April 30, 2013

Feast of Saint Pius V

John 14: 27-31a

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Gift of the Resurrection

Easter testifies to the power of the cross: in today’s Gospel. Jesus promises peace to His disciples, a peace distinct from the world. Jesus’ peace, we hear, quells troubled and fearful hearts everlasting. As we consider the disciple’s lot, and our own, perhaps everlasting peace is the single most important gift of the Resurrection.

Surely we know anxiety, and our world lies in tension, particularly in places of great political, social, and familial strife. Yet, the good news of John’s testimony is that in the triumph of the cross, peace will be the final word.

What a timely message to lean into this Easter. Surely, this truth is on the mind of our Holy Father, invoking St. Francis and his peaceful embodiment of the Christ-life for his pontifical title. And as an Easter people, all faithful are invited to trust all the more in this peace of our Christ.

In this place of deepening trust, we join with Jesus to more earnestly work toward this promise of peace, bringing justice to all peoples.

Am I asking for this deepening grace of trust this Easter, that despite the evidence otherwise, I believe more fully in this peace promise of the Risen Christ? And in this place of deeper faith, am I more emboldened to work with Jesus towards its fulfillment?

Matthew Couture, Provincial Assistant for Secondary and Pre-Secondary Education, Chicago-Detroit Province and Wisconsin Province

Prayer

Lord, despite the evidence of unrest in our life, we ask for a deepening grace of trust. We desire to believe more fully in this peace promised by the Risen Christ.  And we pledge to work with you to bring peace to others.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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April 29, 2013

Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena

John 14: 21-26

They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world” Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Dependence on God

It is interesting to know that Jesus is more interested in describing “the saved” as the ones who do what he does rather than as someone who professes something without concern for whether what s/he professes is lived out.

If you have spent any time serving the really poor you know that they can teach you something about how to relate to God.  The alleluia from someone who doesn’t know where their next meal comes from seems more vibrant than that of one from someone who has to decide what kind of food s/he will eat next.

I think this is why God loves the poor in a preferential way, they love God more.  Their need for God is palpable while the wealthy have options, which don’t necessitate God.  The temptation to be masters of our own fate is very hard to overcome.  The poor can teach us that.

What can the poor teach me today?

—Fr. James Prehn, S.J., Vocations Director for the Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits. For more information on Jesuit vocations, click here.

Prayer

Lord, let our desire to surrender all to you, be words backed by action. Sometimes in our struggle to take control, we forget that we lose control when we forget to invite you into our concerns, doubts, and fears. So Lord, whatever our circumstance, may we rest in you, trusting in your faithfulness and unconditional support for us.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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April 28, 2013

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 14: 21-27

After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, then on to Iconium and Antioch. There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.”

And after they had appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe. Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.

From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had completed. When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Love One Another

Today’s reading from Acts 14 illustrates just how Jesus’ commandment of love was incarnated in the early Church.  The first Christians formed a network of persons. Then the first apostles established practical social structures which Paul and Barnabas and the others used to preach the good news of Jesus Christ.

These men and women who are our early elders in faith didn’t think of themselves as pioneers and heroes, but rather as instruments of God commissioned to preach about the love of Jesus in his living, dying, and rising.

Now you and I might not get out of bed with the goal of preaching about the love of Jesus in his living, dying, and rising. Yet in a real sense that is what our commitment in baptism is all about.  No doubt there will be distractions and misunderstandings as we walk in Jesus’ footsteps.

Fatigue and tension may even bring out our worst side as we get grumpy and impatient.  Others may take pot shots at us and we may even feel “persecuted” in some way for our values and beliefs.  In the end Jesus reminds us anew: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.”

This last Sunday of April reminds us that Jesus’ Easter gifts are those of peace, hope, joy and new life…all given in abundance.  And just when we might think we have everything under control…“The One who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new!’ ”

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.

Body of Christ, save me.

Blood of Christ, inebriate me.

Water from the side of Christ, wash me.

Passion of Christ, strengthen me.

O Good Jesus, hear me.

Within Thy wounds hide me.

Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.

From the wicked enemy defend me.

In the hour of my death call me.

And bid me come unto Thee,

That with all Thy saints,

I may praise Thee

Forever and ever.

Amen.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola (Anima Christi)


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April 27, 2013

John 14: 7-14

If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Witnesses of Faith

In our first reading from Acts today we notice that not everyone was quick to embrace the early church. We read about jealousy arising for some as they see crowds gather to hear Paul and Barnabas speak. Towards the end of this account from Acts we hear that one group was “delighted” as another “stirred up persecution.”

In 1565 Jesuit Peter Canisius also encountered divisions regarding matters of faith. Tensions were extremely high during this time of the Protestant Reformation, and with the Council of Trent concluded, the Pope needed someone to distribute the Council’s decrees to the bishops throughout Europe. The first attempt to deliver these documents was met by thieves and Protestant opposition. For the second attempt Peter Canisius was chosen for the task and was able to distribute the documents to the European bishops.

In addition to helping the church by delivering these important documents, Peter went on to help defend the faith by assisting in the writing of a Catholic catechism. Though it was not uncommon at that time to have heated debates and harsh criticism about religion, Peter was more in favor of education and charity in our actions as ways to bring people closer to the Catholic faith.

On today’s feast of St. Peter Canisius, S.J., let us reflect on ways we can become witnesses for the Catholic faith. Are there parts of the faith we are unsure about, parts we could benefit from reading and studying about our Catholic teachings? Are there ways we can increase our charity towards others who may not believe by what we say and do? Would people know we are Catholic by the way we talk and treat others?

As we journey on this Easter season may we pray for the grace not only to better understand our Catholic faith, but to also experience the grace to live it out.

—Br. Pat Douglas, S.J, is Vocation Promoter for the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus and a residence hall chaplain at Creighton University, Omaha, NE. For more information on Jesuit vocations, click here.

Prayer

Lord, our lives ebb and flow between beginnings and endings, from emptiness to fullness, from the weariness of depletion to the wonder of creation, from an agony of the heart to the burst of joy that fills our senses. And so goes the lives of all who cling to you.

Lord, through your humanity and divinity, you accepted the cycle of life. When we recall the denial and abandonment by your best friends, the brutality that lifted you up on the cross and drew forth blood and water from your side, we know that death does not have the final word. Because you stand victorious, we will one day cross over to eternal life.

And regardless of our place in our appointed time, we claim your promise “that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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April 26, 2013

John 14: 1-6

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Following the Way

We live in a culture where all too often we want to see the replay before we even see the play. How often whilst watching a sporting event on TV will someone in the room yell “show us the darn replay!” . . . even having just witnessed the play. I suppose this comes from some deep-seated obsession with knowledge.

To know more gives us the illusion that we are more, that we have more control, more power over the plethora of phenomena that confront us. Unless we can see the whole forest we are not content with seeing a few trees. Something akin seems to going on with Thomas today with his question, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

Jesus never promises us the certainty of complete knowledge; ‘merely’ the prospects of revelation. And revelation not in the form of syllogistic and systematic philosophical propositions but revelation as the unfolding of the Divine Will in himself. In other words, Revelation as an on-going process of discovering, choosing, and following God’s will at every moment in life.

Every great journey begins with a tiny step . . . and often enough that tiny step is all that we are given to see. So when Jesus offers himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, don’t expect to see the whole way, know the whole truth, or live the perfect life; but hopefully enough of the way to keep walking, and enough of the way to keep believing, and enough of life to keep living . . . sharing that Life with others.

Fr. Charles Rodrigues, S.J., Associate Novice Director at the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Alberto Hurtado, St. Paul, MN. For more information on Jesuit vocations, click here.

Prayer

Lord, strengthen our resolve to follow when the way is hazy and our footsteps are not secure. Strengthen our understanding and acceptance that revelation is a process of discovering, choosing, and following you wherever we are in our day, in our life. And should we struggle with taking that first step, assure us that we need but move forward one step at a time in response to your call.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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April 25, 2013

Feast of St. Mark

Mark 16: 15-20

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.

And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

 Clothe Yourselves with Humility

The Gospel of Mark, whose feast day is celebrated today, is considered the oldest of the four canonical gospels, the collecting other written accounts and the oral tradition in a systematic narrative to tell a non-Jewish Christian community the good news of Jesus.  The saying “Preach the gospel always, use words only when necessary” is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.  The life of St. Francis was a major inspiration for St. Ignatius.  In his the “Contemplation on the Love of God” that conclude the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius instructs us that “love ought to show itself in deeds over and above words.”  So far Pope Francis’ deeds of humble love and service speak volumes.

Since the first moments and weeks of his new mission, Pope Francis has inspired us with examples of humility.  He asked for our prayers and blessing for his predecessor and himself before offering his for Rome and for the world.  Commenting on his choice to be called Francis for St. Francis of Assisi, he declared, “Oh, how I would like a poor Church, and for the poor.”  He chose a simple white garment instead of custom royal robes and lives in a small hotel suite instead of the Apostolic Palace.  He shocked some during Holy Week by washing the feet of men and women in a youth detention center on Holy Thursday.

His solidarity with the suffering and marginalized moves hearts, inspires imagination and creates a tenderness toward each other.  In a recent report from Argentina, NCR’s John Allen shared an anecdote about an incident on a Buenos Aires bus.  An elderly woman diffused an escalating argument between the driver and irate passenger by reminding them “we’ve got an Argentine pope,” whereupon everyone relaxed and smiled.

The Gospel of Mark concludes:  Then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.  But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the work through accompanying signs.  How might you work with the Lord today, sharing your love in deeds?

—Jenéne Francis, Provincial Assistant for Pastoral Ministries, Chicago-Detroit Province and Wisconsin Province

Prayer

Lord Jesus,

teach me to be generous;

teach me to serve you

as you deserve,

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to seek reward,

except that of knowing that

I do your will.

Amen.

—St. Ignatius (Prayer for Generosity)


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April 24, 2013

John 12: 44-50

Then Jesus cried aloud: “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.”

Let It shine

Sister Thea Bowman of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration captured the imagination and hearts of many in her short life (1937-1990). A convert to Roman Catholicism at a young age she sparked an appreciation for the place of the Holy Spirit in our prayer, our worship, and our daily living. Blessed with a beautiful singing voice, strong intellect, and dynamic oratorical skills, she sang with gusto:

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Her spirit-filled faith attracted even the thick-skinned, hard-nosed 60 Minutes reporter, the late-Mike Wallace, who did a story about her in the 1980s in which she told him:

“I think the difference between me and some people is that I’m content to do my little bit. Sometimes people think they have to do big things in order to make change.

But if each one would light a candle we’d have a tremendous light”.

Sister Thea Bowman strived to live her life in imitation of Christ; not to judge others who mistreated her as a black woman in the segregated South and prejudiced North, but to be an instrument in God’s hands to save and redeem people’s goodness. Pray that I may fulfill my goal each day to do as Christ did; to show love, to enable healing, to forgive others, and to let His light shine through little old me.

Let your light shine: Smile.

Fr. Chris Manahan, S.J. is Associate Novice Director at the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Alberto Hurtado, St. Paul, MN. For more information on Jesuit vocations, click here.

Prayer

Lord, where there is darkness help us to hope for your light. Where there is doubt and confusion, bring your clarity to our struggle. Where there is suffering for the sake of others, fortify our commitment.  When we see only the shadow of disappointment, remind us that your light will prevail and we will regain our bearings. And when those we love take their final breath and when our turn comes to bid this earth farewell, may we all cross over into your eternal light.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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April 23, 2013

John 10: 22-30

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

To Know His Voice

Oh how Jesus calls me out in today’s Gospel. There I am in the scene, oh how many times I shout to the Lord, “tell us (me) plainly.” Show me the way with clear language, and a lightning bolt from the heavens wouldn’t hurt either.

And Jesus responds, “I told you.” What, where, how did I miss that, Lord? Because it wasn’t in that lightning bolt I was so earnestly waiting on, but in the “works I do in my Father’s name testify to me,” our Gospel today proclaims. Oh, that is where the revelation is, in the works You do, Jesus? In your healing, preaching, justice seeking, and reaching out to the outcast? In your schools, hospitals, and refugee tents? In the people you encounter in your earthly and heavenly ministry ongoing?

The good news of John’s Gospel today is salve for this seeking soul that can so often look for the bright lights of revelation and miss Christ in all things. This revelation evades me only to the degree that I am out of touch with others in service, in the works Jesus speaks to today. When I am in the place of service for others I am connected with Jesus and know His voice, a voice so often discovered in the simple encounter with another.

Matthew Couture, Provincial Assistant for Secondary and Pre-Secondary Education, Chicago-Detroit Province and Wisconsin Province

Prayer

Lord, sometimes as the days and nights close out another season, life seems to move so fast. We notice changes in ourselves and our friends that remind us that our youth is behind us and our future has diminishing years before it.

Lord, your word tells us this is actually good news: You want us to live forever in a perfect place, not on a planet marred by sin. With gratitude and hope we cling to your promise that “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.”

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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April 22, 2013

Jesuit Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Society of Jesus

Galatians 4: 4-7

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

All Things New in Christ

It is telling that even in the early Church the natural inclination is to exclude the different. The circumcised followed all the rules of Judaism faithfully, so when Peter entered the house of those who didn’t follow all the rules, it upset people.  Karl Rahner, SJ, was a great Jesuit theologian who saw this as the greatest crisis the Church has ever faced.  Do you have to follow all the rules of Judaism in order to be considered an equal follower of Christ?

The early church came to the conclusion that all things are new in Christ and so the answer to that question is, “No.”  But I can’t help but feel sympathy for the first Christians who want to do the right thing by defining what the right thing is.

It’s hard not to judge when we have come to conclusions about externals based on our own sincere experiences of prayer.  But that isn’t what Jesus did.  In those moments when he did prejudge someone, they always surprised him.  Think of the Canaanite woman or the Roman centurion.  His initial reaction was to dismiss both of them as having no standing.  But Jesus was able to admit when he was being prejudicial, and he was willing to do what they asked.

What are the ways in which you are prejudicial?  Do you think that someone outside your understanding of who is a Christian might in fact share your deepest values? 

—Fr. James Prehn, S.J., Vocations Director for the Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits. For more information on Jesuit vocations, click here.

Prayer

Lord, as we move throughout our day, help us to approach relationships and situations with the confidence that you are our Father and we are your children. If every person we see, talk with, correspond to, or read about is equally your child, then a sacred bond connects us to that person. Help us to be mindful of this truth particularly when we need a little more patience, understanding, or truth-telling.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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April 21, 2013

Revelation 7: 9, 14b-17

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

All that I Am and Have

This 4th Sunday of Easter the emphasis in the readings shifts from Jesus’ appearances after the Resurrection to the various ways the early followers of Jesus began to translate their Easter faith and joy into responsible Christian action on behalf of the gospel.

Today’s reading from Revelation gives us a sense of this vast crowd of believers that you and I are part of…from every nation and tribe, people and tongue.  All of us bring “all that we are and all we have” to the Lord, as the gospel reminds us.

Let’s examine that “all” for a minute.  Presuming that Jesus is serious, then that “all” must include…my strengths and limitations, my success and failures; my health and physical limitations; parts of my life I regret and parts I am proud of.

The “all” must include my family and neighborhood, those I love and those harder to like.  The “all” includes “us” and “them”…for with God there is no “them.”  This applies to the Church as well.

This week of Easter grace may the Risen Lord’s healing touch energize us to become witnesses of Jesus’ life and resurrection wherever we go, whatever we do.

–The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, we bring to you “all that we are and all that we have.”  We share with you our strengths and limitations, our successes and failures; our health and physical limitations; and the parts of our life we regret and the parts that we are proud of. We pray for those so dear to us. We pray for those who irritate us; who have hurt us, betrayed or brought discouragement and disillusionment to our life. We give you our all and we receive your all.

–The Jesuit Prayer Team


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April 30, 2013

Feast of Saint Pius V

John 14: 27-31a

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Gift of the Resurrection

Easter testifies to the power of the cross: in today’s Gospel. Jesus promises peace to His disciples, a peace distinct from the world. Jesus’ peace, we hear, quells troubled and fearful hearts everlasting. As we consider the disciple’s lot, and our own, perhaps everlasting peace is the single most important gift of the Resurrection.

Surely we know anxiety, and our world lies in tension, particularly in places of great political, social, and familial strife. Yet, the good news of John’s testimony is that in the triumph of the cross, peace will be the final word.

What a timely message to lean into this Easter. Surely, this truth is on the mind of our Holy Father, invoking St. Francis and his peaceful embodiment of the Christ-life for his pontifical title. And as an Easter people, all faithful are invited to trust all the more in this peace of our Christ.

In this place of deepening trust, we join with Jesus to more earnestly work toward this promise of peace, bringing justice to all peoples.

Am I asking for this deepening grace of trust this Easter, that despite the evidence otherwise, I believe more fully in this peace promise of the Risen Christ? And in this place of deeper faith, am I more emboldened to work with Jesus towards its fulfillment?

Matthew Couture, Provincial Assistant for Secondary and Pre-Secondary Education, Chicago-Detroit Province and Wisconsin Province

Prayer

Lord, despite the evidence of unrest in our life, we ask for a deepening grace of trust. We desire to believe more fully in this peace promised by the Risen Christ.  And we pledge to work with you to bring peace to others.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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April 29, 2013

Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena

John 14: 21-26

They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world” Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Dependence on God

It is interesting to know that Jesus is more interested in describing “the saved” as the ones who do what he does rather than as someone who professes something without concern for whether what s/he professes is lived out.

If you have spent any time serving the really poor you know that they can teach you something about how to relate to God.  The alleluia from someone who doesn’t know where their next meal comes from seems more vibrant than that of one from someone who has to decide what kind of food s/he will eat next.

I think this is why God loves the poor in a preferential way, they love God more.  Their need for God is palpable while the wealthy have options, which don’t necessitate God.  The temptation to be masters of our own fate is very hard to overcome.  The poor can teach us that.

What can the poor teach me today?

—Fr. James Prehn, S.J., Vocations Director for the Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits. For more information on Jesuit vocations, click here.

Prayer

Lord, let our desire to surrender all to you, be words backed by action. Sometimes in our struggle to take control, we forget that we lose control when we forget to invite you into our concerns, doubts, and fears. So Lord, whatever our circumstance, may we rest in you, trusting in your faithfulness and unconditional support for us.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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April 28, 2013

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 14: 21-27

After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, then on to Iconium and Antioch. There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.”

And after they had appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe. Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.

From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had completed. When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Love One Another

Today’s reading from Acts 14 illustrates just how Jesus’ commandment of love was incarnated in the early Church.  The first Christians formed a network of persons. Then the first apostles established practical social structures which Paul and Barnabas and the others used to preach the good news of Jesus Christ.

These men and women who are our early elders in faith didn’t think of themselves as pioneers and heroes, but rather as instruments of God commissioned to preach about the love of Jesus in his living, dying, and rising.

Now you and I might not get out of bed with the goal of preaching about the love of Jesus in his living, dying, and rising. Yet in a real sense that is what our commitment in baptism is all about.  No doubt there will be distractions and misunderstandings as we walk in Jesus’ footsteps.

Fatigue and tension may even bring out our worst side as we get grumpy and impatient.  Others may take pot shots at us and we may even feel “persecuted” in some way for our values and beliefs.  In the end Jesus reminds us anew: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.”

This last Sunday of April reminds us that Jesus’ Easter gifts are those of peace, hope, joy and new life…all given in abundance.  And just when we might think we have everything under control…“The One who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new!’ ”

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.

Body of Christ, save me.

Blood of Christ, inebriate me.

Water from the side of Christ, wash me.

Passion of Christ, strengthen me.

O Good Jesus, hear me.

Within Thy wounds hide me.

Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.

From the wicked enemy defend me.

In the hour of my death call me.

And bid me come unto Thee,

That with all Thy saints,

I may praise Thee

Forever and ever.

Amen.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola (Anima Christi)


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April 27, 2013

John 14: 7-14

If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Witnesses of Faith

In our first reading from Acts today we notice that not everyone was quick to embrace the early church. We read about jealousy arising for some as they see crowds gather to hear Paul and Barnabas speak. Towards the end of this account from Acts we hear that one group was “delighted” as another “stirred up persecution.”

In 1565 Jesuit Peter Canisius also encountered divisions regarding matters of faith. Tensions were extremely high during this time of the Protestant Reformation, and with the Council of Trent concluded, the Pope needed someone to distribute the Council’s decrees to the bishops throughout Europe. The first attempt to deliver these documents was met by thieves and Protestant opposition. For the second attempt Peter Canisius was chosen for the task and was able to distribute the documents to the European bishops.

In addition to helping the church by delivering these important documents, Peter went on to help defend the faith by assisting in the writing of a Catholic catechism. Though it was not uncommon at that time to have heated debates and harsh criticism about religion, Peter was more in favor of education and charity in our actions as ways to bring people closer to the Catholic faith.

On today’s feast of St. Peter Canisius, S.J., let us reflect on ways we can become witnesses for the Catholic faith. Are there parts of the faith we are unsure about, parts we could benefit from reading and studying about our Catholic teachings? Are there ways we can increase our charity towards others who may not believe by what we say and do? Would people know we are Catholic by the way we talk and treat others?

As we journey on this Easter season may we pray for the grace not only to better understand our Catholic faith, but to also experience the grace to live it out.

—Br. Pat Douglas, S.J, is Vocation Promoter for the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus and a residence hall chaplain at Creighton University, Omaha, NE. For more information on Jesuit vocations, click here.

Prayer

Lord, our lives ebb and flow between beginnings and endings, from emptiness to fullness, from the weariness of depletion to the wonder of creation, from an agony of the heart to the burst of joy that fills our senses. And so goes the lives of all who cling to you.

Lord, through your humanity and divinity, you accepted the cycle of life. When we recall the denial and abandonment by your best friends, the brutality that lifted you up on the cross and drew forth blood and water from your side, we know that death does not have the final word. Because you stand victorious, we will one day cross over to eternal life.

And regardless of our place in our appointed time, we claim your promise “that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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April 26, 2013

John 14: 1-6

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Following the Way

We live in a culture where all too often we want to see the replay before we even see the play. How often whilst watching a sporting event on TV will someone in the room yell “show us the darn replay!” . . . even having just witnessed the play. I suppose this comes from some deep-seated obsession with knowledge.

To know more gives us the illusion that we are more, that we have more control, more power over the plethora of phenomena that confront us. Unless we can see the whole forest we are not content with seeing a few trees. Something akin seems to going on with Thomas today with his question, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

Jesus never promises us the certainty of complete knowledge; ‘merely’ the prospects of revelation. And revelation not in the form of syllogistic and systematic philosophical propositions but revelation as the unfolding of the Divine Will in himself. In other words, Revelation as an on-going process of discovering, choosing, and following God’s will at every moment in life.

Every great journey begins with a tiny step . . . and often enough that tiny step is all that we are given to see. So when Jesus offers himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, don’t expect to see the whole way, know the whole truth, or live the perfect life; but hopefully enough of the way to keep walking, and enough of the way to keep believing, and enough of life to keep living . . . sharing that Life with others.

Fr. Charles Rodrigues, S.J., Associate Novice Director at the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Alberto Hurtado, St. Paul, MN. For more information on Jesuit vocations, click here.

Prayer

Lord, strengthen our resolve to follow when the way is hazy and our footsteps are not secure. Strengthen our understanding and acceptance that revelation is a process of discovering, choosing, and following you wherever we are in our day, in our life. And should we struggle with taking that first step, assure us that we need but move forward one step at a time in response to your call.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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April 25, 2013

Feast of St. Mark

Mark 16: 15-20

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.

And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

 Clothe Yourselves with Humility

The Gospel of Mark, whose feast day is celebrated today, is considered the oldest of the four canonical gospels, the collecting other written accounts and the oral tradition in a systematic narrative to tell a non-Jewish Christian community the good news of Jesus.  The saying “Preach the gospel always, use words only when necessary” is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.  The life of St. Francis was a major inspiration for St. Ignatius.  In his the “Contemplation on the Love of God” that conclude the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius instructs us that “love ought to show itself in deeds over and above words.”  So far Pope Francis’ deeds of humble love and service speak volumes.

Since the first moments and weeks of his new mission, Pope Francis has inspired us with examples of humility.  He asked for our prayers and blessing for his predecessor and himself before offering his for Rome and for the world.  Commenting on his choice to be called Francis for St. Francis of Assisi, he declared, “Oh, how I would like a poor Church, and for the poor.”  He chose a simple white garment instead of custom royal robes and lives in a small hotel suite instead of the Apostolic Palace.  He shocked some during Holy Week by washing the feet of men and women in a youth detention center on Holy Thursday.

His solidarity with the suffering and marginalized moves hearts, inspires imagination and creates a tenderness toward each other.  In a recent report from Argentina, NCR’s John Allen shared an anecdote about an incident on a Buenos Aires bus.  An elderly woman diffused an escalating argument between the driver and irate passenger by reminding them “we’ve got an Argentine pope,” whereupon everyone relaxed and smiled.

The Gospel of Mark concludes:  Then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.  But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the work through accompanying signs.  How might you work with the Lord today, sharing your love in deeds?

—Jenéne Francis, Provincial Assistant for Pastoral Ministries, Chicago-Detroit Province and Wisconsin Province

Prayer

Lord Jesus,

teach me to be generous;

teach me to serve you

as you deserve,

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to seek reward,

except that of knowing that

I do your will.

Amen.

—St. Ignatius (Prayer for Generosity)


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April 24, 2013

John 12: 44-50

Then Jesus cried aloud: “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.”

Let It shine

Sister Thea Bowman of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration captured the imagination and hearts of many in her short life (1937-1990). A convert to Roman Catholicism at a young age she sparked an appreciation for the place of the Holy Spirit in our prayer, our worship, and our daily living. Blessed with a beautiful singing voice, strong intellect, and dynamic oratorical skills, she sang with gusto:

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Her spirit-filled faith attracted even the thick-skinned, hard-nosed 60 Minutes reporter, the late-Mike Wallace, who did a story about her in the 1980s in which she told him:

“I think the difference between me and some people is that I’m content to do my little bit. Sometimes people think they have to do big things in order to make change.

But if each one would light a candle we’d have a tremendous light”.

Sister Thea Bowman strived to live her life in imitation of Christ; not to judge others who mistreated her as a black woman in the segregated South and prejudiced North, but to be an instrument in God’s hands to save and redeem people’s goodness. Pray that I may fulfill my goal each day to do as Christ did; to show love, to enable healing, to forgive others, and to let His light shine through little old me.

Let your light shine: Smile.

Fr. Chris Manahan, S.J. is Associate Novice Director at the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Alberto Hurtado, St. Paul, MN. For more information on Jesuit vocations, click here.

Prayer

Lord, where there is darkness help us to hope for your light. Where there is doubt and confusion, bring your clarity to our struggle. Where there is suffering for the sake of others, fortify our commitment.  When we see only the shadow of disappointment, remind us that your light will prevail and we will regain our bearings. And when those we love take their final breath and when our turn comes to bid this earth farewell, may we all cross over into your eternal light.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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April 23, 2013

John 10: 22-30

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

To Know His Voice

Oh how Jesus calls me out in today’s Gospel. There I am in the scene, oh how many times I shout to the Lord, “tell us (me) plainly.” Show me the way with clear language, and a lightning bolt from the heavens wouldn’t hurt either.

And Jesus responds, “I told you.” What, where, how did I miss that, Lord? Because it wasn’t in that lightning bolt I was so earnestly waiting on, but in the “works I do in my Father’s name testify to me,” our Gospel today proclaims. Oh, that is where the revelation is, in the works You do, Jesus? In your healing, preaching, justice seeking, and reaching out to the outcast? In your schools, hospitals, and refugee tents? In the people you encounter in your earthly and heavenly ministry ongoing?

The good news of John’s Gospel today is salve for this seeking soul that can so often look for the bright lights of revelation and miss Christ in all things. This revelation evades me only to the degree that I am out of touch with others in service, in the works Jesus speaks to today. When I am in the place of service for others I am connected with Jesus and know His voice, a voice so often discovered in the simple encounter with another.

Matthew Couture, Provincial Assistant for Secondary and Pre-Secondary Education, Chicago-Detroit Province and Wisconsin Province

Prayer

Lord, sometimes as the days and nights close out another season, life seems to move so fast. We notice changes in ourselves and our friends that remind us that our youth is behind us and our future has diminishing years before it.

Lord, your word tells us this is actually good news: You want us to live forever in a perfect place, not on a planet marred by sin. With gratitude and hope we cling to your promise that “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.”

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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April 22, 2013

Jesuit Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Society of Jesus

Galatians 4: 4-7

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

All Things New in Christ

It is telling that even in the early Church the natural inclination is to exclude the different. The circumcised followed all the rules of Judaism faithfully, so when Peter entered the house of those who didn’t follow all the rules, it upset people.  Karl Rahner, SJ, was a great Jesuit theologian who saw this as the greatest crisis the Church has ever faced.  Do you have to follow all the rules of Judaism in order to be considered an equal follower of Christ?

The early church came to the conclusion that all things are new in Christ and so the answer to that question is, “No.”  But I can’t help but feel sympathy for the first Christians who want to do the right thing by defining what the right thing is.

It’s hard not to judge when we have come to conclusions about externals based on our own sincere experiences of prayer.  But that isn’t what Jesus did.  In those moments when he did prejudge someone, they always surprised him.  Think of the Canaanite woman or the Roman centurion.  His initial reaction was to dismiss both of them as having no standing.  But Jesus was able to admit when he was being prejudicial, and he was willing to do what they asked.

What are the ways in which you are prejudicial?  Do you think that someone outside your understanding of who is a Christian might in fact share your deepest values? 

—Fr. James Prehn, S.J., Vocations Director for the Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits. For more information on Jesuit vocations, click here.

Prayer

Lord, as we move throughout our day, help us to approach relationships and situations with the confidence that you are our Father and we are your children. If every person we see, talk with, correspond to, or read about is equally your child, then a sacred bond connects us to that person. Help us to be mindful of this truth particularly when we need a little more patience, understanding, or truth-telling.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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April 21, 2013

Revelation 7: 9, 14b-17

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

All that I Am and Have

This 4th Sunday of Easter the emphasis in the readings shifts from Jesus’ appearances after the Resurrection to the various ways the early followers of Jesus began to translate their Easter faith and joy into responsible Christian action on behalf of the gospel.

Today’s reading from Revelation gives us a sense of this vast crowd of believers that you and I are part of…from every nation and tribe, people and tongue.  All of us bring “all that we are and all we have” to the Lord, as the gospel reminds us.

Let’s examine that “all” for a minute.  Presuming that Jesus is serious, then that “all” must include…my strengths and limitations, my success and failures; my health and physical limitations; parts of my life I regret and parts I am proud of.

The “all” must include my family and neighborhood, those I love and those harder to like.  The “all” includes “us” and “them”…for with God there is no “them.”  This applies to the Church as well.

This week of Easter grace may the Risen Lord’s healing touch energize us to become witnesses of Jesus’ life and resurrection wherever we go, whatever we do.

–The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, we bring to you “all that we are and all that we have.”  We share with you our strengths and limitations, our successes and failures; our health and physical limitations; and the parts of our life we regret and the parts that we are proud of. We pray for those so dear to us. We pray for those who irritate us; who have hurt us, betrayed or brought discouragement and disillusionment to our life. We give you our all and we receive your all.

–The Jesuit Prayer Team


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