Easter Sunday: It’s Not About the Bunnies

I hope everyone is having an enjoyable Holy Week, whether you are traveling or staying here to enjoy the first taste of Spring weather in Oregon.  Although we will not have our usual Wednesday morning TMIY meeting, I thought I would share some thoughts from one of my favorite authors, James Martin, SJ.

Fr. Martin is a best-selling author of such books as “Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life” and “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life” and big Monty Python fan.  Fr. Martin may be best known for his writings and emphasizing humor as a central part of living the Gospel, whether it be bringing Cardinal Dolan and Stephen Colbert together for a lively discussion on spiritual humor last summer to a tongue-in-cheek campaign for pope last month.

However, two years ago, Fr. Martin wrote a very powerful article in the Washington Post on how one quiet Sunday morning almost 2,000 years ago changed the history of the world and continues to have a dramatic effect on billions of people today.  An excerpt is set forth below, but I encourage you to read the entire article here.

“It’s not about bunnies. It’s not about coloring eggs. It’s not about chocolate. It’s not about flowers. It’s not even about spring or signs of “new life” in nature after a long winter. So what is Easter about?

It’s about something almost terrifyingly serious: Jesus rose from the dead.

That’s one reason why Easter hasn’t been completely subsumed by the consumer culture. (Though department stores and cheesy movies like “Hop” try their best to do so.) Christmas, which can be cast as the cozy story of Mary and Joseph and their little baby Jesus surrounded by cuddly animals in a manger, is easily domesticated. Easily tamed. More easily sold to the masses.

Easter, on the other hand, is untameable. The man whose followers imagined him to be the Messiah, the one who would forcefully, even violently, deliver them from the hands of their oppressors (For isn’t that what the Baptist said?) was tried, beaten and executed like a common thug. What’s more, after the crucifixion the Gospels portray the disciples not as stalwart stewards of their master’s legacy, but as abject cowards, cowering behind locked doors for fear of someone trying to arrest them.

Then on Easter Sunday everything changes

* * * 

And what Jesus said during his earthly ministry (love one another, pray for your enemies, give to the poor) now takes on added meaning for the disciples.

Easter is not about bunnies or chocolate or eggs. It is an event that makes a claim on you. Either you believe that Jesus did not rise from the dead (or his body was stolen, or the Gospels are made up, or the disciples simply “remembered” him and passed on his message). Or you believe he was raised from the dead. In which case everything changes for you, too.”


Lenten Enrichment Opportunities the Next Three Weeks

Dear Brothers in Christ:

As we continue our Lenten Journey, I wanted to remind you of three exciting opportunities to enrich our faith in the upcoming weeks:

The Madison Diocese Men’s Retreat in Madison on February 22-23.

The St. Ann’s / HMC Christian Experience Weekend on March 1-3.

The Men of Christ Conference in Milwaukee on March 9.

Madison Diocese Retreat

The Madison Diocese will be holding its Men’s Lenten Retreat on February 22-2e at the Bishop O’Connor Pastoral Center.  This year’s speakers include Fr. John Zuhlsdor (“Fr. Z”), author of blog “What Does Prayer Really Say” and Mr. Raymdond de Souza, an internationally known apologist.

 Christian Experience Weekend

We have the Christian Experience Weekend (CEW) at St. Ann’s on March 1-3.  I had the opportunity to attend CEW for the first time last year and it truly was a life changing event for me.  It is a very unique and moving experience of sharing and bonding with other men who are going through the same struggles that I was.  Regretfully, I have a conflict this year and will not be able to attend but I strongly encourage you to consider attending, especially if you have not yet done it.

Men of Christ Conference

It’s a good down to earth conference that has had attendance of over 3,000 men. National speakers such as Joe Lombardi (grandson of Vince Lombardi), Joe McClane (founder of The Catholic Hack website) and Bob Dolan (brother of Archbishop and long-shot papal candidate, Timothy Dolan) and others.  The speakers have be awesome and inspiring talking about men’s issues and our call to be real men in our culture. They put it the way it is and are true to the church.

This year one of the speakers is Steve Bollman, the founder of TMIY.  The day starts in prayer in the morning with the conference kicking off at 9AM. There is also a 7:00 Mass with Archbishop Listecki (Milwaukee) if you want to come early.

About 100 priests volunteer to come and hear confessions over lunch – this has been very rewarding for both the priests and men who have attended the conference. One or two more speakers in the afternoon followed by Mass with Bishop Hying. It is a long, but very rewarding day.

The Conference is at the Milwaukee Theater in downtown Milwaukee.  I am trying to rearrange my schedule to attend.  We are also looking to coordinate carpools with the TMIY group in Waunakee.

Discerning the Will of God

This week to begin Ash Wednesday, we focus on an especially useful topic in our personal relationship with God.  We will discuss a particular seven-steps of discerning the will of God.

1.  Enter into a dialogue with God.

2.  Enter into profound silence.

3.  Bring Mary into your spiritual life.

4.  Evaluate holy desires according to the faith and morals of the Church.

5.  Evaluate holy desires according to state-in-life.

6.  Evaluate holy desires according to external signs.

7.  Evaluate holy desires according to peace.

Wishing you and your family peace and joy as we begin this Lenten journey.


Setting Your Mind on Things Above: Scripture

During Week 17, we studied how scripture can bring us closer to God.  Until recently, scripture was not part of my routine.  However, in the last several years, I began to appreciate the richness that scripture study and meditation can add to a prayer life.  Most of my routine focuses on the scripture readings at Daily Mass, which cover most of the books of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament over a two year period.  The daily readings are wonderfully put together and tell a beautiful story of how God has communicated with humans over the last 3,000 years.

Here are some Jesuit resources to daily scripture study and prayer (I went to a Jesuit college and love their spirituality):

Creighton’s Daily Reflections

Living Space (Daily Scripture Commentaries by Irish Jesuits)

Sacred Space (Daily Prayers by Irish Jesuits)

I would love to hear good resources from anyone else.  Please post them in the Comment section below.


The Beauty of the Creator

Dear Brothers in Christ:

For our January 23 session, we will continue our discussion of Step #4:  Set your mind on the things above.  This week, we will talk about ways to encounter the creator through the beauty of creation and art.

Candidly, I am more of a “left-brained” analytical type that was never good at art and never had a solid appreciation of it.  However, as I have gotten older and redisovered by faith, I have begun to have a deeper appreciation of art (although I still not good at it:-).  I now realize that art allows God to touch the human soul in a way that no other medium can.

We are very fortunate at HMC to have an exceptionally talented artist in our midst in the person of Fr. Gary.  I have been awestruck with the several paintings of his that I have seen.  Further, I had the good fortune of seeing the Sistine Chapel during a trip to the Vatican in November 2011.  That was a marvelous experience and I was able to take some pictures that are posted here.  Better pictures are available here.  My iPhone and the web do not do it justice and I would recommend anyone who has the chance to visit it in person.


Setting Your Mind on Things Above

Greetings men.  I hope that you are off to a wonderful 2013.  I am excited to get back in the swing of things and I really appreciated our first meeting of the Spring semester last Wednesday.  This semester, we will be focusing on the last four steps of our seven step program:

4.  Set your mind on the things above.

5. Find God in other persons.

6. Find God in yourself.

7. Make it easy to be good and hard to be bad.

Last week was a general overview and this week we are launching into Step #4:  Set your mind on the things above.  I am attaching a survey provided by TMIY.  Please print and return the survey this week.  We will also have hard copies available Wednesday.


Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

December 12 is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patron Saint of the Americas.  Set forth below is a homily of Blessed John Paul II from his 1999 visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe:


Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City
Saturday, 23 January 1999

Dear brothers and sisters, the time has come to banish once and for all from the continent every attack against life. No more violence, terrorism and drug-trafficking! No more torture or other forms of abuse! There must be an end to the unnecessary recourse to the death penalty! No more exploitation of the weak, racial discrimination or ghettoes of poverty! Never again! These are intolerable evils which cry out to heaven and call Christians to a different way of living, to a social commitment more in keeping with their faith. We must rouse the consciences of men and women with the Gospel, in order to highlight their sublime vocation as children of God. This will inspire them to build a better America. As a matter of urgency, we must stir up a new springtime of holiness on the continent so that action and contemplation will go hand in hand.

I wish to entrust and offer the future of the continent to Blessed Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church. For this reason, I have the joy now of announcing that I have declared that on 12 December Our Lady of Guadalupe faith of our brothers and sisters, so that in all areas of social, professional, cultural and political life they may act in accord with the truth and the new law which Jesus brought to humanity. Look with mercy on the distress of those suffering from hunger, loneliness, rejection or ignorance. Make us recognize them as your favourite children and give us the fervent charity to help them in their needs.

Holy Virgin of Guadalupe, Queen of Peace! Save the nations and peoples of this continent. Teach everyone, political leaders and citizens, to live in true freedom and to act according to the requirements of justice and respect for human rights, so that peace may thus be established once and for all.

To you, O Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, belong all the love, honour, glory and endless praise of your American sons and daughters!