Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A week of feasts

This first week of Advent has been full of feasts and anniversaries which help me refocus my life – and put things into perspective. I include a few remarks about people – and a few quotes.

For many years I read the Prison Meditations of Father Alfred Delp as an aid to living and praying during Lent.
Advent is a time for rousing.
Persons are shaken to the very depths, so that thy may wake up to the truths of themselves. The primary condition for a fruitful Advent is renunciation, surrender. Persons must let go of all their mistaken dreams, their conceited poses and arrogant gestures, all the pretenses with which they hope to deceive themselves and others. If they fail to do this, stark reality may take hold of them and rouse them forcibly in a way that will entail both anxiety and suffering.
Fr. Alfred Delp, S.J., Prison Meditations
The original edition has long been out of print but recently Orbis Books reprinted them as part of the book Alfred Delp: Prison Writings.

November 29, the first Monday of Advent, was thirty years after the death of Dorothy Day. The founder of the Catholic Worker, after a very interesting young adult life – hanging around with bohemians and radicals, getting jailed with suffragettes, having an abortion, living with a man and becoming a mother – became a Catholic and sought ways to bring her passion for justice for the poor together with her deep piety and faith. I met her once at a Friday Night Clarification of Thought at the New York City Catholic Worker. What I most remember is that meeting her felt like meeting a good and compassionate grandmother.
It is no use saying that we are born two thousand years too late to give room to Christ. Nor will those who live at the end of the world have been born too late. Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts.
Dorothy Day
Two nice blog posts are on the blogs of Fr. Stephen Wang and Rebel Girl.

November 30 is the feast of Saint Andrew – the first to be called, as the Orthodox call him. It is also the anniversary of the death of Fritz Eichenberg, a Quaker artist whose etchings have appeared often in the Catholic Worker.
“There is enough excitement in our daily tasks if we approach them reverently and creatively, no matter in what medium we work. Whether we work in the field of human relations, in stone or wood, with pen and paper, there is the thrill of fighting injustice, inequality, disease, of suffering for our convictions, of having the courage to stand up and be counted for all the despised and unpopular causes for which we feel called upon to fight.”
Fritz Eichenberg
December 1, Worlds Aids day, was the fifty-fifth anniversary of the refusal of Rosa Parks to give up her seat on a Birmingham city bus – the simple act (of a trained activist) which spurred on the Civil Rights movement.

December 1 is also the anniversary of the killing of Brother Charles de Foucauld, I 1916 in the Sahara. His life and writings are the inspiration for the Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus. He sought to live the live of Jesus in Nazareth, living and working in the world. The Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus and the Little Brothers and sisters of the Gospel live this in their daily lives among the poorest.
We can wrap our Lord in swaddling clothes no less truly than did the Blessed Virgin: we do it when we clothe a poor person for love of him.
Blessed Charles de Foucauld

December 2 is thirty years since the brutal martyrdom of four US women in El Salvador. Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, and lay missionary Jean Donovan were brutally killed by Salvadoran government forces. Those who side with the poor have often risked their lives.
“Am I willing to suffer with the people here, the suffering of the powerless, the feeling impotent. Can I say to my neighbors — I have no solutions to the situation, I don’t know the answers, but I will walk with you, be with you. Can I let myself be evangelized by this opportunity? Can I look at and accept my own poorness and learn from other poor ones?”
Sr. Ita Ford, M.M.
Check out the Commonweal blog post on the martyrs. Click here.

December 3
is the feast of St Francis Xavier, Jesuit missionary to the Far East.
“Often I am overcome with the desire to cry out against the universities, especially against the University of Paris . . . and to rage with all my powers like a fool who has lost his senses.
“I would cry out against those who are more preoccupied with becoming scientists than with letting people in need profit from their science . . . I am afraid that many who learn their disciplines at the university are more interested in using them to acquire honors, bishoprics, privileges, and high position than in using them for what is just and necessary. . . The common word is: ‘I will study “letters” in order to get some good privileged position in the Church, and after that I will live for God.’ These people are brutes, following the guidance of their sensuality and disordered impulses. . . They do not trust in God, nor do they give themselves completely to him . . . they are afraid that God does not want what they desire and that when they obtain him they are forced to abandon their unjustly acquired privileges. . .
“How many would be enlightened by the faith of the Gospel if there were some who would put all their effort into finding good people who are willing to make sacrifices to search for and find not what belongs to them, but what belongs to Jesus Christ. In these lands so many people come to faith in Jesus Christ that many times my arms fail me because of the painful work of baptizing them.”
letter of St. Francis Xavier, cited in Henri Nouwen, Road to Daybreak
May these people of faith continue to inspire us to live the Gospel, in our homes and churches, in the streets – and most of all – among the poor.

Revised December 2

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