, and love them with everything you have.

“Also, remember that if something is making you feel bad, you have the power to change it: at work or in love, or anything else. Have enough willpower to change. You do not know how much time you have on this earth, so do not waste it by living in distress or pain. I know that these are things that have always been said, but they couldn’t be more true.”

Holly concludes her reflection here, but we are all invited to cultivate a sense of gratitude to God for this great gift of life, so fragile, precious, and unpredictable.


Fr. Tom's Thanks: "You have purchased freedom for me"

Fr. Tom’s Thanks: “You have purchased freedom for me”

(ANS – Bangalore, India – January 9) – With conviction and serenity, with that calm faith that has marked his public talks since he was set free, Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil through a short video thanked the Salesians, the Salesian Family, and all the people who during the 18 months of his captivity in Yemen prayed and offered sacrifices for him. He said, “I understand that if I was not hurt by my captors, if my mind was sane, if I was tranquil, all these are the fruit of your prayers and your sacrifices.”

His message was recorded and broadcast in the first days of January, almost a wish for the new year, to signify the beginning of a new page in his life, after his long experience of isolation and slow recovery.

Fr. Tom’s gratitude is addressed to God, first of all, and then spreads throughout the Congregation and the Salesian Family: “In the Lord’s name I wish to thank our Rector Major, the [general] council, all the provincials of the entire Salesian world, the rectors of the various communities, the confreres, the novices, the aspirants, and their families, in short, the entire Salesian Family who have been with me.”

You have purchased freedom for me from the Lord,” he concludes, finally, specifying at the same time how he conceives the future of his vocation and his service for the Church and for society: “My mission in the coming years, or the period that the Lord has left for me, is to bear witness to this fact, that the prayers of each of us are heard by the Lord and we are blessed.”

The complete video is available on the ANSChannel on YouTube in the original English version and with subtitles in Italian and Spanish.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Homily for 2d Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
2d Sunday of Ordinary Time
Jan. 14, 2018
1 Cor 6: 13-15, 17-20
St. Bernardine of Siena, Suitland, Md.

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” (1 Cor 6: 15).

8th-c. codex of 1 Corinthians
This evening we begin 5 Sundays of readings from the middle of St. Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians.  Corinth in the 1st century was the biggest and most important city in Greece, a seaport and a crossroads, with about 100,000 inhabitants—2/3 of whom were slaves.  The little Christian community there were Paul’s own converts and dear friends among whom he’d lived for 18 months on his 2nd missionary journey in 51-52 A.D.

Now, from a distance, possibly from Ephesus, he’s writing to them in the spring of 57 to encourage them to persevere in the faith, to answer some doctrinal and ethical questions they’d put to him, to chastise some wrongdoers, and to settle some disputes.  1st-century Christians were just as real as we are and had some of the same challenges we do.

Corinth was a notoriously wicked city, well known for its vices.  There’s a Greek word, korinthiazesthai, that means “to act like a Corinthian”; it’s a euphemism for sexual depravity.  In such a context, the city’s few Christians were under constant moral assault, besides the social pressure of being a tiny, unpopular minority and mostly from the lower social classes.

With constant temptations all around them, Paul reminds the Corinthian Church that their entire persons, both soul and body, belong to Christ.  When we’re baptized, Christ lays claim to us.  He seals us—brands us—as his own and pours his Spirit upon us, turning us into temples of the Holy Spirit, as Paul states (6:19).  He also alludes to the teaching of Genesis (2:24) that a man and a woman become one flesh, one body, thru their marital union; by our Baptism, he says, and our reception of the Eucharist, I add, we become one body with Christ:  “Whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (6:17), shares the same Holy Spirit that filled Jesus of Nazareth.

We’ve often heard people proclaim, “It’s my body, and I can do what I want with it.”  It’s an argument used not only to defend so-called sexual liberation but also to support abortion, drug use, and suicide.  “It’s my body” is a useful statement in the age of “#MeToo”—keep your piggish hands off my body.  “It’s my body” has a more established appeal, an obvious appeal, in a culture that worships individualism—a form of idolatry that infects the American body politic with the deadly disease of intellectual and moral relativism.  On that, read David Brooks’s op-ed column in yesterday’s NYT, ominously titled “How Democracies Perish.”[1]

So Paul, and Christian teaching generally, takes exception to any such claim:  “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ … and that you are not your own?” (6:15,19).  No part of the Christian—body, heart, mind, soul—is his or her own.  We are all one body with Christ, one heart, one mind, one spirit—if we are living out the commitment of our Baptism and Confirmation, if we are receiving the Body and Blood of Christ worthily and not sacrilegiously.  (In this same letter to the Corinthians, Paul warns the Church against sacrilegious participation in the Eucharist:  “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.  A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (11:27-29).
St. Paul preaching amid ruins
(Giovanni Paolo Panini)
According to Paul, sexual purity is a most serious requirement of Christian life.  “The body is not for immorality but for the Lord” (6:13).  The word translated as “immorality”—porneia—literally means “fornication.”  He continues, “The Lord [i.e., Christ] is for the body; God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power” (6:13-14).  One commentary observes, “Paul is concerned that fornication, by polluting the physical body, would render believers ineligible for resurrection.”[2]  If we are joined to Christ, we will be raised up with him on the Last Day; but if we are joined to him, we can’t enter some sexual union that excludes him.  (Christian marriage explicitly includes him and testifies to the mutual and total love between him and the rest of his Body, the Church.)

Then Paul commands, in 2 words, “Avoid immorality”—literally, “Avoid fornication” (6:18).  Don’t use your very own body to sin against the Holy Spirit, whose temple you are (6:19), consecrated in Baptism; who binds you to the life of the Holy Trinity.

To be sure, sexual sins aren’t the only sins that Paul deals with in this chapter of the letter.  Just 3 and 4 verses before the start of this evening’s passage, he’d written:  “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (6:9-10).  Then he reminds the Church that some of them used to practice those vices but then they were washed clean and sanctified “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (6:11).

Paul clinches his argument against impurity by reminding us that Christ has purchased us for God at the price of his own blood (6:20).  We’ve been ransomed from the filth of paganism, from slavery to the Devil, by the cross of Christ.  Again, we are not our own because Christ has purchased us—signed, sealed, and delivered in Baptism and by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

“Therefore glorify God in your body” (6:20).  Use your body only for the glory of God and not as an instrument of sin.  In your body praise God thru worship, as we’re doing here; carry out works of mercy; live virtuously in your families, your workplaces and schools, your social interactions; offer to God your physical sufferings in union with Jesus crucified.  St. John Vianney offers us some solid advice for practicing chastity:  “1st, be very vigilant about what we look at, and what we think and say and do; 2d, have recourse to prayer; 3d, frequent the sacraments worthily; 4th, fly from anything that might tempt us to sin; 5th, have great devotion to the Blessed Virgin.  If we do all that, then, no matter what our enemies do, no matter how frail this virtue be, we can be quite sure of holding on to it.”[3]

Then we’ll stay with Christ, abide with Christ, like the disciples who followed him in today’s gospel (John 1:35-42), not just for a few hours but forever.

     [2] Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds., The Jewish Annotated New Testament, 2d ed. (NY: OUP, 2017), p. 332.
     [3] Sermon the 17th Sunday after Pentecost, 2, cited in The Navarre Bible: The Letters of Saint Paul (NY: Scepter, 2015), p. 222, slightly adapted.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Homily for Solemnity of Epiphany

Homily for the
Solemnity of the Epiphany

Jan. 4, 2004
Is 60: 1-6
Epiphany, Tampa
Nativity, Brandon, Fla.

“Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!  Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you” (Is 60: 1).

The New Jerusalem, after Dore'
by Laura Sotka

Several generations of historians, up to and including when most of us were in school, were accustomed to speak of the early Middle Ages as “the Dark Ages.”  The splendor of Greco-Roman civilization—its learning, its law, its commerce, the Pax Romana—were swamped in a wild tide of invasions from the east and north; barbarian darkness settled over most of Europe, from the 5th to the 12th centuries.  Extensive parts of the old Roman Empire were repaganized.  Schools, libraries, and monasteries were destroyed.  Travel and trade virtually ceased.  Lawlessness was everywhere.  Warfare was constant.

Even before Thomas Cahill in 1995 published How the Irish Saved Civilization, we realized that a picture of universal darkness for 8 centuries was an oversimplification.  It’s no simplification, however, to say that humanity dwelt in spiritual darkness until our Savior was made known to us.

In the gospel for the solemnity of the Epiphany, the Magi sought out Christ, “the newborn king of the Jews,” to pay homage to him (Matt 2:2) and offer him precious gifts.  We note in passing that the Magi were learned men (wise men) of the pagan world, perhaps astrologers, as one translation puts it, perhaps wizards like King Arthur’s Merlin or Tolkien’s Gandalf, perhaps priests of some pagan deity.  They definitely weren’t kings, and St. Matthew gives no indication at all as to their number.

The Magi bring gifts for the God-man, signaling that all the world—not just the Jews—is to find in this child its Savior.  Yet the child is the real gift-giver to the world, to Jew and Gentile alike.

This child, Jesus, born in Bethlehem of Judah, brings us the gift of light.  The whole world lay shrouded in darkness; thick clouds covered the peoples (cf. Is 60:2).  Sin, despair, violence, and death were our masters.  But Jesus has brought us forgiveness, hope, peace, and life.  He is the light of the world, leading us on the path to everlasting light.  All nations shall walk in the light of Israel’s shepherd (cf. Is 60:3, Matt 2:6).

The Magi saw a star rise and followed it.  That star, that remarkable light, was the heavenly portent announcing that the real Dark Ages were over.  At the beginning of his gospel, St. John declares, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world,” and in Jesus Christ we saw God’s own glory, the light shining in our darkness (John 1:9,14,5), the light driving out the darkness of evil.

As regards the so-called Dark Ages of medieval Europe, Thomas Cahill’s premise is that the Irish saved civilization because Christian monks and nuns preserved the ancient learning, as well as the Faith, and as missionaries spread both Faith and learning thruout Western Europe between the 5th and 10th centuries.  Thru them Christ became the light of the world morally, spiritually, and culturally.  The new learning of the Renaissance, moreover, was largely Church-sponsored:  the universities grew out of the monastery schools and were run by the Church; friars like the Dominican St. Albert the Great at Cologne and Paris, and the Franciscan Roger Bacon at Oxford, were renowned scientists; the artists and poets were deeply religious people like Blessed Fra Angelico, Dante, and Giotto; medieval cathedrals such as those at Chartres and Cologne were simultaneously works of both profound devotion and the highest art; the most famous scholars were also saints like Anselm of Canterbury, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, and Duns Scotus.  What Isaiah spoke to Jerusalem hundreds of years before Christ we may apply to a society permeated by the influence of Christ:  “Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance” (60:3).

Today, Epiphany, the Son of God is revealed to the world.  “He shall govern [God’s] people with justice and [God’s] afflicted ones with judgment.  Justice shall flower in his days, and profound peace” (Ps 72:2,7).  Those who pay homage to him—those who become his subjects—know the justice of God’s grace; they know peace of heart.  They are agents of justice and peace and God’s love, as well as culture, to their families and friends, to their towns and workplaces.  Like the Irish missionaries and the medieval scholars and artists, they still today reflect the light of the divine sun to mankind; in them—in us—Christ continues to overcome the darkness and reveal himself to the world.

I Am the light of the World
(Statue at USCCB Headquarters, Washington)
St. Matthew tells us that the Magi “departed for their country” after they had paid their homage to the child Jesus.  And that’s the end of their story.  Our story, however, can’t end with our homage to Christ the Lord on Sunday—or Saturday nite.  If he is our Lord and Savior, we have to take him home with us, take him to school with us, take him to work with us, take him to market with us, take him on the highways with us, take him wherever we go, whatever we do.  We can’t depart from him, can’t leave him behind—not if his justice and his peace are ever to flower in our time, our society to be permeated by the influence of Christ, “nations walking by our light, and kings,” presidents, and prime ministers “by our shining radiance.”  You and I have to be instruments of his justice and peace and love.  He is the light of the world, but we have to allow his light to shine thru us.  We have to work at forgiving and reconciling, at caring for the needy and the unwanted and the helpless—within our little personal worlds, and within the great world of the human family, as, e.g., the U.S. has just done for the earthquake victims in Iran despite the poor relations between our governments.  We’re all familiar, I suppose, with the hymn “This Little Light of Mine.”  The light is really Christ’s.  Our task is to let his light shine thru us upon the whole world.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Homily for Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Homily for the Solemnity
of Mary, Mother of God
Jan. 1, 1983
Gal 4: 4-7
St. Vincent de Paul, Charlotte, N.C.

Having stolen a homily for yesterday from my friend Deacon Greg (see below), today I steal one from my own archive.

“When the designated time had come, God sent forth his Son born of woman, … so that we might receive our status as adopted sons” (Gal 4: 4).

This passing reference is St. Paul’s only allusion to Mary, mother of the Savior.  In this verse, he makes 3 assertions that are important for us:  1) God designated the time. 2) The Messiah was born of a human mother. 3) God intended to adopt us as his children.

“When the designated time had come….”  God is carrying out a plan, and of course that plan is his own and no one else’s.  During the period of the Law, the times of the OT, God was preparing us for our special calling.  Now his chosen moment has arrived in human history.

Virgin of the Grapes by Pierre Mignard
“God sent forth his Son born of a woman….”  Since we’re celebrating Mary’s motherhood within the context of Christmas, this is our most important consideration today.  God’s Son was born of an earthly mother.  God has entered time and space in the most direct and tangible form, and he has done so through the simplest, most touching, most elemental way—by becoming a gurgling, crying, hungry, wet baby boy born of a mother who had carried him for 9 months.

The Eternal Father chose a young, virtuous country girl named Mary.  Historically speaking, we know next to nothing about her.  She came from an insignificant village in Galilee called Nazareth; her husband’s name was Joseph; and the two of them were very devout.  Theologically, we know that she accepted a unique and difficult role from God; to be the mother of the Messiah, a son to be conceived in her solely by the power of the Lord of Creation and her own consent.

We assume that Mary loved her son deeply, that she taught him to eat, talk, walk, and pray.  She must have kissed his bruises, nursed his illnesses, and soothed his childish fears.  She and Joseph taught him to work and to appreciate the traditions of their people, to respect the village elders and the rabbis, possibly to distrust the Romans and Herod and the tax collectors. If we make the reasonable assumption that they were peasants, Mary didn’t have to teach Jesus to clean his room because he didn’t have one; their home would have had only one room for the 3 of them, and a workshop for Joseph.

By making an ordinary girl—of course she was extraordinary in her sincere piety—by making this otherwise ordinary girl his Son’s mother, the Almighty has dignified not only that simple and holy girl but all mothers and all members of the human race.  Having a mother was an important part of the experience of Jesus.  Having a mother demonstrates his humanity, his complete sharing in who and what we are.  That is why the Church has always put so much importance on Mary’s motherhood.

“…so that we might receive our status as adopted sons.”  The Eternal Father has only one natural son, and that is the one we call the Son of God, the 2d Person of the Trinity, the one whose birth in the flesh as Jesus of Nazareth we celebrate.  But why was Jesus born—born of an earthly mother?  Why didn’t he just appear like an angel or some kind of E.T.?  Why he shared our humanity, even unto death, was so that God might adopt us as his children and his heirs in Christ.  If the Messiah is not human, he has no relation to us.  But he is, and he does.  If he isn’t truly God’s Son, he can’t make us his divine brothers and coheirs in Baptism and Confirmation.  But he is, and he does.  And Mary’s motherhood is the vital necessary link, the divine and human interconnection in the unfolding of God’s plan for our salvation.

May God be praised for loving us and choosing to adopt us as his own sons and daughters!

May the Virgin Mary be praised for accepting her difficult and loving role in God’s plan for us!

May God bless each of us with obedience and courage like Mary’s to see and accept what he has in mind for us.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Family Like Ours

A family like ours: Homily for December 31, 2017, Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
This Sunday, as we honor the Holy Family, it is tempting for us to think of them as we see them here in the crèche: perfectly sculpted figures, frozen in time and place. There’s the prayerful mother, the strong and attentive father, both adoring the innocent, beaming baby in the manger.
As beautiful as that is, it doesn’t begin to tell the whole story.
To appreciate the Holy Family in all its beauty and fullness, we should see them not as figures carved from wood or molded from plaster. We should see them, instead, as flesh and blood—people who struggled, who worked, who suffered.
St. Paul famously wrote of Christ, “He was a man like us in all things but sin.” [ed. note: see Heb 4:15--which isn't St. Paul.] I think the same could be said of the Holy Family. They were like us. They knew the kinds of setbacks, disappointments, challenges that every family faces.
They are patrons of every family, in every circumstance—even those like so many of us who are far from perfect.
First, they are patrons of those who are outcast. They are a family nobody had room for. And they are a family that was forced to run for their lives. This has a special urgency and relevance today.
Nearly a century ago, Pope Pius XII [ed. note: Pope 1939-1958] wrote:
“The émigré Holy Family of Nazareth, fleeing into Egypt, is the archetype of every refugee family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, living in exile in Egypt to escape the fury of an evil king, are, for all times and all places, the models and protectors of every migrant, alien and refugee of whatever kind who, whether compelled by fear of persecution or by want, is forced to leave his native land, his beloved parents and relatives, his close friends, and to seek a foreign soil.”
Jesus, Mary and Joseph are the family in Iraq, displaced to Kurdistan, fleeing the terror of ISIS.
They are migrants from Central America, seeking a better life in the fields of Texas.
They are the family you see huddled under a bridge, with no place else to go, worrying about where the journey of life will take them and who will give them shelter.
They are the people so many in our society overlook or look past.
The Holy Family intercedes on behalf of those who are desperate and alone.
Secondly, they are the patrons of parents who live with fear and anxiety.
The first words of the Gabriel to a startled young Mary were words to guide her through life: “Do not be afraid.”
She probably recalled those words again and again throughout the next three decades. She would have much to fear. An unexpected pregnancy. An arduous journey to give birth in a faraway city. Death threats. Living in a strange place far from family and friends. Making ends meet in a hostile and uncertain world. Searching for a missing child. Watching that child grow into manhood—and watching, too, as he stood trial and suffered and died.
These are people who day by day lived with mystery and uncertainty.
But they also lived with trust in God and obedience to his will. This is what held them together.
They are the advocates for every parent whose child has gone missing, or whose bank account is dwindling, or whose son is on death row.
They stand beside every mother and father who wonders what God has planned, how they will get through the next day, next week, next month—and to them the Holy Family whispers to them, “Do not be afraid.” Know hope. Know trust. Know that you are not alone.
Finally, they are the patrons of the unexpected. It’s safe to say that Mary and Joseph had very different plans for their lives—plans that didn’t include visits from angels; a birth in a stable; a flight into Egypt; and a son standing trial and undergoing a brutal and humiliating public execution.
When they became betrothed, they didn’t foresee their story unfolding this way.
But God had a different story to tell.
It is a story of “Do not be afraid” and “Let it be done to me according to your word.” Significantly, it is a story that ends in resurrection.
The Holy Family can serve today as advocates of every family who sees life taking unexpected and sometimes alarming turns. They stand before us as models of faith, hope and trust—people who embraced all that in spite of everything they encountered.
Their journey was never easy. But that is true for all of us.
And what is also true is that God is never outdone in mercy. His grace can help all of us bear the unbearable and endure the unendurable. That may be the greatest lesson we can learn from this family we call “holy.” To all of us who wonder or worry, every parent who questions or doubts, this simple little family offers reassurance: Here is hope.
This Sunday, stop by the crèche. Think of what it contains—and what it portends. It represents a future they couldn’t have predicted, hardships they never could have imagined, and miracles they never could have dreamed. Their lives tell a story that plaster and wood cannot.
It is a story of resilience and prayer and faith. In fact, it is the very beginning of the greatest story ever told.
May we work every day in the new year to make that story a part of our own.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Rector Major Officially Presents 2018 Strenna

Rector Major Officially Presents 2018 Strenna to Salesian Sisters

(ANS – Rome – December 18) – In a festive environment, on December 27 Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime officially presented the 2018 Strenna (theme for the year) at the Generalate of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. The strenna is titled “Let us cultivate the art of listening and accompaniment” with, additionally, a reflection on the biblical text, “Lord, give me this water” (John 4:15). The event started with the presentation of a video that summarizes the strenna.

The event began when the FMAs welcomed the Rector Major, who then spoke as the successor of Don Bosco. Fr. Fernandez thanked Mother General Yvonne Reungoat and the many representatives of the Salesian Family for their presence. The event was also attended by Fr. Filiberto Gonzalez, Salesian general councilor for communications, with the team of his department.

“For us Salesians it is an urgent task, necessary and essential, to work by listening and accompanying our boys and girls,” began the Rector Major, who then asked: “What are we waiting for? Why do not we decide to make ourselves available to accompany our young people? Why do not we work on what is important in the lives of young people? What is stopping this task fundamental for us educators? Why busy ourselves or spend time on other things when this is the real educational and evangelizing priority for us?”

Mother Yvonne and Fr. Angel
After the presentation, Mother Reungoat thanked the Rector Major for the gift of the strenna, inviting the FMAs to live and fulfill this fundamental project of the charism of Don Bosco and Mary Mazzarello.

At the presentation of the strenna, which will lead the process of education and evangelization for all of 2018, other members of the Salesian Family were also present: Salesians of Don Bosco, Salesian Cooperators, members of the Association of Mary Help of Christians (ADMA), Past Pupils of Don Bosco, Salesian Oblates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Don Bosco Volunteers, and a large and very active FMA presence, filled the Generalate auditorium.

Accompaniment, the Rector Major insisted, is a fundamental occupation that has “dialog” as its task; its objective, “to foster the relationship between the person and the Lord. If our accompaniment does not lead to Jesus Christ, we are not accompanying our youngsters.”