Thank you for visiting. I hope you will enjoy the variety of topics to enhance your spiritual life. You can either read them below and/or down-load them and read at your leisure. I have also added my Sunday Homily for those interested.
CURRENT TOPICS: Eucharist series and Mike’s Gallery.
My Recent Homilies
5th Sunday OT – Matthew 5:13-16
The Israelites who returned from exile in Babylon, took their religious obligations like fasting seriously, but God took no notice. Their piety seemed useless. Isaiah explained the reasons. They were ignoring the widespread injustice and oppression around. The poor, the naked, the hungry went without help. If they stirred themselves to do something about all this, then God would give them favors in abundance. Their light would really shine out in the world.
“Share our bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.” Sounds almost like the beatitudes to me.
Like Isaiah, Jesus reminds us to be salt of the earth and light of the world!
Salt had many uses. Not only did it add flavor to insipid food; it was a preservative, it added energy to fuel, fertilized crops and was a means of healing. The disciples had to be and do all this for the world, otherwise their discipleship was useless. They would be trodden underfoot by men. In Matthew, this term refers to unbelievers. The real disciple in contrast enjoys the help of the Holy spirit when in trouble.
Light had come into the darkness of Galilee with Jesus. In John, Jesus called himself the light of the world. Paul told his converts that they were “children of the light.” In Matthew, the disciples are themselves the light of the world. How were they to become the light?
Their neighboring hill towns of Galilee suggest the first answer. Just as these could not be hidden, neither could the real disciple. A second answer comes from the lamps used in houses. A hidden disciple, like a hidden lamp, was useless. A third answer comes from the good works that the disciple performs. Salvation does not come from such works, but such works are an appropriate response to the gift of salvation and make sure that it is not jeopardized. Matthew has much to say about social justice and the needs of the neighbor. The climax of such teaching is the parable of the sheep and the goats. Good works are not for self-advertisement but for the glorification of the Father, the intimate God whom Jesus knew so well.
Just as the miracles that Jesus performed are for the glorification of his Heavenly Father, they also point to what Jesus says and teaches. The good works that we perform in all the many different ways that are available here at Saint Francis de Sales hopefully are performed for the glorification of our Heavenly Father. But they also serve another purpose, and that is to attract others to Jesus through us. An ongoing survey repeatedly shows that the reason many converts joint the Catholic Church was not so much what we say, but what we do in light of our professed faith.
I am sure that many visitors come here and meet our parishioners, and then they watch to see how we act out our lives in light of our faith. Actions speak louder than words, and in the case of Christians, it is what attracts others to our faith. Not that we don’t have anything to say, but what we say hopefully is what we believe and act on that believe. “Who is my mother, my brothers, and my sisters? Those who hear my words and keep them.”
If the actions of individual Christians who live their lives out in good deeds and works is powerful enough to attract others to our faith, then imagine the corporate witness that we are a parish must attract others to our faith. The Holy Spirit works through both, but by the history of the Church obviously prefers the corporate witness of the Body of Christ through our parishes.
That is why the Eucharistic Celebration is so important since it feeds not only with God’s Word but also with Christ’s Body and Blood.
A parishioner recently pointed out a short article on the Eucharist in which I found a statement that says it all, “The Eucharist is not to worship Jesus. The Eucharistic prayer is directed to the Father through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ.” Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus tell his disciples to adore him, but rather directs our attention to his Father. Adoring Jesus in Benediction is OK but is not what the Mass is about.
The Eucharist is not about Jesus and me; it is about Jesus and we, the Christian community, about us being transformed into the body of Christ, about us joining in the mission of Jesus in the world. It is about us, the parishioners, and the wonderful work we do here at Saint Francis de Sales, together, for the glory of God, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit within us.
Celebrating the Eucharist during the 8th and 11th centuries:
MASS OF AFFECTATION
Continuing with Calendar of Saints, Cluny versus Franciscans, Private Masses, and Monk Priests.
CALENDAR OF SAINTS: From the factual point of view, an especially notable factor in the liturgical development of this period was that almost every day of the year was now the Feast of a Saint and yet more closely woven network of feasts of Our Lord and of Our Lady was spread over the entire Liturgical Year. The Roman Church’s early inclination to multiply the number of feasts continued to develop and now reached a pitch which has scarcely ever been surpassed since.
CLUNY versus FRANCISCANS: The Liturgy of the Day Hours of the which had been developed especially in the monasteries was now expanded to an unbearable degree, primarily in the monasteries of “Cluny”. Small wonder then, that strife developed between the Cluniacs and the followers of Saint Francis, and that the later adopted a shorter version of the Day Hours which was afterwards adopted by the Secular Clergy (Diocesan).
PRIVATE MASSES: The practice of priests sayi8ng Private Masses which had developed in the monasteries during the preceding period, now spread and triumphed over the whole of the Christian world. The giving of Communion from the Chalice was abandoned and the meal-like form of the Eucharist Rite, in so far as it still existed, was thereby reduced yet further. The Devotions of the faithful centered, even during the celebration of the Eucharist, on the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord, especially on his Passion. During this same period a growing religious individualism sought to satisfy its devotional needs to an increasing extent in extra-liturgical devotions. For the liturgy, which was once and always should be the common act of the priest and people, became now exclusively a Priestly Duty. The people were still present, but the devoted themselves during the sacred action to non-liturgical, subjective, pious exercises.
MONK PRIESTS: Saint Benedict of Nursia allowed a monk who had proved himself obedient to be ordained priest. But when he was not officiating at divine service, he was not allowed to claim any special favors. Under Gregory the Great the monasteries began to be drawn into missionary work among the heathen, and there was introduced a fundamental change in this situation. Missionary work could not be carried out without priests; and now the number of monks who were also priests gradually increased. The priest-monks naturally felt the need to exercise the office for which they had been ordained. In monasteries with a larger number of priests the desire of each to celebrate himself could no longer be satisfied fully. The idea became widespread that the more one made use of the means of the grace of the Church, especially by celebrating a mass or arranging for it to be said, the more one could ensure one’s personal salvation and the salvation of the departed. The situations and tendencies we have just described led of necessity to the creation of the Daily Private Mass. Firs of all, it was the priests in the monasteries who practiced this new form of the Eucharist. A little while later the specular priests followed their example. Hence the requisites of the Private Mass led to the construction of a full Missal which contained all the texts that the priest celebrating privately might require and in which was also to be found the Ordo in the form of directives written in red (rubrics). After the 13th century this full Missal became more or less widespread everywhere. Priests at the side altars had to recite their prayers and texts as quietly as possible; hence their mass became a “Silent Mass” or the “Said Mass“. The private mass had become in this third period of the history of the Western Liturgy so much the role in monasteries, and then for the secular clergy, that its rite came to influence more and more the rite of the normal public service!!!
WELCOME to Fr. Mike’s Music Room!
In my series, Dancing with God through the Arts, I mentioned several of the arts like writing, drawing, dancing, but also music. In this series, Fr. Mike’s Music Room, I would also like to share with you some of my own compositions and explain why they not only relate to dancing with God but also as another way of praying to God. ENJOY!
Both of these series, Fr. Mike’s Music Room and Gallery, are taken from a previous blog that I had several years ago. In my Gallery series, I can usually present four or five pieces of art work and in my Music Room series are usually three or four compositions. In this series I will keep the example to one because of the background on the lyrics I will like to comment on.
When I was at Governor’s Island on Indian Lake, Ohio, I had the wonderful opportunity to not only belong to a music group that performed during the Christmas Season, but also a group of very gifted musicians: a concert pianist, two harpists, a cellist who also played the guitar and piano. It was the cellist and pianist who helped me with my compositions, especially when we got together to share any recent pieces. Our concert pianist was wonderful in her critiques of my compositions, drawing on the many composers that she was familiar with during her days of traveling in Europe for concerts.
This present composition is called Etty Hillesum, the Mystic of the Holocaust. She was a young Jewish woman who lived in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation, became one of the millions of victims of the Holocaust. Though her public life left little trace, her diary, published many years after her death, offered a meticulous record of her inner life. From the day Dutch Jews were ordered to wear a yellow star up to the day she boarded a cattle car for occupied Poland, Etty consecrated herself to an ambitious task: to bear witness to the inviolable power of love and to reconcile her keen sensitivity to suffering with her appreciation for the beauty of existence.
Though she identified with no particular religious tradition, Etty’s spirituality drew on eclectic sources–the Bible, Rilke, Dostoevsky. She believed the most important task was to hold fast to the encounter with God in her soul and other people, to affirm the meaning of life in the face of all evidence to the contrary. Gradually, as the net of persecution drew tighter, her diary became a prayer to God. When she knew she would be deported, she accepted her fate and her calling to be present at the heart of suffering, to be ” thinking heart of the concentration camp.” She was deported to Auschwitz on September 7, 1943. From the train window she tossed out a card that read, :”We have left the camp singing.” She died on November 30 at the age of twenty-nine (Give Us This Day: Blessed among Us, 30 November 2022).
What I have tried to do with the lyrics, was to condense her diary into three parts: at her home in Amsterdam, in the holding camp before her departure, and in the holding camp right before her departure to Auschwitz.
Etty Hillesum LYRICS:
Outside my window is my jasmine tree, Oh the wonder, Oh the wonder!/ How beautiful it is, a little miracle that leads to you./ Take me by Your hand, God, I shall follow You and not resist too much,/ and not resist too much./ I shall not evade all the tempests that life has in store for me./ Lead me by your hand, Lord, I shall follow You and try not to be afraid,/ try not to be afraid./ I will try to spread all my warmth and love, my warmth and love for all.
Outside my window is my jasmine tree, Oh, the beauty, Oh, the beauty./ A greater experience than all these people together./ My day’s full of people, and full of talk,/ But full of utter peace, peace and quiet within. / Large areas of peace within and to reflect it towards others./ In spite of all, life is good, in spite of all, life is very good and to reflect,/ to reflect it to others./ It is not God’s fault that things sometimes go awry, go awry./
Outside my window was myjasmine tree, simply ruined, all is gone now./ By the rains and the storms completely ruined just the last few days./ You cannot help us, God, can not help us, but we must help You,/ But we must help you, And defend, Lord, Your dwelling place inside us, God, to the last in us./ At the heart of the suffering I feel called, Oh, Lord, to be a presence, here Lord,/ and at the heart of suffering,/ To become the thinking heart of the concentration camp of hell./
Somewhere inside me is my jasmine tree, Oh, the blossoms! Oh, the blossoms!/ So delicate to me, so delicate to me and the beauty./
Below is the piece with piano and (artificial) voice sound. (This is best I can do without a full scale production.)
I feel one can do more with music compared to the other arts. The composer can not only paint a picture with words, for example, “Outside my window is my Jasmine tree,” but the music can also assign a melody for the jasmine tree as its theme. Also, the mood for the overall piece is usually set at the beginning (in this case, the fist, second and last stanzas are in the major key), whereas the third stanza is in the minor key. I didn’t want the piece to end in the minor, so I went back to the major in the last stanza. I feel Etty would want it that way.
I hope you enjoyed this presentation. The full music score is below. (Just click on link.)
In my series, Dancing with God through the Arts, I mentioned several of the arts like music, writing, dancing, etc., but especially drawing. In this series, Fr. Mike’s Gallery, I would like to share with you some of my own pieces and explain why they not only relate to dancing with God but also as another way of praying to God. ENJOY!
I am a member of Gallery Saint John which is located on the property of Mount Saint John where the Bergamo Retreat Center is located on Patterson and Shakertown Road in Kettering, Ohio. Several of us Marianist brothers present our art throughout the year. We have enough space to host personal shows in the Large gallery room. The present show that is on display until 15 January is called, “Creches and Christmas Items”.
Let my now present my own five pieces of art below.
I love this piece called, “Snow Bunting,” painted in acrylics. Obviously, someone else liked it also and bought it, but am so glad I made a photo copy. I enjoy painting and drawing birds and other animals but try to avoid drawing people since that is an all together different skill to be developed. I focus mainly on everything else except people. I also love what is called, “House Portraits.” When I went to seminary in Daily City, south of San Francisco, I photographed many of the famous painted ladies, or houses there. I especially like drawing old abandoned houses and buildings.
As for this drawing, to date I have redrawn the Snow Bunting picture several times. It is familiar sight especially in the winter season of the Indian Lake region.
Since I lived at Indian Lake, Ohio, we have a retreat center there, I also painted and drew may scenes and cabins around the lake, like this set of boats. I call this my incomplete scene of four boats, and it will remain incomplete, like Schuman’s Unfinished Symphony. It seems people like this style that I have adopted for many other drawings where I only color in the main topic, boats. This was done in pastel pencils.
This isn’t a pointed lady, but it is a fine example of a house portrait. I especially like old building as you can tell. This ink on paperdrawing leaves much to the imagination of what it might have looked like in years past. The red door is what caught my attention, and the rectangular tower like structure that is the center of this building also stands out.
Hopefully you can correctly identify these favorite wild flowers that are quite common in Ohio, Black-eyed Susan. This example was done in water color, a favorite medium, but unforgiving with mistakes, that is, hard to correct. I guess that is why it is a favorite medium, even thought I love experimenting with all kinds.
Last, but not least, is my favorite pastel pencilof a fawn. Notice that this is an incomplete drawing. I like this style since one cannot help but cause the viewer to focus immediately on the main theme, the fawn. The wild grass is secondary.
Thank Youfor viewing. I hope that you felt yourself dancing with God just by being drawn into these paintings and drawings. That is why an art gallery are quiet places like a chapel or church to visit, so that the viewer can enjoy in silence what God is saying to them in and through the creations of the artist.