Thursday, March 31, 2011

Magis Reflections

Yesterday I was doing my monthly interview with KWKY, the Catholic radio station in Des Moines, Iowa, when Eileen, one of the interviewers, mentioned that she had read my reflection the other day. The reflection to which she was referring was part of a series of daily reflections that the Magis Center for Catholic Spirituality provides to those who sign up for an email subscription. These short daily reflections on the Mass readings or saint of the day are written by several Jesuits from their perspective of the "Spiritual Exercises" of St. Ignatius. From time to time, when one of them has a conflict and is unable to write, I am asked to "pinch write," as it were. Here are the reflections I wrote for the next three days:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

In today’s first reading (Jeremiah 7:23-28), God challenges His people through the prophet to listen to His voice and walk in His ways. He offers this challenge because, “This is the nation that does not listen to the voice of the Lord…; the word itself is banished from their speech.” The statistics on Bible reading by Catholics are not very good. While 87% of those polled said they had a Bible in their home, only 8% said they read it every day. 32% said they never read it. Another survey says that the average Christian spends more time in one evening watching television than the entire rest of the week reading the Bible. Though the word of God may not be “banished,” it is certainly being ignored.

Lent is a time for greater prayer and if you haven’t made daily Scripture reading part of your prayer routine this Lent, it’s not too late. At a time when books were an expensive novelty, St. Ignatius made the Gospel the focus of most of his “Spiritual Exercises.” Moreover Pope Benedict, met in 2009 with bishops from around the world to discuss the role of the Word of God in the life of the Church. Last fall he issued his exhortation “Verbum Domini” which pulled together their discussions and encouraged us in the practice of “lectio divina,” the prayerful reading of Scripture.

In the Scriptures we meet the living Word, Jesus, who speaks to us today. We need not only to not ignore Him but to listen with an open heart. The hearts of the Pharisees who thought Jesus was in league with the devil were hard. They had preconceived ideas about the Messiah and judged that Jesus did not fit those ideas. Thus they rejected Him. Are you giving Jesus extra time this Lent to speak to your heart and to form it to be more like His own?

Friday, April 1, 2011

We are made for union with God. This is why the first of all God’s commandments, as Jesus told us in today’s Gospel, is: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” St. Augustine once wrote that we were made for God and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. It’s as though in each of our hearts there is a hole that only God can fill. We often try to take away the hunger pains, thinking we’ll be satisfied and find peace in the world—in possessions or in human relationships or in prestige and power. But ultimately nothing satisfies. In time we are always left empty and searching.

The question might arise, if we turn to God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, what about other people? Aren’t we supposed to love our neighbor? Yes, Jesus said that the second great commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” So if we are to love God totally, how can there be any love left over for the people God places in our lives?

The answer is simple. If we love God totally we will love what God loves, and what God loves is His human creatures. He loved them so totally that He became one with them and suffered and died for them. He gave Himself totally on the Cross and continues to give Himself totally in the Eucharist. To truly love God is to love our neighbor, but not in such a way that we try to fill up the God-shaped hole in our hearts with them or with any finite creature. We love them in the Lord. God blesses us with them so that we in turn may be a blessing that leads them to God. Saturday,

April 2, 2011

If we’re honest, at one time or another we would all like to be like the Pharisee in today’s Gospel (Luke 18: 9-14). We would like to be able to tell God, “I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous.” We would like to be so perfect that we wouldn’t need to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But, as with most of His parables, Jesus turns things around and says that this man did not leave his prayer “justified.” Rather, the poor sinner who “beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner,’” did.

Doesn’t God want us to be perfect? Yes, but God’s ways are not our ways and sometimes, just when we think we’ve got things together and have been pretty good of late, we slip into the great sin of pride. We congratulate ourselves and become complacent.

St. Paul experienced this. In 2 Corinthians 12 he tells about some wonderful spiritual experiences he had and yet how he had a “thorn in the flesh,” “an angel of Satan,” that afflicted him. We don’t know if this was a physical ailment or a particular temptation or moral struggle. We do know that Paul thought he would be a much better apostle without it so he begged the Lord three times to take it away. God said “no.” God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul’s particular struggle humbled him and brought him to his knees. It kept him from becoming proud. It brought him close to Jesus. This is the sacrifice that God wants of us: “a humble contrite heart” that knows it depends upon God for everything, including any good that it does.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I'm in St. Paul, Minnesota these days. Actually, Woodbury, a suburb of St. Paul. I'm giving an 8 day retreat based on the "Spiritual Exercises" of St. Ignatius to a group of 12 Sisters who are members of an international congregation called the Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver. Each day I give three half hour talks, meet with individual Sisters over a 4 to 5 hour period, celebrate Mass, and participate in a nightly holy hour. It's like being on retreat myself. I always find that in preaching the "Spiritual Exercises" the various reflections, especially on the life of Jesus, become deeper for me.

It's always a blessing for me to meet groups of consecrated persons whom I've never met or known and to find out more about their founders and their charism. The Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver were founded in 1894 by Blessed Mary Theresa Ledochowska (1863-1922). She came from a prominent Polish family, the niece of a brave archbishop who opposed the unjust laws of the German Chancellor Bismarck, who was detained for three years as a result and, when freed, went to Rome where he became the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation of Propaganda Fide, the Vatican office that organized the Church's missionary work.

Mary Theresa heard stories of cruelty and slavery in Africa and was particularly moved by a speech by Cardinal Lavigerie, the founder of the Missionaries of Africa (the "White Fathers"), who was traveling around Europe denouncing slavery. Here is part of it:

"Christian women of Europe! It is up to you to make these abominations known everywhere and to stir up against them the indignation of all civilized people. Do not leave your husbands, brothers and fathers in peace until they have used their authority, their eloquence and their goods to prevent further bloodshed. If God has given you a writer's talent, put it at the service of this cause: you will find none holier. Do not forget that it was a woman's book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, translated now into all languages, that helped bring about the emancipation of slaves in America."

Galvanized by these words, Mary Theresa set to work doing everything she could to bring an end to slavery in Africa and to help the missionaries there. She wrote a play called Zaida, after its heroine, which became a box office success. It was the beginning of her vocation. She wrote to her uncle, Cardinal Ledochowski, in 1889, asking him to find out if the Pope would support her efforts to end slavery by founding a new religious congregation named after the Jesuit saint who called himself "the slave of the slaves forever." He wrote back:

"My dear niece, I hasten to reply to your letter ... in order to dispel any doubts or uncertainty you may have concerning Cardinal Lavigerie's work against slavery, which has the full backing of the Holy Father. Could you imagine any work more worthy of interest or support? ... Do not be afraid then, dear niece, that you could possibly be taking a false step in joining, with so many others, the struggle against the slave trade, especially among the blacks."

With this encouragement, she began her life work of working and praying for the missions, especially in Africa. Her desire was not to go to the missions herself but rather, with the help of other Sisters, to publicize the situation and work of the missionaries and to collect funds to help them. She thought of herself and her congregation as the hidden root that fed the tree which bore the fruit. Everyone could see the tree and its fruit, but these were only possible because of the hidden life that came from the Sisters' prayers, sacrifices, and work to raise funds for the missions. It's a work that continues today through this small congregation of less than 300 Sisters and their magazine Echo (from Africa and other continents).

In her Easter letter of 1916, Blessed Mary Theresa Ledochowska, who was beatified in 1975, wrote about the joy of offering up all in order to bring souls to God:

"I wish you all the riches of peace and the joy of Easter and thinking especially of the beautiful Feast of Easter which, we hope, we will celebrate one day, all united in heaven, united also to the many souls which we will have the grace to save for Heaven by means of our work."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Family Consecration

Last Friday I drove to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to St. Lambert Parish where I gave two talks on Family Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. On Friday night I told what I like to call "The True Love Story." It's the story of the love of God revealed in the Sacred and Pierced Heart of His Son. We often think of devotion to the Sacred Heart as something that we do, but the reality is that it begins with God. It begins in the Heart of God, the Communion of Persons that is the Most Holy Trinity. God in His very nature is Love, a loving Communion. The mysterious nature of love is to share. Though God was complete in this Trinitarian love, God wanted to love beyond Himself. Sacred Heart devotion really begins with God's devoted love for His human creatures whom He created for union with Himself. Sacred Heart devotion is really God's devotion and our response to it.

When humanity rejected God's marriage proposal and decided to seek a future outside of God's loving plan, God did not give up on us. The Son of God came to overcome the sin that broke the relationship for which we were created. From His Heart pierced on the cross gushed forth the water and the blood that overcame sin and united us to God. Through the sacramental life flowing from His side--water representing Baptism and blood representing the Eucharist--we are joined to the Body of Christ, to God.

Jesus ascended to heaven but has continued to appear from time to time to reveal His love in special ways. He gave all and He has appeared periodically to remind humanity of that fact and to invite our response. The natural desire when one knows he or she is loved is to want to return love for love. Jesus loved completely, not partially, and when we really appreciate that fact it is natural to want to love completely in return.

This is the meaning of consecration, about which I talked on Saturday morning. Through Baptism we are already consecrated to God, anointed with sacred chrism and set apart as sacred and holy persons, members of Christ's own Body. Individual or family consecration to the Sacred Heart is, in a way, a renewal of that initial consecration.

Where did the practice of family consecration come from? A letter of St. Margaret Mary, to whom Jesus appeared and revealed His Heart all on fire with love for humanity, has these words:

"No one who has a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart will ever lose his soul. Since all blessings come from our Lord, they will be lavished especially on those places where an image of the Sacred Heart is displayed to win him love and honour. In this way, he will mend broken homes, help and safeguard families in time of need."

Contained in those words are two of what are known as the Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Almost 200 years after St. Margaret Mary an Ohio businessman named Philip Kemper went through her letters and pulled out twelve promises which he had printed on cards and distributed. They became very popular. Promise 2 for those who are devoted to the Heart of Jesus states: "I will give peace in their families." Promise 9 states: "I will bless those places wherein the image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated." From these two Promises came the inspiration to consecrate one's family to the Sacred Heart and to "enthrone" an image of the Sacred Heart in a central place in the home.

Family consecration really took off through the efforts of one man, Fr. Mateo Crawley-Boevey, SSCC, the son of a Peruvian mother and a British father. He was born in 1875, ordained in 1898, and helped found the Catholic University in Valparaiso, Chile in 1905. A year later an earthquake destroyed the university and Fr. Mateo's health broke under the strain of the loss of his hard work. He went to Europe to recuperate and made a promise at Paray-le-Moniel: if his health returned he would devote the rest of his life to promoting the consecration of families to the Sacred Heart. His request was answered almost immediately and he fulfilled his promise, working for family consecration until his death in 1960.

As he began this work, though, he wanted to make sure that he had the Church's approval. He asked Pope Pius X, who was later canonized, if he could promote family consecration. The pope is quoted as saying to him: "No, no, my son. I do not permit you, I command you, do you understand? I order you to give your life for this work of salvation. It is a wonderful work; consecrate your entire life to it."

Family consecration is not magic. The ceremony of enthroning Jesus as the Head and Heart, the King and Center of one's family is not enough. Just as a marriage is more than the wedding ceremony, so family consecration is more than the enthronement ceremony. It must be lived. How?

First, it is important to prepare for the actual ceremony. The family should discuss the meaning of its consecration and be in agreement. They might go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation before the ceremony as a way of making this new beginning. They could meet, discuss, and decide upon a particular image of the Sacred Heart and the location for its placement.

Then, with the enthronement, the family declares its intention to live with Jesus as its King. He is no longer simply a guest in the house but the Lord of the household. Is there anything unworthy of Him in the house? Is there anything that is incompatible with His reign?

This consecration should be renewed from time to time, perhaps on special feast days like the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart and the Feast of Christ the King, or on the First Friday of each month. Each member of the family, before leaving the house and upon returning, can acknowledge the Kingship of Jesus by pausing in front of the picture or statue and offering a prayer. The "Our Father" is a perfect prayer for it is the prayer Jesus taught and in it we ask Jesus to reign: "Thy Kingdom come!" The Morning Offering can be prayed together in front of the image. When arguments break out between spouses, among the children, between parents and children, the family members should go in front of the image and pray. After prayer, under the image, the difficulties can be discussed in a way that seeks a solution in light of that Heart which is "meek and humble."

Pope Benedict XV wrote to Fr. Mateo in 1915 and also encouraged him:

"You do well, then, dear son, while taking up the cause of human society, to arouse and propagate above all things a Christian spirit in the home by setting up in each family the reign of the love of Jesus Christ. And in doing this you are but obeying our Divine Lord Jesus who promised to shower His blessings upon the homes wherein an image of His Heart should be exposed and devoutly honored."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Sign of Jonah

The readings at Mass today speak about Jonah and how he was a sign to the sinful Ninevites. He was a sign that pointed out the errors of their ways. He was a sign that pointed them in the right direction--repentance.

Jesus did the same. In today's Gospel (Luke 11: 29-32), He called the people crowding around Him "an evil generation." They were headed in the wrong direction, looking for wondrous signs rather than what the signs were pointing toward--a conversion of heart that would lead to knowing and following Jesus. So Jesus called them to repent the way the Ninevites had done.

I can't help thinking, though, about how different Jonah and Jesus were. Jonah ran from preaching to the Ninevites. At first we might think it was because he was afraid that they would string him up for his challenging message, but the truth is told in the last chapter of the Book of the Prophet Jonah where he is angry and complains: "This is why I fled at first to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, rich in clemency, loathe to punish." Jonah did not want the Ninevites--a foreign people and his enemies--to have any opportunity to hear the call to repent because he knew if they did repent, God would forgive. He wanted them to be destroyed by their sins.

It's clear that while Jonah was pointing out to the Ninevites, with one finger as it were, their need for repentance, he had three fingers pointing back at himself, unaware of his own need for repentance. Jonah was called to speak the truth--that the Ninevites were engaged in evil and needed to repent--with love, hoping and praying for their repentance so that God could shower His mercy upon them.

Jesus is a sign to people of all time. According to the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus began his public ministry He said: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel" (1: 15). Like Jonah, He calls for repentance, but unlike Jonah, He longs for people to admit their sins, ask for God's mercy, and then receive it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Our Interconnectedness

Lent is off to a busy start. On Ash Wednesday I gave a talk to the Mother's Guild at my Alma Mater, Marquette University High School, and this past weekend I began a mission at St. Dominic's Church in nearby Brookfield, Wisconsin. On Sunday I also squeezed into the afternoon two talks on the subject of "Reparation" at the annual Lenten Afternoon of Recollection for the local chapter of Catholics United for the Faith. One good thing about giving talks like these is that it gives me material to share on this blog.

On the First Sunday of Lent we always have the story of Jesus' temptations in the desert. This year the first reading that accompanied that Gospel was the story of the first temptation in Genesis 3. The second reading from Romans 5 was the perfect accompaniment to both these readings. But there is something in all this that I used to protest against when I was young. Why did I have to suffer for the sin of Adam and Eve? Why did I have to suffer the consequences or effects of their sin? Why is there Original Sin? I could see why we call that first sin of our ancestral parents the "Original Sin," but why did I have to inherit it? St. Paul wrote that "by the transgression of the one, the many died," and that "by the transgression of the one, death came to reign through that one." It just didn't seem fair that "through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners."

I've come to see that lurking behind this question is sin--the sin of individualism. The fact of the matter is that there is no individual sin. What I do affects everyone else. It's false to justify sin by saying, "Well, I'm only hurting myself."

How is it that my sin affects others? First, humanity, according to Genesis, was made in the image and likeness of God. God is a Trinity of Persons, a Communion of Love and therefore Love Itself. We are not individuals isolated from one another but persons created for communion. To say that what I do only affects or hurts me is to deny who I am and who I am called to be.

Another way of looking at this is to think of the solidarity of the human family. God is the Creator and Father of this family. We are related to one another as children of the One Father. What one person does in this family affects the life of the family, for good or for ill.

Finally, as Christians we have been baptized into the Body of Christ. We are now not isolated individuals but interconnected parts. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians Chapter 12, describing the Body of Christ that we are: "If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy" (verse 26). We know from experience how one cell in the physical body can harm and destroy the entire body. A cancer cell is one that has gone wild, that no longer serves the good of the body but grows and spreads. All it takes is one cell. In terms of the spiritual body that we are, this is even more the case. We are each cells in the Body of Christ and when one cell insists on its "will" rather than the good of the whole, rather than the will of the Head, the Body becomes sick.

So, while it doesn't seem fair that the one sin of our ancestral parents should be passed on to every generation, it's the reality of how things work in the interconnectedness of the human family made in the image and likeness of God, the Blessed Trinity.

But this is less than half the story, for the interconnectedness works the other way as well. Good cells affect the health of the entire Body. Jesus, as the Head of the Body, who came to repair the damage of the Original Sin, has done something that affects every human. In the Second Reading from Sunday's Mass, St. Paul writes: "But the gift is not like the transgression. For it by the transgression of the one, the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many. And the gift is not like the result of the one who sinned."

Lent is a time for each of us, individual cells in the Body of Christ, to grow in our union with our Head, Jesus. It's a time to make sure that the flow of Life from the Vine to the branches (see John 15) is clear and strong.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Spiritual Exercises Blog

The Apostleship of Prayer began in a Jesuit seminary in France in 1844. The spirituality of making a daily offering comes right out of the "Spiritual Exercises" of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits. In his final "exercise," he invites the one making the "Spiritual Exercises" to respond to God's tremendous love by making a total offering of him or herself. The daily offering that we promote in the Apostleship of Prayer is a way that one can renew this total offering one day at a time.

As Apostles of Prayer, however, we try to focus not only on the daily offering and our prayer for the Pope's two monthly intentions. Jesus told the first Apostles at the Last Supper: "I no longer call you slaves,... I have called you friends..." (John 15: 15). to be an Apostle is to be a friend of Jesus.

Lent, with its greater emphasis on prayer along with fasting and alms-giving, is an opportunity to set aside some quality time for our friend. The "Spiritual Exercises" can help us go deeper in our relationship with Jesus. For the second year in a row, a group of young Jesuits is putting together a blog to help people make the "Spiritual Exercises" during Lent. I invite you to make the "Spiritual Exercises Blog" a part of your Lent.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Can We Have Fun?

Every month I'm a guest on Relevant Radio's daily call-in spiritual direction show "The Inner Life," hosted by Chuck Neff. Last week the producer wrote me about the topic for today's show and wondered if I wanted to talk about Lent. My first reaction was "No! We're going to have 40 days of Lent. No need to start it early." Instead, I thought it would be good to talk about Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday or, as it's often called in the Polish community of Milwaukee, Paczki Day. Is it OK for Christians to have fun?

Of course! Jesus had fun. Unfortunately much of our religious art makes Jesus look as though he never cracked a smile and never laughed. He appears very somber and even scarey. But this can't be the way Jesus really was. No one would want to go near Him. Certainly not the children. Yet Jesus attracted droves of people to Himself. So Jesus must have smiled, laughed, had a good time, and genuinely enjoyed life. He even described heaven in terms of a big party or wedding feast and when He participated in a feast where the wine had run out, He made more.

But what about "Fat Tuesday" and all the excesses we see? The tradition of over-indulging seems to have arisen from the logic that since we're going to have to fast and pray and go to confession, now's the time to party. This isn't really the best way to enter into Lent.

While Lent is a more somber and subdued time, a time when we see the color violet at Mass and don't sing "Alleluia" or "The Gloria," it's supposed to be a happy season. The Preface for Lent I which precedes the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass addresses the Father and says, "Each year you give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed." The Preface for Lent II has: "This great season of grace is your gift to your family to renew us in spirit." Do you think of Lent as a "joyful season," a "gift"? How can fasting and penance and sacrifice be joyful?

Our fasting with its accompanying hunger reminds us of our hunger for God. It's a way that we pray with our bodies as well as our minds. It shouldn't make us irritable and grumpy. If it does, then it would be better for us not to fast, for spiritual exercises that don't lead to greater charity are useless. As St. Paul wrote in his famous chapter on love, 1 Corinthians 13, without love we are nothing. Without charity our knowledge and faith and even our martyrdom, should we be so called, are nothing.

True fasting and prayer should make us more aware that nothing on earth can ultimately satisfy us. We're made for union with God and while the things of earth may take away the hunger pains for a while, they ultimately don't satisfy. Our physical hunger should remind us of our spiritual hunger. We are, as St. Augustine famously wrote, made for God and so our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.

It all comes down to balance. Christians, following Jesus' example, enjoy life and its legitimate pleasures. Sin may make us feel good for a while but ultimately it's a poison that destroys us and others. It's OK to have fun today, to eat those wonderful Polish fruit-filled doughnuts known as Paczki. Have fun and give glory to God. Follow St. Paul's example, eating and drinking and giving glory to God who wants to be a part of every moment of your life. But don't go overboard for that will only lead to unhappiness.

St. Ignatius of Loyola counsels in a similar vein in the First Principle and Foundation of his "Spiritual Exercises." All earthly things and pleasures are given to us to help us attain the end for which we were created--the praise, reverence, and service of God--our salvation, our union with God who alone fills the restless heart. Thus we should use the good things of the earth in so far as they help us attain our end and we should reject them in so far as they get in the way of our attaining our end. This is real balance. Lent is a time to grow in this balance and that growth is what makes it a "gift" and a "joyful season."

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I like to tell the story of the time that I met with a group of grade school children at St. James Parish in Mukwonago, Wisconsin. I had finished everything I'd planned to say to them and still had 10 minutes left, so I asked if they had any questions. One little boy raised his hand and asked, "What's Jesus' middle name?" I pretty much knew where he was coming from with this question and so I asked him, "What's Jesus' last name?" "Christ," was his response, and this gave me the opportunity to talk about names at the time of Jesus and how "Christ" was not Jesus' last name but a title that means "The Anointed." Jesus didn't have a last name or a middle name the way we do. He would have been known as "Jesus bar Joseph," Jesus, the son of Joseph.

We see this as well in today's Gospel, the story of Bartimaeus. Mark 10: 46 says that as Jesus left Jericho, He encountered "Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus." Actually this is redundant. "Bartimaeus" means "Son of Timaeus." What was the man's first name? We don't know. It is as though, blind beggar that he was, no one really knew him. No one bothered to learn his name. He was just the blind beggar of Jericho, Timaeus' son.
Jesus, on the other hand, treats him with the utmost respect. Bartimaeus cries out, "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me." Notice: he doesn't call Him, Son of Joseph, but makes an act of faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the long-awaited Son of King David. And what does Jesus do? He asks him, "What do you want me to do for you?" Wouldn't it have been obvious to anyone, especially Jesus, that this blind beggar wanted to be healed? Yet Jesus treats him with respect. He doesn't make assumptions or jump to conclusions. He allows the man without a first name to articulate his desire. Only after hearing the man tell Him what he wanted--"I want to see"--does Jesus send him on his way healed.

Sometimes people wonder why we make intercessory prayer. Why do we ask for what we need when God knows everything, all that is in our hearts? God treats us with the utmost respect and doesn't assume that we really want what we think we want. God gives us time to think about what we're praying for and to ask with faith. In this way God shows us that He respects us and we grow in our faith by exercising it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Thumb

Last night I began a parish mission in Huron County, Michigan. Fr. Peter Nwokoye from Nigeria is the pastor of three parishes in that area of the lower peninsula of Michigan that is known as "The Thumb." The parish mission is part of 40 Hours of Eucharistic devotion in this cluster of parishes.

Fr. Peter began yesterday morning with Mass and Exposition at St. Patrick's church in Palms, Michigan. I flew to Flint where Fr. Peter picked me up and we drove about 100 miles to get here. We closed the Exposition last night with Benediction and Mass. The overall theme of the mission is "Seeking the Face of Jesus in a Busy World" and last night I talked about "Meeting Jesus in Word and Sacrament." My focus was on the importance of preparing for Mass by going over the readings ahead of time and then prayerfully participating in Mass by striving to pay attention to the great mysteries that are being celebrated--Jesus speaking to us in the proclamation of the readings; Jesus making present His eternal sacrifice on Calvary; Jesus changing the bread and wine into His own Body and Blood and coming to us in Holy Communion. Through Word and Sacrament we are transformed and better able to see ourselves as members of the Body of Christ and meet Him in one another.

Today there is Adoration at SS. Peter and Paul church in Ruth where Fr. Peter's rectory is located. Four other priests will join us for dinner this evening and then we will celebrate Vespers and Benediction. My talk will be on "Meeting Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation" and the six priests will be available for individual confessions after Benediction.

Tomorrow there will be Exposition and Adoration all day at St. Mary's church in Parisville, a town that may be the oldest Polish settlement in the U.S. Panna Maria in Texas was founded around the same time as Parisville and so there is some question about which is the oldest. We will celebrate Vespers and Benediction again and tomorrow's talk will be the one in which I share the spirituality of the Apostleship of Prayer--"Living the Eucharist in our Daily Lives."