Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Column and cover art

Sept. 16, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Dear Followers of Jesus,

The questions of Jesus throughout the gospels are incredibly important to our faith. These questions come directly from Jesus’ mouth and they are some of the most challenging aspects of the four gospels. Questions open us to new possibilities. They are not rigid statements from Jesus’ life. His questions take on a different tone that invites us to respond to him.

Today’s question from Jesus is no different. “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:27-35) In fact, this might just be the most important question Jesus asks not only of Peter, but also of ourselves. If we are truly followers of Jesus, then his question also penetrates our soul, as it must have done for Peter. Peter is always carrying the initial burden of many of Jesus’ questions; questions that are proposed to us even today.

For many of us, being an acquaintance of Jesus is enough because we do not desire to be formed or changed by his life or questions. It is easy to walk into our churches and never think about how Jesus demands us to live our lives or what to change in them to make us better people. Sometimes it is easier to follow a set of prescriptions or rules that is the life of the Church, but never come close to the source of what the Church is really about. Jesus’ questions begin to peel away the layers of anger, rage, apathy, denial or disgust we carry within our lives. These questions form us like no other teachings of Jesus.

For all baptized Christians, these questions of Jesus are bread and butter of faith. They are essential that we use them for our prayer, our daily experience of coming closer to Divine love, forgiveness and peace. These questions in the gospels form our conscience, ease our inner burdens and satisfy our hungers for justice. If we can really live from our answers to these divine questions, our Church and world would truly become a place worth living in.

To answer today’s question that Jesus poses to Peter, we need to sift through our life experience and come to terms about our faith and what it means for us. This question implies that we have an answer. This question also suggests to us that we have had the ability to pray, to learn, to experience God’s grace, even in our past. Do we have a deep enough relationship with Christ to even begin to answer this question?

The entire point of Jesus’ ongoing question to us is to get us to live in him and not to cling to our own tight egos and certainty. We shall lose our lives in his love and his mercy and not live in only our own righteousness and self-denial. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” Take some time for deep prayer this week and ask Jesus to help you find the answer to his question, “But who do you say that I am?”

Blessings,

Fr. Ron

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: My Cover Art and Column

Sept. 9, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Dear Believers in the Christ,

Mark’s gospel (7:31-37) is evocative and challenging. Jesus clears the ears of a deaf man and releases his tongue to hear and to speak. “Be opened!” is not just a command from centuries ago. This phrase becomes a foundational posture to live as a believer in Christ.

The Church needs all of us to wake up, to clear our throats and speak the truth. I believe this is one of the most challenging times in our Church in recent centuries. We need our ears opened and voices strong in dealing with issues of secrecy, abuse and cover up. We need to seek God in this crisis and I hope you will not walk away from worship and from Christ Jesus.

We celebrate this week two feasts that give us a new clarity in how to deal with the hypocrisy of the Church. The first is the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross on September 14. All pain and suffering is offered to Christ. The victory of the cross is lived in us, and we need to live this reality with unbridled trust and love. We have nothing to lose in Christ Jesus. He is the source of healing, forgiveness and strength.

The Congregation of Holy Cross also celebrates its feast day this week. It is not the Exultation of the Holy Cross because we were not named for the cross. We were named after a village in France named Holy Cross. So our Patroness is Our Lady of Sorrows celebrated on September 15. My painting on the bulletin cover is an image of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows.

Mary stood by the suffering of her son, Jesus. There are seven sorrows in the scriptures where Mary is present and unable to change the suffering Jesus is going through. She cannot wish it away. She cannot control the suffering of her son. She cannot heal it or change that it would not happen to him.

I offer Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows as a model of how we deal with suffering. We stand by such immense suffering and we offer it to Christ Jesus. This posture of fidelity is really real in our day. We know that sex abuse is about power and not about sex. This understanding we need to bring to Mary so that Jesus may help us recognize that only his power will change people, including the hierarchy of the Church.

Mary also helps us find our voice. Although she patiently stood by suffering, she waited with a full heart of prayer, love and hope. Our voices find real meaning when we are able to wait in hope, to challenge structures, to speak boldly about the truth in Christ Jesus.

Like Mary, we need to pray for our children. With absolute abandon, we need to pray for all of our abused children and all of our children who abused others. Mary, a rock of prayer, is sure-hearted in her love of her child, Jesus. He is the one who receives our anger, rage and frustrations.

Mary will help us bless our anger. We need to turn our rage into actions of prophecy, becoming a prophetic witness to God, of truth, fidelity and beauty. Mary steadies our anger, gives us perspective and leads us to the glory of her Son, Christ Jesus.

Blessings,

Fr. Ron

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time: My cover art and column

Aug. 26, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Dear Followers of Jesus,

In John 6:60-69, we hear the last of Jesus’ narratives on the Eucharist. We have listened to this discourse for six weeks. We enter into these reflections with Jesus and the disciples because we constantly need to be reminded that the Eucharist transforms our lives within our complicated world.

Many of the disciples are coming to him saying that his teachings are too difficult. They wonder who can accept the real meaning of it all. Some of his followers are just walking away from Jesus and pursuing their former way of life. Jesus says to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

Peter responds to Jesus, “Master, to whom shall we go?” My painting on the cover of the bulletin attempts to reveal Peter’s feelings about this question of Jesus. Peter is conflicted, yet deep down he knows that Jesus brings healing and concord. Peter understands that following Jesus leads to eternal life. This is a turning point for Peter. Peter begins to understand that following Jesus costs something. Following Jesus leads to a radical change of perspective and attitude. Love is not flimsy or whimsical. This love is transformative. For Peter, following Jesus will inevitably confront his own betrayal and sin. This tension of faith shows on the face of Peter, his eyes cast down and his thoughts roaming within his mind. We have similar decisions to make, whether or not we will stay with Jesus or leave for power, greed, addiction or ego. A similar expression settles on our faces as well.

The Eucharist costs us our lives because we witness love to our world. Faith challenges the status quo. Jesus turns life upside down. Love is not cheap. When we take a stand in God, we become like Peter who struggled to find new life in following Jesus. We celebrate Eucharist in the midst of war on our streets, during conflict on our boarders, when we prefer selfishness rather than self-giving. We celebrate Mass when hatred knocks on our doors and when violence seems to identify us. If we maintain our faith, we shall stand among people in loss and poverty and hold fast to the assurance that Christ is with us. The Eucharist is profoundly counter-cultural. Where else can we go to create awareness, offer consolation, renew our love of all life or invite people into a life of genuine integrity?

The Eucharist is not a tidy little ritual we perform. The Eucharist is a radical posture of love in a world that does not want such an inclusive love or a call to justice or people transformed into people of peace. The Eucharist is not something to just adore or hold at a distance but a presence of God that changes everything. I pray we may all have the conviction of Peter to say to Jesus is our prayer, “Master, to whom shall we go?

Peace and Blessings,

Fr. Ron

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Cover and my column

August 19, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Dear Believers,

Forty years ago this month, I entered the Novitiate in the Congregation of Holy Cross. I was one of twelve that began in 1978-79 in Cascade, Colorado. I was part of the first class at Marigreen Pines. The Indiana Province moved the Novitiate from Bennington, Vermont. At the time, we had two Novitiates in the United States. Four of us were ordained priests in 1983. Three of us are still members of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Life is amazing and we never know the beautiful plans of God.

Fr. Nicholas Ayo, CSC was our Novice Director in 1978. Sacred Heart Church now owns his gold chalice. In fact, Bishop Sheridan celebrated the Mass with his chalice at the Dedication of Sacred Heart Church on May 23, 2018. Fr. Ayo now lives at the University of Notre Dame and remains one of our wisdom figures in our religious community. I am so grateful that his chalice is with us as a great reminder of the first group of Holy Cross men in this area. I am so proud to be part of our history in Colorado.

The Congregation of Holy Cross has now served in this area for forty years. We have served at Sacred Heart, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and Holy Rosary since 1984. I am grateful for also being part of the first pastoral team staffed at the parish in 1984.

This weekend we welcome Fr. Randy Rentner, CSC as our new Associate Pastor. Fr. Randy entered the Novitiate in Cascade in 1985-86. I am grateful for his willingness to serve in Colorado at this time. Let’s welcome Fr. Randy this weekend at Sacred Heart and at the parish picnic Sunday afternoon.

We also welcome the thirteen Novices who begin the forty -first class at our Holy Cross Novitiate in Cascade. These men enter a year of discernment and prayer and then prepare to profess vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience next year in July. They have been in formation at Moreau Seminary at Notre Dame during this past academic year.

On Saturday, July 28, 2018, our six Novices from last year’s class professed vows in the newly restored Sacred Heart Church. The cover of this bulletin shows pictures of the ceremony with our new Provincial of the United States Province of Holy Cross, Fr. William Leis, CSC.

In these transition days for our Novices and for Fr. Randy, I invite you to pray for the members of our religious community. We are extremely blessed to have our Novices serve on Sundays at all three of our churches. They are signs of hope for the future of our Church.

We all have much to learn from one another. I encourage you to share your stories of faith and the reasons you continue to worship in our three churches. Please pray every day for the discernment of our Novices, that they will discover their lives of vocation. As our Holy Cross motto declares, “The Cross is Our Only Hope.”

Blessings to you all,

Fr. Ron

 

Mary, Mother of the Church: Weep for Us

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“Mary, Mother of the Church: Weep for Us” Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC

My heart is very heavy this week in light of the new sex crimes of my brother priests. and the continuing cover ups from bishops and leaders.  I do not know where to turn except to Mary, Mother of the Church. I share this litany of prayer and you may want to continue this prayer with your own requests and questions. I painted this image of Mary, Mother of the Church this afternoon. 

 

Mary, weep for us who were abused.

Mary, weep for us who covered up crimes.

Mary, weep for us who believe power is more important than people.

Mary, weep for us who struggle to stay within the Church.

Mary, weep for us who want to hold on to false power.

Mary, weep for us who have lost hope in the Eucharist.

Mary, weep for us who have yet to listen to your Magnificat.

Mary, weep for us who have yet to listen to the poor and hungry.

Mary, weep for us who will not let go of privilege.

Mary, weep for us who do not know what to tell our children.

Mary, weep for us who are priests at the altar of God.

Mary, weep for us who are frustrated and fearful of institutions.

Mary, weep for us who think we have all the answers.

Mary, weep for us who do not even know what questions to ask.

Mary, weep for us who want to love your Son.

Mary, weep for us because trust in your Church is far from home.

Mary, weep for us who question whether the Eucharist is worth our time.

Mary, weep for us when we have lost our way.

Mary, weep for us in this valley of tears.

Mary, weep for us when our way is exploitive.

Mary, weep for us who struggle with the truth.

Mary, weep for us who fall under the burden of leadership.

Mary, weep for our leaders who cannot face their crimes.

Mary, weep for the parents of our abandoned children.

Mary, weep for us when our emotions are raw.

Mary, weep for us when we are exasperated.

Mary, weep for us when scandal fills our Church.

Mary, weep for us when we cannot bear the sorrow.

Mary, weep for us when we lose hope in Jesus’ presence.

Mary, weep for us when hatred overwhelms our future.

Mary, weep for us who struggle to live simple and beautiful lives.

Mary, weep for us who are poor in spirit.

Mary, weep for us who live in the swirl of constant bitterness.

Mary, weep for us who desire healthy sexuality in the Church.

Mary, weep for us who will never heal from sexual abuse.

Mary, weep for us who cannot admit our crimes.

Mary, weep for us who are threatened by the truth.

Mary, weep for us who run toward your Son, Jesus.

Mary, weep for us who have given up on prayer.

Mary, weep for us who ache to be forgiven.

Mary, weep for us who live in sex addiction.

Mary, weep for us who live in sin and division.

Mary, weep for us when our hearts are broken.

Mary, weep for us as we carry the burden of healing.

Mary, weep for us when our eyes are full of tears.

Mary, weep for us when we are bent low.

Mary, weep for us when we have no place to turn.

Mary, weep for us when we are crushed with dread.

Mary, weep for us who have been sexually assaulted by priests.

Mary, weep for us who are too numb to pray.

Mary, weep for us and open your arms to embrace us all.

Mary, weep for us and offer us love.

 

“O, Maria”: The Assumption of Mary

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“O, Maria” Painting of grandmother gazing upon the sky: Ronald Raab, CSC

“O, Maria

I see you in the sky

Clothed with the sun

And I hear you and

The promises God gave you

 

The Father told you that the poor

Shall be lifted up

Maria, I am poor, too,

And my grandbabies

They crossed the boarder

Eating sand

Their shirts ripped off their backs

From the barbwires

Trying to keep them poor

 

Now, Maria, I look up

Where you are

And I pray for my family in the dirt

I do not know where my grand-babies are

But I know you see them from the sky

You watch out for us

In the dirt, the sand and the heat

In the unknown

 

Please, Maria, look down on me

‘Cause I want to be with you

To be where you are

You know where your Son is

You remember His face

I don’t want to forget my children

And their children

I wish I could cross the boarder to heaven

And see you beautiful robes

To be welcomed among the people

The Father lifts up.”

Saint Maximilian Kolbe; Priest and Martyr

Maximillian, pray for us!

Broken But Not Divided

Kolbe 2 Kolbe, Martyr, Finger Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC 2015

(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…

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Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Cover and My Column

August 12, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Dear Followers of Jesus,

The most important conversations of my life and priesthood revolve around dining room tables, either at home or in a favorite restaurant. In all of my years of priesthood in various cities, I have gathered people at table to listen to people’s lives of struggle and joy. We have gathered to share life decisions, to sort through problems or to lift a drink in celebration of something wonderful. I could list the restaurants in every city in which I felt most at home. Meals for me are a rich form of intimacy and companionship. Meals together are a continued form of Eucharist.

Common meals are going by the wayside. They are becoming as obsolete as phones with cords or cursive penmanship. Meals with others, however, are at the core of what Eucharist means within our Church. When we lose our interest in common meals, the Eucharist also loses much of its meaning.

If we separate ourselves from Eucharist, we overlook our family stories in the Scriptures. Stories, parables, testimonies and images in Scripture give us purpose in life. They form us as a people of God. The stories around the table of Eucharist form us in an ancient humility and wonder. They teach us to trust God and not just our own inclinations or opinions.

Without the Eucharist, we lose our ability to be in touch with something greater than ourselves. We do not have all the answers. Our convictions and decisions become shaky and even destructive without other people. We need patience in community, forgiveness among those who disagree with us, hope among those who challenge us. Many young people do not have the patience to listen to older people, their parents and most especially the Church.

The Eucharist positively forms our lives in ways we cannot imagine. We learn to trust people. We learn to listen to the problems others face, the diseases that ravage family, the natural disasters that our world encounters. The Mass teaches us that life is not about ourselves. We are formed in teachings that have formed people for centuries. We learn to be hungry for God. We learn that we are not our addictions or our depression or our loneliness. Our restless hearts have remedy and hope within the Mass. I cannot live without our prayer at the altar.

The Eucharist shows us how to live, how to serve and how to believe in God. Most especially, the Eucharist shows us how to have space within our lives to welcome people who are different from us by race, education and political backgrounds. We are growing more insular and selfish and self-protected. We all need to dine with Jesus, our life, and our hope and invite our enemies and friends.

Pray this week about how you believe God is among us in the Mass. Can we recommit our lives to the mission of the Church in offering our lives to the Real Presence of Christ Jesus?

Blessings,

Fr. Ron