Tuesday, June 30, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19~24

                                            

Not long after the last posting here, the evening of May 22, I became violently ill and the accompanying pain was so severe I called 911 and was taken by ambulance to the Community Hospital where I was put in ICU on oxygen and a morphine drip.

After a few days I was moved to the critical care wing, the drip was replaced with injections throughout the day and night for pain, and I was put on other IVs to deal with pneumonia, fluid on the lungs and another infection. CAT scans and x-rays, an ECG and blood tests, became part of the routine while I remained very weak and bed ridden. Also, I was only on fluids for nourishment. The team of 3 doctors said I was suffering severe pancreatitis, which had them baffled as I had none of the underlying conditions for such an illness.

While because of Covid-19 protocols, no visitors were permitted into the hospital I was able, as I had my cell phone from when I called the ambulance, to have my family drop off a charger so we were able to keep in touch. This was particularly helpful when – still in hospital, bed ridden, hooked up to oxygen and IVs, the doctors, on May 31, my 35th ordination anniversary, said no longer in my life could I consume even a teaspoon or less of wine for Holy Mass. This was stunning and heartbreaking, but I recalled something Pope Benedict had granted years ago for priests who cannot consume fermented wine, so called a friend who checked and verified that priests may use a non-fermented wine called Mustum, which my own doctor approved my using once I was back in the poustinia.

By June 1st I was off fluids and starting solid food, small amounts at first, off the oxygen, pneumonia and fluid on the lungs healed, though I remained on high doses of pain meds as the doctors said that aspect of healing would take a few weeks. The physiotherapists helped me start to walk after the long time in bed and by June 6th I was released and now in poustinia continue the long journey of recuperation.

Around the world in various ways people are saying thank-you to Frist Responders, Doctors, Nurses, and countless others caring for us during this pandemic.

Living in Canada where we are blessed with free universal medical care I did not have, as people in many countries do, the stress of wondering how things would be paid for and so I am grateful to those in government, politicians and civil servants, and to working men and women who pay taxes, for our system of medical care.

Deep gratitude to the doctors, nurses, and all the staff who took such care of myself and everyone in the hospital needing care.

Thank-you also to my family and friends whose phone calls, bringing me back from the hospital, getting prescriptions, groceries and lavishing love and prayer, helped me get through the long hospital stay and to continue this journey of recovery.

 

 © 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Monday, May 18, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19~23

                                         

Whenever a priest celebrates Holy Mass/the Divine Liturgy, the entire Heavenly Court: the Holy Trinity, Our Blessed Mother, all the Angels, Saints, Martyrs, all the blessed who dwell therein, are present, surrounding the altar, filling the church, no matter how grand or small the edifice, with all the radiant love, joy, light which flows upon us, and, if we open wide the doors of our being, permeates us!

Psalm 149.9 proclaims the truth that: the Lord delights in His people, that’s each one of us first individually, for are all His children, and then communally as one human family. Through Baptism we become members of the body of Christ, and this too is both an individual and communal reality, as St. Paul teaches about the body of Christ: If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honoured, all the parts share its joy. [1Cor.12:26]

Blaise Pascal in his Pensées, a series of reflections on faith and life, urges us: “In difficult times carry something beautiful in your heart.”

The greatest beauty we can carry in our hearts is Christ Himself, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit delights in dwelling within us and if we strive to be true disciples of Christ then it is the beauty of the Holy Trinity which will radiate from our hearts upon all our brothers and sisters, for indeed these are the very difficult times when beauty is needed, a beauty which gives hope.

It is when we open our hearts also to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit within that, we who have been created as delight of God, therefore for happiness, the real happiness which is gift, not the ersatz happiness of mere pleasure, experience the Holy Spirit’s gift of joy, which is also to experience the true freedom of the children of God.

Therein that freedom is experienced also the consolation of hope.

The freedom of the children of God is living in but not of the world, living not bent towards ourselves but walking open hearted, towards others in imitation of Christ, protected, comforted, interceded for and loved by those who have gone before us and now dwell in the eternal happiness, beauty, joy, that is the eternal communion of love with the Most Holy Trinity who delights in us.

Every time we pray-proclaim the Apostles’ Creed we profess belief in the Communion of Saints.

Communion with the saints: "It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself" [1]

Sometimes by ancient tradition, sometimes by designation at the time of their canonization, those in the heavenly kingdom, who have traveled the road of life, been pilgrims of the Absolute before us, are known as the patron saints of a particular country, city, town, village, parish, among these would be St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Protectress of Canada, while others are patrons of various professions such as St. Joseph patron of carpenters, others, like St. Jude, intercessor for ‘impossible situations’, are called upon for various needs.

While it is wonderful all the gestures of gratitude to the doctors, nurses and others caring for us, protecting us, assuring there is food, etc., it also is a time to call upon those Saints who are patrons both for those who care for us, and indeed for those sickened, physically or mentally, by the virus or the impact of isolation.

When this link appears: https://catholicsaints.info/   scrolling to ‘saints in the medical field’ shows not only the patron saints of doctors, such as St. Luke, and nurses but also those of, for example EMTs, or police officers for whom St. Michael the Archangel is one of the patrons.

Jesus’ promise not to leave us orphans, Jn.14:18, encompasses the Communion of Saints, whose Queen is our Blessed Mother, whom Jesus gave to us when St. John at the foot of the Cross stood in his own person and as representative of each one of us: Jn. 19:26,27.

Besides the intercession, love, protection of the Saints, closeness to them, for they all struggled, suffered, fell, sinned, confessed, began again, should deepen our hope, enhance our joy, strengthen our faith.

Unfortunately the best link I have found for Saints in a time of plague, which this pandemic is,  has bothersome ads, ads on internet sites being another form of plague, it is worth checking out: https://aleteia.org/2020/03/12/these-saints-know-firsthand-about-surviving-pandemics/

Yep, time to turn again to St. Monica, the patron saint of those in need of patience!

 

 

[1] para. 956 http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

DWELLING PEACEFULLY IN FAITH, LOVE, HOPE, LIGHT, JOY~ Part 3B

                   

 

It came as somewhat of a shock to realize I have not worked on this commentary since the feast of St. Joseph, spending so much time focused on the Covid 19 Hope essays! However, that is actually part of living out selling all you possess and to: Give it directly, personally to the poor. [1]

While time is a gift given to us, and not per se something we possess, by and large we do control how we use the time gifted to us.

Helping one another in these dark days is both true charity and dispossession, the giving directly to the poor and everyone, in various ways, not all of them economic, is vitally important.

Some people, mostly unknown to us, do choose to sell or give away everything they possess and embrace a life of total poverty such as the ancient mendicants, and modern mendicants, continue to do so. Not only within Christianity but in other religions as well.

While St. Francis and his companions started out that way the expansion of their vocation from itinerant preachers to pastors of parishes, and other works, means more communal living and possessing what is necessary for their apostolate. St. Mother Teresa’s Sisters, Brothers and Priests live a stricter poverty, as do the men, women, and priests of Madonna House. Again, it is a matter of the particular vocation and apostolate.

Each of us who live other vocations, such as in Holy Marriage, as parents with children, consecrated men and women virgins living in the world, hermits, etc., need also to stand humbly before the Holy Spirit asking Him, as He will, to enlighten us how to be dispossessed, to give what we do possess directly, personally to the poor. Here too the guidance of a priest-spiritual director will help ensure that, for example as parents, we do not deprive the family of what is necessary.

Satan, if he cannot seduce us with obvious evil will use another pernicious tactic, that of seducing us with what appears to be a good, extreme dispossession: selling/giving away so much that we impoverish our family or are no longer able to properly care for our own lives.

The key is to understand the difference between need and want. I need good food to eat. I may want the best filet mignon several times a week, rather than say fish or less expensive cuts of meat. By ‘selling’ my want and embracing the selflessness of need, the difference in money saved becomes a gift I can give directly to the poor such as by keeping a few dollars in my pocket so I don’t pass by my homeless brother or sister begging for help but can give them, thus giving to Christ Himself, what I have.

Material dispossession and material generosity are comparatively easy next to cooperating with the Most Holy Spirit to be dispossessed of the false self, the self that strives to always be the center of attention, have the last word, have one’s opinions dominate conversations, the false self which seeks the first place in every aspect of life, is more interested in being loved and accepted than loving and accepting etc., and etc.! Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” [Mt.16:24ff] “…..everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be My disciple.” [Lk. 14:33]

To deny the self is to deny the false self, the egocentric self, the self who, if we be brutally honest, often acts, thinks, as if smarter than God. It is these possessions we truly need to be unburdened of, for they are the chains that bind us, weigh us down, keep a wall we build brick by brick between ourselves and God who is love. It is to sink more and more into the quagmire of a aloneness which destroys marriages, alienates parents from children, citizens/neighbours from one another and on the grand scale breeds hatreds, discriminations, conflicts/wars between nations. Only when we dwell within union with His Most Sacred Heart will we become poor as He became poor for us and then be able to see self and other as He sees us and love one another accordingly: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy, and My burden light.” [Mt.11:29] “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” [Jn.13:34] “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength…..You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” [Mk.12:30,31]

“What then is it that we have to bring to the poor? First, it seems to me, the realization that we are the poorest of the poor. Secondly, a realization that unless we truly love ourselves, we cannot even begin to love our neighbours…..Among the ways of loving ourselves is this acceptance of our poverty which acknowledges that we are totally dependent on God, and which acts, therefore, always according to His will. But to act according to God’s will, one must empty oneself of all self-centredness, selfishness, egotism. Positively, one must have a listening heart that is free, poor, one that listens to the quiet voice of God and follows it.” [2]

 

 

[1] https://www.madonnahouse.org/mandate/

[2] The Gospel Without Compromise, pp.101 & 106; Catherine de Hueck Doherty, 1989, Madonna House Publications.

 

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

 

 

 

 


Saturday, May 09, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19~22


                                          
Any writer knows the experience of when words flow; the same with composers and the music, artists and the brush strokes on the canvas, homilists when the words of Sunday’s Readings are so luminous the homily is like a polished gem. Then, there are times when the essay appears finished, the last note has been inserted in the melody, the final stroke of paint applied to the canvas, the homily is being preached and suddenly the interior voice shouts: REALLY! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Recently I have noted in phone calls, email, snail mail from people in my age group, I am turning 76 this year, a level of fear, actual terror among some ending up in a nursing home or even terrified to go to emergency at a hospital, an understandable fear, in these dark days, among the most vulnerable of ending up dead. Not just dying but doing so alone.
So, I started writing about the particular fear and isolation of the elderly, researching from various sources and countries the death rate among the elderly, be they in care homes or hospitals and how various countries are dealing with, because often it is indeed dealing with, rather than caring for, the elderly.

When doing research before writing, and when needing a break from intense writing, one diversion is to visit sites like the Hubble Telescope and see the beauty of the stars. The other day I was contemplating a bright star circling a black hole and two things struck: 1] with decades of abortion we have murdered, consigned to the black hole of unlived history, uniqueness of personhood of innumerable pre-born human beings and thus eliminating as well the potential, for example, of some becoming scientists who, if living among us today, would likely already have either prevented the pandemic or discovered the needed vaccine; 2] with the disproportionate death toll among the elderly again uniqueness of personhood and of critical cultural, historical, faith, life memories, are being sucked into the black hole of forgetfulness.

That was when I went off track, failed to listen to my heart, to grace and wrote emotionally so when proof reading what I believed was the essay ready for posting my heart yelled at me: REALLY! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? So, as the saying goes, back to the drawing board which for this priest-hermit means silent prayer, swimming in the seas of the Divine Offices, Holy Mass, Sacred Scripture, spiritual reading until the mud of ego is washed away and the Holy Spirit has a clean slate to compose upon so that I write words from Him poured into my heart in the common language of the children of God: love.

In these fearful days, the challenge for each one of us is, in any creative way we can, to love and support each other, to proclaim hope and strength to each other, which means abandoning the culture of egocentrism and, in imitation of Christ, being other centered.
During the days of the above I was graced to realize I lack understanding, true understanding of self, faith, of the current situation and so I have been graced in silence to re-discover this gift of the Holy Spirit first in a treasured tome, THE SANCTIFIER, a tremendous volume on the Holy Spirit, His sanctifying action, gifts, and insight; also through one of many letters St. John Paul wrote, the one TO THE ELDERLY, by then himself also elderly He addresses us, as “…my elderly brothers and sisters.” [2]

In a special way, the gift of understanding supposes the knowledge, the perfect comprehension, of our end. [1] Our end of course, the whole reason of our being created as persons in the image and likeness of God, the whole purpose of the Incarnation, life, passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, the whole gift to us in Baptism of the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier Himself, Who teaches us to trust Jesus: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in Me. In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to Myself, so that where I am you also may be.” [Jn.14:1-3]

Likewise, when we have a perfect knowledge of our end, our will is bound to it, for essentially we already possess that ultimate end by possessing God in our heart. This is the work of the gift of understanding; by it the Holy Spirit moves us so that we can penetrate the depths of all supernatural truths and thus attain our eternal salvation. [2] This happens IF we strive to be faithful to: Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” [Mt.16:24]

Understanding is one of the gifts of contemplation…..One might say that contemplation is the very beautiful light of those who love……[3] Again, this presupposes fidelity as disciples of Christ who assures us: …. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you know Me, then you will also know my Father…….If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows It. But you know It, because It remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” [Jn.14:6,7 & 15-18]

Every day let us say to the Lord, as did Bartimaeus, the blind man of the Gospel: Lord, that I may see! [4] Striving with our intellects, overloading our brains with the ceaseless and often contradictory news about the virus itself, the extent of the pandemic, etc., etc., by our own efforts assures we will be overwhelmed. It is the Holy Spirit Who graces us to understand and embrace, in union with Christ, this current heavy weight, the sharing of Christ’s Cross as faithful disciples, as we cry out: Lord, that I may see: see the hope, which is all around us, see the love which embraces us, see the opportunities to refrain being bent towards ourselves and choosing to reach out to others with love, compassion, hope, understanding, being as Christ names us:… the light of the world……. your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. [Mt:5: 14 & 16]

Without commentary these words of wisdom from St. John Paul addressed to the Elderly, a gift to everyone. [2]

Human experience, although subject to time, is set by Christ against the horizon of immortality. He “became a man among men, in order to join the beginning to the end, man to God”…… Old age is the final stage of human maturity and a sign of God's blessing…….In the past, great respect was shown to the elderly. “Great was once the reverence given to a hoary head”, says Ovid, the Latin poet…. Centuries earlier, the Greek poet Phocylides had admonished: “Respect grey hair: give to the elderly sage the same signs of respect that you give your own father”……. And what of today? If we stop to consider the current situation, we see that among some peoples old age is esteemed and valued, while among others this is much less the case, due to a mentality which gives priority to immediate human usefulness and productivity. Such an attitude frequently leads to contempt for the later years of life, while older people themselves are led to wonder whether their lives are still worthwhile……“Rise in the presence of one with grey hair; honour the person of the older man” (Lev 19:32). Honouring older people involves a threefold duty: welcoming them, helping them and making good use of their qualities. In many places this happens almost spontaneously, as the result of long-standing custom. Elsewhere, and especially in the more economically advanced nations, there needs to be a reversal of the current trend, to ensure that elderly people can grow old with dignity, without having to fear that they will end up no longer counting for anything. There must be a growing conviction that a fully human civilization shows respect and love for the elderly, so that despite their diminishing strength they feel a vital part of society. Cicero himself noted that “the burden of age is lighter for those who feel respected and loved by the young”…… Dear elderly friends who feel insecure because of ill health or other circumstances, I assure you of my closeness and affection. When God permits us to suffer because of illness, loneliness or other reasons associated with old age, he always gives us the grace and strength to unite ourselves with greater love to the sacrifice of his Son and to share ever more fully in his plan of salvation. Let us be convinced of this: he is our Father, a Father rich in love and mercy!.... Christ, having crossed the threshold of death, has revealed the life which lies beyond this frontier, in that uncharted “territory” which is eternity. He is the first witness of eternal life; in him human hope is shown to be filled with immortality. “The sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality”…… In Christ, death — tragic and disconcerting as it is — is redeemed and transformed; it is even revealed as a “sister” who leads us to the arms of our Father……earthly life is not the ultimate value, in such a way that the twilight of life can be seen — from a Christian perspective — as a “passage”, a bridge between one life and another, between the fragile and uncertain joy of this earth to that fullness of joy which the Lord holds in store for his faithful servants: “Enter into the joy of your master” (Mt 25:21)…… “Iube me venire ad te!”*: this is the deepest yearning of the human heart, even in those who are not conscious of it. Grant, O Lord of life, that we may be ever vividly aware of this and that we may savour every season of our lives as a gift filled with promise for the future. Grant that we may lovingly accept your will, and place ourselves each day in your merciful hands. And when the moment of our definitive “passage” comes, grant that we may face it with serenity, without regret for what we shall leave behind. For in meeting you, after having sought you for so long, we shall find once more every authentic good which we have known here on earth, in the company of all who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith and hope. Mary, Mother of pilgrim humanity, pray for us “now and at the hour of our death”. Keep us ever close to Jesus, your beloved Son and our brother, the Lord of life and glory.

Nota Bene: Tomorrow being Mothers’ Day let us all be lovingly creative, if our Moms are in nursing a home out of reach of personal visits, or if they live with us, to express our love and gratitude for the gift they are and let us not forget to be grateful for Her loving protection for us to the Most Holy Theotokos, Mother of everyone.

[1] The Sanctifier; Most Rev. Luis M. Martinez; p.177; [2] op. cit. p. 178; [3] ibid p. 180; [4] ibid p. 184; St. Paul Editions, 1982
NB: Excerpts are from paras: 2, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18 * Bid me come to You!

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Friday, May 01, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19~21


                                            
Latin scholars debate the translation of Pope Francis’ motto: MISERANDO ATQUE ELIGENDO. Some translate it as: by giving mercy and choosing; others as: pity and choosing. The official Vatican translation is: by having mercy and by choosing. [1] In essence since he was a bishop when he first chose the motto it is a declaration of seeking to faithfully follow Jesus and to love and serve others with compassion.

So far in my life, from Pope Pius XXII to Pope Francis, [2] I have lived during seven pontificates. None has been without their critics, and not just in the secular media. The harshest critics are found among Catholic clergy and laity. It has been ever thus since St. Peter and likely will be so to the end of time, even when, as with St. Pius V, St. Pius X, St. John XXIII, St. John Paul II, the Pope is an obvious saint.

No baptized Christian, pope, lay person, clergy, religious, should expect to be any more popular than Christ Himself, who still elicits harsh criticism, even after laying down His life for us: You will be hated by all because of My Name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. [Mt. 10:22] and the reality that: …..we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. [2 Cor. 4:7-10]

Too many critics of Pope Francis fail to study his life, to actually read his writings as priest, bishop, pope.  In their humanity, like each of us, popes, while striving to be faithful to Christ, the Gospel, our baptismal vocation, are not perfect. So, either we trust that popes are chosen by the Holy Spirit, in which case we should be humbly faithful to the Holy Father, through which we are faithful to the Holy Spirit, or we don’t.

During this global pandemic crisis, in the stormy seas of daily life and stress, Jesus is with us, hearing our cries, personally with us Himself and in His successor to St. Peter Pope Francis, who constantly shows himself as parish priest to the whole human family, seeking to strengthen and console us.

Refusing as always to participate in spurious debates about Pope Francis being this or that, here are some of his words as bishop and latterly as Pope. They reveal the heart of this disciple of Christ, this priest, this pontiff.
The covenant of love and fidelity lived by the Holy Family of Nazareth illuminates the principle which gives shape to every family, and enables it better to face the vicissitudes of life and history. On this basis, every family, despite its weaknesses, can become a light in the darkness of the world. [3]

Mercy is the Lord’s most powerful message. It’s not easy to trust oneself to the mercy of God…..but we must do it!.......Our Lady best transmits to the faithful the joy of God’s word. [4]

The Lord consoles by making Himself present in the midst of the community and showing His  resurrected wounds, wounds flowing forth with peace, peace that conquers all fears. [5]

Do not be afraid to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. [6]

It is modesty that, as well as the truth, guards the goodness, beauty, and unity of being. [7]

By being born in a manger, God himself launches the only true revolution that can give hope and dignity to the disinherited and the outcast: the revolution of love, the revolution of tenderness. From the manger, Jesus proclaims, in a meek yet powerful way, the need for sharing with the poor as the path to a more human and fraternal world in which no one is excluded or marginalized. [8]

Jesus waits for us, He goes ahead of us, He extends His hand to us, He is patient with us. God is faithful. [9]

It is traditional in this month to pray the Rosary at home within the family.  The restrictions of the pandemic have made us come to appreciate all the more this “family” aspect, also from a spiritual point of view….. I am also providing two prayers to Our Lady that you can recite at the end of the Rosary, and that I myself will pray in the month of May, in spiritual union with all of you…. [10]

[4] Pope Francis in His Own Words; edited by Julie Schwietert Collazo and Lisa Rogak; pp. 58 & 86; © 2013; New World Library
[5] The Church According to the heart of Pope Francis; p.114; © Magnificat Inc.
[6] Fioretti, The Little Flowers of Pope Francis; p.170; Andrea Tornielli; © 2014 Ignatius Press
[7] The Way of Humility; Jorge Mario Bergoglio – Pope Francis; p. 34; Ignatius Press 2014
[9] THE NAME OF GOD IS MERCY; Pope Francis; p.86; 2016, Random House

[10] Pope Francis’ letter for special praying of the Holy Rosary in May with a prayer for these times:  https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-04/letter-on-the-month-of-may-full-text.html  
© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Monday, April 27, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19~20


                                                 
The absence of daily posts has been due to a tremendous gift from my family of days out of the city and in the countryside, where I watched as finally winter surrendered to spring, the snow melted away, swans, blue birds, robins, hawks, snow geese, among others, returned. The music of their songs joined that special sound of spring waters running over rocks, the trees swaying in the wind making their own music, the night skies, not hampered by city lights, dazzling with innumerable stars.

The silence away from city traffic, even the reduced traffic of this temporary new normal is a persistent hum gladly missed!

I was far enough out of the city no reliable internet, even if I had wanted to post anything, so instead decided each day to draw one sentence from the day’s spiritual reading.

The first was in a letter from a friend which arrived the day before I left: We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Each human act has a redemptive value whether dusting a shelf or feeding the hungry. ~ Catherine Doherty.

This is the real power of joy, to make us certain that, beneath all grief, the most fundamental of realities is joy itself. ~ Sister Wendy Beckett

Speaking about the police who, in Jn.7:45ff, refused to arrest Jesus: The vocation of policeman was sanctified that day when these officers refused to arrest the Saviour. ~ Bishop Fulton Sheen

Do good to one who wrongs you, and God will be your friend. ~ St. Anthony the Great

For me God’s gift of freedom and life in Christ are inseparable from my life in the Church. ~ Robert D. Pelton.

The heart has its reasons that reason doesn’t know. ~ Blaise Paschal

Real love does not reason, does not measure, does not create barriers, does not calculate, does not remember offenses and does not impose conditions. ~ Francis Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan

In our generation and culture, we have to rediscover the value of suffering in general and learn that suffering can be very positive in helping us to mature, to become more “ourselves” and to be closer to the Lord, Who suffered for us and suffers within us. ~ Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

The best prayer always occurs beyond words, in movements toward God of the heart, the will, the body. ~ Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis

Everything you do has meaning because of who you are. ~ St. John Paul II

Struggle and battle are normal in life. ~ Pope Francis

The God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory through Christ Jesus will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. ~ 1 Pt. 5: 10

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph



Wednesday, April 15, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19~19


                                                



Flocks of geese for days now have been flying further north, the wild rabbits, which inhabit this city, are changing their white coats to brown; the various winter birds have headed south; songbirds are returning and singing with joy,  as the snow, like a lowering tide retreating to the ocean, slips away from lawns and flower beds, albeit slowly, but perceptively. The sounds of people raking away leaves and other debris, preparing for summer flowers and green lawns is the fanfare of hope, all will be renewed again, for hope, like spring, always comes new.

These are normal aspects of unfolding spring, yet this year I see them as examples of human resilience, even a type of defiance telling this pandemic that while it may wound us, it cannot defeat us.

The main cause of our hope, joy, courage, originates not within ourselves, though we must choose to act from the basis of the hope, joy, courage offered us.

The source of our hope, joy, courage is not found in any book on how to cope, or handle emotions or some kind of how to get through this, keeping a mind this is new for everyone, so no one has gone through it yet. If they have where are the breadcrumbs to follow?

Greater than all that is the One who loves us, listens to us, takes all our anguish and questions upon Himself and more, within Himself, and walks with us so that neither on the unusual walking during this crisis distant from one another, or virtually immobile in isolation: He is as close to each of us as a desperately needed hug.

All the above flows from the beautiful Easter Event of Jesus with the men walking on the road to Emmaus: Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. [Lk.24:13,14]

People are talking, have been for weeks. The media seems obsessed with all COVID news all the time, so much so we hear very little else about what is happening within the world. This creates an Alice Through the Looking Glass distortion of information about the rest of life on earth within the human family and actually adds to stress and fear, which erode hope and joy, and frequently spreads bogus information.

And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus Himself drew near and walked with them [v15]

Jesus, 24/7 as the saying goes, seeks to walk with us, to listen to what we have to say, to take it into the depths of His compassionate, understanding Heart – if we are willing.

He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. [v.17]

Most of the rest of the chapter is the dialogue between Jesus and the two men, identified as disciples.

The danger is to read any of the Gospel as merely a nice, even comforting story from long ago!

Sacred Scripture is alive and immediate and is intended, when we contemplate it, to enable to us to see and say, yeah, Jesus is Risen, Jesus is Alive, Jesus is walking with me!

……it happened that, while He was with them at table, He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, but He vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” [vs.30-32]

Love recognizes love.

It is part of the mystery of God that He acts so generously…..He continues to knock gently at the doors of our hearts and slowly opens our eyes if we open our doors to Him. [1]



[1] Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI: JESUS OF NAZARETH, p. 276; Ignatius Press 2011



© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19~18


                                         



O God, who have bestowed on us paschal remedies, endow Your people with heavenly gifts, so that, possessed of perfect freedom, they may rejoice in heaven over what gladdens them now on earth.

That is the opening prayer of today’s Holy Mass in the octave of Easter, the octave being the continuous unfolding of the day of His Holy Resurrection.

In the midst of the darkness of this pandemic, because we dwell in kairos, the Lord’s moment in time, we are dwelling in this moment of eight days moment, in light, joy, love, hope.

By a mysterious instinct, human neediness and divine compassion always have their arms out, extended toward one another, on the watch for the first possible moment of embrace. [1]

While not perfect, what human institution is, Canada and this province, do have a remarkable health care system, as most G7 countries do. I mention this because whenever I am not sure about something, I think about writing I check with my Spiritual Director, as part of what follows I was unsure about. He just said: “Absolutely you must write that.” Spiritual direction these days is by phone, but grace is not frustrated by distance. Never!

So, several days before Holy Week I realized I was not feeling well, procrastinated for a couple of days, until I faced two realities: One if I had somehow gotten the virus the obligation to preserve the gift of life each of us has been given means deal with it. Using a variation of an expression familiar to me from my childhood in Nova Scotia the Premier said the other day: “Stay the blazes home!” That word ‘blazes’ was commonly inserted into various situations when I was a boy such as: “What the blazes are you doing?”, which is exactly what I said to myself because the second reality was, if indeed I had the virus, I was a walking threat to anyone around me.

The Alberta Health Service has an online self-assessment tool which, near midnight, I filled out and submitted. Within a few minutes the phone rang, and it was a clerk, so self-identified, verifying I indeed was the person who submitted the form. I was told someone else would call immediately, which they did, and they identified themselves as an assessment officer. After I answered their questions, I was told remain totally isolated, in a word I was quarantined, and that in the morning someone else would call and arrange a time and place for me to be tested.

The call came in early, I was told when, where and the protocols to observe in the car with whomever would drive me – which a friend did, bless him and his wife because they provided me with a mask and protective gloves. The test took only moments and I was reminded to remain quarantined until I got the results.

To be blunt Holy Week was a visceral experience, even Holy Easter, until yesterday the call came. Test results: negative and I was told, because of my age avoid public transit, going for groceries etc., but observing proper distancing I could go out for walks etc. I beg anyone who feels unwell, please get tested.

The best way to describe the exaltation at the news is I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge, wonderfully portrayed by Alister Sim [2] in the film version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It is the scene were after dancing around with sheer joy he has survived the night, Scrooge in his office says he doesn’t really understand why he is so happy, indeed does not deserve to be so.

Scrooge got it wrong for it is not a matter of deserving happiness or not. Happiness is a divine gift – not the emotion which is a by-product – the penetrating joy. The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it: We all want to live happily; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition, even before it is fully articulated. How is it, then, that I seek you, Lord? Since in seeking you, my God, I seek a happy life, let me seek you so that my soul may live, for my body draws life from my soul and my soul draws life from you. God alone satisfies. [3]

The times we are in with all the attendant disruption, stress, isolation may cause us to question all sorts of things, perhaps hitherto taken for granted. Rather a normal reaction given what the whole human family has been thrust into. The truth is Love Himself has created us to be beloved, to be filled with joy, to experience hope.

All that Jesus told the Apostles He tells us: I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. [Jn.15:11]

A prayer of joy to Our Lady who is known as Cause of our joy:  Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.  For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia. Has risen, as he said, alleluia. Pray for us to God, alleluia. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

[1] FIRE OF MERCY THE HEART OF THE WORLD, Volume III; pp. 389/90; Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis; Ignatius Press, 2012

[2] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0044008/

[3] https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P5J.HTM

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Monday, April 13, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19~17


                                            

Today was warm and sunny and lots of people of all ages, parents with their children, were out walking and I noted walking more upright, smiling more, with a certain bounce in their step.

Walking icons of courage, hope, in the Light of Christ Risen.

During his homily at the Easter Vigil, Pope Francis assured us that: Tonight we acquire a fundamental right that can never be taken away from us: the right to hope. It is a new and living hope that comes from God. It is not mere optimism; it is not a pat on the back or an empty word of encouragement, uttered with an empty smile. No! It is a gift from heaven, which we could not have earned on our own. Over these weeks, we have kept repeating, “All will be well”, clinging to the beauty of our humanity and allowing words of encouragement to rise up from our hearts. But as the days go by and fears grow, even the boldest hope can dissipate. Jesus’ hope is different. He plants in our hearts the conviction that God is able to make everything work unto good, because even from the grave he brings life. [1a]

People are pretty vocal about ‘my rights’, such that for decades on the streets, in the media, in the courts, it seems innumerable are the new ‘rights’ conceived of as being something heretofore denied such and such a group, and that must be enshrined into law. Things seem quieter on that front during this pandemic, perhaps because it is occupying most of everyone’s attention, moving us all to realize we truly need one another and cannot get through this on one’s own.

What is both fascinating and beautiful is, as the impact of this pandemic drags on, numerous are the examples of people moving away from extreme individualism and placing others first.

Certainly, the nurses and doctors, the other first responders, grocery store clerks, pharmacists, truck and train drivers, bus drivers, letter carriers, those who haul the garbage away, keep the streets clean, the lights on, the phone, cable, internet services working, all deserve our outmost gratitude for their courage and care for us.

Also striking, the emerging selfless generosity of those who do the shopping for seniors, donate to food banks, put signs of gratitude and camaraderie in their windows, who unfailingly when shopping, on the transit systems, out walking, practice charitable distancing.

All of this shows increased love of others, and courage.

Again, from Pope Francis’ homily: Courage. This is a word often spoken by Jesus in the Gospels. Only once do others say it, to encourage a person in need: “Courage; rise, [Jesus] is calling you!” (Mk 10:49). It is he, the Risen One, who raises us up from our neediness. If, on your journey, you feel weak and frail, or fall, do not be afraid, God holds out a helping hand and says to you: “Courage!”. You might say, as did Don Abbondio (in Manzoni’s novel), “Courage is not something you can give yourself” (I Promessi Sposi, XXV). True, you cannot give it to yourself, but you can receive it as a gift. All you have to do is open your heart in prayer and roll away, however slightly, that stone placed at the entrance to your heart so that Jesus’ light can enter. You only need to ask him: “Jesus, come to me amid my fears and tell me too: Courage!” With you, Lord, we will be tested but not shaken. And, whatever sadness may dwell in us, we will be strengthened in hope, since with you the cross leads to the resurrection, because you are with us in the darkness of our nights; you are certainty amid our uncertainties, the word that speaks in our silence, and nothing can ever rob us of the love you have for us. [1b] [2]





[1a: underling added & b] http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2020/documents/papa-francesco_20200411_omelia-vegliapasquale.html

[2] As I was finishing this I heard from outside the telltale wack, wack of leather against leather and, while the ‘boys of summer’ are on hiatus due to the plague, looking out the window, there on the bike path, a father and son playing a game of catch. That too is a sign of hope.



© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Friday, April 10, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19~14





http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2020/documents/ns_lit_doc_20200410_via-crucis-meditazioni_en.html









Thursday, April 09, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19~13


                                               

It is Holy Thursday!

In the Divine Office of Readings on this day, St. Melito of Sardis says: It is He who endured every kind of suffering in all those who foreshadowed Him. In Abel He was slain, in Isaac bound, in Jacob exiled, in Joseph sold, in Moses exposed to die. He was sacrificed in the Passover lamb, persecuted in David, dishonoured in the prophets.

It is He who was made man of the Virgin, He who was hung on the tree; it is He who was buried in the earth, raised from the dead, and taken up to the heights of heaven. He is the mute lamb, the slain lamb, the lamb born of Mary, the fair ewe. He was seized from the flock, dragged off to be slaughtered, sacrificed in the evening, and buried at night. On the tree no bone of His was broken; in the earth His body knew no decay. He is the One who rose from the dead, and who raised man from the depths of the tomb.

This is the day when Jesus, bending down to wash the feet of the Apostles shows us how to truly love and serve one another, to humble ourselves before others as Jesus does.

This is the day when Jesus assures us of His promise: …. behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” [Mt. 28.20], through two tremendous gifts: Himself, Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity in the Most Holy Eucharist and Himself in the gift and mystery of Priesthood, for every ordained priest, from the Apostles to the last man who shall be ordained on earth, is in persona Christi.

The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend."… In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained."… In his Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us,… and he remains under signs that express and communicate this love…[1]

St. John Paul wrote a beautiful book on priesthood in which he stresses: The priesthood, in its deepest reality is the priesthood of Christ. It is Christ who offers Himself, His Body and Blood, in sacrifice to God the Father, and by this sacrifice makes righteous in the Father’s eyes all mankind and, indirectly, all creation. The priest, in his daily celebration of the Eucharist, goes to the very heart of this mystery. For this reason the celebration of the Eucharist must be the most important moment of the priest’s day, the center of his life. [2]

“Sweetest Jesus, Body and Blood most Holy, be the delight and pleasure of my soul, my strength and salvation in all temptations, my joy and peace in every trial, my light and guide in every word and deed, and my final protection in death. Amen.” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

[1] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM      paras. 1374 & 1380

[2] ON THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF MY PRIESTLY ORDINATION GIFT AND MYSTERY; Pope John Paul II; p.75; Doubleday, 1996, © 1996 Libreria Editrice Vaticana {underling mine}



© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Tuesday, April 07, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19~12


                                                

The north winds were extremely fierce today, belying the radiant sun’s offer of warmth. Fierce winds are part of life here in the northern west. The winds reminded me of when St. John Paul was in this city on his pastoral visit to Canada and, after giving the final blessing started to move from the altar, turned around, came back, his chasuble flapping in the wind, and said in his heavily accented English: “Canada! Is big country and rather windy!”

Went for my daily Holy Rosaries walk and the sound of the wind in the trees reminded me of: We know that all creation is groaning in labour pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For we were saved in this hope. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. In the same way, the Spirit also helps us in our weaknesses; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. Now He who searches hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will. [Rms. 8:22-27]

In a few days all the above will be, we will be, renewed again in Christ in His Holy Resurrection. He became Incarnate, was born precisely to suffer, die, rise, ascend and with the Father to send forth upon us anew at Pentecost the Most Holy Spirit who prays within us, for us.

In a sense through the liturgical seasons we dwell in kairos in a type of mobius strip of the never ending seasons of grace here on earth, grace which flows over and within us as sunlight cascades around and within all creation, within us.

These dark and stressful days when doubt or stress assails it is good to remember the beginning with the Infant Jesus: The smile of the Infant holds the secret of everlasting life……As the All-powerful became visibly vulnerable, He marked our inmost hearts with the truth that the “Most High” is most near. In becoming powerless, He embraced the powerlessness that lies at the heart of all pain. It seemed to hold no promise, to be absolutely nothing at all. Then He touched it with infant hands, with pierced hands, with dead hands, with risen hands, and that very nothing became the seed of unconquerable life. [1]



[1] CIRCLING THE SUN MEDITATIONS ON CHRIST IN LITURGY AND TIME, Robert D. Pelton, pp.25 & 27; The Pastoral Press, Washington D.C., 1986

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph








Monday, April 06, 2020

HOPE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19~11


                                            



Suffering is nothing by itself. But suffering shared with the passion of Christ is a wonderful gift, the most beautiful gift, a token of love. ~ St. Mother Teresa

This Holy Week we all share in totally unexpected global suffering.

We’d all like to be rid of it, physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Jesus willingly, in His own suffering, this week of His Passion and Death has, does, will, take it upon Himself: See, I am creating new heavens and a new earth; The former things shall not be remembered nor come to mind. [Is.65:17]

This is also a good week to remember the words of Pope Francis who deeply understands what every human being is suffering: “When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this. For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.  [1]

At dusk weeping comes for the night; but at dawn there is rejoicing……..You changed my mourning into dancing; You took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness. [Ps.30:6&12]

At the moment it does feel like dawn is a long way off, that the ‘sackcloth’ of this pandemic and its attendant isolation and stress is only getting heavier.

Each step of the Via Dolorossa how heavier the Cross undoubtedly became for Jesus as He struggled to walk after loss of blood in the garden, being tortured, lack of sleep, the heat of the day, the stress of it all, and how far distant must the top of the Golgotha hill seemed.

Each heavy step we take through this new normal, if we look down, we will see the Sacred Blood imprint of His own footsteps.

He has been this way already for us, He is leading us, and also walking with us. While we carry the cross of these days with Him, He also carries us.

While we should be as Simon of Cyrene for one another, He is Simon of Cyrene for us.

Why should we have no fear? Because man has been redeemed by God……….In the Redemption we find the most profound basis for the words “Be not afraid!”: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” [cf.Jn.3:16]. This Son is always present in the history of humanity. The Redeemer pervades all of human history…..It is the light that “shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”[cf.Jn.1:5]. The power of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection is greater than any evil which man could or should fear. [2]



[1] https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-03/urbi-et-orbi-pope-coronavirus-prayer-blessing.html

[2] CROSSING THE THRESHOLD OF HOPE, by His Holiness John Paul II; p. 219; Alfred A. Knopf, Canada, 1994 [underling added]

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph