Pondering to Open Ourselves to the Sacred

Some time ago, I was a team member at a healing retreat for women in recovery. The women all had some kind of addiction to drugs or alcohol, and they all admitted that they did some shameful things in order to feed it.

Through the course of the retreat, the women were given the opportunity to share their entire story in an environment that was confidential, nonjudgmental and loving. As they shared, I could not help but think they were modern-day Mary Magdalenes waiting for Christ to love them into being. Then I realized that Christ had no hands but mine; no voice but mine; no words but mine.

Could Anything Else Go Wrong?

My middle name, William, was given to me by my parents to honor my Godfather, William Everly. Never have I taken the time to delve into the life of St. William. That changed on June 8 when my Saint of the Day email featured – you guessed it – Saint William. It was only a very brief biographical sketch so I went digging more deeply to get the rest of the story.

Turns out he was an Archbishop of York (not Pennsylvania) in 12th century England and his life has quite the story to tell. Born into a powerful family – his father was treasurer to King Henry I – William seemed destined for great things. His uncle was next in line to the English throne. But a series of things seemed to go wrong for the poor man.

Love has Two Feet

As I witness and reflect upon the demonstrations in our cities, nationally and locally, over the tragic death of George Floyd and the whole issue of racism, here’s a story that I believe has relevance in our present, disquieting situation.

“Once upon a time there was a town that was built just beyond the bend of a large river. One day, some of the children from the town were playing beside the river when they noticed three bodies floating in the water. They ran for help and the townsfolk quickly pulled the bodies out of the water.

How an Epidemic Gave Us an Epic Monk

You are probably familiar with the early Benedictine monk who goes by the name Venerable Bede. His Feast Day is May 25. He was one of the early giants in English Literature, right up there with Chaucer and company. His life, which began around 673, was highly influenced by a virulent epidemic that raged across England in multiple waves during his lifetime.

When he was a young lad of 7, his parents put him in the Benedictine monastery of Saints Peter and Paul, – apparently not an uncommon practice back in the day. When he was 13, he transferred to the newly founded monastery of Jarrow in Northeast England. Within months of the monastery’s opening, a plague ravaged the area. Within a year all the monks of Jarrow had died – save the Abbot and the teenaged Bede. The old man and the novice sang the Liturgical Hours together, alternating verses in an otherwise empty choir. Bede served the Abbot’s Mass throughout the dark days of the plague. No one else could be present.

Studies, Prayer Continue for Seminarians via Remote Formation

In the midst of hungering for Sacramental Communion, longing to return to the seminary, praying for the lives impacted by COVD-19 and navigating the challenges of remote learning, seminarian Richard Groff has come to understand that the struggles associated with the current pandemic are part of his formation.

Not being able to attend Mass and receive the Holy Eucharist “has been one of the biggest challenges for me as a seminarian,” he said in a Zoom interview from his home.

Rogation Days Are Here Again

What to do when your diocese is overwhelmed by hostile invaders and natural disasters? Around 470 Saint Mamertus, Bishop of Vienne in Dauphiny (today’s France), had to figure out a plan of action. The Goths, the Huns, earthquakes, fires and crop failures were plaguing the faithful of his diocese. What to do? How about turning to God? He initiated “rogation” or “asking” processions – several days of penitential processions with public supplications. The devotion soon spread far beyond Vienne. In 816 Pope Leo III introduced this practice into Rome and eventually it was observed throughout the Church. There were processions during which the Litany of the Saints, Psalms and other prayers were chanted, followed by a special Rogation Day Mass on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension Thursday.

Mothers and Saints

Many of us looking back on our childhood and young adulthood are humble enough to admit “My mother is/was a saint.” We probably did not accord our mothers the high honor at the time but now in retrospect they should be canonized for their limitless patience, unflagging perseverance and unconditional love. Since we just observed Mother’s Day and since I have been on a roll recently writing about two saints, I got to thinking about saints – ancient and recent – who were mothers.

The Value of Spiritual Communion

In the last reflection I wrote about a very contemporary young man on the path to sainthood. Now I want to share one of the most unusual saint stories that I have ever heard. I first learned of this Holy One on retreat this past January with the bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The experience of this saint has a particular relevance in our present situation where almost all Catholics are prevented from receiving the Eucharist and limited to making a Spiritual Communion.

The Path to Sainthood

When I meet with the Confirmation candidates before the Mass, I like to remind them of the great diversity that exists among the canonized saints. After all they have been browsing through the Saints’ Who’s Who to determine what name they want to be called at the moment of their Confirmation. We often have a very narrow idea regarding the saints’ personalities, virtues and behaviors. But, in fact, there is no one pattern a man, woman or child must fit into to exhibit sanctity. Some Holy Ones were kings or queens and some homeless; some were highly educated, great scholars and authors and others never had one hour of formal education; some lived into advanced old age and others died in youth. All saints don’t look alike.