Click here to read my latest article in The Priest Magazine from the September 2021 issue for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.
Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.
Saint Maximillian Kolbe: Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC(This painting and reflection is from 2015)
Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr, 1894-1941
This is a crude finger painting. It is meant to be incomplete and simple because there is no easy way to interpret this man’s faith, life and death. This Polish Franciscan priest died in Auschwitz on this day in 1941.
Crown: The red crown was given to him in a vision when he was 12 years old. He had a vision of Mary who presented him with two crowns, one white that would become his reward in heaven, then a red crown, representing his martyrdom. He accepted both crowns from Mary, the Mother of God.
Mary, the Mother of God: Mary’s appearance to Maximilian gave him purpose in life. Notice how the blue beads of the rosary co-exist and even blend into the barbed wire. I must believe that…
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Dear Followers of the Beloved,
Every year, the Assumption of Mary is a holy day. This year, this solemnity falls on Sunday, so it overrides the normal Sunday scriptures. Mary is once again, the center of our focus, but only in relationship to her Son, Jesus Christ. Mary’s role in the Church is to pivot our awareness to Jesus, as her life bore the mystery of salvation, giving birth to the world’s hope. In Mary, we find a life and a lifestyle of utter dependence on and a cooperation with God alone. Her life still speaks of love, deepening our reliance of the gift of God.
Of course, there is no gospel text of Mary’s assumption into heaven. The stories we hear in the scriptures reflect her prophetic place on earth during her pregnancy. If we want to know more about Mary and her place within our devotional lives, all we need is to look, not toward heaven, but at her prophetic place in the life of her son, Jesus.
Over the centuries, Mary has been so often turned into an alabaster creature distant from our humanity. As we ponder the scriptures, Mary could not be more different. She is rugged, faithful, and unyielding in her ability to be in relationship with God. She, too, is surprised by what God is asking of her. She paid many consequences for this relationship with God the Father. Joseph almost divorced her, almost leaving her because she was pregnant out of marriage. Her life was turned upside down as a teenager. She wondered about her role in such an incredible request that she would give birth to a son. She even listened to an angel, not something that any of us would trust on any given day. Imagine, sitting in your room, an angel appears and tells you that your life will change the world, all at the age of around fourteen.
Mary is the greatest prophet of the New Testament. The prophet John heralded the coming of Jesus. Mary proclaimed God’s love and gave birth to our Savior. Mary’s life and her role still in heaven is something we all need to ponder and reflect upon in our hearts. Today’s gospel, Luke 1:39-56, gives us an incredible place to begin, the encounter Mary has with her older cousin, Elizabeth. They are both pregnant and the miracles are just beginning.
In Elizabeth’s womb is, of course, John. This scene outlines John’s role as forerunner of Jesus. John will spend his earthly life seeking his cousin, shouting in deserts for reform and repentance. Jesus is the one John points to on earth and I am sure he still does in heaven. From the womb, John’s excitement begins; he is leaping for joy.
In this text, Elizabeth is proclaiming that this encounter is greater than two cousins meeting and discussing their pregnancies. Elizabeth realizes that Mary is carrying a mystery far greater than a human child. Because of Mary’s willingness to say “yes” to God, her life will forever be holy, will forever be remembered in the story of all humanity.
Today I draw your attention to Mary’s response. Her words are inserted into this text to establish Mary as an amazing prophet. Now remember, these words are coming out of the mouth of a young girl. A woman would normally not carry such words of real cultural revolution. Her words are still being examined by us who stand on this earth figuring out her role to change to course of history. Listen attentively to Mary’s response. Do not ignore the earthiness of her place in God’s plan. These words are meant to change society. These words are flowing from a pregnant girl who in her cultural norm has no power or authority.
On this Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, I leave you with her golden words that flowed from her mouth as she visited her cousin, Elizabeth. This is one of the most important prophetic poems in our history. These words are prayed in the Church every day, in the Church’s evening prayer. Remember, these words came from Mary, the teenager.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.”
God, give you peace,
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor
Dear Followers of Jesus,
In John 6:41-51, we continue to listen to Jesus’s words about food that lasts. Jesus becomes the way the Father feeds us. His presence is real food in the Eucharist. He also fed us with his actions, his healing, and his commands while he was on earth. Jesus feeds in so many ways. We so often want to avoid many of the ways he nourishes us, especially when he invites us to let go of possessions, to welcome the abandoned poor, and to turn the other cheek. We so often ignore such food, such advice, such relationship.
There have been numerous studies, questionnaires, and opinion polls recently about what Catholics believe about the Eucharist. In most of these surveys, only about one third of Catholics believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist. There are many reasons for people slipping away from faith and the Church. However, I believe that one reason is that the Eucharist is not lived out in our lives in the Church. It is not noticed. Most people would never think that Christians believe in such a miracle because they do not see it revealed in our lives.
This notion reminds me of a quote from C. S. Lewis. In 1910, he noted, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been difficult; and left untried.” I hold on to this because it seems so true to me. Christianity, especially viewed from the Eucharist, is so often stifled by so many of us thinking it is only for personal piety or private salvation.
Instead, the Eucharist is meant to give us a vision of what heaven is and how to live it in the world. As believers, we become the Body of Christ from baptism. The liturgy is corporate prayer of the People of God. In this prayer, we lift our deepest humanity to the Father. We stand among one another learning how to be animators of love in the world. Justice, peace, unity among racial divides, forgiveness among enemies, release of captives, lifting the poor out of desolation, feeding the hungry, forever working for peace, are all gifts of the Holy Spirit from the Eucharist. Perhaps, Lewis is on to something. Christianity is meant to be a revolution, not just a devotion. Christianity does not really ask much of anyone in our world today. Therefore, people have walked away, and the Eucharist has faded into devotional prayer. Challenge, conversion, transformation are the opportunities for rebirth and deeper commitment in the Church today.
Also, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is essential. As Catholics, most people were never given the tools to develop a relationship with Christ. We leaned on the Mass as our only prayer in the Church, as an obligation. We were told we seldom deserved God. We were not good enough or devout enough. Our lifestyle was not holy enough or we were not saintly enough. The outcome of developing a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ is ultimately to examine each day in view of his love for us not his condemnation. Being in relationship with Jesus helps us to learn how to forgive each day, how to examine our lives each night and how to learn ultimately that we are loved by God beyond measure. We are created in him, through him, for him, with him, all for the glory of the Father.
In today’s gospel, we hear Jesus say, “I am the bread of life.” If we hear this at Mass, we need hearts in which these words can resonate. We need a relationship with Jesus that knows what it means to be hungry for his love, his mercy, and his kindness. We also need a life that supports an understanding that only God can ultimately feed us with lasting things, with soul nourishing things such as peace, wisdom, and tenderness.
People were surprised that Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary, was saying amazing and unbelievable things. They were murmuring among themselves. In so many ways, we have not moved beyond people’s questioning him. We are still murmuring among ourselves, scratching our heads, wondering if Jesus is still among us in this most beautiful and marvelous way in the Breaking of the Bread and in our sharing in the Cup of Salvation.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.
God give you peace,
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor
Yesterday at Sacred Heart Church in Colorado Springs, five men professed vows in the Congregation of Holy Cross. They spent this past year in our Holy Cross Novitiate in Cascade, Colorado. The newly professed will now return to Notre Dame for graduate school.
This reflection is published in Give Us This Day, July 2021, by Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN
A Prophet’s Attention
Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, served as president of the University of Notre Dame for thirty-five years. Not as widely known, perhaps, was his fifteen years of service on the United States’ Civil Rights Commission. I grew up just miles from Notre Dame and vividly remember local television news broadcasting his prophetic witness across the globe. Throughout my youth, I watched from our living room as Fr. Hesburgh influenced five popes and many world leaders.
I learned from black and white television that a prophet’s voice impacts the world in living color. His voice planted a seed for my vocation as I watched a priest of the Church offer education and concern to a broken world. His voice knew no academic or national border. I heard Jesus when he spoke.
The source of the prophetic voice is Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus is the ground of truth and change. Many people approached Jesus for physical and spiritual healing. Today, victims of abuse, racial injustice, disease, and human trafficking beg every Christian to speak out and on their behalf. Attention to suffering forms the prophet’s words and actions.
The prophet speaks knowing the cost of discipleship. My voice is not a clear trumpet as was Fr. Hesburgh’s. However, I still listen to the mentally ill runaway, the husband lost in pornography, and the mother who aches for sobriety. I don’t have solutions for them, but their pain opens my heart and forms my outcry. I am learning that the prophet’s say-so rings true at home or across the globe.
Fr. Ronald Raab
Ronald Patrick Raab, CSC, is pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs. Learn more at http://www.ronaldraab.com.
August 1, 2021
18th Sunday in OT
Dear Believers in the Christ,
In today’s gospel, John 6:24-35, Jesus invites us to center our hearts on food that does not perish. His presence as food and drink, reveals to us the mercy of heaven. The Eucharist we all receive changes our lives, our mission as Church, and opens new doors to welcome those God needs the most. God befriends the lost, the weary and the sinner and he truly desires to heal all of us. His food, the Eucharist, reveals the sign of God’s Kingdom here on earth.
Sometimes in our society, we settle for the bottom line. What time do we need to show up? How much does this cost? When does this event end? What can I gain if I meet a stranger? When will I get my share? Tell me what to do so I can get the most benefit with the least amount of input. Tell me why I should care…about anything.
We can easily translate this sense of bottom line in our spiritual lives, especially when it comes to the Eucharist. Does it count if I get to church after the gospel? Can I get the host if I come in at the last minute? If I get the host, then I can go heaven, right? And all I need is to get the host just once a year, right? Do I have to go to confession first so I can earn my place in heaven?
We often want to limit and reduce the God of All Creation, the God of Wonder and Justice, the God of Heaven and Earth, to our timetable on Sunday so we can make a tee time or go to brunch. The Eucharist requires of us to be in relationship with God. Like any relationship, it requires time, intimacy, give and take, showing up and vulnerability. We so often don’t get the results we need in prayer, so we make God an insurance policy at the end of our lives so we know we can go to heaven. Well, if we didn’t want to spend time with God on earth, what makes us think we will enjoy heaven for all eternity? So, we learn to open our hearts, our minds, our souls, here on earth.
The Eucharist is not just meant for personal piety. The Eucharist is meant to transform the world. The grace of our Eternal Father is revealed in the Real Presence of Christ Jesus. We capture a glimpse of the Kingdom in the Eucharist for all humanity. We are now the Body of Christ here on earth becaIf our hearts are open, we see our lives in the glory of God’s love, mercy, and kindness. Receiving the Real Presence of Jesus Christ is not our reward to keeping the rules and regulations of our Church. The Eucharist is for us, who really need God, for those who have been abandoned by life, lost among the fry of injustice, hatred, violence, and sin. In fact, the most broken people among us, know that they need God, and we can all learn what that means when we enter the mystery of our humanity.
The Father reveals the Kingdom in the Breaking of the Bread. God’s food is meant to feed our humanity. We learn how to become more human when we share the Eucharist. We learn that God’s grace is not meant to make us more pious or otherworldly, but we are to learn how to live on this earth in a new reliance on God. In other words, we become people who work for the dignity of all human life, to relieve the suffering of the oppressed, to give food to those starving, to protect our children from violence, abuse, and neglect. The Eucharist is given to us so we can imitate heaven here on earth. The Eucharist reveals our deepest humanity. The Eucharist is a foreshadowing of heaven. If we have a taste of love here on earth, we make recognize God then in all eternity. If we do not know love now, I often wonder how we will know love when we see God face to face.
It is learning to be human that is the key to spiritually. We are not to live as angels here on the earth, this is always impossible. We are created by God to learn what this creation means. We are to enter our deepest longings and desires as human beings. There God meets us, he feeds us and calls us into changing the world. We are to open our hearts, minds, and experiences to what it means to walk on this earth as children of God desiring a better world for the future of all life and all good. Therefore, we always pray for those most in need at Mass, to lift the needs of people so they can capture a glimpse that we believe what we proclaim, that God is here in our midst. The Real Presence is not just on the altar, but in every human life and heart.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
God give you peace,