Franciscan Corner: Active, Intentional Waiting

A Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Hail, O Lady,
Holy Queen,
Mary, holy Mother of God,
Who are the Virgin made Church,
chosen by the most Holy Father in heaven
whom he consecrated with His most holy beloved Son
and with the Holy Spirit the Paraclete,
in whom there was and is
all fullness of grace and every good.

Hail His Palace!
Hail His Tabernacle!
Hail His Dwelling!
Hail His Robe!
Hail His Servant!
Hail His Mother!

And hail all You holy virtues
which are poured into the hearts of the faithful
through the grace and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit,
that from being unbelievers,
You may make them faithful to God.

AMEN.

An undated work, this prayer is a reflection Francis wrote in honor of Mary and is unique in many ways. For example, in the first stanza of the prayer, Francis refers to Mary as the “Virgin made Church,” a title that is original to Francis. He sees Mary as the first to “house Christ,” the first to be, literally, part of the Body of Christ. Likewise, the Church, the Body of Christ, is called to house Christ today in the hearts and works of all the faithful.

Advent is a time of expectation and waiting. But not an ordinary kind of expectation and waiting – an active expectation and waiting.

What does that mean? When we wait for the bus to come or the phone to ring, we expect the bus to arrive so we sit and wait, we expect the phone to ring so we hold it in our hand as we wait for it to do so. There is no action on our part; we are very passive in this process. Advent calls us to be active participants in the waiting. Advent is not a liturgical season to just sit and wait passively for the birth of Christ on Christmas Day, expecting it to happen, but taking these weeks to prepare ourselves spiritually for when that great expectation is made manifest in our life. Then we’re called to make that great joy and Christ’s presence known to others through our words and deeds. We won’t be able and ready to do that unless we prepare ourselves to be worthy of this gift.

For Francis, the Blessed Mother was the epitome of what it meant to be a faithful follower of Christ. As we progress through this liturgical season of expectation and waiting, may we work each day to actively and intentionally prepare ourselves to be ready to present ourselves at the manger. And when that time comes and we welcome the newborn Christ into this world, may we willingly take on the Christian challenge of bringing Christ to birth in our world each and every day thereafter through the way we live with and love one another.

Fr. Jason Lody, FCM

St. Anthony of Padua ANCC (Centreville, VA)

Liturgically Speaking: “I’m Pregnant and…”

It’s Advent again. Happy New Year. As part of the editorial team that puts together this magazine, we have been planning this issue for a few months now. When we first met to brainstorm and plan, it seemed like such a long way off and suddenly here it is. The deadline is upon me and I have come up dry!

It’s not like I procrastinated (well not that much anyway), I did have a few ideas. I sat to write my column several times. I’d get three or four sentences, maybe a paragraph and then like the voice of Forrest Gump, I’d hear myself say “that’s all I gotta say bout that!”

As the deadline loomed, I was like the basketball player who throws a desperation “Hail Mary” throw at the buzzer. Oh, I prayed for the words, for an idea, for anything!!! In the strangest of ways, I did finally get my answer.

A few nights ago, very late, when there are not a lot of good TV shows to watch, I was awake. I stumbled upon a series of shows called “I’m Pregnant and…” These shows chronicle the pregnancy and birth of various women who have a stumbling block to a normal problem free birth. They range from “I’m pregnant and diabetic…or I’m pregnant and on heroin…or I’m pregnant and morbidly obese…” I realized how privileged I was, taking advantage of prenatal care with an OB/GYN, giving birth in a nice sterile environment, with all the medical teams in place should something go wrong.

The one that really broke my heart was “I’m Pregnant and…Homeless.” This couple were not the stereotypical homeless folk. They had a good committed relationship, the woman had recently lost her job and being pregnant, couldn’t find another. The father had a past of which he was not proud. It seems that in his teens, he had gotten in with a bad crowd and was arrested and did time for theft. Because of his record he also was trying his best to find employment to no avail. The little savings they had was rapidly depleted and before too long they found themselves homeless, dividing time between living in their car and in a tent set up out in the wilderness. The father would occasionally find a temporary part time job, mowing lawns, fixing houses etc. When they had no money they would panhandle, carrying signs in busy trafficked areas relying on the generosity of strangers. They showed the couple going to the supermarket with only $15.00 to their name, trying to buy healthy food for the mother and the baby she was carrying. Because they had no home, they could not get Food Stamps or welfare. On the visit to her doctor, the woman was told that there was a very good chance that Child Protective Services would remove the child from her care and put the baby in a Foster Home. I could feel their despair. As the time of delivery drew near, they did eventually work out a deal with a generous family, to barter the father’s services in return for a room to stay in. Finally having an address insured that they would keep their baby, and be able to get some government assistance until they could get out on their own.

What is my point in telling you all of this? I thought of Mary, and the show she could have produced. “I’m pregnant and A VIRGIN…or I’m pregnant and only 14 years old…or I’m pregnant and not married…or I’m pregnant and have no place to give birth” Yes, Mary and Joseph would have provided fodder for any number of these stories. So, it appears that the Holy Family, was not so different from us. Time, has not changed basic truths of humanity. In times of crises we need God, and we need each other. There is not one of us who can handle life alone. We are meant to be a community, a family.

And so, as Advent approaches let’s think about those who may be struggling and find a way to help. We might donate food, toys, clothing to those in need. We could volunteer at a soup kitchen, or make some food to give to a needy family. We could visit or phone that lonely neighbor, or friend we haven’t talked to in ages. Just think of the difference one small act could make. And for those who are even more blessed, maybe we are called to do something big. Could we pay it forward and pick up the bill for a struggling family at the supermarket? Could we open our home to provide a warm meal and night’s rest, with a warm shower?

Can you just imagine, the Holy Family, so grateful to finally have a place to rest that night, even if it was a smelly old barn or cave filled with animals? If the TV show had been around back then, the conclusion would have been mind blowing! I’m pregnant and the angels appeared, and the heavens opened to welcome my baby into the world, narrated by Mary. It’s something I will think about as we prepare for our Christmas celebrations of Christ’s birth.

Maureen Tauriello

St. Francis of Assisi ANCC (Glen Ridge, NJ)

Deacon’s Corner: Many Are Called, Few Are Chosen

Deacon Pat Kane

In St. Matthew’s Gospel (22:14), the following is written: “Many are called but few are chosen.” Over the years, this passage has always caught my attention. I have often wondered what it meant and I also wondered if I had been called and chosen.

Being a man who has lived awhile and been around a bit, I’ve tried to listen, learn, and act as Jesus would have me do. Being a man also means I’ve been a sinner. Boy, talk about getting in the way of the message!

The message of Jesus that forgiveness is immediate if I choose to ask for it and that His love is total sure is reassuring to me.

In these days in America and the world, I think that Jesus must be shaking His head. I see people who are emboldened to act against others in ways that are horrible, mean and uncharitable, and just plain wrong. Whether this is acting against immigrants, the homeless, people of color, women, LGBTQ people—whomever—our humanity is being shaken.

I shake my head and wonder what I can do to try and help some semblance of humility, kindness, forgiveness, and love overcome the nastiness that seems to be taking over our decency and humanity. This is the same evil that Jesus challenged. The quest seems overwhelmingly difficult at times; at other times, it seems implausibly simple. The road map is pretty clear.

If I accept the call of Jesus, I can try to live my life as He asks me to. Most difficult for me is forgiving society for its nastiness and accepting the cost of trying to live a Christian life. We have the example from Jesus. We have only to accept the call and respond in whatever way we can. But this is truly difficult. It seems inside of every bully is a fearful child trying desperately to protect him or herself. Inside of me is the bully I condemn in others.

When I think of the example Jesus gave us, I realize I answer for myself. I have to live my own life, and sometimes forgiving others and giving up the power I have is really difficult for me. This is almost as difficult as forgiving myself.

I realize what I have to do. In challenging others through honesty and love, I have to try and not count the cost. I have to challenge myself to live honestly and with love. This is the rub for me, because I find it hard to live this honesty and love—especially when “I’m right and you’re wrong.” It seems that not counting the cost is really hard for me. When I go on the attack, it’s easy. When I am attacked, it’s extremely difficult for me to respond as Jesus would. I have a difficult time accepting some of the shots that are fired at all of us these days. Yet, when Jesus faced these difficulties, He accepted death, a public humiliating execution. I get paranoid when someone SAYS something to or about me!

“Many are called but few are chosen.” I must live my life and try and learn to accept the forgiving love that Jesus offers me. I control how I respond. With Jesus, all things are possible. With the help of others in community, all things are possible. In my life, all things are possible. Forgiveness and love are available to all of us if only we accept this gift and the grace available to do this.

How will I respond now? What about tomorrow? Can I forgive and love others and myself? To quote the magical Abby, my wife, who in turn quotes John Irving, “Keep passing the open windows,” And if you can’t, stay on the first floor.

Deacon Pat Kane

St. Francis of Assisi ANCC (Glen Ridge, NJ)