Our Pastor’s Corner, May 17, 2015 – Ascension of the Lord

IMG_1275Jesus said to his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.  These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.  They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.  They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.  But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.(Mk 16:15-20)

Happy Ascension Sunday!  Once, in explaining the feast of the ascension to a group of 3rd graders, I was asked, “If Jesus loves us and lives forever, why did he leave?”  It’s an excellent question.  If we consider the Ascension simply in terms of Jesus leaving us, then we might wonder why He did it.  In other words, the Resurrection would seem to be more effective if Jesus still walked the earth and taught, healed and preached like He did 2000 years ago.  But in our celebration of the Ascension we come to understand that it is better for us if Jesus ascends to the Father.  We can see this in two ways.  First, Jesus’ ascension marks the culminating marriage of humanity with divinity as Jesus enters body and soul into heaven. Now once and for all, humanity sits at “the right hand of the Father” and intercedes for us all.  Jesus’ ascension is the supreme moment of hope, pointing to our ultimate vocation.  Where He once was, we now are; where He is now, we are destined to be.  Second, the Ascension ushers in the Age of the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel of John, Jesus explains the ascension when He says “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go, for if I do not go, my Spirit, the Counselor, will not come to you; but if

I go, I will send him to you.”   Jesus ascends so that He can send His Spirit into our heart.  This is why he instructs His followers to return to Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Christ promises: “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”  In order to fulfill His command to be witnesses to the Gospel, the disciples need the empowerment of the Spirit.

Fr Emmanuel playing bass at last year's Coffeehouse

Fr Emmanuel playing bass at last year’s Coffeehouse

So like the middle film of a Trilogy, the Ascension is a feast of transition. Situated between the joy of Easter and the fire of Pentecost, it is a celebration which is tinged with the sadness of Jesus’ departure but infused with the promise of the coming of the Spirit and the pledge of our eternal destiny.  Here at St. Dominic’s, the priory is also in a period of transition.  The assignments for next year have been made and Fr. Emmanuel has been reassigned to our ministry in Stanford, where he will be reunited with our beloved Fr. Xavier in living at St. Raymond’s and ministering at the Catholic Community at Stanford.  His last weekend will be June 21, and we will have a farewell for him after the 5:30 pm Mass on Sunday.  Also I am happy to announce that last week, we had our prioral election and Fr. Steve Maekawa was reelected.   Moreover, Fr. Steve will also join me and Fr. Isaiah on the parish staff.  Fr. Steve has been on staff in the past, and so we are excited to have him once again join the team of Dominicans.  On this Ascension Sunday, we give thanks for all the ways that the promise of the Holy Spirit guides and directs us to preach the Gospel with power.

~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

Easter: Resurrection as a Spiritual Practice

Blessed Easter to you!

tangere1A few weeks ago, I was speaking with Deacon Dan, and he gave me this lovely handout about how to live the resurrection in a daily way.  Being that we are in the midst of our Paschal Season, I would like to share this with you.

 

Let’s identify some ways we can practice resurrection in our daily lives.

  1. Give your full attention to whatever you are doing, and you’ll recognize the constant renewal of life all around you.
  2. Walk the path of beauty and notice the spiritual radiance in people, places, and growing things — more signs of rebirth.
  3. Leave the past to God’s mercy. Leave the future to God’s discretion. Living in the present moment, the only time when God brings forth new life, is a way of affirming your belief in resurrection.
  4. Whenever you with compassion open your heart, mind, and soul to the pain of the world, you help bring suffering beings back into the land of the living.
  5. When you cultivate the art of making connections, the walls of separation come crashing down and new life can spring up out of the rubble.
  6. When you regularly pray for others as part of your devotional activities, you are practicing resurrection.
  7. Enthusiasm is the mark of a life-giver. When you can laugh and sing and relish life, you are practicing resurrection.
  8. Faith enables us to live with confidence amidst doubt and paradox. When you can trust in your relationship with God, all kinds of leaps and rebirths are possible.
  9. Every time you forgive someone, another resurrection is in the making.
  10. Every time you accept God’s grace in your life and see it in the world around you, your own resurrection is in the making.
  11. Practice gratitude and you are slaying the death-dealing forces of boredom, despair, and taking-things-for-granted.
  12. Bring hope to someone in despair, bring healing to those in conflict, and you are contributing to the ongoing resurrection.
  13. When you can welcome guests and alien ideas with graciousness, you are participating in a new world of hospitality.
  14. When you give full rein to your imagination, you are opening the gates of creativity so resurrection can come in.
  15. When you add even a small portion of joy to the lives of those around you, you bring resurrection into your community.
  16. Your work for justice, freedom, and equality sets the stage for resurrection. When you feed the hungry and stand up for the oppressed, you are a life-giver.
  17. Your little acts of kindness tenderize the world, add to the fund of good will, and set the table for resurrection.
  18. Listen to others, the universe, and your inner voice, and you’ll be privy to resurrections when they happen.
  19. Love God, love your neighbor, and love your new life as marks of the resurrection.
  20. Find meaning in your experiences and speak the truth to power, and you help put death in its place.
  21. Nurture yourself — eat right, exercise, get plenty of rest — and you are helping God resurrect your body.
  22. When you stay open to all people and situations, you affirm your belief that all things can be made new.
  23. Every peace treaty that you sign with someone who is your enemy or opponent is a sign of resurrection.
  24. Sometimes you feel refreshed by the simplest things — laughter, games, play. This, too, is resurrection.
  25. Other times it is the thrill of the quest that spurs you on to be all you were meant to be as a person reborn.
  26. When you practice reverence for life, you can’t help but notice all the little resurrections going on all around you, the continual process of creation on Earth.
  27. Practicing resurrection also means having confidence that God can make something out of your selfishness, anger, greed, hatred, and any of your other shadow qualities.
  28. Find a place where you can regularly practice silence; it will rejuvenate your soul.
  29. Spiritual teachers can point you on the path of resurrection, showing you texts and mentors to jump-start your journey.
  30. Welcome changes — big and small — in your experience and signal your receptivity to transformation and resurrection.
  31. Work together with those who are trying to make the world a more just and decent place. This unity practice is a mark of the resurrection.
  32. Pay attention to visions and visionaries as likely conduits of resurrection for yourself and your community.
  33. Every time you bring to life another’s sense of wonder and affirm that you are all standing on holy ground, you practice resurrection.
  34. By respecting the mystery of God, human nature, and the natural world, you bear witness to the ineffable nature of renewal and rebirth.
  35. By giving voice to your yearning, and acting upon your desire to feel the closeness of God, you invite resurrection into your life.
  36. By accepting your identity as a child of God and your mission as a copartner with the Holy One in the unfolding drama of the universe, you embody the resurrection principle.
  37. Practice resurrection with zeal. Be aroused by life and cherish every moment as a gift from the One Who Renews us day by day.

 

For more information, you are welcome to go to the source!

 

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Our Pastor’s Corner, May 10, 2015, Sixth Sunday of Easter

Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.” (John 15:9-17)

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Happy Mother’s Day! Perhaps you recently read the historic, heart-rending story of Karla Perez. At twenty-two years old, Perez was pregnant with her second child, when she collapsed at her Waterloo, Nebraska, home from a catastrophic intracranial hemorrhage. She was declared brain dead. Karla’s baby was fine, but its gestational age was too young to consider delivery. Knowing Karla would do anything for her child, the medical professionals kept her on life support for 54 days until her baby boy, Angel, was ready to leave the womb. Last month, he was delivered through a C-section at just over 2 pounds, a happy and healthy bundle of joy. In remarking about this historic moment, the vice president of the hospital said, “Our team took a giant leap of faith. We were attempting something that not many before us have been able to do. Karla’s loss of life was difficult, but the legacy she has left behind is remarkable.” Reading this story gave fresh meaning to this weekend’s Gospel in which Christ tells his disciples, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:9-11)

 

Mothers give life. They nurture life. They devote their life to the lives of their children. In recognition of their role as givers and sustainers of life, we honor all of our mothers both living and deceased. As one of our children put it, “We love Mom, because she is MOM!” On this weekend, when we celebrate Mother’s Day, we call to mind the prophet Isaiah who speaks of God’s love for us using maternal language, As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you (Is. 66:13). The instinctual and potent bond that forms between mother and child shapes our understanding of God’s unconditional care for us, especially in times of need. Just as our mother gives us life, so too, it is God’s love that creates and sustains us.

Also, on this Mother’s Day weekend, we celebrate 22 youth confirmations. In receiving the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit, our confirmandi have been empowered to witness the life of Christ within them. This witness is furthered through the recognition of those who have lived heroic lives of witness. For this reason, each of our youth was asked to choose a patron saint and to learn more about the life of this saint in order to share it with others. Each of them constructed a “saint’s project” that included information, facts and the inspiration which led them to choose their particular saint. For your edification, I invite you to peruse these projects which are on display in the Church this weekend. As we celebrate the gift of life on Mother’s Day, we ask the Holy Spirit to renew each of us in the life of Christ, so that we might be witnesses to his love.

~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

Dark Thought of the Day

Blessed Easter to you!

For my own spiritual growth, I prefer to evaluate how my Lent usually goes.

And in evaluating my Lenten Season during prayer, I came across this significant, albeit dark, thought: One of the most invigorating and wondrous feelings a human being can ever experience is falling in love with someone who is in love with you.  Consequently, one of the most painful feelings, I think, is discovering that the person you are deeply and passionately in love with is in love with someone else.

The elation that you feel when you discover that she is in love with you as well!  That she, in some strange way, feels the exact same way you feel when you see her smile, hear her laugh, see that one look in her eyes.  The brightness that encapsulates the world.  Valentines-Day-Quotes-Funny-Valentines-Day-Quotes-Valentines-Day-Wishes.com_Suddenly, not only is the world liveable—it is a place where you want to live in.  The world truly is a wondrous artpeice of creation, and it is that beautiful artpiece because she is in it, and she feels so passionately—for you!  You don’t deserve it, you kinda didn’t expect it, it’s rather scary—but nonetheless—she loves you, and you love her…and life is…wow.

Yet on the other side…to discover that her laugh, her smile, that one look, is aimed at someone else.  Yes, she is passionately in love.  Her world is better because that special someone is in it.  He makes her happy.  Yet.  Yet.  Yet that special person…sorry, it ain’t you.

Oh God, what a life.

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The foundation of the Church’s teaching of the Incarnation of the Christ is that Jesus has the full human experience.  He laugh, he cries, he jokes around.  He drinks (moderately).  He plays practical jokes.  He falls in love.

flames backgroundJesus has fallen in love…deeply, passionately, wondrously in love…with you.  With the grace of the Fire of God, cooperating with the Father, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity willed you into being. God gets nothing from you existing.  He is perfectly complete with or without you.  Despite this, God had a wonderful idea, and that idea is reading this blog post right now.  To paraphrase Pope Benedict, you are intended, you are loved, you are necessary.

God created you because He is passionately in love with you.

But not only that, He demonstrated His love for you by doing something crazy and dramatic.  Because He knew that love is sacrifice, God died the most dramatic, gruesome and bloody way to show you how much He loved you.  We are told in the Apostles’ Creed that Jesus went into Hell.  Jesus wanted you to be with Him in heaven so badly that went to Hell so that you didn’t have to.

God died for you because He is passionately in love with you.

 Shield c

Yet here I am, and here we are, evaluating how Lent went.  The times I ate meat on Fridays or didn’t perform my entire prayer regimen.  The times where I didn’t want to give a full tithe to the Church, or performed my perfunctory penance—not because I love God, but because I don’t wanna look bad in front of my community.

Moreover, we always say “Perhaps I’ll do better next year” but that isn’t the point.  God is in love with you now.  What am I doing better now?  How am I, here, right now, making my love of God more pure, more amazing, more honest?

Happy Easter, everyone.

 

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Our Pastor’s Corner, MAY 3, 2015, FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

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A number of years ago, I was helping to prepare a group of second graders for First Communion. As part of the presentation, I held up an unconsecrated host and asked, “At Mass, who does this become?” With one voice, the class responded “Jesus!” Pleased with their reply, I opened it up for questions, which mainly focused on the practicalities of how to receive communion. After a few minutes, I fielded a final question from a little girl sitting right up front. With a puzzled look on her face, she pointed to the host asked, “If that’s Jesus, how does He fit in there?”

This weekend we celebrate First Communions. The mystery of the Eucharist is at the heart of our faith. As a mystery, the “how” of the Eucharist goes beyond full comprehension. Thankfully, Jesus says, “Take and eat, not take and understand.” So we might not fathom its physics, Christ does reveal the reason for the Eucharist. This revelation occurs at the Last Supper. Knowing that he will soon be separated from his apostles, Jesus transforms the Passover bread into His Body, so that when the apostles are faithful to his command to “do this in memory of me,” the Eucharist will form them together as a living body. Christ’s humility in assuming human nature manifests itself most profoundly at the Last Supper. For on that night, the courage and nerve of most of the apostles and disciples fail. In the face of crisis, they betray, deny and abandon the Lord. They fail to live the Gospel command of love. What is Christ’s response? To become even more humble, to stoop to meet them in their fragility. He becomes as small as a bit of bread, so that, through the Eucharist, they might have the strength to love one another in the face of adversity. In the Eucharist, Jesus becomes small, so that they might become strong. The Passover bread that they share is no longer simply bread, but is the substance of Christ himself which unites them both with Christ and with one another.

In the Eucharist, God not only forms us as a people, but transforms us by his grace. Our Gospel speaks about this transformation, Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-6) The great gift of the Eucharist is the gift of God’s life within us. When we consume Communion, the very life of God transforms us, just as it does the bread. This bread of angels, the panis angelicus, nourishes us with the life of God’s grace, and there is no moment in which we are closer to heaven than the moment we receive the Eucharist. In this moment, our hearts are nourished by heavenly bread. Jesus becomes bread so that we might be fed.

As we rejoice to witness our children receive communion for the very first time, we are invited to once again treasure the gift of the Eucharist. Like the apostles, we struggle to live the command we hear in this week’s Gospel to love another. Jealousy, selfishness, resentment: if we’re honest, we are not stranger to such sins. Through regular communion, we are given the strength of him who became small for our sake, Jesus becomes small, so that we might become strong. Even if we are successful in rooting out some of our more obvious vices, the simple routine of our worship can itself be a pitfall. Especially for us who are in the habit of receiving communion week after week, we have to guard against complacency and indifference. Inspired by Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, we might make his wish our prayer “Remain in me, Lord.” As you receive the Eucharist and return to your pew, join me in praying, “Remain in me, Lord.” As you go about the busyness of the day invite Jesus with the words, “Remain in me, Lord.” As you wake in morning and retire in evening call upon the strength of his presence, “Remain in me, Lord.” And expect Christ to bear the fruit of his love in our lives.

~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

From the Dominican Sisters in Iraq

A letter sent to the Western Dominican Province from our Dominican Sisters living and serving there.

Martyrs of our Church, pray for us!

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers
Since Christmas we have been living very stressful times not only because of the death of four of our elderly sisters in a very short period of time –due tostroke (brain attack) but also because of the hardship we are still living 
and experiencing with our people.

It is true that there has been progress in our condition in terms of housing for the Interior Displaced People (IDP); those who were in Ankawa Mall (unfinished building) are moving to the caravans in the coming days. Nonetheless, living in caravans is not without difficulties. Each caravan has two rooms (each 3x3 m2) joined by a common bathroom. There will be a family in each room and there are about 480 families. In a way, this might sound a better solution. 
However, living in one room increases problems and tensions among the families

Most men are jobless which provokes conflict even within the same family and 
the victims of the conflict are usually the children. Therefore, we had 
decided to rent a house and convert it into a kindergarten, which was 
inaugurated few days before Palm Sunday. This was possible because of your 
good-will and your efforts. We are working on opening another kindergarten in Kaznazan where there are 800 families in that area, suburb of Erbil; there, wehave three sisters living and working with IDP. We have rented a house for 
that, and it will soon be furnished. The families are thankful and happy for 
this initiative.

As for the aids we provided to the IPD, we distributed winter indoor clothes 
for parents and adults in the family. Thanks to your efforts and donations, 
the project was successful and we were able to cover not only IDP in Erbil but also in Sulaymaniyah and Akra. The cost of the project was more than 
$400,000. 

Another finished project, which was supported by the Pontifical Mission, was 
to provide people with milk, diapers for children and soap in order to treat scabies that have been spreading because of the unhealthy environment the IDP 
are living in (common toilets and lack of water). Beside that we were able to purchase towels and distribute them.

For the time being, we are working on a new project, which is to provide summer indoor clothes for teenagers – we are trying to find a seller that will 
supply us clothes with a descent price. We are hoping to start this project 
with the beginning of May.

Some of our sisters started preparing the children for the first communion. 
There are 400 children in five different camps in Erbil. We are hoping to make it a special occasion by providing them with what they need during their 
preparation period and their special day.

Having been effectively involved in these projects and accompanying the IDP in the camps, plus the inconvenience of living in caravans, sisters are truly 
exhausted. The convent also is very crowded (there are about 40 sisters in the convent). The sisters need some rest. Therefore, we decided to send sisters 
to Lebanon to rest for a short period of time in our convent over there. This will be a good time for the sisters to rest and come back refreshed to continue their work with IPD and to be ready for more projects that serve the IPD in terms of education for the coming school year.

We are grateful to all humanitarian organizations and people of good-will 
which are willing to help and are always ready to help.

Thank you for your prayers and support, may the risen Christ raise us from ourhumiliation, displacement and vagrancy. May Easter grace and blessings be to 
you all.


Sr. Maria Hanna OP
And the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena –Iraq.

 

 

Our Pastor’s Corner, APRIL 26, 2015, GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY

Hurley ShepherdJesus said, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.” (John 10:11-18)

This weekend we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. Christ the Good Shepherd is one the most familiar and endearing images of Christ in the Gospels. In fact, one of the earliest known images of Jesus is the 3rd-century fresco of the Good Shepherd found in the Catacombs of St. Callixtus. In this icon, Jesus is portrayed as a vigorous, youthful shepherd who carries a rescued sheep on his broad muscular shoulders.  Here at St. Dominic’s we have a treasured woodcarving of the Christ the Good Shepherd adorning one confessional door.  These images remind us that the shepherd’s tasks of guiding the flock; searching for strays and guarding against threats reveal the spiritual gifts that Christ bestows on His Church.

Good_shepherd_iconIn these days after Easter, we continue to read from the Acts of the Apostles where we discover that the apostles themselves are enlivened and emboldened to imitate Christ as Good Shepherds. And this apostolic work continues. When Pope Francis announced that 2015 would be dedicated to the promotion of consecrated life, he highlighted the reality that Christ continues to call people to share in his pastoral ministry. In his address announcing this Year of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis urged the Church’s religious sisters, brothers and priests to hear Christ’s call to “wake up the world” with their testimony of faith, holiness and hope. For this reason, our St. Dominic’s communal prayer which concludes the Prayers of the Faithful has been focused on praying for the gift of vocations. On this Good Shepherd Sunday, we give thanks for the vocations that have come forth from St. Dominic’s and we pray that our parish is a place where vocations are discerned and cultivated.

wdp vocationsReflecting on the gift of vocations reveals the challenge of the Good Shepherd. In graduate school, I had a classmate who was a professional veterinarian. Being a suburban boy, I was interested to hear his perspective on animal husbandry and farming especially as it related to the Scripture that we were studying. When discussing the image of the Good Shepherd, he said that he always understood that Jesus’ intention in identifying himself as a shepherd was not simply to comfort but to challenge his disciples to be sheep. For those of us who suppose that the outstanding virtue of sheep is that they are docile and perhaps a bit witless when compared with other animals, my veterinarian friend remarked that sheep have remarkably brilliant senses. From his days on the farm, he said that sheep have a keen ability to discern the voice of their shepherd and will only follow him. Moreover, they have excellent peripheral vision, and can see in a 320-degree radius without turning their heads. In other words, Jesus’ implication that we are like sheep is not derogatory, but actually an invitation to develop the same spiritual sense of awareness that sheep have by nature. In this age of constant noise, media and activity that bombard us on a daily basis, we do well to consider how we take the time to listen to the voice of Christ in our lives. If Christ is the Good Shepherd, then he calls to us. But if we cannot hear him, he is not our Shepherd. Let this celebration of Good Shepherd Sunday renew our efforts to listen for the voice of Christ and follow him as he leads us to green pastures.

~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

Parking Lots

The parking lot is perhaps the most dangerous place on St Dominic’s property.  Especially on Sunday mornings.  Cars trying to battle for a spot, children running towards their sugar high at Coffee Minute, the Novices greeting everyone, me trying to do triple-twisting backflips by the grotto…it’s all very risky.

FullSizeRender (1)Two weeks ago, my cousin, Julio the Donkey, had made this dramatic debut at the 9:30 Palm Sunday Mass (really, the family resemblance is striking). The energy of the 9:30 Mass is almost addictive.  The children running around, everyone gathered around the Author of Life to contemplate the Great Deed of the Passion of the Word Made Flesh.

However, I remember coming out of my office to greet the people of God.  I stood outside the entrance of the Lady Chapel, watching the Church in transition between the 9:30 and 11:30.  Julio and his friends, rabbits, chickens, goats, and the pot-bellied pig, wandering around their pen.  The children so excited seeing live animals—wanting to pet them, seeing the rabbits bounce and the chickens dance….seeing the pig…well, be a pig.

Just then, an Oldsmobile crept along from the priory side of the lot, trying to pass through.  Seeing the children run out of Lady Chapel, let go of their mothers’ hands, rushing towards the animals.

The paranoid side of me imagined the worst. I took out my phone just in case.  And admittedly, was thanking God that, this time, I wasn’t the one with the Torch.

Yet I did see a little boy dressed in khakis and a green and white pinstipped shirt run towards the petting zoo.  The mother yelling.  The Oldsmobile creaking by.

And nothing happened.  This ain’t no modern-day Shakespearean drama here.   The boy—precocious and foolish—ran to the other side just fine.

The crazy thing about the incident is at least threefold.  One, the little boy hadn’t looked both ways, despite the running car; two, the petting zoo was there till noon—waiting was perfectly fine; three, Coffee Minute is there every Sunday.

Many a grown-up will chastise children for doing the foolish thing to get what their impulses demand—sugar from Coffee Minute, the opportunity to pet a real live donkey, whatever. Yet when was the last time when we grown-ups fall for our own version of a petting zoo? When was the last time we didn’t look both ways when we crossed the street, and monitor the spiritual dangers that are around us?

the-forerunners-of-christ-with-saints-and-martyrs-fra-angelicoTemptations for succulent food, the one night stand, the latest tech, the bling and blinking, is all around us.  Grown-up sugar is sometimes sugar, but it is also everything that will distract us from the great.  We aren’t meant to be good, afterall—we are meant to be saints.  Jesus didn’t die and rise from the dead so that he can teach us to be nice to each other.  We have Aristotle for that.  No—Jesus died and rose in order to teach us to be legendary.  To be saints.  Thus, it is easy for us to be distracted from the saintly because we are settling for the good.

It is easy to chastise this little boy for running in front of a creaking Oldsmobile on his way to the petting zoo.  Yet at the same time, we run in front of spiritual dangers all of the time.

It’s easier to watch another something on Netflix.  It’s easier to fall into gossip.  It’s easier to complain about our family.  It’s easier to no give of our treasure towards those in need.

 

We are in the midst of Easter.  We are contemplating the Great Victory of our God.  Moreover, we spend these 50 days contemplating Jesus’ challenge to us to be great and mighty by His own grace.  Let us be legendary.

 

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Our Brother’s Corner, April 19, 2015, Third Sunday of Easter

andy armsThis may sound counterintuitive, but I believe some of the freest thinking happens within constraints. And I am not the only one who thinks this way. A few years ago, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Food Network star Ina Garten appeared at an event hosted by Dominican University in San Rafael. The two women shared insights on how they made choices in their respective industries, and both agreed that with so many options available, it was freeing to apply well-chosen constraints to their decision-making. “Sometimes it’s easier to ask, ‘What interesting application can we build on a screen that is this size? What interesting application can we build if we only take eight megabytes of memory?’” Mayer said. Ina Garten agreed. “We keep thinking of making the box we’re working in bigger and bigger,” Garten said. “Sometimes it’s good to make it smaller.”

I find this general wisdom of ‘making the box smaller’ helpful when deciding what I should do in almost any circumstance. Given that most situations we inhabit trigger us to see multiple possibilities for how we might proceed, thinking inside a box can actually be freeing when that box is made of our fundamental principles for how to act. Being men and women of faith who identify the Triune God as the source of our existence and hope of eternal happiness, we indeed have fundamental principles by which we aim to live our lives. Since the early Church, believers in Jesus have utilized methods of narrowing down the fundamental principles that enable Christians to act well. One of the most common approaches has been to use the Seven Deadly Vices of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride and the corresponding Seven Heavenly Virtues of chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility as behavior filters. But what are vices and virtues? Through vice we become dominated by desire for worldly pleasure and fear of worldly discomfort, while virtues are habits that make it easier for us to enjoy things in the world without being mastered by them. The more self-mastery we possess, the freer we are to develop into the people God made us to be. And this is what enables us to be happiest. So, the next time you need to make a significant decision, try filtering it through consideration of the Seven Deadly Vices and Seven Heavenly Virtues. For example, suppose I am a lay person who is considering a major luxury purchase. I may know that buying a luxury item is not a sin in and of itself, but that does not answer the question of whether or not it would be a good choice for me in this instance. Regarding the vice of greed, perhaps I could take a casual inventory of my current possessions and review how habitual my splurging has been. If I do buy the new item, how much time will pass before its newness wears off and I am itching for something else? Also, how do I feel about the level of my charitable giving in comparison to what I spend on luxuries? Beyond charity and greed, other vices and virtues are relevant to luxury shopping. Consider the vice of wrath. Could this purchase’s impact on my budget intensify my stress and cause me to be more susceptible to wrath? Assuming I buy the item, could I sacrifice other luxuries to mitigate that risk? Do I want this item largely because I envy the fact that someone else has it while I do not? Am I secretly hoping out of pride that this new object will make me seem superior to others? Perhaps going without the item could be an exercise in humility that would teach me to care less when peers have things I do not.

Questions like these are just some examples of how well-chosen constraints can focus our choices in a way that maintains our self-mastery. As indicated earlier, this keeps us free to grow in happiness rooted in our faith. Balanced judgment requires prudence, which develops gradually, so do not be discouraged by imperfection. All we can do is our best and apply lessons learned to future decisions. Tech professionals certainly have fun applying that mentality to improvement of their products, as do TV cooks to their recipes. And it is a mindset that can lead to joy far more profound when applied to our lives as followers of Jesus Christ.

~ Br. Andy Opsahl, O.P.

Well, that’s a surprise…

Christ the Teacher, ambo of St Dominic's Catholic Church

Christ the Teacher, ambo of St Dominic’s Catholic Church

This is a first for me.  This is the first time, really, that I have received real feedback from a homily that I have given here, at St Dominic’s.  As I had said before, the usual feedback most priests or deacons would get was “nice job, Padre” with a quick handshake while queuing up for coffee and donuts.

But over the past three days, members of our community have been responding to my encouragement (challenge?) of intentional discipleship this Easter Season.

Anyway, if any of you missed it, you can listen to it again on the St Dominic’s podcast, here.

 

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!