Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bead Work

For a number of years, in a separate chat room on the website, the rosary has been prayed on-line nearly every Wednesday at 9:00 PM Eastern Time. The person who leads uses a script to "cut and paste" the prayers while the rest read along and meditate on the mystery at hand. While the attendance is small (anywhere from 2-8 people), its impact is tremendous.

There have been three main people who lead the recitation, each with their own format. For about the last four years, I have been the third of that trio. My variation is simple--while Wednesdays are traditionally the Glorious Mysteries, I use the other Mysteries during the liturgical cycle: Joyful during Advent and Christmas, Luminous before Lent, and Sorrowful during Lent and Holy Week.

While I keep Wednesday nights open on my schedule, sometimes conflicts cause me not to be there. Right now, I am the only one who does this. There are times I would like to share this privilege, but no one seemingly is interested in sharing the role.

About a month ago, I received this e-mail from one of the regulars (edited for clarity). It is a reminder to me that what I do is not a burden:
I was speaking to a friend. I was a little depressed right now, with the second anniversary of my wife's death approaching. He sent me this. I read it a short time after the Rosary last night; it filled me with a happiness and a sense of awe. I hope you can pass it on to others if you ever see a time it is needed.

Another testimony to the grace this devotion bestows:


The Rosary: Simply Amazing

Jim Castle was tired when he boarded his plane in Cincinnati, Ohio, that night in 1981. The 45-year-old management consultant had put on a week long series of business meetings and seminars and now he sank gratefully into his seat ready for the flight home to Kansas City, Kansas. As more passengers entered, the place hummed with conversation, mixed with the sound of bags being stowed. Then, suddenly, people fell silent. The quiet moved slowly up the aisle like an invisible wake behind a boat.

Jim craned his head to see what was happening and his mouth dropped open. Walking up the aisle were two nuns clad in simple white habits bordered in blue. He recognized the familiar face of one at once, the wrinkled skin, and the eyes warmly intent. This was a face he'd seen in newscasts and on the cover of TIME. The two nuns halted and Jim realized that his seat companion was going to be Mother Teresa!

As the last few passengers settled in, Mother Teresa and her companion pulled out rosaries. Each decade of the beads was a different color, Jim noticed. "The decades represented various areas of the world," Mother Teresa told him later and added, "I pray for the poor and dying on each continent."

The airplane taxied to the runway and the two women began to pray, their voices a low murmur. Though Jim considered himself not a very religious Catholic who went to church mostly out of habit, inexplicably he found himself joining in. By the time they murmured the final prayer, the plane had reached cruising altitude.

Mother Teresa turned toward him. For the first time in his life, Jim understood what people meant when they spoke of a person possessing an "aura". As she gazed at him, a sense of peace filled him; he could no more see it than he could see the wind but he felt it, just as surely as he felt a warm summer breeze.

"Young man," she inquired, "do you say the rosary often?"

"No, not really," he admitted.

She took his hand, while her eyes probed his. Then she smiled. "Well, you will now." And she dropped her rosary into his palm.

An hour later, Jim entered the Kansas City airport where he was met by his wife, Ruth. "What in the world?" Ruth asked when she noticed the rosary in his hand.

They kissed and Jim described his encounter.

Driving home, he said. "I feel as if I met a true sister of God."

Nine months later, Jim and Ruth visited Connie, a friend of theirs for several years. Connie confessed that she'd been told she had ovarian cancer. "The doctor says it's a tough case," said Connie, "but I'm going to fight it. I won't give up."

Jim clasped her hand. Then, after reaching into his pocket, he gently twined Mother Teresa's rosary around her fingers. He told her the story and said, "Keep it with you, Connie. It may help."

Although Connie wasn't Catholic, her hand closed willingly around the small plastic beads. "Thank you," she whispered. "I hope I can return it."

More than a year passed before Jim saw Connie again. This time her face was glowing. She hurried toward him and handed him the rosary. "I carried it with me all year," she said. "I've had surgery and have been on chemotherapy, too. Last month, the doctors did a second-look surgery, and the tumor's gone. Completely!" Her eyes met Jim's. "I knew it was time to give the rosary back."

In the fall of 1987, Ruth's sister, Liz, fell into a deep depression after her divorce. She asked Jim if she could borrow the rosary; and when he sent it, she hung it over her bedpost in a small velvet bag. "At night I held on to it, just physically held on. I was so lonely and afraid," she says, "yet when I gripped that rosary, I felt as if I held a loving hand."

Gradually, Liz pulled her life together, and she mailed the rosary back. "Someone else may need it," she said.

Then one night in 1988, a stranger telephoned Ruth. She'd heard about the rosary from a neighbor and asked if she could borrow it to take to the hospital where her mother lay in a coma. The family hoped the rosary might help their mother die peacefully.

A few days later, the woman returned the beads. "The nurses told me a coma patient can still hear," she said, "so I explained to my mother that I had Mother Teresa's rosary and that when I gave it to her, she could let go; it would be all rosary in her hand. Right away, we saw her face relaxed. The lines smoothed out until she looked so peaceful, so young. A few minutes later, she was gone." Fervently, the woman gripped Ruth's hands. "Thank you."

Is there special power in those humble beads? Or is the power of the human spirit simply renewed in each person who borrows the rosary? Jim only knows that requests continue to come, often unexpectedly. He always responds though, whenever he lends the rosary, "When you're through needing it, send it back. Someone else may need it."

Jim's own life has changed, too, since his unexpected meeting on the airplane. When he realized Mother Teresa carries everything she owns in a small bag, he made an effort to simplify his own life. "I try to remember what really counts - not money or titles or possessions, but the way we love others," he says.


To Jesus through Mary.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

2010 Easter Card

"Why do you search for the Living One among the dead? He is not here; he has been raised up."

Luke 24:5b-6a

May the Living One bring you abundant live, eternal love, and everlasting peace.

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Echoing The Mighty Song

I already have my inspiration, thanks to EWTN. I saw and heard the deacon at the Easter Vigil Liturgy at St. Peter's Basilica. (The Latin is so much more poetical.) I saw and heard the deacon at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. By the time of this post, I will have intoned once again the Exsultet.

Enjoy the official English version:


(If chanted by someone other than a priest or deacon, the words in brackets are omitted.)

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes forever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

[My dearest friends,
standing with me in this holy light,
join me in asking God for mercy,
that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.

V. The Lord be with you.
R. And also with you.]
V. Lift up your hearts.
R. We lift them up to the Lord.
V. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R. It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God,
the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam's sin
to our eternal Father!

This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night when first you saved our fathers:
you free the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night when the pillar of fire
destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is the night when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin
and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night when Jesus Christ
broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?

Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave
you gave away your Son.

O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God
to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day;
it will become my light, my joy."

The power of this holy night
dispels all evil, washes guilt away,
restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!

Therefore, heavenly Father, in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church's solemn offering.

Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on us all,
your Son who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

R. Amen.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Another Reminder Of Mercy

Today begins the Divine Mercy Novena.

This post provides the information.

Mercy began this day.

It continues until the Last Days.

Hearing Voices

If you attend the Celebration of the Lord's Passion this Good Friday, the proclamation of the Passion according to St. John may be presented in a "choral" form. This form has a Narrator (usually a deacon or another lector), Christ (a priest speaking the words of Jesus), the Crowd (the congregation), and a Voice (usually a lector). After proclaiming the other readings in the Liturgy of the Word, I will have the role of Voice today. In preparing my part of the Passion Narrative, I discovered I will be the voice to three different people. They are, in order of appearance, Simon Peter, a temple guard, and Pontius Pilate. While Pilate will have the vast majority of the sentences, each person will have something to say to us.

We start with our first Pope. The night before, having boasted he would never deny Jesus and hearing the prophesy he would, he was challenged three times to profess his discipleship. Twice, we hear the exact same words from his mouth: "I am not." It is the same number of times Jesus said, "I AM" in the opening section. It has never been easy to proclaim "Jesus Christ is Lord" in any age. In our time, it is just as difficult. "Fear is useless; what is needed is trust." How much fear was there in the Chief Apostle at this time? Seemingly much more than fidelity, as he wept after the third denial and the cockcrow. How much fear is in us? To proclaim Him the center of our life, much less put Him there, takes all the courage the Holy Spirit can provide. We can always become perfected if only we take that stand.

Then there is the temple guard. While his words (and action) were not the most violent rejection of Jesus (that would come later), it does come to symbolize how much of a negative reaction some of the world has to the Word. To some, it is a threat which calls for a swift response. But you cannot deter the Hound of Heaven. The Word dwells among and within us, a never ending echo. Do we have ears to hear, eyes to see, a heart which is open? Lent is to help us empty ourselves so to be filled with Him. How much success was there?

Now we come to Pilate. John has much dialogue between Christ and Pilate. But, there are three short statements made by Pilate which draw my attention.

"What is truth?" The question of our time. Relativity rules. Subjectivity is supreme. Any claims to absolutes are arbitrary. Yet, Pilate stared right in the face of Truth. Somewhere deep inside, he had to know the answer, else why would he repeatedly attempt to get off the hook?

"Behold, the man!" Helping to fulfill the words of Isaiah, Pilate presents the Suffering Servant. Somewhere deep inside, he had to know there much more to Him than meets the eye.

"Behold, your king!" Not as bold as Peter's confession, but Pilate realized what other would not. Somewhere deep inside, he recognized the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He saw the Savior. I think he wanted to believe. Do we? Is our faith in Him growing? Conversion is an ongoing process. I think we can all honestly say, "I do believe, Lord; help my unbelief."

Today, the most somber day of the liturgical year, we reflect on these people as they reflect a little of what is in all of us. "If we die with Him, we shall also rise with Him."