Friday, September 30, 2011

Feast of Feasts!

It seems we are in the midst of a “feast of feasts”. Tuesday was the feast of St. Vincent dePaul, a very important part of our spirituality because our Founder, Father Thomas Judge, CM, was a Vincentian priest. We call the Vincentian priests and Brothers and the Daughters of Charity our “cousins”.
Yesterday was the feast of the Archangels, Gabriel, Raphael and Michael. Today is the feast of St. Jerome.
St. Jerome has become a favorite of mine. My first mission in Mexico was in a town called San Jeronimito. St. Jerome was the church’s patron and a large image of him hung in the front of the Church. The patronal feasts are celebrated with gusto in Mexico. Our arrival on the mission coincided with the feast. The people of San Jeronimito had never had Religious in their parish, which consisted of well over 50 chapels spread out over a large area. We received a grand welcome from them and the pastor. The Bishop even drove from Acapulco to celebrate and also welcome the new Sisters. This feast always brings back the memory of that wonderful day.
San Jeronimito, in the state of Guerrero, was a place in peril in many ways. It was touched by drug trafficking. While the town is on the coast, nearby mountainous areas were the scene of marijuana crops. I often heard the cry, “grow marijuana or starve to death”. I met many people who made courageous choices; the ones who chose not to grow marijuana as well as those who spoke out against the trafficking and ensuing violence. Some outspoken priests and religious as well as others lost their lives. All this happened close to 20 years before today’s drug-related terror and publicity.
San Jeronimito was in peril also because there was another war going on, the war against Catholicism. This may sound like a dramatic statement; however, San Jeronimito and the surrounding areas were dominated by religious sects. Catholics were a minority and were bombarded by visits from proselytizers holding Bibles and pointing to verses to prove that Catholics were wrong about just about everything. I might add that some of these groups had their own bibles. The verses in these bibles were and are changed regularly to accommodate their teachings.
The people were bewildered and would approach us asking us to teach them about the bible. I felt so inadequate with my very limited biblical knowledge. Around the same time I had been invited to study theology and wasn’t sure which area to choose. That quickly became a no-brainer. My desire to know more about the bible was fueled by these people so poor they had to scrimp and save to purchase one, but did so with such love and desire for the Word of God.
Returning to school was not easy after being away so many years. But, I became a highly highly motivated learner. Besides, I had my patron! In my first semester when I became acquainted with the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, I saw the quote: “Love the holy Scriptures, and wisdom will love you. Love wisdom, and she will keep you safe. Honor wisdom and she will embrace you.” (St. Jerome) St. Jerome also said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” An assiduous scholar, he is known for his translations of the Bible, particularly translating the Old Testament from the original Hebrew to Latin as well as for his work correcting some of the Latin in the New Testament. He is also known for his sometimes irascible nature and even had the chutzpah to take on St. Augustine when he didn’t agree with him. That didn’t diminish Augustine’s respect for him. He said, "What Jerome is ignorant of, no mortal has ever known."
He was also a great supporter of women in their desire for knowledge and holiness. His own quest for holiness is also inspiring.
St. Jerome is called the Father of Biblical Science. He is the patron of biblical scholars, researchers, translators, librarians, and probably more, including those of us who have occasional grumpy days! I’m really grateful he was the patron of San Jeronimito.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New Beginnings

It is incredulous, almost overwhelming, to think that we are in a new month. It’s not just a new month, but for many a new year as they return to school. September 1 also says summer is just about over.

Summer is a time for refreshment and renewal, a time when supposedly things slow down a little. It’s an opportunity to reflect on how we are living our lives. Things were anything but slowing down for us. Among many other things I was getting set to return to Mexico for a mission week with young women interested in our Community as well as other vocation promotion work. Then suddenly my life came to what seemed like a screeching halt. I needed several tests and ultimately a biopsy, I soon learned how interminable a week can be when you are waiting for results realizing that your life could change dramatically.

I didn’t get to go on vacation or retreat this summer. That will have to wait. But I did get some time for reflection. Health crises can remind us of how much we take for granted.

I have always been grateful for my good health, but will now be even more so. I also had a chance while waiting in hospitals and doctors offices to think about how many people don’t always get good results. Their lives do change dramatically. Not only theirs, but their loved ones as well. I also thought of how many people have neither adequate health care nor the insurance to pay for it.

In some ways I begin the Fall with a sense of newness. Thank God my biopsy was negative, and I have a whole new sense of gratitude for my health and for the support I received.

I’m also beginning this new month by having been able to return to Mexico. This weekend we’ll have a discernment retreat with our ST brothers at their novitiate in Huitzila, possibly a new beginning for the young men and women who will be attending as they discover their calling in life. Please keep them and the Team in your prayers.

There’s so much to be grateful for.