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: Prodigal Sons series, Marianist Spirituality series, God is Beautiful, Beautiful is God series.

ENJOY!

TID-BITS on the Eucharis:  4-5 century (labeled as Mass in Basilica) the Prayers of the Faithful were dropped.  The original intentions followed the 18 Intentions that are still used on Good Friday Service, but now number around ten.

TID-BITS on the Church: Advent Season really didn’t begin until the 6th century!  It was a time to prepare for Christmas and to divide up time between Pentecost and Christmas.  It was known as the Little Lent, hence the color purple.

TID-BITS on the Prophets: Micah, which means Like Yahweh, (Michael means Like El) was first prophet to contradict prevailing Jerusalem Theology that the Davidic Kingship and the Sacred Temple is no guarantee against invasion if the people are not faithful to the Covenant!

 


My Recent Homilies

First Sunday Advent 2021

Luke 21:25-8,34-6

 Beware That Your Hearts Do Not Become Drowsy

 With her first pregnancies my mom would announce joyfully that she was pregnant.  By the ninth or tenth pregnancy, she would speak in code to my sisters and simply say, “I missed my period!?”  She wouldn’t say anything to us boys, but we knew something was up when she started to get the baby clothes down and sort through them.  We helped her wash the baby bottles.  And then she would tell us, never coming out directly, “I will need your help with this one.”  Then she would retrieve the baby diapers.

Holding the baby was the best part and feeding was ok.  It’s what came out the other end. That is why she said, “I will need help with this one.”  But the joy was genuine, even though it was another mouth to feed.  I actually felt sorry for my younger brothers since they were at the end of the hand-me-down clothes-line that kept getting longer.  It was the waiting that was the hardest part, because there was the difficult pregnancy of my brother Leo where we almost lost both our mom and the baby.

From now on we had to make room in our lives for another baby.  And that baby would grow to be a child, then a teenager, then an adult, and then leave.  Once they learn to drive, they leave home.  Anyway, the most important part is making room in our lives for another, forever.  That is what Advent prepares us to do each year, making room in our lives for Jesus, the baby, the child, the adolescent, the young adult, the man on the cross, forever.

Jesus’ Immaculate Conception would have been eight months ago, with Mary’s ‘Yes!” to the angel Gabriel.  It isn’t celebrated with as much fanfare as his mother’s, probably for the simple fact that without Mary’s IC Jesus would have been born in sin, Original Sin.

Mary hurries to the high country to visit Elizabeth her cousin, already six months pregnant with the future John the Baptist.  Imagine their advent.  Advent means coming, the coming of Jesus, but also for Elizabeth the coming of John.  I am sure the women were excited for many reasons, first with sharing the joy that both are pregnant.  Obviously, Elizabeth showed, a confirmation of the message from the angel Gabriel of her own special pregnancy.  Elizabeth got a clue about Mary’s pregnancy from her own child, John, that leaped in her womb.

Mary could have simply said, “I missed my period,” but my mother used to say, a woman who is pregnant looks different and there is no hiding it.  When a woman walked in the door to Woman Line there is fear and joy at the same time written all over their face.  Mary’s fear would have been telling Joseph that she was pregnant.

This was the Advent of all advents, Elizabeth and Mary, which we formally call the Visitation.  Both would have to make room for a new life, and so would their communities!  Joseph would eventually know for sure when his wife came back from her cousin, showing.  And then it would be his turn to wait, wait for this baby.

We are given another year to make room for Jesus in our lives.  How are we to do that?  It has to do with more than just decorating the house.  The main focus is our Christmas Creche, or Nativity Scene (complete with three wise-men).  Hopefully the empty manger will emphasize again the room we need to make in our hearts for this baby Jesus.

Advent is also a time to take note of now much he might be missing.

First Sunday Advent 2021

Christ the King 2021

33rd Sunday OT 2021

32nd Sun OT 2021

31st Sun OT 2021

THE PRODIGAL SONS: The Story Continues

Part VI

“You said this trip would be full of surprises,” Abe said.  “You didn’t mention that it would be full of dangerous adventure with wild and blood-thirsty men.”

“It’s no trip in the woods,” Eliud countered.  “There will always be surprises in life.  That is what keeps it interesting.  Be honest, your life must have been boring until now.”

“We would make business trips every now and then,” Michael offered.  “We wouldn’t be where we are today without those trips.”

“And none were without incidents?” Eliud asked.

“OK,” Abe admitted.  “There were problems once in a while.”

“Serious problems?” Eliud pushed.

“Remember that time we were set upon by robbers,” Michael recalled.  “That was close!”

“Couldn’t go anywhere without protection after that,” Abe admitted.

“We paid a mercenary group to travel with us,” Michael said, “after that, to protect us.”

“How do you know the mercenary weren’t in on it in the first place?” Eliud challenged.  “Maybe they set the whole thing up just to get the business of protecting you.”

“You think?” Abe asked.

“I’m sure that is a possibility,” Eliud said.  “Been down that road myself.”

“That is why we were forever worrying about our sons’ business trips, where they met your daughters.”

“Good sons, Abe!” Eliud said.  “You should be proud.”

“We are blessed,” Michael added.

“How far to the next watering hole?” Abe asked.

“Not much longer,” Eliud replied.  “This time, it should be only ourselves and the stars.”

“I am looking forward to some quiet conversations under the night sky,” Michael said.

“Are you sure we won’t have any surprised visitors?” Abe asked.

“One can never be too sure,” Eliud was playing it safe.  “However, as you noticed, we are far from any other waterhole this time.”

“How is that helpful,” Abe said.  “It would make us more vulnerable!”

“Because they would have to travel far, like us, to get there,” Eliud said.  “And we would have seen them by now.  My scouts have been keeping out an eye for anyone following.”

“That’s good to know,” Abe added.

“I wouldn’t put my family at any unnecessary risk,” Eliud also added.

“Is that it, there in the distance?” Michael asked.

“It is,” he said.  “You have good eyes.  It is nestled at the foot of the hills.  My men are already there scouting the area.  The hills make a good look out too.”

“It is bigger than I thought” Abe said.  “I’m looking forward to a restful night.”

“You will love the spot, Abe,” Eliud said, “since the hills cool it off considerably in the night.  There is also a surprise there that I am anxious to show you.”

“Oh?  What is that?” Abe was curious now.

“There is a marking on the cave walls there that you might find interesting,” was all Eliud would say.  “My scouts said there is an Ethiopian Official already camped there.”

“That could be good or bad?” Abe wondered out loud.

“Most of the Ethiopians we have met on our travels were mainly officials and curriers traveling to Jerusalem,” Michael said.  “Maybe we know this one?”

“We think this one is probably an important official by the looks of things, waiting to rendezvous with his escort,” Eliud guessed.  “That is the usual way for them, and will meet them half way.  It looks like his escort from Jerusalem has already returned.”

“I wonder what he is doing out here in the middle of no-where?” Michael was guessing.

“Probably the same thing we are doing, just going from one destination to the next,” Eliud suggested.  “He could have gotten off schedule, too.  That is easy to do for anyone traveling on a schedule.”

“It looks like we are only a couple of hours from our destination,” said Michael.

“You are right, Michael,” said Eliud, somewhat surprised.  “You have hidden gifts that are starting to show on this trip.  We will be there soon.  My scout is returning.”

After a short while a familiar rider approached.  “The official from Ethiopia welcomes us to join him for dinner tonight,” the scout informs Eliud and the brothers.

“Well, this is good news,” Eliud said.  “Tell him we accept.  Brothers?”

“Yes, we would be delighted!” Abe and Michael answered in reply.

“I thought you said this oasis would be deserted?” Michael said more to the aside.

“Fortunately, the only person I am interested in seeing in all the world just happens to be at the same oasis at the same time we will be!” Eliud said excitedly.

“You’ve met him before?” Abe asked surprised.

“Oh, yes!  Many times!”  Eliud said still excited.  “One cannot help but meet many people who travel a lot like us on the same roads.  We even try to time it so that we can encounter each other.”

“Why is that?” Michael asked surprised.

“Many reasons,” Eliud said, “but mainly for good companionship, safety, and the latest news.  Any news is important when traveling!”

“Why is that?” Michael repeated himself not realizing it.

“So that you don’t fall into any unfortunate situations that could have been avoided by simply knowing about it ahead of time,” Eliud said.  “For example, the Romans are always on the move, which is why they built these roads and that is why they are successful in keeping their empire together.  They may not get to a certain place in time, but they will get there eventually.”

“What good is getting somewhere too late to do any good?” Michael asked.

“The fact that Rome will get there eventually and extract retribution one way or another is a very strong deterrent!” Eliud offered.  “Their opponents will think twice next time, even if they have won this round.”

“Do you find it very helpful?” Michael asked unconvinced.

“Yes, I do,” Eliud responded, “up to a point.  Besides, the alternative is very enticing.”

“How is that?” Michael challenged.

“If the rulers of a territory cooperate, the Romans could even continue to let them rule themselves,” Eliud answered.

“As long as they pay their taxes,” Michael added sarcastically.

“The alternative is to be wiped out by a superior force, Rome,” Eliud countered.  “Besides, even if Rome wasn’t a present danger, there are always some tribe or people waiting to expand their territory worse than the Romans.  Israel had a great arrangement with Rome.”

“How is that?” Michael asked surprised.

“Our young men didn’t have to enlist in the military,” Eliud pointed out.

“If you paid a tax in place of service,” Michael countered.

“We didn’t have to send our temple tax to Rome.  We were allowed to sent it to Jerusalem instead,” Eliud added, “and other amenities.”

At that moment the Ethiopian Official rode up to meet them.

“Eliud, my old friend, you are still in one piece!” said the Official.

“I am, very much so, because I have traveled with the best…you!” Eliud returned the greeting.  “Your good presence wards off all evil spirits.  What brings you to this part of the country, business in Jerusalem?”

“Yes, the usual business,” he said.  “What about you and your two companions?  I haven’t seen them before.  New sons in law?” he laughed.

“Sort of right, Telesphor!  My daughters would be doubled blessed though.  These are their new fathers-in-law!” Eliud proudly exclaimed.

“Oh?” Telesphor looked confused.

“The daughters and our sons…” Abe began.

“…our sons and their new wives…” Michael continued.

“…are at home running the business,” Abe finished, “…with their mothers.”

“So, its your chance to get away?” Telesphor offered.

“Yes!” they both answered and laughed.

“Good for you,” was all Telesphor could muster.

“It’s a long story, friend,” Eliud said.

“We have the time,” Telesphor added laughing.

 

The Prodigal Sons Six

The Prodigal Sons Five

The Prodigal Sons Four

The Prodigal Sons Three

The Prodigal Sons Two

The Prodigal Sons One

A Manuel of Marianist Spirituality

Quentin Hakenewerth, SM

PART FIVE: Pervasive Role of Mary

 Needless to say, this is the most important part of Fr. Hakenewerth’s A Manuel of Marianist Spirituality.  “(Chaminade) was moved deeply, in a sense beyond himself, by the way God had taken Mary into his love and by the tremendous consequences of this truth for us.”

Fr. Quentin makes three points from the teaching of Father Chaminade concerning Mary; as Spouse, as Mother (Part A), and in her Association with the Mysteries of Christ (Part B).

Part A: Spouse

Father Chaminade’s faith brought him deep insights into the relationship between God and Mary.  God loved her so much that he took her completely – in absolutely every respect – into his own life.  How can one express such a relationship?  God’s statement in Scripture uses the term “bridegroom” (Is 54:5) to express his love for his creatures.  Jesus likewise uses this image to explain his own relationship to his disciples and to the Church (Mt 9:15; 22:1; 25:1).  Father Chaminade used the image of “spouse” to explain both the intimacy and the fecundity of the relationship of Mary with God.

In this spousal relationship, God bestows upon Mary, in overabundant measure, his own life and its power.  A spouse does not retain for himself or herself alone the use or enjoyment of anything or the exercise of any power.  All one is and has is likewise at the disposal of the other.  As spouses they live, use things, enjoy, and exercise power together, as one.  So God, in choosing Mary, bestowed upon her the fullness of grace – that is, a fullness of God’s own life.  On her part, Mary was entirely faithful to this spousal relationship, and she belonged entirely to God.

All this is accomplished in Mary with her cooperation, through the work of the Holy Spirit.  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most Hight will overshadow you” (Lk 1:35).  Mary response, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

The Incarnation, considered in its necessary consequences, is the fruit of the divine espousal of the Holy Spirit and the august Virgin.  It is a fruitful yet spiritual espousal that gave life in the natural order to her son, Jesus Christ, and produced in the spiritual order – that is, by faith – regeneration of life for all people.  (Marianist Writings 2, par.486)

And Chaminade continues:

God’s love for Mary is eternal, resulting from his eternal plan for the Incarnation.  The accomplishment of this great mystery filled his sacred humanity with that eternal love which he always had for her.  What I have been admiring for some time now, and for too short a time, is the fact that Mary became associated at the moment of the Incarnation with the eternal fecundity of the Father by her vivid faith, animated by an inconceivably great love.  (MW 2, par.115-6)

Mother

Mary’s conception of Jesus was not merely a human act or a mere physical generation.  It was an act of faith and of spousal love.  Consequently, it embraced much more than giving to Jesus his humanity.  Her act of conceiving through faith in the power of the Holy Spirit embraced the entire process of bringing the life of Jesus to anyone who would believe.

When Mary consented to the Incarnation of the Word…she conceived him in his entirety, that is, in his natural as well as his mystical body.   She could not separate him from what was to form one with him.  And thus, in giving her consent to the…divine maternity, she accepted the twofold distinction of being the mother of Jesus Christ taken as an individual and the mother of Jesus Christ considered in the fulness of the one who fills the whole creation (Eph 1:23).  When Mary conceived the savior in her physical womb, she also conceived in her spirit, by her love and faith, all Christians as members of the Church, that is, of the mystical body of Christ.  (MW 2, par.482)

Mary’s loving act of faith (“faith of the heart”) was a necessary part of Jesus’ coming to life and growing in us.  “Mary’s love, which prompted her to cooperate in the birth of the Church, made her the mother, according to the spirit, of the Savior’s members” (Marianist Directions 3, par.7).

Mary’s maternal love is united to our own act of faith that produces the necessary condition of the life of Jesus to take root in us.  It is in this same way that “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph 3:1).

If Mary is our mother, then her presence in our life will have a formative influence.  Her presence will be a most favorable and necessary condition for the life of Jesus to develop in us, and she will be an active influence in shaping our life in the image of Jesus.  Father Chaminade explains this by the fact that the life of Jesus is a life of “influence”.  The root meaning of influence is “to flow into” something and “to affect it insensibly.”  The life of Jesus generated by the Holy Sprit in Mary was a life of “influence’ in two ways.

First, it influenced Mary herself.  Just as her human nature formed Jesus physically in her own image, so the spiritual presence of Jesus interiorly formed Mary to resemble him.  From that moment on, Mary “was associated in all his mysteries, both in their exterior and their interior aspects; so that her conformity might be the most perfect possible, or rather that there might be as much uniformity as possible (MD 3, par.367).

The life of the Spirit in Jesus which transformed Mary interiorly is meant to influence us also.  The same kind of transformation will take place in us to the degree of our faith and to the degree that our love allows the Holy Spirit though the mother of Jesus to generate that life in us.

This truth of faith has a tremendous influence in our life as Marianists.  The more consciously we live the presence of Mary in our life, the more we allow her presence to form our own interior personality in the image of Jesus.  This is more than merely shaping our spirit after an external mode.  The model is within, so we generate within us the very virtues of Jesus himself.  Our task is to live in the presence of Mary and to be entirely open to the influence of her presence.  Any influence she has on us will be in the direction of becoming more like Jesus and one with him.  “What a powerful means it is for arriving at likeness to Jesus Christ, to have for our mother the very same mother of Jesus Christ!” (MD 3, par.317).

Another practical consequence is that we take seriously what Jesus said to Mary and to the beloved disciple at the hour of his death on Calvary.

In saying to the beloved disciple, “Here is your mother,” Jesus wished to say, “Accept her who bore you spiritually in faith when she conceived me physically in her womb.  She is your mother as she is mine, not indeed in the same matter, yet by the right of generation.”  (MW 2, par.489)

By the words addressed to Mary, “Woman, here is your son,” Jesus seems to say, “You are the new Eve, and you see your first-born son, his mission being accomplished, returning to his father.  But this son of your faith and my love has not yet fulfilled his mission.  Woman…behold, I confide him to you!”  (MW 2m par,490)

From the moment we understand this grace, we make a place for Mary in our home (John 19:27).

                                                       

Exercise: Find a quiet spot to be by yourself, your prayer-space, and silently pray the Hail, Mary.   Now, imagine a seat next to yourself with Mary sitting there quietly with you, and pray the Hail, Mary again, slowly and with meaning, directing your pray to her.

Next, reflect quietly again on the above presentation on Mary as Spouse and Mother, especially as our spiritual Mother.  Call upon her to form you into the image of her offspring, Jesus.

Exercise: Commit yourself to Mary’s ongoing formation in Jesus from now on, being open to the little things that make a difference in our lives, especially our personality, to be formed as Jesus so as to make a difference in the world around us, just by our presence.

I emphasize the above in italics, “just by our presence,” to remind ourselves that the First Principle of Marianist Spirituality is that “…the quality of our presence is more important than our work!”  This is where Mary can work with us and our own unique personalities.  What is your personality like?  Where can Mary help you with the not so good parts and improving the better parts of your personality?

 

A Manuel of Marianist Spirituallily P5

A Manuel of Marianist Spirituality P4

A Manuel of Marianist Spirituality P3 c

A Manuel of Marianist Spirituality P3

A Manuel of Marianist Spirituality P2 c

A Manuel of Marianist Spirituality P2

A Manuel of Marianist Spirituality P1 c

A Manuel of Marianist Spirituality P1

A Manuel of Marianist Spirituality

GOD IS BEAUTIFUL!

BEAUTY IS GOD!

PART SIX: Saints Among the Artists

So far, we have talked about Beauty that is more than just in the eye of the beholder, but a call from God to dance or at least get in step with our creator through creation that calls to us through its many manifestations, like art, music, and language.  That is what the first article mentions: As God Is Creative, God Wants You to Be Creative!  It is through our creativity that we actively participate with God in our world through beauty, and even if that participation is simply visiting galleries, and this was pointed out in the previous section No Atheists in Art Galleries.

But beauty can be more than the creative arts since it can also include even the area of Math and Physics.  Again, this was shown through the interesting article on Emmy Noether’s Beautiful Theorem, which begs the question, what is beauty?  Hopefully Fr. Spitzer, SJ, was able to satisfy this question through his philosophical point of view from his book in the section The Nature of Beauty and the Desire for Perfect Beauty which I presented in two parts.

But talking about ‘driving’ and attending classes is much different than actually getting behind the ‘wheel.’  That is where the article Practicing Beauty by Roberto Goizunta tries to point out, though from a more spiritual aspect in the apparition of our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego.

In this aspect that I present the present section of recognizing the saints among the Artists which include the following:

Servant of God Antoni Gaudi (1842-1924), Servant of God, an Architect who lived in Barcelona, and was offered the project to design and build a new Church called Holy Family, Nuestra Familia.  The project relied on a lay association and individual donations.  Over time the design grew into an astonishing work of art that reflected his imagination but also his growing faith!

He adopted an ascetic life, dressing as a workman, fasting frequently, and attending daily Mass.  He even slept on a cot in the church.  He died on 7th June 1926 when he was struck by a streetcar but wasn’t identified as the now famous architect until later.  He was mistaken as a beggar and taken to the charity ward of the local hospital where he died on the of June 1926, three days later!  Today it is nearing completion and was consecrated and then in 1999 it was named as basilica.  Antoni Gaudi, Servant of God, has been proposed as a candidate for canonization!

The 19th century has produced several religious and lay Catholics who evangelized through their art and beauty.  Two named in the Catholic Telegraph in the February 2021 edition are Gerhard Lamers (1871-1964) and Edward Schulte (1890-1974).

Gerhard Lamers was born in Germany and showed artistic talent from a young age.  While he lived in Germany, he decorated more than 100 churches in Europe.  Eventually he moved to America and continued to paint murals in churches including commissions in the archdiocese of Cincinnati: St. William, Price Hill; Annunciation, Clifton and All Saints, Kenwood.

Edward Schulte from Cincinnati was a leading authority on church architecture.  He received 300 commissions over 40 years from new church structures and renovations to schools and convents.  He led the renovation of St. Peter in Chains Cathedral and now Basilica and other churches including St. Cecilia and Christ the King.

The last artist to be included is Marie-Alain Couturier, Dominican Artist (1897-1924).  “Following service in World War I and years of art studies, he entered the French Dominican Province in 1924.  His superiors urged him to pursue his artistic talents, now in service of the Church.  Eventually he and a fellow Dominican Fr. Pie Regamey became editors of L’Art Sacre, turning the journal into a vehicle for their vision of artistic renewal.”

Concerning art, he felt so strongly about good art that he even went so far as to write, “Better a genius without faith than a believer without talent.”  And again, “…we told ourselves that a great artist is always a great spiritual being, each in his own manner.”  Many applauded his efforts, which included support of other artists such as Rouault, Matisse, Chagall, Braque, and Le Corbusier.  Unfortunately, many traditionalists were appalled, and such above statements only added fuel to their fire.  In 1952 the Vatican issued a statement on sacred art that was widely seen as a rebuke of the Dominican project; it warned against “distortions and unusual images;” that can spread “dangerous” error.  Next year L’Art Sacre was suppressed.

It seems that beauty is in the eye of the beholder was superseded by beauty is in the eye of who or what the Church deems beautiful.  If God is Beautiful and Beauty is God, I believe that all true believers participate in God’s attributes with sincere hearts and everyone else will eventually be led there if their participation in beauty through art is sincere.

God is Beauty P6

God is Beauty P5

God is Beauty P4

God is Beauty P3c

God is Beauty P3

God Is Beauty P2

God is Beauty P1

God is Beauty Intro