Tag Archives: LCWR

Elijah and the widow

For about ten days the first weekday lectionary readings for Catholics will be about Elijah, the prophet. For many years these stories have inspired me.

Today’s story (1 Kings 17: 7-16) is about the widow of Zarephath, who in her poverty responds to Elijah’s request for water and bread.

She has only enough for one meal of bread and water for her son and herself.  “I am just now gathering some sticks so that I may go in and prepare something for myself and my son to eat – and then die.”

But she shares, after hearing the word of Elijah, “Do not fear.” And there was enough flour and oil for a year!

She risks her life – her food – for a foreign prophet whose only promise is the loving providence of God which he had experienced for several months at the Wadi Cherith, where the water flowed and where crows brought him bread and meat twice a day.

How many times have I seen this generosity, this trust in God, especially from women.

Today a friend, Sister Pat Farrell, and others from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious are in Rome speaking to Vatican officials. I pray that her generosity and her devotion to the God of the Poor – lived out in San Antonio, Chile, El Salvador, and Omaha – may open the way for God to work and multiply the good works of God in this world.

Random birthday thoughts

Sixty-five years young today. My prayer and reading this morning has awakened in me a wide range of thoughts, filled with gratitude.

Here are a few thoughts, randomly chosen:

The reading, 1 Timothy 6: 7-8, for Vigils from  Benedictine Daily Prayer was most fitting:

…we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with there.

I am content here in Honduras. Though I have much more than most Hondurans, what I really need I have – a ministry I love, people whom I love and respect and who love me, enough food and more than enough clothing, and now Social Security checks!

Today the feast of Saint Justin, patron of philosophers. He was probably the first who sought to bring together faith and philosophical reason. He seems to have been very open to the possibility that God saves all those who seek the Truth. In his  Apology,  he wrote:

We have been taught that Christ is the First-begotten of God, and have previously testified that he is the Reason [Logos] of which every race of humans partakes. Those who lived in accordance with Reason are Christians, even though they were called godless, such as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus and others like them.

Does this sound a bit like Karl Rahner’s notion of “anonymous Christians”?

Justin was born of Greek parents in what is today Nablus, in Palestine. I cannot help remembering my visit to Palestine and Israel years ago and the great affection I feel for the Palestinians, matched with the great concern I have had for many years about the failure of the institutional Church and many Catholics to stand up strongly and with courage against the Nazis when the Jews were being deported and killed. Yes, there were many individuals but the public institutional witness was weak – or almost non-existent.

The first reading for the feast of St. Justin is 1 Corinthians 1, 17-25, which ends with a phrase that has struck me for many years, and even more so here in Honduras:

the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

If anyone has been reading what I’ve been writing recently, this theme is a theme that has become central to my understanding of God and the world: God uses the wisdom of the poor to confound the intellectuals and those who think they know it all; God’s strength is made perfect in the weakness of the poor, who, in Mary’s words, “casts down the mighty from their thrones and raises up the lowly.”

Speaking of the lowly, today is also the feast of Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini, founder of the Scalabrini priests and sisters whose major ministry is to migrants.  He lived for 1839 to 1905. An Italian  bishop he was moved by the many Italians leaving for the US and other places and began many efforts to assist them. He even visited the US in 1901 where he met with President Theodore Roosevelt where he spoke about the injustices against Italian immigrants and defended them.  How much we still need people like him to defend immigrants.

Today is also the anniversary of the burning at the stake in 1310 of Marguerite Porette. She was a member of the Beguines, groups of women who led a community life of prayer and charity, without religious vows.  They were mostly in Belgium and the Netherlands where you can still encounter the beguinajes where they lived. She was tried by the Inquisition, which was threatened by her writings, claiming that her spirituality set aside the church in favor of direct communication with God.  Two years after her death, the church formally suppressed the movement. (This account is taken from Robert Ellsberg’s  All Saints.)

Today, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, castigated by the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith (the successor of the Inquisition), released a statement about their response, noting

The board members raised concerns about both the content of the doctrinal assessment and the process by which it was prepared.  Board members concluded that the assessment was based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency. Moreover, the sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the concerns raised and could compromise their ability to fulfill their mission. The report has furthermore caused scandal and pain throughout the church community, and created greater polarization.

A press release with a link to their statement can be found here.

I am blessed to know the current president of LCWR, Dubuque Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell, a woman devoted to Christ and the poor, who spent many years in mission in Latin America (Chile and El Salvador) during perilous and dangerous times. May God give her strength in this new challenge.

These are the thoughts I will carry with me today as I go first to the Dulce Nombre  parish for the meeting of the leaders of the liturgical ministry in the villages. Then I’ll come back to Santa Rosa to Caritas, where one of the programs is being evaluated. I’ll probably treat myself to pizza tonight.

God is good.

Gracias a Dios.

Holy troublemaker Catherine of Siena

Saint Catherine of Siena died at thirty-three on April 28, 1380. A member of the lay Dominicans, she became a major force in troubled times in the Church. She was a terrible pain in the side of many – especially within the church. But this grew out of her deep love of Christ.

For about three years she enclosed herself in her room in contemplation with the Lord – suffering terrible temptations but also mystical experiences of the presence of Christ.

Something happened on the day before Ash Wednesday in 1367. She described it as a mystical espousal with the Lord who place a ring on her finger, visible only to herself.  But what is even more extraordinary is that this began a second stage of her spiritual life, a life devoted to serving the poor, the sick, prisoners and victims fo the plague. She resisted, wanting Christ for herself. But, as she related in The Dialogue, Christ tells her:

You must love others with the same pure love with which I love you.

She also gathered a group of disciples around her who affectionately called her Mamma.

But this was not the only call she believe she received from the Lord. In 1374, after a near-death experience, she began to speak publicly  and preach about the evils of corruption in the church and poverty. She also was a peacemaker, especially between feuding families in her hometown.

Some church authorities were upset by a lay woman preaching but her holiness won out.

She was especially adamant that the Pope who was residing in Avignon, France, should return to Rome. Her letters are full of strong words, addressing the pope as if he were a naughty boy. “Be a courageous man for me and not a coward,” she wrote.

This, of course, set tongues wagging about this troublesome woman. But she finally persuaded Pope Gregory IX to return to Rome. But after his death there were more troubles when a Pope and an anti-Pope were elected.

Although she supported the very unworthy Pope Urban VI, she also had strong words for him:

Sweetest father, the world cannot bear any more; vices are so abundant, especially among those who were put in the garden of Holy Church to be fragrant flowers, shedding the fragrance of virtue; and we see that they abound in wretched, hateful vices, so that they make the whole world reek! Oh me! where is the purity of heart and perfect charity which should make the incontinent continent by contact with them? It is quite the contrary: many a time the continent and the pure are led by their impurities to try incontinence. Oh me! where is the generosity of charity, and the care of souls, and distribution to the poor and to the good of the Church, and their necessities? You know well that men do quite the contrary. Oh me miserable! With grief I say it –your sons nourish themselves on the wealth they receive by ministering the Blood of Christ, and are not ashamed of being as money-changers, playing with those most sacred anointed hands of yours, you Vicar of Christ: without speaking of the other wretched deeds which they commit.

In light of the current controversies about the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, we should recall the life and preaching of St. Catherine of Siena who was not afraid to speak out in the face of the evils of her time, even those found in the papal household. She, like many religious women I know, saw evil and spoke out, based in her love of Christ and love of His poor.