Mother Teresa will get a US stamp for her 100th birthday in August of 2010.
The stamp was painted by Thomas Blackshear II, a Christian artist who lives here in Colorado Springs. You can visit his Christ-centered Art here.
Here's how the US Postal Service describes her call to found the MIssionaries of Charity:
"Following a divine inspiration and deeply moved by the poverty and suffering she saw in the streets of Calcutta, Mother Teresa left her teaching post at the convent in 1948 to devote herself completely to the city’s indigent residents. Two years later, she founded her own congregation, the Missionaries of Charity. Like Mother Teresa, the nuns of the new order wore white saris with a blue border rather than traditional nuns’ habits. In addition to the traditional vows of chastity, obedience, and poverty, they took a fourth vow of wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor. “In order to understand and help those who have nothing,” Mother Teresa told the young women, “we must live like them.”
How about that? Explicit recognition that God was behind her work - from the US government! I like the picture very much. We'll have to stock up on Mother Teresa stamps at the Institute.
In doing some preparation for a retreat, I have run across some beautiful quotes that are worth sharing as we prepare for a New Year. Perhaps one of our resolutions might be to mine the depths of the thoughts and love of the saints!
St. Paul I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me. Gal 2:19b-20
I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. For by the grace given to me I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think, but to think soberly, each according to the measure of faith that God has apportioned. For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. Rom 12:1-5
St. Augustine Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.
If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.
Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.
What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.
St. Catherine of Siena In your nature, eternal Godhead, I shall come to know my nature. And what is my nature, boundless love? It is fire, because you are nothing but a fire of love. And you have given humankind a share in this nature, for by the fire of love you created us. And so with all other people and every created thing; you made them out of love.
O unfathomable depth! O Deity eternal! O deep ocean! What more could You give me than to give me Yourself? O You who are mad about Your creature! true God and true Man, You have left Yourself wholly to us, as food, so that we will not fall through weariness during our pilgrimage in this life, but will be fortified by You, celestial nourishment.
Mechtild of Magdeburg (German mystic) I cannot dance O Lord, unless Thou lead me. If Thou wilt that I leap joyfully Then must Thou Thyself first dance and sing! Then will I leap for love From love to knowledge, From knowledge to fruition, From fruition to beyond all human sense There will I remain And circle evermore.
St. Thomas More I think that if any good thing shall go forward, something must be adventured.
I never saw fool yet who thought himself other than wise…If a fool perceives himself a fool, that point is not folly, but a little spark of wit.
You must not abandon the ship in a storm because you cannot control the winds….What you cannot turn to good, you must at least make as little bad as you can.
Julian of Norwich (English mystic) If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.
St. Francis de Sales A quarrel between friends, when made up, adds a new tie to friendship.
Friendships begun in this world will be taken up again, never to be broken off
Have patience with all things, But, first of all with yourself. Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.
We must never undervalue any person. The workman loves not that his work should be despised in his presence. Now God is present everywhere, and every person is His work.
St. Theresa of Avila It is only mercenaries who expect to be paid by the day.
How is it, Lord, that we are cowards in everything save in opposing thee?
More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.
From silly devotions and from sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us.
The feeling remains that God is on the journey, too.
St. Maximillian Kolbe, OFM, while being arrested, to his friars: “Courage, my sons. Don’t you see that we are leaving on a mission? They pay our fare in the bargain. What a piece of good luck! The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible. Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes”
St. Edith Stein The nation... doesn't simply need what we have. It needs what we are.
Pope John Paul II Stupidity is also a gift of God, but one mustn't misuse it.
Among the Christmas letters and photos I received this year was a note from my friends, Phil and Katie Kladar of Coeur d'Alene, ID. I witnessed their marriage nearly fifteen years ago when Phil was in medical school and Katie finishing her Master's of Nursing degree at the University of Utah. Their kids, Sarah (sixth grade), Emily (fourth grade), Thomas (second grade), Will (preschool) and Ellie (2 years) are pretty special. It is a tradition in the Kladar family that their 5 children do not receive gifts from their friends on their birthdays. Instead, they use their own God-given gifts of ambition, intelligence, creativity, imagination, and compassion to give back to the world.
Here's a picture of two of the thirteen children who have received life-saving heart surgeries as a result of their fundraising and awareness efforts.
I have spoken with Sarah and her parents, and have a pretty strong impression that she is already displaying the charism of mercy; she has an ability to reach out to people who are suffering with practical acts of compassion that really make a difference. And for everyone (especially among us grown ups) who thinks that they can't do anything to make a difference in the world, the Kladar kids are living proof that that's just not the case - even for little ones. Here's an excerpt from their website, Kids Helping Kids Fix Broken Hearts.
In 2008, the 3 oldest kids decided to create their own charity! It first started after visiting a poor medical clinic in a rural part of Mexico where they learned of children their own ages in desperate need of life-saving heart surgery. The kids then went to work, figuring out what they could do to help. Sarah, age 10 at the time, came up with the name "Kids Helping Kids Fix Broken Hearts". Emily, age 8, used her artistic ability and creativity and designed a logo. Along the way, they decided to print the logo onto dishtowels and have been selling them for $5. Since August of 2008, approximately 4,000 dishtowels have been sold and over $34,000.00 has been raised!! There is at least one dishtowel in all 50 states and in 26 countries! So far, 13 Mexican families have been helped.
The charity has now been expanded to help families throughout the United States.
The money raised pays for travel, food and lodging expenses for the parents of children needing heart surgery away from their hometown.
$34,000! Incredible! You might say, "Yeah, but their dad's a surgeon. They have some advantages most kids don't have. That's true enough, but the point is, they're using that which God has given them to make a difference already in the world. They have been given much by God, and are giving back more. They are not a "front" for their parent's charity. They are the driving force behind the work. Of course, they have had help setting up the charity as a 501c3, and their parents drive them to different events where they appear and make their appeal. But Phil and Katie are not goading them into the work. The kids are not only been taught well by their parents, they have "caught" Jesus from them!
I invite you to visit their website, and read more about this great work. You might even consider purchasing a beautiful dishtowel or two. If you want more information about the program, contact them at
Our basic theme around here this week is our dreams for the new year. And some of our collaborators are dreaming big! (We are privileged to know some truly amazing disciples!)
Beginning with my own interior life: I want to become docile and fully obedient to every inspiration, direction, and prompting of the Holy Spirit, that He may complete my total transformation into Christ. That I may turn away from sin, and refuse Jesus nothing – no matter what the cost.
To participate in God’s work of rising up a legion of saints to bring about the complete renewal and transformation of the whole archdiocese in which I reside.
That God may rise up a group of lay men and women who would be fully committed to seeking out and drawing in those furtherest from Christ.
That every priest of our archdiocese be given the grace of conversion and transformation to fully live out the fullness of their priesthood and truly “father” and shepherd the people of God in becoming disciples of Jesus Christ.
The complete restructuring of each parish so that the complete mission of the Church may be fully realized and fulfilled.
For each parish of our archdiocese to establish a prayer hermitage (a poustinia) where the laity can go to hear and receive a “word” from the Lord and intercede for the whole world.
The establishment of a novitiate formation in each family, where parents provide to their children the formation and discernment skills necessary for answering the Lord’s call to participate in His mission of redemption.
The more I think about it, I come to the conclusion that I want it all – The totality of the gospel…its freedom, its fire, its living breath. I want the awesome power of its simplicity, the quiet roar of its love that captivates the heart and oppresses the will. I want its sheer force that heals all of creation. I want the spirit of its towering humility. I want the poverty, the lowliness, the shivering cold the Christ-child felt.
I want the delivering power of His baptism and the battle of the desert. I want the liberating proclamation of His kingdom and the grace He gave to the woman caught in adultery. I want the joy of the parents who witnessed their child being brought back from the dead. I want the blessing the children received from His hands. I want the refreshment of His touch, the same touch He gave to the leper.
I want the light of His transfigured body to rest on me, and to stand with Him by His side in His agony. I want the role of Simon and Veronica, the standing post of John at the foot of the Cross. I want to enter the darkness of the cave with Him and to witness the first light of His Resurrection. I want to place my hand into His side. I want the ascended Christ and to witness the glory of His coming to wed heaven to earth! I want the complete and never ending love that is God.
In a word I want JESUS for every man and woman!
You may not be dreaming as large as our prophetic intercessor friend above. But what is your wildest, most beautiful dream for 2010? What would you love to see God do in and through you and your family, friends, and community in the New Year?
"The Jesus who makes everything OK for everyone is a phantom, a dream, not a real figure. The Jesus of the Gospels is certainly not convenient for us. But it is precisely in this way that he answers the deepest question of our existence, which--whether we want to or not--keeps us on the lookout for God, for a gratification that is limitless, for the infinite. We must again set out on the way to this real Jesus."--Benedict XVI
The twelve days of Christmas from December 25th through Epiphany on January 6th are a time of year when many of us are celebrating the birth of Jesus with great joy. A time of families reunited, gift and gratitude.
For others of us this is a time of heightened pain and struggle. We may be among the lost, the lonely and the broken. Praying for the love of God to fill our hearts for they are dark and empty. Come Lord Jesus, warm my heart with your love.
We may be mourning the loss of loved ones. Their absence is more sharply felt in a time when we most desire to heal our souls with the comfort of their loving embrace. A gentle touch, a kiss, a kind word which cannot be shared cuts like a knife into our wounded hearts. Come Lord Jesus, heal my heart with your love.
Perhaps we are struggling with financial hardship and despair over what the new year will bring. We have responsibilities to provide for our families and to meet our obligations but we lack control over our situation. Come Lord Jesus, take away my fear.
Our Father in heaven sent his only Son to us so that we may be healed by his love. He should have been welcomed with a warm embrace, instead he was spat upon. Jesus should have been protected by those he loved, but he was betrayed and abandoned by those closest to him. He was neither wealthy or powerful in the worldly sense. The Father knew this was how his beloved Son would be treated and still he sent Him to us. Why did the Son open himself up to this much pain? Could there be a bigger burden than to take on all of the sin of world?
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." Our Lord loves us so completely that he allowed his Son to suffer and die for us. This is an inconvenient truth. It is heart warming to think of the divine infant lying in a manger. But, we must be ever mindful that his purpose was to reconcile us with the Father. He chose to suffer for us so that we may find love eternal.
Lord Jesus, in our suffering, in our pain, in our fear give us the grace to open our hearts to you. For if we join our hearts with yours we may suffer but never will we be alone. We will be comforted and we will find hope. Father in heaven thank you for the gift of your Son. Mother Mary, help us to walk the path to the real Jesus. Amen.
From the archives, a meditation suited to this Christmas week, this last week of the decade. A week in which we traditionally think about what we want to change or achieve in the year to come.
Some years ago, a uniquely silly phrase enjoyed its fifteen minutes of fame. For one brief, tarnished moment, license plates across Seattle urged me to “Commit random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty”. I confess that I found the words “random” and senseless” to be intensely annoying.
I could not believe that someone was actually proposing that we put intentional acts of kindness in the same category as a sudden whim for a pickle and peanut butter sandwich or that we believe that the creation of beauty is a meaningless gesture that required neither sense nor skill.
I hoped that no one was expecting torrents of completely artless kindnesses and spontaneous beauty to start pouring forth from my remarkably ordinary heart and soul. If the human community was waiting for me to become an unconscious fountain of inspired creativity and warm fuzzies, it might as well make itself comfortable. We’re gonna be here awhile. I may be accident-prone but I am not prone to either completely accidental niceness or artistic brilliance.
Thank God, our hope lies in something stronger than our personal whims of the moment. It lies in our freedom to make thoughtful, deliberate choices that have real, historical consequences. As Blaise Pascal observed, God has raise us, far beyond our merits, “to the dignity of being causes.” We are not random causes or senseless causes, but graced, intentional, prayerful causes.
A priest at a recent Called & Gifted workshop asked me a most interesting question. Why, does God give certain charisms only to a few? For instance, if a few people having the gift of healing is a wonderful thing, why not give the gift to millions? Of course, we don’t know why God distributes the gifts the way that he does. Such questions are natural and intriguing but they can distract us from a far deeper mystery: why does God bother giving us any gifts at all?
Why delegate any real power to us to affect things for good or ill? Why not just heal all our wounds and forgive all our sins by divine fiat? Why does God insist on raising us to the dignity of being causes? And not just causes of trivial things but of ideas, decisions, actions, and movements whose consequences ripple through the lives of million over the centuries and right into eternity.
When we ask such questions, God does not respond with an answer. Instead, he gives us a mystery: the Incarnation. The Church has long recognized that God did not have to take on our humanity in order to save us. He freely chose to redeem us as a human being through the medium of a fully human life and death. Further more, he choose to become incarnate by means of the Holy Spirit working with the consent and cooperation of a human teenager.
In his major work, Against the Heresies, written in 190 AD, St. Irenaeus uses extraordinarily strong words to describe the consequences of a decision made over two hundred years previously by a young woman named Mary:
“Eve. . .having become disobedient, was made the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race, so also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless till a virgin, being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race . . . Thus, the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith.”
Recently, a friend and I were talking with great energy about the need for lay Catholics to be "conscious, intentional" disciples. At the end of our conversation, he was silent for moment and finally commented, with the air of one giving into the inevitable: "Well, I guess it's ok if most Catholics are unconscious".
But it is not ok. God will not save us without us and he has chosen not to save the world without us either. There are no random saints or accidental apostles. As Christ began, so he continues to work today.
He continues to pour out the graces of his redemptive sacrifice freely through fully human ways. We could never have earned these graces but we must deliberately choose to cooperate with them. We will not be transformed ourselves or become a channel of this grace for others without our free consent and intentional cooperation.
God does insist on raising us to the dignity of being causes. If this is true, how many people's lives and salvation, how many communities, organizations, families, and cultures - history itself and its eternal significance - hang in the balance on the life choices of ordinary Catholics?
What possibilities in the year ahead are contingent upon my choices, your choices? Our listening obedience to God's voice through the Scriptures and the Tradition, the prompting of the Holy Spirit or the guidance of our guardian angel?
If you could dream your wildest, most beautiful dream, what would you love to see God do in and through you and your community in 2010?
There are a lot of interesting St. Stephen's Day traditions over in the British Isles. If you do a search on You tube, you can find them: fox hunting (which I thought was illegal now in the UK) or going for a swim in dark, freezing waters. There is even an eccentric group of Monte Python fans trying to combine a parade with the Ministry of Silly Walks.
But the strangest is the Wren Boy's parade in Dingle, Ireland. Complete with commentary about "mad Yanks". (Hey, I'm not the one dressed up like a 6 foot bird . . .)
And of course, followed by traditional Irish music and dancing by the "Wren boys"
Love the grass skirt. It's a good look on you . . .
The Catholics Come Home TV spots showing about the country right now have different focuses. One spot is titled "Epic". That's the one that starts with Mariachi dancers and begins with the words “Our family”.
“Epic” spends it’s two minutes doing a kind of apologetics: covering the breadth of the Church, “men and women, sinners and saints”, it’s size, “over one billion in our family”, it’s accomplishments, “the largest charitable organization on the planet”, “educates more children” and it’s history, “we compiled the Bible”, “cities were named for our revered saints”, “2,000 years”, etc.
The Church is described as a “family”, a poignant word which is used 4 times in those 2 minutes as a synonym for Church. The message: we are a huge, ancient, strong, and honorable family of God, a trustworthy, compassionate shelter and refuge in painful times, and we are not going anywhere. You can be proud of bearing the name “Catholic”. We are your family. Wherever you are, wherever you have been, you are welcome home.
In light of the Catholics Come Home campaign, I thought it would be interesting to look a bit closer at our family, courtesy of Fides' downloadable 2009 Dossier on the life of the Church as of December 31, 2007.
The basics in 2007:
74.2 million new citizens were added to planet earth in 2007. That's over 2 million new human beings on this planet every 24 hours.
Nearly 16 million new Catholics were baptized. A mind-blowing average of 43,578 new Catholics every 24 hours.
And consider that these numbers were as of two years ago. Were another 32 million added to our numbers in the past two years? Will something like 300,000 new Catholics be added during this week between Christmas and New Years? Which doesn't include the hundreds of thousands of lapsed Catholics who may come home during the next few weeks as a result of the CCH campaign.
1,146,656,000 Catholics in all by New Year's Eve, 2007. Up a scootch to 17.33% of the human race. 107 years ago on the eve of the 20th century, there were only 266.6 million Catholics. A 433% increase.
Priests and Seminarians
The global number of Catholic priests rose by 762 to 408,024. In fact, there has been slow, incremental growth since 1990 when there were only 403,173 priests in the world. A growth of 4,851 additional priests over a period of 17 years. A 1.2% growth overall. Bishops and priests together make up .036% of the body Catholic. 99.964% of all Catholics can not consecrate the Eucharist.
There has been significant growth in the number of seminarians though it is tricky figuring how exactly how much. CARA says that there were 58,960 “graduate level” seminarians in 2007 which would be up from a low of a low of 33,731 in 1980, a 75% increase over 17 years.
But Fides says that there were 115,919 “major” seminarians in 2007. In the US, “graduate level” and “major” seminarian are usually synonyms, but this cannot be universal or there wouldn’t be such wild differences between the numbers. In any case, the priestly pipeline continues to grow. Mostly in the global south: Africa and Asia, not in the west.
The reason that we haven’t noticed this growth at a practical pastoral level is that for every new priest in 2007, there were 20,784 new Catholics! The number of new priests would have to be at least ten times higher to keep pace with global Catholic population growth.
As I have said here before, it is ultimately success, not collapse, that fuels our present priest shortage. The primary culprit is not doctrine or catechesis or liturgy. "The culprit" is success: better health care, better food, better water, the elimination of certain epidemics, lower infant mortality, and longer life spans.
Priestly presence and lay leadership
There are 124,642 "Mission Stations" without a resident priest by the end of 2007, an increase of 5,159. (What exactly constitutes a "mission station" was not defined - but with the numbers involved, I presume that it must include every Catholic institution to which a priest could be assigned - including all parishes.) CARA says that there are 51,330 parishes in the world without a pastor in 2007 or 23.5% which is a slight decrease from 2005.
It is a good thing the number of lay catechists and missionaries continues to grow. The number of lay missionaries in the world increased by 33,696 in 2007 to a total of 250,464 The biggest increase was in America (which includes North, Central, and Latin America in Vatican reckoning). Lay catechists in the world increased by 6,665 to a total of nearly 3 million: 2,993,354.
Lay missionaries and catechists are 70% of the 4,494,277 Catholic “pastoral workers” in the world. Bishops and priests constitute 10%. Deacons, religious, and seminarians make up the remaining 20%.
As to the impact of Catholic educational and charitable organizations, the numbers are most impressive:
In 2007. nearly 58 million children and young adults were educated in well over 200,000 Catholic institutions world-wide. (To keep these numbers in perspective, consider that only 23 nations on the planet have a population larger than 58 million.)
In addition. the Church ran 105,912 hospitals, orphanages, clinics, homes for lepers, the elderly, and the disabled in 2007. Not to mention the 218,383 parishes and over 190,000 missions in the world with all the formal and informal assistance they routinely and quietly provide those who reside nearby.
Try this thought experiment for a moment. Try to imagine the consequences for the human race if these 700,000+ Catholic institutions disappeared suddenly from the planet (as some would like). What a human catastrophe that would be.
What a family! After reading this, go and watch that "Epic" Catholic Come Home spot again.