Jesus, A Pilgrimage – Book review and giveaway

970992_10152306293894233_290989403_n In November 2004, I had a chance to visit Israel, a place that I had longed to see. At the time, the Second Intifada was in full swing, the Carmel market in Tel Aviv had been hit with by a suicide bomb two weeks before I was to go, and Yasser Arafat died two days my prior to my arrival. It was an uncertain time, but I was not afraid. It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime, and one that truly impacted my faith. Before going, I read so many books about the Holy Land and about faith, although no book at that time could have prepared me for my journey.

In his new book, Jesus, A Pilgrimage, (Harper Collins, 510 pp, $27.95) Jesuit priest, author, and commentator, James Martin SJ writes about his own journey to Israel, his life of faith, and about Jesus. My initial reaction? Where was this book when I went on my pilgrimage?

Whether you are about to go to Israel or not, this book is a journey of mind, body, and spirit. With his deft writing skills well honed from years of working his craft, Fr. Martin leads us on a pilgrimage like no other. Weaving stories and anecdotes from his own recent visit to Israel, along with a remarkable breadth and depth of scriptural reflections and insights, he takes us on a journey to know Jesus.

It is the rare gift that someone can take scholarly material and make it accessible and easy to understand, without dumbing it down. Fr. Martin possesses this gift in abundance! Whether examining scripture, historical context, or a spiritual kernel of wisdom, the author takes us higher and deeper at the same time, satisfying the intellect and the heart at once. He cleverly uses anecdotes from his own travel experiences and often in humorous ways, to illustrate a point, and Martin’s scholarly references provide a solid foundation for the conversation.

Whether or not you have ever been – or ever want to go to the Holy Land is not important. If you have an interest in Jesus, from any perspective, this book has something to offer you. For those of us who follow Jesus, we will find an invitation to deepen that knowledge through not only what we read, but because of the ways that this book invites one into prayer and reflection.

Smart, funny, inviting, engaging, wise, and deep, Jesus by James Martin is a pilgrimage like no other. You don’t have to leave your chair, but you must open your mind and heart, your transformation is optional, but it would be hard to imagine reading this book, and not being transformed in some way.

Jesus, A Pilgrimage. The journey awaits you- are you ready?

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Would you like to win a copy of this book? Here’s how… Please leave a comment on the blog; it needs to be a full sentence, not just a word. This post will appear on multiple blog platforms, but there is only one drawing. Multiple comments does not mean multiple entries. Deadline for leaving comments that will be entered into a random drawing is Friday, April 4, 2014, 11:59pm. Winner will be informed via email no later than Monday, April 7, 2014.

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Lenten Reflections – March 31, 2014

rejoice-1It has been a long winter, hasn’t it? And a long Lent, or so it seems to me. The weather was a real challenge this year; recent milder winters had lulled me into a cheery complacency about what snow and cold truly meant in upstate New York. And I say that knowing that those in the the mid-Atlantic states further south had it much worse! Hard to think about rejoicing, right?

Add to that, starting in October, and never (gratefully) with anything life-threatening, but I have been in the near constant care of doctors for one thing or another. I get it, I’m 56, and I have not always taken care of my corpus very well, but much like the winter, this all came as a startling and repeatedly disturbing challenge. Let it suffice to say that I think that I may finally be turning the corner into, God willing, some better health. That’s why I am calling this Laetare Monday!

Our Lenten journey is meant to be one of the kind of serious prayer and introspection that leads to change. This is not the navel gazing of my earlier years, when a faux seriousness pervaded my being, but was not very deep or authentic; I was Continue reading

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Lenten Reflections – March 27, 2014

409-10.zoom.aIn last Thursday’s Gospel reading in the story of Lazarus and the rich man, Abraham says to the rich man who tries to keep his five brothers out of “this place of torment,” “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.” Jesus is saying in the context of His story that we should read the Bible in order to stay on the right path to eternity. Many of my Catholic contemporaries say that the Church prevented them from reading the Bible. I understand the basis for the statement, but I do not agree with it. In its liturgical celebrations (principally the Mass and the Holy Office), the pre-Vatican II Church served up daily “bite-sized” readings from the Law, the Prophets, the Wisdom Books, the Psalms, the Gospels and the Epistles. Where some of our Protestant friends carried the Bible to church, we carried the St. Joseph Missal that contained selected Bible readings for Mass each day. Just as the Church did this pre-Vatican II, it continues to do today.

I thought that I would use the readings from the Holy Office (or Liturgy of the Hours) for today to further illustrate the point. Here are the so-called “short readings” for the various hours:

Morning Prayer (Lauds)

Lord, we are your people and your heritage. Be always watchful for the entreaty of your servant and of your people Israel, and listen to us whenever we call to you. For it was you who set us apart from all the peoples of the earth to be your own heritage. 1 Kings 8:51-53

Mid-Morning Prayer (Terce)

Seek the Lord while he is still to be found, call to him while he is still near. Let the wicked man abandon his way, the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him, to our God who is rich in forgiving. Isaiah 55:6-7

Midday Prayer (Sext)

If you return to the Lord your God, if you obey his voice with all your heart and soul in everything I enjoin on you today, you and your children, then the Lord your God will bring back your captives and will have pity on you. Deuteronomy 30:2-3

Afternoon Prayer (None)

Continue to have confidence, since the reward is so great. You will need endurance to do God’s will and gain what he has promised. Hebrews 10:35-36

Evening Prayer (Vespers)

Give in to God: resist the devil, and he will run away from you. The nearer you go to God, the nearer he will come to you. Clean your hands, you sinners, and clear your minds, you waverers. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up. James 4:7-8,10

Night Prayer (Compline)

May the God of peace make you perfect and holy; and may you all be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23

* * * * *

Look at the variety in these readings all in one day. We have selections from the Law (Deuteronomy), The Prophets ( Isaiah), Historical Books (1 Kings), the Epistles (Paul: 1 Thessalonians: James and Hebrews). In addition, there are many Psalms, another reading from Deuteronomy and one from St. Matthew’s Gospel at Mass, a reading from Exodus in the Office of Readings, and some other small scriptures salted away in other places. But for present purposes, I am going to talk only about the short readings from the six hours quoted above. They all speak of relationship with God, first with the Jews and later with all of God’s people.

The reading for Morning Prayer from 1 Kings is the end of a long prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the first Temple. The whole prayer is well worth reading as it expresses the gratitude and reverence of the Jewish people to the Lord at the time when the chosen people was at its height in power, influence, and satisfaction. [When we go through and look at these “short readings,” there is nothing stopping us from looking at the context by reading a chapter or two before or after the selected reading.] The prayer reminds God that it was He who sought the relationship with the chosen people, that they claim the benefit of that relationship, and that they expect that God will listen to their prayers and answer them. You and I can make that same prayer.

The reading for the Mid-Morning prayer is from Isaiah. He writes at a time when Israel has suffered defeat and exile. Isaiah reminds us that we can restore the relationship with God if we can turn back to the Lord. The Deuteronomy reading for Midday prayer is to the same effect, promising that the Lord will bring you back if you obey the Law. Hebrews reminds us in the Afternoon Prayer that the road to God may not be easy, but if we persevere the reward will be great.

I love the reading from James in the Evening Prayer. Again, we are encouraged to return and submit to God. When James writes, “ The nearer you go to God, the nearer he will come to you.” I imagine two young lovers on a bench, and whenever the girl slides closer to the boy, he responds by sliding closer to her.

Finally, in the Night Prayer, Paul prays, just before we go off to bed, that our relationship with God will result in the Lord’s watching over us as we sleep.

This train of Bible readings teaches a unified lesson ideal for a day in Lent. It acknowledges the relationship between us was initiated by God out of love; it recognizes that we may turn our back on God from time to time; it reminds us that God is always waiting for us to return so that He can welcome us back and take care of us as His beloved child.

I intended in this piece to show how the Church puts the Bible before us in an easily accepted way to teach us the lessons of God’s love for us. You can use this approach to studying the Bible to supplement your practice of Bible reading or as your main or only Bible reading. You can use as much or as little as you choose, but to paraphrase St. James, “The nearer you go to the Bible, the nearer the Bible will bring you closer to God.”

[In terms of resources, there are many on-line sites, both Catholic and non-Catholic that can help you get more into the Bible. As in all other things on the web, there are certain pitfalls. There are some sites that proclaim that they are “Catholic,” but separate themselves from the Church by condemning Vatican II or claiming that the Latin Mass is the only valid Mass. There are non-Catholic sites that are in some way anti-Catholic. Two dependable sites that I recommend are the USCCB Daily Readings.  This is published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Besides the full text of the New American Bible, Revised Edition (the translation used at Mass in the U.S.), it provides an easy way to locate the Mass readings for each day; and Universalis.  This is a site originating in the UK and the readings are from the New Jerusalem Bible which is the official translation used there. This site provides not only the Mass readings but also the full text of the Holy Office.]
-Bill Thornton

 

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Lenten Reflections – March 25, 2014

The AnnunciationToday is the Feast of the Annunciation, a wonderful day to focus on the ultimate trust of the Virgin Mary. A day, too, to think about the impact of that decision to say “yes” to the unknown. It altered Mary’s life in a way she could never had imagined, and also forever changed the world of the man who loved her. March is also St. Joseph’s month, and Mary and Joseph’s decisions to give themselves completely over to God go hand in hand.

The few words about Joseph in the Scriptures give us a portrait of a strong, kind and loving man. And if I might say, perhaps a little put upon? The situation he found himself in is a real reflection of the confusion and uncertainty we have in our own lives when we think we can always count on getting things done according to prescription. Our plans, no matter how carefully plotted and thought out, mean nothing when God steps in to change them. Our lives turn upside down in the blink of an eye : a telephone call in the middle of the day, a letter in the mail, a wrong step off the curb.

Picture our friend Joseph, certainly a good and righteous man, getting ready to marry his lovely girl from Nazareth. They are betrothed, they sign the agreement, he gets ready to do the things he needs to do to plan the rest of their lives together. Then Mary tells him the news. I can only imagine what goes through his mind. A baby? An angel? A message from God??? His head must be spinning. “What do I do? I can’t expose her to the shame her condition will bring. Not only scandalous gossip, but her very life is at stake as well.” No wonder the poor man has to lie down, take a nap, and hope with a little rest he can figure out what to do next. And then “The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.

What a perfect place for the Lord to step in and assure this tired and worried groom-to-be. Sleep is a blessing. It brings rest and refreshment and an opportunity to awake to new possibilities. Joseph’s sleep comes with a dream and a mysterious message. Joseph, devoted and trusting without question, does what God tells him. He doesn’t understand exactly why, but he knows that by saying yes, he plays a part in a plan beyond anything he ever thought possible.

As we walk through Lent, we might ask God to let us wake from our dreams each morning, ready to say yes to His plan for us. We can take comfort knowing that long ago a good man’s dream, and a humble woman’s “yes” were the pivotal steps on the road to our salvation.
-Doreen Salse
This reflection was written by parishioner Doreen Salse who has contributed to the blog many times over the years.

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Lenten Reflections – March 23, 2014

Woman at the well by Seiger Koder.

Woman at the well by Seiger Koder.

The Third Sunday of Lent – by Rosemary Browne

The gospel was the story of the woman at the well. If we deeply believe that Jesus is the Living Water, our lives have to change. Lent for me has always been about striking my chest and saying Lord, have mercy. In the last ten or fifteen years it is more about change. Change my thinking and my attitudes. More recently Lent now means how can I help? What can I do so you have clean fresh water today? What can I do so that you have shoes to wear? I reflect often on Mother Teresa’s words:

Live simply, so others can simply live.

Lent is a good time to reflect on what will I change, how will I do it, and can I accept the outcome. And that takes God’s grace and courage.

-Rosemary Browne is a parishioner and new contributor to the blog. We welcome her with great joy!

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Fish on Friday? Fast on Friday?

FoF1cHaving just read a post about food, fasting, and mean abstinence over at Catholic Sensibility, I was reminded of this post. In fact I quoted a portion of it in a comment over there. This essay was posted on this blog in October 2012, but it was originally published early in Lent in 2008, at The Parish Blog of St. Edward the Confessor. How I wish that I could tell you that I wrote this essay, but I did not. A friend wrote it, and he wished to remain anonymous when it was first published. I honor that anonymity once again as I repost the thought provoking essay here today. images-1

One thing that is on my mind is this… Many of us fast from meat and eat fish on Fridays during Lent. But is eating fish really eating simply these days? Honestly, I must admit to having eaten ahi tuna this past Friday; it was hardly a sacrifice. How can we approach the Lenten fast with a sense of solidarity with the poor? What about Lent with an inclination to reveal our own inner poverty? This post continues to give us a lot to think and pray about. Fasting does not have to mean food alone, although it helps to connect eating small simple meals and sharing what we don’t eat or spend with others in some way. But there are many ways to open space for God. Ultimately we must discern, what is God asking of us through our sacrifice and our fast? Read our guest post today, our guest re-post, I should say and see what touches you.

How can the simple, everyday task of eating become an act of compassion? One of my favorite saints is Teresa of Avila. She was a typical teenager – she loved boys, clothes, flirting and rebelling. When she was 16, her father sent her to a convent because he thought she was out of control. At first she hated it but she grew to like it due to her growing love of God and the fact that the convent was less strict than her father.

When the time came for her to make a decision between marriage or the convent, Teresa had a difficult time choosing one over the other. She had watched a difficult marriage destroy her mother. On the other hand, being a nun didn’t seem like much fun. Religious life won out, according to Teresa, because it seemed the better place for one “so prone to sin.”

What I appreciate about Teresa is her sense of humor and how her religious sensibilities helped her find peace and meaning as she focused on and became reliant on God’s tender and merciful love. She had the ability to seize the moment and live it to the full. Never one to allow sin, gloom and despair to take over her spirit, Teresa knew how to fast and pray.

“May God protect me from gloomy saints,” Teresa said, and that’s how she ran her convent. To her, spiritual life and its disciplines were an attitude of love, not harsh rules and precepts to bind you. Although she proclaimed poverty, she believed in work, not in begging. She believed in obedience to God more than penance. If you do something wrong, don’t punish yourself — change. When someone felt depressed, her advice was that she go some place where she could see the sky and take a walk. When someone was shocked that she was going to eat meat that was given to the convent during a period in which the members of the convent were to be fasting and abstaining, she answered, “There’s a time for partridge and a time for penance.”

To her brother’s wish to meditate on hell, she answered, “Don’t.”

Lent is a time for fasting, but not a gloomy fasting that lowers one’s spirit. It is meant to be a way of lifting one’s soul and growing in love and communion with God and neighbor. Like Teresa, we must see it for what it is; part of a discipline, an attitude of love not a harsh rule to be endured! Consider this Lent how fasting might help you to be more loving and community oriented.

One way is to focus on the connectedness of compassion. My prayer this Lent is this: As we eat our simple meals, may we consider what many of our sisters and brothers around the world are eating, often through no choice of their own. Consider the sacredness of carrots and potatoes, of bread and cheese, of broth and cool, fresh water.

Consider how these simple foods bind so many of us together as we try to keep body and soul together. It is our decision to eat or not eat simple meals. It is our decision what those meals will contain. Both are choices that we make. For many, our simple meal might be more like a royal banquet!

The simplicity of their meals may not entail a choice. For them, their simple meal might be all that they have to get by on each day. Perhaps that simple connectedness will help us understand in a more tangible way that we are but a few of the 6 billion people on this planet we call home. Each of us experiences hunger and most of us can satisfy that hunger in some way, but not all. May our joyful Lenten fast help us to reflect upon how and what we eat effects the world around us. -Anonymous

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Lenten Reflections – March 21, 2014

7e4d150fb16e0ef3137cf3e43749bd08Today we have a post on hope and trust, from parishioner Matt Cinadr, who also invites you to St. Edward the Confessor for Centering Prayer. Please see the end of the post for details.

Last Sunday many listened to this:

“Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our HOPE in you.”

Many may have responded to this and said:

” Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our TRUST in you.”

Our souls always wait for the LORD, who is always present , always our help and our shield.

My personal experience with religion and God has been bolstered by those who have recently introduced me to the prayer practice called ” Centering“, it requires only 20 minutes of silent waiting

I gladly send you a brief write up on this practice . Please e-mail me at m.cinadr [at gmail dot com].

It is so much easier to experience than to explain.

It is a practice we do that helps us with our intention to consent to the presence and action of God . This practice is something that predates the Church’s problems written about by Fr Martin Luther and it is my aim to use this practice to engage all Christians in prayer, a prayer of unity.

We meet on the 2nd Saturday of the month at 9:00 in the Chapel, please join us when you can.

We intend to also meet for practice every 4th Saturday of the month beginning in May.

Please join us! All are welcome!
Pax, Matt

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