Tag Archive: Saint


AMDG

e8fc6da0-c235-4aa6-8fc7-23f12e3029e2HiResI have been enjoying accompanying the Missionaries of Charity on an 8 Day Retreat.  It is always great to see how an Ignatian individual guided retreat (IGR) is so often an experience of renewal. The MC’s founded by Mother Teresa live a very austere and effective form of religious life.  Famously only owning two sari’s, sharing bedrooms, never travelling alone, with all their communities giving hospitality to the poorest of the poor through breakfast clubs, soup kitchens and also summer camps for urban youth.  Alongside all of this is a highly structured day including four and a half hours of prayer.  Because of all of this, the Sisters have a very rich interior life – which means that it is a privilege to accompany them on a retreat.  The normal periods of resistance and adapting to a rhythm of silence and prayer are not ‘issues’ as they may be with other retreatants.  In fact conversely encouraging the sisters to temporarily leave behind a routine of oral prayer and devotion and have the courage to make imaginative contemplations on the Gospel passages and Ignatian themes, and more importantly to give God enough silence and stillness for Him to work in is the challenge.  The fruits are wonderful to witness.

Part of my role in accompanying them is to try and go deeper into the life of Mother Teresa, to understand this remarkable woman who began life in a Loreto convent (an Ignatian order) and ended up being a Nobel Prize Winner and probably the most recognised women on the planet.  Mother always had Jesuit spiritual directors, in fact one played a crucial role in helping her discern ‘the call within the call’ that brought her out of the convent and on to the streets of Calcutta.  However what has struck me most is the anger and sheer hatred that she seemed to generate in some quarters.  Most notoriously from Christopher Hitchens and his documentary / book Hells Angel.  For a couple of weeks now I have been mulling this over, and being in a privileged position to listen to the sisters and witness their work at first hand over a few years his criticisms, few of which are well-founded, have been wildly exaggerated and lacking insight, generosity, compassion.

mqdefaultHitchens epitomises a chattering class that live lives that are ultimately unhappy and frustrated, and so compensate by justifying themselves to each other through a spurious moral superiority. So much of the commentariat are affected by this impotence – the secularist and self-appointed gurus have a very flimsy record in building up civil society and actually changing the world.  It is easy to stand on the side-line and harp, but Hitchens takes this to an unhinged level – so detached from any practical engagement with poverty.   Comparing reading his writings and listening to the Sisters testimony is an interesting comparison of spiritual desolation and spiritual consolation.  Hearing (outside of the confidential confines of Direction) Sisters talk about going in and cleaning the house of two dying alcoholics living in squalor in Liverpool is inspiring and moving.  Time will be the judge of the legacy Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Christopher Hitchens….. although an interesting footnote for me was meeting his nephew Daniel Hitchens this year.  Daniel was an outstanding member of the new intake for Catholic Voices, who train spokesman for the Church.  A recent convert, I asked him why he had become a Catholic, and one of the reasons was because his uncle hated Catholics so much!  Peter Hitchens has written a fascinating book in response to his brothers atheism, called ‘The Rage against God’.  The anger that underpins much of the ‘New Atheism’ is ultimately not constructive, whereas the love that inspires the commitment of the MC’s is creative, and creates hope in the poorest and darkest corners of our world, including urban Britain.

Speaking Truth to Power

AMDG

This is my homily for tomorrow – the Second Sunday of Advent 

john_baptistSpeaking Truth to Power is a phrase that is often used to describe people who bravely stand up against injustice.  It takes courage, it takes integrity to put your head above the parapet.  It probably explains something behind the overwhelming reaction to the death of Nelson Mandela this week.  Whenever there is a media frenzy there is a lot of nonsense spoken about someone’s life – and this week is no exception to this – however it cannot be denied that Mandela become a powerful symbol for many people.  He spoke truth to power, and they tried to silence him, but in the end truth won out.  He was lucky – he wasn’t silenced – he didn’t become a political martyr.   Speaking truth to power is part of the job description for an Old Testament Prophet.  And today in the Gospel – on the second week of our Advent Journey we meet the greatest prophet of them all, according to Jesus, John the Baptist. Unlike Nelson Mandela – we know that John was eventually silenced – beheaded by Herod.  John is one of the great advent figures – bridging the gap between the NT & OT.  He speaks with great authority, and that authority is recognised by the people and so he attracts great crowds.

What is his message for this advent ?  I think that he is warning not to be complacent in our faith.  He calls the Pharisees and the Sadducees ‘A brood of vipers’.  He is not confronting the power of Herod yet – but a much more subtle power – the power of respectability and the power of a good reputation and keeping a public face.   So let us examine our own faith and our own lives.

roman-triumphSt Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises writes very clearly about the seduction of power and honour.  In his meditation on the Two Standards – he talks about how the trappings of fame and honour are used by the enemy to seduce us …. to pull us away from God, so that we come to believe that we are all powerful.  There is a fascinating index called ‘The Power Distance index’ which measures how much a country respects authority and values hierarchies.  The higher the country is the more likely it is to be totalitarian and score high on corruption scales.  In ancient times when a Roman General or a Roman Emperor used to have a victory triumph (or parade) and was receiving the adulation of the masses – a slave would stand behind him and according to Tertullian whisper in his ear “Look behind you! Remember that you are a man! Remember that you’ll die”…..the famous memento mori.

So this Advent – let us heed John’s challenge.  Let us be honest about the little ways we are seduced into thinking that we are great, we are clever, lest we become complacent.  Advent is a time for our hearts to become humbler – that we dust away the complacency – as we would preparing a guest room – for a special guest.  But this time the room is our hearts – and for the grace of Christmas to go really deep – our hearts have to mirror that humble manger in Bethlehem.

Unblocking Romero

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Statue of Oscar Romero outside Westminster Abbey

Statue of Oscar Romero outside Westminster Abbey

We had a special night last Thursday here in Manchester hosting the Romero Trust and Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP. Fr Timothy gave an engrossing talk entitled the Disturbing Truth, Oscar Romero, The Church & the Poor – he spoke with a compassion and authority that kept the packed church of 400+ gripped. Oscar Romero was the Bishop of El Salvador who was killed in 1980 for his commitment to the poor.  We were reminded how this quiet, ‘bookish’ bishop was ‘converted’ to the cause of the poor, when he looked on the bullet ridden body of his friend the Jesuit Rutilio Grande who had been assassinated by right wing paramilitaries.  Romero spoke out fearlessly against the repression of the poor from that point on – till it became inevitable that he would have to be silenced.  He was shot dead during mass in his Cathedral, and it was shocking to find out that when they prepared his body for burial they discovered that the inside of his trousers was coated with salt.  It is probable that he saw the assassin at the back of the cathedral before he was shot – and that the anxiety caused an excessive sweating – but he would not abandon the prayer of the mass.

 Timothy Radcliffe lecture 31 10 2013 (6)People came from all over the North of England to hear Fr Radcliffe – and it was clear that there is a great love for Romero. So it is heartening to hear that Pope Francis has unblocked his cause for canonisation.   Timothy argued that for Romero, the fundamental moral choice was between dialogue and violence. Patient dialogue is not about negotiation but transformation. The deepest truths are only attainable through patient exchange, building friendship, transforming our hearts and minds. It is the very opposite of violence. Britain at one level is more tolerant than El Salvador was in the 80’s however a more subtle dynamic of violence is at work.  In modern Britain, the contempt for the poor often takes the form of contrasting the so-called good, hard-working poor, and the imagined multitude of ‘skivers’, parasites devouring benefits.  The uncomfortable truth is that the vast majority of poor people in this country work but simply are not paid enough.  Romero had to be assassinated because he refused to collude in the myth of the wickedness of the poor.

Timothy Radcliffe lecture 31 10 2013 (105) In giving a vote of thanks, Eammon O’Brien, the president of the Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy, commended Timothy for inspiring a new generation of Catholics.  He pointed out that the Chaplaincy has just opened the first student-run foodbank in the country, and that his words would inspire them to deepen their commitment to the poor through the regular soup runs, and supporting a breakfast club at a local primary school.  They would challenge the globalisation of indifference and the denigrating language of the poor. It was great to have Bishop Brain of Salford & Bishop Rawsthorne of Hallam with us for the talk.

All the Saints

AMDG

All-SaintsToday’s celebration of all the Saints is a very special one for the church.  All Saints day grew out of a need in the early church to remember all the martyrs that couldn’t fit into the emerging  liturgical calendar.  Initially every martyr (saint) was given their own feast day – but in the first three hundred years of the church, so many were killed by Roman emperors (about 100,000 according to some scholars)  – that they couldn’t fit them in the emerging liturgical calendar – hence the birth of all saints day.    The status of Christianity changed dramatically during the reign of Emperor Constantine.  He was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christian, and agreed on the Edict of Milan, which stressed religious tolerance.  His mother St Helena is credited with discovering the true cross of Christ. Christianity went from being a sect, heavily persecuted and underground, to becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire.  A bit further down the line Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs.  This was a remarkable moment  where the ancient temple to all the gods of ancient Rome became a Christian church dedicated to all the saints of the early church.  Pope  Gregory IV (827-844) extended this celebration to the entire Church and gave the feast universal status – So for Catholics it is called a Holy Day of Obligation (i.e. they must go to mass) . Such important feast days have their own vigil – hence Halloween – the evening of all Hallows.  Wearing costumes / jack-o-laterns etc / partys (fiestas) can all be traced back to the start of this three-day holiday.

1970405592_0e3f9698f0There are two paths to ‘sainthood’ in the Catholic Church.  One is to be a martyr –  or to be killed distinctly out of hatred for the faith (“odium fidei”), the other is to live a life of heroic virtue.  The second process usually requires independent proof of miracles as a result of someone praying for your intercession.  The pictures on either side of the blog today come from a marvellous set of tapestries in the Cathedral of Our Lady and the Angels in  Los Angles.    THe tapestries are called the communion of Saints consisting  of females and males of all ages, races, occupations and vocations the world over. Saints from the Renaissance are intermingled with people from the 1st century and the 20th century. The artist – John Nava –  combined digital imaging and “Old Master” methods in creating the saints for the tapestries. He constructed figures from multiple studies, combined drawn and painted elements, had costumes made when needed and even drafted family members to serve as models on occasion. He wanted the figures to look like people we know now, and did not use a highly stylized form to depict the saints. Nava’s desire is that people identify and see that “a saint could look like me.”

Communion-of-Saints-tapestry-300x192

 

You can see these marvelous tapestries in more detail by clink on this link 
 

 

Heroic Faith (2)

AMDG

Walter-Ciszek-SJFather Walter Ciszek is an American Jesuit who spent 23 years as a priest in Soviet prisons and doing hard labour in Siberia, from  1940-1963. His time included 5 years in the infamous Lubyanka prison in Moscow, and 15 years in a Siberia mainly working in and around the town of Norilsk.  He has written a mesmerising account of those years which has been recently republished by Ignatius Press, it is called ‘With God in Russia’.

Reading the book is a testament to an incredibly tough guy – who also seemed to be blessed with a deep faith and outstanding pastoral skills.  His survival was a miracle in itself – enduring long periods of isolation and interrogation in Moscow.  Then the harrowing stories of him being transported to Siberia after being sentenced as a ‘Vatican Spy’ to 15 years hard-labour.  The conditions which he endured as they left Moscow which was under prolonged attack by the Germans.

With God in RussiaThe account is absorbing and well worth reading, told with clarity, without sentimentality, at times so crisply that it catches the breath – the terrible hardship and cruelty expressed in a couple of sentences.  Highlights for me include –

  • His faith in God’s providence that helped him beyond the limits of physical endurance, with never any hint of feeling sorry for himself (maybe twice in the whole book did he momentarily succumb to despair)
  • How when in solitary confinement – for months on end – he would order his day around the ‘ordo’ he remembered in the novitiate – from his Jesuit training, to keep him from going mad.
  • How his fellow prisoners, even the violent thieves, were keen to protect him as a priest in a savage world of survival.  How well organised he and the other priests became – and the remarkable ministry they were able to give in secret – sacramental, but also giving retreats!
  • His constant and varied scrapes with Death – Physical Torture, beaten and being injected with chemicals by KGB, Explosions in Coal Mines, Being fired on by Russian Soldiers during a prison revolt, Immersion in Freezing Rivers when logging, Surviving Scurvy from inadequate prison rations, Acute Food Poisoning, prolonged periods of starvation, Constant exposure to arctic conditions in inadequate clothing, Fumigation on two week barge journey etc etc!
  • The risks prisoners would take, even unto death, to hear Mass or go to confession – their courage of practising their faith in the face of brutal repression
  • And finally how he celebrated Easter and Christmas both in captivity and then when he was released on a limited permit.  When he was freed, he celebrated an Easter Vigil that finished at 3am – although communion was distributed from then until after 9am so big were the crowds. Right under the noses of the KGB.  It was such a success – with so much joy – with so great numbers greeting each other  ‘ Christ is Risen’ – ‘He is risen in indeed’ that he was forcefully deported to another town and banned from religious activities!

 

AMDG

Mother Teresa of Calcutta (26.8.1919-5.9.1997)...

Mother Teresa of Calcutta (26.8.1919-5.9.1997); at a pro-life meeting in 1986 in Bonn, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am helping the Missionaries of Charity, popular known as Mother Teresa‘s nuns, with a triduum at the moment.   A triduum is three days of prayer or retreat, often before a particular feast or special day.  Here in Edinburgh, as with many of their communities, the Sisters do very important work with homeless and the poor.  Their life is also very impressive, in its simplicity and its commitment. They  don’t even have the privacy of their own room – I’m sure if you asked Jesuits to share rooms they would have a heart attack!  The Superior identified three themes for the triduum – a) Loving Trust, b) Total Surrender and c) Cheerfulness. She has also loaned me a copy of their constitutions to look at the passages on these themes.  Part III of the Constitutions, begins with a section called ‘Our Spirit’ which covers these three themes. So some of the things we have been sharing and praying about -

Trust – Is a key ‘disposition’ for those who aspire to hear the voice of God in the world.  Erik Erikson developed a theory of Psychological Development where he claims that all humans confront a set of ‘crises’ in their life.  Our personalities are formed depending on how we resolve these crises. The earliest crisis is one of basic trust or basic mistrust in the world. According to Erikson’s model (it’s just a model!) – this crisis often takes place at the first year of our life.  Trust opens us out to the world – mistrust makes us suspicious and cynical.  Radical Trust in God is embodied in people like Abraham, which is why he is so important to Judaism, Christianity and Islam –  the ‘Abrahamic Faith‘.  And trust is two-way – the forgiving trust that Jesus shows Peter, who is reinstated as the leader of the apostles, even after his multiple denial of Jesus, is an important touchstone for all of us who are honestly struggling with our weaknesses.

Surrender –  The paradox of surrender is that the total surrender to infinite love is one of the most empowering things that we can do with our life.  Crises and tragedies in our life can become moments of transforming grace because God speaks clearly to the broken-hearted.  For Catholics the unconditional ‘fiat’ of Mary at the Annunciation is one of the turning points of human history.  The emptying of self involved, on reflection, is awe-inspiring.  In our culture which prizes the individual and a celebrity subculture that inflates the ego – to empty one self in loving service is truly counter-cultural and hugely difficult in a time of unparalleled self-promotion. It is interesting how the desert becomes a place of encounter for God in the Bible – because in the desert we are stripped of luxuries and distractions.  The desert  becomes a special place of purification and preparation – and in Jesus’ case temptation.  His 40 days in the desert are portrayed in a fascinating way in Jim Crace‘s novel Quarantine.

Joy … tomorrow!

The Power of Modern Saints

AMDG

Blessed Miguel Pro SJ, one of the first martyrs to be caught on celluloid

It is often said that John Paul II canonized more saints that many previous popes put together.  Some have been critical of this, muttering about the lowering of standards, or cynical about the funds needed to set up a quick process for ‘a cause’ to be investigated.  Saint-making is easier, they claim,  for rich and powerful groups and religious orders who wish their founder or member to be elevated to the altars.  I feel that this criticism is often misguided, churlish and a little mean-spirited.  The desire of John Paul II to make saints that we could relate to in the modern world, that would make holiness an accessible and realistic goal was far-sighted and big-hearted. We all need inspiring role models to spur us on, especially in an age of dubious celebrity and a media that promotes a self destructive narcissism. It is great to be able to show youngsters powerful pictures of Blessed Miguel Pro SJ, being executed by Mexican authorities.  The picture, taken in the age of celluloid says this is not a legend, it is real, it is relevant, we can have a faith like his.

Todays saint Maximilian Kolbe in Auschwitz

Today’s memorial of St Maximilian Kolbe belongs to the same category.  Kolbe, the Franciscan, who offered to substitute his life for a condemned man’s in Auschwitz, is a modern saint, a martyr of the Nazi’s.  After a prisoner had escaped, 10 men were chosen to be put to death as revenge, when one of them pleaded that he was a family man, Fr or ‘Pate’ Kolbe offered to take his place, much to the amazement of the German Officer.  ‘Are you crazy’ he said – the ten men were locked up without food and water, as hostages to be released if the  I have discovered not only photo’s of Maximilian Kolbe (right), but also an interview with an Auchwitz survivor who was an eyewitness to Kolbe’s death.  Now living in Sweden, 88 year old Tadeusz Raznikiewicz  was recorded and translated by a fellow parishioner in Upsalla.  It lasts about twenty minutes and is absolutely absorbing listening. You can listen to it  by clicking on this link – Kolbe eyewitness interview –  the interview starts about 18mins into podcast. through the website ‘The Saint Cast’.

‘Saint Cast’  is produced by a remarkable man in America, Dr Paul Camarata.  He is a brain surgeon and a marathon runner, and somehow he finds time in between these activities  to make these podcasts about Saints. Although the ‘American’ style of the podcast is quite different to European ears – I love listening to these podcasts, in fact through ITunes you can download all the previous episodes.

 

Irresistible

 

AMDG

Sometimes being snowed-in may save your life

 Today we remember St Jean Vianney – the famous ‘Cure of Ars’.  I was  researching a bit about him yesterday and found a fascinating story.  Born into revolutionary France, when the faith was outlawed, Vianney as a young boy would travel miles to mass with his family to remote farmhouses.  The windows would be covered in cloth, to hide the shine of candlelight. Impressed by the courage of the priests who were risking their lives and the guillotine to celebrate mass, the seeds of a vocation were planted.  Incredibly as a young man, Vianney was press-ganged into Napoleons army to fight the Spanish.  On a forced march to the Spanish border he managed to slip away and was stranded in the mountain village of Les Noes.  The deep snows of a winter stranded him and kept him safe from the zealous gendarmes who were searching for deserters.  During the the long winter he set up a rudimentary school for the children.  He was ordained and his holiness led to the radical spiritual transformation of the community of Ars and its surroundings.  His fame spread far and wide, and soon over 20,000 people a year would travel to Ars on a pilgrimage, and to make their confessions to him, and these was the days before Easy Jet!  In the summer he could spend up to 16hrs in the confessional.

No wonder he is the patron saint of Parish Priests.  What is striking about his story is  the growth of his vocation in the most hostile circumstances, with so many obstacles put up against him.  Echoed perfectly in today’s readings of the Prophet Jeremiah being delivered from execution, and the Gospel of John the Baptist beheading by King Herod. Kings, Emperors, Revolutions – no matter how powerful  they seem, Gods will, sometimes working imperceptibly, will always find a way.   The most powerful force in the world – even greater that the  Higgs Boson or the magnificent  Jessica Ennis.  With an open heart the will of God is irresistible. 

 

AMDG

Today is a special day for Jesuits and friends all over the world. It is the feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola.  It will be celebrated in thousands of schools, universities, parishes, retreat houses, refugee camps, radio stations, tv studios, publishing houses, blogs …… Ignatius of course was the founder of the Society of Jesus.  He wrote more letters than anyone in the sixteenth century, we still have over 7000 of them, so we know a lot about him. In an age when hagiographys were written about saints, often distancing us from a frank history of religious figures by the desire to create pious and edifying stories, Ignatius’ autobiography, reluctantly dictated as his life was ebbing away, is refreshing for its simplicity, honesty and desire to show how had grown through mistakes and failures. Last year, whilst I was in Manila on ‘tertianship’ which is like a renewal year for us Jesuits – I took the opportunity to read what I consider to be the best book about him  I have read.  Written by a Basque Historian, Jose Ignacio Tellechea Idigoras and called ‘The Pilgrim Saint‘. Idigoras, not a Jesuit but an award winning Historian, has an incredible amount of detail to hand and weaves it in with the background information to create a warm and compelling portrait of this great man.

If I was to be asked to sum up what Ignatius could teach us normal folk, struggling with faith or even outside the church, it would be by looking at the contrast between his early life and his later life. Ignatius as a young man was very unpleasant – arrogant, vain, promiscuous and violent,  being brought up in the spiritually toxic climate of the ambitious courtier desiring power, influence and conquests (political and sexual).  A little bit like our cult of celebrity today.  When his life was shattered along with his leg at the Battle of Pamplona, the lengthy convalescence forced a period of extensive introspection.  He didn’t like what he saw and opened his heart to God.  So as Idigoras masterfully put it – as well as reconstructing his disjointed leg, he began to reconstruct his disjointed soul.  In order to reconstruct we need something to build on.  From the chaos of Ignatius’s life of excess and disorder there were three things he could cling on to. 1)When he looked at his hands he could take comfort that he never engaged in pillaging as a soldier when the opportunity arose, a fact that was well known and respected. 2) When he considered his mouth,  he never once blasphemed even in the extreme pain after Pamplona. 3) Although he had enemies who had pursued him through the courts and sought his arrest after some of his outrageous actions, he didn’t carry any hatred in his heart. Perhaps this was the most important thing he could cling on to, as it is the heart where God slowly and silently can change us. And so began the long. slow journey back into God’s grace which bore has born so much fruit down the centuries.  By the end of his life God had achieved much through him, at the time of his death there were 1036 Jesuits, 11 provinces, 92 houses, 33 colleges at his death.  Idigoras leaves us with this beautiful portrait of the elderly Ignatius.

He wore a simple austere cassock and fought off the cold with a large cloak.  When he left the house he wore a voluminous cape and a broad brimmed hat with attached chords that he tied to his chin. It was impressive to see him walking in the street. He was always going, because of some business, to some specific place or to see some particular person. At this period in his life his fair hair had disappeared, he was bald and wore a short beard from which loomed an aquiline nose and high cheekbones.  His complexion had become darker, weather-beaten, perhaps even yellowish because of his liver ailment? His countenance, serious and peaceful, was the image of circumspection and a life lived interiorly. Some found it particularly luminous and expressive. His eyes which at one time had been sparkling and bright were now blurred by work, old age and copious tears. They had lost their gaiety but not their penetrating force. He seldom looked at people straight on.  When he did, however, people said he took in the person from head to toe. His gaze seemed to have the power of seeing straight through a person right into his heart. 

Doubting Thomas

AMDG

English: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Ca...

English: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio.  (Photo credit: Wikicommons)

I have always had a soft spot for the apostle Thomas, who would only believe that Jesus was risen if he could put his fingers in his side (see below).  Todays feast of St Thomas gives me great envouragement.  Its easy to be critical of Thomas’s lack of faith – but remember how devestating it was for the apostles when Jesus was arrested. Sure they were all cowards and ran away, but it is easy to forget how they had given up everything to follow him, they had staked everything on him, and for him to die in such a humiliating and public way was traumatic for them. They would have been shocked, disillusioned, disorientated. So when the risen Lord appeared to them, I can symapthise with Thomas’s reaction, once bitten – twice shy he didn’t want to get his hopes up again after they had been torn apart.  It is wonderful how gentle Jesus is with Thomas and his unbelief, without irritation He allows Thomas to put his hands in the wounds in His side to prove it really is Him – the risen Christ. Do we have the courage to take our doubts and our unbelief to the Lord in prayer?

Hands with Stigmata, depicted on a Franciscan church in Lienz, Austria

Another thing worth meditating on is the fact that the Glorified Body of the Risen One still bears His wounds. He has not risen like some super her0, rippling muscles and six pack – He retains the terrible marks of His torture and death.  Some people have said our culture could be defined as one that escapes from pain at all cost, we try and shut it out, medicalise it till it has no meaning. However suffering is part of the human condition, and the more we try and make it an alien part of our experience the more persistent is seems to become – a paradox that the Buddhists understand so well. We can react to suffering in two ways, bitterness and anger or with some kind of acceptance and hope. It is no accident that many modern ‘spiritual classics’ have been written by people who have gone through breakdowns or breakthroughs. Suffering can open our hearts, make us more compassionate and soften our pride and arrogance.  So in the ‘glorious wounds’ of Christ perhaps we can see that this openness is a privileged path for grace to work.  The mystical phenomenon of stigmata has long fascinated me, although it seems to be a gift given to Franciscans more than Jesuits!  Francis, Padre Pio, maybe that says something about Franciscan humility and openness and Jesuit pride!!

Todays Gospel – John 20

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But Thomas said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

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