Monday, December 23, 2013

O Antiphon for December 23 - O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God. (Evening Prayer Antiphon for December 23)

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel
To thee shall come Emmanuel! (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel verse for December 23)

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David.. (Luke 1:32)

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

Emmanuel (God with us). Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace. The Word. Son of the Most High. Jesus (Savior). These are all names of Jesus, and not the only names. Msgr. Charles Pope listed 150 names for Jesus from Scripture plus the Scripture references. Who else has 150 different titles, all so beautifully descriptive of the infinite good characteristics of Our Lord Jesus Christ?

From time immemorial, people had a sense that there is Something, Someone greater than they are. Something, Someone greater than all of humanity put together for all time. A sense that we are not alone or abandoned, that Someone beyond ourselves knows of our existence and cares. From time immemorial, this Something, this Someone seemed too distance, too foreboding, too powerful to contemplate much less approach. But this great and infinite Someone has a love that is also infinite and an infinite desire for us to participate in that love forever. So how could the infinite Someone show us Love, make us unafraid to approach? By becoming as helpless as possible, by making Himself subject to mortals for every need. Only God could have thought of taking on human flesh and being born a helpless Infant.

The verses we contemplate today talk, as do the previous O Antiphons, about setting us free. Free from what? Not merely domination by powerful governments but domination by the greatest evil force of all--sin. Could humans have dreamed that becoming little is becoming great, that being subject to all (as St. Francis wrote) is being more powerful than all, that surrendering to God's power in one's life is to be assured of victory even if, by worldly standards, all cries of human defeat? 

A person who wants to achieve a new look has to submit to make up artists and beauticians and sometimes plastic surgeons and diet experts in order to reach the goal. Those who want a new spiritual look must submit to the workings of God Who is the ultimate Expert in all matters. In fact, when He is done with us, we may not look at all like we envisioned we would spiritually---we will have a better spiritual contour than we could ever imagine. 

Come, O come, Emmanuel, come and set us free from our slavery to sin. Come and free us from our own ideas of how we shall become holy. Come and grant us the grace to put our hands into those of a helpless Infant and to trust Him to lead us in the exactly right path for our salvation. Come, O Jesus. Come, O Word of God. Come, O Bread of Life. Come. Amen. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

O Antiphon for December 22 -- Desire of Nations

O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust. (Antiphon for Evening Prayer of December 22)

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind'
Bid every strife and quarrel cease
And fill the world with heaven's peace. (Verse for December 22 from O Come, O Come, Emmanuel)

 And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. (Psalm 118:22)

The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ (Luke 1: 30-33)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27)

Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ (Mark 15: 16-18)

What does every nation desire? Peace. What does every human heart desire? Peace. Imagine a world where every human being was at peace with oneself; then every nation would be a peace with one another as well. The disordered stirrings of the human heart lead to disagreements, factions, and war. Peace in the heart can only lead to love, forgiveness, and justice. 

Christ is the Keystone of the arch of man; He holds humanity intact by giving it the model of who humanity should be. If the keystone (cornerstone) is removed, the entire structure weakens and will eventually collapse. No human being, no ideology, no nation can be the cornerstone (keystone) of humanity. No human being, no ideology, no nation can know and meet the needs of every individual. 

Only God can fulfill the Desire of every nation, only God be King of the universe.The King of all creation cannot be part of that creation; the King must be the One Who created it. In the King is the power of creation, the full knowledge of every aspect of creation, and the wisdom to know what is best for the future of creation. To find fulfillment, all creation must look to the Creator Who alone is the Keystone of it all.

Lord, God, Desire of every nation, Desire of my heart, let peace begin with me, in my heart and soul. I give to You every bitter feeling, every hurt, question, betrayal, violence I have suffered and ask You to redeem it all for me, to cleanse me of all that lingers to hold me back from fully loving, fully living. How can I fear to approach a Baby Who coos at me? Open me to You, Lord, and give me Your peace. Amen. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

O Antiphon for December 21 - O Radiant Dawn

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

O come, thou Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by thy drawing nigh:
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death's dark shadow put to flight.

By the tender mercy of our God,
   the dawn from on high will break upon us. (Luke 1:78)

Praise the Lord!

   Happy are those who fear the Lord,
   who greatly delight in his commandments. 
Their descendants will be mighty in the land;
   the generation of the upright will be blessed. 
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
   and their righteousness endures for ever. 
They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright;
   they are gracious, merciful, and righteous. 
It is well with those who deal generously and lend,
   who conduct their affairs with justice. (Psalm 112: 1-5)

But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. (Malachi 4: 2-3)

‘Who is this that looks forth like the dawn,
   fair as the moon, bright as the sun,
   terrible as an army with banners?’  (Song of Solomon 6:10)

. . . the people who sat in darkness
   have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
   light has dawned.’ (Matthew 4:16)

Dayspring. Dawn. The time when the darkness of night begins to lift, the shadows slowly fade, and light radiates from the rising sun to brighten a sleeping world. Jesus comes like the dawn, imperceptible at first, but persisting, ever growing in intensity like the light that cannot be stopped, growing in the womb of the Virgin until His birth. 

Dawn. No human can stop the sun from rising or cause the darkness to persist past its time. Jesus is the Dawn. He will rise. The darkness will be dispelled. It happens every day and it will happen in every life. Even those who live their lives in spiritual darkness will, upon their deaths, see the Dawn Who will come. May He give them one last chance to enter the Light.

Lord, You are the Dawn that dispels the darkness of sin, that enters the gloom of my fears and the blackness of my hates. You, if I but throw open the windows of my soul, will dissipate the fog of my fears so that trust blossom. You, O Dayspring, will dry up the swamp of my hatreds so that roses of love will blossom. My Dawn, the Light of my life, You, the Sun of Justice, let me turn my face to Yours so that You may enlighten me. Amen.

Friday, December 20, 2013

O Antiphon for December 20--O Key of David

O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of heaven: come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and lead your captive people into freedom. (Evening Prayer Antiphon for December 20)

O come, thou key of David, come,
And open wide our heav'nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
That we no more have cause to sigh.

I was dead, and see, I am alive for ever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades. (Revelations 1: 18)

‘And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of the holy one, the true one,
   who has the key of David,
   who opens and no one will shut,
     who shuts and no one opens: (Revelations 3:7)

And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit; (Revelations 9:1)

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. (Revelations 20:1)

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ (Matthew 16:19)

Keys are important implements. They lock things and people in, and they lock things and people out. They permit entry where there would be none, to those who have access to the key, and they foil those who have no key. 

David was a mighty king of Israel from whose line the Messiah would come. 
The O Antiphon for December 20 speaks of the Key of David as Christ, a descendant of David, Who opened for us our heavenly home through His sacrificial death on the cross. 

Scripture, however, does not call Jesus the Key; rather it tells us that Jesus holds the Keys both to eternal reward in heaven and to eternal punishment in the bottomless pit of hell. So in this sense, the One Who holds the Keys is, in fact, the Key. The angel who opened the bottomless pit from which emerged satan to demolish the faith and to destroy the faithful was given that key by Christ, the Keeper of the Keys. 

Jesus, while on earth, gave the Keys to heaven to Peter as the leader of the Apostles to bind and loose while affirming that Peter, and his successors, would act in the name of Christ. The current Pope is the successor to Peter, with the power given by God to bind and to loose. 

Might death be somewhat like entering an unfamiliar room where there was but one entrance but two exits? Jesus is seated at a table in the center of this room. With understanding eyes, He gazes at each one who enters. Those who gaze back at Him with love and trust receive His smile as He leads them to one of the two doors which He unlocks. "Here you will be made perfect so that You may enjoy My joy forever," Jesus tells them. These individuals enter the "pantry room of heaven" where they remain until completely perfected before entering heaven itself. Those, in the room of death, who look at Jesus with hatred, indifference, or mockery He leads to the other door which He opens into blackness. "Here you will never have to look at Me again," He says, and those who hate or mock our Lord willingly enter. 

Jesus, controlling at Your Will the gate of heaven, and holding also the key to the great abyss of hell, no person escapes Your notice. One or the other portal will open for each individual. You Who came as a helpless Infant are our Eternal Judge. Yet You not Mercy Himself for those who trust in You. Come, Lord Jesus. Free us from the eternal death brought about by evil and give us the grace to embrace eternal life with  You. Amen.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

O Antiphon December 19--O Flower of Jesse's stem

O Flower of Jesse's stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid. (Canticle of Mary Antiphon for Evening Prayer, December 19)

O come, thou rod of Jesse's stem,
From ev'ry foe deliver them
That trust thy mighty power to save,
And give them vict'ry o'er the grave. (December 19 verse in O come, O come, Emmanuel)

And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit. (Isaiah 11:1)

In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.(Isaiah 11:10)

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." (John 12:32)

And again, Isaiah says, "The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope." (Romans 15:12)

The Flower of Jesse's stem is Christ, descended from Jesse through a long lineage enumerated in the Gospels. The Flower is the culmination of the stem, the reason for the plant, because the flower, upon its death, brings forth the fruit, the source of nourishment and the protecting case of the seed that will generate offspring. Scripture also calls the offspring of Jesse a rod or banner. In war, soldiers were heartened by rallying to the raised banner or rod. Jesus is the banner or rod, raised on the cross Who rallies Christians in the spiritual battles of life. He is the Flower Who, upon His death, produced the fruit of the Holy Spirit Who generates the seed of faith within the soul. If only people would recognize Him, they could not help but worship.

The O Antiphon for December 19 calls upon Christ to deliver from the enemy of the soul those who trust in Him and to give them victory over death. The Antiphon is particularly significant tonight when a friend of ours is going to deliver her dead unborn child as she and her husband, in their grief and loss, trust that they will see their child in eternity for Christ has won the victory over the grave. As our friend said today, "Our job as parents is to do everything we can so that our children can enter heaven. With this child, we have succeeded." Your prayers for this family are much appreciated.

My Lord, You are a beautiful Flower Who bloomed for thirty three years on earth. Your passing initiated the descent of the Holy Spirit Who every moment brings life and faith to souls. You are the banner raised above Golgotha to Whom we look for strength, humility, and love. You have drawn me to You. Let me live with You always, no matter what battles rage about me. No matter what happens, let me trust You to save my soul from eternal destruction. Amen.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, come! -- O Antiphon for December 18

O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out  your mighty hand to set us free. (Antiphon for the Canticle of Mary, Evening Prayer of December 18)

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. (verse from O Come, Emmanuel for December 18)

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 

Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ 

When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ 

And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 

Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ 

But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ 

He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’

 But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ 

God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.” ’ God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”: This is my name for ever, and this my title for all generations. (Exodus 3: 1-15)

God comes at unexpected times, in unexpected places, breaking into the ordinary comfort of our lives and setting us on a new and unanticipated path. Hasn't this happened to all of us? Is it happening to you now? 

Moses was tending sheep, just like he did every day, day in and day out, when God manifested Himself to Moses, a shepherd, and sent him to teach the Israelites the law of God and to bring them out of the their slavery in Egypt into the land God promised, a land "flowing with milk and honey," where they would be free.

Centuries later, God sent His Son, Who called Himself "the Good Shepherd," to fulfill the law and to redeem all of humanity from its slavery to sin and thus freeing us to follow God in righteousness and to experience the sweet nourishment of God's love. 

Jesus'  coming was anticipated and hoped for, but He, too, came in an unexpected way and in an unexpected place. Many missed Him when He came because they were looking for someone else. Many still miss Him because they are seeking peace and love in all sorts of places but His embrace. 

Is anything shaking up  your world right now? As the burning bush caught Moses attention to so that he would be open to the voice of God, is something happening in your life that has you wondering and asking questions? As Moses drew near the bush for a closer look, might God be beckoning you to look more closely at your situation? Might God's Holy Spirit be breaking into your comfort zone to bring you a message you didn't want to hear and a blessing you had not expected or even thought to request? What is your response? "Oh, no, Lord, not me. Not now. Not this. Don't talk to me, Lord. I don't want to be moved." Or is it, instead, "Come, stretch out Your mighty hand to set us free."   

Come, Lord, stretch our Your mighty hand to set us free. You who manifested Yourself to Moses in a burning bush, Who manifested Yourself to the world in a helpless Infant in a stable, You are manifesting Yourself right now, in this world, in my world. Open my spiritual eyes to see You, Lord, and to look for the freedom you want to bestow on me now. Come, Lord, stretch out Your mighty hand to set us free, and give me the courage to put my hand into Yours. Amen.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

O Antiphons--Wisdom--December 17

"To us the path of knowledge show"
We have entered today the countdown to Christmas. The Catholic Church celebrates these next days with the O Antiphons. These beautiful hymns bear reflection at this holy season.

O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation. (Antiphon for Canticle of Mary, Evening Prayer of December 17)

O come, thou Wisdom, from on high,
And order all things far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel-
To thee shall come Emmanuel!

Job 12:12 “With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days, understanding.”

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Proverbs 4:5-7Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”

Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.”

James 1:5 , 6If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”

James 3:17 “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

Lord, You are Wisdom. Christ, You came in the flesh to show us Wisdom in helplessness and Knowledge in a defenseless newborn. You are Wisdom, Lord, and You are full of surprises. Indeed, our meager intelligence and our careful planning cannot come near what seems to us to be the folly of Your intent. For what we consider foolish, You have made wise, and what we thought was the wrong path, has been, because You led there, absolutely right. Come, O Wisdom. Let me embrace with joy and expectation what You are doing my life, no matter how it may look to us who see with human and not divine sight. This, the path I am on, is my way to salvation because You have set my feet here. Show me the way to go, my Lord, my God, my Wisdom. Enable me to walk with You, Emmanuel. Amen.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Thicket of Suffering and Saint John of the Cross

Saint John of the Cross by Francisco de Zurbar├ín, 1656
Though holy doctors have uncovered many mysteries and wonders, and devout souls have understood them in this earthly condition of ours, yet the greater part still remains to be unfolded by them, and even to be understood by them.

We must then dig deeply in Christ. He is like a rich mine with many pockets containing treasures: however deep we dig we will never find their end or their limit. Indeed, in every pocket new seams of fresh riches are discovered on all sides.

For this reason the apostle Paul said of Christ: In him are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. The soul cannot enter into these treasures, nor attain them, unless it first crosses into and enters the thicket of suffering, enduring interior and exterior labors, and unless it first receives from God very many blessings in the intellect and in the senses, and has undergone long spiritual training.

All these are lesser things, disposing the soul for the lofty sanctuary of the knowledge of the mysteries of Christ: this is the highest wisdom attainable in this life.

Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross.

Saint Paul therefore urges the Ephesians not to grow weary in the midst of tribulations, but to be steadfast and rooted and grounded in love, so that they may know with all the saints the breadth, the length, the height and the depth – to know what is beyond knowledge, the love of Christ, so as to be filled with all the fullness of God.

The gate that gives entry into these riches of his wisdom is the cross; because it is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to pass through it. (Saint John of the Cross, from his Spiritual Canticle, written amid the great suffering of his imprisonment by fellow friars who did not want his reform to progress.)

Saint John of the Cross, whose feast day is December 14, wrote these powerful words while imprisoned in a 6’ x 10’ cell for trying to bring reform to the male branch of the Carmelite Order while St. Teresa of Avila was simultaneously reforming the female branch. John was a deeply spiritual and highly intellectual man who has subsequently be named a Doctor of the Church. Yet here in this prison, where he never received a change of clothes, he was lashed at least weekly before the Carmelite friars, forced to read his breviary by the light coming through a hole into the adjoining room, and fed a diet of water, scraps, and occasional salt fish. He lived like this for over eight months until he managed to escape through a window. He was able to compose this Canticle and other poems because the friar who was guarding his cell used to pass him paper.

Everything that John seemed to know about his faith was put to the test in this inhumane prison. It would have been bad enough to be condemned and maltreated by unbelievers, but to have friars of your own congregation abuse you must have been exceptionally difficult to accept. Yet here John realized the great value of suffering and would come to say that it is not enough to accept suffering but we must also embrace it as the greatest good because it is the only way to attain to the riches and wisdom of God.

Popular movies and books often have a similar theme. The hero or heroine must pass through tremendous trials and suffering until emerging stronger, wiser, and mature. We have seen this happen in our lives, time and again. But we do not often recognize the thicket of suffering when we are caught in it.

Blackthorn Thicket
What is a thicket? It’s a place of tangled briers, shrubs, weeds, and trees penetrable only by the smallest and most humble of creatures—snakes, rabbits, squirrels, mice, chipmunks, moles. These little and helpless creatures run into the thicket to escape danger because larger animals including predators cannot follow them into the tangled mess of undergrowth. There is a famous line in both the fairy tale and the movie Bambi where the mother deer tells her fawn Bambi to run for the thicket as there he will be safe. She never makes it. She falls dead to the hunters.

Saint John of the Cross knew that only the humblest of humanity can take refuge in the thicket of suffering. Only the smallest in their own estimation can emerge unscathed. Like Bambi, we must enter the thicket in order to be safe from the dangers of the world. If we do this, and can embrace the cross, in fact, run to the cross, we will find that this thicket will open out into a great meadow of spiritual delight. If we haven’t come to this meadow yet in our spiritual journey, then perhaps we need to be on the lookout for the thicket. It may be closer than we think.

(Inspired by Fr. David Engo, FBM, in his homily on the Thicket of Suffering, December 14, 2013) 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

He Shall Be Peace

But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, least among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne,* Then the rest of his kindred shall return to the children of Israel. He shall take his place as shepherd by the strength of the LORD, by the majestic name of the LORD, his God; And they shall dwell securely, for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth: he shall be peace. (Micah 5: 2-5)

This familiar passage from the Old Testament book of Micah predicts the coming of the Messiah Savior. When we hear this passage, we often focus on the words “ruler” and “shepherd,” both terms of which apply to Christ. But the often overlooked line in this translation is the last one: “he shall be peace.” Not he shall bring peace. Not he will make peace. But he shall be peace.

St. Francis of Assisi seems to have grasped the meaning of this passage. His greeting, and the one that he wanted his Friars to use, was pax et bonum, which means “peace and all good.” Jesus told his apostles that, when they entered a house, they were to say, ”Peace be to this house,” and if a person of peace lived there, peace would descend upon that house.

“Peace to this house.” “He shall be peace.” The apostles were blessing the house with another name for Jesus. It was as if they said “Jesus be in this house.” And if the people in that house were good and moral people of peace, the Spirit of God, that is the Spirit of Jesus, would come to rest on the people in that house.

St. Francis knew this when he greeted everyone with “peace and all good” for who is all good but Jesus, and who is peace but Him?

At Christmas time, the thoughts of many people turn to peace. We long for peace in our world that is torn by war and violence. We call Jesus the Prince of Peace meaning that His kingdom is peace, but He is Peace Himself. What would the world be like if everyone embraced the teachings of Jesus? We would not have to wish that peace would come. We would have peace in our midst, and we would recognize Him by name.

Friday, November 29, 2013

In Thanksgiving for the Schoenle Family

You are holy, Lord, the only God,
and Your deeds are wonderful.
You are strong.
You are great.
You are the Most High.
You are Almighty.
You, Holy Father are King of heaven and earth.
You are Three and One, Lord God, all Good.
You are Good, all Good, supreme Good, Lord God, living and true. (St. Francis of Assisi, Prayer in Praise of God)

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.(Romans 8:28)

One year ago the eight children of Paul and Donna Schoenle were in shock and mourning. On November 11, 2007, their father Paul had died suddenly at home while watching the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on EWTN. At the age of 88, he had done a great deal of work on the house and property. He was a strong father figure, welcoming his children’s friends into the family and treating them as his own sons and daughters. They had fond memories of him. So his loss meant a great deal not only to his family but also to the community.

Now, this year, on November 27, their mother Donna had collapsed at the age of 90 while shopping and died. She, too, have been a loving and supportive presence to her family. Her feminine touch was evident throughout the family house. The children had many fond memories of their mother.

Paul and Donna Schoenle, May 2000

One year ago, the eight Schoenle children, many of them grandparents now, were coming together, the wake and funeral were planned, and they would gather to celebrate the lives of these two wonderful people who had graced their family with parenthood.

When the burial was completed and the children had time to think, they decided to have one last Christmas in the family home. So plans are made, and that Christmas, Christmas 2012, the eight children and spouses and grandchildren and some great-grandchildren of Paul and Donna Schoenle gathered in the family house and on the family property at 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and celebrated the birth of Christ and the joy of the family. There were over 70 people present for that Christmas celebration.

Schoenle Children at Donna's Funeral

As the new year of 2013 wore on, the family had to decide what to do with the family house and the property. Paul and Donna and the Schoenle family have been strong and faithful supporters of St. Andrews’ Church just two blocks up the street which they had faithfully attended and supported until its closure. They were so happy when the Franciscan Brothers Minor were given the use of the church and rectory by Bishop Kevin Rhoades, as now the church was reopened and Masses held there again. The family agreed to donate the house and property to the Diocese for Fort Wayne/South Bend with the intention that the Friars use it as a friary or as they wished.

However, Father David Engo, Minister General of the Friars, but that the house and property might be a good place for the Confraternity of Penitents international headquarters. So he invited the Confraternity to look at the property and house. It is more than we could hope for, and we are so grateful to be here.

Gazebo at 1702 Lumbard Street, built by Paul Schoenle

At this season of Thanksgiving in the United States, we thank the Schoenle family for the gift of his property and we thank Bishop Rhoades for allowing the Confraternity to use it for our ministry. Please join us at this season in praying for the repose of the soul of Paul and Donna, and for their children and grandchildren and all other family members.

The prayer of St. Francis in praise of God seems so applicable to us at this time. And we know that in the case of the Schoenle family’s grief at this time last year, God has made all things work together for the good. May he be blessed for ever!

Monday, November 25, 2013

First Profession of Mother Colette Marie of the Franciscan Sisters Minor: Living the Confraternity of Penitents' Rule and Constitutions as Vowed Religious

What a blessing to be at the First Profession of Mother Colette Marie, foundress and superior of the refounded Franciscan Sisters Minor, a Capuchin Franciscan Third Order Regular Community, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The vision for the Franciscan Sisters Minor is to live, in a poor Franciscan community of women, a religious adaptation of the Rule and Constitutions of the Confraternity of Penitents.

Mother Colette who, before her conversion, worked at MTV for eighteen years, has a strong knowledge of various forms of media which have been and will continue to be a great asset to the community in its apostolate of evangelization through the audio and visual media. The convent of the Franciscan Sisters Minor has a recording studio and computer room for use in this apostolate--the latest equipment even though the community itself wishes to live simply (the convent does not have or want a crock pot as the it doesn't really NEED one--it has a stove).

The Franciscan Sisters Minor prays the full Divine Office daily. Daily Mass attendance is a given. In addition to the work apostolate in evangelization, the community observes two daily Holy Hours daily in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. It also distributes donated bread to local residents and makes a point of befriending them and gently inviting them to Church. The community supports the Franciscan Brothers Minor whose founder Father David Engo is working closely with Mother Colette in the foundation of the Community and who was authorized by Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the Church superior, to receive Mother's vows.

The Franciscan Sisters Minor welcome all inquiries including older vocations. Mother Colette is herself a biological mother of three children and a teen aged grandson. She understands well the ins and outs of motherhood and grandmotherhood and the special considerations regarding clothing, sleeping arrangements, diet, and home visitations needed for aging women. Mother Colette has a joy, a balance, and a prudence so necessary for the foundress of an Order.

Inquiries may be sent to Mother Colette  More information is on the Franciscan Sisters Minor link on the Franciscan Brothers Minor website.

Here are some photos of Mother Colette's profession of the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and consecration to the Blessed Mother.

Mother Colette enters St. Andrew's Church in a procession prior to her profession.

Mother Colette making temporary profession to live the Rule of Life for the Franciscan Sisters Minor. Vow received by Father David Engo as authorized by Bishop Kevin Rhoades. 

Mother Colette, now clothed in the black veil of profession, receives the Rule and Constitutions of her Order.

After her profession, Mother is congratulated with a Franciscan hug by all twenty-some friars in attendance. 

Mother was then embraced by each of the dozen or so Confraternity of Penitents members present.  

Mother Colette with Fr. David Engo following the profession.

Mother Colette at the pot luck supper reception following  her profession, shown with Confraternity of Penitents members Madeline Pecora Nugent, Sandy Seyfert, and Jackie Stevens.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

2014 Calendar Tailor Designed for Confraternity of Penitents Members

One of our dear CFP brothers Paul Phelan has worked long and hard on a calendar especially tailored to the Confraternity of Penitents. He has carefully marked all the Fast and Abstinence days as well as promoted the CFP retreat and gift shop on the calendar. The calendar is a liturgical calendar with the solemnities, feasts, and memorials marked with the correct vestment color and name of the saint or celebration. This is truly a resource for all living the Rule of 1221. 

Paul will be happy to email you the calendar which you can then print out. His email is

He expects no reimbursement for this gift of devotion, but if you would say a prayer for Paul, he would be most grateful.

God bless you now, in the New Year, and always.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

New Insight on the Parable of the Ten Gold Coins

While people were listening to Jesus speak,
he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem
and they thought that the Kingdom of God
would appear there immediately.
So he said,
“A nobleman went off to a distant country
to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return.
He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins
and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’
His fellow citizens, however, despised him
and sent a delegation after him to announce,
‘We do not want this man to be our king.’
But when he returned after obtaining the kingship,
he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money,
to learn what they had gained by trading.
The first came forward and said,
‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’
He replied, ‘Well done, good servant!
You have been faithful in this very small matter;
take charge of ten cities.’
Then the second came and reported,
‘Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’
And to this servant too he said,
‘You, take charge of five cities.’
Then the other servant came and said,
‘Sir, here is your gold coin;
I kept it stored away in a handkerchief,
for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding man;
you take up what you did not lay down
and you harvest what you did not plant.’
He said to him,
‘With your own words I shall condemn you,
you wicked servant.
You knew I was a demanding man,
taking up what I did not lay down
and harvesting what I did not plant;
why did you not put my money in a bank?
Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’
And to those standing by he said,
‘Take the gold coin from him
and give it to the servant who has ten.’
But they said to him,
‘Sir, he has ten gold coins.’
He replied, ‘I tell you,
to everyone who has, more will be given,
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king,
bring them here and slay them before me.’”

After he had said this,
he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem. (Luke 19: 11-28)

Father David Engo recently preached a homily on Jesus' parable of the 10 gold coins. Here are some highlights.

This parable falls between Jesus' visit to Zacchaeus the tax collector and His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. In this parable, Jesus is preparing his apostles for what is going to happen to him in Jerusalem.

The parable talks about a nobleman who went to a distant country to be proclaimed king. The people did not want him to be king and even sent a delegation with this news. This prepared the apostles for the rejection of Christ in front of Pilate when the people called out, "We have no king but Caesar."

Jesus warned that, on his return, the had his enemies brought in and slain before him. This was a warning to those who rejected Him.

Before leaving his homeland, the noblemen called 10 servants and gave each of them a gold coin. He asked them to invest it until he returned. 

Father David suggested thinking of the 10 gold coins as 10 vocations in life. Each person is given one of those coins. These vocations are:
monk or nun
married laity
single laity

Jesus expects a full return on the vocation that we have received. Since we do not know when He is coming, we need to be prepared for whenever He arrives for He is coming for each of us when we do not expect. He is looking to see if we have done well with what He has given us. Jesus is looking for a sacrifice of total surrender to His love, and he is a most ardent lover who wants all of our affection. He is calling for total surrender to Himself, a complete investment of the gold coin entrusted to us. Are we ready to give back to him, not just what He gave us but our gift wisely used to evangelize the world?