A few years ago I read My Life with the Saints by Fr. Jim Martin, S.J.. In the book, Fr. Martin reflects on the lives of different saints that have impacted his life and spiritual journey. In many ways the experience of reading the book unmasked the saints clothed in glory and heroic deeds. This is not an effort to demean the life and contribution of the saints; rather, the book helped me to see and appreciate the human qualities of the saints. In my own experience, lifting the veil of heroism and seeing the human side of many holy men and women greatly enhanced my spiritual journey. The saints are not and were not perfect, rather, they allowed the beatitudes, the text of today’s Gospel, to guide and inform their life’s journey. As we start the month of November, let us all pause and recognize the saints who have formed and informed our life’s journey. Let us also pray that the beatitudes guide our decisions and interactions on our quest for sainthood in our daily journey.
~ Ed Hardiman, Ph.D. P'19 '21
As the mother of three sons, I can confirm this: boys are physical. We have a small hole in our living room wall from an illegal game of indoor catch. The backyard shed windows are broken (“I didn’t hit the golf ball that hard”), and we have a mattress with more hills than a roller coaster, having been treated more like a trampoline than a place of rest. One son has a mysterious chipped tooth (“I have no idea how that happened”), and another son has a significant number of unexplainable minor scars. We’ve tried to channel some of this energy into sports, resulting in a modest inventory of lacrosse equipment, diving bags, swim gear, gymnastics grips, golf clubs and ski poles in our basement.
And so I welcome these early days of November – All Saints Day and All Souls Day – which remind me that we are all spiritual beings – even my very physical boys. But I wonder how does that mash-up of physical energy and spiritual focus ever reside peacefully together in one child?
We are very grateful to have our boys at SJP where the opportunities for athletic participation are almost too numerous to count. My sons’ hopes are to someday contribute to SJP’s winning tradition of athletic excellence. My hope is that they find their grounding in the spiritual legacy left by the founding Xaverian Brothers and carried forward by the teachers, administrators and students who have walked the campus upholding those original Christian values. Thankfully, the Prep’s holistic approach of developing the young men in its care means my sons can do both: they can follow in the footsteps of SJP’s championship athletes, and stand on the shoulders of SJP’s faithful saints. How wonderful to contemplate that future, and be assured by today’s reading in Romans that “Hope does not disappoint.”
~ Sharon Randall P’20 ’22
I read today’s gospel through the lens of my vocation as a father of four. My children range in age from 11 to 20 now, and there have been many times where I felt as though my wife and I have been the shepherds, at times chasing down our “lost sheep.” With four children, it seems as if there is always a time when at least one of them is lost—not to mention that I am lost in the process as well. Oftentimes, through their own hard work, the goodness of their friends, the wisdom of their mother, the power of prayer, and occasionally my own intervention, they have managed to find their way back.
Those are good times…however, the word in the gospel that really speaks to me about those experiences is the word, “rejoice.” The shepherd “rejoices” when he finds the lost sheep and carries it back on his shoulder. The woman “rejoices” when she finds the lost coin and has her friends over for a party. I don’t think I am good at rejoicing! I am happy when my kids find their way back, and I try hard to be thankful, but often, I find myself thinking, “Well, when will the next shoe drop?” I really don’t think that is helpful or healthy. I need to get better at rejoicing!
Wouldn’t it be great if during the good times I could just rejoice, and not in the back of my mind worry about what could go wrong next, or wonder what’s the struggles with my other kids. The good shepherd and the woman rejoiced—they partied and celebrated when they found what they loved and lost. I think that’s a better way to go through life. It does me no good to worry about the future problems—they no doubt will come anyway. But if I don’t rejoice and celebrate the good times when the lost are found…I may just end up missing them.
---Steve Ruemenapp is Assistant Principal for Mission and Identity, husband and father of four.
It is a word that we see every morning when we open our browsers and begin the school day at St. John’s Prep. Merriam Webster dictionary would define the word as meaning “of high quality” or “correct or proper.” I believe that we all have our own definition of what good is and what it means to show goodness to one another. In today’s readings, I am reminded about goodness. The kind of goodness where we stop what we are doing and think, “what can I do today to be a good person?” Or as our daily reminder says “What have I done today to be an upstander? I also wondered to myself, where does the innate desire to be good derive from? Are people good to one another because they genuinely feel that way or are there ulterior motives in their good deeds? Are they only being good because they know how it will benefit them in the future? Does that motivation even matter so long as they are doing good? All these questions came up when I read Luke’s Gospel about the steward. It wasn’t until he found himself in a predicament that he began to look out for the debtors and other community members he had been working with. Whether we all want to admit it or not, I am sure we have all been there. We have tried to fix situations or deal with issues because we know in the long run it is going to be better for our own futures. Kill two birds with one stone so to speak. But I also believe there is true goodness in this world that is hidden by the everyday negativity that plagues our media outlets. I know this because I see it on an everyday basis here at the Prep. From the second I walked onto campus as new employee, I was welcomed with open arms by everybody. Literally everybody. There was not one person that didn’t ask how they could help, how things were going, or just wanted to get to know me a little better. People have gone out of their way to support me in my transition here and I am truly grateful for that. Whether or not there were ulterior motives to their being so kind, doesn’t really bother me. It was just the fact that they took time out of their busy lives and schedules to make sure I was feeling good about my new position. The encounters felt genuine and true, which made things all the better.
~ Krista Urquhart, School Counselor
Whom do you trust? Is it a family member, close friend, advisor or doctor? What do you put your faith in? Is it your own abilities and intelligence, the balance of your bank account or in the number of possessions you own?
In his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul shares that he has learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Phil 4:12) He goes on to further explain why he has such contentment in all circumstances by boldly stating, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13). I love this verse because it is so strong. We know exactly who Paul trust’s, it is in the Lord Jesus Christ. He recognizes that it is Jesus (through the power of the Holy Spirit working in him) that gives Paul the strength to endure and to be content in any circumstance. He alone trusts in God & Jesus, and not in himself or in his own abilities.
Later in his same letter to the Philippians, Paul confidently shares his strong faith when states, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:19) Paul is showing us that he knows that God will meet all of their needs through their faith in his son Jesus. He knows that God is going to take care of them and help them. Why is Paul so confident, because as we can see from the earlier passages, Paul has seen firsthand in his own life, where God has met all of his needs. He knows that God is faithful.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus states that, “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You can not serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:13) Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders who had grown to love money but had cold hearts toward God. He went on to say that the religious leaders were trying to justify themselves before men but that God knew their hearts. He went on to say, “what is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” (Phil 16:15) Jesus knew that they had a heart issue where they were depending more on their money and their own abilities rather then on God.
So whom do you trust? Is it in Jesus? Have you thanked Him for all of your many blessings? Have you trusted Him to help you in whatever circumstance you face today? God loves you so very much. Do you have faith that He will take care of you no matter what? I can confidently tell you that in my life and in my family members’ lives, Jesus is our strength. We trust and have witnessed God’s love in the outpouring of love & kindness from others that we have experienced during challenging and difficult times. Remember He loves you and will meet all of your needs, just trust Him. God is always ready to listen and strengthen you at any time. Why not start by talking and praying to Him today.
May God bless you and your family.
~ Sue House, very proud Mom P’18, P’19 and hopefully P’25!
Today’s Gospel reading, Luke 20:27-38, is downright challenging. In a reflection that I wrote last year, I spoke about how the weekly Gospel reading is one of my favorite parts of Sunday Mass. I always try to pay extra attention to the Gospel reading because I normally have little problem in making some connection between Jesus’ teaching in that particular passage and some event that occurred in my life recently, sometimes even within a day or two of hearing the reading. Finding that connection provides a momentary opportunity of profound reflection that I don’t take advantage of often enough during the rest of a hectic week of everyday life.
Admittedly, upon my first reading of today’s Gospel verse, I made no connection. I did not understand the meaning of the message. However, I immediately recognized the beauty and the challenge of the mysteries that are such a part of our Catholic beliefs. My lack of understanding led me to do some research, to find an explanation of this Gospel reading so that I might better connect it to my own life, and in doing so, quickly realized that searching for greater meaning is a valuable exercise in reflection unto itself.
Today’s verse is part of a broader collection of stories that teach us how the non-believers challenged the authority of Jesus. In this instance, the Sadducees constructed a somewhat contrived scenario in which, according to the law at the time, seven brothers all married the same woman when the next oldest brother died before impregnating his then wife, for the purpose of “stumping” Jesus on the question of who among the brothers would qualify for the Resurrection (which the Sadducees did not believe in). Unflappable as always, Jesus instead uses the question to remind the Sadducees that the “rules” for who will participate in the Resurrection of the Dead are different from the secular rules and laws of this world on earth. He then goes on to speak about those who will be lucky enough to be deemed by God to be worthy of the Resurrection, calling them the children of God.
Alas, a connection was made! This has been a tough week for me in terms of “losses.” A close family friend, the mother of eight children, passed away after a long fight with cancer….the father of another good friend died yesterday…..and most importantly, my own mother passed away fourteen years ago this week. But this Gospel passage, now that I understand it, reminds me that, despite the sadness, my faith remains firm in the confidence of believing that these three “children of God” have found happiness and fulfillment in heaven, knowing that they will participate in the Resurrection.
~ David Hennessey '83 P'16, Social Studies Department
There are many factors in our lives that often make it difficult to see the forest for the trees. We feel the pressure to keep busy schedules for ourselves and our families, to stay connected 24/7 through technology, to "do it all" and to do it well. Many pride themselves on being very proficient at multitasking. I believe multi-tasking is overrated. It keeps us from being fully engaged in the task at hand and the people with whom we share a moment. Some of the pressure comes from outside ourselves through our work, or our friends and family. But if you look closely, I think you will find that most obstacles to living a life rooted in faith comes from within. I think that you will find that your ability to forgive just requires that you take a step back to assess the situation without the din of daily life to cloud your humanity.
In the scripture Luke 17:1-6, we are reminded to be forgiving no matter how many times we are wronged. The apostles don't know how they can forgive someone who has hurt them repeatedly without more faith. The Lord reminds them that it is the quality of their faith, not the quantity that will assist them in granting forgiveness to someone who has sinned against them, even if it's seven times!
How do you react if someone hurts you? Do you talk about it with everyone except the offender? Do you make an attempt to hurt the person back? Are you, in effect, just putting something else on your busy to-do list? It's work to stay angry, after all.
Forgiving doesn't mean that you have to condone what the person has done and it doesn't mean that you have to bring that person back into the circle of your life. In reality, there is a good chance that the offender was deliberate in there actions but there is also a good chance that the offender is so caught up in the pressures of their life that they are unaware that they have hurt you. What you can do for yourself, and for that person, is to be honest about your feelings and then let it go. Breathe it in, breathe it out and LET IT GO.
~ Mary Mazzeo, Registrar and P'14
We have two readings that give advice to us as to how to conduct ourselves. In Paul’s letter to Titus, he is giving a ideas for how we, the people of God, need to conduct our daily affairs within the framework of the Church. While some of the concepts today may seem rather difficult to accept, we must remember the milieu in which Paul was writing. We are looking at the “average person” not the elite or the privileged. In general, the prescriptions are those of respect for one another. We see that the elders are to provide examples for life to the rest of the community, and the young have obligations to the whole community. In many ways, we have to hope that the same is true today. There is a need for modeling good behavior on the part of the elders for today’s society. Today, we face the monumental task of electing our next President today. Clearly, the campaign that we have witnessed for these many (some may say too many) months falls so short of Paul’s admonitions in so many ways on all sides. In the Gospel, Luke’s passage is the responsibility that the servant has when the Master returns. The passage seems to be rather harsh in what the servant’s role is. In a very simple sense, we are being reminded that God is not indebted to us for our fidelity to Him. God does not owe us, but we owe Him. This is clearly the message of the reading from Luke.
As we heed these messages and reflect on them in the light of the events in the country and world, we clearly need to ask if we are the servants who do our duty at the end of the day. Have we approached our civic duties in a reflective and informed manner? Are we being the faithful to the expectations that we take time for the Lord each day – in prayer and meditation?
~ Brother Bob Flaherty, C.F.X.
The story of Jesus cleansing the temple is unique in the gospels for a few reasons. First, it is one of the few stories outside of passion of Jesus that is found in all four gospels. Second, the placement of this story in the synoptic gospels is found towards the end of the gospel narrative while John’s gospel (the reading for today) is found at the beginning. Third, Jesus calls for the cleansing and destruction of the most holy location according to his own faith tradition. I’d like to take a moment to reflect on why these qualities may be present, what symbolically may be happening here, and how it applies to our lives in the 21st century.
The cleansing story in John’s Gospel is uniquely placed it at the beginning of the story compared to the synoptics where the cleansing story is found before Jesus’ arrest. In John, the story follows Jesus’ first miracle at Cana. As with any story, we are introducing the character of Jesus. First we learned that part of his mission and ministry is to perform signs for his followers. Now, with cleansing of the temple, we see Jesus challenging his current authority figures of the religious institution and the devotional practice of animal sacrifice to God.
The term “cleansing” is misleading in this gospel story because Jesus is not exactly cleaning house, but symbolically destroying the temple. The functionality of the temple at this time was to provide worship goers with resources and space needed for animal sacrifice. Jesus seems to be commanding people to end this practice, and even commands them to destroy the temple. According to the author of the gospel, Jesus is setting himself up as a rival to the temple. After all, what need is there for a temple sacrifice if Jesus himself is the sacrificial lamb of God?
Jesus was astute enough to realize that people were missing the point of sacrifice and worship at the temple. He realized that people were following the letter of the law without understanding or connecting to the nature of the law. Ultimately, his goal was to challenge people to encounter God directly through their prayer and his nature as the Messiah.
When I introduce my seventh grade students to Catholic Social Teaching, I challenge them to reflect on whether the systems we take part part in are serving the people. Jesus has the bravery and humility at the beginning of his ministry to challenge a system that was not serving everyone, I challenge us all to do the same today. Take some time to ask yourself: What obstacles are in my way of approaching God directly? Do I have personal behaviors, investments, ways of thinking, or commitments that obstruct me from putting people first before a structure or myself?
~ James Barry, Middle School Religious Studies Teacher
As I reflect on today’s Gospel, I wonder how often I put my faith in one person or idea that I believe can solve the difficulties I face in life. How many times have we looked at single solutions or people that we believe will fix everything? Jesus warns against this mindset in today’s Gospel. We have witnessed the Kingdom of God already in Christ and continue to do so daily in those around us. The Kingdom then is not far off, it isn’t something we need to seek out because we are witness to it already. We cannot pursue a belief that one person or idea will bring about the Kingdom either because it is already here, just not yet fully manifested. All we can do is work in ways that allow for us to continually uncover the Kingdom among us in the hope that one-day, we will see it like the lightning that penetrates the darkness of the sky.
~ Chris Bauer, Campus Minister
As we get closer to the end of the liturgical year, the Gospel readings continually take a look towards "the end times." I remember hearing from somewhere that what Jesus is often saying in these gospel readings at this time of year could be summed up in two words, "Wake up!" For me that seems to apply to the gospel reading today. Jesus is telling his disciples that right up until the flood people were doing their regular, everyday thing--eating, drinking, getting married, and could well have missed the boat. Sorry for the bad pun. However, the point is well taken...am I missing some of the important signs of God's presence in the world today by sleepwalking through my life? Truthfully, I ask myself that question pretty regularly. The problem is, I don't often act on it!
I recently moved to a new house. It's nice house, and I'd like to think my wife and I did it for the right reasons. The new house is extremely close to my kids' friends. It's a little newer, so won't take our constant attention like the old one did. It has some different space so my kids can retreat to their own location at times. The neighborhood offers potentially greater racial diversity for me and my family. All good stuff. However, I had forgotten that moving can be all consuming. Cleaning the old house, getting it ready to show, looking for a new house, making the offer, all the paper work, packing, dealing with attorney and real estate agents, and on and on and on.
The world has not waited while I have moved. I wonder if I have been missing God's clear signs in the world while I have been so busy with my move. Or, perhaps God is sending me signs in the move as well. I don't know the answer, but I know I need to heed Jesus' call to save my life by losing it. Where is God calling me to do that today--in the greater world or in my own backyard?
~ Steve Ruemenapp, Assistant Principal for Mission and Identity, husband and father of four children
Many of us wake up every day and immediately hit the snooze button. Of course, we know we need to get up eventually, but we can postpone the inevitable for a while, especially as winter draws near and the temperature drops. Some days, we find it easier to get out of bed than others. We wonder if tomorrow will be the day when we get up “on time” (whatever that means), or maybe it will be the next day. Or perhaps the day after that. We tend to accept that, while we certainly could wake up early and maybe go for a run or just enjoy some quiet, personal time, it is sometimes easier to stay in bed just a little bit longer and tell ourselves we will do it “next time”.
The readings today speak of dedication and persistence. In the Gospel, we see a woman who continues to hound a judge to make a decision in her favor. While the judge eventually concedes, the more admirable quality is the woman’s persistence. She continued, day after day, to persist and to take charge of her actions. We know nothing more about her, but we can assume that her only recourse was through the judge’s decision. While not all of us have a judge whom we can hold accountable, we do have something far greater: ourselves.
Every single day that we live on this earth is a gift. It is one of the greatest gifts, because unlike that gift that we choose to return because we “don’t need it” or “already have it”, we can mold each day into what we want it to be. We can choose to wake up early...sometimes. We can choose to eat healthily...except on cheat days. We can choose to bear witness and help our friends, strangers, and those in need...when it is convenient.
Or, we can choose to define and be the best version of ourselves every single day.
~ Evan Korol, Mathematics Teacher
This is not the first “final draft” of this reflection.
After the events of this November 8th, I was compelled to reread my Lectionary selection. In my emotional state, I violated a basic premise of good research: I went to the material not to find evidence that could guide me to form an opinion. Rather, I went to the material to find evidence that would validate my opinion and, perhaps, soothe my soul, in regard to the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. There was no shortage of lines that could be used, particularly from the Gospel (LK 21:5-19):
“Jesus said, ‘All that you see here--
the days will come when there will not be left
a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.’”
“Then he said to them,
‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues
from place to place;
and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.’”
“Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven,
when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble,
and the day that is coming will set them on fire,
leaving them neither root nor branch,
says the LORD of hosts.”
Initially, the above passages were appealing to utilize as the basis for my reflection. I was (and still am) angry, disgusted, and bewildered. As a constitutional republic, America’s leaders rule with the consent of the governed. I cannot fathom that anyone has given President-Elect Trump his or her consent to govern. I do not reject the results of our Electoral College; instead, I feel those results were a form of rejection based upon fear. Whether that fear is rooted in the violence and terrors that lie beyond America’s borders doing harm to our people, or rooted in the changing demographics of what “We the People” means, fear motivated political support for a narcissistic, bigoted, misogynistic, neo-Fascist authoritarian.
What bothers me most, however, was I knew I would be okay, and others would not. As a white, English-speaking, educated, male, I live a life insulated from the bigotry and misogyny espoused by President-Elect Trump throughout his campaign, and this left me heartbroken. What will happen to my friends who are now targets of hatred, who are not protected by virtue of their birth as I am, and who feel as if their fellow citizens have turned a blind eye to their struggles in the effort to make America great again, as if my friends were not contributing to this struggle already?
On Wednesday and Thursday, and into the weekend, in conversations with students and colleagues, I struggled to place my emotions in the context of being a wise and compassionate man for others. In that confusing framework, three sections within the Lectionary have re-emerged as powerful statements, and have replaced the fire-and-brimstone selections I highlighted earlier to help me make sense of the election and what it means.
First, from the Prophet Malachi (MAL 3:19-20A)
“But for you who fear my name, there will arise
the sun of justice with its healing rays.”
I am a firm believer that the universe seeks balance, and in its quest to find equilibrium, justice will be served. Even if on a cosmic level, and on a timeline that is not favorable to our own lives, we must trust that the universe will arc toward justice, and we must work to bring about that justice: promoting it where it exists, fighting for it where it does not, now more than ever.
Second, from Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians (2 THES 3:7-12):
“Rather, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you,
so that you might imitate us.
In fact, when we were with you,
we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work,
neither should that one eat.
I immediately thought of John Winthrop and John Smith. In Winthrop’s case, he desired his people be an idealized “city upon a hill;” for Smith, it was a more immediate matter of surviving a “starving time.” As leaders of people for whom they cared, on a journey in a land of which they had little knowledge, both had to become more than each man was, and suffer for and with their people. Further, this passage reminded me of the First of the Four Noble Truths: all of life is suffering. This is and will remain a time of suffering, and we must work so all may eat, so all may survive our current starving time, and live in a rebuilt city upon a hill.
Third, and finally, from the Gospel Acclamation and the Gospel itself (LK 21:28, 5-19):
“Stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.”
“You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
As Dr. Hardiman reminds us, compassion is an action. From my privileged position, in an attempt to be a wise and compassionate man for others, I must raise my head to fight, and I urge you to do the same. Fight with the universe to enact justice; fight with those who work and suffer to “eat” as well as we do; fight to secure the lives of all against those who wish to do them harm, and then fight to enlighten those who would harm others. We must persevere for each other because that is how we can best recognize and celebrate the dignity of each person, whether we know him or her or not. We must fight to redeem ourselves and our “enemies,” and trust that if we are compassionate, we will not be destroyed.
~ Paul Mueller, Social Studies Department
I had a really difficult time writing this reflection perhaps due to the fact that I do so in the days following the 2016 elections. Whether you are happy, sad, indifferent, stunned, relieved, etc…about the outcomes, I think we can all agree that this has certainly been an unpleasant election cycle. This ordeal has cast a light on the ugliness that can accompany our humanity. I pray we can all move forward individually and collectively with a message of peace and tolerance.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus yet again gives sight to the blind by “curing” the blind beggar on the side of the road. In response to the beggar’s plea “Lord, please let me see,” Jesus replies, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.” If you’re like me, you’ve heard this passage (and others like it) hundreds of times. Until relatively recently, I have always found myself pondering on the physical aspects of these miracles. Was this man really blind? Did Jesus really give him his sight back? I realize now that the physical manifestation of this “feat” is inconsequential – it just doesn’t matter. This story isn’t about a medical phenomenon; it’s about a spiritual transformation. The man’s eyes have been metaphorically opened up. The question is, what does he see? The Gospel really doesn’t tell us in that passage. We are told the man picks up his stuff and follows Jesus, giving glory to God.
I find the use of the term “beggar” interesting. In my mind I picture a decrepit, starving person with a tin cup in his hand. But isn’t it curious that the only thing the man begs for is pity and sight? Is this why the gospel refers to him as a beggar? Is it possible he was just an able-bodied, self-sufficient person, going about his day, who comes to discover Jesus in his midst and in turn begs for spiritual healing? In this context, he could be one of us. We are all poor in spirit, begging for sight. We all want to see Christ in our midst.
I have been re-acquainting myself lately with the teachings of Richard Rohr. On my walk this morning I was listening to one of his talks on YouTube. He touched on a concept that is really not new and, if read correctly, is scatted throughout scriptures. And that concept is we are all divine. Jesus came to earth not AS the Christ but instead to REVEAL the Christ – the Christ that has been there from the beginning of time and will be there forever – for all. Fr. Rohr states that we all have access to that Christ - the same Christ that cured the blind and the same Christ that suffered the crucifixion. Maybe we just need to “open our eyes” and view our world in a different light. In this time of transition in our country, it certainly helps me to remind myself that we are all divine and we are all loved by God despite our humanity. Hopefully we can all try to see things differently as we move forward in our journeys.
Peace and love.
~ Brian Wagner, longtime friend of Steve Ruemenapp and SJP
Today is the memorial of St. Albert the Great, known as the “Universal Doctor” for his encyclopedic knowledge, a thirteenth century bishop and theologian. The memorial is optional, which is rather a shame. On an optional memorial priests celebrating Mass have the option whether or not to use the prayers that celebrate the day’s saint. I say that it’s a shame for St. Albert should be more widely known and celebrated because his example provides an antidote to the intellectual poison injected by the Enlightenment, which pits empirical, scientific knowledge against the knowledge of faith. This false divide creates the Scylla of scientific positivism, which rejects divine revelation, and the Charybdis of fideistic fundamentalism, which rejects the intelligibility of the world. St. Albert’s example displays that reason and faith, far from being opposed to one another, are compatible and even complementary.
Albert was born around the year 1193 in Lauingen, now a part of Bavaria. While in his early twenties, he entered the Order of Friars Preachers, also known as the Dominicans, and studying theology at the University of Bologna, displayed a formidable intellect. This led to a teaching career at Cologne and the University of Paris, where St. Thomas Aquinas was his student. In addition to his theological writings, which are numerous, St. Albert was the first Western intellectual to write commentaries on the entire corpus of Aristotle, thus discussing the scientific disciplines of zoology, botany, and astronomy, among others. Moreover, he engaged in his own investigations, perhaps even discovering arsenic. Astronomy professor Christopher Graney has suggested he may be among the first to argue that the stars extend indefinitely in the heavens.*
Thus, St. Albert shows us that one need not fear the sciences if one is to be a man of faith and vice-versa. Albert would agree with an earlier medieval master, Hugh of St. Victor, who argued that study of the sciences enable us to read God’s “book of creation,” while the knowledge of faith enables us to read God’s “book of recreation,” that is, His salvific work in the world. Having the ability to read both books contributes to true happiness, which as Aristotle says, finds its highest expression in contemplation of the truth.
Let us pray today through the intercession of St. Albert, patron of scientists, and “light of the Germans,” that we may be open to the truth wherever it reveals itself to us.
~ Dr. James Arinello, religious and social studies teacher, husband, and father of two
*Christopher Graney, “One Comment by Albert the Great Becomes an Entire Blog Post,” The Catholic Astronomer: The Vatican Observatory Foundation Blog, August 13, 2016
As a senior at the Prep, life is quite busy. Looking around at my friends and classmates, I see how much excitement the prospect of college and anxiety the reality of applications thereof present. Of course, the rest of life is no cake walk, either! Amidst all of the chaos, excitement, and confusion, I always cherish time to reflect upon how I can stay true to God, my family and friends, as well as my own values.
In considering today's readings, the Gospel of Luke 19:11-28 stands out as embodying a particularly profound truth: to do what is righteous, we are not meant to take shortcuts in life. All so often, we encounter choices that provide an easy but morally unfulfilling outcome. By pure human nature, we often mistakenly think in terms of personal practicality rather than in therms of the moral implications of our very actions. I will be the first to admit it: determining and upholding moral truth in our everyday lives is no simple task, but we must at least try.
The parable of the noblemen and his servants introduces a number of valuable lessons about doing that which is right. After a nobleman departs on a business trip and leaves each of his ten of his servants money to invest, one servant in particular has a moral quandary as for what actions to take. While his counterparts invest all of their money just as their boss ordered, the one morally conflicted servant resolves not to invest the money but instead to keep the money safe and return it to his master. Upon arriving back home, the nobleman rejoices after his servants present vast profits and so he rewards them for their actions. When the nobleman learns of the one servant who did not invest the money, however, the nobleman expresses deep anger and frustration. He even goes so far as to punish the servant for his dissidence. For the servant, disobeying his master was no easy choice; he could have merely done what the nobleman expected of him and could have even reaped a handsome reward. Instead, the servant mindfully chooses the difficult yet morally righteous path. I conjecture that the servant figures that he will endure punishment, but he still knows God will reward him for doing what is right. I think that men and women like the humble servant are some of the most virtuous and intellectually gifted people in society.
A few particular words of the reading from Gospel According to Luke best summarize the notion of not taking shortcuts: "You take up what you did not lay down and you harvest what you did not plant" (LK 19:21). Indeed, the servant levies a hefty charge of moral infringement against the nobleman; nevertheless, the servant makes an acute yet universally accurate assessment of a key facet of social justice. In his everyday dealings, the nobleman benefits from taking shortcuts to his profits, of which the profits themselves are not inherently wrongful; instead, the means by which he attains his profits, are definitively immoral and go against fundamental human values of ethics.
After considering and reflecting upon Jesus' parable of the nobleman and the servant, I sought to witness its implications in my life. As a student, the most pertinent application of the servant's words and actions come in the form of one's moral obligation academic integrity. The Prep emphasizes heavily the importance of maintaining academic integrity. Naturally, some students still choose academic dishonesty over academic honesty. For many, the crime is impersonal; that is, some souls believe that cheating is justified because it harms nobody. Well, that statement could not be any further from the truth for a multitude of reasons! Still, the servant's words speak a simple yet imperative truth to the matter of academic integrity: harvesting from that which you did not plant is a heinous misinterpretation of the moral standards upon which God calls us to live. Besides, resisting the temptation to cheat may seem difficult in the short term, but in the long term, the righteous decision to only harvest that which one plants yields a more tasteful fruit.
~ Will Poirier '17
“If this day you only knew what makes for peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.” (LK 19:41-44)
The first reading, an excerpt from Revelation, speaks of the coming of the Kingdom of God. The Son of Man is found “worthy to open the scroll and break its seals” (RV 5:1-10), establishing the new earth. Out of all the people to have ever lived, Jesus is the one to be found worthy. A phrase often spoken about during my time at the Prep as well as since I have arrived at BC is “building the kingdom”. It is a phrase that I consider often. Jesus lived out the vision of a place where nobody is excluded and everybody is recognized as worthy of love. Ultimately, he sacrificed his own life for his vision. The reading from Revelation refocuses my attention to living and loving more like Christ in order to “build the kingdom” in everyday life.
As we all know, our country is very divided politically at the moment. As Jesus says in Luke’s gospel, peace seems to be hidden from our eyes. Nobody wants to listen or understand the other side. I can count multiple times in the past week, month, and year when I shut my ears off from a person with differing political views, waiting for my turn to speak about my beliefs. I wouldn’t even let myself consider the opposing thoughts being presented, yet I somehow thought that my opinions would be understood. While recently scrolling through Facebook, I discovered an article which helped me to think through the current political divide through the lens of faith. I would encourage everyone, no matter political/religious background, to read it.
Fr. Martin reminds his readers that voters –for the most part – voted with good and hopeful intentions. He suggests that as a follower of Christ, one must open one’s heart to those with opposing views, giving each person the benefit of the doubt. At the same time, following Christ means standing with the marginalized and standing up for justice. It is in the balance between understanding others and fighting for what is right that we can build the inclusive kingdom that Jesus proclaimed. The scripture readings as well as the article from Fr. Martin remind me that I should recognize each person that I encounter as worthwhile of my full attention. To create a more unified and loving country as well as world is a big and confusing goal, but, lucky for us, Jesus provides us with an example of how to do so. Opening our ears and hearts with greater understanding for each other seems like the place to start.
~ John DiBello, ‘16
As I write, the general election is but 12 days away and the media outlets seem to constantly present the candidates’ every move and remark; we, as a nation, seem tired and frustrated by this election, regardless of our political leanings. Many of us bemoan the current state of our electoral process wherein millions of dollars fuel campaigns for years before the actual election. Is this what our founding fathers envisioned? Is this the democratic process they fought and died to create and defend?
Jesus, too, bemoaned the state of his church in the gospel for today; he, too, was appalled at the behavior of those in power when he fumed, “My house…a house of prayer…you have made it a den of thieves.” Jesus fought against such corruption through his preaching, his actions and his words to restore not only his temple, but also his community and the world. Acts of kindness and love towards one another, caring for the poor, disabled, or those the rest of society deemed ‘losers’, forgiving even our enemies—these are the behaviors Jesus lived and died to teach us in his effort to save us from ourselves. What would he say today, viewing our current state—the words coming from our leaders mouths, the behaviors we exhibit at political rallies or the vocabulary we choose to use on the internet when disagreeing with others—do we reveal ourselves to be followers of Christ during these moments? Or, have we become just like those Jesus drove out of his temple, turning not only our democratic process, but ourselves, into a “den of thieves” corrupted by our darker impulses?
~ Katy Brandin P'13 '16
I'm learning that time spent in worry about what will come next...and concern over the trivial details of our daily lives is bit fruitless. That doesn't mean I don't do it. As my boys become men, the worries are many...over where they are heading and what troubles they may encounter. I spend time with trivial things like my lawn, what I might be wearing or how much money I need for this and that.
I believe in working hard, and accomplishing things because it is the use of the gifts and abilities God has given to me. It shows respect for Him. But the key is keeping it in perspective so I can try to maintain humility and keep Him centered in my heart.
We all end up going home to God in the end, and He will take care of us as our Father.
~ Steve Cunningham P'12 '14 '17, Assistant Head of School for Facilities
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Lk 23:42-43
Today, the Church throughout the world marks The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
Frankly, most of us don’t think a great deal about kings unless we’re playing cards or making a trip to Graceland. While royalty has little in common with our American culture or ideals, Christians honor Jesus Christ as our king.
In His kingdom, we do not grow wealth or power or influence. In His kingdom, we grow in virtue and holiness. In his kingdom, we do not look out solely for ourselves. In His kingdom, we look out for people who are ignored in every other kingdom: the poor and the broken and the annoying and the wounded. You see, In His Kingdom everyone matters because we belong to Him. And because we all belong to Him, we all belong to one another.
That is the image of royalty found in today’s Gospel from Luke; where the king and the criminal who go together into paradise.
That is the final victory of the Kingdom Christ preached. That is the legacy that Christ leaves to each of us today. In this Kingdom, Christ not only talks about God’s love, he shows us what that love does. It is a love that forgives, a love that serves, a love that inspires gratitude. It is a way of life that you and I are invited to share this week.
Will you accept His invitation? Will you allow Christ to make a difference this week by your respect, by your acceptance or by your forgiveness of others? Will you express your gratitude to God for the gift of those who love you by their respect, acceptance and forgiveness? That promotes the kingdom of God.
Christ is the King who invites you to follow Him. He does not demand your obedience or require your servitude. He simply asks you to trust Him.
Dear Lord, help me to show what your love can do for others this week, Amen
~ Fr. Thomas Powers ’73 U’19
During the weekday evenings somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00 my head will start to bob and I will drift off for a brief nap. It is especially obvious if I am trying to read the paper (yes we still get a local newspaper). Early mornings, an active office and long commutes take their toll. My wife and sons have some good natured fun with watching dad trying to stay awake. Their banter is replaced with the silence of staring eyes which snaps me out of my momentary slumber and we start a cycle of drifting between poking fun of each other and a dream state which at times are inseparable.
Today’s Gospel acclamation (Matthew 24:42) jumps off the page with an emphatic “Stay awake! For you do not know when the Son of Man will come.” Further in this passage, but not in the acclamation, it speaks to the need of being prepared – “So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” (Matthew 24:44). Perhaps I should inform my sons that my nightly efforts to stay awake are simply preparations for the arrival of the Son of Man. This may be a bit heavy for teenage “man-boys” – but it could take our idle banter in a great direction.
On a practical level the need to be prepared and to stay awake is central to leading a productive life. We all must go about our daily lives and doing so with thoughtful preparation and keen awareness of the tasks at hand makes for a successful and productive day. The kind of day where we can cross things off the list or exceed business objectives - but does this make for a good day?
When we are called to stay awake because we do not know when the Son of Man will come we are raising ourselves to a higher standard and it is here - at the intersection of practical and spiritual - that we can truly achieve Good. Spiritual preparedness is an ongoing life journey which when guided by the teachings of Christ equips us with the ultimate survival guide to all that life throws at us, both good and bad. Being spiritually prepared is important but being spiritually awake is mandatory. If we are not awake then all of our preparations are for not. Being awake is what empowers us to put our preparedness into action – to do Good as Christ would.
~ Mike McShane P'18
“So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and cut the earth’s vintage. He threw it into the great wine press of God’s fury.” What fantastic imagery, yet frightening words.
Is the “wrath of God” real? Plagues, tsunamis, murder, rape....If you believe all things come from God, the answer must be yes. Nonetheless, I struggle with God deliberately hurting mankind as depicted time and time again in the Old Testament. Why would a loving God do this? It’s counter to my limited image of a nurturing, forgiving and ever so generous God. Also, I can’t help but wonder why our Creator an all knowing God could possibly judge the imperfect mortals that we are. Life is hard, then we’re judged?
Is that really what is going on here? Yes, but if viewed through the eyes of a loving parent the judgement appears quite different. Imagine giving our children everything they need and then some, then leaving them to their own devices? Without norms and consequences, how would they learn and grow? Loving our children means constructing guidelines and sticking to them. Perhaps some of you enrolled your son at SJP because they needed a little more structure in their lives.
The fact of the matter is we need those who love us most to keep us in line. God gave us, the 10 Commandments (house rules), sent us Jesus (the perfect example) and our parents, family and friends (the enforcers) to guide us. But at the end of the day, if you don’t play by the rules, you will have a loving AND just God to answer to.
~ Jacqueline Potdevin P'19
In today's gospel by Luke (21:12-19), Jesus warns his disciples, his closest friends and followers, that they will inevitably be persecuted because of their connection to Him, foretelling of things that will occur and be realized in the Acts of the Apostles. Like Jesus Himself, they will be bitterly betrayed by their family and friends. He promises they will receive the wisdom to get through the ordeal. Though they will be hated because of His name, "not a hair on your head will be destroyed." Jesus is not saying that they will not be subjected to physical harm (because they undoubtedly will) but is saying that his true disciples will have integrity and a wholeness of spirit that will save them. He is calling upon them to save their own souls. It is be being true to our their Christian values and, ultimately, to themselves, that they will be able to "persevere."
The same holds true for us. It is impossible for me to read Luke's gospel and not think about recent events in our country. Many people feel disenfranchised and even more feel very, very angry --including those on both sides of the fence. Looking back at the first reading from Revelations 15 -- we see, firsthand, what God's anger looks like. His anger is quite different from human or our own anger. Our anger is often spontaneous and uncontrolled. God's anger is measured and in direct response to those who do not hear and respond to his call to Love and Truth. As I deal with own feelings surrounding recent events, I am going to do my best to maintain control and look to the horizon in search of Love and Truth. Hopefully, I can become less reactionary and more measured. I will seek Goodness in people and situations. I will try to emulate the patience of Jesus. This is a tall order, I know! I will pray to the Holy Spirit to bring me the wisdom that was bestowed upon the Apostles and disciples.
~ Kathy Cormier P'15 '16
READINGS: Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs
READINGS: Thanksgiving Day
In today’s Gospel ten lepers call out to Jesus for healing. He instructs the lepers to present themselves to the priests and while on their way they are made clean. Of the ten, only one seems to realize that he has been healed and so returns to Jesus to thank him. Perhaps the others are not aware and have not yet realized what has taken place. Perhaps they await confirmation of their cleansing by the priests. Perhaps they reasoned turning back was just to far out of the way, to inconvenient, to long a distance, pointless (“Jesus probably wouldn’t be there still anyway.”).
Religious differences that separated Jews and Samaritans from one another led each group to view the other with contempt. Here we encounter Jesus (Jewish) upholding a Samaritan as a model of faith and gratitude. Jesus, once again, demonstrates that he is not afraid to be “counter-cultural.” His assertion that it was the Samaritan’s faith that saved him would have struck everyday Jews as simply wrong if not downright scandalous. Jesus’ action transcends the divisions of his day and so too challenges us to live likewise. To paraphrase Pope Francis, Let us be bridges not walls.
Like the nine lepers who were healed, I too get caught up in the hyperactivity of daily life, wrapped up in my own chores, responsibilities, self-centeredness. I forget to be thankful. My hope for Thanksgiving is this: that, in the midst of very busy lives, we may challenge ourselves to cultivate gratitude. A rich gratitude, like that of the Samaritan, enables us to be aware of the ways we have been touched and healed by God. It allows us, as Sirach announces, to delight in “the wondrous things on earth” that God has done. It empowers us to recognize authentic blessings without depreciating or blotting them out with all the “yea-buts” we might be tempted to throw at them: “yea but I’m upset” or “yea but I need more money” and “yea but I’m too exhausted.” This ground of gratitude, is soil for real THANKS-giving.
~ Sean Sennot, Religious Studies Department
Can we read the "signs of the times" to see the Kingdom of God among us? I think that is what Jesus is encouraging us to consider in today's gospel. Maybe it's my line of work as "minister-type" person and Religious Studies teacher, but this is a question that I actually think about somewhat regularly.
So what about today? I believe there is an old Chinese proverb that goes something like, "May you be born in interesting times," and if nothing else, these times are definitely interesting! From my perspective there is no shortage of worries, concerns or anxieties that I could focus my energies on, whether it's on a personal, local, national or global level. But, do I recognize God's kingdom in any of these issues or events? Am I working to help bring the kingdom?
Honestly, my best answer is sometimes, or on my good days. I just had lunch with my two daughters and we laughed for a good hour – I saw God's kingdom there. When one of my closest friends and the SJP community supported his family and me, the kingdom was there. When I see my colleagues teaching our students about the causes and effects of climate change, and the practical steps we can take individually, locally and nationally to save our planet, I know God's kingdom is there as well.
For me, the particular challenge in finding the kingdom these days is in tuning out so much of the noise that fills up my life. When I take ten minutes in silence with God every day, or take my awesome dog for a good long walk, I find Jesus is right. The kingdom of is at hand – and I am able to see it. Peace.
~ Steve Ruemenapp is Assistant Principal of Mission and Identity, husband and father of four.
How appropriate to end the liturgical year, and the end of the Year of Mercy, with these readings. In today’s Gospel reading, Christ reminds us to be always ready because we do not know when he will return and ask us to make an account of our lives. As we prepare to begin a new liturgical year, it is the perfect time to reflect upon our own lives, and examine what it is in our heart.
It is ironic that the end of the liturgical year is also the start of the holiday season. Instead of getting less busy, spending the time to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ, we are catapulted into the season of spending, feasting, and a frenzy of activity that often leaves us wondering if we have done enough. Every store, television and Internet advertisement warns of the impending sale on gifts that we cannot afford to miss.
All of this “temptation” surrounds us this time of year, distracting us from focusing on what is truly important to our spiritual lives, a time in which the bible urges us to be more focused, more alert. These passages tell us to “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy,” and “Behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic message of this book.“
I appreciate the opportunity to write a reflection, and am humbly reminded of my own need to take time to pray every day, and to reflect during the upcoming Advent season, so as to keep myself spiritually awake.
~ Jennifer Trois, P’20
Today as we begin Advent, today's gospel speaks pretty clearly, at least to me. "Wake up!" I read somewhere that "Stay awake!" is one of the most often repeated commands that Jesus offers in the Gospel. I think some took at as a command to prepare for the "end times," and perhaps it was. However, I know it's a command that applies to me today.
How often am I "sleeping" through my everyday life? I do a lot of dishes at my house. We have four kids, who have friends over and they eat all the time. In truth, despite my continued protests, they do a pretty good job at cleaning up, but it still leads to continual loading and unloading the dishwasher. I often sleep and complain through that job. How would it be if I "woke up" to that this Advent? I could pray for my family, my students, more patience. I could thank God for the gift of the food and the running water that I am blessed to have at my home. I could pray over the readings of the day. There is plenty I could "wake up" to, instead of complaining in my head that I have more of this work to do.
I am guessing most of us have parts of our lives that we sometimes "sleep" through. Maybe it is making dinner, or doing our homework, or cleaning the house, or doing laundry, and on and on. What if we all tried to "wake up" this Advent? What would Christmas and 2017 look like? Let's all pray for one another...
~ Steve Ruemenapp is Assistant Principal for Mission and Identity, Husband and father of four.
As I read this gospel my first thought was wow I have no idea what message Mathew is trying to tell us. I do not have enough scripture knowledge to understand this gospel.....so I googled it,lol. It really does help to understand the times and what was going on when Jesus entered Capernaum, or what was going on in Capernaum at this time and who were the centurion's. So I read it again and again, and the message came through.
Many people were following Jesus because of the stories of the miracles, few were faithful to the word and the message Jesus was trying to teach. So when he came upon the centurion (who was a person in a high leadership position) he made sure to emphasize to the followers his amazement of this man of faith. And quickly responded to his request to cure his servant. FAITH is the message, and having faith will lead to God's graces. HUMILITY is another message. the centurion who was a man of authority was humbled when he met Jesus, and did not see himself worthy to have Jesus enter under his roof. Jesus responded , Amen you will be at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.
As I enter the first week of Advent l pray for Faith to be open to Gods graces this season preparing for Christ coming. I am humbled by His awesomeness and the blessing I am reminded of day after day and year after year. I am honored to be part of this faith sharing community at St. John's Prep.
Be good, Do good, Be a power for good.
~ Francine Tunnera P'17
On that day,
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
The ancient words from the Prophet Isaiah resonate down through the ages out of a universal longing. They were read and re-read by people and communities who knew only too well what happens when the poor are judged harshly and unfairly, and when there is no mercy for the weak. They were shared by communities of people who had suffered at the hands of ruthless leaders and corrupt judges and officials. Out of this frustration and despondency arises this unusual vision that turns conventional wisdom on its head; a vision of a great leader, a child, who would lead with justice and righteousness; a vision of the peaceable kingdom, as it has been described in bygone centuries.
Advent begins a four-week period that leads up to Christmas and has a character and mood quite different from what we sometimes assume, especially if we look at the all the commercials flashed at us this time of year. This is actually a time to feel and experience the occasional anxiety and difficulty of this world and life. It is a time for longing and expectation. During this season that leads up to the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child, we are invited to experience the disparity between the world as it is and the world as it could be – and we are invited to “be” in this gap – sometimes the painful gap- between who we are and who we could be. Sometimes this is not easy.
This yearning for the world to be a more just and peaceful place is deep and ancient. Like countless generations before we are invited to consider what we can do to bridge that gap, if ever so slightly, in our own lives and in the lives of those around us.
Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
~ Jeffrey Barz-Snell P'17
Here in the beginning of Advent, we celebrate the feast of St. Andrew, one of the twelve apostles. The gospel today indicates that Andrew was with his brother Peter and was willing to drop his fishing nets to follow Jesus. I have not known many professional fishermen in my life, but my impression is that they are extremely hard working and can probably be a little "rough around the edges." How interesting that Jesus called them to be his followers. I have often wondered, did Jesus call dozens of people and these were the only twelve who followed him? Why were the fishermen and a tax collector the ones who were willing to "drop everything" and follow Jesus? They certainly weren't among the elite in society--yet there they were, following Jesus and preaching his message of God's kingdom after Jesus' death and resurrection.
The more I read the gospels, the more I become aware of Jesus's reaching out to everyone in society, especially the outcasts and the "sinners." I feel like he was relentless in his pursuit and acceptance of folks who were looked down upon in society. Was Andrew really "sought after" by anyone else in society? Were people really requesting his presence on a regular basis? Jesus was, and Andrew accepted and he ultimately gave his life for his faith, according to tradition.
I look at my own life, and how much time do I spend reaching out to the "outcasts" as Jesus did? In my honest assessment, not nearly enough. To live out Jesus' message, I think, means to spend time with people who are often forgotten in society--not just to help them, but to help ourselves. If I am not careful, I just expose myself to a faith that may change my life, like I imagine Andrew did for many people.
~ Steve Ruemenapp is Assistant Principal for Mission and Identity, husband and father of four