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There was a university professor who went searching for the meaning of life.  After several years and many miles, he came to the hut of a particularly holy hermit and asked to be enlightened.  The holy man invited his visitor into his humble dwelling and began to serve him tea. He filled the pilgrim’s cup and then kept on pouring so that the teas were soon dripping onto the floor.  The professor watched the overflow until he could no longer restrain himself.  “Stop! It is full.  No more will go in!”  “Like this cup,” said the hermit, “you are full of your own opinions, preconceptions, and ideas.  How can I teach you unless you first empty your cup?”

 

Next week we look forward to the beginning of Lent.  The phrase “look forward to” may not exactly express what most of us feel about Lent…but it should!  Lent gives us an opportunity to act on the hermit’s evaluation of the professor….Like the professor, we too are filled to the brim with “opinions, preconceptions, and ideas.”  We need to empty ourselves of all that stands in the way of hearing what our God has to teach us during this time of Lent.  Instead of trying to figure out what to “give up” during Lent, how about considering where we can “give in” by working at eliminating our personal biases, admitting that we don’t have all the answers, acknowledging that only God is perfect. Emptying ourselves, humbling ourselves before God, praying for guidance, refraining from judging others—all of these actions can lead us to greater inner peace.  If who I am and what I think seem to be more important than who God is, my priorities are skewed.  When God looks at me, who does He see?  During Lent, each of us is being called to greater holiness.  I can take the first step by acknowledging how, in word and action, I can be “full of myself.”  Then I can lay myself at the foot of the cross and beg to be emptied of everything that makes me less than who God calls me to be.  Finally, I can ask for the grace of receptivity…as I read His Word in Scripture, sit in quiet prayer, and respond to those He sends to me.

Written by: Sr. Marie Paul Grech SND

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!  The traditions of St. Valentine’s Day mix elements of both ancient Roman rites and Christian tradition. To confuse matters, three different saints named Valentine are recognized by the Catholic Church. Valentine may not be the luckiest of names, as all three of the saints are martyrs.

One legend tells us that Valentine was a priest in Rome during the third century. Emperor Claudius II decreed that marriage was to be outlawed for young men, as he thought that single men made better soldiers than those who were married with families.

Valentine felt the decree was unjust and unfair and he defied the Emperor by performing secret marriages for young lovers. When his actions for undercover lovers were discovered, Claudius ordered Valentine to be executed. Variations on this legend say that Valentine was put to death for trying to help fellow Christians escape from harsh Roman prisons where they were often tortured.

According to another legend, Valentine may have actually sent the first ‘valentine’ greeting himself in 270 AD the day before he was to be executed for refusing to renounce his Christian beliefs. Allegedly he sent a note of appreciation to his jailer’s blind daughter for bringing him food and delivering messages while he was imprisoned, signed “from your Valentine.”

While we can never be certain as to the true origin of the St. Valentine legend, one thing is for certain, it must have been an appealing and enduring story because by the Middle Ages, Valentine had become one of the most popular saints in France and Britain.

 

Written by Sr. Marie Paul Grech SND

 

Every year on February 11, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Church celebrates the World Day of the Sick.  On that day (as every day) we are asked to pray for the sick in our families, among our friends and acquaintances, in our parish and everywhere!  We are so very conscious of sickness when it is close to home.  We are saddened by news of yet another person being diagnosed with a serious illness, even if we don’t know the person.  We also pray for the many who serve as caregivers.  Their loving care and concern bring much peace to those in need.  There is value in whatever we can do, even when we can do little to alleviate the pain, the anxiety, the fear.  Benedict XVI tells us:  “To all those who work in the field of health, and to the families who see in their relatives the suffering face of the Lord Jesus, I renew my thanks and that of the Church, because, in their professional expertise and in silence, often without even mentioning the name of Christ, they manifest him in a concrete way (cf. Homily, Chrism Mass, 21 April 2011).  To Mary, Mother of Mercy and Health of the Sick, we raise our trusting gaze and our prayer; may her maternal compassion, manifested as she stood beside her dying Son on the Cross, accompany and sustain the faith and the hope of every sick and suffering person on the journey of healing for the wounds of body and spirit!”

 

We thank in a special way all those who serve as Eucharistic Ministers to the Sick, visiting the sick and homebound in their homes, nursing facilities, and hospitals.

Written by: Sr. Marie Paul Grech SND

 

Sometimes faith is called “blind” because we don’t immediately see with the eyes on our face what or who we are placing our trust in. Faith is at its best in moments like these, when we are invited to declare, “I know, even when I can’t see.” This truth became movingly clear in the story of a young girl who was trapped between raging flames and the window of her second-story bedroom. Firefighters, prepared to catch her, asked her to jump.

 

The little girl hesitated as precious minutes flew by, until her father, arms wide open, yelled: “Sweetheart! It’s Daddy! Jump!” Through the noise and smoke-filled air, the father heard his daughter’s scared voice: “Daddy! I can’t see you!” With the courage and authority exhibited by a true father, he cried back: “But I can see you, sweetheart! Jump!” Trusting the known voice of her father and obeying his command, the little girl jumped into his strong and loving arms.

 

Like this girl, we may not always see clearly, but we need not doubt, question, or deny what we know: the voice of the One who addresses us in love despite the apparent lack of visible evidence. If we have established before the “test of fire” who it is we have trusted, we will say: “I know in whom I have believed” (2 Tm 1:12).

 

Is my faith in God at risk simply because I cannot “see”? Let me learn to recognize the voice that really matters: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (Jn 10:27).  (adapted from Martha Fernández-Sardina)

 

Written by: Sr. Marie Paul Grech SND

 

A mother was preparing breakfast for her children, Jimmy, 5, and Billy, 4.  The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake.  Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson.  “If Jesus were sitting here, he would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.’”  Jimmy turned to his younger brother and said, “Billy, you be Jesus!”

 

Inviting others to be Jesus is one thing, being Jesus to others in the caring ways we act is another.  Seeing the presence of Jesus, the face of Jesus, in the annoying person, the overbearing, even an enemy is still another challenge.  When we are at our best, we are Jesus to others, seeing Jesus in others, and our words and actions should inspire others to do the same. We are all Christ-bearers and are called to follow Jesus.  May this be a week of beingChrist to whomever we meet.

 

Written by: Sr. Marie Paul Grech SND

 

I doubt that Pope Francis realized, as he stood on that balcony on March 13, 2013, what an impact he would have on a world so in need of a visionary leader!  Pope Francis exemplifies what it means to be Christian, committed to Jesus, in whose name we have been baptized—and he tells us that “We Catholics must pray with each other and other Christians.  Pray that the Lord gift us unity!  Unity among ourselves!  How will we ever have unity among Christians if we are not capable of having it among us Catholics…? …How much damage divisions among Christians, being partisan, narrow interests causes to the Church!  Divisions among us, but also divisions among the communities: evangelical Christians, orthodox Christians, Catholic Christians, but why divided?  We must try to bring about unity.”  During this week of Christian unity, let us pray for this intention.

 

Written by: Sr. Marie Paul greco SND

 

The young son of a Baptist minister was in church one morning when he saw for the first time the rite of baptism by immersion.  He was greatly intrigued and the next morning proceeded to baptize his three cats in the bathtub.  The first kitten bore it well, and so did the young cat, but the old family cat rebelled.  It struggles, clawed and tore at him until it finally got away.  The little boy caught the cat again and tried a second time, but the cat continued to resist.  Finally the child dropped the cat on the floor in disgust and said, “Fine, be an atheist!”  The point is simple…while we are invited to be members of Christ’s body in baptism, no one is to be forced “kicking and screaming”!

 

Jesus gives us the example in today’s Gospel of being open to the graces of Baptism.  Catechumens all over the world (and in our parish!) are preparing for the gift of Baptism at Easter Vigil.  Each of us is called to live out the graces of baptism, welcoming God each day into our lives, and witnessing what it means to be Christian.  Because of our baptism, our thinking should be centered on Jesus and our focus should be on living the way he taught us by word and example: with kindness and compassion, with honesty and integrity, prayerfully and generously.  When we do so, the graces of our Baptism will be living and active!

 

Written by: Sr. Marie Paul Grech SND