Monday, January 18, 2016

Rosary in Prison

Rosary Made by Prisoners in the Confraternity of Penitents Alessandro Ministry. $1.59 Available from CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop on this link.
Peace my dear little sparrow friends!  I have a wonderful tale to tell you today but you will have to use your imagination to visualize my story.

Recently the Holy Spirit fell on the Catholic prisoners here at the Federal Medical Center in a most delightful way.  As I've shared with you in the past this is a federal prison for prisoners in need of medical attention.  Factually a lot of the men who come here are without hope of life to last.  In some ways it is a dark somber atmosphere for most prisoners to live through for most men die alone and with no-one to care for them.

I find myself trying to keep the "light of Christ" burning in my life but honestly it gets to be a bit of a trial for me and others as we try to cope.  However, a little time ago another prisoner came to my hospital room and asked me an unusual request.  The man knew I was a Franciscan and that, among other things, I have a deep love and devotion to Our Lady.  (My room is adorned with a very large picture of Our Lady of the Rosary.)  So he asked me would I lead a Rosary group of sick Catholic prisoners in  the recitation of a daily Rosary.

Now before one thinks elated thoughts you have to remember that praying the Rosary in a group outside the Chapel is frowned upon and usually stopped by the authorities.  I went to a Protestant Chaplain and told him of my problem.  The Chaplain told me to go ahead and if caught "just ask for forgiveness." 

So I figured one or two men would show up.  You can imagine my surprise when six (6) men showed up!  I want you to use your imagination--try to visualize these six men.  All of them are hardened criminals and they are the most motley looking bunch of desperados imaginable.  All of the men are well over 200 pounds and two of them are over 300 pounds and with their array of tattoos and body scars present a look reminiscent of "Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch."  I mean the average citizen would cross the street if one of these men came walking their way!  But, of yes, but, if you heard them reciting the Rosary with vigor and concentration and closed your eyes you would assume you were hearing friars or monks praying. 

I know that these men cause the Father and Holy Spirit to shine in God's glory and  the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary have joy and heart felt love for these men.  Not only that but you should see the looks of consternation and confusion on the other non-participating prisoners faces! 

The Rosary refers to a "rose garden" and the many Aves are symbolic of roses being offered to Our Lady in the form of a "crown" or "chaplet" that is placed spiritually on Our Lady's head with the completion of each Rosary.  So my dear little sparrows she receives six crowns a day from her prisoner sons and that is most beautiful gift from their hearts.

                                      pax et bonum
                                      bro. sparrow (Robert Hall, CFP Affiliate)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Child Sleeping in the Manger Is the Word Made Flesh

 “A holy day has dawned upon us. Come you nations and adore the Lord. Today a great light has come upon the earth.” This is the Gospel Acclamation for Christmas.

The night is past and a new day has dawned. Christmas is a celebration of cosmic hope because, on that day, we celebrate the birth of Christ, the Savior of the human race.

When Mary gave birth to Jesus, she brought forth the Light of the Nations, Who was to dispel the darkness brought about by the sin of Adam and Eve.

In the shadows and the silence of that holy night, a great and inextinguishable light shone forth for all to see, giving rise to an inexpressible joy that has been touched with glory.

The Child sleeping in the manger is the Word made flesh, the long awaited hope of the world.

The story began when “the earth was formless and desolate and when the depths were cloaked in darkness” (Gen.1:2). In the middle of the night, while peaceful silence wrapped all things and the shepherds of Israel were keeping watch over the flock entrusted to them, the Word of God leaped down from heaven.

Christmas is the day on which the great light shines forth, expelling the darkness of sin and death. The creator and sustainer of the world became a man in order to fill fallen humanity with the grandeur of His divinity.

On that first Christmas, a great light had come upon the earth. The light is Christ. He had come to us as the Prince of Peace and as the Lord of Lords.

Christ comes still. He comes to offer himself to all people as the sure hope for salvation.

He is the Word that issued forth from the Heart of the Father, through whom all things were made and in whom all things continue in existence.

What was once formless and void, confusion and emptiness has become a new creation in Christ.

In the Light of Christ, all creation proclaims the grandeur of God, and night unto night makes known the Good News of salvation.

We are the people who have walked in darkness and who have been overwhelmed by the shadow of death and gloom (Cf. Is. 9:2). Wherever the birth of the Word made Flesh is announced, light shines forth because a holy day has dawned upon us.

We have reason to celebrate because the Light of the Nations has come into the world. The child born to us is the fulfillment of all the prophecies of old. He is the long awaited consolation of Israel and the Savior of mankind. We gather to adore Him who is called Wonderful Counselor.

Our hearts overflow in song because the Eternal Word of the Father has taken flesh of the Virgin Mary and has made the love of the Almighty Father tangible. The song begun that silent night has echoed throughout the universe. All creation declares the wonders God has done.

We have heard the Good News announcing the Birth in the Flesh of the Eternal Word. God has done marvelous things. We celebrate the birth of the Virgin Mary’s Son Who is also the Son of the Father and the Bearer of the Holy Spirit. Charles Wesley penned these words:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate deity! Pleased as Man with man to appear: Jesus, our Emmanuel here. 

In times past, God spoke to his ancient people in various and sundry ways. Jesus, Whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, is the culmination of God´s revelation to the world. His humble birth in Bethlehem was heralded by choirs of angels announcing peace to the world.

The child concealed in a stone-cold cave is the light for the peoples, a splendor that calls the world into the newness of day. In the Child of Bethlehem we see the power, wisdom and grandeur of God.

In the innocence of this Child we see the re-creation of the human race. Reworking the clay, the One without Whom nothing was made, left His mark on each earthen vessel and once again affirmed us in His image and likeness.

Gazing into the Face of God’s Son we see the true Light that dispels the darkness of sin and death. He walked among us so that we might walk with Him along the path that leads to our heavenly home.

Words fail us. How can we ever be thankful enough that God has, in so many ways and with such fidelity to His Word, repeatedly spoken to us concerning our salvation? Not only that, but, having sent prophet after prophet, He chose to enter into our human nature so as to cleanse us from our sins. Truly, a holy day has dawned upon us!

In the town of Bethlehem, the Virgin Mary gave birth to the Only-begotten Son of God. By taking to Himself our human nature, the Eternal Word has become the image of the invisible God (Cf. Col. 1:15).

Let us adore the Master of the Universe and the Creator of all that exists. Let us kneel in reverent silence before the manger and acknowledge our Lord and God.

Each of the Christmas Gospels make it clear that the birth of Christ was the result of God’s merciful plan. The passage from John’s Prologue makes it clear that the re-creation of the world was God’s intention from the first moment of Creation.

Thanks to the Gospel accounts of stars, angelic choir and exotic visitors, we can see the glory of the Father’s only Son with the eyes of faith. Through Jesus, we have come to know the love and goodness of God. We have come to know the forgiveness and mercy of God who has never forgotten his people.

“A holy day has dawned upon us. Come, you nations, and adore the Lord. Today a great light has come upon the earth”.

On Christmas we venerate the immensity of God’s love revealed in a tiny baby. We celebrate the day God made Himself small so He could enlarge our hearts. Born of the ever-virgin Mary, He became a child to attract us with love and to touch our hearts with His humble goodness.

We hear the Good News of Salvation proclaimed by an infant, one who is unable to speak.

The darkness has been dispelled by the fire of divine love that burns in the heart of the Christ child that is wrapped in swaddling clothes and sleeps in a manger.

The promise is affirmed. If we place our burdens in the tiny hands of the new-born Savior, we will find rest, and rejoicing will be ours.

Let us come to Bethlehem and adore the Lord who saves us from the darkness of sin and makes us children of God. “I invite you, then, to pause before the Nativity scene, for there God's tenderness speaks to us. There we contemplate divine mercy, made flesh so that we gaze tenderly upon it. Above all, it wishes to move our hearts” (Pope Francis).

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

The Prophetess Anna

 “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 JN. 2:15).

Perhaps Saint John was recalling the words of Jesus: “For wherever your treasure is, there the desires of you heart will also be” (Mat. 6:21).

And again, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and worldly wealth” (Mat. 6:24).

In order to be disciples of Christ, we need to keep our heart pure and in order because our citizenship is in heaven (Cf. Phil. 3:20). We need to distance ourselves from anything that would keep our sights from our ultimate goal. Forgetting the things that are of this world, we must reach with all our might for what lies ahead because the world as we know it is passing away (Cf. 1 Jn. 2:17).

Eternal life is a gift of God presented to us in the hands of the infant born in Bethlehem. Unfortunately, we live in a society that seeks to ban the telling of the story of that silent night. With the weakening of the nuclear family, much of the ethnic flavor has been lost and the rituals of Christmas have been forgotten. While many people claim to be striving for the finish line, they have lost their compass and keep wandering from the path.

When Pope Francis opened the Holy Door, he presented us with a path that will lead us home. In his 2013 pastoral letter announcing the Light is On initiative, Cardinal Donald Wuerl wrote: Welcome! Our doors are open and the light is on. The invitation is offered, but each of us must take the steps necessary to cross the threshold. 

Anna and Simeon with the Infant Christ and His Parents
We need the witness of venerable old people like Anna the prophetess, people who have clung to the anchor of faith. This renowned elder made God all in all and set her heart on God’s promise. She knew that God required total surrender to His Law. She knew that to embrace His Law she needed to find her home in Him.

Widowed and childless, Anna heard the call of God and allowed Him to pitch His tent in her heart. Earthly joys had passed away, but she knew God’s faithful love to be everlasting. Guided by the light of faith, she was able to see the Presence of the Living God in an infant. Listening with the ears of her heart, she heard the call of God in Jesus’ infant cries.

Uninhibited by worldly concerns, Anna was free to follow wherever God led. Responding to the summons of the Holy Spirit, Anna worshiped God in holy abandon and encouraged any who would listen to accept the mercy of God offered in the new-born infant.

The life and witness of this aged woman shows us the path to truth and life. Having breathed the breath of the Spirit, she gave herself to prayer, fasting and the service of God.

Her fidelity to God demanded patience and vigilance. She remained faithful to her life of service in response to the fidelity of God to His promise.

Because she longed to know the loving embrace of God, she was able to embrace her redeemer in her arms when she heard his voice.

Knowing that her journey was nearing its end, she was able to recognize the advent of the new creation.

May we be found worthy of such a companion on our faith journey.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO