The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A, February 5, 2023, Prayers of the Faithful

Sunday February 5, 2023

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

For people who share a bright light of leadership in the Church. May they focus their light on relieving poverty, hunger, and homelessness for the survival of our families.

We pray to the Lord.

For people who shiver under bushel baskets and who hide their lives in fear. May we realize our lives are true gifts from the joy and light of Jesus Christ.

We pray to the Lord.

For people who stumble in the dark of loneliness, depression, and destructive addictions. May they spark an inner light of compassion and self-care.

We pray to the Lord.

For people who face the dark times of unemployment, cancer detection, and physical hardships. May we shed light on restoring dignity and healing to all people.

We pray to the Lord.

For people lost in the dark shadows of war. May we bring supplies for survival and negations for peace along all the perimeters of despair and violence.  

We pray to the Lord.

For people who have lost family businesses, farmlands, water-rights, and employment. May dark greed not overwhelm our livelihoods. May our futures reside in the light of concern for the basics of life and family survival.

We pray to the Lord.

For people lost in the past. May the dark memories of abuse, neglect, grief, and inner hatred not destroy the beauty of our gifts or our children’s futures.

We pray to the Lord.

For people who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. May our loved ones find the light and joy of heaven.

We pray to the Lord.

The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A, January 29, 2023, Prayers of the Faithful

Sunday January 29, 2023 Cycle A

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

For people who struggle to be Church leaders. May our trailblazers surrender to God’s compassion in times of division and uncertainty.

We pray to the Lord.

For people threatened by the violence of grief. May those who have lost employment, family relationships, and even courage, discover the healing presence of Jesus Christ.

We pray to the Lord.

For people tethered to past accomplishments so to make their appearance shine falsely bright. May Christ cut our ties to pride and selfishness.  

We pray to the Lord. 

For people living under the siege of war, mass shootings, and utter violence and chaos. May we work diligently for justice across every nation under heaven.

We pray to the Lord.

For people who will never believe their own worth. May we surrender to the beauty of life even when the shroud of depression and mental illness covers our perspectives, decisions, and our faith.

We pray to the Lord.

For people who have lost the security of home. May we build a network of hope for those who survive outside with not only boards and nails but with lives of courage.

We pray to the Lord.

For people who hang their heads in shame. May they finally stand on solid ground of love and forgiveness where they will inherit inner joy.

We pray to the Lord.

For our loved ones who have died. May our beloved find home and eternal gladness in the face of Jesus Christ. May we rejoice with them here on earth.

We pray to the Lord.

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 22, 2023, Cycle A, Prayers of the Faithful

Sunday January 22, 2023 Cycle A

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

For people striving to follow Christ in unity.  May the Holy Spirit lead us in harmony no matter the spiritual cost.

We pray to the Lord.

For people who hear the call to leave everything and follow unknown paths. May Christ Jesus lead us all to surrender our hearts to love under heaven.

We pray to the Lord.

For people who live in tangled nets of selfishness and hopelessness. May Christ’s voice free us to walk on shores of love and vibrant hope.

We pray to the Lord.

For people netted in fear and self-doubt and who keep the risk of faith at bay. May Christ call us all to discipleship of courageous action.  

We pray to the Lord.

For people lost upon landscapes of mistrust and hardship where their hearts remain baron and anxious. May Christ speak hope in every despairing life.  

We pray to the Lord.

For people who have burned their feet upon the shores of hatred and greed. May Christ carry us along the paths of respect for all humanity.

We pray to the Lord.

For people who carry personal burdens and family secrets. May Christ unleash mercy upon those who needlessly bear on their shoulders the burdens of the world.

We pray to the Lord.

For people who long to reach the eternal shore. May Christ lead our beloved dead safely home to the promises of heaven.

We pray to the Lord.

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 15, 2023, Cycle A, Prayers of the Faithful

Sunday January 15, 2023 Cycle A

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

For the health and wellbeing of Francis, our Pope, and all who shepherd us toward honesty and integrity. May we not stumble on false pride and entitlement.

We pray to the Lord.

For a loving remembrance of our common baptism. May we learn with childlike awe to claim our authority of faith from the healing voice of God. May our waters of baptism break into new life of healing and hope for all people on earth.

We pray to the Lord.

For a vital listening to God’s voice in days of thunderous echoes of hatred and violence. May our hearts be attuned to the subtle sounds of love upon the earth.

We pray to the Lord.

For nations plagued with uprisings, conflicts, and wars. May God’s authority of peace be entrusted to us in liberating our people from corruption.

We pray to the Lord.

For people blanketed in self-doubt and mental fatigue. May we warm those suffering from emotional disorders with words of hope and actions of friendship.

We pray to the Lord.

For children pushed into corners of neglect and abuse. May the true authority of love shelter the most vulnerable in our world. May the next generation find within us a desire for peace and security.

We pray to the Lord.

For our elderly ambushed by loneliness and insufficient healthcare. May we open our eyes to those who weep in the nighttime. May the Holy Spirit reveal hope to all marginalized people.

We pray to the Lord.

For people shivering in grief. May those who have lost love on earth find hope in the promise of heaven for their families and friends who have died.

We pray to the Lord.

(REBLOG) US Catholic Magazine, 2010. Saint Andre Bessette.

Our world-wide Congregation of Holy Cross celebrates Saint Andre on January 7 because so many countries celebrate Epiphany on January 6. Here is a reblog of my article published in US Catholic Magazine in 2010.

Brother André Bessette didn’t need fancy degrees to know how to welcome the sick who came to the Holy Cross community. Now, he’s the order of educators’ first saint.

My path to the priesthood, as with all priests in the United States, involved many years of higher education. I earned two degrees from the University of Notre Dame before being ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1983. Later I received yet another master’s degree from Notre Dame. I learned all the appropriate professional skills. I studied the correct rubrics from scholars of liturgical history. The vision of the Second Vatican Council prepared me for what I thought my work would entail.

The education that truly formed me, however, has been learning to pray through my own suffering and the inconsolable pain of others. I am now a student of an uneducated orphan and sickly man, Brother André (Alfred) Bessette, C.S.C., born 30 miles from Montreal in 1845. Ironically, the frail, illiterate brother is our first saint in the Congregation of Holy Cross, a religious order that is best known for our achievements in education.

Brother André dedicated his life to St. Joseph and to people suffering from spiritual and physical illness. He convinced the Holy Cross community in Montreal in the early 1900s to build St. Joseph’s Oratory. Today, the oratory houses the many crutches, canes, and wheelchairs left behind by healed pilgrims who prayed to St. Joseph upon Brother André’s request.

Because of his ill health, members of Holy Cross did not initially want Brother André as a member of the Congregation. His novice master begged the community to allow him to stay because of his intense prayer. He professed vows and was assigned as porter at Notre Dame College in Montreal, the only formal ministry he held his entire life. He began to welcome the sick and the fragile, the ill and the outcast. His door became his entry into people’s deep suffering and isolation. André’s formally educated confreres quickly became displeased with so many sick people congregating around the schoolyard.

Brother André persevered in his devotions. He told people who were ill to pray to St. Joseph, to rub oil on their wounds, to believe in the miracles of Christ Jesus. He experienced God’s healing of thousands of people. He became known as the “miracle worker of Mount Royal.”

Now that I have come to the doors of the Downtown Chapel in Portland, Oregon, I have learned to pray and serve from Brother André’s example. These red steel doors open every day to hundreds of people who cry for help dealing with mental illness or who are consumed with unending loneliness.

Our parish staff and volunteers welcome to our daily hospitality center people struggling to get off drugs, the recently unemployed, and those who have spent their entire adult lives living outside. We welcome people who lash out at others because they cannot heal from their own sexual abuse. We welcome people with gangrene and people who have just been released from jail. Every day we are confronted with our insufficient answers to unsolvable problems.

I arrived here at the red doors of the Downtown Chapel more than eight years ago disillusioned with many aspects of the church. I arrived here in great need of spiritual healing. I turned to Brother André to welcome me, just as he welcomed others in need of healing and consolation in Montreal. Now I experience what André encountered, the inconsolable pain of people. People living in poverty are now my teachers.

Because he could not read, André memorized the Beatitudes and other passages of scripture that offer hope to people in pain. He believed that faith alone was the answer to real human suffering. Confronted with hundreds of people each day waiting to speak with him, André often lost his patience. He was often rude and curt with people who did not want to pray. His curmudgeonly style did not deter people from wanting to be physically touched and emotionally affirmed by God.

I lose my patience as well when I realize in recent years the church has moved away from its healing mission, relinquishing many hospitals, nursing homes, and orphanages. The personal touch of healing has been replaced by large corporations and impersonal technology. At our parish doors, I realize that faith alone can motivate people to give of themselves when other people hurt in so many ways.

Brother André died on January 6, 1937. More than a million pilgrims streamed to Montreal for his funeral. In those days before jet planes, the Internet, and cell phones, the real communication of faith and gratitude spread rapidly among believers.

The Catholic Church canonized Brother André Bessette in Rome on Sunday, October 17, 2010. On that day, I unlocked our red doors in Portland and praised God for André’s example.

(REBLOG) “Message in a Bottle”, Published in Celebrate! Magazine, Summer 2011, Memorial of Saint Andre Bessette, CSC

We celebrate the Memorial of Saint Andre Bessette on January 6, the day he died in 1937. In some countries, the celebration is moved to January 7, because of Epiphany. This article was published in Celebrate! Magazine, from Canada in 2011, when I lived in Portland, OR. Please pray for our marginalized brothers and sisters throughout the world. Pray fervently for people who are in need of physical and spiritual healing. Ask Saint Andre to intercede for the benefit of all people.

A friend traveled to Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal in Quebec, Canada last autumn. My religious community, the Congregation of Holy Cross, commissioned him to journey to the site of the many healings attributed to Saint Andre Bessette, CSC. His task was to photograph the celebrations of Brother Andre’s canonization both in Montreal and in Rome. During his visit to Montreal he photographed pilgrims walking on their knees on the steep steps of the Oratory. He shot people praying in the chapels and gardens and the room where Brother Andre lived. My friend even photographed Brother Andre’s heart that is still enshrined at the Oratory.

When the photojournalist arrived back in Portland, we shared coffee, stories and the photos from his journey. As we sipped coffee at a local coffeehouse, he handed me a white paper sack and told me it was a special gift. I opened the wrinkled bag and took out a bottle of Saint Joseph’s oil from the Oratory’s gift shop. An artist’s sketch in blue, red and white of Saint Joseph carrying a white lily adorns the plastic bottle.

These words appear in several languages on the side of the 500ml container: “Brother Andre often advised those who came to him to rub themselves with some vegetable oil which had been burning in front of the statue of Saint Joseph. Even today, oil used in this manner remains a link with our tradition. It is an expression of faith. It is not the oil itself which cures, but the Lord who hears the prayers of the faithful.”

The unopened bottle of oil still sits on a bookshelf next to my bible in my bedroom. I admit I really do not know how to use it. I am not sure where this oil of devotion fits into the healing ministry of the Church today. In fact, I am deeply confused about many aspects of healing and how we carry on the tradition of Jesus reaching out to the leper, the blind man and the Canaanite woman’s daughter. I firmly believe there is a message contained in the bottle of oil. I just do not know how to get it out of the sealed bottle and into people’s lives.

Many believers question the use of such oil today within worshipping assemblies. Some people associate healing with snake oil salesman and sleight-of-hand trickery of fundamentalist preachers trying to make a living. Many liturgists frown upon such personal devotion because a bishop in the context of the Chrism Mass has not blessed this oil during Holy Week. This oil does not fit into the traditional sacramental life of the Church. This oil goes well beyond the clerical role of anointing the sick and forgiving sins within the seven sacraments of the Church. This bottle of oil used in the tradition of Brother Andre seems far removed from the sacramental, clerical and liturgical norms.

I know I am also not alone in my skepticism about physical, emotional and spiritual healing within the Church today. People are suspicious about healing because first of all we are all powerless over suffering. I have known and observed priests who refuse to pray with people individually because they are afraid to enter into the depths and uncertainty of people’s real suffering. Others are squeamish about body pain, surgeries, bloody accidents, physical abnormalities, paralysis and the fact that suffering itself is uncontrollable. Sacramental rubrics, liturgical rites and decrees from the institutional church cannot control suffering. For many clergy, if suffering cannot be controlled, the best form of healing is to avoid it all together.

I am also suspicious of healing based upon my graduate studies in our liturgical tradition and my training in pastoral and professional skills. The professional minister today is trained to avoid such attempts to heal because it does not fit into any field education requirements or competencies. In many ways the professional model of the church today has drained much of the Spirit’s presence out of any notion that healing happens with vegetable oil, scapulars, personal devotions, holy cards or prepackaged devotions of any kind.

During the lifetime of Brother Andre, the ministry of healing was a prime mission of many religious communities.  Religious communities of men and women in the past set out on horseback in the United States to found and build hospitals, orphanages, and care facilities for anyone who was lost, forgotten, ill or dying. Today the presence of priests, brothers and sisters in institutions of healing has given way to the latest technology and concerns over insurance coverage. Our church has lost much of its personal mission of healing.

I am desperate to find healing today. I simply do not know where to turn to discover answers. I stand daily amid the brutal chaos of people living with severe mental illness. Many people hear voices that tell them to kill themselves, to ignore their medications and to punish themselves. People sit in the rain around our building and cry out in the night. They lash out at passersby and refuse to speak with their counselors who are assigned to our streets.

I pray for healing for people who blame homeless people for being homeless. I want healing for every family so that our gay and lesbian children will not be abused or bullied. Hundreds of children have fled into the woods or the streets in Oregon because of domestic abuse. I lash out in the night to God that young girls are being trafficked in our suburban shopping malls or in upscale grade schools. I am not sure how much more I can take of the young mother diagnosed with breast cancer or the addict that refuses treatment or the honor student who cuts herself.

I realize I cannot control countries at war or how the institutional church treats people. If I can find my way into this bottle of oil, I may be able to focus my belief that God alone heals. I desire healing amidst the shambles of people’s stories and their regrets from the past. I am now realizing the message in the bottle is also for the cynic and the critic.

Hundreds of people came to Brother Andre every day during his ministry. I now sense his frustration about people’s lives. Andre first guided people to stay close the healing sacraments of the Church. However, so often people were not healed. They needed so much more than what he could give them. He reached for the oil that was there at the Saint Joseph statue because that is what was available to him. Brother Andre told some mothers to wash their children in dishwater and or to go to confession. He said all those things because he did not have answers to the depths of people’s suffering and anguish.

There is something in this bottle of oil that frightens me. I must come to terms with God’s healing love in the world that is more potent than my fear and more consoling than the oil from the Saint Joseph statue. God’s healing happens without our permission, rules or guidelines. God does not commit healing power only to the well educated, the immaculately dressed or the clean cut. God’s healing happens amidst the mess, chaos and confusion of everyone trying to figure out how to ease suffering, whether of others or their own.

God healed many people through Brother Andre’s intercession even though Andre was not a priest, not within the confines of the sacramental church.  The oil for so many was simply a reminder of what they already knew but had forgotten in the midst of their pain, that God alone eases suffering, forgives sin and offers new life for the body and the soul.

Someday I will have the courage to open the bottle of oil. I will take the risk of unsealing the bottle and opening my heart. I will risk that my relationship with suffering people allows God to enter and heal everyone beyond my imagining. I will take the step to pray with people upon their request. I will pour out the holy oil and believe in the miracle that Jesus’ passion leads to new life for me and for every person. Someday I will receive the message hidden in the plastic bottle on my bookcase.