Fr. Mike’s Favorite Topics

Fr. Mike’s Page

Welcome!

I am excited to make available for you a variety of topics to enhance your spiritual life.  When I headed our programs for the young men and women religious in Africa, the following topics were found to be the most important and influential in their religious lives!  Some of these topics include:  Scripture, History of the Eucharist and Church, Mariology and Spirituality.  At Gov Island, Ohio, on Indian Lake, I also found that the lay people were also interested in these topics and more.

I am making these above topics available to you at this site in a series of short presentations for your convenience.  You can either read them below or down-load them to your computer and read at your leisure.  I have also added my Sunday Homily for those interested.

CURRENT TOPICS: Prayertopics, Prodigal Sons series, Ezekiel – “By The Rivers of Babylon” series, Marianist Spirituality series.

ENJOY!

TID-BITS on the Eucharist (18-8-21): Gregory the Great moved the Our Father (Pater Noster) from the beginning of Mass and placed it after the Canon with Introduction and Prayer (called the Embolism).

TID-BITS on the Church: From the time of the apostles the Eucharist was celebrated in the home until Constantine made the Christian Faith the official religion of the Empire in the beginning of the Third Century.

TID-BITS on the Prophets: Little known Prophets – Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon.  (Also known as the Minor Judges in the Book of Judges)

 


THE PRODIGAL SONS: The Story Continues

Part One, Waiting for The Sons to Return

 “Abe?” a loud voice came from outside the front door.  The elderly man walked into the house, looking for his older brother.

“I’m in here, Michael, in the sitting room!” came the answer from another elderly man sitting in a sturdy chair with arm rests.

“They should be arriving today!” Michael said.

“I know,” Abe confirmed.  “Are you anxious?”

“Yes, a little,” he said.

“There is nothing to worry about, Michael.  God will watch over them!”

“You are right, like he watched over me…in the end.  I am still a little worried,” Michael said, his face showed it, but also a little excitement.

“I am sure they are having a great time.  Besides, it was your idea.”

“Yes, yes, but things can go wrong!” he said.

“And they can turn out great in the long run!” Abe countered.

“You are right, again.”

“One would think that you are their father,” Abe teased.

“In a way, I feel like it,” Michael said lovingly.  “If anything ever happened to them I could never forgive myself!” he said looking a little worried again.

“Maybe it is a good idea you never got married!” Abe teased, but with a serious undertone.

“And instead, you have two wonderful sons, enough for the both of us!” Michael said teasing back.

“Why didn’t you get married, Michael,” Abe asked.

“I guess there just was never a woman out there to put up with me,” he said.  “And besides, I am such a selfish old man that it wouldn’t be fair to the lady!”

“You are not selfish!  You are a wonderful man, generous, hard working and loving,” his brother countered.  “You would be a catch for any beautiful woman!”

“Abe, something happened to me that day,” Michael almost interjected.

“What day,” Abe said, interested now.

“The day I realized that my father’s house is the best place in the world to be,” Michael answered.  “That day I realized how much our father’s love for us had allowed me to make the choices that I was paying for then.”

“Don’t’ go there again,” Abe said lovingly.  “You need to leave all that behind.  You know that we love you deeply, my wife and my sons,” and he pauses before continuing, “and myself.”

“Since we are on big questions,” Michael interrupts, “why did you throw that big party for me after you married?  It seemed such an extravagant a way to say you were sorry.”

“When I met my wife and fell so madly in love with her, and still am, it seemed like a curtain fell from my heart and I realized how much my father did love me,” Abe responded with emotion.  “I felt so embarrassed by the way I had talked to my father when you returned and he showered you with such love and attention after you had nearly bankrupted him!”

“I deserved what I happened to me,” Michael started to say.

But Abe cuts him off, “Maybe, but who am I to judge.  I probably would have done the same, Michael, since, to tell the truth, I really didn’t care for the money or the property or anything, except to have Dad tell me that he loved me.”

“And he did love you, Abe!” Michael tries to reaffirm.

“I know that now,” Abe has to cut him off again.  “I know that now, but it took the love of my wife to open my eyes to see it, right in front of me.  Dad did love us both, but I was blinded by my jealousy of you, because it seemed to me that Dad loved you more, since you were the youngest.”

“Oh,” was all Michael could say.

“It was my loving wife’s idea that we throw a party for you so that we would not become estranged from each other,” Abe said a little tearful now.  “And she was right!  I could see us moving away from each other after our father died, and it was my fault.  I needed to do something, but I did know what until my wife made the suggestion.”

“You two have always loved me as family” Michael admitted, “and I always knew that, even without the party, but it was that kind act that made me decide to stay, even breathe a sigh of relief that things would turn out OK.”

“You still didn’t really say why you didn’t marry?” Abe asks again.

“All right!” Michael says resignedly, “Since you insist.  As you know, the money eventually ran out and all my friends left me.  That was the moment when I realized that all the money in the world meant nothing to me and that it would only buy temporary friends, superficial friends.  My true friends and family were those back home.  But who would have me back now?  Probably not even the servants!  It was when I started to work on a pig farm just to survive, that God touched my heart with his loving presence.  I realized that the only place I needed to be was home, no matter the consequences.”

“I am sorry that I made it difficult for you brother,” Abe says.

“I am sorry that I was such an ass,” Michael counters.  “I was so selfish going through money that wasn’t even mine, but lawfully belonged to the family, to you, and to your sons, my nephews.”  He pauses, “And to our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.”

“You have more than made up for it brother,” Abe interrupts.  “We are blessed now, more than we have ever been in the history of our family!  We are giving it away.”

“And you keep giving,” Michael said sincerely, “since you are the heart of the family and know who needs it better than me.  It is because of you that the people around here practically worship us!”

“No!  They give praise and glory to God because they know that God has blessed you and me, brother,” Abe says proudly.  “Don’t sell yourself short!”  Again Abe pauses and then continues, “The reason I asked you here is not only to join me on our usual walk, but I have something to give you.”  Abe gets a paper off the table nearby and hands it to his brother.  “Here, look it over.”

“It is a title deed with my name on it,” Michael reads it and looks confused.

“I don’t understand?” Michael asks.

“My wife and I are going on a trip and decided that the best thing to do is to put our fortune in your hands while we are gone in case anything happens to us.”

“How long will you be gone?” Michael asks again.

“We don’t know?” Abe says.  “Maybe a year, or maybe two years!”

“Wow!  That is a long time!” he says. “But not long enough to hand over your fortune!  What about your sons?  Don’t you think they can handle the situation?” Michael asks.

“My worry is my wife’s relatives,” Abe answers honestly.  “She doesn’t trust them at all.  If anything happens, at least our fortune would be in good hands.”

“And if any misfortune happens, they will be very suspicious if it is all in my name and not in your sons,” he said.

“If you have a better solution,” Abe suggests.

At this point Michael starts to tear up.  “I didn’t realize that you trusted me that much!”

“Yes, we do, and here is the proof,” Abe says reassuringly.  “So stop worrying about whether we do and stop trying to prove anything!”  By now Michael is crying loudly.  “Come on brother!”  Abe says, comforting him.  “I will always love you, brother, and I know that you will always love me and my family, especially my sons!”

Finally, Michael gets control of himself and removes a paper himself and hands it to his brother.

“What is this?”  Abe now asks surprised.  “It looks like title deeds with my sons’ names on them.”

“I thought that they would be needing their own property someday when they start their families,” Michael starts to explain.  “So I bought that property that you always admired, the one with the vineyard, and the property next to it, with the wheat mill.  The wheat mill comes with extra land, for growing wheat, of course.”

“I always loved that property, brother,” Abe says, now tearing up himself.  “Whatever possessed you to buy it?”

“Your sons are men now,” Michael says with excitement, “if you haven’t noticed!  Soon they will be starting a family of their own.”

“I have noticed,” Abe answers proudly.  “And I have noticed that this is the second time you have mentioned that, but what if they want to stay here?”

“That is fine,” Michael concedes, “But this will give them a chance to test themselves in a business if they want.  You didn’t look at the other paper!”

“I saw it, but forgot,” Abe looked puzzled.  “This looks like the same paper I gave you, only turning your fortune over to my family!”

“I was thinking of going on a trip myself,” he says.  “That is why I was double surprised by your actions.  You took me completely by surprise!”

“Michael,” Abe says.  “I think we both need to tear up these deeds…since we both are going on trips.”

“I have a better idea,” he offers, “Let us sign them over to your sons and travel together.”  They both start laughing outrageously!

“Are you ready,” asks Michael.

“I am.  Let’s go for our walk and meet our sons!”

The Prodigal Sons One

 

My Recent Homilies

24th Sunday OT

Mark 8:27-35

 First Passion and Death Prediction

 This is the first open teaching of the gospel, as opposed to teaching in parables.  The Son of Man was a glorious, triumphant figure; who ever heard of a suffering Son of Man?  Peter was scandalized and rebuked Jesus in words Jesus used in casting out a demon.  Jesus in turn rebuked Peter, giving him the name of Satan, the tempter.  He was thinking human thoughts, not the thoughts of God.  So serious was the misunderstanding of Peter that Jesus solemnly called all the disciples to him with the crowds and announced a new requirement for all those who would come after him.  They were not only to follow him and be with him; they had to deny themselves and take up the cross after him.  They might lose their lives for his sake and that of the gospel.

Self-denial doesn’t come naturally to us.  Self-satisfaction is what we crave. The human ego constantly seeks to dominate the agenda.  Literally, the word “ego” means “I am” in Latin – and this expression of our existence occupies the core of our motivation unless we are aware of it and put conscious limits on it.  Otherwise, it really IS “all about me.”

The only way to displace the ego is to embrace a new center.  This is what we do in hours of adoration and worship.  In these times, we allow God to hold the center of our attention and we submit our will to the divine will.  In the stories of the saints, we see this common thread – that he or she spent long hours in contemplation and silence.  Centering on God, to the point that there is nothing left for us to say, requires a profound self-surrender.  We give up the talking so that God’s voice can clearly and finally be heard.

Centering Prayer is exactly that, the practice of not only silence but centering on God…for a change.  No words and no feelings allowed but plenty of silence.  Sometimes a “mantra” word can be used, that is a small phrase or even just a word like Jesus is allowed.  But many Christians give up because they don’t see anything being accomplished.  That is our problem of always being “Human Doings” rather than Human Beings!  We expect progress, reward, accomplishment, and so forth.  Like the today’s gospel message, we need to stop thinking human thoughts, deny ourselves, lose our lives beginning with our ego.  Many religious congregations have contemplation as their sole mission, being silent and allowing God to speak.  The best example are the Carthusians, and because of that they never had to be renewed as a congregation in their whole history of existence.  A movie was produced recently called “Into the Silence” about them, located in  France.  Needless to say, there was no commentary nor talking nor interviews…just silence, except for chant at their liturgies.  And yet, they have maintained their numbers.

How can we talk about God when we have never listened to God?  How can we preach God’s word when we have never listened to God Holy Spirit?  One way is to live among the people of God.  In today’s reflection from Give Us This Day, James H. Cone writes, “The Gospel, or Good News, is found wherever poor people struggle for justice, fighting for their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

He continues, “(God is) …a mystery that one can neither control nor fully understand.  It is here and not here, revealed and hidden at the same time.”  That is why silence is appropriate when we are in God’s presence, so that our words will not try to control what God is trying to say to us, and our thoughts are not trying to put words into God’s mouth.

And yet what makes me sit up and pay attention to Dr. Cone is the last part of this short article where he writes, “Nowhere is that paradox, that inscrutability (of God), more evident than in the cross.  A symbol of death and defeat, God turned it into a sign of liberation and new life.”

Jesus has to publicly rebuke Peter to get the message across, that his death is not human design, but God’s.  I am sure God would have it another way, but we have to trust that the path God allowed his Son to follow was the only way.  Even today, how many people continue to walk the way of the cross – like migrants from Central America and even Afghanistan to America?

James’s letter from our second reading reminds us that our faith without works is empty.  Yet action without silence before God only feeds our ego rather than serving God.  We become just another health worker or Peace Core Volunteer rather than the hands and heart for God.  We will eventually think ourselves saviors rather than servants of the Lord’s people.

24th Sunday OT 2021

23rd Sunday OT 2021

22nd Sunday OT 2021

21st Sunday OT 2021

Assumption of Our Lady 2021

19th Sunday OT 2021

A Manuel of Marianist Spirituality

Quentin Hakenewerth, SM

INTRODUCTION

Sometimes people ask, “Is there really a Marianist spirituality?”  We can take this question in two ways.  First, does Marianist spirituality have elements other spiritualities do not have?  Second, can the Marianist Family be recognized by its spirituality?  Does the spirituality we practice really give an identity to the Marianist Family?

The reason I am presenting the above  abridged series on Fr. Hakenewerth’s much used and favorite booklet is for several reasons.  First, if something works, why fix it.  So, I will be quoting directly from his book with little or no comment on my own.  I will summarized where possible or omit without detracting or degrading from his original information.  (In the end, you may just want to read his book.)

Second, for those who are asking the above questions, now is your chance to find the answers here.  And third, I hope that this series will also help you in your own spiritual journey through the path of Mary.  If she did such a great formation of her own son, Jesus, she can certainly help us.

I will be following Fr. Quentin’s outline and presenting them in 12 series: 1-Spirit as Life, 2-Faith of the Heart, 3-Experience of Being Called, 4-Principles of SM Spirituality, 5-Pervasive Role of Mary, 6-Praying with Faith of the Heart, 7-Transformation in the Image of Jesus, 8-Foundation Virtues: Preparation, 9-Entering into Mission, 10-Going beyond Mediocrity: Purification, 11-Permeating the World as a Movement, 12-Following Jesus to the End: Consummation.


A spirituality is a set of principles, guidelines, and methods we follow in order to live the life of the Spirit of Jesus in our own life.  A sound spirituality helps us to understand ourselves and the Sprit within us, teaches us about the Spirit’s nature and ways, and guides us in living more fully our life from within.  It clearly is advantageous to have a manual that explains things – or even better, a good teacher.  A spirituality is not an absolute necessity, but it is a great advantage.

Marianist spirituality gives us an identity because it is, so to speak, our face; it shapes our spirit and forms our personality.  The uniqueness of our spirituality does not lie in the fact that we have elements which are not found elsewhere.  All the essential elements of the life of the Spirit should be found in every spirituality.  What is unique is the particular emphasis that is given, the specific methods used, and the particular way of understanding and living the life of the Spirit.  Our spirituality identifies us in the sense that it does shape our attitudes, our outlook, and our dispositions.

In other words, through the spirituality that is used in our formation, we develop traits that identify us and make us compatible with one another.  We get a kind of family trait from the features of our personality that result from using a common method.  The spirituality we use forms our outlook and out attitudes, and we are profoundly marked by them.  Father Chaminade, our founder, considered a Marianist as someone formed and identified by the spirituality he taught.  Marianists were to be recognized as belonging to the same family by the similar dispositions, attitudes, and virtues that result from being formed in the same spirituality.

The second reason for a common spirituality is we are called to live the virtues of Jesus and to do his works.  This is to occur not only as individuals, but also together as a community.  We are called to be a collective witness of the presence of Jesus in this world and to carry out together his transforming works.  This is especially important today because social sin, which exists and continued through a collective effort, must be countered by social grace, which exists and is effective through a community.  A common spirituality gives us the basis for a common experience of the present of Jesus among us, and it makes possible a collective witness to Jesus and a united effort in doing his works.

The following series present principles, guidelines, and methods Father Chaminade passed on to us as the Marianist spirituality.  Naturally, those who feel called to be members of the Marianist Family appropriate this Marianist spirituality to form and guide their spiritual life.  Because Marianist spirituality has all the basic elements needed for living the full gospel life, anyone who is open to the Sprit can profit from the spirituality given to us through Father Chaminade.

A Manuel of Marianist Spirituality

GOD IS BEAUTIFUL!

                 

 

 

 

 

 

                                          BEAUTY IS GOD!

INTRODUCTION: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!  

The ancient Greeks saw Beauty as one of God’s several attributes including the Good, the Truth, Justice, and John the Beloved adds from his Gospel, Love.

In this series, I would like to explore the different ways that Beauty reflect God using several sources that I have come across recently: Give Us This Day publications, The Catholic Telegraph Magazine issue 2 with several articles, Practicing Beauty by R. S. Goizueta in “Invitation to Practical Theology”, Emmy Noether’s Beautiful Theorem in “When Einstein Walked with Godel” by Jim Holt, The Ontological Status of the Beautiful and The Desire for Perfect Beauty in “New Proofs for the Existence of God” by R. J. Spitzer.  As you can see, there are several way of defining or realizing beauty whether in Philosophy, Art, or even in Math!  My hope is that you will find something that piques your interest in Beauty is God.

Let me start with a simply article that appeared among the dozen in The Catholic Telegraph Magazine, issue 2, February 2021, Art and Beauty (they were quite artsy by not using any capital letters), titled – If We Lose Beauty, We Lose Our Spiritual Sight, by Dr. Mary Catherine Levri.

Dr. Levri writes, “To some, beauty might seem to be superfluous…But I maintain that if we lose beauty, then we will lose our spiritual sight…we will cease to have reverence for the presence of God.”  I totally agree with her, and would add that beauty hints at the presence of God, and even God hinting to us of his presence!  She also hints at this in the very last line of her article, “For when beauty calls, we can be sure that the Lord is very close at hand.”

My hope through these series of articles on the above sources is to do just that, show that not only is God Beautiful, but that Beauty is one of God’s Attributes!  We will find out in this series that beauty can be defined more than just by artists, but also by philosophers and mathematicians.

She warns us in her article that beauty seems to be perceived more and more a thing of the past attributed to the loss of spiritual sight, “…but also to a sense of fear.”  That is a surprise, ‘fear’?  Yes, because she says that beauty can also be a mirror!  And she quotes Simone Weil, that beauty “sends us back to our own desire for goodness.”  Beauty reminds us that we ourselves may have fallen short of it, and some would rather just break the mirror before even taking the chance to look.

Hopefully, you will journey with me and not break the mirror but take the look.  The reward is that, “Every gaze upon a beautiful object – or beautiful person – prepares us to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.”  This is where the connection to God again comes in, “Each and every one of us is a beautiful creature, made in the image and likeness of God, with a heart that cries out to be filled with His presence.”  She points us in the way that we will be taking in this series that “…beauty is not merely an idea; it is an incarnate sign of the presence of God.”  There it is, God is beautiful, Beautiful is God, or certainly an attribute.  That is what we will be looking for in the different sources and meanings of beauty.  Please come and join me.

God is Beauty Intro