Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Words from Fr Ed )From July 1st, 2012 Bulletin)

"My daughter is at the point of death."
Ignatian Exercises, Part III

Hopefully I’ll be into my Second Week of the exercises when you read this. As I write I’m just at the end of the First Week, which is a meditation on hell. Not what we would think leads to a consolation, but the truth has its way of setting one free, including the reality of hell. Some say it doesn’t exist. An atheistic young man once shared this with St. Padre Pio, that he didn’t believe in hell. The padre replied simply, "You will when you get there."

If you don’t believe in an afterlife of misery, pain and alienation from God, just consider what hell exists on this side of the line. Consider Auschwitz, Juarez, or Baghdad; a life there could be filled with hatred and cruelty . Does God desire brutal slums, violence and injustice? Of course not, they are the fruit of human freedom to sin. It is the same with hell. While as Catholics we believe in God’s universal salvific will, He "… desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim 2:4), we don’t believe that God forces people to go to heaven. Hell is simply God respecting people’s freedom to reject His love and mercy. Lord have mercy!

To meditate on hell, its existence and any attachment that might lead there, helps one desire all the graces necessary to avoid it. Some saints had visions and mystical experiences where God revealed the reality of hell to them. They considered it a horrifying, yet singular grace. St. Ignatius of Loyola encourages the retreatant to "…ask for an interior sense of the pain suffered by the damned, so that if through my faults I should forget the love of the Eternal Lord, at least the fear of those pains will serve to keep me from falling into sin." He closes the meditation with gratitude that one who is on retreat is still alive and capable of receiving God’s mercy.

After a week of these spiritual exercises I’m grateful as well for such an opportunity. His mercy endures forever. Not only do I get to do the 30 Day retreat, I get to do it in a Trappist monastery, where praising God is their daily bread. Our day begins at 4:15am with Vigils (Office of Readings), which consists of 7 or 8 psalms, two major readings, and some sweet silence, though I have to admit, at that hour, silence is dangerously close to the nap threshold. The day continues with 6:30am Lauds followed by Mass. I usually work for two hours from 9 – 11am, gardening around the guest house.

At 12:30 we have Day Prayer followed by the one required meal of the day. There’s a great reading happening as we make our way through "The Monks of Mount Athos". One monk reads while the rest of us eat. The one exception to this was yesterday, the Feast of John the Baptist, when they played classical music instead. A solemnity in a monastery is quite a treat as special food, wine, beer, and ice cream all come out. I’m probably hitting the wildest two weeks of the monastic year with St. John, Sts. Peter and Paul, and then the Fourth of July when the monks take a picnic on the back 2000 (acres) and play a little baseball besides. I think some even light up a cigar ! How can one pray with so much partying going on?
One point from earlier in the week that is well worth repeating is the series of questions:

What have I done for Christ?

What am I doing for Christ?

What ought I to do for Christ?
I love this series because it brings the person asking into the present moment, the only moment we actually need to respond to. If one is asking these questions they are under the influence of grace and there is great hope that something good is about to happen. I encourage you to consider these for a few moments and tell me if they are not helpful.

The monastic day continues with 5:30pm Vespers and 7:30pm Compline. The great silence follows where quiet is more strictly observed until Lauds the following morning. My retreat director warned me to be careful of books for they can easily distract one from the retreat. There are fantastic libraries within the monastery so it is a reader’s paradise, but a temptation none the less. Pray for me as I try to stay moderate in my reading.
The reason I started this article with the Gospel quote above is that it reminds of how we may feel at times when we are in need of God’s grace. Have you ever felt on the ‘point of death’ because of illness, stress, or trials of various kinds? Like the ‘Talitha’ in our Gospel, may Jesus come to you and raise you up. He desires your good. Be open to His voice. I continue to pray for all of you.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Words from Fr Ed (From June 24th, 2012 Bulletin)

Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Part II
As you may know from my column in last week’s bulletin, the Exercises of St. Ignatius are divided into four weeks, but I decided to title this column ‘Part II’ because I have no idea today whether I will be in ‘Week II’ or not next week. As I’m writing this on Sunday (June 17th), a week before you receive your bulletin, and before I’ve even begun the Exercises, I can’t predict how far along I’ll be in a week. The Exercises lend themselves to a flexibility that adapts to the retreatant and how they are making progress. One could take two weeks for the ‘First Week’ and another person might take just a few days.

Father Abbot gave me my religious name this morning for the duration of my time here, "Fr. Dismas". I was surprised by this, given that a good friend used to call me St. Dismas (the good thief). We used to volunteer at the Dismas Center in downtown Seattle together. I asked the Abbot what prompted this and he said, as if prophetically, "I just thought of it." Then he turned and pointed to the alb hook and shelf in the sacristy that I’ll use during my retreat, which was labeled, "Fr. Dismas" the last priest to have died here. Abbot Peter went further, "You have big shoes to fill." Maybe it will take me four weeks to do "Week I", but I’ll finish with a great confession like St. Dismas on the cross.

The first week is about sin and confession with an emphasis on examination of conscience. It is comparable to the ‘purgative’ stage of the spiritual life. Some authors have divided the spiritual life into three stages; purgative (repentance and purification), illuminative (learning the virtues and gifts of Christ), and unitive (experiencing oneness and joy with God). A prayer commonly said daily during the Exercises helps one enter this journey:

Anima Christi
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 your wounds hide me.

Do not allow me to be separated from you. From the malevolent enemy defend me.

In the hour of my death call me, and bid me come to you,

That with your saints I may praise you forever and ever. Amen.

Fortnight of Freedom
Our US Bishops have asked for two weeks of prayer, beginning June 20 and continuing until July 4th, for the intention of protecting Religious Freedom in America. While that has already begun, every prayer is helpful. The HHS mandate is going through a constitutional challenge that may be decided by the Supreme Court. There are two major problems that concern the Bishops on the behalf of every believer in the United States. One, the Federal Government is proposing that they, not the Church, or any denominational body, determine which institutions are religious or not. For example, the narrow ‘accommodation’ that President Obama offered applied only to parishes, not schools, hospitals, or Catholic charities. This would apply as well to private businesses as well. A Catholic who owns a fruit stand would have to supply contraceptive coverage, inclusive of abortafacients, in any medical coverage offered. Which is the second major problem with the mandate, it forces a grave violation of conscience on all Americans, regardless of their beliefs. This goes against what the standard throughout our country’s history of protecting individual consciences where grave matter exists. (i.e. Quakers being exempt from military draft, etc.) I believe our Bishops are prophetic in calling for a health care plan that protects religious freedom while providing a safety net for those unable to afford basic medical care. Please join me in praying for justice for all. For more information, see:

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty
O God our Creator, Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit, you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society. We ask you to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty. Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father, a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters?gathered in your Church?in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome— for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us— this great land will always be "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pastoral Team Developments
As you may have heard from the pulpit two weeks ago, Cynde Bosshart has resigned from her position as Director of Faith Formation as she begins a new study and practice of Pastoral Counseling. Cynde has worked on staff for 24 years in addition to 13 years as a volunteer. Thank you Cynde for your dedication and loving sacrifice over the years. This leaves a gaping hole in our Pastoral coverage that we will only realize as we begin to pick up all the areas that Cynde is vacating, some she did silently which weren’t on her job description. May God provide. As I write this several persons on staff are considering pieces of Cynde’s former job description and our discernment will be announced shortly. Meanwhile, we will need a leader for RCIA, which will be an 8 hour per week position. An ad for that position appears in this week’s bulletin. Please pray for our reconfiguration of our pastoral team.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Words from Fr Ed (From June 17th Bulletin)

Ignatian Retreat
As I shared in last week’s bulletin, I will be spending the next month on a 30 Day Ignatian Retreat doing St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises (written by St. Ignatius Loyola, ~1523 A.D). It is a requirement of my STL (Sacred License in Theology) graduate program that I am happy to comply with. For me, it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to more profoundly ‘Come aside awhile and pray’, as Our Lord asked His disciples to do.

I’ll try to keep you posted on some elements of the retreat, beginning with the basics of the First Week in this article. The 30 Days are broken up into 4 Weeks, each representing a unique stage of the spiritual life and the process of conversion. The four stages include meditations on 'sin, the life of Jesus, the Passion of Jesus, and the Resurrection of Jesus’. The Exercises (meditation, examination of conscience, lectio, etc.) are intended as "… means of preparing and disposing our soul to rid itself of all its disordered affections and then, after their removal, of seeking and finding God’s will in the ordering of our life for the salvation of our soul."

After a few explanations to begin the retreat, Ignatuis gives us a basic principle:

The First Principle and Foundation

The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by doing so, to save his or her soul.

All other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they were created.

It follows from this that one must use other created things, in so far as they help towards one's end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one's end.

To do this, we need to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, provided the matter is subject to our free choice and there is no other prohibition.

Thus, as far as we are concerned, we should not want health more than illness, wealth more than poverty, fame more than disgrace, a long life more than a short one, and similarly for all the rest, but we should desire and choose only what helps us more towards the end for which we are created.

The First Week addresses sin and the reality of hell. This can be rather sobering. Fr. Spitzer, S.J., always begins the Exercise with a good conference on the Love of God. Without that, he would say, how can we explore, without excessive fear, the nature of sin in our lives? It is God’s merciful love that allows us to open up that door that we have kept tightly shut for fear of condemnation, rejection, and any hidden attachment to sin. God’s mercy gives us courage to let in the light of love and truth.

The Exercises of the First Week encourage a radical examination of conscience in regard to how we have used our faculties of memory, understanding, and will. You may recall the beautiful song of surrender, "Take, Lord, Receive", that puts Ignatius’ Prayer of ‘Suscipe’ to verse:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will,

All I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace.

That is enough for me.

This is a generous disposition that we can all strive for, beginning by asking for the grace of it. We cannot do it on our own. We need God’s good help. Beginning with surrender, God can do great things with our lives. Mother Teresa’s sisters sing this at their profession Mass.

The 30 Day Retreat can be done at home in the midst of lay obligations in what is called the 19th Annotation Retreat. Tim Malone, Director of our Spiritual Companion ministry is very involved in this undertaking through St. Joseph Parish in Seattle and other locations. You can reach him via his website if you have any questions at

Another good online program is offered via Creighton University:

Know that you will be in my prayers. I bring you with me on retreat and pray that all the graces I receive will be shared in abundance with your own souls and in your lives with God and neighbor. Please keep me in your prayers as well.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Words from Fr Ed (From June 10th, 2012 Bulletin)

Corpus Christi

While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them,

and said, "Take it; this is my body."

These words from the Gospel of Mark bring us close to the new translation of the words of institution in the Mass, The day before he suffered he took bread in his sacred hands and looking up to heaven, to you, his almighty Father, he gave you thanks and praise. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: Take this, all of you, and eat of it:?for this is my body which will be given up for you.

Notice a few slight differences, but the essence of what is said is the same. For the Church, the most important thing is that it is Christ’s essential word, said with the intention of the Church, that is transformative over the bread and the wine. A priest, as an unconsecrated man, cannot consecrate the host and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. It is Christ’s word over the priest at ordination that prepares him to say Christ’s words over the bread and the wine.

Notice too how the priest shifts into the first person at the words of institution, ‘as if’ Jesus Himself were pronouncing the consecration. Our belief about the priesthood and the ministration of Christ during a Sacrament says that it is not ‘as if’, but it is truly Christ who consecrates and offers Himself to the Father through the body of the priest.

While the priest is called to be a transparent instrument of this miraculous act, he is an organic conduit who is, like Christ, called to be both priest and victim, offering himself and his body to the Father with the Body and Blood of Christ as an oblation of love. Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist has always been attested to down through the ages. It is not a medieval invention of the Church to keep the ‘masses’ (no pun intended) under control. Listen to a few early Church fathers, writing in the first two centuries:

"Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox ( = opinions that dissent from the official or orthodox belief of the Church) in regard to the grace of God which has come to us. They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead."

- "Letter to the Smyrnaeans", paragraph 6. circa 80-110 A.D.

"This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God's Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus."

-"First Apology", Ch. 66, inter A.D. 150. St. Justin the Martyr

"So then, if the mixed cup and the manufactured bread receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, that is to say, the Blood and Body of Christ, which fortify and build up the substance of our flesh, how can these people claim that the flesh is incapable of receiving God's gift of eternal life, when it is nourished by Christ's Blood and Body and is His member?

- St. Irenaeus, 180 A.D. "Five Books"

May the word of Christ, which consecrates the bread and the wine, also consecrate us, His people, as His Mystical Body, and render us as pure love poured out upon the earth.

30 Day Retreat

I will be away on a 30 Day Ignatian Retreat beginning June 16th and returning July 20th. This is part of my graduate study program in spirituality. Know that you will be in my daily prayers. Fr. Brian, Fr. Yu, Deacon Marshall, and our whole pastoral team will be available for any urgencies that arise. Please pray for me as well.

Vocation Director Here June 16th and 17th

Fr. Bryan Dolesji, who grew up in St. Stephens, is now Vocation Director for the Archdiocese and will be here next weekend. Please welcome him and pray for an increase of vocation to the priesthood and the religious life.

Congratulations to Stephens Ministers

7 new Stephen Ministers, Sylvia Dela Cruz, Helen Chaze, Dori Fajardo, Marijean Heutmaker, Clare Ettensohn, Mary Moran, and Dolly Geonanga, were commissioned this past weekend for ministry to those who are suffering grief, illness, or other hardships in their lives. Thanks to all who generously give of their time to this valuable ministry.