If I don’t preach the Gospel, what can I ever hope to do?

We are bound by love, by the commission of our Baptism to proclaim Christ, crucified, resurrected, and alive to each we encounter! Here’s a great reflection on our duty as Christians from Blessed Paul VI, Pope.

How have you proclaimed Christ today? Have you? What’s holding you back? Don’t wait!

From a homily by Blessed Paul VI, pope

(Hom. Maniliae habita die 29 novembris 1970)

We proclaim Christ to the whole world

Not to preach the Gospel would be my undoing, for Christ himself sent me as his apostle and witness. The more remote, the more difficult the assignment, the more my love of God spurs me on. I am bound to proclaim that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the living God. Because of him we come to know the God we cannot see. He is the firstborn of all creation; in him all things find their being. Man’s teacher and redeemer, he was born for us, died for us, and for us he rose from the dead.

All things, all history converges in Christ. A man of sorrow and hope, he knows us and loves us. As our friend he stays by us throughout our lives; at the end of time he will come to be our judge; but we also know that he will be the complete fulfillment of our lives and our great happiness for all eternity.

I can never cease to speak of Christ for he is our truth and our light; he is the way, the truth and the life. He is our bread, our source of living water who allays our hunger and satisfies our thirst. He is our shepherd, our leader, our ideal, our comforter and our brother.

He is like us but more perfectly human, simple, poor, humble, and yet, while burdened with work, he is more patient. He spoke on our behalf; he worked miracles; and he founded a new kingdom: in it the poor are happy; peace is the foundation of a life in common; where the pure of heart and those who mourn are uplifted and comforted; the hungry find justice; sinners are forgiven; and all discover that they are brothers.

The image I present to you is the image of Jesus Christ. As Christians you share his name; he has already made most of you his own. So once again I repeat his name to you Christians and I proclaim to all men: Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, Lord of the new universe, the great hidden key to human history and the part we play in it. He is the mediator—the bridge, if you will—between heaven and earth. Above all he is the Son of man, more perfect than any man, being also the Son of God, eternal and infinite. He is the son of Mary his mother on earth, more blessed than any woman. She is also our mother in the spiritual communion of the mystical body.

Remember: [it] is Jesus Christ I preach day in and day out. His name I would see echo and re-echo for all time even to the ends of the earth.

Pray God that we might preach our Lord even with our final breath!

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Aunt Carol: A Reflection on Mary, Death, & a Story I have never told about my Vocation.

A Visit:

Today, I drove my Grandma and my Mom up to Aurora, Illinois so that my Grandmother could visit her sister one last time. Aunt Carol has been struggling with several different illnesses lately, but as her breathing has gotten harder and harder, the doctors and she, think that her remaining time here is short.

We had a beautiful visit, full of lots of laughs, some tears, and a lot of story telling. I can’t tell you what I felt watching my Grandma reminisce with her sister about their time growing up. It was hard to not cry. When we arrived, Aunt Carol was incredibly surprised as no one had told her that we were coming. Grams and Aunt Carol embraced in a hug with tears in their eyes. I knew that this trip to visit Aunt Carol one last time was important for my Grandma, and watching them embrace, meant the world to me, and probably to them as well.

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Grams and Aunt Carol

I wanted to share a little bit from our visit with Aunt Carol, reflect on death and the relationship Mary has with it, and also tell a story about Aunt Carol and myself that I don’t think anyone knows, or at least remembers.

Aunt Carol is ready to go. Watching and listening to her talk of how this is God’s way of keeping her from having a prolonged illness brought tears to my eyes. I have only three memories of Aunt Carol. The first is one time I went to pick up my Great Grandmother with Grams from Aunt Carol and we met at a truck stop. (I had met her before, I was just too young to remember.) The second was at my Great-Grandmothers funeral (we’ll get there in a moment.) and the third was today, after our visit.

Mary, help us to embrace our death!

Most of you know that we produced a Marian Hymn CD at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary this year. Mary has a major role in the lives of seminarians and priests, and as Aaron stated in his little message inside the CD, “It was only fitting…that our cd should focus on Mary, our Mother…”

While we were visiting with Aunt Carol and laughing about stories of her and my Grandma sleeping on comforters and “soaking up the dew” at the state fair, or when they and Grandpa Meyer would go black-walnut hunting, my Grandma gave Aunt Carol a copy of our Mary CD.

imageThe front of the CD has a beautiful image of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on the front. When Aunt Carol’s eyes hit the front she started crying. I don’t know what was going on inside of her, but she said a line that has stuck with me all day:

Without her, I don’t know what I would do. Without Mary helping me and giving me strength, I don’t know how I could do this and be able to embrace it.

To watch a woman, just a few days shy of her young 84th birthday, have this much devotion, trust, and love of our Blessed Mother as she prepares for her end, made me start crying. Turning to the back and reading some of the songs, Aunt Carol looked at me and mentioned about how Gentle Woman was one of her favorite songs, then with her short breath, and with tears in our eyes, Aunt Carol started singing the first verse and refrain of Immaculate Mary.

Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing! You reign now in Heaven, with Jesus our King! Ave! Ave! Ave Maria! Ave! Ave! Maria!

Mary means a lot to my family, and to watch, listen, and sing with Aunt Carol, to our Blessed Mother meant so much.

Sister Death

Death comes for each of us, when we least expect it. I remarked to my Grandma and Mom over dinner tonight after our visit, how humbling old age and death must be. Like when we are born, we go out of this world with nothing, reliant on those around us for our needs. What a beautiful thing death is! St. Francis in his Canticle of the Sun, mentions:

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death, From whose embrace no mortal can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your will! The second death can do them no harm. Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks. And serve him with great humility.

For Francis, death was simply a transition, a passing into the next part of our lives with God. It was a necessary action which gave birth to life eternal. It was a humbling, and even humiliating action which bestowed so much on us, if we properly embraced it.

For my Great Aunt Carol, I think that she too, like St. Francis is preparing to embrace Sister Death. She praises and blesses God for giving the gift of death to her. Yes, she will miss those in her life, but I bet she cannot wait to be counted among the saints in Heaven.

Mary, always…ALWAYS leads us to Christ. She always points us to her Son. Normally in the Church, we pray that St. Joseph will help us to have a well-prepared for death, a happy death. Watching my Aunt though, I think that Mary surely has to be there with St. Joseph, calling us home to be with her Son. I love my earthly Mom, Sue Bruns. I love my Heavenly Mother Mary, I want her to be there to prepare me, and walk with me on the road to death. I want her there to be able to comfort me. I want to ask, she, who “reigns in Heaven with Jesus our King” to bring me to be with him.

Watching, listening, and visiting with Aunt Carol today, made me see Mary at the foot of the Cross, Mary who walked the road to Calvary, and watched her Son be brutally killed upon the Cross. Mary was with Aunt Carol and will continue to be as she continues to progress as we all do, toward Sister Death, from whom no living mortal can escape.

A Story:

Those who know me and have heard my Vocation story before, know that I first really started considering the priesthood when I was in the 5th grade. My Great-Grandmother had died shortly after I had started thinking about it and the whole family was gathered in Quincy for her funeral. I remember sitting on the fireplace hearth downstairs in my grandparents old house with Aunt Carol. Aunt Carol, and I were having a conversation about what I wanted to do when I grew up. She was the first person that I told besides a priest that I could actually see myself as a priest. We had a wonderful conversation and at the end of it, Aunt Carol gave me a hug, told me to be strong, that I would make a great priest, and that she would pray for me. Being the first person I mentioned that I was sincerely thinking of the priesthood to and had an honest heart to heart conversation with, made her a very special person to me, especially because of her words of support and encouragement after I told her.

Today, as we prepared to leave I bent down and gave Aunt Carol a hug and a kiss. She whispered in my ear that she was proud of me, that she loved me, and that I would make a great priest. I told her that I would have some priests at our Seminary offer Mass for her, when I got back to school and said let’s keep praying for each other. She kissed my hand, we spoke for a few more moments and we said goodbye.

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Grams and Aunt Carol hug and say goodbye

In Conclusion:

I never thought that I would have had such a deep theological encounter with the Lord today. I am so happy and so blessed to have been able to go and visit Aunt Carol one last time. She was one of the first to support me in my vocational discernment of the priesthood and she will be missed by many. In her last few, days, weeks, or however long the Lord grants her here on Earth, I will pray for her each day, that Mary will be with her. That Mary will give her strength and will lead her to her Son. I pray that one day I am as at peace with death and with God as Aunt Carol seemed. May we all have that grace to have a well-prepared for death! I’m thankful for Aunt Carol in my life and for her support of me. I can only imagine what others in the family are thankful for her for!

My grandmother’s name is Mary. I know that Momma Mary had something to do with making sure that Grams (Mary) and Aunt Carol got to see each other one last time. Thank-you Momma for making it possible for that to happen and allowing us to be here! Death is something that I know I will struggle with as a priest. It’s hard seeing someone you love die, but at the same time with a firm hope in the Ressurection, I think, preparing souls for death will be one of the most fruitful parts of priesthood for me. Getting to be with Aunt Carol for a few moments today touched me immensely.

As I come to the end of my time in college seminary and move on toward major, Aunt Carol’s comment: “Without her, I don’t know what I would do. Without Mary helping me and giving me strength, I don’t know how I could do this and be able to embrace it.” rings true in my own life. It’s amazing what our Mother does for us, isn’t it? Aunt Carol is walking the Way of  Beauty!

I love you Aunt Carol! Pray for me when you get to see Jesus first! I will be praying for you!

Now that I have tears as running down my face again, I’m gonna wrap up. Will you join me in praying a Memorare for my great Aunt and her family?

Remember O Most Gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided, inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of Virgins, my mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful, O Mother of the Word incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.

We prayed a rosary on the way home tonight and offered it for several intentions, but firstly for Aunt Carol. The first luminous mystery is The Baptism in the Jordan. May she who died to a life of sin, and rose with Christ in her Baptism, one day rise too with him to Life eternal. Amen.

“We can have the most beautiful Liturgy in the World, but without love it is for nothing.”

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The video below is of Archbishop Alexander Sample’s homily on the Liturgy, which he offered on Quinquegesima Sunday at the Brigittine Monastery of Our Lady of Consolation. Wow! Wonderful homily. One of my favorite quotes from it is: “We can have the most beautiful Liturgy in the World, but without love it is for nothing.” The Mass is not about us, but about Christ. Everything we do is a call to give the glory to God that is due him. The Liturgy is a wonderful opportunity to grow in our love of Christ and deepen our faith. Beautiful liturgies have played a great part in my life, especially in inspiring my vocation. I give thanks for being able to be a part of many beautiful liturgies over the year. We are blessed to celebrate beautiful liturgies at the seminary and it really adds to the spiritual growth that our men experience at Bishop Bruté. The love of the priests in my life for God has shown by how they celebrate the Mass and it trull has deepened my faith.

No matter whether the Mass is celebrated in the Novus Ordo, Byzantine, Dominican, Carmelite, Extraordinary, or another Rite/Form the Liturgy is a way to bring Heaven to Earth, to interact with the people in a very real way and draw them closer to God. Our love of God should echo in the ways in which we attend and celebrate Mass. Our movements, gaze, voice, everything we do leads us to God in extremely intimate ways.

May Our Lady queen of priests, always help priests and those who assist them to celebrate beautiful liturgies, truly worthy of the sacrifice being offered. As we near Holy Week and the Triduum, may our hearts and minds be on Christ, the mysteries we celebrate, and may we be granted the graces to serve at his Altar’s worthily, and with much love. Amen.

 

My Solemn Vow – Marriage, a beautiful vocation!

Tonight at dinner, a few of the men and I were discussing marriage. More specifically the great love that couples have for one another. We were discussing about friends and family members who after dying, their spouse dies a short time later. Marriage is a great and beautiful vocation. As we near our Spring Break at Bishop Bruté, I am reminded that we normally start to hear men stand up and announce that they are discerning out of seminary, and discerning where else God is calling them in life. Normally, it leads to marriage. Let us pray for good holy vocations to Marriage, for a greater respect for marriage in our country and for a greater sense of the sacramental nature of marriage. Please also pray for those men who will be announcing that they are discerning out of seminary, that God will be with them, grant them peace in their discernment and his joy in life. Phillip Stopford, who wrote “Do Not Be Afraid” that we sang a while back also composed: “My Solemn Vow,” the attached video. Enjoy it! It is of marriage vows set to music and it brought me to tears! In the video, tenor and soprano sing their vows to one another.

To close, here is a line from a book that has always stood out to me: “There is a legend about a bird which sings just once in its life, more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth. From the moment it leaves the nest it searches for a thorn tree, and does not rest until it has found one. Then singing among the savage branches, it impales itself upon the largest, sharpest spine. And, dying it rises above its own agony to out-carol the lark and the nightingale. One superlative song, existence the price. But the whole world stills to listen, and God in His heaven smiles. For the best is only bought at the cost of great pain…. Or so says the legend.” – The Thornbirds (Yes, I know that the book doesn’t portray certain things correctly, the quote is quite lovely though.)

Marriage is a beautiful vocation, many are called, others are not. What are you called to? How are you answering your vocation? Couples, religious, and priests all take vows. Which will you choose or have chosen? What is your Solemn Vow?