Thursday, June 22, 2017

Judith Davidson Has Something To Say

Reflection on Matthew 10:26-33
By Judith Davidson

This Sunday during Mass, as Matthew 10:26-33 sinks in, look to your right. Quietly count four women who share your pew. Now turn to your left. Again count four women who are sitting nearby. They could be family members, close friends, passing acquaintances, or complete strangers. One in four women.[1] One in four women in the United States has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime. There is a good chance that this Sunday you are sitting shoulder to shoulder with a woman who has been slapped, choked, kicked in the stomach, punched, pushed down stairs, thrown against walls and furniture, and dragged across the floor from room to room, like a defenseless sparrow—with wings too broken to fight back or fly away to safety.

Before leaving my abusive marriage, I was one of those four. Now I am one of you. Many of you recognize my face and voice, and some of you know my name. Some of you have even become my good friends. In 2015, after seven years of hopelessness, blooming bruises, and soul-strangling despair, I found safety, hope, and this community of faith.  I imagine it is shocking and upsetting to become aware of pain so tangible, so personal, so nearby, so taboo.  Yet in today’s Gospel, Jesus urges his disciples to “tell in the light,” to “proclaim from the housetops” what they have learned about His all-healing, all-embracing, all-restoring love.

So here I am, Jesus, writing, telling, proclaiming—finally a witness. In the past, I had been too terrified—and too ashamed of my own self-perceived weakness—to give witness in court, to call the police, or to even tell my own parents and friends how dire and dangerous my living situation had become. To this day I am somewhat scared—but no longer terrified—of my ex-husband’s retaliating for my uncovering truths he would rather cover up and for making known things he would rather keep secret. So I am sure, Jesus, that you would understand why I chose to publish this reflection under a pseudonym, even though You say to us, your disciples, to “have no fear of them.”

* * *
Jesus, do you remember? I got to know You intimately on a late night in February, after falling to the ground, even though You had known me my whole life, since the moment your Father—our Father—had begun knitting me together in my mother’s womb—gently, loving, with infinite tenderness.  In fact, it wasn’t the ground, Jesus, was it? It was a cold tiled bathroom floor. I was curled up in a fetal position; naked; shivering; crying so much that at times it felt like I would choke on the sheer amount of tears; covered in dark red bruises (which would turn dark purple the next morning and acquire yellow “halos” later in the week). I had turned off the light in the bathroom because I could not bear the sight of my own cruelly patterned shoulders, arms, and breasts.

You chose that horrific moment to turn on the Light. The wholeness of my body—destroyed. My sense of dignity—killed. The trust I had placed in this man, my husband—destroyed. My self-respect—killed. I had just enough strength to argue with You, “Most people wouldn't treat their cat or dog like this, Jesus. Am I worth less than a cat, a dog, two measly sparrows?” Lord, in your great love, You answered me without words.

You were right there with me and, for the first time in my life, I became aware of your tangible presence. Before I knew anything about imaginative prayer, I saw You sitting next to me on that wretched bathroom floor, and I placed my head in Your lap. We must have sat there for 10, 20, 40 minutes? For an eternity? I whimpering softly. You counting the hairs of my head, the bruises on my body; every single tear. And in between my why-me-s, it-hurts-s, how-come-s, I looked up and saw You crying over me, with me, about all of the pain, the violence and the cruelty, about all of the inhumanity, the degradation and the brutality in this hurting world. Broken though I was in that moment, I knew that You loved me (more than I could ever grasp), that I loved You (imperfectly but passionately), and that nothing—and no one—could terrify that Love out of my soul. Your touch said to me, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul …”

* * *

Falling in love with Jesus restored my freedom and my hope, and emboldened me to leave. I divorced this man. I moved on with my life. A few months later, on a July afternoon during a storm, I stumbled upon this church. Now I am one of you—not one of four. So I urge you: look to your right, look to your left. Become open to recognizing a woman, a man, or a child who might be surviving domestic violence on a daily basis. Become aware, tender, sensitive to the hidden pain and cruelty that might be lurking in your pew, on your block, at your office. Be shocked by the ugliness and brutality of domestic violence, but not so shocked that you become paralyzed and look the other way in disgust; not so scandalized that you become unable to support its victims with concrete acts of love and help. Instead of asking, "Why don't you leave?" ask, "What do you need in order to leave?" Abandon your stereotypes about what a victim or a perpetrator of domestic violence looks like: I was a successful young professional (so was my ex-husband); I had a college degree from a highly-ranked university (so did my ex-husband); I was comfortably middle-class (so was my ex-husband); I was a Christian (so was my ex-husband).

One in four. When a husband turns against his wife, a step-father against his step-son, a partner against his partner, help those in pain—the victims and the perpetrators—carry their crosses. Help Jesus pick up broken human beings off cold bathroom floors.

[1] Data provided by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence,

Matthew 10:26-33
26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.[a] 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Eileen Gatza Has Something To Say Corpus Christi June 18 2017

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
June 18th, 2017

We believe in a Creator of infinite goodness, who made the earth and all living things, and saw “that it was good.” A Maker who gazes on us lovingly; and seeks a return of that love. Yet even as the Spirit within prompts us to love in accord with this light, we can become caught in the undertow of darkness of God’s beautiful world fractured by violence and suffering, greed and self-centeredness, and hampered by our own brokenness and complicity -- all that separates us from the Living God.

In the Book of Deuteronomy (8:2-3, 14B-16A) as the people assemble at the Jordan River after forty years of journeying, Moses invites them to take a look back, and see how far they have come. The Promised Land in sight, this far- from-perfect community, has traveled a long and hard journey, replete with a hunger and thirst that, at times, has had them even wishing for the old days of a quiet life under their oppressors! And the Prophet tells them that by looking back they may not only see themselves as flawed as they really are, but better realize how their Creator has loved and sustained them through all the risk and distrust, all the pain and squabbling. In spite of it all, God fed them with manna, a new kind of food, that has restored their hungry bodies, and taught them how to trust.

The Second Reading (Corinthians 10: 16-17) has Paul emphasizing this same teaching to the community in Corinth, and now to us: Our participation in the Body and Blood of Christ liberates us and makes us one.

John’s gospel (John 6: 51-58) in placing on the lips of Jesus “I am the living bread that came down from heaven,” reveals the full meaning of a new kind of food to sustain us, fulfilled in the revelation of Christ, the Word of God. Jesus, the Second Moses, gives us food in His own person not in a moment of temporary contact with God, but as a resource, as close as the hearts within our bodies, and an ongoing Sign of life and growth in the Body of Christ. This is who we are, women and men who can afford to look back, even when we, like our ancestors before us, become a people disillusioned with our own failings and sufferings, the fears that threaten to overwhelm us and our world, and the hungers that make us wonder at times “Oh God, how can we all be fed?”.
Like our mothers and fathers in faith, we believe, yet know long seasons of sorrow that may lead some of us at times to wish for the “good old days,” before we knew ourselves and our kind better. The seemingly endless global conflicts, the full extent of racism, sexual abuse, the assault of climate change, and our own complicity in some or all of these sins. And, we fret, too, don’t we over political talk of reductions to healthcare, exorbitant living costs, poor conditions at work or no work, the bullying of youngsters, and the scourge of alcoholism and drug abuse? Then, there’s having to explain to friends why you stay Catholic as a woman in the Church, or wondering where do you fit in it anyway? Yes, we believe in the Giver of Life, who has spoken through the prophets, and we place our hope in Christ Jesus, but the ongoing work of liberation is hard, a challenge marked by literal survival for some, and for all a sometimes, precarious life.

Yet these same scars are what make us spiritually hungry, and more aware of our utter dependence on the loving mercy and sustenance of God who yearns only for the best for us and for our world. We need to taste the actual presence, together at the table of the Eucharist, sustained anew, and relieved of our separateness and fear, all the places of our fracture. We live in a world of beauty created by a God who has plans for our future. Each of us, a mixture of gifts and defects, and grace and possibility, need the Bread of Heaven to lay claim to the transforming Body of Christ, rising out of brokenness and death to new life at every moment. The Corpus Christi, the Sign of God among us, and the reality of our belonging to God and to one another. 


A parishioner at Xavier for the past 35 years, Eileen is a freelance writer, and spiritual and retreat director. She completed the long form of the Spiritual Exercises, and trained in advance spiritual direction ministry at the Jesuit Center in Guelph, Ontari, and as a permanent part time retreat director Loyola House, Morristown, NJ, for religious and lay retreatant. Currently a member of the ISEL Team and a Lector at Xavier, Eileen has, over the years, participated in ministry through the Pastoral Council, Soup Kitchen, Family Faith, and Lay Spirits, as well as giving Advent, Lent and other seasonal presentations at Xavier and elsewhere. Married to Gary Gatza, Eileen has two adult children and six grandchildren. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Sr. Katie Aucoin Has Something To Say

Theme:  Mystery—a dance in the darkness—a call to Relational Living with God and one another.

                For many relating to the Mystery of the Holy Trinity is about comprehensible as relating to the Triune God.   Many relate to God as One God and One Person; Karl Rahner, one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century, wrote of the Holy Spirit as the “forgotten God” since most of our personal prayer and Liturgical prayer is addressed to the Creator and/or the Redeemer—while the Spirit, sent to be with us always,  is an afterthought; put in prayers at the tail end like our own Gloria in the Liturgy and the Apostles’ Creed which are perfect examples; the Spirit is given a cameo appearance.  So, whether we are Laity or Cleric, the Blessed Trinity is a conundrum for most of us
                But the mystery we encounter today in Holy Trinity Sunday is not something to be understood, figured out, or just “believed in”.  We are called, almost entreated to allow ourselves to experience this Lord who is merciful, gracious, concerned, kind, forgiving, compassionate, life-giving [first reading].  We are invited into mystery every waking day—Creation wakes us with Sunrise, the sweet song of cardinal, and all our winged brethren inviting us to continue our journey through Mystery: 
The birth of a child which engenders in us such tenderness, such love that we find
                ourselves lost in its intermittent coo’s and smiles;
 --the untimely death of one who is dearly loved leaving us feeling gutted,  empty,  feeling raw,
                confused, and lost;
 --hearing the words “I love you” coming from the lips of the one asking to share a
                lifetime with you,
--a friend who can be trusted with your hopes and dreams and anxieties, seeing you
                through failings, allowing you to “do overs”, and loving you for just you.
These are mysteries to be kept and pondered in our hearts.  What are you saying to me, O God, what are telling me, what lesson am I to learn, speak, Lord, here I am waiting for you.

                Religious song-writer, Carey Landry reminds us that in life we are called to ‘dance in the darkness, slow be the pace; surrender to the rhythm of redeeming grace’.   We cannot run through Mystery; it refuses to give up its treasures to ‘the rat race’ or heartless inquiry because Mystery becomes just one more thing on the list of do’s.  Although we sometimes receive insights and “aha!” moments during our busy day, they are but enticing whispers of the Divine luring us to take more time and be still.   Sit…………. Breathe...……….. open yourself and allow Mystery to reveal itself slowly and in its own time—as in the pattern of love.    When we intentionally open ourselves to the Mystery of God we will moved into the darkness and depths; we will not stumble or fall, as we surrender to the rhythm of relationship, of redeeming grace, of growing deeper in trustful living. 

“These things I do for them: I will lead the blind on their journey;
by paths unknown I will lead them; I will turn darkness into light
before them and make crooked ways straight.
And I will not forsake them.” Is 42:15

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Kathy Duffy Has Something To Say

June 4, 2017
Pentecost Sunday

When I worked with children in a parish I needed to find a way to explain the wonder of Pentecost to them during the children's liturgy of the word. After a few false starts I settled on using the idea of the Spirit as wind. Great, but then I was stuck again since I didn't know how to capture the wind. From the back of my mind I could almost pull forth a picture of something light and colorful that moved with wind - aha, a pinwheel! So, the children and I made pretty pinwheels. When they returned to the church after their liturgy each child carried a pinwheel back to her or his seat.

I encouraged them to hold up their creations and as they did so the pinwheels began to turn!  Wind inside the church? No one had blown on the pinwheels. It turns out that we did not need to do anything. The Spirit blows where it will, we only need to go with it wherever we are led. We sometimes need to stand still and experience the movement around us. The Spirit of God invites us into a fuller, more intimate relationship.

Someone needs to be very close to us in order for us to feel their breath. Can we be that close to God? Can we grow in our intimate relationship? Sometimes wind frightens us - think of storms, hurricanes and tornadoes, or being on a sailboat when the wind "kicks up". Eventually we learn that we only have to hang on until the Spirit shows us the way.
Most of us have a relationship with God, the creator who cares for us and orders all life. We have an image of this God even if it is of an old, wise man. We surely know Jesus from scripture and prayer. We certainly have a picture of Jesus in our mind, often one from art or tradition. Jesus was completely human, a young, Jewish man. We can relate to him in his humanity. It is easier to love and understand someone whom we see as more like us. But the Spirit? The Spirit is intangible and yet resides within us and around us. We cannot see or touch this person of God. The Spirit is often portrayed as a dove, or tongues of fire or wind. How can we possibly relate to these images?

So, how does the Spirit help us grow in our relationship with God? Why was the Spirit sent to us? I always get the fruits and the gifts of the Spirit all mixed up. But I do believe that when we allow the Spirit to come to us, when we are Spirit-filled, we can do what God wants of us and for us. How does this relationship work? It is actually rather simple. God breathes the Spirit into us and we exhale that breath into the world. We manifest the Spirit by the way we live, never just receiving those gifts or fruits, but always using them for others, showing forth the Spirit in our everyday lives.

The Spirit empowers us. We, as people filled with the Spirit are called upon to show forth that Spirit, to make our families, our church and our world places where the fire of the Spirit brings light, the wind of the Spirit brings love and care for all people and the dove becomes a reminder of the need to work for peace. Our pin-wheels respond to the presence of the Spirit. Can we do likewise?

Kathy Duffy

Kathy Duffy was a parishioner at Xavier from 1982 until 2012 when she retired and moved to Connecticut. She was a pastoral associate from 1991 to 1997. Kathy worked in nursing and for the last 12 years was a hospital chaplain and director of pastoral care at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Claudia Brock Has Something To Say Seventh Sunday Of Easter

Seventh Sunday of Easter - May 28, 2017

On the Seventh Sunday of Easter our reading is a prayer said by Jesus at the end of the Last Supper. Following this prayer Jesus is arrested in the garden, and so this prayer might be thought of as Jesus’ final expression of approval towards God the Father. What I find so striking in this prayer is the care and concern Jesus expresses for his disciples, “I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me,because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them.” (John 17:9-10)
In this reading we are presented with the theme of unity: unity between God the Father and God the Son, unity between Jesus and the disciples and unity between service to the world and salvation. These dichotomies which our faith often presents us with can be tricky to wrestle with. It is so tempting to fixate on one part and miss the interconnectedness of it all. It can be all too easy to focus on strictly spiritual matters, lifting our eyes towards heaven and forgetting that our feet are planted on the ground.
Getting lifted into the clouds this way is the spiritual problem I struggle with the most. If you would ask me if a glass is half empty or half full I would probably describe it as, “the exact amount of water I wanted to drink!” I have lived in New York for nearly 10 months now but I’m sure I will eternally think like a Midwesterner after spending the first 22 years of my life in Nebraska. I am a member of the Mercy Volunteer Corps and moved to the city to participate in intentional community while working at a community center in the South Bronx.
I felt compelled by my faith to do a year of service and before moving I had grand visions of my community and professional life. I thought that I would be kumbaya-ing with my community members, eating quinoa and discussing “The Book of Mev” in our apartment and at work my cherubic children in my after-school program would always listen to my directions because they would be so enchanted by me...think “Maria von Trapp” in The Sound of Music. It wasn’t that I thought I was overqualified for my job or that I didn’t think I would ever suffer any kind of upset throughout the year, I simply was so confident that this year was that answer to so many of the questions my faith was asking. Surely I would be able to handle everything because it was God’s work that I would be doing.
As I’m rounding out this year I have definitely floated back down to earth. While I still believe that our faith demands that we engaged with one another and respond to the needs of our most vulnerable, I have been surprised at the amount of human-ness I’ve been confronted with this year. Sometimes your roommates eat your dinner, your kids misbehave, you respond to situations uncharitably, you get harassed on your way to work, you fail to communicate effectively. But I have also been reminded throughout this experience that Jesus did not come to a perfect people, in a perfect society, at a perfect time. Nevertheless, as Jesus reminds us in this reading, his ministry was all about revealing the Father to a very, very human world.
Let’s find this Gospel and Jesus’ prayer for us nourishing! Let’s work to find God in all things, both human and divine. Let’s, like Jesus, turn our gaze to heaven for a few moments but remember that our real job is to look one another in the eye.
Claudia Brock is originally from Omaha, Nebraska and studied Journalism at Creighton University. After attending a Jesuit university, she wanted to find a parish with a similar spirit, which lead her to St. Francis Xavier. She is a member of the Mercy Volunteer Corps and works at The Mercy Center in the South Bronx. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Anne Duquette Has Something To Say

Sixth Sunday of Easter

How did the people of Samaria feel who witnessed the miraculous healings outlined in the Acts of the Apostles? We are told that “there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:8). I wonder, though, if any of the people who were not healed wondered when it would be their turn to be healed... their turn to encounter the Christ and the Holy Spirit in this miraculous way.  Did any of them feel left out? I wonder if they feel the way I do when "miracles" happen to people in my life, breakthroughs that occur when prayers are answered. Although I'm happy for such people, and have had breakthroughs in my life, when my life seems stagnant and breakthrough free, I'm a bit envious of those experiencing breakthroughs and wonder if I pray better or harder, I'll experience Christ in this way.

The gospel reminds me that even when I am not experiencing miracles and breakthroughs, Christ and the Holy Spirit are with me in concrete ways. Jesus promises us that if we keep His commandments, then we will receive the Spirit of Truth, which will be with us forever (John 14:15-17). 

Jesus also assures us that we are in Him and He is in us (John 14:20).  The contingency of keeping the commandments in order to experience Christ seems intimidating until we remember Christ’s two great commandments are to love God and neighbor. This makes Christ accessible and concrete to everyone, even nonbelievers. A person who does not know God loves God when he/she loves his/her neighbor. According to Dorothy Day, even people who do not know Christ’s name are serving Christ when they serve their neighbors (Ellsberg, Dorothy Day, 6). 

What does experiencing Christ through our interactions with our neighbors look like day to day? According to Dorothy Day, Jesus is “disguised and masked” our midst, “hidden among the poor, among the sick, among prisoners, among strangers (Ellsberg, Dorothy Day, 6). She believed that Christ is incarnate in the world in the poor. “…we have seen His hands and His feet in the poor around us. He has shown Himself to us in them (Ellsberg, Dorothy Day, 330). 

Thus, in my life, Christ is incarnate in the people I serve in Maryhouse and in my students. Christ is the elderly woman who resides at Maryhouse and frequently gifts me with a treasure from the clothing room she thinks I'll like, such as a pretty scarf. She sometimes slips me a one dollar bill and instructs me to use it for ice cream. St. Peter tells us to “be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope…(1 Peter 3:15). This is my reason to hope.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Linda Chavez Has Something To Say On the Fifth Sunday of Easter

This is a cascarón.  We use these in our egg hunts on Easter Sunday in South Texas where I grew up.  We collect the empty egg shell during Lent.  Paint and stuff them with confetti, readying them for the moment, when they are all found, and become weaponized-- cracked on the heads of anyone within reach, spilling out their contents.  It’s really like bursting a piñata on someone’s head.  There is much chasing and screaming and inevitably tears.  The process is messy, can be painful, and always beautiful---by the end we are all disheveled and crowned with bits of painted egg shell and masses of confetti—it’s one of my fondest memories—what I didn’t know then was that this Easter tradition, this cascarón, was also a clue.

Years and years would pass after the Easter egg hunts of my youth before I would begin to get an inkling of what the cascarón illustrated and how Jesus’ suffering and death could provide a way to understand my life.
Pedro Arrupe, the Jesuit priest, once urged each one of us to “fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.”  

Apart from my spouse, the great loves of my life are our three children.  Being in relationship with them, loving them has decided almost everything.  Decisions were guided by the reality that I was a mom, that little people, then older people, depended and relied on me.  Soon I came to see that becoming a mom was both the best and the worst thing that has ever happened to me. There is a blinding, all-encompassing love and its companion--heartache.  

The heartache and losses came like passing storms…when my daughter  was betrayed by her best friend, and when I heard the specialist say my son had multiple learning disabilities, and when a tender heart  was broken by a first love. But there were also the tsunamis… when the counselor told me my daughter was anorexic, and years later when I sat with my depressed, hopeless son trying to convince him his life was worth living.

Those were moments of great loss, the death of dreams…Dreams of lasting health and well-being and unending happiness—of that easy, smiling Facebook life everyone else seems to have.  Instead I was consumed with deep desires of finding wholeness again.

We don’t often speak these desires aloud because they betray our secret–--that everything is not okay.  They are conversation stoppers, the stuff of pity and shame that we weren’t able to do better, much less be perfect.
It becomes a temptation as a parent to look the other way when bad stuff is happening, to stuff feelings behind  cupboard doors and sweep truths under rugs.  I gave into that temptation often.  I explained away my daughter’s precipitous weight loss as “stretching out.”   I told myself that my son was just moody and having a little difficulty adjusting to a new city. 

But those lies, that resistance to the truth-- to what was happening right before me—that resistance to my life--prolonged our suffering. But this was the problem:  Could I risk being destroyed by accepting the truth and feeling all the pain?  Did I have the courage to ask God, as Jesus had, to be with me…with us… in our pain?  

Eventually by Divine Grace, I was able to ask myself the question that Jesus asked Peter in the Garden:  Shall I not drink the cup the Father gave me?  Shall I not accept my life exactly as it is?

And by more Divine Grace, I invited my weakened, fragile daughter to climb into bed with me one day.  I held her and we cried…And I found the way to sit at my beautiful boy’s bed and tell him that the world would be a much, much smaller place without him in it. 

I want to suggest to you that one idea that the Divine is sharing with us through the suffering and death of Jesus is that the risk is worth it---and not just worth it—necessary—essential---in order to receive greater freedom and new life---because the day will come, as the poet Anais Nin said so beautifully: when the risk to remain tight in a bud (is) more painful than the risk it (takes) to blossom. 

These days when I prepare my cascarónes (because I still do even though my children are all grown.)…I see something of Divine surprises and possibilities beyond my greatest imaginings.   Even though I know that my family, like the cascaron, can never be put back together exactly as it was before---somehow we have been wrapped up in the Paschal Mystery and led to a beautiful, messy type of wholeness.

And so I ask you…Is there a place in your life right now that is dying to live?  Are you ready to ask the Divine One to help you take the cup that is before you? 

Linda Chavez