Monday, July 25, 2016

Prayer for Pilgrims - Camino de Santiago de Compostela

We prayed this prayer for pilgrims at our pilgrimage of St James that we had in Tupelo, Mississippi on Saturday, July 23.  I adapted a prayer that I found on a prayer card that I brought back my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in January 2016, which was my fourth pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.  

Lord, you called your servant Abraham out of his homeland.
You watched over him throughout his wanderings.
You guided the Jewish people through the desert.
We ask to watch over us & guide us as celebrate our patron, St James, the Greater today.

Be for us our companion on our journey,
our guide as we try to find our way,
our strength in the midst of our fatigue,
our fortress in the midst of danger,
our resource on our itinerary,
our shadow in the heat,
our light in the darkness,
our consolation in the midst of dejection,
and the power of our intention.

Under your guidance may we travel safely and unhurt. 
May you help us reach the end of our journey.
Strengthened with gratitude and thanksgiving,
secure with happiness in our hearts,
may we reach our eternal home.

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

7/25/2016 – Feast of St James the Greater – Matthew 20:20-28

      James the Greater was the son of Zebedee and Mary of Salome.  James and his brother John left their family’s prosperous fishing enterprise to become disciples of Christ. I’m sure that this was quite a leap of faith for both of them.  Jesus called these two brothers the “Sons of Thunder,” perhaps because of their fiery, assertive personalities.  In the Gospel today, their mother Mary of Salome asks Jesus to promise James and John places of honor in his kingdom: one at his right, the other at his left.  When Jesus told them that they were called to service rather than places of honor, I don’t think James could have foreseen where his destiny as a disciple of Christ would lead him.
      Think about how on our journey of faith, we pray with our friends, how we pray with other believers, how we look to others for advice and inspiration. St James the Greater is our parish’s patron saint and one of the most honored saints in the world today.  We honor James today in a special way as our parish’s patron saint, uniting our prayers with his.  
        I was reading a book by Linda Davidson and David Gitlitz, a husband and wife who were professors at the University of Rhode Island.  They wrote about the Way of St James in the 1970s when the Camino was a distant memory from the Middle Ages. They described how they slept one evening in the monastery established by San Juan de Ortega in the 12th century. The monastery was boarded up and falling apart.  Today, that monastery is one of the gems along the pilgrimage route, receiving extensive renovations.  Especially under with regime of General Francisco Franco, which lasted until 1975, there were very few pilgrims who made their way to Santiago.  Few people had any interest in this old pilgrimage route in northern Spain. It seemed like an old relic whose time had past.  Many of the churches and monasteries on the route were closed up and abandoned.  Pilgrims’ accommodations did not really exist at that time.  Starting in the mid-1980s several priests and several devoted pilgrims had a dream of reinvigorating the pilgrimage route again. St James left Spain as a missionary in the Early Church with very few converts and with a heavy heart, returning to Jerusalem to become the first apostle who was martyred. Yet, today, he brings Catholics and non-Catholics from all over the world to this spiritual journey on this ancient Catholic pilgrimage route.  Last year, more than 265,000 pilgrims arrived in Santiago.  I wonder how James would react to the pilgrimage that this going on in his name today?
      It is interesting that in the Catholic Church and in the world in general, there is a great interest in the saints today, a renaissance in scholarship and learning about them.  When I first walked the Camino of Santiago in 2003, there were only 2 books in English about the Camino, and both of those were very scholarly dissertations.  Today, there are literally hundreds of books written about pilgrimage and the Camino of Saint James.  This is the third year that we have been having a pilgrimage walk in honor of St James.  We are very grateful to honor St James and to ask for his prayers and intercessions for our parish. 
        Yesterday, in our Gospel from Luke, Jesus spoke about the importance of persistence and perseverance in our prayers.  St James is a great example of persistence and perseverance in our journey of faith.  His example still calls out to us today. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

7/24/2016 – 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C – Luke 11:1-13

      Back before the Civil War, when steam boats sped up and down the Mississippi River with great regularity, a little boy stood on the banks of the river, waving and shouting as a large steamboat was going by.  He was calling out for the steamboat to come to the shore. A man standing near him remarked to his friend: “That foolish boy.  That boat will never come ashore.  The captain is way too busy navigating the river.  He would never pay attention to a little boy waving his arms and calling out to him.”  Just then, the man saw the boat take a sharp turn, heading for the shore of the river.   The little boy was so happy.  As the steamboat got closer, the little boy turned to the man with great pride and said: “That’s my daddy up there!  He’s the captain of the steamboat!” That is one of the revolutionary points about the Lord’s prayer that Jesus teaches the apostles in today’s Gospel, that God is Abba, Daddy, Father.  God is the captain of the universe, but he will also listen to his children with love, compassion, and concern.  
      Luke does not say when or where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s prayer, only that it happened at a certain place.  However, tradition has it that this teaching took place on the western slope of the Mount of Olives in a grotto often referred as the grotto of the Our Father, or the grotto of the teachings of Jesus.”  At the site of this cave there is a great rectangular courtyard with long porticos, with the formula of the Our Father appearing in 60 different languages.  Jesus would have taught his disciples this prayer in their vernacular language, Aramaic.  For many centuries, the Catholic faithful would have prayed the Our Father in Latin.  Now with the mass in the vernacular language throughout the world, each culture prays the Our Father prayer in its own everyday language.
      Our Gospel today asserts that we need to be persistent and persevering in our prayers.  Last week, we saw in the Gospel story of Mary and Martha how Martha wanted to welcome Jesus and his friends with hospitality and a home cooked meal.  Travelers in Ancient Israel often traveled during the evening to avoid the hot mid-day heat, often arriving at a host’s home late at night.  We can certainly relate to that with the heat wave we are having here in the state of Mississippi this summer and across the US this week.  The villagers of Ancient Israel went to bed early since they had no electricity.  So, it makes sense that the host in the parable tries to find something to eat for his newly arrived guests, trying to provide hospitality for them.  The host’s cupboard is bare, so he goes to his neighbor for food.  Many of the homes of Ancient Israel would have had just one sleeping chamber, so everyone in the household would have been woken up by the commotion, even the children.  It is the persistence of the host that gets him bread from his neighbor.  I don’t think that this parable is saying that God is a reluctant giver.   It instead calls our attention to the need for persistence in prayer as our way of depending upon God on our journey of faith.  When we persevere in our prayer, we better focus on our hopes and our desires, leading us to discover what God’s will is for us.  Often, I tell parishioners that in our persistence, we need to be open to the will of God, so indeed our hopes and desires may change in our prayers.  So often, Paul stresses that we need to pray without ceasing, to pray at all times, to be steadfast in our prayers.
      But praying to God is not like putting coins in a vending machine, selecting the type of soda pop we want, and getting exactly what we select. God is not a magic genie in a bottle who grants every request we have.  In God’s wisdom, he knows what to give us in our prayer requests.  He knows when and how.  When we ask God to give us our daily bread, we may have in mind our physical hunger, but God may point us to satisfying a spiritual and emotional hunger that we might not even be aware of.  Jesus wants us to ask and keep on asking, to seek and keep on seeking, to knock and keep on knocking.  Trusting God is an important part of our relationship with God. We may want God to answer our prayers in a dramatic dream or in a profound epiphany or vision.  Instead, the answer to our prayers may be this silent voice that we heart in the quiet recesses of our hearts.  There are many different types of prayers that we can pray as Catholics: prayers that express of needs and desires, prayers that give thanks to God, silent prayers that are contemplative and mystical, free flowing prayers that are in our own words, or set traditional prayers like a novena, a litany, or the rosary.  But, the Our Father that Jesus teaches us to pray, that certainly has a central place in our prayer life as Christians.   As the Early Church Father Tertullian said, the Our Father prayer is the “summary of the whole Gospel.” 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Feast of St Mary Magdalene

Pope Francis announced back in June the celebration of the memorial of St Mary Magdalene, which takes place tomorrow, Friday, July 22, has been raised to the dignity of a liturgical Feast in our Church’s liturgical calendar.  The Church honors St Mary Magdalene as the first witness to the Resurrection, as the one who announced the event to the other Apostles.  St Thomas Aquinas called St Mary Magdalene “the apostle of the apostles.”   Join us at St James Catholic Church in Tupelo on Friday, July 22, 2016 in our celebration of the feast of St Mary Magdalene at 12:10 pm.  All are welcome.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mass and prayer for peace - St James Catholic Church - Tupelo, Mississippi - Wednesday, July 20, 2016 at 6:00 pm

(Cross of St James
from altar cloth at our church)

In these past few weeks, many different churches in Tupelo are having special services and prayer time for us to pray for our community, for solidarity and peace and for the healing of hurts and wounds. We welcome everyone to a mass at St James Catholic Church in Tupelo at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, July 20, followed by benediction and an hour with adoration of the blessed sacrament. This is a special time when we will be able to pray together for our community - please join us.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Pilgrimage of St James - St James Catholic Church - Tupelo, Mississippi

It is that time again for our third annual pilgrimage walk of 5 miles to celebrate our parish's patron - St James the Greater.  For almost 1,200 years, pilgrims flock to James' holy cathedral in the province of Galicia in the city of Santiago de Compostela.  I have arrived on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela four times (2003, 2012, 2015, 2016).  Last year, more than 265,000 pilgrims arrived in that holy city.  We recreate that pilgrimage in James' honor along the Natchez Trace.  We are starting in front of the church between 7:00 am and 7:30 am and are being shuttled to Chickasaw Village on the Trace where we will start.  The hike will start at 8:00 am.  For those who choose not to walk, a spiritual pilgrimage will begin at the church at 9:00 am.  Then we will all gather for breakfast in Shelton hall afterwards.  All participants will receive one of these nifty aluminum water bottles with our parish names and the symbols of St James embossed on it - the cross of St James and the scallop shell.  As you can see, even our parish cat Mary Woodward is excited about the pilgrimage!  We are hoping for a big turnout.  Please join us for this annual event, for fun, fellowship, and prayers.  Prayer stations and water stations will be placed on the route.  

Friday, July 15, 2016

7/21/2016 - Thursday of the 16th week in Ordinary Time -Matthew 13:10-17

     We recognize how we live in an age when the motives behind our faith are questioned by many in society, as many people can’t believe that we are sincere and grounded in what we believe. That thought came to my mind with what Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel from Matthew: “Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” Being able to believe in our modern world is a grace. It is not something that comes from ourselves alone.  It is a fruit from a gift we receive from God. Our faith is a grace; our faith would not exist without the way that God and the Holy Spirit interact in our lives.
      All of us have an exterior journey in life.  The job we go to each day.  The different activities that we have, the errands we run, the tasks we attend to, the way we spend our time productively, the way we spend our leisure and our rest.   But we also have an interior journey, a spiritual, the journey of the soul, of how we process our experiences, our encounters with others, our joys and our heartaches.  By God’s grace, we travel down these exterior and interior journeys of life.  
      Let us pray:
Lord, I want to see you. 
Lord, I want to hear you.  
Lord, I want to know you. 
Lord, I want to follow you. 
And even before I know what I am going to face today, let me say yes to you. AMEN.