The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, (May 25, 2008) John 6: 51-58

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. This feast began as the Feast of Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ) in 1246 in Liege, Belgium. In the Second Vatican Council the Feast of Corpus Christi was joined with the Feast of the Precious Blood (July 1) to become the present Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. In my understanding, this is meant to be a feast of praise, gratitude and public celebration to God for the august gift of the Eucharist. It was and still is customary to celebrate this feast with great pomp and processions. It is, as I said, a celebration of our gratitude for the Eucharist.

The Church in the United States is not as gung-ho regarding processions as the Church in Europe, although on this Sunday there will be processions in many dioceses and parishes. I know this is so in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis where the Archbishop will be leading a procession on Sunday afternoon. When I think of the Feast of Corpus Christi, it always takes me back to the time I spent in Italy. I was in many a grand procession during that time celebrating this feast. The procession in Rome was unbelievable. They tried to get all the clerics and religious in the city into this procession in their proper order of precedence, an almost impossible undertaking but they tried. The laity was also invited. It was big, but rather disorganized.

The best community cooperation for this Feast I saw and participated in was at Bolseno, Italy. In those days the Feast of Corpus Christi was always celebrated on the Thursday following Pentecost. On Tuesday in Bolseno they would start decorating the route the procession would follow on Thursday with the different colored buds of flowers (no stems). They would make designs with these flowers on the streets and it was the childrens’ job to keep all of this watered so they would stay fresh. During the actual procession, the Blessed Sacrament was carried on a large stand by four people with the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance passing over the flower decorations on the street. It was a very beautiful community celebration.

I do not know how this Feast will be celebrated in your region, but I hope it is celebrated in some form. In any event, it is possible for all of us today to

say a special prayer of thanksgiving to God for the gift of the Body and Blood of his Son in the Eucharist. My God, how great Thou art!

Fr. Howard

 


Monday of the Eighth Week in Ord. Time, (May 26, 2008) St. Philip Neri

Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of St. Philip Neri. Philip was born in 1515 in Florence, Italy. When he was 18, he was sent to work with an older cousin. During this time he managed to find a favorite place to pray and it was during these times of prayer that he decided to dedicate his life to God. After leaving his cousin, he went to Rome where he studied theology and philosophy but soon gave this up as it interfered with his prayer time. Philip literally became a hermit.

Later on, he went to work in a hospital for incurables and started to preach about God to anyone who would listen. In 1548 he formed a Confraternity with other laymen to assist pilgrims who came to Rome and found themselves without food or shelter. He became aware that he could do even more work if he were a priest and after a time of study, he was ordained in 1551. He did a great deal of good, hearing confessions and making himself available to everyone at any hour of the day or night. His life was one of service to others. Philip died after a long illness at the age of eighty years.

St. Philip Neri, pray for us.

Fr. Howard

 


                                                                                                Tuesday of the Eighth Week in Ord. Time, (May 27, 2008) Mark 10: 28-31

In our Gospel for today we see Peter saying to Jesus, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Peter was wondering with these words what was in it for those who left everything and followed Jesus. What’s in it for us? A valid question and a question I guess each of us has to answer for her/himself. What have I received because I became a follower of Christ?

I chose at the very young age of 14 to investigate the path leading to the priesthood. My uncle Raymond, Dad’s brother, was a Conventual Franciscan whom I admired greatly. When the idea of priesthood entered my

mind in the eighth grade, I naturally thought of the Conventual Franciscans. I gave it a try and never looked back. Now I have been a priest for almost 51 years. There have been good times and difficult times, as in any chosen way of life. But as I look back at it now there were many, many more good times than there were difficult times. Now that I am in the twilight years of my life, as I look back I only see the good times. At the present time I am very happy, peaceful and content. I know this is the result of having tried to follow the way, truth and life of the Lord Jesus. What’s in it for me? More than I will ever be able to express! How about you?

Fr. Howard

 


                                                                                               Wednesday of the Eighth Week in Ord. Time, (May 28, 2008) Mark 10: 32-45

In the second part of today’s Gospel, beginning with verse 35, we see once again the radical teaching of Jesus, the new way of looking at things. James and John came to Jesus and asked him if they could occupy the places of honor while sitting with him in his glory in the Kingdom, one on his right, the other on his left. They wanted to be front and center and share in Jesus’ glory more than the others. The rest of the disciples became understandably indignant when they heard about this request. Jesus took this opportunity to set them all straight and point out to them where true greatness lies, not in riches, power, and positions, but in the service of others. “Whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”

Service! It’s the number one value shown to us by Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus himself, the Son of God, was the greatest of all servants. As Francis of Assisi exclaimed in one of this writings: “Brothers and Sisters, look at the humility of God!” Indeed, look at the humility of God. Look at Jesus being born in a stable, wrapped in common swaddling clothes, with no place to lay his head at night, carrying a cross though the streets and being crucified for all of our sins. He had all the power, riches and authority anyone could ever have wanted at his fingertips yet he chose just the opposite: to be the slave of all. What could be more humble than this? Jesus, help us to be great in your sight by seeking to serve those in our lives, by serving our brothers and sisters daily in their need.

Fr. Howard

 


                                                                                         Thursday of the Eighth Week in Ord. Time, (May 29, 2008) Mark 10: 46-52

We spoke about the radical, new way of Jesus in looking at things. We just saw in yesterday’s Gospel how his way is totally different from the attitude of the people concerning fame and fortune. The story in today’s Gospel, the story of Jesus curing the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, is placed here by Mark to encourage us to have faith in the Lord’s power to cure our own weaknesses and attitudes that lead us in ways contrary to his. It is the last miracle reported by Mark before the resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus saw Bartimaeus coming to him and said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” This response by Bartimaeus to Jesus is a prayer that should be on all our lips. The attitudes of the world toward the love of God and love of neighbor are totally contrary to Jesus’ desire for unity, prayer, compassion, forgiveness, the equality of all, and service. Lord, we want to see, and have the strength and courage to follow your way in the midst of division, hatred, selfishness, resentment and power over others, the values dominating our world at this time. Lord, help us to see!

Fr. Howard

 


                                                                              Friday of the Eighth Week in Ord. Time, (May 30, 2008) The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Statues and pictures of Jesus depicting his Sacred Heart always show Jesus’ Heart in the center of his chest and his arms open to receive us. This Sacred Heart of Jesus can remind us just as well of the person of Jesus. Jesus is special to us in that he loves us with unconditional love. His arms are always open inviting us to come to him. Jesus never turns from us, never! We turn from him rather often, but it is never the other way around.

The Heart of Jesus invites us to come to him, to surrender to him, to let him be in control of where we go and what we do. For us to allow this to happen is the burden Jesus speaks of, and it is light. It leads to our happiness and joy.

When we follow Jesus in his way, truth and life, when we walk daily in his footsteps, all will be well for us. This is the message of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, open to receive us, open to us to enter and surrender to him our fears, doubts and anxieties. Jesus will never fail us.

Fr. Howard

 


                                                            Saturday of the Eighth Week in Ord. Time, (May 31, 2008) The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Mother is a feast commemorating the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth after she learned from the angel that she was to be the Mother of God. It is a fairly late feast in the calendar of the Church, going back only to the 13th or 14th century. The present date for its celebration was set in 1969 in order to follow the Annunciation (March 25) and to precede the Birthday of John the Baptist (June 24). Let’s listen to what Pope John Paul II wrote for us to reflect on about this Feast:

“Moved by charity, therefore, Mary goes to the house of her kinswoman ….While every word of Elizabeth’s is filled with meaning, her final words have a fundamental importance : `And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her from the Lord.’ (Luke 1: 45). These words can be linked with the title “full of grace” of the angel’s greeting. Both of these texts reveal an essential Mariological content, namely the truth about Mary, who has become really present in the mystery of Christ precisely because `she has believed.’ The fullness of grace announced by the angel means the gift of God himself. Mary’s faith, proclaimed by Elizabeth at the visitation, indicates how the Virgin of Nazareth responded to this gift.” (Pope John Paul II, The Mother of the Redeemer.

Holy Mother of God, pray for us.

Fr. Howard

 

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