Station X: Jesus is stripped of his garments

A Reading from the Book of Psalms 22:19

They divide my clothing among them, they cast lots for my robe.

In the fullness of time, Lord Jesus, you clothed yourself in our humanity, you whose "train filled the temple" (Is 6:1); already, you are walking in our midst, and those who wish to touch the hem of your garments are healed. But you have been stripped even of this garment, Lord! They have stolen your cloak and you have also given us your tunic (cf. Mt 5:40). You have allowed the veil of your flesh to be torn so that we might once more be admitted into the Father’s presence (cf. Heb 10:19-20).

We thought we could find fulfilment by ourselves, independently of you (cf. Gen 3:4-7). We found ourselves naked, but in your infinite love you reclothed us with the dignity of sons and daughters of God and of his sanctifying grace.

Bestow, Lord, upon the children of the Eastern Churches – stripped by various difficulties, sometimes to the point of persecution, and weakened by emigration – the courage to remain in their countries to proclaim the Good News.

O Jesus, Son of Man,
who were stripped so as to reveal to us
the new creation raised from the dead,
tear in us the veil that separates us from God
and weave in us your divine presence.
Grant us to conquer fear
before the events of life
that strip us and leave us naked,
and to put on the new man of our Baptism,
in order that we may announce the Good News,
proclaiming that you are the only true God
who guides history.
Amen.

Notes from Exile – Day 4

Settling in.  That’s how it feels as I work on settling into a routine.  The only problem is that there is nothing routine about this, as we react to news and events that change almost instantaneously.

I think the key to this is to sort out what needs to happen now versus what can wait a bit.  It’s triage, if you will.  For those of us who work in Church, it’s an everyday occurrence. 

I’ve never seen or experienced a Church office that would consider itself “fully funded” or “fully staffed.”  We make do with what we have, and we stretch resources to their breaking point.  When we are in that space, we learn how to deal with what’s on fire now, what is smoldering, what has the potential for a blaze, and what looks like it is stable for now.

The problem is that there is nothing stable right now.  Things seem to change by the minute.  We are challenged in making decisions that are based on current information when the current information is only relevant for a few minutes! 

This is what we are faced with, and we will handle it.  Church always has a way to handle it, because this is the church of Jesus Christ, who is still its head.  Yesterday, today, and always.

I don’t have a routine yet.  I anticipate that at some point in the future I will do things at the same time each day, but for right now I’m practicing triage here.  What is on fire at this very moment is the financial health of our parishes.  We need to deal with that right here, right now.  This crisis will end, but the effects of the changes put in place today will be with us for a long time.

One more thing.

Yesterday was the Feast of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary. I recently started a 33-day journey on consecrating my life to St. Joseph, and I’m following a plan laid out in a book Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of our Spiritual Father by Father Donald H. Calloway, MIC.  It is available at Catholic Supply Company.  

My original plan was to finish this consecration on a feast that celebrates St. Joseph.  Yet given the current situation in the world, I thought one more person praying and consecrating himself to St. Joseph might help things, even just a little.  I highly recommend this course of action and Fr. Calloway’s book. 

I missed posting “Notes from Exile – Day 3” but I didn’t miss praying to St. Joseph, asking for his intercessions.

St. Joseph, pray for us.

Station IX: Jesus falls for the third time under the weight of the Cross

A Reading from the Second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 5:14-15

The love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

For the third time Jesus falls under the Cross, burdened with our sins, and for the third time he seeks to get up again, summoning up the strength that remains to him, so as to continue his journey towards Golgotha, refusing to let himself be crushed and to succumb to temptation.

From the moment of his Incarnation, Jesus carries the Cross of human suffering and sin. He has fully and eternally assumed human nature, showing men that victory is possible and that the path towards divine sonship is open.

Lord Jesus,
the Church, born from your open side,
is oppressed under the Cross of the divisions
that distance Christians from one another
and from the unity that you willed for them;
they turn away from your desire
“that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21)
as the Father is with you.
This cross bears down with all its weight
on their lives and on their common testimony.
Grant us, Lord, the wisdom and the humility
to rise once more and to move forward along the path of unity,
in truth and love,
without succumbing to the temptation
to have recourse merely to the criteria
of personal or sectarian interests,
in the face of our divisions (cf. Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 11).

Grant that we may renounce the mentality of division,
“lest the Cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor 1:17).
Amen.

Station VIII: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem who weep for him

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke 23:27-28

There followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”

On the path to Calvary, the Lord meets the women of Jerusalem. These women are weeping at the Lord’s sufferings as if it were suffering without hope. All they can see in the Cross is the wood, sign of a curse (cf. Dt 21:23), whereas the Lord chose it as a means of Redemption and Salvation.

In the Passion and Crucifixion, Jesus gives his life as a ransom for many. Thus he gave relief to those who were oppressed under the yoke and he consoled the afflicted. He wiped away the tears of the women of Jerusalem and opened their eyes to Paschal truth.

Our world is full of afflicted mothers, of women whose dignity has been wounded, abused by discrimination, injustice and suffering (cf. Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 60). O suffering Christ, be their peace and be a balm to their wounds.

Lord Jesus,
by your incarnation from Mary,
“Blessed among women” (Lk 1:42),
you raised the dignity of every woman.
With the Incarnation
you unified the human race (cf. Gal 3:26-28).

Lord,
may the encounter with you be the desire of our hearts.
Let our path, filled with sufferings,
always be a path of hope,
with you and towards you
who are the refuge of our life
and our Salvation.

Notes from Exile – Day 2

Notes from Exile – Day 2

Lexie looks out the window wishing for freedom.

I’m keeping count of the days in exile simply for my own benefit.  At my advanced age, I need to keep numbers in front of me lest I forget where I am in the count.

An advantage to working from home is there is not temptation to get up and wander around, bothering my workmates.  Another advantage is that it is a little harder to get called into meetings at a moment’s notice. 

Those things aside, I am finding some silver linings in what appears to be a cloud that gets darker by the day.

In our diocese, all Masses have been suspended, schools are closed, parish events have been cancelled.  Heck, even Friday Lenten fish fries have been cancelled, so we know this is really serious! But what I am finding is a sense of community, aid, charity, and caring that seemed so rare in our world not long ago.

Since this is a blog about stewardship, and stewardship is about taking care of all gifts God has given us, which includes money, let me get down to the nitty gritty here regarding that touchy subject – money.

We are working with parishes to get them up and running with livestreaming Mass, staying in touch with parishioners using available technology, and helping them with their offertory needs.  A harsh reality of this whole virus adventure is that with people unable to attend Mass, they don’t have a way to get the envelope with their contribution to the church.

Online giving is a BIG thing these days, but we as Church have been slow to embrace it as a standard.  Parishes still depend a great deal on envelopes, checks, and cash in the basket on Sunday morning.  That is stopping, and so is their income.

I know that the economy is awful right now, and that people are hurting.  I also know that when people hurt, they turn to their church for help.  That’s why it is so important for those who can give to continue to give, and they can do that through online giving.

Several companies are reducing or eliminating fees for parishes to offer online giving.  Our finance department has made the option available to parishes by using already-established diocesan resources.  Everyone understands there is a big problem, and I am seeing an all-hands-on-deck approach to help solve it.

I’ve been in business and Church business a long time.  I’ve seen bad situations made worse by people carpet-bagging their way into the pocket books of the injured.  A situation is never so terrible that unconscionable people will not continue to do the unconscionable. 

However, today there is a different feel to it.  The vendors I have talked to don’t have the words or energy that says “profiteer” to me.  They see the enormity of the challenge, the vast numbers of people hurting, and they want to do more.

I pray that this is so.  You pray it is so, too, please.  Please, God, let it be.

Station VII: Jesus falls for the second time

A Reading from the Book of Psalms 22:8,12

All who see me deride me. They curl their lips, they toss their heads. Do not leave me alone in my distress; come close, there is none else to help.

Jesus is alone under the interior and exterior weight of the Cross. In this fall, the weight of evil becomes too great and there seems no longer to be any limit to injustice and violence.

But he rises once more, strong in the infinite trust that he places in his Father. Before the men who abandon him to his lot, the power of the Spirit raises him up; it unites him fully to the Father’s will, that of love which can do all things.

Lord Jesus, in your second fall,
we recognize so many of our situations
from which there seems to be no way of escape.
Among them are those that derive from prejudice and hatred,
which harden our hearts
and lead to religious conflicts.
Enlighten our minds
so that they recognize,
despite “human and religious differences,”
that “a ray of truth
shines on all men and women”,
called to walk together
– with respect for religious freedom –
towards the truth that is in God alone.
Thus, the different religions can
“join one another in service to the common good
and contribute to the development of each person
and the building of society” (Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 27-28).

Come, Holy Spirit,
to console and strengthen Christians,
especially those from the Middle East,
so that, united in Christ,
they may be witnesses of your universal love
in an area torn apart by injustice and conflicts

Notes from Exile

March 17, 2020

Not quite as catchy as The Gulag Archipelago, is it?  But Solzhenitsyn was an artist with words.  I’m not.

I went home from work today, St. Patrick’s Day.  No front page news, there.  But this was different, because I won’t be going back for a while. 

No, I’m not sick.  Nobody in the office that I know of is sick. Yet here I am, in self-imposed exile with the only intention of continuing my unsickness.    

In all the reading, listening, and experiencing the worldwide concerns about the coronavirus, there appears to be at least one thing that almost everyone agrees with:

  1. People over 60 are at a higher risk of a debilitating reaction to this bug.
  2. People who have compromised immune systems are, too.

There you have it, as I check those two boxes.  I can’t help the over 60 part, as it is a consequence of living into my 7th decade.  The immune system concern comes from medication I take to combat a health condition.

Which leaves me here at my dining room table pecking away at this keyboard in an attempt at keeping contact with the rest of the world. 

It was weird leaving the office today, carrying two briefcases full of stuff that I thought I might need for the next month or so.  I didn’t want to stop by everyone’s cube / office and say goodbye, like I was riding off into the sunset.  So I just wandered out, saying goodbye to the few people I met as I headed to the door.

Once outside, it made me think of a rock falling into the mud, where suddenly there is a big hole and then the mud flows back, covering the rock, and nobody is the wiser that the rock was ever there.

That sounds so fatalistic and final.  Sad, really. 

Except that this isn’t the end.  I’m just shifting operations for a while, until the world is healed.

Well, maybe not that long…

At least until I don’t feel terrified of getting really, really ill any time soon. 

For now, I will be using my cell phone, laptop, email, blog, social media, text messaging, and whatever else I need to use to stay in touch. 

Thanks be to God for technology!  As much as we curse it, it is now showing its usefulness.  Without it, working from home for me – and thousands of others – would be impossible. 

This isn’t exactly the gulag.  Not a lot of suffering going on here, just some inconvenience.  I’ll keep you up to date.

In the meantime, take some time to pray the Stations of the Cross with me.  You can follow along here.

Adieu.  Keep healthy. Say your prayers.

Station VI: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

A Reading from the Book of Psalms 27:8-9

Of you my heart has spoken: “Seek his face.” It is your face, O Lord, that I seek; hide not your face. Dismiss not your servant in anger; you have been my help. Do not abandon or forsake me, O God my help!

Veronica sought you in the midst of the crowd. She sought you and finally found you. While your anguish was at its height, she wanted to ease it by wiping your face with a towel. A small gesture, but it expressed all her love for you and all her faith in you; it has remained impressed on the memory of our Christian tradition.

Lord Jesus,
it is your face that we seek.
Veronica reminds us that you are present
in every person who suffers
and goes forward along his or her path to Golgotha.
Lord, grant that we may find you in the poor,
in the least of your brethren,
in order to wipe away the tears of those who weep,
to take care of those who suffer
and to support those who are weak.

Lord, you teach us
that a wounded and forgotten person
loses neither worth nor dignity
and remains a sign
of your hidden presence in the world.
Help us to wipe away from his or her face
the marks of poverty and injustice,
so that your image in him or her
may be revealed and may shine forth.

We pray for those who are seeking your Face
and who find it in those of the homeless,
the poor and children exposed to violence and exploitation.
Amen.

Station V: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the Cross

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke 23:26

As they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the Cross, to carry it behind Jesus.

Jesus’ meeting with Simon of Cyrene took place in silence, providing us with a lesson for our lives: God does not want suffering and he does not accept evil. The same is true of the human being. But sufferin, accepted in faith, is transformed into a path of salvation. Then we accept it as Jesus did, and we help to carry it as Simon of Cyrene did.

Lord Jesus,
you have involved man in the carrying of your Cross.
You have invited us to share your sufferings.
Simon of Cyrene is like us
and he teaches us to accept the Cross
that we encounter on the paths of life.
Following your example, Lord,
we too carry the Cross
of suffering and illness today,
but we accept it because you are with us.
It can nail us to our chair,
but it cannot prevent us from dreaming;
it can obscure our vision,
but it cannot touch our conscience;
it can deafen our ears,
but it cannot prevent us from listening;
it can bind our tongue
but it cannot suppress our thirst for truth;
it can weigh down our spirit,
but it cannot rob us of our freedom.

Lord,
we want to be your disciples
so as to carry your Cross every day;
we will carry it with joy and hope
because you are carrying it with us,
because you have triumphed over death for us.

We give you thanks, Lord,
for every sick or ailing person
who knows how to bear witness to your love,
and for every “Simon of Cyrene”
whom you place on our journey.
Amen.

Station IV: Jesus Meets His Mother

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke 2:34-35, 51b

Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” His mother kept all these things in her heart.

Wounded and suffering, carrying mankind’s Cross, Jesus meets his mother and, in her face, all mankind.

Mary the Mother of God was the first disciple of the Master. In accepting the Angel’s message, she encountered the Incarnate Word for the first time and became the Temple of the living God. She met him without understanding how the Creator of heaven and earth could have wanted to choose a young girl, a fragile creature, in order to become incarnate in this world. She met him in a constant search for his face, mediating on the word in the silence of her heart. She thought she was seeking him, but in reality, it was he who was seeking her.

Now he encounters her as he carries the Cross. Jesus suffers on seeing his mother suffer, as does Mary on seeing her Son suffer. But from this shared suffering a new humanity is born. “Salam to you! We implore you, holy and glorious ever-Virgin, Mother of God, Mother of Christ. Let our prayer rise up before your beloved Son, that he may forgive our sins” (Theotikon from the HorologionAl-Aghbia, 37).

Lord Jesus,
in our families we too experience
the sufferings caused to children by their parents
and to parents by their children.
Lord, grant that in these difficult times
our families may be places of your presence,
so that our sufferings may be turned to joy.
Support our families
and make them oases of love,
peace and serenity,
in the image of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Amen.

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