Sunday, July 23, 2006

Novena to Saint Ann - Day 6, Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Sunday of our annual Novena is traditionally "Grandparents' Day." In many ways, the day is made special as an honor to grandparents and all who share the heritage of faith and family. A special prayer of blessing is extended to grandparents and usually we'd have coffee and donuts after Mass. However, this year it was rightfully decided that since a day of penance and prayer was declared by the Pope coffee and donuts would be postponed. Here are some prayers of the faithful for today:

Called together as Church, may we live more visibly as witnesses to the God of Life, we pray to the Lord …

Formed in the image of God, may all the people of the world grow together as members of the one human family, we pray to the Lord …

As reminders of God’s unconditional love for us, may grandparents and all who have nurtured us in the spirit of Ann and Joachim be rewarded with an outpouring of God’s grace for their selflessness and dedication, we pray to the Lord …

As we gather around the altar to celebrate Eucharist, may all of us come to a deeper understanding of Christ’s presence on the table and at the table, we pray to the Lord …

In faith and hope, may we entrust to God the prayers placed in our parish burden basket, the petitions placed before the altar of St. Ann, and the needs of our own hearts, we pray to the Lord …

Gazing on the heart of Jesus, may all who are in need of healing be made whole in the One who is Light and Life, especially the sick we pray to the Lord …

Called by name, may those who have died experience the fullness of life in Jesus, we pray to the Lord …

Novena to Saint Ann - Day 5, Saturday July 22, 2006

Today our novena takes a slightly different turn with our annual parish day of service. The formal service program is our "Christmas in July" meal for the needy. The parish has been doing this annually for eighteen years. The meal is held as part of the interfaith "Loaves and Fishes" program which serves breakfast and a hot dinner meal on the last two Saturdays of the month to those who need it in downtown. There are so many aspects to readying the meal and serving it, so there's just about something for everyone and the community is very generous. Those who are not able to participate for whatever reason are encouraged to do some form of service on their own to someone in need.

More on my experiences serving (and being served) another day...

Novena to Saint Ann - Day 4, Friday, July 21, 2006

The focus of the novena this evening: Saint Ann, Model of Holiness. The prayer form this evening was Taize prayer, so reflective, so beautiful. Building on last night's reflection on the Church, Father shared a beautiful reflection on holiness and how the church is filled with saints and sinners but in most cases they are not polar opposites but rather two different tendencies that both live within each of us. The goal of our life's journey is manage our sinfulness and grow in holiness. Drawing our attention to a particular panel of stained glass windows, Father highlighted the extraordinarily human lives of some great saints of "The Americas" and invited us to seek deeper holiness by getting to know better the lives of holy people as well as canonized saints. At the conclusion of Taize prayer, there was an opportunity to shed some of our sinfulness and gain grace through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Another graced evening on the journey ...

Novena to Saint Ann - Day 3, Thursday, July 20, 2006

Tonight our novena continued led by our pastor. During Evening Prayer, he shared a most down-to-earth but powerfully moving reflection on Church, what it means to be Church, what we are called to be as Church, what it means to belong to the Church/be of the Church. There was so many rich thoughts contained in his reflection that it is impossible to do them justice in a summary here. One line that struck me is "We are together for life in the Church." Yes, we can get upset, we can even get angry, but beyond all that, there is something that binds us to Christ and to one another.

I know that I will be thinking about this reflection for many days to come. It really was an extraordinarily accessible, simultaneously theological and practical, reflection on the complexities of being Church and belonging to a Church and staing as members of Christ's Church. A real inspiration and source of encouragement! And very healing on many planes.

The experience of this parish retreat continues to be grace-filled...

Novena to Saint Ann - Day 2, Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Today we had the blessing of Saint Ann Oil. Saint Ann Oil by tradition is most like baby oil so that is what is used.

Given the symbolism of oil and healing, we had a guest presider today, the priest who is the director of diocesan hospital ministries.

He gave a really thoughtprovoling reflection on healing (in contrast to cure) and as part of his words read an excerpt from an article in the recent Saint Anthony Messenger about a young married couple and their journey with healing.

One of the basic messages was that healing is available to all who open to receive it even if cures and miracles aren't always part of God's plan in a case. To some degree this is an oversimplification of the message, but it's the part that most clearly has stuck with me for now so here I share it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Honoring Saint Ann

July 18, 2006

Our annual parish novena to our patron Saint Ann begins today. Please know that, among a list of special intentions, I offer the novena also for you and your intentions so if you have a special need just mention to it to God and know that you are lifted up in this special prayer. An extra special prayer remembrance for all the Anns/Annes, Sisters and sisters.

In this parish, the novena is, in my experience, different from those novenas I was familiar with growing up in northern New Jersey. Those novenas seemed, at the time, supplanted to the annual street fairs that accompanied them. Here and now, the annual novena is more like a parish mission or parish retreat.

This year, our pastor is the Novena Director, and personally I think it's perfect timing.

His focus for the first day, Saint Ann as a Woman of Prayer, was really thoughtprovoking. He began with the gospel reading of the Visitation but drew our attention to it in a different way. Usually our attention goes to the Magnificat as the prayer, but he illustrated how if prayer is an attitude reflecting a relationship with God, the entire passage teaches us the different aspects of being a pray-er.

He noted that first there is the "going to," then the greeting, then the listening, then the asking "how," and then the praising and giving thanks. Truthfully, I had not looked at the gospel as having all those parts, but I found it a really powerful illustration while at the same time he pointed out that there is not a magical or required formula for prayer.

From that introduction he went on to note the moments in Ann's life that must have pushed her deeper into prayer, moments that really show Ann as a model of faith for grandmothering and mothering in our own time.

That led to a reflection on "what prayer is," "how the parish supports prayer," the call to be pray-ers (and think too prayers since prayers are the expression of the relationship with The Holy), and whether/how God answers prayers.

It was a very powerful beginning to an annual event that is not billed as a parish retreat but definitely experienced as one.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Religious Associates or Associate Religious? -- Meanings Beyond Words

After Mass today, I was sitting perusing an "old" print copy of The National Catholic Reporter and a letter to the editor written by Suzanne Anison Thiel caught my attention (April 7, 2006). Responding to a February edition somewhat focused on priesthood and religious life that made minimal or no mention of Associate Programs, she writes, in part:

Have religious orders and their charisms become so stagnant, withered almost to extinction, that they are forced to mergers? Or is there not an evolution taking place enriched by the Spirit, with new kinds of life emerging in associate programs?

I am not suggesting that the Association Movement is a total replacement for religious life but a re-expression that modern women and some men are looking for. Religious life must continue to adopt a model of mutual companionship between the consecreated and the lay person. It must look at new and creative forms of membership and not rely on the old. Together, the religious and the associate can develop a powerful 'new religious life' that will contnue to be a prophetic voice and make a difference in the world. It would be refreshing to see some articles wirtten on religious congregations with new and viable associate programs. I am sure there are places for our young [and not so young, I'd add] ... adults if only we have the vision to develop new kinds of religious vocations."

While I don't necessarily agree with all of the author's statements as expressed, she raises some important and valuable questions, well worth our consideration. I have a few thoughts stirring but want to let them percolate a bit. In the meantime, feel free to share your responses to what she has proposed.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A Hero Remembered (1971-2001)

Five years have passed since my high school colleague, Police Officer Domenick Infantes, gave his life in the line of duty.

There is an online memorial set up for him. In my first guestbook entry there, I wrote:

I had the privilege of knowing Domenick when we were both students at St. Anthony High School and the blessing of our paths crossing again when I worked for Hudson County at the time he was a corrections officer.

He remains in my heart and his family, friends, and fellow police officers in my prayers. Mr. and Mrs. Infantes, Erik, and Betty, in particular, please know that our prayers for you have never stopped and continue still today. Domenick remains ever in our hearts and the truth of his story will be told for generations to come. Domenick touched countless lives in ways we may never fully know, but this we know for sure: We are blessed by knowing him whether as family, friend, co-worker, acquaintance, or through the reading of memorials to him.

Domenick died as he had lived: Protecting and serving. We will never forget him!

Rest in peace, Domenick!

Yes, Domenick, rest in peace! And know still, his family and other friends, you are not alone and are carried still in prayer...

Sisters---Continuing to Give Even After Death

As Catholic Christians, we believe that life is eternal and death but moves into the experience of eternal life in God. For the School Sisters of Notre Dame, not only is life eternal but so is giving. For years, they have been participating in a study on Alzheimer's. Participating in the study means donating one's brain to the study upon her death. The study has been underway for 20 years and is led by Dr. David Snowdon. A book, Aging With Grace, talks about the undertaking, and a recent article in The Monterey Herald gives compelling insight into the lives of the women who have committed to continue to give their all upon their deaths. This is a must read!