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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Monthly Archives: April 2012
Wednesday
As we began our Lenten Retreat together, I invited each of us to attempt to do the following: STOP! BREATHE! LISTEN! FORGIVE! LOVE YOURSELF! LOVE GOD! LOVE OTHERS! Whether we accomplished all, some, one or even none of the above, it’s OK. We can always begin again tomorrow.
 
(Click here for complete readings. Audio option. Courtesy, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.)
 
The overwhelming message of Lent is HOPE. We trust not in our own abilities to save ourselves, because without God, that is impossible. We trust and we believe, that through the Paschal Mystery — the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ — that our salvation has already been accomplished.
 
As Jesus hung upon the cross, those witnessing this drama unfold would be touched in many ways. The Temple leaders would go away satisfied and perhaps a little smug. His mother and Mary Magdalene and the disciple whom he loved, would stand watching, waiting, confused and in shock. The other disciples had abandoned him and in the end, even Jesus wondered out loud, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? … My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”(Mark 15:34)
 
“When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”(Mark 15:39)
 
The centurion’s job was to make sure the death sentence had been carried out; it probably wasn’t his first or his last execution. However, something was different about this one. What did he see in this Jesus of Nazareth that he might not have seen in so many other executions? We will really never know the answer. I can only speculate.
 
Along the way he saw a supreme dignity beneath the dirt and blood and spit-covered Jesus. No doubt he had heard about the miracles, the healings, the preaching of Jesus. Perhaps as Jesus walked the road to Calvary this centurion walked his own journey, from disbelief to belief, from lack of faith to faith.
 
Ultimately we all walk this similar journey, for some the road is easy, for others painful, crooked and difficult to the last. Whatever the journey, whatever the road, we must never lose sight of HOPE.
 
A struggling economy, a debilitating illness, the loss of a job, a home, our livelihood, the alienation of family or friends, the death of a loved one, are all crosses that most of us will often carry throughout our lifetimes. We struggle, we fall, we might even be tempted to stay down, but we don’t. We get up again and again and again.
 
We are people of the promise; we are daughters and sons of a loving and generous God who has loved us beyond all of our wildest imaginings. The new liturgy reminds us that we are “co-heirs with Christ.” The journey of Lent reminds us that in spite of ourselves, in spite of our woundedness and brokenness, and even in spite of our moments of unloving, we are called to be an Easter people and so we sing out with voices full of gratitude: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
 
 
 
 
Father James McDonald professed vows as a Redemptorist in 1984 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1990. He is currently stationed at San Alfonso Retreat House in Long Branch, NJ.

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed our online Lenten retreat. Special features like this are part of our mission to spread the good news of plentiful redemption throughout the world. Your gift, of any amount, will help us continue to offer spiritual encouragement to the thousands of searching souls to whom we minister every year — both here on the Internet and in our parishes, retreat houses and other ministries. Thank you for your generosity.

More reflections:
Getting Back to Basics: What Lent IS and IS NOT
Slowing Down, Entering the Desert
A New Look at Life — Transfiguration, Wow!
Where Am I With God? Listen.
Where Are We With Ourselves? "Seeing is Believing, Believing is Seeing"
Where Are We With One Another? "Sir, we would like to see Jesus."
 

 

Tuesday

Fr. Peter Sousa (center) with family members
at his retirement from the U.S. Army.

Redemptorist Father Peter Sousa retired recently as a colonel chaplain in the U.S. Army Reserves after 26 years of service.

The retirement ceremony was presided over by Lt. Gen. John Sterling, deputy commander of the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). Father Sousa was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal during the ceremony which was attended by family members, parishioners and Father Jerome Chavarria, superior of the Redemptorists’ Vice Province of Richmond, VA.
 

Fr. Sousa (right) prior to accompanying a convoy in Iraq.
“I was inspired to enter the Redemptorists by a Redemptorist Army Chaplain, Father Thomas W. Lacey,” Father Sousa said. “I grew up in an Army family, and when we moved to the Panama Canal Zone in 1964, I met Father Lacey. He helped me discern my vocation and I entered the order’s high school seminary in 1967.”
 
Father Sousa professed vows as a Redemptorist in 1971 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1978. He was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Army chaplain corps in May 1986 while teaching at the Redemptorists’ high school seminary in North East, PA. He went on to serve the spiritual needs of many military units and their families at several posts in the United States including:
 
·         4/92nd Field Artillery Battalion in Erie, PA
·         4th Brigade, 78th Division in Edison, NJ
·         3rd Brigade, 108th Division in Winston-Salem, NC
·         4th Brigade, 80th Division at Ft. Story, VA
·         77th Regional Support Command, 695th Corps Support Battalion, and 344th Combat Support Hospital at Ft. Totten, NY
·         2nd Brigade, 87th Division at Patrick AFB, FL
·         143rd Sustainment Command in Orlando, FL
·         TRADOC at Ft. Monroe and Ft. Eustis, both in Virginia
 
In 2004, Father Sousa’s Redemptorist superiors allowed him to serve two years on active duty, which included a one-year deployment as a hospital chaplain with the 344th Combat Support Hospital at Abu Ghraib Prison and Camp Bucca in Iraq. He also provided Mass and Catholic ministry to forward operating bases in Baghdad and Umm Qasr.
 

Celebrating Mass at Ft. Bliss, TX in 2000.
“The numbers of Catholic chaplains in the military, both active and reserve, continue to decline, so I’ve continued this ministry because of the Redemptorists’ special call to serve the spiritually abandoned,” Father Sousa said. “I wanted to assist the Archdiocese of Military Services with this very challenging responsibility of providing for the spiritual care of thousands of our men and women in the armed forces and their families.”
 
Father Sousa is currently parochial vicar of the Catholic Community of Sumter, SC, which includes the parishes of St. Jude and St. Anne. Prior to coming to South Carolina, Father Sousa served as pastor of two parishes in Virginia — St. Mary, Star of the Sea at Ft. Monroe and St. Joseph’s in Hampton.
 
Other assignments have included two years as pastor of St. Michael’s in Wauchula, FL (2002-04) and ministry at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice, FL from 2006-08.
 
 
 
Monday
 
These famous words spoken by Pontius Pilate, the judge at Jesus’ trial, mean “Behold the Man.” Pilate did not realize he was only half right.
 
As you know from religion class, Jesus was a seamless blend of humanity and divinity. He could call upon his power as God to perform miracles like multiplying bread and fish to feed thousands of people, yet he cried when his friend Lazarus died, even though he knew he would soon raise him from the dead. He gave sight to a man born blind, yet he could not convince the religious leaders in Jerusalem to believe in him. In other words, in spite of Jesus’ divinity and his oneness with the Father, he still experienced the same human struggles we all do.
 
This was most evident in the death that Jesus suffered. His pain was not lessened by his divinity. He spent a horrible night in a dank prison cell awaiting his death sentence. He was mocked, ridiculed, and spat upon on the Way of the Cross. In his final moments, Jesus had trouble breathing due to the nails pinning him to the wood of the cross. He finally surrendered his last breath in total trust that his death would be the most glorious moment of his life, and that God’s plan would be fulfilled.
 
What was this plan of God? It was simply that God wanted every person to know they were loved. In return, we express our love for God by loving one another. Jesus fulfilled God’s plan by his death. If Jesus did not experience death, then there would always be a separation between us and God. God would be “up there” someplace and we would be down here. But Jesus experienced everything that is human. His death and resurrection prepared the way for new life for all believers.
 
Some years ago, I met an Irish nun on a pilgrimage. I did not know that she had cancer and that doctors had told her she would only live a short time. All I knew was that she was full of life and fun. She even gave me her rosary beads and said, “If they are too elegant for you, give them to your mother.”
 
After the trip, I wrote her a letter, expressing how I enjoyed meeting her and telling her that my mother liked the rosary beads. I did not hear back right away (this was before email, if you can believe it!). Some weeks later I received a return letter. It was not from Sister Mary, but from the superior of the convent. She wrote, “Sister Mary had a peaceful death. Shortly before she died, she asked for a cup of tea for the journey.” When I read this, I was saddened and glad at the same time. I was sad that she had departed this life, but I was extremely impressed by her faith and the peace it provided at the end of her life.
 
Jesus’ death and resurrection changed everything. We now have the Holy Spirit to guide us so there is no longer any guessing about God’s plan for us. God has shared everything, including Jesus’ victory over death. In Jesus, God has shown us that death is a stepping stone to new life.
 
So why do we continue to worry so much about death? In some ways, it is natural. Death, after all, was not part of God’s original plan. Death came about as a consequence of sin, as a result of the “devil’s envy.” There will always be a certain dark side to death. We will continue to wonder what is on the other side of the shadowy wall of death. There will still be concern, as the end nears, about whether we have done enough. Have we, for example, confessed all our sins or helped enough people in need or said enough prayers?
 
While these may be good questions, we need not worry. Jesus has shattered the uncertainty surrounding death. The only thing necessary is trust. If we confidently place our lives in the care of God, then we, too, will glorify God with our death and be welcomed into God’s Kingdom forever.
 
May God grace us with the same kind of faith Jesus had when our final days arrive. But, in the meantime, may our days be lived in union with God, who became a human person in Jesus, so that we may become like God.
 
(Originally published in the Catholic Chronicle of St. Lucia)
 
Fr. Kevin MacDonald professed vows as a Redemptorist in 1987 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1991. He is a mission preacher stationed at St. Patrick’s Parish in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.