To think that God merely populates seminaries by sheer force of his will, or only calls men in private visions and inner stirrings is a misconception which does not reflect the experiences of the vast majority of seminarians and priests.
Dorothy Day writes: “We cannot love God unless we love each other. We know him in the breaking of the bread, and we are not alone anymore … We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”
During the month of June, we will conclude another Easter Season with the celebration of Pentecost, followed by some major solemnities (feast days). These are Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi (the Body & Blood of the Lord), the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, and Saints Peter and Paul. That is quite a line-up for any month of the year!
Here is what Jesus said according to the Gospel of Saint Luke: “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” How can this seemingly impossible command ever be accomplished? We can assume Jesus knew how hard this would be.
For the second time in my life I am reading Thomas Merton’s autobiography, “The Seven Storey Mountain.” I first picked it up purely by accident during my first week in the seminary, 1949. I am reading it again in 2017.
A guy who wanders around the desert in camel hair, eating bugs and tenaciously speaking truth to those in power captures my imagination. And yet, this year I find myself thinking not only of Saint John, but of the poor guy who, with no warning, was given the grizzly task of beheading Saint John.
We can only imagine the various moments of prayer in Mary and Joseph’s lives as they raised the young Jesus. We can likewise ponder the tone and content of her prayer as she accompanied her Son in his ministry, and especially during his passion and crucifixion. Lent calls us to renew our own conversation with God in prayer…
“I know I look forward to Lent, but I also know how I struggle to embrace its penitential nature. This is a stark reminder of how comfortable I have become with worldly things, and how lethargic is my spirit even in its thirst for God.”
Lent is upon us, and I have been inspired by the words of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in which they call us during this time to devote ourselves to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy that “remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbors in body and spirit.”
Is it possible to love and pray for those who offend us — even our enemies? Is it possible to suffer and find blessings even in persecution? I know of four people on the way to sainthood in the United States who exude such hope.